Postcards from the sea

The spinning group I belong to is held in Castlehill Heritage Centre which is a renovated 17th Century farm building adjacent to the old flagstone quarry by Dunnet Bay in Caithness. It’s a lovely building and has a beautiful garden as well as housing themed exhibitions, workshops in traditional crafts such as dry stone dyking and traditional folklore events.
There is a fundraising exhibition being shown at the moment where people were asked to create a postcard sized ‘picture’ of the sea. So on Thursday our spinning was in the midst of a sea of postcard multi-media representations of all things oceanic. The diversity of techniques and ideas was astounding and it was wonderful to be spinning amidst such beauty. I took some photos on my phone of just a few to show you.

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This is perhaps my favourite, carded fleece has been used for the sea foam and I think it is a really imaginative use of materials in an effective way; there is a real sense of the movement of the waves

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I love this one too, because of it’s simplicity. It’s entitled ‘Jellyfish’.

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I took a photo of this one as I liked the way the artist had used a piece of driftwood for the boat, I then discovered it had been made by Jane, a member of the spinning group!

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The postcards came from all over the world, some from as far as Australia and New Zealand.

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If you are in this part of the world, the exhibition runs until 30th July and it’s really worth seeing. Then all the artworks will be for sale via silent auction and bids (minimum £5) can be placed either in person or here and funds go straight back into the Heritage Centre.

Busy doing nothing

I’m enjoying my week off work with lots of not very much. It’s easy to do not very much in Caithness. There aren’t that many shops (the weekly supermarket trip becomes a great excitement, really!), only a handful of restaurants, a cinema (although on the other side of the county, it’s a whole lot better than going the 240 miles to Inverness and back which is what we used to do before ours opened)(there’s a whole story about a bunch of us going on a Friday night to see Twilight and then getting stopped by the police on the way back…I was driving and I got in such a mucky fuddle that I drove around the roundabout twice in front of said police, but that’s a story for another day)(how I didn’t get breathalysed I’ll never know)…where was I? Oh yes, doing nothing.
Like I said, here we have lots of beaches, huge empty skies and peace. Wonderful.
We took the dogs to the local beach today, the tide was just on it’s way out so there wasn’t a huge amount of beach to walk along, which suited me (!) but Fin, our Labrador collie cross, decided he would make the most of it and found, not a stick, but as my friend described it, a caber to fetch and carry.

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The nights are still light too, I took these at 11.30pm and you can see the fingers of dusk on the northern horizon soon to be shaking hands with the dawn.

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I have a whole lot more nothing to do and intend to enjoy every quiet minute of it.

Be careful what you wish for…

I’ve found myself, no, I’ve caught myself thinking recently about when I was ill with M.E/C.F.S with a certain sense of loss. Before I go on further, let me point out that this is insane! However there are reasons for it: firstly I think my essential nature is one of discontent, as if my default setting is on negative. I learnt a long time ago that this isn’t necessarily one of right ingredients for a happy and fulfilling life so I work on a daily basis at changing my ‘setting’ to a positive one. Secondly, with illness comes a lack of responsibility as in not able to work, less decisions to make and an excuse, if you need one, to bow out of anything.
A less conscious reason for ‘reminiscing’ about being unwell is because that was when I got to rest a lot and I’ve been overdoing it recently and have started to realise, with some difficulty, that I need more rest. Of course, me being me, I ignore that need (probably part of what got me into the whole M.E thing in the first place) and storm ahead regardless. Fortunately, the healthy part of me keeps muttering away in the form of fantasies about resting until I finally let go and surrender to giving myself what I need. Maybe a little too late as today I’ve relived what it was really like to live with M.E; not just like having a lovely rest but struggling with sore joint and muscles, brain fog (I’ve been packaging up a couple of orders, do you have any idea how difficult that is when your brain is full of mushy peas?) and fatigue. It’s been a very good reminder of what life used to be like. No weaving – not a chance…little communication…no life. Well I’m not having that back!!
So I’ve arranged a week off work (fortunately I have wonderful colleagues), a follow up phonecall with my Lightning Process trainer and a GP appointment. The Lightning Process is about appropriate energy, not like taking speed, which is kind of how I’ve been (mis)using it.
There we go, I’ll keep you posted.
Ok onto crafty things. The Tour de France has started, very excitingly in Yorkshire this year (how that makes it the de France Tour, I have no idea but what do I know?) which also means, more excitingly, the Tour de Fleece has also commenced. This is a Ravelry spinning challenge , where spinners of all shapes and sizes set spinning goals, share their progress and cheer each other on during the cycling race. I’ve joined the ‘Weaving in the Saori Way’ group team and have set myself the challenge of spinning something every day, to be woven into a piece of Saori inspired cloth for our bedroom curtains. So far I’ve spun up some alpaca, while I was awaiting my merino tops to arrive, and plied it with some cashmere just to free up my bobbins.

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My merino is now here and looks a bit like this:

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There has been some stunning spinning shared on the Ravelry page, I’m loving it so far.

New name!

Ok so you may or may not have noticed that this blog has a new name. It’s been going for just over a year (yup, I have to confess I missed the blog birthday #fail) and things have changed around here quite a lot. Twelve months ago or so I was completely focused on dyeing yarn and selling it here which was great fun but it’s a very competitive market and there are a lot of yarn dyers out there with oodles of talent. Consequently I have decided to stop dyeing, certainly to sell anyway, and move towards concentrating on weaving. To celebrate I changed the name of the blog; different name, same meanderings. For you, dear knitter/weaver/yarny person, I have a 25% sale on in the yarn shop. If you enter the code ‘birthday1′ at the checkout, your discount will be applied. Happy shopping and see you all very soon with some more weaving x

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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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