Endnotes: Don't Throw the Past Away

Bringing weaving—or anything else—back to life requires nurturing and some external fuel.

Sharon Airhart Dec 30, 2019 - 4 min read

Endnotes: Don't Throw the Past Away Primary Image


When I was six, I wanted to knit like my mother, sew like my grandmother, read constantly like my father, write stories, play piano, and bake. I still do. I suspect the same is true of you. Your passions may not be the piano or baking, but you likely have deep-seated attachment to the things that make you who you are.

The roots of these desires are anyone’s guess. My family didn’t even own a piano. When I started learning to play—a grade two extracurricular activity—I got a foldout cardboard keyboard. There were no writers in the family either, but at six, I demanded a printing set with wooden letters so I could write a book. The textile connection began with embroidery: a book from the library, 10-cent white cotton handkerchiefs, and precious 15-cent skeins of embroidery thread from the dime store. Eventually my textile addiction evolved into weaving, with knitting and sewing on the side.

What is remarkable is that our interest in and commitment to these avocations may wax and wane through the years, but the pilot light is always on, waiting to reignite the flames. We may drift or walk away from them for a period of months or years, but we seem, inevitably, to circle back with renewed passion. That seems to particularly be the case with weaving. In my own guild, there are a number of repatriated weavers who have come back to the craft after years or even decades of dormancy.

We walk around like idiot savants. We declaim our juvenility, prefacing every comment with “Well, I don’t really know/remember much . . . .” Then someone will hold up a fabric and say, “I wonder what this structure is,” and the correct answer will roll out of our mouths without stopping at the conscious thought level. It’s all still in there! On the other hand, in my case at least, I find much has changed. Publishing about weaving is very different, old techniques have new names, and there is better access to supplies and tools thanks to the internet. There is weaving software that will draw down your draft and more varied and sophisticated fibers to explore. Happily, there is still a lot to learn.

While these avocations are internally directed, the truth is, bringing weaving—or anything else—back to life requires nurturing and some external fuel. For me, it is time, emotional space, and most importantly, willing confederates with whom to share the passion.

As I’ve been thinking about how we circle back to our early loves, it occurs that the most important piece is that when we bring back the things we have always loved, we are reminded of who we are. We are back to being our authentic selves. All of which makes me think of a favorite tune I used to play, written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager in the 1970s, later featured in the Bob Fosse movie musical All That Jazz. You’ve probably heard it: “Everything Old is New Again.”

Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

It may be time to dig out that sheet music and dust off the piano.