I follow a number of weavers on social media. Some groups are for troubleshooting the particular looms I have, some are buying and selling equipment, most are weavers interested in the process itself. My experience has been that weavers are a very generous lot and these groups have really shown that to be the case.
A couple of interesting questions were posted the other day that really had me thinking. “How often do you weave? What do you do with your weaving projects once you’ve finished? Do you make a living weaving?” Since I’ve begun the post holiday catch up with projects that I’ve promised people these questions really lead to the real question which is why I weave. This is something that has morphed over the years. As I’ve grown in my understanding of the craft the reasons for doing it have changed. What’s different is I realized that weaving is the handcraft I have been looking for my entire life.
I am the type of person that needs to be creating constantly – my hands (and mind) have to be busy. I am also a perfectionist – born and raised. When I was younger this presented problems stemming more from a lack of patience than anything else. I wanted things to be perfect immediately. As I grew older I realized that perfection was attainable for me in most of the crafting I undertook, I just had to readjust my goals.
I was a quilter for years (and years) and also learned embroidery at a very young age. I would go to quilt shows and enter my quilts in fairs. I photographed quilts for the CT Quilt Search Project and delved into the history and process from other women’s perspectives. The pinnacle for me was entering an embroidered and appliqued quilt in the Vermont Quilt Festival and winning a blue ribbon. As far as I was concerned I was done, I wasn’t interested in taking it any further. The same happened with making teddy bears. I found a pattern in a magazine and made one of the lamest bears you have ever seen. I told my family that I was going to keep sewing bears until every one I made was perfect. I made a lot of bears. That lead to designing and teaching adult ed classes to make them. I learned you can only make so many bears and that was the end of that.
I’ve learned to do so many other things searching for that one craft. I weave and teach basket making. I knit, crochet, macrame, blah, blah, blah. I’ve dabbled in woodworking, rug hooking, pottery, leather work. Even baking became a bit of an obsession (I make a mean pie). Some of it I did okay with, most of it didn’t hold my interest enough to continue, a bit of it was so bad that I would tell myself and others it was a one-off, bucket list kind of thing.
Weaving has become the all consuming craft for me and it’s not about perfecting the product which everything else has been. It’s about the process -from beginning to end. I love the math, the counting, the feel of the fiber going through my fingers. I love the looms. Big looms, little looms, any kind of looms. I love dressing a loom and having the right amount of threads and the perfect tension. I love it when I weave the first few picks and there aren’t any threading errors. I love the meditative quality of the weaving itself when you’ve memorized the pattern and you’re weaving without thinking about weaving. I must confess that I’m usually thinking about the next project.
That’s where these questions hit home. I weave almost every day. The problem is always what to do with what you’ve woven. I never want to be boxed in to where I have to think about what I’m weaving and it’s marketability. In my opinion that’s the fastest way to suck the joy out of something you love, monetize it. What I have done is custom weaving for people to augment my raw materials. This is what lets me weave at this point.
As for making a living weaving . . . I wove overshot runners for a friend of mine to give to some of her family members for Christmas. Ten days before the holiday I put on about an 8 yard warp figuring I would weave her three and then weave a few extra for others that have expressed an interest. These runners were beautiful, everything came together and I cut off the ones she needed for the holiday. I then proceeded to weave off the rest of the warp and finish up the remaining runners. I realized then I could never, ever be a production weaver, especially working on a deadline. Some of the best lessons learned aren’t ones you’re looking for at all.
Sometimes questions need to be asked to let you see where you are going. Most often they are asked in a most innocent way and you hear them at the perfect moment.