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Archive for July, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things: #40 – Nellie Sargent Johnson and Handweaving News

I’m going to take a slightly different approach to my latest favorite thing I’m sharing with you.  I want to share with others some background on a very important weaver, Nellie Sargent Johnson.  Then I want to use that as a springboard to bring to light an older weaving publication, Handweaving News.

Many modern day weavers are familiar with the big names . . . e.g., Atwater, Tidball, Alderman, Collingwood, van der Hoogt, and more.  One person I think is more than deserving of more recognition is Nellie Sargent Johnson.

Nellie Sargent Johnson

Nellie Sargent Johnson

Nellie Sargent Johnson was born Nellie Sargent in 1887 in Massachusetts.  She married Charles S. Johnson in 1922 when she was 34 yeas old.  She started teaching weaving privately in 1927.  In 1929 she became the Weaving Editor for Design Magazine.  In 1933 she started her own publication, Handweaving News.  She continued writing this monthly publication until she passed away in 1951 . . . 220 issues in all.

I have learned a lot over the years from Handweaving News.  A few copies I found among my great-grandmother’s weaving items.  Others I have come across here-and-there.  Handweaving News is not one of the longest or most beautiful of publications; however, I must keep in mind what it took just a few decades ago to put together even one page of information and make multiple copies.  The idea of using a typewriter makes me shudder with memories of my pokey typing speed in order to reduce errors, the foreboding effort it took to correct an error, and don’t even get me started on what we had to do to make copies.  Mimeographs and carbon paper, anyone?  No, thank you!  I’ll bask in the convenience of technology while I sing praises to those that came before us and correct the multitude of errors I made in this paragraph with a click or two of my mouse and keyboard.

Anyway, back to Nellie Sargent Johnson and Handweaving News.  The internet has made accessibility to approximately 100 issues of this publication readily available at the Griswold On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics located at https://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/hwn.html (a stupendous resource in itself).

By scrolling through the resources listed on the link, you can see that each issue of Handweaving News is on a single focused topic and only two to four pages long . . . just long enough to make a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine) and take it in.  What is so impressive to me is the incredible range of topics covered . . . loom-controlled weaves, such as Bronson lace, crackle, overshot, summer & winter. . . weaver-controlled weaves, such as tapestry, inlay, soumak and other knotting techniques . . . design techniques, insight on equipment and materials, and more.  It’s almost as though there wasn’t anything related to weaving Nellie Sargent Johnson didn’t appreciate.  It’s also one of the earliest articles (earliest, maybe) on the use of algebraic expression in handweaving.

Below are just a few of my favorite issues along with an image . . .

  • Designing “Crackle” Weave Patterns in February 1940 (one of a number of articles on Crackle)  Crackle
  • Designing Four-block Twills and Squares in July 1942Designing Four Block Twills and Squares
  • An Experimental Sampler Using 8 Harness Twills. May 1943Eight-shaft twill sampler
  • Handwoven Hats in August 1944Hats

For more information on Nellie Sargent Johnson, I invite you to read a short biography on her life written in 1998 by Nancy McKenna.  You may find it available at the following link http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/periodicals/hwn_intro.pdf

I think it’s well worth it to know about this remarkable weaver and wonderful resource.  Scan through the topics.  Something just may interest you in learning something new or intrigue you to try something different.


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