Weaving in Code for the 19th Amendment

It may not be obvious to anyone else, but my Election Day shawl will be in honor of the 19th Amendment.

Susan E. Horton Sep 4, 2020 - 4 min read

Weaving in Code for the 19th Amendment Primary Image

My Sweet Orange Huck Towels are white, purple, and gold, the colors associated with the movement to ratify the 19th Amendment. All photos by Susan E. Horton

When I wove the Sweet Orange Huck Towels for the HGA exchange, I used gold and purple for the first 8 towels off the warp. I picked gold and purple to commemorate the passing of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago. I’m currently working on a shawl using the same colors and a hexagon loom. My goal is to finish the shawl in time for this year’s Election Day in November. Living in Southern California, I imagine some people will think it is in honor of the Lakers, but I’ll know it’s in honor of those who fought for women’s right to vote. I hope it isn’t warm on November 3 because I’m using wool, and I fully intend to wear the shawl that day and evening when I’m watching the results come in. I may very well be the only one who gets it, but that’s okay with me. It’s my secret code.

hexagons seh

Since this photograph was taken, I've woven more than 100 hexagons in white, purple, gold, and yellow. Soon they will be a shawl!

Codes, and especially secret codes, are intriguing. You may have read about knitters using their craft during wartime to send messages. A woman knitting wouldn’t have seemed dangerous to most people, but they were sometimes knitting covert messages into their work.

Perhaps weavers have done similar things. For instance, many weavers create and name drafts to honor people in their lives or commemorate a special event or date. I’ve even thought that a name draft could be the basis for a mystery, as in Nancy Drew Unravels the Coded Coverlet. The problem with me trying to create a coded name draft is that I would probably want to tweak the design just a little to make it better, thereby ruining the clarity of the message. Maybe sending a secret code in weaving could simply be treadling plain weave versus another weave structure or the number of picks per stripe. I don’t know whether that would work at all, but I do know that if I were doing it, I’d probably get hung up on symmetry and ruin that message, too.

So, I’ll stick to the small messages, hopes and dreams that I like to believe I’ve worked into my pieces. I wove wool blankets for all of my nieces and nephews upon their high school graduation hoping the blankets would not only keep them warm but also safer as they started college and their careers. It’s all in my head, but when I’m weaving towels or blankets for wedding gifts, I like to think they will somehow help that union be stronger. Some handwoven towels and blankets could actually last a lifetime, making them the perfect wedding gift.

I hope you will weave your own special scarf, shawl, or even towel to commemorate the passing of the 19th Amendment. Let me know if you do! I would love to learn about your covert (or even overt) messages and see your beautiful weaving.

Weave well,