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How We Came to Teach Weaving at
The High School for Fashion Industries in NY

Our First Day
In January 2002 Kate Boulamaali, Assistant Principal High School of Fashion Industries contacted the NYGH to find someone to evaluate a "big loom" that had stood for years in one or her classrooms. The loom stood unused and she wanted to know if it could be made to work. We made an appointment in February. It turned out to be an old AVL dobby loom with sixteen shafts. Now, we have brought looms back to life before but never a dobby. As it was beyond our abilities so we made some suggestions of people to contact.

Then Kate said "Oh but I have more." She took us to her storage area and there on shelves stacked sometimes, three high, were 15 inch and 21inch Dorothy looms. There must have been at least twenty-five. Most were four shaft looms with a few eight shaft ones thrown in. We started taking them down from the shelves only to find that all were missing bolts, screws, reeds, aprons, tie on rods, tops and bottoms of beaters and most of the harnesses were hanging free. So we made a date to go back and do an evaluation. Kate is enthusiastic about getting weaving going again at HSFI. We talked about weaving and using the Dorothys and before we knew it, she asked us if we could put together an intro weaving class. Originally it was to be an after school class of 6 or 8 students but it quickly morphed into the 10th grade (108 students) during school hours. Kate decided that the best arrangement would be to divide the 10th grade into four sections, with two students working on a loom, and each section would have two sessions. The total time for the two sessions would be two and quarter hours. Not much time but it would be good for them to try weaving on a loom as opposed to just weaving with paper which they had been doing.

The Second Day
On our assessment trip we estimated that thirteen of the 15" Dorothys could be put in working order. We didn't check out the 8 harness Dorothys. We looked over the yarn that they had sitting around and found it was very, very fine and color wise it looked about fifteen year sold. While looking for yarn in one of the closets we spotted a shape we both know well, but it was buried behind a lot of "stuff ". Later it was moved into our workroom and, indeed, it was a 40" eight shaft Macomber but it was in sad shape with broken treadles and missing rocker pins for the beater and that was just for starters.

Many Days
Over the next few weeks we went to the school with armed with tools, Murphy's Wood Soap, and a large can of WD40. We learned a lot about the Dorothy loom! A few of them had been put together incorrectly. Getting them all to work took creative tweaking and just plain hard work. We made many trips to the hard ware store for more bolts and wing nuts. We decided to have the looms warped and ready for the students to weave on. The yarns from the High School were OK for weft if doubled so we dug into our stash and came up with yarns in a variety of colors. We wound fifteen 6 inch wide 3.5 yard long warps. It could have been worse they might have been 36 inches wide! The looms were threaded for Rose path, Birds Eye, Finnish Twill and plain draw but all would weave plain weave and twill. All the reeds were 15 EPI, but we used a 12 EPI sett on most. This was one heck of a job. We went home exhausted after each session.

A More realistic title
In the end it was decided to call this "A Taste of Weaving" because we couldn't teach the whole process. It couldn't be "Beginning Weaving" or even "Intro to Weaving". There was just not enough time to cover even the basics of the process.

First Class
The first class went well. We gave a very brief PowerPoint presentation with weaving terms, a picture of loom with labeled parts, and pictures of how to throw shuttle and beat. Some the students got this pretty fast. One student would read the treading sequence and lifted the shafts and the other would throw the shuttle and beat in the weft. We let them decide when they would trade roles. The first exercise was plain weave. Halfway through the class we switched to weaving a 2/2 twill. Before the end we asked everyone to stop and walk around to see what all the others had woven. End of session one. Whew!!

Second Class
At the next session they wove Rose Path, Birds Eye, Finish Twill and Broken Twill on the plain draw. They had a choice of weft thread and made some fearless choices that really turned out to be quite wonderful. Twice we asked them to move down two looms and continuing weaving on that loom. There is nothing like stirring things up a bit. At the end of the second session it was clear that some of the kids were really hooked. One even asked if they could form an after school club to do this (yea!). You could see that some of the students "got it". It was like a light went on. Others, alas, never got to that stage but we hope there was some appreciation of what the creation of woven textiles involved.

We had a lot of fun and it was rewarding to see how many students become really involved in what they were creating on their looms.