The Weaving Handbook: The Art and the Craft: Theories, Materials, Techniques, and Projects
By Åsa Pärson and Amica Sundström
Over the past decade of reviewing weaving resources for Handwoven, I’ve read many books aimed at teaching individuals how to weave on multishaft looms. This is not an easy task given the depth and breadth of the subject. In their newly translated book, The Weaving Handbook, Swedish designers and weavers Åsa Pärson and Amica Sundström tackle this challenge head-on and are, on the whole, very successful at doing so.
Unlike similar books, this one starts out with a selection of projects. While this might seem a bit odd at first glance—why showcase projects the reader might not even be able to fathom weaving at the start?—it makes sense. There’s a good chance that the projects will be the portion of this book most returned to, so why not put them at the front to be easier on the reader? As for the projects themselves, they are wonderful with the sort of modern Scandinavian aesthetic one would expect from Swedish designers.
The next four chapters focus on the what and the how of weaving: types of looms, tools, vocabulary, how to warp, the math of weaving, how to take notes, etc. These sections are detailed and informative—especially the Q&As that tackle topics pertinent to new weavers, such as tying on new threads when winding a warp, that many other books gloss over. There are two caveats to this book: it does not cover jack looms—they are not even listed in the section on types of looms—nor does it cover warping boards, instead discussing warping reels. Given that most American weavers use both of those items in their weaving, it somewhat diminishes the usefulness of the book as a stand-alone resource on learning to weave.
The rest of the book more than makes up for these two omissions. Chapter 6 is full of drafts with photos of fabric samples. Not to be outdone, Chapter 7 focuses on all aspects of finishing woven cloth and offers many techniques not normally covered for creating eye-catching hems and fringe. Those two chapters in combination with the projects at the start of the book are worth the price of admission alone. Will it teach you how to warp and weave on a jack loom? No, but there are already plenty of books on the market that teach just that. In the end, I believe that this book is an excellent resource for anyone interested in Scandinavian-style weaving, and in particular, anyone wanting to learn to weave on a countermarch or counterbalance loom.
North Pomfret, Vermont: Trafalgar Square, 2021. Hardcover, 288 pages, $31.95. ISBN 978-1-64601-086-8.
Velvet on My Mind, Velvet on My Loom:Velvet Weaving Past and Present
By Wendy Landry
The strength of this book lies in the knowledge base of the author, Wendy Landry. Landry is a textile scholar and a weaver, putting her in the unique position of being able to comprehensively portray velvet’s place in world history and accurately describe how velvet is designed, planned, and woven. In essence, the book can be considered two books. Part 1 covers the history of velvet dating back to the third century, and Part 2 contains the nuts and bolts of weaving velvet by hand.
Landry’s focus is on handwoven extra-warp pile weaves: velvets that are created using rods that lift the extra warp above the cloth. However, she includes in her historical research other pile weaves such as weft-looped pile and knotted pile, which predate the earliest surviving examples of velvet found in Egypt. In the subsequent chapters about velvet weaving in late antiquity, the medieval period, the Renaissance, and up through modern times, Landry uses her technical knowledge about weaving and looms to fully describe the velvets, discussing them in a way that weavers can especially appreciate.
In Part 2, I found the chapter on the principles of weaving particularly interesting as it traced the many decisions that must be made when starting a velvet project. This includes materials, foundation weave structure, techniques to use, and even things like whether to cut or not cut some or all of the pile. Following that chapter are practical chapters on equipment and looms, velvet-weaving techniques, weaving polychrome velvet, and finishing velvet fabrics. Included in this part of the book are many photographs of Landry’s own work, showing her mastery of velvet weaving, as well as many on-the-loom photographs that assist in understanding it. The two appendices include drafts and design templates and a chronology of velvet, and I was happy to see a full glossary of velvet-related terms.
Before starting this review, I pulled out the one and only swatch of velvet I have woven. Woven using Tencel for the pile on a cotton foundation, it is somewhat less than impressive, but I remember great satisfaction in being able to weave it at all. After reading this new comprehensive book about velvet, I feel the pull to try my hand at it again.
—Susan E. Horton
Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2020. Hardcover, 280 pages, $70.00. ISBN 978-0-7643-5934-7.