Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lately I have been peering through windows late at night

My own windows I might add – more on that in a minute. I’ve turned my attention to wall hangings recently as I mentioned previously and, in the way that usually happens when I allow my mind to wander, I have since moved on from woven wall hangings (although they are still very much on the to-do list) to hand stitched tapestry ones.

The reason for the side step in technique is two-fold: one being that I don’t have a tapestry loom, and two that I wanted to represent a picture and for the wall hanging to have a visually recognisable subject in the way that can be created with a tapestry, but not so easy with a loom like mine.

Lately I have developed a peculiar fascination for going outside my house and looking at it after dark through the bushes in front of the windows. Yes I know this sounds really weird!!

I tend to do this if I’m taking the dog for a walk during the evening and I find it looks so appealing. We have various spiky plants outside the house such as trachycarpus fortunei and phormium which have the most amazing leaves especially when silhouetted by a light behind them. It’s something to do with the tropical shape of the leaves and the warm light coming from the windows.

So during the daytime I took a photo of this view and used Photoshop to fiddle with the image and came up with this:


The idea is to make it into a hand-stitched tapestry. I say ‘idea’ because although I’ve started it, there’s an awful lot of stitches and it’s going to be a l-o-n-g project! The eventual size is about 1 metre wide and probably 1.25m long. I’m in such a hurry to get it on the wall though. MUST STITCH FASTER!!!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

And now for something completely different…

Now that the recent rush of “gift-weaving” has petered out for now, I am turning my attention on my next project. And I’m thinking of a wall hanging, or several. Ivan and I have been doing up our house for ages now (since we bought it nearly 3 years ago) and we moved in in April 09. Things are by no means finished but they’re well on their way and I need to turn my attention to the fun bit – decorating it.

Here’s how it used to look 3 years ago.DSC00086DSC00096It looks a lot happier than that now but I don’t really have any recent photos to share. The house was built in 1963 and is of a Modernist design – we love it, it’s so unusual for Sussex and we love the space and light. Our last house was a terraced Edwardian town house which was equally as beautiful structurally but completely different! I must say I found our last house very easy to decorate – you could basically do whatever you wanted with it. Want to see some pics?
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DSC00121 DSC00110

(I've become very enthusiastic with my new blog editing client as you can see from the fancy photo effects!)

Anyway, our new house is much more of a challenge to decorate. I’m not sure why exactly because I understand the style but maybe there are so many choices and approaches that it makes it really hard to decide what to do. The last thing I want to do is fall short of the house’s innate style and create a bland interior. It just wouldn’t do it justice, but I do find (she whispers) modern architecture sometimes hard to live with 365 days a year.

I need to soften it, make it unique and personalise it. And what better way to do that than with some wall hangings from my trusty loom!

So I’ve been researching Modernist patterns, prints, colours and shapes. I’ve realised that Amish quilts are very inspiring – just typing ‘Amish quilts’ into Google images brings out masses of  fantastic colours and designs like this one from this web page.
I’ve got lots more reference pics stored away but as I haven’t saved the sources with them I might get into trouble if I show them here.

How all of this is going to manifest itself in a woven wall hanging I don’t yet know but what I do know is that this is probably the biggest weaving challenge I’ve so far assigned myself.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Bookmarks at last

I finally got round to snapping the bookmarks I gave as gifts at Christmas, here’s a selection.

These two are my favourites – particularly the one with the long fringes. The warp was a brown cotton and the weft is cotton of the same type but a variety of colours. You may remember that the pattern I intended to use turned out to be something quite different, more akin with rug weaving. So I kept the same tie-up but started randomly making patterns. Mostly of a basket-weave nature or twill.

The one at the end with all the coloured bands is a bit lop-sided but I quite like it, it’s shorter than the rest but feels thick and bright.

After the initial panic of not understanding the pattern, it turned into a rather fun project. Definitely a quick fix project!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Mum's scarf

-Having trouble with Blogger today so all the images appear at the top and in the wrong order!

Here's the finished scarf as modelled by my mum.

I decided that it would be good to balance the red and pink with more bands but didn't actually want to incorporate those colours any more, so chose a darker blue instead. Sue asked where the bands of colour sit - they sit towards the ends so they can be visible but by tying the scarf you can choose which colours to expose and which to cover up. That wasn't an original intention - let's face it they all went out the window when I started freestyling! - but I like that outcome. In fact the blue works really quite well in comparison to the pink and red, and is especially pleasing against the black. I wasn't ready for that!

I was also pleased with the hemming which so far I have never got quite right. I decided to leave a 2-3 inch untwisted fringe which is short enough to avoid going straggly.

I think she was pleased with the result and it would definitely suit her as a spring scarf because of the colour but also due to the cotton weft it's quite light.

Charlotte asked me what the pattern was, I'll post the draft shortly so you can see. In truth the pattern was a bit of a let down because it's not that clear, however I think this is partly the choice of a slightly-too-springy warp and the mix of turquoise on white. As I said earlier, it looks better against the black warp and I'd like to try it again. Done properly it would be a great pattern for a throw or even a wall hanging.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

"Gambling's for fools but that's the way I like it baby"

That lyric from Motorhead's Ace of Spades seems to sum it up at the moment!

I got an email from the National Lottery a couple of days ago to say that they have news about my lottery ticket from Saturday's draw. Oh.My.God.

As I clicked the link in the email and tried to remember my password one half of my brain was racing, "what if it's be the big one", while the realistic side was thinking, "don't be daft, it's going to be £10". ... And £10 it was and it was worth it for the adrenalin.

I play the lottery and sometimes I bet on the Grand National, or if I go the races I will put a couple of £2 bets on. However I'm not a gambler...SO WHY OH WHY have I started gambling with the scarf that is to be my Mum's birthday present - tomorrow?!!

She asked for a scarf with black in it, not too wide (probably 15 - 20cm max) but nice and long. I struggle with mixing colours with black and I sense she hopes to see some colour in it. I find that colour mixed with black can cheapen the colours somehow unless you're really careful with the tones, so I really wanted to avoid that.

I made a 3m long warp consisting of 2/5ths black merino wool and the rest creamy white alpaca. I just stuck to two plain bands of the colours because she likes bold designs. So far so good, it feels nice and soft and there's a nice contrast between the two bands. I've also been eyeing up a pattern for a while in a very good book called "8 Shafts A Place to Begin" by Shelp and Wostenber and decided that this would be how I would incorporate colour.

Originally I thought of a grey-blue alpaca that I have but when I tried it the effect was a little dull. In fact I used some brightly coloured orange cotton to hold the warp together and the colours really zinged. That got me thinking that I could be bold and she would love it. Maybe not orange though, because she doesn't "do" orange but maybe turquoise.

I started weaving once again and after a while I started to get a little disapppointed. It's wider than I expected for a start. Also the sett is too wide for the pattern so you don't read the roundness of the lozenges, maybe it will spring back when cut off the loom but I'm not convinced. The whole point was that the pattern would do the talking but in fact the pattern isn't terribly distinctive. In fact the photo makes the pattern appear bolder, in reality you have to let your eyes lose focus to see it properly.

Further into the weaving it all started to look a bit "samey" and that's when the gambling started.

First I thought a shot of pink would liven it up...

I thought I'd include a couple of bands of pink and then continue with turquoise. The problem is it started then to look a bit sugary, although I rather like how the pattern is more distinctive against the black. So I went away for a while and when I returned I decided that red would be the best anecdote to the sugary pink and turquoise. So now it looks like this:

One minute I love it and the next I think it's the sort of thing a 16 year old snowboarder would wear which, I should point out, is not an accurate description of my mother.

I've managed to stop myself at two bands of pink and two bands of red, and am now continuing with turquoise. Hopefully when I take it off the loom it will transform into a refined article of colour experimentation. I don't think I'll give it very good odds!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Weaving for profit

Please don't take what I'm about to write the wrong way. I feel very privileged particularly during the current economic time to have a profitable business with low overheads and I don't underestimate the value of that for a minute.

Yet when my tasks are so mind-numbingly boring and unchallenging I often start to think the grass is greener on the other side. By that I mean friends and family who do something they really enjoy and want to get out of bed for, that pays their way too. I'd be quite happy to take home less money for something I really enjoy because I'd be happier and have a richer life.

If I worked very hard at weaving and got much better at it... is there any way to make money from weaving?

Take jewellery for example, you could open a shop and sell fabulous things like one of the jewellery shops called Westwood Rocks I keep gazing at.

However how does it work with weaving?

Friday, 8 January 2010

I resolve to...

So far this year I've not given much thought to resolutions for 2010, really because I find the ones made in a drunken stupor on NYE tend to have little grounding and it remains too easy to drift back to my old ways. However I've given the issue a bit of thought and if I write them down in my blog they might stay around for longer.

My main resolution for this year is...


Does anyone else tend to have a sense of guilt about things in life? I do. Things like feeling guilty for not taking the dog for a second walk before it goes dark. Small I know but she relies on me.

Or feeling guilty for not packing everything that I've planned into my day.

Or feeling guilty for staying in bed longer than I should. There are plenty of hours in the day, I've just got to get on with it.

So what does 'no guilt' mean? It doesn't mean that I'm going to bumble along with numbed senses. It means that I'm going to do my best to resolve whatever it is that's gnawing away at me and if I can't do much about it, I'm not going to beat myself up about it.

A second one is...


Maybe there's something about turning 30 that made me tired of the commercial, money-grabbing world we live in. Maybe it's the result of taking up a 'craft' and happily spending days weaving scarves that could easily be bought for a pittance in Primark (not that I've ever shopped in Primark). Whatever the reason I hope to take more of an interest in what is overlooked and undervalued in our world.

Most probably I hope to learn more about things I don't know much about and have so far taken little interest in and I hope to become a more interesting person with greater integrity because of it. Not sure I've quite figured this one out yet but there's an intention to make myself a better person in there somewhere.

Also resolutions in terms of my creative life...


Quite simple really! And open-ended so I can allow myself to pursue new areas and enjoy it. Specifically I want to use the basics that I have learnt in pattern and colour to make fabrics that are original that I can be really proud of, that expresses something unique and worthwhile. I hope to follow my instincts, build my confidence and believe in myself. That way I believe I can achieve a good result.

Finally to relieve the monotony of text and general rambling, here is a picture of Margot watching the outside world from the nice warm living room. She takes this pastime very seriously.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow, fire and festivities

Happy new year

Yes I know it's a bit belated but we've been away for a week... without internet access - good heavens!

We visited Ivan's family in the North East and a good time was had by all. We ate, drank, played in the snow, walked dogs, visited family and friends, went skiing, took photographs and even talked weaving with his aunt who I have to blame for getting me into weaving in the first place. Happily, I might add.

Very early on new year's eve we took Ivan's sister who is studying photography at college to Hartlepool where there is a disused cement works by the beach. It's a very strange and eerie setting but great for photography and she got lots of great shots. I don't have a camera, I just use my mobile so my pics are very amateurish in comparison but here are a select few.

The scale is vast and everything is falling down and decaying, the atmosphere is so surreal with an eerie sense of danger but it's peaceful at the same time.

Anyway, back to there here and now. Ivan's aunt gave me some spare cottolin to weave with and old copies of Handwoven, Selvedge and the Journal so I've been leafing through those at any spare moment.

Plus we brought home my warping board - yipee! Looking forward to getting that on the go again especially as my mum asked for a scarf for her birthday next week. The challenge is that she has asked for me to incorporate black into it and I'm slightly struggling with colours at the moment. Hopefully the new magazines will present me with some inspiration!

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