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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

31 October, 2010

Weaving, looms and cars – the connection?!

Filed under: Life,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:01 pm

One of the tasks I have been engaged in over the last few weeks is a weaving commission.  I don’t often undertake commissions but this one engaged my interest in an unusual way.  If you have been a follower of my blog for a while, or visited my website (www.theloomroom.co.uk)  you will have heard and/or seen Hattie, the industrial 1930s jacquard loom I have which catapulted me into the world of jacquard in 2002. 

One of the things that fascinates me about Hattie is her engineering.  Because she is a mechanical machine, you can see what’s going on, and can work out how to fix things that go wrong through backwards engineering.  The same was true for my first car, a 1959 Singer Gazelle, Series 3a – with overdrive – that used to propel me up and down the M3 motorway from Bournemouth to West London in the eary 1980s between my job at the Bournemouth Orchestras, and my boyfriend in London at 90 mph!!! (Ssssh – don’t tell anyone!) 

I had named the car Barbie, after a character in the Raj Quartet books by Paul Scott, which I had read the previous year whilst at music college in Scotland.  Barbie was 1 1/2 tons, with no syncromesh gears, and definitely no power assisted steering!  We had several hair-raising adventures together, and some eventful journeys due to bits failing (notably the slave cylinder during the London rush hour one wet and windy evening in January 12 miles on the other side of London).

It was great fun to get dirty, to work out what had gone wrong and how to fix it.  Graham and I spent hours on, under, and in the car getting her to run and we both learnt a lot about engines in the process.    

So when I was contacted by the 1959 Mini Register about some interiors fabrics they needed weaving, we had a great deal to talk about before we even got down to discussing fabrics!! 

Most people know the iconic Mini car, but not so many know that the first models had fabric interiors and upholstery, and the 1959 Mini Register is a group specifically for 1959 Mini owners.  Car clubs I know are to be found extensively in many countries, and the members are passionate about getting the details right.  So I took on the commission to analyse the original fabric, and then to weave 25 yards of fabric.

I have to say that weaving-wise it is not the most exciting thing to be weaving.  A 16 shaft design and a 16 pick repeat for 25 yards doesn’t really engage the brain in the weaving process.  But I have enjoyed myself.  For up to 4 hours a day, I have been weaving, which is not something I usually do. 

It has kept me grounded during a difficult family time, it has been exercising my body, relaxing my mind, focussing my attention and being present in the moment, but also able to listen to the radio (Radio 4 – brilliant!).  I’m nearly finished now, and a little bit sad that it’s nearly finished (although also somewhat relieved that I can look at something else soon!) 

And it’s got me in training for those Christmas cards which must start next week…. 

Happy weaving!

21 March, 2010

It’s been an interesting March so far.  Firstly there was Hattie on YouTube, which as I write has had over 1300 visits (and certainly not all by me!!) 

Secondly I have been writing a booklet to accompany a workshop I give on Texture in Textiles.  It’s the first in a series of three called The Pocket Workshop Series.  The other two are going to be on colour and design.  These three workshops I deliver to textiles groups and are not exclusively about weaving, but include felting, knitting, sewing and embroidery, and a little printing.  These workshops are very popular, and I had been asked so many times for a booklet to accompany them, so I decided to get down and do it. 

New challenges are always huge until you’ve completed it, and then they seem so much easier, don’t you find?!  This is not an in-depth book, but a booklet introducing ideas and making connections between the different textile disciplines that anyone can use to incorporate different ways of working into their artwork.  It’s 38 pages long, and has a useful bibliography to encourage further in-depth research for those interested in learning further. 

I gave a texture workshop at the Derby Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (a very friendly group!), and got 15 orders for the booklets which hadn’t even arrived at my home yet!  So that was a great start! 

The actual writing was mostly developed from my course notes.  The most intimidating aspect was trying to save it as a pdf which would be accepted by Lulu when I uploaded it.  Lulu is a website for printing your own books.  A number of craft workers are going down this route rather than having to surrender their editorial rights and preferences for laying out their book to a mainstream publisher.  A few frustrating days followed until I eradicated the pdf writer already on my computer, and two more were downloaded, and suddenly I found the format that worked for Lulu!  I designed my front cover myself, and suddenly my first booklet was in print! 

What a wonderful feeling!  My only complaint is the huge amount of postage paid for a small package that came in the mail! It virtually doubled what I paid for the first few copies! That’s the way they can keep the publishing costs down and increase their profits, I guess!!  Lulu has a marketplace where you can buy books they’ve published, and I know Alice Schlein has at least one of her books in the marketplace.  However, I have decided to keep mine purely on my website for now, at least until I have published the other two in the series, so you can only get it by ordering directly from me.  (As an introductory offer, they are £5 (cover price £7.50).  Further details on my website. )

So now I am in print.  Not a big deal by many people’s standards, I know, but for me a major milestone.  Now I feel confident that I can write something more in-depth and meaty and know that I can publish it on my own.  That confidence is tremendous.  Now all I’ve got to do is get cracking!