Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Textile Science

Understanding your materials when you work with yarn is one of the cornerstones of being a textile artist.

I discovered this book (the first edition - it's all you really need, not the 2nd edition which is a lot more expensive) back when it first came out in the early, oh, 1980s?

The format appealed to me because the information was given in concise clear language and there were lots of diagrams/charts illustrating various points.  The fact that it was then, and may still be now, a textbook for textile science classes and that the two authors were, at the time, teaching textile science at the U of Manitoba just made it all that much more appealing!

There are other textile science books.  I even own some of them.  But time and again I return to this one.

So when people offer opinions, especially when they are incorrect, this is the book I point them at.  When I'm teaching I always give the title and authors to my students.  And I consult it regularly.

There seems to be such an emphasis on someone's experience or opinion and a de-emphasis on actual science these days, textile science is not immune.

For the Olds master weaving class especially, the whole point is to steer students towards actual, factual, information, not my opinion or someone else's opinion, but facts.

The book has great charts which allow me to compare the characteristics of one fibre to another.  My experience at spinning allows me to understand how the spinning of yarn from the fibres can be used to modify the behaviour of fibres in thread, then how to further modify them during weaving.

I have also learned as much as I can about the actual production of fibre - how animals are raised, plants are harvested and how each are prepared for spinning.

I know that sheep are not routinely killed for their fibre, but shorn.  Some animals that are killed, either for meat or because they are ill may possibly have their hides shorn to harvest their fibre, but the whole point of sheep and other animals that produce fibre is not to kill them for their fibre but to keep them as a renewable resource - producing at least one crop a year.  Shearing is not harmful and it is not traumatic when done by an experienced shearer.  Most shearers can complete the job in a matter of minutes and then the sheep are free to return to the flock.  There might be a nick at times, but I've had a hair dresser snip my ear or poke me with scissors and I was just fine afterwards, too.

There are ads for 'vegan' fibres, by which it is meant that the fibres do not come from animals.  Fair enough.  Cotton, linen, and other plant fibres can be lovely.  I admire people who have the courage of their convictions.  But by and large, and most especially small holdings of rare or 'exotic' sheep breeds are not mistreated.  Domestic sheep pretty much must be shorn because they don't shed their fibres anymore and the burden of several years of grown can actually be harmful to their health.

My opinion is that I want to use fibres that will degrade back to dust, just like I'm going to one of these days.  I prefer to not use synthetic fibres.  I do still have some acrylic yarns in my stash, and I will use them.  They might as well be put to use since they already exist.  But I don't buy them and prefer to not use them.

But that is my personal line in the sand and I don't insist that everyone else follow me.  When it is a moral issue, we each have to decide how to approach our textile practice and work accordingly.

However, I do strongly suggest that people find out facts, not react to a meme they saw on social media.  Those memes are designed by media folk, they rely on emotional trigger words/images, and may not be the best thing to be paying attention to when facts are out there, readily available when you take the time to look for them.

When doing a web search, pay attention to who is sponsoring a web site.  If the web site is paid for by the cotton council, they may not be telling the whole truth about bamboo, for example.  I'm not saying bamboo is 100% wonderful - like every other fibre, it has issues!

It is because I think this information is so important that I included some fibre info in my book.

And listed A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers in my bibliography.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

All Done But the Clean Up

Sunday the facilities were emptied of the equipment that was delivered there on Tuesday.  One trailer came here because I feel like I dragged half my studio to the conference!  The other trailer had things that were carried on up to the guild room.

Monday Doug and I went to the guild room to collect more of my things that did not have my name on but that we needed to remove from the guild room so there was space to move up there.

Birthe has spent most of today finishing the documenting of the Awards, which are now - all except the People's Choice ribbons - listed on the conference website and the conference blog.

On Sunday I had the able assistance of many hands which made light work of dealing with the worst of the mess in my studio.  Yesterday Ruth went home and today Cindy and Mary are on their way.

I had every intention on jumping right in on things today, but of course more organization needed to be done!

However, I did sort through the boxes of homework and even opened one.  Got the essay/research paper read and crashed and burned. 

Since getting up from a rather lengthy 'nap' I've been catching up on messages and emails and now, here it is, half way through the afternoon and I feel like I've accomplished nothing much at all.  Except I have.  It's just not anything concrete that I can point at.

One of the things simmering in the back of my mind is the wrap up report to go to the ANWG board.

I intend to write that up in the next couple of days while it is still 'fresh' in my mind.  But not today when I'm still so tired.  Plus homework to be marked.  Class prep to start for Olds level one happening in ack, three weeks!  LESS!  17 days until I hit the highway!!!  Yikes - my how time flies when you are having fun...

So - we aren't quite done, done, but getting there.  I think most of the committee will drag themselves to the guild room tonight for a quick meeting and reminder of what else needs to be done.

For now?  I need to go do some marking.  I've promised five students to get their homework done and the marks to the college by Monday.

Any future 'big dreams' are going to be rather smaller in nature...I'm getting too old to be having this much fun!

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Mary Lessman at the Ancient Forest

There will be no time to drive Mary out to the Ancient Forest this trip but when choosing a photo for this post it seemed to sum up so much of the last few years.

I am still processing the experience of helping organize the conference, still processing the amazing experience of being involved with a group of women who came together (a confluence of women is mighty!), still mulling over the all too brief contact with such an amazing group of people, yes, men too, but mostly women.  Fibre arts are, in the 21st century mostly the 'preserve' of women.

Each tree in a forest stands tall and is impressive.  Putting many trees together in a forest becomes awe inspiring.

And so it is when a group of people get together to share their love of all things textile.

Each tree grows from it's roots, reaching towards the sky.  Mother trees shelter and protect saplings.  All the creatures of a forest live together to make an environment.  A community.

Textile artists came to Prince George from many different locations - north, south, east and west.  One instructor came all the way from the southern hemisphere.  Truly a global gathering.

Textiles can reach across cultures, across time zones, across continents.  Textiles have been part of the human experience since time beyond written history.  The archeological record of the impression of textiles in pottery shows that even though the textile has transformed back into 'dust', they existed, they made things 'better' for the humans in that community.

I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind right now.  It will take time to find the loose end of my thoughts and begin to tease out the sense of them.  

But in the meantime I am grateful beyond words to the local people who put shoulders to wheels and gave a mighty push every time it was needed.  The instructors, many who came in spite of challenges, willing to share their knowledge and encourage others to learn and grow.  The attendees who frequently also saw a need and willingly offered to help - especially as I was setting up the exhibit.  Their help shaved at least an hour or more off set up time.  Many hands do make light work!

Since I set up the exhibits I got to see the entries up close and personal.   There were many items that were unique, creative, intriguing.

There were garments in the fashion show that were amazing in their concept, their execution.

I was able to catch brief moments with most of the instructors, but as always, it's hard to do more than just touch base at such a busy event.

I wish there could be more personal interactions with people, but cherish the time I did have.

Confluences of thoughts, ideas, plans for the future are tentative, but they are the seeds that produce the trees that make that forest.  No seed?  No forest.  It all has to begin somewhere.

There is still the clean up and once again the committee has already taken care of moving out of the facilities.  From there the borrowed things will be distributed to the loaners.

On a personal level, I have to clean up my studio, which got ripped apart, tossed like a salad, and is in even more than the usual disarray.  But Mary says she will help, so we will begin by sorting through samples, getting the ones that are important to me (the GCW samples) and put them away.  We might even get to the point of sorting and putting away yarn that got pulled and never put back.

One has to find a loose end and begin to tease it out of the jumble.  One has to begin.  To take that first step.  

In the meantime, I will continue to process this experience and wait to see what the future will bring.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Rising. Lifting

Last night was the keynote presentation.

Abby and I had talked at length two years ago when we booked her to teach and speak at the conference.

Last night she talked about how she had written and re-written the presentation over and over again while she thought about the concept of confluences.

To me it seemed as though she had spent time peeling the layers away to reveal new truths with each layer.

When she talked about a confluence as sometimes being tumultuous, chaotic, energetic, it was as though a light had been lit.

As she explored how, in so many ways, change can be challenging, difficult, and amazing, I thought of all the times change had come to me, usually in the form of a person coming into my life to be a teacher.

At times this new direction, new energy, new person, were challenging and I was forced to change - my thinking, my life direction, my attitudes.  Perhaps 'forced' isn't the right word, although I didn't - at the time - feel I had much control over what was happening - I just knew it was going to be an exciting 'ride'!

And while I 'shot the rapids' of this energetic meeting of two 'rivers', I always, always, came through it to a deeper understanding, a greater body of knowledge.

Conferences are unique vehicles that bring disparate people together, sometimes literally from across the globe.

But we are all human beings.  We have similar dreams, hopes, desires. 

People in the craft community sometimes lament about 'politics' getting in the way of their crafting.  But throughout history textiles have pretty much always been about 'politics'.  The sumptuary laws, banning certain classes of people from wearing 'royal' purple, velvet, silk, etc.  The Luddites, trying to prevent automation from throwing thousands of weavers and spinners out of work.  The word sabotage comes from the French weavers heaving their wooden 'sabot' (clogs) through the windows of the weaving mills, trying to damage the new dobby/Jacquard looms.

Confluences of ideas can be volatile.  They can also bring light.

Thank you Abby for a thought provoking presentation and a greater understanding of how textiles are held in esteem in another context.

Friday, June 14, 2019


One of the fun things about conferences is being able to connect with other like minded people.

As a co-host of this event, it has been fun watching the delight of friends catching sight of each other, the hugs, the laughter.  It has also been fun watching people get introduced to people they may have heard of, but never met in real life.  The connections that people are making, some of which will no doubt carry on with the assistance of the internet.

There has been much to inspire already, and the best thing about all of this?  Is that people are enjoying themselves.  They are sharing their love of textiles/fibre with others who completely understand it, even if they might not work with exactly the same methods.  It's all fibre.  It's all making.  It's about creativity.  It's about making connections.  The experience of attending a conference is just the tip of the iceberg - it's all that follows that becomes important.  Many things coming together.  The confluence of meeting people, discovering resources that were previously unknown.  The interchange of ideas and concepts, directions that may have not been known before, and now are.

Personally I've already made a few connections, things that will inform my practice going forward.  Opportunities that I hadn't known were there.  The gift of friendship from acquaintances.  A deepening of a relationship that was unexpected.  But welcome.

I am excited to see where a new loom, new yarns, new directions will take me going forward.

Conferences.  Confluences.  If you've never been to one, try to go and see where the journey takes you.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Coming Together

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We are on day two of the workshops and the vendors have moved in and are ready, willing and able to help people with their shopping.  Shopping started at noon.

The guild booths are excellent - only a few, but really nice work to see.

The exhibit hall is coming together.  Also some really lovely textiles - felting, spinning, knitting, weaving.

This afternoon the award ribbons will be readied in preparation for the jurying.  The Tzouhelem Guild has done a magnificent job making really lovely ribbons.  Many guilds have been very generous in providing cash awards.  Some of which may make their way to the vendors?

There are People's Choice awards and I'm getting that ready while I have lunch.  Ballots for the guild booths will be near them in the vendor hall.  There will be no People's Choice award for the fashion show as the conference ends with the fashion show and there is no opportunity to vote on them.  A few people finished garments 'late' and they have been invited to wear their garment to the fashion show.

The instructor's exhibit opens at 7:30 tonight.  I've managed to peek into a few classrooms and some interesting things are happening.

The fun thing is randomly encountering friends as I buzz from one location to another, collecting hugs.

Better finish eating and get back to the hall.  Once the exhibits have been juried, I can focus on the seminars I'm presenting on Fri/Sat.

Lots of really good energy flowing, connections being made, learning happening.  A couple people have commented that they think their brains may have exploded.  In a good way, I hope!

Saturday, June 8, 2019


Last week I ran around (as did the other committee members) polishing off some more 'rough' edges.

My goal is for the attendees to not be aware of what has gone on to make this conference happen, but be able sail through the event smoothly.  That is, with the fewest number of 'issues' as I can.

Of course my constant blogging about it kind of negates that goal, but not every person attending reads my blog!

If you have ever organized a single workshop?  Multiply that by 22.  Workshop of 20?  Multiply that by 10.  You'll maybe have an idea of what goes into organizing a conference.  And this one isn't particularly large.  Imagine conferences with 10 times as many attendees as we are having.  The task is immense.

On the other hand, the benefits of being able to attend such an event?  Priceless.

We live in a very interconnected world, with the internet.  I started weaving long before the internet was a 'thing', long before personal computers were a 'thing'.  In fact I saw my first weaving programs at an ANWG conference back in the early '80s.  Can't remember which one now, but it might have been 1981 or 83.  The Seattle Weaver's Guild booth had computer generated drawdowns and the fabric woven from those drawdowns on display.  I remember an older weaver (remember I was in my early 30s) sniffing as she exited the booth that that wasn't really weaving!  Me?  I was intrigued and saw the possibilities.  I bought my first computer in 1988 by going into the computer store with the system requirements for Fiberworks, telling the guy to sell me something that met those requirements. 

They did.  They also treated me with curiosity, and ultimately respect, I think.  (No doubt delight as well as the sale was, um, significant.)  I don't recall being mansplained or denigrated.  I think having the system requirements all laid out and the fact I was buying the whole shebang to create textiles stirred their interest.  So thank you, Bob Keates, for your very clear documentation about what was needed to run your program, and the time and effort you take keeping your software up-to-date and responding to requests from weavers as quickly as you can.  Fiberworks was the first software program that was graphics oriented - when it opened it looked like graph paper.  I took to it immediately.  There are others now, but I have stuck with Fiberworks, partly because I can make it do what I want.  There is so much more to learn, though, and maybe next year I'll have it.  :)  And my interest was piqued by that exposure to computers at the SWG booth at an ANWG conference.

So, conferences.  You can meet people in real life.  Thank them if they have inspired you.  You can see - and in some cases actually touch - the textiles.  While photos are nice, they never, ever, do the fabric justice.

You can attend workshops and learn more about a technique.  Seminars can be 'tasters' for something to find out if you want to pursue that aspect of textiles further, or just become more informed generally.

Impromptu meetings over meals can bring unexpected delights.  Study groups can meet and share their specialized interests.

Immersing yourself for a day or four in something you love can be a welcome break from whatever is going on in 'real' life.

I have had so many delightful exchanges at conferences.  People have been kind and generous.  I think it might have been Convergence in '78, walking down a hallway when I spotted a group of people passing around samples and chatting.  I came to a dead stop, inching my way closer and closer.

They didn't shoo me away, in fact inched over to allow me to join their circle.  I think two of them were Kim Malloy and Eleanor Best, the then editor of the Complex Weavers newsletter.  The fact they accepted me without question was pretty amazing to me.  The fact that they included me as they passed the samples around?  Priceless.  And I got an answer to a question I had been puzzling over.

Some of the people I met at conferences became friends.  They have enriched my life as a weaver, but also as a person.  Being able to connect face-to-face every once in a while is a real perq of attending conferences for me.

This isn't my first time at organizing a conference.  I have in fact done it several times.  I've participated in conferences as attendee, instructor and vendor.  This is the first time I've worked so much on the workshop/seminar aspect, making sure instructors have what they need.  I hope we've covered everything.  Once people get here, see their rooms, get their requested equipment, we can further fine tune things.

I have, as much as possible, kept the teachers in the same room throughout.  We had to make some adjustments once registration closed, but only a few teachers have to move around.  When I typed up the personal class lists for each attendee, I noticed that some of them are in the same room for the entire event, too! 

The staff at the venues have been great,  The meetings this week were to sieve any last nits out of the event.  I'm sure there will be a few more - but we will do our best to deal with them.

The first instructor is en route, should be arriving this evening.  She is coming early to help with the conference set up.  The next arrives on Monday, and they can get into their workshop rooms after 6 pm Tuesday.

After 5 years in the making, it's here!!!  (Well, almost...)