I’m back after a delicious screen-minimal-staycation, during which I took a weaving workshop at a local, South Philly studio. Truly, this was a dream come true. Around when I started this here blog, I was pouring over brochures from John C. Campbell Folk School and scheming a way to get there. In the intervening years, I’ve taken writing classes, woodblock print making classes, and master knitting classes, but I’ve never set aside the time for such an immersive, craft making experience… and I feel all the better for having (finally!) done it!

Picture of finished table runner
Closeup of diamond motif in fabric… table runner in progress on loom

I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that I feel invigorated now that my hands are back on a keyboard. Here are a few tidbits that I learned:

  1. I thrive when I’m finding and repeating patterns*. I love cleaning data, I love playing the matching cardgame SET, and I love needlework that involves complicated instructions and fine, repeated structures (think: knitted cables, cross stitch alphabet samplers, loom weaving). It’s no surprise in this context that I find Mail Merge operations intellectually fascinating. Moving information from instructions to finished product following a set of rules is pretty much my favorite thing to do.

    *Ok my therapist would interject here and say that I have some good experience interrogating patterns and interrupting the bad ones.
  2. Spreadsheets, relational databases, grid-based design patterns, linear algebraic arrays … are all the same. It’s no secret that the whole binary system (underlying how computers interpret data) is based on weaving. I knew that, but I didn’t truly internalize it until *I* was the one pushing the pedals, tossing the shuttle, and weaving fabric according to moving threads up and down.
  3. Learning new skills can be FUN! (Especially before hitting the Learning Plateau!) My second weaving piece came out SOOOOO much better than my first one! I still had to make hypotheses about how certain threads would look, but my guesses were a lot closer to reality as I became more accustomed to the form and technique. I think many of us activist techies enjoy the feeling of learning new skills in a supportive environment. However, it seems very countercultural as an adult to deliberately try things that we are not already good at. It seems like some cross pollination between craft and tech and growth mindset in all things is a worthwhile intention. If you remind yourself that learning is fun, how could that change your relationship with technology?
  4. I was physically and mentally exhausted from weaving up a storm. I pre-scheduled myself an extra day off as a buffer between my workshop and going back to my day job. I spent a lot of that time flopped on the couch/bed/somewhere in between, doing nothing on my to do list. I felt a bit lackluster about it at first, but I soon realized that that is exactly why I had given myself this time. Today when I went back to work, I was delighted to see that some places where I felt stuck before had become unlodged. I saw solutions (and had energy to be creative) in ways that I could not access before taking time off. I think this is a lesson that I must learn again and again in life. We should take time off – full stop. All people should have access to it. And maybe, just maybe, that time (while beneficial even if it doesn’t lead to productivity!) can open up new possibilities for problem solving on the other side.
  5. I came back from vacation and followed up on So. Many. Emails. And many heartfelt apologies for being MIA with some collaborators who I really love working with. I don’t think I quite realized that I was overwhelmed. Thanks for bearing with me, pals! I offer you the same grace.
more weaving pics – sitting at loom!
more weaving pics – wrapping the warping board

OMG – it’s already time for the Nonprofit Technology Conference!

I would love to see you at the following workshops! What are you most excited for? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you, NTEN, for bringing such a phenomenal group of people together to discuss the culture + technology of the future. Much love!

One thought on “weaving some loose ends + hang out with me at #NTC22

  1. I love this post, Sam! The hands on (literally) weaving experience and how it echoes and parallels your data work is really enriching and fascinating! I also took some time off for a few days, and it’s helped me recalibrate and I am benefitting so much from the rest I made sure to get! (Although I don’t have a beautiful woven fabric to show for it, nor the sore muscles and back!)

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