From Sheep to Shawl

After mastering the arts of knitting and spinning, EMS Professor Stevie Rocco learned how to weave.

weaving looms courtesy

rocco working at her loom courtesy RoccoStevie Rocco, assistant teaching professor in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is a weaver. She makes table runners, shawls, scarves, dish towels—“a hundred times more sturdy than store-bought ones,” she says—on an 18th century barn frame, one of two looms she owns and on which she’s currently making her first carpet. “I’m useful post-apocalypse, and I’m useful after the internet,” she says jokingly, “because I can turn sheep into clothing.”

Rocco ’90, ’07 MEd Edu came to weaving via knitting, which she picked up as a hobby in 2009. Knitting piqued her interest in spinning: “I was fascinated watching people make wool into yarn, and good yarn is really expensive.” In 2017, she came across a posting for a vintage eight-harness, 40-inch Gilmore X-frame loom that a resident of Foxdale Village in State College was looking to sell. “It was in excellent shape and so attractively priced that I was like, well, I guess I’ll learn how to weave,” she says. Two of her colleagues helped Rocco dismantle the loom, load it into a truck, and drive it over to her house. She spent a weekend putting it back together, watched some YouTube instructional videos, and then “basically threw a bunch of yarn on the loom to see what would happen.”

That first attempt resulted in a heavy shawl. She would eventually take classes—one of the foremost weaving instructors in the country is based in York, Pa.—which helped her better understand her loom and move on to more complicated projects using different types of thread. Rocco also bought herself another loom that’s slightly smaller and more modern than the one she bought at Foxdale.

“With weaving, the setup is the most time-consuming part of the process,” Rocco says. “You have to make sure you’ve dressed the loom properly before you start and check you haven’t made any threading errors. That can take hours—longer than the actual weaving part—but I find it meditative, and I enjoy it.”