Anyone who follows my blog knows I teach workshops for a living. As a matter of fact, I spent the first of April teaching a lovely group of women from a Maryland American Sewing Guild Chapter how to weave trim for garments on an inkle loom. We had a blast, in spite of facility issues, and there are now a number of new weavers out there. It was fun to see them all try something new, something out of their wheelhouse, and to watch light bulbs going off all over the room.
Since I’m always on the road teaching, I almost never think about taking a workshop myself. Workshop season is upon us, this is fiber conference season, and yes, I’m teaching at two of them, Midwest in Indianapolis in June, and New England Weavers Seminar in July. It is all part of my job.
As I redefine my life however, I’m starting to see that taking workshops myself is actually a great way to challenge the way I think about things, be a student again, sometimes actually struggling with techniques that aren’t familiar. There is a social part of it I miss being the instructor all the time. I have decided that moving forward in my newly redefined life that workshops are going to be an important part of what defines me.
I’m signed up to take a five day water color painting class at Peters Valley this summer. I haven’t really painted since college. I’m rusty and blank paper shy.
Last weekend, my guild hosted Tom Knisley, well known and respected weaving teacher, extraordinary person, and fantastic rug weaver. He has published a number of books, videos, and writes regularly for Handwoven Magazine. He came to teach a three day class in Krokbragd rug weaving techniques.
I don’t weave rugs. I don’t think I’ve ever woven a rug, except for a couple of pile weave tapestries back in the 70’s in college. But I signed up for the class, because I need to expand my brain, my knowledge of rug weaving, and because, this is my goal, to learn new things, and be a student once in awhile.
What a blast. My daughter also took the class, and it was great to watch her run with every technique she tried. I wasn’t in competition with her, and I was happy following my path, exploring the medium, and of course Tom makes every class informational and inspiring. Tom and his daughter Sarah have opened a fiber school near Harrisburg PA, called the Red Stone Glen, and they offer regular fiber classes in just about everything you can think of. I can’t wait to go take a class there.
I learned that rug weaving is very slow. And that it uses up a lot of yarn. I didn’t have much fat stuff hanging in my studio, but I brought what I had and I used a lot of it. I am really proud of my sampler. And no, I don’t think I’m now going to become a rug weaver. Though I’m thinking of just tossing a warp on one of my 25″ table looms and puttering through a throw rug that will use up my 1980’s stash of Harrisville Shetland yarn.
The thing that intrigued me about Krokbragd is figuring out how to make units symmetrical. We worked off profile treadlings, something new to me, but I found that some units didn’t reverse well, as in this pattern. The lower part was blocky and the upper part contiguous.
But if I wanted both the bottom part and the top part of the design to be contiguous, I had to work at it a bit. I spent Saturday morning deep in thought, working out how to get the design to flow, and of course my daughter would look over my shoulder and point out what to her was very obvious, but I wanted to work it out myself. And I did.
There was something really satisfying that comes with that fist pump/Ah-ha moment. I was proud of myself. I see that kind of personal success in my students, but it is harder for me to experience it on a regular basis. I don’t push myself into areas where I’m not familiar and experience the joy of new found knowledge.
I have an intern for the semester, from the local community college, she is learning all areas of fiber arts, and has really taken to weaving. She acquired a used loom a couple weeks ago, and has that wonderful enthusiasm of youth that reminds me that none of us are ever too old to learn new things. I let her weave off my remainder of the warp from the weekend workshop. She was so happy.
Meanwhile, I finished up a vest sample illustrating a technique in garment construction, from leftover fabric from a mohair coat I wove, for an article for a fall issue of Threads Magazine. I turned the fabric so it would read more of an ombré effect. You can see the original coat here. Of course, I finished it up on a day when it was close to 85 degrees. Hard to work with mohair when your hands are sweating and it is way too early in the season for air conditioning.
And so, I’m looking forward to what I can study next, what workshop I can take and where. Perhaps something in music. I always wanted to play a stringed instrument. Perhaps because I play with strings all day…