Saturday, February 14, 2015

What do you enjoy most about weaving?

Question two from Jacqueline at Cheapskate Blethering. Hop  over to see her contest.

Weaving is just a means to an end. Ancient woven fish traps. Woven baskets for storage and carrying water—yes, that well done. Penelope unweaving a day’s work every night, avoiding those pesky suitors and remaining faithful to Odysseus. A thought that boggles my mind—until the industrial revolution a mere three hundred years ago, every thread was spun by hand, loaded onto a loom by hand and woven by hand. Every thread for clothes and blankets, yes, but also every thread for every sail for every ship for every navy and merchant marine in the world.

I like the physical act of weaving; I like listening to books in my ears while the inches of fabric roll up under my knees. I like considering and solving all the problems of the universe as my shuttle travels back and forth. But most of all, I like the fabric.

I’ve always considered myself an artisan, a worker in a skilled trade. I am not artist—I do not weave diaphanous yardage and drape it fabulously around a runway model. I make good, pedestrian cotton cloth to make into casual, soft and comfortable shirts. But so different that they are not at any casual shop in America. “Where did you get that shirt?” “At an art show!”

And that’s the other thing I loved about weaving, back when my sister and I earned a living through our trade. I loved exhibiting and selling at art shows. We had a company called The Ewe Tree, and that was the flag that flew above our booth. I loved hearing customers say to friends, “We need to stop here; it’s my weaver.”

In the day, Jan managed the studio, I travelled to shows. Considering the nature of what we made, it’s not surprising we were popular in the east, or in liberal leaning cities. The national character of our country surprised me, though; it was not unusual to see the same customer in New York City and in another season in Kentucky or North Carolina.

A fun customer story and I’ll leave off. I was at a show in the Washington D.C. area, and a vaguely familiar woman with two small boys in tow stopped in my booth. She immediately phoned her husband. “Remember those two shirts you bought in Vermont that your brothers took?” I’m standing in the very same booth, looking at them. Do you want a blue, green, red, brown or natural colored one?” 

She bought him several and then several more for the brothers, to forestall losing the shirts she bought. At the end we were working out the details of shipping the very large purchase home when one of the little ones chimed in, “Mommy, take the blue one home. Daddy will want it!”

 Beth and me; show at Lincoln Center


  1. So lovely to find something you enjoy so much that can be a business as well.

  2. Glad to hear that your weaving is going so well.

  3. Hari OM
    A knower of quality it seems! An ancient and noble 'art' it is Joanne and you 'craft' it well... YAM xx

  4. I am glad you had such a following. I used to sell my books at craft fairs during the Christmas rush and met people who knew my husband or father in law. Fun times.

  5. I am so enjoying your recounting of your "history". Did you ever have a booth at Winterfair, the winter art show at the (I think) Lausche Building at the fairgrounds in Columbus? I always looked forward to going to that every year and miss it now that we aren't in Ohio in December. Wonder if I ever met you there ;-)

    1. I was at other ODC shows (Ohio Designer Craftsmen), but not Winterfair. My last show of each year would be around Thanksgiving and then I would be home until February. By December folks are shopping for gifts, and clothing is an iffy gift. Our last high volume shows were in October, then a couple smaller November shows, and off until the February ODC show.

  6. Joanne, I'm so glad you're doing this. Each person, each craft, has a history and I'm learning so much from from reading yours.
    I knew I'd liked you before, and reading your responses to my questions just confirms that; your graciousness in playing along with all this is greatly appreciated.

  7. Somehow the connection between you weaving cloth and weaving baskets did not occur to me. We wove baskets in an art class in junior high. It was a fun experience.

  8. What a sweet story about the lady buying all those shirts, Joanne. I liked the name of your and your sister's business; so cute! I bet it is somewhat relaxing to be weaving for you; to be able to listen like you said to books on tape or just to think as you work. Enjoying reading the answers to the questions posed to you and I did enter the contest yesterday :)


  9. If I came across you at a craft show and I had Willy Dunne Wooters with me, I would make him buy everything you have and he would do it because he likes sex--with me, don't worry we aren't trying to involve you.


  10. I love your stories! So happy to know there are more coming :)

  11. It's a challenging way to make a living. At our old house we had a small irrigated acreage and one year we grew vegetables and sold them at farmer's markets in the area. It was a great experience for our kids. They were 9 and 11. They enjoyed the interaction with customers. Me, not so much. At the end of the day it wasn't a lot of money...I kept my day job!

  12. "... but most of all, I like the fabric." There is *something* about fabric, isn't there Joanne? I've never sewed until recently starting quilting, but one can get lost in a fabric store (or a yarn store) just looking, feeling, and enjoying. I wonder why is that?

  13. I'm enjoying reading this life travel of yours, you weave your words as well as you weave your cloth.

  14. I don't have your artistic talent. But, I do love to listen to my music or books on tape while I drive. I can't tell you how many times that I have sat in our driveway listening to that book and not wanting to get out of the car.

  15. For me too, it's the process. I just love to make things, I love the process of making. I didn't like to do shows though which is why I focused on commission work. I could sell to one person but shows were too hard on me mentally and emotionally.