Weaving instills this incredible sense of wonder in me. Part of it is the creation of something useful and/or beautiful out of simple thread. Part of it is the huge variety that weaving engenders.
Yet another part is the connection between peoples from all ages, history and cultures, as the creation of cloth is one of the oldest forms of crafts. It never ceases to amaze me that separate groups of people in different geographical places in historic times worked out how to spin fibres of both vegetal and animal derivation into yarn, and then how to turn these yarns into a parallel arrangement, fix it to a frame or to a post to be able to apply tension whether completely contained within the frame, or tensioned by the body, and then weave another yarn over and under the tensioned threads to create something which could be used to cover, to carry, to wrap, to protect.
Once colour was applied to this, it became something that everyone could personalise, whether individually or tribally.
And from that has sprung all the uses that weaving creates today even down to micro-fabrics used for arterial repairs for example.
When I am demonstrating at a show, and someone asks what weaving is used for, I love being able to tell them that you can create the finest of sheer gauzes right through to the thickest rugs, that weaving is used in medicine and in car manufacture, as well as for their clothes and home furnishings. Many youngsters don’t know that their trousers and shirts are largely woven, whilst their T-shirts and jumpers are knitted, in the same way that many city kids don’t know that milk comes from a live animal. It’s just outside of their everyday knowledge. So it’s wonderful to be able to get enthusiastic about weaving and open their eyes and their wonder about the things around them!
The actual apparatus of weaving too is so varied, depending on where you go. My trip to Oman to set up a western weaving workshop for the Omani government early in 2008 was fascinating as I visited Bedouin weavers who use a simple copper pipe frame to create their warp-faced rugs, braids, key-fobs, cushions and mobile phone covers. Another group of weavers, the mountain weavers, use pit-looms, much more technically advanced, and yet they too created warp-faced rugs and braids. Another weaver in a more urban environment used the same pit loom to weave plain weave undergarments – using fine cotton counts rather than the thick wool and goat hair. Every year the wonderful Muscat Festival showcases local traditions.
Here in the west we have such a variety of looms and equipment to choose from. That’s fun too, explaining to someone what makes this loom better for what they want to do than that loom, why a table loom could be a better option for them than a floor loom, or vice versa. And the more I learn about weaving, the more I continue to be inspired.
Weaving means different things to different people, but fundamentally, whatever we make, whatever equipment we use, whatever techniques we employ, we are still creating something tangible, beautiful, useful, from the simplest of elements. Wow, that’s worth celebrating!