It all started with a little black book filled with cloth samples and drafts – my grandfather’s sample book. I’ve been moving it with me since his death in 1976. None of it made any sense to me.
Four years ago a highschool friend posted on Facebook that she had a Harrisville loom for sale. I had always wanted to learn and it seemed like the right opportunity. I then went about looking for a weaving teacher that taught on that particular loom. As luck would have it there was one in a town that was relatively close. My first visit to the weaving group on Tuesday nights I brought that little black book and told Pam, my teacher, that I wanted to learn to weave so I would understand the book. She told me that wouldn’t be a problem and someday I might be able to weave my way through the drafts in the book.
I read an article recently about genetic memory. The basic principle is we carry the ability to do complex tasks around in our dna, handed down from generation to generation. I’m not sure about people who are born savants but I do know that weaving felt like something I already knew and understood on a visceral level. It was something that was already there, it just needed to be unlocked.
Now I love to weaving but if I’m honest it’s really about the looms. I love troubleshooting problems. Figure out how one works and make it work better. Since I started weaving I have also amassed quite the collection of looms. All but one are in working order and I use most of them, one is a restoration project without room to put it so it waits.
During this whole weaving learning experience I started to write about it, mostly to spark conversations with my dad about the mills my family members had all worked in. My fascination for the machinery of the mill grew. He would explain to me how they worked with vivid descriptions. If I found a video of a power-loom in action he would point out the things he was trying to describe. For me it was the sound of the loom running that drew me in. I have a vivid memory of that sound from early childhood when I would be taken to my grandfather’s mill. It was loud and amazing.
Well dad is gone and so are the stories and I needed something to keep it alive for me. Pam asked me to go to a weaver’s guild meeting the week after my father died because Peggy Hart was going to be giving a talk. I went, for many different reasons. One – because Pam asked me to. Two – hoping to hear the stories. Three – to meet Peggy, someone my father had repeatedly said to meet because she had the looms.
I met her there, called her the following week and visited her mill a few days later (it’s very close to home, who knew?). I was there for a tour really and it turned into an apprenticeship. She needs help, I want to learn to run the machines.
This morning I spent 3 hours or so learning to wind bobbins, putting them into the loom, repairing broken threads and listening to it run. I can only describe that sound to me as being wrapped in a warm hug.
Timing is everything. I had called Peggy over a year ago to meet her and see her mill because my father was badgering me to do it. For one reason or another it never happened. As it turns out I would never have had the time to give to this then. Peggy lost her weaving assistant recently (he’s 90) and has more jobs ahead of her than usual. As I was leaving today we were talking about scheduling and she said, “I think you have come into my life at the perfect time.” My reply, “For me as well.” It feels like divine intervention.
11 thoughts on “Divine Intervention”
What an amazing story. It warms the heart that you have found an opportunity to basically come full circle. 🙂
It’s been an amazing ride so far!
I watched a programme about blade smithing recently, and one man said he heard the sound of a hammer on an anvil and just followed it. He’s been doing it ever since. Some things just call to you.
What a wonderful tribute to your father and grandfather!
Thank you so much.
They say,”You’ll know it when you find it”…the “it” being what you were meant to do. You’ve pursued many interests with gusto and achieved mastery…but, by Jove, I think you’ve found “it!”
The only problem is I get a little misty when it’s running ;0)
That just means your labor comes from the heart. That’s a very good thing…and it will never be “work.”
I am so happy for you! I remember your post about the book of drafts often, and I always wonder how far you have gotten with it. I am looking forward to reading more about your experiences in the mill!
This is a grand adventure.
I love you explanation for why weaving resonates with you. My first loom was a Harrisville, too, because it was the right price, and I loved the idea of assembling it myself. I donated it to a craft museum when my kids were little; I thought I’d never have time for it ever again. As you can imagine, weaving continued to call me within hearing range, and I’m delighted to be weaving up a storm right now. I know what you mean about looms feeling like home.
Wow Jo – serendipity for sure! What sort of textiles does the mill make? My uncle had a textile mill in Philadelphia and he had a sample book as well. I should ask my cousin if she has it as I remember it was amazing. He had the most gorgeous sort of old fashioned writing and that plus the drafts and sample fabrics made me want it so much! But he wouldn’t even let me hold it… I can’t wait to hear more about your adventure.