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From where I sit at my loom with a view – The cheese is on the move…

GOOD MORNING!

Today I would like to share a fact about myself that most of you might not know – and to put it very simply, it is this: I don’t like change.

I don’t deal with it very well either – well, at least I didn’t use to, but I am getting better at it. Some years ago – in fact, around about the time that the iconic little book that inspired the title of this particular blog was published, I was actually a cheesemaker – ironic though this might sound. It was a business that started as a fascination, and grew and grew until it swallowed me up and one day spat me out. It was a very tough time for me and a wonderful friend gave me a copy of “Who moved my Cheese”, by I can’t remember who, and I suddenly realized a whole lot of things: change is scary, change is uncomfortable, change is also inevitable and, perhaps most importantly of all, that one needs to be adaptable. For someone who is actually very stubborn, it is this last one that I have the most trouble with.

Now, as a result of the events over the past few months, I find that the winds of change are once again blowing a gale – and not only for me, but for everyone, and isn’t that the truth? Our world has changed – some-one in China sneezed and the rest of the world got the Flu and now we have to figure out a way forward.

I have been a weaver for a loooong time now, in fact I was a weaver before I was a wife, or a Mum or a cheesemaker, but all of those things put the weaving on the backburner and it was only after someone “moved my cheese”, that I actually gave myself permission to become really serious about it. For the past years I have spent a whole lot of time away from home, on the road, teaching workshops and sharing my love of the craft and suddenly I can’t do that anymore. Not that I don’t love being at home you understand, and when Mr Bignose, pictured above, peers into my kitchen window first thing in the morning (I think he smelt the coffee), then I know that I am in the right place. However, there is one thing wrong with this picture of domestic bliss and that is that not being able to travel to teach, means that I am not earning an income.

I know I’m not the only person in this situation, and there are many, many people who are far worse off that I am, and I am pre-armed with the cheese-moving knowledge that change is ok and doesn’t have to be terrifying if one is willing to adapt. So that is what I am trying to do. I have totally kicked myself out of my comfort zone and begun embracing things like social media and technology which have always been minefields of terror for me. My on-line shop is once again ‘on-line’ and the two little Facebook groups for my weaving buddies are active and full of questions and discussion and information, and keep me well on my toes. Our bi-weekly ZOOM calls are a wonderful opportunity to catch up on what people are doing, and remind myself what they look like, BUT… the most exciting news of all is that my very own Patreon page will go live later on this month.

Called “The Weaving Diaries”, it will be a chronical of where I live, what I love, what I am working on and a whole host of weaverly information that I am currently unable to share with you in the flesh. There will also be technical studies for the harness weavers and projects for the Rigid Heddle girls, downloadable info sheets that you can print and add to a file for future reference

For me, this is HUGE!Both in terms of a change of direction and in terms of learning something new every day, but I am so excited to be doing this. Hilda from Ilona Slow Life Creations gently nudged me in this direction, although perhaps she regrets it now because I am constantly demanding her attention to fix the technological mishaps that result from my ineptitude in that field, so apologies to Hilda for that.

I am looking forward to this giving me the best of all worlds – in other words I can be at home and teach at the same time, and with your support, also earn a small income, which will, in turn, allow me to invest in more yarn to develop more projects and ideas, and so the wheel continues to turn.

So, just like the little mouse in the mythical maze, I am on the move in search of a new cheese supply and I hope you will join me and share the cheese when we get there.

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From Where I sit at my loom with a view – a good week….

I always know whether I’ve had a good week by the energy with which I tackle the chores on Saturday. If it’s been a good, busy, productive week, the energy is good and the chores are done with a good feeling – if not – well, I leave that your imagination…..

Well, I had a very good week, and the house is spick and span, just in time for the thatching company to commence work on our roof – what was I thinking???? Actually I didn’t really expect it to happen quite so soon, but the move from level 4 of lockdown to level 3 means that some people at least, can begin going back to work. Some of us on the other hand, never really stopped – it is just the medium that has changed.

I have to admit to finding the changes difficult. I didn’t realise that I was quite such a people person – perhaps I’m not really – perhaps I am just definitely NOT a technology person which makes me feel like I am more of a people person? Actually one thing that I have learnt about myself over the past few year, is that I am much more of a people person that I thought I was, and goodness knows, I am missing my weaving buddies right now!

I am astonished at how much time the Facebook groups and the ZOOM calls take out of my day, but I am even more astonished to find that I actually enjoy both. Having been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and our technologically driven world, taking years to brave Facebook and Instagram, never mind how long it took me to figure out how to send an e mail (blush)…., I now find myself dreaming dreams of a Computer driven Dobby Loom with many, many shafts! I am after all allowed to dream because I had a good week.

I all started off a little slowly, with the Geriatric Snail Mohair Doublewidth throws on my floor loom progressing so slowly that I felt I was actually going backwards – until, on Friday morning, I moved the measuring tape yet again and found that Lo and behold – the end was finally nigh! That – and the beautiful weather which was just warm enough for me to sit in my studio in comfort – spurred me on and I finally took them off the loom just before lunch-time. HOORAY – AT LAST! And I have to say that they are gorgeous – light and fluffy and cuddly and just delicious – a belated housewarming gift for my son and his girlfriend who live in the currently freezing Cape.

The little Summer bag just the right size for a baguette, a serious chunk of cheese and a bottle of wine is finished – off the loom, washed, made up and living up to my expectations – so pleased with it. The pattern is also underway and will be on the website soon. I do find writing patterns is quite a challenge – not to mention terribly time-consuming, but this was a good project and I have very positive feelings about it.

Roll on Summer (and end of lockdown access to the beach again…)

There is a silk shawl in progress on the sixteen shaft, and the threading for the eight shaft gamp for the Four or More group on Facebook is nearly there. Add two ZOOM calls into this mix, and it will surely show that I have been busy.

Right now my desk looks like this….

Which can only mean that there are new ideas in my head looking for a way out – so keep watching this space.

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On the Road again.

London comes to Clarens. Beautiful Merino split shawl in Karoo Moon Yarn.[/caption]   As always, the long drive became a time for thought and contemplation, and also as always, I wondered about the people I would meet, and those who were booked to attend my workshops. I love the teaching part of my life, and the stimulation that comes with it. People look askance when I tell them that I sometimes wonder who learns more – the student or the teacher. [caption id="attachment_745" align="alignright" width="300"] Proposed cushion covers with log Cabin and Houndstooth central panel detail[/caption] In order to explain this comment, let me explain something about myself. I like order and organisation and I like to be in control – which is not always possible in a teaching situation. In fact the biggest learning curve I have had to face is “Learning to tap dance”. Other people refer to it as “becoming Montessori”, or just plain old “Learning to be flexible”. For me, this has not been a particularly easy road, but in retrospect it is a skill well learned. People who attend these workshops are not booking into the local High School and do not want to be treated as such, and many of them come to a class with a fixed idea in their minds of what they would like to achieve. [caption id="attachment_746" align="alignleft" width="300"] Hard at work, discovering the intracies of Double Weave on the Rigid Heddle[/caption] My first approach to teaching Rigid Heddle Weaving was to design a sampler showcasing a variety of colour and weave and textural techniques that could be completed in the space of a day – by a complete beginner. Very disciplined and structured, and in fact I still believe in this concept, but find that the majority of people attending a one day workshop want to go home with more than just a sampler – they want to make something that they can use. Even more challenging is when someone comes a to a workshop with a definite idea of what they think they should be able to make in the space of a day! Then, after teaching for some time,  I started picking up the problem of people who had done the beginners stuff and wanted to do something more advanced. Oh and the ladies who didn’t want to do anything in wool (or cotton) but preferred to work in cotton (or wool). In other words, my pre-conceived idea of how to teach a  weaving workshop was fast disappearing out of the window. Gradually over the last couple of years my tap dancing skills have begun to improve – well I think so anyway. I advertise the classes as I plan them, and then do pretty much what is required by the students. I’ve learnt that it is entirely possible to teach double heddle weaving alongside a beginners colour and weave sampler. I learnt that people doing  two one day workshops sometimes like to take the second day to weave sufficient length to complete a scarf instead of doing the second sampler, and I’ve learnt that free form weaving can happily happen alongside the more conventional. Most importantly though, I have learnt  that it is important to give people what they want so that they enjoy the experience and go home feeling satisfied with what they have accomplished. Secondly, the more there is going on in the classroom, the more it stimulates the imaginations and intellects of the people taking the class. [caption id="attachment_747" align="alignleft" width="195"] Free form with the focus on texture. Blue and white – always clean and fresh[/caption] [caption id="attachment_750" align="alignright" width="300"] Endless possibility on the versatile Rigid Heddle loom.[/caption] I left Clarens having taught workshops which covered, colour and weave, double weave, finger manipulated lace, free form weaving (using the Vari Dent reed), weft faced weaving and even a tiny little bit of very basic tapestry. The variety keeps me on my toes and sometimes I have to dig deep to keep up with the requests of my students. I try and give them as much technical background as I can to go with their explorations and to guide them towards producing textiles of integrety.  When I put my feet up at the end of the day, I  generally feel deeply satisfied (absolutely shattered sometimes, but still satisfied) and I like to think that the students go home with lots of food for thought and a mind abuzz with ideas for many projects yet to come. By the end of the week my mind too, was abuzz with ideas.  For example, I’m thinking that it will be nice to teach some weft faced weaving for a change – perhaps a set of four mug rugs, each showcasing a different aspect of weft faced. Or what about a one ball  wonder scarf using a multicoloured yarn and featuring a few basic pick up techniques…… Maybe Houndstooth is a bit old fashioned these days? What about a thick and thin Log Cabin place mat? [caption id="attachment_748" align="alignright" width="300"] Free form with focus firmly on colour.[/caption] ………And I had a whole long drive all the way back to Hodespruit to think about it and start planning the next one! [caption id="attachment_749" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Maluti Sunrise – looking forward to next year.[/caption]]]>

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Where to next?

Four and eight shafts = endless possibilities.[/caption] I suddenly find myself in the situation where I have two empty looms sitting looking at me with that ‘ You are neglecting me’ look. In the course of the past week, I have completed the two warps that were on my 80cm eight shaft, and my 40cm four shaft  Ashford table looms. One warp was a  serious exploration of the effect of sett on the finished product, and the other was a bit of a flight of fantasy, and the culmination of some fairly in-depth explorations into the much taken for granted, weaver’s fall back – Twill. Weaving is such a vast field, and there are so many techniques and structures to explore that it is a little like being afloat in a vast sea of possibility. I personally have a tendency to lurch from one project to the next, under the often misguided inspiration of something I have seen on Pinterest,  read about in a weaving related publication, or, quite frankly just dreamed up in my own muddle-headed way. There is so much information ‘ out there’ and so many people doing so many different things, that unless I have some point of focus, I tend not to do very much at all. And yes, I am a bit of a ditherer when it comes to making decisions about what to do next. The whole Twill thing happened in a bit of a random fashion. A friend asked me to make her a wrap some months ago which was absolutely plain – same colour warp and weft and no embellishments whatsoever. Very boring prospect I thought, until I started working on the project, and realized how valuable an opportunity it was to take myself right back to basics, and to concentrate on the quality of the weaving, rather than challenging myself with complicated techniques and trying to be smart by thinking out of the box and doing things that nobody else was doing. [caption id="attachment_696" align="alignleft" width="300"] Who said you can’t weave twill on a rigid heddle loom?[/caption] Logically, it seemed to me that the next step must be to go back to Twill basics – only to discover that there is not much that is basic about Twill. Endlessly versatile, I think that this could quite easily become a life study. Bearing in mind of course that on four shafts there are twelve twill treadling possibilities. That doesn’t sound like much until you start to mix and match and manipulate these treadling possibilities and change the threading and turn the draft, and all this before colour has even become a consideration. At some point in my meandering through the myriad of literature that there is available on this, most beloved and versatile of weave structures, I stumbled upon a document entitled “A Twill For All Seasons” by Paul R. O Connor. Well it would have to be a man that went this far……. ! He worked out that on a straight threading over eight harnesses, using only one of the possible tie-ups for an eight shaft twill, there are 40, 320 treadling possibilities!!!! Then he set about eliminating any possible duplicates and came up with 320 possible treadling variations – so, still pretty impressive, but much easier to come to terms with. I have to admit, that this first paragraph of the introduction really made me sit up and think. Sadly the rest of the document ( yes you can find it for yourself  – Google has a lot to answer for), is as dry as a bone. Also, it seems that his calculations were based on balanced twills. In other words, for four shafts he only explored the possibilities of 2/2 twills and neglected the 1/3 and 3/1 variations – although by this stage I was holding my eyes open with matchsticks, so it could well be that I wasn’t reading quite ‘on the diagonal’ so to speak. [caption id="attachment_727" align="alignright" width="300"] Four shafts, two directions, many colours.[/caption] My own twill explorations, were not not so thorough, but I have (and still am) enjoying myself, and some of the results have been interesting and fascinating and have motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and experiment a little more, bend the so-called rules, and just generally have fun. There is nothing in the rules that says that a good old fashioned twill can’t be turned upside-down, or inside out, or round about for that matter. It is indeed a veritable breeding ground for weaving ideas and technical exploration. In fact, I see many, many more twills -straight , fancy, braided, inverted, undulated, blended, shaded – and now I have run out of adjectives – in my weaving future, and I can’t wait to begin the next lot of samples! Important to add of course, that these examples are all on straight threadings – think of the possibilities when the threadings are altered – a whole different way of looking at life in the Twill lane! [caption id="attachment_729" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Twill stripes with tabby separations. Woven on six shafts[/caption]              ]]>