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.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Prep Work

So Saturday was my mom's interment and everything that needs to be done for her has been done.  Now it is time to think about deadlines.  Which loom.  Threateningly.

It would seem that starting to panic a wee bit a month before a class might be a bit premature, but in reality, most of my prep work for a workshop is done 6 weeks ahead of a class because materials have to be prepared and mailed.

For the Olds Fibre Week program however, I get to drive so I can bring everything I need with me.  

For the level one class, I wind their first warp for them to save time during class.  The program is information dense.  During the five days of class I present approximately 12 hours (or more) of lectures, filled with information, most of which many weavers have never thought about, never mind considered.  Some who come are more experienced, but that doesn't mean they have been presented with some of the material that I include in my classes.  Like ergonomics.  Efficiency.  Which are not actually covered in the course content, but...well, I'm me and I cannot not discuss these issues to people who are expected to do some level of teaching.

So I wind the skeins of wool onto cones, and then I wind their first warp for them.

In the past I have wound all of the skeins onto cones, but have not received all the cones back again.  So this time I am only winding the skeins that I am going to use, then enough skeins for them to wind their second warp.  Since each sample warp consists of one skein, I will be able to get all my cones back again.

I use the Silver Needles cone winder.  It is the 'best' cone winder I have found for the price.  I also have a large industrial cone winder, but it really doesn't like to pull/wind from a skein and I didn't have enough money to also buy an industrial swift that would wind off as the cone was winding on.

Eventually I will offer the industrial cone winder for sale because I am no longer buying large quantities of yarn, coning it off and re-selling it.  

The other reason for jumping on this class prep now is that I will be teaching the Olds level one in Cape Breton the first week of June, coming home with about 5 days to recover, then driving out to Olds to teach the class there.  I will then have about 5 days to recover from that, then drive to Victoria and the ANWG conference.  So I feel like I really need to do as much as I can now and not wait to the last minute.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

An Embarrassment of Riches

When I decided to write/publish Magic in the Water (available for sale at - join the Magic in the Water group and follow directions) it was because there was almost no information on wet finishing in one place geared towards the hand weaver.  I saw a need and decided to fill it.

So why am I writing a general book on weaving when there are already so many books available, not to mention dvd's, blogs (including this one), video clips on You Tube, on line guilds (Jane Stafford), Janet Dawson's Craftsy class.  It would seem there is more than enough information out there.  So why?  

One of the exercises in the Olds Master Weaving program level one is to do a comparative book report, contrasting two books in relation to the level one manual contents.

As I read through these book reports I constantly ask myself - why?  Why would I put myself through all the time, energy and expense of trying to write/publish another book on weaving?

Once again the answer is simple.  So many of these books simply do not address the principles of the craft.  Or they do not include the information that I consider vital for a practitioner to know and understand.

As mentioned previously my attempt at writing a book about the craft of weaving is not going to be for someone just wanting to learn how to weave - the basic steps of getting a warp onto the loom, etc.  My approach is to try to expand the depth of knowledge of the craft.  To answer some of the 'it depends' questions and how and why changing one thing can change the results.

I have to admit that in view of reading all those critiques of the current books I quake in my boots, knowing that my book will not satisfy everyone and that it will (may?) be subject to future critiques that find it wanting.  And yet the masochist in me persists.  

Currently reading Less Than a Treason by Dana Stabanow

Friday, May 12, 2017


I routinely moan about the size of my stash.  Admittedly it's much too large - I have way too much yarn.  My goal in life is to weave it down.

That said, having a large stash with lots and lots of colours allows me to play/experiments with combining colours.

This warp isn't particularly innovative but that's because I was running low on options.  In the end I opted for an almost monochromatic 'background' to set off the brighter variegated cotton - which is the yarn I'm trying hard to use up!

The weft for this warp will be a dark value blue which should set the centre variegated stripe off nicely.  Here is the first half of the warp wound:

As a production weaver I have settled on a 'standard' set of yarns that I use repeatedly, in many different ways.

Cotton and rayons comprise my most commonly used yarns.  At this time.

I also have a large set of teaching yarns that I use for my workshops.  But since I have decided to 'retire' from most teaching (other than the Olds master weaving program and the occasional foray into conferences) I now also need to use those yarns up.

Yesterday all my inventory was taken out of its packing boxes so I can see what I have.  Once I get home from my teaching marathon in June I will assess what I have - and what I need for the fall sales.

Since I seem to have rather a lot of tea towels/kitchen utility towels - especially once this series has been finished, finished, I will probably have a 'sale' on my Circle Craft website store beginning in July some time.

So far I have nine warps either wound, pulled or planned, with a tenth likely.  With 10 towels per warp, that means another 100 or so towels will be coming off the loom very soon.

I also have about 27 yards left on the AVL which needs to be woven before I can contemplate making a warp of table runners.  These will be cotton warp and linen weft - in order to use up some of that teaching stash I was talking about above.

At some point I need to make shawls, too, but I will be away for three weeks in September, probably a couple of weeks in October, and then the craft fair begins, so I am going to have to really get a move on if I'm to meet my goals for the fall sales.

But it all begins with a stash ready to hand that I can go to and work from.  So even though I may have SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy), it's not always a bad thing!

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Some of the homework for the Olds master weaving program.  Plus yarn.  Stash to be used up.  Plus bins of warps, wound, ready to be woven.  When I get to them.

Life is full of passages.  Some smooth, some rocky.  But that is just life.

The first time your heart gets broken.  Getting fired.  Having to bury a loved one.  Getting rejected.  

Life is full of them.

As a child I thought as an adult I could do whatever I wanted, that I would never have to do stuff I didn't want to do.  What a surprise!

Because life isn't just one pajama party after another.  There were/are obligations.  Duties.  Stuff that was hard and sometimes even difficult to face.  

But there is also joy.  There is love.  And rainbows.  And silver linings, if we look hard enough.  (Believe me, sometimes you really have to dig to find them, but...)

So while I love to weave, there are things that have to be done.  Stuff I don't much like doing.  Like paying the bills.  Doing the paperwork, like for taxes.  Writing resumes and applications to teach.  Dealing with all the myriad little day to day things that have to be taken care of, like not just ordering more yarn but...paying for it.

For much of my life others have looked at my work and some have told me that what I do isn't 'real'.  As though the time and effort I put into making, selling, teaching is somehow 'fake'.  I have had people tell me to my face; others do it to others behind my back.

As if, because I chose to break out of society's expectations of what constituted a 'real' job my time was not to be respected.  That I could be interrupted at their whim.  That I could drop what I was doing because it wasn't important, anyway.

I try very hard to not take myself seriously.  But I do take my weaving very seriously indeed.  I take my teaching and writing seriously.  And I earn money, real money, and I pay bills with that money.

At this point in my life I could easily 'retire' and laze around all day, every day.  Which seems to be what a certain segment of society thinks I have been doing for the past 40+ years.  But I'm not done yet.  My brother died at the age of 51.  As a result of his death, I was 'saved'.  Since I am still here, there is something more I need to do.  Something more I need to accomplish.  

In the end, I really don't care what other people think of me (too much).  What is important to me is not that I have buckets of money, but that I lived a life that meant something to me.  That I tried (and failed) to be kind and fair - but every time I failed, I tried to do better.  Be better.

So when I was confronted again today with the attitude that my work is a 'sham', I saw red.  I have calmed down now, had a firm chat with someone who needed to understand what was happening and confront the attitude that somehow some jobs are more 'real' than others.  Bottom line?  If you are being paid with 'real' money, you are working a 'real' job.

Speaking of which - I have a warp that needs weaving, homework that needs marking...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Tricks We Play on Ourselves

These three cones are part of the inheritance I received a few years ago.  Lynn had an eye for a bargain and would routinely buy yarns on deep discount, not necessarily with any project in mind, just because it was 'cheap' and too good a deal to pass on.

When I sorted through her literally rooms full of yarn, I kept pretty much all the linen.  Much of it simply wasn't any longer available and I knew I could use all those singles linen yarns as weft in tea towels.

Since bringing the 600 or so pounds of yarn home (not all of it linen, there is also cotton slub, some of it destined for this towel series, some very fine worsted wool, which will be used to ply my handspun) I have made dozens and dozens of towels from Lynn's linen.  Fine yarn goes a very long way!

This yarn was left until 'last' because it isn't the best quality.  It is primarily tow linen with chaff left in it, but also fluffy bits of what I think are likely cotton.  But there was no information on fibre content with this yarn.  And now I'm determined to use it up so I'm using it 'first' before I can use the 'nicer' yarn in my stash.

The down side of using it is that it is dusting off copious amounts of fibre - something I knew would happen.  It's textured, so selvedges are pretty ratty, but textured yarns will do that.

The up side is that it is getting used up fairly quickly.  I've woven four towels and it looks like the first cone will be enough weft to weave six.  With three cones, I should come pretty close to using most of this yarn up on the two beige (predominantly) warps I've wound with this yarn in mind.  Once this yarn is done I have one large cone of a nicer linen/cotton blend.  And then Lynn's linen will be all used up.

But right now I'm feeling a wee bit like Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon strip.  Only with fibre, instead of mud...

Friday, May 5, 2017

Stocking Up

This is warp #8 in the series of towel warps I've been winding.  

I'm struggling to finish the warp on the AVL - but need to get it off soon so I can weave other things. 

I'm struggling to use up stash.  But that means buying more yarn to use up the yarn that is only suitable for weft.

I'm struggling to regain my energy, facing a non-stop teaching schedule in June.

I'm struggling with emotions that well up and overflow as I deal with the last thing needed for mom - her interment on May 13.

But I'm also looking forward.

To teaching students who are as intrigued with all the minutia of how threads can be woven together.  Looking forward to seeing my stash actually reduce.  Looking forward to seeing friends who I only get to see once a year - at best.  

Even, no kidding, getting the manuscript back from the beta reader and getting back to editing.

The Intentional Weaver is not going to be the 'only book you'll ever need'.  That is not my intent, nor do I believe that any one book can cover all the 'it depends' aspects of the craft.  But I do believe that I can help people refine their techniques and add to their foundation of knowledge.  

Not that the information can't be found, but perhaps it cannot be found easily.  So I'm hoping to put some of that information in my document.  And that ultimately people will find that it helps. 

Bottom line?  I want to help reduce the frustrations that people find in the craft because they maybe haven't had an in-person teacher to show them the little things that make the craft easier.  That they maybe haven't found the information that they don't even know they need.  

To help make the craft joyful instead of annoying.  

Because it's all good.  Every bit of it.

Almost finished Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs, about to start The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

On a Roll

Progress comes slowly, but come it does.  I'm down to about 30 yards left on the AVL, and in between weaving on it, I've been winding more tea towel warps.  Because Stash Reduction!

I still have yarn left from Lynn that is really only suitable for weft, but as such, makes nice towels.  So, more towels are coming down the pipeline.

Doug and a young friend have done some major re-organization at the annex and hopefully this will make it easier for me to see what I have - both in woven textiles and in yarn to be used up - and start to deal with the fact that a big chunk of June - all of it in fact - will be devoted to teaching.  So I need to jump on the production train to get inventory ready for the fall.  

In aid of that, I've just sent in a rather large yarn order, because in order to use up the weft yarns in my stash, I needed more yarns/colours!  It never seems to end...

However, I have at least six warps already wound (yes, I've lost count!), each warp producing 10 towels.  

I'm hoping I can get at least one warp woven before I leave for Cape Breton, which will give me some hand work to do in the evenings (or quiet times during class, should there be any!)

Today is looking - and feeling - positively spring like.  Perhaps the sap/energy is rising in my studio as well as the trees outside.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Moving Parts

When I ordered my AVL in oh, 1981, a number of weavers informed me that I could no longer call my textiles hand woven.  But I do.  Because the loom does exactly nothing if I'm not there to make it happen.

The thing with a loom with so many moving parts is that it will fail more often than a loom with fewer moving parts.  

After ignoring the AVL for literally months over the winter, the wood had shrunk, nuts and bolts had come loose, and alignment was altered.  

Having a loom such as this perfectly aligned is critical or the loom also makes mistakes for you.  As mine has been.

Over the past few days I have been tweaking it and now it is almost behaving - but not all the time.  As a weaver, I need to be aware and alert for when the mechanics of the loom are going 'wrong' and causing problems. 

Fortunately this warp is long and if something goes awry it's not terminal.  It just means one of the panels may be cut into tea towels immediately.  That means that I can actually have some hemmed well before the conference begins,

So when the loom tosses a cable or a critical piece breaks, I heave a sigh, fix the problem as best I can and see if it is now happy.

Currently reading Swimming in the Sink by Lynne Cox

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I wish I had it - patience.  It's a lesson the universe has been trying to instill into me for a very long time.  Nearly 67 years, I would venture to guess.  

This warp is for the conference here in 2019.  I am weaving towel 'blanks' in the conference colours which will be cut into panels of three blanks each and used to advertise the conference and decorate the hall.  The panels will then be cut apart and sold for souveniers.

But.  But, this warp was scheduled to be off the loom before Christmas and yet, here it is, nearly May, and I'm only at about the half way mark.  

Usually a 100 yard warp wouldn't take all that long to weave off in the normal course of things.  But the past six months or so have been anything but normal.  

Mom started feeling vaguely unwell last August, with non-specific symptoms which got worse over the fall, just about the time the renovations began.  I had had a hectic schedule with teaching in Cape Breton the last week of August (and massively breaking a tooth the night before a 6 am flight - thank goodness Sydney is a small town and a dentist there was able to squeeze me in and repair it).  Then off to the US for a few weeks to visit with friends, coming home to the chaos of construction, the run up into the show season.  Thankfully we had cut our schedule down and only had three shows to do, back to back, not four.

So I picked away at the loom while weaving other things on the smaller loom.  And then mom went into hospice and all the minutia of summing up a life needed to be dealt with and frankly?  I didn't have the mental acuity or the energy to deal with it.  And so - it sat.

But spring is springing and my energy is returning and now I really really want this warp off.  So today I fired up the computer that runs the AVL and managed to weave one 'towel'.  The loom is a bit cranky after being ignored for so long and it will take some time to get it adjusted so that it is happy.  But in the meantime, one more yard is woven.  And it won't take all that long to finish the rest of the warp once I'm back into the swing of it.

Currently reading The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Guest Post - Carol M

Sewing Straight Lines

Before retiring and embarking on the Master Weaver journey, I spent a good many years involved in one way or another with the garment industry. For a lot of those years, I trained sewing machine operators to use commercial sewing machines in performing garment assembly procedures and techniques.

The beginning of this training, after learning how to start and stop the machine safely, consists of sewing straight lines. Straight lines using the edge of the presser foot as a guide; straight lines around square corners; straight lines before and after curves; and on and on until there is a lovely straight line from A to B with no presser foot or fabric edge for a guide. (This is a tapered dart—not used much these days, but important in the learning process.)

The prospect of Master Weaver Level 1 excited me no end. I’ve always been a little compulsive about weaving, starting with the looper loom at age five. After some decades of weaving on a tapestry-style loom, I graduated to a countermarch and ran off willy-nilly trying every technique I could wrap my head and hands around. I had some experience, I’d taken some workshops, I was ready to become a master weaver.

Shortly before the class was to begin, Olds sent out the syllabus. I skimmed through it; seemed like a lot of very basic weaving stuff. I regarded it as background and wondered what we’d really be doing in class.

Lightning strike: what we really did in class was a lot of very basic weaving stuff. Plain weave. Basket weave. 2/2 twill. Weaving with paper strips.(Really? Really weaving with paper strips? Did that at age 6 in first grade!)

Then there was homework. Keep detailed records of what was done. Weave samples in wool of different setts and assess them in loom state and after finishing. Even more basic: find a source for wool yarns and decide which will be appropriate. Weave more samples, in plain weave, 2/2 twill.

Good thing for me that I’m as old as I am. Patience came late, but did arrive. I did the best I could to put myself in the beginner mindset and work through the assignments.

Never having woven with wool before, I experimented with what I could find. I slowed myself way down and observed what was working and what wasn’t. I learned to throw the shuttle carefully, catch it consistently. I realized the need to place the weft with the batten, not smash it into submission. (Not calling it the “beater” helped soften things up.)

In this process, I learned why I always have one selvedge better than the other. When gaily weaving away at speed, I’d never observed that going one way I beat on a completely closed shed and the other on the closing shed. Now I’m working on fixing that, and other bad habits I’d not taken the time to notice.

It was only after hours and months of subliminal grumbling about the simplicity of the Level 1 curriculum that I realized that the simplicity (and the discipline to keep at it through the grumbling) was the main point. Olds Master Weaver Level 1 is the sewing straight lines of the weaving course. It’s not a workshop with some quick, tricky takeaways that feel good but have no lasting effect. It lays the groundwork for all the skills and knowledge that come after. It’s where it would have been nice to be in 2007 when the first countermarch followed me home.

With the Level 1 homework submitted and marked (I passed. Yay!), I have a feeling of solid accomplishment. There is a firm base now from which to build my skills.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Details, Details

I've been working on a research project the past while and today wound the next two 'full sized sample' warps to explore options.

While rough sleying this warp I started thinking but the upcoming Olds classes in Cape Breton and Olds, AB and about how weaving, as such, wasn't all that difficult.  It was just crossing one set of threads with another.  There are many, many ways to accomplish this, from needle weaving, to back strap weaving, to rigid heddle weaving, to floor loom weaving, to draw looms and Jacquard looms.  And a whole bunch of other options.

Recently I was talking with someone who just returned from a tour of India and we agreed that the complexity of the loom wasn't what made great textiles, it was the skill of the weaver using whatever tools they had.  

I have seen amazing textiles made on the most rudimentary of looms.

The difficulty, if you will, in learning how to weave is in the details.  Because when one thing changes, everything can change.

And this is what I am doing with this project.  Taking one type of yarn, trying various options, seeing what happens, then changing one thing, trying that, analyzing the results, changing one more thing, rinse, repeat.

Making cloth is truly in the details.

Whatever equipment you use, which ever techniques you use, really doesn't matter.  What matters is the cloth that comes off the loom.  Learning all the little details makes the task more interesting to me, but really, weaving?  Just crossing one set of threads with another.  With details.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Nothing Ventured

So here is the initial sample I wove yesterday and wet finished.  I gained valuable information from weaving and wet finishing it.  For example, initially I liked the top most bit the best, but after wet finishing it had not softened and felt very plain weave 'stiff' while the lower plain weave bit woven with the hand spun had a much more appealing feel.  So I will be going with that.

I also discovered an issue with the selvedge that required tweaking for the twill scarves.

This is why I sample.  Rather than have the whole project 'fail', I use up a bit of the 'precious' hand spun to make sure I am going in the direction I want to wind up.

The popular cliche is Nothing ventured, Nothing gained.  So I ventured forth, explored some possibilities and now have enough information that I am fairly confident I will wind up with a scarf that I will find appealing to wear next to the skin.

On another note, I received official notification today that there were insufficient registrations for the two Olds classes to run in Prince George.  I hope that anyone interested will look at Fibre Week in Olds in June.  

But again, Nothing Ventured, Nothing gained.  By offering the classes here, more people have discovered the program and will hopefully make plans in the future to participate in the program,

For me, it's back to the studio.  I have other appointments today and, since I want to weave the scarf all in one sitting, I will wind the other two warps and call it a day.  

Currently reading Convergence by C. J. Cherryh

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Learning Curve

All this yarn is part II or maybe III.  It is a research project with two other fibre people where we have each brought our skills, our knowledge, our expertise, to make something that is greater than the sum of it's parts, insofar as we are all benefiting from the interaction of our various areas of interest and expertise.

I know I bang on and on about how everything changes when you change one thing.  In order to make meaningful discoveries, it works best (for me) to make incremental changes, observe how the yarn reacts, then tweak what I am doing.

While I may have been weaving for over 40 years, I long ago learned that I wasn't going to learn everything there is to know about the construction of cloth because there are so many variables.  One person would be hard pressed to try every fibre in every format, every loom, every weave structure, every finishing technique, every density in all of the above.

But it was that very un-knowing-ness - the vast scope and range - of cloth construction that excited me.  It continues to excite me. 

Yes, some of the 'experiments' have been 'failures' insofar as they didn't produce the results I was looking for.  In fact, this current round of 'samples' is barely the tip of the iceberg, scratching the surface.  Whether or not the three of us will continue to explore this area of making cloth or not, only time will tell.

But in the meantime, I ride the roller coaster of learning and try to enjoy the ride up and down and around the curves...

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Labour Intensive

Why do I weave, anyway?

Such a hard question to answer.  All I know is that it called to me, over and over again, until I could no longer ignore the siren call of the yarns, the equipment.

Frankly I could have made a whole lot more money in a more 'traditional' job, one where I got up every day, showed up at work, did what needed doing, collected my paycheque, made pension contributions, had paid holiday time where I actually had a holiday instead of a working 'holiday'.

But that type of job was...stifling.

When I sat down at a floor loom for the first time, it was as though a heavenly choir sang "You're home, You're home!"  It felt butt perched on the bench, feet on treadles, shuttle in hand.

Has it been easy being a hand weaver in the 20th and 21st centuries?  Nope.  Jobs that are labour intensive, especially those done by women (and it so pains me to type that), are generally not much valued.  It has been a constant struggle to justify my prices.  The question most often asked at a craft fair is - you guessed it - 'how long did it take to make X'.  

Thing is, economies of scale mean that I don't sit down and make one of anything from start to finish; rather I work in groups.  So a warp of place mats (shown above) is 10.5 meters long.  From that warp I get one table runner and 12 place mats.  It takes me, say, an hour (probably less, but let's go with that for simplicity sake) to wind the warp.  It takes about 5-10 minutes to rough sley, 10 minutes or so to beam.  Threading might take 30-35 minutes, sleying another 5 minutes, about a minute and a half to tie on and throw the first six picks to spread the warp.

Generally when I'm weaving I do about 30-45 minutes at a time and can weave about 1/4 of the warp in that time (it's fast - there's a reason for that - two in fact).  

If pushed, I could weave off the entire warp in one day.  Since turning 65, plus surgery, I don't usually push that hard much anymore.

So let's say - oh, two days to make a dozen mats and a table runner.  I could crunch the numbers down further to get a more accurate minutes/mat but let's just say two studio days.

The mats sell for (2017 price) $13 each.  The table runner is $26.  That's $182 for two days work.  But wait!  Out of that $182 I have to pay for the materials, the electricity for the studio, the rent for Puff, (the industrial press), and all the other expenses of running a business.  

Even at $91 gross a day, that's pretty low wages, and more realistically, it is much, much less than that.  And of course, there is still the finishing to do...

So...why do I do it?

I do it because I am self-employed.  I get to choose whether or not I work that day (you can tell that I choose to work most days!  I explained to a 19 year old on Thursday that when you are self-employed every day is a potential work day.  Because if you don't work, you don't get anything done, and you don't have any income.)

I wanted something where I got to choose what I did.  To walk to the beat of my own drum.  I wanted a roof over my head and food on the table, but I didn't desire diamonds or gold plated toilets.  I wanted a life that fulfilled me creatively.  I wasn't looking for public acclaim.  The only 'recognition' I wanted was the buying public to pay me the price I asked for the textiles I made.

I am now in the last 'half' of my 6th decade.  I have lived a life that was part hard physical labour, part mental exploration, then follow up in reality to see if I'd got it right.  I have taught and learned from many.  I have - even if I say it myself - left a bit of myself behind in my writings, here and elsewhere.

While I still have things on my bucket list I really want to accomplish, I look back on the last 40+ years with a certain satisfaction.  And, while there are things I would change, I would not change the decision I made lo, these many years ago, to become a weaver.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Rinse, Repeat

When I started this blog in oh, August of 2008, I had no idea that nearly 9 years on I'd still be posting.

At times I feel like a broken record as I tackle the same subject, over and over again, examining it from this angle, then that, summarizing my thoughts, distilling them into pithy cliches.

For a time I felt uncomfortable doing this.  But I had to remember that not everyone who is currently following this blog has been doing it from day 1 or even day 1000, and I am frequently amazed by the number of past posts that crop up on my stats page (where Google very helpfully tells me how many times the post has been viewed and it's original posting date).

Over the years I have also (ahem) changed my mind about things.  I have discovered different ways and methods, tools and techniques.

But that is what life is all about, right?  Learning new stuff, learning more details, learning about the deeper subtleties of the craft and changing your mind!  

Because that is how we grow.  By keeping an open mind.  By fact checking.  By not just accepting what someone tells you, but trying it out.  Reading up on the subject.  Finding out.  Using your critical thinking skills.

And so it would appear that I will continue to bang the drum.  Preach to the choir.  Rinse, and repeat.

Currently reading Vicious Circle by C. J. Box

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Spools

Following in Meg's footsteps, it is April Spool's Day.

Since my surgery just over two years ago I have been spinning with more regularity.  Therefore today I share with you my spools of hand spun singles.  These have been made from a braid of Corriedale hand dyed by Birthe, blended with some yak/silk dyed by Lynne Anderson and a wee bit of Corriedale and green Firestar.  

I don't weave with these yarns.  They are, primarily, therapy.  I don't sell the shawls etc., I knit from my hand spun yarn but donate them to 'worthy' causes or gift them to friends.

So right now, if someone is looking for a donation from me, they are most likely to get something that I have knit from my hand spun yarn.  

Like many 'creative' people I seem to have a streak of obsessive/compulsive behaviour.  I don't know how long I will spin and knit, but for now?  I find spinning and knitting quite soothing and satisfying.  And I've been hanging out with some (mostly) much younger people during knitting drop in.
Nothing like dandling a new baby, talking with people in their 20's and 30's to keep me 'young' (and remind me exactly how old I really am!)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Lessons Learned

Life is full of lessons.  You don't always get what you want (thank you Rolling Stones).  The customer isn't always right, even when the customer  A child has someone (one hopes) to look after them; an adult has to take care of themselves (with a little help from their friends {thank you Joe Cocker and the Beatles} - in other words, don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it).

I am well into my sixth decade and facing certain realities.  For one thing I am facing my next birthday without my father, my brother and my mother - all of the immediate members of my genetic family.  I am the last twig on that family tree limb.  It is sobering, in some ways - many ways.

Another reality?  I no longer have the body of a 35 year old even though inside I still think I am one.  The aches and pains increase every year, it seems like.  My activity horizon seems to shrink year by year.  Reality is...if there are things that I truly want to do, goals I want to achieve, I'd better damn well do them now.

I have also learned over the years to let go of stuff that I want to see happen, but which, for one reason or another, isn't going to happen.  Yes, I regret those, but sometimes?  Sometimes you just have to let go of those things and cast your energies in another direction.

When mom died on Dec. 31 it wasn't just the end of her life, it was an end to so many things.  While stress shoved me back and forth I couldn't really think clearly so I tried not to make any - shall we say - 'permanent' - decisions.

But spring is in the air (thank you woodpecker hammering on the metal lamp post at dawn!) and my energy and brain power are returning.

The deadline for the Olds classes in Prince George is April 15.  Right now it isn't looking good for either of them to go ahead.  So, while I would be over the moon if a sudden spurt of registrations appeared overnight, I'm not counting on it.

Instead I am turning to other things that need my attention - like the Olds classes in Cape Breton and Olds Fibre Week.  Cape Breton is full with 12, Olds needs two more to sign up for level one to go ahead.

I am anxiously waiting for a couple of friends to do their part in regards to The Book.  While I still find it challenging to try to write a weaving 'text', that is one of the huge items on my bucket list.  Having done it once before, I know I can do it again.  It is just that the scope of this one is much bigger and much more complex.  Which is why I need the help of friends to get it closer to completion.

Because last, but certainly not least, I have learned that I am not perfect.  I am just a human being, trying to do the best she can.  If I fail others, it is not for lack of trying.  But you cannot please everyone all of the time.

Currently reading The Hidden Man by Robin Blake

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Classroom Learning

We need three more people to register to have the second level class 'go' in Prince George.  I'm still waiting to hear about the level one.

For Americans, these prices are in those cheap Canadian dollars, so a good buy.  And you get to spend six whole days with moi, talking about textiles and weaving.

Wanna come play?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Right Answer

I make no secret that I use bamboo blinds as warp packing.  Usually I buy cheap ones, but they tend to wear out quickly - apparently I use them - a lot.

Yesterday I stopped at Jysk (a 'cheap' IKEA) to buy more and could not find any blinds.  Thinking that they sometimes put inventory in 'odd' places, I decided to walk the store and lo and behold, near the exit was a cart with wooden slat blinds.  Now, I don't usually buy this type of blind because they are more expensive than bamboo, but they were on sale for $5 each!

They are 140 cm wide and cut in half, that means I will have 10 blinds 70 cm wide.  This is a little narrower than I usually go, but since I rarely dress the Fanny with a warp much wider than 24", a 27" wide blind will be fine.  And a much higher quality blind so I figure I have enough warp packing to last the rest of my weaving life.

I sometimes see discussion about various kinds of warp packing on chat groups.  People love their paper.  People love their wooden slats.  People love their venetian blind slats.  I happen to love my wooden blinds.

Ultimately the 'right' answer to any question in weaving is that which gets you the results you desire.  

All I am suggesting is that if someone is having issues with their processes or tools, they might like to try something different.  If someone likes my results, they might like to try my approach.  If it doesn't work for them, then figure out what does.

The only 'correct' answer (in short form) in weaving depends.  Each person, each situation, each loom, each yarn, each studio space - each one may require a somewhat different answer to those I have found for myself.

Try it.  Accept it.  Adapt it.  Reject it.  Do whatever it is that you need to do to find your happy place, make the cloth you intend to make.  Become your own 'expert' for your circumstances.

Discover the principles of the construction of cloth and choose your own road. The 'right' answer?  It depends.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rode Hard...

...put away wet.

My loom is approximately as old as I am.  It was 'rescued' from an art centre where it had languished for a number of years, getting used for anything anyone else wanted to use it for - none of it related in any way to weaving.

We drove to Alberta, through the Rockies (because that's the only way to get to Alberta) in February.  Not the greatest time to be driving through the mountains, but the art centre was anxious to get it gone.

We brought it home, Doug cleaned it up and retrofitted a newer style brake (friction fit instead of dog and pawl), changed the antique cords on both the rollers and the tie up/treadles and she has been my faithful sidekick for - well, more years than I can remember.  1999?

I had worked my way through a number of other looms, none of them quite what I wanted.  This elderly Leclerc Fanny counter balanced loom and I became fast friends very quickly.

On her I have woven hundreds of rayon chenille scarves, hundreds of painted warps for scarves and shawls, hundreds of place mats/table runners, samples galore.

Over the years she has been modified as my needs changed - first to use a warping valet, then live weight tension.

She saw me through my recovery from a broken ankle (breaking many of the adhesions the very first time I tried to open a shed - OW!) and my by-pass surgery.

She is frequently sprinkled with dust from weaving, sometimes, in fact, coated with it.  (I don't have dust bunnies, I have herds of dust buffalo.)

Yesterday I took a good look at the upper cords and noticed the wear on them.  With all the miles they have travelled as I opened and closed shed after shed, the polyester is actually beginning to wear.  

Seems I am as hard on my equipment as my body.

Currently reading Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everything Old

is new again...

Some of you may know that I began this textile journey by spinning and dyeing.  Then I got sucked into the warped side and simply didn't have the time or energy to spin and set that aside.  Except a few years ago, spinning wheels kept showing up in my life.  Unfortunately they weren't the 'right' wheel for me and I kept trying and not enjoying it much.

After talking to a couple of people, I decided I needed a wheel with a much higher ratio to accommodate my supported long draw style of spinning and got a Canadian Production Wheel.

Unfortunately Larry (after the maker) is old, a true antique.  As such he's a bit - shall we say - testy, at times.  He is also not conveniently portable so I tend to leave him at the guild room and only spin up there.  Which is not exactly convenient for the guild room, storing a rather large delicate piece of equipment.

After my surgery, though, I got started on spinning more seriously and find myself thoroughly enjoying coming back to this craft.  It is fun to create truly one of a kind yarns.  Buying a blending board means I can make the rolags I prefer to spin from and I can make unique blends.  

I don't weave with my hand spun yarns.  Spinning has become a true 'hobby' - an activity that I do just for the pleasure of it.  I knit with it, then give those items away to friends or for donations to worthy causes.  There is far too much labour in hand spinning and knitting to have many people willing to pay a price that acknowledges that and rather than sell these items for pennies, I'd rather they just be gifts.

With the restrictions on using Larry, though, I have been looking around for something with a high ratio/speed plus a level of portability that would make it possible to say, spin at the fall fair or other public demonstrations.

Recently I had a bit of a windfall and I contacted Questionable Origins to inquire after their new electric spinning wheel.  I had heard about it last fall and - considering spinning is a hobby, not my business - hesitated to invest that much money into a new wheel.  Except that when I checked around, 'regular' spinning wheels were not that much cheaper and did not provide the aspect of portability I was looking for.  While there are other electric spinning wheels, this one came with some features that I felt would be helpful.  Since I had almost the exact purchase price burning a hole in my Paypal account, I tossed caution to the wind and ordered a Device (as they call it).

In the meantime I have borrowed an electric wheel on which I ply my singles and one day when I'm feeling brave I will try to actually spin singles on it.  Because my Device should be here in June.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Your Mileage

I was going to use a quote from, I think, Rumi - something about we are all different because we walk different paths and stop to smell different flowers.  But either I'm not remembering the person who said it, or I'm not remembering the quote well enough to find it. 

So, I'm going with Your Mileage May Vary.

So far I've marked 5 of the Olds Fibre Week level one students.  Several have used the same yarn and it has been interesting to see how each person has interpreted the same requirement, using the same yarn.  Which just supports my pithy comment that when you change one thing, everything can change.  And usually does.

Looms are different, yarns are different (even within the same brand - a couple students have noticed that the darker colours behave differently than the natural or lightly coloured yarns), and of course, weavers are different.  Especially the weavers.

Perfection is always aimed for, but my primary concern in teaching this course is to help people develop critical thinking skills, building their personal database of knowledge and fine tune their physical skills.  Which processes they use are less important to me than that they work ergonomically.  Weaving is a craft of repetitive motions which can lead to injury if done in a way that stresses the body.  Since many people coming to the craft are in their (ahem) middle or older years, they may already have injuries that they need to be aware of so as to not cause further harm.  

We only get one body and while some joints can be replaced, muscles cannot.  At least not at this time or without a great deal of discomfort.  Since my surgery a little over two years ago, I find that at my current age it is harder and harder to regain the fitness level I had enjoyed.

To that end we have signed up at the Y.  I watched my mother get more and more frail as her health issues became more severe and she lost strength, then balance, stamina and energy.  I need to keep this body as fit and healthy as possible because I got a whole lot of stash that needs weaving!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another box of homework.

This year's class has included a letter to me with their homework, many of them outlining the lessons learned that aren't shown in the weaving/samples.  

To me those lessons are the most valuable of all because the biggest lesson to learn is how to think about the creation of textiles.  In today's box of goodies was another letter, this time telling me a little bit about her history with textiles, which I found very interesting.  But I also found her conclusion heartening as well:

"I am satisfied that the learning experience is the most valuable lesson from this course.  I may have lots to learn but have learned a lot."

Which was pretty much my conclusion after completing the Guild of Canadian Weaver's Master Weaver program.  It was also the conclusion nearly all of the people who have completed the GCW program came to.

Learning how to weave, to create textiles suitable for their purpose, the many different kinds and qualities of cloth, is a life long journey.  No one will ever know everything there is to know about the construction of cloth.  But we can all learn a lot, even while knowing there is so much more to learn.

It is what keeps me going back to the studio, keeps me trying new things, exploring the interaction between warp and weft, colours, weave structures.  It's what keeps me sharing, teaching and exploring the craft.  It is an experience I treasure, along with the people I have met along the way.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Magic in the Water

Fibres West is done, for another year.  It was great talking to people, especially hearing from several how much they appreciated my writing/teaching.  I sometimes feel like I bang on to the point of boredom, but being able to hear so many say they have benefitted makes it easier to keep on, keeping on.

That said, I feel the need to continue to simplify my life and today I dealt with one thing on my to be done list...that of getting my website tweaked.  More needs to be done, but I want to make changes thoughtfully, in a way that feels right, that feels like a 'proper' course correction.

Several months ago I made an agreement with nWeavolution to sell Magic in the Water, digital version.  Today the link to purchasing Magic on my website went away, along with the link to Weave a V.  While I still have copies of Weave a V for sale, purchasers can just email me, then I will send a PayPal invoice.  

I am contemplating other changes to my website, but again, I want to think those changes through to make sure I am making good decisions.

It is never a good idea to make decisions while under stress, and there has been way too much of that of late.  I want to make sure I am not making hasty choices, repenting later.

Getting away from home, immersing myself in a supportive Fibre community, spending time with a group of creative people has been just the thing I needed.  I feel eager to get back to the studio, and yes, even the writing.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Big Picture

Sometimes, in order to understand the big picture, you need to be aware of the finer details.

So it is with fibres and yarn.

The above images are Scanning Electron Microscope images of, in this case, cotton.

The fibre once harvested 'collapses' into a flat ribbon with a twist in it.  This gives the fibre some grip, or 'tooth'.

Silk (cultivated), on the other hand:

is much smoother, slipperier.

So by their very nature, the two fibres are quite different and will therefore behave quite differently.

Then add in the differences involved in preparing the fibres, then spinning them into yarn.

Weavers should be aware of these (literally) microscopic differences so that they have a better understanding of how the fibres/yarn will behave.  In order to choose A Good Yarn.

I will be presenting this lecture at Fibres West on Friday morning.  It's free with admission.

Having obtained these images for my use, they will also be incorporated into The Book, currently on hiatus while a beta reader completes the next round of edits.  But hopefully back at it soon, refreshed.