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.