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Thursday, December 18, 2014


There are some aspects to weaving that are more...challenging...than others.

People can approach weaving any way they like.  Some people find the combination of warp and weft colours, texture, or the more 'technical' approach more intriguing.  Some people like all of those, all together or serially.

A weaver can focus on honing their technical skills, or they can just go with the flow.  As long as the individual is happy, it doesn't really matter.

However, if a weaver is going to enter a juried show or in some way put their work into the world to be judged, they really need to be aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it.

I have juried exhibits on a number of occasions and while how I mark is a reflection of my opinion, it is an informed opinion.  I have gone through the process of being judged and while it's not always pleasant to have someone point out faults, it is always educational - if we accept that perhaps the judge/jury may know more than we do and then see if their comments are applicable.

One time I agreed with another juror that a particular textile we were examining did not deserve first place.  When the third juror questioned why we would not give first place to that item, I pointed out a rather (to me) glaring technical fault with it.  In the end we all agreed that while it was a pretty impressive piece of weaving, it could not be given a first place ribbon.

So what's the story with the above photo?  And is it 'perfect'?

Well, first of all, no, it's not 'perfect'.  The weft used is actually a little bit too thick and the pick count is 'off'.  So I would never submit this textile to a juried exhibit.  But it was never intended to be on display for anyone but my family and friends.  It lives on my dining room table, covered with clear plastic so that it can be seen but doesn't get dirty.

The whole project came about because my Swedish neighbour desperately wanted this particular design which is traditional to the province she hails from, but wide enough to properly cover her large dining table.  She also wanted three cloths, one for each additional leaf to extend the table for small, medium and large family gatherings.  And she wanted each cloth to have a 'proper' border all around the edge.  In order to get the width required the cloth had to be woven double wide.  Whew!

I would not even consider doing it until after I got the Compu-Dobby - I simply did not have sufficient bars for the mechanical dobby to execute this design!  (The Swedish Snowflake design is a large one - twice as long with the double width thing happening, plus another chain for the borders?  Not happening until I had the computer assist.)

I decided to take a sabbatical from production weaving at one point and told her I would do the table cloths for her.  The warp was wound at 36 epi per layer (72 epi in total) 30 yards long, just in case I messed up one or more of her cloths.

Once I got the loom dressed and started weaving it became apparent that every single shed had to be checked and cleared.  I used a small hand mirror to check from each side to make sure the shed was clear before throwing the shuttle.  Out of the four sheds for each two picks, only one was clear some of the time - the other three always had to have some threads re-aligned to make a clear path for the shuttle.  And the fold.  Oh, the fold, the bugabear of weavers who try to weave a double wide fabric!

After managing to successfully weave her three table cloths (she got to hem them!) I still had some warp left over.  I also had enough of the singles blue linen to weave myself a cloth to fit my table, plus one for a friend.

The 30 yards took about 3 months to weave as I could only manage 9 inches a day instead of my more usual 10-15 yards a day.

It was an huge technical challenge.  By the end of it I felt enormous satisfaction.  There wasn't a single pick that wound up in the 'wrong' place - not one area where the two layers were 'stitched' together.  The cloths fit my neighbour's table 'properly' and she was thrilled.  I have a piece to display on my table and I gave a gift to a friend who had been very generous to me.

But it was a once in a lifetime project.  Been there, done that, got the tablecloth!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


This photo is a little out of focus but with my future a tad 'blurry' at the moment...at least the colours are pretty accurate and you can see the nice thick roll of cloth building up on the beam.  So, all in all, the photo seemed appropriate for where my life is at the minute.

A friend asked me if the waiting wasn't really hard.  I said that it wasn't, now that I had some sort of semi-accurate timeline.  Not knowing when it might happen was much harder.  Knowing that it is coming soon allows me to get mentally prepared as well as working out some of the logistics.  Another friend always says that it is better to have done something than that you will be doing something - especially something that has a certain level of...unpleasantness about it.

At this point in time I've reached the stage where I'd just like to get it over and done with.  I survived the broken ankle.  I survived the chemo.  I will survive this.  And ultimately, the quality of life after recovery should be better than it is now.

So for the time being I am using weaving as therapy.  My chances for a speedy recovery will be better if I can maintain some level of physical and mental fitness.  If I can continue to weave, even if it is just 'easy' stuff, I should be able to retain some physical fitness and the endorphins from the aerobic activity, mild as it may be, will help me mentally as I face at least 6 weeks after surgery before I can weave again.  And even then, I expect it will have to be on the Leclerc, weaving something that doesn't require a whomp of the beater.

To that end, I've planned to leave the Leclerc with a shawl warp that requires a very gentle open spacing of the weft, not a place mat warp or even a scarf warp.

I have purchased clothing that buttons down the front (won't be able to raise my hands over my head for a while), decided that Doug will stay at the hotel next door to the hospital so that he can bring me 'safe' meals (I don't trust the hospital to be able to cater to my very specialized allergy restrictions) and that we will fly home.  I have stocked up on books, puzzles and may possibly have hand hemming to do if I get a bunch of place mats woven.

My schedule (such as it may be) for the next few weeks are to:
- finish the towel warp on the AVL
- weave the two painted scarf warps
- weave place mats on the Leclerc - two special orders plus general inventory - as much as I can manage
- weave a special order for a table topper on the AVL as soon as the yarn arrives
- wind the shawl warp to leave on the Leclerc for recovery - and get it onto the loom before we leave, whenever that may be

The hospital will phone to let me know the anticipated date about two weeks before they think they can fit me in.  At that time we will hope the hotel has a kitchenette available for 10 days, which, being January, they ought to.  There will be things to deal with before we go - two weeks should be ample time to arrange them - house sitter, mail collector, driveway shoveler (probably all the same person), bills to pay, suitcases to pack.

I can't help but think of the line from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Everything will be all right in the end.  If it's not all right, it is not yet the end.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Deadline Deluge

All of a sudden I feel as though I am being deluged by deadlines.  The proverbial tunnel with the  light at the end?  Feeling like an on-coming locomotive.

(The above photo is inside a beehive burner looking upwards - taken by Doug a few years ago at the railway museum - but feels right for today's post.)

As usual my request list at the library has entered into the 'feast' phase - after weeks of waiting for a number of new titles from my fav authors, suddenly they are arriving.  We won't discuss the number of books I own and therefore have no due date.

Each day I arise, determined to jump on the daily tasks and each day I move about as quickly as a sloth.  My energy seems to arrive around noon and disappear by 4 pm.  If I don't get into the studio during those hours I get nothing done down there.  Or anywhere else.

Add to that other tasks awaiting me and it feels like I am accomplishing very little at all with several things about to go critical in the next few days.

And yet, here I sit at the computer, ignoring what really needs to be done.

Back to my usual coping strategy I guess.  Make a list.  Start crossing them off, one at a time.

Currently reading The Secret Place by Tana French

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Begin Agin

....and here I go again.  The first few ends in a warp that will be 764 ends.  You might just be able to see that it's mostly blue with a little 'sea green'.  The threading is another variation on point twill that will likely be woven in an advancing progression.  It's not quite what I had envisioned, so I may play with the treadling and tie up some more once the loom is up and running and I can see how it actually looks in the cloth rather than on the computer screen.  In the flesh, so to speak.

Yes I do use weaving software - Fiberworks by choice.  I have played around some with Pixeloom which in many ways is similar but I know Fiberworks so very well I have never felt like wallowing at the bottom of the learning curve to learn a new program.  What I've seen and done looks great, though, so if you are in the market for weaving software, either of these programs is pretty intuitive for most people to use.

If you want to know way more about Fiberworks than I do, Margaret Coe has pretty much written the books you need.

For the iPad I use iWeaveit.  I began this threading by messing about on the iPad, then when I had a threading I thought I liked, emailed it to myself so I could open it on the desktop in Fiberworks.  From there I derived a tie up (my standard 1:3:1:3:2:2:3:1) and played with woven as drawn in, advancing, variations on advancing.  When I knew I could do something close to what I wanted, I generated the threading only to follow as I thread.  I keep a pencil or pen handy and as I do each handful, mark off where I am in the sequence.

When dealing with a very long repeat (5 repeats in this warp plus borders) it's all too easy to get 'lost' if the phone rings or something causes my concentration to fail.  Something that happens more and more often these days.  And something that I hope will improve after the surgery.  Or not.  I am 64.5 years old now.  I've been told memory gets a little funky as we age!

The small loom is still nekkid so perhaps I'll get that dressed too.  I would sure like to finish off those last two painted warps so I can cross that task off my job list.

And then I can begin agin with something completely different...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Colour Blast

After 30 yards of beige, especially during the dreary grey days we had been having, I really needed a palette change.  Since the AVL was nekkid and the Leclerc still had the last half of a painted warp in RED, it was a delight to switch over to that loom.

Not only that, but to finish one more warp was very satisfying!

There are two more red painted warps left, which I will continue to work on in between working on the AVL.

Now that I have an approximate surgical date we are beginning to make plans for the coming year.  Ultimately it is looking increasingly as though I am 'retired' from teaching in the US - the difficulty of getting across the border is just getting to be too much of a hassle - but I hope I can continue to teach in Canada - either here in Prince George taking private students, but most especially in BC and Alberta.

Right now we are looking at possibly being at the provincial conference in Red Deer next May, and Olds Fibre Week in June.  The ANWG conference will be held in Victoria in '17 so I'm hoping to be healthy enough to apply to teach there.

But essentially I have a couple of pretty large 'swords' hanging over my head in terms of health issues as well as the little ones most people have at my age.  So I'm not making big plans about much of anything right now.  Mostly I'm focusing on getting through next Jan/Feb and then see how things are going.

Stash reduction will continue to be a priority as I fill up the 'holes' in my inventory from a fairly successful craft fair season.  Such a nice 'problem' to have!  Even better that enough things have sold out that I get to design whole new lines of things.  I can hardly wait for my energy to come back!

Monday, December 8, 2014


This past weekend was the guild sale/demo.  Unfortunately it was rather more quiet than hoped, but a few of my 'discontinued' items found new homes so that made me happy.

On Sunday Doug went pressing and brought home the finished, finished, red tea towels plus a bucket full of the chocolate brown weft towels.  I am quite pleased with how they look but they are thicker than my preference for 'tea' towels.  They would make good 'kitchen utility towels'.  Or table runners.

In this photo you can see both sides of the cloth and the pinned hem at one end.  I started hemming last night, but didn't get very far.

However, these are close enough to done with one week left in my 'buy two items, get free shipping' offer to include them.  There are about 15 of them.

After a couple of weeks of lovely winter weather we are having a warm spell.  The bad news is that with the warmer temps comes rain.  It isn't raining yet, so I should really head to town and brave the line up at the post office.  The down side of running a 'sale' at this time of the year - everyone else is mailing Christmas parcels and the line ups are huge.

As for what is happening in the studio today?  Probably work on the next scarf on the small loom while I cogitate about the next tea towel warp on the AVL.  I think I know what I want but need to get it into the weaving software and crunch the numbers to see if the threading repeat will fit into the number of ends for a tea towel.  I've got one large and one smaller cone of the tow linen left that I'd love to see used up.  And after that?  Oh yes, the two large cones of singles 20 natural linen I 'forgot' I had...

Still lots of stuff left in the Cyber Monday 'sale' - check the Dec. 1 post for up-to-date numbers - the towels pictured above are  in the $28 category

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wet and Dry

towels with chocolate weft

The colour is so dramatically different because the towel on the left is wet while the one on the right is dry.  IOW, before and after wet finishing (although the wet one still needs to be pressed).

Even so, you can easily see how much the wet finishing changes the cloth (click on photo to biggify).  Although I know the colour will go back to its dry state, the reed marks are much less pronounced and to me it looks like whole cloth, not a set of interlaced 3 dimensional 'rods' (threads).

Believe me, cutting and serging this warp was a challenge because it tended to fall apart if you looked at it cross ways!  The brown linen is not tow but probably line linen, therefore very stiff and all too inclined to pop out of the woven web.  Serging at least prevented the part I wanted to keep contained, but the bit that was being cut off?  A mind of its own, to be sure!  I had to keep stopping to tame the wild loose threads, use the tweezers to remove them from the guts of the machine and from hitching themselves onto the part that was being sewn.  Even so, the serger thread broke twice because of those loose threads tangling.

So I was very happy indeed to finish cutting and serging, knowing that that yarn is all used up!

Stash reduction!  Gotta love it.

ps - since these towels are now off the loom and in the process of being wet finished, they qualify for the 'buy two, get free shipping' offer that continues until Dec. 15 - or inventory is sold.  14 towels with the chocolate, 5 with the natural beige tow linen.

Currently reading Enemy in the House by Lindsey Davis.