Make a Handwoven Fashion Statement

Handwoven garments from ancient Greece  

For millenia, handwoven garments have varied

from simple to sophisticated.

Handwoven cloth made into royal finery  

I've told you before about my great fondness for Powell's Books (a local and, I'm sure, national treasure), and my weakness for out-of-print weaving books. Well, I did a little online browsing over the holidays, and my latest treasure trove just arrived in the mail. Among the precious finds this time were several books on woven garments. There were Handwoven, Tailormade by Sharon Alderman and Kathryn Wertenberger, a timeless book that I wish I'd had when I first learned to sew, let alone weave; Woven Fashion, by Vivienne Bateson, a tour-de-force of wonderful pictures and patterns for classic 1980's-style woven jackets, scarves, and accessories (the warp-faced necktie and the jacket fabric with inlaid feathers are just too much fun); and Barbara Wittenberg's charming, down-to-earth "or. . . alternatives to the fig leaf.", a lovely little notebook of ideas and inspiration.

I indulged in these books (said I to my long-suffering spouse) because we are madly finalizing the details of the 2012 Handwoven Garment Challenge. There were so many fabulous entries for last year's garment challenge with Väv magazine, we decided to do it again, and I hope many more of you will join in the fun. The theme this year is "Look Ma, No Sleeves," which should leave the field wide open for your fertile imaginations. Entries could include tabards, vests, shawls, shifts, sarongs, ruanas, ponchos, or peignoirs. . . you name it, as long as they’re sleeveless. There is no runway fashion show this year, but the winning garments will be featured in the September/October 2012 issue of Handwoven, and there will be prizes! We're looking for original ideas and excellent execution, so bring on the garments, simply elegant or sophisticated and tailored. Watch this newsletter and the Weaving Today web site for entry information, prize categories, and other news. In the meantime, please put your imaginations in high gear and start weaving!


As I browsed through the new additions to my weaving library today, I thought how wonderful it is that anyone can weave a garment. For most of human history, all woven garments were hand woven, so there are millenia of inspiration to draw from. You don't need a fancy loom or a complex pattern. I hope this year's entries will include some garments woven with rigid heddle looms, cards, maybe even backstrap looms or Weavettes, if that's your thing. I also hope some of you will experiment with handspun yarns and knitting yarns. Whatever takes your fancy.


As your brains start buzzing, let me leave you with an inspiring thought from Barbara Wittenberg's introduction: "'There is nothing new under the sun' — yet when you discover it through your own experimentation IT IS NEW and you are entitled to be excited about it." So please go forth and discover, get excited, and, above all, have fun!

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