The View From My Loom

The view from my Loom

I started a draft last week and forgot about it, when I reopened my blog I realised that I’ve been mulling over my need for some green for longer than I thought. My rut returned, unfortunately at a time when I could have been winding, warping or weaving: Instead I was baking, cleaning and brooding, thinking about the Fairy Glen and the Flagstaff and wondering if I booked a flight home was an Icelandic volcano going to cloud my  journey.
Not much I can do about it now, but I seem to have realised the problem…to little green for too long. I have been working on a black and white wool warp off/on since before Christmas, and although there are a few nice things, I’ve not come up with the “killer app” that I’ve been looking for (Sorry, that was a bit of work-speak creeping in).  A depressing result that didn’t help my mood.

I should have learned by now to let my mind wander when these things happen, and when I eventually did let go, I was feeling homesick for the Flagstaff, and starting to remember the Fairy Glen, a wooded walk along the edge of the Mournes (My nursery school was at the end of the Fairy Glen in Rostrevor, quite an idyllic place for a nursery school, and gave me the unfortunate belief for longer than was normal, that Fairies could exist, and that all schools were large old houses at the end of wooded walks!); I’d started to feel the need for all-consuming greeness, for the smell of  mulchy pine needles and sycamore leaves – all mixed with wood pigeons, thrushes and salty sea winds (that could give you a facial peeling in 5 seconds!).  As you can see for the picture, my life is not without “Greeness” – While we live 15 minutes walk from Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, we also have a lovely avenue of trees on our street – plants on the balcony, a park directly opposite for wee ones. Still, it’s not quite damp granite and mist on your face…
Anyway, I’m rambling – what brought me back to earth was 4 days of torrential rain  – “So what!?” I hear you cry…well, this kind of non-stop rain is not native to Barcelona, and by Monday night the city was empty, just rain and a few very perplexed looking tourists. By Wednesday, I was feeling like a proverbial duck in water, while every Barcelona citizen smoked their ciggies cowering in doorways, tutting and scowling (as you can’t smoke in the workplace or public buildings)…I was on a roll with warp making, windows open to the lowered temperatures and the perpetual rain on the balcony – HURRAY FOR RAIN…(you can take the person out of Ireland, but you can’t take the Ireland out of the person…or something like that)

OK; so, back to weaving – I’m getting there, really! – After going through my poor pictures of the Glen and Flagstaff (when you live somewhere, you rarely take pictures…) and flickring /googling, I put together a mood board and then a collection of yarns for a warp. Green is prominent (surprise surprise!), but the Fairy Glen yeilds  astonishing shades of blue from various flowers and bluebells, intermixed with purples and yellows from gorse and heather that filter in from the Mournes…
My heart ruled my head on this, and what else should I warp a scarf like this with, other than mohair boucle (and a wee bit of silk, raw silk, hand-dyed viscose and hand-dyed wool). It already has a name too – Bronagh. Bronagh was an early Irish saint from the Rostrevor area. We’ll see how it goes – threading in progress.

Life in Colour – there is no other way

As I work away with wool and black and white, I can feel a revolt coming on – it’s like working with linen and thinking that mohair is a good idea  – (actually, no – it’s  not like that, for that is insanity).

I love weaving, and I love colour, the two are irrevocably tied together for me and this sums up what I mean by COLOUR – What I FEEL by the word COLOUR!!! It’s like Chocolate and coffee and nice red wine and majul dates all at once – every taste bud tingling from what your eyes can see. (mmm, from all that one can deduce that I really like my food)

Neki and I eventually caught up – and while she bemoaned her lack of linen (and I’ve got cupboards about to explode with the stuff), we went to see the Mariano Fortuny exhibition at the Padrera on Passeig de Gracia. It was the aforementioned Mr Fortuny who was inadvertently guilty of steering me towards the course I took…leading to textiles and Japan. A very tatty old book about him existed in our school library, and finding it was full of colour and luxury and velvets and pleats I became a bit obsessed! This then led to an interest in Miyake and all his pleats, and the next thing you know I was wondering what happened in Japan with regard to textiles.

On a completely non-textiles note, it was a strange coincidence that this week I got in touch again with an old friend from Japan – another gaijin who is now married and still living there with two children taboot…He’s moved to Tokyo though…no Inaka for him any  more!
Now, I just need to find some one who can tell me if Kanebo still make those pine bath salts and I think I’ll feel that all is right with the world this week…(until next week raises its own set of questions and I’m flumaxed all over again.)

More Wool, a bit of Linen, Dobby heads and Curry

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Superquick update:
I’ve been weaving with wool; Neki needs some linen (and I’ve got shed loads of the stuff); Neki says she just “found” a random dobby head in her studio; (1. how big does your studio have to be to just have a dobby head lying around and 2. Rub it in why don’t you!); I ate too much curry on Friday night…was delicious but not a good idea. Nuf said.

More of the same…

Yet another weird week –
Things are never simple, are they? There are benefits to being a grown-up (I remind myself of this frequently)  – I can eat 3 kit-kats in a row if that is what I want, but then there is all the stress and worry that seems to be part and parcel of “maturity” that kinda outweighs the benefits of 3 kit-kats.
My father was in hospital again – he went for some tests and was kept in for a week. He was sent home on Wednesday and has been in bed sick since then. And Hannah has some kind of rash on her face (but is eating and sleeping well – the 2 most important things in a Mother’s List)….Needless to say no weaving got done this week!
However, as this blog is about weaving, I have to say that I did THINK about weaving, but didn’t manage to settle down to doing anything, so my 3 samples already done were completed before all the dramas unfolded. The plan is to experiment with a pure lambs wool warp, the sett and the weft. So far I’ve played with weaving the same design in white chenille, black chenille and pure wool weft – Now I am itching to cut these off and wash them, but in my grown-up mood this week, I am determined to get a few more samples out of this sett before I cut off and re-reed.
The “problem” with sampling is that I always seem to have a lot of other ideas, (while sampling) that don’t relate to the warp I have on – and therefore I get restless with the current warp, wanting to put on another one to try this other, oh-so-great idea I’m having. Mmmm, “Grass is always greener” springs to mind…I’m writing down all these brilliant ideas, (that probably won’t seem so brilliant in a few days), and if I’m still motivated they can be the next BIG THING.

Another long gap

I had such grand plans to update this during the Christmas holidays – and here I am, back in Barcelona, after 3 weeks of Ireland and Derbyshire, and I am sitting in front of a computer again for the first time in that whole period…It’s been a bit hectic with Hannah being ill (one trip to the hospital with a strange rash), snow, more snow, quite serious sub-zero temperatures and then a bit more snow…been one of those holidays!
So as I write this, H is going through a basket of yarns, listening to “Happy and you know it clap your hands” and I’m trying to plan a wool warp and a quick dyeing session for tomorrow. I’ve got some things to upload onto Etsy, but I’ve decided to focus on sampling for a month or two – and a nice lambs wool warp is the focus of my attention right now – that and SOMETHING useful to do with thrums (left over weaving yarn) – photos of that to follow – Hannah has just velcro-ed herself to some single spun linen.

I should have put these up ages ago – after my fed-up-ness with suggestions in Handwoven, I went on the hunt to find something to do with my lefts overs, and having discovered the pin loom (I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I discovered it in Handwoven), I thought that some of the longer thrums would work with this – especially if they were wool and could be felted afterwards. So, “Project 1 – What to try and do USEFULLY with thrums has been launched” – God knows how it will go, or if it will ever be finished, but I’ve got to start somewhere. The idea is to weave up little rectangles with the wool thrums I have and then stitch them together and felt them – or felt them and stitch together (depending on how I feel on the day). I’m not sure how much I’ll have, but hopefully enough for a warm cot blanket or a throw.

I bought a set of 3 wooden picture frames from Ikea and used the pattern layout from the Pin Loom (eloomanation.com) reference page. Matt put in the tack pins for me – total cost, 4euros for making the pin loom…the cost of them on Ebay is quite scary, so I would suggest to anyone thinking of trying this little project to check out the eloominations page – for the cost of a wooden picture frame and a few wee nails, you can’t really go wrong.

When I was home in Ireland at Christmas, I also got my dad to make me a raddle and a “mobile warping set” so I can get some things done at home, if I don’t have time to make a warp before I go back. I’m not sure this was what I’d originally intended to blog about here, but it seems like a good time to mention it. He put together a raddle and 3 sets of warping pegs from bits of wood he had in the garage, some wood glue and some tack nails. I was very impressed! The warping pegs are brilliant, they can be fitted onto a table or work surface with g-clamps and it means you can make the warp as long as are short as you like. Not quite as convenient as my warping mill (also home made), but almost as convenient / inconvenient as a warping board.

Rebirth – in gentle golds and soft wools

 So after a lot of debate I decided to get back to what I love – colour and structure. Klimt had more than a small hand in the influences for this belt, but I have to say, I’ve not taken one photo that actually does this justice. It is such a gorgeous blend of warm colours. I’ve just put it up on etsy…let’s see if anyone else thinks it’s worth wearing.  More about this on my Esty Weaves page.

Industrial Revolution, Spinning Jenny…and Why fairies need scarves

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So, after a lot of family drama, we eventually made it over to England to visit Hannah’s great-granny Violet,  meet up university friends whom we’ve  not seen in almost 15 years, and then up to the north, to see Matt’s parents. “Too much (non-relevant) information” for a weaving blog? Well it turned out to be more of a weaving trip than I’d imagined.

To start with – “old uni friends” – Claire Silverthorne and I went to Winchester School of Art together, and became good friends. Both of us specialised in weaving, and while I always went a bit mad with colour and technicalities (give me 36 shafts and I’ll still want 2 more to put the selvedge on), Claire was the master of subtle designs and delicate colours. She can work magic with 2 colours and make it a full palet. Not to mention having had more of a clue how to use the Jacquard! Claire’s now married with two beautiful wee girls, and when we met up she returned 2 scarves I’d made a very long time ago. One (pictured here), Claire described to Poppy as “a scarve for fairies” towit Poppy repied “why do fairies need scarves?” A lesson to all of us not to get too airy-fairy in our naming policies or what we think we make! There’s always a 4 year old around to help bring you back down to earth!

And then there was the trip to Arkright’s mill, 10 minutes from my parents-in-law’s house…

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2 weeks later I get back to finish this post –
spinning jennies and water powered mills –
My parents-in-law live in Derbyshire, about 10 minutes away from Arkright’s first mills – “Masson Mill” and “Arkright’s Mill” at Cromford. If this means nothing to you, then it’s time to read up on your weaving / spinning history.
Arkright “Father of the Factory System”, for better or worse, was one of the men who changed the course of spinning/weaving history and brought it into the industrial age – to the cost of traditional weavers and spinners. There is a lot of debate if he and men like him, were forces for good or ill for spinners and weavers, but as Hemmingway said, you cannot stop an idea whose time has come – so maybe it was just that Arkright had the ideas first and it was all going to happen anyway.
Unfortunately the state of the mills right now is a bit sad, and although there are working looms, carders and other machinery to see in Masson mill they seem to only be churning out deck-chair fabric, while Arkright’s Mill is infuriating-ly a “Weaver-free” zone.  The photographs above are from Arkright’s mill (the weir, sluce gate and out buildings), and the internal photos are from Masson Mill museum – about 10 minutes away from Arkrights mill.

For a real treat on a working mill and the conditions of those who worked there “Quarrybank Mill” is excellent – but that’s another story – and day trip – entirely

I did some Googling to find out a bit more about Arkright, Cromford and Masson, and found some interesting links by more knowledgeable people than myself. 
 
http://www.arkwrightsociety.org.uk/
http://www.massonmills.co.uk/
http://www.derbyshireuk.net/mills3.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cromford_Mill
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7382107@N04/3815664870/

Revolution or Evolution – but definately not involving Handwoven

Well,
something that dragged me away from feeding Hannah or singing the annoying repeat of her Fisherprice train – the latest edition of Handwoven magazine – Warning – this is a long rant!
This arrived a few days ago – if anyone from the US reads this, they’ll be thinking that’s a bit strange, I got mine last month, but as I live in Europe (which is equal to MARS, don’t you know), it takes a wee bit longer for the mag to get here…Long haul postage aside, once here you’d think I’d be delighted to sit and have a read with my afternoon tea. Mmmmmm – I flicked through it and immediately 3 things came to mind.
1. How many times can you sound excited about weaving tea-towels / dish-clothes in a calander year?
2. How many times can you take out your Olsner and find a twill or overshot and get excited about that too? (admittedly it’s not difficult to take out your Olsner and find a twill or 300, but my excitement tends to wain a bit)
3. Is tencel the only “new” yarn out there? (not so new these days actually, but I’m splitting hairs a bit here).
 
Then, to add insult to injury the feature “20 things to do with leftovers” was a question asked my yours truly to the Yahoo weavers group in April “what to do with left-overs – Thrums”. If it was just random coincidence that it then appears in Handwoven, it was also random coincidence that the idea to put thrums out for birds to use in nesting also appeared – Unfortunately the response that this can actually strangle and choke the birds didn’t make it to Handwoven – If any wee birdies die from choking on thrums, you know who to blame.
If I was any of the people who answered my question with some good suggestions, which re-appeared in Handwoven, I’d be a bit ticked off that I didn’t get any credit for providing them with content.
 
I feel like some kind of mad old biddy, to come out of my “mother-mode” back to my blog, solely for the purposes of a rant. But I have to do it, as I’ve been more and more un-impressed by Handwoven for a while now. What’s so utterly frustrating is that there is a wealth of information, motivation and new ideas out there in weavers blogs, but Handwoven just seems to churn out the same tired old formula of Olsner=(overshot/twill)/teatowels…with a bit of tencel thrown in for a “new look”.
 
The feature on 10 yarns for under 10 bucks, was interesting, but what about some ideas of what to do with them? How about “Ten weavers were given 10 yarns for under 10 bucks and had to come up with something” (like Vogue when they ask their editors or 10 random women to test cellulite cream, or some other such rubbish…but you still read about it!)
How about someone weaving with chicken wire; Someone dyeing, weaving, finishing something random, beautiful and experimental (forget purpose for the moment); Someone using their mighty 24 or 36 shaft looms for something other than (dare I say it again) Olsner; How about interviews / write ups with successful woven textile designers; How about interviews / reviews of art college weave graduate shows.
How about what news on what is happening in the world of fashion and interiors with regard to weaving: “Woven fabrics are all the rage…” or “Print is hot right now, but 60s style dogtooth has made a return to the niche market”
 
News or features on projects from around the world; Womens groups in parts of Latin America, Africa and the Stans where they are trying to gain financial independence or put their lives back together after wars and returning to traditional crafts (weaving among them), to earn money and feed their children.
 
How about some inspiration! Anything! But enough already with Olsner’s tea-towels.

I’m out of breath now, but I had to get that off my chest.

Comments and feedback are welcome. I’m sure I’ve made some enemies with this outburst – but I’m also sure that there are weavers who feel the same way too.

2-Teeth McCasey

DSCF2517wow, I really need to get my act together! How long!!??

Right, so updates (for anyone who still bothers to read this blog). Well, as usual, lots has happened, and nothing at the same time.  Hannah now has 2 teeth (see photo) and has been dubbed “Hannah-2-teeth-McCasey”:
I eventually got my warp tied on, have 6 place mats woven and am now working on the table runner:
I eventually got around to putting a sale up on my stock in Etsy:
I’ve started working out the threading plan for some baby blankets / Christening shawls…. So I’m considering this all to be progress…
I also discovered (a few weeks ago) a brilliant dyeing site. Yea, I know – the WHOLE WORLD knew about this lady before me, but still, I have to say something as I found this to be an excellent source of information. I usually rely on my friend Neki to tell me whats-what when it comes to dyeing, as she’s the guru – and in an attempt to find an easy way to dye some yarn that I had (as Neki gave me the hard way to do it), I did some googling and found this site. As it turns out Neki was right – there is only a hard way of doing this (sorry for doubting you), but at least I discovered this site. What I’ve not done yet is sort out the scarves that need to be photographed to go up for sale on Etsy (new ones). I’m hoping August brings more opportunities to get things tidied up- weaving-wise. Not to mention the fact that I plan to finish this warp this weekend, get it washed, cut and sewn and the new warp wound, beamed, threaded and weaving by the beginning of next week! (Amazing what delusions of productivity and grandeur you can have when your parents-in-law are staying and someone else can take care of H.)