I'm preparing for my second round of teaching an introduction to backstrap weaving through the Cedar Root Folk School at the end of September, and remembering what an enjoyable experience it was last year. This school focuses on sustainable living, with classes taught "hand-to-hand" in an intergenerational, mentoring format. Such a premise attracts students with an interest in skills acquisition. They are coming to learn how to work with their hands in a specific way, for their own long-term benefit, and their focus and earnest attention reflected this.
None of my students were weavers when they arrived, but they all took to it quickly, establishing the rhythm of opening sheds and manipulating string heddles. Very soon they were ready to move on from plain weave stripes to the basic tanka ch'oro pickup pattern.
I explained the context of this pattern, that it's a beginner design for young weavers in Peru. These students were interested in all my digressions and side stories, my samples and cultural background notes. We studied images of backstrap weaving from different parts of the world, and they appreciated the range of possibilities sourcing from an overtly simple method.
One student brought some handwoven examples from her own collection, for me to admire and try to identify. I love the band pictured below, although I can't tell its origin - possibly Central Asia?
We had wide-ranging discussions at lunchtime, confirming that these were not just people I was happy to teach, but women I was glad to know. They worked diligently through the afternoon, practicing pickup and warp winding. The next morning were ready to wind wider warps, to weave their own striped backstraps.
Interesting backstrap designs emerged, and these determined students managed to finish, or very nearly finish, the entire thing that day. Taking home the sticks, sword beater, and handwoven backstrap, they were all prepared to keep weaving on their own.
It was a gratifying class for me to teach, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I'm glad to have connected with the Cedar Root Folk School, and I look forward to this year's class.