about

To see fabric at its best is to see it after years of good use, when it’s faded in color, softened by washing, and showing signs of careful mending. Only well-made fabric is durable enough to last so long, and only fabric that someone has found beautiful and worthwhile receives such care.

I’m inspired by this fabric, and excited by the prospect of making cloth with similar qualities of gracefulness, strength, and utility. For that reason I typically weave with linen, because only linen remains resilient and lustrous as it fades and softens over time. When treated respectfully, cloth woven from linen can last nearly forever, providing an element of permanence that I admire.

I work in a converted garage behind the house. The garage once collapsed under snow, but has been rebuilt through the years. The workshop has two looms, including a 50-inch, eight-harness Norwood that serves as my primary loom. The loom was customized with the addition of an auxiliary warp beam several years ago, using wood from a cherry tree harvested in a nearby town. My other loom is a 33-inch Hammett counterbalance loom with four harnesses. The Hammett loom came to me from Alice Kane, a skilled embroiderer and gardener who earned her living for many years as a housepainter. A few years ago, when given the job of weaving and embroidering a tablecloth, and knowing nothing about embroidery, I turned to Alice, who spent weeks teaching me the basic embroidery stitches, before spending several more weeks tutoring me while I embroidered the tablecloth.

Writing about craft has allowed me to clarify my thoughts about the work I do, as well as that of others whose work interests me. Much of what I write has focused on pottery, primarily because I live in an area that is also home to a significant community of potters, particularly potters who fire wood-burning kilns. The way they work – the strenuous physical labor, the hours spent out of doors, and the uncomfortable conditions – is in marked contrast to the manner in which I work. But the items we produce, fabric in my case, pottery in theirs, have historically been used side by side in cooking, eating, cleaning, and other daily activities. The similarities and differences intrigue me, and the floors, windowsills, and shelves of my workshop are cluttered with pots.

—Scott Norris