When a Loom Loves a Sewing Machine

  Daryl Lancaster shows weavers how to create wearable garments with ease. Photo by Daryl Lancaster.

imageplaceholder Deborah Gerish
Group Content Manager

Daryl Lancaster’s bio speaks of “the marriage of her garment construction skills and what came from her loom”: once she began sewing garments from her handwoven cloth, she never stopped. And the results are breath-taking, eye-opening, awe-inspiring—I’m running out of hyphenated adjectives. Her five-part series on Garment Construction has given me a new perspective on sewing, weaving, and clothing design.

I learned to sew before I embarked on any other craft. It’s my first love and I have never abandoned it. Youthful efforts produced pathetic doll dresses, crookedly hand-sewn with wrong sides together. In 1980, a long-suffering home economics teacher showed me how to sew correctly by hand and machine. Then she spent months trying to slow me down, because I would rush through every project to see how it would turn out. (That B– was a merciful grade because I was so sloppy.) After one sewing course in high school, my eyes were opened: certain garment designs, color combos, and fabrics looked better than others. I was finally starting to develop some fashion sense; which was no easy task in the 1970s and '80s. My skills improved over time via more practice, some superb books on garment construction, and an unflinching sense of adventure in my studio. When we don’t know something should be hard to make, we’re much more likely to dive in without hesitation.

When I began weaving around 1997, I didn’t plan to make my own fashion fabric for sewing. Most of the handwoven garments I saw in magazines didn’t flatter my figure. Then life got busy and my loom became a storage device. After a decade-long hiatus, however, I’m coming back to weaving. Thanks to Daryl Lancaster, my cloth might even morph into garments I love.

How has Daryl had such an impact? From the very first part of her five-part series, she took a “You can DO IT!” tone. Daryl provides the necessary tools so that when you cut into handwoven yardage, you’ll know how and why to do it. Best of all, webinar photos of her gorgeous creations will inspire weavers to push the limits of design.

The first part of her webinar series focuses on initial decisions for the fabric and intended garment. What silhouette will best suit a given body type? Which colors work well together and flatter the wearer? How will a fabric’s drape affect the finished item? Daryl explains how to refine your fashion instincts (hint: it involves shopping without buying), then how to plan for the planned or already-made handwoven fabric. 

In part 2, Daryl takes the mystery out of fitting–a make-or-break moment unless you only plan to sew muumuus. Test garments can do a lot of the work when they’re based on accurate measurements. If you, like me, do not enjoy measuring your body, realize that the garment industry’s standard sizes were not designed to fit any real person, ever.

All the planning in the world won’t make up for sloppy sewing, poor pressing, or inappropriate seam finishes. Daryl covers all these details in part 3, and no matter how experienced you are with garment construction, you’ll learn something new and helpful.

The title of part 4, “Edge Finishes,” perhaps doesn’t adequately convey its content. Here Daryl explores ways to highlight a garment’s seams, which I had never considered before I saw her photos. Her combinations of handwoven fabric, pattern, and piping blew my mind. And even if I never sew with handwoven, her hemming tips will solve problems I’ve encountered with commercial fabric.

So, I anticipate great things in the last segment of the series, appropriately titled “Closures for Handwoven Garments.” Daryl’s ideas will no doubt have me pining to get back into the studio. I can practice on commercial fabric and design woven cloth until my loom arrives in July. It’s time to get this relationship on track again.


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