Monday, February 26, 2024

Believing in Yourself


There is a certain amount of...hubris...involved in being a creative person as your profession.

I mean, society is quick to tell someone when they have overstepped their boundaries, tried too much, failed in the process.  

The internet seems to have ramped up that dynamic even more, perhaps because when you don't like what someone else has done, you can tell them, but do it from the distance of the internet.  You don't tell them to their face, so to speak, which seems to make it easy to let people know they have 'failed' you in some way.

You don't like what they did, so it becomes extremely easy to let them know of their 'failing'.

I'm old enough to remember Thumper's mom who advised that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.

Instead, someone will post something they made, something they are happy with, proud, even, and someone will come along and yuk all over their yum, as someone commented the other day.

In the nearly 50 years I have been weaving I have made a whole lot of stuff I have not been happy with.  A lot of my stuff has something not quite 'perfect' about it.  But someone once told me not to let 'perfect' kill 'good', and so I accept that I am not perfect but that I can make good cloth.

I can even write 'good'.  

But even the most confident creative in the world likes to have a little positive feedback.  Fortunately I get enough of that positivity that I find I can keep going.  

Usually I would get that positive feedback when I travelled to teach.  People would approach me to say they read this blog, or had my book (at the time I only had the one), or that they appreciated my input on the online group(s) I belonged to.  

Now that I don't travel to teach anymore, that positive feedback is no longer there.  And at times I wonder if anyone is paying attention.  It seems like I send my words out into the ether, the great void, and see if anyone says anything.  

Sometimes I do get an email, or a comment here, and I know that some of you are still reading.  I can look at page views on this blog and know that yes, I do have a loyal 'following'.  It's not just bots scraping my site so they can spam me, or leave 'ads' in my comments (which I remove).

I have had several people contact me, likely based on my page view count, asking me to tout their products.  They will pay me, they say.   I always turn them down.  I won't 'shill' for someone, especially for products I don't actually use - or want to support.

Maybe it's because I'm old, now.  I no longer feel the need to 'prove' myself to anyone.  I've left most of the online groups because I'm tired of explaining, over and over again how and why things work in weaving, only to have people argue with me or tell me I'm wrong.

I know I can be wrong.  But so can everyone else.  And if someone isn't willing to take in more information and then base their decisions on additional information, I am not going to waste my time or theirs.  

When I wrote The Intentional Weaver it was to fill a need that I saw - a compilation of the kind of subtleties involved in the craft that were not, to my knowledge, between the covers of just one book.  (There may be others - I just wasn't aware of them - so I wrote a book to make it easier for my students to find, all in one place.)

When I wrote Stories, I wanted to expand on some of the things in TIW, and cover other things that were outside of the focus of a weaving textbook.  And the latest, A Thread Runs Through It, to examine the reality of being a professional production weaver.  Or at least, MY reality in that role.

I follow a number of authors on various social media.  Over and over again, they all say the same thing - if you like what an author has done, *LET THEM KNOW*.  Even better?  Let *others* know.

Because I can believe in myself all I like - but that doesn't pay the bills.  Selling books, does.

So, here's the deal.  I'm not the only weaver writing books.  If you really like someone's book, there are a number of things you can do.

Comment about it on your social media.

Write a book review.

Contact the author, let them know you found their book useful, helpful.

If all we get is silence, there is little incentive to keep writing.  And it takes so very little to encourage us to keep writing.

Speaking of which Stacey Harvey-Brown has a new book coming out about Optical Woven Illusions.  I'm sure she'd love to sell a few books...(just saying)...

My books available here and here

Signed copies of The Intentional Weaver only available here

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Quiet Days


I had another epidural injection on Thursday, and everyone says to be 'quiet' for a few days afterwards in order to let the injection take effect.  I'm not very good at being 'quiet' in the way that they mean, but I'm trying really really hard these days to be kinder to my body.

Today I'm feeling less battered, so I am going to go to the loom after lunch and try weaving.  I'm not sure I'll do two sessions, although I'd really like to get this next batch of towels off the loom so I can inspect and repair them, and along with the first 7, get them into the washer/dryer to be wet finished.

OTOH, I did manage to deal with a couple of things I'd been procrastinating over, so there is that.

I have also contacted another therapist at the suggestion of the pain doctor, and will see them on Wednesday, to see if I can get additional help for the peripheral neuropathy that continues to plague me.

I am ever so grateful I got into the local pain clinic as the doctor there seems open and willing to work with me and try to help make my life a bit easier.  All of my therapists know how much I want - *need* - to keep weaving, and they take that into consideration as they work with me.  All of them understand the benefits I get from weaving - the aerobic activity that generates endorphins and actually helps manage my pain, but also?  The mental health benefits.  So I give them all weaving 'gifts' as an additional thank you.  I mean, they are keeping me able to weave, they should benefit from that, too?

Winter is not over here.  Yesterday it snowed some.  Not a lot, but at least a little is better than nothing.   But tonight the temperature will plunge below -20C again.  That may be the last kick of the dying season.

We are hoping for a 'wet' spring - but not *too* wet, or there will be landslides, especially after all the forests burned last year.  OTOH, fire season has already begun with fires that smoldered over winter springing back into life.  I think 2024 is going to be all sorts of shades of 'interesting'.  And not in a good way.

But I think I can at least do one session at the loom today, so I'm going to try and see how it goes.

I have also got quite a few Zoom presentations lined up.  The next one is Tuesday evening.  Then a one-on-one student for bobbin lace on Saturday.  If she has recovered from the plague by then.  The guild room does have an air filter, though, and she will wear a mask - and so will I.  

My goal to remain covid free continues.  But I do still want to teach, so I continue to book Zoom presentations.  

Topics are listed on my website

I'm thinking about raising my fees as a number of guilds have told me I'm not charging enough (some have even sent more than I'm asking for since they said they learned so much!)  However, if a guild books now, I will honour my current fee structure.  

Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Secret to Success


Be a weaver, they said.  It'll be fun, they said.

What they didn't say was that a big part of succeeding at being a weaver in the 20th and 21st centuries was...self-promotion.

As an introvert, I wasn't very good at the 'self-promotion' part.  I found it hard to try and convince people that they needed to spend their hard won dollars on my textiles.  Or on me, teaching.  I spent quite a few years twisting and twirling around the whole dance of 'marketing' myself and my weaving.

It was during a class on marketing that I finally found a way to do the kind of self-promotion that I could live with.  One of the speakers explained that marketing is just sharing what you do.  Advertising is purchasing space in the media (newspapers, magazines, radio, tv, etc. - this was pre-internet days).

Sharing what I do was pretty easy.  I just found that place where my passion lived, and shared my excitement about doing what I do.

When I taught for Olds, some of the students found doing the verbal exercises very difficult because a lot of creative people are also introverts.  So I explained to them that all they had to do was speak from their passion.

As the internet grew and changed and became more...commercial...I was able to 'speak' to people via groups.  I've always loved words, and people have called me a storyteller, so it was an easy slide over into expressing myself through the written word.  

Writing posts - on groups, or here, on this blog - means I can think through what I want to say.  I can craft the message I want to express.  Before I hit 'publish' I can edit, deleting awkward bits, or check for emotional trigger words, change what I'm saying so that I can provide the 'story' without the emotion (mostly).  (Sometimes I leave the emotion in, because I *am* writing from my passion - and that is an emotion.)

The thing is, when you get good at marketing yourself, people assume you don't need any help.  But the thing is, my voice (so to speak) can only reach so far.  If my message is to go beyond my reality bubble (my followers), then others picking up the message and relaying it onwards is imperative.  If my knowledge only ever reverberates inside my reality bubble, it's just an echo chamber.

For example, A Thread Runs Through It has sold a few copies.  But that book has a limited appeal and I don't know everyone who might benefit from the lessons I've learned as a professional weaver.  So if you, dear reader, know someone interested in making an income from their weaving (or other creative endeavours) let them know that the 'book' is available in my ko-fi store.  

If you think what I have shared might be of value to others, you might consider recommending it in your guild newsletter.  Or online, if you belong to weaving groups.

Back in the 90s, someone opened a business selling fibres from New Zealand.  Since I knew her, I shared her business info on line.  Later that day she emailed to say that she didn't realize that what she needed was a Laura Fry to help her business grow.

Helping other creatives expand their reach is easy-peasy.  Extend a helping hand.  Share a website.  Recommend the book(s).  Let people know that you think something is valuable.

That's marketing.

Books available here in both pdf and print

A Thread Runs Through It, Weave a V and tea towels here

Seminars/guild programs listed here  (yes, I'm still taking bookings for 2024 - just booked Calgary Heritage Weavers guild for this spring)

Classes here  and here

Friday, February 23, 2024

The Final Step


It has taken me months to finally do the final act of a 'real' author - get two copies of their book ready to pop into the mail to the National Archive.

It is one of the requirements of getting an ISBN number - that copies be lodged with the National Archive.

It has always been a source of grief to me, how many libraries have been destroyed over the years.  When I learned about the destruction of the library at Alexandria, I was heartsick.  As the years have gone by, I have learned about more libraries that have been destroyed throughout history.

Currently reading The House of Wisdom, finding out about more libraries, destroyed.  And I wonder, if that knowledge had been preserved instead of destroyed, what we might look like as a society, today.

But all I have to do is pick up the 'news' to discover that groups of people are, once again, not just banning books, but destroying them, firing librarians, closing libraries.

And for what?  Why?  (Rhetorical question.)

I have enough of an ego to think that there might be some people who are interested in learning what I know about weaving, maybe even a little bit about life.  And so I don't mind that the National Archive wants two copies of my book(s).  It gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, what I know - or at least, have learned to the date of publication - will live on.

Going through the donated books, I remember some of the authors - because I actually knew some of the authors of those books.  I met Peter Collingwood, Allen Fannin, Linda Heinrich, and so on.  I know many of the current authors of the weaving world.  Which is a very small 'world' all in all.

So when two boxes of books were donated to the guild, I took it as part of my 'responsibility' to the weaving world to try to place those books into the hands of people I knew would value the knowledge in them.  

Ultimately, I hope that my personal library will also go to others.

And that the chain of knowledge will continue.

We don't know what the future will hold.  In some ways, I'm glad.  Not knowing what will happen allows me the freedom of hope.   Hope that people will continue to play with string.  Hope that people will be knowledge keepers.  Hope that people will find solace as well as joy in the exploration of how threads can be manipulated into cloth.  Hope that we will survive as a species...

As always, my books can be found here for Magic, The Intentional Weaver and Stories from the Matrix, and here for two signed copies of Stories as well as A Thread Runs Through It

Signed copies of The Intentional Weaver are only available here

From time to time I hear rumours that the original Magic in the Water is for sale, usually a 'dead weavers' library being sold off.  Sometimes someone gets a copy for a very low price, but generally it seems that that book is valued.  And when I hear of a copy being snapped up for the same - or even higher - price than what I asked for back in 2002, it tells me that all the work, all the effort, all the money that it took to birth that book was worth it.  It makes me feel like I did 'good'.  And if I accomplish nothing else in this life, at least I did that.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

From the Archive


Sweden 2002

Sweden in the winter can be grey, but the warmth of the people makes up for the short days and gloomy aspect of the countryside.

My trip to Sweden in November/December of 2002 came about primarily because of the wedding of my studio assistant, Karena.

Karena's mother is Swedish, married to a Canadian, and Karena determined to marry in the same church as her mother and father. I could not overlook the opportunity to go!

As it happened, a group of Swedish weavers were also trying to get a Vadmal "party" happening, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to learn more about this interesting woolen cloth. Unfortunately, the vadmal making fell through, but it may happen at another time.

I arrived on Tuesday, November 19 late in the evening. Taking it easy on the Wednesday, Kerstin spent most of the day getting a wool warp onto the AVL. We did make an excursion to Tynnsryd to visit a weaving studio.

Folke has spent many hours thinking about how to make looms and weaving more efficient. After problems with his neck, he was finding it more and more difficult to weave on a standard draw loom with overhead pattern cords, so he worked out a way to place the cords in front of the weaver. Other tinkerings with the loom have made it possible to have a shaft draw loom without the long body or extension necessary to get a good shed. It was most interesting to see the modifications and watch the weavers at work on a couple of large commissions.

On Friday night, Ingrid Hanssen arrived and we spent Saturday weaving on the AVL. Kerstin had installed the new auto cloth advance, and we were having some problems with it, but eventually sorted it out and were able to weave off the wool warp.

Sunday we set off west, visiting a Hembygd museum where a vadmalstamp was on display.

 Vadmalstamp (hammer mill)

These hammer mills were used extensively for making vadmal cloth – a heavy, serviceable fabric used by outdoor workers such as farmers, tree fellers and so on. Vadmal was a densely woven, heavily fulled fabric that stood up to the heavy use demanded of it. In spite of our present understanding of how fulling works, this fabric was not loosely woven, but set tightly, and beaten in firmly. Fulling took hours of intermittent compression by heavy hammers, traditionally operated by water wheels.

 Close up of hammers

 Axle to lift hammers

As our need for such a heavy duty fabric in this day and age is much reduced, modern "vadmal" is being made with more open sets and looser webs. This opening up of the cloth means that fulling in the vadmalstamp takes much less time, and produces a softer cloth depending on the fibre and weave structure used.

From the vadmalstamp, we carried on to visit the producer of a specialty yarn made from peat moss fibre blended with wool. The peat moss fibre is made from the left overs of another peat moss industry. The fibre is sifted and sorted until the large chunks of wood are removed and the fibre that is left is of a uniform coarseness and length. Due to the ability of peat moss to hold moisture, it has to be run through the dryer twice before it is finally blended with wool, made up into bales, and then sent to the spinning mill to be spun or felted for filters and boot insoles.

That evening we stayed with Ingrid and worked on her loom trying to get her fly shuttle to work more efficiently. But we were all too tired and gave up until the next morning when Ingrid wove without difficulty.

 Portion of 8 meter long cold mangle

We set off from Ingrid's to visit another Hembygd museum where an enormous cold mangle was on display. This mangle was part of a system of linen manufacture where the weavers were assigned their warps,

Web being transferred from cloth beam to dowel for cold mangling

then returned the completed webs to the mill for wet finishing and mangling. This mangle is 8 meters long and weighs in at a hefty two tonnes (approx. 4500 pounds).

The motive power for this mangle was a donkey or small horse, not a water wheel.

Leaving the mangle, we set off for Ekelunds, a weaving mill that makes household textiles in cotton and linen. In the lobby of the mill factory outlet they have one of their original Jacquard looms from the 1800's on display.

Jacquard loom with Kerstin Fröberg

Part II

Attaching bout of 288 ends to beaming machine

The tour of Ekelunds mill is self guided, and the first thing we happened upon was the beaming operation. I had always wondered how industry beamed, and we got to see their brand new (three week old) beaming machine.

Unlike the tour of Pendleton Woolen Mill I had taken last year, we were allowed close inspection of this and other areas of the mill.

Warp being wound (gathering reed in is upright blue stand operator is leaning on)

430 meter long warp ready to be transferred to warp beam

The two men beaming the three colour warp were quite happy to answer our questions, and it was amazing to watch 288 ends at a time rolling onto the beam at enormous speed and high tension.

bouts being attached to warp beam with flanges

In very short order the warp was completely beamed, and we were allowed to watch the transfer of the warp from the beaming machine to a warp beam. The operation went smoothly and quickly. By the time we made it to the loom room, that same warp was being installed into a loom and we watched in amazement as the knot tying machine delicately selected the next pair of ends to be tied together, then made the knot.

Warp sheet being transferred to warp beam

From beaming machine to warp beam with rock hard tension in about 10 to 12 minutes

The looms at Ekelunds were all Jacquard and rapier and almost faster than the eye could see, the looms wove off two or three tea towels at a time. Each tea towel had a selvedge that was formed by taking the loose end of the pick and weaving it back into the cloth.

Once off the loom, the fabric went through the wet finishing department where they were hot mangled, rather than the traditional Swedish finish of cold mangling.

With darkness descending, Kerstin and I set off for Bergdala


Once back at Bergdala, Kerstin made the necessary adjustments to the auto cloth advance and we put on a test warp. After determining that it was, indeed, working, Kerstin tackled her double weave sample for the study group and managed to get the warp on and the first sample off by Thursday.

Friday morning, very early, we set off for Falun, where she dropped me off so I could attend Karena's wedding.

Sunday afternoon, I took the train to Hudviksdal where Kerstin and her friend Karin met me. We stopped in at a Julmarket (Christmas craft fair), but unfortunately they were just ready to close up for the day. We did see some weaving, tho – mostly rag rugs.

Monday morning we set off for Helmi Halsinglands, and spent an interesting hour touring their plant. They do much of the dyeing of linen, cotton and wool for many yarn suppliers in Sweden. It was interesting to note that they dye linen as singles and then ply it, for maximum penetration of the dye.

From Helmi Halsinglands, we took a jaunt further into the countryside to visit Växbo. Unfortunately their museum is not open in the winter, so we could not see the whole process of linen fibre preparation, but again a self-guided tour of the mill allowed us to see the drawing operations and the weaving up close. The spinning frames were not in operation as the operator was just setting them up to begin spinning.

The looms at Växbo are shaft looms, most of them with shuttles. It was quite amazing to hear the pirns being changed when they ran out of weft. You could not see the operation happening it was so fast, just hear the bang as the new pirn punched the old one out of the shuttle. It happened so quickly that the loom did not miss a beat in the weaving rhythm.

Växbo weaves only linen, not cotton, and has a line of table textiles and yardage that at least one designer is using for garments.

We had hoped to stop in at the textile school at Uplands Vasby, but weather conditions deteriorated, and we cancelled that side trip and went straight on in to Stockholm where we stayed the night with Kerstin's mother. In the morning the weather had improved, and we set off for Bergdala in dry conditions – a vast improvement over the previous day.

The last few days were spent quietly. We visited another Julmarket, but saw little weaving. We also stopped in at a studio and visited with the artist.

On Saturday evening, we went to a Hyttsill at the Bergdala Glass Works.

Hyttsill are based on the fact that during the 1800's itinerant peddlers and workers would be granted the freedom to use the annealing chamber in the glass works to cook their dinners. The Hyttsill at Bergdala Glass Works is considered one of the best ones, partly due to the configuration of the works themselves. The six glory holes are centrally located which means that those attending the Hyttsill can visit in the area around the glory holes.

The glory hole is kept at 1100 degrees C; the annealing chamber is kept at about 350 degrees C. The traditional country diet of potatoes, salted herring, and the local sausage would not take long to cook. While waiting for dinner to be ready, these travelers would share news of the region with each other and the villagers, story telling and singing keeping all entertained.

As an added bonus, we were given a demonstration of glass blowing. The workers are in teams of three, and for a simple glass, each team can produce 50 or so an hour. More complicated designs requiring more working of the glass would reduce their production to 25 an hour. The glass master giving the talk allowed some of the audience to try blowing. It is apparently very easy to blow the bubble – extremely difficult to produce glass that will actually function!

He ended his demo by making a glass pig which Björn asked if I could have. He was instantly christened Boaris in honour of the wild boars that still live in the forests of the area (and which are quite delicious!)

And so ended my 2002 trip – it was time to go home and get back to work……

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Magic in the Water


Digital microscope view of loom state cloth woven in the 'new to me' weave structure.  Reed marks are clearly visible and the threads are pretty much straight on the 'grid'.  There is little curvature or bending of the threads.  The warp and weft threads are clearly distinct.  The web looks very 'thready'.

Same weave structure (different cloth) after wet finishing.  Reed marks have been reduced enormously, although they are still visible if you look closely at the cloth.  But the threads have 'bloomed' and shifted closer together.  Slight curvature can be seen as the threads go through the weave structure and in some cases, it gets hard to follow one thread through the cloth without very careful tracking.  This can make fixing errors a bit challenging, but once the needle is in the grid, it gets easier to follow the path of an individual thread.

Some new weavers get very confused when they first begin weaving - and wet finishing - their webs.  There is a phenomenon called 'tracking' that appears, primarily in plain weave.  But, the new weaver says, why doesn't it happen in other weave structures?

Well, it does.  But the dynamic is different because in plain weave the latent twist energy has no where to go as the threads go over and under each other, so the yarns can tend to poke up and out causing weird lines in the plain weave.

In other weave structures, those areas are longer, so there is more room for the threads to shift and move without causing such structural evidence in the finished cloth.

Cotton and other bast/cellulose fibres do NOT full.  They do, however, bloom.   The fibres swell and will shift and shuffle themselves around in the weave structure.  Some weave structures will encourage this effect more than others.  Bedford cord, honeycomb, lace weaves, pique,  and others, rely on this shifting of the threads to develop their final state to it's maximum effect.

Twills generally don't seem to change appearance much, except when you get up close and personal, as in the two photos above.

The loom state sample is quite 'thready' but after wet finishing the motifs resolve and become more cohesive.

And this is why I always recommend that a new weaver does a sample and *wet finish* it to find out what will happen when the web hits the water for the very first time.  

Many new weavers are anxious about the 'washing' of their brand new cloth.  But the thing is, it isn't truly 'cloth' until it has been wet finished.  

Why do I call it wet finishing and not simply tell folk to 'wash' their webs?  Because frequently the wet finishing process will use hotter water and more vigorous agitation than regular 'washing'.

Anyway, if people want to know more, Magic in the Water is still available    You can purchase a print copy (magazine format) or pdf (digital).  Or I'm available to do guild programs/seminars on this (and other topics which are listed on my website   Yes, I know I don't have the s on the URL.  I'm hoping to get that fixed at some point but I don't have the skills so I'm waiting until my web master has a few free minutes to deal with it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024



Happy Tuesday to me.  :)

I am blessed with enablers who send me yarn (and books).  On this snowy Tuesday morning, a kilo of fine singles linen arrived from Lithuania.

It's a bit finer than I had envisioned, which means I will have to re-tool my plans for it, but never mind, anticipation is all part of the fun of weaving.  Thinking about what to do, how I may need to make adjustments to achieve the desired results is all part of the fun!

The company sells this yarn either singles, or 2, 3, or 4 ply.  If the singles is anything to go by, it should weave up very nicely, and then wet finishing with a good hard press ought to produce a really nice quality of cloth for things like tea towels.

I'll be pairing this as weft on a 2/16 cotton warp.  I needed more of that yarn to finish off the rest of my 2/16 cotton weft yarns anyway, so it will all come together quite nicely, I think.  Giving the singles the eyeball test, it appears to be a wee bit finer than sewing thread and is labelled Tex 56.  They convert that to 8854 yards/pound.  It has slight texture, and a lovely subtle sheen.  I think I'm going to like the results! 

They also offer it dyed, but I chose the natural colour which is has a bit of a golden glow to it.

So I won't get to this yarn right away.  I have the current warp of blue/peacock to finish weaving, then two more of that colour to finish up, which will give me time to cogitate on how to use this lovely yarn and then order what I need from Brassard.

Thank you to this particular enabler who has given me the gift of anticipation and being able to work with a new-to-me yarn.