The Aha! Moment

Most weavers can pinpoint the exact moment they became weavers. We may not have known any more about it than what it felt like to slide a shuttle through the shed and see a pattern grow as we pulled the beater to the fell, but we knew we wanted to learn more.

When weavers get together at conferences or workshops and start to get acquainted, the “Where was I when I knew…” question is a great conversation starter. We respect and understand this was a very special, and often emotional, moment for all of us and we love sharing our stories and listening to others relate theirs.

This story is often followed by wistful recollections of how we learned to weave and from whom. Whether it was in a college or university, a private weaving school or a class at a conference fiber festival, through a guild program, from another weaver or even from an online video, it really doesn’t matter where the learning process started.

  Karen's weaving students
  Some of Karen's weaving students.

What matters is that it started, and hopefully those first lessons taught you more than how to get a warp on a loom and throw the shuttle back and forth. Hopefully they peaked your curiosity about the vast creative potential for interlacing warp and weft, because, truthfully, you can’t learn to weave in one lesson or U-tube video. It is an ongoing, never-ending learning process, and that is exactly what keeps most weavers coming back to the loom.

I got hooked when members of the local guild invited the curious to come see what weaving was about. The woman who would become my first weaving teacher put a shuttle in my hand and told me to step on a treadle and throw the shuttle through the opening. Now step on the next treadle and throw the shuttle back, she said. It only took four picks, and I never looked back. I bought a Handwoven magazine on the way home.

I drove two hours to pick up a second-hand counterbalance floor loom and then hauled the pieces down the basement stairs by myself and put it together. My next purchase was Deborah Chandler’s Learning to Weave, and my first project was her wool sampler. Soon after, the lovely woman who first put the shuttle in my hand invited me to come to her home for weaving lessons, and I jumped at the chance.

Naomi was a self-professed workshop junkie. It was her thirst for more and more weaving knowledge that fueled my own enthusiasm for new and exciting weaving challenges, whether from books, workshops, conferences, enrollment in a college weaving program or even my own experiments at the loom.

A friend once advised me that to be successful as a professional weaver, I needed to specialize in some aspect of the craft. It was good advice, but it’s been tough to follow. The idea of exploring one subject in depth didn’t trouble me so much as doing it to the exclusion of everything else.

So now I spend most of my time teaching, both because I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with others and because explaining a subject to someone else is the absolute best way to learn it inside and out. Whether my subject is beginning weaving or a more advanced technique, I want my students to understand the learning doesn’t stop just because my Powerpoint presentation came to an end. Each new skill or technique or theory learned is only a steppingstone to the next adventure in weaving.

I just returned from teaching a workshop for the Northwest Arkansas Handweavers Guild. For two days, 10 talented, attentive weavers and I focused intently on handwoven lace theory and techniques. From the most experienced weavers in the group to the relative beginners, everyone came in eager to learn something new and willing to share their knowledge and skills with each other and with me.

To me, that is what separates a person with the ability to weave a scarf, from a real weaver. Weavers know they’ll never be able to learn it all, but they’re going to keep trying.



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