WHO IS PEG MCDADE?
Natural and synthetic fiber artist, practicing hand-weaving with supportive arts of off-loom weaving, stitchery, knitting/crochet, basketry, machine-sewing, hand-sewing, and pattern-making
Clarks Summit, PA/Lackawanna County
Peg McDade is a self-taught fiber artist living and teaching at her studio in Clarks Summit, PA. She is also a teacher of fiber arts.
As a child, she stood for hours alongside her grandaunt Mame’s foot treadle sewing machine fascinated as she sewed gossamer mesh dresses and lace ruching.
“Auntie Mame made many of my first dresses. My grandmother, Anna Louise, embroidered silk taffeta placemats with fine silk thread. While in high school, my father enrolled his three daughters in Singer sewing classes on basic machine sewing skills and how to use patterns. I loved the classes and took two more sessions – Tailoring and Home Decor. (My two sisters bailed after the first class). I made and wore, though crude, my first two-piece pink linen suit while a high school junior and continued to design and make my own suits, coats and dresses through college, early teaching, while raising a family. One day, I bought four looms and four station wagon loads of yarn at an estate sale. I gave away 3 lap looms and some of the yarn. I put the remaining yarn and the 36” four shaft loom in the storage room. I didn’t know how to weave – but I knew I would.”
Peg’s earlies artistic influences beyond her treasured family memories came from early visits to an array of museum collections and gallery exhibition visits: the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art textile collection and exhibitions in 57th Street and SoHo galleries; the Philadelphia Fine Arts Museum folk art collection; the Textile Museum in Washington, DC; the Textile Department of The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto; and Annie Albers weavings at Yale University Art Gallery. During these early years, Peg was also reading everything she could get her hands on regarding traditional fiber and weaving arts – as well as seeking out instruction from the top teachers in her field.
“I taught myself to set up the loom using the early seminal books of Edward F. Worst 1918; Mary Meigs Atwater, 1928; Marguerite Davison, 1944 and Berta Frye, 1958. At that time, while teaching in college full-time and raising a family, I decided to study every other summer with the fiber artists/authors I admired and whose books I cherished. Some of the workshops I attended included: Tapestry at Peters Valley with Nell Znamierowski, who was an artist/teacher at FIT in NYC; Multi-shaft Weaving at the Carnegie Museum Scaife Gallery with Else Regensteiner, an artist/teacher at the Art Institute of Chicago; Rug Weaving Techniques with Peter Collingwood, the British master weaver at The Mannings; Weaving Theory taught by Madelyn van der Hoogt, editor of Handwoven; Basketry at Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI; and The Business of Art at The University of Colorado, Ft. Collins. Over time, I taught myself the English method of knitting and am especially indebted to the Mon Tricot, Paris, compendium of knitting patterns. I learned Stitchery and appliqué methods through the indispensable stitchery encyclopedia of Mary Thomas.”
With such a hunger to learn and to engage in that which brings her joy, Peg continues to knit or crochet almost every night. Far from feeling that she has “mastered” fibre arts, she feels that each fiber learning leads to a more complex or new, fascinating technique which spurs her on to the next. She feels that the way to attain “mastery” is through healthy self-criticism and sheer doggedness to continue learning. “It is easy to commit to lifelong wonder,” she notes.