Friday, January 24, 2020


While I have been on a stash reduction target for far too long (people keep dying and I keep getting their yarn to add to mine) there are always interesting lessons to be learned from digging deep into the stash.

Now the two yarns in the photo were acquisitions by moi, but one (the darker) was a sentimental purchase and the other was a deal too good to pass up.

Not always the most sensible way to purchase yarn!

Turns out my memory was a bit faulty about the thickness of each of the yarns.  Both are linen, one I bought in Sweden (to be mailed later) because the price was - well, they were getting rid of their yarn inventory!  The price was too tempting to not purchase, so I did.  To the tune of 5 kilos worth.  In the end I didn't get what I wanted but chose from what they had left when it came time to ship and I assumed that all the yarn would be single 16s.  Nope, this one and the dark navy were more like single 20s.  In other words a lot finer than what I had been using.  However, once it arrived, it was mine and I have been using it up.  I'd have to check the chart to find out how many yards per pound single 20s has, but take my word for's lots.

The other yarn was from a LYS and the photo is a bit dark and greyer than the colour actually is.  I'm thinking that if I run out of the spring green, I will try to use up some of the much thicker darker greyed green on the same warp.  Although it may be too grey to fit nicely.

I wasn't sure this bright spring green was going to marry well on the greyed blue/medium blue and fairly deep turquoise green warp, but it looks fine. 

The cloth is not turning out the way I wanted it to, however, because instead of a slightly warp emphasis on one side and a slight weft emphasis on the other, I had to add more interlacements to the tie up so that it would weave 'square'.  However, I think it's turning out ok and the plain weave I added to the tie up is helping to blend the colours together in a way that I think is going to be just fine.

If it looks this 'ok' on the loom, by the time it is wet finished it should be even better.

The epi is 32, with 4 per dent in an 8 dent reed.  That means the reed marks are quite obvious and with linen weft may not come out in the wet finishing.  But I don't really mind.  The reed marks will be consistent and (let's all say it together) if you can't be perfect, be consistent....

Thursday, January 23, 2020

New Draft

One of the advantages of having a computer assisted dobby loom is that you can design and file away complete treadling drafts for a project.

This is my latest warp.  I call it 'lily pads' for reasons which will become apparent once I get started weaving.  I hope!

But I thought it might be interesting to see something of how I approach setting up the loom to weave.

The threading is one repeat of the draft in the above image.  I know it's small I was trying to get the whole - or as much of - the complete treadling as I could.  However the 'important' bit is there.

At the very top of the treadling draft is the hem area.  Notice I have several repeats of straight progression, then a gap.  Then several more repeats of the the straight progression, but in the other direction.

What you are seeing is the hem from the 'last' towel and the beginning of the next towel, with an empty lag to tell me when to weave in a cut line (which I do in a different colour).  It also marks when I stop weaving and take a break.

The threading was repeated for the width of the warp (approx 24") with a couple of straight progressions to bracket the motif and act as a small border.  The motif is balanced, in other words where the motif is on the back 8 shafts, it ends at the other selvedge with the same part of the threading.  So each side will look the same.

So the treadling goes as well.  Beginning with the motif treadled on the 'back' and ending with the same motif, plus the hem area.

In some cases I don't do anything different for the hem, just keep weaving yardage, then measure and cut the cloth up to make the towels.  But having a woven in cut line makes the cutting apart of the process so much easier that I now set up the towels so that job is easily done on my work table, where I serge the raw edge, cut the towel off the cloth roll, then serge the other end, set that aside, then serge, cut, serge, etc.

I miss having the AVL where I could just carry the cloth roll, still on the beam, to the table and have the cloth just roll off the beam in a nice tidy way, but new loom, new processes.  And I don't do 40 or more long warps any more.  I do believe that 20 will now be my max.

Now down to tie on and weave the header, see how it all looks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Class Prep

While Mary worked on class prep for the Dyes from Nature workshop yesterday, I managed to thread the tea towel warp on the Megado.  However, today she needed to go to the guild room to do further prep that was just easier to do up there.  Since I also have a class coming up fairly shortly, I grabbed what I needed to wind the warps for my class and managed to start winding the class warps.

The photo shows how I deal with multiple yarn packages.  This warp was for tea towels and the warp was the design focus with stripes in a more-or-less Fibonacci sequence using three solid colours and a stripe of variegated yarn.

Over the years I got fed up with cones and tubes tipping over when I wound a warp on the warping board, so one day I stuck a couple of extra pegs in at the bottom of the board and laid a reed across them through which I thread the yarn.  It comes straight up off the yarn package and just makes winding a warp so much easier.

When I got to the guild room today, I did the same thing - extra pegs to hold a reed and thread the yarn from two tubes up through it so that they would wind off the tubes without catching or tipping over.  I also brought my little two peg stand so that when the tubes emptied they continued to stay upright.

In the end I only got two warps wound, but since I need five, it felt like a decent start.  I do, after all, still have to dress five looms.

This class is an Introduction to Floor Loom Weaving and students need have no previous experience at all.  I decided that it would be a lot easier to start them out actually weaving and then if they decided they were interested in going further, I will see about offering another class later in the spring where we will dig into the preparation of the loom, and some of the more subtle aspects of the craft, like figuring out density and such.

Mary says she will be doing class prep pretty much all day tomorrow, so I'm hoping I can sley the reed on the Megado and even begin weaving.

This 'holiday' is mostly 'work' for her so far.  I'm hoping we can go to the park for a walk next week.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Round Tuit

When your friends know you so well...

Over the years I have lamented not having a round tuit.  Or losing it.  Or having it roll away on me.

When Mary arrived, she brought me this lovely that she purchased at the John C. Campbell Folk School Gift Shop.  They have a blacksmith forge and routinely have smithing classes.

It is hefty, and clearly marked.  Heavy enough for a paperweight, mostly it is just big enough to hopefully not get lost on my desk, small enough that if I had pockets I could carry it with me.

Now that I'm feeling so much better, this round tuit is going to let me dig in and get stuff done.  Because now I'm going to be able to get around tuit...

Charting a New Course

The photo is of the tapestry I wove as part of the level four Guild of Canadian Weavers master weaver certificate.

For many years I have used the image of a butterfly as a personal icon.  In many societies, the butterfly is used to represent change, growth, development.

The warp was linen, the background a wool/silk blend (if I remember correctly - the tapestry is put away...somewhere...) and the warp was used doubled for the background, but singly for the butterfly which was woven with silk, in order to get greater detail.  All the yarns were dyed by me.

Since I am not an artist of the drawing kind, I chose to go with a rather 'naive' style of imagery.

After last year with the book launch, conference, shutting down my business, I feel as though once again I am in the process of metamorphosis, changing from one flavour of weaver to another.

I feel as though I am still in the 'soup' stage of changing, not quite sure what I will be when it is all done, not quite sure how or where I will be in a years time.

Change can be painful, difficult, challenging.  So it has been as I try to work out what comes next.

There is an observation that doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, is a kind of delusion.  There have been times I have used that approach and pretty much proven the statement.  It was only when I stepped back and then tried something different that I was able to get a different result.

And so, when the wheels seemed to be falling off my 'wagon' again, I knew intellectually that I needed to chart a different course.  Take a different road.  Try something different.  Even though I didn't really want to.

So I struggled.  I did.  I won't pretend that the past few months have been anything but challenging and uncomfortable.

I am not 'there' yet.  But I am changing.  And I am beginning to feel more comfortable about what I chose to do, the different path I set my feet onto.  The burdens are being set down and I am moving on.

During my years as a weaver I have learned many things.  I have begun to see why weaving/textiles have been used in so many fairy tales, which are all morality tales when you look beyond the obvious.  A thread runs through them.  A thread that society of the time fully understood and could relate to.  One that remains in our DNA, I am quite sure.

It is one reason I continue to write about textiles and teach it as much as I can.  Because learning how to create cloth can be a powerful lesson for how to live life.  

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Scissor Solution

Since weaving was, first and foremost, my business/profession, I was very quick to realize that my time was the most valuable commodity that I was investing into my textiles.  As such, it became quite easy over the years to figure out when the time I needed to invest in a warp was becoming unreasonable.  When I needed to invest so much time that I could not ever hope to recoup the time and materials I had put into completing it and bringing it to market.

It is one reason I sample so much.  I'd rather invest a little (a little time, a little materials) to prove that a concept is going to work.

Over the years I have invested a great deal of time in just making samples to investigate new weave structures and new yarns.  While I am happy to take advice from other weavers as to density, the only way to know for sure if that is going to work for me is...weave a sample.

Sometimes the sample is a warp of its very own.  Sometimes the sample might be the header at the beginning of the warp.  Sometimes a sample woven on a narrow warp won't translate to a warp that is much wider, so that last chance header sample is necessary before committing to the entire wide/long warp.

Sometimes conditions change.  Having a different loom means that what I did before on the AVL might not translate well to the Megado, which has a different kind of engineering and a much lighter beater.

Sometimes you start a warp with a certain relative humidity and by the end, that may have changed drastically.  As happened on this silk warp.

The first scarf wove up beautifully.  Then Life Happened and it was about five days before I got back to the warp.  Not realizing the delay would be that long, I had not released the tension on the warp (20/2 silk).  I knew the relative humidity would drop, but in the end wound up having to turn the small humidifier off because the house windows were beginning to ice up, quite significantly.  And the warp sat for those days with the tension on and the relative humidity dropping like a stone.  (This morning it was registering at 18% in the house according to the little weather station we have - and that was with the humidifier back on since yesterday morning.)

When I started weaving yesterday afternoon, I noticed the right hand selvedge was not behaving well.  Loops were forming at the edge and to make the weft sit 'properly' I was having to stop and give the weft yarn a slight tug to make it lay properly.

That cut my weaving speed further, but mostly?  It was annoying.  I carried on until the third broken end happened, in the space of 12" woven.

I was happy enough with the way the cloth was building in the loom, but I looked at the selvedge.  Considered how many more  broken ends I might have to deal with, took a break and thought about whether or not I really wanted to carry on.  Or if it would just be a really good idea to stop now.  Before I invested any more time or weft yarn in this scarf.

The first scarf looked to be good, and that was the one intended for publication.  It was a matter of quite literally cutting my losses.

The yarn was 'inherited' so my financial investment wasn't great (shipping to get it here).  I had not carefully selected each and every skein with a lovely vision of what it would turn into - I was working from someone else's stash.  (Don't get me wrong - I have done this before and I consider it a great honour, it's just that I don't have the same sort of emotional attachment to it.)

The warp was six meters.  When I cut the warp off the loom, it looks like I do have a lovely scarf to write up and submit.  I'm very pleased with how it looks prior to wet finishing, and I think a good hard press will bring the silk to the lovely lustre we associate with silk and I will be happy to submit it for consideration.  Out of a six meter long warp I have apparently achieved one scarf that meets requirements.

The thrums (about 2.75 ounces) will go to a friend who takes them and incorporates them into her 'art' yarn, so the yarns won't actually be 'wasted'.  I just won't be spending any more of my time trying to make it behave when it so clearly does not want to.

So I applied the Scissor Solution.  And I feel fine about it.  The next warp is already planned (mostly) and I am looking forward to getting that into the loom and enjoying weaving it off.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Ticking Boxes

Continuing to tick boxes on my journey to retirement. 

The cold 'snap' is over, the temps have warmed minus 23 when I got up this morning.   Felt positively balmy when I went out this morning!  :D

This week broke record low temperatures for our town.  Talking to someone this morning, he mentioned having cabin fever.  I told him I was content to look out the window, see the glorious sunshine we had, note the temperature, and curl up inside.  A form of hibernation - because I felt no urge to do much of anything other than just make it through the day.

However, I did get the two boxes of Olds homework marked, the marks submitted to the college, and one box is on its way back to the student.  The other will wait until I hear when she is back in Canada from her adventure and if she wants it returned immediately or is willing to wait until June and pick it up at the college, saving the postage. 

My company arrives tomorrow and we have class prep to do so most of what I have been working on will be set aside while she is here.  If there is time she wants to dive into my rayon chenille stash and make a scarf.  Or two. 

I am hoping to finish the silk warp by tomorrow and start writing up my notes.  They will have to be fringe twisted and wet finished, but the deadline is March 8 so if I can get them woven, I can easily make that.  (She says, perhaps over confidently!)

The next warp on the Megado will be another tea towel warp.  I still have a large cone of singles linen to use up and I pulled the yarn for the warp last autumn.  All I have to do is clear the Megado off and get the next warp beamed. 

And figure out how I'm going to thread it! 

We are nearly out of the annex but the super cold weather has caused delays on that.  Nothing to be done for it except get through it. 

The really nice thing is that the daylight hours are getting noticeably longer.  As quickly as it goes, it comes back. 

In the meantime, it is back to ticking boxes.  And that means weaving the silk.  I'm excited to see if the treadling is going to look as I hope it will.  After lunch I will be jumping right on that.  This is what keeps me weaving - having a vision, not knowing how close I can come to making it come into material form (pun intended!)