Pocktorian Becomes a US-Only Entity

24 03 2010

I received a couple of e-mails yesterday from Anne LaVene that were so ugly I’m tempted to post copies of each one here. I’ll resist the temptation and be better than that.

Suffice it to say that Anne made it totally obvious that she did not share my vision for Pocktorian and had no interest in helping other Norwich textile businesses start up. Nor did she seem to appreciate at all the support and opportunities being constantly offered by UnLtd.

Therefore, I forwarded the specific e-mail in which she expressed that to UnLtd withdrawing my support for Anne taking over Pocktorian-UK, and suggesting that they reconsider their support for her and consider cutting off the grant. Apparently, they had already come to that conclusion themselves.

I was rather upset by this last evening. I feel bad that the textile graduates of Norwich, UK will not have this possibility for starting a business in Norwich. Also, since I have been getting copies of all the e-mails full of opportunities for holders of UnLtd’s level 1 grants, I am sure that, had I been able to stay in the UK and head Pocktorian-UK, or had Anne actually taken advantage of those on its behalf, Pocktorian-UK would be well on its way, and several other businesses would already be on their way also.

I know this because of the replies that have been coming in to a Gumtree ad I placed over a month before I left the UK. I’ve been passing them on to Anne. The good news is that I also passed one of those on to UnLtd, and they suggested that she apply for an UnLtd grant of her own. So even from here in the US, I’ve been able to facilitate at least one textile business to be in the Norwich area.

This is long enough. My next post will be about what I’ve been doing in Charlottesville to begin to envision the right version of Pocktorian for Charlottesville. I do welcome any comments and suggestions, particularly from Charlottesville textile artists and any Norwich textile people who have ambitions to start businesses locally.


I Am Waiting

25 01 2010

It won’t be long now. Maybe just a couple days, and I will hear about the grant and know whether there might be the possibility of leaving the legacy of Pocktorian Textiles and all its potential behind me.

In any case, there will be enough time to complete the four patterns and sample items for the line. There will be enough time to teach one more person to weave and one more person to sew. Perhaps there will be time to learn to spin.

There will be enough time to pack and to plan, and then two months more in limbo, because the place I will live in the US will not be available until the end of May.

Perhaps by that time, there will be a new small business in the US named Pocktorian Textiles because of the place where I formed the idea of what I want to do and why.

Archaic textile skills? Ha!

Immigration and Yurts

23 01 2010

Since Tuesday, this week, Pocktorian Textiles has been in limbo, but it’s looking a bit more like it will continue one way or another.

Tuesday was when my husband and I visited an immigration advisor. I don’t think most Brits have any idea how hard it is to stay here longer than whatever initial visa you are given. They certainly seem surprised when I inform them that simply applying  for an extension entails a NON-REFUNDABLE fee of £800 PER PERSON! That assuming that you fit the criteria for extension, which you may have when you arrived, but may not if they’ve changed the criteria while you were here, which they have, in our case. Potential employment of Brits doesn’t count, only actual present employment of Brits, which Pocktorian isn’t ready for. So basically, we were told we haven’t a chance. Oh, we could apply for special consideration for only £500, but that’s non-refundable too, and our chances are so poor we shouldn’t risk the £500.

So, just when things were beginning to look good and promising, I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me. What did I do?

For two days, I was extremely sad and upset, crying a lot, even as I worked.

Then I got good and mad. “If the UK doesn’t want me, fine. Give me a week to pack and I’ll be on my way, leaving chaos behind me rather than putting any effort at all into making it easy for my landlord, the folks we pay monthly bills to, etc. etc. etc.”

Now, I’ve done a bit of enquiring as to just how much it’s going to cost up to get ourselves and a minimum of goods back to the US, not to mention building a life back up from scratch. And I may be unrealistic in my projections, but it seems to me as if I’ll be able to get the same type of business up and running even more quickly in the US with better prospects because I know from experience that Americans will buy what I make and that, face it, Norwichers, as much as they wish my project well, won’t. So as well as teaching and doing alterations and promoting other textile businesses as best I can, I will be making and selling my goods as well.

Now, for yurts. I’ve got a prospect for a textile business to join Pocktorian that is perfect for the aims of the incubator. It’s a new business. It involves sewing. And it involves felting, which means it can play a part in giving local sheep farmers a decent market for selling their goods. And it is in need of space to operate out of. Just perfect!

Yes, my prospect is a person in the process of setting up a business making yurts! He doesn’t know how to sew yet, and needs to learn to use an industrial machine, so I’ll be teaching him the basics, and if he gets started before I leave, I can help him gain mastery of the industrial one. We can work on developing his felt for insulating his yurts. And maybe he’ll be able to take over the continuation of the UK version of Pocktorian when I leave.

In other, Pocktorian news, this week I’ve sewn in a zipper by hand, gotten my sewing machine fixed, started making  the companions to the single fingerless gloves I have in three sizes, repaired an umbrella, and done the technical design and sampling for a prototype cardigan for my line.

I’m still debating with myself how to distribute my time. Should I make the most of the time I have left by using it entirely for my own makings? Should I make room for whatever alterations and tuition possibilities appear because the more money I take in, the more of our goods we can afford to take home? Or would my time be best spent packing us up to leave as soon as possible for the US. The debate has not yet been decided.

Yee haw! What a Difference a Good Night’s Sleep Makes!

9 01 2010

I came home from Pocktorian Textiles yesterday dragging my tail, worn down to the nubs of my energy. Seems like I’ve been walking gingerly forever to make sure I don’t slip on the icy slush and break something that will keep me at home for an extended amount of time.

Seems like I’ve spent too much of my time at Pocktorian huddled next to the electric heater because the radiators weren’t putting out the heat I was supposed to have in the studio.

And this last week or so, it seems like I’ve been making much too hard a job of lengthening the sleeves on a man’s suit jacket.

That last is no “seems like”. I HAVE been making much too hard a job of it, making a good proportion of the reversable mistakes that can be made on such a job. I have to forgive myself. It’s been a long time since I did such a job, and I’ve acquired some new resources since then that I was trying to use. The result was that I was using too many resources on one job. I learned a whole lot from doing that. But I sure didn’t earn much per hour spent on the job. That’s OK with me.

Anyhow, by around 7:30, I found myself unable to take an interest in anything, let alone moving any of my various unfinished projects (grant applications, for example) forward. I was also unable to get warm. So I went to bed wearing a sweatshirt over a long-sleeved jumper, over a T-shirt, over a vest. Now mind you, I had three layers of bedding over all these clothes. And after a while, I was finally comfortably warm. I read for about an hour and then I slept.

I’m now ready to take an interest in things again. So let’s see what’s in the in box, being twitted,  and such. What  new favorites have I added?

Here’s a good one, a place that lists the top 100 fashion blogs each quarter. I care nothing for names, for what’s hot. But I do look for colors, for which of my various textile skills is being used most, and for inspirations.


I’ve got to give my LinkedIn connections credit for that one. I’m slowly working my way down the present list and already I’ve seen a reminder to myself that I’ve been wanting to see what kinds of fun things I could do with fabric paints on black or white leggings or tights.

I also love looking at old fashion plates.


My aunt used to have a collection of  those magazines from around 1900 and before that included patterns. I really wish now that I’d begged her for some of them. Imagine a tour of charity shops for lacey tablecloths and such worked up into skirts like those in the fourth picture. And just looking at those wrapped sashes in the picture two down from that makes me want to make long sashes and play with them on out-of-date loose summer tops.

It’s always the dilemma for me. The lessons and commissions I have for the next week will pay the rent, but I bet I spend time wishing for time to spend on my own inspirations….which so far…..don’t sell. Pay the rent, make enough to add a noticeable amount to the household funds, and save a bit of time to play each day. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

How to Be in Two Places at One Time

21 12 2009

This is the dilemma: I have set a timetable of 10:30 to 4:00 Monday through Saturday as the times for the incubator, with having the sales area open important on Saturday, but not so much the other days. It doesn’t sound that demanding, does it? However, there is not yet the womanpower to give me much time away from the incubator during these hours, and there are any number of things I cannot presently do at the incubator.

For example, it may seem antequated but I have a mobile deal that gives me just 60 minutes per month, so I try very hard not to use it for anything I can use the home phone for. I can’t afford more, and my mobile is a cheapy that does not make it easy to text. And, no. putting in a phone line to the incubator is not an option, either.

The same goes for the internet and e-mailing. I do it at home or at the library, about 30 minutes away by bus or on foot. No car. When I say this is a shoestring operation, I mean it.

I took today off partly because there is an accumulation of snow and ice that I wanted to avoid traveling in, but also because there was an accumulation of side things I ought to be doing for the sake of the incubator and because I needed time with my home (8-harness floor) loom.

Nothing takes me away from whatever problems I am working on and at the same time stimulates my creativity in response to them like working with a multi-harness loom. Before that long, I expect, the incubator will have a four-harness table loom, and that will help tremendously. After this three weeks away from the loom, I threaded my latest warp and had 5 errors. It took forever to catch and fix the problems and get it ready for weaving, much much longer than it would have if I had been working on it as regularly as I have for the last few months.

Using the rigid heddle loom and working out card weaving at the incubator just does not maintain the same skills. But the floor loom would be difficult to move to the incubator, and anyhow, I intend for the incubator to have its own as soon as possible. (Not to mention that if I tell the truth, I like having it to myself and there would be no other good use of the home studio room.)

Working on the knitting machine at the incubator is challenging. There is endless potential for developing my own patterns and fabrics, particularly with the non-bulky and double-bed machines to come.

Sewing also has great creative potential.

But my being able to continue that development, and Ruth’s, and Marion’s, and the other designers I want to have the chance to develop full-time businesses is dependent on my making the incubator work.

But does that mean getting in the more advanced equipment, whatever the cost, or doing whatever marketing it takes to get people to actually buy our goods, or concentrating on developing one at a time? Barbara Winter talks of multiple income streams in terms of a plate-balancing act. You get one firmly started, then move onto the next, step back to keep the first spinning, back to the second, start the third and so on until you’ve reached the limit of your capacity or you’ve got enough spinning to support yourself.

My first plate was the setting up of the incubator minimally, the second its sales room, minimally. Then Marion came, which could be seen as my going back to the second. I’d like to go back to the first, but without money to buy additional equipment, all I can do for now is bring in my ancient sewing machine, my embroidery box, and the fabric painting equipment I have. (Which isn’t such a minimal advancement after all when I think of it.) There, that’s decided.

So now, I go on to getting the third plate spinning. Shall I do some further development of the salesroom? (Which could mean trying to get other vendors to bring in things or trying to get in fleeces and roving and handspun and hand-dyed from as local sources as possible.) (the latter of which might require money I don’t have untill things start selling) (if and when they start selling). Or I could be try developing the teaching aspect of the incubator (which really isn’t going to happen until after New Years, I’ll bet.) 

Well, another thing Barbara Winters says is that businesses that are going somewhere have interesting problems. I guess Pocktorian Textiles qualifies.

Corset Customers and Local Wools

4 12 2009

Pocktorian Textiles, the textile incubator, progresses in small measures, day by day. Yesterday, Rebecca Spragge


brought in one of her marvelous corsets along with some cards. It was more for attention getting than for selling, or so she thought, so she didn’t initially set a price for it. However, not five minutes after she left, someone asked the price. After I had another query about the price later in the day, I contacted her and she set one.

Looses is a place for treasure hunters, lots of well-used of doubtful further use, yet lots of genuinely desirable antiques as well, and some marvelous things in between that are beautifully made, yet the workmanship was lavished on something not nearly as useful now and when the piece was made, like some of the beautifully housed old phonographs. I, of course, notice the textile treasures, like a christening gown lavished with several types handwork. Should it be a surprise that those interested in searching out the treasures among the bric-a-brac are also interested in the work of a present day maker that has the potential to become a treasured antique?

Today came more confirmation that I am on the right track with my intention of featuring locally sourced wool, rovings, yarn, and other materials of interest to makers. My mailing list for locally sourced knitting yarn and felting tops is begun.

If you are a local maker of any kind of textile work, including paper or baskets, or a local farmer who has fleeces, or wool, or roving, or felting tops, or handspun yarn, or yarn from local wool or alpaca, or a woodworker who makes equipment for textile work, knitting needles, spindles, spinning wheels, warping mills, even looms, please contact me. Help me really bring textiles back to Norfolk.

First Day of Pocktorian Textiles

1 12 2009

I am SOOOOOO tired, I may not write straight, but the first day obviously deserves a post.

I arrived at the Looses building where our two rooms are on the first floor before 10 AM. Oops. The building doesn’t open until 10. So I had to stand and wait for about 15 minutes. It wasn’t anywhere near to the last standing I would do during the day.

When the door finally opened, I went on up to our rooms and found then filled with various bits of furniture, old signs, foam panels, and a set of drums. I was very glad that I hadn’t loaded up a taxi with all the things I plan to bring from home

Fine. Who expects things to go smoothly the first day of anything?

There was no heat, either. Trust me, there is no textile process that is best done with gloves on except dyeing fabric or yarn, or perhaps gathering nettles if you happen to be in a fairy tale and required to make nettle shirts.

I arranged for as much stuff as possible to be moved from the rooms, and sat down in front of a tiny space heater in another area to wait for this to happen. Within a few hours, it did.

I absconded with the space heater to my space. After all the rent is supposed to include heat and electricity. The way I saw it was the landlord could either turn on the radiators or provide heat via the electricity and the space heater. (Will the space heater still be there tomorrow? Will the radiators be turned on?)

I found out that I could pick up some furnishings I am scavenging (via BizFizz loan) from a downsizing shop, but I couldn’t go there until my first designer arrived to man the space while I was gone in case a prospective designer stopped by to look the space over. Meanwhile, with the room where I’d put the heater empty, I had no place to sit, for hours.

I absconded with a chair. Not a particularly comfortable chair. The price on it was £5 but the owner would probably entertain lower bids. First designer arrived with as much of her own stuff as would fit in a car. Thank goodness I had managed to get some of our space cleared out. Now I could go get the furnishings.

I headed over to the source, calling a cab/van on the way. One of the things I had scavenged was a large (longer than my arms fully spread by about 2 feet and at least 3 ft deep) desk heavy enough to make 4 people struggle with it. Try as we might, and we tried for some time, several ways, we could NOT make that desk fit in the cab/van, let alone fit in the rest of the furnishings with it.

This was when it came in very handy to have our space in the Looses building which usually has several vans in back either dropping things off or delivering. I was able to hire (by phone) the same two guys who had done the space clearing.

I went outside to wait for them, and there they were coming down the street. Yay! I hopped up and down. I waved my hands wildly. They drove right by. A few minutes later they called. I told them they had driven right by me a few minutes before. They went round the block and I watched them head back  up the street…..in the wrong direction. Then followed about ten minutes of me hopping and waving wildly at any and all white vans heading in my direction, making a total fool of myself because they weren’t the right white van! Finally the right one came and we got the furnishings to our rooms.

That was enough for me for the first day. I left an hour and a half later than I had planned. Well, they warned me setting up a business would involve a large investment of time and energy. Tomorrow, I’ll make sure I get something to eat between breakfast and when I come home!

I have pictures of the space before and after the clearing out. I also have pictures of the other amenities, like toilets and the kitchen, with a microwave and refrigerator and kettles, but I’m far too tired to reduce and post them.

First day, nothing brought in, outlay for moving the furnishings, but I won’t pay the rent till the other room is clear.