Exploring Woven Fabrics
Ever since it came out in 2008, one of my favorite weaving books has been Designing Woven Fabrics by Janet Phillips, and now I am happy to add her most recent book, Exploring Woven Fabrics, to my collection. Weavers interested in pushing their understanding of weave structures, block weaves, and color-and-weave effects will find plenty to ponder and learn in this beautifully laid out and photographed book.
To truly benefit from this book, you need to be open to sampling and using samples to plan projects. As Phillips states in her preface, “A minor change can make a big difference.” She doesn’t shirk from sampling; indeed she embraces it in sample gamp blankets, seven in all, that run the gamut from four-shaft color-and-weave twill to eight-shaft deflected doublecloth. For each of the gamps, full drafts and yarn suggestions are provided, so you can weave them if you wish, but photographs of the individual woven sections also allow you to see the results of Phillips’s sampling and benefit from what she learned. If you just want to jump straight into weaving beautiful cloth, there are 40 projects that expand on the lessons learned from each gamp.
The book has five parts, but my favorite is Part 5, “Log Cabin and Shadow Weave.” I have often heard that rep weave is a form of shadow weave, and I found it interesting that Phillips re-sleys a shadow-weave gamp to a tighter sett to weave rep. I had never seen a rep gamp, and after seeing hers, I am interested in weaving one. She also introduces the idea of weaving what she calls “shrepp,” shadow weave woven at a sett tighter than what you would want for plain weave and less than the usual sett for rep. Those fabrics in particular intrigued me; they are sturdy and seem the ideal weight for placemats, runners, and items such as totes and bags.
I recommend this book highly for anyone interested in pushing themselves to learn more about weave structures and color-and-weave principles. You may have to work to get the most out of this book, but I believe you will be well rewarded for your effort.
—Susan E. Horton
Somerset, England: Natural Timeout Publications, 2020. Hardcover, 224 pages, $65.00. ISBN 978-0-9557620-3-1.
The Nature of Things Essays of a Tapestry Weaver
Tommye McClure Scanlin
Tommye Scanlin is an explorer dedicated to learning about the world through careful observation and then depicting her discoveries in handwoven tapestry. She is an artist who was trained as an educator and taught for many decades at the high school and college levels. Since retirement, she has continued teaching tapestry weaving in workshops. Her first book, The Nature of Things, allows us to take a walk with her through the woods of north Georgia, where she has lived most of her life, and to see the world through her eyes.
This book is organized largely by the subject matter of Scanlin’s bodies of work that are largely, though not exclusively, subjects drawn from nature. Many of these works were woven sequentially, but some themes are ones she has returned to throughout her long career. Leaves, vines, stones, feathers, and flowers are frequent subjects, though her perspective and resulting images encourage the viewer of her tapestries to engage with the subject in unexpected ways. Often she focuses on a small detail and blows it up much larger than life, or she uses shapes taken from natural objects to create fascinating forms that might seem abstracted.
The book does a good job of placing her images biographically inside her life, but it is not a memoir. It is a solid look at where her artistic inspiration comes from and how she translates her ideas through various manipulations into designs that lend themselves to expression in handwoven tapestry. The book is full of beautiful images of her finished tapestries, but it also includes images of the original inspiration, and her sketches and paintings as she explores the subject and designs the tapestry cartoon. Being able to see how she went from an idea to a finished work of art is a valuable example for practicing artists and a fascinating look at process for collectors and lovers of tapestry weaving.
Perhaps Scanlin’s primary advice for other artists is to show up every day. In the example of her own work and the advice she gives to readers, it is clear that daily practice, whether joyful, exciting, or even boring, is what leads to completed works for an artist. Her work, and the story she tells of her journey as an artist, highlights cycles of growth including high and low points. Scanlin ends the book with the encouraging reminder that the low points allow the cycle to begin again and growth, along with new ideas, to emerge.
This book is a wonderful heartfelt summary of an artist’s journey in woven tapestry. The appendices contain a concise and well-written introduction to tapestry weaving as well as many resources. Scanlin has a second book about tapestry design coming out in the spring of 2021 entitled Tapestry Design Basics and Beyond, which promises to be a fantastic companion to The Nature of Things.
Dahlonega, Georgia: University of North Georgia Press, 2020. Softcover, 213 pages, $24.99. ISBN 978-1-940771-72-4.