"Why I Weave Cloth" by Meg Nakagawa

OK, not "guest" but here goes.

I've always liked to make things, out of paper to begin with, using copious amounts of glue and tape, and magic markers. But I didn't like anything "freehand", like drawing, painting, or even collage. Whatever I made never met my expectations, nobody trained me in ways I would have learned, and I didn't know how to practice on my own. But I did like assembling shapes and colors.

I don't remember much of what I made, but I remember a pair of paper slippers that disintegrated in one afternoon, and several vehicles and machines using rubber bands or strings. I liked learning about and fine-tuning the "hidden" mechanism, my mother was a wonderful ally in this area.

When I was a little older Mom got me on to crocheting, embroidery, knitting, sewing and this thing with a spool with a few nails and a pin which allowed me to make long, circular ropes. I liked crocheting and I thought I was inventing stitches; I liked embroidering, especially making up the designs, (and once came up with big, bold floral designs unlike any in the books, the one and only time I received some recognition in Fifth Grade Home Ec.) I could never knit with even tension, and though I loved the 3D modeling of sewing I was never good on the machine, and I hadn't the patience to practice either. And the rope thing: I loved carrying the little plastic spool everywhere and "inventing" new ways of incorporating multiple yarns or skipping stitches, but one afternoon I suddenly didn't see the point of making a multi-colored rope with a mishmash of colors and stitches, (which by this time had grown to over seven meters,) and I never touched the thing again.

When I was even older, I discovered needlepoint, (loved designing,) print making, (loved the mechanism, hated the having-to-come-up-with-the-picture part,) photography, (liked and even showed marginally more patience to learn and improve, I used to print my B&W's,) and writing.

Writing was the only thing I maintained a sustained interest and put some effort into learning and improving, but I found editing difficult; by the time I took out the overly flowery descriptions, say draft 3, my stories became telegraphic and sounded the same except for the progragonists' names, places and predicaments. I didn't know how to edit and, well, I ended up with a bunch of possibly-interesting synopses.

I also went into Ikebana, Japanese floral art, with gusto and this was one area extreme editing worked well; I'd often ended up with truly Wabi-Sabi work where most everything was absent but implied. They were my visual Haiku.

All the while my mother knitted and knitted and knitted. When I was, I think, in junior high, I asked her why she liked to knit so much, (especially because I thought embroidery was more attractive,) she said she liked making the cloth/fabric with knitting as opposed to "mere" embellishments with embroidery, and that if she had the choice she would rather be weaving. This would have been in the early/mid 70's when weaving/looms weren't readily available to hobbyists in Japan, so she would have had to enroll in art school or become an apprentice somewhere, not "doable" for an ordinary mother of three back then. Though I still preferred the delicacy and ornateness of embroidery, it gradually lost its lure, and I came to think weaving as the highest form of craft.

It was another quarter of a century before I passes a shuttle for the first time. I found the interlacement taking place in front of my eyes intriguing. I loved the simplicity of the mechanism of cloth and looms.  Then it was all about the interaction of colors, and then came the-whole-being-much-greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts aspect. Wet-finishing also fascinated me. 

The year was 1995. I first purchased my rigid heddle and read from books and on the Internet what weaving was all about. As I learned more about wet finishing, I decided weaving suited me better as there was a limited amount of editing/culling one could do in a given project, and once I've reached that point of no return, moving on was the only path left. Weaving cured me from constantly wishing to do over and reinvent myself. To some extent. Or, to put on my Malapropping shoes, weaving has grounded me somewhat and slowed down my destination addiction.

I like working within the confines of weaving. I feel comfortable being restricted by the number of shafts, peddles, legs and arms. I like combining yarns, colors, textures and weaving patterns. To me, weaving is assembling more than free-hand art, and I can handle that.

Initially, writing and all other interests were only put on the back burner, but as I got into weaving more and more, I gradually gave most everything else up. Some of the partings were conscious and even hard; some I just forgot. I still have a love/hate relationship with writing, unable to completely put it behind, but for now becoming a good weaver is more important, and I'm happy for writing to take a back seat.   

Nowadays, I don't think of why I weave as often as I used to; I just wonder if I can make this or that kind of cloth with the knowledge and equipment I have, what a certain idea, in my head or on paper/computer, looks like in real life, or to reduce my enormous stash. And because I find weaving difficult to do well, it requires my full concentration, and I am allowed, (required!) to switch off all the voices in my head. I find this comforting.

There is one last thing that is important to me: I find comfort in belonging to that long, wide and varied tradition/club/subset of humans that weaves. I do see the world, at times, in two distinctive groups; those who weave and those who don't. I can't think of any other technology that our species has sustained, more or less in the same manner across time and distance, which makes me feel part of something really big. As are you.


  1. Meg,
    Very, very well said. I believe, however, that you have not given up writing, but become more relaxed about it and thus, your writing has blossomed.
    I always enjoy glimpses of your history.
    Thanks for jumping in and sharing why you weave with us.
    Vicki Allen

  2. Hi, Vicki. Of course, I didn't mention that I can't stop weaving now since I have a big stash, but I'm hoping that is understood among friends. :-)

    But I admit, I kept adding reasons while I worked on this. I wouldn't be surprised if I remember something else important another time.

  3. Meg, this is a wonderful statement! It would make a great member feature on TAFA. Could we re-post it there? And, do you have any images that we could pepper it with? You as a kid?

    I don't know if you have seen our Member Stories on TAFA, but this would fit right in: http://www.tafalist.com/featured-members

    Email me if interested!

  4. Hi, Rach! Sure. Never thought of me there, but yup.

  5. I love hearing how you came to weaving, Meg. There's a lot of similarity in our paths, although the current products of our weaving are very different.

  6. I don't think, Peg, I've heard anyone else speak of the point of no return being a good thing; I think perhaps you and I need external breaks in our meddling with our work?

  7. Similarly, I find weaving and the connection to its very long human history rewarding. I encounter many new weavers who have just bought a rigid heddle loom and tell them they are on the cusp of an extra ordinary adventure in so many ways. Through the lens of weaving you can learn about people, cultures and the deep needs of the human condition...at least in my humble opinion! Really looking forward to meeting up with you. I will make sure you have some quiet thinking time!

  8. And cups and cups of tea, please, Kaz.


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