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Spring has Sprung at the loom with a view

I think that we can all agree that this Winter has been a PROPER Winter! Even here in the beautiful, balmy Lowveld, the temperature dipped below our comfort levels and saw us wearing jeans and sweaters and sometimes even more. This time last year we were already in an out of the swimming pool multiple times a day, but not so this year. In fact we haven’t even dipped a tentative toe into the water because we know that it is still going to be way too cold!

The welcome arrival of Spring also means that my next workshop at the beautiful Crafter’s Lodge is just around the corner – my first trip for some months – and I am so looking forward to it! Not that my time at home has been wasted mind you. I have been hard at it, finishing up the Block Weave and Profiles section on the Patreon page, closely followed by the Rep Weave and the Ponchonotaponcho for the Rigid Heddle weavers.

My current study is Honeycomb and deflected weft structures, also for the Patreon page. It is a structure that works equally well in both disciplines, and has surprised me by showing me that there are some variations which are quite easy and simple to produce on a Rigid Heddle loom, that require more than my normal eight shafts on a harness loom!

For me it is quite a luxury to just have the opportunity to play and experiment at the loom. The above images were all woven on an eight shaft loom, and this morning, I have spend my time translating them for the Rigid Heddle. With a couple of pick-up sticks and some patience, pretty much anything is possible on a RH, and it never ceases to surprise me how versatile this little loom can be.

Honeycomb is a fascinating weave structure which really does ‘ bend the square’. (It also bent my brain a bit this morning, but that’s beside the point)! It consists of alternating areas of plain weave and floats. In the areas where there are floats, the weft packs down into the space, whereas in the plain weave areas, the weft is allowed to build up. These alternating areas of floats and plain weave are then outlined in a heavy weft thread which automatically follows the ups and downs created by the little cells of plain weave. The result can be quite striking.

Add some colour into the mix and the results can be nothing short of jaw-dropping!

For this piece, I used the Ashford 5/2 Mercerised cotton in a 15 dent heddle. I love the way that the colours ‘pop’ against the Black ground cloth.

My morning was productive , creative and comfortable, sitting at my loom on the deck with my back in the Spring sunshine. It was made even more special by the arrival of a “business” of banded Mongooses – and yes, believe it or not, “business” is the collective noun for Mongooses – and Mongooses is the correct plural! They never fail to bring a smile to my face as they scurry about looking for any tasty little morsel that will feed their frenetic energy levels.

The next two weeks are going to fly by. The idea of teaching a workshop face to face for the first time in some months is definitely something to look forward to, and then there’s always the view from my loom to return to when it’s done. Today is one of those days when I count my blessings and realize just how lucky I am!

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Right now I can’t sit at my loom with a view

Well – I now I can, but for a while I didn’t want to work there!

After quite a few weeks of fairly consistently overcast weather and the most wonderful Summer rains ( for the first time in eight years), the weather has cleared and the world is looking just wonderful!

My walk this morning took me down the fence-line of our estate – for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it was a spectacular morning, and walking down the fence give me the best view of our beautiful mountains. After all, who needs Table Mountain when you have the beautiful Northern Drakensburg, with Mariepskop standing proud in the morning sun. the second reason for the avoiding the trails – for the next couple of months – is that after the drought, the rains have given rise to an upsurge in the insect population, and the beautiful golden Orb spiders are out in abundance for the first time in years.

These magnificent creatures string their webs across the pathways, and when I go for a stomp around the trails in the morning, I tend to have my head down, watching my feet rather than looking where I am going. This is mainly because I’m pretty clumsy and tend to trip over my own feet if I’m not careful, and unfortunately, it means that I have been known to walk into a web without realizing it was there. these webs are incredibly strong, given how delicate they are, and I once read that the tensile strength of a spider’s-web is greater than that of a steel cable.

This beautiful lady was particularly spectacular and about the size of the palm of my hand. Her web was to the side of the path, and although you can’t see it in the picture, it reflected as gold in the morning sun. It set me wondering about the possibilities of spinning Spider Silk. I’m guessing it would be possible, but one would need to destroy a huge number of spider’s webs to make anything worthwhile, so please don’t feel tempted to give it a go!

I was reminded again of the strength of the silk that spiders use to construct their webs, when i went to my loom with a view the other day. I have a small table loom which lives out on my patio, and it is one of my favrouite places to sit and work. However, with the inclement weather I hadn’t used it for a while and, noticing a strange looking collection of “stuff” in the corner of the stand – this is what I found:

Ok – the picture makes it look a lot more terrifying than it really is, and for those of you who don’t know what this is, it is the nest of a Brown Button Spider. The spikey things that look like the Corona Virus are her eggs, and she is fiercely protective of them. The White patch at the top of the picture is her nest, and if you look carefully you can see the distinctive red ‘Hourglass’ mark on her belly. Fortunately, she is nowhere near as nasty as her fearsome cousin, and I decided to let her stay so that I could watch the progress. Any thought of work was relegated to the back burner for the duration.

A few days later, I found that she had left her nest – for whatever reason, but the eggs were still there. i decided to move the nest to another location so that I could go back to work, and was astounded by the effort that it took to move the web. It was incredibly resistant to any sort of interference, and it was quite a struggle to get it off the corner of the loom stand.

Those of us who are lucky enough to work with silk yarns or spin silk thread will know what a beautiful material it is to work with. It never ceases to amaze me that something of such humble origins – it comes from insects after all – spiders and worms…….! – can be so magnificent. And yet when I looked closely at my temporary loom stand resident, and find a Golden Orb across the path, I believe that I can understand after all, because the creatures that produce the fibre are every bit as magnificent as their priceless product. We might not like them very much, but they are still just that – Magnificent!

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From where I sit at my loom with a view…..

my world has changed colour almost overnight!

I am once again stuck at home with not even a glass of wine to lighten the mood! But what can we do? I guess that because I’m a ” glass half full” (even if the bottle is empty and cannot be refilled at the moment) kind of person I am trying to put the time to good use. The fact that I don’t have an income worth mentioning right now is another subject altogether, but what I do have is food on the table and a roof over my head in the piece of paradise I am blessed enough to call home.

The past few days have seen Tropical cyclone Eloise ravage the Lowveld and while many areas are now involved in mopping up operations, we were spared the brunt of the storm and have received wonderful soaking rains, resulting in an explosion of colour as the Purple Fruited cluster leaf trees have suddenly fruited in the most spectacular way I have ever seen. The Raisin bushes are all budding and will soon be covered in little yellow flowers to be followed by their little yellow berries, and the ubiquitous Marula’s are hanging heavy with fruit.

Small creatures abound and we have been visited by all manner of these – including another dreaded squirrel in the house. from tiny little tortoises to elegant little Sand Snakes in the flower pots there is plenty to look at and wonder about after good rain in the lowveld!

With so much to fascinate and restless legs that regularly take me out for long walks, it is not always easy to concentrate on the nitty gritty of my daily working life, but it has to be done – big sigh!

One of the things that I find I am really missing during this time is the stimulation of teaching workshops – yes I know you’ve all heard this before, because I keep on going on about it. This has led to me starting to put a lot of my teaching down on paper, and I am even experimenting with putting some of my processes on to video. None of this is my natural habitat, and those of you who have taken a workshop with me will know that there are seldom printed notes to follow and I tend to teach ” off the top of my head”, adjusting my approach to suit my students and the pace at which they are working.

The past couple of weeks have seen me trying to make the process of warping a harness loom ( for this term read four shaft, or eight shaft etc) accessible to people who are not able to attend a workshop. I started by writing down what I though was a simple instruction, and the more I wrote, the more I found that there is, in actual fact, no such thing as a simple instruction. Likewise, when it comes to putting it all into video format – there is so much that needs to be said an demonstrated. What i am finding most difficult however, is to try and think through the process with the mind of a beginner.

For me, putting up a warp is a familiar process, which is a routine part of my weaving life. To break it down and explain what I am doing without being able to demonstrate in person is soooo difficult! In ‘real life’ my hands can show what I leave out in words, and the demonstration and the verbal instruction work hand in hand, each piece of the act filling in the bits that the other one leaves out.

This is a tremendous challenge for me, but I have to admit to the fact that I am really enjoying it. The Patreon page was the start, and it feels as though this is a logical progression from there. The ultimate plan is to have a series of techniques available as video/workbook courses. It is my hope that this will allow for a whole lot more flexibility when it comes to teaching what my students would like to learn, and instead of being locked into learning a specific technique on a specific weekend at a workshop, there will be a variety on offer and a freedom of choice.

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any more workshops, and I promise that as soon as life settles back down into some semblance of what we used to call normal, the notices will go out……., but perhaps what is happening here is that I’m developing a second string to my bow.

Most people of my age are looking forward to retiring – but why should I? After all there is still a beautiful view from my loom!

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From where I sit at my loom with a view

We are all living in the hope…..

that 2021 will allow our lives to go back to some semblance of normality, but that really doesn’t look very likely – at least not in the foreseeable future. Let’s face it, 2020 was, apart from ridiculously challenging, also very interesting. It rocketed the human race out of an apathetic and destructive comfort zone, and made us think. Indeed it made me think on many levels, and I’m not sure that I have reached any conclusions yet either.

I think that the most important lesson I can take away from 2020 is that we all need to learn to adapt. I read a fascinating little book once called ” Good-bye Tiger, Hello Rat” by a man called Jan Bader, who, at the time was resident on a game farm just outside Hoedspruit. His premise was that the Tiger will go extinct in years to come and the Rat will thrive, and all because, if you take the Tiger out of its habitat it cannot survive. In other words, it lacks the ability to adapt, whereas the opportunistic Rat can adapt to pretty much everything apart from an overdose of Warfarin.

For me, 2020 was about trying to adapt what I love to do to a situation in which society closed down and social contact was all but taken away from us. At first the impact on my tiny little business was inestimable. A certain friend, who, if she reads this piece will know exactly who i am talking about, had been nagging ( yes nagging) me to become more visible on social media, and to think about putting some of my teaching on-line. I had been resisting her advice for ages, with all the excuses in the world. Everything I could think of to convince myself that it was not the way for me to go…… and then suddenly, if I wanted to carry on doing what I love, it was the ONLY way to go! This tiger suddenly became a Rat.

From the Facebook pages to the ZOOM calls, to the Patreon page ( , right down to this little blog ( in which I seldom mention textiles or weaving (- perhaps that also needs to change?), it was all terrifyingly out of my comfort zone, but as a the year progressed I realized that this type of communication, and on-line teaching and sharing of information is now, and most probably will be for years to come an integral part of our lives.

Most importantly, I think I learned that adaptability is a life skill, with which too few of us are familiar. Sure it’s scary, but also exciting, as learning something new must always be. I always thought that to call someone a ‘Rat’ was an insult – perhaps not so much anymore!

One thing that hasn’t changed though is the way my brain buzzes with new ideas and things to try, and techniques that need to be explored, so stay with me and watch this space to see where the journey takes me over the next few months, and meanwhile, all of you, take care and stay safe

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From where I sit at my loom with a view….

The result of the grey skies is now everywhere around me….

One of the things I love most about living in the bush is the startling, almost overnight changes that happen after even the smallest amount of rain. My morning walks have become a treasure trove of little jewels of colour and life everywhere I look, and I am constantly stopping to look and marvel at the richness around me after the good rains a few weeks ago.

The little pink and yellow flowers on the top left are the flowers of the Sickle Bush, a hard, thorny, spikey pioneer plant that grows mostly in areas where the ground has been disturbed. It is a vigrously growing bush which visually has little to recommend it, until these, exquisite little pom-poms of colour take over, and suddenly they are everywhere I look. I call them Ballerina Flowers – not quite sure why, but that’s my name for them.

The little Blue flower is a tiny, low-growing little plant that is easily overlooked, apart from the fact that it is Blue, which is unusual colour for a flower, and this one hides a little secret. If you look below the flower itself in the picture, there is a little Green point which, at first glance, looks like a new leaf, but in actual fact, it is a tiny little pouch which holds four or five drops of crystal clear water, providing a source of water for some of the tiny creatures which so often escape our notice. once the rains have disappeared.

The cluster of Cream coloured flowers is from the Purple cluster leaf, and oh boy, do they smell bad – like decaying meat. Their function is to attract the flies that polinate the flowers, and in the Autumn the bushes will be covered in deep Purple seeds, a little like the seeds of the Combretum.

These long rambles through the bush have eaten into my weaving time lately, but there is so much to see and enjoy out there that I am often out for far longer than I should be.

My weaving life over the past weeks has not really been that productive. Well, that’s not quite true – lets rather say that it hasn’t been visibly productive, but the Patreon page is bursting with posts on Weaving Drafting , and the pick-up study has wound to an end, together with instruction for all the techniques that we covered, many of which will be included in the Christmas Table Runner project.

The temperatures are now in the high thirties almost every day, and outside activities must take place early in the morning. This means that work-time in my studio has become limited. My studio isn’t outside – obviously, but it is quite exposed, and gets very hot during the Summer. This means that my ‘inside’ looms are getting my full attention. The Silk shawls are making progress and I have plans for the next two in the pipeline, but, before that can happen, I am so excited to be going away for my first weaving workshop since the dreaded lurgy changed our lives.

So, watch this space for pictures and stories from our week at the Beautiful ‘Crafter’s Lodge’, starting this coming Thursday…..

I simply can’t wait to catch up with a few of my weaving buddies – I miss them…… I hope that other crafters are able to get together responsibly in small groups and enjoy the social aspect of what we all love to do, a little more than I can!

Till next time then – watch this space…….

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From where I sit at my loom with a view – the madness continues…..

Way back on the 21st March when we went into lockdown we all though it would be going back to some sort of normal by now – well – we were wrong weren’t we?

When I restarted this little page, I was determined not to mention the dreaded lurgy, and I have to admit to finding the whole thing now, rather on a level with Brexit as far as the boredom stakes are concerned. But more importantly, i am beginning to feel that the social limitations that have been imposed upon us (for our own good, according to the powers that be), are beginning to really get to me. I NEED to see the faces of the people around me. Right now, I feel as though I trundle down the aisles in Pick ‘n Pay in the company of a vast hoard of possible thugs and bank robbers. Worst of all, I don’t recognize the people that I know – and then I feel like an idiot, because they still seem to recognize me!

On the plus side though, I have – at last – the time to do all sorts of things that I have been thinking of doing for some time now – not least of all putting some of my teaching on-line on the Patreon platform. For those of you who don’t know what Patreon is, it is a platform, that allows people who have something to offer to the world at large a place where they can market themselves, their art, their passion and their skills and earn a small income from doing so. The lurgy has effectively nailed my feet to the floor and kept me at home, where I am spending a large proportion of my time at my desk – when I’m not at my loom or stomping around in the bush….., and while I am now earning a small income from the Patreon page, this time at my desk is also showing me a side of myself that I never really became acquainted with before.

For a start there is this……. I never saw myself as putting my thoughts out there for all to see. Oh, and Facebook – after years of having a Facebook page, I now finally do something on it! Oh, oh – and I have ‘friends’ – and I can see their faces, unless of course they have decided, in solidarity with the lurgy mongers, to post a profile pic of themselves wearing a mask.

Then, there’s Patreon (sorry to be a bit of a bore on the subject), which is forcing me to learn all sorts of new things – and those of you who know me best will know that i am a perpetual student. Yesterday, i filmed a short video of myself demonstrating a particular weaving process on my phone. Following that, I used the programme that I downloaded a couple of weeks ago to edit ( listen to me here….) said little video, convert it to MP4, before uploading it to my Youtube channel so that I could post it to my Patreon page. Talk about a learning curve!

It’s just as well my family don’t read this blog, because by now they would be rolling around on the floor, in hysterics, begging me to stop because their stomachs are aching from laughing too much! But the bottom line is that it is all absolutely, honestly and truly, without a word of a lie – true! Talk about being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century – and, to be quite honest, its not such a scary place after all.

Now, since I have started ” putting myself out there”, and am feeling more comfortable with it, the next thing I have to figure out is a way to deal with the lurgy monsters, and get over my aversion to pseudo thugs and bank-robbers. That challenge can wait until next week though, cause the shopping is done, and I don’t have to go out again for a while so until then I can pretend that the world is almost normal!

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From where I sit at my loom with a view – the world is full of 50 Shades of Beige.

At this time of the year the weather is Hoedspruit is, in general, just wonderful. Balmy days, cool evenings, just comfortable temperatures providing a welcome respite from the overwhelming heat of the Summer. It seldom gets terribly cold here, but it does get dry….. and when I say dry, I mean bone-achingly dry. In fact I believe that when we receive less than 400mm of annual rainfall, the area becomes classified as ” Semi-Arid”. This has been the case for the last four years, which means that by this stage of the Winter everything is dry and dusty and, as I said – Fifty shades of Beige.

There is light Beige, Medium Beige, and dark Beige. Brown Beige, Grey Beige, and Beige Beige- and I could carry on doing this for a while. Today in particular is really Beige as a result of the August winds which have arrived a month early, and are stirring up the dust and the dry leaves and coating everything in a fine powdery layer of beige.

The weather seldom really gets to me, but the Beige days do, and when the wind is howling, the Beige days become dirty days too which makes them worse. Even the house is Beige – but then it is painted that colour – a Cemcrete coating aptly named ” Winter Grass” – What were we thinking???

And yet, if I open my eyes and look around, even when the world is at it’s most beige, suddenly pops of beautiful colour begin to emerge. Few and far between though they might be, but they are there – the seeds of the red Bushwillow, the dried pods of the Purple fruited Clusterleaf, and the occasional splash of Autumn foliage of one of the many trees whose names I have not learned. It is in the small spots of colour that I find a richness of orchre, and deep red and yellow with the occasional splash of Green to indicate that there is still life in this Beige world of July in the bushveld.

…..for a beautiful Winter landscape shawl in pure New Zealand wool!
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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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Visiting Coral Stephens Handweaving, Sept 2017

The name that says it all.[/caption] Last week saw my second visit to the well established and internationally recognized home of ‘Coral Stephens Handweaving’ in Piggs Peak, northern Swaziland. A little background at this point might be a good idea. Coral Stephens and her husband went to live in the magnificent Northern region of Swaziland shortly after the second World War. He was a forester charged with the task of establishing a forestry industry in Swaziland,  and Coral was essentially a housewife who needed curtains and carpets for her new house. Piggs Peak must have seemed like the last outpost in those days, and Coral’s only real option was to make her own, so she set about learning the rudiments of spinning and weaving herself, before passing the skills on to local women (who quickly became proficient) , and so, ” Coral Stephens Handweaving” was born. Established in 1949, the business grew to become Swazliand’s largest exporter, with an international reputation synonymous with style, elegance, and above all, quality. [caption id="attachment_872" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Sitting on the floor in a sunny spot happily                     carding mohair prior to spinning[/caption] Coral’s fibre of choice was mohair, and it remains so to this day with the majority of carpets, curtains and blankets being made from handspun mohair. The mohair arrives in great bales, and every process, from the basic plucking and separating of the locks to final finishing, is carried out by hand, by a small army of skilled and loyal Swazi women. [caption id="attachment_874" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Spun and dyed mohair ready for use.[/caption] Carding is done by hand, using the normal handcarders with which we are all familiar, and on this trip, I took with me a drum carder for them to try. It was, at first regarded with great suspicion, and the first batt was scrutinized, and analysed and pulled apart before it was accepted as being good enough to pass on to one of the spinners. By the end of the week however, it had been accepted into the routine and was working overtime as everyone had to see how it worked, and how easy it made the whole process! The thick yarn which is used for the carpets is  spun entirely by hand. The ladies painstakingly twist the fibres together with their fingers, winding the yarn around the legs of an upturned bench as they go to hold it in place before it is tied into skeins and taken for dyeing. The finer yarns, such as that used for the curtaining or blankets, is spun on spinning wheels at a speed which made my eyes water, but beautifully spun none the less. [caption id="attachment_878" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Mohair skeins to be wound onto bobbins for weaving yardage for curtains[/caption] [caption id="attachment_900" align="aligncenter" width="300"] The dyehouse and spinning shed surrounding by the majestic trees .[/caption] Dyeing is done in an outhouse where stainless steel vats are heated by wood-fires. The smell of the wood smoke, and the slight haze in the air is ever present, and I find myself missing it on the days when there is no dyeing in process! My main area of interaction is of course with the weavers. Although all the weavers are familiar with each process of the weaving, from making the warps and winding the bobbins, to physically sitting and throwing the shuttle, each women also has her own field of specialty so to speak. Maria is the matriarch, closely shadowed by Sisana and Goodness. They work on huge looms, complete with flying shuttles and produce metres of fabric every day, often working into the evening if they have not managed to complete their quota for the week. There are two ladies who spend their days winding bobbins for the weavers so that the important work of the day can be carried on with minimal interruption. Goodness and Pindile make most of the warps – and they make this potentially backbreaking task look like a walk in the park. Goodness is also the loom expert, being adept at changing tie-ups and trouble shooting problems. Sithekele and Zanele, are of the second rank of weaver’s, focusing on the smaller items and working on the smaller looms. They are also involved with encouraging the three new weavers who are moving up. [caption id="attachment_899" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A magnificent grey and natural carpet panel coming off the loom.[/caption] The ladies who weave the carpets work two to a loom in order to make this physically demanding job a little lighter, and then there is a whole bevy of people who only work on the finishing of the items. Putting a new warp on to the looms is a team effort of note – four ladies hold on to the warp, two wind it on, and one of the senior weavers sits and makes sure that there are no snags on cross sticks or raddle which would lead to breaking threads. I watched in open mouthed amazement as they wound a 30m warp on to the roller in the space of thirty minutes!! The remainder of the day was spent tying the new warp on to the old (1430 ends) and weaving re-commenced at 7.30 the following morning. [caption id="attachment_898" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Winding on a warp Swazi style.[/caption] There is a happy and relaxed atmosphere in the weaving shed, with much laughter. The ladies are aware of how privileged they are to work for Coral Stephens, but they have little idea of how sought after their work is. The fact that this carpet or that curtaining will eventually grace a penthouse in New York or an apartment in London means little to them as such places are so far out of the realm of anything they are likely to experience in their lives. [caption id="attachment_877" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Happiness is a big loom and knowing how to use it![/caption] A poor community with generally only rudimentary education, the Swazi’s are deeply religious. Work begins at 7 am, and when they break for breakfast – or what they call ” Bread time”, they spend the half hour singing hymns, praying and reading the bible. Not wishing to intrude on this time, I like to sit in the garden and listen to the beautiful, uninhibited music that flows from them. The most important things in their lives are their families, their country and their King, but when they leave to go home in the evening, they wear their track suit tops with the Coral Stephens name on with a certain amount of pride, knowing that their skills and services are recognized and appreciated by an employer who truly does have their best interests at heart.

  • Please feel free to visit my gallery page for more photographs from my wonderful week in Piggs Peak.

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Happy Spring!

Brave little flower sticking it’s head through the parched ground as we hope for a Summer of good rain[/caption] ” Spring has sprung” so the saying goes, but not here in the Lowveld where, for the past week or so, we have had a little bit of Winter instead – our first real taste of Winter this year I might add. We have also – astonishingly, had some rain, 21mm to be exact, which, although I feel I should be pleased that our parched bushveld has had some respite from the ongoing drought, I find rather worrying as it is so unseasonal. Unseasonal should probably be something that I am used to. As a weaver who weaves for the love of it, and hopes to sell most of it, I constantly find that I am weaving against the seasons so to speak. When the Summer temperatures soar into the forties, I am sweating in front of my loom making mohair throws and Merino shawls, and conversely, in Winter I do the light cotton wraps and brightly coloured cotton cushion covers. At the moment – for once – I’m actually doing something which suits the ‘ between seasons’ feeling which comes with the first day of Spring. On my ‘Katie’ loom – the MIGHTY Katie – I have enough warp for two silk scarves. I have in my stash, some ultra fine silk thread which I bought many years ago – in fact, before I left Gauteng, and every once in a while I have a flight of fancy and use some of this magnificent yarn for a special project. [caption id="attachment_857" align="alignleft" width="169"] Silk scarf project beginning to get under way, showing the stripes on a Rosepath threading and some of the Basket Weave detail[/caption]   The design for the scarf is a twill and tabby warp stripe, with just a hint of basket weave, because I liked the subtle textural detail of the basket weave separating the Tabby and the Twill stripes. It is an off-shoot of the warp twill stripe fabric that I made a month or two ago as an experiment in the use of Twill stripes in the warp as opposed to the weft. Thank goodness for the experiment, because without it I would have found myself in all sorts of trouble with the current project. Firstly, when attempting something like this it is important to know  that you cannot have both twill and tabby stripes in the same warp on four shafts. You can have alternating bands of twill and basket weave on four shafts, but in order to have alternating twill and tabby stripes you need at least six shafts – four for the twill and two for the tabby. If you think about it, you will realize that on a straight threading with a 2/2 lift plan you cannot lift every alternate warp thread in the tabby sections – you just can’t – it doesn’t work out, hence the need for the extra two shafts. [caption id="attachment_862" align="alignright" width="169"] First Twill stripe project in Mercerised Cotton[/caption] Secondly, when working on alternating twill and tabby stripes in the warp, the twill and tabby sections must be sett at different densities. The reason for this is the number of binding points in each weave structure. A ‘Binding Point’  occurs at every point at which a weft thread crosses over a warp thread or vice-versa. Thus a Tabby weave has more binding points than any of the twills, and has double the number of binding points than a 2/2 twill. If one sleys the warp at the same density throughout without compensating for this, one will find that the twill sections will automatically beat down more than the tabby sections , resulting in an uneven fell as the tabby builds up at a faster rate than the twill. The difference in sett for the tabby and twill sections of a warp made in this way can be as much as 50%! These two vital pieces of information had been languishing in the archives of my weaver’s brain for so long, that I only remembered them when I started weaving the experiment and realized my mistake. I guess that this happens to all of us, and it takes a potential disaster to remind us of what we’ve forgotten! (Or we can sample……. another pet topic of mine, for another blog!). Without the experience of the experiment I would have been in serious bother with the Silk Scarf, but I’m pleased to be able to report that all is running smoothly – if rather slowly as a result of the ridiculously fine thread that I’m using. I threaded the tabby sections on four shafts and the twill on the other four – just felt nicely balanced to do it this way, and the twill sections are sett at 18 e.p.c, while the tabby sections are sett at only 12 e.p.c – quite a difference. And yes, I am talking ‘ ends per centimeter’ here, not ends per inch. [caption id="attachment_859" align="alignleft" width="182"] Ridiculous, I know! Detail of pattern with measure.[/caption] Sitting at about halfway through the first scarf, I’m questioning my sanity in using thread this fine, but then I remember what it is for, and I put on some music (I’m revisiting some of my favourite, big, schmaltzy piano concerti at the moment), find my rhythm, and off I go. The wind can carry on howling as far as I’m concerned, I’m on a journey into the world of extra fine weaving and enjoying every moment of the ride. The challenge now is to finish it in time for the big day. Meanwhile – ” Happy Spring” and wishes for the blessings of good rainfall this Summer.          ]]>