I’ve always had a fascination for utopian and intentional communities, although I know I am too independent of spirit to find happiness within one. The Shakers built one such a community at Hancock, MA and called it the City of Peace.
The property has been a museum since the 1960’s, and I am now an occasional volunteer in the Sisters’ Workshop at Hancock, demonstrating spinning and weaving.
Part of the challenge of interpreting this craft for visitors is placing it in context.
Spinning and weaving were commonplace skills in the 1780’s in New England, when the community was settled.
The Shakers weren’t unique in producing their own yarn and cloth. What is unique is the scale of production that was necessary to supply a communal family of 100 people.
I have been given the use of this large, beautiful old loom, and am winding a rug warp for it.
Weaving as a craft demonstration is so different from weaving in my own studio. It’s more important to tell a good story than create a perfect warp. I made a mistake winding a couple of threads, but decided to keep going and mend them when I got home. People weren’t there to see me puddle the warp back onto the floor. They wanted to see what winding a warp looked like. I’ll probably drop the mended threads when I am threading the heddles.
Sometimes you can get away with correcting mistakes as part of the demonstration. If you manage the loose thread carefully, weaving and un-weaving look remarkably similar to a visitor.
It makes me pause and wonder when I see that many people have no idea how their clothing comes to be. I don’t expect everyone would want to weave, but it seems very strange that people are incurious about their basic needs.
I can’t think of a better way to celebrate autumn than by sitting in front of the fireplace at Buttonwood, weaving on my band loom. Nights and mornings are chilly now, and the thick down quilt is a welcome place for the cats and me to snuggle at night. In the morning, the fireplace beckons.
Someday soon, I’ll light the wood furnace, but it’s not quite cold enough.
I’m weaving an indigo and natural linen band to use as handles on a market basket. Next month, I’m taking a workshop to learn to weave the basket. Layer by layer, my life becomes simpler and my material goods more handmade. It takes time to make things by hand, but they last a long time.
Traditionally, the autumn equinox is a time of drawing in the harvest, preparing for the long winter ahead, and tucking away seeds and nuts (yeah, squirrel!). The harvest at Buttonwood is spaciousness. The summer’s crop was unpacked boxes, things put in their rightful places, and especially things released that no longer serve me. I find it fitting that I carried and treasured these things for so many years and in so many places, only to return to my beloved hills where I could let them go.
A thoughtful post by Laura Fry on her blog reminded me of some advice I used to offer to my knitting circle.
Stop at the end of the row and admire your work.
It’s a very mindful way to approach your work, and this tiny pause is just enough time to see what you just completed in the context of the previous work. It’s also an amazing way to identify a mistake before you go on several inches beyond it.
In weaving, I don’t always stop after each pick, but I will if the draft is complex or I am weaving the first repeat and checking for threading errors. On something simple, I’ll stop to admire when I have to move the temple or advance the warp.
By setting out to admire the work, you are treating it with respect. Even if you do find something that needs correcting, it’s all done in the spirit of respect for your weaving.
Honorable cloth, you are the fabric of life. My mindful presence acknowledges this.
I will miss these guys when they head south.
They are Sandhill Cranes, infrequent visitors to these New England hills. I have been lucky to share my land with them all summer.
I feel the change of season very strongly in early September. Autumn is teasing and tugging at me, drawing me into darker colors and thoughts of wooly sweaters. When we get the odd warm day, I have to remember that this season is fickle and summer may not want to let go. I was born at this time of year, in the midst of a hurricane. Hurricane Sandy brought me home. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.
The curtain tiebacks are coming along. I have ten inches to go on the borders, and then I can start the central band. Except that I may appropriate the band loom to weave a simple striped handle for a market basket. I still do not have a sense of what band loom is best for slow projects vs. quick ones. I keep reaching for the Glimakra band loom, regardless of the project.