Category Archives: students


Lonnie with his hounds tooth scarf close
Lonnie Edelen 2012

Recently the newsletter of SAORI Canada-US Association has come out. I submitted the story of Lonnie Edelen who is my former student. He was an intelligent teenager who used to have day dreams often. I mean during a class he often started a conversation about something which made me surprise. The topics must have been about animals, doctor who, universe and so on. He kindly explained what he was talking about so I could catch up what he was thinking. He eventually started sharing his experience at school and at home. One of the sweet memories that I have with him is that his conversation with two classmates, Felix and Marcel. They would not have met each other in this world except a SAORI studio because they all have very different back grounds and living styles. However, they cared each other and got involved the conversation about sewing. Lonnie has made a bow tie which he wore at the graduation, I believe. So I was very happy that he agreed to write about his SAORI story for the newsletter.  Here it is.


SAORI Story By Lonnie Edelen (August 2014)

Lonnie weaving
Lonnie weaving Chenille 2012

My name is Lonnie Edelen, and I am practitioner of SAORI weaving. My SAORI voyage started in Worcester at an art fair called “Start on the Street”. Walking with my family I saw a tent, and in this tent I saw an Asian woman (who I later learn is Japanese and is named, please let me spell this right, Mihoko Wakabayashi). In the front of the tent was a table piled high with woven goods. In the back of the tent were two looms that she was letting kids test out. I, being always curious, asked if I could try. She said yes. I sat down, and she showed me the basics. About forty-five minutes later my family realized this is one spot I was not likely to move from any time soon. I stayed there for the rest of the day. Sometimes a line would form behind me, and then Mihoko would politely ask me to get up and let other kids have a turn. I would get up and go stand in one of the back corners of the tent and wait.  I waited for the line to cycle through and the tent to clear out. Then I would sit back down and start again.  At the end of the day I went home and looking back found that I really enjoyed myself.

A few weeks later, after school one day I asked my mom if she could sign me up for weaving lessons at the SAORI Worcester Weaving Studio. She called and a guy picked up. (I later learn that the guy’s name was Nat.)

Guy: Hello.

Mom: Yes this is Molly Edelen I was wondering if I could sign my son up for the beginners weaving course?

Guy: Well, are you sure? You could bring him in one day to see if this is something he’d like to do.

Mom: Well, he was with Mihoko all day at Start on the Street.

Guy: Oh! Your Lonnie’s mom! Sure we can get him signed up.

With his first scarf 2011
With his first scarf 2011

I began on my SAORI journey the next week, not realizing that it would last far longer than the six weeks of the beginners’ lessons. I was one of those people, who because of a lack of confidence felt this insistent, and illogical need to win or get things right, but when I sat down to weave the need went away and has not come back. I think the reason that I don’t feel a need to win in SAORI is because there is no way to win, the end result is not the objective. It is my belief that the real goal of SAORI lies in the process. I feel it is the nature of the SAORI style to create an atmosphere that encourages a free flowing state of mind. I have now gained enough self confidence to realize that the insistent, and illogical need to win or be right only diminishes my existence.

I not only went back for the next course, but I insisted on a project that Mihoko warned me would take a really long time to complete and she was concerned that I might get bored before I had completed it. Well, I didn’t get bored and I made a full length coat that I still wear. What is great about weaving is that it is a meditative activity and after doing it for a while I am able to get in to a rhythm and it’s like I don’t even notice time going by on progress being made until I stop for a break.

Another of the biggest reasons I won’t ever get bored with weaving is the seemingly endless possibilities, of course these possibilities can make it hard to decide what to do next. Then again, I am convinced that if I keep doing this for the rest of my life I’ll never stop learning new techniques. It is for this reason more then any other that I’ll never get tired of SAORI weaving.

Lonnie with his coat from side
Lonnie with his coat 2012

I’ve made many and varied items in my time using the SAORI style of weaving. Among the things I’ve made are: scarves, shawls, table runners, place mats, napkins, purses, card holders, mobius scarves, and wall hangings. Of all those I enjoy making the wall hangings the most. I’ve also used a great variety of yarns in my work including: cotton, linen, hemp, nettle, wool, mohair, chenille, bamboo, and silk. I do my best to avoid using synthetic fibers.  Personally I think the natural ones feel much nicer to weave with, and they will eventually break down and nourish the soil which will then feed the plants and animals from which natural fibers come. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand will be filling our landfills forever.

Four years after beginning my SAORI weaving journey, in my senior year in high school, I was thinking that I’d like to take a break from formal education. I also knew people  were beginning to think of graduation gifts and I wanted to avoid getting a bunch of nicknacks, or worse THE PEN!  Knowing that my family would soon be moving to rural WV where there would not be a studio to go to  keep weaving, I asked if everybody could pool their resources and get me a SAORI loom so that I could keep weaving. I talked with Mihoko and my family about starting a weaving business and everyone was really supportive.

I am currently living with my family on 7 acres in the backwoods of Hardy County, West Virginia. My weaving business, called Backwoods Weaving is just over one year old and growing. I am in a juried cooperative called Lost River Artisans Cooperative and I have items on consignment at both their outlet and the Lost River Trading Post, in Wardensville, WV. At the trading post I do demonstrations at least once a month. I have experimented with styles and ideas, yet I keep going back to the basics of SAORI, so I am working to become a registered SAORI weaving studio.  I also have had many inquiries about teaching others to weave so I am applying to Akiko Jo for this privilege. I sometimes dream of having a van and setting up a traveling SAORI studio, a van with several looms and lots of yarns, so that I can share the joy of this type of weaving throughout rural WV.

I am entering my sixth year of weaving, and I always tell people that I am never bored and though I’ve been out of school for over a year, I haven’t worked a day yet. Weaving on my SAORI loom knowing that “I am not a machine,” remembering that Sa comes from the word Sai and means that everything has its own dignity, and ori means weaving, I feel that all is as it should be. And never have I gotten tired of telling this story when asked, “So how did you get started doing this?”


You can reach Lonnie Edelen at

What you can do in the Basic Course

Our Basic Course is 6 2hour classes. Most people take one class in a week and finish the basic course in 6 weeks. Some come intensively like taking few classes in a week so they can complete the course in a couple of weeks. Every courses of my studio doesn’t have a starting date. People can sign up and start their class any time all year around. I usually suggest people to come once in a week at least specially at the beginning of learning. Otherwise they won’t remember what they learned at the last class.

People make a scarf size piece (8 inches wide & 6 feet long) in the basic course unless they have a specific work in their mind. I teach from scratch even for 6-years-old or 78-years-old. The students learn how to wind and set up their own warp thread, how to weave, techniques and tricks, and how to tie the fringes to finish the piece. Some weave so quickly. Some take a long time to choose color they use. Some weave very carefully. Some just go to town from the start.

In this summer I had 2 young men who took the basic course. This time was a second time for both of them to take the 6 class course. So they had a project in their mind, a bag. It’s amazing to me how well the young brain works. Also, I was impressed by their powerful concentration as well. They were not taking the classes together although they were in a same class once in  Saturday morning.

Jacob with the fabric which is for his younger sister.
Jacob with the fabric which is for his younger sister.

Class 1: They wound warp and started sleying into a reed.

Class 2: They finished sleying and threading to the harness. They completed setting up the warp on a loom.

Class 3: They wove.

Class 4: They finished weaving. They brought the fabric home and washed.


Class 5:  They brought the fabric back to the studio. They learned how to use a sewing machine. They sewed and cut the fabric, applied interfacing, and started putting things together.

Arthur sewing
Arthur is sewing on a machine.

Class 6: They made handles/a strap and putting all together to complete a bag.


Arthur finished his bag for music class.
Arthur finished his bag for music class.
Jacob is pausing for the picture shot with his creation.
Jacob is pausing for the picture shot with his creation.

I have been developing patterns that people can sew easily over years. I learned so much from teaching. Both Arthur and Jacob enjoyed learning how to use a sewing machine. They were so careful to make one step a time. I am so proud of them. Looking at their satisfied faces, I thought I should make a textile camp for kids (and adults ) in near future. This kind of experience gives any one so much pleasure and understanding how things are made. And they can enjoy the finished work in daily life.


Highlights from last week

I have been working for many different things in this past weeks. One of them is leading a Japanese dance team for Asian Festival in Worcester. (It’s the 10th anniversary!) We will dance “Nanchu Soran Bushi” which is a fisher men’s dance and has been great exercise for me. Although I love this dance so much, I will be so glad to finish it tomorrow!  Then I will leave to Japan on July 1st. Some people asked me if I blog the tour. I know it might be hard to do it however, I will try. It would be good to do it instead of reporting the whole tour later which would be another big job.

But before I go to Japan, let me introduce some of the great pieces woven by our long term students.

Beth with her tapestryBeth has been coming more than 5years on and off. She doesn’t drive so she takes 2 buses to get here. Because of her migraine problem she can not show up often. So her pace to make things is slow. However, finally she finished her tapestry which she has been working on for more than a year (or two)! Her meticulous work is hard to see from this picture. She weave each panels for a while and connect a bit with next each other here or there. She even put shell beads at the bottom. Her persistent effort is supported by her great imagination, I think.







David with his long pieceDavid has a short time memory problem and he doesn’t remember what he has been working on next time he comes to the studio. But it doesn’t matter for SAORI.  He picks up the patterns or colors he used before and starts from there. I often give him some challenges these days since he made so many pieces in the past 5 years. This time he used more colors for warp.

Even though he doesn’t remember what he was doing before, his muscle memory makes his skill improved. It’s been a great journey to work with him. At first he could not keep crosses at all. This time he did a terrific job and there was no need to re-thread warp.

I am going to make a clothing out of this piece since sewing is too stressful for him although he has sewn many bags and clothing before. Let’s see what leads us next.






Frank with his shawlFrank is the one of senior students who has been a studio member for more than 6 years. I leave some classes for him to take care of while I am in Japan. He has done some 4 harness weaving at home after leaning SAORI. He has a lot of patience and great sense of colors.

It took 2 months for him to complete this project .(He comes twice in a week!) He got an idea to make boxes while he looked at Japanese SAORI books. Then, of course he interpreted it with his own creativity. This is done with 3 color interlocking which he loves to do. I admire how he didn’t make the colors in order. Also, the sizes of the boxes are all different. I am so proud of him.





I hope you try something new this summer. It should be very different from what you usually do. THINK, LIVE and LOVE  OUTSIDE OF THE BOX!!





Elementary School Students’ Work

Betty is an art teacher of an elementary school near Boston. She has been our studio member for a while.  A couple of years ago she got a grant to buy a Piccolo loom for her school. She love weaving passionately but one loom can  no do much so she uses paper and wood to make individual frame looms for her students. One day she brought her students’ work to the studio to show us great ideas. She did a lot of preparation and finishing up for them in order to have a good work for the school art show.

This is her sample guy. She put buttons for eyes and a mouth, sew felt pieces for arms and legs, and added a pipe cleaner and beads for hair.

005betty's sample guy











Here are her students’ work. They are so cute.003







She made a wooden block loom like this.


Warp is cotton. While a student weave on a SAORI loom, others can weave their own loom at table.







These are tiny pocketbook. They can be treasure cases. She said they are “amulet bags’, Egyptian treasure cases.








Here is a art work on a cardboard frame loom. First students painted few different sizes cardboard pieces and glue them together. Then some of them set up warp vertical while others set up free form.


Some woven and some didn’t. They added their own creativity to the work.

006 (2)









There are so many way to use woven fabric incorporated into art work. These ideas gives me idea to enjoy weaving in various ways. Hope you can use these ideas for your classes, too!


008 (2)

Highlights from Past 2 weeks

Lonnie has been a studio member for at least 3 years. He is a man who does if he decides to do. He had completed a coat woven with rayon chenille last year. Of course he sewn it. Last week he finished a bow tie. I think he is going to wear it for a prom. I would love to see him on a shirt and suites. It would be fabulous. I don’t know anyone else who can tie a regular bow tie like he does (not ones which a bow is sewn.).

Lonnie with a bowtie









Frank made his first mobius scarf. He mixed many different fibers. He has a large family and the item like this usually goes to a stash for his holiday gift. I hope a grand daughter and a daughter won’t fight over it. When he finished weaving, we ended up to take apart of the breast beam since it was around it. I was so glad that he used a SAORI 60 loom which we were able to take the beam off. On SX60 we could not. (This is a warning to you!)

Frank with a mobius scarf











Annie, my intern made a 3/4 circle skirt. She is a sewer and she was curious about how the regular pattern works for SAORI fabric.  To make this circle, she wove a lot of fabric. She said that the fabric was too heavy so she needed to put the suspenders. She is wearing it many occasions.

Annie with circle skirt (1)










Kicki from Sweden spent a whole week to take my classes intensively. She is a traditional weaving teacher in Sweden. She got a grant to come to US to study new approach which might attract younger generations to her classes. Even though she is a traditional weaver, she definitely has a open spirit to understand SAORI way.

Kicki with her first tapetry












Maggie from Springfield, MA  had spent full 4 days in a week for training at the studio to complete Advanced Basic Course. She has been weaving a 4 harness loom and a rigid heddle loom. She fell in love with SAORI and got a SAORI loom. I believe this was her first time to make wearable item from woven fabric. She just needs to hem the edges to finish. I hope she wears this for our SAORI kai, on April 27th.

Maggie with her shawl almost done











It’s impossible to capture everything happened at the studio to report on this blog. However, I am trying it because these things are so inspiring to others. And I believe that people get the fundamental SAORI philosophy from it.





Mini SAORI kai, Part2

This is Kathleen who came from Cape Cod. She is one of SAORI teachers at Falmouth Art Center. She showed us many wonderful pieces she wove. And on this day she worked on this piece. At first she was not sure how the sewing would be. I thought since she had been a great sewer(traditional way) it was difficult  for her to work with such a loose fabric. However, she was putting 4 panels together and wondered if she should create a tunic or……

a shawl??? By now she must have finished the piece at home and hang it in the show. The exhibition “Textile” will be up by the end of February. I will post the time and place soon.







Annie, our new intern has worked on her very first SAORI garment. She was so excited!





And here is Pam again with her new dress. She doesn’t stop weaving and sewing.Betty next to Pam is currently weaving materials to make  some kind of garment. We were so inspired on the day.

I was busy taking pictures and helping them. What a day! At the end I was so happy because this level of learning experiences were what I really wanted people  to have at my studio.










Mini SAORI kai, Part1

Last Saturday was a busy day. It was like mini SAORI kai. (SAORI gathering) because there were many people did “show and tell”.

Here are Abbey and her older son Terry who were wearing beautiful garments. The fabric was woven by Abbey’s younger son James. Abbey is a very creative Mom to make every fabric that James wove  into all kinds of different clothing. She even made a small poncho (cape?) for herself and coordinated with same colorway’s skirt and shirt.








This is James, the weaver in the family. He has been weaving for more than 9 months now. He has been setting up his own warp with some help. What he impressed us most  in classes is his expression of love to his mom and his brother. He is such a sweet guy.









This is Leslie who came from Philadelphia to take intensive Advanced Basic Course. This is one of several pieces she worked in the week. She set up the warp in interlocking which was very confusing. She wove with very thick treasures (thrums and fleece) and experimented with colors.








To be continued……


Today I went to see the Fountain Street Fine Art  gallery exhibition “COTTON” in Framingham, MA. My former student Stacey Piwinski has her art work in the show. She is an art teacher at public school and at same time she has been working on her MFA.

She combines her handwoven fabric with paintings. When I saw her work a couple of years ago at her studio, her work was simpler. She put few banners from top to down leaving some spaces between and painted in the space. She painted lines just like warp and weft threads. I could not tell which part was woven fabric and which part was painting from distance. You can see her work here.

In this show she put shorter woven pieces including small pieces ( I thought) at random and painted even over the woven pieces. Some pained lines looked like warp and weft and some parts looked like tight woven fabric because there were dots.  She added some strings or a sort of yarn and created 3 dimensional forms at some area. It’s a colorful textured painting.

Please see her work clicking here. ( I am sorry I didn’t take a photo of her work. And I don’t know how to copy the image from the web article.)

I saw those woven fabrics in the painting in totally different way. I don’t know how to describe but the woven fabric didn’t look like fiber. She wrote at her Artist’s statement “I weave like painting and I paint like weaving.”

Next time when I weave I would like to keep that image in my mind to see how the result comes out. She most recently got 1st prize in the 8th Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition of Boston University, titled “Colorful Textures: Synaethesia in Art.” You can see her with her work here.

Thank you, Stacey for your great inspiration!


SAORI mittens

Pam is currently one of  active weavers at the studio. Almost every week when she comes to a class, she brings her work she creates at home the week. The last time she brought 2 pillows, 4 pairs of mittens and a coat.

She is a great knitter and she likes to work with wool. I know she has many left over yarn from knitting projects which are perfect for SAORI projects. She used commercial material for the backing of these pillows and made original tassels. She told that people visited her living room were immediately drawn to them.  Naturally!





And here are mittens! It’s so clever that she put matching buttons on the cuffs for each pair. They reminded me of Soul mates socks which don’t match the patterns. These are even better! They are super warm because there are linings which are the same felt materials she used for cuffs and palm sides. We all excited about these mittens. Here in Massachusetts we do need  great gears like them. And they don’t require huge fabrics. So I decided to host a workshop to make them having Pam as an instructor before this winter is over. The details will be posted soon at the event page. I can’t wait to make them.





Here is Pam with her margaret coat. She added pockets and made collars with some folds with buttons. Having Pam in the studio stirs up everyone’s inspiration.














Alana’s work

Our Studio Exhibition looks just fantastic. When I had a store front studio on Highland Street (there are several good restaurants, a popular coffee shop, a pizza place, a wine store and few other stores which have art work on the street in walking distance.) I used to display the gallery space with new items all the time. Since I moved to this new location because the studio was not a store I have not organized any exhibitions for 3 years. (Besides the out side installation in 2010.). So it’s time to show many wonderful pieces in public that my students have been making.

One highlight of this show is my intern Alana’s work. She has been with me since the end of May this year. Her very creative mind has inspired us all. Here are some of her work.


Her latest project is a rug for her brother. She set about 10 ends warp and woven with scrap yarn from our “treasure basket” to make a long narrow strip.

strip for the rug

The weft threads were basically thrum, left-overs after trimming fabric edges in the past. Then she set up 60cm wide black warp using 3 dents reed to weave the woven strip collaborating with regular yarn weft. How interesting the rug came out!  What a creative idea she got! I am so impressed by her idea and her persistence to realize it. I will miss her very much. Hope she pursue her enthusiasm in art anywhere she goes.

Rug on a loom


Rug in complete