I’ve been thinking a lot about the words we use when we talk to customers. I have to be careful when I use these old words to describe an even more ancient craft, that I don’t lose my very modern listener and potential customer. Once upon a time these words were useful in prose and poetry because everyone was aware of how their clothes were made, there were people all around them involved in the process. But the industrial revolution changed all that. I thought that maybe it would help me to put these communication problems into words, Just to clear my thinking on the subject.
The verbs are where the big problems happen.
Let’s start with what we do, we weave. At 5’2″, I don’t loom over anybody other than small children. I love my loom, but it’s the tool I use and not the correct verb for what I am doing.
Spinning is what I do to turn wool fiber into yarn. It involves a spinning wheel. Spinning is very mildly energetic work, but a spinning wheel is not exercise equipment, and I don’t do it in a class.
Dyeing is what we do to add color to our yarn. I don’t enjoy alarming people when I tell them that Irvin is dyeing today. So I try to indicate that he is feeling well and working in the dye shed, right across the parking lot, over there. This one is a constant challenge for me. Its true that Americans don’t like to talk about dying, but talking about dyeing just confuses people talking about dyeing just confuses.
Then there is the more technical description of what we. do, which is tapestry. This is a very familiar word for people, but, sadly, is often used improperly, so people don’t really know what it means. It gets applied to other fiber creations, needlepoint, embroidery, jaquard-woven fabrics, and even to a crochet technique. We tapestry weavers get very touchy about this. It’s a weaving technique that involves discontinuous weft. We do a lot of different things with our discontinuous weft, but as long as that weft is not traveling from one selvage to the other, it’s tapestry. Very few people, even other weavers, are familiar with tapestry and yes, it takes a long time. I like that aspect of it, and no, laborious, tedious, and boring, do not apply.
There are other words we use that people have heard, but aren’t familiar with. Warp is the yarn we weave weft into. I like to point out that the warp is attached to the loom and the weft is what I’m working into the warp. I will not mention the word woof unless the customer does. I prefer to leave that word for dog conversations. We have a very talkative dog that people can often hear barking behind the shop, but that is another issue.
I do enjoy pointing out that a shuttle carries yarn from side to side, back and forth across the warp on the loom. Yes, it’s kinda like a shuttle bus or the space shuttle. I think it’s a safe bet that the action of those other shuttles were so analogous to weaving shuttles that they didn’t bother inventing new words.
Other fiber topics might lead me to discuss knit brows or needling someone into doing something, but they don’t come up in my weaving demonstrations, so I don’t have to go into that here. suffice to say that I love teaching about what we do to everyone who comes by, even if I have to teach the lingo to pretty much all of them.