Thursday, 29 September 2016

Burnley and London

On Tuesday Janet Dunbar and myself made the long hazardous journey into the North - beyond even Manchester. Our goal was Burnley where there is a Museum of looms and a steam engine to run them which was in full howling when we arrived.

It was very well looked after and everything that was brass was polished, everything else was painted and it gleamed. The museum seems to be entirely staffed by volunteers. All the ones I spoke to were ex-mill hands. Of course there are only one or two mills left. This one is exactly as abandoned in the 1980s. The steam engine originally drove all the looms in the weaving shed  but now only drives a few at a time.

There are 14 looms to a row and between 20 and 24 rows - so 280 or more in the room. The noise was awful. The looms are driven by leather belts going up to the ceiling where they are attached to a rod running the length of the weaving shed. That rod is driven by the steam engine. The rest of the mill was taken up with machinery to help with speeding up the preparation for weaving. A creel and a device for winding through a reed onto a warp beam was used to prepare the warp which was then taken to a machine which tied the new warp on the old one automatically. At this point we were flummoxed as to how this operated and I went in search of a volunteer who turned out to be a mine of information. He had been a mill hand for over 50 years! And had ended up as an expert knotter. The first question he asked was why are you interested so we explained we were weavers and that I often tied warps on but did it by hand and got the answer And do you use a silk knot or a dog knot. The answer was (when he had told me what they were) I used something in between. Well he was not having that so we were taught how to make a silk knot. And taught to make heddles which was wonderful. Quite the most useful technique I have learnt for a long time. He could see I was taken with this so he insisted I practise. I can do it now!!!!

There was lots more to see

Dusty, rusty reeds and shafts full of heddles hung from the ceiling.

Today (Thursday) we went to London to see two exhibitions. The first was Abstract Expressionism which means Jackson Pollock and the like. I had trouble with this exhibition. I could take the Jackson Pollock but, for 90% of the rest, I was trying to turn the painting into images - and failing. My problem is that I do not know what I am looking at. Dorothy had no problems.

Then we went to the Victoria and Albert  and I went the Ove Arup Engineering exhibition. It was good but very small and covered only 5 or 6 of his projects. All in all a disappointing day.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Makar's Lament

I have been suffering from not doing any bookbinding lately so decided to finish off a project. This is William Dunbar's poem The Lament of the Makars (Makars = Poets).

The whole book

and two sample pages. Not well photographed. At Malvern I had a place outside where I could take photographs but not here. I must look around and see if I can organise something.

Yesterday was a weaving day and we discussed courses that might be run. I wound a warp of the self and space dyed merino which is now ready to tie on. This will be the last one from this yarn.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fan Reed Samples

I finished the length of weaving needed to send off samples to the Fine Threads Study Group. Full of errors. When it was all off, washed, ironed and parcelled up, I decided that the rest of the warp needed attention so I pulled it all forward and rewound it. It looks a lot better and the weaving looks error free so far.
The pale green Tencel weft was what my intentions were but I was not very taken with the results so tried a dark green cotton which I liked much more. Within 10 inches of the end, I ran out of the cotton so tried a dark red Tencel.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Back to the Fan Reed

I have stopped procrastinating about the fan reed and started work. The first pattern (first since
A lot of the family came to lunch which was taken in a local pub. The Fox and  Hounds. Across the road from the pub is a Nature Reserve which is mostly lake with wildfowl and bulrushes and islands. There is said to be a lot of wildlife. We did not see much, not even of the two legged variety.

Friday, 16 September 2016


Dorothy and I spent the day in London yesterday. We went to two exhibitions in te British Museum. One was about recent underwater excavations near Alexandria, beautiful sculptures, even a large wooden one. Wooden things do not usually survive but this has got submerged in mud and so has been preserved. And several basalt sculptures including a lovely lifesize hippo! We also yhad a look at the BM's show of French drawings. Lots of Watteau (lovely) and 19th century (not so interesting)

On our way back to the Underground station we passed Cornelissen and I took Dorothy in. She was as bowled over as I was first time (and later times too). Though the paints are very expensive.

Then it was off to see the David Hockney show at the Royal Academy. The lift was out of operation for maintenance and there was no way Dorothy could manage the four flights of stairs so I went up be myself. About 40 portraits with the sitters in the same chair and  solid colour backgrounds (different for each sitter). The faces were well done and detailed but the clothes were just blocks of solid colour. I was disappointed.

Then home by train. I should have said the temperature was 32 and the underground was unspeakable. Outside in the sunshine was not too good either.

Today we have been occupied with workmen. An electrician came to rewire the lighting in my bedroom. Some weeks ago it went off with a very loud bang. All is now well. And later a gardener came to see if he wanted to work for us. I hope so as he seemed quite knowledgable.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Gardening and ?

It has been a busy few days. In fact I cannot list what I have done. Just touch on the highlights. Sunday was spent teaching Fibreworks to some Guild members. Time was spent round the table peering over students' shoulders at their drafts. Some nice drafts resulted. I have  done quite a bit of weaving and today I joined Dorothy in the garage to do dyeing. Definitely an experimental day.    I found a black cotton Tshirt which I decided to screen print with a bleach paste, and I added a black viscose Tshirt to the experimental pile. After screen printing, they were allowed to dry. Then they were steam ironed. The viscose one went pear shaped or rather patchy and was dumped . The cotton one looks successful. It was carefully washed and hung on the line outside.

Another experimental action was to syringe dye four balls of Hampshire hand spun. I have nine balls in all (600gms) and might do a couple of scarves with a mixture although the yarn is quite thick. But the big problem is that I used red and blue and overdid the blue so I do not have a white with red and blue skein but a blue skein with small white and red blotches. 
The last experiment is to do with bookbinding. I would like to have the word NOTEBOOK on the outside of some of the books I make. So I had a Thermofax made with that word on it in several fonts and sizes. The experiment was intended to let me decide which version I want to use but also to try the Thermofax out of handwoven fabric. Which I did. In fact everything worked fine and I am pleased at the results. 
Printing on various fabrics. The two bottom right are handwoven. The rest are discarded commercial cotton overdyed and stamped.

The morning was spent installing a new shelf in the greenhouse. I am running out of space for potted up plants. We have delphiniums, oriental poppies, rudbeckias, sweet williams and loads of irises in the greenhouse. Well the instructions were good but think IKEA flat packs only assembled standing on a step stool and leaning over the staging and the estimated thirty minutes took two hours.

There was a lot of weeding too. 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fabric and Transport Problems

I am shocked. But by my own behaviour. I grant you that I do buy lengths of fabric ostensibly to be made up just because I like them not because I need them or have a special project in mind. Without foreseeing the shock on its way, I decided I had to clear out the cupboard where I store lengths of fabric (commercial and my weaving) I have six lengths of jacket fabric, three of which are Linton Tweed and three my weaving. I have nine lengths of fabric for shirts and tops. I have one partly made jacket for my daughter Anne (that is going to be discarded). It has been around for too long and both of us are bored with it. There are lengths of fabric which are the wrong length, thickness, colour for anything anyone would want ever want to wear. All very unsatisfactory. It is all back in the cupboard with the difference that every length is in a separate plastic bag with a label on the outside stating the contents and what it is intended for. I have dealt in a similar way with lengths of handweaving. Now all I have to do is clear up in the studio. Which I need to do before Sunday as I am teaching a class here that day.

Today I was in London at a course on Block weaving run by Complex Weavers. The day was dominated by transport problems. The Underground was closed down in some bits which were the bits I wanted to use so it took 90 minutes to get to the venue instead the usual 20. And there was worse to come. When I arrived back in Paddington happy because I would be sure to be in time for the 1705, I found there had been a death on the line and all trains in and out of Paddington had been stopped for several hours and they had just started sorting this out. When I asked when the 1705 was likely to leave (assuming in my naivety that if it said DELAYED on the departure board, the train would be shortly be ready) I was soon corrected. That train, said the officer, is being cancelled. It is not an express and only expresses are leaving. When I inquired as to when one might be around. The answer was at least two hours. So I caught the Penzance Express to Reading and my sister fetched me and delivered me to the right local station to pick up my car. Honestly I cannot think why they bother to run trains.

But I have not said that it was a good day weaving-wise. The course was Block weaving by Rosalie Nelson. But not block weaving as you or I know it. She has a book on the topic coming out next spring and I recommend weavers to have a look at it. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. Lots of people there I knew including Stacey Harvey-Brown who is halfway between the UK and France. She will be in France in a month or two.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Rage and Fury

I have been back home for five days and already the good done by my holiday has evaporated. In March I bought some tulip bulbs in Amsterdam to be delivered in autumn. A few days ago I have email saying they were on their way. Fine. Except that it seemed they would be delivered on Friday so we made sure one of us was in Friday - and Saturday. Nothing. Except that on Sunday the courier updated the tracking info and said they had attempted a delivery and failed. But not here they did not. At which I realised looking at all the paperwork , while I had entered my full address, the package omitted the house number and there are more than 60 houses under our postcode. So I emailed the sender and first thing I did on Monday, I phoned the Holland office. The girl there was very helpful and said she would deal with it. But still no parcel. Until today when the tracking info said Address changed. Item returned to sender!!!! GRRRHHH!! My temper is getting a little short about this **** package.

However on the bright side, Dorothy and I had a rather unusual and delightful morning. A few weeks ago I received an invitation from the Royal Horticultural Society inviting me to come early to their autumn flower show at Wisley and have breakfast with the staff. All very odd I thought but let's go. When we arrived we were personally met and given a name badge. I noted that there were 30 badges which seemed a very small number. Basically we had the run of the show before anyone paying was allowed in. Then we were guided by a member of staff to the posh restaurant and given breakfast. I still have not worked out why I got an invite. Just a mistake? Or is it because I have been a member for 55 years? Well I am not inquiring and we had a lovely time and bought lots of plants.

Seen at the Wisley Flower Show.
Bought at the Wisley Flower Show But there was nothing there to beat my zinnias
I have wound a warp of blue and dyed blue merino, tied it on to the end of the yellow warp and started weaving. I was worried that the dyed blue was too dark but when woven up, it looks fine. A bit subdued but acceptable.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Milan Airport

So here I am in Milan airport, waiting. Anne drove me down and has done what we did last Saturday. Parked the car here and taken the train into Milan with the rest of the family. They are going to do cultural things rather than shopping things. 

I has enjoyed it here although I did have to say outright that I was having days off. Readers will have noticed the many photos of boats from kids having surfboard lessons to hydrofoils. It really is the best way to get around. I have seen buses using the car ferries which hold about 15 vehicles. When they load a bus, it is carefully positioned in the very centre of the ferry. So much shouting and gesticulation as they decide, they can get one more car on in front of the bus and the rest have to take their chance. I wonder what happens if two buses want to cross.

I have discovered why the ferry from Menaggio to Varenna (on the opposite side from us). There is a railway station at Varenna. No trains on the West side which is where we lived.

I must say I could get used to our breakfast here, plain yoghurt with fresh apricots. But I have never met an apricot that was worth eating raw.
and I have eaten pasta too often.


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About Me

I am weaver and - -. I dye my yarns with acid dyes, I paint my warps, put fabric collages and stencils on my weaving. I have three looms, a 12 inch wide, 12 shaft Meyer for demos and courses, a 30 inch Louet Kombo which is nominally portable but has a stand, two extra beams and a home-made device containing a fan reed. And last a 32 shaft Louet Megado which is computer controlled, has a sectional warp and a second warp beam and I am the proud owner of an AVL warping wheel which I love to bits and started by drilling holes in. I inserted a device for putting a cross in. I have just acquired an inkle loom and had a lesson from an expert so I can watch TV and weave at the same time. I am interested in weaving with silk mostly 60/2 although I do quite a bit with 90/2 silk. I also count myself as a bookbinder with a special interest in Coptic binding.