Monthly Archives: April 2015

Feeling in the dark

The beginning...

The beginning…

I have been weaving a little Saori-style recently. I’ve had a warp on the loom for months now that has been sitting in the corner of the living room silently shouting at me but new spinning wheels and weaving competitions have been taking my attention instead (by the way I’d imagined the competition would be the subject of my next blog but that isn’t to be).

hand dyed silk thread into a mixed fibre warp, secured by a handspun weft

hand dyed silk thread into a mixed fibre warp, secured by a handspun weft

I love weaving in a free form style as it feels like playing. There are no rules, no straight selvedges to fret about, tension issues disappear and colour and texture abound.

This piece feels like a bit of a journey in that I started with the focus on colour and visual aspects when winding the warp; as it progressed I became more and more aware of texture as I added core spun yarn, wool roving, silk top and random silk threads.

It led me to thinking about one of the aspects I love about the Saori philosophy: accessibility. The Saori company promotes weaving to folk with different abilities and offers various adaptations to their looms and equipment to enable a diversity of weavers to express themselves.

A fear of mine is visual impairment, how would I be able to engage with my passions if I wasn’t able to see so well? I wondered how people living with visual impairments would enjoy hand weaving, both as an activity and also wearing or using handwovens? What would I like if I were relying on my other senses instead? I added more and more texture trying to imagine how it would feel rather than look.

Saori Texture

gotland and hand dyed silk top with silk thread as weft

No matter how much I try, I am restrained by the visual aspect, this becomes my disability. Maybe I need to challenge myself and weave blind folded using ‘ingredients’ according to the touch and smell of them; the lovely sheepy smell of wool, the peculiar whiff of tussah silk…

I’m very happy with this, I run my hands over it and feel the different handspun yarns, the alpaca, silk and wool with their different sensations of warm and cool, soft and compacted. It is an evocative work.

Heart in mouth

I finished a bundle (what is the word for a group of wraps? A ‘cuddle’ would be nice) of wraps this weekend and they were all posted yesterday. Some for the UK arrived this morning and as soon as I remembered this I started to feel incredibly anxious. I convince myself the buyers will hate them and that it will turn out that there is a whole heap of flaws I’ve missed before sending.

Part of this is due to my personality; I’ve learnt I am essentially an anxious person. Indeed my grandmother, who I suspect was mildly OCD, used to say that she worried if she didn’t have anything to worry about, so I could have well inherited a little of her (I hope so, she was the best). 

I’m able to manage that though, I’m not a psychotherapist for nothing and am able to self soothe.

Part of it though is fuelled by various posts in baby wearing Facebook groups where people, quite understandably, are unsure what is a normal characteristic of a handwoven wrap and what is not. I allow this to encourage my thinking that my weaving isn’t up to scratch, that the natural ‘charms’ of my weaving will be held up as flaws and proof I am a fraud.

I know this feeling isn’t unique to me or to weavers. I remember an old colleague of mine from the NHS who had been working in the same field for many years and was widely respected among his peers and clients talking about retiring and that he may have just about got away with it. He meant that he felt as though no one had worked out he couldn’t do his job. I was amazed that someone so competent could feel like this but it gave me hope that maybe although I felt a bit rubbish at what I do, it may not be the reality.

Now working in mental health is a little different to producing something tangible like a baby wrap; when supporting someone through depression it’s very difficult to know whether or not you’ve made a difference. I thought that changing to a job where I make stuff would alter my sense of achievement and it has, but not as much as I’d hoped! I guess that means it must be something inside me that needs changing then. I’m getting there, this post may sound all a bit doom and gloom but a pinch of self doubt is a good thing, in reason. I think we all need to be mindful of our shortcomings, change comes from awareness after all. Now I just have to work out whether it’s my weaving or my self image I need to work on…

  

Cosy Blanket

It’s been a busy week what with Easter visitors (well, one), an over committed weaver (that would be me) and demanding hobbies (you wouldn’t believe how loud my new spinning wheel calls to me).

So it’s incredible I managed to finished a project. Well, technically I didn’t finish it this week but surely I get time off for the bank hols?!?

Hubby’s blanket is done and dusted. Completely; in fact the kind of finished that means all of the ends have been sewn in and the edging completed. This is a rare thing, usually what constitutes finished in my world means either I’ve run out of yarn or, well, steam or that it looks finished but turn it over/inside out and you will find no end of yarn tails (they add character).

  What I haven’t really got round to though is taking some decent photos, or blocking. Hum, I’d forgotten about the latter. Well maybe forgotten is a loose description, it’s more that I thought ‘well, it’s a blanket, how do you block a blanket?!? More to the point can I really be bothered?!?’. That sounds awful but you have to understand I had a hundred much more important things to do that pretty much all involved chocolate or yarn. Not both however, never ever mix chocolate and yarn, it gets messy.

 

I love the colours and I’m really pleased with how the edging turned out. I have to admit it did get slightly dull at times but it’s been a very dependable project. You know, the kind that sits patiently by the sofa while I focus on slightly prettier more interesting ones, ready to oblige when I just fancy some reliable comfortable hooking (that sounds terrible)

 

So all in all it’s been the crochet equivalent of a comfy pair of slippers. Now onto the next which is more like a pair of snakeskin platforms – utterly tasteless. 

  

A painful reminder

 

My Sophie’s Universe crocheted ‘blanket’ (I’m not totally sure what she’ll be yet) is getting a touch unruly. The Crochet A-Long is just over half way so I imagine she will be a monster by the time we’re done with each other.

The pattern is extremely clear and well written with dozens of photos so I’ve really got no excuse for making mistakes…which I have…quite a few…well lots really.

Not least that my flowers look a little, shall we say, windswept.

 

I don’t mind that, I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to yarny stuff. It’s just everywhere else in my life that I struggle with this. 

My current mistake that I’m berating myself about, like poking myself with a pointy stick is that I was taken in by a scam.

I have to use that word loosely as technically it’s not actually a scam but I certainly feel very scammed.

Last November, not long after I’d left the NHS and was settling into running a business I received a phonecall from a company saying they were following up a conversation we’d had earlier in the year. Now, as I don’t especially want to get myself into all kinds of trouble, I’m not going to name the company but I’ll outline the general gist of most of it.

As some of you may remember, I’ve experienced issues with M.E. which has affected my memory and recall so I was quite willing to believe that, yes, we had spoken before, especially when the caller told me she represented a company who produces booklets about the risks of drugs and alcohol for schools. As this is the field I used to work in, it all sounded very plausible. She told me I’d agreed to sponsor the publication of a booklet for distribution to local schools and went on to tell me all about how they went about doing this etc etc.

After a while she reminded me that my business would be prominently featured in the booklet and that I was doing a Really Good Thing by helping to keep local kids off drugs. There was just the small issue of payment. By this time, like all good scammers, she had succeeded in making me feel that they were doing me and my business a favour by featuring us and that she had spent a lot of time on this on my behalf. I felt like I owed her. 

So I willingly handed over my card payment details. A few weeks later, I did receive a copy of the booklet, that I have no complaints about; it was well published, clear, well written and in the back, stuck on the last page was a sticker, just like the address labels even I can print off (most of the time), with my business name on it. I felt a little cheated but it put to rest any niggles, as there were a few, that I’d been conned. I forgot the whole thing.

Until I had another call this week, advising me I was due to make another payment as agreed. Now this time, I was very clear that this definitely hadn’t been agreed so refused and the caller hung up very very abruptly. If she hadn’t responded in such a way, I most likely would have forgotten it again, but I thought this was odd and I remembered my unease after the last interaction.

I googled them, half expecting to meet a dead end. However, top of the list was a link to an apparently genuine company donating booklets to schools. But second, and third, and so on, were posts in forums complaining of very similar conversations where people had been told they had agreed to something that they hadn’t. As I read through them I feel sicker and sicker. 

It’s a very clever ploy. They are a real company doing what they say they do, it’s the way they go about it. I have no idea how much they receive in donations and how much they spend on publishing but I’d bet my crocheted blanket there’s a fair whack skimmed off the top.

I feel utterly stupid for being taken in and angry as they misled me.

But, I’m not perfect and I’m not the only person who has been taken in like this. I just have to look at my Sophie to remember I make mistakes and that it’s in those that the beauty lies.

  

What else but yarn?

Things have been fairly busy here in the studio. I love doing what I do and can’t imagine returning to ‘proper’ work now (although I probably work harder than ever, it just doesn’t feel like it).

We live hand to mouth, not helped by my spinning wheel purchases, and heaven help us if there was a big expense but fear of financial insecurity has left me. I just can’t manage to be grown up about money, I’ve lived with and without it for long enough to really know it doesn’t make me happy. Being able to buy stuff certainly makes everything easier though and here in Scotland all my worries are high class ones. Enough already.

Did I show you my handspun milk? If not then here you are: 

Isn’t it yummy? Just the colour of full fat too. It’s actually milk protein that’s been very processed, as you can imagine, into spinning fibre.

I also spun silk for the first time; tussah, or wild, silk that’s a lovely burnished golden honey colour. I managed 340m from 50g so it’s the finest yarn I think I’ve ever made. 

 Finally, there’s been some dyeing. This: 

 turned out like this: 

 and became this: 

  Now, try and put a value on that. Priceless.

Have a very Happy Chocolatey Easter.