‘I am not interested in weaving’ so said I when I first joined the guild in 2013. I studiously avoided the weaving workshops. I like crochet and I was going to learn to spin to get the yarn I wanted to crochet with and at the same time slow myself down in the amount of crochet I did. Hah! So much for that plan.
I wasn’t interested in weaving as it looked tedious and fiddly. It had lots of jargon that meant nothing. The only weaving workshop that I joined in was a tapestry weaving one with Paula Armstrong. I quite like the designs and it appealed to the arty side of me. That said, it was still fiddly.
After a while, I realised that I had yarn that wasn’t really suitable for crochet and my spinning had improved to a reasonable consistency, and thought maybe I should try weaving. I ended up with one of the guild rigid heddle looms and produced my first piece of woven material. Nothing to write home about, but I had woven something.
This was my second Summer School. I was lucky enough to get a bursary at my first one, at Askhan Bryan College in 2019, which opened my eyes to the fabulosity that is the AGWSD summer school.
This one was local, which meant that I could drive in every day from home, thus saving on accommodation.
There was a fabulous symmetry to these events as, many years ago, I decided to study horticulture, and my two preferred choices were Askham Bryan and Writtle. I really liked Askam Bryan, but was only offered a place on the ND course, whereas Writtle offered me my preferred HND course, Thus, It was that I met Billy Turner at Writtle, and we married in our middle year (This year we celebrated our 30th Anniversary, a week after Summer School). With the Wednesday being a half day, (to allow for trips out etc) Billy joined me in the afternoon, cue happy reminiscing of our times there as we wandered through the Grounds.
Until very recently I did not know that a wrist distaff was something that I had always needed. I had seen pictures of spinners with a wooden distaff which appeared to be a ‘stick’ wound with fleece or flax which looked like candyfloss.
One day I was wandering around online and came across pictures of beaded wrist distaffs. I was intrigued as when I read on this sounded like something that could be really useful.
This was to be my first Guild event for many a year and I was both a little excited and nervous about meeting everyone again. I needn’t have worried!! Within a minute of our arriving at Sue and Robert’s farm, I felt like I had never been away, such was the warm welcome I received.
If ever there is a dyeing event, I am always eager to join in the fun. Michele had prepared some sock yarn for me and I couldn’t wait to get started. After a cup of coffee and a natter, the dyers gathered around the tables, where Sue had laid out cookers, pans, jam jars, pipettes and, most important of all, some wonderful dyes!
On Saturday, 10 July 2021, I put my spinning wheel with Samoyed fur and carders into my car for the first time since 2019! Had I got everything? So long since I had spun anything I had to check everything twice. Where was I going? Ah!! Sue Prior’s farm in Perry Green. OK. Get satnav out and find the way. All new as I had moved to the wilds of Huntingdon. I had a very good, straight forward journey and arrived just before 10am.
Sue had cookers and pans already set out on tables in the barn with plenty of jam jars for putting dye stuff in. There was a table with the various coloured dye stuff and pipettes etc
After the lockdown and cold weather, it was lovely to be out for a day by the seaside. Made all the better by seeing a wicker family out for the day as part of Art on The Prom in Felixstowe’s Seafront Gardens.
The original wicker family had been funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund 5 years prior, but were no longer in a good state of repair. The creator of the new works is Tracy Barritt-Brown.
Fascinating article from the New York Times on collaborations with Mexican artisans in Oaxaca and elsewhere, where contemporary designers are helping to evolve and protect one of the worlds most enduring handicrafts.
A super resource for anyone interested in fleece. This website - The UK Fleece Directory - connects growers with crafters. It lists fleeces available and how to contact the grower. It's not an online store - you need to contact the growers and negotiate your purchase with them. However, it's really inspirational to see how much British fleece is out there.
...and a belated ‘thank you’
When I stood down as Secretary at the 2018 AGM, the Guild gave me an extremely generous cash gift. I really didn’t know what to say, I was so shocked. I didn’t spend the money for ages as I wanted to use it for something worthwhile. Towards the end of 2019 I spotted a request for crowdfunding to revive the weaving industry on Orkney. I pledged nearly the whole amount towards the project, the reward for which would, eventually, be a hand-woven scarf. By 9 January 2020 they had successfully raised £13,085 with 141 supporters in 37 days.
The Orkney Cloth Company is a start-up weaving business, founded by India Johnson. After completing a degree in Fine Art from Newcastle University in 2018, and a graduate weaving placement in Orkney, she decided to set up her own cloth weaving business to revive the weaving industry in Orkney. Their aim is to create sustainable hand-woven products which support traditional craftsmanship and the local community. They hope to revive the traditional weaving industry in Orkney, through training and weaving workshops and by creating small collections of blankets and scarves on a double width loom, eventually weaving lengths of cloth to sell by the metre.
The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey is a familiar haunt of mine. Set up by Zandra Rhodes, its displays cover a broad range of textile related subjects from designer to manufacturer and from techniques to style.
So it was with great enthusiasm that I ventured out from London Bridge to see the exhibition on the weaving traditions of Peru. I have seldom met any weaver or spinner who does not find the traditional clothes of Peru appealing.
We are a group who enjoy learning and improving our skills and are genuinely interested in sharing these skills with each other and any one who would like to join us.