Thursday, December 5, 2013

Those big tapestry bobbins

In October I wrote a blog post about some tapestry bobbins that were my grandmothers. Recently things have shifted for my grandmother as my grandfather passed away soon after I wrote that post. My grandmother is still alive but she has Alzheimer's dementia and has moved to a memory unit. She no longer remembers a lot about her fiber explorations, so her sons boxed the books that my aunt didn't want up and sent them to me. I quickly realized that those two 40 pound boxes of books were a treasure trove of information about both weaving and about my grandmother. I know that there is much to learn as I pick through those books. Some of it I will share with you.

These are the bobbins which I acquired in 2008 when my grandparents moved from New Mexico out east for health reasons.

Due to a snow storm that shut down Santa Fe today (it doesn't take much snow around here, but we did get about 6 inches), I had time to dig through those boxes. One of the things I found was a pamphlet with these photos in it. Is anyone familiar with the Dryad Handicrafts leaflets? This is number 85. On the back it says DRYAD HANDICRAFTS, Northgates, Leicester. (*see below) This linked information about Dryad Handicrafts is of some interest. The company started in World War I to provide quality craft materials for occupational therapists (whoot whoot!) and for use in schools. (Just bringing it full circle grandma!)

Here is the text and drawing of the bobbin from page 4:
The photo from the cover is this one:
And here is a photo (PLATE 1 referred to in text) showing more clearly weaving with these bobbins (note the one hanging).
The bobbin pictured here looks about the same size as the ones I have. I wouldn't be surprised if my grandmother bought the pamphlet and bobbins together. Grandma Marian did weave some tapestry. Some of her portfolios and scrapbooks were included in the treasure boxes, so I hope to discover some forgotten photos of her tapestries.

Kathe Todd-Hooker, who knows quite a lot about bobbins whereas I know very little, provided some great information on my last blog post on this subject:

They are probably based on European bobbins. yes they are high warp bobbins. Most likely Gobelin bobbins. They are 2-3 inches shorter then Gobelin bobbins. BUT, what often happened is tourists or people were gifted with used bobbins without realizing that the bobbins had been cut down and shortened as the points broke or wore out over time. When bought to the US the shortened bobbins were copied in the shortened form. There's a couple arguments that can be made that when William Morris studied Gobelin weaving to bring back to England. He received or was given some of the shortened Gobelin bobbins and didn't realize they were shortened, but copied them and they became the norm for British weaving-maybe not, but after reading the things he wrote about Gobelin weaving I can see some crusty old Gobelin weaver laughing as he gave them to WM. They are very reminiscent to some bobbins I have in my collection that I have picked up over the last 35 plus years. Lucky you! I would love to have one to show students.
Thanks for the info Kathe! I'll send you a bobbin as Marian would love to know her weaving things were living on in new students.

I have learned a great deal more about my grandmother through these books and papers as she loved to draw and write her thoughts in them. I will have more to share about my explorations both technically and my grandmother's art in future posts.

*Rug Weaving, Dryad Leaflet No. 85, Dryad Handicrafts, Northgates, Leichester. Printed in England by the Blackfriars Press Ltd, Leicester.


  1. Thanks Rebecca, this is fascinating stuff (imho!) My great-grandmother was a weaver in Albania in the early part of the century (and a dyer too!) and have some of her work - rugs and blankets. This synchronicity takes my breath away! I always enjoy reading your blog posts, thanks and happy weaving!

  2. Thank you Rebecca. I would love to have one of your Grandmothers bobbins. I'll put it to good use to show my students. Would love to see some pictures of your Grandmother's tapestry! The stool the weaver is sitting on looks really comfortable and easy on the back to weave from.

  3. Thanks Rebecca--this is so very interesting. How heavy would one of these bobbins be? You are so fortunate to have received these boxes of books and journals, etc. I have many sample sheets my mother made of her weavings and even her handwoven wardrobe as she has passed away. Don't know what to do with her clothes. But I grew up with weaving and guess that is why I finally got into it. Love your blog.

  4. Hi, Becky! This is so interesting, even for a non-weaver like me! I remember the charming, detailed, fun pictures your Grandma Marian would draw to accompany her hand-written notes in the Christmas cards she sent to your other Grandma and Grandpa. They were certainly unique and special!
    Aunt Jan


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