When the man in my neighborhood “sold” me a tapestry loom for a can of cookies, a loaf of bread, and a future weaving, I had no idea how this would change my life. (To read about how I learned to weave, read the story Becoming a Weaver).
Despite dealing with a difficult child, intense work as a teacher, playwright, director, and writer, and later, another challenging marriage, I had something of my own. Something I could do that satisfied my need to create that wasn’t subject to other people’s opinions, schedules, requirements, or wants. I wove with my fingers and a fork, quietly, simply—without a plan. If I liked what I wove, I kept it. If not, I undid it. I learned the hard way that if I didn’t like what I wove, to unweave immediately. Too many times I thought I could live with what I’d woven, only to realize five inches later, I couldn’t. Unweaving and then reweaving, with weaving on top and below it, is tedious and problematical. I learned to pay attention to what I felt without making excuses. The weaving process was mine. Only mine.
I’ve kept the promise I made to myself when I first got the loom—that if I could make a wall hanging that pleased me, I would never sell one or take a commission no matter how much money was offered. I weave what pleases me. When people ask how long it takes to make a weaving I say, “It takes as long as it takes.” It’s a pressure-free source of pleasure and creativity.
In March of 2022, the Afghani father of the man who owns the rug cleaning company I use, who knows everything there is to know about rugs from the Middle East, saw the fork near my loom and asked what it was for. “I use it as a beater,” I told him. (A beater is what a weaver uses to tamp down the yarn as the weaver weaves.)
“A fork?” He didn’t try to hide his incredulity.
“Well, I have three beaters, but none of them work as well as my fork.” I showed them to him. He shook his head, letting me know he didn’t think much of any of them.
“I’ll bring you a beater,” he said, looking with disdain at my fork.
“Thank you so much,” I responded, not quite believing he would follow through in the months between picking up and returning my rugs.
When he returned with my newly cleaned rugs, after carefully placing them on the floor, he went to his van, then returned with something in his hand. With sparkling eyes, he said, “Here’s your beater.”
I was shocked. He’d given me a handmade beater, perfectly balanced, beautifully made, that looked as if it would work better than my fork and all the other beaters I’d tried put together. I thanked him profusely, amazed that he would give me such a special gift. “Show me how you plan to use it,” he grinned.
I sat on my stool and wove for a few minutes, with him watching, hoping he approved, in spite of my early decision not to care what anyone thought. I did care what he thought, not only because he was an expert in weaving, but because he’d been thoughtful and caring enough to give me a priceless tool.
He didn’t say anything as I wove, but when I stopped and looked up at him, he was smiling. “Good,” he said. “Very good.”
I thanked him again and again until he put up his hand to stop my words. “It’s enough thanking,” he said. “I’m pleased you’re so happy with it. I’m happy you’re finally using a proper beater.”
After weaving for a while, I was amazed to learn, after 54 years of weaving with a fork, how much easier and more efficient it is to weave with the right tool.
What do you make that’s important to you? Do your tools matter?
Life tales from a woman different living in The City Different.