Aneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift

Posted August 31st, 2012

Aneesa Lee and the Weaver's GiftI’ve been working in textiles since my late teens. First, it was sewing, then crocheting, then on to knitting. Along the way, I’ve made beaded jewelry, done peyote beading, made handmade books and journals, decorated wooden boxes, and collaged handmade cards. I continue to make cards, pads, and journals, and knit now and then. But I’ve never tried my hand at weaving, though I find this skill particularly fascinating.

One of my best friends is a consummate weaver, and I’ve had the opportunity to watch her work: hand-dying her own yarn, dressing her loom, and producing a rainbow of cloth from which she’s gone on to design jackets, vests, scarves, and more.

One thing I’ve discovered by attending to the lengthy process of weaving is that, unlike other forms of textile art, it requires a high level of mathematic acumen. (I’m no math whiz, so I troubled my friend to explain it all to me, more than once. Clearly, my decision to leave the art of weaving to someone else was a smart idea!) The more I learned about the process of weaving, the more I wanted to write about it. Aneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift was the result.

Nikki Grimes and Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan and me at a conference

Aneesa Lee is a young girl who is born into a family of weavers. She is just beginning to discover the joy of weaving for herself. Along the way, she not only develops the skills required, but also learns that the loom can be a place where she can give vent to her emotions. In so doing, she transforms even dark thoughts into brilliantly colored cloth, with intricate patterning.

One of the challenges in writing this book was figuring out a way to best describe the process of spinning yarn. Not every weaver spins, mind you, but many do. I called a friend who spins and asked if I could come by and watch her work. She obliged, and demonstrated spinning using a hand-held tool, and then sitting at a spinning wheel. It was her time on the wheel that, ultimately, gave me the poem “Aneesa at the Wheel.” The rhythm of her movements at the wheel reminded me of dance. Once I realized that, I was off and running.

Aneesa Lee

This lovely painting now hangs on my wall.

Artist Ashley Bryan brought the journey of Aneesa Lee to life, both for me, and for the readers. Who better for the job? One of the lovely paintings form the book hangs on my wall, and it always makes me smile.

Aside from “Aneesa at the Wheel,” one of my favorite poems in this book is “Sunset.”

Thoughts of Grandma make Aneesa smile.
 But sorrow’s shadow hangs there all the while.
Aneesa weaves her sad and sweet remembering. 

Through heddles, shed, and reed,
Joy and sadness blend.
The beater presses them together,
End to end.

Aneesa leaves her sorrow in the cloth
And, when her evening handiwork is done,
Glowing pin and coral from the loom,
Appears a woven square of setting sun.

I hope you’ll discover, or rediscover this book. Like most of my other titles, you’ll find a teachers guide for it on my website.