Designing Weavers: Peggy Siders
Rug and photo by Peggy Siders. Rug made using and spun karakul wool from her own sheep.
Ten shaft rep weave inspired by antique twenty shaft double weave coverlet.
SN: I met Peggy at my current weaver’s guild in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She is an amazing weaver but is so calm and matter of fact when she presents her work that, unless you are aware, the awesomeness of what she has made may slip right by you. For example, she may come in with a gorgeous, full-length woven cape with a hood and, oh, by the way, she spun all the yarn as well from her own sheep! But she isn’t bragging about that, it just “is.” So, I thought you all might want to know more about this fellow weaver.
PS: I am Peggy Siders. I am a married mother of 3 and grandmother of 5. Our house is on a small acreage in rural Indiana, with 4 sheep, 2 dogs and 8 barn cats. My husband and I are both retired and we raise sheep and grow flax for spinning yarn and weaving. We enjoy demonstrating flax and wool preparation, spinning and weaving at historical reenactments and fiber festivals.
When I went to college I had to choose between science and art. I loved them both. Science won. Since I had a young family, I wanted to be sure I could find a job. I graduated from Manchester University in North Manchester, Indiana, in 1987 with a BS in Clinical Laboratory Science. I worked in the field for 27 years. I now spend major time weaving and spinning.
SN: How long have you been weaving?
PS: About 24 years ago, my brother-in-law gave me several sheep fleeces to play with and I have been spinning and weaving since then. Through the years, fiber arts helped keep me sane while raising kids and working.
SN: What looms do you own?
PS: In the house I have 5 floor looms: a 35” 8 H Louet David, a 48” 16 H Glimakra Standard, a 36” 8 H Harrisville, a 42” 10 H Macomber, and a 22” 8 H Macomber. I also have 4 table looms and several smaller 2 harness table looms for the grandkids. We also have a log cabin with 2 antique barn frame looms that we have restored to weaving condition. I designed and my husband built a neolithic weighted-warp loom that I am having a great time weaving on. And let’s not forget the 4 spinning wheels. So far, I don’t have a computer controlled loom. I enjoy the manual set up but I’m open to the possibility in the future.
SN: Do you use weaving software, and if so, which one(s)?
PS: I use Fiberworks weaving software. I find it very user friendly and I can print any part of the drawdown that I need to work from. It’s also useful for printing out drawdowns for guild programs.
SN: Do you find yourself designing weaves with more treadles than you have on your loom or because of the weaving software. How do you deal with the limitations set by your equipment? (We all deal with that issue in one way or another, we just have different things that create our limitations.)
PS: I have done some taquete’ rugs that needed more treadles than the loom had. When I got to the part that needed treadles 13, 14 etc, I retied the treadles, used them, then put them back the way they were. I also remember one time using a skeleton tie-up and pressing three or more treadles with my feet and a broom handle. Now I use my 16 harness loom and haven’t needed more than that.
SN: That is dedication! I have never had to resort to a broom handle on my treadle looms. However, it’s a great idea and proves that necessity is the mother of invention. Or, that you can’t let a simple thing like too few treadles stand in the way of the weave you want!
SN: Where do you look for design inspiration?
PS: I am heavily influenced by historical weaving designs. I look through books and old pictures, museums and even old films on You Tube. I recently researched all I could find on weighted warp looms (WWL) before I started my own WWL project. But of course, I utilize modern magazines, books, workshops and guild meetings. The guild library is a real gem for research.
SN: I agree, we have some great books in our library. I hope all guild members will take advantage of this great resource not only in our own guild but whatever guild you have (if it has a library, that is).
SN: How do you approach designing?
PS: When I design, I ask myself “What do I want to make?” Well, duh, you might say. But I’m thinking of the whole process, from the wool on the back of the sheep, or the flax in the garden, to the yarn I make, to the weaving design, to the finishing of the item. Everything along the way has to be appropriate for the success of the final result. And, to be frank, I have to enjoy doing it. I will carry it around in my head until it feels right and then I take it to the computer.
SN: I spin as well but if I spin yarn I’m just spinning to relax, not for a specific weaving project. Do you design a project from the yarn up?
PS: When I first learned to spin, I didn’t have my own sheep. Over the years, I have experimented with the wool from many different breeds and learned how they spun up and what they are best used for. I have 1 Romney and 3 Romney/Corriedale sheep, all different shades of gray. They all have similar type wool, but they have differences too. Plus, as they get older, their wool gets more coarse, and lighter in color. I can pick a fleece that is from their first year that is very soft and fine, or a recent year, that is less fine, more gray, and straighter. I take all that into consideration when I design yarn for a project. I have also blended fleeces to get just the right color or to have enough yarn for a very large project. I truly enjoy working with the fleeces and do all the washing, carding and spinning myself. Designing my own yarn is an advantage that is hard to beat and it’s so thrilling when I see the finished project.
Hand spun and woven cape made by Peggy Siders, modeled by her daughter Katy Gray.
The weave is a four shaft shadow weave and this cape won the hand spun category
and the Margaret Grant Award for best of use of 4 shafts in a textile
at Midwest Weaver's Conference in 2017.
SN: What is important to you in your designing?
PS: It’s important to me that I challenge myself. I like to learn new weave structures, so I will do the research and design a project that uses it.
SN: Do you work in series?
PS: Since I like to make large items, like blankets, from handspun yarn, I usually just make one. It’s very time consuming and then I’m ready to move on to something else.
SN: Yes, but a series does not have to be blankets, per se, it may be exploring a structure or other technique. I know you did a recent guild presentation on 3 color weaves and you had woven many samples. That was almost a series in itself. Do you ever do explorations of this sort? (Besides for guild presentation?) For instance, a certain historic period?
PS: Yes, I certainly did a series of samples for the Color and Weave program. I also recently did a series of 11 pillow top samplers from the book “Samplers You Can Use” by Penelope B. Drooker. There is one threading for all of them. It covered overshot, honeycomb, and others. It was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I don’t need 11 pillow tops but I did learn a lot.
SN: I would love to see those!
SN: Do you have favorite weave structures?
PS: Summer and Winter has become a favorite. I love the historical examples. Since it is a unit weave, many other weaves can be reinterpreted as S&W. It also easily becomes taquete’, and turned taquete’. It’s just fun.
SN: I like that one as well, with 16 shafts you can make some interesting figurative images with the blocks.
SN: Do you have favorite things to weave?
PS: I love to weave with wool and wool/alpaca blends. I mostly stick with natural colors, with overdyeing occasionally. I weave shawls, capes, blankets, rugs and coverlets, most using handspun.
SN: Anything else you’d like to share?
PS: My philosophy for my weaving journey has been to keep a happy attitude knowing that everything I do is an experiment. That way there is no failure, just information gained.
SN: Great advice! Thanks!