It’s incredible how many turns our lives can take in the course of one year, how many changes can rock through us and move us. Though I don’t typically do New Year’s resolutions, January has always been my month to tuck in to quietly process the year that’s gone – and, in an odd, almost mutually-exclusive way, to power into new challenges that previously seemed oppressive. I don’t call them resolutions because they always seem to quietly line themselves up well in advance of the new year; by the time January arrives on the scene, I’m thusly committed. Last year, my challenge was to become part of the local community of weavers here by joining a communal studio space near my office, and that decision rippled through 2013 in truly beautiful ways. This year I’ve committed to taking a basic drawing class, an idea Rebecca supported during my time in her lovely class back in September. It’s a really painful process at times; I don’t have much natural aptitude for it. That said, I decided in the early weeks of this year that I don’t really believe natural aptitude is what makes the difference. Sure, aptitude makes it easier to get your hours in, because natural skill makes practicing less unpleasant, and so you’ll find you practice more. But I think it’s the grit factor that takes you through to true skill. You’ve got to believe you can continue to move forward even in the face of your early attempts, and you’ve got to be gentle as you push yourself to the edge of your skill set, and you’ve got to do it again and again. It’s not pleasant, no, not at all. But it works, and so I believe in it.
My perseverance with weaving in 2013 has led to a new weaving job producing yardage to be used as baby wraps for Clementine Baby Wraps up in Boston. I spent most of January weaving the sample yardage so that Sarah and I could jointly evaluate whether I would be a good fit for Clementine; it’s been a wonderful return to the finer-gauge yarns I’ve always preferred to weave with but haven’t used in a while. Sarah dyes her warps by hand, which appeals to the part of me that’s been interested in planned pooling warps for a few years, and the materials are just lovely to work with. It’s been a fun challenge to weave yardage to spec for someone else, and a wonderful stretch to work with projects that are larger than what I’m used to producing, but the absolute best part of the process is how holy it feels to weave for someone else’s child. I’m a big believer in intentional craftsmanship – meaning I believe that the finished fabric is imbued with my emotions and intentions for its recipient – so I’ve been extremely careful not to work on the yardage when I’m tired or distressed. I’ve also been following Natalie Chanin’s principle of loving the thread – if y’all haven’t heard her talk about this, she goes over it in her Creativebug classes. It’s basically a principle that thread on a spool has a will to tangle, because it’s been all coiled up and compressed and it doesn’t want to lie smooth and relaxed – so before you begin you have to love on it a little to calm it down. She and her staff smooth the thread with their fingers repeatedly, talk to the thread about the garment and how happy its owner will be, how beautiful she’ll feel when she wears it, how the thread is all a part of that process of beauty and comfort. I do this with my warps, too. Untangling the warp is always a part of winding on, and going smoothly and gently through the process, straightening and untangling the warp bit by bit with my fingers, focuses my intent for the work and helps center me as an artisan. I just feel so honored to be able to do this work as I think about the life of the child who’s going to ride around in the fabric, snuggled up and safe. I can’t wait to watch these wraps find their homes as I weave this year.
Final notes: I’m sure many photos of Clementine warps will be finding their way into my Instagram feed, so if you’ve found your way here because you’re interested in Clementine specifically, feel free to follow me over there. I’d love to share my work with you!