Why Write a Story If You Can Weave One? | Meghan Nuttall Sayres

Why Write a Story If You Can Weave One?


This week I visited my amazing friend and tapestry weaver Sarah Swett. Sarah taught me the little I know about weaving and every time I visit her I am blown away by what she has on the loom or has recently cut from it. Here’s a close up detail of a tapestry that is part of her series “Rough Cut,” which tells a story about a woman, a mule and their flight into the forest. The words are derived from the novel she wrote Palouse by the Sea, which she decided to try and weave. How cool is that?

What I find most intriguing about the process of weaving is how much it is like writing. I’ve often read lines from my work out of sequence when proof reading. Sarah discovered something quite interesting when weaving her words/lines of prose bottom to top as one does when building most any tapestry or carpet. She explains this below in an excerpt from an article she wrote about this experience for Tapestry Topics published by http://americantapestryalliance.org.

“Weaving letter by letter from bottom to top revealed alliteration and unexpected rhythms that now, reading top to bottom, I can no longer find.

There was also the bliss of concentrated revision. Unwilling to weave so much as a comma I did not love, I dissected each syllable–paring, splicing, cutting favorite phrases. Revision, in fact, became another obsession and what began as a justification for solipsistic hours with my precious text (self publishing for tapestry weavers), exploded into parallel narratives where individual words were less important than the potential for viewer participation.

Whole scenes vanished in the name of brevity. Most events were abbreviated. In “Rough Copy 9: Red Paperclip” I wrote and rewrote only to cover the bulk of the words with trompe l’oeil ‘paper.’ In ‘Rough Copy 10: All Burned Up,’ the longest chunk of text and most dramatic moment ended as a burned fragment. Readers are left to invent their own versions from the bits, just as they have been doing with sequential tapestry for centuries.”

To have a look at the entire series of tapestries entitled “Rough Copy” visit: http://afieldguidetoneedlework.weebly.com/blog and scroll down to the slide show under the date 25/5/2014.

Next week I will post about an actual book Sarah created from a different tapestry.