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.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Life has been trying - for a very long time - to teach me patience.  Unfortunately it's not a virtue I possess...

It feels like Life has been a whole lot of 'hurry up and wait' for a rather long time.  I am a planner and a do-er.  When I can't make plans because I am waiting for more information from someone else, I get a little...testy...anxious...and I can't concentrate.

So it has been for the past few weeks, waiting to hear if I was going to get the new cholesterol medication.  It's an injection and needs to be refrigerated, so I didn't know how that was going to impact my travel plans.

Turns out I can shift the dose as needed, or if I'm driving (say to Fibre Week in Olds) I can just take the syringe in a cooler bag with a cold pack.

I have had such poor luck with cholesterol medications I am really hoping that this one is the one for me.  It is specifically for people who cannot tolerate statins (raises hand) and for people with familial history of cholesterol issues (raises hand).  It's new on the market in Canada so I will be very interested to see how things go.

Now that I've been approved and questions answered, I can go ahead with my travel plans.  We have wanted to get to England/Sweden for quite a long time, and we might as well do it while we are still in reasonably good health.  To that end, we have also signed up at the Y.  I watched my mother become more and more frail as she dealt with one health issue after another,  I know that as fitness decreases, stamina decreases, energy decreases, etc.  So we are going to deal with our respective fitness issues and hope to stay as healthy as we can, for as long as we can.

Personally, I've got SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) and I need to weave that mountain down.  I have no kids to clean up after me.  I need to do it now, while I still can.,

Hurry up patience, I haven't got all day!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Life so Short...

...the craft so long to learn.

This quote is attributed both to Hippocrates and Geoffrey Chaucer.  The exact wording seems to depend on who is translating it.  Either way, it is all too accurate.

Any craft takes years to explore, learn, master.  Learning can be random, trying this, trying that, without a concrete goal in mind.  Or it can be focused.  Which is the 'correct' way, is completely up to the practitioner.

If you prefer a more focused approach, you might be interested in the Olds College Master Weaver program.

It has been very heartening to me to see this program begin to grow with more and more people enrolling.  It is a for-credit college program.  It is not a workshop, but rather seeks to assist people in learning how to think about the construction of textiles.  Textiles appropriate to their intended purpose.

That said, it is not about restricting creativity, but helping people understand the materials they use and why they might behave the way they do.  Of exploring the potential in the materials (and tools, and processes) before committing to a major project.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will do.  And that road can lead to wondrous places.  But personally, I prefer a road map, with some idea of the destination at the end.

Which one a person follows is less important than understanding the journey one wants to take and how to find one's happy place, one's joy.

For more information on the Olds program follow the link above.  If you want more information on the Prince George programs, email me.  The deadline for the Prince George classes is mid-April.  We need six people minimum to have the classes go ahead, preferably 8, with a maximum of 10.  The classes in Prince George are six days, not five, and smaller than Olds so you get more teacher attention.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


The fog of stress that has clouded my mind for too long appears to be lifting. 

For the first time, in longer than I can remember, I have done a solid three sessions in the studio today. 

My head feels clearer and I have been starting to think ahead.  In the aftermath of my mother's dying, I felt exhausted and stressed to the max.  All I wanted was to end the stress.  And get rid of some of the rubble of my life.  Having no children to either inherit or discard, I felt enormous pressure to start to get rid of some of the detritus of my life.  Sooner, rather than later.

One of my decisions was to discontinue teaching, other than for the Olds program.  Recently I was approached by another guild to teach, in a location that I had long wanted to visit but had never had the opportunity.  In spite of my best intentions, I thought long and hard about the subject matter I have taught over the years, thought about the satisfaction I find it seeing the light of understanding go on in the eyes of the students, and zeroed in on what it was about teaching that caused me the most stress.  And how I could eliminate that part.

So I have come up with Plan B (or Z, I've lost track) and re-tooled my topics to just one:  The Intentional Weaver.  With the book scheduled to come out by 2018, I'm sure there will be groups who will be interested in the material (yes, I do have an ego!) so if I present the principles that I feel are least understood, least taught, and best presented in real life, that might make a very good two day workshop.

With the bulk of the Olds teaching being done in the spring, I will entertain requests to teach this workshop July-October.  Since my travel costs generally exceed my actual teaching fee, I highly recommend at least two 'nearby' groups getting together to share the travel costs.

I am waiting to hear if the group who spurred this re-think is interested and if early October 2018 works for them.  And if no one is interested?  Well, that's ok, too.  Que sera, sera...

Thursday, March 2, 2017


The turquoise in this yarn is hand dyed so I used hot water to wet finish it because I expected the cyan dye to be somewhat fugitive.  And so it was.  

Dealing with fugitive dye is one reason to wet finish, either yarn or cloth.  

I learned to spin in the early 1970's when roving wasn't available, or if it was, it was quite expensive.  So I learned how to card rolags and spin supported long draw.  Since I pretty much use my hand spun for knitting I also prefer to ply rather than use singles.  As such I spin fairly tightly and even after plying my yarn frequently has active twist in it so I'm pretty aggressive when I wet finish it.  Just like I can be aggressive wet finishing my cloth. 

Some people consider me an expert in wet finishing.  Some people are appalled at how I 'abuse' the yarn/cloth in the wet finishing and prefer other more gentle approaches. 

At the end of a workshop on wet finishing, one of the students commented that she had always been trying to weave the cloth in the loom how she wanted it to be 'finished'.  Now she understood that she had to factor in the wet finishing to complete the process.

As for 'experts' - you can find an 'expert' to argue both sides of a question, plus another to take the middle.  In the end, it is up to the practitioner to decide how they want their finished cloth to be and what they need to do to make it be like that.  As close as they can get it.

It is why I tell my students that, while I think I have pretty good processes, it is up to them to weave like a 'pirate' -  Accept; Adapt; Reject.  AAR.

As for the wet finishing, I'm not as aggressive as some experts, more than others.  I use hot water to saturate the fibres and generally either throw the skein down against the bottom of the laundry tub or squeeze firmly during rinsing (which applies intermittent compression, a type of fulling).  I want the fibres to entangle and full a wee bit to add structural stability but not so much that the yarn becomes a wee bit 'hard'.  This is for knitting shawls, scarves, cowls, after all.

Whenever a student says to me that you can only do X, Y, Z, I want to know their particular circumstances - what were they trying to achieve?  What fibres were they using?  For weaving, what weave structure?  What density?  

Because it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  Change one thing, everything can change.

For anyone interested in my book Magic in the Water, a few months ago, a hard copy was available on for about 3 times the original purchase price.  Or you can buy the digital version either on my website (with Paypal payment option and a pdf emailed to you) or on Weavolution

You can also ask me questions, either via the Magic in the Water group on Weavolution, or email me:
laura at laurafry dot com

Currently reading Dark Waters by Robin Blake

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Deft Hand

  1. neatly skillful and quick in one's movements.
    "a deft piece of footwork"
    • demonstrating skill and cleverness.
      "the script was both deft and literate"

      As I set about weaving the place mat warp this morning the phrase "a deft hand" suddenly popped into my head.

      I had been background thinking about teaching and communicating about the skills involved in weaving - or any craft, for that matter - and suddenly this phrase appeared in my thoughts.

      Checking the definition, just to make sure it meant what I thought it meant, I saw an older meaning - gentle.

      And that rang another little bell.  Because to me, working in traditional crafts means not only know how to do it, but how much finesse is required to get the materials to perform to their best.

      Recently someone asked me how I dealt with being treated as an 'expert' when you don't actually 'know it all'.  

      To me, being an 'expert' doesn't mean that you 'know it all'.  When it comes to textiles, it would be near impossible for one person to know everything there is to know about weaving.  But I have studied certain aspects of weaving in depth.  So when people ask me about something I haven't tried, or don't feel I know to the sort of level of expertise that would allow me to give a meaningful answer, I tell them I don't know, cite references if I know of any, and then tell them how I would approach finding out.  In other words, sampling.

      While I may be 'deft', I am not the end of the discussion by any means.  But I do know enough to point people in the general direction I feel they may discover the answers they are looking for.  So perhaps I'm 'deft' at dodging the term 'expert'?

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Normally I weave on the AVL pretty reguarly.  Unfortunately with the way Life Happened over the last six months, I barely got to the studio, never mind the AVL.  

Since the AVL is a wooden 'machine' with lots of added bells and whistles, it needs maintenance.

When I'm weaving on it during the winter, I run a humidifier to prevent the build up of static charge in the warp.  As a consequence, the additional humidity keeps the wood from drying out and shrinking.  Since I didn't get to the loom for months, the humidifier didn't run and consequently...the wood dried out.  And shrank.  Significantly.

When I sat down to the loom earlier this month, the loom frame had gaps where one piece of wood met another.  The first order of business was to go round the loom and snug all those loose 'joints' tight.  

I couldn't reach all the bolts, but figured I'd gotten the worse culprits.  Except that shaft two started dropping when it was supposed to be up.  It was reasonably noticable, but it meant I had to back up, make sure two was up, then throw the pick again.  If it was just once in a while, I just fixed things.  But over the past few days it had been getting more frequent.  When I quit weaving last night I determined I needed to deal with the situation.

Forgetting that I was in the 'middle' of a panel.

So I checked the sweep arm, loosened the bolt at the 'elbow', re-positioned the arm a wee bit, which is usually all it takes.  But it kept happening.  So I checked and sure enough, the bolts holding the sweep arm to the loom itself were also loose.  So, back to re-positioning, then tightening those bolts.  

Now shaft one wasn't rising.  At all.  So I messed with it until I got some light into the dobby head and realized that in the act of re-positioning the sweep arm, the cable for one had popped out of the 'finger' altogether.  No wonder it wasn't going anywhere!

By that time I'd given up on getting a usable panel.  What the hey - they are eventually all going to get cut apart into towel blanks.  I've just gotten a head start, right?

So, resetting the dobby chain to '1' allowed me some room to make sure everything was behaving properly before starting on the next towel.  That blue bit in between the pink and yellow is my 'practice' area - you can see how badly the loom was behaving before I got things re-adjusted.  The yellow is the new cut line.  And that turquoise towel is now done.

And it's lunch time.  Not sure if I will do another towel after lunch, or dress the small loom.  I have five place mat warps wound, too...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Student's Journey

Nancy T included this summary of the experience doing Olds Master Weaving class as part of her homework.  I asked if she would allow me to post it to my blog.

My Journey from Olds to Final Project

This has been a journey of learning, disappointment, achievement and frustration.  Weaving with wool was my first challenge as I had never woven with wool until I arrived in Olds.  I thought the comparative book report would be the death of me; I seemed to get over that hurdle, then there was the weaving. 

My next plan of attack was to wind one warp 8 yards long which would weave 2 yards of plain weave and two yards of twill along with the six sett samples.  I found a very nice Peruvian wool, which I enjoyed working with.  I was very pleased with the sett samples, and the 2 yards of plain weave.  With a square at my side I wove and measured and unwove and rewove and remeasured, cut off samples, washed samples, resleyed, wove, measured, unwove as I tried to achieve a 45 degree angle for the 2 yards of twill.  I was at the point of settling or declaring defeat and walking away from the remainder of the homework.  So I settled and that is what I submitted.
With my remaining warp I moved on to the weft faced sample which I wove 3 times and was satisfied with the third sample.  Finally I reached the warp faced sample; only to discover that I couldn’t get an open shed as the friction of the yarn that was sleyed and threaded so closely together was impossible to pry apart.  I tried this sample with a reed and without a reed and was unsuccessful.  I was very discouraged as I would have to start again with the sett sample exercise using a different yarn as the instructions indicated that the same yarn was to be used for all sett samples.
I had woven beautiful samples that I couldn’t use, I was disappointed.

I decided to change gears and weave the value gamp.  I thought the book report was bad, how hard can it be to weave a value gamp? It was as if I had never woven a thing in my life.  My edges were so bad, they were like nothing I have ever woven.  After weaving samples and finishing them it appeared I had figured out the sett and ppi and was ready to go.  Again I couldn’t master the final product to achieve 2 inch squares so I settled, not pleased with my work again it was decision time to continue or declare defeat.  I dusted myself off and thought I’d better see if I can achieve a warp faced sample using the remaining warp from my value gamp.  A true test to myself to achieve this weave structure would be to use the rust yarn for the weft in a warp that contained the six colors of my value gamp. I did it!! Finally there was something positive to build on so I would wind another warp to redo the sett samples along with the weft faced sample.

As I worked through the sett samples I liked what I saw with the colors which got me thinking of the final project which I had decided long ago, it would be a scarf.  Through the finishing of the sett samples I was pleased with the hand and drape of the 9 e.p.i. so I was quite sure that would be the sett I would use for my scarf.  One additional sample was woven at 10 e.p.i. just to confirm that 9 e.p.i. was what I wanted, and it was so I completed my final scarf project.

I’m very happy that I have become very proficient and oh so comfortable in threading, resleying and dressing looms. I have learned so much throughout this journey.  I’ve learned how to place yarn instead of beat it, how lightly dyed yarns have more spring than darker dyed yarns which was most likely the reason for the uneven tension in my value gamp; about keeping better records, what fibres can and can’t do and how they react when finished; what I can and cannot achieve, how determined I am to continue and hopefully succeed, and how important it is to weave with your heart.  Nothing that I have woven throughout this journey was done by my heart (with the exception of my final project) it was woven with a tape measure and square being used every ½ inch to see if I was on track and if not it was unwoven.  I’m sure I unwove just as much as I wove.

When it was time to weave my final project, and with the luxury of it being my own design, I put all that I learned into play but with no “rules” I wove the scarf with rhythm and enjoyment and most of all the way I like to weave, from my heart, it was a joy to weave and I am very pleased with my final product.

Without the support of a fellow classmate I’m not sure I would have made it to the end.  Through all of the trials and tribulations I was never turned off of weaving, to which I am thankful and happy.  I’m looking forward to weaving my next project using all that I have learned and once again weave from my heart.

At the end of it all I am looking forward to returning to Olds to take the Level 2 course.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ready to Go!

The level one and two of the Master Weaver classes being held in Prince George, BC are now ready for registration on the Olds College website

It looks like interested students will have to create an 'account' before they can register.

Although the course description is not on the website, it differs only in that a) the class runs in Prince George for six days, not five, and b) the maximum is 10 not 12.

Questions?  Email me laura at laurafry dot com

Currently reading Red Bones by Anne Cleeves.  One of the characters is a fibre artist.  :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Away We Go!

Heard from the college today.  They anticipate that registration for the classes in Prince George will go live sometime on Tuesday. (Feb. 21)

To recap -

Level 1 - May 13-18
Level 2 - May 20-25

The classes here are six days, not five, with a maximum of 10 students.  They will be held in the guild room, and some floor looms are available for the use of the students.  The guild room is fully furnished, has a/c, a small fridge, tables, chairs, bobbin winders, warping boards and a mill.  Shuttles are available, but best to bring your own as well as bobbins.

Otherwise, bring the usual sort of things - binder, paper including graph paper or laptop with weaving software, scissors, measuring tape, pins, etc.

If you are from out of town, there are hotels/motels nearby - a five minute or so walk - more further away.  There are also restaurants at most of the motels or bring a lunch.

The room can be open in the evenings - I usually return to the room for an hour or so after dinner to answer questions.

If you have any questions, contact me laura at laurafry dot com

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Fun Begins

While this isn't the first box of homework from the Olds class (in Olds) it is the first of this year.  I'm feeling weary right now so probably won't do more than just go through it, and then really start on it tomorrow.  I like to get an over view of what has been sent in, then read through the written work and get a feel for the progress the student has made on this journey.

I think level one is hard for a number of reasons.  It is not like a weaving workshop - the aims and objectives are different, for one thing.  It is perhaps more challenging in some ways partly because the goal is to bring a consistency to the learning of the craft.  The graduates of this program should all have similar basic foundations of knowledge because they are all working to the same curriculum.

Will they know everything there is to know at the end?  No.  Not at all.  But they should have achieved the ability to think critically about the craft and their approach to achieving their intended cloth.  They should be able to think through how to approach an area that they may not have encountered before.  They should be able to bring creative solutions to difficulties they may encounter.  They should be able to understand the basic principles of the craft, understand their equipment and materials and how and when to use the various tools.

As an instructor it is also challenging for me, too.  I have to follow the curriculum and ensure everyone understands it.  I need to give them the tools to go further on their own.  I need to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.  I must not spoon feed them information, but encourage them to seek answers for themselves.  Because sometimes my answers will not be theirs.

Change one thing, and everything can change.

Registration for Fibre Week will begin on March 1.  Registration for the satellite program in Cape Breton is open now.  Last I heard there were just five places left.  Registration for the satellite program in Prince George should be available on the website by the end of next week, possibly earlier.  Classes at Yadkin are taking registrations now.

To recap:

Prince George Level one May 13-18
Prince George Level two May 20-25 (both classes are SIX days, not five as elsewhere)
Cape Breton Level one June 5-9
Old College (AB) potentially all levels June 16-22

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Procrastination for the Win?

The past year has been so stressful with one thing after another I find myself completely derailed.  I find no appetite for doing what needs doing, so I am procrastinating by doing things that really aren't very high on my to-be-done list, but need doing at some point.

So today, instead of firing up the AVL and working on that 60 yard warp there, I am winding place mat warps.  Because I will need some of them for this fall, and why not begin now?  

The AVL will wait, after all.

Currently reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Appropriate Tools

I have many tools in my studio, mostly because they provide a savings of time in some way.  An electrical bobbin winder makes winding bobbins faster.  I bought one when I realized it was taking longer to wind a bobbin by hand than it was taking to weave it off.  

This is a Silver Needles cone winder.  I much prefer to use yarn from a cone than a ball.  For a while I was working a lot with skeins of yarn, and getting them into a package that didn't provide a lot of problems was making working with that yarn a chore.  So when I first heard about the Silver Needles cone winder, I bought one right away.  It was a bit pricey (between exchange rate and shipping, it was even more expensive), but the ability to quickly and relatively trouble free process of getting skeins onto cones makes the purchase well worth while.

My original cone winder was getting very worn out.  I do, after all, use it a lot and parts wear.  Then I heard that the company was back in business making the winders again.  I thought long and hard about buying another one because really, how much longer am I going to be doing this?  Well, as it happens, I hope for a good while longer.

The yarn I wound today is for a research project and is a hand spun singles wool, fairly fine.  I was able to get all of the skeins wound this afternoon with no muss, no fuss.  The combination of winder and squirrel cage swift makes getting skeins onto cones a piece of cake, as they say.

If you contact Silver Needles tell them where you heard about the winder.