2009 Weave of the week #19: Sample weaving, part two

Woven roses

Woven roses

At the end of my first sample weaving article I described how bored I had become with my handweaving job at Burlington Woolens, but when I came across this swatch yesterday, for the first time in years, it reminded me how quickly that situation changed.

First, Elke left and Joan replaced her as Burlington’s designer. I liked Joan. Her manner was less reserved than Elke’s and that made her a more open and a more unpredictable boss. When I demonstrated to Joan that I could analyze fabrics and that I had an acceptable color sense, she made me her assistant. That meant that I “picked out” weaves and graphed them, knocked off designs, wrote layouts for the weavers to follow, and ordered supplies for the weave room.

Joan (red wine) and I (Jack Daniels, rocks) sometimes had lunch together at Garment Center hangouts that I had never been to on my handweaver’s salary, such as Bill’s and the 1407 Club.  She introduced me to her friend Babette (vodka martini, rocks, no fruit), the long-time designer at Westwood Fabrics, who designed the rose fabric shown above. I didn’t know then and still don’t know whether the design was original or a knockoff, but the design excited me because it hinted at a wider weaving world than the one I knew.

This woven rose design, with its curved petals and leaves, was the first I had ever seen that departed from the straight lines and right angles that I was used to. I loved the effect that the shaded wefts produced, and the fine black warp and weft binder threads which were essential to the structure, made the whole thing look like needlepoint. Here are details of the front and back sides.

The second big change was that Burlington moved all its offices into the brand-new Burlington Tower on 6th Avenue and 54th St., so we weren’t in the Garment Center anymore. The new building was in the Rockefeller Center area — only a subway stop uptown from where we had been, but a duller, lower-energy neighborhood. I missed the Garment Center. I even missed the racks of clothes rolling through the jammed streets that had scared me so much at first that I was afraid to go out to lunch.

Our new weave room was more spacious, but some of the weavers — notably Edy — had already left and been replaced, so the chemistry was different, as well as the location. The two new weavers were Ilene, a gutsy New Yorker whom I am still in touch with occasionally. (If I remember correctly, she tried to instigate a handweavers’ strike in our weave room at least once, and used her loom at work to do unauthorized freelance work for other clients), and Hannah, a high-strung, unworldly, teenager, who was just starting to break away from her Orthodox Jewish family.

I don’t know how long I continued to work at Burlington after we moved, but someone called me from Guilford Mills — another former North Carolina textile giant — and offered me a job setting  up and running a handweaving studio. That sounded great, so I gave Guilford a list of the equipment they would need, gave Joan my notice, and took a vacation in Mexico.

When I got back to New York, I found out that Guilford’s project has fallen through and I was unemployed. I took a job with a free lance textile designer named Stan. It was very easy sample weaving, but his studio only had table looms, and after a maddening week of weaving at half speed, I got Stan to let me weave the samples at home on my Gilmore loom. And that’s where I was when Sharon, the designer at Atwood Fabrics called, and my life changed again.


4 Responses

  1. Great story! I await the next installment.

    • Bonnie, Thanks for reading and commenting and for persevering : )


  2. Your weaving career is always interesting to read about!! I like how you set us up for the next installment.

    I’m still haunted by that beautiful pale undulating twill scarf you blogged about a few weeks ago.

    Take care!

    • Sue, Thanks for your comments. They’re much appreciated.


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