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How is Your Darning Coming on?

 What bee has he got in his bonnet now...

Picture courtesyof Galican Alan Waddington (aka The Agility Whisperer) has bought a new set of channel weaves from a well-known Spanish manufacturer - the kind with the alternating weave poles which slide in and out in a channel in a fixed foot, which acts as the stabilising bar. In all respects, they are like a competition set of weaves. Once he had got over the pain of paying for them, he began to think about the implications and possibilities of this design of agility weaves.

Over the years, there have been many articles and comments about the use of weaves in dog agility. Some handlers and owners hold strong views about their safety and the possibility of dogs getting spinal problems from their use. Over time, the gap between poles has been widened to make this element of an agility test, easier, particularly for larger dogs. I do not know enough about dog physiology to offer an opinion on whether it is good or bad for it to do weaves.

The light bulb which came on in my brain was about doing 'weaving' differently.

Weaving v. darning
First of all, let me make one thing clear. The term 'weaves' is a misnomer. In the textile weaving process, the 'warp' threads move up and down to allow the shuttle with the 'weft' thread to shoot through in a straight line to create the pattern and the finished cloth.

In dog agility, the 'warp' strands are the poles which are not offset. The dog is the 'shuttle.' Obviously, it cannot run in a straight line without getting a headache by banging into the poles.

So, if it is not weaving, then what is the process of getting round the poles? My contention is that it is darning.

If you are aged under 60, you probably have no idea what darning is.

Back in the good old / bad old days -before our throwaway society - socks, jumpers, cardigans and other woollen garments used to be mended and put back into use. The main areas were heels and toes on socks and elbows on upper body garments. If you were lucky, the wool used for darning was a reasonable match for the garment being mended.

Example of darningAnother garment which used to be darned was the woollen swimming costume.


I kid you not. We used to wear woollen swimming costumes. The weight used to increase by about five or six times when they got wet and they felt as if they would drag you to the bottom, always assuming that they did not fall off first. I hate to think what a full costume, worn by a woman, was like. The men's trunks were bad enough.

Anyway, enough of that, except to say that the needle and wool did an under and over trajectory across the area to be mended, exactly like the movement of the dog going through the poles.

The darning process was aided by using wooden mushrooms or eggs, to make a framework for the repair. I am reliably informed, that the items in the photos attached, were used for this purpose and are not objects from a 1920s equivalent of an Anne Summers' catalogue!

Okay, enough of that. Let's keep a modicum of decorum and get back to my light bulb moment.

Why do weave poles have to be in a straight line?
If they are offset, we might get away from some of the criticisms about the safety of the dog. With properly designed, adjustable 'weaves' it is possible to have flexibility in their setting with greater offset for the lower grade, less experienced dogs, 'tighter' settings for the more advanced and straight-line poles for the top grades.

There is already a precedent for making an obstacle easier for lower grades, with judges tightening up the long jump for inexperienced dogs and widening it for higher grades.

Right, it is time to get back to my darning and mending, a skill rediscovered during lock-down. Today, I might put leather patches on the elbows of my blazer.

One final thought on the weaving or darning conundrum, before I sign off why don't we call the exercise slalom, like they do in lots of other countries.

 Think about it.

 A message from the author...

Thanks to my faithful readers. I love you both."

Life in the Agility Whisperer household is very hectic at the moment. Moving to another country, obtaining residency permits and setting up a new home and doing all this during a post-Brexit pandemic could be considered mad!

 First published 1st February 2022


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