packing and the thoughts it engenders

So at the weekend I parcelled up my stuff — that is, the fruits of my handweaving labours — and took it over to the Collins Gallery in Glasgow. There were two categories of “stuff”: stuff for display and stuff for sale in the gallery shop.

(I should mention, for those who aren’t familiar with the Collins that the words “gallery shop” may be conjuring up the wrong mental image. The Collins Gallery is a large open-plan space and there is no separate room which is designated “shop”. When you enter the gallery, you will usually find that what is on your right is exhibition and what is on your left is shop, but even that boundary is not universally observed — it depends on the particular exhibit. Just wanted to clear that up.)

In my case, stuff for display means my Adinkra-inspired yardage, while stuff for the shop means a selection of recently woven scarves. That’s “recently” as in the “cut it off the loom and put it in the car” kind of recently. My, I’m on a roll today with my definitions, aren’t I? While we are about it, let me also clarify that in my vocabulary “stuff” is not a derogatory term, and I am not intending to talk down handcrafted objects by applying this word to them. No, if I wish to disparage, I use the word “gubbins”. This word perfectly describes what is left on my living room table after the (handwoven) stuff has been neatly parcelled up.

Right. So there I was, parcelling up scarves. I had to stop and think about this. I was delivering the stuff on Saturday for an exhibition which would preview the following Friday evening. It seemed a fair bet that most of the week’s work at the gallery would be focused on the exhibition stuff, so my sale stuff might remain in that box for several days. If I were responsible for their display myself then, when I took them out of the box, I would iron them. But would anyone else be likely to do that? Having seen textile exhibits elsewhere, I thought probably not.

Enter “hot tips”. We used to run a regular hot tip feature in the Journal, but after several years of this we were getting a bit stressed by the need to rustle up a new one for every issue so lately it has become an occasional item. Not so long ago, though, Belinda — one of my Journal colleagues — contributed a hot tip on packing scarves, and it seemed like just the thing. The essence of this method is that you roll the scarf around not one, but two tubes.

I was packing up several scarves which would call for an awful lot of tubes, but I also needed them to be quite compact — so I quickly made some mini-tubes by rolling up sheets of paper.

This lot qualifies as gubbins. The guillotine is present because the short side of A4 was slightly too short, but the long side slightly too long… I had to take an inch off to get the paper tubes to fit inside the proposed box. And no, the paper isn’t acid-free, but this is intended to last a few days and not for posterity. If that turns out to be a terrible misjudgment, then no doubt you will hear the screaming.

The next step is to put one paper tube in the middle of a scarf and fold the scarf over it.

Then another tube is placed on top of the folded scarf.

Finally you roll up the scarf around both tubes together,

and you end up with something like this:

A box full of these was easily accomplished. This particular scarf is one of the chunkier ones since it has been quite heavily felted, but others were very lightweight so their bundles were barely larger than the tubes.

Those were the practical thoughts I had while packing, but it also got me pondering the whole business of distributing handwoven stuff into the wider world. I need to think about this. A retail outlet for Scottish crafts (one which I much admire) has expressed an interest in my work and I need to think about this too (once I have got over feeling chuffed, of course). My weaving life is made up of interconnected factors and I could do with a bit of systems modelling to examine it all.

It goes a bit like this:

  • My weaving time is currently snatched in small doses from a busy working life.
  • I don’t want to spend that time as a production weaver — even producing my own designs — when there are a multitude of projects I want to explore.
  • On the other hand, selling my weaving allows me to do more weaving because it pays for my materials. Even at the small scale I’m operating on now, it is working out pretty well.
  • But, on another (third?) hand, my costs are not presently managed in a production kind of way, which makes pricing my stuff competitively something of a challenge. I certainly don’t want to trade off high materials costs by underpricing my time, because that does nobody any favours in the long run.
  • But, (we must be on to feet by now) if I took steps in a more commercial direction then I might be able to reduce costs, make my weaving time a bigger part of my life and have time for those exploratory projects as well.
  • On the other foot, I might take those steps and find that nobody really wanted to buy that much of it anyway, and we’re back at square one, though with added age and (one hopes) wisdom.

So everything is related to everything else and it needs to be thought about. For all the thinking I do on this blog, however, thinking things through to a conclusion is not one of my strengths. I can think and think and think, then the next morning I’ll just react to the first thing that crosses my path. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Enough thinking. Pretty scarf pics next time, I promise.

packing and the thoughts it engenders” was posted by Cally on 12 April 2011 at

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8 Responses

  1. Pat Foster
    | Reply

    I have used the two-cylinder method for some time. I first read about it on Weavetech (Sandra Rude?) some years ago and it has worked for me with all sorts of yarn. I do use a layer of tissue paper so that teh fabric is never in contact with itself.

  2. Sandra Rude
    | Reply

    I don’t think it was me – I use a single cylinder (usually a paper-towel roll) and start at one fringe and roll to the other fringe. I put in one sheet of tissue paper so the cloth is never in contact with the roll, which has sticky residue on it, and another around the whole completed roll. However, the two-cylinder method looks interesting – I may try it the next time I need to pack up scarves!

  3. Dot
    | Reply

    You don’t say “why” two tubes is thought to be better than one, was this explained in the article? My first thought was that I would roll as Sandra suggests above, around one roll (of strong cardboard to prevent crushing) with an interleaf of tissue paper. I’ve got a collection of the tubes that cling film is wound on, just in case they come in useful for something like this.

    • Cally
      | Reply

      The main benefit I noticed is with respect to fringes – so my photos are a very bad illustration! For the fringed scarves, having both fringes on the outside of the roll made it much easier to manage them than when I have tried to get one fringe neatly rolled around the tube.

      I’m now feeling guilty for not using the tissue paper – I did consider it, but didn’t have the patience to cut up all the pieces and roll them round my tiny tubes. Still, although they may be acid-y, at least my paper tubes were spotlessly clean 😉

      • Dot
        | Reply

        I have never tried rolling a fringe around a tube, but can imagine, so I understand now why two tubes helps.

  4. Julie
    | Reply

    If I know I will be able to retrieve the packaging later I use tubes of pipe insulation. Yhis works really well and can be cut to any length. You can buy it in lengths from the builders merchants. Otherwise I use the same method as Sandra. 🙂

  5. Meg in Nelson
    | Reply

    Congratulations on finishing everything, Cally. What’s that I see behind you? It that a third leg with the third foot??? I would love to hear if you ever solve the pricing conundrum.

    • Cally
      | Reply

      If I do, Meg, you’ll be the first person I tell 🙂

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