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Archive for July, 2008

Writing this and weaving are new enterprises in more ways than one.

 It all began when I failed to find a home for a dusty bundle of sticks I have carted around with me for at least 30 years which I now discover is a rather beautiful though somewhat dusty Bergman loom. All this time I thought it was unusable with vital parts missing. I had agreed to take it off my parents hands sometime in the 70s along with a spinning wheel. They had all belonged to a great great aunt who had lived in New York and was a weaver. I never knew her but when she died it was all shipped back to England and my father being a romantic and sentimental man took them in. My practical mother was not pleased and happily shifted the packages on to me. At that time I had four small children and definately no time to explore what I was given.

Running alongside this event was my training as an Occupational Therapist in the 60’s when the training was still mainly craft based. I am not a natural craft person, love making and creating but have never mastered the art of finishing off. At college alongside woodwork, basketry, anatomy and psychology we spent time learning to spin and weave. Our college in Oxford was situated in the grounds of a hospital and consisted of rows of ex-army Nissan huts, those curved corrugated iron temporary structures used during WW11. Each hut was devoted to an activity and a tall coal stove heated us up to tropical temperatures. There were few comforts. We learnt to spin whilst singing the Skye Boat song to keep the rhythm right. I was not very adept at the weaving. In a hut with a dozen foot power looms we had to weave a length of tweed. All my warp threads kept breaking and our elderly German teacher, a lady who had fled Nazi Germany was obviously frustrated at our lack of dedication. She walked up and down the looms clicking her tongue and shaking her head in despair. Outside the huts the sun was shining, flower power had arrived and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were playing.  We also spent hours with table looms pattern drafting. I have to say that not once in my employment in the National health Service did I ever touch a loom again. As well as all this craftwork everything had to have a movement analysis done and a consideration of psychological attributes such as concentration and motivation identified in the different stages of the activity for its potential therapeutic benefit. I graduated in 1964 and immediately got married and started a family!!

We moved house several times and eventually settled in a beautiful part of Derbyshire where we had 7 acres and I attempted to live out a fantasy of self suffiency which proved much harder than I had imagined and in the end we were both working and struggling with 30 ever escaping sheep. The sheep led me to the aforesaid spinning wheel. I had it repaired and jouned a spinning class. i started making use of our fleeces but only now and again and I found it impossible to give it the time it needed. The children were becoming teen agers and were always needing to be taken somewhere or other, my husband was a seniot teacher and working too hard and I was employed an a community meental health team .

As the children went to University  we decided to sell our furniture and our house and the seven acres and the sheep and bought a 32ft American RV instead (just the two of us) and for a year drifted around the country. Well not quite true I did a Distance Learning Masters degree in Occupational Therapy and my husband worked free-lance as an advisor and researcher in Democratic Education and participation in schools.No spinning or weaving but lots of thinking and reading. I wrote a Dissertation about the way in which we contruct meaning through everyday occupations. I researched peoples beliefs, memories ,use of time, importance of objects used in the everyday activity of making tea. This demonstrated the importance of culture in the way we create our social environments. I read Bruner and Vygotsky(A Russian psychologist) and I remain fascinated by how we create meanings in our lives.

Now we are grand-parents several times over and there is time and space to explore interests and discover what talents and skills may have evolved within us. My husband sails, watches birds and remains involved in improving the lot of young people in the educational system. We both have a hut/work place in our garden where we can work/play at our individual interests, and I have enjoyed dressmaking, and teaching myself rather badly pattern cutting. I also knit and have a Passap double bed knitting machine and a computer programme to design. I have experimented and made many samples but there is very little in the way of finished product. Discipline where are you!!!

This brings me right up to date. The bundle of sticks was getting in my way Thinking it broken and useless but not having the heart to chop it up for the woodburner I posted it on our local Freecycle. A lady contacted me and arranged to visit. In the next 48 hours thinking I was preparing myself to twist her arm to relieve me of it I started to Surf the Interner. Lo and behold!! Wonder of wonders!! I fell into weaving blogs. There was a fantastic description of threading up a Bergman loom. With pictures. Suddenly my heal of sticks took form.The broken shafts were not broken. The higgledy piggledy short sticks were jacks which had lost the metal rods to hold them in the jack box. With rapidly growing excitment I started to unfold it and put it together. It looked just like the beautiful loom on Trapuntos site. I was so relieved that I could face my would-be customer with a good conscience. My husband asked me if I was sure I wanted to give it away. O yes I replied I will never have time to weave and I need the space.

The lady came. She was enthusiastic. She said she would return home and measure her space. She failed to ring. Then she e-mailed me. She was ever so sorry uut it was too large for her room. My heart soared. Its mine! I can keep it!  What a close shave that was! Since then ,which was only two weeks ago I have been cleaning, polishing and avidly reading web sites and blogs. I have been to the library, though there was only one book. I havn’t woven since I was a student. I am sure a beginner shouldn’t start with an 8-shaft loom, but none of that is relevant.

There is little about Bergman looms on the Web. My loom is only 32″ wide and is complete apart from a back beam which my husband thinks he can make. I have ordered loom cord as one posting I found suggested Tes-solv was a little thick to go through the treadles. I don’t dare buy anything else until I know it really works and that I can get a decent shed.The cord arrives tomorrow. This will be a test of all my new found enthusiam and a demand on my patience (minimal) and a face to face with reality. I will appreciate all your encouragement and words of wisdom. I have no flesh and blood weavers in my circle of friends only books and this virtual world which is proving to be an inspiration and I expect a lifeline to keep me on the straight and narrow.

I want to post this and find out whether I have done all the correct things to start blogging. never tried before. I intended to include photos but at present I can,t download my pictures. I will have mastered that by the next posting. I long to show pictures of beautifully woven blankets, scarves and Chanel type tweed!!! One day……

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