Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Posted by Peg in South Carolina

I have always been the kind of person who likes to explore lots of different things.  I found the beginning of semesters at college very energizing because I was going to be able to learn lots of new and different things.  I was excited by each new hobby I picked up, by each new topic I decided I wanted to explore in my reading.  In high school, the principal told me I would never amount to anything unless I settled down to one thing. At heart, I was a dabbler.

Well, ultimately I did.  I did get a PhD and that required six years of focusing on increasingly small bits of English literature.  The hardest thing about writing my dissertation was looking for books in the library.  My eyes were always wandering to books that had nothing to do with what I was writing about.  Each time I would resist the temptation to explore something else.  And I was successful. 

I used the degree for only a few years. Then I settled down into the very comfortable role of wife and mother.

Flash forward to today.

For the first time, of my own free will, I find myself exploring in depth not just weaving, but a specific weaving structure. Crackle.  And at the moment I am highly involved with a very specific variant of crackle.  Yes, I do find myself occasionally tempted to study a different structure, but that has not been hard to resist.  Perhaps that has not been hard to resist because I do take “vacations” from crackle when I weave something else.  Our daughter’s Christmas towels which I will weave next is an example of such a “vacation.”  Yet, even as I look forward to weaving those, I resent just a tiny bit the fact that I cannot immediately start to work on the next crackle warp.  I really really want to!

So why do I find myself in this very unusual (for me) situation?  Part of this is that my training as a so-called research “scholar” opened for me new ways of being and gave me tools of patience that I did not have before.  But these tools and these new ways of being were shunted aside for many years as I did all the varied things a wife, mother, and person does.  It was a lovely life.

But then I stumbled onto weaving.  I loved it from the beginning. It was the yarn, the color;  it was the working with my hands. I had always enjoyed working with my hands:  sewing, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, even a bit of woodworking.  And in my heart I knew what was wrong with my earlier chosen profession:  it did not involve working with my hands.  Even when I wrote essays, I generally wrote the last draft by hand instead of at the typewriter.  Somehow that intimate relationship between, mind, eyes, and hand felt really good.

Once I had the very basics down enough so that I could weave with a little bit of confidence, I longed for four years of structured courses so that I could learn “properly.”  That had been my mode of learning for so long that I had forgotten how much I had learned in grade school and high school by exploring library books.  Non-fiction, generally how-to-do-it books.

Structured weaving courses, of course, did not happen.  I learned a bit here and a bit there, as workshops appeared, as interesting HGA Learning Exchanges were offered,  and as the need to learn new things arose.  I began to enjoy this rather slapdash way of learning. My early ways of learning had been revived, along with the great pleasure those ways had given me.

Always in the back of my mind in these early weaving days was that bit of crackle I had explored a tiny bit in the first weaving workshop I took. And finally the day arrived.  I was ready to start exploring crackle. I was also ready to start blogging.  An utterly fortuitous coincidence but one of great importance.

I had thought that blogging would take too much time from my weaving.  Well, sometimes it does.  But the process of blogging has reinforced my crackle explorations more profoundly than I had ever dreamed possible.

In all of this has arisen an intense desire to know and understand, to control and use this crackle structure to create something very personal, to create something that is mine. 

In Asheville last weekend, I purchased a book.  The book reflected my still very lively desire to try totally new things.  It is written by Kim Thittichai and is called Hot Textiles: Inspiration and Techniques with Heat Tools. Both the title and the gorgeous cover were enough to make me buy it.  It is also a Batsford publication and I know how wonderful those publications are.  I know that I will probably never use these heat tools;  it will be enough to look at the book and dream.  There was, however, one paragraph that really stood out when I read it.  It is actually a quotation from a piece by Jae Maries called “The Butterfly Approach to Embroidery,” which appeared in The World of Embroidery magazine in July 1999.

All of us need time to master and develop a technique for our own use and make it work for us. It should become a tool to help us externalise our ideas and say something personal.  We may dabble forever and never get focused, like the butterfly fluttering from one seductive flower to another.  (page 13)

I just went to the Batsford site and discovered a book on machine embroidery that they have just released…………sigh………….

Related Posts:
Why Crackle?


"Why I Weave as I Do" was written by Margaret Carpenter for Talking about Weaving and was originally posted on October 28, 2008. © 2008 Margaret Carpenter aka Peg in South Carolina


Susan B. said...

This post really resonated for me, Peg. It captures in words the total engagement I feel with weaving.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Thank you Susan. I appreciate your sharing this with me.

Leigh said...

Ah, Dr. Peg! I liked this post too because I am also a dabbler at heart. But I've appreciated your encouragement to dig deeper, and the tied weaves study group will do that for me. I'm not sure if I'll stick with it for years and years, but already I feel like I'm beginning to understand S&W at least.

Anonymous said...

I guess there are quite a few of us with butterfly minds, because I count myself in too! But beware of those heat tools - an embroiderer friend of ours has got absolutely hooked and can't stop herself from scorching and melting everything she makes.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Leigh, I think you would have discovered the value of digging a bit deeper without my urging. But thank you! Cally, those heat tools quite frighten me, and thank you for the warning! Irons I can handle (I think!) but not the other stuff.