Today is my weaving birthday! Nine years ago today, I brought home an 8-shaft Baby Wolf, and my weaving journey began. (Blog post here, if you want to dive back into the archives.) What a voyage it’s been!
Lest you think that design talent is inborn, here is one of my first pieces:
While it’s pretty hideous (more so in person than in the photo), you can see some of my creative tendencies even in this first piece. First, it’s ambitious. It’s a complicated advancing twill from one of the Handwoven collection booklets, not a natural choice for a beginning weaver. Second, it’s at least somewhat original, in that I changed out the colors. (The original colors worked much better than my choices, but that’s a separate matter.) Third, it contains some of my preferred style elements: gradient colors, bright jewel tones, complex weave structures. It’s interesting to look back on it and realize that my roots are visible, even from the very beginning.
And here, only a year later, is my first attempt at drafting my own weave structures:
If I recall correctly, I used the “Heart’s Desire” scarf draft from the book The Best of Weaver’s: Twill Thrills, modifying the top of the heart so the design became an pointy oval rather than a heart. I also did a few other things, but I can’t remember what. Relatively simple modifications, but still quite ambitious for a weaving novice.
Sometime soon after that, a wonderful thing happened: Bonnie Inouye, a brilliant weaver who has been weaving since before I was born, took me under her wing and taught me a ton about drafting, giving me feedback on my drafts as well as teaching me some things directly. Bonnie is incredibly generous with her knowledge; I would not be the weaver I am without her.
In spring 2008, a few months later, something else happened: I won my first prize for weaving! My “Tiger Eye” shawl won second place in “Accessories” at CNCH. This was a total surprise to me. I’d only been weaving for two years, and I’d only entered because someone told me I really should – if only to get feedback from the judges. I considered myself a rank beginner and had no idea that my work could be deemed good enough for a prize. It was my first inkling that I might do well as a weaver.
In late 2009, a bit over a year later, something else interesting happened: I wrote my first article for a weaving magazine. It was for Syne Mitchell’s online magazine WeaveZine, titled “Plain Weave Variations”. (You can read it on the archived WeaveZine site here.) I got the idea while I was visiting Laura Fry (another very generous and knowledgeable weaver who helped me learn to weave). I was studying loom ergonomics, so to simplify everything else, I spent almost the entire time weaving variations of plain weave. I got home excited, wove up several samples, and decided to pitch the concept to WeaveZine. To my surprise, Syne accepted it, and in November 2009, I became a published magazine writer.
Around the same time, I was engaged in another important activity: founding Weavolution, the social networking site for handweavers. At the time, there were no social networking sites for handweavers: Ravelry, the knitting and crochet social network, wasn’t geared up for weaving and had actually asked weavers not to post their projects on the site, because the owners couldn’t build out the functionality for non-knitting/crochet projects fast enough. I felt there should be a social networking site, and being a website development project manager, thought I could pull it together. But I had no interest in administering the site, so it wasn’t until Syne Mitchell introduced me to Claudia Segal that the project was born. Later, Alison Giachetti joined us as the third partner in Weavolution, and together with a team of volunteers, we raised money and founded a social networking site just for weavers.
Shortly after Weavolution launched, another life-changing event happened: I got engaged! and started weaving and sewing a dress suitable for the occasion. The wedding-dress saga is too long to recount here, but let’s just say that my handwoven wedding dress was a hit – not only in the handweaving community, but also in my own eyes. It took a year and 1000+ hours of work to complete the dress and coat, but at the end I had created something I considered a masterpiece. For the first time. I looked at something I had made and realized that I could be a master weaver. (The wedding ensemble went on to win “Best in Show” at CNCH that spring, was featured in Shuttle, Spindle, and Dyepot, and is now part of the permanent collection at the American Textile History Museum.)
Immediately after I finished the wedding dress, I shifted gears: Handwoven magazine had announced a garment contest, and I decided to enter. After a year working on a white dress, I wanted a riot of color, and my Kodachrome jacket was born. I thought it might be one of the winners, but I never dreamed it would make the front cover!
Now, as they say, I was cooking with gas. I wrote a series of articles for Handwoven, and published in every issue of Complex Weavers Journal between February 2011 and October 2013. (I wrote three more articles in 2014, too.) And somewhere in there, I got the idea for a book. In December 2011, I started writing a book proposal. It was originally intended as a compilation of my essays on craft, but by March 2012, it had evolved into a book about the creative process in craft. I spent the next two and a half years working on the book proposal, and finally – on September 4, 2014 – Schiffer Publishing sent me a contract.
And that, dear readers, catches us up more or less to the present. Except, of course, for this life-changing event, just a month and a half ago:
I’m still amazed that I have a TC-2 jacquard loom to weave on, and am very much looking forward to the next nine years!