Handweaving, Home Economics, and Everyday Fashion

Handwoven swivel inlay  
Handwoven silk with indigo dyed with weft kasuri  
Woven shibori  

From inlaid swivel to weft kasuri

and woven shibori, this year's

garments feature an abundance of

beautiful cloth.


As I write, the Handwoven team is heads down putting together this year's garment issue. The theme, as you may recall, was "Look, Ma, No Sleeves," and I can't wait to share this issue with you.


The garment challenge is inspiring in numerous ways. We were amazed at the diversity of the entries: tops, dresses, wraps, vests, pants, children's clothes—even a pair of very clever swim trunks! I wish we had a hundred more pages so we could show you every one of them. The designs range from elegant to just plain fun. The weavers who entered used everything from inkle, rigid-heddle, and pin looms to multi-harness looms, They brought an abundance of fiber arts skills to bear: handspinning; shibori and differential dyeing; braiding; embroidery and other embellishment techniques; and, of course, sewing.


In the 1970s, in the days of mandatory Home Economics classes, sewing skills were common, and sewing and weaving went together like peanut butter and jelly. The pages of early Handwoven issues yield many beautifully styled garments and swatch collections of coordinating fabrics for tailored outfits. My daughter looks skeptical when I tell her that girls were required to take "Home Ec" back in the day. (She gives me the same look when I tell her that girls weren't allowed to wear jeans to school.) But times change. Today, sewing classes are mostly elective (and open to boys, as shop classes are open to girls). The results of our Weaving Today/Handwoven survey are showing that the majority of us prefer simple sewing projects. Weavers are more likely to work outside the home than in the 1970s, and there are more demands on our time. We are more likely to make interesting "art to wear" garments than coordinated suits with our handwoven fabric—garments that we may wear with an elegant evening outfit or with jeans. (BTW, if you haven't taken the survey yet, it's not too late to lend your voice.)


I hope when this issue reaches you, you'll be as inspired as I am at the wonderful garments you can make, even with simple looms and basic sewing skills, and at the possibilities of designing fabric to wear. In addition to the garment projects, there are stories and tips from a number of weavers on selecting structures and materials for garments, sewing handwovens, and the choice of sewing your own or finding an expert sewer to be your creative partner. As Hazel Spencer observes in one of the articles, we must remember that we are making fabric that can be cut and sewn into whatever shapes we want. If we take the time to understand the basics of making handwoven fabric into clothes, whether we sew ourselves or trust another seamstress with our precious cloth, there are whole new worlds of weaving and wearing pleasure awaiting us.


Anita Osterhaug

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