What do we need when we grieve? what would swaddle wrap our pain while we face the world? These are some of the thoughts I had about our emotional connection with cloth. Alongside my weaving and art, I am a counselling psychotherapist. For many years my work was primarily counselling for grief and loss (mainly bereavement by suicide). Over time I noticed that the pain we feel when we loose someone is equal to the amount of love we have for that person. The more we love, the more we hurt. It also reminded me of the cycle of birth, life and death. The natural path we are all on, and how from the moment we are born, cloth is used to wrap us and keep us warm and safe, and then when we die, we are also wrapped in cloth. What about the person in mourning? I thought about the colours of mourning, the blackness of death and what that represents, and also the colour of love – pink, the heart colour. It was at this point I decided to weave a mourning shawl, for people to wear when they are mourning, or when they are feeling like they need comfort and warm of the cloth around them that represents the person they have lost.
I warped up a sample shawl on one of my hand operated rigid heddle looms, using colours I was naturally drawn to. I worked intuitively, as I wove I thought about all the clients I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside in their grief, and what this represents in cloth. Each thread, for me, felt like a clients story moving through the weaving, interweaving together. Healing threads of love and loss, binding together.
I worked the weave weft facing, which means that the fabric is dense, rather than having open weave like plain (tabby) balanced weave. This represents the weight of grief through the feel of the cloth.
The process of grief and loss is messy, the unravelling feelings of the grief journey… the tangled emotions between loss and restoration. Is grief a neat and tidy ball of feelings, lots of loose ends left dangling, or is it messy tangle with no end in sight? For me, this resonates with weaving, or at least, how messy the finishing process can be when the cloth is cut from the loom. The fringe twisting is a mindful process for me, of ‘tying off loose ends’ joining ends together, making something whole, something with purpose, from something that has been fractured.
Since finishing this sample shawl, I’ve since woven a few mourning shawls, they are not exactly the same as this one, they are all unique, but what they do have is the unity of the colours and textures in the same way.
This shawl is currently for sale, please contact me if you are interested.
I can also offer a bespoke service, where I can use materials that you provide that have an emotional connection to you personally. Please contact me for a free consultation about this bespoke service.