The two days of Open Studios have been brilliant, but completely exhausting. There were several hundred visitors to Meadow Mill — of whom a great many more than I expected managed to get all the way into the far top corner to find me and my looms and to take handwoven scarves away to new homes. The atmosphere was really buzzing, and I’m convinced the fourth floor was the buzziest!
Anyway, while I recover I will post some photos of my little tent. It was very basic, but I was pleased with some of the details.
My black wool tent was pitched in a desert made of camel fibre. I have a small bag of “de-haired baby camel” — which sounds dreadful, doesn’t it? Like a poor chilly, shaved calf — which I carded and needle felted onto my block of foam. (Credit to Mhairi from down the hall for suggesting the needle felting!) I played around with some tow as well, which has a lovely wavy shape and seemed likely to make good sand ripples, but then I reckoned that the ground around the tent would be quite well trodden and possibly stony too — a thought confirmed when I consulted The Art of the Loom later on. But my playing around left a few tow fibres in the camel and I really like the result. True, neither camel nor tow are properly candidates for felting, but jabbing them into foam with a needle is fine for a surface that doesn’t need to serve a practical purpose.
I pitched my tent at the back of the foam block, chiefly to make it easier to peg into the sides. I used T-pins for tent pegs, black rug wool for guy ropes and linked the ropes to the tent with clips rather than stitching. The central support was a rectangle of thick card, anchored at the bottom by pushing it into a slit cut into the foam. It doubled as a curtain divider — the “curtain” fabric was attached at the top with double-sided tape but hung loose at the bottom. It doesn’t look brilliant, but was more successful than I had expected! Then I added a rug for each half of the tent by machining across the ends of some samples and pulling away the weft to leave a little fringe.
Here’s side one in progess…
…and here is the whole thing:
The only furniture currently in the tent is this little wooden box. I thought it made an appropriate chest for sumptuous silks, and so there is one tiny roll of (slightly) sumptuous silk in it. Remember the vision of the sun sparkling through the holes in the coarse weave? You can just about see it in the photo above, but putting the camera right inside the tent produces this…
…which is not bad for something less than six inches high, is it? The next problem was the foreground in front of the tent (and me wishing I had pitched the thing in the middle, but not wanting to try and move it…) so I decided to make a horizontal ground loom to fill the space. Why do I have these ideas? Several cocktail sticks, some consultation with The Art of the Loom and much fiddling later…
I’m so chuffed, because it really, actually weaves. The fixed heddle rod (perched on my “tin cans”) lifts up the lower layer to make one shed. Turn the flat board on its side and move it up to the heddle rod and you get the other shed.
The major drawback, however, is the camel-desert. The fluffy fibre catches on the yarn and tangles it with a surprising ferocity! After a few picks I had had enough of prising fibres apart and decided to leave it as a work-just-begun.
The overall look of the tent ensemble was a bit disappointing, I think because it lacks height. It might have been better displayed higher up (it was on a standard height table) but it was at the perfect level for children to engage with, and that was great. All the miniature houses were outside the studios, so they saw the very simple loom first and then the much more complicated one inside, but I could show them that both did the same thing. Looms are so cool, aren’t they?