a love letter to weaving

by | Jul 11, 2018 | Opinion

I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic about weaving lately.  Now I’m no Freud, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might have something to do with my current plans to start teaching weaving workshops…  Sometimes the more advanced you are at your craft, the easier it can be to lose touch with the basics, and as I’ve been preparing the looms and instructional sheets for my workshops, I’ve been revisiting my roots with weaving and (quite frankly) it’s giving me all the feels.

It’s all in the tension (Image credit: Marcus Nyberg)

As I prepare to introduce students to the loom and the craft that has defined my professional career, I’ve been reminiscing over my own first experiences in weaving.  I remember Pauline, the technician, introducing us to the same table-top hand looms that my students will soon be learning on.  I can remember s-l-o-w-l-y building up my first 2/2 twill, and s-l-o-w-l-y having to unpick all my mistakes.  I remember uneven tension, pulled edges, snapped warp threads, knots and tangles.  I also remember weaving some seriously fugly fabrics.

Playing with spacing (Image credit: Emma Wood)

More than anything, though, I remember the feeling.  Even as everything would go wrong, even as I would get frustrated by my own inexperience and slow progress, I felt connected to the process of weaving.  The soothing rhythm of passing the shuttle, the power of beating the weft into place, the satisfaction of watching cloth grow before my very eyes – the entire experience was from the beginning (and still is) a meditative process that to this day I find hard to explain to people.  Weaving focuses you entirely whilst also clearing your mind, and whether it’s a complex triple-cloth or a simple twill, the result is always the same for me: relaxation, calmness and a sense of stability.

Fact: if you have the patience to sit and thread a loom for over six hours, then weaving is for you (Image credit: Marcus Nyberg)

Here’s the thing though: I’ve always assumed my first experience with weaving was as an eighteen-year-old first year at art school.  It wasn’t.  As I’ve been digging back in my memory archives, I’ve been remembering a short class I took when I was around 7 or 8 years old, at school in Tokyo.  We had an afternoon art activity where we were introduced to basket-weaving, and I’m now certain that this is my “point of origin”, where my weaving love-affair first began.  There was something intuitive about the process of winding the basket strips through the spokes, and I was instantly hooked.  Other kids were following the standard “one-over-one-under” principle, but I was weaving twills and patterns like a maniac.  I finished my basket so quickly that I unpicked it and started again before the teacher could see, simply because I didn’t want the process to stop. 

And that’s really the point for me.  When it comes to weaving, the results are nice, sure.  But it’s the process that first grabbed me, it’s the process that still mesmerises me, and it’s the process that I’m still utterly in love with.

A clean shed and a smooth shuttle – two things that also feel satisfying (Image credit: Marcus Nyberg)

As my business has grown over the years, I’ve had a recurring fear of becoming distanced from the act of weaving and losing my identity as a weaver.  I no longer hand-weave my cloth, I don’t sample the way I used to, and sometimes the loom can sit untouched for months at a time.  Yet now, after having had the time and space to reflect on my evolution as a weaver and my connection to the craft, I don’t feel worried about that anymore.  Weaving has been a part of my life for longer than I ever realised, and I feel confident it’s going to be there for a hell of a lot longer.

Sampling takes up less and less of my time, but hopefully it will always be there in the background (Image credit: Emma Wood)

So that’s it.  There’s not much of a purpose to this posting, other than to reflect on (or boast about?) how much I love my craft, even all these years later.  Weaving has been a constant thread running through my life (pun absolutely intended), and for this I’m incredibly grateful.

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