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Thursday, May 24, 2012

When I was a weaver

It’s leaked out I used to weave.  My sister and I were weavers, and began a successful business that still goes on, down another path.  That in part because she’s ten years younger and still working.  It’s always been an artsy little business and I wonder where it might wind up.  Mark Twain said, about writing, when you get tired of a character take him out in the back yard and put him down the well.  I’m sure we’ll be more elegant in our turn.

Jan is the right brain, I’m the left brain.  She’s always been artsy.  Drawing, painting, bead work.  She nails color.  Oozes design.  What can I say.  I’m an accountant.  I respect her talent.  I’m the one who makes costed bills of material and calculates gross margin.  So, how could I be a weaver?
Looms are little precision instruments.  You can love them because they weave great globs of color into beautiful objects or you can love them because they do the job you anticipate when all the preparation is proper.  There you have it.  The right brain and the left brain.  A couple of sisters who decided to move into a house with a studio in order to run a weaving business.

In the beginning Jan was weaving rugs.  She used four harness looms so she could weave pattern and texture.  When I joined we made the business full time and expanded with handwoven clothing.  Our niche was cotton and practical comfort.  Enough style to wear in public.  We never hit on loom shaped garments we liked, so we actually cut up our handwoven fabric and sewed it into clothing.  A couple of jacket styles, several shirt styles, dresses.  Lots of color.
Going from local festivals to regional shows was a big leap for us.  We had to have professional slides and be accepted by juries.  We even had a New York model.  No kidding.  I didn’t keep any slides when we quit; all the pictures I have are from our old web site.

Here’s a rug.

Here’s a cotton shirt. In natural cotton, no color.  Sorry.  On our New York model.  We defined our shirts by how many buttons they had.  This is a two button.  I sewed about a million button holes in our career.  This shirt has a great story.  I was at a show in North Carolina.  A customer I recognized from New York walked into my booth, dropped about a hundred packages on the floor, whipped out her phone and called her husband.
“Honey, that shirt your brother took and won’t give back?  I’m in her booth!  Yes, I found her at the North Carolina house!”  She outfitted her husband and several brothers with enough two button shirts to end squabbles for at least a decade.

We still get phone calls from people wanting a shirt or jacket “just like my friend has.”  We tell them to put their name on it so they can get it when their friend goes.  We did retire from weaving ten years ago.  No looms.  No thread.  No industrial sewing machines.  No more buttons.
One day the right brain quit weaving and began quilting.  No kidding.  Right brains are allowed to do that.  Weaving had a twenty year run and I needed a new hip, anyway.  We’re still using thirty year old handwoven dishtowels, and my bathroom door curtains are in great shape. 

If you’re a weaver, these are 20/2 Lilly cotton, in a balanced twill/plain weave threading.










20 comments:

  1. Oh, I can see why that 2-button shirt was a hit. I'd love to have one! The pattern in your curtain is very elegant. (And thanks for writing a post to satisfy my curiosity about your weaving!) Bet you could do another with bits and pieces of your art/craft.

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    1. There's just absolutely nothing as wonderful and cotton.

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  2. Joanne, you never cease to amaze me! Yet another fascinating bit of your past. (I'm beginning to think you're like James Bond - with different little pieces of your past tucked away).
    I love the shirt! What a pity that no one carried on after you retired!

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    1. Would that be motley or checkered? I did give away all our patterns, so maybe someone somewhere has made a shirt or two.

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  3. The shirt is stunning Joanne and I can see why it was beloved.

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  4. I used to weave stuff for ourselves - mostly furnishing fabric - and still have old American patterns around the house.
    That shirt looks so elegant!

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  5. It must be so heartwarming to have people pursuing you for your crafted items. It truly is a testament to the high quality of your products.

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    1. Thank you. They really want them because they're soft.

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  6. Back in the late 70's and 80's, during my artsy, crafty period, I thought of weaving, but the loom was too expensive.

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  7. Thirty year old dish towels? THIRTY YEARS??
    Wow, I want me one of those! Mine only last me about ten years and that's because I bought so many they each don't get used too much.

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  8. P.S. the shirt is truly lovely.

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  9. Beautiful - love the shirt. The only weaving I've actually seen being done was to make heavier items, placemats and the like.

    You are a lady of many talents.

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  10. Fascinating stuff - all of it. The shirt is something wonderful, how I envy those people fortunate enough to have bought one, it is a classic. I salute you both.

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  11. Oh wow. Sooo impressive. That shirt looks soft stylish and comfortable. Drool.

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  12. My goodness, girl, what a story! Gosh, you bought a house with a studio, and lived with your sister, and you BOTH did what you loved and made a good success of it.

    I adore that shirt, it's got my name written all over it..

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  13. I have never woven but may try now that I'm gonna retire.

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  14. Oh, but Joanne, that shirt is GORGEOUS.

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  15. Yes, I am the one who has the "bus" that joanne jumps on as my "roadie". Nearly every time I have her with me at a show, a customer will walk by with one of HER handwoven shirts, jackets,etc..Very often a customer will recognize her and express their distress of never having another EWE TREE handwoven piece of clothing but will continue to wear what they do currently own...It is a thrill for me when this happens..I have many pieces but did not buy "THE JACKET" and regret that.My mother did however and one day it will be mine..Think that is the only way to get one of her handwoven items at this time!!! Next time I spot a customer or a fellow artists attired in such garb, I will grab my camera and share the pic..It won't be long,believe me..

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