20TH MARCH 2017 - Wonderful Weaving...

On Tuesday this week I went to SAORImor in Bangor to try my hand at art of Japanese hand weaving.

I've tried my hand at weaving once before with a fantastic woman called Susie Gillespie, over 18 months ago. Susie uses (flax) linen to weave and
does so on great big loom producing gorgeous work. I was really please with my results.

imageWhilst I had the most amazing time with Susie, I know I'll never be able to buy a large loom and so I've often found myself trawling the internet looking at a variety of other types of looms.

Weaving is a big 'ol thing to start researching and I'd often give up as most of the looms looked complicated and I wasn't sure I'd be up to learning how to set a loom etc etc.

I'm also not terribly good at following patterns (some people would say rules), so put the whole idea to one side and concentrated on my sewing.

Then last Christmas morning I opened a present from my partner which was a 2 hour taster session at SAORImor weaving in Bangor.

I had a wonderful time. Rosie, who is lovely, gave us easy instructions to start us off then let us run with our own creativity and imagination. I was so excited by the fact that the looms are fairly small. They are light,compact and foldable. The weaving is really straightforward to learn. There are no patterns (rules) and freedom of expression was the aim. The panels you make can be made into items of clothing (or home decorative items).

I am of course going again, as soon as I possibly can. Rosie has set up several options from 30min taster to a 6 week course and a membership facility thereafter for those who don't want to buy their own looms, which means you can call in and use the equipment. Genius!

It is the epitome of finding 'flow' or mindfulness. I thoroughly recommend it to everyone and anyone.



It's December 30th already and although I've had a couple of quiet days which have been utter bliss, I am already thinking about the year ahead. I don't know why we put ourselves under such immense and intense pressure at Christmas, trying to get everything done in time, and to an impossible standard. The planning, the decorations, the gifts, the cards, the food, the timings, visiting relatives, visiting friends, the telephone calls... I'm having shuddering flashbacks so I'll stop the re-living.

When I woke up at the beginning of the last week of December I resolved this year to just try to remind myself that there are 363 days in a year and that life isn't just about Christmas. It was extremely difficult not to be carried along by the commercial pressure and expectations. I have to confess to even being a little 'Grinch like' this year. A colleague accused me of hating Christmas! Pah!!- that stopped me in my tracks. I realise actually that my stress and dislike of Christmas is directly linked to what I believe others expect of me at Christmas. So, I hope that with all its expectations and demands you've managed to find a little quiet time for reflection, rest, recreation and restoration and that the pressure hasn't been too onerous.

My head is now turning to New Year and the inevitable list of things to do, not so much resolutions - they've always tended to be must do's in the past and invariably left me feeling like I'd let myself down. This year I have PLANS, all based on things I like to do.

For me this includes

  • A new display position from the 1st of February at Bodnant Craft Centre and a new display, so I have more new pieces to make.
  • Work is progressing on the workshop and our Ty Twt for which we have everything crossed to begin letting on May 1st.
  • I go away for a week to research potential new outlets at the end of January.
  • I am going to try and learn Italian (well the basics anyway), in readiness for a textile summer school in June with the magnificent Dionne Swift
  • I hope to be getting more involved with the Denbigh Plum festival
  • Blogging more, and connecting more online through newsletters
  • Setting up more workshop dates

I'm looking forward to the coming year, as for Christmas , there's 360 days left before it bites me on the bum again.

Happy New Year

Go safely and share the love.

4th October 2016 - A Stitch in time......

My mother tells me that sewing is in my blood, yet it took me until I was forty seven to realise that I really enjoy sitting at the sewing machine and being creative. I was given a sewing machine when I was fifteen but it just gathered dust. I can remember failing miserably in school at needlework and far preferred metal work and woodwork classes. I think the difference now, like most people, is that I am choosing to learn how to sew rather than it being a compulsory subject. I’m loving every minute of it.

My Nain (Welsh for Grandmother and pronounced like the number 9) was a seamstress. Her hand sewing/needlework skills were honed under her mother’s watchful eye as she sat at her knee, like most women of her class and generation. It was a time of austerity and the make do and mend culture was deeply embedded within the population as a whole. The ethos was strongly driven by necessity rather than choice. Very few ‘imported garments’ made their way to Corris in mid Wales, where she lived with my great grandparents, if any at all in fact. Nain taught herself, again out of necessity, to use a sewing machine after leaving home.

My mother remembers exactly when Nain started to take in sewing work. Firstly, she married my grandfather, an illiterate man whom she taught to read and write. He found employment as an insurance broker but he would frequently take the money meant for paying the rent, the doctor and the dentist and leave her without a word of farewell and with outstanding debts. He would reappear several months later begging for forgiveness. There was one hopeful turning point when he enlisted for the Army. Nain thought there would be money sent home. But it didn’t materialise. In fact, the only thing he ever gave her were excuses and a pregnancy every time he came home on leave.

His contact with her diminished over the following ten years but stopped completely after she bore him six children. Nain inevitable failed to pay her rent and without a benefits system to support her and the six children she was destitute. She had no choice but to go into the workhouse in Llangefni on Anglesey. Only her youngest child, a babe in arms was allowed to stay with her. The other five children were taken to a separate part of the workhouse and Nain would see them only once a week.
During her time in the workhouse she learned how to use a sewing machine. Her skills earned her extra credit and she was offered a house to rent locally. That was the start of her sewing career. There are still similarities for many 21st century women with the women of past generations, grappling with commitments and babies and trying to make ends meet. Many of us have creative endeavours and earn small amounts perhaps. but back then…
It wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t textile studies, or tapestry making or weaving. It wasn’t catwalk fashion or Saville Row tailoring. I wouldn’t mind betting tho’ that if Nain was around now she could win Great British Sewing Bee. But, what I remember of her is her tiny 4 foot 9 inch frame hunched over her sewing machine. I remember seeing her hump on her back when she was 85yrs old from the years of grafting at that Singer table to earn money to feed her children. She had a tiny mouth too, with lipstick bleeding into the lines around her mouth far sooner than it should have done, due to the constant row of pins she pursed her lips around whilst working. She lost her little finger due to an infectioin from a needle prick. The perils of sewing!

My grandfather turned up after an absence of almost four years with no contact at all during that time. He was more than surprised to find that Nain had a seventh child. Ooops! He filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery. My mother gave evidence aged 14 and remembers it well. The judge dismissed my grandfathers claim and granted the divorce to my grandmother on the grounds of desertion. Quite unheard of back in the day. During his silent years my grandfather had risen through the ranks to the rank of Captain. Later, when he left the army, he became the Mayor of Maidstone in Kent. By all accounts he was quite a wealthy man. He made no contact with his children. Ever. He left them nothing. None of his colleagues and acquaintances knew of his appalling behaviour.

Nain. Bless her. Not an affectionate woman. She had no time or energy for such frivolities. She was steely. A survivor. She had no choice. Her no nonsense approach got her through. She enjoyed playing cards for pennies, wore a fur coat on occasion. Killer white stilettos taking her to a lofty 5 foot 3 inches. Bright red lipstick. Row of pins. Hunchbacked. Singer machine. Sewing table. Treadle thrumming.

.....saved Nain.


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