Book Review: “Stories from the Matrix,” by Laura Fry

12 July 2023

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Laura Fry is a well-known weaver and weaving teacher who has already written two textbooks about weaving: Magic in the Water and The Intentional Weaver. But, as she writes in one of the essays in her latest book, she has long felt the need to “…open up my brain box and dump out what I know.” And that is what she has done in Stories from the Matrix.

Stories from the Matrix is a book of essays, ostensibly about weaving but really about so much more. Detailed weaving tutorials are sprinkled amongst musings about craft and history and textiles, but the overall tone of the book is conversational. Reading it does indeed feel like we are getting a peek into a Master Weaver’s brain box as she muses at her loom.

The thirty-five essays are arranged in no particular order, adding to that feel of a master weaver musing as she works. While some of the essays are specific to weaving, most of them take a wider view of textile craft and craft in general. Laura is a storyteller by nature and even the most technical essays, while a little bit mind-bending for a novice weaver like me, feel friendly and accessible. She includes stories of her travels, her mentors, and her mistakes as she works to master her craft, and she tells them with humour and flair. Anyone who has ever learned from Laura will recognize her “Laura-isms” and new readers will find them hard to forget.

The true heart of the book, though, lies in Laura’s obvious passion for her craft. Most of the stories she tells revolve around the complexities of craft and her never-ending exploration. She writes of her fascination with the history of textiles, of inspiration found and lost, and of the importance of keeping an open mind, even as an acknowledged master of a craft. Her love of weaving, weavers, and textiles shines through in every word.

And, as generous as Laura is with her knowledge and her thoughts, she goes even further to provide a comprehensive list of her own writings and a bibliography directing readers to the resources she mentions in her stories. The book also features photos of Laura’s weaving to inspire readers even further—and the closing page is a joyous surprise.

While this book is aimed at weavers, members of the wider textile craft community will find a commonality in the stories Laura shares. Textiles crafts overlap and interweave, and Laura is very conscious of those intersections. She writes that she was “pulled into weaving through the orifice of a spinning wheel” and continues to learn about spinning, not to be a better spinner but to be a better weaver. In sharing her knowledge of weaving with crafters who spin, knit, or crochet, Laura helps make us better at our crafts as well.

This is a book that can be consumed whole, read from cover to cover, or nibbled in little morsels, taking the time to savour each essay and contemplate the lessons it holds. I know it is a book I will go back to time and time again to find another way to consider the what-ifs and whys of my own textile work.

Stories from the Matrix: Essays on Weaving and Life is available in both print-to-order and PDF versions on blurb.com.

Copyright © Michelle Boyd except as indicated.

About Michelle Boyd

Michelle Boyd is a Master Spinner, weaver, and writer who lives in Olds, Alberta, located in Treaty 7 Territory, the ancestral lands of the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Michelle learned to spin in 1995 when her local yarn shop closed, and she became obsessed with the art and science of making yarn. She has taught workshops across North America and instructed for the Olds College Master Spinner Program for fifteen years. She is also a frequent contributor to both PLY Magazine and Digits & Threads and is currently completing her first book about spinning.

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