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There’s a ray of sunshine on my loom with a view….

The bumpy start to my current project, has, I have to say, not really settled down – although…. and I say ‘although’ with more than a little trepidation, I feel that I might be beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bigger blocks making a strong impression

The Rep-weave experiment is finally starting to take shape – and, although there are some glaring discrepancies, these are not my main focus as I finally get to grips with the building blocks that go towards making up this remarkable technique.

A few months ago, I watched an interview with Lucienne Coifman, on the Handweavers Guild of America’s ‘Textiles and Tea‘ series. I was fascinated by her work, most of which, she told us is made on a 4 shaft loom (with a lot of pick-up involved…..) her words – not mine. The strength and impact of her designs really made an impression on me, and I think that part of the problem that I have had in getting to grips with my own tiny, little experiment in Rep-Weave is that I really just struggled to get my head around constructing a design that looked cohesive.

My main problem , to begin with and in retrospect, was that fact that I made my blocks too small, and the result was confusing to the eye. I think that this thinking was perhaps the result of the fact that I’m experimenting only on my 40cm table loom. It isn’t really wide enough to provide much scope, given the fact that I am using quite a thick cotton for the warp. If I had used the 5/2 cotton that I had originally planned on using, the possibilities, even on such a narrow warp would have been far greater.

However, as soon as I started to expand the length of the weft blocks the designs took on a greater impression of cohesion. The tiny little turning points in the centre of the first two drafts really seemed to draw the eye in to the design, and acted in the same way as that tiny little ‘pop’ of an unusual colour in an otherwise bland palette.

I think that my favourite design possibility of the three is the one on the right. The other two are still on the loom, and the third is yet to be woven. I hope that I have enough warp left to be able to complete it, as one of the things that I had forgotten about with Rep-Weave, is that the warp take-up is huge! Much greater than the more texturally conventional weave structures.

As usual, when I experiment on this sort of basis, i find that I have way to many ideas for the length of warp! In the light of lessons learnt ( the hard way), if I put up another narrow warp for Rep, I will definitely use a much finer cotton to allow myself more room to play around with. However, if I were to put up a warp on one of the wider looms, I think that the Cotton-On would actually be a good choice as it is of acceptable quality, easily available, and comes in a pretty good colour range

Hopefully I’ll finish off my existing warp this week, in time to photograph it and put up some pics in next weeks’post.

In the meantime – stay safe and stay warm.

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It’s been a while since I sat at my loom with a view

…. but having said that, I didn’t realize that it had been quite such a long while!

The air of complacency that has prevailed over the past few months, has, as we all know, been shattered as we crash back into lockdown level 4. I had already decided that I was spending the Winter at home this year, and so, I’m not particularly affected by the decision, apart from the fact that my red-wine stash was perilously low even before Squirrel spoke to the nation on Sunday evening.

That aside though, I am loving being at home again for en extended period of time. It is giving me the space to think and to plan and to develop new projects and explore new techniques. Right now, I am working on some Rep-Weave, or Ripsmatta, or Warp-Rep as it is variously known. The warp rep thing is the culmination of our dive into the concept of block weaves and profile drafting that has been keeping us absorbed on the Patreon page: (remember… https://www.patreon.com/weaveatbrooklands is where you’ll find me, or you can just click on the Patreon button on my Home page). Rep weave seemed to be the logical progression after our study and a really fun way to wind things up.

Actually I cheated a little bit, by also including a little bit of a rep derivative for the Rigid Heddle weavers, as we expanded our approach to Log Cabin and ended up weaving a set of Rep based place-mats. Rep weave and log cabin actually ave many similarities – loads of differences too, but plenty of similarities – most notably the threading of the warp. In each pattern block the warp is threaded on two shafts, one colour – call it the main colour on one shaft and the second colour call it the background colour on the second shaft. The weft uses two shuttles, one carrying a thick yarn and one carrying a thin yarn, and the alternation of thick and thin, allows one warp colour to dominate and the other colour then becomes subservient. Weaving two picks, one after the other, of the thin yarn allows the other colour to be brought to the top and become the dominant colour.

It’s all quite logical really – a positive and negative effect on the two sides of the cloth, and a pattern constructed through the use of contrasting colours.

I somehow, fell into the habit of referring to the Rigid Heddle project as either Log-Rep or Rep-Cabin – no prizes for guessing where that name came from and was really pretty pleased with the results.

In all three cases above, I had a very clear idea of what I was hoping for in the end product. My warps were carefully planned, and the colours chosen with care, and yet when I put the warp up, and I saw it in colours I had chosen, they all looked awful – dark and in the case of the seaside colours, even threatening – Rather like an approaching thunderstorm in fact.

It was only when I started to weave that the colours regained some clarity, which was obviously provided by the light colour contrast in almost all the blocks. I have to say, that as I began to weave and the colours clarified, I was hugely relieved, and rather stern with myself for being so silly.

Yesterday I started making the warp for the eight shaft four block Rep-Weave study. I’m not using anything fancy – just good old Elle-Cotton on DK, which happens to suite my purpose right now – and which is easily available, even in our little tiny town. My chosen colours are a dark Teal Green, pale Dusty Pink, a nice clear purple and a bright blue. I also chose a Beige, which I later decided not to use.

Once again the warp looked awful – something like a stagnant pond with a bad case of blue/green algae, when I took it off the warping board, but improved once it was on the loom. Being able to see the definition between the colour blocks really improved the perception.

I started weaving my sample this morning, and there are several issues. Firstly, I need to re-sley the reed. I though I might be able to get away with having two ends per dent for four dents and then one per dent for two dents, but the discrepancy is glaringly obvious now that I have started to weave. The selvedges also, are proving to be ridiculously difficult to control and will need some work.

I chose to use the pink cotton as my thick weft, and now I am wondering whether it might not have been better to use the green, so i plan to sample a little bit with that too, just to see what sort of a difference it makes. The warp is around 4m or a bit longer, so I have plenty of room to experiment, which is the whole object of the exercise, and of course I will keep udating on my progress.

Rep is not a new structure to me, but it is a long time since I have done any, and each time I come back to it, I find myself excited by it all over again. The texture is super, and the possiblilities almost endless. I have the feeling that this might once again be a case of the warp being too short and the ideas too long!

Till the next time.

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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 – there are new worlds that need to be explored.

A fitting representation of my current state of mind……?

Anybody who knew me ten years ago simply can’t believe that I am doing what I’m doing today. Yes, the weaving has always been there and always been a part of who I am, bu technology on the other hand was always something I studiously avoided. Anything, from sending an e mail to researching a topic on-line, simply was not part of my make-up. My children used to joke that I would never learn to use a computer because, although I was very comfortable with pen and paper, a stone tablet and a chisel would probably have been more appropriate. Now, I sit at my desk and communicate with people all over the world at a touch of a button, I chat away on Facebook and share my progress on Instagram without raising an eyebrow, let alone a sweat.

Perhaps my life works in ten year cycles or something, but whatever it is, I now find myself starting off on yet another voyage of exploration, as I explore putting some of my teaching on-line. I don’t think that I will ever learn not to say ‘NEVER’ , because this is just another one of those things that I was NEVER going to do!

I suppose that the current situation has us all changing our minds about what we will or will not do, and much as I was always adamant that for me, on-line was not that way to go, I now have to admit that perhaps it is the way to go. Photographing work as I progress, making videos of basic processes, writing patterns and putting instructions into an understandable text form seem to have wormed their way into my working routine – and trust me, it is much easier to teach a class live than to try and write (ok – type then), all the intructions step by step – but somehow I’m managing to get it done – and I’m taking the first steps in a whole new direction.

My decision to start a page on the Patreon platform was not taken lightly, and I thought about it for a loooooong time before actually taking the plunge. Now, as I work through my ideas for sharing my knowledge, I find that I’m actually enjoying the process very much indeed – AND – perhaps even more importantly, I’m finding that teaching remotely is giving me the opportunity to share a lot information that so often gets glossed over when teaching a workshop – pleasant surprise no.1. It is also, in a strange way, almost a more concrete way of sharing information, in that the subscribers to my Patreon page can go back again and again to reference information.

So, slowly I am being won around to the value of teaching and mentoring on-line – this is me we’re talking about here – the Latent Luddite – getting excited about what our new world has to offer….. and I’ve love you to join me on the journey, so please feel free to visit me at www.patreon.com/weaveatbrooklands for a small taste of what I have to offer in my Weaving Diaries. I would love to see you there……

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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]]]>