Thursday, July 20, 2017


I'm waiting for an important delivery today, so instead of being at the loom where I might not hear the doorbell, I've been sitting plying the next yarn.  And thinking.  Lots of time to think when plying.

I started thinking about how we 'invest' in our lives.  So many ways to invest our time, our energy, our talents.

For me the investment for the past 40+ years has been primarily in weaving.  To that end I have invested some time in learning more about spinning.  But I'm not 'invested' in spinning the way I am in weaving.

Learning more about spinning, how yarns are created, is more about learning how to become a better weaver, understanding my materials at a deeper level.  I'm not invested in actually becoming an expert spinner, all I'm doing is playing, really.  My understanding of spinning is much more on an intellectual level, not a practical or skilled level.  And my play time feeds into my hobby of knitting.  Creating unique blends/yarns is a colour study in and of itself, watching how those blends spin up and then knitting with them is all grist for the creative mill.

Yesterday I was talking to a (much) younger friend and I commented that I had no clue when I chose weaving the experiences I would have, the people I would meet.  With all the challenges of being a self-employed artisan, trying to design, make and sell my textiles, this career has brought enrichment I never dreamed of.  Or only dreamed of.

In my secret thoughts I wanted to write.  Weaving has allowed me to do that.  In my secret thoughts I wanted respect.  I think I have earned that.  I certainly have an amazing circle of friends who support and encourage me when I falter, paralyzed by...fear.

As a teacher I am not so much interested in making mini-me's who will do exactly as I do but urge students to think for themselves.  "Become your own expert" I tell them.  And I mean it.

So when I mark the Olds homework, I am not looking for people to do the exercises by rote.  I am looking to see what lessons they have learned, what challenges they may have overcome.  I am looking to see if they are exhibiting critical thinking skills, increasing their physical skills (as shown in their samples), understand for themselves where they are weakest and need to invest their time.

The past while has been challenging for me on a personal level.  Trying to also write a book is proving to be one challenge too many right at the minute.  And so I am going to take a little more time before diving back into it, explore some options (I hear you when you say you want a 'real' - as in paper - book), think about the content I have generated so far and what I need to add.  I have not given up on it entirely.  I just want to stop and check I am on the right path before I invest more of my (and my friends) time in it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


My messy life...

I am trying to cross some long delayed chores off my task list, the primary one being getting my ledger entries done, balanced, reconciled to my cheque book and file my GST (sales tax) for the second quarter of the year.  I've got until the end of the month, but I'm due a refund and I really need the money.

My 'dining' room table has become my de facto office.  It is also the hold all for all manner of things.  
The spools of singles - because I ply on the table using a borrowed electric spinner.  Doug's ipad case.  A photo of my dad, brother and me, taken in oh, 1959?  It's a favourite of mine and I can't seem to put it somewhere.  I have another on display, but there is no accounting for emotions...

Contracts for upcoming craft fairs, partly because I need to send new photos to one of them.  And somehow the contracts haven't been filed 'properly' - yet.  Partly as a reminder to actually send the photos...

Doug's tools because he's been getting to a pile of 'odd' jobs that have needed done for a long time, some just since the outside got renovated.  The renovation domino effect has meant that things that we were content to live with have now been affected, or in some cases, new stuff that needs doing.  Like the tile surround in the kitchen that had to be removed to fit the new, larger windows.  Some, like the garage door, needs to be painted, so there is a colour/chip card with our choice of new paint colour.

And on it goes.

I've had little income this year and the usual - indeed, extra - expenses so to add to everything else I'm having to 'finance' the business for the next few months.  All part of being a self-employed weaver - the mad scramble to make things, paying for materials up front but the income from their potential sales months down the road.  Having to pay for travel to events ahead of time, sometimes months before, but not getting paid until well after the event.  With cyclical income streams - in other words, out for months, in for about six weeks in the fall, with a dribble of income from teaching during the rest of the year.

The past year has had 'extra' stress due to the renovations to the house, disrupting my studio with having to make room for the trades to work, plus the noise, dust and general kerfuffle.  Plus mom dying.  I'm also older and not so resilient.

So I have finally embraced the concept of 'semi-retirement'.  But not quite yet.  Because now we start gearing up for the 2019 ANWG conference.  

To that end I have been in touch with instructors.  I have almost filled all the spots, just two more disciplines to find people for - quilting and knitting.  I have some leads, just need to find contact info.  Then, once I have everyone's topics, we will go through them and begin to design an event that will hopefully provide a quality experience, not just for the registrants, but for the instructors, vendors, etc.

In the meantime, I need to be an 'adult' and get my books done...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mastering Spinning

I bang on about the Master Weaving program at Olds College, but I also want to tell people about the Master Spinning program.

I came to weaving via the orifice of a spinning wheel.  Once I discovered weaving, spinning got set aside because I simply had no time to do it.  Eventually I sold my spinning wheels and moved on.

But about 12 or so years ago, the universe began 'gifting' me with spinning wheels.  A phone call asking if I could come pick up a loom for free, which turned out to be a spinning wheel.  Another phone call asking if I could take a wheel.  And so on.

None of these 'gifts' was quite 'right' for me and eventually I wound up buying a Canadian Production Wheel.  I prefer to spin woollen (supported long draw) from rolags and I really needed a wheel with a higher ratio than most wheels on the market.

I have been happily spinning on 'Larry' for a few years now.

As the 'free' wheels began showing up in my life, I started taking workshops from spinning teachers, not because I particularly wanted to become a better spinner, but because I wanted to be a better weaver.  Having arrived at weaving with a basic level of understanding how yarn was made, and having investigated yarn and fibre properties on my own, I found myself wanting to know more, know my materials better.  I knew that the way to do that was to take spinning classes.

(Note - I always warn the instructor to ignore me because I am there to become a better weaver, not a spinner!)

And so over the past few years I've taken classes with Judith MacKenzie, Kim McKenna, and several from Mary Lessman.

Mary is a graduate of the Olds College Master Spinner program and has now begun teaching classes for that program.

If you are ever in a position to take a workshop from her, I highly recommend taking it.  She is teaching at several venues in the US (check out the off campus link on the college website above) plus she has agreed to be one of the instructors for the ANWG conference here in 2019.

I have lined up most of the instructors for our conference and the conference website should be up by the end of summer.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eye Training

If you can't be consistent...  Laura-ism #3(?)

Do you see it?  The inconsistency?  The flaw?  (Click on the photo to biggify it - sometimes Blogger cuts photos so you can't see the whole thing.)

Do I make mistakes?  Yes.  Am I perfect?  No.  Do I strive for perfection?  Yes.  But if you can't be perfect...

Over the years I have trained my eye to see inconsistencies.  Imperfections.  And then fix them.

As I worked with finer and finer yarns, those little inconsistencies became harder and harder to see.  Sometimes I don't catch them until I've woven a couple more picks.  Once the float is 'framed' by more correct picks, it shows up better.

But as quickly as I weave and using finer threads, sometimes I have to rely on other sensory input to realize something has gone wrong.

In addition to seeing the actual problem, I pay attention to other indicators.  I watch the top of the shed.  If it doesn't open consistently I look closely at that area.  Sometimes the shuttle will hit an end if the shed doesn't open cleanly, pulling more slack on that thread.  Then it is looser than the ends on either side and may not open all the way so that the next time the shuttle will go over instead of under it.  Which is what happened in the above example.

I pay attention to the working of the loom and shuttle.  If something feels different than the time(s) before, I look more closely.  I pay attention to how the loom and shuttle sound.  

Staying in focus, paying attention to what I am doing, not thinking about other things - weaving becomes a working meditation.  Staying in the now, setting aside the tensions, the stresses of life, help to relieve the stress.  Putting those stresses firmly outside the studio allows me to have relief from them.  I get aerobic exercise, produce endorphins, plus at the end of a weaving session I have produced cloth.

Mindful weaving - it's helpful, healthful - and brings me closer to 'perfection' than not being present in the moment.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Of Knots

"Never use a knot where a bow will do."  Laura-ism #1

I very quickly learned about tying knots and bows.  Knots are good.  Knots are secure.  Knots can be damned hard to un-do.  So I learned to not tie a knot unless I really needed to secure something for the duration of whatever it was I was doing.

That meant learning when something had to be temporarily secure, and when it needed to be secure, period.  It meant I had to think through the process and analyse it to decide which was most appropriate - a knot?  or a bow?

The process of analyzing the the steps involved in weaving also taught me how much security I really needed to do the job.

Like most new weavers I tended to go for lots and lots of 'security'.  I would carefully tie off the four 'arms' of the cross plus the waist, then in addition to the choke tie near the cross and the counting tie at the other end, I would tie off the warp every yard along the length.

But tying all those ties?  Takes time.  Un-tying all those ties?  Takes time.  It gradually dawned on me that tying the waist of the cross meant I was compressing the yarns making it more difficult to sort out the ends to do the next step, plus tying every yard along the length was just adding more labour to what is already a labour intensive process.  

Eventually I learned what worked best in terms of how many ends/inches of warp to wind on my warping mill and/or board.  Multiple tiny warp chains just mean more ties to tie.  More than 15" worth of warp in a chain becomes cumbersome.

What a weaver actually does will depend on so many things - the yarns they are using, the equipment they have at their disposal, and so on.  Ultimately everyone has to figure out what works 'best' for them.  Remembering a few key principles will help guide the weaver in choosing what works best.  Knowing several different ways of achieving the same thing - a warp wound and beamed under sufficient consistent tension - means choosing the correct tool/process for the job.  Bottom line?  If you are happy with your results, you don't need to change a thing.  If you aren't happy, then you might like to try something else.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Analytical Planner

Latest tea towel warp.  I should be weaving the ones already wound, but I couldn't resist this combination.

The other day I was describing myself to someone who knows me but not very well.  I said that I was analytical and a planner, both good traits for a weaver.

Anyone who wants to learn how to weave can do so, some with more ease than others.  It all depends on what one wants to accomplish, why one wants to do it, how much manual dexterity and mechanical aptitude one has.  

Human beings have been playing with string for a very long time.  If it was impossible to learn, weaving (and spinning and felting and all the other myriad textile crafts) would not have grown up around the world, in almost every culture.

But there are levels of understanding.  

If a person is only interested in making 'perfect' textiles without digging into the principles of the craft there are numerous books and websites that give directions, right down to including the colours to use.  Shops will even make up kits with the yarn already included - all the weaver has to do is wind the warp according to the directions, dress the loom and weave, again according to directions.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  We live in a high stress society and sometimes it is rather lovely to just follow directions and wind up with something attractive.  Stress relief may mean shutting the brain off for a while, not taxing it with more questions, more decisions.

Other people find that very process challenging in a good way.  They set aside their stress by focusing on something completely different.  They like to delve into what makes a textile pleasing to them.  They like the 'what if' questions - what if I do this instead?  what if I try that?  what happens if I change...?

Being analytical, those are the questions that excite me.  All those variations.  All those options.  All the different combinations to try.

I am also a planner, so plotting the process from start to end is also something that excites me.   Starting from the colour cards of yarn, figuring out density, weave structure, design - all of that engages me creatively and intellectually.   Having an overview of my year - teaching dates, show dates - planning how to fit production, class prep, marking, travel, into my schedule can be taxing but also exciting.

And I like to challenge myself.  As I mentioned previously, I think, this series of towels has proven to be a real learning exercise.  I'm not an intuitive colourist, I had to work hard to find out what worked - and what didn't.  I still miss the mark occasionally, but less frequently, and not so widely.  I had gotten fairly comfortable working with three colours, then four, but this series has five different colours - four solids and one variegated.  Sometimes that fourth solid is really hard to choose.  

I have just committed to continuing to teach the Olds program - if they want me.  It may not be perfect but they are working on it.  And it is geared towards learning the why of weaving, not just the how.  It challenges the students to consider the what ifs, the what happens when.  Not everyone is comfortable with this approach, but even if the students learn better ergonomics, better techniques, better options - then I feel I have succeeded as a teacher.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Light Duties

Even though I'm feeling ok - just a little sensitive on the left side of my face - it was recommended that I stick with 'light' duties today.  So I am.  

I got a rather long email crafted earlier - needed a lot of thought before I finally hit 'send' but neither did I want to forget to do it while things were still fresh in my mind.  Plus I contacted another potential teacher for our conference.  I kept forgetting - too many things on my mind.

In between I started plying this brick red (mostly) singles I spun up last week.  It may be a gift for someone - if she likes it - otherwise there should be enough for a shawl.  The light bits are angora in a white/grey.

I have a busy day tomorrow with errands but I'm hoping to get the next tea towel warp into the loom so that I can start weaving again on Thursday.

All a bit of a pain, but I am going to be very happy to finally get my mouth fixed.  

Monday, July 10, 2017


Feeling a wee bit punky today after dental surgery this morning.

I have a phobia about such things due to an unfortunate encounter with a dentist when I was 5 or so.  Standard dental care, no problem, but otherwise?  Nervous!

So last night I didn't sleep well in anticipation of the 9 am appointment.

However, I would really like to get my mouth fixed, so I showed up on time and with as good an attitude as I could manage given my history.

The orthodontist was very kind and reports from friends who had seen him were all highly positive.  So I got into the 'zone' and let him do what was necessary.

In the end, the situation wasn't as bad as it could have been so it all went well (according to him!)

I'm supposed to ice for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, which doesn't leave a lot of time for doing any handwork.  So I've been vegging on the ipad, cycling through Facebook, Ravelry, my emails and round and round and round I go.

After eating a big bowl of rice pudding I made when I got home this morning, however, I'm feeling a little more perky.  That, plus the hour long nap, I suppose!

Anyway, so far so good with pain management and the swelling doesn't seem to be terrible, so hopefully I can do 'light' duties tomorrow.  

Yesterday I pulled colours for yet another tea towel warp, the loom is currently empty, so that needs to be dealt with, plus there is homework to mark, book to be read, puzzles to make, knitting and plying to be done.

If I don't get anything accomplished tomorrow, it won't be from lack of options!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Shuttle Handling

One of the issues that new weavers have is how to hold and throw their shuttle.  During my travels in June I talked to several people who said this was a problem for them.

First of all, I am interested to know how they are actually holding their shuttles.  If it is overhand, I recommend that they try holding it this way - cradled in their fingers is the best way I can explain it.

The above photo shows 'catching' - the point of the shuttle goes between my index and middle finger which allows my thumb to control the let off of the yarn from the bobbin.  The shuttle should be 'thrown' (actually propelled by the index finger) as close to the reed as possible as that is where the shed is the tallest.

My preference is for Leclerc brand wooden shuttles, but people with small hands find them too long.  In that case I recommend finding something that is shorter - Bluster Bay and Harrisville Designs both make shuttles with a snub nose.

Once the weft has been set, my thumb moves to the top of the shuttle, then my index finger moves to the point of the shuttle so it can be 'thrown' back for the next pick.

To beat the pick to the fell, I lift my hand holding the shuttle just enough for the beater to move below.

I weave fast.  All the motions of weaving roll one into the other.  My weaving rhythm depends on what I am weaving, how tightly I want the cloth to be.  An open cloth must be woven more slowly as each pick needs to be carefully set into the web.  A 'standard' cloth can be woven more quickly.  A dense cloth can be woven even more quickly as the force required to beat the pick in means the beater bounces back from the fell more quickly.

The point is not how quickly a weaver weaves, but that they wind up with the quality of cloth they desire.

But learning more efficient processes means that cloth comes off the loom more quickly.  If that's not important, then each person needs to do what is appropriate for them.

In the meantime I have this humongous stash to use up...

Currently reading Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Labour Intensive

I got home late afternoon on Tuesday (leaving Richmond at 5 am).  Yesterday was filled with appointments - including a change in the date of my dental surgery.  It will take place on Monday, not a week from now.  So things have to be changed around in order to leave me some time for recovery.

To that end I decided I needed to at least dress the small loom.  Of the two looms, this one is a little more 'gentle' on my body and the one that I will likely feel like weaving on soonest.

Having four warps already wound, waiting in the wings, so to speak, I simply chose the one on the top of the heap and started beaming it this morning.  

The next two days are similarly filled with appointments so working on it will be catch as catch can.

I rarely put less than 11 meters of warp onto this loom, although I will if I'm sampling.  11 meters of warp yields 10 towels.  Usually.

Dressing the loom is the biggest investment in time so I want to make as many items as I can on a warp.  Unless, as mentioned, I'm sampling.

Yes, after 40+ years of weaving I do still sample.  I have not worked with every single yarn, so when I get one that is new-to-me, I need to find out the hidden potential locked in the yarn.

Does it have sufficient twist to hold together as warp?  If not, do I want to go to the work of sizing it?  What sort of epi/ppi do I want to use with it?  What happens when the density changes?  The weave structure?  Most of all, what happens during wet finishing?  Because it isn't finished until it's wet finished.

I have some 'test' scarves I wove from hand spun singles that need to be wet finished.  I had hoped to do that while Mary was here, but somehow we ran out of time.  Mary is a master spinner (Olds College master spinner program graduate) and we have been working on this research project for nearly two years.  It has been a learning curve for both of us as we explored the effects of twists per inch on the singles, the twist direction, how the yarn behaved in the loom and during wet finishing.  The three scarves continue the exploration but until they are wet finished....well that is the last step and I'm hoping to do that today or tomorrow in between appointments.

Never too old to learn!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


I now have in my hands (so to speak) the latest edits for The Intentional Weaver.

Over the past month I have had a lot of time to think about this whole flawed business of creating content for others to buy.  I have been writing about weaving almost since I started weaving and every single time I go through the same angst: will it be good enough?  Will *I* be good enough?

At some point in time an author just has to stop.  Stop polishing.  Stop tweaking. Stop agonizing.  Just say "it's the best I can do" and let it go out into the world to make its way, sink or swim.

I am well aware that some people will be disappointed.  Some will find what I have done sadly lacking.  Some will share their opinion of my failure.

Others will find value.  Others will be helped.  Others will discover things they never thought about before.  Others will be able to tweak their own processes and make progress.

It is those 'others' that The Intentional Weaver is for.

I am not trying to write the 'compleat' book of weaving.  I am not trying to write the 'only book you'll ever need'.  I am not actually trying to write a 'how to learn how to weave' book.  My approach is instead to write a book that will explain more of the why of the craft, not just the how (although there will be some of that to illustrate the how in relationship to the why).

And so I have come to the point in my life where, once I have read through the edits by my beta reader and made what 'corrections' are necessary I will set aside this first part as being pretty much 'finished' (as much as any writing is ever 'finished') and concentrate on the projects I want to include.  The projects are intended as a way to illustrate some of the points in the main body of the text.  Hints and tips specific to those projects will be included where appropriate.

The photographs and whatever diagrams I deem necessary still need to be dealt with but over the past month I have come to the conclusion that I have said pretty much what I wanted to say and it is time to move toward the conclusion of this project.

I want to have it finished by the end of 2018.  Because by then we will be entering high gear for the conference here in 2019.  Plus I still have my teaching commitments for Olds, which are in the exact same month as the conference!  So I cannot be still writing, polishing, tweaking this manuscript for any longer.  It is time to wrap it up (although the actually wrap up is still a long ways away!) and let it loose into the world...flaws and all...

Saturday, July 1, 2017


All set up ready for the seminar A Good Yarn.   The calm before the 'storm'...

Monday, June 26, 2017

Road Tripping

Tomorrow I will repack my bins and cases and get ready for the ANWG Conference taking place in Victoria, BC.  Mary and I leave Wednesday morning.

We will mosey southwards, taking a more scenic route through the interior of the province, along the Sea to Sky Highway and stay overnight in Squamish, then try for a fairly early-ish ferry from Horseshoe Bay over to Nanaimo, driving south to Victoria.  I have to be at the ANWG Board meeting on Thursday evening and connect with the rest of my guild's members to deliver things for the guild booth.

Friday morning Mary wants to see Butchart Gardens, so perhaps we'll get there for a couple of hours.  Only time will tell.  There will also be shopping and exhibits to see.

The trip is a bit fraught because I am (again) wearing too many hats.  Hostess.  Chauffeur.  Conference host (for 2019) with meetings to attend, both Board and General.  And of course, two seminars to teach.

In addition there is the guild booth advertising our upcoming conference and the Olds College info booth, both of which need warm bodies to woman.

On Monday we will head to Richmond and have a lazy day because Mary leaves on a very early flight which means at least a 4 am wake up call, perhaps earlier depending on when her shuttle for the airport leaves.  I will start heading east and north once she is on the shuttle, hoping to miss the worst of the Vancouver area morning rush hour, wending my way home.

Once here there are several pressing things that need doing including finish the four more tea towel warps, the rest of the warp for our conference, various maintenance things like dental surgery and hope that my broken tooth can get fixed before we leave for Europe.

I also have the flash drive with the latest edit of The Book, my mom's 'memoirs' to deal with, design and weave off a table runner warp and hopefully a shawl warp.  I've been ignoring the bin of rayon chenille scarves I wove when?  December?  January?  They still need fringe twisting plus the towels that Doug will wet finish/press will need hemming and their final press, tagging/pricing.

But I need some down time, too, so after the surgery on the 14th, I'm planning on taking about 3 days to do quiet stuff - like the fringe twisting, hemming and maybe, just maybe build a jigsaw puzzle - or two!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Little Help from my Friends

Today, in between dealing with Life, unpacking, sorting, beginning to re-pack (for Victoria and ANWG), get ready for Mary's one day workshop The Empress' Tea Cup (silk, silk and more silk) we wound up with a few minutes in which we could retreat from the madding crowd.

Mary sorted through the 2/8 cotton, getting colours sorted (a good colour exercise) and neatly stored on the shelves.  She made so much room with her sorting, she was able to empty two bags of yarn and put it on the shelves, too.  That particular goat trail is now a wee bit wider...

While she was doing that, I wove the first tea towel on the warp I left ready to go when I left for Olds last week.  

What a delight to have such willing and helpful hands!

I still have a bunch of paperwork to deal with (student submissions to be printed out, travel/expense form to fill out so I can get paid for the class in Cape Breton), craft fairs to apply for or sign contracts and submit deposits.

Some of the administrivia will have to wait until July to be fitted in around the rather busy schedule that has somehow managed to create itself for July, including recovery from dental surgery.  I'm hoping it won't take more than a few days but if it takes longer I have spinning, knitting, hand hemming and a big bag of jigsaw puzzles I am looking forward to working on quietly.

This year has been slipping through my fingers and some of my goals are not likely to be met.  But I will give it my best.  Ultimately whatever gets made, gets made.  And in the meantime, my cotton shelves look very pretty.  And neat.  And tidy.  

PS - Mary is available to teach in the Lower Mainland around the middle to the end of May next year if anyone wants a great spinning workshop...

Thursday, June 15, 2017


The above is a close up of wool fibre.  The scales are very apparent seen this close up.

Thinking about teaching the upcoming class while I dress the loom once again.  I like to leave a warp ready to go so that I can just jump on the loom as soon as I get home.  Especially after a glance at my calendar for the coming months.

I have dental surgery scheduled in July with additional work to repair teeth that have been stressed over the years.  Dry mouth from medication has taken it's toll as well as, well, age.

Then we are going on holiday for three weeks in September, I have a workshop that looks like it's a 'go' in October, a visit with a friend in TN plus a consultation with someone who will help with formatting and laying out The Book, returning home just in time for the craft fair season to start.

So time has gotten very crunchy.

The Olds program is much like the above magnified image - only under close examination can you see the 'bones' of the fibre.   In the same way, we look at the craft of weaving for the things that are not obvious, that need to be closely examined so that we can understand our materials, our equipment, our processes.

We frame this information within the context of our own abilities (and disabilities), our own environment, our own aims and objectives, our equipment and budget.

Because it all depends.  What do we want to do?  What do we want to make?  What kind of practice will satisfy our sense of creativity, our design aesthetic?  Are we more interested in an intuitive approach or a more intellectual one?  Do we want to revel in the colours/textures or explore the nuts and bolts of the craft?

There is room for everyone in the craft.  What I hope to accomplish is that everyone walks out on day 5 knowing more than when they walked in.  And if they don't, they probably had a really good grasp of the craft to begin with.  But sometimes it's just good to know that your observations and practice are in keeping with your goals.

For now I'm going to try to finish dressing the loom.  And then have a good long think to make sure I haven't forgotten anything.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Me, probably off on a tangent...

So what are the odds of everything going smoothly when I travel to teach?  50-50.  Either they will...or they won't.

And when they don't, they usually don't in a rather spectacular fashion.

I've grown used to things not being ideal.  You learn to get flexible very quickly, or you would drive yourself bananas.

So I make lists, check them twice (thrice, more) hope I remember everything.  But usually I forget something.

Like the time I forgot my little travel purse on the kitchen counter.  I managed to phone Doug and get him to pick it up and deliver it back to the airport at the very last second.  But I was the absolute last person on board.  I think the only reason they didn't leave without me is that I'd already checked into the gate and they knew I was there - somewhere.

The time I had a massive allergic reaction (several times) and threw up all night and was brain dead or near as, the following day.

The time I got food poisoning.  

The time my plane couldn't depart due to fog, mad scramble to re-book, bought a ticket on another airline because their plane had radar and could take off in the fog.  Of course that meant I didn't get reimbursed for the second ticket out of town, had to have the original airline rebook on all the flights I missed, arriving at last at midnight with a two hour drive to my hostess' house falling into bed at 2 am with a 7 am wake up call.

The time a conference seminar assistant didn't realize she needed to pick up the class handouts so I had to do the entire complex topic with no references for the students.  Lots of air drawings that day.  And I did a terrible job because I didn't have my handouts, which threw me for a loop.

A friend asked if things didn't get better.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Read Daryl Lancaster's blog for some of her adventures with travelling.

So why on earth do I keep doing this?  Well, I'm not.  I have stopped taking bookings for guilds. (Unless I get arm twisted with a reason for me to make an exception.)

I have cut back to only teaching the Olds master weaving programs (with, as mentioned, a few exceptions).

But yes, I have done this for a rather long time.  I have been teaching since the month I quit my 'real' job in order to become a professional weaver.  My first workshop was a spinning workshop - coincidentally the very same night my father died.

I drove to smaller towns and villages in the region.  I have white knuckled my way through snowstorms, white outs/blizzards, black ice, pouring down rain and thunder storms.

I have flown all over the place in good weather...and bad...sometimes missing flights, arriving late, arriving at a completely different airport with people on the ground scrambling to get me.

I have arrived without my luggage.  More air drawings, until it caught up to me.

So, then, why?  Why keep doing this?

Well, I could be flippant and say I'm 'warped'.  But the fact is I am passionate about weaving and I am passionate about trying to help people understand the craft.

The next two trips are both driving.  I am hoping for good weather, but it either it will be good...or it won't.  Either way I will hit the highway Friday am as early as I can for the nearly 500 mile drive and hope it goes smoothly.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


This trip is a little different from my usual.  Olds College puts teachers up in their student condos which have kitchens...but no dishes.  Since three of my roommates are flying in and I'm driving, I am also bringing cups, cutlery, coffee and tea makings.  I will be adding extra blankets because the beds only come with the standard issue college thin bedding.  I guess students at an ag college are a lot sturdier than 'elderly' ladies!

Since my three roomies are also from the southern US, I am also bringing shawls because spring has been very chilly this year and they will seize up from the cold!

Trying to pack for a complex trip in the midst of continuing renovation work is stretched my tolerance for unexpected things to the breaking point.  But I am working my way through my packing list, remembering more things that will be needed, both for class and making our stay at the college more pleasant.  

I still have to pick up the spinning wheel for Mary to use, but that will be tonight at the guild pot luck.  There is an even bigger heap of stuff at the annex that needs picking up and the van will be crammed with bins and boxes.

We are very near done with the last of the renovations and then it will be cleaning up the aftermath.  But most of that is outside and once my studio is back to rights, I should be able to go full steam ahead - at least until my dental surgery.  I'm hoping for quick healing and back to my production schedule, all too often interrupted the past year.

I guess I have to come to the realization that I am now establishing what my new 'normal' is and learning what my limits are, physically.

But I am still on this side of the grass, and so far?  It's a Good Thing.  Even given my current state of irritability!

Currently reading Cold Earth by Anne Cleeves

Monday, June 12, 2017

Renovation Hell

The work on our house was extensive, but required.  Unfortunately renovations rarely go smoothly, and such has been the case with ours.  The latest adventure occurred over the weekend.

During the trip home I phoned to let Doug know everything looked good for getting home on time.  At which point he let me know that the sewer line had been broken the day before and we had no sewer use.  He'd turned the house water off so that we didn't forgetfully run water.  I told him to book a room at a nearby hotel.  I was arriving home at midnight (4 am according to my body clock after spending a week in Cape Breton) and all I wanted to do was be able to brush my teeth, wash my face and use the toilet so I could fall into bed.  Any bed.

On Sunday the excavator returned(!) to open the hole and voila, found the broken pipe.

The crew to repair the pipe has just arrived and hopefully the repair will be simple and quickly executed and the city inspector will come quickly to test the system and allow the hole to be filled back in.

But dear friends, I am tired of the drama.  I am exhausted from an overload of stress that began last summer, waiting for the reno work to begin, then have it extend over the winter and now into spring to be completed.  I am reeling from Life Happening - or not, such as the case may be.

I would just like to say - give me some boring.  To the universe, now literally 'shitting' on me, please stop!  I still have dental surgery to get through once I get home from Olds/Victoria.  A little peace and quiet is desired.

So if you believe in such things, pray for things to go smoothly today, through Olds and Victoria and my dental surgery (and subsequent repair to my other teeth that need it.)

Because I'm done.  I am just really, really done.  I give.  Uncle...

Monday, June 5, 2017

Gaelic College, St. Ann's, Cape Breton (NS)

Morning started grey and gloomy, a disappointment given the forecast had promised sun.

But lots of things were happening in the studio.

We are a small group of 8, most from the 'local' area, but one from Newfoundland and one from Ontario.  It's an enthusiastic bunch and we've had laughs, confusion, information overload...and it's only day 1,

Best of all, the sun finally made an appearance.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Team Effort

The pile, she grows...

Doug has been supportive of my efforts in many ways, right from the start.  Over the years he's provided financial support, co-signed loans when I needed to build a credit rating (yes, I'm that old I needed a male person to vouch for me to begin with), built equipment and tools, kept them running, became my sales force and studio assistant for 9 years.  And so much more.

When he 'retired' a few years ago I pointed out that I wouldn't be 'retiring' any time soon and what was he going to do to help this this time?  He decided pressing might be just the thing.

So I have been weaving like a crazy woman, knowing that time is starting to run out.  I'm gone essentially all of June, we are both gone for 3 weeks in September, and I may be away for two weeks in October, returning just in time for the craft fair season.

Needless to say, I am feeling very pressured to get stuff woven - now!  Because it isn't finished when it comes off the loom.  These tea towels need to be run through the washer/dryer, pressed, hemmed, given a final press, then tagged/priced.

I am bringing 10 towels with me to Cape Breton in hopes of getting them hemmed, but the above pile still needs to be wet finished.  I'm hoping Doug will be able to get some (if not all) of them done so I can bring a bin full to Olds for more hemming in the evenings.  

There are still about 25 yards left to weave on the AVL and then I need to do some table runners because I sold out of those last year.  The yarn is bought and waiting for an empty loom.

And I leave Friday evening.  With an empty tea towel loom I'm hoping to get another warp set up so that I can maybe weave a bit on it before I leave (doubtful) but that I can jump onto as soon as I get home.  Well, once I recover from jet lag.

There are six(?) more warps already wound and one more with the colours pulled.  I'm thinking that once I wind that, I need to switch focus - finish weaving off the pulled warps, then empty the AVL.

I'm sure that with a mighty team effort, we'll make it.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Time Flies

It has been 2 years, 4 months and one week (plus a couple of days, but who's counting?) since my surgery.  

I was warned it would be a one year recovery, possibly two, some said three.  Well, frankly it has only been the past little while that I have felt anywhere close to functional.  But I'm not expecting to regain everything I lost.  After all, I am 2 years, 4 months and a week (or so) older. Other health issues have reared their unlovely heads during that time and my activity horizon has definitely shrunk.

That doesn't mean I'm not trying to push that horizon further back - joining the Y was one thing I figured would help.  Increase my strength and overall fitness, and that would have to help, surely?

Even so, I incorporated weaving into my recovery routine, knowing that mentally it would help enormously if I could get to the loom and gauge my recovery by how much more stamina I had by being active.  I did the same after breaking my ankle, and also during chemo - although that was a downhill slide until it was done.

I would feel frustrated at how little I could do and people would tell me that I could do more on a 'bad' day then they could on a 'good' one.

But weaving is my profession.  I'm very good at it.  I'm very efficient at it.  So trying to compare me to most other weavers is chalk and cheese.  

It took me a very long time to feel comfortable with the mantle of 'master weaver'.  But a master doesn't just make things, they also know how to do it efficiently, ergonomically.  They understand their materials, processes, equipment.  They know when something is working, when it isn't, how to fix it and when to give up and begin again.  They understand the nuances of the craft in a way that others who have not taken the time to dig into it all simply cannot  

So when people say they don't want to be efficient, I get that.  But I am all too aware at how close I came, not once but several times, to running out of time.  Forever.  And I'm not done yet.  So I do not want to work artificially slowly using tools that aren't engineered well, processes that are not appropriate to my materials, materials that are not appropriate to my intended end result.  

Mastering the craft means that efficiency will increase as skills increase, knowledge increases.  So yes.  I want to work as efficiently as I can.  Because time flies...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Not Out

The box with the cones holds more of Lynn's yarn, this time cotton slub.  The box with the tubes contains the yarn I brought in to re-sell - when I was still doing that.  That box with the tubes?  It's two layers deep.

So no, I'm not even close to being 'out' of yarn.  And it appears I am also not 'out' of ideas for more stripe sequences.  

I kind of agonized over that purple stripe, but in the end, once the dull blue weft crosses it it should all meld together quite nicely.

The thing about working in a series is that the longer I 'mine' the design, creating new colour combinations, all within the same framework (stripes) the more I push myself, the more adventurous I get with my colour combinations.

This stripe sequence is also challenging because I am using four solids and a variegated.  Sometimes that fourth colour is really, really hard to choose.  Much easier to use 3!

But part of why I do this thing that I do is to push myself, creatively.  One of the ways I do that is in the colours I select to make my textiles.

But I've been working on this series for over a month, now, and so far I have more than 10 warps either woven, wound or planned.  At 10 towels per warp...that's a lot of towels!  More than needed, given the inventory I already have on hand from my push making towels last year, trying to use up Lynn's stash of linen and cotton/linen blends.

So I guess I'll be having a towel sale later in the year.  Just...not right away.  I normally have a sale around my birthday, but I am away the month of June (for all practical purposes), getting home on July 4, dental surgery scheduled for July 15, plus other maintenance appointments.  So it might not be until August.  After that I'm out of town again, plus the craft fair season.  So, who knows, my 'sale' might be in time for Christmas???

Saturday, May 27, 2017


The cone is the last (finally!) of Lynn's ginormous cones of cotton/linen blend.  It's about the same grist as 2/8 cotton, so has been weaving up nicely on the cotton warps I've been pulling.  I really expected to use this cone up on the last warp, but here it sits, giving it's all for another 4? 5? 6? towels?  

Once it is used up, the pale blue cotton slub on the tubes will be next.  I'm hoping to use some of them up on this warp too.

I have collected almost everything needed for the Cape Breton class, bar the stuff I use almost daily in the studio.  After all, there is still another week - surely I can weave another warp or three?  But I also have a boatload of appointments - hair cut so I don't look so shaggy, Rx renewal, chiropractor, massage therapist.  Such a lot of maintenance required to keep this body going!

The grey shawl is almost knitted.  Just a few more rows, then the ribbing.  I made it longer than usual because it seems my lower back always feels the cold and I wanted a shawl long enough to cover that.  Hopefully I can finish tonight.  Then there are another 6 or 7 spools of singles to be plyed.  I may - or may not - bring knitting as well as the 10 towels ready for hemming to Cape Breton.  It depends on how much 'spare' room there will be in my suitcase.  Plus a book or three.  It's a very long plane ride(s) from Sydney, NS to Prince George.  Lots of time to be reading.

We are still waiting on the contractor to get back to us about when the work on the driveway will get done.  I am so wanting something to be completed!  Although completing the outside of the house just means we will have to decide on what to do about the inside.  I think we've given up on doing much this year.  Instead we will look at next summer for replacing the flooring in the two small bedrooms and painting inside.  The kitchen desperately needs it as well as the main bathroom, the ensuite, the two small bedrooms, which were never touched when we moved in, although the rest of the rooms have been painted at some point.  With So Much Stuff in both of those small bedrooms (one of which is my office), we've decided to rent a storage bin, empty the two rooms and strip them rather than trying to work around the stuff.

Plus I'm arm twisting a friend to come in January or February to help me sort through my office, decide what to keep, what to toss and set up a proper filing system for the Olds things.  

For today, my dust busting helper came, vacuumed, washed floors, then weeded the front flower beds.  And the sun is shining.  It's good.  It's all good.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Things We Do For Love

I am still in the collecting phase of packing.  There are a few more items that need to go into the pile, partly because they are studio items that I am using, still, while frantically weaving as much as I can before I leave.

This trip involves flying from one small remote airport to another small remote airport.  Flights are limited and when I went to book my tickets, there was exactly one option - the red eye.

So exactly 7 days from today I leave here on the 9:30 pm flight to Vancouver, then the 0 dark hundred and a half (12:25 am) flight from Vancouver to Toronto, then finally make it to Sydney, NS at 12:25 pm.  Which means I will have been up for about 24 hours - because I don't sleep sitting up - in a car, train or plane.  Which makes trips like this...challenging.  Even more so that there is a long 'commute' from Sydney to St. Ann's so I can't even fall into bed right away.

Coming home my body clock will have reset itself to NS time which means I will be arriving home at around 4 am Sydney time, whereupon I hope to be able to fall directly into bed (do not pass "go", do not collect $200) and sleep like, well, like I've been up way too long.

There are now 10 in the Cape Breton class, with room for two more.  I'm assuming that Olds still has 9, although that was a couple of weeks ago and more may have signed up since then.  I am preparing for 12 for both, just in case.  Because neither St. Ann's, nor Olds, is very big and specific supplies may be difficult (if not impossible) to obtain.

I have been thinking a lot about both classes and hope that a few tweaks I have made to the way I present the material will be helpful.  

It is imperative (imho) that we keep a certain level of knowledgeable practitioners around to write, teach, demonstrate, encourage new weavers.  It's all well and good to say that you can find anything you want on the internet - but when you don't know what you don't know, you don't know that you don't know it.

So, by teaching these classes, flying via a red eye (yuk), or driving for 9 hours with a van loaded with as many teaching materials I can cram into my van, I am hoping that once I and others like me are gone, our knowledge will live on.

Currently reading Wool by Hugh Howey - which has very little to do with wool per se but makes a great metaphor for a modern day 'fairy tale' (science fiction novel).

Saturday, May 20, 2017


One of my mentors always used to say "If you aren't making mistakes, you aren't learning anything."  And would then share her latest 'mistakes' and the lessons she'd learned from them.

So very early in my career I learned that displeasing results were not terminal, just a stepping stone on the journey of learning.

This series of towels is meant to use up a bunch of yarn that I either inherited or purchased to re-sell.  I began, as I usually do, by making a striped design that appealed to me (based on the Fibonacci series) and then began to play with the colours to go into those stripes.

I set myself some design constraints:  the centre stripe would be one of the variegated cotton yarns I'd bought to sell, the weft would be yarn from Lynn's Legacy or, if that didn't have the right colour for the warp, from cotton slub I'd bought to sell.

The centre stripe on this warp is a rather dull and fairly dark varigation with a 'sad' green (with a bit of blue), lavender, and a dark-ish greyed blue.  I didn't have the right shade of lavender so I went with a quite dark value purple, which I'm still not sure I like but does give the rather dull warp a little 'zing'.  And of course I never judge a textile on the loom but only after wet finishing.

The colour palette isn't to my personal taste, but for those who like more subdued hues, I think this is working ok.  In spite of that dull beige stripe which, quite frankly, I agonized over.

The weft is a dull sage green which seems to be working as I'd hoped and pulling all the different colours together visually.  

Currently reading Hidden Figures.  I bought the DVD and will watch that with Mary in June.  But movies never have the scope to go into detail so I'm glad I'm reading the book beforehand.

Friday, May 19, 2017


A few years ago (quite a few, but let's not count them up) I was asked to do a guild presentation about my life as a professional weaver.  After the presentation one person approached me and said that she had re-invented herself three times, with three different professions, but had been intrigued with how I had re-invented myself but always within the context of weaving.

Being the child of a French-Canadian mother and a German-Canadian father, I think I got a double stubborn gene.  Add in the Cancer water sign, and stubbornly persistent, or persistently stubborn would pretty much sum me up.

Water tends to meet an obstacle and go under, around or sometimes just plain over, in order to reach it's destination.

While I have not managed to achieve everything I set out to do - sometimes the answer is indeed "no" - it has not been from lack of trying.

After my first craft fair, I completely re-thought my approach to designing textiles, re-tooled my entire inventory, and achieved a modicum of success.  Enough to continue, at any rate.

My writing was not an instant 'success' so I kept writing articles, submitting them and when they were rejected - tried again.  And again.  And again.  While my ego cringed, persistent stubbornness would not allow me to give up.  My ego was instructed to pull up the Big Girl panties because I was going to continue.  As I continued to write and be rejected, I was also honing my writing skills.

Ditto applying to teach workshops.  Don't like that topic?  How about this one?  And I re-wrote my marketing tools to make my workshops sound more...interesting?  Appealing?  Until guilds started to hire me.

Conferences?  Again, multiple applications, multiple rejections.  Damn near wore out those Big Girl panties!  Get another pair and keep trying.

Chairing meetings?  I can do that.  Organizing conferences?  I can do that.  Not getting answers?  Nag, nag, the nicest possible way, of course!  Because I wanted, needed, an answer and getting shirty wasn't going to hurry those answers along.

Weaving is all about not stopping, not giving up.  I have a high paced month coming up - lots of details to take care of.  I am so far 'behind' on where I wanted to be - because Life Happened - and then it didn't (for my mother - and all that that entailed).  I am way behind on my writing of The Book and know that after the crazy month of June I'm going to need some time to recuperate - only to get some dental surgery done which may knock me out of being able to weave for at best several days, at worst a week or more.

But I am stubbornly persistent, or persistently stubborn, and like my Cancer water sign, I will go under, around or over the obstacles.  

I may not achieve all that I would like to do, but I will do my best to get as much done as I possibly can.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I am in the throes of finding my teaching aids for the two Olds classes I am teaching in June, which is a bit of a challenge because I also have all the samples for all the other workshops I've taught over the years.  Things have gotten shifted multiple times over the past year due to the renovation work we have been having done, plus studio production.  

Once I teach one last workshop (if it goes ahead) in October, I will sit down over the winter, sort through ALL my samples, decide which I need to keep for the Olds classes and the rest will get tossed into the recycle bin.

I told Doug yesterday that I am fed up to the back teeth with all the clutter.  Between each of us, then emptying out mom's apartment, living in the same house for over 40 years, running a business out of it, which included teaching as well as production, well...let's just say I might qualify for an episode of Hoarders!

I am turning 67 this year.  Many people I know retire from their professions in their 50's.  I am allowed to admit that I am getting tired.  I've had a lifetime of repetitive motion type of work and my body is wearing out.  I really don't want to be toting heavy boxes and suitcases around any more.

It is time to look at what I really actually need and get rid of the rest.  To that end, I have given myself five years to downsize, at least to the point of having only the yarns I really want to use instead of all the other stuff I have needed for teaching workshops.  So I am on a mission - weave as much as possible of the stuff I want to get rid of, finish The Book, concentrate on teaching the Olds class, spend more time doing what I enjoy instead of what I feel I must do.  Every job has stuff that isn't as enjoyable as the stuff you really love to do.  It's time for me to concentrate on moving towards the 'joy' and away from the things that aren't.