“Hi! I was just gifted a loom—I’m so excited to be a loomer! So . . . can someone explain how to weave?”
I am a member of several Facebook groups for weavers, where we go to ask questions and share our work. I have to admit when I see questions like the one above, from rank beginners, my first reaction is to roll my eyes and think, “Oh for heaven’s sake—go read a book! Take a class!”
Then I take a deep breath and remind myself how much newbies, to any craft or skill, bring to the rest of us.
I have been a complete novice myself recently, in the craft of weaving, and I am still struggling to learn a tiny fraction of what there is to know. My weekly sewing group includes a number of newbies—new to sewing, new to quilting.
There have always been newbies but, in days gone by, maybe they weren’t so obvious. A lot of us learned some basic skills from others in our circle, by watching and emulating or by taking an organized class or reading—those were the only options we had.
But now the Internet gives newbies easy access to knowledgeable and helpful people so their questions are public and their lack of knowledge and understanding are on view to us all.
And, though I will always think some newbies are being presumptuous in asking others to explain a difficult process in the space of a Facebook post, I really believe that these newbies are enhancing the craft world.
Are you a newbie at something, thinking about picking up knitting needles or sitting down to a sewing machine for the first time? Trying to learn a new set of skills, like hooking a rug or soldering silver? Surrounded, it seems, by people who already know the ins and outs, know the vocabulary, seem comfortable and calm in the realm where you feel edgy and inadequate?
I want to tell you how valuable you are!
- You are a source of amusement
Yes, it probably sounds harsh but let’s get it out of the way first—I am amused every day by a dilemma posed by a newbie. I laugh at the stories they tell about themselves and their confusion. They use the vocabulary wrong and make mistakes of the most basic kind. I am laughing with them, not at them—I see myself in their blunders.
We had a huge laugh in our sewing group a couple years ago, when a then-novice at quiltmaking was bemoaning the fact that her sewing machine bobbin always ran out at the most inopportune time. She felt she’d just get into a rhythm and then, boom, she’d have to stop, unthread the machine, fill the bobbin, etc., etc. Another, very experienced, member of the group listened carefully and said, gently, “Well, at the beginning a project, I just fill up a bunch of bobbins, to get me through.” Stunned silence from our sweet newbie . . . and then she said, “Duh. I would never have thought of that.” And now none of the rest of us will ever forget it!
- You remind us of the enthusiasm and joy of starting
The excitement newbies feel is energizing. This one just got her first loom, that one bought fabric for her first quilt. They have not yet felt the slings and arrows of outrageous craft fails. They are intoxicated with possibilities—and help me remember that feeling.
- You give us a chance to teach and feel smart
With novices, it always seems that, no matter how little I know, there’s someone who knows less. That gives me the heady feeling of having something I can share and teach.
Just last week, I got to show a friend the basics of hand quilting. She’s a far more experienced, better quilter than I am but she’s never taken the plunge for quilting by hand. It gave me a big thrill when I could show her and watch her pick it up very quickly!
- You allow us to feel competent and remind us how far we’ve come
There’s nothing like a newbie to remind you how much progress you’ve made, that you’re learning and growing. When I read the questions asked by newbies, I am pleasantly surprised when I know the answers to questions that would’ve been mysteries a few months ago. I feel skilled and capable and motivated to keep learning.
- You ask the questions we may not be comfortable asking.
I am one of those people who loatheslooking foolish or incompetent. I hate to ask questions, to expose my ignorance. Newbies ask questions with abandon and I sit and listen carefully to the answer . . . and learn. For instance, it had never occurred to me to fill a bunch of bobbins at the start of a project . . .
So, newbies, I say to you—keep starting new things.
Keep dreaming of being good at something that you have never tried.
Recognize the limitations of learning complex skills from Facebook posts or from one helpful friend and take advantage of all the resources available to you.
But don’t hesitate to start because the people around you seem so sure of themselves and the skills so daunting.
You are enriching the conversation by starting a new craft; you are bringing so much to the discussion.