Peer Support: A Members’ Experience

When Tien and Janet conceived the Academy, one of the most important parts was creating a weaving community where everyone is welcome. A place where everyone can share, learn, and create with each other. One of the ways that the Academy fosters this sense of community, and connection, is through our bi-weekly Peer Support sessions. Academy members are a merry band of weavers, who embody the Musketeer cry of “All for one, and one for all!”

These sessions are open to all members, and they alternate between Saturday and Monday, to be accessible to as many members as possible.

Barbara Gayle is a “frequent flyer” in these Peer Support sessions, and we thought that others might be interested to read about what she’s gained by attending and why she makes an effort to attend every single one.

Kathy: Hi Barb, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Barb: Hi Kathy! Thank you for the opportunity to tell people about the Peer Support program!

Kathy: How long have you been weaving?

Barb: I started with a Beginning Weavers class with Janet just before the pandemic. Through the lockdowns, I had a few things going on in my life that kept me from weaving, so I would really say that I have been weaving since the end of 2021. I consider myself a medium to advanced beginner.

What loom(s) do you have?

I have an 8 shaft Baby Wolf, and a 4 shaft Baby Wolf. I had intended to sell the 4 shaft when I got the 8 shaft, but I seem to always have projects on both looms, so maybe they will both stay.

What do you weave most often?

I have done quite a few towels and scarves, but I recently branched out and wove a runner for myself that I was really pleased with. I am also about to put on a warp that will be pillows in overshot with halftones.

How long have you been a member of the Academy?

I joined the Academy just after it opened.

How often do you attend the live events, and which ones?

I go to the lectures more than the other live events, but Peer Support is my favorite.

How often do you attend the PS sessions?

I try to never miss a Peer Support. I find that it is a very comfortable environment. The topics discussed range from beginner to advanced questions, and I find that very valuable for my learning.

What would you tell a weaving friend who asked you, “What is a peer support session like?”

I hesitated to join the Peer Support sessions at first, because I was worried that everyone would be more advanced than I am. But I have discovered that I can learn a lot by just listening, even if I don’t fully understand the details of a discussion at the time. I find that I pick up general tips and tricks that I can apply to projects that I am working on, even if they aren’t the same type of project that is being discussed.

It’s a chance to get some face to face time with other weavers. It really gives a sense of community, and you don’t need to feel reluctant about asking questions, of any level.

What would you tell a new member about Peer Support?

I would tell them to join in! It might be a little intimidating,but the members are very kind, and if you just “hang in”, you will quickly feel comfortable, and you are sure to learn things that you didn’t even know you wanted to learn.

I also like when members are called on individually to share what they are working on. We get to see and hear about a big variety of projects, but it is absolutely acceptable to say “I don’t have anything to share right now”. This takes the pressure off of members, you don’t have to have a project on the go to join the session!

Can you tell me about a time that you used/tried something that you heard about in a PS?

I found the discussion about how to track things like warping order, threading, and treadling was really great.  I hadn’t tried some of the methods mentioned, and found the options really helpful. I really enjoyed the lively discussion within the session, and it was great that members continued the conversation in a forum thread. Many people (even those who weren’t able to attend the PS session) added photos and descriptions of the methods that work for them.

I also was having trouble with dye running, in my favorite color combination of red and beige. I asked about how to minimize this in a session, and got some wonderful input about Color Catchers and Retayne. I tried those methods out, and now I am hooked!

Have you ever learned something during a PS that you didn’t expect to hear about?

Almost every session! I really enjoy that these things come organically from the conversation, instead of in the format of “what is you best tip?” type formats.

As an example, we were talking about how to keep things in order, and untangled when dressing the loom, and someone casually mentioned that they use painters tape to help keep the threads in order. This was something that I never would have thought of, but now I use it!

What is your favorite part of PS?

I like the fact that there are a lot of people interacting. You get to know who people are when you attend regularly, and we get to see their projects, sometimes right from the design phase through to finished. It is more like a casual conversation, instead of a lecture or class with one person set up as the expert. 

I really enjoy that people from all over the world can attend, and everyone has a chance to talk. 

I like that the people attending are of all levels of weaving. Even if they don’t necessarily fully understand the details of what another weaver is working on, they are very good at asking questions that will allow the other participants to think about things in a different way, and learn from each other.

Would you recommend attending PS to other members?

YES! This is one of my favorite parts of the Academy. I find that I prioritize attending PS, because I enjoy it so much. The social aspect of peer support, and the feeling of connection that comes from attending regularly is a really wonderful experience that can be hard to come by with the solitary nature of weaving. You really get a sense that you are not alone in the weaving world, whether you are struggling with a problem, or celebrating a victory.

I would like to thank Barb for giving me her time, and sharing her thoughts and experiences with Peer Support sessions. (and also for the laughs that we had!)

If you would like to connect with a thriving community of weavers, we would love to have you as a member of The Handweaving Academy!