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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!
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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 – 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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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……