Friday, June 27, 2008

Pointless Rambling: No Pictures

I've been working on this post for several days, and for some reason could not seem to find the time to download, re-size and upload the pictures. This has prevented actual posting.

I went to knitting this morning, knowing full well that Lindsey and Patricia would comment on my lack of posts. I wanted to post it this morning just before leaving, so when they so kindly mentioned my online silence, I could blink and say "But I posted this morning, didn't you read it?"

Such was not to be. They did comment. I believe it was Patricia who first brought it up, but Lindsey jumped right in, so to speak. So herewith, post with no pictures, fresh out of the draft stage, much delayed:

Knitters often complain about being belittled, an object of jokes, being compared to grannies in rockers. It is annoying, irritating and untrue.

But try being a weaver in our culture.

We are invisible. Not there.

I took up knitting so I could at least be outraged at the lack of sensitivity in the general population. It's better than being invisible (Sometimes. Wouldn't you like to be invisible on occasion?).

People don't even know what weaving is, have never seen a loom, think nothing of weaving, in the truest sense.

Few consider where their clothing, sheets and towels, carpets and blankets come from, who might have made that fabric and how they might have accomplished such a task.

Weaving was once ubiquitous. Weavers were everywhere, if not in your own home, then in your village or town, itinerant or permanent. Textiles, once valued, cared for and even bequeathed, are now hardly considered: throw-away objects costing little to nothing, given little regard beyond the fashion of the day, wearing out only to be replaced, or (gasp) being replaced long before they wear out.

Why would anyone spend their time making such transitory objects? Why indeed?

Could it be an interesting process? Could it be fascinating, mind-boggling, endlessly entertaining, and yet useful? Might it require a few brain cells to understand, accomplish and then do it well enough to supersede commercial fabric?

Weavers do enjoy a certain status among textile enthusiasts, I'll grant you that. Cloth is the basis of many other textile crafts, a necessary first step.

It is also the end result of a fascinating journey from raising animals, spinning yarn, dyeing it all up and gulp, yes, weaving fabric.

(imagine several photos here)
I have spent a week with friends at Tahoe, and then another week in Virginia City at a fiber retreat. All of the women I have recently spent time with are people I consider true friends. I would not know them but for weaving, spinning, dyeing and other fiber pursuits, and they totally get the fascination with spinning dyeing and even weaving.

I was able to encourage two weavers into trying out knotted pile. Sue and Eileen worked on their bags diligently each morning in Virginia City (imagine photos here).

It was very gratifying to find them up early and eager to get to work each morning. Apparently they liked weaving too.

This is all kinda-sorta why I started this blog: so weaving would be more visible. I know, photos would help.

All this recent gadding about has left me moving slowly. I mostly sit and stare. The local air quality is not helping either: smoke from the fires has made it look foggy around here, for days on end.

Sitting and staring is conducive to warping though, which I am doing: (imagine photo here).

Soon. Silk fabric (let us hope there will be photos).


Blogger Patricia said...

Why thank you. I'm happy to be here to offer encouragement. You didn't think I was a nag, did you?

2:47 PM  
Blogger Abby Franquemont said...

I refuse to be invisible! I am a loud, brash, obnoxious weaver who demands everyone notice textiles! I am a compulsive textile dork who is still ranting about crappy modern fabrics and how people shouldn't accept them! So there!

You're totally right though.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Phiala said...

What Abby said! (Imagine that, me agreeing with Abby about textiles...)

Pre-spinning wheel and power loom, estimates are that it took the women of the family 8 months to spin, weave and sew the clothes for their family for that year (one set). Clothing was precious.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Annette said...

I think weaving is forgotten in different areas of the US more than other areas. I live in the southeast where there is a great deal of textile history, including Springs, which is now left the area. Unfortunately. However, there is a definite familiarity with weaving down here, more so than where I'm originally from, Southern CA.

Weaving is also becoming more popular, especially with the new looms being made that are easier to use and lighter in design. I have several friends that spin, knit, and now weave. But then, that's the advantage of being in a fiber group.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I agree with Annette. With the advent of affordable rigid heddle looms, I think we'll see more people experimenting. Look what Eileen did on her her first project! Whenever someone contacts me, they've found my email on the guild site and want to know where they can learn to weave. At least, I hope Annette's right~

8:18 PM  
Blogger Marcy said...

EXCELLENT rant, hless. I have a similar one, though somewhat broader in scope, about the low value that society (read men)has historically put on textiles, the production of them, and the people (read women) who produce them. Also pretty much invisible. BAH. We have each other, right?

5:29 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Marcy I can see you clearly-well-wait-move the smoke from our 130 fires here in Mendo Co. No mirrors folks.

When I mention to people I spin I always feel compelled to mention that it is with a spinning wheel-not at a class at a gym.

When I say that someone always ask "why do you make your own thread?" sigh.

When the other nurses at the clinic found out I knit socks the young things asked "why bother, why not buy them?"

I don't even mention my intermittent attempts at weaving-not wanting to deal with another off the cuff comment.

These young people don't even cook their own meals from scratch. One young woman was thrilled about the new "diet" her Aunt shared with her. Eat fresh foods, more fruits and veggies and you can loose weight.

HOLD THE PRESSES NOVEL CONCEPT!!!! And we wonder why they don't see us-they are so much products of Madison Avenue they don't even look outside the box.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Deanna said...

I appreciate your posts whenever they appear - photos or not. :-)

Condolences on the air quality - the eerie ickiness of smoky air is both disconcerting and exhausting.

Regarding the general ignorance in the public of fabric creation techniques - I believe that the very fact that we use and cherish these techniques and the fabrics we create with them will lift the perception of all. I think the way we do that is to strengthen the bonds between those of us who love fiber. A rising tide lifts all boats, so to speak.

And perhaps the invisibility has more to do with the fact that so many of us are menopausal women?

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

worse than invisible, sometimes. like when you're showing off your woven scarf and your friend--who KNOWS you weave!--says, "oh, you knit that?!"

not all of you are menopausal women, by the way. i'm twenty. and hopefully i'm at the head of a new wave of weavers, the way i'm on the tail edge of the new generation of knitters.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I've noticed that weaving is a bit invisible, too. And yet I like it a lot better than knitting! Go figure.

This was a good post. I recently posting something similar about possessions in general; we live in a disposable society and it makes me sad.

4:34 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

Us weavers need to stick together, but I really won't call myself a true weaver tell I have my own loom. And don't worry so much about pictures it hard to find time to blog.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Jackie said...

I have spent the past 5 summers doing at least one week of an "artist in residence" stint in Fredericton's historical downtown. I brought my little Dorset loom and people have been fascinated. Some sort of peered at me and skuttled away, but many more stopped and (sometimes with a little prompting ) asked questions. Last year I also had my spinning wheel and the visitors were equally fascinated. True, some people don't "get" why I would bother to make my own cloth as well as yarn, but having some of my beautiful woven creations hanging around answers the questions of "why?" for most people. You don't find fabrics that that in Wal-mart.
I'm glad that I have the opportunity to be an advocate for weavers and spinners.

7:13 AM  
Blogger claudia said...

Ah the irony: a post on invisibility with no pictures.

Perhaps with the disappearance of cheap oil, lots of things about our disposable society will be a-changing including the value of textiles.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Lorraine Smith said...

Agreed. Thanks for making us a bit more visible.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Birdsong said...

Everything you said is so true... I am optimistic by nature and hope that the upside of economic downturn can be the development of a less disposable economy, and greater value on making things that last, as we already know. The friends part is what keeps us from being truly invisible.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I think the visibility issue depends on your community as well as your involvement within it.

In my 30 years of weaving, I'm still surprised at the awe that non-weavers have for our craft. Even my knitter friends are like that, while I envy their skills, being personally talented in dropping stitches at a remarkable rate.

Looking back over previous postings (just found your blog), I have a book suggestion for you and other weavers: "Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years" by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It was published in 1994 so may be hard to find but worth the trouble.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Charlene said...

All true, all true, and yet fortunately you are far from invisible.

I think it's much broader than fiberarts in general though: I think the invisibility extends to pretty much anything outside the mainstream, and because the mainstream is so bereft on anything besides cable tv, theme parks and chain restaurants, almost everything is odd. There's a small amount of forgiveness for visible activities, such as running or biking, and another small amount for beer-making, which I think feeds into the frat-boy mentality so prevalent, but I think the disdain for anything time-consuming, exacting and unnecessary (or made so by our modern lives) is sadly not limited to the fiberarts.

There's more sympathy for collecting Hummels, ick.

6:01 AM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I've been giving Charlene's comment a lot of thought. 'Visibility' has never been an issue for me, not because I think or know lots o' people know or care that I spin and weave. It's because it doesn't matter to me if they know or care.

I don't weave so others know. I weave for the satisfaction it brings me, for the spot in my soul it feeds. I truly don't care what the greater mainstream world thinks - this is my stream. And it is absolutely chock-a-block full of people on a global scale. I attended a provincial conference in northern Alberta many years ago and over half the instructors/presenters were from the US. You have a wealth of talented people around you.

What does it matter what 'others' think? Are you happy with what you do? Does your life include people who add colour and spirit to your life? If not, perhaps that is the real issue.

A guild or group of like-minded people supports craftspeople in many ways - not only in the skills themselves but in the freedom that comes from talking the talk, being able to discuss your work without forever having to explain terms or facing the dreaded blank stare.

That need isn't limited to craftspeople. My husband and I also ride motorcycle, and when I talk bikes, my rancher family does the polite blank-stare thing. Likewise those who aren't part of the publishing world, that part of my life that finances said weaving, spinning and biking.

We need round, complete lives. Our friends range from the highly moral to the thoroughly delightful immoral, and my life is richer for it. The people I have invited into my life know and appreciate my weaving and other textile quirks because they know and appreciate me, the person.

Sorry for the long diatribe, but I think this is a compelling and vital discussion.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

I can't tell you how many people call my spinning "weaving." They don't know enough about the fiber arts to remember the difference. I own two looms but don't weave yet--but boy do I hear what you're saying, knowing quite a few weavers. (Who try really hard to sweep me into their number.)

--AlisonH at

11:32 PM  
Blogger LauraJ said...

The farmer is the person who feeds them all, NOT the supermarket, and the weaver is the one who clothes them. And the main thing understanding weaving does for me is give me the faintest glimpse of how that one industrialization changed people's live. And I got to teach another anthro/ archeo person to spin this week.

But my real comment, along with sympathy, is this program . It resizes fast and pleasantly.

6:58 PM  

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