I spent an enjoyable Monday morning at the Weavers' Workshop - a community craft group based in the historical Weaver's House in Upper Spon Street. The house is part of Black Swan Terrace - a group of five cottages built in 1455 and then owned by Coventry's priory.
Tenants included the weaver John Croke and his family and the house has been restored to show the living conditions, furniture and decor of their time (1540). There are three rooms including the upstairs working area complete with loom. The house is well worth a visit and the next open day is Saturday July 9th.
I am offering several guided walks each week and all of them contain references to the weaving industry. Details and booking available here.
I have also been recently working on helping with the design of a mural which will take its place in the Foleshill Families For All Hub. The mural will have a weaving theme and contain images and references from Foleshill's textile industry. I have been impressed by the commitment that staff and volunteers at the hub give to their clientele - many of whom describe going there as "like meeting up with a big family". Their services include access to good quality food and clothing which I shall discuss in more detail in an upcoming post about sustainability in the city.
Despite my knowledge of the industry I had never given weaving a go so thought it was about time and took a walk to Spon Street. My general attitude is that you can't really get a grip of any subject without a bit of a hands on approach. I've always thought that it is difficult to appreciate the intricacies of any job without giving it a go - but realise that dabbling for a couple of hours in a friendly workshop sipping coffee would hardly be stepping into the shoes of a medieval weaver!
I was made welcome by an old friend, Peggy Finch and her fellow weavers Sandra, Kate, Sue (a novice like me), Colin and Sarah. Sandra got to work in showing Sue and myself the ropes - or rather "the threads"! We were each given a set of three weaving sticks and shown how to attach the warp threads (lengthwise vertical threads through which the horizontal weft thread is woven). It took me a few minutes to catch on to just what we were being shown but Sandra patiently explained and I had got into a rhythm of weaving wool round the sticks and down onto the warp before too long and was surprised to see a piece of material soon developing in front of my eyes.
The Weaver's House also boasts a functional Tudor garden which I would like to learn more about as I am working on developing a fruit and vegetable garden of my own and a few traditional additions would be great. More on this another time as I learn a bit more!
The group meets on a Monday and Thursday and has a variety of types of looms which can be lent out to members. I joined after the session and after the gentle introduction of stick weaving now have grander ideas of eventually making a rug as a decorative draft excluder for behind my front door in winter. Then again - I might just go for a draft excluder to start with!
More about weaving and Coventry's traditional industries to come .....