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January 19, 2021 / weavingschool

On Grandmother Influence

Another Arrowmont Craft Conversations zoom meeting got me thinking again. The instructor presenters were asked what their ah ha moment was when teaching beginners. Whenever I’ve taught beginning weaving classes, whether it is adults or the high school kids at John Campbell Folk School’s Little/Middle Folk School , there is a point where everyone is at long last weaving and the only sound in the room is the clacking of the treadles and beaters. At that point, I just sit back and listen to the peace of the moment free to contemplate how the chain of weaving is still alive and well after thousands of years. But how we learn this skill has changed. We once learned from each other. I’ve listened to many stories of women who learned their hand skills from their grandmothers. I am one of those women as well. My grandmother would visit us every summer with a new project, knitting one year, crochet door knob covers the next. She had taken tailoring lessons and would sit in the yard on summer nights and meticulously hand sew padding stitches in the underlining pieces. While I was in college, she passed on some of her finer garment sewing skills to me. My granddaughter sat on my lap at the sewing machine first sewing on paper until her legs were long enough to reach the treadle.
I took my first weaving class at Arrowmont, so long ago that it was still called the Pi Beta Phi Craft Workshop. This weekend I watched young women present their art at the Art&&Code: Homemade conference. The world has moved on. So many jobs my granddaughter can choose from that weren’t even a twinkling in someone’s eyes when I was her age. Traditional skills combined with new technologies, whole new ways of thinking about craft and making. I can’t begin to imagine what skills these presenters will pass on to their grandchildren. I suspect they will find the grandmother chain remains unbroken.

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