Weaving in Braille
In 1825 Louis Braille devised a sytem which allowed blind and visually impaired people to read and write both words and music. Braille, which uses a raised dots that are read by touch, is probably the most well known (at least in the U.S.) way for the blind and visually impaired to read. Unfortunately, and for a variety of reasons including lack of available education programs, 90% of blind and visually impaired children graduate without learning how to read or write in Braille. Just imagine if 90% of all children in the U.S. could not read or write and you can understand the gravity of the situation.
While the statistic is a bit shocking, what does this have to do with weaving? Well, one new tool on the market that makes learning Braille fun is the Mayster Braille Loom. Invented by Jennifer Mayster, an advocate for the blind and Braille education, it is a 7-shaft loom based upon the Perkins Brailler, a sort of Braille typewriter. With the Brailler, users press a combination of seven keys to write; with the Mayster Braille loom weavers use a combination of seven levers and seven different yarns to create a Braille cell pattern in the fabric. After the weaving is finished, the Braille pattern can be read by touch. In this way students of Braille have a fun way to learn, while those well versed in Braille can create fabric with meaningful messages within. They can do all of this while learning the fundamentals of handweaving.
So let’s raise our shuttles for Jennifer Mayster, a hero of handweaving and Braille education.