Taken on the front porch of Craft House by some wonderful anonymous person.
Photo of the Penland Gang
Front row (left to right): Rosemary Hurley, Clementine Comer, Becky Ruesche, Madelyn van der Hoogt, Lisette Dorsey
Back row (left to right): Susan Glass, Mary Wanamaker, Jane Bird, Andrea LaRue, Minnie LaRue, Larry Corbitt, me, Joy Wood
During August, 1995, I spent a week at Penland School of Crafts in Spruce Pine, NC. It was nirvana, pure plain and simple. I thought it would be years before I could return, but a combination of circumstances sent me back there this summer for a two-week class with Madelyn van der Hoogt, complex weaver and editor of Weaver’s magazine.
What did we do? A little of everything, it seemed! Our class was titled “Mix It Up,” but a better title might be “A Survey Of Everything Madelyn Knows About Weaving.”
Who were we? Quite a mixed bag as well:
- Becky, a 20-year-old college student whose part-time job is weaving for a production weaver in Sewanee, TN
- Larry, religion professor there at University of the South
- Andrea, a recent law school graduate who had never woven before
- Minnie, her 84-year-old grandmother who has been weaving most of her life
- Rosemary, who just finished her first year at Philadelphia College of Textiles
- Joy, who starts at PCT this fall
- and, of course, Susan, Mary, Lisette, Jane and me, who work day jobs and weave obsessively in whatever time we can carve out
Madelyn’s unspoken goal was to push everyone beyond their current comfort level and expand their boundaries, so after we spent the first day discussing structure, examining samples, and viewing slides, everyone chose a weave to sample and share:
- networked twill
- plaited twill on a double two-tie threading
- turned twill
- huck (imagine your first ever warp being eight shaft huck using 20/2 cotton!)
- double weave combining plain weave and Bronson lace
- twill/plain weave lampas
- “snowflake” twill
- diversified plain weave
all on at least eight shafts. Minnie, our senior citizen “graduate student”, was, however, allowed to do double weave pickup on a mere four shafts.
I decided that I should weave something I hadn’t done before, something I couldn’t do at home, so I appropriated one of the two twelve-shaft looms for the twill/plain weave lampas. I was very happy that I wound an extra yard of warp, because part of that warp turned into a collaboration with one of my roommates, a book artist from Ann Arbor, MI. The three pieces of fabric which I turned over to Jeannie became covers for a trio of softcover books, one for each of us and one for the session’s scholarship auction.
By the end of the first week, most of us were close to finished with our first warps, so we spent much of Friday individually consulting with Madelyn to plan our second week projects before she left for the weekend. People began moving into BIG projects – yardage and shawls and blankets, with more networked twills and turned twill and plaited twill, plus summer and winter and turned overshot combined with lace.
I hemmed and hawed and waffled, and finally on Sunday decided to do something really unusual for me – yardage for clothing. I also decided that I wanted to learn to use a warping paddle AND a warping reel. So there I was, unknowingly taking the steps to one of the more frustrating experiences of my weaving life. Taking a sixteen shaft network draft from Alice Schlein’s book and slicing and dicing it down to twelve shafts — that was the easy part. Creatively creating my warp from the yarns I had wasn’t too bad. Beaming that warp at 1 a.m. because it turned into a mess that I didn’t dare leave, threading it, getting halfway through sleying the reed and REALIZING I’D SCREWED UP THE THREADING – well, you no doubt see what I mean. By now it was Wednesday and I was miserably rethreading two thirds of my warp, wondering how I was ever going to get anywhere with this. Then came the Search For The Perfect Weft. It wasn’t in MY stash; it wasn’t in the Penland yarn stash. Luckily, Larry had the Perfect Weft for me and was willing to share. Whew!
Weaving 7.5 yards on a funky loom in two days is a tall order. I started making a lot more progress when I realized, “DUH! This is YARDAGE, dummy! Your edges don’t have to be wonderful because you’re going to cut them off, so TAKE OFF THE FLOATING SELVAGES!” With that amazing revelation, I finally managed to finish my warp and cut it off at 11:15 Friday night. Nor was I the last to finish – there were warps that were carefully preserved and cut off Saturday morning before people left for home.
If you’ve never been to Penland, it’s a unique experience. Part of the fun this time was being with an instructor that was really into the experience herself. Madelyn was one of the coffee house’s biggest customers during our session, and, along with two-thirds of our class, one of the most faithful attendees at yoga.
Oh, yes, the twice-daily yoga classes — I don’t think we’d have survived the two weeks without Diann Fuller. In addition to her yoga expertise, Diann is a sometimes weaver. So she understood exactly what was happening on afternoons when the weavers staggered into the room, flopped down on mats with rolled-up blankets stuck under our backs, and moaned piteously. An hour later we’d be, if not recovered, at least able to move again.
Yes, I missed Convergence in Portland, but somehow I think I got the better part of the bargain!