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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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Spring has Sprung at the loom with a view

I think that we can all agree that this Winter has been a PROPER Winter! Even here in the beautiful, balmy Lowveld, the temperature dipped below our comfort levels and saw us wearing jeans and sweaters and sometimes even more. This time last year we were already in an out of the swimming pool multiple times a day, but not so this year. In fact we haven’t even dipped a tentative toe into the water because we know that it is still going to be way too cold!

The welcome arrival of Spring also means that my next workshop at the beautiful Crafter’s Lodge is just around the corner – my first trip for some months – and I am so looking forward to it! Not that my time at home has been wasted mind you. I have been hard at it, finishing up the Block Weave and Profiles section on the Patreon page, closely followed by the Rep Weave and the Ponchonotaponcho for the Rigid Heddle weavers.

My current study is Honeycomb and deflected weft structures, also for the Patreon page. It is a structure that works equally well in both disciplines, and has surprised me by showing me that there are some variations which are quite easy and simple to produce on a Rigid Heddle loom, that require more than my normal eight shafts on a harness loom!

For me it is quite a luxury to just have the opportunity to play and experiment at the loom. The above images were all woven on an eight shaft loom, and this morning, I have spend my time translating them for the Rigid Heddle. With a couple of pick-up sticks and some patience, pretty much anything is possible on a RH, and it never ceases to surprise me how versatile this little loom can be.

Honeycomb is a fascinating weave structure which really does ‘ bend the square’. (It also bent my brain a bit this morning, but that’s beside the point)! It consists of alternating areas of plain weave and floats. In the areas where there are floats, the weft packs down into the space, whereas in the plain weave areas, the weft is allowed to build up. These alternating areas of floats and plain weave are then outlined in a heavy weft thread which automatically follows the ups and downs created by the little cells of plain weave. The result can be quite striking.

Add some colour into the mix and the results can be nothing short of jaw-dropping!

For this piece, I used the Ashford 5/2 Mercerised cotton in a 15 dent heddle. I love the way that the colours ‘pop’ against the Black ground cloth.

My morning was productive , creative and comfortable, sitting at my loom on the deck with my back in the Spring sunshine. It was made even more special by the arrival of a “business” of banded Mongooses – and yes, believe it or not, “business” is the collective noun for Mongooses – and Mongooses is the correct plural! They never fail to bring a smile to my face as they scurry about looking for any tasty little morsel that will feed their frenetic energy levels.

The next two weeks are going to fly by. The idea of teaching a workshop face to face for the first time in some months is definitely something to look forward to, and then there’s always the view from my loom to return to when it’s done. Today is one of those days when I count my blessings and realize just how lucky I am!

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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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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……