when computer text was green
and there was one font,
I was given an assignment in my Animal Science class--
use Lotus 1, 2, 3 to create a simple spreadsheet
on the topic of my choice.
something my professors thought no one in their right mind would do unless forced,
(nearly as essential as the endocrine interactions of newly pregnant ewes),
and I have to admit that without the nudge,
I would never have done it.
Spreadsheets? Computers? Bah.
I took the class because I was interested
in sheep, wool, and yarn,
and also because I was hoping
to become a Veterinarian--
a path I didn't ultimately pursue.
(Though I did not mind shoving up arm up a cow's rectum
while lying on a frosty, windy hillside,
I did mind that such calls would keep me
from knitting and spinning
as much as I might like).
Yarn-centric nerd that I was even then,
I designed a knitting calculation spreadsheet
that would shift the stitch numbers from
those for the gauge given in a pattern
to stitch numbers for the gauge chosen by a knitter
for the yarn she had (ideally hand spun).
My professors thought it most original.
I thought it pretty basic and silly--
a thing I could have done with pencil and paper in half the time.
But I was a diligent student
out for the A's I needed to get into Vet school,
so didn't say so.
A couple of years (and many science classes later),
I strayed to a different end of campus,
wandering into a room
on the third floor of the home economics building,
where light streamed through big windows
and fell upon row up on row of floor looms
and all thoughts of veterinarianism flew away.
I quit calculus,
learned to warp,
and devoted myself
to a grid of a different sort.
I wove -- quite a bit.
Lotus 1, 2, 3, went out of fashion.
Fonts became a thing.
Spreadsheet programs began to be called 'apps.'
Lives were devoted to creating them.
Other lives were devoted changing them.
Soon these apps
were filled with bells and whistles
many as silly as my spreadsheet
but which force us,
on an almost daily basis,
to relearn things we thought we already knew,
or devote hours, days, weeks
to finding that one little thing that has to be clicked
to accomplish the thing we did yesterday
with no trouble at all.
As far as I know
endocrine paths of pregnant ewes
remains much as it always has.
We love our computers
and rely on them,
but the blankety-blank learning curve
never seems to flatten out.
is pretty much what it was 20,000 years ago.
There are skills to be learned, of course--
tension, selvedge control, warping techniques,
how to spin grocery receipts into yarn--
and these can feel momentous
if you've never done them,
the learning curve very steep.
we usually choose to climb
these particular hills,
and once we're heading up --
why the view just gets better and better.
The skills, once learned, are ours to keep.
Indeed, learning hard stuff
is what we humans do best,
and for many of us
person to person learning
is still easiest --
using arms and hands and voices
Once upon at time,
(even before computer text was green)
we might have lived in the same village.
where we could slowly and easily
share weaving thoughts
as we spun our yarn
and picked pebbles out of our bean seed.
We could wave our arms around
and describe that slick little maneuver
for getting the warp tension just so,
(or how to save a file to dropbox),
then show you after lunch.
It's the thing Elizabeth Wayland Barber
called "the courtyard sisterhood"
in her life changing book
Women's Work: The First 20,000 years
Sometimes we still get to do that
but with weavers separated, rare
and all over the world,
we now rely on our marvelous
and ever-changing devices
to write blogs,
to shoot video
to create WEBINARS,
in an attempt to mimic
what we once accepted as normal.
After all, here I sit,
writing to you this very morning
while my laundry dries outside
and my tea gets cold--
and it is almost like being together.
the devices don't work as planned,
and those of us who know a lot about weaving,
are thrilled to BITS to ponder
esoteric, yarn-centric questions,
and to share what we know the best we can,
while you cook supper,
do not always have the latest
digital technical minutiae
at our fingertips.
though Rebecca Mezoff and I
had the utterly thrilling miracle
of over 900 people registering for our Webinar--
(So many people actually interested!),
only 100 could actually "come" to the live webinar itself.
THERE is a recording of the whole thing,
waving arms and all.
that anyone can watch.
(Indeed, if you do, you will soon see
that I have some learning to do
when it comes to my interaction with the screen
for I seem to make a habit of
pointing at something amazing
as though you are next to me,
which it feels like you are
when, in truth,
all you get
is my finger jabbing your nose).
I don't know if it feels different, not being live,
but it is there,
and you can pause us at will.
And one of these days, we'll try again.
is just so thrilling,
so useful in myriad ways,
that, learning curves and all,
we're going to keep talking about it.
We have The Fringeless Class
to explain all the details,
(Rebecca, the most patient of teachers,
is brilliant at finding just those tricky bits
that need a tiny, slow motion video to make them clear
as anyone who has taken her other tapestry classes knows).
And we now have the free Webinar
to share more of the possibilities
when enthusiasm boils over.
not only warp and weft
and spindle and yarn,
but all of us --
the 21st century Courtyard sisterhood,
learning hard things together,
then getting together to talk about it.
We, and the work,
are worth it.
Thanks for being here.