Saturday, January 12, 2019

Elbow Room

I'm back to weaving - or trying to, in between book shipping distractions - and decided the easiest thing to do would be to weave up all those scarf warps I wound before Christmas.

As I was weaving today I thought about the yarns we choose to work with and how to determine an appropriate density for the cloth we intend to create.

Some yarns/qualities of cloth just need more elbow room than the standard charts recommend.

For instance with these warps I'm using two different yarns.  The green is a lightly textured rayon which may well be cabled (I haven't deconstructed it to find out how exactly it was spun) and a textured rayon 'boucle' (the purple).

The boucle (I call it that because I'm not sure what exactly to call it - again I've not deconstructed it to find out how it was spun) is thinner than the other, over all.  But the texture of it means that it needs more elbow room.  I think you can see in the photo that parts of the yarn are quite a bit thicker than the other.  The density of the cloth needs to take that intermittent thickness into consideration or else the resulting cloth will be tighter and stiffer than I really want for a scarf.

Another yarn that needs to have density adjusted is linen.  While a linen yarn may be the same thickness as a cotton yarn, the fact that the linen is denser than cotton, and stiffer than cotton, means it needs to have more elbow room than cotton.

Charts giving standard recommendations for various yarns are always just a starting point.

One of the challenges in the master weaving program through Olds is to weave sett samples.  In level one the yarn is wool; in level two the yarn is cotton.

Students always want to know what the 'right' density is.  The truth is that there is no right density.  For 2/8 cotton I've seen charts telling people to use 2/8 cotton for plain weave anywhere from 18 to 24 epi.  And you can.  Using the different degrees of density can be done but cloth of completely different qualities will result.  18 epi/ppi will make a much better towel than one at 24 because the denser and stiffer the cloth, the less absorbent it will be.  The higher density will, however, be much more durable in terms of abrasion resistance.

Whether someone does a yarn/ruler wrap, uses the Ashenhurst formula, or follows the recommendations of a chart, remember that those numbers are just a starting place.  The yarn being used may require more - or less - elbow room, depending on the quality of the cloth desired.

This is why we weave samples.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mommeee! It's Overrrrrr!!!

The Introductory Offer is over.  Has been since Dec. 21, 2018.  I extended that period for a few people who emailed me saying they'd only just heard the news and could they, pretty please?  Since I ordered 'extra' hard copies for sale at the ANWG conference I accepted a few more orders based on the IO.

But now that I'm in the middle of shipping those IOs out, it is time to officially close down the offer and direct people to purchase from the website

Both Magic in the Water and The Intentional Weaver are available via Blurb in either print-on-demand or PDF formats.

As an individual self-publishing a book for a slim niche of a niche market, I welcome people sharing news of the book to their friends.  I am doing all the marketing myself.  I don't have a marketing department or a big marketing budget.  I can't afford ads in trade publications because I didn't build in a big enough margin in my price because I wanted to keep the book as affordable as possible.

I just did a quick search for "Laura Fry book" and the third item on the list was for Magic in the Water via Blurb.  So my books can be found - it may just take a little digging.

Or a little help from my friends

In the 21st century, social media can get the word out very quickly to a target market.  So feel free to share the news of the book and where it can be found.

Sending best wishes to everyone during the coming year.    

Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Anachronism

Anachronism:  person or thing out of harmony with the time

I am the very definition of an anachronism.  I knew very little about weaving when I chose to become a professional weaver.  It had not been a hobby that grew.  I wasn't trying to sell enough to cover the cost of my materials.

In fact, I realized that the accepted pricing 'formula' of the day of 3 times the cost of my materials would lead to not being in business very quickly.

I also recognized that in order to make any kind of money at all, I was going to have to become very efficient at doing it.  I bought the most efficient equipment I could afford, or borrow to purchase it.

Weaving was not an escape from work; it was my work.

I had to learn how run a business as well as hone my craft - and that included doing market research (what would people be willing to purchase and for how much), manage my finances, discover exactly what it was that I was actually selling (it wasn't my textiles as much as it was my designs and the uniqueness that my personal creativity brought to my textiles), and develop a reputation for producing quality textiles that were worth the price I was charging.

With income from selling textiles being quite cyclical, I also started teaching and tried to balance my life and approach as a teacher with producing inventory for the shows that I deemed worthwhile presenting my textiles at.  Because not all of them bring in the type of clientele willing to pay my prices.

I had to learn how to respond to comments that were less than positive in their nature.  Both in selling and in teaching.

There is no real need for anyone in this day and age in North America to hand weave cloth.  I do it not because it is necessary but because I am offering my creativity - my designs, my colour ways, my approach to creating functional cloth that will do its job as well as I can make it.  What I am selling is myself as a designer.

All of this did not happen overnight.  At times I was more successful than at others.  When ever I wasn't as financially successful as I wanted, I had to look to ways to increase my income.  I wrote for magazines.  Eventually I wrote a book.  Two. 

My income streams were diverse, and at times unequal.  There were times when there was very little in the way of income.  At times it was our only income.

What I never did do, was quit.

Despite the challenges.  Despite the insecurity of income.  Despite negative comments.  Despite the stress.  I tried to figure out another way to make this career work for me.  Being an anachronism in the 20th and 21st centuries.

With 'retiring' from teaching guilds, making a firm decision last summer, I fully expected that my income would decrease severely.  Instead a couple of opportunities have gently strolled into my life and I find myself approaching teaching from a different tangent.  Only time will tell if these opportunities will develop into something long term, or just as an interim while I sort out what the future holds for me.

In the meantime, I have a book or 3 (hundred) to go sign...

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Home Stretch

300 copies.  That's how many I ordered.  This morning they arrived and I have begun signing them in preparation to packaging them up and getting them to the post office.  Hopefully the first batch will go tomorrow, although that may be a little...optimistic. 

But - they are here and I am in the home stretch.

When I published Magic in the Water, there really wasn't such a thing as digital books so it was - at first - exclusively a print publication.  It took the better part of 10 years to sell the entire print run. 

Now, we have various digital means of publishing information.  For this book I went with a website that does print-on-demand and offers digital options.  We never did get the ebook technology to work, but the manuscript is available as a PDF download.  This makes it a lot cheaper for people, especially those living in places far away from North America.

What I didn't realize when I chose this website was that they have printing facilities elsewhere, which makes it a lot cheaper for people in Europe and Australia/NZ to get a print copy, too.  They aren't paying for shipping from back-of-beyond Canada.  (Magic is now also available on Blurb as both a print and PDF versions.)

Overall my experience with Blurb has been good.  They have been professional in paying for units sold in one month by the 5th of the next.  (This month was a couple of days later, but there were holidays, which no doubt delayed things.)

If anyone is looking for a print-on-demand or digital option, I would recommend this website.

But for now I need to get back to the pen and pile.

Currently reading The Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


People are always amazed at how fast I am.  The secret is that...anyone who practices, mindfully, with similar manual dexterity to what I have can be just as, if not faster, than me.

In this video on You Tube, I break down the motions so that anyone can see how I do what I do.

Over the years I have worked hard to have ergonomic motions.  Turns out these ergonomic motions are also the most efficient ones.  So working ergonomically results in yes, less injury, but also more speed.

Working ergonomically, efficiently, with a good rhythm also results in more consistency and therefore better results in terms of the cloth being created.

So no, someone new to weaving will not be as fast as I am.  It took time to work out the motions, then practice them, training my muscles to do the motions consistently, while also learning when and how to adjust what I was doing depending on the fibre being used, to develop the speed that I now have.  There are times when I slow my weaving rhythm down to a snail's pace in order to weave, for example, a very open cloth and the weft isn't so much as beaten in but simply pushed into place.  Going slower in that instance gets me the results I desire much more quickly.

Everyone has to work at a pace that is comfortable for them, given their equipment and their intention.  It is not a contest.  It is personal growth and development that must be the first goal of any weaver.  Pay attention to what you are doing, do it the most ergonomic way you can, and in the end, efficiency may well increase, too.

A short profile of me done by the local cable channel is here

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Such a big job meant it had to be broken down into 'batches'.

First job was printing out the orders and their payments, keeping the two together.  Keeping track of the sending of the link for the pdf was noted on the payment paperwork.

The orders were filed alphabetically in case of queries so that they'd be easier to find.

Once the introductory offer period ended, I pulled out the Canadian orders (because they didn't need customs forms) and the four orders to be sent overseas and put them into separate files.

And then I began writing out mailing labels for the envelopes.  This took some time.  Yes, I could have typed them and printed them on my printer, but I already spend way too much time sitting at a computer, and I could get up, refresh my tea, stare out the window to clear my mind of numbers/names and take a wee break before going back to it.

Once the mailing labels were written out, the customs forms were done.  I had adhesive return address labels so that I didn't have to write out my own address, which helped enormously.

Boxes of padded envelopes were purchased (buying in bulk saved a few pennies, but it also saved plastic wrapping - iow, garbage).

This morning I began affixing the labels to the envelopes, again beginning with the Canadian and overseas ones.

Now I'm doing the US ones.  I'm taping the labels down because I've had such labels come off in transit - and I really don't want that to be a problem for these.  The customs label gets tucked into the envelope.  It will get taped (temporarily) to the outside of the envelope when the book goes in.  (Temporarily because the post office clerk needs to weigh the parcel and write in the depot code, weight, date etc. then stick it down to the envelope.)

The Canadian ones have been sorted by province.  The US ones will be sorted by zip code.  When we take the envelopes to the post office, this should make their job easier and faster so that we don't have to wait for ages while they deal with the flood.  Organizing by zip code will streamline their process.  I've talked to a clerk and we'll go in around 2 pm - after any lunch 'rush' and before the after work 'rush'.  Most likely we will do this over the course of several days.  The shipment of books weighs +550 pounds.  The majority of them are being mailed out and I doubt either of us will be much looking forward to carrying them into the post office.  I may request that we use their loading dock but the bins still have to be carried out to the van.

I'm hoping to get labels onto the envelopes done so that when the books do arrive all I have left to do is sign them and get them packaged up.  Doug will help with the packaging up part.

My goal is to have the books on their way before conference duties ramp up again, which they will very soon now.

Eating that proverbial elephant, one bite (batch) at a time.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


It feels like my life since becoming a production weaver has been one long stab at de-cluttering.

Since I have been working to earn an income from weaving, and there are so many steps that need to be done to get a warp into the loom, weave it, wet and dry finish it - I have always worked in batches.  The warp is the initial batch - planning multiple items on it, winding the warp, dressing the loom (beaming, threading, tying on, weaving it off) - then wet finishing, dry finishing (or vice versa depending on the dry finishing involved), tagging, then storing until they are sold.

As a result there has been a constant heap of bins with warps in various stages of preparation, then bins of finishing (hemming, fringe twisting), etc.

When I taught, there were bins of yarn with drafts being prepared to be mailed out.

When I did publications, the number of bins increased exponentially.

With all of this creative activity, my life was similarly cluttered with teaching dates, publication dates, deadlines, soft and hard.

Finally I have come to the point in my life when all this activity is becoming less of an issue as I downsize my expectations, and therefore the number of deadlines, projects, teaching that I am willing to schedule.

Normally with the conference just six months away, I would have been loading up my calendar with deadlines post conference.

Right now I have a few - Olds College (if they want me) in July, one teaching event in September, then three craft fairs I have decided to do in Oct/Nov.  But otherwise?  I am not booking anything for the second half of the year.

Realization has dawned that not only can I downsize my calendar, I am actually looking forward to it.

Even more, I am looking forward to downsizing my stash, the general physical clutter in my studio, and even, maybe, in my house.

Currently reading The Woman who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone (the true story of love, spies and the unlikely heroine who outwitted America's enemies - Elizebeth Smith Friedman)