I’ve been thinking about yarn a lot this week; more than usual that is. Specifically about where it comes from such as where and how it is produced.
The reason for this is following an online conversation with some of the Weaving Heart Chatter Group (more about that another time). We were talking about merino wool and the issues associated with it like mulesling and the fact that much is produced in Australia.
Sheep bred in hot climates, like Australia, are prone to ‘flystrike’ where blowflies lay eggs on their skin which hatch and the larvae bury into the flesh creating open sores; flies are attracted to damp areas such as urine soaked buttocks and merino sheep have folds in their fleece making them particularly susceptible. Clearly this is both very painful and potentially life threatening so farmers try to prevent this happening.
One method of doing so is to remove the skin from around the rear end of the sheep as once healed, it remains fleece free and less likely to attract blowflies. While this is regarded as a highly skilled practice, it is not legislated by the Australian government and has been criticised as cruel and inhumane.
Following the discussion I came to thinking about Weaving Heart and some of the values I wish to apply in respect to running a business. Clearly, this would have to include using cruelty free yarn. One of the yarns I use a lot for weaving is Jagger Spun Zephyr, a silk/merino blend. It comes in a wide range of shades, is beautifully soft and has a wonderful sheen once woven. I realised it was time I got responsible about knowing where my yarn came from and I emailed Jagger Spun asking them about the origin of their merino. I was very impressed to hear from them the same day with a clear answer saying that all of their merino is from mulesling free sources. Phew! I can continue to weave with Zephyr happily.
However, it also made me reconsider the sense that I’m not altogether comfortable using yarn from outside the UK. Now, it’s much harder to source weaving yarn, compared to yarn for knitting etc, within the UK. I can use laceweight knitting yarn but it’s not made specifically for weaving and has less twist and tensile strength, so not that suitable for weaving the baby wraps that make up the bulk of my weaving. However, there’s no reason why I can’t use and promote British yarns which led me to these lovelies.
They came from John Arbon Textiles, a small family run business with some gorgeous locally grown yarns. I’m hoping they will make equally gorgeous scarves in time for Christmas.
I’m struggling on with my table loom (why, oh why?) and making some fabric for curtains for the new shed. What with my shuttle taking a nose dive every few picks and having to walk around to the back of the loom to advance the warp, we are not getting on that well. I predict an EBay listing very soon…
The Weaving Heart shed is coming along slowly. I think building sheds must be a little like weaving in that only shed builders fully understand what goes into making one while the rest of us stand around non-plussed at what all the fuss is about and asking ‘why is it taking so long?!?’.
I’m an impatient soul and keep taking cups of tea out (as I write that I’ve realised what may be contributing to the time factor here…) to assess progress and say in my head ‘What do you mean you’re still laying the floor?!?’.
I also think our builder has my equivalent of several looms too; do a bit on one then wander off to another one and have a go on that for a change. I understand this, for me there’s nothing more mind numbing than only having one project on the go and you only need to take a look at my WIPs on Ravelry to see that I enjoy multitasking.
To assuage my impatience I’ve joined Pinterest and started a ‘studio’ board where pinning pretty pictures of other people’s workspaces makes me feel that lovely sense of hope that one day, maybe, I’ll have one like that too.
As you can see, it’s a bit, well, orange. I’m not sure about this, if I’m honest, but as I will be mainly inside I’m telling myself it’s not that important. I don’t like to see myself as someone who insists the whole thing is repainted just because I don’t like the colour! That smacks of princess behaviour, of which I’m probably guilty but I just don’t like other people to actually know about it.
Ok, now I’ve done whinging. This is my view from the window next to where my loom will be.
How wonderful! Some years back I read an article in a knitting magazine that featured Alice Starmore, an amazing designer and yarn dyer, who lives on the Isle of Lewis and there was a photo of her sitting in a chair, with a basket of yarn next to her, looking out on the view from her studio across the sea.
I honestly think this single image is what brought us to Caithness and now to building a shed for our weaving business. I’m not naive enough to think that this will make me happy and solve all of my problems; doing what could be called a ‘geographical’ doesn’t bring joy in itself as where ever I go I take me with me. But, I’ve learnt to reach for what is in my dreams and achieving this gives me a great sense of satisfaction.
I’m having a lot of fun too designing the fabric for the shed curtains, they will need to be thick and cosy as well as embodying my weaving for any visitors to the shed. Since making some curtains for our bedroom, I’ve kind of unconsciously set ‘rules’ for making textiles for use by me in that I’m not ‘allowed’ (watch out! The Weaving Police!) to buy anything to make them with, they have to use up some of my stash. So I spun up some fibre I bought a while ago which will be the weft
and have wound a warp using some shetland wool and sock yarn that was gifted to me. So I just need to get on with beaming it. Yes, I know I started it a week or so ago and yes, it will be finished very soon but I just don’t think you quite realise that these things need to be done properly and I’m absolutely snowed under with work…
It’s a tricky business blogging. I never know quite how much I can safely tell you about myself, how much you want to know about me and why you are reading this.
I came to the wonderful world of blogging as a reader of knitting blogs. My absolute favourite, and this hasn’t changed over the years, is the Yarn Harlot as she is firstly a genius knitter and I just drool over her projects, but I also really like her outlook upon life. She espouses positive parenting, celebrates other people’s talents and raises money for Medicin sans Frontiers. All in all just a lovely person. Oh, and she’s funny too.
But I confess, I’ve stopped actually reading her blog. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry? Well, I’m not knitting so much at the mo but also because she started cycling, and worse, blogging about cycling, which just served to remind me what a complete couch potato I am. I’m fickle like that.
One of the things WordPress does is tell me things like how many of you read this, where you are (with your address and everything…only kidding, just your country) and which topics are most popular. The problem is that I don’t seem to have, what they call in trendy young people type places, a demographic. The topics you guys most like reading about range from the Lightning Process to weaving to Caithness so I have no idea why you are here. Hence why I just tend to ramble about whatever is going on in my little world at the moment but at the same time trying not to commit the crime of Too Much Information.
So what I have learnt over the last week or so includes the fact the we are facing a gale tomorrow. It is the tail end of something from across the Atlantic and Mr Weaving Heart has just said the worst possible thing: ‘We haven’t had a power cut for ages‘. Hmmm, I’ll keep you updated with that one. Caithness is invariably windy at this time of year so what constitutes a gale for the rest of the UK, is fairly standard here. We have fewer trees, fewer buildings and less people to blow around so the impact is much less than similar strength winds blasting through the centre of, say, Birmingham.
I’ve grown to love lying in bed listening to the wind howl, it makes you very glad for central heating, a cuddley husband and furry dogs to keep you company. The waves can be very dramatic and the sea gets so churned up that ‘snow flakes’ of sea foam gust across the roads.
I’ll keep you updated about the power cut. It may mean no central heating and hubby evicted to the spare room as of course it will now be his fault (he is that powerful!) if the power lines go down. At least I’ll have the doggies.
So I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in the top 3, or top 10 come to that.
In case you have no idea what I’m on about, see the previous post, but I didn’t win.
I’m trying to be all noble about it but I’m a little put out. I know I don’t look it , but I’m really only 13 and my ego is a fragile beast.
Take a look; it’s ok, I can show you now.
That was my entry: a doubleweave baby wrap, using over 2000 (I’ve pretty much told everyone this bit…and will continue to do so for years to come) ends. For the non-weavers, those are the long threads, each of which had to be wound, threaded through a teeny hole then pulled through a teeny gap. For the weavers out there – I KNOW!!
It’s made with embroidery thread as I didn’t want it to be stiff and unfloppy which doubleweave can be if you’re not careful, in about 18 different shades. Its mercerised cotton so has a slight gleem to it, especially in the sunlight.
It was inspired by Kilmt’s ‘Mother and Child’, I think the squares of the draft/pattern reflect his use of gold and colouring. I wanted to give an impression of the hues used in the painting as well as ‘becoming’ the arms of the mother around the child, through the purpose of the wrap itself.
I was really disappointed with the selvedges, they were neat on the loom but post-wash they went all, how can I say it, wonky. Plus I had some major thread shifting right in the middle, I have no idea why – which is unhelpful as I don’t know how to avoid it again – so have had to cut a whole chunk off as it just wouldn’t be safe for wrapping.
That said, I love it and am just a little proud I’ve made something like this.
The other entries were stunning. At least a couple are truly pieces of art in their own rights and designed with breathtaking creativity. Some of the ones that did well were very simple weaves but very lovely in their use of colour and the way they translated the inspirations.
Although I didn’t do as well as I could have, and over the weekend I felt low as I allowed it to briefly epitomise all of my weaving, I had some wonderful comments once the voting was over and I was able to get it back into perspective. It is only a baby wrap. That is all.
By the way, it’s currently up for auction here http://hyenacart.com/weavingheart/mt/6467/74016/Handwoven-baby-wrap
It’s funny how you can believe that something doesn’t really matter until it is here. A few weeks back I entered a competition for handwoven baby wraps, the theme of which is ‘Works of Art’. So I set about designing and weaving my entry. Because I’m the kind of person who likes to get things done, I finished a while ago and submitted my entry (as it’s online, just a collage of photos is needed) and relaxed.
Well the competition has arrived, voting will start later today via a closed Facebook group, for 24 hours. The members of the Loom 2 Wrap group will be able to ‘like’ their favourite entry and the one with most likes at the time of closing will win.
Now I do admit to a competitive streak but like to think it’s under control as it’s an aspect of myself I’m not that keen on. It jars with my ethics; I believe in team work and putting aside my own desires for better, more helpful ends.
Phooey !! Who am I kidding! Now the day has arrived, I’d love to do well. I’m happy not to win but the thought of actually being last kills me! But someone has to and why not me?!? Surely by doing that I’m ensuring others don’t have to. I’ve seen some of the hard work, talent and sheer determination that has gone into the other entries that no-one deserves to come last. Id like to emulate the marathon runner who, after months and months of training, let go of first place to stop and give another runner a drink; that is hugely admirable but I’m not sure, when it really comes down to it, that I would do that.
Does that make me a bad person? Wow, this post is becoming philosophical.
Part of my training was about embracing our shadow sides, we all have them, no matter how much we try to deny them. By throwing light on the shadows they cease to exist though, so today is about acknowledging the bits of me that I’m not so proud of: that I would like to win (not just do well but WIN!), that part of me still refuses to believe that it’s not just the taking part that counts and that I’m all too happy for someone else to take the painful last place (although not the entrant who came last in the other two competitions – how brave is she?!?).
By writing all of that I’ve realised the true winning is to share my water. Really realised, not just by giving lip service to it.
Ok, so now I’ve got that out of my head, I have something to share with you. Looms breed! Honestly they do!
We are now a four loom family. I’ve acquired (ahem) an 8 shaft Ashford table loom which isn’t my loom of choice by far but it will do for now. I’d better win the blooming competition to pay for some of all this.
The wind is BACK. How I know this: the chickens refuse to come out, the bathroom floor rises up (yes really!!), the roof sounds as though it’s going to blow off any minute (this is slightly alarming at first but you soon get used to it)(good insurances helps with this) and there are very impressive white horses to be seen out on the sea.
Caithness is renowned for its wind, we are a generally flat expanse of land right alongside the North and Atlantic seas so there is little to protect us from the elements and the harbinger of Winter is a rather stiff breeze.
I quite like it, most probably because I’m a bit of a secret drama queen and there’s nothing more dramatic than worrying about whether you and your roof will part company in the night (n.b. This is all a bit tongue-in-cheek, there are many places in the world where people genuinely face life threatening weather conditions on a daily basis and I thank my lucky stars I am not one of them).
Bad weather brings the community together too; it’s the British obsession and when there is something a little more extreme to comment on you don’t feel quite as clichéd. We awoke on Sunday morning a couple of years ago to discover the road had been blocked by our neighbours caravan, swiftly towed out by the local farmer; this gave everyone in the village conversation fodder for months to come.
We have been forecast more to come over the next day or so, if the Internet goes down here as a result, I will miss you and hope you are all safely tucked up somewhere warm and dry. Have a Caithness sunset to be going along with.
That’s the sound of me on a roller coaster. Well, if I’m being honest, it’s more of an ‘arrrrgggghhhheeeekkkk’.
Take a look but you must promise not to laugh
I’ve been on lots of these, both real and metaphorical over the past week or so.
I’ll start with the real ones first; we had a trip down South last week to visit family and also to take our son to Alton Towers as promised for his 21st (where did that go??). We had two days and one night there in the hotel which was fab but a bit of a shock to the system. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alton Towers, it is a huge (possibly the biggest in the UK?) theme park with rides that no sensible person over the age of 30 should go on. However, I’ve never claimed to be sensible so away I went, mostly with my eyes firmly shut.
It was great fun, very noisy and involved lots and lots of walking, junk food and laughter.
As for the other kinds of roller-coasters, I’ve officially left work and am completely at the mercy of the weaving Gods (or most likely Godesses). It’s still a bit terrifying but wonderful. So far it doesn’t feel like work, nor do I expect it to; thankfully as since we’ve been back from England, apart from sleeping and eating, we’ve had about 2 hours off.
Mr Weaving Heart is being marvellous at getting me organised and is the business manager so takes responsibility for all the bits I’m hopeless at like filing things and sorting out receipts. I tend to just throw them all on my ‘pile’ and hope nobody ever asks to see them! So, like all effective teams, our skills compliment each other and I’m very thankful not to feel as though I’m juggling everything desperately, as it had begun to over the last couple of months. When you do that eventually one of the balls fall and in respect to my last job and my health, the consequences of that could have been significant.
It’s funny but I’ve felt a little guilty about going self-employed because it doesn’t fit with the part of my being that learnt ‘good’ people work hard and if they don’t enjoy it that makes them even better. A crazy belief that is neither true nor useful but hard to let go of. There’s that little voice still asking ‘How dare you spend your life enjoying yourself?’ So I’m just going to keep shouting back at it ‘How dare NOT I?’.
So I’ll end with a few words from someone very wise, see you again soon.