As a weaver and fiber artist, my life has been touched in many ways by other weavers. The most exceptional have inspired my work and compelled me into unfamiliar territories. When the journey concludes, I can look back and revel in the experience knowing my life and work will never be the same. One of the most influential weavers I’ve ever met is Paul O’Connor, who is sometimes referred to as the father of double weave. Paul didn’t invent double weave (cloths woven with multiple layers). What Paul did was advance the use of double weave in ways we hadn’t seen before and inspire new generations of weavers to pursue this rather ominous topic. He also left behind many web-based resources for those interested in learning more (see below).
Last week, Paul passed away. As painful as this news was to hear, I know I can celebrate his life and help carry his work forward to other weavers. Paul was extremely generous with his knowledge and produced numerous publications to assist weavers learn about double weave.
Paul’s work was significant to my master weaver study on loom-controlled stitched double cloth (a subset of double weave). While working on this study, Paul was one of the few people that could keep up with my ramblings about how I was pushing this weave structure to achieve different effects. While in Boulder, CO in 2004, I’ll never forget how patient he was as I chatted away about a project I had in mind . . . tubular stitched double cloth (a tube woven within a tube and the two tubes would be connected together during the weaving process). As I described what I was planning to do, Paul listened intently. I was hoping he could point out flaws in my plan and where I may go wrong. Instead Paul replied with enthusiasm for my project and told me he had never seen anything like I described. He also went on to mention a critical component . . . this was not a double weave . . . it was a quadruple weave (four layers of cloth woven simultaneously on the loom). That comment helped me finish wrapping my head around what has been my biggest weaving-related mind bender.
Two years later I was able to share the results of my tubular stitched double cloth with Paul. The image below is a look through the muff. The red inside tube is a cashmere-blend. The gray outside tube is rayon. After weaving, the muff was wet-finished and the inside tube shrank and felted, which caused the outside tube to pucker and create a dimensional cloqué effect (this was the plan). I was thrilled when I showed the project to Paul and he got excited with the results . . . so excited that he asked to borrow it to show others . . . in particular his wife.
Since my completion of the tubular stitched double cloth project, I crossed paths with Paul many times. I even managed to acquire two artifacts of his. The first one is a double weave woven by Paul titled Lines II. This was woven with sewing thread and is an item which he kindly donated to an auction after his retrospective exhibit at CW Seminars 2006 in Holland, MI. I was fiercely committed to purchasing this piece and I appreciate that others didn’t take advantage of my enthusiasm and bid it up with the sole objective of making me pay through the nose for it . . . although, Paul was stunned by how much I ended up paying for this piece. This double weave became a cornerstone for the first article I ever wrote for Handwoven magazine, A Tale of Two Weavings. Today, it is proudly displayed in my office.
Another artifact I own is Paul’s baseball hat. Anyone that has been around weaving for a while may have seen Paul wearing his Eager Weaver baseball hat. At a conference, he was persuaded to donate the hat to the auction to raise money . . . and thank goodness someone told him to autograph it. I ultimately ended up bidding against Bob Keats (aka Fiberworks Bob). Once again, I prevailed and came home the proud owner of Paul’s Eager Weaver baseball hat (never underestimate my determination to achieve a goal), which has a place of honor on the wall in my studio.
I will miss Paul. He was a brilliant weaver and a kind man. His legacy will live through the lives of those he touched and his generosity with his knowledge and experience.
To appreciate Paul’s work, check out the 128-page catalog from his 2006 retrospective exhibit
Double Weave; A Retrospective, 2006 – http://handweaving.net/DAItemDetail.aspx?ItemID=7897
Also, check out some of Paul’s web-based resources on double weave
Reference Guide for Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_rgdw.pdf
Double Weave Workshop Notes: Taking the Mystery out of Double Weave Tieups – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_tie.pdf
Double Weave Workshop Notes: Double Weave with a Four-Shaft Loom – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_4s.pdf
Double Weave Workshop Notes: Double Weave with a Eight-Shaft Loom – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_8s.pdf
Double Weave Workshop Notes: Basket Weaves in Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/topic_doubleweave.html
Double Weave Workshop Notes: Twill Weaves in Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_twil.pdf
Network Drafting for Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_nddw.pdf