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From Dress Fragment to Tablecloth to Towel

An old draft combined with years of weaving experience leads to a fresh new look.

Susan A. Bloomfield , Handwoven Editors May 1, 2024 - 4 min read

From Dress Fragment to Tablecloth to Towel Primary Image

Susan A. Bloomfield‘s towels use modern colors in an old structure. Photos by Matt Graves

Susan A. Bloomfield found inspiration for her towels in a tablecloth draft, which was itself inspired by a dress fragment found in a museum (learn more here). In her fresh version of the classic monk‘s belt structure, she changed both the scale of the design and the colors used. Here she is to tell you more about her design—and about seeing with fresh eyes as her weaving skills grew.

Monk’s Belt Revisited by Susan A. Bloomfield

I am endlessly inspired by past issues of Handwoven. I have almost every issue from when I began weaving, plus older copies acquired at fairs or from friends. As I peruse these treasures, I often feel a jolt of excitement, a sudden flight of creativity that I know I didn’t experience the first time I read through an issue. As a beginner weaver, I skipped articles with what I considered to be advanced weave structures. Nowadays, with my evolved skills, it is like reading the issues anew as I consider projects I once bypassed.

When I reread the May/June 1987 issue, I was struck by the article “Reinterpreting Old Weaves for Today and Tomorrow” by Margaretha Essen-Hedin. She reinterpreted a Swedish museum’s small handwoven dress fragment into a tablecloth. I am confident I bypassed this article when I first came upon it because it was monk‘s belt, and I arbitrarily decided it was too complicated.

The image of that monk‘s belt tablecloth stayed with me for weeks, and I decided to reinterpret her scrap-to-tablecloth reinterpretation. I changed the scale and colors to create hand towels. In so doing, I realized several things: As we acquire new skills and become more confident weavers, our trove of Handwoven issues (print or digital) is indispensable. We preserve our collective weaving heritage and keep it alive by revision. And above all, lifelong learning, enthusiasm, and confidence can lead to unanticipated, joyful flights of inspiration.

As a new weaver, Susan didn’t feel ready to tackle monk’s belt. After gaining years of experience, she revisited the structure and made it her own.

Project at a Glance and PDF Download

Visit the Handwoven library or log in below to access the PDF download for the Monk‘s Belt Revisited draft, available to Handwoven magazine subscribers.

Monk‘s belt and plain weave.
4-shaft loom, 20" weaving width; 10-dent reed; 2 shuttles.
Warp: 8/2 cotton A (3,360 yd/lb; UKI; Yarn Barn of Kansas), #33 Gold, 720 yd; 8/2 cotton B (3,360 yd/lb; Maurice Brassard; Yarn Barn of Kansas), #5193 Garnet, 864 yd.
Weft: 8/2 cotton A, #33 Gold, 552 yd; 8/2 cotton B, #5193 Garnet, 605 yd.

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