I grew up in Portland, OR. I always thought Portland was a pretty fabulous place to grow up. It’s just big enough that everything you need is available and no one I knew of while I was growing up ever thought they needed to break out and see the world. At the same time, Portland wasn’t so large that it was overwhelming. It has an active arts community, Powell’s City of Books store, Washington Park, and really good food to name just a few of the attractions.
I find myself frequently returning to my home town; however, there is one thing missing . . . Robin and Russ Handweavers. No, Robin and Russ Handweavers was not in Portland. It was an iconic weaving store that relocated from California to McMinnville, OR in 1962 . . . about an hour away from where I grew up. Close enough to constantly be on your mind. And, as a young weaver before I was old enough to get my driver’s license, too far away to persuade parents to drive you more than once a year.
I went to Wilson High School . . . a high school that had a robust fiber arts program. There was always excitement about the first one of us to turn 16, get a driver’s license, and receive permission to borrow one of our parent’s cars to drive to Robin and Russ Handweavers for an unchaperoned trip that we could take at a leisurely pace.
McMinnville, OR is located in Yamhill County . . . one of the best areas for wine in Oregon. About 15 years ago, I organized a Women’s Weekend of Weaving and Wine. We took over Wine Country Farm, one of the bed and breakfast places in Yamhill County. On Saturday morning, we rendezvoused at Woodland Woolworks . . . another wonderful fiber arts establishment (also, no longer there) . . . and our caravan of cars wound its way through Yamhill County stopping at different places, mostly wineries . . . before reaching our final destination of Robin and Russ Handweavers.
I’ve been in larger weaving stores, but going to Robin and Russ Handweavers was always a tremendous adventure. You never knew before you got there what was going to make you blow your budget. But, what the heck, it was in Oregon and no sales tax. Over the years, I made some of my most memorable purchases, including one purchase of 88 skeins of a fire engine red cashmere-blend wool for $1.00/skein. The funny thing was that wasn’t all he had of the red cashmere blend and I’ve never figured out why I didn’t purchase an even 100 since I have a propensity for symmetry.
Robin and Russ Handweavers owner, Russ Groff, had a unique knack for having some of the most wonderful mill ends yarns available and I still have some of it patiently waiting on my shelf waiting to be woven. Russ also always had a recent adventure to share with others. The Robin and Russ Handweavers booth was one of the most popular stops in a vendor hall at any weaving conference. It’s an era gone by, but many of us still reminisce about the place and the finds we made. Syne Mitchell wrote a touching story about Russ when he passed away nearly five years ago. You can read In Memorium: Russ Groff at the following link http://www.weavezine.com/weavegeek/memoriam-russell-e-groff
In February 1955, Robin and Russ Handweavers took over the publishing of Warp and Weft and continued the periodical’s tradition for approximately 30 years. Warp and Weft was originally published in November 1947. It was a wonderful insight into what was going on in the weaving community, featured weavers, and included a woven sample along with the instructions. It was modest in size . . . 8 pages . . . but, there were 10 issues a year. Early issues were clearly put together using a typewriter. The format evolved over the years, but no matter what there was always something to intrigue and entertain . . . Which brings me to my latest favorite thing . . . access to 307 issues of Warp and Weft http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/warpweft.html
Below are a couple of covers and some of my favorite samples from Warp and Weft.
Hostess Delight from the December 1950 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_04_02.pdf
Opalescence in the February 1955 issue -
How to Make Chenille in the June 1957 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_10_6.pdf
Twills and M’s & O’s for Table Linens from the June 1962 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_15_06.pdf
Yak, Yak, Yak in the November 1979 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_32_09.pdf
Superhighway from the November 1980 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_33_09.pdf
Carrickmacross from the Cecember 1982 issue – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_35_10.pdf
Flaming Twills from the September 1985 – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/ww_38_07.pdf
Hopefully, some of the above samples will entice you to take a closer look at Warp and Weft. If you’re dissuaded from these samples because they only require four shafts (something I think is pretty darn cool), Robin and Russ Handweavers did publish other resources. Two that may be of interest are accessible with a little effort.
First, 200 Patterns for Multiple Harness Looms – 5 to 12 Harness Patterns for Handweavers. You can find this used. Check out www.addall.com to see if there’s a copy you just have to have.
Second, if you’re fortunate enough to have a loom with 16 or more shafts, you may be interested in 16 Harness Patterns – The Fanciest Twills of All. This book became difficult to find; however, you can access all of the variations at http://handweaving.net/PatternBook.aspx?BOOKID=27 There are 205 patterns . . . which are basically tie-ups for a 16-shaft point threading. This is great especially if you have a loom with a computer interface. (By the way, www.handweaving.net is a pretty fabulous resource if you don’t already know about it!. Nearly 60,000 drafts!)
This is likely my last blog post for 2014. But, I’m still working my way to providing 50 of my favorite things . . . six more to go. In the meantime, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year’s! Or if you have a Seinfeld bent, you may be celebrating Festivus and are preparing for the airing of grievances. Either way . . . enjoy!
Onward to 2015!