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.