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OK, second part! And the original motivation for this trip: weaving in the Dordogne. As if that doesn’t sound good enough in itself, the deal also came with three days of tuition from Marian Stubenitsky and the company of eight other weavers, all friends – some recently minted and some going back to Bradford and beyond.

We brought a fascinating variety of table looms with us, and spread out around a lovely working space. Look at those walls! The first morning was spent designing our threadings and setting up the looms. Then we got stuck into the first of seven different structures, alternating drafting and weaving and drafting and weaving for the remaining two and a half days. Drafting time was really, really quiet… Loom time was pretty focused too – we were doing all sorts of double weave variants on eight shafts, which requires quite a lot of attention on a table loom! – but the looms themselves were very chatty and I did enjoy the variety of noises they contributed.

As a key idea was to explore polychrome effects and iridescence, as per Marian’s book, there was a lot of leaning this way and that to see how the colours changed from different angles.

loom at an angle

My warp consisted of light blue, dark sea green, lilac and a colour we named radioactive salmon.

4-colour warp

In this double cloth sample, the wefts are dark red and a light green which I snaffled from Stacey at the next loom, which was one of my favourite combinations – although the purpose of this sample was to create texture with colcolastic rather than a special colour effect.

double weave tubes

At the end of day three we cleared away the looms and spread out our samples for evaluation. See what I mean about the angle?

finished samples

And then to test the powers of the colcolastic, we had to wash them and hang them up to dry. Then we were forced to stop weaving and endure fine weather and the drinking of wine. It was shocking.

samples on the line

I was quite pleased to have finished my warp as I could pack my samples in my rucksack and my suitcase was that wee bit lighter! I managed to squeak under my baggage allowance by a few hundred grammes and so escaped the punitive excess baggage charges I had been afraid of. Now I have my handwritten notes half transferred onto the computer, and hope to finish that off once the marking mountain has been vanquished.

Dordogne” was posted by Cally on 21 May 2015 at

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So I was planning to blog about part 2 of the French trip, but instead I came down with the flu. At least, the very rapid onset of a high fever and the weekend which completely disappeared seem to suggest it is the flu. I am no longer a suitable surface for frying an egg, but my head has been replaced with a lump of wood, so I haven’t yet been further than the sofa. Which gives me quite a nice view of this tree – always the last one in our garden to show any signs of spring, but they are now just beginning to show.

view from the sofa

There is no good timing for flu, but in the grander scheme of things this incident was quite poor. Not only am I stranded halfway up a marking mountain, but this was my mother’s last weekend in her house in Scotland. Tomorrow she moves to England, where she and her sister Pat are buying a house together. It’s not the other side of the world, but it’s 450 miles further away, which is quite a hike. We had planned a nice family lunch on Sunday…. but didn’t.

Ambushed” was posted by Cally on 18 May 2015 at

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Well that was a good trip. Actually, it was a brilliant trip. There wasn’t anything about it that I didn’t like, and lots and lots of things that I liked very much indeed.

First part: Paris. Stuart and I like to specialise when on holiday, so we concentrated on walking around and eating. Our hotel was in the XIIIe arrondissement (more on that in a minute) which is not far from the Latin Quarter, so we did quite a bit of our walking around literary ‘landmarks’ – the George-Orwell-Was-Here sort of thing. We also walked along the river, around the Jardin du Luxembourg and umpteen times around the Pompidou Centre trying to find our way. With all the miles of walking, we needed to stop and rest from time to time, and isn’t it handy how they have all those cafés? For our eating endeavours we focused on the bread and cheese food groups, with a bit of charcuterie and patisserie for balance.

We had picked the hotel for its proximity to the Manufacture des Gobelins, the tapestry weaving workshop. This Manufacture is now part of the Manufactures nationales, and the whole enterprise has a complicated history. The site in the XIIIe is based around the original Enclos des Gobelins from the seventeenth century, and now includes not just the Manufacture des Gobelins, but the Manufacture de Beauvais (another tapestry workshop, but using horizontal looms) and the Manufacture de la Savonnerie (knotted pile carpets, on vertical looms). There is also a gallery which hosts temporary exhibitions.

You can visit the workshops on a guided tour, and what a fantastic tour it is. I had booked it weeks in advance and wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but my post-tour evaluation is that you should all rush there and do it. You will love it. It helps if you speak French, but even if you don’t you will adore those workshops.

It just so happens that the current exhibition, L’Esprit et La Main, makes it even more worth visiting. The theme of the exhibition is the conservation techniques used in the workshops of the Mobiler National, which is yet another part of the complex. As well as exhibiting pieces from the national collection, they have set up a whole series of mini-workshops in the gallery where conservateurs demonstrate and talk about their crafts. These are such a treat. There are the textiles – tapestries, rugs and upholstery are all represented – but there is also furniture, chandeliers and all the other things you’d expect to find in a well-maintained palace.

There is also an interesting modern element, the Atelier de Recherche et Création, where they research new materials and work with designers to create prototypes of new designs. I thought this was a very interesting use of public funds. It appears to be essentially taking on some of the risk of a new enterprise, which an individual designer would be unlikely to be able to afford and which a manufacturer would probably be reluctant to commit to until the design were ‘proven’. There wasn’t a whole lot of detail available about this activity, but it made perfect sense to me – so if this isn’t exactly what they do, then I reckon it should be!

The exhibition is temporary but it is on all year so you still have plenty of time to get yourself there. Photographs are not allowed in the workshops, but they are allowed in the gallery. Of course, I didn’t have the big camera, as 90% of my luggage was a loom, but I managed a few with the phone.

Gobelins workshop

The outside of the Gobelins tapestry workshop

hooks for tapestries

The first director of the enterprise, Charles Le Brun, lived right in the middle of the site. He had hooks on the outside wall of his house so that they could hang up tapestries for royal visits – and they used pulleys to quickly change the display while the King wasn’t looking.

wraps and tufts

The weavers use wraps to plan their colours for tapestry, but for the tapis (the pile carpets) they use little pompoms, which show the cut ends of the yarn.

tapis pompoms

Colour palettes for rugs, or little houses for pet pompoms…


A conservateur rebuilding the linen structure of an Aubusson rug. It wasn’t really that dark, but the spotlight on her hands confused my phone.


An upholsterer at work and (below) a touchy-feely sample box of different fabrics with various kinds of fillings. Yes, of course I prodded them all.

upholstery samples

Paris” was posted by Cally on 13 May 2015 at

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Feeding the sampling addiction

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Weave, cut-off, finish, tinker, weave, cut-off, finish, tinker… I enjoy this so much!

huck square samples finished

My first double huck efforts in lambswool came up beautifully soft and plump, and the lace is still reasonably lacy. However, the plain weave is a bit congested so I decided to open up the sett a little more and leave an empty dent between units to emphasise the holes.

huck resleyed

On the loom it looks ridiculously open, but the wool does its thing and after the lightest of finishing it is quite transformed. Here’s a comparison between the sample I washed last night and the one on the loom today.

huck sampling compared

Of course, one idea just leads to another… and another… This is the piece I have just cut off.

huck spots and squares

I’ve no idea what shape this will adopt when it’s washed, but I am looking forward to finding out. I’m afraid you will have to wait for the denouement as I am about to put my loom in a suitcase and take it to France. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity of learning new tricks from Marian Stubenitsky (of Echo and Iris) and – in honour of Stuart’s birthday on Sunday – the trip has been augmented with a few days in Paris for us both. It’s just a shame there is no room in my bag for anything to wear, but we all know the loom comes first.

Feeding the sampling addiction” was posted by Cally on 1 May 2015 at

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Knitting update

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Back in October I treated myself to a little knitting project. I had boldly decided to venture into lace knitting. Since then, I have done a lot of lace knitting. I have knitted the first half of a scarf no less than three times!

The first time through was a distinctly uncomfortable experience, and when it all went wrong I was quite glad to rip it out and start again. On the second occasion I suddenly found that I understood how the stitches related to the pattern, so I felt more comfortable but then went wildly off-piste by picking up at the wrong point of a pattern repeat and galloping on regardless. I was a bit more annoyed about the ripping out that time. On the third time through, I got much better at catching my mistakes and un-knitting them before it got out of hand, and so I was able to limp all the way to the finish. And have this to show for it:

knitted scarf

Hey, it’s only taken me six months! I am somewhat nervous about blocking it as that will doubtless reveal to me all the mistakes that are still present but as yet undiscovered. However, I still have quite a bit of yarn, so there’s another scarf on the needles already (different pattern – I couldn’t bear it a fourth time). I must have enjoyed it after all.

Knitting update” was posted by Cally on 27 April 2015 at

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