Handwoven Then and Now

Happy ruby anniversary to Handwoven! That’s right, Handwoven turns 40 this year. We’re planning a special September/October 2019 issue full of items inspired by Handwoven, but I also thought it would be fun to take a little look back at our very first issue and the projects inside. So join me, won’t you, in taking a little trip back to 1979 and seeing what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Let’s first look at the cover, which features a model in a flowing, white gown, shuttle in hand, admiring her work on the tapestry loom (affiliate link). It’s a lovely scene that tells a story—you can’t help but imagine this lady at her loom in her Galadriel-esque gown, blissfully weaving as she sips her cup of herbal tea (not pictured) (affiliate link). While I can’t imagine wearing an outfit with sleeves like that while weaving, I was excited to see that it wasn’t just a costume—it was a project in the issue! Called the Cloud-Soft Dress, and woven and designed by Sharon Alderman, the dress is done in plain weave with Danish medallions. I love this dress so much that even though I do not have a loom wide enough to weave it, I am still sad that the Butterick pattern used to make it was discontinued.


The inaugural Handwoven cover, from 1979.

Is this a weaving pattern we’d publish today? Probably not. I could see it as part of an article on designing clothing with handwoven cloth, or weaving cloth to use with commercial sewing patterns. As much as I love it, though, I’m not sure it would have the mass appeal today that it had four decades ago, so I’m glad that then editor Linda Ligon and the rest of her team decided to publish it in 1979.

Now, as we flip through the issue, we come across the first project section, “Warm & Wooly.” I could see most of these projects in a future issue of Handwoven, especially the boot-length poncho by Bridget McNamara and the Loopy Shawls by Halcyon—no last name listed, but this, presumably, refers to Halcyon Blake, beloved founder of Halcyon Yarn. In fact, I love these rigid-heddle scarves so much that I had to see whether the yarns were still available. Unfortunately, most are not. (If the folks at Halcyon are reading this, I would love to see suggestions on how these scarves could be redone in current yarns—because they are really wonderful and I want to weave them.)


Projects from the “Warm &Wooly” section of the inaugural issue of Handwoven.

While there’s a lot in this issue that I would expect to see in a current issue of Handwoven, there are some things that stand out. For example, there’s a section on how to twine a basket and one devoted to recipes for “Home Cooking.” There are weaving projects for dollhouse-sized blankets and log carriers. When Handwoven first came out on the market, the editors and writers could put anything they wanted into an issue because the magazine wasn’t yet a brand. It was like a teenager, trying out new things and trying to figure out who would it eventually become.

Nowadays, we don’t have baskets in the magazine, and while we occasionally have recipes on the blog, I don’t know that we’d have a whole section in the magazine again. Today’s issues of Handwoven do still have wonderful wool scarves, cozy ruanas, and other projects that get me excited for weaving.

Also, we’ve always had experts writing in our pages—back then, it was Deborah Chandler and Sharon Alderman; today, it’s Madelyn van der Hoogt and Tom Knisely.

Much has changed, but I think the heart has stayed the same. Handwoven is still a magazine by and for weavers, and I hope that the love Susan and I have for weaving comes out in the pages of each and every issue.

Happy Weaving!

Featured Image: At left is the Linda Ligon-designed ruana from the Fall/Winter 1979 issue; at right is the ruana From Sheep to Shadow Weave by Margie Bell from the September/October 2018 issue of Handwoven.

Celebrate our ruby anniversary with us!

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