Chatting, Schacht Inkle Loom

Making License Plates and my Better Demons

Tying Heddles for my Inkle Loom

In the book Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson coins the wonderful phrase: making license plates. It refers to the idea that a small part of a project is creative, innovative work, and then the rest is a lot of repetitive grunt work- making license plates.

Fiber arts has more than the usual making of license plates, which may be why so many people jump in and then slowly drift away from their projects. We aren’t prisoners, so we get the option of *not* making license plates. At demos, there are always people who watch me spin or process fiber and then say loudly and definitively: I could never do that! Some people go a step further and say: Why on earth would you do that?

Some days, I am right there with them. But most days, I like the peace that comes with repetition. And the low-key satisfaction of seeing a million tiny choices come together to make a length of yarn.

And yes, I will stick the yarn in a bin for a future day when I will make another million tiny choices to turn the yarn into something that I will most likely give away or donate. (Keeping it real here. For me, it’s all about the process.) All they see is making stacks and stacks of license plates.

I’m not going to over romanticize fiber processing! When I’m 3 pounds into prepping an 8 pound fleece, I’ve discovered all of the fun textures and actions in the fiber that I’m going to find. I’ve reached the point where I’ve streamlined the process and tested the gazillion and one ways I can set up the fiber for the next step. And there’s still 5 pounds of processing ahead.

Most days it becomes meditative and relaxing. Some days, those five pounds are all about binge watching the Great British Baking Show while I work. I never know which version of me is going to show up for a task, but I can summon my better angels- or at least my better demons- by setting up in a good space with music and a cup of tea.

Today has a gorgeous, lazy morning after weeks of crummy weather. It’s the perfect moment for license plates. Even the chicken decided to sleep in. I’m on the porch listening to the forest critters back up Corrine Bailey Rae and Norah Jones on my speaker while I tie heddles for my new inkle loom. Forty heddles. I can hear weavers out there laughing because 40 is nothing for most weavers. I’m new to inkle loom weaving, and these heddles definitely could count as making license plates. Fortunately, I have an absurdly heavy dog head drooling on my foot, the rest of the house is doing their thing, and I am hanging out with the birds enjoying the peace and quiet. I’m guessing that tying this forty knots is going to feel pretty angelic.

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