Let’s Talk SHOP: Sara Nordling

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

Photo of the artist, Sara Nordling.
Artist Sara Nordling. Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

Brrrrrr. Baby, it’s cold outside! Luckily, textile artist Sara Nordling has you covered…literally! Sara specializes in the art of weaving, producing warm, wintery scarves and wraps perfect for the chilly months ahead. Using a loom, Sara creates complex patterns and multidimensional formations of fabric through her delicate repetitions. Her education, and years of experience, demonstrate her incredible level of skill and creativity. This week, we are so excited for Sara to share her story, as well as an in-depth look at how she creates her captivating (and warm!) works of art.

My name is Sara Nordling, and I am a self-professed fiber addict.

Ever since I was a child, fibers, sewing, and textile crafts have been a part of my life. My Barbie dolls had more of a wardrobe than they had a “life.” Every Christmas, my mother would give me some sort of yarn/fiber craft for me to make. It remained as a sideline and hobby in my life until I learned to weave. I’m not talking about the childhood potholder loom, but about multi-shaft, “real” looms. This didn’t happen until I was an adult, living and working in Chicago.

Weaving did start as a hobby. The more I did it, the more I became obsessed. The options of combinations of yarns, colors, and weave structures are endless; and endlessly intriguing.  So, while living in Texas, I decided to study for my B.F.A. in Studio Art with an emphasis in Textiles/Weaving. Still not being enough for me, however, I then earned an M.F.A. in Studio Art/Textiles from Indiana University. While I could have spent my life weaving without getting these degrees, the degrees helped me to find my own voice in weaving and how to use it as an art form. I can never undersell Walmart for towels or Kohl’s for a scarf. Instead, I want to take my weaving to another level. I mostly do this with large wall pieces, but also with high end, limited edition scarves and other personal items. 

While I love the challenge of intricate structures in weaving, this is not what drew me to weaving initially. What drew me in was color and texture. In my work, I try to strike a balance between the complicated and the simple, using good design and unique approaches to weave a wide range of items.

When I am not weaving, I am teaching. I teach part time in the Art and Design Department at Purdue Fort Wayne as well as at conferences and workshops for weavers around the country. I also weave commission pieces for homes, churches, and individuals. 

I enjoy the challenge of weaving. After 30 years of weaving I am still learning, still growing, still discovering. I think if you can find something like that in your life you should keep doing it, and that you are truly blessed.

The Process:

The first step is to load a set of measured threads onto the back of the loom. This is done under a bit of tension, so that all of the threads are even and will not cause tension issues down the road.

A set of measured threads are loaded onto the back of the loom.
Measured threads on the loom. Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

An image of a fully loaded back beam on the loom.

A fully loaded, fully threaded, back beam on a loom.
The loom with all the threads placed. Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

The threads from the back beam are brought forward and each thread goes into an individual heddle. A heddle is a wire or string that has an eyehole in it that is held in place on a loom shaft. You need to get them in the right order, otherwise your weave structure/pattern will not be correct.

Threading the heddles.
Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

A view of threading the heddles as seen from the front. For me, this is the step that takes the most concentration and focus.

Threading the heddles as seen from the front.
Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

The sheet (below) is an image of a threading order for the loom. I color code my heddles to make it easier to keep track of their placement and order. I transfer this color-coding to my paper to make the threading easier.

To make threading easier, the artist color codes her heddles. She transfer this code onto a document to help her keep track.
Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

My large AVL loom threaded and ready for weaving.

Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

A view of a weaving in progress on a smaller loom.

Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

A side view of fabric on the loom while it is being woven. This particular fabric has very different front and back sides.

Photo courtesy of Sara Nordling.

Once off the loom the item is hemmed, or fringed, and washed, usually by hand. As a weaver friend of mine is fond of saying, “It’s not finished until it’s wet finished.” This is because the yarns shift and change slightly in the water, giving the end product a different look. It is a really different look if, on a scarf that has wool in it, I agitate and shrink the wool to add another layer of texture.

The finished scarf!
The finished product. Photo courtesy of FWMoA.

To see Sara Nordling’s woven textiles in person, come visit us at the Paradigm Gallery: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm!

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