Friday, November 16, 2018

Closing the Door

Change can be difficult.  Letting go of the known and familiar, making different choices, not knowing if they are the best, right or correct things to be doing.  Not knowing what the future holds, how the changes will affect ones life, ones income.   

The decision to semi-retire has been about two years in the making.  Between the house renovations and all the upheaval that entailed, mom getting sick and dying, the return of my cancer...there has been much to contemplate.  Each time I analyzed what was happening, the conclusion was the same:  something had to give.  

Giving up guild workshops was a push/pull question.  Without the income, could I still keep going, financially?   Without the stress of all the administrivia, would I have more energy?   Would I have more time for the more intellectual approach to weaving that drew me into the craft in the first place?  If so, what would that direction look like?  Would there be a chance for some income?

Eventually I had to make up my mind and quit waffling about it.   There is no point closing a door if you keep opening it a crack to take a peek.  

So I did.  Announced it on my more guild workshops.  Three days later a guild contacted me...pretty please would I teach for them?   I took a couple of days to think about it then emailed back and said no.  The world did not stop spinning or blow up.  I found myself perfectly comfortable with that door shut, locked and barred. 

And then focused on the upcoming deadlines.   

Last week someone approached me with an offer.  Would I do research for her Big Project?

It was as though once I firmly closed one door, there was room for another one to open.  It didn’t take me long to think about it.  I know how to do simple searches, I’m pretty conversant with writing, I could work from home, with lenient enough deadlines that I can fit my other work in as appropriate.  

It also gives me a chance to help with a project I feel is needed and useful in the weaving world.  I won’t say more just yet as we will meet in person to discuss details, but I think our particular talents mesh well.  

For now, I need to get through this craft fair, spend a week at home working on the conference, then head to San Jose (and hope the wildfire situation is better resolved, otherwise I will bring a mask), do the last read through to sweep up any typos, hit publish, launch the introductory offer and begin thinking about my background involvement in a Big Project that I hope will be helpful to weavers.  

And let me work from home in my pjs.   Sounds like a win-win....

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My Father

November 11, 2018.

My father has been dead for 43 years.  He died the month I started my weaving career.

For some reason, this year I have been thinking about him - a lot.

He served - reluctantly - in the Canadian Armed Forces.  He was first generation Canadian, born in a little village about 20 miles south of the town I was born, raised, and still live in.  The smaller photo is him, around 14 or 15, the larger at 21 in his uniform.

The fabric is his medal patch.  See the empty spaces?  Family myth has it that upon being demobilized, he took all the 'medals' and handed them back, keeping only the insignia of his service.

He served in the Aluetians (first born German extraction citizen meant keeping him away from the European front, I suppose) and then was sent to England in preparation for D-Day.

For many years the CBC aired a series on World War II - my father would sit in his recliner, focused intently on the screen.  My brother and I had to be quiet because dad was watching the war.  When they showed footage of the Canadian forces landing on D-Day, dad would point at the screen and say "I was there."

Family myth also says that when he returned home, dad gave his hunting rifle to his nephew and never hunted again.  He could not stand the sight of bloody meat which meant I didn't know that anyone ate meat 'rare' until I was 16.  Kind of grossed me out the first time I saw it.

Dad never talked about the war unless something triggered him.  Yes, he had what we now call PTSD.  I learned early not to ask dad about the war.  When my brother got a cap gun dad nearly had a fit when my brother aimed it at mom and yelled 'bang, bang!'.  Dad made it very clear he was not ever, ever, ever, to point a gun at another human being in his sight.  Didn't matter it was a toy - it was the concept.

On the other hand, when I was 12 a friend was given a .22 rifle for his birthday and when I mentioned that I could go shoot it, dad told mom that I needed to know how to handle and respect a gun so I could.  She wasn't happy about it, but Dad Had Spoken.  He rarely did, so when he did, his word was the 'law'.

So on this day when we remember those who did not make it home again, we watch leaders of various countries stand, in the rain to show respect, I think about my father.  And give thanks that he did come home again.  To provide an example of doing one's duty, even when one didn't really want to.  To respect others rights, but not put up with disrespect.  To help others, not put them down.

Thank you for your service dad, and all the others who also served including my father-in-law and family friends.,..

Friday, November 9, 2018

The Longest Journey...

...begins with a single step...

one of the projects included in The Intentional Weaver

Step by step.  Writing the words.  Polishing the words.  Polishing some more.  And yet more.  Designing samples to illustrate the words.  Weaving the samples.  Photos, photos, photos, diagrams.  More editing, more polishing.

Yesterday?  ISBNs.  This stands for International Standard for Book Number.  It is a way for publishers, libraries and bookstores to identify a very specific book.  Titles are not copyright-able so there are frequently books with the same or very similar titles.  But they will have unique ISBNs.

I am waiting on the publisher/printing company to get back to me with a quote on price and delivery of actual printed books.  This is one of the services they provide.  They will do individual print-on-demand and pdf versions, but they will also print multiple copies.

I had hoped to get this information before we left for Calgary, but nothing so far.  I'm assuming that other people who got their manuscripts together sooner than I did are getting their books printed in time for Christmas.  And therefore they are busy and haven't been able to get to my inquiry.  Yet.

However, I am working on an introductory offer which I hope will allow people to order before Christmas with post new year delivery.

Things are getting a bit crunchy in the deadline department, but hopefully the last edits will be done in the next day or two so that review copies can be sent out and the reviewers will be able to take a look and give their feedback.

In the meantime the sun is shining here, I have packing to do for the trip next week, plus a library book that is overdue but which I really want to finish before we leave.

I think I will take some time to sit in the window, enjoy the sun, and read for a wee while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Life, Re-Imagined

I have always been someone who had a plan.  Who then set that plan into motion.  When I ran into roadblocks, there was usually some way around them, under them, sometimes even...through them.

I was talking to a friend recently and I started working out when the last time was that I felt functional.  When I had drive and energy to implement the plan I was currently working on.

That isn't to say that over the years I haven't had issues, just that, given enough chemicals, I could keep going.  My last major setback prior to the time I last felt functional was 1994 when I was rear-ended. which meant a double whiplash injury to my neck.  The first one happened when I was 18 and was a side-to-side injury.  The one in 1994 was a front to back whiplash which meant my neck was really in bad shape.  But again, I did the therapy, took the chemicals and eventually (mostly) recovered from that even though it took several years.  Whiplash - the gift that keeps on giving...

So.  Last time I felt like a functioning human being?   2006.  Summer.

It had been a dream of mine to participate in large professional level craft fairs and I'd done all the big ones in western Canada.  I finally felt like I had enough experience and enough energy to go for the gusto and try the big one in Toronto.  If we were going to fly all the way out there, it would have to be for the whole thing, not just four or five days.  Given the cost - air fare, hotel, food, booth fee, I needed X dollars worth of inventory.  So I set to with a will and in the space of 7 weeks over the summer, wove nearly 200 scarves.  No that's not a typo.  Four scarves a day, every day for 7 weeks.  On top of what I already had in inventory, plus what I wove after that. 

By the end of the year, however, I wasn't feeling great.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing - 20/20 - and I now realize that by the end of 2006 I was beginning to have symptoms of cardiac blockages.  Fatigue, shortness of breath on exertion - written off to allergies/asthma.

By the end of 2007 the fatigue was extreme.  I'd stopped buying clothing because I felt sure I wouldn't be able to wear them out.  I joked with a friend that one day Doug would come home and find me propped up in the loom, dead. 

I tend to gallows humour, what can I say.

Thing was, I really actually felt that I wasn't going to be around for much longer, but without having much in the way of symptoms specific enough to indicate what I was dealing with.

The end of February 2008 my younger brother died, quite suddenly, at work.  The coroner phoned me after the post mortem to say that his heart had been so filled with cholesterol that even if he'd been in hospital when he collapsed, they could have done nothing for him.  Then she asked if this was common in the family and I said yes.  "Then" she said "you need to go get checked out."

On May 9 (our anniversary) I was on the table in Vancouver having three stents installed - 80, 70 and 60% blockages (with lots more little ones). 

Since then I have had 10 years of various and sundry health issues.  Each time I felt I was back on the road to recovery, something else would go 'wrong' and I would have to deal with that issue - do the tests, take the drugs, go to therapy.  And after each one, my life was more constrained.  I had less energy, less drive, less incentive to pick up the pieces.

It has been 10 years of watching the horizons of my ability to do things shift, closer and closer, smaller and smaller.  It has been 10 years of accepting the new 'normal' and trying to adjust my expectations of what I can and cannot do.  What I am willing to fight to get back - if I even could.

The older I get, the more my body is breaking down, sometimes in quite unexpected ways.  Healing takes longer.  Pain lingers longer.  Energy is not to be found, some days.

Inside I still feel like I'm 34 but outside?  I am all of my 68 and counting years.

On the other hand, I'm still here to do the counting.  My brother, and many others, aren't.

When I started the cancer drug it was a long adjustment period and in the end the dose kept being reduced until there was no more reduction to be had.  Then I hoped that my body would get used to it and that the adverse effects would become less annoying.  Less of a hindrance.

Well, I've been on the lowest possible dose since spring, so about six months.  This, it appears, is as good as it is going to get.

Acceptance means that I no longer chide myself when I simply cannot do something.  Or at least, not as much.  Acceptance means that I adjust my expectations of what I can and cannot do and begin to say no to things, no matter how interesting they might be.  Right now I am working through a series of deadlines that I set up about two years ago (or more).  Long ago enough that I was a lot more functional than I am right now.  They all seemed imminently do-able at the time.  Not so much now.

So instead of ramping up plans for the coming year or two, I am not seeking any more events to add to my schedule.  I have officially 'retired' from teaching for guilds.  I no longer have the energy to scramble to find a guild or group of guilds to bring me into an area, then deal with workshop handouts, sending out yarns/instructions, booking flights and making travel arrangements, never mind the on-the-ground transportation and the long days, strange beds, shifting time zones and jet lag.

As I re-imagine my life, I am looking for ways to keep weaving down my stash but also cutting back the travel involved in doing large sales.  We are doing Calgary instead of Vancouver this year so that we would have a week of rest between the one last weekend and leaving for Calgary.  I may - or may not - do an out-of-town show next year.

While Ms Editor puts the final touches on the ms, I am working on my marketing plans.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Once the Calgary show, the trip to San Jose and pushing the button to publish is over, I have a weaving job lined up for December, and then in January the registration for the conference will go live.  I have also heard from some of the Olds students that they hope to ship their homework over the winter.  So I will be plenty busy with conference, marking and stash reduction through the spring.  And hopefully shipping books.

Today I have been number crunching and working on an introductory offer.  I have heard the requests and will work towards filling those requests, as best I can.

But as for adding more to my plate beyond the conference?  Semi-retirement is beginning to look really, really attractive...

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Two yarns.  Both cotton.  Both weighing in at 3360 yards per pound.  Are they the same?  Are they?

This is the sort of thing I am hoping to spotlight in The Intentional Weaver, for those people who want to really understand what they are doing, perhaps design their own textiles, and are looking for answers to the question, why?  Why does this yarn behave differently than that yarn.  Why does this weave structure have a different epi/ppi than that one?  How is it possible to take one yarn, use different densities and wind up with a range of different qualities of cloth?  Why is this loom (rising or jack action) different from that loom (sinking or counter balanced loom) - and why does it matter?

How come my selvedges are never as good as I would want them to be?  Why is my beat so inconsistent?  How can I weave longer without having pain? 

So many questions.

Many of them I have addressed in this blog, but blog posts are not A Book.  Writing a blog post is not the same as trying to write what is essentially a textbook.  Technical writing is difficult and clarity of text is essential.

With a blog, people can ask questions and I can answer (if I see their questions, which I may not do right away).  With a book?  Perhaps not so easy to get questions answered.

While I have been on the internet for a while (1994 - remember dial up handshakes?  I do!) and my email address is pretty easy, not everyone is comfortable emailing a stranger.  So questions may go unanswered - unless I provide as much information as I possibly can within the covers of the book.

One of the things that has changed since 1994 is that there are now digital versions of books plus there are print-on-demand options.

A number of people have commented here and on other social media, expressing their preferences and I have listened.  Ms Editor and I have been messaging back and forth and we are coming up with A Plan that I hope will satisfy most peoples requests.  More on that Dec. 2.

Several people have wondered why I haven't gone the 'established publisher' route.  There are a number of reasons.  Today I was talking with someone who wondered the same thing.  I explained that the book is geared towards a narrow slice of what is already a niche market.  When I published Magic in the Water, I had 1000 copies of the text pages printed.  I very much doubt that I will sell anywhere close to that many of The Intentional Weaver.  I cannot, in any case, afford to go to a printer and (vanity press fashion) have 1000 copies printed.  And then assemble them.  Store them.  Ship them.  It took about 10 years to sell 1000 copies of Magic.  I don't want to have boxes and boxes of TIW hanging around. 

However, with print-on-demand options, I can buy in a smaller number of professionally printed and bound books and offer them to a select audience.  And so today I gathered courage in hand and sent an email to the website where Magic is available, and asked for a quote on printing a 'small' run of The Intentional Weaver. 

Stay tuned...

Currently reading The Witch Elm by Tana French

Friday, November 2, 2018


This morning I commented on Facebook that one of the things I was bringing to the craft fair was my knitting.

Someone objected that craftspeople who want to sell their things must not do such things because they must engage with their customers.

Happens that I agree completely with that observation.

I always take a corner position (when ever possible) and set up so that there is good flow through traffic.  My textiles need to be hung up as much as possible.  I always have a mirror so that potential customers can see how a scarf/shawl will look, worn.

I try very hard to say 'good morning' or 'hello' at the very least, pointing out the mirror for try-ons or volunteering the information that the place mats and tea towels are machine wash and dry.

But I am an introvert.  Engaging with so many people all day long, in noisy, sometimes crowded venues?  Is very wearing on me.  It sucks the energy right out of me.  And then the times when it's so quiet that people are not even coming into the booth I get very anxious.

Over the years I have found that if I just bring my knitting bag with me - even though I may never actually touch the knitting - my anxiety is much less.  I might only knit while I am on a break.  I might pull it out and knit during the first or last hour of the show because I'm usually buried in the back of the hall and it takes about an hour for people to walk through the show and get to me.

Even if I do succumb to the knitting, I never bring anything complicated, nothing that I can't put down mid-row, nothing that I have to count for decreases or yarn overs.  The kind of knitting I bring to a show is straight knitting aka garter stitch.  If I can keep my hands busy fidgeting with needles and yarn, I can focus on the task at hand instead of wishing I were anywhere but there.  And I can easily lift my eyes and say hello - and keep on knitting.

I also do not sit in an 'ordinary' chair.  We keep a tall stool that we perch on.  This allows us to take the weight off our feet but still remain close to eye level.

So while I agree wholeheartedly with the admonition to engage with the customers?  I also know how to sooth my nerves while I do so.

Ultimately, until my textiles are sold, the job isn't done.

Thursday, November 1, 2018


Standard 2:2 twill - enter shuttle from right hand side and the threads will all weave into the cloth.

Twill with basket weave selvedge.  

I routinely thread twill from the rear most shaft coming forward to the front.  The tie up is as shown (for either counter balanced or jack/rising shed looms) and I treadle beginning on the right side of the treadles, entering the shuttle from the right to the left.

Some people don't like a twill selvedge for some reason, so it is possible to do a half basket weave selvedge.  But it still means a two thread 'float' at the selvedge.

The only time you need to use a floating selvedge for twill is if the direction of the diagonal changes -  in other words, you change the direction of the twill line.  In this instance I use a herringbone or dornick threading and treadling.

By skipping an end in the sequence you wind up with a slight line at the reverse in both threading and treadling, but you don't need the floating selvedges because the ends on the selvedge will not drop out when the twill direction is changed.