Weaving Down Ancient Roads

Inkle bands handwoven by Anne Dixon   

Band weaving has been a common thread for

centuries across many cultures.

 Cookie Mesmer weaving on an inkle loom  

Guild friend Cookie Mesmer weaving a bright

band on her small inkle loom.


Happy New Year! If you are reading this, then we both have survived the end of the Mayan calendar, the travails of the year past, and the joys and stresses of the holidays. In the words of my mother's German family, "Prosit!" May it be beneficial. May we take this year to love, to learn, to grow, to make the world a better place.

Weaving give us so many opportunities to do all of these things. We constantly add new knowledge and weave structures to our repertoire. We weave and give gifts of our hands and hearts. We teach weaving, helping others to grow and heal. We honor the old as we ring in the new.

My past holiday season was rich with reminders of the gifts that weaving brings. A fair trade fair at my guild's December meeting brought stories and products from weaving communities in Peru, Guatemala, and Africa, who are improving their lives by recovering and building on ancient traditions. We also met weavers from Project Grow, a local program for developmentally challenged adults that provides urban farm jobs and a professional arts studio where Jen Erickson, an amazing young woman and a member of our guild, works with the growing artists on weaving and other forms of self-expression. Our guild has helped support the program with donated equipment and materials. We have had the privilege of seeing these artists' work develop in skill and beauty over several years, and the results are inspiring.

  An inkle loom also makes a good cone stand.

My portable inkle loom sometimes does

double duty as a cone stand.

One of my learning resolutions this year is to get acquainted with the charming little inkle loom I bought last summer. I just reading Ann Dixon's book, the Weaver's Inkle Pattern Directory, and it reminded me once more how weaving links the future and the past. In the Forward, Madelyn van der Hoogt points out that inkle looms have been used for thousands of years, up until the industrial revolution, but Mary Meigs Atwater brought them back to the American handweaving community in the 1930s. Anne's book is replete with many weave structures that I know from other weaving styles: Andean Pebble Weave that I've woven with tablets and on a backstrap loom; what Ann calls "Baltic-style patterns," similar to bands I've woven with a special Scandinavian rigid heddle called a spaltegrind; Monk's Belt, and krokbragd, and rep-like structures that many a floor-loom weaver would find familiar; and tapestry techniques that are as fascinating in bands as in a wall hanging or rug. There are many paths to weaving these textiles, but each time I travel down an ancient road,  it deepens my understanding and appreciation of the structure and the process, and it reminds me that it is weaving that makes the weaver, not our tools.

So welcome weavers, old and new, far and wide, to a new year of possibilities. May it bring you joy.


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