Bon Appetit!

Ramona Abernethy Paine weaving   

Ramona Abernathy-Paine blended two yarns

for each color in these warp-rep placemats,

featured in Handwoven March/April 2011 .


Lately I've been reading Appetite for Life, Noel Riley Fitch's excellent biography of Julia Child, the woman who brought the concept of cuisine to American kitchens. Julia was a multifaceted person, from her work in the OSS (predecessor to the CIA) in India and China during World War II to her emergence as a television personality at age 50. I find it inspiring that her greatest achievements seem to have come not from exceptional gifts in any one area but from limitless curiosity, enthusiasm, determination, and lively intelligence. She was not a natural linguist, yet she learned French, German, and Norwegian so she could experience culture first-hand in the countries where she and her husband were posted during his years in the foreign service. During the early years of married life, Julia's first attempts at cooking were sometimes inedible, yet she graduated from the Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris and went on to help lead America out of its post-war love affair with TV dinners and Jell-o salads to an awareness and appreciation of fine food. (May we instill the same appreciation for handwoven kitchen towels!) In writing her seminal book on French cooking, she researched incessantly, reading everything from the encyclopedic Larousse Gastronomique to classic 19th-century recipes from the nomdeplumed "Madame Saint-Ange," and testing classic recipes with endless variations in ingredients and flavors.


  Daryl Lancaster's scarves with painted warp
  Daryl Lancaster's scarves use space-dyed yarn
in the warp.

I wish I'd known Julia Child. She feels like a kindred spirit who approached cooking the way I approach weaving. I love to start with fine fiber ingredients, pull a pile of magazines and books from my shelves to consult, and then make little samples and write up multiple drafts to see what will work best. I am fortunate to have 30 years of Handwoven to guide me in these explorations, full of enticing "recipes," many of them by master chefs de tissage (weaving). This year's Handwoven issues will add to the trove of inspiration. The March/April issue will focus on design, inviting us to use fiber, color, structure, and texture in new ways. May/June will show how to create our own designs in huck lace and Atwater-Bronson lace, September/October will tempt with woven wearables, and November/December will reveal the secrets of block design. And just as Julia Child enjoyed the support of a community of chefs, I appreciate the opportunity to share and learn through our Weaving Today community. I'm especially looking forward to our block design weave-along starting next month. Meantime, I'm working on a little design puzzle, and I'm going to tell you about it next week and ask for your help. When it comes to ideas, you can't spoil your appetite, and there's no such thing as too many cooks. So please put on your thinking caps, "block" out some time for the weave-along and, as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!"

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