I didn't know where to start with my experience at my first Midwest Weaver's Conference, so I'll begin with the class I took. I have wanted to take a John Mullarkey class since I first saw his work with students (I think) back in 2014 at a Michigan League of Handweaver's Conference that I was also teaching at. Tablet weaving on a small loom seemed like a kind of intricate technique that I'd love so when I noticed that he was teaching a 3 Day beginner class at Midwest Weavers Conference, and it wasn't going to overlap any of the classes I was teaching I signed up the minute registration opened.
My classes ended up being cancelled but Sarah had decided to join me for this conference so we were already good to go for a fiber vacation. I knew a little bit about tablet weaving from following John and Inge Dam's work but the concept of how it worked was totally foreign to me. I knew this was something I was never going to have the patience to teach myself and 3 days of working with this technique would be a good start.
I didn't follow directions well from the supplies list, for the continuous warp (we learned how to do on day 2) I needed to be able to pull my cotton from 4 cones, 2 of each color. I had 1 cone of black, one of white. So the night before I took the coffee cups in the hotel room and created makeshift-cones which actually worked out pretty well. I did get the correct inkle loom and tablet weaving cards from Woven Art and ordered my 10/2 cotton from Yarn Barn of Kansas. I purchased some "John Mullarkey Official" tablet weaving cards from in class too. His cards are a little smaller and I'm wondering if they might be easier for my hands to twist them.
Something that surprisingly helped me with this class was my earbuds. Once students got going on how to use the latest technique we had learned it was difficult for me to tune out conversations and chit chat. So when I was feeling frustrated I'd plug-in. Listening to music that I already knew all the words to helped me focus on the project. I don't like feeling like I'm being rude or trying to ignore people so I'd let my table-mate Kate know I was plugging in but to tap me if I needed to pay attention and that I wasn't trying to ignore her or John. It ended up helping my focus big-time.
I also totally lucked out with having my table-mate, Kate. She's John's self-proclaimed "stalker" as she's taken a ton of his classes but needed to brush up since her last few years had been rough and she was out of practice with her tablet weaving. She was there, focusing, like me but basically already knew the process and she was helpful when I didn't realize I should be asking for help.
I also pointed out to her that if I wasn't sure I was doing something correctly I'd put my name on the board to have John come and check my work. I used to not like to bother instructors, but then when I became one, from that perspective, I'd always rather come check on a student's work than have them get so far off in left field that it's nearly impossible to backtrack. My biggest problem with tablet weaving so far is my tension. Way too tight (warp and weft) and then when I loosen up pulling my weft I go too loose. This is another reason I want to practice regularly and pay attention to how my motifs are coming out.
I love this new technique. I learned much more in 3 days than I would have ever thought possible. John is an excellent instructor, I'm excited to start practicing tablet weaving more at home. I have a few other things to get off of my plate before I can really get lost in it, but the inkle loom and 10/2 cotton has already found a spot in the house where I can pick it up and play with it for a few hours here and there.