A Job Made Easier Runner

Most of us think of runners as belonging at the center of a table, where they can be shown off and perhaps accented with a couple of candleholders or a bowl of fruit. This is a relatively recent phenomenon because for many years runners were treated as a sort of table-length placemat, which I think is brilliant. In her A Job Made Easier Runner from the March/April 2019 issue of Handwoven, Nancy Dunlap explored the history of the table runner. Here’s what Nancy had to say about her design:

A Job Made Easier Runner

Nancy Dunlap’s A Job Made Easier Runner can be used in the center of the table, as is the modern fashion, or on either side of the table in the traditional way.

Designer Nancy Dunlap’s Statement

To fit the theme of North American Weaving I considered weaving a traditional coverlet, something that has long been one of my weaving goals. Then logic and reason set in regarding the time and materials involved in such an endeavor. My second idea was a table runner, a mainstay of 1800s America. This idea sparked my creative interest and meant researching the use of table runners.

During my research, I found a photograph of a table setting with two table runners placed lengthwise along both sides of a table with the dinnerware set directly on top of them. This caught my attention and sent me along yet another research path. I learned that some American pioneer families used table runners in lieu of tablecloths, which tended to be expensive, or they used runners to protect tablecloths from being soiled during special-occasion dinners. After a meal, the woman of the household would pick up the table runners for washing, leaving the table or tablecloth clean. Table runners could be found in most households in the 1800s and continue to be used today for much the same reasons—to protect a table or tablecloth—although they also add a decorative touch. Today, we generally put our runners in the center of the table, but I was intrigued by the two table runners placed along the table’s edges.

I decided to weave two overshot table runners using a pattern I have always liked as inspiration: Kay’s Design from Marguerite Porter Davison’s A Handweaver’s Pattern Book (affiliate link). I worked on the design until I created what I thought would make interesting table runners fit for the pioneer woman who knew how to make her life easier.

Happy Weaving!

Project at a Glance

PROJECT TYPE: 4-shaft.

STRUCTURE: Overshot.

EQUIPMENT: 4-shaft loom, 16″ weaving width; 12-dent reed; 2 shuttles; 2 bobbins.

YARNS: 10/2 pearl cotton (4,200 yd/lb; UKI; Camilla Valley Farm); 5/2 pearl cotton (2,100 yd/lb; UKI; Camilla Valley Farm).

Featured Image: Nancy Dunlap’s A Job Made Easier Runner.

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