My Father’s Daughter: Rug to Runner

What better way to honor her father, Tom Knisely, than with a beautiful handwoven runner inspired by a project he wove and published in Handwoven years ago?

Christina Garton Aug 27, 2019 - 5 min read

My Father’s Daughter: Rug to Runner Primary Image

Sara Bixler's runner inspired by a rug woven by her father. Photo credit Harper Point Photography.

When Susan and I were planning Handwoven’s September/October 2019 issue we decided to use this issue to celebrate our magazine’s 40th anniversary. We themed the issue “Inspired by Handwoven” and filled it with projects inspired by the people and patterns from the past forty years. The issue is chock full of delightful projects with stories of inspiration, but my favorite has to be Sara Bixler’s project, My Father’s Daughter: Rug to Runner.

For those who don’t know, Sara’s dad is Tom Knisely, so she grew up watching him weave and living in a home where she was surrounded by his weaving. If you know Tom, you probably know about his love for weaving rugs—many of his projects for Handwoven have been rugs and he even has a whole video course devoted to the subject. So what better way to honor her father than with a beautiful handwoven runner inspired by a project he wove and published in Handwoven years ago? Here’s what Sara had to say about her design:

Inspiration is a funny thing. We’ve all experienced it in one way or another. For me, some moments of inspiration are clear as day in my memory, like the first time I walked into gallery and stood in front of a Seurat . . . all those tiny dots! Other sources of inspiration seem to have snuck into my subconscious and created longer-lasting impact, such as growing up in a home where weaving was the central focus for my father, Tom Knisely. Weaving inspiration was not lacking in our house, and of course, some rubbed off on me, but sadly, not his passion for rugs. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a woman who finds the beauty in utilitarian objects, but rugs often lack the pizzazz I crave as a maker.

In 2006, I was finishing up my fine arts degree. During one of my routine check-ins with home, I shared with my father that I was spending the weekend researching for a new project to cap off my semester of weaving. Feeling uninspired, I asked if he had any suggestions to help me narrow down my research to, at the very least, a weave structure I had never tried. Fortunately for me, he had just finished writing a project article for Handwoven on rep weave and was eager to share. As I said, I was never really crazy about the rugs I saw passing through our living room, but this one was different. It was bold with intense and concentrated colors . . . and I loved it! My dad did what most parents would do during our 30-minute call; he gave me the down and dirty, the best of what I needed to know about the structure and its characteristics, and then sent me on my way to create a fairly average first project in rep weave.

Tom Rug

The rug that inspired Sara, Tom's Getting Started with Warp Rep rug from the January/February 2006 issue of Handwoven.

My instructor loved the rep weave piece I wove. Crude though it may have been with its simple blocks in black and white, it planted a seed for me. Rep weave from that moment became one of my favorite weave structures and one I have returned to numerous times. That rug woven by my dad 13 years ago now lives at my weaving school. I am elated to have an opportunity to reimagine his rug in my own voice.

Happy Weaving! Christina

PROJECT TYPE: 4-shaft.

STRUCTURE: Rep weave.

EQUIPMENT: 4-shaft loom, 13" weaving width; 10-dent reed; 1 ski shuttle; 1 boat shuttle; 1 bobbin.

YARNS: 5/2 pearl cotton (2,100 yd/lb; UKI); 8/16 mop cotton (420 yd/lb; Maurice Brassard).