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Weaving Humor or SCA documentation - You Decide

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  • Alexis Abarria
    Weaving Humorous Words for the Web-Weary - Peter Collingwood [My spoof is a reaction to the very basic weavers I noticed when I was starting, over 30 years
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2004
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      Weaving Humorous Words for the Web-Weary - Peter Collingwood

      [My spoof is a reaction to the very basic weavers I noticed when I was
      starting, over 30 years ago. I am afraid it has fooled at least one reader
      who said "You do meet interesting people, Peter"... It was intended to be
      the first of a series but I only got as far as the name of the next
      "victim", It was to be Major Raddle, (retired); the sort of weaver who goes
      to great lengths to make a perfect loom with attached spirit levels,
      humidity gauges, yarn tension testers and so on, but who hardly ever weaves
      a pick.]
      Weavers I Have Known - Elsie Cutch
      Five years ago, I ran across Elsie Cutch at a small crafts exhibition at
      Bury St Edmunds. Although it was some time since we last met, she greeted me
      enthusiastically and at once invited me to "Spindles", her house and
      weavery, as she liked to call it.

      As I journeyed there some weeks later I tried to remember all I knew about
      Cutch, that most basic of weavers. It was of course her desire to get to the
      root of things that accounted for the fact that although she had taken up
      weaving thirty years ago she had not, at that time, woven a single thing.

      Right at the start she had built herself a wheel and loom, grumbling all the
      time that the wood was none of her growing and how could she be expected to
      create a "sensitive textile tool" - a favourite expression of hers - from
      timber planted and tended by a total stranger, one moreover who probably
      knew nothing about weaving. The next decade and a half were devoted to
      growing and spinning her own flax. What with bad harvests and some
      unfortunate retting experiences (twice the containers of special river water
      had broken en route from Courtrai in Belgium), it was not till the end of
      this period that she had produced enough linen cord to string up her loom.
      Some gloom had been cast over the little party celebrating this event by old
      George Weld, who with his spindle spinning and primitive waist looms was
      always trying to out-cutch Cutch. He had announced that loom cord should be
      laid in a rope-walk, not plied a wheel. But luckily Cutch was in the
      kitchen, uncorking mead, so she had not heard.

      She was now faced with the problem of making the linen aprons for warp and
      cloth beams, but without a working loom to help her. I do not think anyone
      really knows how she did this. The only certain thing is that it took her
      two years and during that time experiments with knitting, crocheting, and
      even spranging the aprons were all rejected. Personally I believe it was
      made by a vast darning process carried out in situ.

      Cutch then disappeared and no one knew her whereabouts, until some reports
      of disturbances in a West African cotton plantation filtered into the
      newspapers. Apparently Cutch, living and working with the indigenous
      pickers, had been persuading them that the machine ginning of cotton was an
      artificial process, and the unconvinced had demonstrated when her attempts
      at hand-separation began to cause a bottleneck and consequent reduction in
      wages. This must have been settled satisfactorily, for four years later she
      returned to England with a sack of cotton. That was the last I had heard of
      her until out chance meeting and I was looking forward to catching up on

      I had to ask the way, but soon the sound of a slightly off-key waulking song
      told me I must be near Spindles. The garden was overgrown, but I recognised
      dog's mercury and woad showing above a thick layer of compost.

      I had arrived at a stirring moment. With a flourish Cutch showed me the
      cotton warp on the loom and a basketful of bobbins. All the cotton not
      needed for heddle twine had been spun for this venture, and for the first
      time Cutch was really throwing a shuttle.

      With her characteristic honesty, she told me of the ceremony she had
      arranged a few days back to mark the throwing of the very first pick. All
      the basic weavers had been there, including Marjorie Fustic, her neighbour,
      Sir Indigo -Jones and, of course, old George Weld (who by this time had
      thrown away his spindles and was dedicated to finger spinning). Having
      filled all glasses, Cutch kicked off her shoes ("You don't weave in gloves,
      do you? Why let shoe leather intrude between you and the loom?) and sat at
      the loom. She pressed a treadle and with great gusto threw the shuttle.
      There were gasps and splutters as the toast-drinking circle saw the havoc
      caused by the shuttle ploughing through a very bad shed. Cutch's confident
      laugh broke into the awkward silence that followed and she dived under the
      loom to adjust cords, her Gaelic spinning song soon lost in the polite
      conversational buzz.

      I never heard how all this ended, because Cutch broke off the story to get
      back to work. Unfortunately I had to leave before this product of thirty
      years effort was cut from the loom. "I can't see you out", she called,
      swaying on the creaking stool, "mustn't break the rhythm".

      Elsie Cutch died a year ago. After her funeral,, Marjorie Fustic told me the
      end of her story and I think it is one to inspire all purists. When the
      length of cotton was finished, Cutch had washed and ironed it and then -
      "this was her finest hour" said Fustic - had methodically torn the whole
      piece into inch wide strips and used these to make a rag rug. Three days
      later, having completed this, her life work, she died.

      (Taken from *Quarterly Journal of the Guilds of Weavers Spinners and Dyers*,
      No 27, September, 1958)

      Member of Middle Kingdom Guild of Withie and Woolmongers
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