The Farfield Residency (10:14)

There are things about Wednesday 12 August I’d rather forget. The day did not turn out as I’d planned. After two days hard work putting a warp on the Glimakra loom I found to my horror that the loom’s tie up was a shambles, a complete mess . . . and I’d failed to notice it. I assumed (quite wrongly) that the loom was in regular use by the Farfield Mill  weaving group . . . it was not. The Glimakra loom my former teacher Laura had been using for a couple of rugs was not the Glimakra I was given to use: it had been replaced. Frankly I was devastated, because instead of settling down for a morning’s weaving I spent the three hours retying and balancing the loom. Thank goodness I learnt how to do this in May . . .  talking to the other weavers it is clear that loom maintenance is not high on the Centre’s agenda. The looms need a good dose of Don Porritt (ace loom troubleshooter from Ilkley).

My loom and a little weaving . . .

My loom and a little weaving . . .

After working right through lunchtime I finally got weaving about 2.30 and so don’t have a lot to show for an afternoon’s work . . . there were many other things to think about, like how am I getting home at the weekend (and then to Wales) , and the small matter of a concert (people keep saying to me – oh, I’m coming to your concert – this is is lovely, but scary of course).  Apropos concerts – last week’s concert is now available on-line on the ‘new’ downloads page of the Fifteen Images web presentation. You can hear and see the complete premiere of Fifteen Images, with the full animated textile-based images by Alice Fox and Phil Legard. You can also hear clips from the Brigflatts concert on 1 August here.

The Downloads Page where you can hear (and see)  last Saturday's Concert

The Downloads Page where you can hear (and see) last Saturday's Concert

So let’s take a look at the weaving. Bad light makes photography difficult (makes weaving quite hard too) – so the photos don’t show a lot of detail or the ‘right’ colours. My intention with this piece is to follow the same sequence of six colours and their mixtures I used in my keyboard piece 15 images. The difference being these colours (with corresponding weave textures) are woven into a warp of colours that have been distilled from the hills surrounding Brigflatts garden, particularly beautiful Holme Fell. Plainweave green wool is used to start with, followed by a band of grey/green linen woven in three strips – a hopsack (12, 34), a derivative (14, 23) and a cord weave (14, 13,14, 24), then back to plain weave for the yellow/lemon green.

An Afternoon's weaving

An Afternoon's weaving

The kenaf (hemp) is, as expected, causing real problems. I was very stupid to use this on the weft, but now I must (somehow) turn it to my advantage (quite how, I don’t know). The woven piece itself is an art piece, a hanging or something to be sampled (digitally) and reassembled online. For me it is becoming a map: a map of a wonderful fourteen days of doing all the things I love doing in a beautiful place and with good friends and colleagues.

Before all this rubbish appeared mid morning I met Gwen at breakfast (along with 15 cyclists riding the Lands End – John O’Groats adventure). Gwen loves ferrets and having told her that I’d been disappointed not to see ferret racing at the Lunesday Show, told me she had four 4-week old babies in a carrier in the kitchen yard – as you do when you come to help out at a friend’s B & B. So, later in the morning I turned up with my camera for a photoshoot, knowing that my otter-loving colleague would enjoy the pictures. They are pretty cute I have to say, but I don’t think I could live with them. It’s their very distinctive aroma . . .

4 week old ferret

4 week old ferret

Talking of otters, Barbara from the USA, a weaver from Massachussetts, enjoyed my reference to Williamson’s Tarka. Yes, Barbara, I have the C.F. Tunicliffe edition (my grandfather’s), but not here. Alice and I have been reading from an unusual edition (1964) illustrated with photographs and maps by Barry Driscoll. It has a useful glossary for the many Devonian terms used to describe birds and plants. Some years ago now my son David (the boy with the dog in yesterday’s blog) did the Tarka trail, revisiting many of the places I had known as a child, and my mother before me. In the 1950s and 60s we stayed in one or other of Williamson’s cottages in Georgeham while he lived in his caravan in a field a mile away. I remember meeting him several times – with his shock of white hair. He seemed a particularly grumpy old man – but liked my mother who was a very beautiful woman (in her thirties then). I do like the full title of the book; Tarka the Otter: His Joyful Water-Life and Death in the Country of the Two Rivers. So Barbara, I have seen all these places in the flesh (in 2005) . . and you should go and see them too if you can. So much still is, as I believe it was in the 1920s.

Canal bridge - near where Tarka was born

Canal bridge - near where Tarka was born

When the Mill shuts at 5.0pm (lots of visitors yesterday) the first thing I do is open the fire-escape door and walk out on to the ‘balcony’ high above the River Clough. Then I can hear the river clearly when I go back to the studio; such an abiding and beautiful accompaniment to the rest of the day. Last night I ate supper out there in the gathering dusk – a sad and grey evening. But when I left the Mill at nearly midnight there was a sky full of stars . . .

Note: I’ve started receiving some brilliant images from my on-line weaving colleagues. Cally, thank you. I think you rather enjoyed looking back at your photo albums! Some wonderful pictures that I know the Farfield Mill visitors will enjoy. There’s time for more for anyone else feels inspired . . .


6 Responses to “The Farfield Residency (10:14)”

  1. Dot Says:

    What’s the problem with the hemp? Does it need sizing? Possibly also, as with weaving linen, it will behave better if you spray it with water. Best book on weaving with linen is Patricia Baines’ work.

    By the way, I normally re-tie and balance my loom every time I weave. Used to take ages (a full day) but now I can normally do it in about 1/2 an hour.

    Baby ferret is very cute! What an interesting community of people there are at the mill.

  2. Nigel Says:


    You put me to shame. I don’t know what sizing is! But I do know about spraying linen with water . . . As to re-tying and balancing a loom before you use it, yes I normally do this with my Toika at home. In this case the shaft pins were missing – and there were none anywhere to be found (I eventually improvised some). Also, I had been given to understand that this was the loom my former teacher had been using since last November so I simply didn’t expect it to be in such a state. I don’t think the loom has been used for a very long time . . . But I should have checked this all before I began – slapped wrist here!

  3. Barbara Says:

    Oh my! The idea of walking the “Tarka trail”, or that it should even exist….pure magic and fuel for the imagination. What a wonderful memory your mother created for you, and then you for your son! One day, perhaps we will make it across the pond to see it all.


    Barbara in Massachusetts

  4. Dot Says:


    quoting from Patricia Baines “Linen Handspinning and Weaving”,
    “This helps the warp to withstand the friction caused by rubbing against the reed, heddles or, if fine and close, adjacent yarns during the weaving process. It makes the yarn smooth and lays any fibre-ends back on to the yarn. It is crucial for weaving handspun linen; without it yarn will become hairy and if rubbed will eventually disintegrate or break.”

    A simple size she describes (as used by Rita Beales) is flour boiled in water, texture of thin cream, painted on the warp between heddles and back beam, when nearly dry vegetable oil is brushed on.

    She says that wallpaper paste can also be used, with a few drops of a light vegetable oil .added.

    A bit more elaborate to prepare is a light jelly from linseeds (flax seeds).

    Not used a size yet myself, but my next warp is linen so I’ll be trying it out soon.

    I can see how it would be a bit awkward not having shaft pins!

  5. Dot Says:

    Just thought to add that size can be useful on any hairy yarns, e.g. mohair. Some people use hairspray, but I am not sure if this would be suitable on linen.

  6. Peg in South Carolina Says:

    I have printed out”Improving Silence.” I love the texts and the vocal music is defiitely in the alto range. Actually, in a very narrow range. I have not yet downloaded the mp3 files because first i want to play a bit on my own. There have been times in my choir experiences where we have performed a piece for the first time, with no recording to guide us. I love that. Something virgin, untouched. And I like hearing premieres as well, as I am forced to put aside expectations and just listen.
    Fortunately or unfortunately, I no longer have a piano. Only a pitchpipe, from which I have learned to enjoy the very special pleasure of singing with no accompaniment. I have always loved singing acapella in choirs.
    Sorry about the loom. I think I am glad I do not have a countermarche! On the other hand, a CM would be wonderful for my silk threads.

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