Long Thread Podcast: Daryl Lancaster

Season 7, Episode 5: From her childhood sewing beside her tailor mother to decades teaching weavers to make great garments, Daryl Lancaster has never had a bad day at the sewing machine—and she says you shouldn't fear the scissors.

Anne Merrow Jul 29, 2023 - 6 min read

Long Thread Podcast: Daryl Lancaster Primary Image

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After you finish weaving fabric that you love and are proud of, cutting it up can be an unappealing thought. What if it falls apart? What if you make the wrong cut? What if the finished piece doesn't turn out like you picture it? For Daryl Lancaster, the challenges of transforming a handwoven fabric into a wearable garment are the real pleasure—and if problem-solving is the goal, then what looks like a problem is really a creative prompt. As she tells her students, "This is fiber. There's always a way to fix it. There's always a way to go to Plan B, and we have a really big alphabet."

Featured in her September/October 2002 article "Designing from the Stash," Daryl interpreted her Walking Vest pattern with the creative challenges of using only what she had. Photo by Joe Coca

With decades of teaching sewing classes and a line of patterns specifically designed for handwoven fabric, you might expect her to have firm rules about what fabrics to use with which patterns, but she takes a relaxed approach. "When you sew garments, any pattern will work. You have to have the skill set to make it work right. But patterns are patterns. The hardest part is to get it to fit," she says. "Any pattern, once you get it to fit you, you can turn into a garment, as long as the fabric that you have is suitable for that silhouette. And if it's not, can you make it suitable, or should you try a different silhouette?"

"Autumn Patchwork," one of Daryl's Fabric Forecast palettes for Fall/Winter 2008-2009, evokes the English countryside and predicts that bags are big (the bigger, the better). Photo by Kevin Lancaster; illustration by Daryl Lancaster

One of her long-term projects for Handwoven was a series of color and fabric forecasts that anticipated fashion trends. With an eye on world events, cultural happenings, and even sports schedules, she created a set of images designed to inspire weavers to move outside their traditional yarn choices. Today Pinterest and Etsy have joined the famed Pantone in making forecasts freely available, but seeing the large-scale trends interpreted for an audience of handweavers is an inspiring way to look at the industry models.

One of Daryl's collection of small and sturdy eight-shaft Structo looms. Photo by Daryl Lancaster

In recent years, Daryl has stopped traveling to teach. Instead, she offers virtual lectures and has built a robust YouTube channel that covers general sewing and fitting as well as specific tips for working with her patterns. In her time at home, she's enjoying weaving on her 64 (!) looms, including a fleet of little eight-shaft metal Structo looms.

Funny, bold, and innovative, Daryl is exploring new ways of sharing her ideas even as she enjoys the evolution of her weaving practice from business to hobby. "You know, I'm at this wonderful crossroads in my life where that part of my career on the road teaching is done," she says. "Now I'm trying to reprogram my brain that I don't have to be a teacher anymore. You know, there are new people coming on to do this. And if I've left them information on my experience for them to use, have at it."

This episode is brought to you by:

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The Anson County Fiber Arts Festival is the place to discover the wonderful world of cotton and hemp fibers, and so much more! You'll find fibers from animal and plant, plus a vendor hall, workshops, used equipment sale, a engaging fiber shed, and activities for the entire family. Plus, the town's historical society will take you on a journey of the town's deep roots as a textile town. Join them September 22-23 at their inaugural event in historic, uptown Wadesboro, North Carolina. For more information, visit ansoncountyfiberartsfestival.com or follow them on Facebook.

Daryl Lancaster's website
Daryl's YouTube channel
Sewing patterns and digital monographs
“Handwoven Kitchen Aides: Where Have all the Aprons Gone?” Handwoven March/April 2002.
“Lose Weight, Reduce Stress.” Handwoven January/February 2002.
Daryl's trend forecasting began with "Color Forecasting” in Handwoven September/October 2003 and ran through January/February 2007.
"The Indestructible (tiny) Structo." Handwoven September/October 2017.