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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

28 February, 2011

Pleats, crepes and twists – more collapsing weaves

This past weekend, I had the privilege to be part of a 4-day workshop with Ann Richards.  Ann has been creating the most wonderful pleated scarves, dresses and now jewellery for a number of years, inspired largely by nature and in particular by bats and dragonfly wings among other things.  Her work is exquisite and very affordable and is currently on exhibition in Warp + Weft, a touring weaving exhibition – yes, that rarity! – which is going around the UK, curated by Laura Thomas, which I wrote about in a previous blog post.

Ann gave generously of her expertise and we worked on warps which had already been prepared for us – a rare luxury!  The workshop was at the Handweavers Studio in London, and we were able to sample from a wide variety of non-shrinking yarns as well as S and Z twist wool and cotton crepe yarns, wool/elastane, and 14.5Nm Merino overtwist yarn in both S and Z twist, and colcolastic, all of which gave lovely effects.  We also had 4 taster warps which we could go and weave on, exploring different structures, such as combined double and single cloths, a bead leno warp and a double cloth bracelet warp in silk/stainless steel warp.

Some of the twisting and collapsing that went on in the finishing was just amazing!  Some of the structures worked better with some yarns and not others, some using both sets of twists fought each other and cancelled each other out.  Sometimes, just varying the proportions of one to the other even very slightly was enough to make a dramatic difference.  If anyone had had doubts about the value of sampling, then this workshop would have dispelled those instantly.

The class knowledge level was high in the first place and the experiments that were carried out varied immensely.  It was both tremendous fun, and really stimulating, and with all the yarns that we sampled available for purchase, most of us left considerably financially lighter but physically weighed down with the amounts of yarn that we were taking home!

Not only was it incredibly valuable in knowledge gained, we also got to know and enjoy each other’s company.  Several of us were acquainted, others knew one or two people well, but sharing in each other’s experiments, not all of which worked, helps break the ice and build friendships.

I don’t know how much I have learnt yet.  That always comes out much later.  But I do know that this is a brilliant way to learn and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from Ann’s knowledge, research and teaching skills, and also from the generosity of my fellow students with their pearls of wisdom, and I hope I was able to pass on a few of my hints and tips too.  A great learning experience.

13 February, 2011

Maths and geology challenges

Filed under: Art,Education,Life,Nature,Psychology — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:55 pm


Normally a word to make you shudder – the dread anticipation of hours lost doing things you don’t want to do, have no wish to learn, or things you know you ought to know but don’t really want to; or maybe wishing you’d spent more time all those years ago, absorbing things that would have helped you with what you want to do now!

Well, this morning, I chose to think of today’s main tasks as homework.  Maths for this morning, and geology for this afternoon.  Well, if you’ve been following me the last few weeks, you might recall that I’ve started a masters in geology of extreme landscape which I shall translate through weave.  So the geology bit this afternoon won’t be a huge surprise.  Mind you, it’s more art than geology, so more fun!

This morning’s task – maths – was my accounts.  Never my favourite job because although I love the beauty of maths in patterns that I see both artistically and in equations and in nature, I don’t really get it!  I understand that some people see maths in much the same way that I see music, or weaving, or reading – they see patterns, a conversation, understanding, the logic of the universe, a way of doing something, a way of reasoning, a language speaking to them.  My father is one of those.

He finds it really hard to understand why I get in such a muddle with maths.  He audits my accounts for me at the end of the year before they go to the accountant, and that is a painful time for us both!  Sometimes I can’t understand why I have such problems with it.  Surely it should be simple to tally up income and expenditure and what’s left is my profit (with luck!).  But somehow it never seems to be that simple.  There are so many ways of making the same figures tell a different story (sounds like politicians, doesn’t it?!)  It reminds me of the dangers of using statistics to back anything up – the figures can be manipulated to say whatever you want them to say!  At least, if you know how to juggle them!

My problem is that I seem to have some kind of figure dyslexia.  Not by obvious translation of numbers.  But just in a kind of number blindness.  They are a language I don’t really understand, no matter how hard I try.  So my usual fall back position is to remind my Dad that he has a talent for them in a similar way to my talent for music or weaving.

It’s quite funny to think that in weaving I now use equations to work out sett and yarn amounts.  At school I just couldn’t see the use in equations.  And then, last week in geology, we had a whole set of trigonometry questions to help us work out the dipping of beds in a fault.  We had to use the following formula – Tan True dip = vertical spacing/horizontal spacing.

Now, I don’t know about you but the last time I did this kind of work was back in 5th form, cramming for my O levels, and we had trig books which had the Tan and Sin and Cosin figures in (I never did get what all that was about, either!) and slide rules.  Now, it’s done on scientific calculators.  But even so, I want to understand the workings behind it and can’t get my head around it!!

So what I am doing today is building the map that we were looking at.  I understood how to apply strike lines and how to determine the dip direction of the beds.  I established the throw of the fault, and the dip direction of the fault.  I worked out the downthrown side of the fault, and its heave, so I didn’t do badly.  I could even see, up to a point, how the map should look in 3D, but I want to understand it physically as well as mentally.  I want to ‘feel’ that I totally understand it.

So I am going to make a 3-D version of the map this afternoon.  I’ve got the scale, I shall apply basic maths to it, and then, when it’s finished (and all coloured in so the different rock formations look distinct), I shall measure the angles.  It won’t be totally accurate, but I will have established a solid link in my mind between the abstract flatland map, and the real McCoy, albeit at a fraction of the real physical scale.

So – maths – check.  Geology (and art!) – ready!!

6 February, 2011

Harbingers of Spring

Filed under: Life,Nature,Psychology,Weaving — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Hurrah!  Spring is on the way!! Truly!! I promise!!  Especially to our friends currently immersed in piles of snow in the mid-west of America!  You may only see white out of your windows – if you can see out of your windows at all!! – but I can assure you that snowdrops are pushing their way out of the frozen earth, and the nights are getting shorter!!  I can now take Charlie out in the light after his tea!

Isn’t it funny how we have our own individual ways of measuring time?  I don’t wear a watch any more (gave it up when I finished teaching in school!) and watch the sky a lot more.  I don’t have a clock in the workshop, so if I need to finish for a certain time, I set the kitchen timer which has an hour limit.  I eat when I’m hungry and not at a certain time (except for when I have students) and finish when I’ve completed a task or get too tired.

I listen to my body more too, now, and have just re-started doing yoga.  Ah, bliss!  My body loves me again!

I like being in touch with life through responding to my body and to nature.  It feels right, somehow.  Years spent of watching clocks and timing things to within an inch of their life left me feeling permanently drained and that I was at the whim of other people and circumstances.  Now I feel as if I am more in control.

I know that’s as much a fallacy as anything, but somehow, mentally, it sets you free.  You feel able to roll with the wind to a certain extent.  I still have my tasks that I want to get done, and Sunday is the day I use to decide what I’d like to achieve during the coming week.  I was a bit too ambitious last week, and still have a few things that I haven’t achieved.  I do feel a little annoyed with myself for not completing them, but I know that half a day will clear them, and I can schedule that in this week.
Back to Spring.  It’s not here yet, and we could still be in for some hard weather, but the lighter evenings raise the spirits and let you know that the hard times are only temporary – a good reflection for more than just the seasons!

So more time for more weaving and I’ll be keeping my eyes open for the rising of the daffodils and the return of the swallows!