I probably overuse the word "whirlwind" to describe periods of time in my life, so let's say that the last several weeks have been a blur of weaving and textile-related stimulation.
It started with a visit to Kansas City.
Well, it actually started over a year ago when I plotted and schemed to bring Laverne Waddington to Port Townsend for a class. She visits Seattle regularly, but I hadn't managed to bring her to my home yet, so I drummed up interest in my weaving guild (not difficult at all) and scheduled a day of weaving in April 2018. Getting this all organized had been my focus, as well as family issues, and so when I prepared to go to KC for phase one of family stuff, I was not thinking of fun fiber events or weaving opportunities.
But of course, Kansas City is the new home, for three years running, of Ply Away, and I soon became aware that fate, the universe, and/or the weaving gods had conspired to place me in the perfect position to photobomb Abby's intermediate backstrap weaving class and assist her with a warp-winding method I've been eager to learn for YEARS! I mean, really. I can't express how great this was, particularly for being so unexpected and unsought.
Watching Abby go through the basics of backstrap was edifying - although this was an intermediate class, she reviewed things like winding two-color warp and making heddles, for the benefit of the newer weavers (those 5-6 year-olds on the Chinchero weaver scale.) I had been advised and coached by Abby over the last 8 years, but had never actually watched her handle a warp, so just seeing how she did pickup, opened sheds, and used her hands and tools was a special treat.
It was also remarkable to weave with Abby and then Laverne, almost back-to-back. I've learned to weave from these two people, but I'd never sat in a class where they showed beginners the basics before, and in both cases I got to see the teaching method in action and directly compare the styles. Abby is admittedly Chinchero-chauvinist, teaching The Way she grew up learning, while Laverne has amalgamated methods from a variety of traditional weavers in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador, from whom she has learned different techniques. Both of them have experience as educators, and so their teaching is deliberate and skillful, developed from an understanding of progressive levels of learning. This means I got to observe not only how to weave from the student's perspective, but also how to teach, which interests me because I have taught backstrap once or twice, and hope to have more opportunities.
Being around newer students, I also saw how the teaching translated into their understanding of how to weave. Abby's students are comfortable with Quechua terms like illawa and sonqopa (heddles and shed stick, which are the only system they use for opening sheds,) while Laverne's students adopt the clever "twisty sticks" (an extra cross held on two bound sticks that is used to help open both sheds), and heddle the alternating "pebble" sheds when using such patterns. The terminology and vocabulary of movement that each set of students picks up is different, but they're all learning traditional backstrap weaving and it's brilliant to see weavers growing up.
I've felt pride in being able to weave in this way, since I began in 2010, and having my skills confirmed by my teachers gives me a thrill of confidence, and motivation to keep growing. It has been intense, having so much exposure to my weaving people. This is a precious community we're creating, and I hope to nurture it.
So that's the overview. Then, there was the stuff I actually learned, and the whole process of absorbing the information. I got a lightning-fast demo of supplementary warp patterning in Abby's class (fast because I had to keep leaving because family,) and was glad that Laverne made me show her later, which helped me remember what the heck we did. It's kind of like learning a language: I can repeat things perfectly, in the moment, but ask me the word later and unless I wrote it down, it's gone. I made this warp immediately after Abby, which was fine and easy, but I very nearly forgot how it was done when asked to explain a week later. But I did figure it out. It's easy. I just have to write it down (or show Laverne, who is way more meticulous in sampling and nailing down techniques - she'll remember it!)
The two-person warp winding method (shown above) with a header cord was my Holy Grail of things I wanted to learn, so I was crazy excited for that. Only thing is, it takes two people, so until I see Abby again, I can't exactly practice.
From Laverne, I got to learn two techniques I've been curious about for a long time: double weave and supplementary weft patterning. Both were completely new to me, so I had to focus and work to get a grip on the mechanics. They make a nice pairing because the patterns follow the same math, or logic, meaning they can be charted in the same way. So if I come up with a design in double weave, I could weave it with supplementary weft - although there are some considerations that make design choices more suited to one or the other. At any rate, my head and hands have been fully occupied with continuing to reinforce the type of thing shown below. I've followed through with my samples better than I usually do, being determined to keep these techniques in my tool kit.