One of the tasks I have been engaged in over the last few weeks is a weaving commission. I don’t often undertake commissions but this one engaged my interest in an unusual way. If you have been a follower of my blog for a while, or visited my website (www.theloomroom.co.uk) you will have heard and/or seen Hattie, the industrial 1930s jacquard loom I have which catapulted me into the world of jacquard in 2002.
One of the things that fascinates me about Hattie is her engineering. Because she is a mechanical machine, you can see what’s going on, and can work out how to fix things that go wrong through backwards engineering. The same was true for my first car, a 1959 Singer Gazelle, Series 3a – with overdrive – that used to propel me up and down the M3 motorway from Bournemouth to West London in the eary 1980s between my job at the Bournemouth Orchestras, and my boyfriend in London at 90 mph!!! (Ssssh – don’t tell anyone!)
I had named the car Barbie, after a character in the Raj Quartet books by Paul Scott, which I had read the previous year whilst at music college in Scotland. Barbie was 1 1/2 tons, with no syncromesh gears, and definitely no power assisted steering! We had several hair-raising adventures together, and some eventful journeys due to bits failing (notably the slave cylinder during the London rush hour one wet and windy evening in January 12 miles on the other side of London).
It was great fun to get dirty, to work out what had gone wrong and how to fix it. Graham and I spent hours on, under, and in the car getting her to run and we both learnt a lot about engines in the process.
So when I was contacted by the 1959 Mini Register about some interiors fabrics they needed weaving, we had a great deal to talk about before we even got down to discussing fabrics!!
Most people know the iconic Mini car, but not so many know that the first models had fabric interiors and upholstery, and the 1959 Mini Register is a group specifically for 1959 Mini owners. Car clubs I know are to be found extensively in many countries, and the members are passionate about getting the details right. So I took on the commission to analyse the original fabric, and then to weave 25 yards of fabric.
I have to say that weaving-wise it is not the most exciting thing to be weaving. A 16 shaft design and a 16 pick repeat for 25 yards doesn’t really engage the brain in the weaving process. But I have enjoyed myself. For up to 4 hours a day, I have been weaving, which is not something I usually do.
It has kept me grounded during a difficult family time, it has been exercising my body, relaxing my mind, focussing my attention and being present in the moment, but also able to listen to the radio (Radio 4 – brilliant!). I’m nearly finished now, and a little bit sad that it’s nearly finished (although also somewhat relieved that I can look at something else soon!)
And it’s got me in training for those Christmas cards which must start next week….