Brown: Weaver finds his craft a good ‘winter sport’
The idea of learning to weave was “romanticized” for Rick Loftus several years ago when he and his girlfriend sat in a coffee shop in Ann Arbor where she told him she’d like to learn to weave. Excited at the idea of the two of them being creative, the East Lansing resident responded by saying, “Oh, I’d like to do that!”
That same day, Loftus says they went to a yarn shop where he purchased a 25-inch Schacht Heddle Loom. His girlfriend, who’s now his fiancee (Sara Tipton of Royal Oak), chose to stick with knitting, but he taught himself to weave with the help of Youtube videos, “going to fiber festivals and peeking over peoples’ shoulders.” He put the loom together, but admits the biggest challenge was learning to warp, or thread, it.
Loftus, 59, discovered woven fabric as a young boy growing up in a big city. “When I was a boy, I liked the Greek myths, and there was Penelope weaving and unweaving her tapestry,” he recalls. “I’m from New York, and my mother use to take me to see the unicorn tapestries quite a bit.”
He spends much of the summer months walking his dog, Toby, preferring to weave during colder months because he considers it “kind of a winter sport.” He produces six or seven pieces between late October and March, and says, “When I moved to Michigan, I didn’t realize it, but kind of everybody has a winter project that they set aside to do in sub-zero temperatures. I have a wonderful room that’s glassed in all winter, the lighting is really good and there’s a wood stove in there, so it has all the ingredients of pretending it’s the 1850s with nothing to worry about.”
Although he doesn’t weave during the summer, his loom isn’t just gathering dust. Last year, he showed a friend in her 70s how to weave. “She’s a knitter, and she had never woven anything. I loan her my loom in the summer. She took the basics and turned them into phenomenal pieces. In the winter, she lives in North Carolina, but comes to Michigan in the summer and has a home on the water.”
Loftus weaves mostly scarves and place mats, using cotton and bamboo, and sometimes slipping in a little acrylic. His favorite colors to work with are cinnamons and sepia, contrasted with turquoise. He says, “I like colors that make you think of Florence.” He often draws inspiration from “a character in a book,” wondering “what type of scarf would he wear?”
He doesn’t sell any of his work; instead, he enjoys giving it away to friends. “If I have a friend who reminds me of something, or a color that will work well with them — the souvenir of the work is that I can give something to them.”
He once kept one of his favorite scarves to wear himself, but his dog had other intentions. “I had one piece that I really, really liked, but my dog destroyed that scarf. He ripped it up. I probably will make another one because there’s something comforting about being comforted with something you make yourself,” he says.
Loftus plans to start adding more intricate details to his scarves. He says, “There are techniques where you can sort of give texture to it where parts are raised.” He’s also interested in making rag rugs since his dog, now 3, seems to have lost his appetite for such floor coverings. “It’s the same principle, you’re just working with a different material,” he says of weaving rugs.
And these days, whenever he and his “sweetheart” travel outside the country, one of their big adventures is going to yarn shops to purchase yarn for their hobbies.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Rick Loftus at email@example.com.