"Weaving teaches forethought."
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The Loom, a Collage-Poem
Threads, Knots, Tapestries
“Weaving is a work of mindfulness, of taking time to give attention to the details that will contribute to the woven piece’s unity.”
“… I have learned that it is possible to unfold layers of relationship that have remained untouched and untapped, waiting to be discovered.”
My relationship with my mother
was in need of some work—"work" being the term that is
used these days to mean improvement or repair. Our mother-daughter
relationship is not openly hostile, but a residue of past
hurts clings to the sides of our interactions and clouds
our ability to see each other for the people we are now.
Long removed from childhood, at 52 years old, I long for
a vital, loving connection with my mother. A retired math
teacher (a subject at which she excels and I can barely
comprehend) at 80, my mother is active and on the go,
while balancing on her shoulders the wisdom and suffering
that visit the life of everyone.
My decision to learn to weave has had its own period of
gestation. Wanting to sit at a loom and weave has grown
from an intermingling of memory traces, a fascination
with a process inviting endless possibilities for creativity,
and a longing to find common ground with my mother.
I hear my mother make some of the same statements today
that she has been repeating ever since I was a child.
She voices a familiar refrain to accompany her activities,
saying, "I like to stay busy. I need to make and to do."
My mother bakes and gardens. She sews, and she very quickly
graduated from the basic knotting of macramé to
the more labor-intensive craft of weaving. Now, after
25 years of weaving, she has become a master weaver—a
comment she would never make about herself. My mother
is self-effacing to a point of self-deprecation, which
She says she loves to use her hands, and insists to her
grandchildren that she appreciates most of all the gift
made by hand—a value that my siblings and I were raised
with. So it is no surprise when my mother begins to weave
perfectly designed and executed scarves, pillows, and
linens. But what I am puzzled by is how this woman who
describes herself as "antsy," who gets nervous and lies
awake at night worrying, can sit at her loom with such
focus and apparent calm. She refers to weaving as "her
Weaving is a work of the mind. To prepare to make
placemats or fabric to be sewn into clothing, the weaver
has to determine the amount of yardage of yarn or cotton
thread required. There's thinking to be done: about the
finished length, plus room for shrinkage, plus tying all
the threads onto the loom.
Then, it is necessary to calculate the exact number of
threads that will create the foundation of the piece (the
warp), that will be woven (the weft). Laying out threads
on the warping board is a repetitive, rhythmic process.
Over, under, around and back. Over, under, around and
Weaving teaches forethought. I wonder how often I think
ahead in life to consider the consequences of my actions
or of my words. How often do I give the time deserved
to experiences or relationships?
My mother frequently invites me into her work room to
see what she has on her loom. I am drawn to the loom that
fills the tiny space. The loom has a presence and holds
endless possibilities that I begin to want to unlock.
The loom is beautiful. My mother's loom is made of cherry
wood, a wood of a deep reddish brown tone that is smooth
and soft to touch.
She sits at a weaver's bench, also of cherry wood, that
my brother, an acclaimed, professional woodworker, made
for her. (My brother also heard the often-repeated incantation
of the value of making things by hand.) Sitting at her
loom, my mother is transformed from the "antsy," self-deprecating
person whom I can become annoyed by into a woman who looks
at peace and seems to find contentment in what she has
learned to do. I see that my mother is happy when she
weaves, and I am happy for the satisfaction that her creativity
brings her. I realize that if I learn to weave, we will
be two weavers, my mother and I, and we can be together,
person to person and soul to soul.
I recall a story I heard Baba Ram Das tell many years
ago on WBAI, a N.Y. radio station. He was recounting the
story of a visit he made to see his aging father. Ram
Das had recently returned from India, dressed in Eastern
robes and with long hair and beard, and stood in his father's
kitchen. Ram Das and his father were ill at ease. They
didn't know what to say or do with each other.
His father happened to be making jelly, and Ram Das, the
master of "Be Here Now," realized that he could join his
father in the activity of jelly-making. Never having made
jelly before, Ram Das had to pay attention to what his
father was doing and had to turn to his father for direction
I have a clear recollection of Ram Das saying, "And there
we were; just two guys making jelly together in the kitchen."
So, I asked my mother to teach me how to weave.
Weaving is a work of mindfulness, of taking time to
give attention to the details that will contribute to
the woven piece's unity. Careful, patient attention is
summoned in order to place each single thread through
the many heddles (analogous to the eye of a needle), in
a specific sequence. There can be hundreds of threads
that go into creating the design.
There is no rushing in weaving. Weaving settles the weaver
into the moment, and slows the weaver down. In "dressing"
or preparing the loom for the actual act of weaving, it
seems as if a transformation is taking place. The weaver
must be obedient to the steps of preparation and the intricacies
of the mechanisms of the loom. Through the weaver's careful
attention and obedience, the loom begins to work the weaver,
rather than the weaver working the loom.
As the loom is "dressed," a harmony is established between
what the weaver expects to create and what the loom, itself,
is capable of. As I come to appreciate the beauty of the
instrument, the more I am able to appreciate the dynamic
energy that is born from the relationship between the
loom and the weaver.
After my mother's initial attempts to guide me in learning
this craft, our lessons came to an abrupt end. I would
become irritated by her way of teaching, and she would
become frustrated by my way of learning. I had to go to
another weaving teacher for instruction, my mother's weaving
teacher, a master weaver for over 50 years. For the past
three years, my mother and I have been going to weaving
My relationship with my mother continues to have its ups
and downs; maybe it always will. But now, we also have
something that brings us together. I appreciate the precision
of my mother's weaving—she is a mathematician—and her
weaving is always even and without mistake. And my mother
always exclaims over my playful use of bright colors.
Even though I'm middle-aged, her appreciation makes me
Maybe it isn't always possible to work through differences
in relationships. Some relationships may contain enduring
points of tension and conflict. But for me, in learning
to weave, besides discovering a craft that I love, I have
learned that it is possible to unfold layers of relationship
that have remained untouched and untapped, waiting to
Passing the shuttle (the long wooden tool that carries
the weft threads) across the warp threads is a pleasurable
movement. In - glide - out. In - glide - out. A repetitious
steady climb of one thread laid on the top of another
in a cadence that centers the soul. Not all mantras have
words. The mantra of the weaver is a nameless, wordless
synchrony of mind, body, and spirit that is discovered,
but not sought.
Recently, my daughter Sarah, 23 years old, stood watching
me work at my loom. She asked me to explain to her how
to weave. Lifting the harness, passing the shuttles through
to demonstrate, in a few brief sentences, I outlined the
process to her. For a few minutes, Sarah was taken into
the weaver's space. She commented, "Maybe someday I'll
learn how to weave, too. I guess it's sort of a family
Maybe. Who knows?
This article was originally published in Seeds of Unfolding, Vol. XX, Number 3, 2003.