Weaver’s Box, Part 5

 

IMG_3111.jpg

 

The weaving studio was a riot of color. Yarns overflowed huge bins surrounding a large work area dotted with a multitude of different looms. Each loom boasted a different project, some large, some small, some in fine threads, others in yarns of varying thicknesses. To her surprise, Sonsee found she wanted to touch each one, to see how it had been done, to experience and relish in the way these pieces came together. 

“When do we start?” she asked, eyes popping with the prospects before her. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. 

“As soon as you pick your yarns,” Ana replied. 

But there was so much to choose from and each time she found something, another color, another texture screamed at her, “Choose me, choose me.” 

“Oh, Ana, which one? There are so many beautiful yarns here.”

“You have asked the right question and so I will give you the answer. First you must choose your warp threads.”

“Warp? What is that?”

“It is your basis, Toko, your skeleton if you will. It is the foundation that holds the beauty together. Here let me show you.”  

She took Toko to the nearest loom. “See the threads that go up and down? That is the warp. You put that on first, then you begin weaving the threads that go across the piece. That is called the weft. Warp and weft, remember that. Now choose your warp first.”

Toko took a skein of dark pink yarn from one of the bins. She liked the spongey softness of it. It would be cuddly and she needed something cuddly to soften her room. Maybe she could weave a blanket for her bed. 

“No, that will not work.” Ana wrapped the yarn around thumb and index finger on each hand and gave a tug. It broke apart. “You need something stronger for the warp. Otherwise it will break every time you beat the fabric.” 

“Beat the fabric?”

Ana smiled. “Yes, beat, but that is a lesson for later. Now come over here. These are warp yarns.” 

Toko was not please with what she saw. These yarns were harder somehow. They had no give, no stretch, no life to them. They just were what they were. 

Before Toko could choose one of the yarns, Ana took a spool of colorless thread from the bin and handed it to Toko. “Here, this is best for a first project.”

It looked more like string. Well, I’ll just find something soft for the…what did Ana call it? Oh, the weft. 

Toko headed back to the softer yarns, but Ana had other ideas. “This way,” she said and brought Toko to a bin labeled cottons. “These will be better for a first project.”

Resigned to doing as Ana told her, Toko found a dark blue yarn and started to match a second color. “One is enough for now,” Ana said. “Time to warp your loom.” 

Instead of finding one of the many empty floor looms, Ana grabbed a wooden frame from behind one of the bins. “This is a peg loom,” she explained.

Toko took it in her hands. It was not hard to guess that the warping string would be wound up and down the pegs. But guessing that was easier than doing that, she soon found. Despite Ana’s careful demonstration, the first time she tried, it was too loose. She discovered that as she wove the first few rows of weft. “Take it out and start over,” Ana said.

The second time, the tension was uneven, some areas of the warp having been applied tighter than others. 

By Toko’s third try, Ana was satisfied. “Now start over again and this time do only four inches. That will be enough to see how well you can control the yarns.” 

Four inches, that was do-able and the loom was only 18 inches long. I’ll be done with this in no time. Then I can do something interesting. 

Ana picked up a smooth piece of wood that had been deeply notched at each end. It was just a bit longer than the 4 inches Toko had warped. “This is a shuttle,” Ana said and then showed Toko how to wind yarn around it. “You will weave the weft with this.”

“But it is so fat. How will I weave it in and out? Wouldn’t a needle be better?”

“Only if you want to be at it for the entire month. Watch this.” Ana took another smooth flat piece of wood, this one thin but eight inches long and an inch wide. “This is a shed stick,” she said as she wove it in and out of the warp, then turned it up onto its side. That created a space between the warp threads, some held up and some down. “The space between the threads is called a shed.” Ana quickly passed the shuttle through the shed, then flattened the shed stick again. She moved it up and then took a comb to push the weft down, making an even line at the bottom. “This is called beating,” Ana explained.

Picking up a second shed stick, Ana threaded it through the warp, this time making sure the threads that had been up were now down. Turning the stick so that it formed a shed, Ana passed the shuttle through again and beat it down. “Now you try.”

Toko removed the second stick, turned the first onto its side forming the shed, and passed the shuttle through. She beat it down, then copied Ana’s steps as she wove the next weft into place and beat. 

“Good, now keep doing that until you reach the top of the loom. I have other business to attend to. The toilet is over there,” Ana said, pointing to the corner. “Do not leave the room. Remember what I told you, there are spies everywhere.” 

Toko wove another  dozen rows, but noted the warp threads drawing in. Her piece was getting narrower. That would not do, she’d never pass onto more interesting work unless she could keep the width even. She removed her work and started over again, this time measuring the width as she wove. After seven rows, the piece remained even. But this was boring, just weaving row after row. I’ll get a second color.

Toko searched the cotton bin, finally finding a skein that was not exactly mauve and not exactly pink either. Nanna would call it a not-this-and-not-that color. It would do nicely, as would a taupe that matched it perfectly. She wrapped a shuttle with the pink-mauve yarn, but before going back to work, she needed to explore the room. There must be a way to escape.

Pretending to be stretching her back, Toko looked out the windows. A garden, beautifully tended, was surrounded by a high stone wall. I’d need more than a ladder to scale that. With only one door out of this room, she realized her options were limited. At least from the weaving studio.

Resigned to spending another day of captivity, she made her way back to her small loom but found herself distracted by the larger floor looms. She studied a few of them. It was not hard to see how the weavers had joined two colors, or how they had made vertical stripes. Well, at least I can add some interest before Ana comes back. 

Toko started with the mauve-pink, angling it out as she wove up the piece. Twice she missed her mark, but she learned and when she had figured it out, boredom set in. Vertical striped were next. But too easy. She had noted that one weaver added short pieces of weft, leaving the tails hanging out the back. She worked in some taupe, too, before noticing that her edges were not clean, not straight. 

She was about to remove the weft and try again when Ana returned. 

“Look at that mess,” Ana scolded. “Rip it out! Rip it out now! Then it’s back to your room with you. And no supper. You must learn to listen to me.” 

“But, Ana, I was only….”

“Do not talk back to me, missy.” She hit Toko hard across the face.

That night, the mark Sonsee made behind her bed was angry and deep. One more day wasted and I am no closer to escaping. 

Weaver’s Box, Part 4

 

7f12dbe090dcf94949ea9d88dc6d36d0

 

 

Days past. For each one, Sonsee made a scratch on the wall behind her bed. Eventually M’Lady stopped coming to see her, telling her only that she was now Toko and in training to be a Priestess. Sonsee held her ground. “No,” she said, “I am not going to be a Priestess.”

Others were sent in M’Lady’s place but Ana had warned her. These were M’Lady’s spies, sent to befriend her and to spy on her. So the nameless priestesses came and went, bringing fresh clothes and water to wash up.

At first the food they brought was plentiful and the nameless priestesses sat and ate with her, trying to talk about her father, her life, encouraging her to accept her fate, to become one of them. Sonsee remained silent and as the days passed her food dwindled, finally becoming little more than rations, just meager amounts of bread, cheese, and water. The bones of her ribs showed more and more. Her stomach shrank into her pelvis and she had little energy—barely enough to live, she thought.  Nobody stayed to talk with her anymore and she thought she saw pity in their eyes. Even Ana had said it was too dangerous, she must not be caught in the attic.

One day, angry at her circumstances, Sonsee grabbed the priestess sent to see to her. Shaking her, Sonsee lashed out, “Do you not know who I am? My father is Lord of this Land. He will come for me and when he does I shall tell him about you and all the others unless you help me get out of here.”

“Sonsee-array is dead,” the young woman said, sadness in her eyes. “You are Toko now, the Master Weaver’s apprentice.”

Ana’s apprentice? Nobody had told her that and actually it did not sound so bad. If she could get out of here and work with Ana, well maybe she would find a way to escape.

Sonsee started talking more, asking questions, showing interest in the life of a priestess. As she did, her food rations increased until she was receiving three meals with enough left over to save for later if she wanted.

Finally only one Priestess, Juno, came to her and when Sonsee asked for paper and pens, they were brought. Not knowing what else to do, Sonsee drew, mostly abstract shapes. She asked for paints and they, too, were brought. She enjoyed the work, matching one not-this-not-that color with another. Juno brought pins to hang the paintings and, together, they decorated Sonsee’s room. “I wish I could weave these,” Sonsee said to see if Juno would respond. “Don’t you just love the colors?”

Juno said nothing before excusing herself to get Sonsee’s dinner.

When she returned, she said, “M’Lady has granted you permission to work in the Weaver’s Studio. Be up early. You have been granted an audience with M’Lady before you begin your apprenticeship.”

Sonsee spent most the night awake, anxious, wondering what she should say and how she should behave. Contrite? No. Grateful? No, again. Complaint, that was okay, but not overly so. M’Lady would spot an act, of that Sonsee was sure.

When finally the first light of the morning made it to Sonsee’s window, she heard a knock at her door and the key turn in the lock.

Juno entered with her breakfast, but hurried Sonsee along. She barely had time for the toast and tea before she was handed a robe and escorted to a marble bath. There she was helped to undress. She stepped into the water. It was warm and inviting. It brought back memories of her home, of Nanna, of how she reveled in the warm spring water that fed her own bath. How long has it been? Ninety days. Ninety marks now. Too many. I must get along. I cannot go back to my prison. 

Fragrant oils were added and Sonsee relaxed even more as the Priestesses filed her rough nails and combed out her matted hair. Sonsee had tried as best she could, but dipping her head in a cold basin of water and then finger combing had taken a toll. Even when restrictions were relaxed and the Priestesses had brought shampoo and larger pitchers to rinse her head, some tangles remained. Now they applied oils and gently worked them out.

When finally Sonsee stood and dried herself off, she felt human again. The Priestesses dressed her in a lilac shift and placed the amulet over her neck before bringing her to M”Lady.

“My apologies that I could not see to your needs myself over these last few months, Toko, but I trust my Priestesses kept you well fed and attended to all your needs.  You are looking quite well, I must say, and I hope your time of contemplation has been fruitful.”

Sonsee bit her tongue. She looked into the woman’s eyes and replied, “Yes, M’Lady, I am well.” Now.

“Good. Good. Let me see that amulet of yours. “

Sonsee could not go backwards, she had to move forward and if that meant letting M’Lady see the amulet, so be it. She removed it from her neck and held it out, not wanting to let it go. But M’Lady snatched it from her hands and handed it to the Priestess standing to her left.

The Priestess took it. “I do not believe Iona wove this. Look at how clumsy it is. And these are not Iona’s colors at all. She used pastels, not hard colors such as these.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure. This is the piece of an untutored girl, not of master weaver.”

Sonsee perked up. The voice was familiar. Did she know this other woman? It had been months since she had spoken with Ana, but could it be?

“And what of the shell?” M’Lady asked.

“Oh, Nanna did this, I can tell that much. The colors are hers, and so is the design.” The woman flipped it over. “And see, here is her chop.”

“Maybe it was Iona’s first piece, before she learned her craft. Is that possible.”

“I suppose,” the second woman replied. “Look, you can see it has been unwoven and re-woven again. The twist of the threads are different in this middle section.” She held the piece for M’Lady to see, but did not relinquish it. “And what is more, the joins are different. First, at the bottom, they are interwoven, both colors wrapping around the warp. Then in the re-woven section she wraps the weft around neighboring warps. Nowhere does she wrap the threads around one another as a master might do.”

“Anything else?”

“No, except that color selection is limited. It is the type of piece I would have a beginning student do, not a master.” She handed the amulet back to Sonsee. “May I take Toko to the studio now, M’Lady.”

“Not yet. Toko, where did you get this amulet.”

“Nanna gave it to me. I already told you that,” Sonsee explained.

“Watch how you speak to me, child. You are no longer Sonsee-array. You are Toko, a weaver’s apprentice, but only if you watch your manners.”

Not wanting to make eye contact, Sonsee looked to the floor.

One of the priestesses nudged her shoulder. Finally someone whispered, “You must apologize.”

“Apologies, M’Lady,” was all Sonsee could choke out. She certainly was not sorry for what she had said.

“Good. You are learning. Now, was there anything else with this piece?”

“No, M’Lady.”

“Are you sure, a dark box perhaps.”

“No, M’Lady.  Nanna only gave me this.”

“Did she say where it came from?”

“Only that it had been my mother’s and that it was mine now.” “Sonsee shuffled her feet. Moments passed. Was M’Lady expecting more? “As you said it was clumsily made, but it was the only thing I had of hers, so I kept it.”

“Probably her first piece,” the woman beside M’Lady offered. “Many girls keep their first piece. It would not be unusual.”

“Probably was. Too clumsy to have spells or anything else woven in.” M’Lady turned to Toko. “This is Ana, our Master weaver. She was your mother’s apprentice. Your mother promised as a condition of leaving us, that you would take her place one day. So you are Ana’s apprentice now. A trade, a bargain made long ago. Let’s hope we made a good one. Now, go, all of you.”

 

“So my mother did not make my amulet?” Toko asked as she followed Ana to the weaving studio.

“Hush, there are spies everywhere,” Ana whispered, looking back over her shoulder. They rounded a corner and Toko watched Ana smile at a student just standing there, doing nothing.