Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Lots of Tea Towels

Every so often someone asks me "What's a tea towel?" My guess it's an old-fashioned term for dishtowel, a piece of cloth used to dry and polish one's china tea set or crystal glassware so the pieces don't develop water spots. Considering Pocatello's water, it's no easy feat to eliminate water spots on handwashed dishes.

As a weaver, there's something amazingly satisfying about weaving such humble, useful cloth. Even from the very beginning of my fascination with the craft back in the dark ages of the 1970s, I wasn't all that interested in weaving "wall hangings." I wanted to weave useful cloth, pieces I could wear that were entirely unique and household items for family and friends to respect and enjoy.

We treat cloth differently when we put the hours into making it ourselves, a significant lesson in this throw-away society we live in.

But I take pleasure in placing a colorful handwoven cloth over a bowl of rising bread dough. I enjoy lining a breadbasket with a handwoven cloth that coordinates with my dishes and table setting and placing it on my table for guests to enjoy. I occasionally wrap a loaf of freshly baked bread or fruitcake in a cloth and give it as a gift. Just having my cloth hanging on a rack in my kitchen gives me a large amount of visual pleasure.

There's been talk recently about the gulf between the person who works with his/her hands and those who prefer the intellectual life. I posit that it is silly to separate the two. Weaving has been a significant accompaniment to my intellectual development; it's the doorway to learning about the world via anthropology, economics, geography, philosophy, history, etc.

Making things from "scratch" teaches us almost all we need to know.