During these weeks at home, I’ve spent considerable time in my studio.
Weaving scarf after scarf on the same warp but changing the structure so that each one is unique got me to thinking about how we take woven textiles for granted yet they are so much a part of our lives. Think about it. Blankets warm us. Towels dry us. Curtains keep out glare and provide privacy. Fabric becomes fashion and covers the chairs we sit on. So many textiles are woven, these days mostly by machine but still sharing a history.
It is said that only spiders and birds have been weaving longer than humans. What makes it difficult to track its history is that textiles, no matter the material, do not have the lasting quality of, say, pottery, glass or metal nor have they been carefully preserved. Centuries ago, for example, corpses were wrapped in layers of fabric to protect their deterioration. When found, cloth was stripped away and destroyed thus taking away some of what might have given additional clues about ancient civilizations.
While many countries have a tradition of weaving, in the U.S. that is not the case. The fabric most closely associated here is that done early on in log cabin design. It was used primarily for functional pieces such as bed coverings. Early on the threads, often wool, were hand spun and did not have a nice hand as do today’s fabrics.
This piece, made by some long ago relative, is an example. I treasure it as it connects me to my past and makes me feel closer to the medium that has given me such opportunity for creative expression.
So, as you dress or cover yourself with a cool sheet at night or hold a napkin, appreciate the fabric in your life and think of textiles as having much to do with the wonder of human development.