October 08, 2020
On a sunny Fall afternoon in Boyle-McCauley, new weavers showed off the fruit of their day’s labour. A mom and daughter had made matching placemats for their home, each in their own favourite colour. A young woman, away from her toddlers for the first time since the Covid lockdown in March, had woven a rainbow scarf. And best of all, the social butterfly of the group held up “Rascal’s Blanket”, a new sleeping mat for her beloved cat.
This was our first community weaving workshop. By partnering with anti-poverty organization E4C, we were able to make it free for participants. Social Work students from MacEwan ran around, assembling an outdoor tent and making sure that everyone had snacks, masks, and hand sanitizer. Community members drifted in and out. Some said hello, some stayed for a banana and a chat, and a few settled in and joined the weaving.
In many ways, it was like any other workshop. Weavers made new friends. They drifted back and forth between periods of relaxed chatting and periods of intense focus. Frustrations surfaced; victories were celebrated. But in many ways our workshop was different. Across the alleyway at McCauley Apartments, MLA Janis Irwin was holding an informal town hall meeting to hear the neighbourhood’s concerns about potential cuts to AISH. Most of the weavers wrapped up their projects a bit early so that they could talk to her about their fears and their financial stresses. The windows of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples looked over the scene, still blackened with smoke from a devastating fire. Our comfortable space of creative community was not separate from the hardships faced by so many Edmontonians.
E4C came up with the brilliant idea of using a tent to provide shelter while minimizing Covid risk.
The benefits of weaving feel particularly relevant to share in this setting. Weaving is therapeutic. It requires focus, and connection between your mind and your body. In an overwhelming time, it opens up a space of calm. It also gives us a chance to express our simplest and deepest loves--love for the cat who gets a new sleeping mat, for the home that will be decorated with our handiwork, or love for ourselves when we are too used to running ragged caring for everyone else. The pride and satisfaction that comes from making something tactile, useful, and beautiful is profound. You could see it beaming from everyone’s face.
Weaving is for everyone. It is a universal form of craft, but access to it is far from universal. Looms take up space. They cost money. And breaking into Edmonton’s weaving scene can feel daunting. A big part of why I’m excited to be the newest member of Gather’s team is the Gather’s welcoming vibe. Kim and Angela are always thinking about to help new weavers and sewists feel comfortable, confident, and supported in their creativity. By removing financial barriers to weaving through accessible workshops, together we can extend that welcome beyond the walls of our studio.
Our first community workshop was such an uplifting experience that I am very certain it won’t be our last. We will keep building relationships and reaching out to new collaborators to find ways to really and truly make weaving for everyone.