The moment you walk into the Chicago Weaving School, located on 4201 Irving Avenue, it feels like you're in a museum of weaving machinery. The main floor is crowded with pedal-powered loom machines, some of them still holding rugs, mats, blankets, and other works in progress. Large and bulky, they look, to the unfamiliar eye, like something out of an Industrial Revolution drama.
And near the windows there are several old-fashioned spinning wheels for making weaving thread, that wouldn't look too out of place in pre-industrial dramas.
That's not to say that this it's obsolete equipment, or just for show. These looms and shuttles and spinning wheel are put to frequent use, day in and day out, by students taking part in the Chicago Weaving School's various classes.
The school hosts various long-term weaving project classes, ranging in length from 4-12 weeks, with prices in between $100 and $400. Most of them teach students the basics of how to select the right yarns, use the looms and various other weaving devices, and craft specific items.
The cheapest course, called 'WeaveSpa', is a self-described two hour 'Creative Retreat', where weavers of all levels of expertise can come in, and for only $30, make use of the facility to work on personal projects. Even complete novices are welcome, and are introduced to the methods and techniques of weaving by qualified instructors.
As Natalie Boyett, owner of the school and a Masters of Fine Arts in Fiber, explained, when newcomers show up for their first class, she carefully guides them through the process of spinning fiber into cloth and cloth into objects. While doing so, she evaluate their developing skill to see what kinds of weavings they would best specialize in.
Some are better at making rugs, mats, and other flat weavings. Others, inspired y the current cold weather, show a passion for hats and scarves. Whatever their aptitude, Natalie pinpoints it, and after tutoring them in the fundamentals, assigns her students a more focused set of lessons.
The first Saturday of each month, the Chicago Weaving School also offers a basket weaving course; interested students can show up and learn to use straw and rope to make the classic kind of picnic basket, as well as other sorts of containers.
All in all, the Chicago Weaving School is an excellent resources for veteran and novice weavers to practice their craft, and for completely unexperienced laypeople to learn about the rich tradition of weaving, and it's future potential.