Monday, 17 December 2007
I've been along to the local fishing tackle shop and got some lead weights.
I have been warned in the past that asking for bits and pieces for use in weaving was likely to get odd looks and comments in fishing tackle shops. Well, that must have been an experience other people have had, but it seems it depends on where you live.
I live in a small town, 6,000 inhabitents. It grew out of an industrial village. Most people think of villages as rural. There have been rural settlements here for many centuries. However, it was the industrial age that made these local settlements into a town. We are not far out from Manchester, which was centre of the cotton trade in the UK, and we have a fast following river, therefore water power. As we are in the hills and have high rainfall, works that needed their own water supplies also had the option of reservoirs. This town had a weaving mill and a bleachworks. There must have been a print works as well, as I walk past the Calico Printers Association pond every day (a small reservoir). In other towns around here were many more textiles mills.
So when I walked from the icy cold of a winter's afternoon into the cosy little fishing tackle shop, stopping to take of my gloves and wait while my glasses steamed up and then cleared, and slightly nervously said, when asked, that I don't fish, I'm a weaver, and there's a few things I was looking for that you might have, one of which is weights, the white haired man at the counter beamed and said "oh yes, for weighting your warp threads" and got out a box full of many different weights.
It turned out that he had started his working life, from school, as a "doffer". This job involved working with another young lad at taking the full bobbins of yarn off the cotton spinning machine and replacing them with a fresh empty bobbin. Later, he had gone into calico printing and this is what he did for most of his working life.
We have virtually no textile trade in this part of the country now. The mills closed fast, several every year after Marks & Spencer stopped exclusively stocking British made goods.
My new acquaintance asked if I earned my living as a handweaver, I laughed, shrugged my shoulders and told him that it's difficult for weavers to earn a living, and other things I can do pay better. He smiled, wistfully, and I knew he understood: after a lifetime in textiles, he sells fishing tackle.