I have a great weaving friend Anastasia Hobson-George, who told me that if I wanted to get my weaving completed in time for the coastal Tlingit celebration in Juneau, Alaska in early summer of 2020 that I’d have to get up early and weave for an hour before starting my day just like the late master weaver, Jennie Thlanaut. I was told that Jennie would wake up early and make tea and weave. I decided that finishing this robe is important enough to sacrifice a little sleep so since July, I’ve been waking up at 6am and weaving for two hours almost every morning (Tues-Sat). I make coffee, I often listen to a podcast with my headphones on while George, the lucky recipient of this robe sleeps nearby.
In these bleary-eyed early morning hours, I have felt so fortunate to welcome each day with this deeply spiritual weaving practice. I feel every weaver who came before me, guiding my hands – often before I’m awake enough to do so for myself. The only lights on in the house are those illuminating my loom, flooding my workspace with light so that I can ensure the tidiest, most compact stitches. Yes, I’ve made plenty of weaving mistakes but I’m ok with that. I’m not aiming for perfection. I’m aiming for beautiful.
This robe came into being in the summer of 2018. I spun the warp yarns by hand on my Ashford Kiwi II wheel using merino wool until that ran out and I substituted the remainder with corriedale. I included cedar bark in the warp for the strength and bug repellency (as is the tradition with Chilkat weaving) and am so grateful for the time I put into creating every one of those one thousand yards of yarn! When I dressed this loom on Canada Day, 2017, I had NO IDEA how tedious but precious each stitch would become. I estimated that when this robe is completed, I will have created somewhere in the neighbourhood of 250,000 stitches. I love the time I spend at the loom, weaving threads in and out, over and under.
I take great care to ensure that my state of mind is a peaceful, pleasant one. If I am angry, I redirect my thoughts to a more positive state. If I’m hungry, I stop and eat. If I’m sad, I step away from the work. Whenever I’m in a state of unhappiness or any kind of negativity, I stop working and regroup. I know I must take great care to monitor my thoughts because they are being woven into the fabric of this robe which will be worn and danced by hopefully many generations of Tlingit dancers.
I’m not an expert. To the contrary – I’m quite a beginner but an enthusiastic, committed one. I’ve documented much of this process on my Instagram feed but I think I ought to keep some of those images here as well.
The image immediately above shows bundles of warp yarns hanging in preparation for dressing the loom in the summer of 2018. I was excited, apprehensive, and totally full of inspiration and hope. Once the loom was dressed at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre on Canada Day, I was on my way. I had no idea how my enthusiasm would ebb and flow but as of today, September 9, 2019, I am committed to an almost daily (save for Sundays) weaving practice that starts at 6am. I only complete 3-4 rows at best with each row taking 30 minutes to complete but I am making progress. Daily.
It is absolutely a challenge to wake up earlier than I’d like and immediately work but I do it. This means that every day, I get to see a little bit of progress which brings me closer to my goal of completion.
I was so lucky to spend several months at home working on the weaving. I saw diamonds emerging in the Haida Spider Web pattern which was exciting! There were still many moments when I felt as though I’d never be done. I still have those moments all the time. But they pale in comparison to the moments when my heart is racing as I watch a new pattern emerge. This robe is steeped in life experience, love, and joy. It is telling its own story through the design and stitches used but also, it tells my story as the weaver. We, the robe and I are intertwined. We are one.
The photo of me at the loom above is from early July , 2019. I was beginning my morning weaving practice and was excited to see the fruits of my labour. I also was beginning to see how starting my day with this work was setting the rest of my day and my life to be so rich and fulfilling.
I foresee needing to record my progress in this storytelling fashion more regularly as this piece comes to life. I have so many thoughts and ideas that emerge during this time at the loom. I gain clarity on my life’s path, my biggest dreams. I have so much to be grateful for and it all starts with my time in this chair, in this place, in front of this work.
Thank you for being with me as I share my experience.