Saturday, February 6, 2016

In Praise of Samples

So many weavers lament about sampling, considering it a waste of time and money.  It's no secret that if you have been reading this blog for any time at all, that I am a big fan of sampling.

Recently I had a long think about samples and decided that perhaps it would be good to show how people in other disciplines 'sample'.

Potters make dozens of test glaze tiles
Knitters make swatches.
Artists sketch.
Musicians run scales and practice fingering.
Dancers do their exercises at the barre.
Singers do vocal exercises.
Athletes practice skills appropriate to their sport. 

And so on and on.

It's all about doing their 10,000 hours of mindful practice.  It's about getting to know their materials and their equipment.  It's about honing the physical skills involved in their craft/art.  It's about choosing to learn, deeply, about how to make and be the best you can be.

Acquiring knowledge is never, in my world, a waste of time or money.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


This is an old photo, but the studio doesn't look a whole lot different than this at the moment.

With being sick for the past week and another few days of recovery in the cards, I am woefully 'behind' in my self-imposed schedule.  It is also becoming abundantly clear that I need to see about a new prescription for eye glasses as it is getting harder and harder for me to see...clearly.  But I hesitate to go for an examination when I'm congested and bleary-eyed from a head cold. 

As I watch the calendar days flip by, I am confronted by a long list of stuff that I really wanted to have done before we left on our holiday - and which simply aren't going to happen.  My goal of having the text completed before we left was unrealistic, but I really thought I would be farther along than I currently am.  No point in trying to string words together when I'm so woolly headed.

And of course the homework from Olds is beginning to arrive.  Those boxes are going to have to take priority.  Unfortunately, Doug is in the middle of winding skeins onto cones, and my work table pretty much looks like the photo above...

And here I am, not doing anything productive, dithering about what I ought to be doing, accomplishing nothing.

Time to rip up that old schedule and make up a new, much more realistic one - one that includes a couple more days of rest and recovery before I plunge back into the fray.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More 'Loom", More Problems

The AVL that I weave on has more mechanics than an 'ordinary' floor loom.  It has fly shuttle (which I only use when I'm weaving wider than 30" or so - otherwise I hand throw), auto cloth advance, computer assisted dobby, and the most recent addition - air assist.

When I first started weaving, I knew that I needed to invest in the most efficient equipment I could afford.  After doing some research, and test driving an AVL at a conference, I decided that was the direction I would go.

The loom was very intimidating.  It was 60" weaving width and the addition of the fly shuttle means that it takes up most of one end of the studio.  It also had 16 shafts when the most I'd had before were 8.  I very quickly realized that the more mechanical 'assistance' there was, the more things could go 'wrong'.

The AVL is set up mechanically differently from most floor looms as well.  In the photo you can see the levers that pull the shafts back down to their bottom position.  These levers are connected by chains and springs.  You might also be able to see that the chains are different lengths - one of them is dangling beside the yellow 'thing' in the centre left of the photo.

These dangling chains can catch on their neighbour's hooks, which is why the yellow 'thing' is there - it is covering the end of the chain and the hook on that shaft.

This morning I was weaving along quite nicely when the front shafts started dancing to their own music.  I looked and could not see anything amiss but as I continued to weave, the shafts continued to behave oddly.  It's a little tough when you are trying to operate the loom and see what's happening underneath.

Eventually I spotted the problem - the most obvious misbehavior was on the left hand side of the loom while it was the chain from shaft one that was catching on the hook from shaft two on the right hand side of the loom that was the problem.

There isn't a lot of space to get under the shafts, so I had to go to the back of the loom, eel myself in between the cloth storage roller and the bottom warp beam, drape myself across the roller and reach up and all the way to the front of the shafts to get the hook and chain separated.  I then taped the dangling chain back onto itself so that it would not be happening any time soon.

Ah, yes, the AVL know, the one that does 'everything' for you, including making your mistakes???

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Throwback Sunday

This is the second of the two articles from the newspaper my friend gave me a while ago.  This one is from 1999 and shows my then studio assistant modeling an evening gown I wove and a friend sewed up for the ANWG conference fashion show in Bozeman, MT.

It was interesting to read through both articles and see how little my attitude has changed.  And to think about how much has happened since 1997 and 1999.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Throwback Friday

Recently a friend gave me a couple of newspaper clippings she had saved for me many moons ago and recently found.

This article was done in 1997 and published just a few days before my birthday.  :)  It brought back many fond memories as my aunt (mom's sister) was visiting and I was able to show her this exhibit of my work at a local art gallery.

As I read the headline, I was reminded of how much has happened since 1997, and how little has really changed.  I still feel as though I could keep weaving for whatever is left of my life and still not know it all.

Currently reading The Patriarch by Martin Walker

Thursday, January 28, 2016


The above textiles were woven for A Good Yarn:  Linen.  They are primarily linen, although some of them are combined with either hemp or cotton.  As such they share some characteristics, but there are subtle nuances because of the different combinations of fibres.

I think it is this aspect of weaving that continually attracts me to keep exploring, keep pushing boundaries...keep learning.

I've got the broad strokes - I have my preferred methods, processes and equipment which don't change very much from day to day.  I have my comfort zone in terms of what I like to make and which yarns I prefer to use to make them.

But there are times when I do choose to try different things.  Not as often, perhaps, as I should, but often enough that I am very aware of the nuances in using the different fibres.  The inelasticity of linen compared to the huge elasticity of some wools, for example. 

I like to contrast matte and shiny yarns for effect and I like to create the illusion of curves within the grid of the cloth.

Weaving is like that - simple but complex.  Bold but subtle.  Structured but flexible.

Weaving satisfies me on so many different levels - intellectual, creative, disciplined, free.  I need to use math regularly (thank goodness for calculators), visualize, break through creative constraints, make mistakes - and learn from them.  Weaving has been for me intellectual stimulation, educational, therapeutic.

Weaving has allowed me to weave a life.  

And for that I remain continually grateful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


I really love delving into books, especially ones as eye appealing as this one.  

It only arrived a couple of days ago and therefore I've not read it thoroughly but so far I'm liking what I see.  

What I have read is clearly stated with good illustrations.   While the book is geared toward the rigid heddle loom, basic principles are given which will transfer seamlessly to a treadle loom, should the reader decide to expand in that direction.  If not, there are plenty of suggestions for making the most of a rigid heddle loom.  

The photos are clear and plentiful and overall, it is an attractive presentation. 

Others who have had the book longer than I have are pleased with the information on using more than one heddle, which makes the loom more versatile for those who want to explore weave structure, but there are plenty of ideas for a more organic approach for those more interested in colour and texture.  

For those just entering the wonderful world of weaving using a rigid heddle loom, I think this one is a very good investment.