book cover, woven wrap and beltWhat We’re Reading: The Maker’s Hand: A Close Look at Textile Structures by Peter Collingwood

Also available under the title, Textile and Weaving Structures

Reviewed by Celeste Grant

I am writing a book review on a book I have not read…at least not the whole thing. I haven’t read it because I keep getting lost in the pictures. The photographs and drawings are of items that Peter Collingwood collected over thirty-five years, since he first began to weave. I have similar items and, I am quite sure, so do you:  baskets, belts, bags, a piece of wire tubing found on a scrap heap. Many are not actually woven—at least not on a loom, but they are often puzzling and always interesting.
He described in two or three pages of detail each the material and structure of more than 93 items. His description is not mere description, but description as evidence. One example is a Peruvian, possibly Incan, Warpface Band. He suggests a “possible way of weaving” deciphered from the evidence he describes from the belt itself. He will not, however, go any further than the evidence leads:  “In examining old textiles, there are three questions to be answered: What is the thread structure? How can it be produced? How was it produced? …. My description is a tentative answer to the second question only.”(p.114) He unmasks another item, a Bead Belt from Kenya. The belt is not what it appears to be. “Take away the beads and you have unconnected threads.” (p.143) In the wire of Japanese strainers, he identifies a “false twist” to show how they “are not really linked at all.”(p.50) “That the meshwork holds is due to the obedience of wire.” Id.
Peter Collingwood examined these traditional–sometimes exotic, sometimes ordinary–objects in great detail, and through the use of plain, crisp and poetic language, he brings “to light the ingenious ways in which their makers exploited the possibilities and overcame the limitations of both material and structure.” (p.7) My great difficulty with this book was in dragging myself away from its pictures so that I could enjoy Peter Collingwood’s language.
Celeste Grant is currently serving as WGM’s Board President. She is a member of the Whorling Spinsters, and explores spinning, weaving, and fiber art of all kinds.