September 19, 2010:
We are fortunate to have a weaving book in our library which is oftentimes referred to as “The Bible.” And justifiably so. The book in question, titled “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book,” was written, copyrighted, and self-printed in May, 1944, by Marguerite Porter Davison.
What makes this book so special? Perhaps a bit of background information concerning Mrs. Davison would be helpful in understanding why. She was born in 1887, near Cincinnati, Ohio, to a manual training school principal and a self-taught landscape painter. After graduating high school, the family moved to Berea, Kentucky, where Marguerite was introduced to weaving. Here she became an assistant to Anna Ernberg, the founder of Fireside Industries, a program which taught mountain women how to weave coverlets in the old tradition. Here also she met and married Waldo Davison.
Waldo and Marguerite volunteered as missionaries in Brazil, where Waldo established a junior college. It has been said that Marguerite took her loom with her, but had neither the time nor space to do much weaving. Thirteen years later, upon moving to Muskogee, Oklahoma, Marguerite took over what was once a chicken house and set up her loom, which allowed her some space to weave. Eventually moving to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and with her children grown, she was finally able to weave in earnest.
Her work with Fireside Industries created an interest in preserving and reviving old coverlet designs. She would search them out, analyze the draft, and weave them. This lead to exploring the possibility of weaving other patterns from the same threadings. She began to fill notebooks with pattern swatches, and the more pleasing designs found their way into larger weavings. She recruited friends to help with her “experiments” and soon had several looms going. She compiled her findings, leading to the publication of “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book,” which, having been re-printed numerous times, remains a classic reference for modern weavers.
Along with the vast information pertaining to treadings found in this book, the chapter entitled “A Few Suggestions From Old Weavers” and the narratives at the beginning of each chapter make for enjoyable reading. The pattern names in themselves are reminiscent of earlier times; i.e., Four-Leaf Barley Corn, Elizabeth Jane’s Design, Nappy’s Butterflies, and Weaver Rose’s Coverlet No. 28.