Weaving is Alive and Well and Living in Memphis!

Twenty five.  That is the number of new rigid heddle weavers in the Memphis area.  The Memphis Botanic Garden hosted a one day workshop in rigid heddle weaving at the beginning of February.  Eight participants registered and seven were present at the class.  There is a waiting list of eight more interested students, and the Garden plans to offer another one day weaving workshop later this Spring.  Everyone finished weaving a scarf using knitting yarns.  Some wove faster than others, so in the alotted time, students walked away with seven scarves of various lengths.  Everyone enjoyed weaving in such a beautiful setting.

Rigid Heddle weaving at the Memphis Botanic Garden

Rigid Heddle weaving at the Memphis Botanic Garden

Students wove on Schacht rigid heddle looms.  One enthusiastic weaver purchased a Kromski “Fiddle” soon after the class ended and has started a new project on that.  When she brought it to show me, I immediately fell in love with it! The fiddle weaves a width of 16″ and it has so many options such as an additional mount for a second heddle, solid wooden bars with openings for clamp attachment, and it comes with a shuttle, threading hook and warping peg.  And did I mention that it’s really cute?  Looks like it would be a good loom for someone with limited space or someone who likes to take a weaving project when taking a trip.  At $131, it’s a great price too.

I am also teaching two six week classes at the Tipton County Commision on Aging in Covington, TN.   The first class filled up so quickly that they are now offering a second class.  My class size limit is eight, and so now there are a total of 16 students.  The first class is being offered through Creative Aging Mid-South, a non-profit organization which funds music and art programs for senior citizens throughout the greater Memphis area.   This organization also provides Beka looms, accessories and yarn for students taking this class.  The Commission on Aging is sponsoring the second class.  The Commission owns a few Schacht rigid heddle looms and I am providing the rest.  The theme of these two classes is recycling.  Students are weaving with plastic bags, sheets cut into strips, and used t-shirts to make purses and tote bags.

Kathy weaving with t-shirt strips

Kathy weaving with t-shirt strips

threading rigid heddle looms in the afternoon class

threading rigid heddle looms in the afternoon class

Since the classes are six weeks long, and everyone has proven to be fast weavers, several students are already starting their second projects.  Many students are also knitters with their own stash of yarns, so these students plan to weave scarves as their second project.

But these numbers only add up to 23!  That means that I have two private students.  One student is a junior sculpture major at Memphis College of Art.   About two years ago, the College decided to close their Weaving program and auctioned off all their looms and weaving equipment.  My student Molly had always wanted to learn to weave and the College connected her to me.  It may be that I am currently the only studio weaver in Memphis that also teaches on a regular basis.  I feel very lucky that I have a student intern who is happy to be learning weaving and who is also able to assist me with various projects for upcoming shows.  I am hoping that is the beginning of a new tradition!

The other private student is weaving two prayer shawls or tallitot for her friend’s daughters’ B’nai  Mitzvah ceremony.  I have worked with many students both teenagers and adults from Temple Israel in Memphis in the weaving of prayer shawls either for themselves or a friend or relative.   It is customary though not necessary in Jewish tradition for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah (son or daughter of the Commandment) to wear a tallit during this religious service. Below are a few photos of prayer shawls that I have woven in the past for various exhibits.

Handwoven prayer shawl

Handwoven prayer shawl

Handwoven multi-colored prayer shawl

Handwoven multi-colored prayer shawl

And so, a lot is happening in the weaving world in Memphis, Tennessee.  This is an exciting time for weavers, and all fiber enthusisasts living in the area.  Just because our local schools no longer teach weaving, doesn’t mean that a community can’t rally to revive something truly creative and meaningful!