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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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Cotton Carry-All – round number 2!

I think that one of the reasons I was so intimidated by the second part of this pattern is because I am such a shockingly bad seamstress!

As a little girl I was surrounded by a bevy of highly accomplished Aunts who knitted and crocheted and sewed to perfection. My grandmother was a German lady whose embroidery skills were nothing short of exquisite, and my Mother really enjoyed time spent at her sewing machine making all the clothes for my sister and myself as we were growing up.

My problem was that I am a Leftie and nobody could get their head around how to teach me these basic skills. Even using a pair of scissors was a challenge for me – and bear in mind that this was long before the days of special ‘ Left-handed” scissors – and as for tying a bow – well that was a challenge tantamount to climbing Mount Everest. In fact I hate to admit it, but I still can’t actually tie a proper bow! Of course the fact that I was also a tomboy and a bookworm had a lot to do with my reluctance to embrace the gentle arts and I was far happier sitting at the top of our giant Mulberry tree devouring the latest ‘Famous Five’ adventure! The less I had to do with needle and thread ( or yarn as the case may be), the better.

Of course I regret this now as my finishing of my handwovens always leaves something to be desired – in my eyes at any rate, and the technicalities of putting a good looking bag or garment together often stonewall me before I even get started. To actually try and write instructions then was a huge hurdle for me to approach, and I can only hope that you understand what I have tried to explain here.

The instructions for the straps for the bag are a little bit “bitty” as a result of trying to accommodate three possible methods for the weaving of them, but I think you will find that they work quite well. It is important to take the heddle out of the heddle blocks and move it to the back of the loom because of the excessive draw-in that is required to make the straps a warp-faced structure.

Enjoy! I can’t wait to see the results of our latest project.

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Weaving project – Cotton Carry-All

Right – here it is – I hope – you should be able to access this file – I hope some more…..

Putting the project into the Blog is a temporary measure because I’m not charging for it. When I next formulate a pattern I will put a cost to it and it will go into the shop. This project will be available on the blog for two weeks – until the end of June, so please, even if you are not going to do the project right now, download the file for future reference.

I have to say, that writing this pattern has been a challenge…… It is a very different process from demonstrating a process in a workshop. Suddenly I have to slow my brain down to the pace at which my fingers can work – perhaps this is not a bad thing because I know that in a workshop situation my mouth often outruns my brain and gets me into trouble! Here, I have to think a bit harder.

Please remember that this pattern is an experiment from my side. I hope that if you choose to do the project you won’t mind being a Guinea Pig and a ” Test Weaver” for me, and let me know of any problems – put them on the Facebook group for general discussion because this is how we can all learn.

Instructions for making up, finishing and making the strap will follow in due course.

Good luck and enjoy!!!

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From where I sit at my loom with a view – 3

Winter is with us here in the Lowveld, characterised by beautiful balmy days and evenings cool enough to sit around a fire and enjoy a good old fashioned South Africa Braai while keeping our toes close to the embers of the fire and feeling the toasty warmth embrace us from the bottom up.

The Mohair blankets are almost done, and I am back to my usual season switching as I work on a series of cotton bags for the Rigid Heddle Weaving group which I mentor on Facebook. The first little project bag is natural cotton with a rainbow cotton detail,…..

Rainbow cotton and Natural Basket weave

and the one which is currently on the loom – well – lets just say that I think I chose the colours on a cloudy day – a warm, friendly Orange with a small amount of vividly coloured Yellow which makes me think of Summer days on the beach!. The Lining will be a vivid Yellow Schwe-schwe fabric which I found in our friendly little local haberdashery store.

Beach ready colours on the loom

Perhaps it is the ongoing lockdown situation that is making me think of Summer picnics on the beach. I visualize my little loom-bound bag carrying a bottle of wine and a baguette together with a hunk of serious cheese in anticipation of fresh air , warm sun ( although we have plenty of that here at the moment) and a cool breeze.

The bag itself, is simple and will be of a sturdy enough construction to cope with my imagined treats ( and perhaps a bar of good chocolate for afters?) . One one half of each side there is a simple striped sequence, and on the other half a simple pick up pattern running vertically up the fabric. It sounds simple, and it will, I think, look simple and friendly and unfussy – however, my attempts at writing down the pattern have been anything but simple…….

Who would have thought that it could be so difficult to translate a picture in my head into a project on the loom into words and instructions on a page??? I know exactly what I want to achieve, but trying to put it into words, and analyzing the process has been a bit of a mind-bend. It isn’t a complex project you understand, the point is that I know what is going on in my head, which is fine – but getting it out of my head – well that’s another story……