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

Treasures


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

Patience


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

Foggy


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

Experts


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 Amazon.com 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