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Getting To Know ...

Michele Burton, master of the weaving arts.

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Michele Burton

For 12 years, Michele Burton of Springfield has lived in Northern Virginia, raising her family. Much of that time, she has spent at her loom, peacefully weaving. Here, she shares a little about herself and the art that she loves.

<b>Family

</b>Married to Jim Burton, retired Army Officer and currently a defense contractor, mother of three grown children, married daughter, Meagan Consedine who has spent two tours in Iraq while fulfilling her ROTC commitment from college. She is now out of the Army but her husband Kevin is still in and a helicopter pilot. He will be redeployed in the spring for his third tour in Iraq. Son, Mark, a teacher in New Orleans, and son, Noah, in his second year at Virginia Commonwealth University.

<b>Education.

</b>Masters degree in early childhood education.

<b>Your first job.

</b>Kindergarten teacher.

<b>Activities/interest/hobbies.

</b>Gardening, cooking, walking our dog and knitting. We have a little cabin in Pennsylvania I like to escape to for the quiet and hiking.

<b>Favorite local restaurants.

</b>I do not eat out much as I love to cook, but when we do go out we like The Cedar Café in Burke or Fireside Grill in Lorton.

<b>Community concerns.

</b>Growth! Would like to see it slow down.

<b>How would you describe your weaving work?

</b>I weave reproductions of historical textiles. My passion is to reproduce the patterns used in coverlets woven in the 1800s. I use old patterns and weave lap coverlets and table runners. I have five looms in my home — and one in our cabin in Pennsylvania — that have anything from a reproduction coverlet, reproduction linen handtowels, shawls or rugs, ready to be woven on them. I also hand dye fibers for scarves, shawls and blankets or just for selling as dyed skeins. I work only in natural fibers. Once each year I sell my handwovens at the 18th Century Craft Fair on the grounds of Mount Vernon. This is a craft show where all who participate dress in period costumes and demonstrate how they make their items. It is very educational.

<b>How did you get involved in weaving?

</b>I always enjoyed crafts of different kinds, especially those dealing with textiles. I started collecting antique coverlets in the 80s because of the designs. I really did not understand how they were done at the time. We moved to Leavenworth, Kans. and our neighbor was a weaver of coverlets. He was my mentor and I went to a weaving school and from there it just became a part of my life. And I found out that my mother’s relatives in Canada had been weavers. Guess it was in my genes.

<b>Personal goals.

</b>To stay healthy and active and weave more.

<b>How long does a typical piece take you to complete?

</b>This is a question always asked and it is difficult to answer. There are about six steps to the process of "dressing a loom" before one can sit and actually begin weaving. The finer the textile the longer dressing the loom takes. So a coverlet takes days, where a narrow scarf could be woven in a day.

<b>Describe the process of weaving a rug or table linen.

</b>First, I have to decide what I want to weave. If it is a table linen, I must think about the pattern, then what fiber I will use, how fine it will be. This determines the number of threads I need for my warp. I must measure those threads on a warping board. Then they are brought to the loom and each thread must be pulled through the reed, the reed determining how many threads you would need per inch.

So, if my linen towel has 30 threads per inch and is 20 inches wide, I need 600 threads to be pulled through the dents on the reed. Once this is completed I must thread each of those threads through the heddles on the harnesses of the loom in the proper order for the pattern I am going to weave. Once this is completed I must wind the warp — all the threads — on the loom. The length of the warp is usually 6-10 yards long. Then I tie it to the rod on the front of the loom, get the tension correct and then I can begin weaving.

<b>What do you enjoy most about weaving?

</b>I enjoy all the steps in the process of weaving. Some take more mental work, some are just simple and contemplative. I find a sense of peace when I am sitting at my loom weaving. I have a number of looms and I will usually have a coverlet on one. This weaving takes a little more concentration, but I also will have one set up with a simple weave structure so I can just let my mind wander as I throw my shuttle back and forth.

<b>What do you like least?

</b>When I have spent hours setting up the loom and start weaving and find a threading error, usually right in the center of the loom, the most difficult spot to fix. No matter how careful I am this seems to happen. I call it my little "weaving poltergeist" playing tricks on me.