Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Touching the Hem of Perfection

Every once in a while things turn out pretty much the way you hope they will.   So it was with this warp.

As for whether or not they are 'perfect', that will be in the pudding, so to speak.  The cloth is intended for baby wraps and each momma-to-be will decide on how long she prefers hers to be.  There is plenty of yardage, perhaps even enough for a small 'blankie' for little one - or some other application of momma's choice.

It was a lot of fun designing and weaving this warp.  Now it is back to our regularly scheduled programming...tea towels, place mats, scarves/shawls...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's Really Real!

When I originally talked to the college about having the master weaver class here in Prince George, it was kind of a huge gamble - we are just a day's drive from Olds College and there is no Fibre Week - it is just 6 days of intensive study.  Would we get enough people?  Would others see the value in this program, too?  But people kept asking questions and - taking a very deep breath - we went ahead with it.

Today I received the class list (seven students) with notification that the binders are on their way.

We have made arrangements to remove as much extraneous stuff from the guild room as possible, the guild drop ins will be cancelled for the duration.

It is very exciting to have enough people to have the class run - and with any luck at all - there will be enough graduates to do level two here next year as well.  If not, people can enroll in the level two class at Olds.  But I'm really hoping to have level two here in 2017.  :)

(If anyone is interested in level one here next year - let me know now so that we can check dates and see if it is possible!)

Currently reading Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Process Path

A while back I offered to make cloth for 'sister' wraps for a couple of young women I know.  Katie sent me a photo when I asked what colours they liked and Carol pretty much said - what Katie said.

This photo was taken by Katie near Telkwa, BC and I was given free rein to design something inspired by it.

First things first.  Baby wrap cloth.  Right now I know most hand woven wraps are being woven of 2/8 cotton so I looked at the Brassard colour card.  Their cotton comes in about 80 different hues/shades so I just looked through what they had and ordered a bunch of yarns in the various greens plus some blues, a dark brown and a russet and a few purples for the fireweed in the grass.

I also ordered some greys/blues based on the colours in the sky.

When the yarn arrived I had already number crunched, working out width, length, epi.  At first I intended to weave in plain weave as many of the wraps are done, but after some mulling decided that a very simple twill would help the cloth drape.  I had also decided to use 2/16 cotton for weft instead of 2/8 in order to make a lighter, thinner cloth, because both wanted the 4.6 meter length and I felt that using 2/8 for both warp and weft was going to make a too heavy/thick cloth to wrap well.

Fortunately I had some options for weft in the studio already.

The bag was unpacked and the yarn intended for the wraps laid out on my work table where I would see it every time I went into the studio.  I find that a colour combination - especially not one of my own choosing (so to speak) - gels better if I can let it seep into my brain subliminally, catching the grouping in the corner of my eye while thinking about something else.  If there is something visually jarring it helps me to let it simmer on the back burner for a few days.

Over the course of the week I worked on other stuff and I kept going back to the table, grouping the threads in different ways, in different combinations, adding some more colours from my stash.  And I just could not make those light value blue/greys work.  Finally I grabbed the whole lot and removed them from the table.

Although there wasn't a lot of blue in the photo, I chose to use a dark blue/emerald green (mostly) stripe combination on one side, then gradually move through the colours winding up with the muted greens and purples on the other.

My loom has a one inch sectional, so it's fairly easy to gradually change out one or two ends for different colours making a gradual change.

Here the mostly dark blue/emerald green has been threaded.  Each repeat was 42 ends so I thread groups of 4, 6, or 8 depending on the threading progression, then when the entire repeat is finished slip knot those together so I can keep track of how many repeats I've done.

At the beginning I tested three colours, then let Carol choose which she preferred and started weaving hers.  This morning Katie came and we agreed on her weft colour.  I was going to change the treadling but both seem to like the design so the difference between them will be a very subtle change between the deep forest green for Carol and the dark navy for Katie.

The loom fix I did yesterday is so far holding up so I'm hoping I can finish weaving without further bodging.  Then the loom will be taken apart and inspected with parts needing replacing, replaced.

The loom is 'old' - not just in terms of years but in yards across the beam.  Nothing lasts forever and the part that gave way is metal against metal.  It was just a matter of time/use until it wore out.

Fortunately I have another loom and a dozen pre-wound warps ready to go into it, not to mention writing, lesson planning, guild room organizing and a bunch of other things that need to be done, too!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Behind the Scene

Goat trails through the studio...

It usually takes me the better part of two days to pull a weaving workshop together.  

First I go through the drafts for the topic, check yarn availability, adjust if necessary.  Then the pages get photocopied, one to go with the yarn another for the packet of handouts.  

I make a list of the drafts, indicating shafts required, table or floor loom, if two shuttles are needed. 

The welcome letter is updated suitable for the class and copied. 

Then I start pulling the required yarns, putting the yarn and paperwork into baggies.  For this workshop, I'm driving so I also stopped at Staples and ran the entire packet, which I will collate for distribution.  Normally the hosting guild provides the copies but there are extenuating circumstances.  

I have to go to the annex tonight to get a large box to pack the yarn into and pick up some yarn as well so I can finish packing the baggies.  Then everything will get put into the mail so participants can dress their looms in time for the workshop. 

But I'm still not done!

The week before I leave I will start collecting the samples, make sure I have the handouts, plus, since I am driving, my sewing machine, small flat bed press and hand cold mangle will be coming with me.  

I will also bring some finished items as examples.  Oh yes, clothing and personal items will be packed and then it will be a full day's drive there on Thursday, workshop Friday/Saturday, and a full day's drive home on Sunday.  

The glamorous life of a travelling weaving teacher...

Currently reading The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Making It Work

No one is perfect, no matter how hard we try.  So, mistakes happen, there are 'flaws' that need to be fixed as well as possible.  

The weft here was a fairly stiff three ply linen and at times instead of beating in properly a loop formed, usually on the back side of the cloth where it remained, invisible and therefore I couldn't remediate while weaving.  

Now that it's off the loom, they are all too visible so I'm needle weaving the loop into the cloth.  

It isn't going to be 'perfect' but it will still work. 

Recently I saw an interview with an engineer.  At one point he said that it wasn't the engineers job to make things perfect, but to make them work.  

Wise words to keep in mind when once again, I have aimed for the ideal and fallen short. 

Friday, April 22, 2016


One of the lessons in Level one of the Olds program is to look at colour value.  As such, it is sometimes hard for people to distinguish the difference in value between shades of the same colour.  One nifty way to help see value differences is to render them in black and white.  I took the top photo with my iPad, then saved it in the Instagram app in black and white.   Another way to do this is to make butterflies of the yarn or wrap the yarn and then photocopy it to get the grey value scale.  

I think I may add natural to the value gamp but I'm still thinking about black.  Yes?  No?   Maybe so?

Colour interactions between shades that are of a high value contrast can sometimes be a bit jarring visually.  Weaving a value gamp can be a very useful learning tool.  Colour gamps are also helpful in order to see how colours interact in woven structure.  Different weave structures can cause the colours to blend differently.  I have colour gamps in many different combinations and will have all of them available in class for the students to study.  (Along with a whole bunch more of my samples!)

So, my teaching schedule for the next few months looks like this:

May 21-26.  Level one Olds program, Prince George

June 3-5.  Mug rugs and more, Edmonton guild

June 19-23 Level one Olds program in Olds

August 26-28 Cape Breton (still looking for another workshop in the Maritimes between August 30 and Sept 8 - either that or a weaver friendly b&b)

That's all I have booked for the rest of the year.  I tend to not book teaching from October onwards because then we are well into the craft fair season and even though I have cut back one show this year, I'm not overly fond of traveling to teach during the winter.

Next year, other than Olds (if the classes get sufficient registration to 'go'), all I have is the ANWG conference in Victoria, BC June 30 to July 2

However, I am very much hoping that level two will run in PG in May next year.  I have had a few people say they would also like level one in PG, but I will need at least 6, preferably 7, so if anyone thinks they might like to take level one here in PG in 2017, let me know.  If I get enough names, I can approach the college about setting up a level one, perhaps in April.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


So the six month emotional roller coaster successfully crested another hill and I am coasting for another six months.  Now that I know I'm good to go for a while longer I can start making some plans for the coming year. 

I am also delighted to be off the beta blocker which was causing way more problems than benefits and I feel like I have myself back again.  

Over the past year I have had zero energy and therefore turned into a slug, dragging myself through the days, consuming far too much sugar, exercising far too little and gaining weight.  Not recommended for someone with coronary artery disease!

Getting the go ahead to live without chemical interference, enjoying a beautiful early spring day, I started walking again.  If I am no longer healthy, I can at least be as fit as possible...

One of the reasons I needed off the beta blockers was the fatigue that was preventing me from being able to think...something I had to do on the weekend in order to be able to teach.  There were seven students, all of whom did very well.  I hope that they feel inspired to continue.  

The good news just kept on coming today.  There are seven registered for the Olds class here in PG* and 12(!) for Olds Fibre Week in June. 

I have two more students work from level one last year to mark, three more who have asked for extensions and hopefully will submit this summer.  

But best of all?   I am beginning to be able to think again, which means I should be able to get back to writing as soon as the homework is marked.  

There are plans for teaching in the works and holidays/travel to plan.  I try to live in the moment, but cultivate dreams for the future. 

*there are still a couple of spots left...just sayin'