Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Are young people taking up weaving? Or old people...?

David Gascoigne (Travels with Birds) asked in my last post, "are young people taking up weaving?" I've puzzled over answering that question these last couple of days. How could I, gone from weaving nearly twenty years, make an honest answer?

I did a fair amount of research. I checked the rosters of art shows where I used to exhibit for weavers, old vs. new. I called a national yarn shop owner I know and talked about who was currently taking classes, and her general impression of the weaving end of business. And, I talked to a weaving friend still going to guild meetings, who used to teach weaving.

The conclusion, weaving is out there. It attracts all ages. But, it is an expensive hobby. You better have a job. Or, be retired, and have disposable income. The loom I'm weaving on cost a thousand dollars--used. In the same post, Diane Tolley (On the Alberta Montana Border) mentioned her grandmother bought her first loom at age 76, taught herself and soon was showing her skill to a large convention.

Google "weaving schools". Google "where can I buy a loom?" Google "weaving magazines." You will be inundated with information, more than you can ever assimilate or use. You can learn how to weave, from a rug underfoot to exquisite lace and fine fabric.

So, I'll give you some paragraphs on my weaving career as fairly typical of taking the bit and going somewhere with it.

My aunt and uncle became weavers after my uncle retired. They were in a little town in Ohio, looking for an organ advertised for sale. They went into a shop to get directions and my uncle was mesmerized by the machines with treadles, just like organs. That was their story, anyway. He bought his first loom.

Much later my uncle became too ill to weave, and the looms were sold, the rug loom to my sister and two other looms to me. Our aunt did not have time or energy to teach us, so we did figure out how to weave by ourselves. It may be easier to take formal classes, but alternatively, we devised many short cuts to long processes that were invaluable in our weaving career.

Within a short time we hit a tipping point. We each looked over our shoulders and saw our output exceeded our ability to gift what we were weaving. The expense of buying supplies and material to weave to give away was becoming apparent. And, each of us was ready to leave our day jobs. So, we did.

At first we exhibited and sold at local shows, and in a couple of years were at national shows. We bought a house together, with a studio. We worked together as weavers from 1984 to 2002. Then my sister began her quilting career and I retired, got a new hip, and went to work for my township.

Eventually I began weaving again. Who all remembers when I fell back on old habits and began giving away towels? I actually gave away two hundred towels before I said obviously people like them, I think I'll begin selling them. 

And here's a last story for David. I demonstrated weaving for an hour at a national show. Suddenly a young girl, perhaps eight, darted across the road, shouting back at her parents, "She's not going over and under! She's not going over and under!" I stood up, showed her how I could weave without going over and under, and by the time her parents crossed at the intersection and joined us, my little weaver was weaving on my four harness, six treadle loom.

Any child who makes a potholder on a frame is a weaver.



 


48 comments:

  1. I remember those pot holders! I think there is a renewed interest in producing things ourselves and in being more independent, instead of buying things already made. Perhaps it's because we have more time? Loved reading about your weaving history. I did NOT know that looms were that expensive.

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    1. A loom is a well made, precise tool. It is very expensive to make well, and consequently expensive to sell. There is one major manufacturer in Canada, Louet, and the rest are in Europe.

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    2. I missed: three in the USA, Harrisville, Schact, and Gilmore. Some more smaller manufacturers.

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  2. That was fun to hear about what is going on in the world of weaving and to hear that little kids are weaving today.

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  3. I've been a fan of going to quality craft sales and shops all my adult life, and all I know is that there's always lots of quality hand-crafted weaving available! I've personally known two women (both lawyers) who were/are lovely weavers as their way of relaxing.

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    1. I read on the website of a major eastern craft show sponsor that the Covid epidemic has dramatically curtailed the income of craftsmen. Yes. Consider that shows were cancelled or cut way back. That web site asks us, please remember these artists, seek out their web pages and see if you can buy there.

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  4. I love to watch it, I love to learn about it, I love to use and to fondle the towels you have sent me. As yet I am not in the slightest bit tempted to attempt the art.
    I am endlessly glad that others are.

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  5. The closest I have come to weaving is making mats from blades of grass, which tend to fall apart easily and quickly, then there's knitting which is a different kind of weaving altogether.
    I am endlessly grateful that you began weaving again and have your lovely towels to remind me every day.

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  6. I really enjoyed reading the 'origin story' of how you and your sister began weaving. And how wonderful your aunt and uncle found weaving on a lark after your uncle's retirement.

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  7. The important factors must be time and expense; not usually associated with the young.

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    1. I've found them to be laser focused on subjects that interest them. But, they generally are puzzling out the money part.

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  8. Fascinating story. I have a couple of table looms which I haven't used for ages, I find the warping tiring but I hold on to them in hope. So your aunt and uncle never bought the organ, a decision that led them to a completely different hobby.

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    1. No, my uncle bought two organs, too. A pump organ and a big electronic one, for which they had to build an addition to their house.

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  9. That's exactly what I had when I was a little girl, like in the picture. And this is the farthest I have come in weaving.

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  10. Hari OM
    A lovely synopsis of the business! For me it's crochet - yarn can be very pricey, but at least the set up equipment is considerably cheaper - and easy to transport!!! YAM xx

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  11. Thank you, Joanne, for paying such attention to my question, and thank you for the detailed response. Fascinating!

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  12. The Art School I attended for sculpture had a huge weaving course, including massive industrial machines. It was certainly the biggest in this country. It is at Farnham, Surrey.

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    1. I worked in Cleveland, very near the Cleveland Institute of Art. It had a huge weaving department and degree. Here's a story I've told: the director called and asked me to warp her loom for a project she was to demonstrate to some very important public figures. But I never heard back, and when I happened to see her some time after., I asked how the project had gone. She said she had a vision one day, and went to the Animal Protective League and brought back a bucket full of dog collars from euthanized dogs. She built a frame and strung it with row after row of buckled together dog collars. She gave her presentation, talking about some civic responsibility, which I will guess was humane treatment of abandoned animals. As she spoke, she wove dog collars, just like in that potholder loom, reaching in and buckling on a new one constantly. She said grown men cried.

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    2. That was a good bit of inspiration.

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  13. You've certainly stuck with it and in my experience you are very good at it.

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  14. When I was a child I did simple weaving as did everyone else in the class. It was paper weaving. I gather that a similar technique is used when making wall hangings which are quite popular form of weaving right now. I love all things woven things and hand made things in general. 2020 was going to be my year to take a few weaving classes to make simple things but then Covid hit us. Maybe I will take it up next year if all goes well. I do not qualify as a young weaver anymore :-)

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  15. There are lots of weavers' cottage in my part of Yorkshire - lots of windows upstairs - but I don't know any weavers. Lots of young potters, though.

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    1. Yes, there will always be enough looms on hand to satisfy anyone who wants to learn and comes across looms for sale. That part of the art fascinates me; I believe there always will be enough looms on hand for those who want to weave.

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  16. In many ways your gifts of towels a few year back was a brilliant business plan. I would probably not have bought them without seeing what they were like first. You sent me 2 for free (such a wonderful gift!) and I just bought 8 of them as Christmas presents. They are amazing. I'm so thankful you started making them again for sale.

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    1. I have a long list of bloggers I follow, and I was just going down it, asking if that person wanted a towel. They said yes, or no, or didn't answer, and I went on to the next. Then one day I had emails from two complete strangers, and the gist of them was, We don't know each other, but if you're giving something free, I want one. Here is my address, send whatever it is. That stopped me cold. I didn't send any more towels. The train had wrecked. I began weaving other things. Then people began offering to buy more towels. I had to think carefully about that; I have no desire to open an online store. But this little shop satisfies my desire to weave towels, and stops me dealing with people who make me unhappy.

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    2. Oh gee, how creepy that must have been to get those emails.

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  17. Love that last story about the child weaving. The tradition is in great hands.

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  18. Weavers are always mesmerizing to watch and the fabric that come from their looms just beautiful. I am envious of that talent.

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  19. My grandmother taught me to spin and weave.
    It was a wrench to have to choose between fleece and clay

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    1. I entered this part of fiber because I was an avid knitter who wanted "real" wool yarn. I taught myself to spin several years before my sister bought that loom. I showed her how to spin. Actually I put a wheel in front of her. We both were spinners for years. My wheels are gone now, but that's OK.

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  20. I still remember the thrill of that little potholder loom and also, the frustration at the end of the process where the nylon loops would pop off the little pegs. I learned to double-loop the ends so they would stay fixed for me. I knew that there had to be a less clumsy way to do this.
    What a fine story of how you came to be a weaver. I wonder how many miles of cotton you've turned into such handsome textiles.

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  21. I made those pot holders! I was also one of the lucky recipients of your towel giveaways. I have a memory of trying my hand at weaving but no memory of when or where or even on what. what I remember is that it was difficult to keep the selvedges even. my daughter in law decided she wanted to weave and my son bought her a small loom, then a bigger loom, then either bought or made an upright loom but she eventually stopped. she has a lot of back pain and limited because of back surgery. at least that was her excuse. everything she has done, and there is a lot, she eventually loses interest in. I have no idea what happened to the looms. sold or stored.

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  22. I was one of your giftees so I subsequently ordered from you, wonderful towels. Thanks for the weaving history and I see so many young uns crafting now. Weaving is big.

    XO
    WWW

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  23. Sewing was my passion. Taught myself when I was 14 and never stopped sewing or learning. After giving up my nursing career to be at home with my older troubled teens, I seemed to always be at the fabric store. Piece Goods Shop had recently come to Georgia and I was talked into a part-time position with the employee discount. Being a good employee who would respond to a call for help landed me a management position, then a middle management position for a tri-state area. My teens had moved to their "real" fathers by then and my three remaining children were easier to deal with. We taught craft classes in our stores and sold sewing machines and sergers that we had to be adept at servicing. I found that I liked every aspect of that job as much as I had enjoyed the challenge of being an ER nurse. I like to make things and I like to give them to people who appreciate my efforts. Never too old to learn a new passion!!

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  24. Back in the 70’s when “crafting” became the in thing, I admired an acquaintance who was very into weaving and had me thinking of doing it also. However, as you said, it was very expensive and since I was having babies every few years, I couldn’t afford it. I did macramé and a few other things that satisfied my crafting needs. I admire you so, Joanne, for so many things, but mostly because how you stick to things and find ways to get things done.

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  25. I so enjoyed hearing about how you got started weaving! I also appreciate the story you told Tom about the presentation at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I am always fascinated and amazed by your weaving talents. I appreciate people that take the time to use their creative skills to make something that is otherwise made in a factory without the love and care.

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  26. You and your sister must have known you could weave and enjoy it. Teaching yourselves to weave is also impressive. I have great appreciation for hand crafted products and your towels are superb.

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  27. Hi Joanne. I started weaving during this year, after a lifetime of other fibre crafts, and attracted to trying it by your blog. I did a search of your blog for weaving related posts and read them all then purchased my first small rigid heddle loom. This was very soon followed by a very much bigger RHL and a small but very beautiful 8 shaft table loom. Progress has been very rapid . There were the usual frustrations with warping but even those are now a thing of the past. Weaving with 2and 3 rigid heddles, string heddles and multiple pick up sticks, double width weaving, a computer weaving package (weaveit) to help with keeping track of more complex designs are all part of this wonderful new pastime for me now. It has also been a life saver in other more existential ways as well. And it was all really down to you and you blog. I did purchase some towels from you as well before taking the plunge into weaving for myself. It is very expensive indeed, one cone of Maurice Brassard 8/2 cotton is $aus20 here and I need to order them from right across the country and wait weeks for delivery at the moment. My small table loom alone was $aus1100. However, I would be lost without weaving now and I thank you for bringing me to it! Im off back to my weaving now!!! Have a good day Joanne.

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    1. You make my heart sing. You sound like me, forty years ago. Will you contact me by email, so I know who you are.

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  28. My daughter loved making potholders on her plastic "loom." I still have some of them. Everything she did is precious to me.

    Love,
    Janie

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  29. I'm a quilter--I make quilts and donate them to local hospitals or care centers. I have a bucket of fabric strips, all 1 to 1 1/2" in width and I'm wondering if they couldn't be used in a weaving project. I've made woven fabric vests before, but it was a completely different concept from what I'm thinking to do now. Wondering if you've ever seen any fabric strip woven items?

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    1. You are a budding rag rug weaver! When I was overwhelmed by all the scraps that Jan's customers piled behind my chairs, I had the girls cut them to 1", and our friend Linda wove them into rugs for the girls. They were deliciously soft to stand on because quilting fabric is better fabric than any other. If you're serious, I'll tell you how to get started, or how to find a rug weaver to make up some rugs.

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  30. I took weaving and other fabric arts at San Diego State University. They have one very large studio filled to the walls with looms. I loved weaving and the results. Other colleges probably have weaving classes too.

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  31. I'd be completely out of my depth trying that.

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  32. I was just thinking last night how nice your towels are. Always soft and absorbent and colorful.

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  33. Those little looms! My gr-daughters have gifted me with those potholders.

    Good to know that this art isn't disappearing!



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  34. Oh my gosh! I remember when my granddaughter was doing that! What fun!

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