A student adds a thread to the loom.

If you’re looking for weavers in Weaverville, just stop by North Buncombe Elementary School (NBES).

Over the past couple weeks, textile artist Nica Rabinowitz, founder and director of Fiberhouse Collective, has been in residency at NBES to help art teacher Kourtney Yelton show kids the basics of weaving. She brought a tabletop loom that will thread together fibers from each student at the school, with the end product being a long tapestry. The style is known as SAORI, a weaving technique originally from Japan that values free expression and individuality over structure and perfection.
“Anyone can weave this way,” Ms. Rabinowitz said. “There aren’t specific patterns you need to know, so there’s no learning curve. They get to have agency and make decisions, and mistakes really aren’t mistakes. They’re just part of the weave.”
On Monday, third graders lined up to add fibers one at a time to the portable loom. Ms. Rabinowitz set up an initial “scaffolding” of vertical threads, and each student got to push down different treadles (levers on the loom), which changed the weave pattern for every horizontal thread. Next to the loom sat containers filled with locally sourced yarns from alpaca wool, mohair, and plant fibers like kudzu. 
“The kids learn about patterns, cooperation, the local fiber arts community, and the culture of how clothes can be made by hand,” Ms. Yelton said. “We’re already learning about weaving with our hands-on art projects, but Ms. Rabinowitz and her loom take it to a new level. It connects the past and the future and lets them access their creativity in a new way.”

“I really want the kids to understand that people are still doing this,” Ms. Rabinowitz added. “It doesn’t just live in the past.”

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