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Open Weaving Day 2014

As with the organisation of any unknown quantity event the anxiety is that no visitors will turn up thus rendering the herculean effort useless. Things did not look auspicious as dawn broke to a constant torrential downpour. Knowing it took more than a tsunami to put our Members off I set off in good time with the bag of goodies I had volunteered to bring with me. After overcoming the challenges of the major A167 road closure whereby the only two diversion signs Durham County Council apparently possesses were deployed on Chester le Streets main thoroughfare (forcing me to navigate fell, valley and even the edge of a forest like a blind homing pigeon) I miraculously found myself more than an hour later in the Park & Ride car park.

My sense of triumph was short lived when I realised that I had not bothered to master the locking device of our new car and had to watch the wing mirrors repeatedly swinging in and out as if getting the vehicle ready for take off, accompanied by all four windows gliding silently open and shut as if directed by an orchestra conductor. Not sure of how I had made it all stop, and wondering if it would start again the moment I turned my back, I collapsed drenched onto the platform of the Park & Ride bus to sail blithely past my stop because I could not see out of the misted up windows.

Another soaking trudge saw me burst through the Church Hall doorway bringing with me enough water to service a Dyeing workshop. The reason for this intrepid perseverance, apart from obviously not wanting to let all the other hardworking folk down - I had promised to bring the PAPER PLATES!!!!!!!!

At many points in this awful journey when I could not see another vehicle, had no idea in which direction I was pointing and thinking I would never reach my destination, I seriously questioned whether anything was worth this amount of hassle, but my goodness it was worth every mile.

Lots of people were hard at work setting up the equipment and a selling table and the demonstrators were ready to go. I immediately realised that my feat of endurance in getting there was nothing compared to the dedication of Angela Colbridge who was making large cauldrons of delicious soup using a very old oven in the poorly equipped St. Oswalds kitchen because her kitchen at home was out of use.

Undaunted she even managed to juggle this task with baking a large quantity of potatoes and heating up the continuous stream of lovely food that Members were bringing in.

When things in the main hall got underway the weaving techniques demonstrated were many and varied.

Tapestry Weaving - Jen Campbell/Angela Colbridge

Jen's well earned reputation for her excellent skills in this medium were admirably shown to advantage in the work in progress on her loomtapestry weaving.2 and other samples which she had brought along. All of her pieces were beautifully coloured, of unique design and had obviously taken a tremendous amount of infinite patience.

Angela had brought along some very distinct examples of this technique which she had used to produce very modern looking wall hangings, the effect of which was very much to do with an extensive and imaginative use of materials which would not readily be associated with tapestry weaving, bamboo being just one example. Her pictures effectively make as much use of organic shapes and gaps in weaving as they do in the traditional methods where the whole area of the piece of work is filled in.

The contrast between Jen and Angelas work - equally stunning - was a prime example of how versatile this method of weaving can be.

Ply-split Braiding - Ann Evans

Ann's table proved to be a honey pot of interest attracting almost all visitors coming through the door as well as Members to not only look but to have a go. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that the technique lent itself to a wide variation of uses, items were relatively small and an excellent effect could evolve after a fairly short amount of instruction.

Inkle Loom Weaving/Lucet Cord Making - Brenda Ripley

Brenda had brought along some work on an inkle loom of a very effective black and pink design. Less well known than traditional warp weft weaving equipment this generated some curiosity as to how such intricate designs could be achieved on what must have looked to the uninitiated more like a contraption rather than a weaving loom. She also had a Lucet tool with her and samples to demonstrate how in a relatively short time impressive and useful braid could emerge from this small handheld gadget.

Blackstrap Weaving and Sami Bands.- Sue Foulkes

For those who have not encountered blackstrap weaving, it is generally thought to be one of the earliest forms of weaving in that the weaver uses her own body as the loom.

Sue Foulkes is an expert in this technique in which the front end of the warps are attached to something strong and firm, Sue recommends a warping post clamped to a table and the back end is tied to the weavers belt.

A rigid heddle is used to provide a shed but warp pick up can also be used to create a variety of patterns. Sue has studied the woven bands produced by the Sami people who live in the North of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia.

These bands can also be woven on an inkle loom or any two shaft loom. They are used for a variety of domestic uses and feature complex multi-colour patterns in which red predominates.

The bands can also be woven as stripes and Sue volunteered to lead a skill sharing group at the Weaving Day planned for February looking at colour choice and combinations in stripes.

NB Sue has published an excellent book called Sami Band Weaving which contains a number of traditional patterns; her tip is to enlarge your chosen pattern on a printer to make it easier to read.

Shaped paper baskets for Christmas is a tradition in Scandinavian countries. These are filled with small sweets and hung on the Christmas tree.

There are 27 different patterns in the book ranging from the easy to more complex. All profits from the sale of this book go to the British Heart Foundation.

The book is available from http://blurb.co.uk. I made the book in memory of my father who died last December. A couple of Christmases ago, I taught Guild members how to make these paper baskets.

Twill - Douglas Mcmurtrie

Douglas had set up his Table Loom to produce some lovely plum and green coloured tartan, which was to be used as cushion covers. His choice of colours and design proved to be an excellent combination by which to demonstrate Twill effect as the pattern of diagonal parallel ribs (in contrast to satin plain weave) were immediately apparent.

It was very encouraging to visitors to see what Douglas can produce when he explained that compared to some Guild Members he was relatively new to weaving and only took up this interest in later life.

Tablet Braids - Anne Gale

Anne had brought some fine examples of this technique as well as demonstrating a braid in progress. She was able to show what at first glance resembled hand movements needed to solve a Rubic cube could be nowhere near as complicated once tablet sequencing and hand rhythm were mastered.< Braids could also be worked fairly quickly, which provides excellent motivation to a beginner.

Rep Weaving - Norma Butcher

Norma is a prodigious and experienced weaver in many and varied types of weaving. Her practical skills are enhanced by her eye for blending colour and texture and her use of a wide variety of home produced raw materials. The piece of work she had set up on her loom to allow spectators to have a go, along with a selection of samples and finished items such as rugs, illustrated this warp faced weave (which apparently originated in Sweden in the mid 1880) to excellent effect.

Kumihimo - Terry Smith

Perhaps best known to other Guild Members for her teaching skills and experience of Spinning, it may be less well recognised that Terry produces some fantastic beadwork jewellery. She often puts this Japanese form of braid making in that capacity and for other uses. A variety of materials can be used with a Kumihimo (translation gathering threads) notched disc to interlace colourful strands to produce decorative cords narrow sashes. Terry demonstrated on a frame called a Marudai which allows for more versatile results than a disc only method because it keeps strands separated and any thickness of strand can be used. The fact that this equipment is very portable adds to its appeal. Good eye hand co-ordination as well as a good memory (in my case) is a definite asset.

Double Cloth - Wally Smith

The ancient technique of double cloth weaving results in a woven textile in which two or more sets of warps and one or more sets of weft are interconnected to form a two layered cloth. It is easily recognisable when traditionally used for jacquard type designs for furnishing fabrics, wall hangings etc. Today double cloth is often used for self lined or reversible clothing.

Wally's work in progress and samples showed how the layers not only allow for complex patterns and surface textures but how the two layers can be separated to allow for filling to be inserted. His padded garden bench seat cushion was particularly impressive.

Shibori - Cia Bosanquet

Cia explained that the modern development of the traditional Japanese process of weaving and resist has continued to evolve technically and artistically since the early 1990s.

Cia had brought along a loom threaded with the fine silk, which when finished would be gathered up at intervals (by fine fishing line in this instance) before dyeing to produce fantastically beautiful colour hues and amazing variety of texture, depending upon which type of weaving yarns were initially used. Her sample items were incredibly fine and soft to handle even after the potentially punishing affect of dyeing and of course everything produced was absolutely unique which is the most exciting aspect of all. She had also brought along a couple of books on the subject which she had been inspired by which also generated a lot of interest.

There is nothing like a good meal to promote a convivial atmosphere where people can relax, enjoy each others company and share interests ideas. The quantity, quality and choice of food were truly amazing an abundance which allowed us to serve up delicious refreshments for coffee breaks too. Everyone had pulled out all the stops which would have easily given an Amish Community Barn Raising gathering a run for its money and thankfully my paper plates were all used up.

As things got a little hectic as the day progressed with comings and goings it proved a little difficult to keep track of exact attendance numbers but a reasonable estimate was:

11 Members demonstrated (1 Member provided additional samples because she was confined to the kitchen)

Members were accompanied by a non-Member

12 Non Member visitors

14 Members

Approximately 27 lunches were served.

What made the event especially enjoyable for me (and I hope for all those who attended) was the appreciation of Members skills and the motivation engendered to explore these techniques further. This was due in no small part to the demonstrators' obvious enthusiasm and genuine love of their craft. A huge thank you goes to all to them and to all those who worked so hard to organise the event, provide food and or did all three to make the day such a resounding success, ultimately designed to promote and preserve these precious crafts



St Oswalds Institute, Church Street
Durham City, Co Durham, DH1 3DQ
tel. Secretary 01207 230 364
Contact: email: secretary.durhamguild@gmail.com