I began to weave in the midst of a painful coming-of-age experience. Instinct led me to pick up yarn and weave it, under and over, over and under, in a healing rhythm. Later, I would learn that my paternal grandfather was a weaving apprentice and that my maternal grandmother worked in a weaving factory from 14 to 17 years of age. Both would later emigrate from Germany to the United States.
My grandmother taught me, as a young child, to weave on a small metal potholder loom. Five years later, I would take my first weaving class during my undergraduate studies. After twelve years of practicing the craft of weaving, I was equipped to begin weaving as an art form. In 1991, I created a collaborative Peace Weaving in response to the invasion of Iraq. Since that first weaving, twenty-seven visual woven intentions/prayers have been delivered around the world.
Since 2002, I have served as a chaplain for the women at the Dane County Jail (madisonjailministry.org). The Jail Tapestry Project forms a part of our Women’s Spirituality Group, which meets three times a year. Each group writes a prayer, does an imaging meditation, and then designs a weaving. In addition to the three hangings we have woven for our chapel, we also donate liturgical stoles and small hangings to fundraise for the jail’s ministry.
The catalyst for my most recent passion was the donation to our project of a used Schacht Floor Loom. With the help of a professor of weaving at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the very kind phone assistance from Schacht’s own Mike Cooley, we were able to get the loom up and weaving. When incarcerated women receive work-release privileges, they are able to participate in the Backyard Mosaic Women’s Project (BYMWP – backyardmosaicwomensproject.org). Thanks to the space provided to us through the generosity of St. John’s Lutheran Church, we meet every Wednesday.
An extremely high percentage of women who are incarcerated are victims of trauma, such as incest, domestic violence, rape, or abuse. Recently, we began a prevention project to reach young women who have been involved in the sex industry or are the victims of human trafficking. Our efforts include developing tools to help identify these women (and to help them to self-identify); providing individual spiritual care through the healing activity of weaving; and connecting them to resources and safe places in the community. Finally, a long-term goal is to provide financial reimbursement for the weavings and mosaics created and donated to the project by the participants. These works of art become part of our fundraising shows for the BYMWP.
My youthful impulse to heal myself through the gift of weaving has become a part of who I am. In 1993, I legally changed my name to Julia Weaver. Today, I share weaving with those who are seeking creative healing throughout the world.