Friday, August 06, 2010


Despite the whiny comments last post regarding travel issues, I love getting out and away from the familiar daily path I have at home. Oh, I may not love the preparation, the worry and concerns, the airports and all the attendant crap that occurs with airline travel these days, but a change of scenery and of associates is necessary to me.

I cannot predict what will happen when I travel, which, of course is the source of some of the anxiety, but I can predict that some interesting thoughts and ideas will come of it. My work is fueled by other places and other people.


My first stop in the UK was Cambridge, where we had a class in a very nice open airy church social hall, and a group of weavers who were very welcoming. One of the weavers who took the class was Noreen Roberts, already an accomplished weaver of knotted pile (she has actually done a rug! not just small things like I have done.....). I was thrilled to meet her, have admired her work, and was a little nervous to have such an accomplished weaver in my class.

I know Noreen's website address by heart: I give it out regularly in classes, and it's on everyone's handouts. Noreen is a supplier of tools, yarns and equipment for knotted pile, and she has written a book How to Make an Oriental Rug, which is excellent and comprehensive.

An afternoon lecture wrapped up my time with the Guild, and I usually open the floor to questions after the presentation. I'm prepared to answer almost anything: how I made stuff, where I work, what I use in terms of tools and yarns, etc. One question caught me off guard though, and has had me pondering ever since. Noreen asked what was next for me.

Well, I must have answered something, but what I said I can't recall. Next is not necessarily a plan for me: things just roll along whatever path I'm taking, and I sometimes take off on tangents. I may come back to the original path, or I may keep on going in some other direction.

My current interest in knotted pile weaving was never a plan. I was making bead bags. I knew someone who did knotted rugs, and asked him to teach me, so I could make a bag. One bag has turned into ten years of exploration: spinning, dyeing, testing different yarns, trying new construction techniques for bags, new tools, testing looms, and on and on.

The What next? question resonated in my head though, and after leaving Cambridge for London, I had a few days to myself. I spent most of my time in the V & A, with the majority of that time in the textile collections, and the jewelry.

I got some fabulous ideas. I scribbled in my notebook, and thought and thought. I will admit to some active searching, thinking about next, not that I feel a need to change anything immediately, but it was a thought that recurred.

If I had been asked instead what I thought I was learning, or contributing to weaving, or what was original about my work, I would have said Shaped Knotted Pile:


This is not traditional work. I have not found shaped knotted pile in museums or catalogs, books or in references. Most pile pieces are flat, what eventual shaping may happen is done by combining flat pieces into bags or box-like containers.

I think the idea for shaped pile occurred to me because I am a weaver first, and had been working with bags and ideas for bags. I modified information already out there for other shaped weavings. I just happened to be working in knotted pile, so it came up as shaped knotted pile.

three hats

Having written a book on what I do, I am aware that soon, other people will be doing this work too (that's kind of the point of books, and teaching....!). So next for me, had been a thought in the back of my mind. If other people are doing bags in knotted pile, I'll need to move on. I need fresh work of my own.

This is a constant issue in craft work: if your work is seen, it will be tried and perhaps added to another person's repertoire. If you teach and write about it, others will do it too. When that happens, they make the work their own, and maybe even succeed in ways I never will. Rather than objecting to their efforts, I need to move on, find new paths, explore what is next.

new hat

I'll keep pondering next, for me, and thank you to Noreen for asking the question. It's better than any question about where I've been, and has kept me entertained with possible answers for several weeks now!


Blogger Mia said...

VERY cool :)

10:00 AM  
Blogger sarah said...

What a lovely post!

6:04 AM  
Blogger ElaineB said...

Sara, can you briefly describe how shaped pile works? Would you work around a shaped warp (e.g. the threads wrapped around a box)? Or would you work flat in shapes and then pull the warps through the knots so that the shapes nestle up against each other? (Like beadloom weavers do.) I always love reading about what you're doing. It's so inspiring!

11:24 AM  
Blogger amyfibre said...

Thank you for another thought-provoking post. Just in the last year, I have considered whether or not I want to weave "with purpose". Not the purpose of whatever finished project I'm headed for, but a more expansive sense of purpose. Do I want to explore one weave in-depth? Or one type of ?? I don't know. It's a new thought for me as I've always just let the winds of whatever move me. Not that there is anything wrong with haphazard, but I wonder if being more deliberate would be beneficial. Something to think about as I weave the next batch of towels....

7:49 AM  
Blogger amyfibre said...

and then the word verification for my comment....nutski

Is that a comment from the Universe? Or just a coincidence...


7:50 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

What a thought provoking post! I've just returned from traveling myself, and now I'll have something to ruminate on as I unpack & do laundry.

And oh, your hats!

9:40 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Spot on with your reflections about moving on. I always hit a fallow time while processing "what's next". I look forward to your next step.

Oh, and I didn't think the yarn was ugly.

8:16 AM  

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