MAD Interview Series: Sarah Fletcher
I recently sat down to interview Sarah Fletcher a weaver and owner of Ben’s Old Loom Barn, which can be found in Canaan Valley. Raised by a teacher of weaving, she now teaches and weaves herself, sharing and selling traditional Appalachian weaving to tourists and residents. Her MAD page can be found here – http://www.madwv.com/item/bens-old-loom-barn/
What was your first experience with weaving?
Actually, I grew up with weaving… in the house where I grew up, which was in the farm house.
My mother decided she needed to build a loom barn. ‘Cause the school house where she had her weaving school, the county board of education had abandoned it. The roof was starting to leaking and it was just starting to fall down, the building had been built in the 20s, so she built a loom barn and it was one room, and all the supplies were upstairs and she had six looms in here, and she would have classes and I used to come up, bout when I was a kid and I grew up here in Canaan, we were farmers.
So my mother had looms in the house, where I grew up and she always made me weave something, especially right before Christmas I always had to make a set of place mats to send to this lady who was my grandfather’s cousin and my aunt Ruth, we always had to make place mats for her. It was one of the traditional things we did, so I knew about weaving but I had other interests.
Do you find that weavers have any personality traits in common?
They do, they do. Most of the time I think we are pretty open about sharing. There are some people that have a hard time sharing things, anybody who does teaching is very will to share. I think the biggest thing is people come here and we make it look easy, but it is not necessarily easy, it is a lot of prep work, and people don’t realize “Oh, you gotta do all.” Yes! You gotta plan you gotta wind a warp, you gotta plan out what you are gonna do and have all the stuff you are gonna do it with. There is nothing worse than running out of something.
How do you decide on the patterns that you make? Do you have a set of patterns that you use?
We do, we have two sources of patterns, one is the handweavers’ pattern book… Do you want to pause that for a minute?… I will get that and show it to you… that is our bible.
It is by Marguerite Davison, years and years ago, she made a concerted effort to pick up and go around and interview weavers. She has patterns and it was first publish in 1944 and the last revised edition was 1975. She has, “I feel within an impulse, perhaps a divine impulse, which has moved all races, in all ages and in all climes to record in enduring form the emotions that stir within. I may model these emotions in clay, carve them in wood, hew them in stone, or forge them in steel; I may weave them in textiles, paint them on canvas, or voice them in song. Moreover, I must make my creation good and honest and true, so that it may be a credit to me and live after I am dead, revealing to others something of the pleasure which I found in its making.”
So what she has done is she has broken down all the different weaving patterns that she could find in that time into different groups. All of these are classic patterns, I thought at one time that I would like to start at the beginning and go all the way through, doing all the patterns.