Tegenaria Parietina and Tapestry
I must have been really small. My dad was carrying me. It was dark outside so I think it must have been quite late. When I was small I was known to walk in my sleep a bit. Often, in the night I would find myself in parts of the house without any knowledge of how I got there.
This particular night, I may have been sleepwalking, dad was busy showing me a whole bunch of crane flies (daddy longlegs) Tipula Paludosa that had settled on the inside of our back door. Apparently crane flies swarm in September so I reckon it must have been that time of year.
I’ve never been an insect fan. While crane flies don’t bother me spiders are another matter completely. I really don’t like them. I’m not an arachnophobe but even without a convenient label I simply don't like them.
I’ve carried the daddy longlegs story with me for about 60 years. It’s one of the warps that make up the person I am. All our stories, peculiar events, happenings, personal things are our own personal warps and wefts.
Just to provide some basic weaving information read on or skip the next paragraph. After all it’s your weft.
Warp and weft are the two basic components used in weaving to turn thread or yarn into fabric. The lengthwise or longitudinal warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a frame or loom while the transverse weft (sometimes woof) is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp.
Warps are our building blocks, the golden threads that start when you’re born and end when you end. They’re fixed, pre-ordained, maybe your destiny, whatever floats your boat. To me they’re your linear life. The long continuous path we're all on. The things we have little or no control over.
The weft is what we control. These warps and wefts make up the fabric of our lives. The warps we have minimum control over. It's time, it’s family, its history it's innate. It’s just what happens. Weft, on the other hand is the energy we invest in our lives, it’s where we have maximum choice, it’s what we control.
When I taught at Poltair School, the subject I taught was going through a transition. Post war it was considered that boys should be able to make things from wood and metal and girls sew and cook. By the 80s furniture and clothes were becoming cheap, almost throwaway items and the price of food was tumbling. We were, as a nation, wondering how best to use this “handicraft” time. Woodwork, metalwork, dressmaking, cookery started to become something sometimes known as Creative Design Technology CDT. Some kids at Poltair had the joy of experiencing this crisis of subject identity.
I only taught at Poltair, or anywhere else come to that, for a little while but during my short tenure the first two years of children did 6 taster CDT courses. One taster a term for two years. I think the topics were woodwork, metalwork, plastic technology, technical drawing, cooking and because there was another term to fill, weaving. What poor sucker shall we get to teach weaving? What’s the name of that new, naive chap again? Let’s dump it on him! So I ended up teaching weaving.
During these lessons the kids had their own little looms. And once set up, a quietly chattering group of kids would weave some kind of fabric that would become a wall hanging. Very hippy. Anyway on one particular warm sunny day while the lesson was humming along a girl let out a piercing shriek.
Sitting on my foot was a Cardinal Spider, one of the few insects I know the name of. it’s a Tegenaria Parietina, the largest spider found in the UK . Some of these spiders have been recorded to have a leg span of 12cm. By this time every kid in the class was watching the drama unfold. Personally my bum was unreliably clenched. What to do? With the calmest voice I could muster I simply said “Wow! What a big fella. I bet there's no one here brave enough to pop this spider out the window?” With that a couple of boys ambled up, one carefully lifted the thing up and without teasing anyone popped it out of the window. I was mightily relieved.
These little stories are the weft within the fabric of my life. I’m still, metaphorically, weaving away. Laying down threads, still building my pictures. When I gaze back over my fabric it may not be as exciting as the Bayeux Tapestry or as profound as the Turin Shroud. The design may not be William Morris or even Orla Kiely but the pattern is unmistakably mine and all of you are woven into it somewhere.