I tend to flow between cycles of obsession when it comes to textile work. My sewing machine might sit untended for months with a project cut out beside it, my looms might be warped and left unwoven for as much as a year – but when the right moment comes, I return to my tools with a strong focus that can carry me through many projects, one after the other.
This would be a problem if I had to produce textile work for a living. I am so inconsistent with my output, and deadlines aren’t something I rise to when my pay isn’t assured. But I’m fortunate to be paid for something other than my studio work, which leaves me free to pursue what I want, when I want. This allows me to work with the physical implications of making (weaving, sewing and other textile work are hard on the body in various ways – and repetitive strain injuries are an issue for many professional makers and artists), as well as following my own (mysterious) internal cycles which flow between learning new skills and turning out work that I already have the technics to pull off. It also allows me to experiment and pursue things I am actively bad at (like figurative painting on fabric) without feeling like I’ve “wasted” my time.
Case in point is the photo at the head of this story – a warp that I started putting on in springtime 2022 and only fixed and started weaving last week. Between April and November I did not send a single shot through either of my looms, for reasons I cannot explain. The whole thing just suddenly seemed too tedious, and I turned my attention to other things like fabric collage and textile painting with natural dyes as well as taking long breaks from the studio over the summer when I was working away from home and picking away at a single knitting project.
But when I am on, I am really on. Since returning to the loom(s) in November, I have finished the tea towel warp that sat for several months (4 more towels), a huck lace sampler and table runner (from the Jane Stafford Weaving School courses), 2 huck lace scarves, 5 rustic tea towels (which I am hemming the last one of today), and a shawl which needs fringes completed before I can wet finish. I have also woven half of the above shawl, and have pulled out a tea towel kit from my stash that I’m going to put on my small loom over the next few days.
Of course, when I’m weaving at this volume (in addition to my 40-hour work week), I can’t get a lot else done. There is some television knitting (socks!), but writing, dyeing, and other creative activities take a bit of a back seat when I’m weaving obsessed. I do have a goal of learning some new fiddle tunes this year, so I am making 15-20 minutes a day of space for that at least.
I sometimes wish I was a bit more measured in my approach – wondering if my skills would develop more steadily if I stuck to one thing or didn’t take long breaks to pursue other interests – but this seems to be hardwired into my constitution. Lots of interests, but obsessive focus on one or two at a time. Over the long arc, I tend to return to things at least, and each time I do I note that subconscious has kept my skills up (and sometimes even improved them) in the meantime.
So, weaving it is right now! At least for the next few weeks.
Lovely articles, seems to be me, too, in some ways. We can all be more forgiving and accepting of ourselves.