There’s Always More to Learn

Once again I am humbled by how much I don’t know about weaving. As a Haywood Community College Professional Crafts Fiber student, I attended a talk recently at the nearby Center for Craft, Creativity and Design by Julie Holyoke of the Lisio Foundation. The Lisio Foundation is a jacquard production and teaching center in Florence, Italy. Its mission is to preserve techniques for hand weaving silk and precious metals into figured brocade and velvet. Julie explained the foundation’s typical textile client is “the Pope.”

Gold Obi Velvet  
Gold pile velvet custom designed
for a bridal obi by the Lisio
Foundation Production. Photo
courtesy of the Lisio Foundation 

Julie was in Western North Carolina to exchange knowledge with instructors at The Jacquard Center, a teaching adjunct to The Oriole Mill. She showed us some of the fabulous textiles the Lisio Foundation produces for its special clientele, including a gold obi for a Japanese bride. Not gold colored, mind you, real gold.

Julie also gave the audience, consisting largely of textile students from nearby colleges, a sample of the Lisio classroom curriculum, which starts with a detailed study of weave drafting. "Ha," I thought. "I’ve been reading and writing weaving drafts for more than a decade. I can interpret a cross-section weaving diagram. I’ve even woven velvet on a shaft loom. I could do this jacquard stuff."


It took about five minutes for Julie to blow past my knowledge base, which in the scheme of weaving history and textile technology, is frighteningly small. She projected images of jacquard textiles designed by Lisio students and challenged us to identify the weave structures in each. We studied the screen as Julie pointed out the satin, the tabby, the floats of multiple wefts and supplementary warps, all familiar concepts but combined in ways that left all but the bravest of us dumbstruck.

  Cypress Trees by Sheetal Khanna-ravich

Cypress Trees by Sheetal Khanna-ravich.
Photo courtesy of the Lisio Foundation. 

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I was left in the same state of nervous, flushed excitement that gripped me when I opened my first Handwoven magazine. It was the same day I threw a shuttle for the first time. I left my weaving mentor’s home and went straight to the bookstore where I was thrilled to find Handwoven on the newsstand. My mentor, who knew she had me hooked, told me the magazine would be a great resource for ideas, materials, equipment, and suppliers for all the above.


Even though it was written in English, I didn’t understand a word. The weave drafts looked like some strange musical score. Advertisements featured fascinating-looking equipment for which I could see no useful purpose. The yarn was pretty, but what were these cone-shaped packages? Who could ever use that much yarn? Still, every page I turned sucked me deeper under its spell. The beautiful project pictures made me want to make that, and that, and that, even though I had no clue how.


Eventually, thanks to my wonderful mentor and many teachers since, I learned to read and understand the drafts and project instructions. My subscription has never lapsed since I shook the subscription card out of that first issue. I read every issue cover to cover, have contributed a few articles myself and recommend it to my weaving students.


A very wise person once told me, “You can never learn it all, Karen.” I’m sure she’s right. One of the reasons I’m at Haywood is to gain some focus. However, this jacquard puzzle is something I think I’m going to have to solve. I may never make it to the Lisio Foundation, but, fortunately, The Jacquard Center is right down the road.


Karen Donde 

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