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From where I sit at my loom with a view – 2

One of my very favourite books of all time is Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II. I love it – and go back to it over and over again for a number of reasons: firstly, because it is beautifully written, secondly, because his food is clean and simple and respectful of simple ingredients, but most of all I love it because he writes with such passion about his subject. I can see the rain dripping from the eaves of the unfinished kitchen, and I can taste the rich sweetness of the baked quince – clearly I am reading the chapters that focus on Winter, which is appropriate for this time of the year!

Here in the bushveld we don’t actually have much of a Winter. Our days in May and June are mainly warm and sunny, and I have to admit to sometimes craving a really cold day – one where I can bury myself in scarves and shawls, and snuggle up under a woolly blanket with a cup of Hot Chocolate. Summer on the other hand can be ” off the scale” hot, with temperatures regularly rising up into the early forties, and for past few years it has been dry as a bone too, which doesn’t make the heat any more bearable.

It seems to me that I am always weaving against the seasons – weaving woolly blankets in summer and light cotton scarves in Winter as I prepare for the upcoming seasons. It isn’t always easy to look forward to getting mohair up my nose on a sweltering February morning, and cool cotton just doesn’t really deliver in Winter. This year, however, I seem to have finally go it right and I am making doublewidth mohair blankets in Winter. They have been a plan on the back burner for almost two years, and with the current situation which forces us to remain at home, I have finally taken the plunge and am working on what has turned into rather a mammoth project.

After working with boat shuttles, I am finding working with the ski shuttles I am using to accommodate the bulk of the mohair yarn cumbersome and painstakingly slow. The mohair does indeed get up my nose and there seems to be mohair fluff everywhere I look. I should be sweating my way through this project, but strangely enough I’m not. I’m really enjoying pretty much everything about it. The loom is working sweetly and it is easy to establish a rhythm as I settle down for a few hours, and I just love the way the blankets are turning out. They are soft and squishy, and will, I am quite sure , be feather light when they finally come off the loom.

Now that I am into the second half of the second blanket, I find myself taking it all a little slower, as if to stretch the task out for a little longer before I relinquish the pleasure I have found in the intensely rhythmic process that is weaving. When all is working as it should, the process can become almost meditative, and I find myself leaving the loom relaxed and ready to face whatever comes my way. Sometimes finishing off a big project can be almost like saying ‘ Good-bye’ to an old friend.

The wonder of it all is that when these are said and done, there will be another project waiting around the corner for me to fall in love with, and so the weaving will continue through the Winter, and into the Spring and so on and so on.Fo me, my time at the loom feeds my soul. My wish is that I could write about my weaving as eloquently as Nigel Slater writes about food. What I know for certain is that we are equally passionate about our respective subjects.

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From where I sit at my loom with a view

This morning I took a walk to the end of my driveway – I am lucky enough to have a rather long driveway and it was, after all, a beautiful morning. The dust in the road was undisturbed by car tracks, and there was ample evidence of Giraffe and Zebra having moved that way during the night. I looked to my right and caught sight of the mountains – in my neck of the woods, these would be the Northern Drakensburg – in the distance, and they were bathed in early morning colours of pinks and purples and greens – exactly as I imagine that Pierneef would have painted them. There was a cool breeze and the birds were clearly having a bit of an early morning party because there was lots of noise from them to shatter the otherwise silent morning. No traffic noise and no sounds from the trains that go through on a regular basis.

It is difficult to look at so much peace and beauty and then try and comprehend what others are going through at this time. People who are shut up in tiny apartments, who are forced to co-exist in a confined space with a partner they despise or a partner who is abusive, and small children that cannot go outside and run and shout and play just for the sheer joy of doing it.

I know that I am blessed to be in a situation which is not nearly as challenging as some, and for me this time has become one of productivity, experimentation and learning. I am finding myself falling into a little routine of sitting at my looms in the morning and my desk in the afternoon. the household chores are done as the need arises and the evenings are for sitting with Michael and just enjoying being together.

The shop will be back on-line soon enough and for the first time in years ( quite literally), I am able to spend time on my website and also on supporting my weaving buddies through the Facebook groups. I am content and productive and deeply conscious of how lucky I am, not least of all because I love what I do.

I saw a wonderful clip the other day that said: ” Grandma got through the War because her supply chain was local and she could do stuff”! Well I can ” do stuff” too and I think that being able to produce ” stuff” through the industry of one’s own hands, has go to be what is going to keep a lot of people sane!

So, to all my fibre buddies, and anyone out there who can ” do stuff” please keep on going, and don’t only stay healthy and safe, but stay sane too!