Friday, March 27, 2009

Reviews ‘R’ Us, Pt. 2

I got two new weaving books recently which might hint that I really need to get back to the loom sometime soon. The first one I’ll talk about here is “The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory: Over 600 weaves for four-shaft looms” by Anne Dixon and published by Interweave in 2007.


I know Syne Mitchell reviewed this in a past issue of WeaveZine but I have to add my tuppence here. This book has been touted as kind of the modern-era Davison (aka The Green Book) – filled with pattern drafts and photos of the resulting fabric, all for 4-shafts. I’ve seen it referred to as a “beginner’s” book, but I’m not so sure. I held off buying it until I actually looked inside because, of course, I have looms with 8 and 12-shafts, not to mention the fact that I’ve been weaving for some…ummm…30 years. But one glance at all the lovely clear photos of colourful interesting cloth and I was immediately hooked!

This is at its heart a recipe book. It doesn’t really explain weave systems in any detailed way but has basic examples and some variations: optional treadling orders, colour-and-weave effects and the like. Some are arranged as gamps with several threading and treadlings interacting in one piece of cloth. Little inset photos show the back of the cloth and occasional details. The pages are beautifully laid out. What I really like is the breadth of structures included. Double-weave, hand-manipulated techniques like brocade and Brooks bouquet, and crammed and spaced warps are there along with the twills, overshot, lace weaves, crackle, summer & winter etc. Think of a weave, look it up in this book and thread the loom! Just turn the pages if you run out of inspiration.

Speaking of turning pages, have I mentioned that this is a coil-bound book with a covered spine? It lies nice and flat so you don’t have to prop it open when your hands are busy. The cover on the spine keeps it from disappearing into anonymity on the bookshelf. It also has a nice little fold-out flap at the back that explains the drafts and how to interpret them. You can leave it out as you work on another page.

What I don’t like is kind of nit-picky I suppose. This book is not going to help you understand the underlying principles of the different weaves. For that go to Sharon Alderman’s “Mastering Weave Structures” or Madelyn van der Hoogt’s “The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers”. The beginning of the book has a very truncated section of information that either needs a whole lot more detail or to be left out entirely in favour of some other book (notably Deborah Chandler’s “Learning to Weave”) that does it much better. You won’t find anything on yarn sizes, how to wind a warp and get it on the loom, nothing about handling colour changes or two or more shuttles and, although hemstitching is shown, there are no instructions on how to do it. What is included is mostly too vague or incomplete to be really useful. You’ll probably learn a lot about reading a weave draft, though like Syne, I wish they also came on a DVD in WIF’s!

The colours might be either very inspiring or distracting, depending on whether you find them pleasing or just want them to stop interfering with your view of the structure. I like the colourful photos myself, but I have the ability to imagine alternatives which apparently is not universal. The author was very consistent in her choices of yarn: 2/16 cotton for the thin one and the same cotton yarn tripled and gently twisted (plied) for the thicker one. She doesn’t say if she spun them together herself but I don’t think that particular put-up is commercially available. I know why she used it however – it’s softer and heavier than 2/8 but finer than 4/8 (aka 8/4), covers well as pattern weft and comes in lots of colours.

In conclusion, don’t give up any of the other books in your library but add this one for those dull days when your weaving is feeling stale and the muse just isn’t visiting. Of course this book won’t negate the need to actually sample. I won’t even wind a warp without checking things out on the computer in PCW. You have to know what your particular yarn(s) and sett will do and how different that will be from the photo. You have to find out how it will feel as cloth. And then you might want to actually make something. For me, that would be a novel notion. But a number of possibilities are whispering to me.

But back to knitting paper. I’ve been achieving my goal of one repeat per day. Papyrine is slowly getting wider and longer. A little more and I’ll give you another photo-update. And I need to go tease my little plants into bigger pots. Work, work, work. It never ends.

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