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I have to confess – I was not an exemplary student. I recently found some of my old grade cards from elementary and high school. A solid B student. Nothing outstanding. The reason? Focus!

It seems like I always aimed to just finish the assignment fast rather than to finish it well. I’d exalt if I completed the paper first, but then be dismayed at the red checks and corrections I had to make. I missed details because I wasn’t paying attention. How many times did my teachers have to call me back with “Pay attention!”

Even in my high school sewing class, I chaffed at waiting till the teacher approved one step before she let me move on, but she saved me from later frustration by pointing out mistakes that I could still correct.

Planning in the works

Planning in the works

As an adult, I sometimes show the same lack of focus. There are so many exciting fiber arts to play with—spinning, dying, twining, knitting, tatting, book-making, the list goes on and on. And within weaving itself, there are lots of different directions I could go—domestic, artistic, fine threads, rugs, linen, cotton, silk, wool…

I’ve always admired those weavers who focused on a technique until they learned it, really learned it, and could explain what the threads are doing. They sample carefully, documenting their process, and can then repeat what works and avoid what doesn’t. They are not “jacks of all trades, masters of none”– they stick with a technique until they master it. That is the weaver I want to be when I grow up.

At our recent weavers guild meeting, one of our members shared her samples from an on-line tapestry course she is taking. Every sample showed a different technique, executed with precision. I’m sure she had to take out some as she was learning, but she stayed with it. What a great inspiration!

Other members shared what they learned at various summer classes and conferences—Convergence in Milwaukee, a felters symposium, a rep weaving workshop. All these events are opportunities to focus on one technique, one skill, to break open a discipline that can be studied further at home. That’s the real challenge of a workshop or class—to continue learning after the last session and to make the technique my own. That takes focus.

For me, it means looking at what equipment I already have, what weave structures I keep coming back to, and getting to know them really well. I have two Glimakra looms; what more can I learn with them? Those looms have drawloom attachments; there’s so much more that those can do than I am currently using them for!

So in this late-year review of goals, focus is right at the top of my list. I plan to pay attention to what the threads on the loom are doing, and delve deeper into each weave structure.

It is never too late to learn!

What are your goals for the rest of the year?