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What I Learned On My Sabbatical

Last year, I decided to take a sabbatical. The dictionary defines a sabbatical as “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.” It is meant to refresh, rejuvenate, and refocus, the individual so they can get back to the challenges of their day-to-day job.

For the nearly six years I’ve been freelancing, the majority of my income has come from doing projects for other yarn-related businesses—yarn companies, publishers, associations, non-profits, manufacturers, and the like. I wrote market copy, created informational videos, ran events, hosted focus groups, designed marketing and strategic plans, taught business classes, and was a general content-creating gal Friday. I was a silent partner in helping the business put their best foot forward, much as I’ve done my entire career, yarn or otherwise.

In 2013, I launched Yarnworker as a side project and a way for me to have a home in the vastness of the yarn universe. I had big plans for it that never seem to quite happen the way I envisioned them. During my sabbatical, I decided to take a risk and make my relationship between you and I the focus of the work for one year to see if I would like it and still pay the bills.

This is what I did:

I wrote my first self-published book, A Weaver’s Guide to Swatching: How to Fail Faster and Weave Better. Since collaborating with Purl & Loop to make the Swatch Maker Looms, I knew there was a need for more than the tool, weavers also wanted to know how to use the tool for the purpose it was intended. This book is a very practical approach to the subject of design. It focuses on why to weave a swatch (a small sample of cloth), the mechanics of how to weave a swatch (often discussed but not really addressed in practical terms), and then what to do with it once it is complete.  This is the kind of micropublishing that has a long tradition in the weaving universe. I wrote about it in the very first Yarnworker blog post.

Collaborating on the Swatch Maker Looms also meant I started selling product, not just patterns. This required adding new functionality to my website. I also got more serious about my newsletter, increasing the frequency from quarterly to monthly.

I continued to write my feature Get Warped, which allowed me to write with knitting weavers specifically in mind. I’ve love this challenge.

I spent a great deal of time during my year writing another book for Interweave and creating two new video workshops. The focus of the new book is on weaving for the home, but it also addresses next steps for the rigid heddle weaver, a follow up to Weaving Made Easy, if you will.  It is due out in a few months. This is a partnership of voices, and involves working with many of the folks I’ve worked with all along. This was the most traditional part of my sabbatical year.

At Work

Ironically, I started teaching at a university, and, in fact, taught more than I’ve ever taught before in a single year, keeping up an unexpectedly aggressive travel schedule. Along the way, I lost half of my teaching samples, which led to a fruition of my hopes—the weave-alongs.  When you make room, unexpected things happen.

What I’ve learned is that focus is a good thing. Duh. I think of myself as someone who likes to do lots of different things, and I thought that by focusing on one thing, I might get bored, but I learned that focus doesn’t mean I would give up variety.

While my self-described sabbatical is over, I think I’ll keep at it. I like our conversations. The weave-alongs has given me some ideas about how we can be keep in touch in ways that don’t spread us out all over the place, allow me to be your weaving teacher no matter where you are, and pays the bills. We have two more projects left in the weave-along queue, and then I’ll regroup and see where to go from there.

Thanks for hanging out with me. There are many troubles in the world, and I aim to not have your weaving life be one of them.



16 thoughts on “What I Learned On My Sabbatical”

  1. Dear Liz

    I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed my journey along with you. I joined your weavealong at the start and although I’ve been a bit left behind due to other commitments I am still there with you all. Your constant help has been inspiring and I just love your hands on approach. I am looking forward to future weavealongs and the inspiration you give me. Thank you. Louise

  2. Hi
    I’d say your sabbatical was a great success by any standard! And I think that you have more than paid your dues, so to speak, so it’s time to be repaid for your enthusiasm and encouragement to weavers. I pledge to buy your books, videos and any subscription/membership fee you come up with in order to be part of your informal “school”/community. I’m sure many of your followers feel similarly. We’ve got your back! Thank you for all you do! Marjorie

  3. Hi Liz,
    I am new to Yarnworker. When I started weaving several years ago, I purchased the 2008 edition of your book, “Weaving Made Easy.” It is a wonderful book and it made me feel empowered to weave. Since then I have followed some of your additional instructions on YouTube with great success. Thank you for presenting material in such a straight forward easy to follow way. I am grateful for the ability to enjoy weaving as well as being creative and productive.

  4. Liz,
    I have not seen so much work done by one person in my life! DO keep at it. We, in this troubled world need you and all those like you. The troubles in this world will never ever stop. That is the nature of the world. Wars, natural disasters, man made disasters, personal calamities and unexpected trials keep all of us humble. But, thru it all, there is….art. In fiber, paint, wood, stone, and the like. We need these things to keep us sane, grounded and in focus on what is important when problems come (not if, but when). So. Weave on my dear and the rest of us will come along with you.

    • Thanks Barbara! I feel so lucky to have found something that makes my heart skip a beat every time I turn my attention to the task. Even after all these years I feel like a newlywed when it comes to weaving, a perpetual beginner. I love hanging out with folks that feel the same.

  5. Liz,
    Thank you for all you do for the weaving world. I took one class at a local shop, and the rest has been through videos, reading, and such. I have found your books to be excellent, and have been able to teach myself, through your knowledge. I did email you a question, some time back, and could not believe how fast I got a personal response. I am moving on to the next phase of my “learning” and planning on purchasing your DVD about Doubleweaving. Please keep the knowledge flowing, as you have been my inspiration and want to continue supporting the material you put out for us.
    Thank you again for a job well done.

  6. Hi Liz,
    Ditto to everything Marjorie said! You are my #1 resource for rigid heddle weaving, and so much more. Your newsletter and blog are fabulous. Please don’t ever leave us 🙂 Can’t wait for the new book.

  7. Hey, Liz.

    I am very new to weaving and accidentally discovered this blog after purchasing your two videos Slots and Holes and Life after Warping. Thanks to you, I have been able to complete three scarves and I am beginning to feel a little bit comfortable with a warping board.

    However, I am dying to try my hands at weaving towels. So, I bought a kit. Well, I cannot figure out how to read the cute little pattern diagram. I have searched classes throughout the state of Texas to find a class geared to that but to no avail. So, if you are looking for another book or video idea, perhaps you could demystify that process and maybe how to create one as well. I have read that we should keep a project journal so that we can recreate our ideas but so far mine is just pictures on my iPhone.

    Hopefully, i will be able to do a weave along with you someday. Oh, could you maybe also do a book on shawls? I mean, how many scarves can a person wear? Coming from crocheting where there is a pattern for everything imaginable, i am finding a huge void for the rigid heddle. I have two Ashford looms, 28 and 48 inches so I am ready to weave projects large and small!

    So glad that you took your sabbatical!

    • Ah, I think you are talking about reading a draft. A weaving draft is shorthand for weavers who use looms with shafts. Not all drafts can be woven on a rigid heddle loom by lifting and lowering the rigid heddle. All drafts can be picked up row by row in front of the heddle, which I do for short periods of time, but it can be fussy. You have to know how a floor loom works in order to get the relationship between the rigid heddle loom and a draft. I’ll put it in the hopper to write a future blog post about that subject from my perspective.

      To use the kit you have, you can consider following the color order and sett information and weave the towels in plain weave. If I was a betting woman, and I’m not, I’d guess the kit included some kind of unmercerized cotton that is fine. You can get the sett you need by doubling the threads in a rigid heddle–including more than one thread in every space or hole and then weave with the doubled ends.

      I have a new book coming out from Interweave, which is available for preorder (, called Handwoven Home. I go into how to read a draft, weaving pattern, and materials for weaving towels and there are plenty of towel patterns specifically written for the rigid-heddle weaver.

  8. Hey, Liz.

    After leaving a comment last night, I browsed your site under shopping and ended up purchasing your swatches book and three little looms. Well, I just finished reading it and discovered that you gave all the information needed for setting up a pattern book in addition to how and why to swatch!

    So excited! Because now I will be able to swatch without the time and effort of warping the loom with the bonus of being so much less expensive! I cannot wait for the trío of looms to arrive!

    I also accessed the knitty site mentioned and discovered more great information and patterns from you. I have put my name on their mailing lists so that I will not miss any future articles from you.

    I just want you to know how needed you are. My weavers guild is geared towards floor looms but like you, I have found my passion in the Rigid Heddle loom.

    Thank you for reaching out to us, Liz.

    • Thanks so much for your amazing note. I get up everyday and think to myself, “how can I make a rigid heddle weaver’s life easier”. Really, that is the question I ask myself when I sit at my desk to get to work. So glad that in your case I hit the mark.

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