It was a weaving day. Probably the most satisfying and literally liberating part of this new life is the freedom to do what you want to, every single day. There are no time cards to punch for anyone, no set hours to satisfy any employer, no meetings, managers, bosses or staff to tell or be told what to do. I rarely plan ahead, the days work is determined by the weather and what grabs me that particular day. Of course there are obligations, animals need fed, larders and wine racks need stocked, bills are to be paid…but how I go about meeting these obligations is entirely in my hands.
And so to weaving.
The loom shed is around thirty paces from the back door amd thats the morning commute. From this spacious old byre I can saddle up and turn 100% pure new woolen yarn into yards after yard of genuine Harris Tweed. And the tweed I make gets turned into luxury goods by designers all around the world. And into money for me. Some days I can’t believe my luck, to be one of only 130 weavers able to do this. And all from this humble croft in the back of beyond. Amazing really.
The first task of the day was to prepare the loom, finger pumping a little red oil can to lubricate all the moving parts, a lick of paraffin to ease the passage of the rapier and a sheen of WD40 on the drive belt. A handturn of the main cog, just a click, to maintain tension lost overnight, a quick check of warp and wefts and we’re ready to go.
The loom is running really, really well in its new home. After months of hitches and glitches it just sings, all of its faults seemingly ironed out and any that remain I can remedy myself now I have a greater feel for the beast and a little more knowledge. The first turn of the pedals and the loom springs into life with its familiar ta-tickety clicks, a little stiffly at first but warming up quickly as friction and oils begin to work together. The temperature can affect the looms feel some days, assuming it’s to do with the viscosity of the lubricants and the tiny expansion and contractions of the metal parts. Today it feels good and yard after yard of a grey plain twill begins to form before my eyes, the rapier flying, reed beating, rollers turning yarn into cloth.
I usually do 29 meters a day, half a standard tweed, which can take anything between 6 and 8 hours depending on how well the loom is running and how many breaks interrupt the flow. Today the loom is flying and the day passes quickly. I break every hour, usually after a pair of warp bobbins runs empty and head back to the kitchen for a cuppa. While I weave there’s usually an audiobook burbling in the background, today it’s Gilead, perceptible, just, over the cacophony of the machine.
I finish up for the day around 3pm, sweep the floor of yarn threads and wool fluff, pack away the various tools that had been fished out during the day’s activities and wonder about what the rest of the day might entail. Mac the dog sits at the gate, thick coat ruffled by the prevailing south westerly and watches to see whether he’ll be included in the remains of the day’s plans.
I suddenly feel hungry so need to fix some lunch, there are half a dozen scallops in the fridge gasping to be cooked so after mashing a tin of anchovies through some butter they all go into a pan until caramelised and brown. Tipped onto a plate with lots of the butter and accompanied by a guilt-free glass of Sav Blanc it proves to be pretty decent late lunch…