August 22, 2010:
Born in 1906, like all good little German girls in the early years of the 20th century, Else Regensteiner was
expected to learn and love needlework. Learn it, she did. Love it, she did not. She disliked it so much that she “invented” eye trouble in the hopes that a doctor would excuse her from classes in sewing, crochet, embroidery and tatting. That didn’t work; and she had to continue with the lessons throughout her public school years. However, as soon as she graduated high school, Else forgot all about needlework and went to work in her father’s law firm. Later on, she went to back to school to obtain a degree in education.
In 1936, Else and her husband immigrated to the United States to escape Nazi rule, settling in the Chicago area to be near family members. While attempting to find work, Else happened upon an apprenticeship program in the Weaving Department of the School of Design, which was founded on the German Bauhaus approach to teaching creative design for industry.
At the time she knew nothing of weaving, but accepted the position and adapted very quickly to the apprenticeship principles of function, design, beauty, and suitability for mass production; i.e. curtain and upholstery fabrics. This, in turn, lead to a lifetime of weaving, teaching, and writing three books on the subject. Among her numerous accomplishments, Else Regensteiner was a founding member of the Handweavers Guild of America and made a significant contribution to the weaving community by helping to promote weaving as a legitimate art.
We are fortunate to have two of Else Regensteiner’s books in our library: The Art of Weaving and Weaver’s Study Course, Ideas and Techniques. Both are well worth looking into.