Well, aren’t the autumnal (fall, for my US readers!) colours absolutely stunning this year?  I’ve been on several journeys of late, and the hardest part has been keeping my eyes on the road instead of on the trees!!!  The variety of oranges, yellows, reds, browns and greens has been amazing, and several times I thought I saw trees on fire, only to look and realise that actually it was the sun (?!! – yes – the sun!) shining through the changing leaves!  It’s a meditation to look at a single tree demonstrating several stages of autumn – from green leaves through yellowing to orange and red, and then bare branches as the top or sides (depending on the prevailing wind).

Since I last wrote, I have been in wonderful Shetland, visiting the Ann Sutton Foundation on the island of Yell, with fellow weaver, Kathy Schicker.  We were there to give a presentation as part of the Shetland Islands Wool Week (actually a fortnight!), and whilst we were there, we did a bit of maintenance and trouble shooting on the AVL looms.  We also got the free run of a cottage (thanks, Maggie) and a car (thanks again, Maggie!) so that we could explore a little.  Hosted by Andy Ross, he of the wonderful operatic singing voice, we did our presentation both to a live audience and online, with live streaming.  A first for us all!

I found it a little strange not to see trees but soon got used to the changing landscape.  We had all weathers from sunshine to hail storms, with plenty of cobweb-clearing breezes!

On the isle of Unst, a view across the island from the north.

Here’s just a snapshot of the landscape, but the feeling you get from being on islands like these is like nothing else.  I’ve visited the Isles of Scilly, right at the other end of the UK, before and it is a similar feeling.  The air is clean, the night sky just wonderful (when there aren’t clouds) and though we just missed the Northern Lights, the sheer profusion of stars made up for it!

And the Shetlanders know how to have a good time!  We went to a Fiddle and Accordion festival which was both a concert and a dance.  What a great event!  We also spent some time on the island of Unst looking at the geology, looking out to the Muckle Flugga, watching the sky change moods in seconds.  You really feel the presence of nature in a place like that…

Anyway, after a wonderful long weekend it was back to reality, and a trip down to Wokefield Park, near Reading, to teach at the Kennet Valley Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers biennial residential workshop weekend.  I had eleven students and they were learning how to create texture using three techniques – woven shibori, stitched double cloth, and overshot.  The woven shibori is very gratifying because you can get instant results, especially if you have steamers on hand to fix the shaping.  Thanks to Pat for those!  The others depend on fulling wool to do its thing during finishing.  These days, you don’t always know what you’re getting when you buy wool, and if the EU have their way, all extra information about the breed of sheep, etc, is going to disappear from labelling.  Now perhaps the general public won’t notice, but for people working with wool, this is disastrous!  If I want a long wool and lustre yarn, and can’t see the yarn in person because I’m buying it online, I won’t be able to know what I’m ordering until it arrives!!  Isn’t it ironic – on the one hand you have bureaucrats wanting us to fill every little detail in about everything, balanced against bureaucrats removing information that is essential to the user!

Anyway, moving on from my little rant, here is a photo of the 11 weavers, hard at work.

Hard at work, silent except the clattering of looms!

They were a lovely bunch of people!  Thank you, folks, for a great weekend.

Then it was back down south to Farnham for a flying visit to a free seminar offered by the Crafts Study Centre on writing for craft.  It was short (1 hour, 50 mins, including tea and coffee), and I would have really appreciated a full day looking at different ways of writing such as serious essay and review writing, as well as the caption writing we did, but I realised that I need to look beneath the surface content of other people’s writing, and into the style and format of how they write, so I shall be trying to do that in future research.

One of the tasks we were given was to write a short (50 words) caption to an item in the two exhibitions they currently have on show at the Crafts Study Centre – Alison Britton, and Robin Tanner.  I selected a collection of items in the Robin Tanner collection – a letter from Robin, bowls and teapot by Lucie Rie and a linen tablecloth by Rita Beales.  I actually managed to scrawl down two versions in my allotted ten minutes – one for a blog, and one for the exhibition.  Here they are :

Blog             “An evocation of times past – an immaculately hand-penned note to a dear friend, the hand-thrown teapot and bowls made by that friend, Lucie Rie, placed on a hand-woven linen tablecloth – the essence of a rural life well lived by etcher Robin and writer Heather Tanner.”

Caption      “A snapshot of the essence of handcrafts at a specific time (1960s) in British history is encapsulated in this combination of hand-penned note by etcher Robin Tanner to his dear friend, potter Lucie Rie, sited with her bowls and teapot on a handwoven linen table cloth by Rita Beales.”

In the first I was seeking to capture a mood, and in the second to be much more matter of fact.  It would be good to know what you think, so if you are so inclined, do drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.

Well, I’ve rambled on for nearly twice my usual length.  Thank you for sticking with me this long!!

Happy Weaving!