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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Over and Under

By Gloria MacKay

When I was school girl I didn't like Art. I earned my A's by cleaning paint boxes, and washing blackboards.

So, it was a ho-hum afternoon when Miss Jackmann, my fourth grade teacher, began a new project. Already I had messed up on fairy flowers: three to a page – small, medium and large. We couldn't sketch in so much as a fallen bud in the bottom left corner. (I had to start

“This week we are going to weave pencil cases,” she announced. “Don't touch a thing until I say so.” She passed out packets of straight pins, rectangles of cardboard and let us choose two colors of yarn.

We pushed our pins half way into a long edge of the cardboard, exactly a fourth of an inch apart. I thought my thumb would fall off. “The warp runs up and down and the weft goes over and under,” Miss Jackmann demonstrated. “In olden days weavers referred to the weft as the ‘woof’." ' Two boys began to bark, but were silenced by a withering glance.

We wound our yarn around the cardboard, hooking each strand over a pin, “warping the loom,” the teacher called it. I alternated inch-wide strips of red and white, connecting the yarn in knots as small as my fingers could manage. She sniffed and let me know the other boys and girls were done because they used one color for the warp and were saving the other for the weft.

Finally, I finished and started to weave. Over and under. Red and white. A checkerboard pattern began to unfold as Miss Jackmann passed my desk. She slowed down, but she let me alone.

Finally, I pulled out the pins and slid my pencil case off the cardboard loom. It was amazing! Red yarns and white yarns passed each other like soldiers on parade, but where the colors merged there was pink - squares and squares of pink. I could not even have guessed I had the power to turn red and white into pink just by going over and under. I only knew my pencil case was beautiful and I loved it. I saw Miss Jackmann actually wink at me, although I wasn't sure why.

That was the end of my weaving; I thought about making another, but I never did.

When my sons brought their art projects home from school I would tell them about my pencil case, now lost in time.

When I would pass a knitting shop, I delighted in the yarns festooning the walls like a field of blowzy flowers. When I would go inside, I would hold strands of yarn together, winding them around my fingers like a nervous child twisting her hair. One day, through a fog of red and white and pink, a voice inside me shouted, “Weave, you fool! If not now, when?”

That was the day I became a weaver. Again. I almost quit my Beginning Weaving class the first evening. We had to sit on the floor, and as the instructor and the other students dropped gracefully to the hardwood, my knees creaked, out loud. Most of the women were textile majors in college. They talked about hue, tints and values. Twills, tabby and overshot. I was a misfit, again.

To keep up with the class I gave up sleeping. I tore tangled warp off my rented loom and threw it. I cried in the middle of the night and gulped cold coffee. I served canned soup and Ding Dongs for dinner and forgot my son's dentist appointment. The magic of weaving had undone me.

But the result of all this was a miracle - a crisp woolen table runner in beige, brown and rust. My classmates and my instructor - not Miss Jackmann, of course, but a teacher is a teacher is a teacher - were amazed, and so was I.

These days I have a room filled with nothing but a loom, a bench and baskets of yarn. My family refers to it as my loony room. They might be right. Every loony has a tune and weaving just happens to be mine.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This is a wonderful story, Gloria, and it took me back to a classroom of many moons ago. It was a fun trip down memory lane.

I learned to knit in my 40's when I was housebound in a Massachusetts winter and I know the power yarn can have over you.

I loved your descriptions and humor. This was well written and entertaining.

Ahh, I am an elder and a weaver as well. My epiphany happened in first grade where a Navajo rug was warped and those who finished assignments early could put in yarn. I didn't take up weaving until my 50's, but that image was always there.

I fell in love with weaving back in the 70's and took a class. I bought a small table top loom, which limited the size of any items I could make, but table runners, scarves, wall-hangings, etc. all made their way into our home. I quit doing it after we moved into this home, and I wish I had that loom back now. It would while away the hours (when I am not blogging....LOL)

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