By Leah Fallon
When was the last time you thought about how your clothes are made, or how much time it takes to make the towels we dry our dishes with?
Barefoot Weaver’s Studio in Purcellville is filled with the looms and materials that fabric is made from. Owner Beth Wilson possesses a strong appreciation for the fabrics that people use and wear everyday.
A birthday gift from her husband for a beginner’s class was Wilson’s gateway into the fascinating world of weaving. The looms, fibers, and finished products filled her up. After her move from Massachusetts to Purcellville she wanted to continue to weave. She responded to a newspaper ad for a six-week weaving class and she borrowed a loom for her project. Before she knew it, she had purchased her own antique loom and continued to create pieces.
She opened her first studio in Round Hill in 2012, and moved to her current studio at 500 Main St. in Purcellville in 2015, where she shares space with the Local Wood showroom.
Wilson said, although weaving doesn’t run in her family, she’s always had an affinity for textiles. She remembers a time when she was young and at a friend’s house. There was a ray of light shining on a white sheet that was draped over something mysterious. After she asked what was under there, the sheet revealed a loom. Wilson remembers it as, “the most magnificent thing I had ever seen.”
Entering the old house that is now home to Barefoot Weaver’s Studio, you will see an array of looms, many from the mid 20th century, and even some from the late 17th and 18th centuries. The largest and most impressive loom in the studio was made in the 1820s in Pennsylvania from Pennsylvania pine.
Not surprisingly, the art of weaving comes with its own set of lingo. Talking about a loom is “like talking about a car, like who the manufacturer is, and what’s under the hood,” Wilson said. The loom from the 1820s is an eight-shaft Countermarch System, with eight treadles and has a weaving width of 50 inches, which is pretty impressive in the weaving world.
If the terms “throw a shuttle,” “truddles,” and “wind a warp” muddle the mind, Wilson will take care of that. Much of what she does is teach others how to create. She holds a full slate of classes at the studio for novice or refresher courses for people who are interested in getting back into the craft. Classes range from $40 to weave a rag rug to $495 for a five-day intensive course for larger, more in-depth projects. Students don’t need to have their own looms, as she provides each student with a loom to use in the studio.
Wilson has had much success as a teacher and is able to channel her passion for weaving to her students. After learning to spin wool from her baby lamb, Andrea Russell, of The Plains, wanted to learn to weave. After taking classes with Wilson, Russell now owns multiple looms and has grown to love weaving. “Whenever I leave Beth’s studio I am always excited about going home and starting a new weaving project,” Russell said.
Wilson’s welcoming nature brought Leslie Roach, of Lovettsville, back after she lost interest in weaving following a negative experience at another studio. The experience made her feel, “lost, disappointed, and basically did not learn much of anything,” she said. “However, after visiting [Barefoot Weaving] Studio and asking questions I decided to give it another shot. Great decision. Beth is so helpful, and patient. She makes sure you understand each aspect.”
Her inspiration also filters to young students who, sometimes, find the fascination with weaving, and make it a career. A recent high school graduate found a love of weaving when she took her first class with Wilson at only 13 years old. This fall she will study at North Carolina State University’s College of Textiles. Wilson recalls, “She would giggle as she weaved. She loves it so much.”
Beth Wilson is pleased with where weaving has brought her, and feels grateful that she can do what she loves. “When you find what makes you happy,” she said, “you’ve just got to do it.”