When I was learning my craft, weaving in particular, I also learnt the history of weaving which included the Medieval Guild System. All weavers started out as an apprentice to a Master Weaver, then served up to 25 years as a Journeyman, working all over the country, and Europe, with other Master Weavers, before finally becoming a Master Weaver themselves when they presented their masterpiece to their appropriate guild. I feel I’ve served my apprenticeship, gaining my GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels way back in the early 70′s and since then I’ve attended numerous coures with other well established weaver all over the UK. I now feel I’m a Master Weaver in my own right having gained two awards from the Bradford Textile Society!
Similarly, I first experienced spinning while at school so as to understand yarn construction for my weaving. I’ve served under numerous spinning tutors such as Sue Hiley-Harris and Jenny Parry over the last 35 years and, again, feel I understand sufficient technicalities of spinning to be able to construct most types of yarn. Yes, I can spin beautiful smoothly spun and plied yarns, but choose to spin brightly coloured textured yarn, Art Yarn to most new spinners, but fancy yarn to me! Oh, and I understand exactly how they are spun, using the irregularities in preparation, spinning and plying to produce texture where and when I want it.
So why is it that my hand weaving is perceived to be machine woven? Why can’t beautifully hand woven fabrics be accepted in the Craft world along side the likes of broken crockery re-assembled in the most odd way which represent the best of modern craft! I don’t want my fabrics to be rough and ready proudly showing the mistakes to authenticate that it’s hand woven, I’ve worked to hard and long to be a Master Weaver to let my standards slip just to show it’s hand made.
Nor do I want to wear a mob cap and shawl to show that I’m a spinner! Yes, the mob cap and shawl has it’s place to bring history alive, but I spin in a modern world and want to attract the next generation to spinning. After all, knitters don’t sit in a shawl at their Knit and Natter Groups, they sit in cafes and tea shops, on buses and at stations, knitting gorgeous yarns, often hand spun and hand dyed, into fabulous garments.
Even though I’m just back from ISEND (International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes) and intend to dye all my yarns, fibres or fabrics with natural dyes, I’m not a “hippy”, alternative living person, wearing recycled sludge coloured clothes. My colours are bright and clear and full of life and I fully embrace sustainability, but again I live in a modern world! Fashion and interiors can also embrace sustainability without looking grubby and dull, embracing the Slow Cloth Movement. Most of the participants who exhibited at ISEND, including the traders, all had contemporary fabrics to show, the fabulous fabrics from The Weavers Studio are a case in point.
So what am I trying to say here in all this ramble? I may be nearer 60 than 50, but I’m a modern woman and, therefore, a modern weaver and spinner. I dream of a world where we all wear beautifully designed hand spun, hand dyed and hand woven fabrics that will last a lifetime and be cherished as modern heirlooms. Sadly, that’s not going to happen, but, we should all be promoting sustainability, which includes spinning, weaving and natural dyeing, and we should all embrace the Slow Cloth Movement. So think twice when you pop into one of those “fast fashion” shops. Think, how long will this garment last? Who spun, dyed and wove it? Were they paid a proper wage? Did the company practice sustainability during production?
I’d love to hear your comments?