Woven to Wear

When I mention handwoven garments to long-time weavers, some roll their eyes, and I know that images of a bog jacket are flashing before their eyes. So first let me say: don't disrespect the bog jacket. I recommend reading Daryl Lancaster's blog for a whole new appreciation of simple garment shapes. And when you're ready to weave some graceful, simple, and very contemporary new garments for yourself, may I recommend Marilyn Murphy's new book, Woven to Wear? No bog jackets included, but a variety of quick-to-weave and flattering projects. Here's Marilyn to tell you about it. ––Anita

You would think that a book about weaving simple cloth might not involve heavy use of technology. But my editor, Madelyn vander Hoogt, lives on an island off Washington State and I live in the high plains of Colorado and most of our communication was via email. So last week, after we received our advance copies of my book, Woven to Wear, we decided to have a video chat, with wine in hand, and toast to the year-and-a-half long process of weaving, writing, editing, designing, and finally publishing this book. After some technology issues, we were staring at each other, laughing, and chatting almost like we were in the same room.

I’m not a “plus 4-shaft” weaver. More like a 2-shaft-er, but I prefer four when I weave “my” version of complex cloth. In other words, I like simple but intriguing fabric—fabric where color, yarn, and garment shape come together fluidly. So when thinking about this book, which I had done for many years, I had stashes of design inspirations and notes. But the vetting of which ones conveyed simplicity and intrigue, and could be woven on a rigid-heddle or floor loom, took time.  

Southwest Wrap
   The Southwest Wrap
  Checkered Sweater
   The Checkered Sweater

As handweavers, we don’t want to throw away our handwoven cloth. We also don’t want shapeless or ill-fitting garments. So designing unstructured, no-cut, or minimal cut clothing is tricky but is the focus of this book. I offer design notes for every project to help you understand why the garment is a certain way, information for designing and laying out patterns to take full use of  woven fabric, weaving tips and techniques for working with certain fibers and speeding up some of the process, and the all-important finishing of cloth from washing to sewing.


While I don’t have a favorite garment, there are a few that surprised me. One was the Southwest Wrap. I had never woven with Tencel before and was pleased with the lovely drape of the almost warp-faced weave. So much so that there will soon be another one in a different colorway with my name on it. The other one that was just plain fun was the Checkered Sweater. Partially because I had the nugget of the idea for almost thirty years—which is good because the shape is in fashion again—and because of the surprising way the yarn formed a natural self-fringe after the fabric was washed, causing a re-design of the edgings and finishing.


But wait, there’s one other thing. I asked nine of my favorite clothing weavers to contribute a small portfolio of their work to the book, too. No patterns. Just their stories about how they became garment weavers and their inspirations. Their garments are so different than mine that I thought you’d like to see a variety.


But most of all, if you haven’t considered weaving garments before, get Woven to Wear and start with a simple project. And then advance from there. Soon you’ll have a wardrobe of unique handwovens you created!


—Marilyn

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