Monthly Archives: June 2014

More this than that

I’ve suspected for a while that I’m not so good at balance. I’ve always been an all or nothing kinda gal but it’s not actually that good for me. Recently I’ve been burning the candle at both ends as I’ve been doing my ‘normal’ job, weaving, setting up my weaving business, doing all the social media type stuff that is required, and the day to day things like cooking and occasional cleaning; all while I am in the early stages of recovery from a chronic illness. It had started together on top of me (I think I realised when I came close to launching my iPhone through the conservatory window when the blasted internet connection was too slow to upload one measly photo to Facebook…any of you living in a city have no clue how frustrating this is) so we decided to Go Away. This was to be a grown-up going away as opposed to our usual sloping off in a tent or to some ghastly B and B with more rules than a prison (my most recent TripAdvisor review bears testament to this). Just for a night. In a proper hotel. With a restaurant and everything. And a swimming pool.
I booked it and then discovered that every man and his wife in Caithness had been to said hotel. How did I not know?!? I think it was a cunning plan by Mr Knittingkitten to keep me away from the establishment as now we’ve been once I don’t want to go anywhere else again. Ever.
It was WONDERFUL. Here is the bed:

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Huge. I didn’t know they came that big. With a proper comfy mattress and duck down pillows. Sigh. I slept like the proverbial log and was woken by breakfast! Yep, we went the whole hog and had breakfast in our room.

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We were ready for breakfast having only had a three course meal the night before involving smoked salmon (Mr Knittingkitten, not me), meltingly tender beef and freshly made strawberry cheesecake. Mmmmm.
The bestest best thing though was that we could take the dogs. Our room was on the ground floor with doors onto a patio and garden access so perfect for them.
Despite the super large bed though, the dogs still managed to nick all the duvet.

Saori

I am on a most exciting weaving journey. All things considered, I have been for the last few months but this week has absolutely been up there in terms of developing my creativity.
For many years I strongly believed I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. Then I realised that maybe cooking could be considered a little creative; I like to cook and bake and Mr Knittingkitten often comments that I very rarely follow recipes to the letter, I often make the odd ‘tweak’ here and there.
Next came knitting; this I conceded was most definitely creative. There’s no getting away from the finished object, something created by you with just a bit of posh string and two sticks. I’ve never managed to really get my head around designing much so I used this as the proof that, again, I’m not really really creative.
So this brings the question of ‘what does creative mean?’). Is it enough to follow some else’s recipe or pattern to create an end product like a tasty cake or cute sweater? What about making adaptations to said recipe or pattern to suit your own individual taste or shape?
I’m sure there are lots of creative arts people out there who could probably enlighten us but for me, weaving has been where my truly creative juices flow.
I’ve always loved colour but shied away from it for reasons unknown. Weaving has given me the chance to really play with colour and it’s one of the reasons I love making baby wraps as I get to blend colours through graduation warps and blending wefts.
For various reasons I came upon saori weaving. One of the principles of saori weaving asks us to consider the difference between machines and humans. It is a welcome respite from baby wrap weaving where there is so much emphasis, largely for safety, on producing near perfect selvedges and consistently balanced cloth.
Saori revels in ‘flaws’ by not seeing them as flaws but as adding to the unique beauty of each woven piece. This is challenging for me with my perfectionist streak but healthy for me to focus on. I wove me first saori-inspired piece this weekend; it was really hard to resist the urge to unweave skipped threads and redo the selvedges! But it was so much fun! I dug out some old bits of handspun and left over sock yarn as well as some random bits of fleece and just had a ball. I had planned to make a bag with the finished fabric but I’ve taken it off the loom and really like the way it drapes so may leave it. I shall wait for the fabric to tell me what it would like to be. This feels creative.

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Weaving baby wraps – a discussion

In my venture into the world of handwoven baby wraps, I have become a member of various Facebook groups, some for weavers, some for baby wrappers and some for both. This has given me a fascinating insight into some of the views held by a number of handwoven baby wrappers and also by some weavers (lots of ‘somes’ there).
It has been quite a learning curve! Buying a handwoven baby wrap is a considerable financial investment, and if someone is buying a custom wrap it often has significant emotional meaning too. It can be very difficult to secure a slot for a custom wrap with some people never managing to find a weaver with the capacity to work with them. Obviously, there is only so long to be able to ‘wear’ your baby and custom lists can stretch into years.
Holding in mind that the communication regarding a custom wrap is also via Facebook messages and email, you can imagine some of the issues encountered.
Now I have been very fortunate because the customs I have woven have been for wonderful women who have been happy to give me the freedom to interpret their wishes in the best way I can and have been very kind and generous in their feedback.
However, reading a few of the posts on Facebook strikes terror into my fragile weaving soul as there are a few, and they are most definitely in the very very small minority, who seem to have unrealistically high expectations of their weaver. For that reason, largely because I don’t want my love affair with weaving baby wraps to end, I have decided to stop making custom wraps once I have completed the ones on my waiting list at present. I will continue to make what are called ‘semi-customs’, which can vary from someone choosing the length and weft colour to providing an inspiration picture for me to work from.
I’ve loved the relationship that develops from working on a custom wrap and seeing the photos of the wrap in use is the best feeling in the world. I know my limitations though and after years of working with the public I know the difference, for me, between knowing that a criticism isn’t personal and feeling that.
Baby wraps are expensive – I sell a size 5 wrap for about £250; but take into account the yarn for each costs about £65 (for baby wraps, high quality yarn is essential; they need to be sturdy and hold the weight of a toddler and the dyes need to be child safe), that the average wrap takes upwards of five days to make and then there is the original investment in a loom (the cost of a small car), it is not hard to see that weaving will not a millionaire make.
Weavers, especially me, aren’t business people generally either. While I have an idea of what I would expect when buying something and how I expect other businesses to treat me; running order lists, social media sites, an Etsy shop, registering with HMRC, liaising with potential customers, ordering stuff in wholesale quantities etc etc does not come naturally!
Most weavers are doing all of this on top of working in a ‘normal’ job and/or raising a family so it’s easy to see how some communications can appear ‘unbusiness-like’ or get missed. Happily this hasn’t happened to me…yet. Hence my decision. I reserve the right to change my mind!
Ok, now for a little of this week’s weaving, the most recent custom wrap 🙂

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Sunshine

I’ve finished two bamboo shawls for a commission that have now gone off on their merry way to Switzerland. It’s the first time I’ve used bamboo for both warp and weft and I had a few issues with the odd broken selvedge thread. For some reason, I never have any issues with the right side selvedge but my left side is always scruffier, to some degree or another. On this occasion it proved a bit worrying and like knitting with wool that’s about to run out, I find myself weaving faster when there’s an issue with something I’m concerned about as if getting to the end more quickly will help!

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One shawl had a solid black warp and the other stripes as you can see above. As there were over 700 ends and I didn’t have any threading errors with the first warp (get me!!), I decided that rather than rethread and resley, I would try tying the new warp onto the old. Eek. Something new for me and thankfully it went ok as the bamboo is very slippy so easily untangled. I can see how using cotton, for example, would leave you with a hideous birds nest mess of yarn. I’m not sure it was much easier, more mindless for sure, but still needing 700+ knots and then the added angst of winding the warp from front to back, through the heddles with all those little bumpy knots waiting for you to look away so they can undo themselves, no thanks!
So I’ve started my next project, hold in mind I am itching to start a baby wrap, a doubleweave sample scarf, with a mere 650 ends of 20/2 mercerised cotton, or dental floss as it could also be known. It’s very pretty but, mercy, it’s dull. Bring on the next wrap!

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Doggy tails

It’s been absolutely glorious here this weekend, warm with no wind to speak of, which is most unusual for Caithness.
We decided to take the dogs out last night for a walk and also so I could photo my latest project for it’s Etsy listing as the light was beautiful.
Five minutes down the road at the local broch (Stone Age settlement) is one of our favourite places to take the dogs as there are views over the sea, good paths and it’s not too long, so off we went. The dogs were in high spirits, and they both scooted off with Mr Knittingkitten while I took some photos.

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I soon caught them up and the dogs were busy doing their doggy things like sniffing out lots of exciting things and scampering about when Finlay, our Labrador/Collie cross vanished. Now Bess, our cocker spanial, is renowned for taking off and not coming back until she decides to, but Fin is much better behaved and it’s very strange for him to disappear. After much shouting and visions of him returning absolutely covered in something unspeakable (I thought he must have found a dead bird or suchlike to roll I , I didn’t dare think anything else), he finally came gambolling up, but not with his usual cheeky grin. Instead he was trembling and we quickly noticed he had a wound on his leg and another under his chin. We think we must have fallen into a ditch or something similar and got caught on some barbed wire as the wounds were deep but clean cut.
He was very brave and we rushed him off to the vets where they did a great job of sorting him out. He’s fine, apart from some fairly impressive war wounds that are neatly stitched and he has been milking the poorly puppy look all day.
For whatever reason, it made me think about our dogs’ diet, something about immune systems and healing I think, so I spent some time researching dog food last night (bad night last night, I didn’t get much sleep due to having a mid-afternoon nap and then the adrenaline of Fin’s accident). I have been horrified to find that most of the food widely available is complete rubbish with little nutritional value at all. On the other hand, the dog food that is good for them is horrendously expensive. Consequently I’m having a good think about what would be best, both for them but also, meanly, our bank balance. It just doesn’t seem quite right to spend a fortune on feeding our dogs while lots of people in the world don’t have enough to eat; however we also have a responsibility to make sure our dogs have the kind of food that allows them to maintain good health.
Ok, onto happier things. I finished some baby wraps last week and they have gone off to three corners of the globe.

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I love weaving these, I think it’s because they will be used for something meaningful, as opposed to just a scarf or tea towels!
Finally, I want to show off my latest spinning, I found some lovely dyed Falkland tops on Etsy, I wish I’d taken a photo before spinning but this is how it looks now.

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I have no idea what to do with it, which is shame as it’s gorgeous and really soft. If you think you could use it, just make me an offer and as long as it’s reasonable it’s yours!