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School Days

Just before the start of the Fall semester at New Mexico Tech, the administration decided to change things up which resulted in merging my Weaving 101 and 201 classes. This mixing of levels is both synergistic and chaotic. Imagine a class happening in the middle of a lab. While the beginners are inspired by the more advanced students, they are also distracted by all these other things that are going on. They need a quieter, more structured environment to master those basic hard-earned skills. I give huge props to the more experienced students, they have a leave-no-weaver-behind mentality and jump in to help when they see a weaver in trouble. Occasionally, that results in too many answers—sometimes we need just one answer.

All this is going through my head this month as I launched the first of five classes in the Yarnworker School of Weaving. I enjoy the energy of the weave-alongs and I’ve noticed those quietly sitting in the back who may feel like they need to step back a notch. Weave-alongs are meant to challenge, inspire, and encourage. Classes are foundational, comprehensive, and cumulative—each class is designed to build on the skills gained in the previous class.

Being able to teach at the university each week, on the road once a month, and online nearly every day, keeps my skills fresh. I enjoy the challenge of preparing for class, preparing handouts, noting where explanations could be better, samples need to be made, matching the right technology for the right purpose in any given environment, and mulling over students’ questions. The classroom—real or virtual—is where I get inspiration for new patterns, classes, workshops, weave-alongs, books, seminars, and events. It is energizing work. You have to learn how to shut your brain off and not fret with the fretters—you find a way past the fret and dig in.

‘Tis true there’s a lot to manage, but it is the most unified my working life has ever been. My past working life was a constant battle of split focus, which is not the same as multitasking. While I’m currently managing lots of day-to-day activities, they all relate to one thing—teaching weavers.

That’s what my sabbatical last year taught me—I can take all my skills and focus them in one area and the result is a much happier mind and more productive work. It doesn’t seem like it would take me nearly fifty years to learn this. Ultimately, the fact that I have an amazing group of patrons who are willing to support this work and allow me to be experimental and fail forward is what makes this phase of my weaving life possible. Our year of weave-alongs taught me so much, and the continued weave-alongs and school would not happen without them.

I have a map for where we are going, and I’m grateful that the Yarnworker community is so open to those side trips that turn out to be the best part of the journey. We take it one project at a time.

Heddles Up!


P.S. Registration just opened for another weave-along. We are weaving the Twill Be Done Runner from Handwoven Home. Join us!








6 thoughts on “School Days”

  1. I agree too much chaos.. I took a class like that.. will have to say I learned very little, was embarrassed to ask questions.

    • Exactly my fear. I’ve managed to create one-on-one time by coming in early to meet with any student that needs a little extra time.

      The larger point is that I can see this happening online, too. If you are new there is so much happening in the virtual realm making it can be hard to figure out how to ask the right question or find the right group. I really wanted to create a space that was just for beginners that could be maintained side-by-side with a space for those ready for a challenge. Some beginners come in ready for the challenge. I have a few students who are already to jump into whatever it is that the 201s are doing. We all learn at our own pace. Me, I’m a terribly slow learner and ironically don’t do very well in workshops. Go figure.

      I spent a summer working for outward bound in collage and one of the seminars I taught was, “How to ask a question”. Seems like a pretty straight forward proposition, you stick up your hand and ask, but sometimes the answer you get is to a different question altogether because you are’t really sure how to ask the question or the teacher doesn’t understand what you are asking.

      This happened to me just the other day in the weave-along. I answered a question that someone asked, thinking she was asking something else. Her follow up question allowed me to clear up the confusion. We had the luxury of time—thinking over the information and responding back that you don’t always have in a classroom.

      Anyway, I digress. I spend a lot of time thinking about questions and answers. Maybe too much time.

  2. What was the reasoning for the school merging two classes like that? I guess they don’t really understand weaving or any kind of skills-based activity where one must learn a certain set of skills before trying another. Beginners have an “I want to do it now” energy that has to be tamed to a certain degree. They really need to be segregated for a time so that they really cement certain skills into their hands and brain.
    Administrators forget this and only look at “the bottom line”

    • It was a decision made in haste because of changes in policy regarding class minimums. Everyone agreeded that we won’t do it again and the students have been great sports about it. The decision wasn’t without a precedent. Students have been taking the 101 class over and over again because that was the only option. This was the first semester we ran two levels. Live and learn, that is what life is all about.

  3. viens de faire un mini stage de tissage en Creuse(limousin France) avec une prof qui fabrique les métiers a tisser Catusse.j ai acheté un métier(pénélope)de 120cm.J ai quitté le stage avant la fin,car très mauvaises explications……..etc.
    Je suis déroutée car j aimerais tisser chez moi mais ne trouve aucun livre explicatif claire et pourtant je suis manuelle.pouvez m aidez,s il vous plait?

    • Je ne parle pas très peu le français. Vous pouvez contacter la publication de livres de tissage américains pour voir si leurs livres de tissage rigide sont traduits en français. Essayez également de contacter les revendeurs de métiers à tisser à lisses rigides. Schacht a un couple de concessionnaires en France.

      (If you are curious used Google translator to ask Gisele’s question about where to find weaving instruction in France.)

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