Rugged & Blue

There’s something that tickles me about how the actual weaving of rag rugs is so fast. There is SO much preparation, and then BAM! a couple of hours more and the rug exists. (Mostly. There’s still hemming and washing, of course.)

The Aqua Rug turned out shorter than I’d intended. When sewing together the rags I had an older batch of mixed rags already sewn together, a few misc strips, and two newer batches of unsewn strips in the same colourway. Instead of cutting the already sewn strips apart to mix in the new ones, I added only the misc pattern strips, then sewed the two similar colours together. My aim was to use two shuttles to weave alternate rows of old-mixed and new-similar batches.

This made for only slightly more complicated weaving. It also meant I ran out of the old batch before I got to last quarter of the new, and I wound up with a shorter rug than I’d planned. I’m wondering, now, if I should have woven two new-similar rows for every old-mixed one. Too late now. The unused strips went into the box of leftovers.

The Blue Rug was one big batch of evenly mixed pattern, so I could just wind it onto a single shuttle and weave to the very end. Despite this, it really felt like it took much longer. Partly because I was weaving in shorter sessions, and because it wasn’t much shorter than it should be!

Since the Aqua Rug came out shorter than planned, I had a lot of warp left over. I decided to try weaving with t-shirt fabric strips. This came out much nicer than I expected and not needing to fuss with folding in the edges of the strips made it SO much faster. It was only slowed by having to stop and cut up more old garments. The down side is that no matter how you cut up t-shirts or leggings, you’re going to have corners or seams creating lumps. I don’t mind this, but it does make for a more bumpy rug and some people mightn’t like that.

I got to thinking, as I wove, that it might be worth taking the time to sew the flannelette strips. Ironing them with a bias tape maker helps by folding in the edges, but I still have to fiddle a lot to get them to sit right when weaving. So I tried that on the next rug’s strips and found that it’s slower than I hoped and chews through a lot of thread.

I’m at the point, now, where I don’t think I’d take more flannelette rags even if they were free. Though it was nice having a source material that was not ‘used’, the prep is too time-consuming and dark colours aren’t common (light colours not being so good for hiding dust and stains). If the fabric comes in larger pieces it is much faster to cut, and if the colour is near to or as dark on the back the edges don’t have to be folded in so long as it isn’t too prone to fraying.

There’s still enough flannelette for five or six rugs, however, so I’m not even going to be looking for fabric for some time!

From Play Pen to Weaving Tool

At the beginning of last week I looked at all the part-done projects and tasks hanging about and decided to get stuck into completing them. The list included the rag rugs, some gardening tasks, a few sewing jobs and carpentry projects. I thought I’d get it all done in a day… it took a week. But I did succeed in my aim!

The rag rugs will be in another post, and the gardening and sewing jobs were small and menial, so I’ll stick to the carpentry projects. The first one was another box thing to match the one I put my 4-shaft certificate course notes in, ready for when I do the 8-shaft one. It made sense to make it while I could recall what I did on the first one. However, I do wonder if I’ve now jinxed the course, and it won’t go ahead now!

The other project was to turn a giant warping board which was once two sides of a wooden kid’s pen into two normal sized warping boards. I’d picked up the broken play pen from hard rubbish aaaages ago. It once looked like this:

Only two panels survived. I was going to make a clothes drying rack or hang plants off it, but one day I looked at it and thought, “all I’d have to do is cut the dowels a handspan long and I’d have four sides of a warping board”. Of course, Paul did the cutting as he is master of the power saw, and he found some metal brackets to join the corners with and “Ta-Dah!” we had a warping board.

A really huge warping board. Maybe 120 cm square. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it. A pic of someone holding it could have been quite comical. I held off oiling it and left it out in the garage because there was nowhere to store it inside and I knew I was going to have to consider whether I really needed a giant warping board or should cut it down.

I decided on the latter and, after some measuring up, confirmed there was enough framework to make two normal sized boards. A bit of sanding, sawing, screwing and oiling later the reconstruction was done. However, what I had then was two warping boards with wobbly pegs. The dowels had shrunk since I’d bought the pen panels.

So I set to carefully painting watered down pva around and into the gaps. This wound up taking a couple of hours, broken up over days as the glue dried and shrank and needed to be topped up, but by the end those pegs weren’t moving anywhere.

Do I need two more warping boards? Nope. But the wood has been repurposed and the boards will eventually find homes.

I Fell Into It, It Seams

In the middle of making patterns for my next sewing project, a friend invited me to a Regency-era costume picnic the next weekend. That sent me off in a bit of a tangent. I have a dress I made some years ago that I’ve only worn twice. While it’s cotton velvet, so should be warm, I was suddenly obsessed with the idea of having the right underthings. Stays were probably not achievable in the time I had, but I could try making a chemise. The garment, from what I recall, goes under the stays to protect the skin and soak up sweat.

And sweat was likely, if we had a hot day. If we had a cold day I’d appreciate the extra layer. So I searched the web for instructions, and after sending my friend lots of questions about fabric and length, cut up a bed sheet and made this in an afternoon:

Some adjustments were needed to match the neckline to my dress the next day. If I hadn’t been in the middle of a sewing jape, I probably wouldn’t have tackled this or got it done so quickly. Though it’s a simple garment to make, all seams are flat fell seams, so it’s rather slow and finicky.

I rather fancy making a full Regency corset now, but I knew I wouldn’t get one done in time for that weekend so it’s low on the to-do list. Probably I’ll get keen again next time I have a Regency-era costume event to attend.

Corduroy Shirt

These days I like to make a calico version of sewing patterns I haven’t tried before, so that’s where I started in my quest to reduce the fabric stash. Over three days, I traced off the size 12 version of the Style Arc Stacie denim jacket pattern, cut out all the pieces in calico, then sewed them together. What I wound up with a jacket that was just a bit too small around the chest and hips. I wasn’t surprised about the hips – I am wider there – but I was a bit perplexed by the general fit of the chest.

When I laid the jacket out flat I realised why. The fronts don’t even meet. It’s not just that there’s no allowance for boobs, the back is wider than the front.

I kinda wish I’d known this before I’d bought the pattern and spent three days making a calico version. Though I’d be much more annoyed if I’d not made a calico, and had cut into my fabric.

Well, I do want to be able to button up jackets on cold days. The front is made up of several pieces and to adjust the pattern would be really complicated, so I moved on to option two: make a pattern from a 20+ year old shirt I already have and love.

Over two days I carefully traced off the pattern pieces, using calico so I could easily spread the fabric into corners where I couldn’t arrange the shirt to lie perfectly flat, and sewed them together. I’ve only ever done this with tracing paper before, and I think calico worked better. I used longest stitch on my machine so the seams could quickly be pulled out. A few adjustments were needed, and the collar was especially tricky, but eventually I had a mostly made up test shirt to try on and confirm it fit right. Then I pulled out all the seams and cut out the pieces in corduroy.

The sewing went well. Whenever I needed to work out what order to work in I just referred to the original shirt. Finally I had everything but the buttons and buttonholes done. Hmm. Buttons. I’d like to add jean’s style rivet-attached shank buttons like on the original shirt, but I learned from the black denim skirt I made a year or two ago that the only DIY ones you can get are so low quality they come apart again with very little pressure. So I had no choice but to use sew-on shank buttons.

Of course, despite having a big divided plastic storage container full of buttons, there was nothing suitable. I searched online shops but the only metal shank buttons I found were at Spotlight, and I didn’t want to wait weeks and weeks for them to arrive. So I figured it would remain button-less until I had more than one reason to schlep across town – which was likely to be sooner than Spotlight delivery times because I expected the next project on my to-do list to require supplies.

And indeed it did. So by week’s end I had the shirt finished:

I wore it that day, and found it just as comfortable as the original. It was quite a journey getting something made out of the corduroy, but at least I now have a pattern I would happily use again.

Fabric Stash Reduction

My idea sketchbook is getting well used lately, as I switch from brain-storming about one craft to another. The most recent page is entitled “I need to use some fabric!” and has lots of ideas listed.

I’d already concluded that I should use thicker fabric first to maximise the amount of space made in the time I take. Corduroy, denim and velvet are the thickest fabrics in my stash. But what to make out of it?

I have two big batches of corduroy and four denim pieces of varying size and thickness. The pin cord shirt in my wardrobe is a big favourite and I’ve long thought about making a pattern from it. I bought a pattern for a denim jacket a while back that might work for corduroy.

I also have a straight denim skirt pattern that I bought it a while back for some black denim I have, but what made me hesitate to make it is the stiffness and non-stretchiness of the denim. It not make a comfortable skirt, but the corduroy could be a good alternative.

The thinner denim in the stash would work a 50/50 skirt (a skirt with denim on the back and a print cotton on the front. I don’t have any fabric set aside to use on the front side, but I have a few ideas for making cloth using patchwork or embellishment. The pattern is familiar, but I already have two 50/50 skirts and don’t really need more skirts.

The velvet is leftover from a regency dress I made some years ago. There’s not a lot of it, but it might work in combination with other fabric. Like in a bomber jacket, maybe. Or a 50/50 skirt. Or maybe pillow covers.

While not thick fabric, the three knit fabrics in my stash are worth considering, too, because I want to make the same garments from all of it – leggings and long-sleeved tops – so I’d probably do them all at once. My wardrobe will always welcome more leggings and long-sleeves tops, too. However, I’ll have to make a pattern for both, so it’s a project that has it’s own challenges.

Other projects I’ve considered don’t make a lot of space but the patterns are familiar and quick to make, like shorts and pyjama pants. I also want to make a cotton petticoat, which ought to be an easy piece to do. But my mind keeps returning to the corduroy, so I that’s going to be first on the cutting table.

Sewing Upcycle Day

On the weekend a bunch of friends had a refashioning day. We met at 11am then, after I showed them some clothing I’d refashioned as examples of what can be done, we headed to Savers. I didn’t find anything I wanted but I already had a few garments awaiting work so I didn’t mind.

By the end of the day the most sewing I’d done was adding elastic to a skirt waistband and unpicking the waistband of another skirt. However, we did lots of brainstorming. It was a fun day and it was so nice to hang out with friends again.

One friend had filled her car boot with fabric to destash and I picked up three pieces. The next day, while packing things away, I decided I had to come up with better fabric storage than the two big plastic tubs I was using. They are too heavy for me, and though they’re on the bottom shelf of the cupboard and have wheels there’s not enough space in front of the cupboard to roll them out onto the floor.

I did an image search of the internet for fabric storage ideas and one suggestion that kept coming up was keeping fabric in a filing cabinet. That reminded me of the hanging file storage bins I’d bought years ago when we were renovating and I needed to keep certain documents at hand rather than in storage. They were useful when we moved here, too, but had languished in the garage since.

So I brought them inside and washed off the dust and cobwebs. Then I set about taking fabric out of plastic zip lock bags in the tubs and refolding it to better fit the hanging files. I labelled everything and shuffled a few things in the cupboard to fit better. The boxes are light enough for me to carry and I like the result:

They divide the fabric into “heavy”, “light”, “lining and structural” and “projects”. But there is one problem. See that pile of fabric in front of the cupboard? Well, while most of it is calico to use when testing patterns, the rest is fabric batches too big to fit in the filing boxes: a very long length of corduroy and some thick light brown denim.

I may have to switching from refashioning to sewing from scratch, in order to reduce the fabric stash enough that I can get everything in the cupboard.

Twill Be Rugs. Lots of Rugs.

For a few months now I’ve been cutting, matching, sewing together and ironing flannelette rag strips ready to weave more floor rugs. The flannelette scraps from the enormous bag of them I’d bought from the pj-maker last year has all been sorted and cut. The pieces of flannelette I’ve picked up since are mostly cut into strips too. I have to say, cutting big rectangles of fabric into strips is much faster and more accurate than cutting lots of scraps, and if I wasn’t doing this partly as an exercise in making something useful from what would otherwise go into the trash I’d stick to using old fabric.

I reckon I have enough batches of strips for seven or eight rugs, with possible eighth either being made up from the leftovers, or the first of a new batch using more fabric added to the leftovers. The first two rugs I’m going to weave are 1 x 2-2.3 metre wide aqua and blue rugs on the same warp, which will be a twill sequence of blue stripes interspersed with orange, yellow and green stripes. The colourway is bright and cheerful and reminds me of beach towels.

Halfway through measuring the warp I ran out of blue and had to order in more. While waiting for it to arrive I moved on to sewing the strips for the next two rugs: a pink rug and a light blue rug using the same grey warp.

My plan was to weave one pink rug of about 1m x 2.5m, and a smaller light blue rug which would require more fabric. But as I laid the pink strips out I considered the likely owner of the final rug. The most probable recipient would be a child, and it would be a pretty big rug for a child’s bedroom. So I decided to weave two pink rugs instead, at 80cm x 140cm. It turned out I had exactly half the weight of light blue rags to pink ones, so I’ll be making three rugs of the same size and don’t really need to find more fabric for the light blue one. It’s nice when things seem to fall into place like that!

The first batch of pink rags is going to be a graduation.

The second will be all mixed together, as will the light blue. The pattern will be rosepath, based on the project in Tom Knisely’s book. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to order an extra cone of the grey warp along with the blue. Not only will I need more than I have left on the original cone to do the longer warp, but winding with two ends together will make the measuring much faster.

Once the blue warp arrived I finished winding that warp. It took two attempts to get it on the loom. On the first attempt I realised I had counted 22 threads for every blue stripe not at the edges, but was actually 24. So I had to add threads and weigh them at the back of the loom. Whether the weights were on or not, this made lashing on the warp at the front a pain in the posterior.

But it got it done and started weaving… and realised that the draft I had created didn’t, as I’d thought, let me weave plain weave for the hems. I tried weaving basketweave, but it just didn’t compact down as it ought to and would not make a good hem. So I went back to Fiberworks and came up with a draft that mostly fixed the problem. And since this meant I’d have to rethread the loom anyway, I wound the whole warp onto the front beam, tied on the extra threads so I wouldn’t have to hang and weigh them, and wound it back onto the back beam.

After that the threading went perfectly and I was finally able to get weaving.

However, by then my back was hitting a bad phase and I had to stay away from the loom for a few days, which was hard after all the preparation that’s gone before this. I just want to weave!

More Wiggle Scarves Wobbles

Deflected Doubleweave is slow going, due to moving the shuttles from the front to the back to avoid yarns looping around the outside. I’d aimed to weave a vertical or horizontal section every day but wasn’t managing it, so when I stopped to check the length of Wiggle Scarf the First I was surprised to find it was already 144 cm long. I was so surprised, I unwound the front beam so I could double check in case the tape measure had moved or something. Sure enough, it was already long enough for a scarf.

After weaving an edge band, I left a gap for fringe and started the second scarf. For this one I substituted cotton ribbon yarn for the green and blue 10/2 cotton. Weaving went much more quickly after that, as not only did I not have to wrangle two shuttles, but one pick of the ribbon replaced four picks of the cotton.

It was so addictive I had to make myself walk away from the loom lest I weave for hours and stir up my back problem. When I came back to it, however, I ran out of the ribbon yarn much sooner than I’d hoped. I still had 50cm or so of warp left, and the ribbon yarn section was too short to even make a cowl.

I made my own ribbon yarn by sewing some hand painted silk into a tube then running it through the overlocker in a spiral, which wove well but the colours were more intense and made the original ribbon look washed out. I tried weaving with 10/2 cotton in various colours but it didn’t have the same structural charm. To finish the scarf I really needed a fabric weft that wouldn’t distract from the beauty of the ribbon yarn.

I considered and tried a whole lot of other fabrics but none suited. Eventually I found some quilting cotton in a second hand shop that matched the burgundy colour of the wool warp and cut that into strips. It was paler on the back, so I wove a sections with one side up followed by the next with the other side prominent.

Then I took them off the loom and washed them.

Wiggle Scarf the First came up well.

However, it I wasn’t sure what to do with the ends. The wool ends fulled into dreadlocks, but I’d always intended to cut them off and only have cotton fringe. However, the first and last band of wool weft I’d woven didn’t quite felt as much as I’d hoped and I’m not sure if it’s going to hold. I ought to have made them much wider so I could make a hem.

Finishing the ends was probably covered in the workshop, but I don’t recall much. It was around the time my brain was messed up from the migraines sparked by my back issues. It might also have been during the start of the last lesson, which was a point where my attention was distracted.

Wiggle Scarf the Second was initially delightful. The ribbon section came out just as it had in the sampler, and is lovely.

I figure it must have shrunk at a similar rate to the wool, because the section with the cotton strips clearly didn’t, resulting in loops at either side of the fabric.

It was quite harsh to the touch, too. I considered cutting the section off and tossing it, but decided to see what happened if I removed the fabric strips.

It’s actually quite pleasing – a little bit lacy and has a lovely drape. To make it a cowl I would sew the ends together, but I have the same problem with having too little, not-quite-fused-enough fabric there. One of the weavers I follow on Insta makes cowls from short lengths of handwoven fabric joined with sections of cut up knitwear, so maybe I’ll do something like that.

If I can find the right colour and type of fabric, I might add ends to Wiggle Scarf the First, too.

Fifteen Years of Blogging

A few months back I was flicking through a visual diary and found a page of notes from my tenth blogiversary. It didn’t seem that long ago, but looking at the date I realised that my fifteenth blogiversary wasn’t far away. So I began reading though my entries for the last five years and taking notes for this blog post.

2016

The year started with loom renovations. I fixed up the loom of a friend, Donna, and a Dyer & Phillips loom Paul found in a junk pile in the city. I bought the Osbourne loom and renovated it.

The last of the Sewing/Craft Days happened, after which they fizzled out. I missed them so I started hosting Sweary Stitchers Craft Days with a different group – twice a year. During the lock down we held them on Zoom.

I sewed cheesecloth tops, a 50/50 skirt, and took my first forays into making garments from handwoven cloth. I taught myself how to make braided rugs, bought an electric spinner and on a trip to Norway and Denmark learned how to do nalbinding. I tried bargello (liked) and blackwork (disliked).

At a workshop with Ilka White I learned to warp a loom back to front, which I’ve done ever since.

Then I stayed in Lake Hume with Donna and gave her some weaving lessons. Later that year I gave a friend’s daughter a Zoom Loom and taught her how to use it.

I started using Instagram.

After struggling to buy clothing that wasn’t polyester, I was sucked into the research black hole that is ethical and sustainable fashion and it changed my whole approach to buying and making clothing.

Work and health issues meant that, toward the end of the year, I observed that 2016 was “a little bit shit”, but the one highlight was one of my portraits being long-listed for the Moran Prize.

Looking back, I can see the beginnings of changes that were to come. I was starting to explore weaving more with Ilka’s workshop and sewing garments, and a few attempts at teaching. Writing was really losing it’s appeal, not helped by worsening physical issues.

2017

I started Wednesday Night Art Sessions.

At Summer School I tried basketweaving, which I liked but was a short-lived hobby. Later in the year I did a mosaic course and loved it, and that one stuck for some years.

Weaving projects included red pinwheel tea towels, a green waffleweave baby blanket, a blanket made from 14ply Inca on an extra large pin loom I made, lots of scarves woven from leftover 3 ply wool and projects using thrums, and a krokbragd rug. I also bought a vari dent reed and began experimenting, including having my own narrower heddles laser cut.

I attended my first FibreArts workshop with Kay Faulkner, which was a revelation. Afterwards, with her encouragement, I had the courage to alter my Katie loom and tweak the Osbourne which made them both much better looms.

I’m amused to note that we started a photo album update project, which fizzled. I don’t think we’ve tackled making albums since.

We converted an old organ into a bar, and renovated our laundry.

Travel-wise, we went to Central Australia and thoroughly enjoyed not having the hassles of international travel.

I had cataract surgery, which was a surprise.

The year began with a five month break from writing, during which my back and morale improved enough I was ready to start the next book. I was much more positive, trying new things both social and creative. Perhaps because of that I was all about finishing and using up leftovers by the end of the year.

2018

I gave a friend’s daughter a Sample-It loom and taught her to crochet. The crocheting stuck – she is a natural – but not so much the weaving. Doh!

At Summer School I did the Sewing for Handwovens workshop, which led to me having the courage to make a cape, skirt and jacket from my handwoven cloth. There was more experimenting with the vari dent reed. I wove the honeycomb shawl, stashbuster shawl, fancy log cabin baby blanket, and t-shirt seat pad using another hand made extra large pin loom.

I also wove half of the drafts in chapter 1 of the Strickler book of eight-shaft patterns. Crazy. The highlight of the year was organising the Kay Plus Fun workshop in Lancefield, where we learned woven shibori and made painted warps.

Other crafty adventures included revamping raffia hats, sewing a skirt out of old black denim jeans, a wrap top and jumper on the Bond and projects on circular knitting machines. I started using Stylebook to organise my wardrobe.

Paul’s had a back operation. I got plantar fasciitis again from driving more because he couldn’t. After watching the War on Waste we reduced our single-use plastic consumption.

I decided I was tired of mostly painting background and clothes in portraits and concentrated on just heads of friends, which was surprisingly addictive.

We went to Flinders Island for a friend’s 50th and I hosted the extended family Christmas party using only recycled materials for decorations.

It was a year of stretching myself – of trying new approaches, taking on organisational challenges and responsibilities, and deepening knowledge. I was hopeful and enjoying myself despite the setbacks, though a work issue provided a source of worry and angst toward the end of the year that I could have done without and the return of back issues had me seriously considering retirement.

2019

The year began with a contemplative post. Deadlines and the editing phase of the book were looming and I knew that was going to provide some hurdles. I was starting to accept a few other changes that out of my control. “Don’t expect everything that gave you joy in the past to do so in the future,” I wrote, while asserting that at least I could choose some of the challenges ahead. Or so I thought.

Early on I finished the biggest mosaic project I’d designed – the clock – and a birdbath and house number. The Wednesday Night Art Sessions had dwindled to nothing and Paul wanted his studio space back, so the mosaic tools and materials moved to the laundry, then were put away in the garage and I haven’t done anything since.

I had another short term dive into jewellery-making, inspired by a friend’s section necklace. Later in the year my friend KRin and I made new candles from old. I dyed some t-shirts and a last shibori sampler with leftover indigo from the Kay Plus Fun workshop.

Weaving continued, with two huge projects: the Memories Rya Rug and a long table runner for Fran. Later I wove two sakiori runners and wove tea-towels for Mum for Christmas. I had a fabulous time at another FibreArts workshop with Kay Faulkner and was determined to go to her studio to do another when book obligations were done with.

Then on a day when my back was at it’s worst and I could not see how I could continue writing as a career, I learned that Kay had died. It hit me much harder than I had expected and made me really think about what I wanted to do.

That led to me signing up to the guild’s 4-shaft weaving certificate course. I agreed to teach rigid heddle weaving at Summer School, my first weaving class. I bought a Lotas loom and had it shipped from Western Australia, then later I picked up a Louet Jane loom.

A neighbour and friend of my Dad died, and I spend two weeks helping clean out her house. That led to holding a stall at the local trash’n’treasure market with a friend, getting jewellery and paintings valued, selling clothes through a consignment shop, and doing some unplanned refashions.

I was so exhausted from all this that I had no energy to organise a 50th birthday party but saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child instead.

Since we had guests stay only once or twice a year, and our friend’s kids were growing up and didn’t need a room to play in, we turned the guest room into the Loom Room. Best decision ever!

2020

After the bushfires I used the circular knitting machine to make possum pouches and wound up with rsi in my right wrist from cranking. An abundance of lavender spurred me to try distilling oils.

At summer school I did the Fun with Rugs workshop with Gerlinde Binning, which was inspiring. I was helping a friend run a craft destash stall at the embroiderer’s guild when I discovered one of the stall holders was trying to sell a big bag of flannelette scraps, so I bought the lot. Cutting rug strips was a simple task that I needed during the first Covid19 lockdown, and then as anxiety levels dropped I was able to start weaving, making a test rug then two huge rainbow rugs.

My rigid heddle workshop went well. I attempted too much, of course, but plans to do a revised version later in the year had to be abandoned. I also agreed to be the guild’s loom caretaker and attempted to get all the looms in good order and a stocktake done, but that was also stalled.

The 4-shaft course continued on Zoom, which proved better than in person. It finished in September and I signed up for the 8-shaft course in 2021.

I sprained my thumb and got De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which took most of the year to heal.

A friend sold to me a cheap 16 shaft loom which I intend to remake. Soon after a LeClerc Voyager came up for sale. I bought it but it didn’t suit me so I sold it. A lovely lady who wants to make rugs bought the Osbourne.

It was definitely a year for weaving. I wove a deflected doubleweave scarf, linen dishcloths and fabric for summer tops. Later in the year I did two workshops with Denise Kovnat organised by the Australian rep of Complex Weavers, on Echo and Jin and Deflected Doubleweave as Collapse.

What a year! I constantly wonder what it would have been like if I hadn’t retired. That period of anxiety during the first lockdown would have probably affected my ability to concentrate on writing. But otherwise writing it would be a good job to have during lockdowns.

Instead I concentrated on learning about weaving in a way I’ve never had the opportunity to before. However, I ended the year feeling quite down. Why? Well, a few unpleasant encounters and physical health issues dinted my confidence. I won’t go into the details of the former, but they left me feeling so much more appreciative of and wistful for Kay’s generosity and inclusiveness. She was worried that knowledge of weaving was being lost, and inspired me to want to pass on what I knew, but that month of back pain and migraines left me thinking I may be too unreliable, physically, to commit to teaching gigs.

Summary

What a half-decade! It started with the Osbourne loom purchase, and since a floor loom purchase is a serious commitment, I consider it the point I really started pursuing weaving as my main hobby. It was also when my interest in ethical and sustainable fashion began and, boosted by the War on Waste, evolved into a new approach to making and buying things.

My back took a turn for the worse a year or two before, which really impacted my ability to work, but I kept at it, only conceding defeat in 2019. I haven’t completely given up on writing, but I needed a mental break and change of process as much as a physical one.

When the half-decade started I was painting full sized portraits. I had one big success. My enthusiasm waned and I moved to heads only but even before art classes stopped I think my interest in portraits was fading. I need to find a new viewpoint or technique or subject to drive me.

That’s work, art and hobby. What else? Socially, there have been changes that were outside of my control or influence, as the larger circle of friends fragmented due to disagreements. That was stressful, but I’ve adjusted to hanging out with individuals and smaller groups. Which may have been a good adjustment in so far that it wasn’t as big a shift when when lockdowns happened.

Plans for the future? If 2020 taught me anything, it’s to be prepared for plans to be scuttled, so drop anchor and weather the storm. Keep resisting the ageing of the body and mind but don’t put myself under too much pressure or expectation to produce at the rate I did when I was half my current age. I’ve worked really hard and paid a physical price for it, but I’m lucky enough to have benefitted from that work. There’s nothing wrong with slowing down – and enjoying the slowing down and easing of pressure. My slogan for 2021 is “Be Flexible” and that’s how I intend to approach life for now.

Pin vs Notch

During the Pin Loom Weaving workshop, I had many different sizes and kinds of looms to demonstrate on, and that included the flat, laser-cut looms from Twill Textile Design. At one point I switched from demonstrating on a nail loom to one of the TTD looms, and I found myself remarking aloud how much easier it was to work without nails getting in the way. I was amused to see one of the students pick up her phone and immediately order one.

That got me thinking that I really ought to buy one of the larger ones, so when I got home I did, and it arrived a few weeks later.

It was double the size of the larger of the two looms I already had and the first square I wove confirmed that this translated to the smaller squares too. That gave me the idea to add bigger squares to the Wandering Squares Blanket. I laid out a few pieces and instantly knew this was going to look fabulous.

This project has been my go-to portable project for a few years now, and I’m in no hurry to finish it. There may be a benefit to it taking a long time too. When I put together examples of different ways of joining squares for the workshop I found that using a zig-zag on a sewing machine was actually very effective. I’m thinking of using that method for this blanket.

After all, I have over 100 of the smaller squares, so it would be a LOT of hand sewing to join them all.