Talking v Doing – Part 1 of an occasional series

by maggie

I was quite happy doing, I was getting good and that left my brain with enough spare capacity to wonder what I was doing. That was my down fall, because I’ve been doing more talking than doing ever since.

English, is my only language, so my reference books tend to be in English, simple enough one would imagine. Except when there is a clear difference in practice between two great English speaking cultures, Britain and America. For example, in the UK our weaving diagrams related directly to the cloth that is produced. Once you can read the diagram you can see that it models directly the cloth as it is woven; starting at the bottom and working to the top of the weave repeat.

In the US, and Canada, it’s in reverse. The top row of the diagram relates to the first pick of the weave repeat, the right hand column is the left most end, (as you weave). If you’re ignorant of this difference your fabric will come out upside down and back to front, as most books in both traditions are written on the assumption that weavers have internalised the practices of their craft as the authors have learnt them. The difference in the layout of a weave diagram, stems I suspect, from the different way in which the loom is dressed in Britain and America.

In Britain, the loom is dressed from the front, the position in which the weaver is ultimately stationed. In America the loom is dressed from the rear, in the reverse order. Both systems have their benefits, espoused by their practitioners. These differences in tradions in contemporary hand weaving have emereged in two countries that share a comon language and lead us to ask what varieties in practice continue in countries in which other languages are spoken. It also reminds us that America is founded on more than an just English speaking cultures.

This obvious variation in practice that ‘my way is a way’ – not the only way, the right way, the better way was a revelation to me. It the way I was taught, on reflection this makes sense, and grounds me in a linaged that stretches back in the mists of time. I can easily trace it back to the reasureance in graft skills after WWII and the founding of the department that taught me. What about before that? How, for example, does British contemporary hand weaving related to industrial practice in the UK? What else have I been taught that seems the ‘true way’ but is just a way of getting on to the next step of the process? These were just the first questions I asked myself.

Doomed I tell you doomed…