Theres a special magic in hand made fabric items. Handmade items in general, yes, but specifically fabric items.
There are two aspects to this. One is the level of relationship between the artist and the recipient. The knitted beanie purchased off Etsy is going to be nowhere near as powerful as the Fair Isle sweater your grandmother made specifically for you.
The other is the level of involvement of the artist. The more involved the artist is in the creation, the more powerful it is. That quilt made from store bought fabric, pieced together and quilted with protection symbols, it will keep you safe. The gloves whose yarn came from sheep you raised, whose dye came from berries picked from plants you tended and nourished, sheared and cleaned and dyed and spun and knitted by your hands, those will save your life.
Textile art majors come to the school knowing the basics of their craft. They can knit a sweater, or sew a dress, or started with those little bracelet looms and now are never found without some sort of weaving project. They come, because they want more. The history of the art, the depth and fullness of it. They come because they want to be fashion designers, or because they want to be conservators at museums. They come, with their portable sewing machines and card tables to stand them on, with their knitting needles and crochet hooks, their looms and embroidery hoops and infinite boxes of fabric, fiber, yarn, threads and notions, pins and sewing needles, measuring tapes and rulers. Their bags are full of pattern books and their rooms are cluttered with their projects.
They’ll go on, those that succeed, to be the top of their fields, whatever they choose to do. They’ll credit their blessings on their time at Elsewhere, the lessons they learned and the influences they found.
Items made at Elsewhere have a special power. While all handmade items absorb some of the emotion and intentions the artist has while creating it, items made at Elsewhere take those feelings and make them magical. This can be a blessing, or a curse. There is a tradition of burning projects that frustrate too much. Every Freshman is shocked and appalled when, at the new moon, all the older textile majors gather together to burn any project that is causing them problems or resulting in negative feelings. They learn, after their first or second frustrating project causes them such discomfort after they make it that they can’t actually use the thing.
The professors prioritize quality over quantity for a reason. New projects are always assigned at the start of the waxing moon, and due before the new moon. They have a special form for projects that have to be redone because they were burned. They will provide the materials and time to make up the projects, but only three times. Some will offer deals for a fourth.
Gifts are a mixed blessing.
That one sophmore that knits six pairs of socks every weekend? She’s avoiding calls from her parents and they’re full of her anxiety. The one person that wore them ended up running like the hunt was after them until they collapsed sobbing in the quad. Now, we accept her gifts, and put them away. They’re be useful for trade with the Folk.
The boy from the equatorial country who weaves those lovely blankets? Only use them in the depths of winter, or you’ll roast. Take the blanket with you if you have to go out in the deep snowy areas for ANY reason. They’ll keep you warm and dry. It may look as light as your sheets, but he started making them in his first winter here, when he thought he’d freeze to death for sure. Now he jokes that they’re a brilliant ice breaker.
The person that ignored the proverbial ‘boyfriend curse,’ made xir boyfriend a sweater, then begged him to wear it. Nobody knows exactly what happened to him, but xe is so much happier now, since he disappeared.
There are legacy students here, whose tools came down from their parents and grandparents, you’ll know them by their iron needles and hooks, and the runes carved in their old looking looms and hoops. The items they make are often high quality, even as freshmen, and they know the ways of trading. We’ve all learned to look for them when having an issue with a project, they have a way of getting to the heart of it and guiding us through. Trades with them will be dear, but what you get will be worth it.
The senior project is a group affair. Every senior contributes something they’ve made. The fabric is made by students talented with the loom, the lace by the best crocheter in the class. Every piece is made by students, from the earliest bud of cotton or flax, the hand raised lambs, goats, rabbits or alpacas, to the final glass bead. Each year the product is different, but the ritual is the same. At the final full moon before graduation, the product is displayed on the quad, surrounded with flowers and hand made accessories. Nobody knows what happens to it after that. It disappears before dawn, and the artists go out in the world to make their fortunes. Only once has the project met the light of the morning sun, and that class never saw any success.