Weavers on the WEB
THL Cassandra of Glastonbury
mka Alexis Abarria
The World Wide Web has made more information available to more people than ever before. Along with accurate and informative articles and reputable merchants, there is a proliferation of misinformation and vanity sites. Keeping in mind the difference between fact and opinion, the Web is both a great time saver and great time waster.
Your adventure starts with a search. There are several good overall search engines available along with some specialized ones. My favorite is www.google.com. In addition to searching web sites, it will look for pictures and references in newsgroups. If your search yields too many hits, consider adding in a word to tighten it up. For example if 'linen yarn' nets you 82,400 hits, try 'handspun linen yarn' with 1,130 hits, or 'handspun linen yarn retail' at 136 hits. Your search should have between two and five words. If you are looking for a phrase or the name of a business, enclose it in quotation marks.
Yahoo offers newsgroups on a wide variety of topics. Newsgroups are extremely easy to set up. I established one for Woodland Weavers and Spinners Guild for a fiber study group in a half hour. Some groups are worth joining just to be able to search their archives. The advantage to directly searching archives is that if a topic has been discussed, you can glean the information you want instantly.
Many businesses maintain a web storefront. Suppliers to fiber addicts are no exception. Some will offer catalogs of paper, but with rising printing and postage costs, a virtual store is a cost saver. You can also find articles about how to use some of their products. Since they want you to succeed in your projects, retail sites are sometimes willing to publish short how-to articles. If you are not comfortable giving out credit card information on line, look for a phone number. There are also on-line auction sites that are a good source for the obscure finds. Like always, buyer beware.
The content of non-business sites vary widely depending on who wrote them and who is offering the space. While you can find useful information on a vanity site, a site maintained by a university has a lot more credibility. Also professional sites tend to be easier to navigate. Vanity sites contain anything from pictures of Sue Weaver's latest felted cat hair sculpture; to her article on her experiences felting cat hair; to a carefully researched paper tracing the felting of cat hair from ancient times up to the present.
Unlike magazines or journals where there is an editor to insure the quality of the article or at least the grammar, the Web is not so demanding. Articles will vary widely in quality. Serious authors would prefer to sell you their latest book or have you attend their workshops. However, the author or publisher may make a chapter available on-line. Before taking any article too seriously, do a "reality" check. Does the article make sense? Does it contradict established fact without a good explanation? What sources did the author draw upon? Look for obvious biases. Experience does count. Always check drafts and recipes for errors before starting a project.
Along with looking at the article itself, look at the author. What qualifications does the author possess to make them a creditable source? Sue Weaver does not have the same amount of credibility as Dr. Susan Weaver, PhD, Historical Textiles. However, if she states in an introductory section her 30 years of experience in felting cat hair, that she has taught at fiber conferences or fairs, and her placing in juried exhibits, she may be a good source.
A reliable article will provide a bibliography. The bibliography provides an overview of where the author got his/her information from and gives you a shopping list of potential resources. These range from the esoteric to the basic. Many Guild libraries lend out their books to members, if not try interlibrary loan. An annotated bibliography gives a brief synopsis of the book.