The Art And Craft Of Hand Weaving – Lili Blumenau

Lili Blumenau attended the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts.  She later studied at the Academy Scandinave in Paris during which time she decided to pursue a career in weaving and textile artisty.  Graduating as the first woman student at the New York School of Textile Technology she went on to gain mill experience and in 1948 she began the weaving workshop at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York.  In 1952 she founded the weaving department at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Design, New York, New York.  From 1944 until 1950 she was curator of textiles at Cooper Union Museum.  In 1955 she authored The Art and Craft of Hand Weaving, Including Fabric Design, which was published by Crown Publishers, New York City.

md135362474I received Lili Blumenau’s book the other day, The Art And Craft Of Hand Weaving, reviewed by Dorothy Day in 1956.  I am far from disappointed.  Structurally, this book is divided into four parts: (1) Evolution, Looms, Weaving Procedure, (2) Fibers, (3) Weaves, and (4) Design.  However, it is not a strictly technical text.  It is much richer.  She writes, [t]he ideal of handwaving today is not simply material.  It is a means of self-realization and fulfillment.  And its purpose today is unique.  Practically, we do not need to weave cloth by hand but the value of weaving is in the work.  The present-day desire to weave is one expression of the search in our time for human qualities.  Rather than focusing on writing simply another book on patterns and techniques (those elements are there), Blumenau encourages creative artisanship based on the raw material, its visual and tactile characteristics.  And she reminds her readers that doing so is not the sole possession of only specialty artists.  Weaving for her entails ‘good work’, engaging, fully human, and life-giving in every respect.

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Pioneer Life – Doukhobors

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As the Doukhobors moved out to these villages they first erected makeshift shelters, either of poplar poles or turf; sometimes, where there was a hillside, they lived the summer through in a dugout, and there were also a number of tents.  Outdoor ovens were built for baking bread, and the blacksmiths set up their forges and made charcoal out of the available timber.  Like most communities that have traditionally been self-contained, the Doukhobors found little difficulty in going immediately into operation in a strange environment, for they had among them men who knew all the necessary crafts.  Among the first things they obtained through the bonus fund was a quantity of iron bars and leather, and with these they immediately set about making harness, spades, and tires for their wagons.

This self-sufficiency, which was carried into many fields of activity, undoubtedly helped the Doukhobors to survive with very little money during the first years on the prairies.  One of the first gifts of the American Quakers was three hundred spinning-wheels, and with these the Doukhobor women span the woollen and linen thread they later wove on homemade looms into homespun cloth.  Furniture was made out of hand-hewn wood, and utensils, such as spoons, were carved out of the same material.  Some of these crafts continued to be practised for decades…

The Doukhobors, Woodcock and Avakumovic