I can’t believe how fast 2022 is moving. It’s as if all the random visions I had last year have found a vehicle of their own. Things are just happening! Good things too. That’s how visions work right? You know what you want to happen but have no clue how you’ll get there, then POOF.
My home is being slowly but surely transformed since I came home from the Swedish weaving immersion last year. I can’t stop looking at the textiles around me and thinking, I can weave that myself! New fingertip towels in my bathrooms, linen seat covers are on one loom, tow linen washcloths are on another. Then there are the brocaded hot pads on a sweet little table loom that shipped to me in a kit that I just had to pyrograph and paint. Oh, and there’s the epic handspun coverlet project. Surely, I must spin enough cotton and wool yarn to weave a coverlet. I’ve been busy.
I rang in the new year with “the bug”. Slept for days. When it was through I was done running from the boogie man. I just want to connect for real. This virtual world has brought me so many gifts in the last 2 years but I really need to be around people again. Zoom will not do for 2022. That’s my slogan!
No sooner had I made that silent declaration than I got a message from Becky at Vavstuga Weaving School. She remembered the convo we had on my last day of immersion about the small group of Black Weavers I met online. I had talked about how I wished I could meet them “for real”. She offered to have us meet up at her school. Of course, I wanted to. Would they? Could we really meet for real? Do virtual friends even want to be real?
We came up with the idea that we’d do a long weekend fellowship where we toured the homestead, learned about Swedish weaving yarns, sampled different weave structures, and shared farmhouse meals together. For the following week, a few weavers would stay and work on creating a weaving tutorial with an instructional booklet, video, and weaving kits to help new weavers get started. If I could get members from our new virtual group to come, the non-profit organization Fabric of Life with the support of The Ddora Foundation would sponsor us. I loved this idea because I would finally get to know other Black weavers for the first time and we could do something helpful for the larger fiber community. We would come together to aid in the preservation of our craft.
We called for applicants in January and would meet in March. It was a really short turnaround since our group is all spread out around the country and none of us are retired. In the end, we got 4 weavers together for this 1st Spring Fellowship and Skill Sharing. What an adventure!
Driving that 800 Miles went by in a blink. I was so excited to meet these weavers whom I have admired their works and bonded with over the internet. I was also excited to get back to that mystical Vavstuga world where creativity has no limit. A new cabin has been built since I was last there. Bear Lodge would be my home during the fellowship. What a sweet little cabin! Spacious too…and puppies. Fabric of Life board member, Sarah, and her family showed up with a van full of snuggly puppies for us to meet.
It didn’t take long to acquaint ourselves. I must have known these ladies in another lifetime. This was so special. I’m one-of-a-kind in any context but for once I felt like one of the pack. Yes, we’re a WE, not just me. It has been so surreal and daunting in these last 2 years to even speak publicly about fiber arts knowing I am one of a few Black weaver voices people will get to hear. I feel like I’m talking for us. Imagine talking for people you’ve never seen or met. That’s a responsibility that I don’t take lightly. I want to know what they value, think, feel, and what this craft means to them. We’re all Black but we’re also from all sorts of backgrounds. There are so many intricacies to sort out amongst ourselves. We could finally have those conversations in person. We’re REAL.
There was very little sleep happening with so much weaving fun and just plain getting-to-know-you festivities. We stuffed our faces with delicious farmhouse food, shared personal stories, wove some weavings, and poured over books in the extensive library of weaving at Vavstuga. Who would sleep with so much to do? We even got to take the other members who couldn’t come on a virtual tour of Vavstuga during our monthly Zoom meeting. My tickled soul is so invigorated.
2 of us could stay the following week for the skill-sharing project. We wanted to share how to weave on a frame. It is the perfect gateway to all of the exquisite ethnic textiles being woven all over the world. Anyone can find a frame and weave an infinite assortment of textiles. It’s so special because even to this day these textiles can only be replicated by artisans. The magic is with the weaver and not the loom. Just as a spider weaves an intricate web in a frame, so does the weaver with just shared knowledge, creativity, dexterity, and perseverance. It’s a weaving heritage that remains untouched by industry.
There is work left to complete but so much was accomplished in such a short time with the support of Becky, Leni, and the Vavstuga and Fabric of Life staff. I look forward to sharing with everyone, especially aspiring weavers, the joys of weaving on a frame loom.
I am ever grateful to Becky, Fabric of Life, and The Ddora Foundation for helping us bring this vision to fruition.
As for The Society of Black Weavers, the best is yet to come. With every stroke of the keyboard, a call for connection is released into the air. Our common web is being woven slowly but surely. We find joy in weaving and now we’re doing it together.