tapestries and teens

by rebecca on January 21, 2010

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       “Having a craft in life gives you a place to be,” according to Jane Patrick who is a weaver as well as author and co-owner of Schacht Spindle Company. She feels weaving helps to anchor her in the great continuum of time, connecting her to people who, thousands of years ago, strung threads on a stick loom to make something for their home.

       A sense of belonging is what made me intrigued and eager to write about her. I found an altared space in her life as I read her blog and spoke with her about weaving and design.

       In addition to more than a full-time job, Jane Patrick volunteers in a restorative justice program at Mountview Youth Services. She teaches kids to weave, but not because she thinks they will become professional weavers. What’s important is that they learn they can make something. They can be designers. They can be leaders. These kids get a chance to be showered in praise for their accomplishments, and, in the end, they give their makings back to the community by donating their finished scarves and bags to homeless shelters.

       As the 1 ½ hour class begins, the students are noisy. Jane and her fellow volunteer-instructor, Mary Kay Stoehr, don’t bother with classroom management. They simply begin to move about the room commenting on the kids’ projects. Slowly the room settles. Every student becomes engaged with their yarn and the rhythm of over, under, over, under.

       “These kids come from rotten families,” says Jane. “They aren’t used to getting attention.” With the comments Jane and Mary Kay offer to the students, the room calms. The students settle into the work of the loom and find their place. They are no longer agitated and making trouble.

       “Working with your hands is like meditation.” Jane coos. She goes on to describe the luscious experience everyone has had at one time or another when the body is busy enough that the mind can wander freely, unencumbered.

       Take one of the rowdiest students for example. Alfonso Lozano, one of the counselors at Mountview, brought this student into the weaving class because he’d seen how the art had impacted students and calmed them. He was hopeful it would work the same magic on this difficult kid.

       Not only did this child calm down and engage in his project, but when the Mountview counselors took the young adults into the weaving room for an additional session this particular young man came up with designs that Jane said some advanced weavers have difficulty mastering.

       Jane talks about keeping the selvages, or edges of the fabric creation, even. The hands are busy keeping things tidy and this is just enough industry for them. “Our minds need to be engaged in this minimal way in order to freely engage with the deepest state of problem solving or meditation.” If we don’t give ourselves a task the brain becomes filled with the noise of living.

       When we engage in living our brain quiets. Then we are free.

       A loom works by pulling up on particular threads. Yarn is wound around a small boat called a shuttle. The shuttle is then thrown into the space created by the lifting of threads. The new thread is laid down, the loom shifts, a new space is created and the shuttle is thrown again.

       In this meditative state of space making and thread laying a tapestry is created. There is room for creativity depending on how the loom is manipulated and how the spaces are defined.

       For this rowdy child perhaps there had always been too much space and not enough thread in life. Maybe it was always thread and never space. Possibly life was just a tangle. Jane Patrick came in and simply showed him how space and thread with design can create a tapestry. Then he was unleashed to the magic of the meditation of his working hands.

       Alfonso talks about this student walking differently after his weaving success.  He’d learned he was capable of designing, and of helping his fellow students solve problems with their projects as well. His behavior throughout the facility shifted. He held his head higher.

       As Jane said, “Craft gives us a place to belong.” Rowdy-student did indeed find his place to belong in the world when he found so much success at the loom. He may never become a weaver, but he is well on his way to making his life a tapestry.


If you have any interest in volunteering by offering your craft, your state will have a facility similar to Mountview Youth Services. You could make a difference in the life of a child.  


Photo by Jane Patrick

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