One of the nice things about weaving for long periods, especially if you do it consistently, is that it’s much easier to make breakthroughs. I’ve had a couple of major breakthroughs in my weaving technique over the last 2-3 days, and I thought I’d share some thoughts on that.
But first I want to talk about body awareness, and kinesthetic learning, because there’s a lot of that in this weaving practice I’m engaging in. And it turns out to be very similar to my experience with T’ai Chi.
I studied T’ai Chi for several years, and found that my progress broke down into distinct stages:
- Get the feet doing what they should be.
- Get the hands working in tandem with the feet.
- Practice, practice, practice the movements.
- Begin sinking into body awareness, feeling how the body connects together
- Begin using the core muscles, grounded through the legs, to power/control the arms and hands
- Smooth out the movements until the entire body is working together (i.e. you’re no longer just waving your arms and legs, but using the core in a controlled manner to make the sequence of movements, one flowing into another).
Not entirely parenthetically, my T’ai Chi instructor said that he hated having dancers in the class. He said they picked up the choreography quickly, because they were trained to do that, but that because they were thinking in terms of choreography, they never went deeper into the body awareness to “get” the rest of what he was teaching.
I am not a physical person. T’ai Chi was a huge struggle for me, because I simply can’t keep track of both hands and feet. To succeed at T’ai Chi, I had to WORK at it – get the instructor to show me the movements over and over, imitate them, practice them again and again at home, and then come back the next week to get the corrections I needed. It took me six months to master the choreography, and almost two years before I started understanding how to use my core to power/control my movements. (I never did get to the point of being able to express it in real-time, one-on-one with other students – that would probably have taken me a few more years.)
I’ve been doing some similar kinesthetic learning over the course of the last 20-odd hours of weaving, and the sequence has gone something like this:
- Figure out what the hands and feet are doing: Throw the shuttle. Catch it with the other hand. Move the hand to the beater, beat, and move the beater back. All separate motions.
- Practice, practice, practice until you can throw the shuttle/move the hand to the beater in a single motion, instead of as two separate movements.
- Now that the hand motions are smooth, try to coordinate them, so that one hand reaches the beater exactly as the shuttle reaches the other hand. Thus, no hand ever has to wait for the other one, even for a moment. This smooths out the motions dramatically, as the hands are never stopping.
- Try to see how all this relates to the core muscles, and power and control the movements from the core, rather than waving arms and hands about.
I haven’t quite managed to sink my teeth into #4 yet – I can only get to stage #3 after about two hours of practice – but I’m starting to get a glimmering of how it works.
All in all I feel like I’m doing T’ai Chi all over again – it requires attentive awareness and a gradual layering of skills, coupled with a LOT of practice. I’m really glad I’m weaving the same thing for hours on end – this kind of focus would not be possible if I were changing yarns every two minutes or weaving shorter pieces like shawls. I’m totally enjoying this!
And…drum roll please…I am now at the 11.5 yard mark on this piece, bringing my total up to 14 yards…YES!!! I HAVE PASSED THE HALFWAY MARK!!! The warp is only 27.5 yards long, meaning I might get 24-25 yards out of it if I’m lucky (take-up, loom waste, etc.). So I have only about 10-11 yards to go. Considering my rapid pace, I don’t think I should have any trouble finishing it in the next two weeks, which will give me enough time to weave the double-happiness ribbon and cut/sew the coat. So I think I am looking pretty good for the Convergence deadline.