Invitation to Weaving

“To be is to be a weaver with seeing fingers, a builder of light and space.” Kahlil Gibran

It all started with a postcard announcing an upcoming weaving class at an adult education center in downtown Denver. It was odd that I felt the postcard to be an invitation meant especially for me since I had grown up believing that I was not creative. However, I convinced myself that weaving was a craft rather than an art —I now know better, but in thinking of it as a craft, I found it less intimidating, so I signed up for a class and a life-changing adventure! I later found out that my great-grandmother, Eleanor, had been a weaver and my grandmother was a well known American artist!

Our first lesson was learning the tools of the trade—the various parts of the loom such as heddles, reeds, pedals, etc., and then the various kinds of shuttles. Weaving is basically weaving two sets of threads together one vertical (the warp) and one horizontal (weft).  It can’t get much simpler than that. Yet this simple process, as ancient as humanity itself, opened up for me unlimited possibilities of colors, textures, and even dimensions.  Much to my delight, there was a yarn store right across the street from the school! 

Once I learned how to “dress” the loom, I wove a purse as my first project using a 12-inch table loom. As a finishing touch, I sewed a lining and wove a shoulder strap. I think it was important that my first project be a success; it was, and I was hooked. It was not long before I got my own looms, one 48-inch floor loom, which, according to its designer, combined the best features of all looms, one 12-inch table loom for smaller projects, and one 6-inch sample loom. 

My projects ranged from clothing such as ponchos, to blankets, to rugs. I got books so I could learn to weave patterns for borders on skirts or scarves.

So enchanted was I with weaving, that when my two youngest kids were taking naps, I rushed to the loom to get at least an hour in of weaving. In the summers when we lived in the mountains we took the loom in a VW bus, put it in a tent, so that I could weave a good part of the summer. I also discovered back strap weaving, using my body and a tree as a loom for weaving belts. 

Eleanor at the loom
Eleanor at her loom in the mountains.

I did not do this as a business, although my first rug sold on opening night at the Denver art museum, and it did help me earn some money for teacher training, but it was more than a hobby. It was a passion. I had mainly woven things for others as gifts, but when I learned about double weaving I wove myself a seamless dress in one piece, took it off the loom, tied the fringe, and put it on. 

One discovery I made along the way was that two colors that looked good alongside one another did not look good when woven together. For that reason, I did a fair amount of unweaving, like Penelope, and patiently took out every thread lovingly and kept trying until I found the right combination. I learned from the Navajos that one should always leave a thread to the outside for the spirit to get out.  

I then learned techniques to do unbalanced weaves, so that the warp showed more than the weft or vice versa which led me to rug weaving which needed a stronger warp. 

Then the divorce came. My husband who had been so supportive in my weaving left and I soon found that I had little to no time what with a full-time job, child care, and classes at night and every other weekend to prepare for teacher training. However, one of my early assignments was to illustrate a principle with a creative project. I wove a collar illustrating the principle of the absolute, non-changing plane of existence, and the relative plane which changes according to what is woven into it. 

Weaving continued to play a key role in my life. After a series of fortuitous circumstances, I found myself at a workshop facilitated by Susan Ann Rainbow Kennedy in a bookstore near my apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland. Each participant was given a pen and paper and asked to write down what we would like to do more than anything, but we were not to consider any of the usual excuses such as time, money, or age, etc. For me, that was easy and fun: I wanted to weave an environment in which people could walk and be healed. The second step required a little more thought. What baby step could I take toward realizing this desire? My answer—get out a loom and thread it. The third step: When will you do this? Answer Monday. 

And so that got me started weaving again.  

Finally, as a ministerial student, I prepared a chapel service with the title: Weaving the Fabric of Wholeness. For music, I used Weave, weave us together in Unity and Love. After that, I received so many requests for woven stoles, the Unity bookstore couldn’t keep them in stock. 

12 Power Stole
12 Power Stole

I still have a loom. It is a beautiful piece of maple furniture and on the wall behind it is an array of many colors and textures of yarn. I haven’t done much weaving these days, but I’m waiting to see what direction it will take next. What began as a postcard in the mail turned out to be a major metaphor for me for developing consciousness. The warp is like the non-changing spiritual part of ourselves, pure consciousness, and the changing part which represents the choices we make which, in turn, determines the balance, the beauty, and integrity of the fabric. 

Who knows where it will go from here? Perhaps a three-dimensional weaving? I eagerly await the answer.