jude hill spirit cloth

Alphabet and a bit Wordy…

A. A is for Alphabet

When I worked in the textile industry,  I began as a handweaver, weaving samples. Samples were necessary to show customers what pattern changes would look like. Designers  created a group of of cloth constructions and woven patterns as ideas, presented them to the salesforce. And then the "salesfolks" would work with their customers and their customers would buy sample yardage to make up into sample garments and if they remained interested they might  usually change the cloth construction, colors or  size of the pattern to their liking or needs.  Handwoven samples were made for approval before manufacturing.  I began as a handweaver,  working with designers who worked with customers needing customization.  Why am I telling you this?  Just a little background.  Because, I realize, my long history as a woven designer  has had a big effect on what I slid into as an internet personality.  Day jobs are looked at so negatively these days, but they  are life and experience all the same.  And they are useful.

mama loom

I worked on a table loom.  As a matter of fact,  I worked on this table loom, that is sitting right here beside me today.

There is a lot of story, I told it before.  To make it shorter,  one of the designers that I was weaving for, well she told me about another job opening somewhere and somehow, I ultimately ended up AS a designer,  with my own handweaving department, servicing customers  and designing a seasonal  line of fabrics to be presented to a salesforce.  Imagine that. (sales force, what a word...)

Anyway.  I was really not sure what to do for my first big presentation.  How would I organize my thoughts?   I used the Alphabet.  A is for this, B is for that as I presented my ideas for trend and fashion, in the form of what I might call StoryBoards.  ( I was very good at the StoryBoard thing)  ABC  seemed too silly at first but in the end it was hilariously fun and informative and everyone joined in and it was a great success, I think because it was easy and comforting in some  way.  It has a natural order.  Familiar but new.

And so.   I will mostly go forward in this way here.  Using the alphabet as my guide.  It works for me and that is a good reason.

An old alphabet sampler,  2007. Simpler times.

I didn't take great pictures way back then...

Tomorrow.  A.  Again.


  1. Mary

    I wove on a WPA floor loom in college. It was under the stadium and as I wove, the huge giant water bugs would fall off the pipes above me. I started as a small child on a tiny simple loom in Switzerland. I still have it and it is amazing what you can do on a simple loom….keep thinking I will begin again but have yet to do so….

  2. from a to z and back again. a beginning an end and around the moon! i was fortunate to have a weaving studio in my high school so got to do basic floor loom weaving way back. dabbled in it here and there but ended up with clay for 30 years. now back to cloth and there’s a floor loom sitting next to me right now.. waiting for a warp…
    my goal is to weave the moon…many moons.

  3. This will be one swell journey! I have made a few “story/song” quilts with commercial fabrics of particular designs…each print could be a song or a story for very young children. I’ve used them in my classroom too. So much fun.
    I love hearing the stories that helped create one of your layers…making you Jude! So great.

  4. Helen salo

    Very nice post! Loved it! Reminded me of a presentation I did in college on how to dress for success on a budget by mixing and matching and making your clothes. Seems like a long time ago😂 actually got an A+(almost unheard of) 😂😂

  5. A … where might we go with just that letter? (which, by the way, is usually among the largest encyclopedia volumes, along with M and P)

    last night I tucked my granddaughters into bed with their baby clothes coverlets … what a gift from the universe to be able to do that

    it will be so much fun to see what story board/alphabetic magic comes from your hands …

  6. Diana

    Thank you for sharing and I’m hopeful there will be more. Somewhere in my lineage I learned to hand stitch and I’m still using my grandmother’s sewing machine. The stories though, they have much value 💚

  7. Greta wells

    It is comforting to hear your story, Jude. I’m 83 now in Vermont, but lived in Jersey, and worked as the artist in residence in middlesex library. We did a main display, and little pop ups, children’s corner, which said “hey, wouldn’t you like to read more about this? Vermont art stuff was with family in a local theatre group. Climbing ladders where the scrim floated, and I felt like I was falling. Prop master scurrying around back stage in the dark. Good memories.

  8. Faith

    We went to the state fair on Monday and, of course, we headed straight to the textile exhibitions. One of the things we watched was a woman weaving on a loom similar to yours. She said she was doing a simple design so that she could keep working as she talked to people. As someone who has done only potholder type weaving and darning, it didn’t look simple to me. But watching her loom as she worked helped me understand a little. She had 8 rods (heddles?) that raised and lowered warp thread and her pattern told her which one(s) to raise each time she put her weft thread through. Pretty basic for you, I’m sure, but a revelation to me.

    I’d love more stories about your weaving/designing days.

    A . . . hmmm . . .

    • jude

      could be heddles or harnesses, it’s a different world, loom controlled weaving. quite simple actually, just very time consuming up front. setting it up

  9. sharon

    remembering the JOY of first learning the alphabet… discovering that magical connection between letters ‘n sounds. writing seemed like a form of drawing, equally wonder-filled. so here i am again in kindergarten, “children’s garden”, with beloved ragmates ‘n my favorite teacher of all time, ready to begin! ah, the stories that loom could tell…

    • This is some of what I was thinking…of course your presentation was successful Jude, after all ABC’s brings back feelings of Kindergarten…a time most recall with fondness…the whole world opening up – starting with singing the ABC song! How could we not love that feeling?!

  10. Judy

    I fantisized about weaving for all of the years of my day job. I had purchased a Jack floor loom from a friend, stored it in my home for at least 10 years. When I retired from the day job, I took a beginners weaving class at the local art collage. I love it. I wove a beautiful scarf then the largest woolen blanket the loom would allow using up my wool stash. However I developed weavers bottom: “Weaver’s bottom refers to the Inflammation of the bursa that separates the gluteus maximus muscle of the buttocks from underlying bony prominence of the bone. It is caused by prolonged sitting on hard surfaces.” And lifting my legs to operate the treadle aggravated my lower back so I had to give it up. As I was recovering from a back injury sustained in helping move this very heavy floor loom I found you! I’ve always loved textiles so went on to learn about shibori, natural dyeing, indigo, sashiko and hand stitched two small quilts from remnants of fabric used to make clothing for my daughter when she was a little girl because of your demonstrations of hand stitching. So thank you Jude. I so appreciate your words and the way you think and find your work inspiring.

    • jude

      this is a great story and I loved it. How one thing might become another.
      I always weave standing up at the big loom. Good thing I guess.

  11. Kathy dorfer

    When I found you back in 2006 , you felt so familiar to me .
    It wasn’t till somewhere you talked about your weaving it
    Then made sense to me . I have a degree in textiles , tapestry being
    My favorite for 10 years … then started having my own sheep, spinning and learning to natural dye . Then my life took a turn and I took a break and then discovered you and your words and they were healing . Full circle . You have been a gift to me .
    Thank you❤️❤️❤️

  12. Lynne Watson

    I have several hand made tapestry looms…picture frames and/or stretcher bars…I’ve made several (5 or6) tapestries not following very many rules…enjoy it, but patchwork and quilting is my first love. I like your backstories…and your various streams of work…

  13. Joyce L

    I love hearing more of your background story – I love people stories in general and often get chastised (by certain members of my family) for asking too many questions of people I meet! But it is fascinating how life experiences weave their way through the rest of our lives. You don’t realized that is going to happen when you are young.
    With the birth of my second grandchild (today!!! haven’t met him yet), I am drawn to your alphabet quilt more and more. I used to show lots of alphabet books to my students – mostly to show different forms of illustration and that they could make books that were not intimidating – everyone knew the alphabet by then (upper elementary art class). So maybe an alphabet book in stitch…. so I will be following along as usual. Also – I took one weaving class in college – hardest class I ever took! I spent so many hours in the weaving studio trying to get it right. But I do enjoy flipping through my sample book every now and then. 😁

  14. Juliann

    You-as did I-started life as handweavers. My looms were two big old 45in Hammetts that could withstand the work. You forgot to mention that A-no internet B-no cell phones C-networking was meant to be within your region or area (not the world) D-friends helped us move ahead and up and E-we worked hard. I also am a handspinner. During “those times” I did commissioned jobs. One of my tapestry friends needed tons of cotton yarn. It was a long, long, long job to produce and dye the yarn for her piece on a schedule. So yes-we deserve a rest. and we can play and have fun now.

  15. Deb VZ

    Words are such powerful triggers. Your use of “salesforce” kept triggering my job which, in part, is managing our Salesforce database – “Salesforce” is a customer relationship management platform. Its funny how common words become “commercial” words that seem to erase their original meaning and use.

    Weaving has always intrigued me…I took a one day workshop and got to use a loom which I enjoyed. Time and space only allows me to weave small pieces on makeshift handheld looms but it does still satisfy my desire to weave.

    • jude

      Just seemed to conjure an army of some kind…
      looms are really space-takers. I still have one floor loom but not the space to really use it. This little table loom is a nice in between thing but you can weave so many ways.

  16. dewey

    i started out as a jacquard designer but worked mostly on a floor loom in college. how I miss those simpler days when anything you wanted to do was possible. and profit wasn’t a part of the conversation.
    thank you for sharing. hearing peoples history is so interesting and insightful.
    have a great day

  17. Pam S.

    I enjoy hearing about your background again, and your knowledge in textiles is inspiring! Weaving on a big loom like yours looks like fun, but also too intimidating for me!

    • jude

      this one isn’t too big, but it takes a bit of learning to set it up. Still remembering that even to I don’t remember a lot of thing, ha! there is also a way to bypass complicated set ups and still use the loom for holding the warp. will talk about that. Just took this one out to dust it off.

  18. Jen


    Weaving & telling Stories
    And this is why I Love you.
    Drawn in when you Speak
    (& Maybe I should Stitch an A today)

  19. Nancy D

    Lovely to hear your textile past, Jude. It’s funny how we grow and change into who we are really meant to be…and those are happiest when they come to it “organically…”

  20. Velma Bolyard

    your job, wow…at the buff state weaving studio we were being groomed to *possibly* head to nyc to weave for the industry. imagine that, i *could* have been one of your weavers.

  21. Mary

    I find this facinating. I had not heard this ‘story’ before. I had no idea that was part of the textile industry. Uninformed. I guess I thought it was all done by machines (and yes I was alive back then). Amazing. I would love you to share more of this ‘story’. Thank you for the sharing!

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