Weaving a story with unruly threads

Many years ago, back in the pre-dawn of the Age of Aquarius, I built a back strap loom and taught myself to weave.  My loom was extremely simple.  I tied one end to a doorknob and the other end to a strap around my back.   By moving closer or further away I affected the tension on the warp threads (not to be confused with warp speed) and I became a part of the loom.  I know you may question that statement, but it is absolutely true.  The weaver is a part of the loom in back strap weaving and without the weaver there is not only no weaving but no way to weave.  Like I said, Age of Aquarius!

The weft is pulled through with a shuttle then pushed into place with a beater bar.  Different colored yarns each have their own shuttle.  The first few inches go nicely as long as you hold the tension even, run the threads through with the same degree of pressure or relaxation and keep track of the different threads.  I made zig zags, and diamond patterns, and interlocking zigzagging diamonds.  I am amazed thinking back what  I was able to do, sitting barefoot on the tile with a belt around my hips and a straight line of warp threads angled up to the doorknob in front of me.  But the further I got into the project the easier it became to lose track of the multicolored threads running back and forth across the warp.

I planned my patterns before I began, but they never turned out exactly how I imagined them before I began.  It’s important to carry the design in your mind as well.  You can’t be constantly looking back at a paper and one misplaced thread can change the pattern from that spot forward or simply add a discordant line across the pattern.

But if I was careful and consistent, moving with the threads, keeping the right amount of tension and relaxation, watching my edges, keeping things straight, and never forgetting where I ultimately wanted to end up I was able to create some beautiful, colorful patterns. 

Don’t get me wrong,  I was not a master weaver.  I was making woven belts or straps between three and six inches wide.  I would have to start all over now if I wanted to graduate to say twelve inch panels that could be stitched together as huipiles or even table runners.  But, even my six inch belts took concentration and the finished product brought me a real sense of accomplishment.

I am not the same person now that I was then, but that person still lives inside the layers of who I am and reminds me sometimes of the lessons I have learned and the lessons I have forgotten. Now I sit in front of a computer and write fiction. I try to make sure that the twists and turns of the story are interesting, colorful even, but as I get deeper into the patterns the threads are harder to control. Characters come and go, the action has to remain consistent, and I don’t want any glaring or discordant lines to interrupt the flow of the story.
At the moment I am writing book three in a trilogy–The Kiko and Maggie Perez Mysteries. Book one, Down the Colorado, was fun to write. It was smooth and came together for me with just the right amount of tension, motion, and color. The characters were new, and I saw what they could do. Book two, Sparrow Hawk, took me into less familiar territory. I had to think about what was possible, and I had to stay consistent with the patterns already laid down. Usually the middle is the hardest part. I thought Book three, Up the Devil’s Highway would be a snap. After all it’s set right here on the border, a place I know and love. But I find that I have to continually look back, check the pattern, look at the twists and turns, and maintain consistency. And I sometimes wander off on tangents about the beautiful and deadly desert we live in. Then I have to go back, untangle the threads that have strayed from the edge and begin again. It surprises me how my characters have a mind of their own. Sometimes my husband reminds me that they aren’t real and we can’t invite them over for dinner. Dang it. It would be such a fun night!
Book three is coming together. I am beginning to see the end. I know what Martin needs to do, and Maggie, and Kiko and Mo. . . I used to end my weavings with fringe. Was that too early 70’s? It’s still best not to tie up all the ends too securely. There has to be room for the imagination.
I told Martin that I wanted to finish Up the Devil’s Highway by the Ides of March–an arbitrary date, but a deadline nonetheless. You can find the series on Kindle. By the time you’ve finished the first two, book three should be available. I hope you read them and enjoy the stories.
I already have new tales weaving their way around my mind.
Karen Hopkins

About Karen Hopkins

Karen Hopkins (1949-) was born in Los Angeles and raised in Martinez, California. At seventeen she moved to Talcahuano, Chile. After completing her university degree she worked in London, England for Pan American Airlines and traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, and India. For twenty-six years Karen taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in a variety of settings including a private school in Panama, the "most remote school in the United States" in Ticaboo, Utah, the Navajo Reservation, and a teacher exchange in Hermosillo, Mexico. Karen and her husband traveled extensively throughout Mexico and Central America, spending many summers in the highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala . Karen currently lives in Southern Arizona, near the Mexican border.
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