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Oscha Handwoven - Exploring the Craft

Hannah Eccles
Hannah Eccles
Oscha Handwoven - Exploring the Craft

Cally Booker, handweaver, shares what weaving means to her and talks about her new experience of weaving cloth for baby slings.

Image of Leaves Iridescence, handwoven baby wrap by Cally Booker
Leaves Iridescence, handwoven baby wrap by Cally Booker

Last year we began to work with Cally Booker, a very experienced handweaver who brings incredible skill, knowledge and creativity to her craft. Each season Cally has woven a new pattern for us, developing colourways that match the energy of the season. Each time Cally weaves only enough fabric for about 3 Boutique slings.

Cally lives in the east coast of Scotland and also teaches classes in hand weaving from her studio. We have been enjoying working together to develop fabric suitable for baby wraps. There is something special about carrying your child in unique, lovingly woven fabric. From the initial stages of the design and throughout the process of weaving the warp and weft together, Cally will put her heart and soul into the cloth,

‘During the process of warping and weaving, every individual thread passes through my fingers. It still seems extraordinary to me that I can take yarn between my fingers and turn it into cloth’.

This image shows the warping up process of the yarn onto the loom before the weaving of the cloth begins. This warp is the Folklorico colourway.

Where did you train?

I studied handwoven textile design at Bradford College from 2005-2007.

How many years have you been weaving?

I first started weaving quite by accident 11 years ago. I fell in love with the craft and went straight back to school to study while still working full time in a challenging job. It was a rather crazy time.

Where do you begin to look for inspiration?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. It might be a word, an image, a concept, a yarn that starts the ideas flowing, but once I am in the grip of an idea I can become quite obsessed with it until I have seen the work to completion.

Does your design develop as you begin to weave, do you produce many samples before coming up with a final design?

Sampling is my middle name. Although I sketch out my ideas on paper and then design weaving drafts on my computer, it is only when I am at the loom that they really come to life for me. The process of sampling often yields surprises and takes the work in a different direction from my carefully worked out plan!

Is there anything particularly challenging about weaving fabric for baby slings?

For me the biggest challenge is the constraint imposed by my loom. I have to use my wide countermarche loom to achieve the dimensions needed, but it has only 8 shafts. I have to work hard on the design to get the most out of those 8 shafts.

How long does it take to weave a metre of your fabric?

It takes about 2 hours to weave a meter, but the really slow part is making a 20 metre warp of 1500 ends and getting it onto the loom in the first place! This process is extremely variable and the threading (bringing the warp ends through the heddles) often takes a full day to complete. However, it is also my favorite part, so I am not complaining.

Maypole handwoven wrap in progress on the loom.
Maypole handwoven wrap in progress on the loom.

 What do you feel you personally bring to the world of handwoven wraps?

I think that what most people notice first in my work is my slightly unconventional colour sense. It’s a sense that works well for fabric which moves and curves like a wrap does, so I guess that is what I am bringing.

The most recent handwoven wraps crafted for us by Cally is 'Leaves Iridescence' shown below. Cally has given us some insight into the weave structure and the process.

Detail image of the weave structure in Leaves Iridescence.
Detail image of the weave structure in Leaves Iridescence.

'The secret behind the interactions of colour and pattern in this fabric is a technique called ‘echo weave’. In this structure two layers of warp are threaded together, one ‘echoing’ the other. These two warps are bound together with a single weft, and the three yarns blend together in different proportions as the pattern progresses: the results are often surprising, even to the weaver!’
‘The two warp layers mean that this is a dense cloth, so a relatively fine yarn is needed to keep it from becoming too heavy. I use an organic 16/2 cotton, which is lovely to work with.
The basic structure underlying this weave is a twill, which gives the fabric its beautiful drape, but I’m drawn to large scale patterns so I use networked threadings to make each design as bold as my loom will allow. For me as a handweaver, much of the pleasure - and the challenge! - comes from getting as much 'pattern power' as I can from simple 8-shaft loom.'

The first Oscha Handwoven by Cally was 'Maypole Spring', which was released in Spring 2014. Taking inspiration from the winding and shaping of ribbons, the colours reflect the light and liveliness of spring.

Image of Finished handwoven Maypole Spring Baby Wrap
Finished handwoven Maypole Spring Baby Wrap

'Folklorico' was Callys second Oscha hand woven and was Inspired by the Mexican Baile 'Folklorico', the pattern is a simple scallop-shape which progresses across the width of the cloth to give it a sense of movement. The vivid colours and shaping thus reflect the lively dancers skirts.

Finished Folklorico Jalisco handwoven baby wrap.
Finished Folklorico Jalisco handwoven baby wrap.

Each season, since spring 2014, we have presented a new creation from Cally, with between 2 and 4 limited edition wraps being available on each occasion, making for a very special, treasured piece. Keep your eyes peeled for the next hand crafted gem on the way.

You can view Cally's blog and Twitter feed here:

Twitter feed: @bonnyclaith