I Just LOVE Teaching Weaving

27 08 2009

There has been a discussion on a weaving group I belong to about weaving becoming one of those skills that folks only see in a historic context which gives the false impression that it’s an archaic skill just when it’s anything but archaic?

Why is handweaving not archaic? Because there’s so much weaving that commercial weaving mills just don’t do. Just as an example, right now, I’m doing shadow weave. You’ll never see a mill doing shadow weave for the same reasons you won’t see a mill doing any number of other really cool weaving patterns.

One reason is that the threading for shadow weave is not that versatile. Mills like versatile threadings because a versatile threading means you can made a bunch of yards of one type of fabric and then a bunch of yards of another type of fabric without rethreading.

Another reason is that the potential for making mistakes in the setting up of the loom and in weaving the fabric is more than for simpler weaves. Mistakes cost mills money. Why not just avoid the potential for them as much as possible.

It all comes down to money, of course. For a mill, the balance between the labor costs of making certain kinds of woven fabric and the potential profit from them just doesn’t balance, particularly in these days of really cheap textiles.

Therefore, learning weaving opens a person’s access to all kinds of fabrics that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise (aside from buying the work of handweavers like me, which I very much encourage.)

I just love it when my students light up. When suddenly, in their minds, they’ve grasped just what the loom does and how it does it, and they can “see”  all the different possibilities they have just gained access to, all the unique and unusual things they can make at such a low cost and have the pleasure of saying “Thanks, I made it myself!” 

Now, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t be glad to do a demonstration of weaving in a historic context. Historical fiber facts stick to me like burrs, friendly burrs that I feel proud to carry and display. (Did you know the last cotton spinnery in the UK closed 8 years ago?) (Could you identify the dye plant alkanet that grows as a weed in the UK and  yield everything from green to purple depending on the conditions?) Someone suggested just yesterday that there might be a demand for me to give lectures on the textile history of the UK, which made me laugh as an American who has only been here 4 years, but gathering the amount of info I feel I would need to not feel like a fraud doing that would be downright fun!

So, go ahead, ask me to teach you weaving. Ask me to give a lecture on the textile history of the UK, on the textile history of the US even. Go ahead! I’ll be weaving the latest shadow weave scarf. (I have a feeling there will be a bunch of them.)

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