This past weekend, I had the privilege to be part of a 4-day workshop with Ann Richards.  Ann has been creating the most wonderful pleated scarves, dresses and now jewellery for a number of years, inspired largely by nature and in particular by bats and dragonfly wings among other things.  Her work is exquisite and very affordable and is currently on exhibition in Warp + Weft, a touring weaving exhibition – yes, that rarity! – which is going around the UK, curated by Laura Thomas, which I wrote about in a previous blog post.

Ann gave generously of her expertise and we worked on warps which had already been prepared for us – a rare luxury!  The workshop was at the Handweavers Studio in London, and we were able to sample from a wide variety of non-shrinking yarns as well as S and Z twist wool and cotton crepe yarns, wool/elastane, and 14.5Nm Merino overtwist yarn in both S and Z twist, and colcolastic, all of which gave lovely effects.  We also had 4 taster warps which we could go and weave on, exploring different structures, such as combined double and single cloths, a bead leno warp and a double cloth bracelet warp in silk/stainless steel warp.

Some of the twisting and collapsing that went on in the finishing was just amazing!  Some of the structures worked better with some yarns and not others, some using both sets of twists fought each other and cancelled each other out.  Sometimes, just varying the proportions of one to the other even very slightly was enough to make a dramatic difference.  If anyone had had doubts about the value of sampling, then this workshop would have dispelled those instantly.

The class knowledge level was high in the first place and the experiments that were carried out varied immensely.  It was both tremendous fun, and really stimulating, and with all the yarns that we sampled available for purchase, most of us left considerably financially lighter but physically weighed down with the amounts of yarn that we were taking home!

Not only was it incredibly valuable in knowledge gained, we also got to know and enjoy each other’s company.  Several of us were acquainted, others knew one or two people well, but sharing in each other’s experiments, not all of which worked, helps break the ice and build friendships.

I don’t know how much I have learnt yet.  That always comes out much later.  But I do know that this is a brilliant way to learn and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to benefit from Ann’s knowledge, research and teaching skills, and also from the generosity of my fellow students with their pearls of wisdom, and I hope I was able to pass on a few of my hints and tips too.  A great learning experience.