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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fort Scottian creates grand champion shawl

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dawn Parker models her grand champion shawl.(Carol Russell/Special to the Herald-Tribune)
"I wanted a shawl, but I couldn't afford it," said Dawn Parker of Fort Scott, Kan.

Parker tried on shawls of all kinds and colors in a triangular shape and decided somehow she must have a shawl like this.

The loom was less expensive than the shawl. So Parker bought a Tri Loom three years ago and began weaving her first shawl. With no instruction book, she used the trial-and-error method to learn how to operate the loom. Many times, she called Becca's House at Silver Dollar City, where she purchased the loom, to ask questions. Parker also found a group of weavers on Yahoo who gave her advice.

Dawn Parker's Tri Loom, with a shawl that is ready to take off the loom.(Carol Russell/Special to the Herald-Tribune)
After she finished her own shawl, she began making them for ladies at her church. Some were given as Christmas presents. Soon, people began to call her and buy them for themselves or for gifts. Hunter, Parker's 13-year-old son, has sold shawls for a fundraiser for a school science trip.

Triangular frame looms have been used for weaving for many years, but the method of weaving with a continuous yarn incorporated by the Tri Loom is a fairly recent development, beginning sometime in the 1960's. There are numerous stories of how it started. The inventor of this method is unknown.

The top of the frame, called the hypotenuse side, is longer than the other two sides. However, the nails on each of the three sides must be the same number. There are 165 nails on the hypotenuse side which are half- inch apart. There are 84 nails on each side board, about quarter-inch apart.

The looms come in three sizes, 7-foot, 5-foot, and 3-foot. Parker's loom is seven foot. The triangle shaped frame hangs from an easel. It can be moved up or down and allows Parker to weave standing or sitting. Since there are no stitches to count, Parker can work from her loveseat and watch television at the same time.

As the Tri Loom is loaded, the shawl is woven at the same time. When the loom is filled the shawl is made. A basic shawl requires 550 yards of yarn, and to add fringe on two sides it takes 330 strands. As the shawl is taken off the loom, a single crochet stitch finishes it off at the top or hypotenuse side.

Parker says, "Any kind of yarn you want to use will work." Yarns vary in weight, styles and types, and are made of wool, silk, cottons, mohair, alpaca and angora. There are even novelty yarns such as baby, eyelash, ribbon, and lace.

Parker tries to buy her yarn when it is on sale so she can sell her shawls for less. Sometimes the yarn comes from eBay, but mostly from Joann's Fabrics in Joplin. She has also found yarn on sale at Big Lots, Hobby Lobby and Michaels.

Her biggest success was winning the grand champion ribbon at the 2011 Bourbon County Fair at Fort Scott. This shawl was made with black home spun and hot pink eyelash yarn. Both yarns were used together as she weaved.

Asked about the challenges of weaving, Parker said, "There is nothing that would be more serious than dropping a stitch in knitting. Mohair yarn is the worst to work with, because the fibers stick together as you slide the yarn through." Tri Loom Weaving by Parker has grown from a hobby, to a business. The first year she wove 40 shawls. This last year she made 150. And her sales keep growing.

Parker takes her shawls to craft shows such as the Bourbon County Fair and the Sugar Mound Arts and Crafts Show. She sits up the loom and demonstrates her weaving.

She makes baby blankets, and ponchos, as well as her shawls. Most of her shawls sell from $50 to $80. Her plans for the future are to continue attending craft shows and, of course, to sell to those who have seen and heard about her beautiful shawls.

To find out more about her shawls, call Parker at (620) 223-2930.

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