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Published: 10 September 2021

By Andy Ross

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Pondering weaving

Over the fifteen years that we have owned and operated the studio in Yell, people have frequently commented on the therapeutic nature of the processes of weaving. 

Decide the project, work out the colours and yarns to use, calculate the measurements, make a warp. Prepare the loom. Get the warp on the loom and thread it through the heddles, then through the reed. Tie on, tension and weave a header band. Then it is lift, weave, beat, release. Over and over again. Watching the cloth grow in front of the loom. Advance the warp, re-tension, lift, weave, beat, release over and over and over again. Then the final cutting-off, washing and pressing. It is only at this point that the cloth is complete and days may have elapsed from the moment of conception to the end result. 

Weaving has been used for millennia to provide an economic benefit and for centuries to support health. In the early 20th Century basket weaving became the darling of Occupational Therapy on both sides of the Atlantic (although, as this article shows, it fell out of favour) and a search on the internet brings up many links to do with weaving as therapy. But what IS it about the repetitive nature of craft that makes us feel better?

In June 2020, in the middle of lockdown, the Crafts Council ran an article highlighting four reasons craft is good for mental health. Having spent a couple of days carefully making a striped warp for weaving a houndstooth fabric using singles yarn, and then weaving the twill pattern, I can vouch for the meditative nature of the process. It has been relaxing and calming in amongst the turmoil of selling up in Shetland and getting the studio ready for its new life, and the pleasure of seeing that classic cloth emerging out of simple stripes has been very gratifying. 

According to this article from 2018 in The Conversation, the benefits of craft come from the social interactions that occur around making. While this may be true of crafts some of the time I wonder if it holds for weavers who tend to work alone. The peace and solitude of creating a beautiful cloth are what appeal to me. That, and weaving's methodical, repetitive process: lift, weave, beat, release. Lift, weave, beat, release.