Please DO Write in Your Weaving Books
Recently I saw a comment (online, of course) stating that books should never be written in. Instead, they should be respected and treated with kindness and delicacy—annotations should be written on sticky notes or carefully folded bits of paper. Books should be left as pristine as possible as a sign of our love and appreciation for them. I’m here to tell you I believe this is stuff and nonsense.
As a former historian, I have a great appreciation for all those rebels who wrote in the margins. I love stories of monks who were bored out of their brains with transcribing book after book and took to doodling and writing little comments here and there. These medieval scribes wrote notes to complain about the drudgery of their work and notes to future readers. Things like, “New parchment, bad ink; I say nothing more,” “Thank God it will soon be dark,” and “This is sad! O little book! A day will come in truth when someone over your page will say ‘The hand that wrote it is no more.’” These short lines give such wonderful insight into the men who spent years carefully creating illuminated manuscripts. It makes them more human.
Notes in weaving books are even better. Not only does it let us take a look at the weaver who previously owned the book, but a note can provide us with valuable information. Imagine buying a copy of A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns or Anne Dixon’s The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory and finding notes about alternative tie-ups and treadlings for a different effect. Or maybe you buy a big stack of old Handwovens and find notes and tips on weaving projects or notes on ways to change things up.
These annotations might seem small or even silly in the moment, but they can provide valuable inspiration to future weavers. If you weave a scarf in Tencel instead of wool, make a note of it and include the new sett. If you find it helpful to beat with the shed open, make a note of it. Even if you never, ever plan on weaving a project again because it was such a thorn in your side, make a note—perhaps especially then!
Have a copy of Learning to Weave by Deb Chandler sitting around? Add your favorite weaving tips and tricks to it wherever you can. If you know better ways to wind warps, thread heddles, or keep track of treadling? Write it down. Have words of encouragement for new weavers that you wish somebody had told you? Write it down.
If you have favorite drafts in Strickler, Dixon, or Davison that you turn to time and again for specific projects (I personally am a sucker for Finnish twill towels), make a note of it. You might not forget how much you love using the Gothic cross draft for scarves, but decades—or even centuries!—from now your note might inspire some other weaver to give it a try.
Books are important, and they should be treated with love and respect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t add our marks to them. If anything, by annotating these books, we’re helping them to grow and live in ways not possible if left pristine. The best recipes in all my cookbooks are the ones with the most stains, and the best weaving patterns are the ones with the most notes. So join me, won’t you, and please do write in your weaving books.
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