Monday 30 September 2013

A Hectic Weekend

This is Dennis Walker's ikat warp which has been twice dyed. It is shown with two of the wrappers removed after the second dyeing. His tape has protected the first dye, green, very well and there is no leakage.

On Saturday I went into London with Ruth and Anne and we spent the day being shown how to cook by a Michelin-starred chef, Claude Bosi.

Claude Bosi is on the left and Ian from Glasgow is on the right. Ian is the head chef and was very knowledgeable. The kitchen was fantastically well kitted out with induction hobs, including a wok induction system! There were seven of us and I had known we were going to have a demonstration but I had not realised that they were going to cook a four course lunch and that we were going to eat it. This at 0930!! And we had a four course (different) lunch at 1230. It was all very informative and they answered questions happily. Really quite an experience.

The original idea had been to go shopping in Bond Street but after all that food and wine we all felt decisions were a bit strenuous so went home!

On Sunday we went to Wisley Gardens where they had a scuplture show on. Not as interesting as at Savile Gardens because most of the pieces looked as though they would be happier indoors. But it was a lovely September day and we enjoyed walking round the gardens.  After that I drove home.

Friday 27 September 2013

Back to Bookbinding

In keeping with my determination to finish a few projects, I have gone back to bookbinding.
This is a book for my daughter, Ruth. What is special about it is that she made the marbled paper! She found a pile dating back some years and gave it to me. Lots of lovely stuff. So I made a book for her. The title label has a pastel drawing by Michael of Ruth at about 12 reading a book which I thought was appropriate.
This one has endpapers from Venice. There is some gold leaf in there but it does not show up well in the photo. I have the paper ready for another book using what is left over of the sheet. It will be on the cover and will be done next week. I might also do the Central Asian book which will have mulberry bark paper for the textblock and a cover of Uzbekistan atlas (cotton and silk) in a lurid design.

I have been re-reading Sir Patrick Spens to remind myself of what I need to do in lino-cuts. I found a lot of notes which lay out which verses go on which page and shows a sketch of the accompanying lino-cut. So I am further forward than I thought.  I am off to London for the weekend with great things afoot which I will describe when I get back. I am taking all the paperwork about Sir Patrick Spens because I think we will not be doing anything on Sunday morning.

I must say that, rereading the poem,  some of the wording jars. Because it has been Englishified and it was written in Lallans. 'new' instead of  'braw'.  'to' everywhere instead of 'tae'. The last verse starts 'Half-ouer, half-ouer to Aberdour/ tis fifty fathoms deep whereas Sir Walter Scott says it should be ' Oh, forty miles from Aberdeen'. Stupid. Doesn't have the right ring at all. This is a Border Ballad and it should thump. I have decided to change the wording throughout. I might see if I can find an original.  

Tuesday 24 September 2013


When I was at Aardvark Books, I looled around the book shelves and found a lovely book of Hokusai prints. He was a Japanese printmaker around 1800 and his most famous print is The Wave. This book was printed and bound in Prague but totally in the Japanese style. That is, two prints are on one sheet of paper and the sheet is folded and bound into a stitched spine so that the fold is at the fore edge. The cover is paper and the whole book is enclosed in a Japanese-style case.

You can see the bone fasteners on the left hand side. It is slightly spoilt by that the outer cover which is European standard red book cloth. They ought to have used paper. But the prints are a lovely collection. I cannot work out how they were selected although there is a good introduction. I canot photograph the inside of the book because it is too tightly bound. The other criticism is that the book is printed on paper which is too heavy at about 50 or 60 gsm whereas it should be less than 30gsm. It would open better if it was lighter. Anyway a real find.

I have worked hard over the last few weeks and have cleared off all the small jobs I promised people I would do. I am finding that being treasurer of two groups and chairman of a third is more onerous than I expected. The treasurer jobs are not difficult but it is all the meetings which are difficult to juggle. So I have given up the Complex Weavers Study Group on Tied Weaves which I am sad about but another set of deadlines is asking for trouble. I have however just started attending a local class on print making. This I excuse by saying that I must really get on with making the book on Sir Patrick Spens. I intend to have the verses on the righthand side and a lino cut on the lefthand side. What I forgot was that I should have gone to the class with the designs ready. So I spent Monday afternoon at the class drawing out some of the designs. I do not want to start making the lino cuts until the designs are all finished. There may be a problem in selecting paper. At home I have used thin Chinese paper of about 30 gsm which looks good but I could not put through my printer for the text. Those earlier prints were done by rubbing with the back of a spoon but the class has a press!!! So I may be able to use a much heavier paper. The tutor likes to use Hot Pressed waterolour paper which will be at least 120 gsm. I can see a lot of experimentation going on when I start on this in earnest.

One job I have completed is completing the sections on my website. So now all the old sections are present as well as one or two new ones. I will add additional sections as an interesting topic comes up.

Monday 23 September 2013

Lamb's Wool Ikat

Last week I was demonstrating weaving on three days, Thursday, Saturday (at MTF) and Sunday (Kennet Valley Guild at Newbury). So I decided I had better warp up. In tidying up earlier in the week I had found an ikat warp of lambs wool.

I tied on to the back beam irregularly to give the lightning effect, then wove with some lambswool of the same weight I dyed years ago in violet. It looks a little stiff because I have not washed it yet. Anyway this was finished by the end of Saturday including all the finishing and fringing.
So I decided to spend Saturday making some needlebooks using leftover scraps of woven fabric. I always make sure there is a sample to file with the records but, after that, any bits and pieces get shoved in a drawer with the hope that I can think of something to do with them. This idea came from Cally Booker but the big difference is that she is a perfectionist and her needlebook is carefully stitched whereas mine are done with glue but I have reinforced the cover with grey board so my excuse is that I am treating them as books!! I managed to make six of these at the Newbury Show. They are being pressed at the moment and I am not sure about a closure. I think it would spoil the appearance but they gape at the moment. You would be surprised at how much fabric you use up doing this.

Kennet Valley Guild has a stand (actually more of a sit) at the Berkshire Agricultural Show every year. Whenever I have done a stint there, we have had a place in the Crafts Tent as well as in the Sheep Lines. This year we were only in the Sheep Lines which was much nicer. There were all these spinners and knitters sitting in a ring in the middle of pens full of baaing sheep and sheep were being moved from pen to ring and back again. Some sheep took exception to this and dug their heels in, especially the Soy and North Ronaldsay. So it was all highly entertaining. What was a bit worrying and I still have to solve the problem is that of the Leicester Longwool. I rather like this - when it is turned into yarn. I was introduced to a man who has a flock of these and ended up with a sackful of fleece. I can't spin and it looks grubby. The effect is of dreadlocks. I can see a bit of bartering going on here.

Autumn is on its way and the Euonymus is always first to colour up. Now two conifers have been removed, it can be seen from the house. The tree in the foreground is my birch 'Silver Ghost'. It was put in last autumn and is doing well.

Friday 20 September 2013

Exhibition Thread and Thrum

The Midlands Textile Forum exhibition, 'Thread and Thrum', was hung on Monday. It is at Aardvark Books, Brampton Bryan practically in Shropshire. It is on until 29th September.

This is a general view. Lots of lovely stuff in many different techniques.

And what I hung on the walls. Nothing new there. I am keeping all my new pieces for the exhibition at 'Nature in Art' next April. Besides I have not started on them yet. I stewarded there yesterday and it was very cold. I took my Voyager, warped up with a wool ikat warp and found it a bit difficult to weave with cold fingers.

Today I have been looking ahead and sorting out what I need to do for this autumn. I have written a student handout for a class on double weave and need to prepare for one on woven shibori in three weeks time.

But actually and more important I await the builder. I had some help on Wednesday to tidy up a room downstairs so that I can move the Louet Lombo there. When we moved a metal cupboard, I found the wall behind is soaking wet. Damp course trouble I think. Grrrrh!!! 

Sunday 15 September 2013

All Went Well

The Ikat Warp Day went well although I took only one photo. This was because every time I looked round the room, all you could see was people with their heads down over white yarn with raffia tied round it! Not very photogenic. We decided in the end that wrapping clear plastic round the yarn and overtying it with raffia would probably work and it did.

A picture of the Ikat class with Mary Jarvis and Marie FitzSimmons. The burgundy and white warp in the foreground is Marie's.

I had wanted everyone to do something simple to start. In the end everyone did something much more ambitious which required a great deal of tying up. It all took so long that we were putting the last warp into a dye bath at 5 o'clock. You could tell the class was absorbed by the silence in the room - punctuated occasionally by muttered curses as something had to be undone. On the way home I had an idea about what to do with my own warp and I was tempted to start at once today but no, I will be good and deal with the huge amount of paperwork that has built up this week while I have concentrated on textiles.

Handspun, natural dyed scarves

Two wool scarves on the left and a bamboo/cotton scarf on the right.

The other thing that has happened is a new objective! Someone asked me what I was going to do to top the Silk Route and Africa and I said I was staying at home till next July. Not true any more. My elder daughter, Ruth, is having a special birthday in early January so we are all going to a nice house in Dorset to party for a week at New Year. My younger daughter, Anne, who celebrates a similar birthday in 2015 has organised that everyone shall go to Cropready which is a folk festival. Anne and her family attend every year (Alice Cooper was there this year and caused uproar). She was a bit concerned about me but I pointed that Cropready could not be worse than camping by the Aral Sea. At this point I realised that I had a very special birthday just after Anne's and said that I wanted to walk Hadrian's Wall but really I wanted to walk the Pilgrim Way to Santiago del Compostela in Spain and Ruth said that she had always wanted to do that. So all of a sudden some of the family are doing that next Easter. It requires an ability to walk 10 or 12 km per day so I have to get very fit in the next six months which is no bad thing. I have decided I need to make  a list of the things I really want to do/see/experience before the insurance firms refuse to take me on.

Opera at Milan/Bayreuth/Dimitri anywhere/Palmyra (I believe there is a slight problem with Syria at the moment)/Bali/HongKong. That will do for starters.

Now for the paperwork.

Friday 13 September 2013

This Week Has Been Hard Work

I see that it is some days since I blogged. The week has been hard work. I finished the three scarves of handspun, tied a new warp on and wove two more scarves. Then tidied up which meant sorting out the Voyager, tucking a few ends in the scarves, making fringes, washing and ironing them all. They look good. They need labels sewing on and washing instructions attaching. I have not taken any photos of them yet as it has been raining steadily for teh last few days and is very dark outside. I will deal with the final jobs on Sunday.

Tomorrow, the Guild (or rather some of the Guild) are having a day winding, tying and dyeing warps for ikat. On Wednesday, I made up some equipment to hold a warp horizontal while it is being tied. And yesterday set about a trial run. I created an ambitious pattern and transferred it to squared paper, then tied up where necessary with raffia. The cotton warp is 2.5 m long and it took two and a half hours to do all the tying on. It was dyed using Royal Blue Procion MX and I could tell at once that I had a problem. The raffia all turned blue whereas it has always remained uncoloured before. This was a new pack of raffia. When I rinsed out the warp and untied it, the tied sections were not white but pale blue. This has never happened to me before. So tomorrow we will be using strips of plastic!! I have laid out everything ready to be loaded in the car. The trouble is that there is a pile of stuff to do the warping and tying and another pile of stuff to do the dyeing.

Last Wednesday, I had help to move stuff around the house. Two thousand slides and lots of photos have gone into the cellar. Yarn has been moved into the space vacated. And we have decided what to do in what is known as the Fax room (I have not owned a Fax for at least five years!!). New shelves are going up. The objective is to turn the upstairs office back into a spare bedroom. The family is complaining that, while I have a large house, the current spare room is tiny, in fact the smallest bedroom in the house. I have promised this will all be done by Christmas. We have made a good start.

I have taken loads of photos of the ikat warp process but they are boring.

More interesting is my Shanghai jacket!!

Sunday 8 September 2013


Yesterday was Kennet Valley Guild day and I was up early and off at 0730 to attend a Committee meeting. Rosie and I demonstrated warping up with a paddle - at the request of some Guild members. Neither of us are really enthusiastic about this and it probably showed because the audience mostly said 'not for me'. Marion Proctor does use the method. It probably needs more practise than I have put in.

However that was not the end of the day. Around the beginning of August, my daughters had told me to present myself in my best clothes at Paddington Station at 1600hours. No idea what was to come except that it was my birthday. It turned out to be dinner at a nice Turkish restaurant followed by seeing a musical called Wicked. The whole family was there including what I call the hangers-on. I met Charlotte's young man for the first time. Very tall - just as well because Charlotte is very tall too.

The show was notable for its lighting and special effects. The singing was patchy. Some of the singers were first rate and some were screechy. But a great evening out.

Friday 6 September 2013

Working Hard

I managed to complete the third scarf and cut it off this morning. I wove in all the odd yarn ends but need to do the fringe on this one. That's a job for watching the TV to. I have left the warp on the Voyager as I intend to tie on another warp on Monday.

I have spent the rest of morning dealing with paperwork for the Kennet Valley Guild meeting tomorrow. Now I must go and practise winding a warp using a paddle because Rosie and I are going to demo this technique tomorrow. She pointed out that doing a practice warp would be a good way of emptying filled pirns and bobbins and I have looked out lots. Next Saturday the Guild weavers are all preparing ikat warps and having one wound ready to demo on will save a lot of time.

Above is a warthog, my favorite animal in Africa. They are very shy and this photo was taken with maximum magnification. He must have been 80 metres away. My question is how come, if I can take decent photos of warthogs, leopards and hyenas, not to mention lions, did I fail to take any decent photos of birds in Africa. So I started by buying a book on Photographing Birds on Tuesday and bought a new camera on Wednesday. The recovery time on the old Canon was 1.3 seconds. The new Sony takes 10 per second. So I am going to start, as the book recommends, which is sit in the garden quietly and practise. Watch this blog!!

Thursday 5 September 2013

More Scarves

I have completed, cut off and finished two scarves and am part way through a third one. This is a great way of getting rid of the stash and I am thinking of tying on a new warp as soon as the third one is finished.

The meeting in Birmingham was notable for being in the most weirdly decorated bar I have ever met. The alcove the meeting was held in was decorated in Ancient Egyptian style. Most of it was Victorian Gothick with puplits, tombs et cetera. I have never seen a Ladies Loo with stone gargoyles in it before! I can find no history on the web but I am guessing 1880s. It really is worth seeing and, next time we meet, I will take some photos.

 This is a photo of the runner I brought back from Zambia. A mixture of traditional and modern motifs. The colours shown are pretty accurate. All the resist work is drawn by hand.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

In the train

I am in the train to Birmingham for a meeting of the Midlands Textile Forum - and worrying . I have been reading our insurance policy which is due for renewal and I do not like it. The insurance man is going to have some explaining to do.

I got up early this morning and finished the first scarf, started the second. I think I can finish it tonight. I will cut it off then because the scarves are quite thick being handspun and the breast beam is getting too fat.

No photos of current textiles this morning but my current favourite photo from the Silk Route trip.

Bringing back mulberry leaves for the silkworms in Uzbekistan. It's the smiles that get me.


Monday 2 September 2013

Back to Weaving

Yesterday was spent sorting through a large collection of natural dyed handspun yarn which I acquired some years ago. I need a few scarves to offer at the next exhibition of Midlands Textile Forum and decided I could probably get 3 scarves out of what I had. The big problem was not the total weight of yarn available but the fact that I mostly had 30 to 50 gms of each colour but I wanted to have a striped warp and a self-coloured weft. I did have large quantities of a nice pale green from which I will get the weft for two scarves. The photo above shows the first scarf. I am putting a few stripes of darker green at each end of this first scarf.

The above photo shows the colours left after the warp was finished. I will add stripes to the pale green of the second scarf. But for the third one, I will use mostly a white yarn with the rather nice pink shown above.

It is a long time since I did anything like this. Threaded up on four shafts on the Voyager!! It is all quite fun and I may tie a second warp on this when the three scarves are completed. I also have one which came off the 12 shaft Meyer done with what was left of the Summer School warp. That has been finished but not washed yet.

The weft is partly the bamboo/cotton of the warp and partly some space-dyed fine wool. I rather like the false leno which Laura Thomas showed us at the Summer School.

I had a long telephone conversation with my sister yesterday. She worked in Africa for some time as an FCO doctor. I have since realised that, to me, the most interesting, and the most important bits of the African trip was visiting Kwasa village and going for a bushwalk with the Bushmen. I have always thought people were important and why the charities I support are for children.

And now I must go do some paperwork.


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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.