Lisa Graves likes to say she is prepared for the zombie apocalypse. It’s not something you expect to hear from a person who is passionate about weaving, but Lisa is not the stereotypical weaver — and she’s not wrong. You will want clothes when the zombies come.
The Bobcaygeon mother of two developed her interest in weaving thanks to her commute to work on the GO train.
She would knit while riding, and after months of sitting near the same woman every morning, the stranger — who was also a textile artist — struck up a conversation about their shared passion. An invitation to a weaving workshop followed, and Graves found her calling.
Eight years later, she is on the executive of the Ontario Handweavers and Spinners (OHWS), the coordinating body for local guilds like the Kawartha Hand Weavers and Spinners.
She points out that, by-and-large the craft has not been picked up by subsequent generations which is kind of a waste, since Ontario has a wealth of textile-art knowledge.
In the 1950s, Ontario universities required teachers and home economists to take courses in weaving taught by exceptionally knowledgeable instructors trained at colleges and in apprenticeships. These same instructors started the Canadian Guild of Weavers, the Loom Music publication, and taught at Banff School of Fine Arts.
While there is no substitute for an experienced mentor, today the OHWS offers an intense correspondence course developed by those same skilled weavers.
The course is designed for accomplished weavers wishing to bring their craft to the highest possible level; those who successfully complete the 18-unit program are in demand as teachers at events and institutions all over the world.
Graves’ own teacher/mentor regularly taught in Europe where weaving is still offered in schools, and where they insist on highly trained teachers.
Graves herself is now taking the course, along with nine Canadians, two Americans and one person from Singapore. They use email, a Facebook group, and a weekly video conference to compare notes and solve problems that will arise during the 18 to 24 months needed for completion.
After receiving the weaving certificate, they can undertake an independent study leading to a weaving master designation, which could take another two years. For her part, the over-achieving Graves hopes to attain both in two years.
Graves is as enthused about helping others learn the craft as she is about doing it herself. Local Grade 3 classes get a lesson in weaving from her during their agriculture unit, and she has demonstrated at the Bobcaygeon Fair in past years.
In June, her business, Kawartha Weaving, will have a booth at the Kawartha Yarn and Fibre Festival in Fenelon Falls to provide an up-close look at a loom in action.
The physical mechanics of weaving are challenging enough, but the mathematics and calculations that go into set-up before throwing a single shuttle are just as impressive.
If you don’t think weaving is a lot like juggling and tap dancing while solving an algebraic equation, one look at a locked and loaded eight-pedal, 45-inch floor loom in operation will tell you otherwise.
Like many things, those who are very good at it make it look deceptively simple.
Graves says that in addition to creating amazing woven items, she loves how the concentration required for weaving clears her head.
“You cannot think about other things and do this.”
Not even zombies.