From Lemons Come Weave-Alongs: How We Began
In the summer of 2016, I had one of those moments when you either can decide all is lost or lean in and have some fun with misfortune. For the first time, I shipped my sample projects for a teaching gig instead of hand-carrying them. Everything arrived safely and I had a grand time teaching new weavers to weave. The host and I carefully packed everything up and shipped it back.
When the box arrived, all seemed well enough, although the box seemed a little light. As I unpacked it, I noticed a few things missing, and then I saw the bottom of the box. It had been crushed and re-taped—about half the projects were missing! Apparently, there had been a train derailment (I’m told no one was hurt), and during the ensuing chaos, a bunch of my projects decided to make their escape.
I imagined them jumping from the train to pursue their dreams—the Bouquet Shawl hitched a ride in the nearest limo; the Simply Striped Rug flew off to find adventure; and the Doubleweave Throw is having a nice picnic somewhere with the Color-and-Weave Towels.
After a deep sigh and a few adult beverages, I made a list of the projects that I needed to reweave and then I invited folks to join me.
Weave-Alongs First Generation
In September of 2016, I started these weave-alongs on a total whim. They were very informal; we gathered in a private Facebook group and on the Yarnworker Ravelry page. I would throw out some dates, suggest a pattern that I wanted to reweave, and we would weave it together. Participants needed to purchase the pattern/video/book, gather their materials, and sometimes there was a kit or other yarn support.
This inadvertently created an interactive pattern experience. Say you are weaving along at home and get to a stuck place. You hop into one of the groups and do one of a number of things—ask questions, share progress, vent frustration, celebrate successes, and get general support from your fellow weavers and me. Along the way, I also offered blog posts and videos to help supplement the project material. Soon, my project box was full again! Cheers to the lemonade crew. My project box spiller over!
Weave-Along Next Generation
Hosting these weave-alongs has been a transformative experience. For me personally, I found teaching online in this way deeply satisfying. There are lots of folks who don’t have access to a weaving teacher and I love helping folks past those stuck places from experiences I’ve gathered from teaching hundreds of weavers to weave.
Not having a real plan when I started, I also found myself and the weave-alongers really spread out. I began searching for one place that we could all hang out and have a more linear experience. In doing so, I found a number of sites that were devoted to self-hosted online learning experiences. These platforms offered a great way to create a more linear experience and centralize our conversations. (Don’t worry, none of the groups are going anywhere, but they will evolve.)
Then I had a lightbulb moment. Wouldn’t an online school devoted to foundational rigid-heddle weaving be cool? This way, rigid-heddle weavers could take a series of classes that would give them the skills to tackle any project their hearts desired with confidence. In this new platform, we could do all this and more! After some research, I selected Thinkific as the new home for future weave-alongs and the Yarnworker school. During the summer of ’17 we are in Beta mode, testing out the system with a new weave-along.
How is this funded?
In order to keep the weave-alongs going and build a school, I need some time off the road and seed money to make it happen, so I launched a Patreon campaign. (For a peek into the life of a weaving teacher, check out this rather long blog post.)
Patreon is a way that content creators, bloggers, podcasters, independent publishers, and video makers such as myself, garner financial support from folks who benefit from the stuff they put out in the world. Rather than put a price tag on absolutely everything I do or put everything behind some sort of secret screen or loading up my content with affiliate links, I’ve asked readers for a small monthly contribution to fund this work. There are rewards for different levels of contribution. Patreon funders get a peek of behind-the-scenes updates and special offers as a big THANK YOU for their support. They are the first to know everything!
Patreon can be a content delivery system, but I envision it as a bridge between all our different groups to one single platform where we can hang out. So yes, for now there are more passwords and places, but soon I hope this will consolidate and things will be a little less spread out.
When Will The Next Weave-Along Happen?
We blew through goal one and two of the Patreon campaign, giving me a resounding, “Yes, we want the weave-alongs to continue!” Patreon Producers had the chance to vote on which project they would like to weave next. The winner is Four Looks Kitchen Towels from my new book, Handwoven Home. Registration is open and we will officially being July 7, 2017.
I’m paddling like a duck—you know the metaphor, calm on the surface and paddling like heck underwater—to keep things running smoothly on the back end. We are in beta mode so there will be some bumps along the way.
There is no charge to participate in the weave-alongs—these weave-alongs run on patron power! There will be fees for the future classes. Being a patron is the best way to know about everything first. The second best way is to hop on my mailing list.
How Is the School Progressing?
With 180 patrons, I know I’ll have the support I need to make the school a reality. As with all new ventures they always take more time and resources than you anticipate. The more Patrons the better foundation we can build. (Already a patron, thank you!) You don’t have to be a patron forever and you can adjust your level at any time. This funding will keep me in my seat and focused on the work. Your support means the world to me.
My goal with the school is to create a series of foundational online classes for rigid-heddle weavers. (Don’t know what a rigid-heddle loom is? Check out this FAQ.) The classes will cover topics such as my first rigid-heddle weaving project; warping and weaving for stripes, checks, and color-and-weave; the three faces of weave—warp faced, weft-faced, and balanced; using a pick-up stick; and designing your own projects. I have an amazing intern who is joining me this summer. Emily has taken weaving classes from me for the past three semesters at New Mexico Tech and she is sharp as a tack and she has a technical communications minor. With her help, we hope to get the a good chunk of the filming done to make the school launch able to launch in the fall.
Keep in mind, that all of this is just me, my cameras, my faithful dog Buster, and a little bit of extra help—no fancy film studio. If you like my YouTube videos, then you will have an idea what to expect from the instruction. Each class will be taught in a series of lessons, and there will be written material, video support, and chat.
My vision is that the classes will be released one-at-a-time and will be there for you at any time after that. You can buy them singly or in a bundle. There is a steep learning curve for me and we are building this thing together. I thank you in advance for your patience and good humor. It won’t be perfect, but it will be fun!
How Do I Keep Up-To-Date?
Becoming a Patreon is the best way to keep current on the happenings. You may also want to hop on the Yarnworker mailing list. I send out a robust monthly newsletter with Yarnworker happenings and weaving news of interest. I’ll periodically update this page as things are happening.
I am so grateful for everyone who has joined me on this journey. Whether you have been with me since the very beginning or are just joining in, you are most welcome. I thank you for your support, your patience, your enthusiasm, and most of all, your willingness to learn together.
P.S. As this project gets passed around, you may not be familiar with me or my work. You can read more about me here.