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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.