The weaver sews…

The latest Weaving Today popped into my inbox today, and I pulled it up on my cell phone to give a quick once over before deleting.  Weaving Today is the online newsletter for Interweave Press’ Handwoven magazine, I might add that I was the features editor for Handwoven magazine for more than six years.  I no longer have any affiliation with them, and since most of the editorial staff has changed hands, I really don’t even know Anita Osterhaug, the current editor, so imagine my surprise when the opening paragraph contained my name, or actually a link to “Daryl Lancaster’s Blog”.

Weaving Today is largely a sales mechanism for Interweave Press books and downloads, and since that’s mostly the direction that the entire publishing world is headed, I keep one eye out, when I have the chance.  Obviously I read the entire article wondering why I got a plug.

Turns out, Marilyn Murphy a regular contributor, editor and former publisher of Handwoven Magazine, has a new book, Woven to Wear: 17 Thoughtful Designs.  And Interweave Press is promoting it.  Most books that have been written on the subject of handwoven clothing, really are about squares and rectangles, and minimal cutting, including the first book I owned on Handwoven Clothing, that memorable tome, “Cut my Cote” by Dorothy Burnam. The first edition of the book was 1973, and I learned to weave in 1974.  Those were the early years of contemporary handwoven clothing.

Marilyn explains that the focus of her book is “designing unstructured, no-cut, or minimal cut clothing”.  Which is why I kept going back to the opening paragraph wondering why my blog was referenced.  The exact wording of the reference for my blog was, “I recommend reading Daryl Lancaster’s blog for a whole new appreciation of simple garment shapes.”  

I wondered what specific post they were referencing since I would never describe my work as simple garment shapes, so decided to click on the link and was really surprised when my old column for Weavezine popped up.  Back in 2010, prior to the Albuquerque Convergence, I started a column for the now defunct online weaving magazine called Weavezine, which is still archived.  I was asked to do a regular feature on sewing with handwoven fabric, and really enjoyed the platform, writing a column online is sort of like this blog.  It doesn’t matter how many words or photos I use, when I run out of things to say, I stop. 🙂  I published three columns I believe, and then the magazine folded.  Syne Mitchell went on to other venues, but has graciously kept the Weavezine archives available.  And they are a tremendous resource.

I had completely forgotten about my posts there, and the actual blog reference was for the opening column which talked about the early days of contemporary handwoven clothing, beginning with the bog jacket.  I’ve only ever made one Bog Jacket in my life, it just isn’t my thing.  As a matter of fact, the January/February 2002 issue of Handwoven Magazine features an intro I wrote for a column by Marilyn Murphy called “Revisiting the Bog Jacket and other Reminiscences”.  For those who aren’t familiar with the bog jacket, to quote myself in my Weavezine column, “…the infamous bog jacket is based on a shape of garment made from rectangles, found preserved in a bog dating from the Bronze Age.  Nothing much has changed in the relationship between the rectangle and the female body since the Bronze Age. And by that I mean, there is no relationship…”

I am frequently asked the question, who makes patterns that work for handwoven fabric?  I get asked this question a lot.  My answer usually surprises the person asking, because really, all patterns work for handwoven fabric.  Really.  Assuming the pattern is suitable for the hand and weight of the particular handwoven fabric, any pattern will work.  The challenge is to find patterns that flatter the wearer.   That’s why I titled the first of my Weavezine columns, “Know Thyself”.  Getting a pattern to fit is really the challenge, and I give multiple classes all around the country on that subject, in fact most of the students in my up coming Sieve’rs class are  returning, because I help them get to the next level of sewing, but more importantly I get the garments to really fit them.  Fit is everything.

Once the pattern is selected, it is just a matter of re-engineering the pattern for handwoven fabric.  There are a number of tips and tricks, and in fact actual classes I teach on this subject.  I know it well.  I made my first handwoven garment in 1975.  I haven’t looked back.

So back to the book from Marilyn Murphy.  I have not seen the book, but the preview shows a half dozen garments that are artfully draped shawls, and scarves and a couple of minimally cut and sewn shapes.  I’m assuming that these are projects and that the reader can make all these garments from directions in the book.

Which leads me to a discussion on Recipe weaving.  I’m all for it.  Really.  Let me explain…

I’m an OK knitter.  I’ve knitted for years, but not with the passion I reserve for weaving and garment construction.  I know how to knit, and do a few stitches, and follow directions.  I’m good at following directions.  When a well meaning friend jumps in and tells me to do something like bind off for a shoulder in a different way than is written I sort of scramble to rewrite the directions because knitting isn’t instinctive for me.  I’m also an OK cook.  I’ve learned through the years not to burn things, unless I get distracted, and I can follow directions.  I can read a recipe.  That’s comfortable for me.  I don’t want to waste pricey food items, or yarn for that matter on something I’m just experimenting with.  I’m not secure in my knitting abilities or my cooking abilities enough to just wing it.  I’m probably better than I give myself credit for, but there is a comfort in looking at a five star recipe online and knowing that if I follow the directions I have a good chance of having it turn out the way it looks in the picture.  There is something to be said for that.

My own adventure with garment construction dates back almost 50 years.  There is nothing I can’t do or probably haven’t tried.  I still enjoy following patterns, I make up my own when necessary, but there is something about the adventure of re-engineering someone else’s basic design and working it for my body and my fabric.  It is as effortless as sleeping for me.  And the loom feels like that as well.  I weave cloth.  I don’t know what I’m going to make, I just like to weave cloth.  Really.  I never have a plan.  With the exception of scarves and dishtowels, something I’m only coming back to in recent years, I’ve been putting cloth on the loom since the late 70’s and am completely capable of figuring out what to make from what’s in front of me.

Most people don’t have that level of experience or confidence in weaving and especially in garment construction.  I’ve made a career teaching the happy marriage of those two skills.  I don’t expect new weavers or even somewhat skilled weavers, to just dive in and make cloth and then start hacking it up.  Just like I Googled “Leftover Corn on the Cob” to figure out what to do with five ears of corn left from last Sunday’s BBQ.  I Googled “Tabbouleh” to find a good recipe for the batch I made early in the week.  I Googled “Banana Bread” to find an easy recipe to use the very ripe bananas sitting in the basket on my counter.  I went to Ravelry in search of new patterns for sweaters when I needed a new project.  So certainly there is a place for helping the weaver new to garments, in learning how to make something pretty and comfortable for the body.  I think that every weaver, no matter their specialty, enjoys wearing something that comes from their hands, even it if is a möbius scarf.  It was actually as much fun looking at what everyone was wearing while waiting in line at the ANWG fashion show as it was actually looking at the fashion show.

I know there are a lot of weavers out there who are sad to see Handwoven Magazine become a project oriented collection of things to make, that much of the content and features like the ones I use to write are gone.  But this is reality in publishing, that projects are vendor driven which is directly proportionate to advertising dollars, and that there are gleefully plenty of new weavers out there who want it all as fast as they can get it, but need it spelled out in step by step lessons.  And that’s OK.  I still use recipes to cook and knit, but it doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of either of those tasks.

So though not a recommendation of Marilyn’s book, since I haven’t actually seen it or reviewed it, I have no problem lending my name to a discussion of handwoven clothing, even if it is mostly simple shapes.  We are all in this together.  And I really appreciate the reminder of my initial blog posts for Weavezine, I had fun re-reading them, and am posting the links here.

The Weaver Sews: Know Thyself

The Weaver Sews: What to Weave Part 1

The Weaver Sews: What to Weave Part 2


I’m sad the column didn’t continue, but I put more effort into this blog, I’ve been writing it since December 2008.  I’ve also put a lot of energy into teaching and traveling and more recently online classes through  The difficulty with live classes is finding a time that works for enough people across the globe, and dealing with less than ideal computer speeds, and speaker/microphone issues.  I thought that rather than offer my classes live, I could pre-record them and offer them without having to sign up for a specific time.  Sort of “view at your leisure…”  I’ve pre-recorded some 8 different classes for, and they are as I write putting the final touches on making them available.  I’m excited about this avenue, it means I don’t have to leave my studio and get on a plane.  So when I do, it is to spend a length of more in depth time with a group of students really helping them achieve their goals.

As soon as the links become available I’ll have a post up, you can be sure, but in the meantime, enjoy the Weavezine blogs I wrote back in 2010, and maybe check out Marilyn Murphy’s book!  I’m heading out in search of fireworks…

Stay tuned…

Ed. Sign up now for the pre-recorded class “Sewing with Handwoven Cloth” at  Ignore the time and date, sign up and you will be sent the link to view at your leisure as many times as you want within  a three month time period. Click here.


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July 3, 2013 8:57 pm

OK, i’m going to be the ‘grinch’ but i really dislike all the square/rectangular pieces shown in the preview of that book! i’m going to stop right there………like your mother said, if you can’t say etc
i have woven crazy fabric and after washing it i got right in there with scissors and had my way with it. maybe i’m not ‘smart’ enough to be afraid to cut. thank you for posting those 3 articles.
way to go……………

July 3, 2013 9:09 pm

I was so glad to see your response to the Weaving Today blog. I was so pleased to see your name in there, because of the workshops I’ve done with you, you are truly a sewer of handwovens. I haven’t had an opportunity to see the book, but if the designs in the blog post are indicative of the projects, I think my abilities are beyond those. I so enjoy seeing what you’re creating.

Nancy Weber
Nancy Weber
July 3, 2013 9:27 pm

I was excited to see your name in the first paragraph talking about the book and really looked at the shapes, etc., and I’m going to agree with Susan, the promo photos have encouraged me to not even consider spending money on the book — all of the shapes seem very dated! After taking a couple of classes with you, I have a better understanding of what can be done with handwoven fabrics. Get real people, handwoven fabrics is still fabric to be cut and made into beautiful garments! It’s not so special that every inch has to be shown… Read more »

Cheryl Reed
July 3, 2013 9:32 pm

As a student in your ANWG Jacket class, I read that Weaving Today entry and asked my computer screen, “What?! Daryl and the Bog Jacket? Thanks for putting it all into perspective.

July 3, 2013 10:12 pm

I saw the email this morning as well and feel the same way about the outfits. Very dated and not my style. I would hate to waste good handwoven fabric on what appears to be frumpy clothing. They are probably better than they look in the pictures. I also use recipes for food, knitting and weaving but I tweak them always. I’ve taken several classes from you and like your wonderful knowledge on making things from handwovens.

Sheila Carey
Sheila Carey
July 3, 2013 10:59 pm

I agree with all of the above! I didn’t click on the link, thinking that I had seen your blog recently, and had forgotten about the WeaveZine articles. Thanks for the reminder. I missed ANWG this year – classes on Weavolution sound interesting!

July 3, 2013 11:35 pm

I have read all the links you put here and just before reading any of this I had looked at the preview for the book so I was curious to what would be said. I agree with Susan and Joan. I do not fear using scissors on my own fabric and I love to sew. I LOVED your class on the Fashion Show Know How at the ANWG conference (I think that was the title), I learned a LOT. Now reading how you make the yardage without a specific end project has me feeling more free to weave than ever!… Read more »

July 4, 2013 8:26 am

So glad to know you, so glad to have you as my teacher and my friend, so happy to have had my sewing and weaving vistas widened by exposure to your talent and your mentoring. I could never be happy with loom shaped clothing, and why should we be? Thanks a million, Daryl. Thanks for everything.

Looking forward to Sievers!

July 4, 2013 8:42 am

You mean Issey Miyake isn’t all squares, rectangles and minimal cutting?

Elizabeth Bryan
Elizabeth Bryan
July 4, 2013 9:05 am

I guess I didn’t read the Weaving Today article very closely – I didn’t find the photos inspiring – but I just assumed, based on the photos that they were suggesting people check out your blog here to see just how incredible clothing made from handwoven fabric can look! I felt that the book they were advertising was more of a “beginner basic”. Can’t wait to take one of your intensive classes one day!

July 4, 2013 3:36 pm

I agree with you Daryl about Weaving Today just being an advertisement for their products. I was very disappointment when they sold Interweave press to another company. If you order anything from them it takes forever and sometimes I have gotten broken DVD’s or not even the right order, they have corrected it but like I said the first time it takes forever to get it. I love your garments that you make and no they are not like the “old” garments made on the loom so that you look like you are wearing a box. Yikes not at all… Read more »

Marie Pessolano
Marie Pessolano
July 4, 2013 9:50 pm

Have you seen the website Craftsy? I think you would make be a wonderful addition to their classes. Hope all is well! Marie

Linda Mesavage
July 5, 2013 9:22 am

First – thanks for the links to your 3 articles. Lots of good information there! I did see that weaving today post and it caused me to give the book a second look over but no, those designs didn’t seem to have any relation to the well cut garments I have seen of yours. I can feel myself being pulled toward a handwoven garment soon. Your work is so inspiring!

July 6, 2013 4:33 pm

You said exactly what I was thinking when I saw the ad! That book is definitely not for me.

I’m another one who’s not afraid of cutting my fabric – even though I prefer a rotary cutter to scissors. I like my garments to have some shape and I’m finally learning important stuff about fit and pattern alteration and changing up details to make each garment my own. I confess to being in the gallery at ANWG as you were finishing your seminar and listening in to the comments on the fashion show garments! Good stuff.

July 8, 2013 3:52 pm

Thanks for the links to your articles. Mostly, thanks for keeping this blog going! It is so interesting, inspiring and fun to read. I enjoy my coffee and your blog-its like spending time at my breakfast table with you. 🙂

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