A Master Weaver, Ethel Stein

Ethel Stein. The Three Graces, 1995. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Ethel Stein. © Ethel Stein – click to enlarge

When I was living in New York in 1983 I began volunteering in the Textile Department at the Cooper Hewitt Museum (now part of the Smithsonian). Milton Sonday was the curator and a wonderful mentor for me. He introduced me to Ethel Stein and I visited her home and studio one day. She taught me the secret for using the warping paddle and was friendly and generous with her time .

Ethel Stein. Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Orange III, 1995. The Art Institute of Chicago. Gift of Ethel Stein. © Ethel Stein – click to enlarge

She had just finished building her drawloom after figuring out the mechanics to make it work. She began with a countermarch loom and converted it to the drawloom after studying damask fabrics at the Cooper Hewitt with Milton.

thel-Stein-Moon-Wall-2008-The-Art-Institute-of-Chicago-Gift-of-Ethel-Stein-c-Ethel-Stein – click to enlarge

Her woven work is beautiful and especially so given that she didn’t have a computer or computer generated drawloom at that time.


I was thrilled to find this video of her working and think you’ll love it. I hope  to have a video of me working to play at my memorial some day! Other weavers might consider doing the same thing. 

7 thoughts on “A Master Weaver, Ethel Stein

  1. Great Video! Her hands show signs of arthritis yet she still weaves. It gives me hope that I will be able to weave as long as I want!

  2. Wow! What an inspiration! Thank you for letting us know about this Peggy. I have some of her images on a Pinterest board but really know nothing about her. We weavers need to see older folks like this still at the loom. Impressive.

  3. Fabulous video, and such an artist. So wish the video had been hours long, way too short to document such an important artist. Thanks so much for sharing this slice of her creative life.

  4. Thank you for posting this — I was not familiar with her. What an inspriration — she deserves to be better known. Beautiful work.

  5. I remember visiting her with you and Virginia way back when. The word “awesome” with its true meaning comes to mind! I recall how gracious she was, even making us a lovely lunch. I was lucky to be in Chicago when her show was at the AIC and got to see the wonderful pieces there.

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