Remembering Marguerite Porter Davison
There’s one classic resource that has helped countless weavers to broaden their knowledge and understanding of weaving: A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison. Many of you are likely proud owners of a copy of this timeless book, returning to it time and time again for design ideas, suggestions, and inspiration.
Biography of Marguerite Porter Davison
Marguerite Porter Davison was born in 1887 in Ohio, moving to Berea, Kentucky after she graduated high school. At Berea College, she was introduced to weaving and became the assistant of Anna Ernburg. Ernburg was superintendent of a project called Fireside Industries, which sought to preserve, revive, and grow traditional industries like handweaving in the southern Appalachian Mountains. The goal was partially to keep the knowledge of these traditions alive, and partially to economically revitalize the area by creating jobs and weaving cooperatives. Students at Berea could cover tuition fees, room, and board with part-time work each week, in order to make the school affordable to low-income families. After graduation, they were equipped to either start a successful cottage industry from their homes, or else enter the workforce as a skilled worker.
As Ernburg’s assistant from 1912 to 1916, Davison became extremely familiar with the traditional American weaves gathered by Ernburg, particularly with old coverlet designs. Later in life, Davison collected countless coverlets, analyzed the drafts, and wove replicas and pattern swatches, eventually experimenting to create new patterns from traditional threadings.
She compiled her work in A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, which was written, copyrighted, and self-printed by Davison in 1944. Davison dedicated the book to Anna Ernburg. It has been re-printed numerous times, and is widely considered by be “The Bible” of weaving knowledge. Even though the book is currently out of print, if you can locate a used copy, you’ll find the insights of Marguerite Porter Davison certainly stand the test of time!
P.S. If you already have and love A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, check out Twills on Four Shafts, a Best of Handwoven Collection that builds on the twills found in Davison’s book. Soon you’ll be weaving twills that seem impossible for four shafts!