On 11th February twenty plus Guild members met by zoom to hear Jaine Mahon’s inspirational talk about her journey as a spinner, weaver and dyer. Like many of us she learned to knit and sew as a child – so young she can’t remember learning to knit! After school she did a computing course at university, visited a craft centre on a day off, and was so fascinated she immediately booked a day’s spinning course. This involved a 20 mile cycle ride there and back! Her teacher put her in touch with the Association of Guilds of WSD, and in the early 1980s when she started work she joined two local Guilds (Wiltshire and Worcestershire). Guild meetings were attended by 80-100 members. Many of the members were very skilled older ladies, who had learned from their grandmothers, and who spun, wove and made their own clothes and home textiles. Technically very competent, but all in natural colours, so rather dull. However, there were also hippies, who went wild with colour and texture. With influence from both sides Jaine learned all the rules and how to break them.
From spinning, Jaine moved on to explore natural and chemical dyes, then weaving, and loved it. She attended workshops and courses – retreats arranged by the Guilds and Convergence in Vancouver. The latter she described as Disneyland plus Christmas plus Alice in Wonderland! Her tutors have included Mabel Ross, Sue Hiley Harris, Peter Collingwood, Eileen Chadwick, Jenny Balfour Paul, Peter Teal, Jaqui Carey.
In 1991 she enrolled on the Bradford Diploma in Handloom Weaving, which at that time also included the basics of spinning and dyeing. She showed us some of her samples woven on the course: colour and weave; inkle; kumihimo; oiled wool – 8 samples the same, fulled differently; double weave using linen; rugs with a pure wool weft; collapse fabrics; deflected double weave. She also showed us her dye sample book.
And so to silk – natural fibre, takes dye naturally, feels nice, drapes well. Having worked with a variety of fibres, spinning techniques, dyes and weave structures, Jaine found when she was setting up her business in Skye that she needed to specialise. She investigated and found that there were not many people weaving in the area, and that it was mostly wool, so she decided to focus on silk. She has done bespoke designs for wedding dresses, and did initially include garments in her studio, but finds that scarves sell best. Each of her scarves in unique. She does her own dyeing, and though several scarves are woven on one warp, the wefts are different. Warps and or wefts may be hand painted; weave structures vary; supplementary warps may be used. The thread she uses is either 30/2s (sett at 30 epi) or 60/2s (sett at 60-80 epi). A 30 metre warp with 1008 threads takes around 18 hours to set up, and will make 12 scarves. Weaving takes about 8 hours per scarf. She has recently bought a huge 4 metre warping mill, which will enable her to wind a 100 metre warp, enough for 40 scarves.
Hand woven scarves and stoles are expensive, so Jaine also buys undyed silk scarves and dyes them to increase her range with less expensive items. She also uses the thrums to make kumihimo cords for earrings, necklaces and glasses cords, makes earrings from cocoons, and roses from carrier rods. We were all full of admiration for the colour and range of items in Jaine’s studio, and the amount of sheer hard work which goes into producing it.