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Ideas coming together


I’m feeling really positive about where my DPhil is going as I move into the new year. Psychologically, I feel a sense of ownership both of what I am doing and how I am doing it.  I have a sense of purpose and direction and feel I am standing on solid ground rather than wading through a swamp. There is a lot of work to be done and I will need to be clear about what is possible and what isn’t  but the whole task feels much less daunting at this point in time. Whether I will feel the same in afew months time is another matter altogether!

If I look back 18 months to the earliest posts in this blog, I thought I knew what my DPhil would be about. What I did not expect was the experience of the past months, which has not only caused me to re-examine my assumptions, but has given me the time and space to read and think and to begin to formulate some of my own idea.

Some months ago, I wrote some notes which likened the DPhil process to making a piece of lace. When starting out, the pattern may not be at all clear, but it needs to be interpreted. Decisions have to be taken about where to start. It may even be that the pattern can be worked in more than one way. Past experience will be used in analysing the problem and it may well be necessary to seek the ideas of other lacemakers with greater or different experience. There may be new stitches to be learned through working samples. Decisions have to be made about threads – type and thickness – and more samples may be needed. Equipment needs to be assembled –  pillow, bobbins, cover cloths, pins, threads, scissors, etc. Even after all the preparation, the pattern needs to be set – a process that can involve a number of false starts. The first pattern repeat is inevitably challenging – working out which threads to introduce when and identifying the track they will take, where stitches can be worked in more than one way ensuring consistency in the number of twists. However, once the pattern is set and a few inches have been worked, it becomes much easier to see what needs to be done next – the pattern may even include repeats. To the non-lace maker, the pile of bobbins and mass of pins may look complex but the lacemaker can see what they are doing and trying to achieve. That does not mean there are no challenges – threads may break, errors may be made resulting in too many bobbins in the wrong place – and there may be near disasters if the pillow is knocked off its stand by an errant cat – but a process has been set in motion. That is until the point where thought has to be given to finishing the work and what to do with all the bobbins and threads so as to achieve a neat and tidy completion.

I feel as though I have done much of the preparation and am now gathering my equipment and tools together ready to start making lace. As with lace, this is a fairly solitary occupation, but there are opportunities for sharing, working together, and admiring other people’s work as the lace grows.


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