Saturday, May 17, 2008

Book review - the Handweaver's Pattern Directory

As many of you know, I was hesitant to appreciate this book. Change does not come easy for some. The book is worthy of a spot on the weaver’s library shelf. It cannot replace “Mastering Weave Structures” by Sharon Alderman, nor Marguerite Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”, which was my fear. Anne Dixon has given the 21st century weaver a naughty little bathroom book for weavers. It’s the book you will sneak away into a quiet corner with to be aroused into weaving something you would otherwise not consider. Why would you do this, you might ask. Because the book shows patterns with pleasant lines, and a variety of colors and fairly simple to understand directions on how to create some of the weaves. There is a broad selection of patterns covered and some hand-manipulated techniques also. The fact that the weaves are in so may different colors, and that some of the ‘standard’ weaves are also shown with ‘color and weave’ effects is food for thought for new weavers and old.
Why will this book not replace Davison’s?
Davison’s book demonstrates a greater diversity of treadling options for twill variations, and she documents many historic weaving patterns like Blooming Leaf, Murphy’s Diaper, and Lee’s Surrender. Hang on to Davison, and enhance your library by purchasing Dixon also.
Why will this book not replace Alerman?
It’s goal seems to be to offer some inspiration, through color, and simple instruction. It is also more of a manual on taking a basic recipe for design, and demonstrating several ways to vary that recipe to create your own designs from the original. Alderman, however delves deeper into the basic structure of a weave. What makes a Huck weave ‘huck’, and how can the weaver come up with her/his own huck designs, without losing the integrity of the fabric. Alderman speaks the language of a seasoned weaver, an architect of fabric. It’s not what Dixon is attempting. Dixon takes the initiated weaver through the basics of how to create the weaves, not what defines the weave and it’s structure.
I like Dixon’s book, and it has it’s place on our shelves. Anne Dixon has done a nice book, and I haven’t, so kudos to her, before I ‘criticize’ the book. Let’s talk about what its limitations are. Although the book can inspire, and instruct you how to weave a variety of patterns and structures, it doesn’t go into any depth explaining the various structures. The explanations are vague, and to my own understanding, some are (ahem) different from what I have been taught. For instance, does Anne say that woolen spun yarns are made from fibers that are carded, which makes the fibers “lie in different directions”? That just isn’t my understanding of carding. “Crammed and Spaced” is variable sett weaving. Let’s just call it what it is, and keep life simple. Anne also shows some of the post-loom treatments, but now how to accomplish them. For instance, how does one hem-stitch? These are minor criticisms, however, as I think the book will tempt me into a private corner for some enchanting daydreams of weaving the beautiful tricolored hucks on p. 166, or the Danish medallions on p.159. Thank you Anne Dixon for this inspiring little book, and the time it must have taken you to put it together. You have my respect. Thank you Lisa H. for giving me the book as a gift.


Dorothy said...

I was very interested to read someone else's review of this book. I'm especially interested as most of the weaving books I read are by US authors and Anne Dixon is English, same as me.

We have different weaving traditions and distinct differences in language.

"Crammed and spaced" for example. Very much an English expression, comes out of our weaving own weaving industry over here.

I was interested that you chose to compare the book to Sharon Alderman's as the two authors seem to me to have very different subject and intentions. Certainly, as you also found, they seem to me to be worthy of a place in my weaving resources for entirely different reasons. I see more similarity with Mary Black's Key to Weaving book, because of the author taking the approach of saying "what are the different things I can do, with structure and colour, on 4 shafts".

I think this is a great book for intermediate weavers like me - especially alongside Janet Phillip's new book Designing Woven Fabric.

I have been enjoying your blog,
kind regards,

Derbyshire, England.

Cherri said...

I chose to compare two of the three primary references in my studios. I use Alderman, Davison, and Strickler (editor) more often than any other book. Without them, the studio would be incomplete. What are the primary studio references in your studio?
You are right, Alderman and Dixon are more of a contrast, than a compare. Be sure to get my e-mail address from the top of the page, and I would love to know more about you, your weaving, your studio, whether you are a selling/teaching or just loving weaving. It's so nice to meet other weavers around the world. Cherri

Add to Technorati Favorites