Archive for February, 2009

Twain Revell: Enterprising free spirit
February 13, 2009

A talk about “Spinning Exotic Fibers” would not normally entice me to a Weavers’ Guild meeting on a freezing Saturday morning, but the possibility of seeing the speaker’s giant angora rabbit was irresistible.

Twain Revell was the guest speaker. “Spinner” doesn’t begin to define her skills, but she is unquestionably an expert spinner who has spun all of the usual fibers, plus bamboo and corn fibers, dog hair, and rabbit — spinning straight from the rabbit while it was in her lap. She is also a knitter, crocheter, sewer, designer, dynamic speaker, and sometime stand-up comic.

Twain majored in marketing in college, then worked at the World Bank where a knitting group reawakened her interest in knitting. Knitting inspired her to learn to spin, and that led to her leaving the World Bank to start a new life as a fiber artist in Harlem.

Twain brought many of her one-of-a-kind pieces, and other visuals, to illustrate her talk. She spoke of the gutsy career change that took her to retail shows, to fashion magazines, and down other roads that artists travel in trying to reach their audience. She emphasized that she does not sketch or follow trends; her inspiration comes from the materials.

twain-in-action3The best way to see the scope of Twain’s work — including her signature mud cloth designs — is to check out her website: The amazing, multicolored, knotted coat shown on her home page took 3 years to create and 5 years to sell. Twain said, “This whole thing is a patience thing,” and that’s a great motto.


After hearing Twain’s talk, I was surprised to find myself asking a friend to return my hand carders and drop spindle, but that impulse may pass.

Sorry to say that Twain’s giant angora rabbit, Lily White, passed away before the meeting took place, so I didn’t get to meet her after all.

2009 Weave of the week #6: “Street tweed”
February 8, 2009

"street tweed"

"street tweed"

Last week’s weave had a pedigree, but this week’s weave came from a Mexican street vendor’s table in Greenwich Village, NYC — we got here a mutt.

The lively colors and the unusual tweed pattern were what drew me to the vendor’s table, but after looking at the cloth more closely for this article, I found something that I didn’t expect.

The surprise was that all of the warp colors seem to come from just one variegated yarn, rather than from six individual yarns, but it’s hard to know for sure without having a longer, continuous, piece of yarn. (I did have a larger  piece of this cloth, but cut it down for lack of storage space.) The weft colors are solid navy and white, similar to the roving-like, coarse, felted wool warp yarn. The fabric sett is only 7 epi x 8 ppi so the picture above (enlarged) is close to actual size.

My experience in just happening on this “street tweed” is an example of why  I find both studying woven textiles and living in New York endlessly absorbing.

2009 Weave of the week #5: Yoshitaka Yanagi
February 1, 2009

Handwoven by Yoshitaka Yanagi

Handwoven by Yoshitaka Yanagi

Not only is this 36″-square piece of handwoven Japanese cotton fabric  an interesting textile, but it has a pedigree. It was handwoven by Yoshitaka Yanagi (1911-2003),  a well-known Japanese weaver and textile educator.

Mr. Yanagi was the nephew of Soetsu Yanagi, who started the Mingei (Folkcraft) movement in the 1920s, founded the Japanese Folkcraft Museum in Tokyo, and is the author of the classic “The Unknown Craftsman, A Japanese Insight into Beauty.”

Yoshitaka Yanagi, like his uncle, was involved with crafts throughout his life; as a weaver, as a university educator for more than 30 years, and as a scholar who researched and wrote about Okinawan textiles.

The fabric shown above is an elegantly simple design that was woven on four harnesses in tabby variations. There are two main and three accent colors, and the sett is approximately 60 x 60. As far as I can tell, the weaving, including selvedges, is perfect. This is another “find” from my friends at Old Japan (,  so I trust the provenance.