Weaving is something I’ve done on and off since I was about 8 years old, and had my first, Fisher Price, weaving loom. I still have it, and although it’s not the best in terms of tension, there are a lot worse beginner looms on the market. It has a fantastic shedding device! I remember having my school pens in a woven pencil case and a small wall hanging mounted on garden canes flapping against the living room door!
I don’t think I wove anything when I was at high school, although I did a little tapestry needlepoint. Art was all about drawing and painting back then. But really, it’s all about finding your medium. I was always drawn to threads and yarn crafts – things where I could appreciate and experiment with all the pretty colours, without getting my hands covered in gunk!
I love to design for counted thread needlework, but it is a very formal, structured process. It is creative design, but it is kept safely confined within a grid; there is lots of repetition, lots of concentration required. By contrast, I find weaving very liberating and also calming.
There are different kinds of weaving, and it is tapestry that has my heart. Tapestry can also be very formal and structured; you can work from a drawn ‘cartoon’; you can keep shapes neatly defined and perfectly formed. I prefer what I call freeform weaving, using an ‘eccentric weft’ to build freehand curves, rather than the stepped, regulated curves of traditional tapestry. I have an enormous library of craft books from the 60s and 70s, and it would be fair to say that they are a large part of my inspiration. Experimentation was encouraged, rather than following patterns to the letter. I don’t believe in perfection: if you make a ‘mistake’, who can tell but you? Just make it part of the overall pattern, instead! My freeform tapestries are quite organic, the shapes change as I weave, and I just let them. They usually turn out okay!
That is the liberating side. However, the calming, meditative qualities of weaving are also what draws me. Many of my finished tapestries are very simple pieces that I have woven purely for the pleasure that I take in the weaving process itself, the rhythm soothing the soul. Choosing yarns in beautiful, graduating shades gives the pieces a tranquil (although sometimes brooding) quality. The colours often evoke sense-memories, which in turn prompt haiku – a form of poetry I love for its simplicity and purity. I don’t really consider myself a spiritual person (certainly not religious in any way!), but tapestry does seem to bring out a different side of me. If you are interested in craft as meditation, I highly recommend ‘Mindful Knitting’ by Tara Jon Manning. I have knitted in the past, but never engaged with it in the same way as I do weaving. However, in reading this book, I found it very easy to transpose the author’s methods of meditation through knitting to the way I feel about the processes involved with weaving.
So, why weaving? Just because that’s where I feel I belong. It’s the medium that has spoken to me for the longest period of time, yet still feels fresh. Well, it just feels like home. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way about weaving as I do, because we each have our own places of comfort. But I do hope that if a person owns one of my pieces, they will just…consider it, from time to time. Nothing more than that. And I also hope that my D.I.Y. Weaving Kits will make it easier for other people to discover the simple pleasure of weaving. It might be their medium, too.