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Loom with a view – the next steps…..

It never ceases to amaze me that even in the middle of Winter, when the bush is dry and grey, suddenly there will be a tiny spot of colour bravely peeping through the sandy earth.

After the lockdown of 2020, I made a very conscious decision to slow down on my travelling and spend more time in this paradise that I am privileged to call ‘Home’.  That was when I decided to start my Patreon page – what a leap into the dark unknown that was!

Now, bear in mind that I am the biggest techno-dunce on the planet, and being just such a techno-dunce, I pressed the wrong button on the website and launched my page long before I was actually ready to. This was a fairly horrifying experience as I had my first subscriber within about half an hour, so I couldn’t even pretend that I hadn’t done it!

In a way, this was a good thing, because I think that if I hadn’t done it, I would quite possibly still be procrastinating about it. What the Patreon page did for me, was show me that putting myself ‘out there’, need not be as terrifying as I had always thought it would be.

It has also helped to keep me really motivated in my weaving. Posting on a weekly basis for both harness and rigid heddle weavers is quite a load, but it certainly keeps me on my toes and has forced me to explore structures and techniques in far greater depth and variety than I would have otherwise.

Our latest Rigid Heddle project on the page is this fulled wool scarf:

It forms part of our exploration of texture in weaving, and was, quite simply, one of the most terrifying weaves of my life! I am pretty conservative in my weaving, and I like things to be technically sound. Well the weaving of this scarf was anything but technically sound – I called it the ‘Gappy Scarf’, and good reason for why…..

Now, the project was planned with a view to heavily wet finishing it, so I knew that it would eventually stabilise, but that didn’t make the weaving any more comfortable! The result though, after being severely mistreated with hot water, and lots of rubbing and scrubbing was quite astonishing – and even more astonishing is the fact that I love the end result, and am contemplating making a second one.

Patreon has taught me a huge amount, and it seemed like a logical step forward to begin exploring the world of on-line learning – what a mine-field! This little exploration started this time last year, when I was “home for the Winter”. …. And it was, to begin with, totally intimidating!

However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense that this was the next logical step for me to take for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows me to consolidate what I teach in a live workshop, and secondly it allows me to reach a bigger audience, because much as I love the teaching and the travelling and meeting new and wonderful people, I am after all, only one person.

Going on-line certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t be teaching live workshops anymore – far from it, but it there are always people who, for one reason or another aren’t able to attend one of the few workshops that I can teach in a year, and so this offers a solution to this situation.

The upshot of all of this, is that two weeks ago – give or take a couple of days, I finally published my first on-line short course!!! Nothing fancy or complicated, just a Houndstooth scarf. The point is that I’ve been and gone and done it, and you can find it here: https://brooklands.co.za/workshops-courses/weaving-a-houndstooth-pattern/

Short course number two is already in production and the plan is to have it out there early in July.

Ten years ago I didn’t even know how to send an e mail. I was just a stay at home Mom who loved her craft – just goes to show that life has plans for all of us one way or another.

Until the next time, stay warm and keep weaving!

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THREAD HANDED – 2022 – report back.

The beginning of this month, saw me, once again heading South, from my beloved Bushveld, towards Van Reenen for another Thread Handed event. Believe it or not, this was our sixth, and our fifth visit to the Green Lantern.

Our previous visit was at the beginning of March 2020. I remember that while we all talked about this virus that was taking over the world, none of us really believed that it would affect us here on the Southern Tip of Africa – how wrong we were! Last year we had to cancel, and so, arriving back at the Green Lantern was more than a little nostalgic.

We were a small group this time around, having decided not to offer a spinning class. I was on my own as Linda, also couldn’t join us, so, good as it was to be back, it was also a little strange.

My first day in Van Reenen was spent unpacking and setting up. As usual, we pretty much took over the hotel lounge, and the staff was ever tolerant and helpful with the moving of furniture and supplying of trestle tables and chairs. By the time people started arriving just after lunch, we were pretty much sorted and were able to relax and catch up before classes started in earnest the following morning. Classes on offer included beginners Rigid Heddle and Harness weaving, as well as a more advanced Rigid Heddle class. Anette Matthews came down from Pretoria to teach a two day, four shaft class on Overshot, and Sue Stevenson from Natal offered a one day introduction to Kumihimo.

Everybody was eager to begin and get their heads down into the work, and Thursday morning was chaotic as the first morning always is. We had people making warps on warping frames, doing direct warps for their Rigid Heddle projects, measuring, cutting, threading, and then suddenly, everything seemed to click into place and we were settling into the programme.

The ladies doing the Overshot class, moved themselves into the small lounge next to the dining room, as they had to concentrate – theirs was all about brain food, and the results spoke for themselves. Anette had devised a really nice project to make potholders from the woven samples, and they managed, all the planning and the prep, the weaving and the finishing in the course of the two days – Hats off to all of them!

Meanwhile the more advanced RH ladies were doing all sorts of manipulations with their warp so that they could weave the warp back on to itself to form the ‘V’ part of their ‘V Cowls’. There was much concentration and more than just a little bit of frustrated muttering as threads escaped and had to be found and put back into place, and threads pulled too tightly or not tightly enough, and in some cases, the last few picks were really a very tight squeeze!

Once again, the results showed the fruits of all the hard work as the pieces began to come off the loom.

Riana, and Elaine, meanwhile, had their noses buried deep in the movements of warp and weft, and Sue, even had enough time to try a little bit of Double Heddle Weaving.

We laughed – a lot…….,  and we worked – jolly hard……,  and all in all we had a really good few days together. Di Kruger stepped in to lend a hand with some of the nitty gritty stuff that needed to be done, and was the best possible PR lady we could have asked for! Ellen Janse van Rensburg, resident of Van Reenen, who brought us there in the first place, stopped by for a few visits and a chance to catch up.

The garden was glorious as usual and the best place in the whole world to relax after a challenging day at the loom!

Looking forward to the next time around!

(If anyone would like more information, or would like to be put on to the mailing list – please feel free to drop me an e mail, and I’ll make sure that you are added)!

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The view from my loom has changed a little

…. as the August winds have arrived punctually in the Lowveld and it is too dusty and windy to weave on the patio right now! Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I have been idle – in fact far from it!

The Rep weave is off the eight shaft table loom, and I have to admit to be ridiculously pleased with the result. It really wasn’t my favourite project, which is quite strange because I was really looking forward to it during the planning stages. I think the fact, that I had to change my intentions in terms of material and colour, so radically to begin with put me off somewhat, and then the thickness of the yarn I used turned it into a heavy weave, which matched my mood for most of the time that I was working on it.

The cloth roller was so full, by the time I finished up, that I don’t think I could have managed very many more cm’s, even if I’d wanted to, and when I look at the very substantial roll of weaving sitting on my table, I am a bit startled by the density of what I managed to produce!

Because the weave structure is so heavily textured, the take-up was enormous, and I squeaked to the end of the 4m warp with four placemats of approx 40cm each and one piece slightly longer than the rest, which was my experiment standard. There were 2.5cm of hem for each side of each mat, but even so, the take-up was huge.

Seen from a distance, it is easy to see the patterns, but it was quite difficult to get an idea of the whole while they were still on the loom. Having said that, seen from a distance I can also see quite a few glaring flaws, but since these were meant as an exploration I don’t really have a problem with that – if they had been a really special project, or a piece for an order I would be quite devastated though.

The bottom line really, is that sometimes one needs to just sit and experiment and learn as one goes. Somehow weaving is like that. We would all love our projects to all turn into masterpieces, but just as there are no omelettes without smashing eggs, sometimes we need to be less than happy with our efforts in order to reap the full benefits of the lesson.

Rep Weave, or Ripsmatta, is a technique that I will certainly revisit in the not too distant future, for, much as a struggled with this weave on so many levels, it has embedded myself in a part of my psyche which, like a terrier with a mouse, simply won’t leave it alone, and keeps on going back for another look.

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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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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

The sky is grey and I am learning something new…..

Over the past two days we have had rain!!! Now, that might be the opposite of exciting for most people, but where we live it is cause for celebration. Over the course of the past ten days we have had approx 140mm, which is put into perspective when I tell you that for the past three years our annual rainfall has been well below 400mm in total. So, if you hear loud music and a strange tapping in the background as you read this, it will be me dancing on the table in delight.

Even the muddy craters caused by a passing Giraffe can’t discourage the appearance of tiny green shoots in the bare ground

First rains in the bushveld are always special, as the depleted veld suddenly comes alive again. Within hours of the rain starting to fall, the trees start to show signs of life and a faint green haze appears over the ground and by the end of the week our surroundings will look like a parkland and Michael will be servicing the brush-cutter in anticipation of taming the jungle around the house. A whole day of rain yesterday gave me the opportunity to sit inside and do not very much at all, so I took the gap and focused on something that has fascinated me for a while now – I started knitting a sock! Actually it should be KNITTING!!!!! a sock….

Those of you who know me best will know that knitting is not something in which I willingly indulge. I can knit, in fact i can actually knit quite well and can cable with the best of them, but the addiction which grabs so many people just isn’t there. The odd ( usually very odd) scarf is probably as far as I have been with a pair of knitting needles in years, although I have to admit that it is quite nice to have something to keep my hands busy in front of the TV in the evening, but it still doesn’t inspire me to any great heights. The idea of knitting socks though, has long been intriguing, and so, finally I have taken the plunge – on a rainy Sunday in Hoedspruit – and I have learnt a lot, not necessarily about knitting socks, but rather about learning.

When I teach a weaving workshop I try and encourage my students to allow themselves to learn from experience. “If it’s not perfect it’s not the end of the world, because the next one will be better ” kind of experience. Starting off on my sock knitting experiment yesterday, I realized that this is really hard to do! I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist, nor as OCD, and of course I’ve always believed that I practice what I preach as far learning from experience is concerned. Well, my sock knitting day yesterday showed me that I don’t actually do any of the above.

I set out with the best of good intentions and after my first noticeably glaring mistake, pulled it all out and started again. Got a bit further along the second time around and then made another whoopsie. Too fr along this time to pull the whole thing out I tried undoing a small section. Bad light, dirty specs and fine wool and needles turned this into a disaster and out came the whole lot to begin for a third time. By this stage I was beginning to get a bit tetchy you understand, so I walked around the house for a while in a bit of a fog, and made myself a mid-morning cup of coffee. I don’t like it when things don’t go according to plan – I find it unsettling, but in any event I decided to practice some self-discipline and pick the wretched thing up and persevere.

As I went to deposit my coffee mug in the sink I caught sight of a cushion cover on my sofa. Made right at the beginning of my weaving life, donkey’s years ago, it is quite an attractive piece of olive green and dusty brown chevrons on a cream background. People who come to visit often comment on it – it is, after all striking and attractive – and CHOCK A BLOCK full of errors. I remember making it actually, and figuring things out as I went along without much of a clue what I was doing. I finished it off and made it up as a reminder to myself that I was a beginner and nothing was going to be perfect.

Suddenly, my sock-knitting light went on in my head, and I gave myself to be a beginner again. As a beginner sock knitter, my sock was not going to be perfect – in fact it is way off the mark, but when I look at it I will know where the mistakes are, and next time around I will know where I went wrong and what I can do to make it better. But, most of all, I recognized myself in my beginner students – wanting so badly to produce something wonderful without having the know-how to do so . With this little pearl of wisdom lodged in my frustrated brain, suddenly everything settled down and I picked up the project once again, and gave myself permission to learn and to make mistakes, because this is how we learn.

So, apart from learning a few basic principles of sock knitting I learned more than a few much more valuable lessons: that we all want to do it magnificently first time round, that I don’t recognize myself when I see myself in my students, and that by suggesting that they embrace their mistakes and leave them in their work, I am asking them to do something that is almost impossible.

My sock is progressing well, and it is far from perfect, rather like my teaching methods I think. There are a bevy of new mistakes and wrong bits and pieces, but it will, in the end look like a sock, and next time around the territory will be a little more familiar and it’s mate will be a bit better, and eventually, one day, I might produce a decent looking sock. The teacher in me is trying to learn to understand the student who believes that they will produce a first time masterpiece, and if the first attempt isn’t as great as they would like I would like to learn to encourage them to try again and look past the mistakes to the possibilities instead. I like to think that I will no longer discourage them from going back and doing it better before they carry on anymore though, because my sock has taught me that we all want to do it perfectly the first time round.

As a sock its a long way from perfect, but I couldn’t have asked for a better lesson in teaching on a rainy day in Hoedspruit!

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I haven’t been sitting at my loom with a view…..

This morning I woke up with that feeling that life is not quite complete….. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. We’ve seen our pets in this mood too – they move from one place to another, put their heads up, sniff the wind and move again, never quite settling long enough to relax, or indeed allow us to relax. Well, that is how I feel this morning…. poor Michael – perhaps I should warn him that it’s going to be one of those days!

It has been a really busy month – a trip to the Smelly City to do my distribution, multiple posts and little videos for Patreon, ZOOM calls with my weaving buddies, ordering some gorgeous cottons from Be Inspired for a new project and long walks in the wilderness areas of my estate, as well as the usual nitty-gritty of domestic bliss. Yet, in spite of all the activity, it feels very definitely as though something is missing. This morning I worked out what it is – I am severely lacking in loom time!

“How can this be?” I hear you ask – ” that’s all she does – in fact it’s what she does. How can she not be doing what she does?”….. Well the answer is simple, and I know that it has happened to all of us. The chores and the routine and the mundane take over, and before you know it they RULE your life!

There is more than one reason for this paradigm shift in our lives. In my life I can most definitely think of two without even blinking an eye. The first is that someone has to do it…… this, as every woman who is reading this post will know, is because it is inbred in women that the home must come first. After all if I don’t make the bed who’s going to make the bed? I’ve tried to make it a rule in our house that the last person out of the bed makes the bed – HA! What the person who shares the bed hasn’t worked out yet is that if that were the case and we stuck to the rule, I would be up with the lark every morning of my life and accomplish that much more…….

The second is that what I do – in terms of weaving that is, has to be classified as pleasure, not work, and I was taught from a very young age that you are only allowed to play when the chores are done.

So, with the lockdown and the extended time I’ve had at home one would think that the weaving productivity must have sky-rocketed. Well, “One” thinks wrong, but the bed is made and the house is more or less in order and even some basic maintenance is being attended to, and slowly, insidiously the chores and the desk have taken over my life and my Loom with the View is very neglected.

The on-line aspect of my life has also impacted on my weaving time. I love teaching weaving, and am even enjoying the challenge of doing it this way, but I have to say, that the stimulation of teaching face to face is severely lacking. So is the spontaneity – the questions, which open up a whole new train of thought, and those ‘Eureka’ moments when somebody discovers a different ( and often better) way to do something, and most importantly, the laughs and the banter, are all missing in in the on-line world where things are altogether more ordered and serious, to the point where I feel that what I really need is a jolly good belly laugh. I’m beginning to take myself far too seriously!

This is why I am soooo looking forward to the arrival of a couple of weaving buddies – whoop whoop! Now that the provincial borders are open people are moving around again and over the next couple of weeks, not one, but two weaving buddies are coming to visit and I can’t wait! Before they arrive though, there has to also be some loom time. I have three looms with half woven projects on them and another project in the planning stage, so over the next couple of days, my time at my desk ( and the kitchen sink) is going to be limited and I am going to love my looms. After that I’m going to enjoy some social time and love my looms some more in the company of people who understand the difference between ‘warp’ and ‘weft’ .

What a lot to look forward to – Happy Friday!

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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 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!