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Weaving workshop, October 2014

The main character in my novel is a weaver. This is not surprising, since weaving in the Andes used to be an integral activity. One needs clothing, after all.

Thankfully weaving traditions are still alive, though they’ve taken a huge hit in the modern world. In places traditional backstrap loom weaving is being rejuvenated through the hard work of organizations and individuals.

When we lived in Peru, we were great appreciators of weaving, and amateur collectors, but I never attempted to learn. People tried to explain backstrap loom weaving to me, but all I saw was a blur of hands and yarn; all that made sense to me was the rhythm of the wooden sword or a piece of bone beating the threads into place.

Coming back to the book over the last several years, I realized that I needed to try to learn some elementary weaving. So in 2014, I took a weekend workshop with Bolivia-based teacher Laverne Waddington when she came to the States on her annual teaching trip. I learned a ton, but I didn’t have a structure or commitment to keep it up. A long pause later, I came to think of weaving in the world of my novel as its own language. Earlier this year, I started a twice-monthly practice with a local teacher.

I think learning a new skill like this must be good for the brain. Sometimes I feel it stretching and twisting as I try to figure out how to hold the threads on my fingers.

I’m a baby weaver. My skills could be surpassed by a child younger than my own children. This is good for humility.

But now, a few months in, I’m starting to enjoy it. I’m starting to actually want to do it.

We were in Yosemite last weekend, and I decided to weave more of the hook pattern I first learned in 2014 and practiced a week ago. I was proud of myself because this was the first time I wove without a teacher sitting by my side ready to catch a mistake and help me remedy it.

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Yosemite, May 2016

And then while doing yoga in the living room, I looked up at one of my favorite weavings we bought in Peru, and realized the pattern is all hooks!

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A weaving from Peru that hangs on my living room wall

I love how learning a new skill can have you see the world through fresh eyes.


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