Watching the Cloth Grow


Madelyn in a previous life, weaving slow cloth

In a recent survey of our readers, we asked the question: What is most missing in your weaving life. Your universal answer was: TIME! This probably would have been my answer, too, which got me to thinking about time and its connection to weaving. Long ago, I had a goal of weaving doubleweave coverlets (you know, like the blue and white snowball and pine-tree coverlets of the 1800s) for a living. So, I acquired a loom that was capable of weaving many blocks in doubleweave and a lot of yarn and began my new venture. After weaving several coverlets, I calculated that each one took about 200 hours to weave and finish and (at the time) about $70 worth of wool yarn. (And how much could I get for these coverlets? Not anywhere near the $1,000 that would have paid me $5 an hour.)

Since I loved weaving them, the 200 hours did not seem like a bad thing until I started thinking in terms of "pay" and tried to weave faster. After a few more coverlets, I found that this mindset had greatly diminished my weaving pleasure. I was concentrating on efficiency instead of enjoyment. When I'd make a mistake and have to go back, I'd feel intensely frustrated. My entrepreneurial coverlet venture did not last long.

One of Madelyn's coverlets in situ

When weavers complain about not having enough time, we at Handwoven look hard for time-saving tips to share, projects that can be done on the go or on the fly, ways to make weaving take less time. But this misses an important point. What most of us really LIKE is weaving! We love the meditative, dance-like, rhythmic, aesthetic pleasure of throwing the shuttle, swinging the beater, moving the feet, and watching the cloth grow. Why would we want to make that experience, the one we love, take less time?

With this in mind, we are devoting the November/December issue to Slow Cloth. The  Slow Cloth concept is a lot like the Slow Food movement. The point is not to do it fast, the point is a deeper, better, richer, fuller experience. Plus a better product.

Signature corners of a doubleweave coverlet

If you have woven something that gave you many, many hours of weaving pleasure, we would love to share it with our readers. Come to and let me know about it in the Slow Cloth forum (or email me at



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