SAORI weaving

I had a perfectly delightful time last weekend weaving on a SAORI loom. This is a Japanese loom and style of weaving, designed about 50 years ago by Misao Jo. From the handout that was placed on each loom, “‘SA’ of SAORI has the same meaning as the first syllable of the word ‘SAI’ which is found in Zen vocabulary. It means everything has its own individual dignity. And the ‘ORI’ means weaving. All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color. Because of this difference, “all are good.” Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick. It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.”

Taught by Chiaki O’Brien, hosted at a local public library, and funded by by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, this was a wonderful experience. Chiaki came with all these warped looms (those of you have warped a loom know this is significant; she told us it takes her about two hours to warp each loom). The loom at right front was brand new and came warped with black, otherwise, all the looms had multiple colors of warp thread.

These are simple, elegant looms. There are two harnesses – these are not looms designed to weave patterns, but to become immersed in the flow of weaving and work intuitively. In reading further, I believe there are two sizes of SAORI looms. This is the larger, which comes in this wood frame with folding metal legs or folding wood legs, and a non-folding version.

Chiaki was artist-in-residence at a local school recently, and teaches children frequently (She told us to pretend we were five years old when we started – so I started with yarn with sparkles in it.). She also teaches disabled adults. There is a wheelchair modification possible for these looms.

There was an English side and a Japanese side of the informational sheet about SAORI weaving.

My first yarn was a brown and “sparkle” ply. You see the boat shuttle that we used, and the plastic straw bobbin that we filled. I filled bobbins with colors that appealed to me, without much thought of cohesive design. I used colors that I liked with this happy, bright warp. There are three colors and two different weights of warp threads, and Chiaki sometimes put multiple warp threads in the same path, and occasionally skipped a warp, which you can see below.

More colors, wound on the bobbin as needed.

On the top of the loom is a wheel and mount for the bobbin for winding.

You can wind two colors together and treat them as one when weaving.

You can weave with two colors as I did below.

I was going with the flow – no straight lines.

A closeup that shows the extra warps. You can make a tighter weave, but I like this more open look.

In less than three hours, this is what I made!

Look how compact these looms fold!

I highly recommend SAORI weaving. I love the “beauty with lack of intention” that is encouraged. I hope to do it again sometime, and would dearly love to own one of these looms.

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