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Songwriters, Storytellers, and Me

This is a very long post, but I promise you it has a point, and one I’m very excited about.

Last month, my husband and I made our annual pilgrimage to South By Southwest and the live music city of the world, Austin, Texas. For five non-stop days, we wandered from music tent to backyard parties to storied music venues to listen to musicians, and the people who surround them, do their thing.

Songwriting has always fascinated me. Songwriters are storytellers that hone their narratives into small packages like poets. Their work transports you to a different time and place. A good song leaves you feeling like you’ve really been somewhere. I feel the same way about weaving—it fills me with so much richness. A good yarn has many meanings for me.

All for the sake of the songAs I watched the acts set up their instruments, run though the sound checks, and work with roadies, I thought, “Yep, that looks familiar.” Being a road musician is not unlike the lifestyle of a weaving teacher. You hone your craft in private, then take it on the road to test out new ideas, fine-tune your skills, and build relationships with venues.

To prepare, you have to order supplies, create and design handouts, take photos, get pages proofed, and make updates as the inevitable “better way to say it” occurs to you. You either have to haul looms (which I do frequently since my speciality is teaching beginners) or coordinate with the venue to have looms available with all the stuff necessary for a successful class—tables with lips that will fit loom clamps, enough space to warp, and good light.

Hayes Carll says, “It’s all for the sake of the song.” For me, it’s for the sake of the cloth. You do it because that’s what you do. If you are a writer, you write. If you are a weaver, you weave. If you are a teacher, you teach. If you are a performer, you perform. In my case, I do all of these things.

Yarn, like music, doesn’t require an audience, but something extraordinary happens when there is one—virtual or real. Teaching is as close as I get to being a performer. It’s just me and the audience. Every single session is different and we all grow together. I relish this life because it is the balance between creativity and performance art that suits me. It provides me solitude and social outlets.

Teaching Is My Thing

I’m not sure why being a weaving teacher became my thing. Perhaps it’s because I’m not super interested in showing you what I can do; I want to show you what you can do. I keep my patterns fairly simple and straightforward so that you can riff on them and make them spectacular.

To be a working weaving teacher, you need a lot of flexibility in your schedule to travel. This requires good family support, and you either need a lot of teaching gigs or a decent amount of side gigs to keep yourself flush. Some teachers are close to a shop or other venue and that is their regular gig. Others, like me, travel frequently to a variety of places.

I support my teaching habit by taking on other flexible freelance jobs for yarn companies and organizations; through my royalties; writing articles for other publications; and selling my own patterns, books, and few specialized tools on my website. It’s a constant hustle to keep the cashflow coming in. It’s a glorious life, but it’s not a glamorous one. It’s all for the sake of the cloth.

On the road again

The Times They Are A-Changin’

During the last century, magazines, conferences, and fiber events were largely dependent on teachers who were not full-time professionals. Many of the teachers were vendors at the show or passionate craftsmen and women who took their vacation days to teach. They wrote books and magazine articles in their spare time. They depended on the publishers and conferences for a forum to present their take on the craft.

Through changes in technology, there is now a professional class of teachers, designers, and bloggers. The new century has given rise to an entire class of creative business professionals that aren’t reliant on other venues to get their message out. It allows those of us with highly specialized skills—rigid-heddle weaving is a niche within a niche—to reach an audience directly.

This change in technology, and the rise of a professional class of artisans and authors able to reach their own audiences, has also wrought havoc on the publishing industry, no matter the content, music or craft. Publishers grew from small independent labels to huge corporations and now it is returning back to small independent labels, and even micro-labels, such as myself. I’ve become a one-woman band.

Life is paradoxically very simple and incredibly complicated. Find something you love to do and do it. I firmly believe in the Big Magic philosophy that your creative outlet does not have to be how you derive your income, but it certainly is a way you can determine your own outcome.

Let’s Create Our Own Venue

The small weave-along community that we have built has some big magic for all of us. I’ve found a comfortable classroom that doesn’t require me to leave my home every few weeks to reach a teaching audience. That, for me , is a magic formula. I’m experimenting with some ways to cultivate that little plot we’ve created.

My big idea is to create an online school for rigid-heddle weavers. To that end, I’ve launched a Patreon campaign.

With a little seed money, I’d like to keep creating the kind of content that makes us both happy. If you enjoy my new crop of YouTube videos, weave-along support, my style of teaching, this blog, my newsletter, publishing projects, Knitty column, and other weaving endeavors, this is one way you can keep me in my seat doing more, and maybe make that big idea happen. I could load up my channels with ads and affiliate links, but that really isn’t my style. I’d rather ask you directly if this is something you are interested in and, if so, let’s build it together. I’d be honored if you would join me in creating a new space for those of us that love making stuff on the rigid-heddle loom.

As John Lennon wrote, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Let’s Weave!


15 thoughts on “Songwriters, Storytellers, and Me”

  1. This is a phenomenal idea! I am rather new to weaving. I have only a 15″ Schacht Cricket but would love to learn new skills with it. I so often see projects and patterns that require a wider width loom, so I hope you’ll also be able to address downsizing to accommodate the smaller looms if that’s possible.

    • You bet! My idea would be to build a curriculum that would walk a new weaver through their first project and then grow their skills one project at a time. Downsizing or upsizing patterns would be an excellent seminar idea. I am so giddy with all the possibilities, just need the development time to make it happen.

    • Oh, don’t say “only” about that 15″ Cricket. It can do lots of things with you and you can haul it around easier than a toddler. Liz will take good care of you and give you great ideas and tons of know-how. And she’s as patient as it gets.

  2. This is a great idea. I also find that the patterns and ideas I find are for a wider loom. I have a 20 inch Ashford Rigid Heddle loom. The weaving group I was going to is fabulous and the weavers are great teachers but not really interested in the Rigid Heddle. I have toyed with the idea of private lessons and basically this is what you are offering. Thanks. Go girl!!

  3. I’m in. I have 2 of your DVD’s and read your blog. I’ve had a 15″ Cricket for a few years and am comfortable with the basics. I recently added a 30″ folding Cricket and stand and am eager to learn. How about adding soar weaving to the mix?

  4. Hi Liz I am finally weaving on the rigid heddle – fully loaded scarf Weaving Made Easy.. After a number of changes in my life, my husband and I are now living in Tasmania, loving it and starting to find time to weave – as well as spin, first passion. I have followed the weave-along and have materials ready for double the fun and the towels. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed reading all the posts and seeing all the finished projects – have learnt so much already. I think you have an amazing talent and are just such a great teacher/person with good values, so yes I think your idea is tops and I wish you well with it. I’d like to hear more in time – thanks.

    • Thanks Lois. The weave-alongs really helped me see the possibilities of a full on rigid-heddle curriculum that could live online in a friendly low-key atmosphere. I appreciate the vote of confidence and to have you participate all the way from Tasmania! How fun is that!

  5. This piece resonated with me as I spent some time at SXSW too… a few years back. What an atmosphere of creative joy! Even the smallest of venues were filled with music and listening, shared between the musicians and audience.

    I’m fairly new to weaving, though about 20 some years ago, there was a fiber teacher here in south Florida who offered 6 beginning classes in weaving with 4 harness table looms. Unfortunately, no sooner did I buy a loom from her, she in explicably closed up her studio. There I was, alone with a loom I barely understand. Several of us from the class tried to get together, but we were all beginners floundering without a rudder. This was before the days of You Tube videos. That loom is still up in the attic. Maybe mice have turned it into a nest. I ought to check, but perhaps you know how it is, once burned, it’s hard to take up an old relationship. I still have many cones of yarn, carefully stored in the AC covered part of the house, rodentless.

    Still, I kept my love of fiber work going. Knitting and crochet occupied my time and for those, there is plenty of support available.
    But as my stash grew, as it does, I realized I’d never make a dent in enough of that yarn to justify how it fills closets and cupboards. So, fortuitously, I found a rigid heddle weaving class on Craftsy and a sale on Crickets. That was just before Christmas this year and I haven’t looked back since. My Cricket has a big cousin now, a 32″ loom.

    Weaving allows me to produce things more quickly than I can with just a hook or needles. Weaving for home, making scarves, shawls, towels, placemats and now rugs! etc, has become particularly satisfying and fun. I told my tolerant husband that this new interest would help me use up stash. Alas, they’re breeding! Now, joining my skeins of sweater yarns are colorful cones of 8/2 cotton and linen threads. I must find out how this happens.

    Anyway, the idea of an on line learning and creating group with instructive guidance, weave alongs and on going mentoring is very appealing and I so yes, count me in. .

  6. I too am interested. My time is divided between Wisconsin and Arizona. Did a couple of the weave alongs but ran into a major snag(S) and am just now working my way through. Light at the end of the tunnel. I would be most interested in participating in your forthcoming adventures

  7. I think it’s a great idea! Some weaving guilds are just not about rigid heddle weaving so where can you refer someone who wants a great teacher for rigid heddle weaving. I have 3 rigid heddle looms each with a different personality and much to love about each. The past few years I haven’t had time to set up a rigid heddle class and would prefer that people have the best information and an experienced teacher. I don’t mind doing show and tell, but an experienced teacher is the best hands down. I’ll be watching and hope to find some time to do a weave along as some long term projects are winding up. Rigid heddle is something I enjoy because it’s relaxing and the looms seem to hug you. You get your hands on the fiber more too.

  8. Count me in. I have enjoyed the weave-alongs. It would be nice to have basic instruction, plus more challenging projects. One thing I would add (and I realize it wouldn’t be easy) is to have kits available.

  9. I am excited about your new endeavor. I decided one day I wanted to weave so I bought a 32″ rigid heddle loom. I went online on Craftsy and muddled through books to learn how to weave. I bought kits and yarns and went online looking for projects I might be interested in and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately I have to buy my yarns online because i don’t know of any yarn stores here or in the Albuquerque area that sell weaving yarn. But it has been very lonely because I don’t know of anyone in my community that does rigid heddle weaving. I found your website a few months ago and have been following it. I am excited about learning more about RHW and choosing yarns and different projects. Right now I am making purse/tote bags from a pattern I developed when my daughter said “Make me a tote bag with the Atlanta Falcons colors and logo.” And 15 bags later, different colors and themes for friends and family I am completely hooked. But I have so much more to learn and I think I finally found the correct forum. Thank you Liz!

    • I love hearing stories like this—not that it was hard to find your tribe, but that you finally did. By the by, I’m giving a program in ABQ in August about rigid-heddle weaving. I also teach at the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts center. It is a wonderful place for weavers.

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