Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Clearing Clutter

 


One of my early forays into technology was producing teaching CDs.  They were a combination of text files, heavy with colour photos, and video clips.

They never sold very well, although people sometimes contact me to let me know they found them useful.  When I stopped selling them, I loaded (most of) the videos to You Tube, where you can still find them.

In addition to trying to weave down my stash, I'm trying to learn how to Marie Kondo my life/studio/home.  Yesterday I came across a stack of CDs with files saved to them.  Some of them I'm pretty sure I want to keep.  Others?  Perhaps not.

Right now I have exactly one aging laptop with a CD drive in it, so at some point this week I hope to go through the stack and any files on them that I want to keep, I'll transfer to a thumb drive.

And then?  Recycle?  Give to the guild to make spindles with?  Sigh.

I really hate to just toss them, along with the large stack of unused discs I have.  If I could figure out a way to load music onto them, I would, but that's also antique technology so seems pointless.  Just play the CDs I have.

In fact I still play cassette tapes.  A friend, when they found that out, offered me her tapes and CDs, thinking I would laugh and say no thanks!  Instead I said yes, please!  "Even the Def Leopard?"  Yes, of course!  What can I say?  I have eclectic taste in music...

Once I've sorted through the CDs, I will begin sorting through the binders of workshop notes/drafts.  

And keep weaving.  And work on the two classes for October for SOS.

I'm hoping I have enough energy/brain power to fulfill the contract with SOS for the coming couple of years.  

This morning I was lamenting that I don't have the energy of my 30 year old self.  Coming to grips with the fact that aging means I can no longer push myself to exhaustion and expect myself to bounce back into the fray is...difficult.  

But I still have things I would like to accomplish, so onwards!

And I very much doubt there is a third book in me.  But never say never?

Monday, July 4, 2022

Broken Record

 


If it was 'easy' everyone would be doing it...

Weaving isn't difficult.  But it's complicated.

One of the reasons why I repeat the same things over and over again is because it takes time for people to really *hear* what I'm saying.

If I'm going to help people master the craft, they need to use their own reasoning skills, develop their analytical mind, learn how to apply judicious thinking to the process.  

If I just tell them what to do, they have learned to follow instructions, not how to think the process through.

Some students catch on quicker than others.  Some take a lot longer to figure out my style of teaching and realize what it is they actually need to learn, other than to just follow instructions.

There is also the fact that if you change one thing, everything can, and almost always will, change.  If you have only woven with cotton and you are suddenly faced with needing or wanting to make something with wool, that isn't just one change - it will be a whole long chain of things that is going to present differently.

Wool generally tends to have more elasticity than cotton.  It will potentially be more textured than cotton.  It might be weaker than a cotton of the same thickness.  And of course, it may need to be fulled.

The yarn once in the loom will not weave in the same way so the weaver will have to adapt/adjust their shuttle handling and their beat control.

And while I can tell them ALL OF THAT, it isn't until they experience it for themselves that they will begin to understand why they need to change what they are doing.

I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the master level one class going over things like shuttle handling, posture/position at the loom (and elsewhere), controlling tension on the warp and advancing the fell.  I give them pointers on how to determine when the tension on the warp is 'enough' and what to do if it isn't.

When it comes to the fulling, I tell them what to expect, how to do the process, demonstrate fulling, and then let them experience it for themselves.  If they have never worked with wool before, they MUST experience the transformation in their hands.  I CANNOT TELL THEM SPECIFICALLY WHAT TO DO.  Much as they might like me to do so.

When it comes to fulling, the actual yarn they are using, the density, and the type of fulling being applied needs to be taken as a whole - right up to and including 'ruined'.  I tell them it is like kneading bread - do it until it is 'done'.  When is that?  They have to decide.  They learn to decide by practicing.  Experiencing it.  Understanding how the cloth changes as the process continues.  I cannot put that experience into their hands - they have to do it.

The five days of class is as exhausting for me as it is for them.  Five days really isn't enough time for me to tell them all the things I would like to tell them.  So I focus on them beginning to learn independently.  Because I won't be at their shoulder when they leave the class.  I can't tell them what to do for the rest of their lives.  They have to learn for themselves.

As much as I will miss teaching in person, I hope that I have created enough independent weavers that the knowledge will continue to live.  The craft will continue to thrive.

And if you want more structured teaching/learning from me, I'm putting pretty much all my energy into the classes via the School of Sweet Georgia.  

Just saying...(next lecture there on July 6)

Sunday, July 3, 2022

A Little Textile Science

 




plastic bin with The Intentional Spinner and three different yarns


After the burn test

In my continued effort to weave down my stash I have reached the 'mystery yarn' stage of trying to use up things.

I'm nearly done with the 2/16 cotton - two more towels to weave on the current warp, then one more warp which will effectively use up the natural, and then as much of the 16/2 teal as I can weave into that warp.  Rather than buy yet more 2/16 cotton, I dug into my 'small' stash of 2/20 mercerized cotton.  

Over the past couple of weeks I emptied three (small) boxes, collected tubes into compatible (I hope) groupings sufficient to make warps (added in other yarns to make up the numbers in order to sectionally beam them) and started pulling potential wefts.

As I dug through it became obvious that I have accumulated some 'mystery' yarns and I really didn't have any idea of what they are.

One was supposed to be linen, but it looked and felt different from my other linens.  Which, admittedly, aren't the very top quality.  So I examined the mystery yarn and a known linen under my digital microscope and the mystery yarn looked very similar but has much finer fibres than the known linen.

I also found a large cone (kilo) of a very fine yarn that looked like maybe it might be some sort of cellulose, but I couldn't tell for sure.

So yesterday I collected my book (one of them) with a burn chart in it, the known linen and the two mystery yarns, plus a barbeque lighter and carried them all outside.

Some fibres stink when they burn and I didn't want that in the house, plus open flame.  Much better to do burn tests out of doors.

#1 was the potential linen.  It burned with an orange flame and sparked.  A lot!  Continued burning when pulled from the flame and then the slight breeze blew the flame out.  The residue was black with fine strands of a greyish white.  What burned was pretty much consumed entirely.

#2 retreated from the flame, and never really caught on fire.  Black beads formed.  And it stank.

#3 (the known linen) burned readily like #1, sparked, what burned burned thoroughly.

All three samples were about the same length and it is easy to see in the photo that #2 really didn't burn.

One of the reasons for the difference between 1 and 3 may be because the individual fibres are much finer in #1 and they have been twisted (single and ply) much more tightly than #3.  But I think I can say that #1 is linen.  

Reading through the burn chart, I think I can say that #2 is nylon.  As such I will not be using it as weft for tea towels.  What will I use it for?  Perhaps nothing.  It may go directly into the recycle bin.  Since it is nylon, I won't toss it into the trash because it won't degrade any time soon.  Someone who wants nylon, maybe for strengthening heels/toes in socks might find it useful.

Burn charts are readily available.  They might not tell definitively what a mystery yarn is, but they can give enough information to use them - or not - for the intended purpose.

Never stop asking questions.  Never stop trying to find out answers! 

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Efficiency

 


paper quill

I'm all for doing things by hand.  I wouldn't have been a professional *hand* weaver for 4 decades if I didn't.

But.

But.

Time.  We run out of it at some point.  "Time becomes more precious, the less of it you have" sings Bonnie Raitt.  The first time I heard the lyrics, it resonated.  Deeply.

As a new weaver wanting to earn an income by weaving, I had to face issues of 'hand made' vs being able to actually produce enough to have an income.  

I started with myself, learning the most efficient ways to do the various tasks involved in weaving.  My husband cobbled together a hand bobbin winder, which worked.  Until I realized it was taking me longer to hand wind a bobbin than it was to weave it off.  Oops.

So I saved up my pennies and bought an electric bobbin winder.  

My first step to begin looking at other equipment and how efficient it was.  Was it also ergonomic?  That is, could I use it without injuring myself?  Such as a warping mill or board.  I paid attention to my body and figured out when it hurt and how quickly.  And if adjusting the placement of the tool or my own body affected how I could comfortably do what needed to be done.

As I extended my thinking beyond the immediate - warp winding, bobbin winding, dressing the loom, I carefully paid attention to the tools and processes.  What worked well; what didn't.

And so I became very efficient.  Like really efficient.  And some people began to question my tools, my approach, inevitably someone would say that they didn't want to hurry.

Hurrying is not working efficiently.  I don't hurry.  I have just pared away extraneous movements.  Changed my process from large motions to smaller ones.  Minimum input; maximum output.

Neither do I dawdle.  Then people started commenting that they wanted to enjoy the process.  Happens that I do enjoy my process.  I enjoy the fact I can go to the studio, sit down and 50 minutes later have a towel (approx 1200 picks).  I enjoy the fact that I can - mostly, because I do still make mistakes - dress a loom with little to no fuss.

I have a loom with some features that some in the weaving community would still, to this day, call 'cheating'.  Oh my, the consternation that was expressed to me when I bought an AVL with fly shuttle, dobby and auto-cloth advance.

One of the leading voices in the weaving world adamantly told me I was no longer allowed to call my textiles hand woven.

Um, yeah, about that...

The AVL was completely consistent with the legal definition by the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs (as was) definition of hand woven:  each and every action of the loom was initiated by the weaver.  No throwing of a switch and walking away.

That doesn't mean I couldn't weave without these tools - electric bobbin winder, dobby, weaving software.  It just means that I can do it with less effort.  Less time (as in winding a bobbin by hand or via electricity).  I can wind a warp chain on a warping board and have it done and ready to go into the loom in minutes, not hours.  Of course a longer/wider warp takes longer, but still.

I can dress a loom in minutes or hours, not days or weeks.

Am I bragging?  Trying to make newer weavers feel inadequate?  Absolutely not!  As one student put it, after seeing me demonstrate how I weave/shuttle handling tips, she now had hope that weaving would not forever be agonizingly slow, that with practice and intention she could get 'better', more efficient.  She left the workshop determined to work at her skills.

Efficiency is not a four letter word.  It is taking the time to analyze what one is doing, and if changes could be made to make the task(s) easier, less onerous, more comfortable.

Ergonomics means protecting ones body from repetitive injury.  

And I will keep banging on about these things so that anyone who is interested will see that they, too, can be more efficient *if they want to be*.  Because ultimately if someone is happy winding a bobbin by hand (no winder, just winding the yarn onto the bobbin using their hands), they should do that.  Just please, pay attention if your wrists begin to hurt.

Marie Kondo got a lot of bad press for saying that if something doesn't bring you joy, throw it out or stop doing it.  

Same for weaving.  None of us is entirely dependent upon making textiles from the raw fibre to stay safe from the environment.  Do what brings you joy.  

Want more info?  check out my You Tube channel.  My books.  My classes for School of Sweet Georgia.  Or other posts on this platform - labels to the right hand side on various topics I've addressed over the years.


Friday, July 1, 2022

'Canada' Day

 


As a child of settlers, it took some time before I began to understand the role of Europeans (in particular the French and British) in the formation of this land.

I was privileged in having history teachers who taught the actual oppressive nature of the settlement (theft) of this land from the First Nations people who had always lived here.  I began my journey of realization at 16, learning the facts of the way this land, this 'country' was formed.  The racism, oppression and indeed, genocide that was committed, not just to First Nations people, but people of colour who also came here to have a better life than what was on offer in other countries.

My teachers were not 'shaming' us descendants of the settlers, but encouraged us to work to be aware of the injustice and think about what had been done to the original inhabitants of this land.  To open our eyes and think.  And think about what kind of country we wanted to live in.

Unfortunately some people thought it was just fine and dandy the way it was/is.

Perhaps I was more receptive to the information because of my extensive reading, but also because my mother's family was Quebecois and her lived experience of being discriminated against because of that.  Perhaps it was because my father was from German culture, and the lingering effects of the war meant people like him were harassed and discriminated against - even though he had done his duty and fought in the Canadian armed services for this country, 'his' country.

Or perhaps I'm just more empathetic.  Or took the lessons I learned in Sunday School - you know, the ones that said 'love your neighbour', 'feed the hungry', 'heal the sick' - to heart.  And then could not reconcile those lessons with what settlers and politicians did to the original peoples of this land.

So no, I don't 'celebrate' Canada Day, as such.  I take this day to stop and reflect.  I think about how little has changed, how many people in this country in this day and age, are still being discriminated against.

I think about how my 'white-ness' has given me opportunities.  That the colour of my skin has never prevented me from doing anything.  My white skin has never stood in my way, just because of being this colour.  

And while life was not 'easy' growing up as part of a blue collar worker household, my life was never made *worse* due to my skin colour.

I think about that a lot.  

Now that I am retired (for certain values of) I have the freedom to be a lot more vocal about my beliefs.  I no longer worry over much if I offend someone who thinks their white skin is somehow better than someone else's.  

At 16 I scored liberal leaning on the political quadrant and over the years, when I've re-taken the questionnaire, I have continued to score pretty much the same.  

So as a 'leftie' I have not become more extreme.  *I* have not moved the goalposts.  *I* still believe that regardless of someone's skin tone, they are equally human and deserving of basic decency and rights.  Making sure someone else has the same rights as I do DOES NOT DIMINISH MY RIGHTS.  As the meme says - it's not pie.

To the people on the right hand end of the political spectrum, I repeat I HAVE NOT MOVED FURTHER LEFT.  Perhaps it is you who have hardened YOUR attitude?   Moved further right???

Have I changed my thoughts?  Yes, of course I have.  I have grown my circle to include more variations from the 'norm'.  At 16 it was to realize that people who are not considered 'white' were just as human, just as deserving of equality.  I also became aware of LGBTQ folk, and made sure there was room for acceptance (from me, at least).  I learned about the various different ways people thought about themselves in terms of gender, and enlarged my circle.  When Trudeau pere declared that the nation has no business in the bedrooms of the country and worked to make marriage between people of the same gender legal, I was happy for them.  Love who you want to love.

When First Nations students began getting scholarships and took law degrees and began suing the government to try to regain some of what had been stolen from them, my mother was furious.  I was happy for them.  Because they should never have been taken away in the first place.

In my 20s abortion was accepted as health care, and birth control made available regardless of marital status.  I was in the wave of women who began to work towards financial autonomy, getting credit in my own name, having my own bank account, my own credit cards, taking out loans and running my own business.  (It helped to have a spouse willing to assist me by co-signing my first couple of loans.)

And the alt-right wants to take all of that away.  

We have our own issues here in Canada.  A growing number of white folk are becoming ever more violent in the rush to remove rights from other people.  Especially people of colour.  Women.  They want to impose their perverted 'christianity' on every other person.

I always expected the pendulum to swing.  What I did not expect was how hard the right worked to put the mechanisms in place to turbo power that swing.

I don't care what you think about the Liberal Party of Canada in general, or Mr. Trudeau in particular.  I want you - if you are a white person - to think about what the world would look like with the alt-right in power.  If you can't imagine it, I suggest you take a good long hard look at oh, Nazi Germany in the 30s.  And ask yourself, do you really want to live like that?  Or do you want democracy to die?  And if you live in Canada and think we are immune from what is happening in the US, I suggest you take a look at what is happening - again! - in Ottawa - right now - and the 'convoy' that wants nothing more than to overthrow the current government.

It was never about masks.  It was never about vaccines.  It is straight up wanting to take over and impose their will on everyone else.  It was always the power.  

And if you are interested to know where on the political compass you fall, here is a website that will take you through the process...  (don't like this one?  There are others - but they all ask equally difficult questions meant to make you really THINK about your value system.)


First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.



Thursday, June 30, 2022

Grief

 


The rose bushes along the public pathway are gone now - but not forgotten.  And I still have the photo I took with my cell phone a few years ago.

Grief is a tricksy thing.  We know that we grieve over the loss of loved ones, be they human or pet.  To grieve over the loss of a living being that held meaning for you is accepted.  Normal.  Expected.

We we also grieve over other things, to a greater or lesser extent.

Expectations dashed.  Events cancelled.  Failures.

Some people deal with the failure of their bodies and how that failing body impacts their quality of life.  What they can actually do.  Or not.

There are many ways to grieve.  And many things to grieve about.

So, me.

Accepting that I cannot teach in person anymore.  The long journeys, the time zone shifting, the stress of the travel - will I make it?  Will my BAGS make it?  Will I never again experience the glow in the eyes of students who 'get' it, AS they get it?  Their elation at understanding.  Their anticipation of continuing the journey.  The sheer joy of learning.  Improving and feeling competent instead of clumsy.  

So I hesitated when I got home.  I'd made the decision.  But had I been hasty?  Given another year of aging (and who knows what *other* health issue that may crop up in that 12 months) could I actually, effectively, go back to Olds?

So I waited.  I waited to see if my body recovered from the journey.  I looked up how covid was doing.  I thought long and hard.  And today I took a deep breath and notified the college that this year would be my last year.  Which should give them ample time to find another teacher.  If they even start working on it now.  

But now it's official.  Notice sent, and accepted.  I'm done.

However I am not done with teaching entirely.  I have been working on the classes for SOS and am just about ready to sit down with scratch pad and start making notes.

But a big chunk of me is sad.  So I am giving myself space to grieve.  To focus on my current students, both Olds and SOS.  To reassure myself that I *can* still teach, even if it isn't in person.  I am still knowledgeable.   Still capable of crafting a lesson plan and working out filming details.  I can still answer questions.  Seems I can write technical issues fairly well.  

So I grieve.  But accept that it is time.  And I'm not *quite* done.  Yet.  And I can still help students.  Encourage them.  Give them information.  Resources.

Grieving is not a do it and you're done.  It's a process.  And it will take time for me to set my disappointment aside as I reduce my activity horizon once more.  While I am 'able' for now, my ability to do the things I've done for 40 years is diminishing.  And in the end?  It's ok.  And I will find the joy in this new way of teaching.

Because I'm not done yet.  Quite.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Trimming Plates

 


As I move forward, life has become a matter of trimming the spinning plates.

In 2019 I stopped doing craft fairs and travelling to teach (other than Olds).  When the pandemic hit we were already in the process of downsizing - getting rid of my off site storage and work site, getting rid of equipment, constantly re-arranging the studio to try and fit everything that had been stored off site into my studio.

Gradually I stopped doing other things, like offering articles to publications.  Not that I didn't still have things to say.  It was mostly feeling like I'd already said everything over and over again and with the stress of the pandemic and my health I simply didn't have the little grey cells to write something that I'd already covered multiple times in several different formats.

To use an 'antique' phrase...I was feeling like a broken record.  (If you are below a certain age, I'm quite sure you have no idea what that means - just understand that I was tired of repeating the same thing over and over again.)

My personal stance has always been to try and bring something 'new' to the craft.  So I began looking at the principles that illustrate the bones of the craft, rather than just tell people what to do.

If you give someone a fish, they eat for the day.  If you teach them how to fish, they can feed themselves.  Especially if you give them the tools to do it.

In weaving, part of the 'tools' is understanding the principles.  And then they get to decide how to express those principles in their own way.

When I chose to retire, I thought I would dig into the weave structures that were too 'time consuming' for me to explore when we relied on my work to bring in an income.  Instead I had no brain power to do anything except the tried and true.  

With deteriorating health, I also began to feel the pressure to get rid of my yarn stashes.  Instead of exploring, pushing boundaries, digging deeper into the craft, I was focusing on using up the yarn that I already earned.

After two years I have used up one shelving unit of yarn, in one room, and several shelves of yarn in another room.  Over the weekend, I emptied three boxes of yarn (2/20 mercerized cotton) and once I finish the current warp and do one more with the 2/16 cotton, the plan is to pivot to using the 2/20 and weave the fine linen - and any other fine yarns suitable for tea towels - I already own.  And believe me, you get a lot of play value for very fine yarns!

From time to time I get an email from Handwoven with their up coming themes.  I read them, decide I don't really want to submit something and hit 'trash'.  I've just sent an article to the Guild of Canadian Weavers that I was asked to provide and which should appear in an issue of their Bulletin.  I've written a yarn review for Sweet Georgia, which should appear on their website soon.  I've offered to write more but they haven't let me know what kind of content they are looking for.  And I'm too busy right now to think about it.  But I'm sure that I will.

Yesterday I did a lot of thinking about the next class for School of Sweet Georgia.  By the end of this week I should have things organized in my mind about the content and how to go about presenting.  I worked out one issue that was puzzling me and I think it will work.  It should make it possible to do that class in one day, by recording out of order.

I found my lace samples so I don't have to re-weave those, but I will do a sample with a new-to-me yarn.  It's thicker than I would ordinarily choose for a lace weave, but that same thickness will be easier to see on camera.  

And then I need to think about projects to go along with those classes because they like to offer an actual project to help their students learn the lesson(s).

But as I take a good, long, hard, look at my studio, I see where I still have months, nay *years* worth of work to actually use up my stash to the point where I can be free of that obligation to use it up, not leave it for Doug or my friends to deal with when I'm gone.  Or simply unable to weave anymore.

While I would love to be able to keep weaving into my 80s, there is no guarantee that I will live that long.  Like Bonnie Raitt sings, time becomes more precious, the less of it you have.  

My father died age 56, my brother 51.  Mom lived to 90, but the last 5 years were fraught with health issues.  I'm already having health issues.  I may not have many more years of weaving left in me.

Don't pooh pooh me - I'm not being morbid, I'm being realistic.  Because of that, I can make plans accordingly!  

So I will continue to trim the spinning plates.  I will give my body rest time.  But I will also do what I can to weave and teach weaving.  Until I can't.