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Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't Despair

So many new weavers get discouraged by how long it takes to dress the loom.  I just want to give them a hug and assure them that it will get better.  Honest.

Weaving is a skilled activity.  By that I mean that the practitioner must learn how to operate the equipment, understand their materials and hone their physical skills.  It also helps if they have equipment that suits their purposes and the space to set the tools out so that they can be efficiently used.

Most people don't have the luxury of a dedicated studio space, nor do they have the time it takes to practice this ancient craft on a regular basis.  And it truly is a case of "if you don't use it, you lose it".

I did a time study tonight, just to see how I was doing given my recent health issues.  It was a way to determine how well along in recovery I am.  I have to say, I'm doing quite well in terms of studio work.  My times were pretty much standard for me.

But I came to the craft with some advantages - a childhood filled with activities that assisted in terms of learning how to weave - lots of textile crafts, lots of music/dance/athletics (which gave me good experience in biofeedback and coaching), manual dexterity and a sense of appropriateness for the textiles I was constructing - how they succeeded in their job - or, perhaps more importantly - how they failed.  And an analytic mind to help me figure out how to get closer to success.

I am now in my 40th year of weaving - or will be come September.  It has been pretty much my focus for most of those years.  While many people would like to spend all day, every day, doing what they love, the reality of life means that most people can't devote their lives to weaving in the way that I have.

All of the experience I have had in those years, including all of those failures (which have been legion) have contributed to the weaver I am today.

However, it isn't necessary to devote all that time - and yes, money (for books, classes, equipment) - it is only necessary that the practitioner enjoys what they are doing.  Not everyone wants to be as efficient as I am, nor do they need to be.  It is not a contest.  Each of us has to do what makes us happy, in the way that it makes us happy.


Currently reading An Apple for the Monster (ed by Charlaine Harris)

A Little Introspection

Striped towel from a couple of years ago - which I'm thinking of revisiting in different colourways, different yarns...

One of the things that has been providing some distraction for me is re-reading some of my older blog posts.

I started the blog just about exactly 7 years ago (August 2008), partly as an expression of hope for a future that had so nearly been snatched from me, partly as a diary of what it is that I do - a reminder of where I have been and what I actually accomplish, rather than the Inner Critic constantly harping on at me about not doing 'enough'.

Since the blog started I have been through multiple health issues (and I very much appreciate people who have supported me through those) and come through the other side.  There is a 'poster' on Facebook that kind of sums up life, really:

If I knew who the artist was I'd give credit, but the source doesn't appear to be indicated.  Whoever made the image, thank you, it perfectly sums up Life - in my experience.

So, the webinar is over.  I have heard directly from two people who took it and found it helpful.  Thanks for letting me know.  :)   I do 'better' when conveying technical information to have a live audience so that I can gauge how well I'm getting the information across.  It was a bit...intimidating...to contemplate doing a fairly conceptual topic without that feedback.  But now that I've survived, I'm thinking about other topics I might be able to do.

Which brings me back to the towels at the top of this post.  I use the Fibonacci series as a design tool.  It might be fun to do a webinar on how I use the series in terms of designing stripes.  To do a Power Point presentation would mean a whole lot of prep work, but I think could...I think I could...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Painted warp scarf - rayon

Being of an analytical mind, I suppose one of the benefits is that I am able to sort through various choices (decisions) and follow them through to expected consequences.

I think this has made me the weaver I am.  Beginning with the idea or concept of a particular kind of textile, one that will perform a specific function, I am able to back track along the process to decide on how I want to get to my destination, as it were.

Choosing to have creative 'limitations' helps to guide me on the path enabling me to explore the parameters of making cloth that will work 'properly'.  In no way do I feel constrained or hindered in my creativity.  Rather I feel that creativity and a stated goal go hand in hand to get me to a good result.

Weaving is a long process.  Weaving by hand is slow, by any definition of the word.  People assume that because I can do it more quickly (efficiently) than they can, that somehow I must be missing out on the tactile satisfaction involved in weaving.  Not so.  I still wind each thread, dress the loom, thread and sley the warp, and every single pick is laid in by hand.  I just do it more efficiently than some.  That doesn't mean I take short cuts, hurry, or in any way lessen the satisfaction, joy, even, of the job.

Because for me it is a job.  It just happens to be a job that I love.  That gives me great satisfaction.  That I miss when I don't do it (like during recovery from health issues), that is a form of working meditation.  Weaving is something that I intend to do for as long as I can, yes, even into old(er) age!

The consequence of choosing weaving as a career has been multi-storied.  Yes, it has been, at times, frustrating.  There are aspects of being a professional weaver that aren't nearly as attractive as others.  But over all?  I have had a good life.  I have brought enjoyment to others through my own joy of making.  I have traveled further afield than I ever expected to do, met dozens, if not hundreds, of fascinating, quite wonderful people.

Bottom line?  A good life.  A very good life, indeed.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

What's Necessary

So, here is what I'm aiming for - a rendition of snails trails and cats paws, but done in twill blocks rather than the more usually seen overshot.  I keep returning to this design for several reasons - I like the undulation of the 'trails', I like the quality of cloth and I like the very graphic feel of the design.

Unfortunately I only recently discovered that the two large (kilo?) cones of singles linen left are not singles 12, which is what I had been using to weave this previously, but singles 24.  About half the thickness of 12.  So out came my trusty doubling stand and I very carefully wound bobbins and filled the humidors this morning.  The bobbins really do behave better if they are allowed to 'steep' in the humidor for at least 24, preferably 48, hours.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have been thinking a lot about nuances and doing what is 'necessary'.  'Necessary' will change from warp to warp, from project to project, from loom to loom.  'Necessary' sometimes means using a technique, process or equipment which is 'slower' than my usual.  I do it because it is 'necessary' in order to achieve the results I desire.  If it isn't 'necessary' I don't do it.  Simple as that.

However, learning when something is 'necessary' comes from experience.  Someone can tell me something but quite often I will try it myself in order to determine if it is truly 'necessary' or not.  (Like floating selvedges.  I can't tell you the number of times I have been sincerely assured that it is impossible to get good selvedges without them.)

I once offered to mentor a young weaver who I felt had promise and the desire to make a good weaver.  She looked me in the eye and assured me quite confidently that she was intelligent enough to figure it out on her own.  Which she probably was, but learning the nuances from me would have meant she got good results much faster without having to make all the mistakes I've made, taken all the bad decisions I have, woven all the samples I've woven.

One of the things I love and no doubt will miss, is the interaction between me and a student.  I love seeing the light go on in their eye and the excitement generated when they 'get' a concept.  I love how they sling shot into areas I might not consider because then I learn stuff too.  One of the down sides of restricting my traveling to teach.  So I am, once again, seriously contemplating...a book.  If I can distill my experiences, my knowledge onto the page, perhaps others who are willing to learn from me can, even if I can't get to them in person.  I have no children (not that having children is any guarantee one of them will want to learn what their parents know), so I kind of consider the weaving community my family.  I really would like my knowledge to continue, in some fashion, after I have entered the big Weaving Studio In The Sky.

Currently reading The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin

Friday, July 24, 2015


Yesterday Doug beamed the next tea towel warp and this morning I started threading.  The 'bad' news is that the two cones of 12 singles linen I have left in my stash are actually singles 24.  A much finer thread!  Since this warp was set up to have singles 12 used on it, my only option is to set up my doubling stand and wind two threads at a time.  Something I wasn't prepared to do this morning.

Also thinking about advantages/disadvantages.  Frequently discussion will start on one of the chat groups about the advantages/disadvantages of various methods/processes/equipment.

Thing is, an advantage is something that helps you, while a disadvantage is something that hinders you.  This will mean different things to different people at different times.  So the fact that a loom will fold up isn't an advantage to me because my looms never get folded up.  Yes, the back beam on my Leclerc Fanny will fold up, but I never do so that feature is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to me.

Many of the small 'folding' looms have disadvantages (to me) that make working on them a PITA - short distance from breast to back beam, small warp/cloth beams, folding during weaving because they can't handle the enthusiasm with which I treadle and beat, and so on.

Warping front to back stopped giving me 'good' results (in my opinion) many moons ago so I don't.  That doesn't mean I haven't done it or even at times recommended others doing it in certain circumstances.  But as a blanket process?  Not working for me.

I would much rather see lists of features in a piece of equipment than a list of advantages/disadvantages because a new weaver simply doesn't know what might constitute an advantage/disadvantage to them.  We come in all shapes and sizes so not all looms will work well for all people, all of the time.  I get a little fussed when people decry back to front warping as 'requiring all that extra equipment' or that 'it's a waste of time to rough sley then have to sley the reed again after beaming'.  A raddle is simply and easily made, or a reed can be used instead of a raddle.  And any process that saves time or gives me better results somewhere along the process is not a waste of time in my opinion.

Bottom line?  If something is an advantage to you, great.  Please bear in mind it might not be an advantage to me.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Life, Interrupted

Diana Krall

There is a movement where people are tattooing semi-colons onto their bodies as a reminder that bad things happen to good people but it doesn't have to mean that one's life is over.  It is just Life, Interrupted.

I think it's an interesting concept, although not one I'm about to emulate.  With all my allergies, injecting ink under my skin just doesn't appeal.  That doesn't mean I don't understand why people are doing it.  Sometimes you need something to remind you that when bad things happen they don't need to be permanent.  Or, if 'permanent', they don't have to define you as a person.

I have enough scars, however, to remind me of that fact!  And I mean that literally.

It is always amazing to me how much damage a body can sustain and still keep going.  People wind up with horrendous injuries but they still manage to recover enough to carry on with a life filled with meaning and love.

I've had Diana Krall's cd Glad Rag Doll for several years, but yesterday I really listened to the lyrics to Let It Rain.  And it struck a chord inside me, such that I wanted to share it with my friends.

The lyrics can be found on the internet, but click on the link above to hear her perform the song.  Life may get interrupted from time to time with bad things.  That doesn't mean we will never be happy again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Scarf from last year

Lots of thoughts inch worming their way through my brain as I think about the past few months.  About not feeling well in order to feel better (or at least, that was the goal, which finally seems to be happening), about life and how short and fragile it can be at times, at 40 years of being a professional weaver in a society that doesn't much value creative endeavours (although fortunately enough do that I've not actually starved), about living my life to (mostly) please myself.

Thinking lots of thoughts about creating textiles, writing about them, teaching others how to make them.  Thinking about the joy I see in others as they 'get' the concepts.  Some just want to 'dabble' in the craft while others want to Know All The Things.  And everywhere in between on that spectrum.

Weaving, like many other crafts, is shall we say, a 'skill'.  Anyone who wants to can weave, it's really quite simple.  You take one set of threads we call 'warp' and another set of threads we call 'weft' and you interlace them together.  And that's it, really.  Simple  Easy-peasy.

Unless you want to create something specific. Something useful.  Something that will function well in the doing of its job.  Maybe something beautiful...or even thought provoking.

Beginners get overwhelmed with the possibilities.  I know I did.  When you can do pretty much anything, anything at all, where do you begin?  How do you start?

My approach was to learn the physical skills and build on them.  My early textiles weren't particularly pretty.  I didn't know much about colour or design so I made some awful decisions, some really dreadful choices, when I was just starting out.  

Thing is, I knew I wasn't making very good textiles, and I didn't much care because I knew that I would learn.  I was in it for the long haul, as they say.  I didn't expect perfection of myself because I was a beginner.  I didn't understand the nuances - colour/design, weave structure, the inherent characteristics of the materials, how to properly operate the equipment.

But I was willing to wallow in the shallow end of the learning curve, soaking up as much information as I could jam into my brain box.  I was willing to fail...and learn from that failure.  

I am an analytic kind of person.  I don't hesitate to stare failure in the face and ask why?  What can I do to make it better next time?  How did my choices impact my results?  I knew I wasn't clever enough to achieve perfection the first or even the 10th time I tried.  I didn't care.  I wanted to learn.  I needed to understand.  I jumped into the nuances of what would happen if I changed one thing, then changed one more thing, then changed and changed again.  Trying.  Sampling.  Learning.

I was also fortunate in that I knew my way around a library and how to look things up in the card catalogue (yes, I'm that old.)  I knew about bibliographies and how to request materials on inter-library loan.  I knew enough to do research and when to scrimp and save up my pennies in order to take classes/workshops.  Quite often the lessons learned were not what I expected, but I always, always learned something.

Weaving became meditation, physical exercise (the way I weave it's aerobic - when you break a sweat and your heart rate increases, you really are exercising, in spite of what some people think), therapy, even a social life as I got to know other weavers and craftspeople.  It is a challenge, still, and at times intellectual stimulation as I try to wrap my brain around a new concept, a new way of looking at ways to make textiles.

It has, in so many ways, been A Life, with all it's ups and downs, its successes and failures, it's highs and its lows.  After 40 years and achieving an age where other people 'retire', all I can think about is doing it some more.  I love the look on people's faces when they ask what I'm going to do when I retire and I tell them I'm going to weave!