Healing Handcrafting

exploring process and healing through fiber arts and handcrafting


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Weaving is Collective and Personal

I’m a member of the Vermont Weaver’s Guild and I participated in this year’s weaving challenge. It was to make a pillow using three of the four elements randomly assigned to each weaver who entered. I got overshot, cotton, stripes and black and white. I chose the first three elements because nowhere in my house is there a spot to receive a black and white anything, so that part was simple. One pillow is to be donated to the guild so it can be part of a sale that we have to raise money.

I’ve not been weaving for terribly long, and every time I learn a new thing, it feels like I have to relearn a bunch of old things, although I can say I’m noticing a growing ease with preparing a warp, getting it on the loom, setting the loom up and threading, so that is a good thing. I will share a story in another post about a fight I got into with my counterbalance loom with the absolute simplest warp/threading/tie up you can imagine just this week, but I’ll save that for later. For this pillow project, I opted to utilize the weaving class I was taking at Shelburne Craft School with Lausanne Allen to get help and support as I tackled the most complicated pattern and weaving structure I’ve done to date. The class was for weavers who have experience but are still actively learning and benefit from the guidance of a skilled and patient teacher.

I felt rather overwhelmed immediately with the overshot part of things, and how to add stripes to it, because I don’t know how to create my own patterns yet. I referenced Madelyn van der Hoogt and of course, Bertha Gray Hayes, and saw so many drafts I’d love to weave, but somehow, translating those into a pattern made me feel like I was swimming in too deep water- maybe it was resistance? Or confusion? Or just the simple fact that I need to dig in and study what size yarns go with what epi goes with what draft, etc., etc., and then color choice- oh man! It’s a lot to sort out! So… I kept getting stuck. Enter Lausanne, who showed me a wonderful pattern called Bertha’s Towels from Handwoven. I was like, boom… Cotton, check. Overshot, check-check. Stripes, bingo. I knew I could modify the pattern for the pillows I needed, and get a few towels out of the bargain as well, if I lengthened the warp. And from there I went.

What I loved about the process once I got out from under the stress of making a bunch of decisions about a weave structure I didn’t really understand yet was the toggling between community and self, community and self. During class and open studios, I shared close space with fellow students who I now consider friends. One was weaving a beautiful Krokbragd pattern on a rug warp; the other was approaching our school’s antique barn loom that was having new life breathed into it with all of the attention paid to her; that weaver has her own incredible story to tell about her experience, and she wove an absolutely gorgeous table runner using an overshot pattern. In the back weaving room, there were other wonderful weavers and friends working out their warps and weaving. The sounds of a working weaving studio are amazing- clanking, knocking, the occasional sigh, swear, muttering to self, the walking around and looking at others’ work when you’re so tweaked by threading, sleying and realizing a mistake. I’d have a moment where I’d meet myself and my own growth edge, exclaim some thing, get support and dive back in to my own mind and project.

It took a long time for me to weave three towels and two pillow covers (one side- I used a lovely muslin-esque type fabric for the back). The flow of overshot and the pattern itself requires complete attention, pretty much the whole time. I think I finally internalized the pattern by the middle of the second to last towel I wove and it started to make sense to me, how it all worked. And wow, as the fabric became reality, I couldn’t believe what I was making. It was so much fun to problem solve selvedges and beats, fixing mistakes and troubleshooting loom peculiarities with Lausanne and my weaving partners. And it was heartening to meet, yet again in this weaving passion I’ve found myself in, my own growth edges and how I deal with them- it’s not pretty all the time, that’s for sure, but I know that I can move forward now towards pattern design- not with ease, but maybe with less trepidation? I mean, I’m in no rush… we’ll see.


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Weaving and Fiber Arts are Coming Back to the Shelburne Craft School!

Something very exciting is happening here in Shelburne, VT, of the fibery, weavy, yarny brand. On this rainy Memorial Day Monday, I’d love to share the news with you.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from the director of the Shelburne Craft School, a wonderful woman named Claire, letting me know that they were bringing weaving back to their programming. Oh my… she had me right there. It was an incredibly welcome email to receive for reasons big and small. In it, Claire explained some of what she was hoping to accomplish and asked if I would I like to talk. Truth be known, I would have jogged my pandemic-fatigued self to her right then and there, but I tempered that urge and like any mature grown up, set a date to meet in my studio nearby on a later date.

When we met, it was difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm. I listened to what Claire’s vision was and marveled at the fact that soon, Weaving and Fiber Art would be offerings at the Shelburne Craft School again. The school had a strong weaving program decades ago. I’m unclear as to why it was stopped. I’ve only heard whisperings about “the day the looms left”, or something like that. At any rate, as we spoke, I realized quickly that while I want to be a part of this most assuredly, I don’t have the weaving expertise to spearhead the vision coming to life. But, I thought of my weaving teacher, Lausanne Allen, who has more expertise in her pinky nail than I’ll ever hope to achieve in my lifetime. I let Claire know I’d be in touch with Lausanne we’d see what unfolds.

Well… receiving Lausanne’s response to my inquiry as to whether she could imagine taking on developing a weaving program at the craft school was probably the closest I’ve come to that feeling you get when you hurriedly open a letter from a someone you’ve missed terribly, or the results of some test… I sped read it and laughed out loud and read it again more slowly… not only was she interested, but she was thrilled out it, too! I’d forgotten this, but Lausanne reminded me that she learned how to weave at the Shelburne Craft School in the 80s and right out of the gate, she had so many ideas and questions and wonderings…

A lot has happened since Lausanne and Claire met. Spaces have been cleared, looms that the school still had from the fateful time the weaving program shut down have been resurrected and Lausanne and I have brought in a couple of our own. The walls have been adorned with Lausanne’s incredible work and other weavings we’ve collected over the years. There’s been cleaning, oiling, de-rusting and untangling. Lausanne has done many hours of research and learning and acquiring of needed items for the school. And me? I get to be Lausanne’s… I don’t know what to call myself… helper? Assistant? Grateful-To-Be-There-Apprentice? I can tell you this: I feel pinch-myself lucky to be a part of this new development in my town, and am thrilled that Claire has the vision she does to bring back such an important part of not just our town’s history, but in my view, an integral part of the story of human making.

If you are reading this with a particular interest in weaving and wonder when might things be lifting off ground at the school, I will be regularly updating you here. And of course, check out the Shelburne Craft School’s website to see all of their offerings. It’s a wonderful place to be, and soon the sounds of beaters beating, shuttles flying, bobbins spinning, and voices whispering to cloth will be filling the air and saturating the old wood of the historic building.