Phew. Tax return done. Thank heavens for that; life can continue. But now that I’ve moved the great heaps of paperwork, I’ve uncovered something much more interesting than a load of petrol receipts.
I’m not a weaver; let’s get that straight. Like many people, I did a bit at school and that was that. But I am a member of the Llyn Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. Last year one of our members was in a local charity shop and was stopped by one of the volunteers. ‘I know you do all this stuff,’ she was told, and was handed an old handwritten notebook. One quick look, and it was bought.
I’m fascinated by it, but I haven’t been able to find out very much.
It was found in the loft of a local house by the new owners, who also know nothing about it or about the person who wrote his or her name in the front – A J Easton of Carsaig Drive in Cardonald. Quite a few of the entries are dated; the earliest is from May 1925, and the last one is ’26/3/26′.
Cardonald is a southern suburb of Glasgow, not that far from Paisley with its long history of the textile industry – something it shares with other areas of Renfrewshire and Lanarkshire, where the original emphasis was particularly on cotton. So perhaps A J Easton was an apprentice in a weaving shed somewhere (possibly not one concerned with the classic ‘Paisley’ design, as the book seems to be mostly concerned with twills). Certainly the notes start off fundamentally, defining ‘trade names of standard weaves’ and four different ‘classifications of textile fabrics’: felted, knitted, lace and woven structures.
It’s all the samples that I find fascinating. There are many which are ‘bought in’ as it were, but a lot are in the same combination of navy and cream, accompanied by charted diagrams, and do seem to have been woven by the same hand.
They’re as fresh as a daisy (sorry; just been advising someone to avoid clichés like the plague and I just can’t get my head around doing what I say rather than what I do, ahem).
I’ve been trying to work out what the samples are made from, and I think – without wanting to be destructive in any way – that they’re wool, or at least the navy and white ones are (many of the others are, indeed, cottons). A J Easton often uses the term ‘yarn’ in the text, which doesn’t really help pin anything down.
This is a page from 19 January 1926 – coincidence that I should post about it almost exactly 88 years later, on a technology unimaginable at the time – and is headed ‘On the Appearance of Twill Weaves’.
Another staggering thing about the book – well, not to a weaver of course – is the sheer amount of maths, and here many of the exercises do specify cotton: ‘a bobbin contains 4oz of 20s cotton yarn, give the length of yarn on the bobbin’, for instance, or ‘which is the thicker yarn, 20s cotton or 25s worsted?’ (Happily, there are the calculations and the answers; 4,200 yards and ‘worsted’.)
For myself, I am lost in awe and wonder (agh, clichés again) at the maths being done in imperial weights and measures. As someone who often relies on a calculator for metric maths, as most of us do now, I’m amazed. And there are detailed costings, too.
Some of the later exercises are completely staggering, even – I suspect – to someone quite at home with imperial measures. Take this: ‘If a cloth has to be woven with 60 ends per in; find the sett of the reed in the following systems: a) Bradford. b) East of Scotland. c) Glasgow. d) Belfast.’ And he/she has done it, too. There’s definitely a focus on Glasgow (often being asked to find the ‘sett Glasgow equivalent’ to something from elsewhere), which isn’t surprising. I know this level of mathematical skill was once commonplace, and that the entire British Empire ran on clerks who were adept at maths like this, but wowser.
And I’ll continue to be fascinated by the samples, even though the maths of their construction means very little to me. I just think they’re delightful, and can I have a bigger piece, please? Like several metres? Sorry, yards…
I’ve asked some of the older people who live in the place – Porthmadog – where the book was found and nobody remembers an A J Easton, or indeed anyone who came down here from Glasgow, so perhaps the book was passed to a relative. But if anyone can throw any light on the person, the book or even the system in general use in the 1920s textile industry of Glasgow and its environs, please let me know, because:
If it wasna for the weavers, what would ye do?
Ye wouldna hae your cloth that’s made o woo.
Ye wouldna hae your cloak neither black nor blue
If it wasna for the wark o the weavers!