The Weaving Teacher Who is Already There

"The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne." -Geoffrey Chaucer

Handvoen log cabin runner abd doubleweave mug rugs by Judy Eatough  

Judy Etough taught about color in computer

drafting with this project from Handwoven

November/December 2009.


Some weavers can glance at a draft and see the cloth in their heads, just as a fine musician can see a few notes on a staff and recognize a Bach cantata. Since I took my first weaving class with Madelyn van der Hoogt, I've yearned to be one of those weavers. But it takes time and practice to become truly fluent in a new language. You have to understand the grammar, the idioms, the colloquialisms. The more I learned, the more I found nuances in weaving. A draft tells you structure, but it takes experience to know the subtleties of beat and take-up or how different yarns will interact in a given structure. A wool twill that looks sleazy on the loom will full to a soft cloth, where a firmly beaten cloth might full to cloth like a board. A waffle weave sett too loosely may shrink more than a tightly sett one because the threads have more room to move.

The most fluent weavers have spent decades building their expertise. I discovered weaving later in my life, and there is so much to learn that I could despair. But instead I find comfort in the aphorism, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." I think the trick is to recognize the teachers who are already with you or have been there all along.

   Block weave by Madelyn van der Hoogt

Madelyn explains the finer points of block

weaves in the November/December

2011 Handwoven issue.

Sometimes you carry a teacher in your head until you're ready. For example, I took a rug weaving class with Jason Collingwood very shortly after I learned to weave. I was mystified when he talked about how to place one's shuttles to get a good looking edge, but I took it on faith and followed directions. Several years later, when learning krokbragd from the late Syvilla Bolson, she gave our class an article on how to handle the colors at the selvedges, and the light went on in my head. When Madelyn had us do drawdowns in that first weaving class, I dutifully followed instructions, wondering whether I would ever make myself do this tedious thing when all I really wanted to do was throw a shuttle and watch the cloth grow. Now I use drawdowns daily to plan projects and check patterns.

I also find that my shelves are full of faithful teachers, waiting until I'm ready. When my children were in middle school and I wasn't weaving yet, a neighbor with a new baby traded me an old rug loom for a play structure my kids had outgrown, and I bought one of Peggy Osterkamp's books to figure out how the loom worked. I never managed to assemble the rug loom (I think there were pieces missing), but when I finally learned to weave, I pulled Peggy's book from my shelf and devoured it. When Sharon Alderman's Mastering Weave Structures first came out, I thought, "That's exactly what I want to do." But it took more years of weaving for me to appreciate how exceptionally well Sharon's text, drafts, and pictures work together to make weave structures understandable. I also have many occasions these days to go through issues of Handwoven that I bought in the years since I started weaving. Almost daily, I run across an excellent technique article by one of those fluent weavers and think, "How did I miss this?" Of course, I missed them because I wasn't ready.

Weaving is a journey, and it could be daunting to think of all I have yet to learn. But instead I feel rich. I am rich in aspirations, rich in all the discoveries that lie ahead, and rich in the fine teachers I have known, the great teachers waiting patiently on my shelves, and the new teachers yet to come. I can rejoice, knowing I will be ready for them soon.


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