The Work of Many Hands

Back in April (I think ..) a group of us went to see a friend talk about her new book. It’s not your typical summer read – this book is about torture. About how our nation has institutionalized it and what that means to us as a society. Listening to the amazing Rebecca Gordon talk about Mainstreaming Torture was one of the most educational, and uncomfortable, hours I’ve spent in a while.

Once we’d hit the Q&A part of the talk, my friend Sara leaned over and remarked that Rebecca was going to have a tough time doing this day-in and day-out. Being on the road and having to continue to grapple with this subject was pretty likely to be both physically and emotionally draining. Rebecca’s wife would be joining her on the tour but we wished there was something we could do to help lighten the load. So we hatched a plan.

Sara is an amazingly talented spinner, weaver and dyer so she agreed to wind and dye warps that I would then turn into a shawl for Rebecca. Something big enough that she can wrap it around herself when in a cold car or cold airplane – but also something that would remind her of all of us; and perhaps give a bit of comfort when away from home. Four silk warps arrived in a box a few weeks later – one black, one gold/red, one red/purple and one blue/purple – along with some suggestions for a design. Now it was my turn.

I spent a bit of time thinking about how I wanted to combine things while up in Canada and even asked Jane for a bit of advice. Many pages of scribbling and faffing on the computer got me close. Then, After I arrived back from Salt Spring, I figured out all the details and got to threading the loom.  I had to do it front to back (not my usual way) and that slowed me down a bit, but eventually the loom looked like this:

Beamed and ready for threading.  I knew that I wanted to tone down the big gold stripe a bit as well as soften the black so I fell back on my favorite M’s and O’s structure – but on six shafts so that I could easily decide where I wanted blocks as well as how large and the unit is easy to remember so threading went quickly and then it was time to weave.

The weft was a very fine silk jaspé noil – it lent both structure and texture to the final shawl and, after finishing, added the movement and shine I was hoping for.

This is before pressing, but you can see the deflection of the warp due to the bands of floats – my favorite aspect of this particular structure.  Curved but not, visible but not.

Anyway, this afternoon the shawl went to it’s intended recipient.  Along with all our love and best wishes.  I think she’s happy with it.

A powerful woman doing powerful work.  And we’ve got her back.  If you’ve made it this far, please have a look at her tour dates and attend if she’s coming to your town.  If not, you can listen to her radio interview and then go Buy The Book.  It was work to make the shawl, but the real work is yet to be done.  Please pitch-in.  Together, the work gets done.

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3 Responses to The Work of Many Hands

  1. Diane,
    I hope my utter speechlessness conveyed to you my gratitude and delight. You and Sara have made something beyond beautiful. It is magic. I shall never be afraid when it is around my shoulders.
    Much love,

  2. Melanie says:


  3. Terry says:

    An amazing work of art for one amazing woman!

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