Friday, October 19, 2018

Passion - a long ramble

As we continue to work on the conference I have had time to think about this community of textile creators.

One of the things that appeals about conferences is the opportunity to meet other like minded people in real life.  To have actual conversations as we fondle each others cloth.  Exchange the 'weaver's handshake' (gently rubbing the cloth between your fingers).

What brings us together is our passion for textiles.  Our curiosity about how threads are made, then turned into fabric.

Material used to be a trade good.  Anyone interested in how this can play out, Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Series has one book of the series where an expedition to Russia is mounted with cloth in the hold to be traded for Russian furs.  In North America, Hudson's Bay blankets were traded for beaver pelts.  And so on.

Human beings have been playing with 'string' since the dawn of humanity.  Elizabeth Wayland Barber has a number of books about historic textiles and the role they played in human development and history.  The first one I read was Women's Work, the first 20,000 years.  Since that book was published the date for using yarn/textiles has been pushed back even further.

Creating cloth is a labour intensive process.  While there is no need for people to create their own as industry more than provides all the cloth humans need, there are other reasons for people to continue to keep the craft alive.

Research is showing more and more that people who make things stay 'healthier' than people who don't.  (Can't find citations at the minute but I'm sure they are easy to find with a quick Google search)

There is the simple pleasure of feeling the yarn running through your hands.  There is the meditative quality of creating one stitch, throwing the shuttle for one pick, one after the other.  I use weaving as a working meditation.  Weaving has helped me deal with stress, been instrumental in recovering from injury and also helped to pay the bills.  Spinning I do just for the fun of it and because I enjoy blending different colours to make unique yarn I then knit with.

Not everyone wants to make their textile practice a 'job', however, but there are plenty of other reasons to make cloth.

You can go right from the sheep's back or garden plot to ensure the fibres you use are appropriate for the quality of cloth you want to make.  You can dye it (before or after spinning) to get exactly the colours you want to work with.  You can use fibre prep and spinning techniques to make yarn with exactly the qualities you want.  You can then use knitting, crocheting, nalbining, weaving, etc., to make the cloth you want for the purpose you wish to fulfill.

Any hand made textile is slow cloth.  Even if you are uber efficient, you will still be vastly slower in making that cloth than industry.  Working ergonomically means you don't stress your body while doing it.  (the side benefit of ergonomics is increased efficiency - just saying)

In order to do all of those things, you must have a passion for it.  If you don't have that passion, it's just another kind of 'work'.

People who don't share that passion with me just don't understand why I do what I do.  Case in point - I have been doing a local show since before I actually started weaving.  I have missed just one year due to health issues.  After about 20 years of setting up my booth and offering my hand woven cloth for sale, some people would see me in my booth, take a second look and say "oh!  you're still weaving!"   "Yes" I would say, "I am."   I can't tell you how many times the response to that was "Well, I suppose it keeps you busy."   The first time that happened I was flummoxed.  I stammered out that yes, it did keep me very busy.  After 40 years or so of doing this I don't get that comment very often any more, thankfully. 

But yes, being a professional hand weaver has, indeed, kept me very busy.  I have drawn from my passion to work to deadline, keep coming up with new ideas for designs, burnt the midnight oil to get things ready for shows and other deadlines, like my publications, traveled far and wide to teach, woven for other weavers. 

Weaving for other weavers?  Why yes.  Yes, I do.  Because they know that I will be able to meet deadlines while they work on other stuff.  So yes, I wove for 9 years for a fashion designer.  I have woven for other weaver/designers on special projects.  I have written articles and woven projects for publication in magazines, beginning with The Weaver's Journal, SS&D, Heddle, the Ontario Handweavers Guild 'newsletter', Handwoven and others.  And I have self published books, partly because I had information I wanted to share.  I want to help make the creation of textiles less confusing, more interesting - for those who share my passion.

And so I press on with getting a second(!) book to the 'printer'.  At this point I have turned the ms over to a professional editor that I trust, in no small measure because she also spins and weaves, and am letting her do the job of the final polishing.  Because at this point and some nearly six years of working on it I have zero perspective left.

I told a friend this morning that I had wrung my brains out and onto the paper.  I have tried to cover all the 'it depends' issues that weavers face when they set about to make a textile.  I cannot tell them what to do in every circumstance so I have tried to give the background information that is needed to make good choices.  What anyone does with that information will be up to them.

It is actually painful to me to see weavers in photos sitting too low, inviting injury, working in such a way that can lead to injury.  Choosing inappropriate yarn for the project they want to create.  Not understanding the factors that need to be considered.  That every quality of a cloth is on a sliding scale.  That you can take one yarn and create a library of different qualities of cloth.

Over the years I have settled on a range of yarns that I trust to make 'good' cloth.  My palette of yarn choices is relatively small and I work within the quality that those yarns will produce.  It is just a very thin slice of the weaving 'pie'.  On the other hand, I have experimented with a lot of other yarns so I have a pretty good understanding of a wide range of different yarns. 

Someone recently commented that putting on lots of short warps is beneficial to a new weaver.  I agree with that because while weaving is not particularly difficult, it is complex.  The processes, the equipment, the choices of yarns can be very confusing.  By dressing the loom with shorter warps and doing as many warps as possible until the process of dressing the loom is understood and becomes second nature will be beneficial.  Learning how to think about your results analytically will help make appropriate choices in the future.

Weaving, especially as a hobby, should not be painful.  It should not be frustrating.  It should not be cause for tangles, tears and blue language.  Understanding the principles will help make weaving much easier, and vastly more pleasant.

Understanding the mechanics of the craft, including the equipment, will make the whole activity much more enjoyable and allow for full range of the passion of creating textiles to develop.

So I have been thinking a lot about the instructors we have lined up for the conference.  And I'm thinking that I need to sit down with them and invite them to share some of their passion with people considering attending the conference.  If I can find time when we can do that, I will - hopefully - begin writing up profiles of them for the conference blog.

Because the best thing about a conference is meeting - in real life - others as passionate as we are and having face to face conversations and give each other the 'weaver's handshake'...

Thursday, October 18, 2018


In the most recent issue of Handwoven, I have an article about Bronson Lace

One of the things I did was to use two different colours, one in the warp, one in the weft.  They are closely related, and the difference in colour really doesn't show in the photos they included in the article, so I've posted a close up here so that people can see how the two closely related but slightly different values look.

The pale value will 'advance' while the darker value will 'recede'.  Therefore the centre block will have a somewhat three dimensional look to it - subtle, but there.  Closer, the difference is much more obvious.

This is something that weavers can do to make their textiles more visually interesting.  Rather than use exactly the same colour warp and weft, two slightly different values of the same hue can provide more depth to the cloth.

Using two - or more - hues of the same value (blues to greens, perhaps), well mixed will also make a cloth have more life to it than one with only one.

Quilters have a saying that colour gets all the credit while value does all the work.  The phrase I use is that value is more important than hue.  Which is really just a different way of saying much the same thing.

If you find the whole issue of colour confusing, you might like to sign up for Tien Chiu's new on-line colour class.

Tien has been working hard to try to help people who are not intuitive colourists understand how colour works within a woven textile, with hints and tips for how to combine colours for effective textiles.

Tien is teaching a two day workshop and seminars at our conference next year.

Currently reading Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.  First in a trilogy.  Looking forward to part 2 - Grey Sister.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


While I was out of town, total page views of this blog rolled over the 1.5M mark.

Several friends have asked me that, now I'm 'officially' semi-retired (if I keep saying it often enough, I might actually come to believe it?) what's next?

Well, frankly, I don't know.

So, what does 'semi-retired' actually look like to me?

It means I no longer try to import and sell my own hand dyed yarns.  Stopped doing that a few years ago when I had to decide if I imported more or just dyed what I had and either sold it or wove it up myself.  In the end, I wound up selling some, but weaving most of it.  I still have some left - too much to give away/donate, too little to try to weave it.  It may show up in my 'worthy cause' shawls that I've been knitting and donating to fund raisers for organizations/causes I feel will benefit by selling or auctioning the shawls.  (The latest batch will be going to my local guild to sell at the craft fair and/or the guild room sale, this autumn/winter.)

It means I no longer take booths at fibre festivals and try to earn some money by selling weaving yarns.  Gave that up soon after I gave up the dyeing.

It means that I have been cutting back on the craft fairs that I do.  This year, two local, one in Calgary.  Plus the guild room sale where I can deeply discount discontinued lines.  I may do Calgary again next year because the timing of that show means we get a week to recover from the two local ones that are back to back weekends.  My ultimate goal is to stop doing any shows but the local ones by 2020 when I turn 70.

It means that the workshop and guild program I just did is intended to be the last guild event(s) I do.  I will continue to teach via the Olds College for a while yet, but that all depends on whether or not they want me as much as whether or not I can do it.  But I want to save whatever teaching energy I have for the program.

Now, I may, from time to time, offer a workshop with the local guild.  No traveling involved.  Which means no trying to find two or three guilds to form a tour, no financing the cost of the trip for several months (in some cases), no stress of worrying if I'm going to make my flights.  Hopefully no more face plants hurrying to the next gate.

I may from time to time, accept a booking with a conference or other event if it suits me to travel to that area and if I can combine the trip with visiting with friends.  In other words, a true working vacation. 

And of course there is still the conference here which is taking up a rather lot of my time and will continue to do so from January to the end of June.

This autumn I had another article in Handwoven.  I participated in two "Look Books" with Interweave Press.  I think I will have an article in SS&D's winter issue (no email saying what I sent was rejected, so...)

I continue to work on The Intentional Weaver - Ms Editor requested more text just before I left for Vancouver Island and after falling and hurting my knee badly enough I could not weave, there was time to provide the additional text.  We are still on track for publication Dec. 2.  We'd better be - my tickets are already purchased so I can meet with her and we can do the final edits and polishing.

There is still way too much yarn in my stash, so semi-retirement is going to look a lot like stash reduction continued. 

However, I may also work on the part of weaving that attracted me in the first place - looking at the different ways thread can be made to move through a textile to produce design.

I may feel inspired to write more articles for publication.

I may just find that sitting in the recliner with my feet up reading some of the heaps of books on my hearth looks mighty fine!

I may find that making jigsaw puzzles, sipping tea suits me down to a T.

What I will continue to do is to be as supportive of weavers as I can be.  That means amplifying their publications (Heddlecraft) or on-line classes (Jane Stafford's on-line guild, Janet Dawson's Craftsy class, Tien Chiu's on-line class on colour in weaving) and so on.

I will continue to encourage weavers to learn as much as possible about the craft, either by answering emailed questions, or who knows?  More small publications such as the A Good Yarn series.  I think I still have card stock for stapling samples to and the electric stapler with staples.

But all of those decisions are going to have to wait.  They can simmer on the back burner while I deal with the next 8 or so months of Big Projects - the craft fair season, getting the book published, the conference over and done with.

But one thing I can promise - I will no doubt continue to use this forum to explore my own thoughts on all things weaving.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll make 2M?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

That’s a Wrap

The end of the day, the workshop nearly done.  

The topic was lace weaves but we (I) wandered far from the topic on more than one occasion.  Because weaving encompasses so much more than just getting the threads woven.  So I did my usual soap box routines...ergonomics, position and posture, wet finishing.  Because these things all affect either our ability to keep weaving, or the integrity of the cloth.  Because it is all of a piece.  

This was the last guild workshop I intend to do.  It was bittersweet.  The Weavers taking the workshop ranged from fairly new to weaving for a long time, per usual.  But they were all of good cheer and we laughed and learned.  And I almost (almost!) started to regret my decision.  

It was the best kind of workshop and I will miss the experience.  But having limited energy, my resolve to focus on the Olds classes tapped me on the shoulder to remind me that this is where I need to place my time and attention.  

Tomorrow is the guild program which will be on wet finishing.  Someone asked if it would be a repeat of what I had just done.  I assured her I had plenty more to say.  Someone asked if I had more stories.  Oh my, do I have stories!   I hardly scraped the surface of the stories.  

Tuesday I go home again.  I have a big stack of work that needs doing.  I have a knee that isn’t healed yet so the one thing I won’t be doing is weaving on the small loom.  

Bottom line is, I have enough inventory for the first show.  Truth be told, I probably have enough inventory for all three shows.  

So I am not going to fuss about weaving too much when I get home.  

I will do what I can.  I will try not to regret what I cannot.  

It is time to step aside and let another generation take over.  

It’s a wrap.

Monday, October 8, 2018


This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada.

While there are many (too many!) things that still need improving in this world, it is always a good idea to stop for a moment and recognize that there are still things to be grateful for.

Randomly opened a book of quotes titled A Grateful Heart and this one was revealed:

Give us thankful this the season of Thy Thanksgiving.  May we be thankful for health and strength, for sun and rain and peace.  Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities, and let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction but passes the gift joyfully on in larger and better form.

W. E. B. Dubois.

While life is never always perfect, all of the time, and we may not have everything on that list of Debois', it has been my journey through life to try to find the silver linings in the clouds, to recognize that I have some of those items most of the time, and to be grateful for those that I have, while not moaning (too loudly) about those that I do not.

There are days when that is far easier said than done.  The past week has been one of those times.  The past year has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons, and falling (twice!) was, well, rude.

On the other hand, all of the medical people I dealt with in the aftermath have been absolutely wonderful.  From the clerk at the walk in clinic who sent me home to wait my turn instead of keeping me in the packed waiting room, the doctor who carefully tended the wounds, the wound clinic staff.  And my knee is getting better.  I can walk more easily, with less pain.

I was even able to change my seat selection on both flights tomorrow from a (cramped!) window seat to one in the aisle so that I can stretch my leg out when appropriate.  Both flights are short - 60+ minutes on the first, about 50 on the second.  I have long layovers both going and coming home, so no need to hustle my butt to make the connection.

Choosing to not weave allowed me to rest and let my body heal while working on conference and business administrivia.

During this season of thanksgiving, I was reminded of some of the wonderful people in my life as I grew up.  National Teacher's Day reminded me of the gift of teachers who were, by and large, really great teachers.  I learned so much from them, some of it even having to do with the curriculum!  But also how to think about other people and their experiences.  Critical thinking.  Recognizing emotional trigger words.  And how to stop myself from becoming ensnared by people who were trying to influence me and bend my thinking to their agenda.

I remembered to be thankful for many friends and acquaintances who have enriched my life in ways I could not list as it would take too long.  Just know that I value all of you in my life, whether it is in person, or on line.

Professional people have helped me develop as a weaver, teacher, business person by helping me wend my way through the learning curve every time I tried something new.  Authors have shared their knowledge in books and articles, allowing me to spring board from their information to asking 'what if...' and carry on in my own journey of learning.

Authors who write fiction have helped me see the viewpoint of others with different experiences, and authors who write memoirs have shared their experiences allowing me a glimpse into their reality.

Gratitude for my family, both near and far, who helped shaped me into the person I am today, both by how they treated me and the gift of their DNA.

Gratitude to the partner in my life, especially the past few days, helping me ease through the daily chores, driving me to appointments, and so on.  And so much more.

So no, things aren't perfect.  There will always be more that needs to be 'fixed', improved.  There will be things like falls, injuries and general health issues - more as the years go on.  Probably my biggest challenge right now is to work out what my new 'normal' is going to look like.  What I can realistically expect that I can do.  Hobbling around for the past few days has been difficult, but also a time to think.  I have been trying to do that for several years, but my inner 34 year old keeps telling my 'in real life' exterior 68 year old that I can do more than that body really wants to do, given the past 10 or so years. 

On the other hand, I am still here, unlike so many.  I get more chances to do things, albeit more slowly than I am used to, but still.  The rest of my immediate genetic family is gone.  The twig of this branch of DNA stops here, with me. 

But hopefully not for a while yet.

In the meantime, I remind myself to be grateful.  I did not break a bone.  I just tore up some skin, which will grow back.  More slowly than a few decades ago, but it will heal.

I can still go on my trip.  I will have a few days on the island before I have to teach.  By then I might be able to walk a lot more easily - today is already better than yesterday.  My hands are coming along and I can knit.  I have packed some simple knitting and a stack of tea towels that I will be able to hem. 

And I have books to read.

When I add it all up, the check marks in the positive column are far more numerous than the ones in the other.

Sending my best wishes to everyone, on this day that reminds us to find gratitude.  In spite of everything.

Currently reading Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Autumn is well advanced for us now.  The glorious fall colours are mostly over their prime.  Now comes the interlude between that burst of colour and the coming winter season.

This morning it is raining.  A steady, gentle rain, welcome because summer had so little of it.  But it brings a chill that seeps into the bones.

My plans were to weave up as much as I could before I left on Tuesday, but the fall I took on Wednesday has nixed that idea.

Two falls in five weeks has shaken me up well and truly and while I could have woven on the AVL, my hands were also torn up and my neck and shoulders were tight and sore.  Weaving on the AVL would have been possible...but over all a bad idea.  My body needed time to rest and heal.

Instead I have been vegging and doing not much of anything, trying to keep my foot elevated as much as possible. 

On the other hand (heh) there was time to work on things I had been putting off - my sales taxes, conference budgeting, and today I printed out the awards from the conference last year and will work on a list of potential awards for ours.

Things are getting better.  I have a bag of dressings to keep my injury clean and protected and a follow up appointment with the wound clinic the day after I return home.  But there doesn't appear to be any infection developing.  If it does I will go to a clinic and get medication.  My immune system is compromised and I cannot ignore infections.

It is Thanksgiving weekend here.  I thanked the nurses for working the holiday.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Pride Goeth...

Two face plants in 5 weeks.  I think there is a message in there somewhere.

It looks bad, and it is, but mostly because my immune system is compromised due to the cancer drug and the medical professionals looking after me are taking every precaution.

My knee is scraped up pretty seriously and the heels of my hands are tender.  So - all that weaving I was going to get accomplished before I left for the Island? 

Not gonna happen.

OTOH, I have administrivia for both the conference and my business to get done, so yesterday I worked on the budget for the instructors and today I will be working on the awards list for suggestions to give to the guild assisting us with that part of the conference.

And I will just ignore the fact that I won't be getting much else done for a while.

I go back Sunday morning for the dressing to get changed and then Tuesday I leave for Courtenay.  I'll be asking to pre-board.  Because steps are difficult and I'm walking sloooowly.  But I also have a few days to rest and recuperate before the workshop.  And I'll be staying with friends who I know will give me good hospitality.

But I also think I need to stop and think about my life and why the universe seems insistent that I really must slow down!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

In Spite of Everything

I use this blog as a diary.  A place to work through my thoughts - which can oftentimes be quite scattered and need to be corralled.  A way to sort through the emotions of a situation to discover what I actually think about something.

This summer has been...challenging.  In addition to the general stress of living and trying to keep my business running, there is the on-going struggle with adverse drug effects.  Then nearly four weeks of smoke pall.  I'm allergic to smoke and was aware that I was struggling with that, but not how much until I left for a couple of weeks and my body was able to breathe again without also inhaling what is, for me, a fairly significant allergen.

The drug I'm on has a list of adverse effect and I am having a lot of them, the most annoying one the sinus drainage, the second most annoying one (the two flip-flop on the list daily, sometimes hourly) is the feeling of being too tired to do much of anything.

I told a friend last night that once again I am in the position of trading speed for longevity.  Because the drug is working to keep the cancer under control.

Over the past few evenings I have been reading some of my posts from 2013 and into 2014.  When the hope and optimism was high.  I was in remission from the cancer, didn't need any drugs beyond the small amount of blood pressure medication I was on.

Until the wheels fell off late 2013 and in June of 2014 I was informed I was on the list to become a member of the 'zipper' club.

It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster as I re-lived those months.  And those emotions.   The high of being in remission.  The low of facing major surgery.

Well, I made it through all that and once again thought it would be smooth sailing.

And here I am.  Still.  So many aren't.  Because during that time period several people I know lost their battles with cancer.  But here I am.  Benefiting from modern day science/research, taking what my oncologist called a 'miracle' drug.  A drug that targets just the diseased cells and leaves the healthy ones alone.  I only have to deal with a list of annoying adverse effects.  A trade off I am (sort of) willing to deal with.  Because what is my choice?  To stop taking the drug and let the cancer have it's way with my body.  And I'm not ready to let that happen, yet.

So in spite of everything - the stress, the big projects (when will I learn?), the tired, the constant sinus drainage (and all the other adverse effects which are merely annoying), I managed to keep weaving.

Yes, I had to work hard to make myself go to the loom.  Yes, I was less productive than I would have liked to be.  But I did it.  And I have a respectable amount of textiles woven, some of them ready to be tagged/priced and put into inventory.

The above photo isn't all that I've done this summer and into September.  There are shawls as well, and tea towels, and table runners.

I will be going into the craft fair season with a reasonable amount of inventory.  The conference is coming together.  The Book is being worked on.

And I keep going.  In spite of everything...

Monday, October 1, 2018


The colour of these shawls is more green than grey but apparently my ipad didn't 'read' it that way.

When I fringe twist, I don't hemstitch on the loom.  I just weave in 'waste' yarn to keep things in place until I can get the twisting done.

After wet finishing, I then trim the frayed bit off to make the fringe look neater.  The untrimmed fringe is above, the trimmed below.

Doug got a lot of pressing done yesterday so today I'm trying to 'finish' as many things as I can because he needs to start packing the inventory up into shipping boxes for transport to our first show - Artisans of the North at UNBC Oct. 27/28.  The following weekend will be Studio Fair Nov. 2, 3, 4.  Both of those shows are here at home.  We then have a week to prepare for the show in Calgary - Art Market, Nov. 15-18.  The 'final' show of the year will be the guild room sale.  This is where I will deeply discount end-of-line designs, 'seconds', as well as offer some current work at 'regular' price.

In between Calgary and the guild room sale I will head off to visit with my editor to do the final line edits, make sure everything is as 'perfect' as we can make it and then - deep breath - push publish.

Once I'm home from that trip I have promised to weave some more samples for Tien Chiu's on line class 

In the meantime work on the conference continues.  We are still looking at opening registration sometime in January.  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Letting in the Light

The past week has been pretty fraught for many of my friends.  I have also been struggling.

I post this reminder that we need to help each other.  Support each other.  That in order to banish darkness, we need to have more light. 

Using our light to light someone else's candle costs us nothing.  Zero. 

Be kind.  Share the light.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Work Flow

My dining room this morning.

Foreground - last of the green shawls being fringe twisted.
On chair - shawls ready for wet finishing.
In bucket - four shawls to be fringe twisted.
On bucket - stack of table runners needing to have their tags attached and pricing affixed.

What is just out of sight on the blue chair is a stack of knitted shawls that need to be blocked.

Waiting in the wings - my chequebook to be reconciled to my bank statement, stack of bills waiting for cheques to be written.  Then a trip to the bank to pay them.

In the studio - well, lots more, because I'm still trying to weave more for craft fairs.  But also a box of homework to be packed up and mailed.  And, oh yeah, mark to be submitted to the college - next on my list, I guess.

One of the reasons I keep track of how long it takes me to do tasks is so that I can allocate my time in order to get everything done that needs doing.

The creation of textiles is labour intensive.  It takes time.  Lots of it.  Right now I only have so much energy so I have to conserve what energy I do have in order to focus on the things that require being done on a priority basis.

Weaving (designing, preparing warps, dressing the loom, actual shuttle throwing) is just the first in a long list of steps.

Dry finishing.  In the case of shawls and scarves, fringe twisting.

Wet finishing.  Getting things through the washer/dryer (or done by hand, as appropriate).  Then further dry finishing such as hemming.  And then a 'final' press.  For the twisted fringes, a final trimming of the fringes.

Last but certainly not least, tagging with legally appropriate cleaning instructions and fibre content.  And pricing.

I work in batches because once I have my work station set up it's just a whole lot easier to get all of that bit done before I clear the decks for the next task.  So this morning I finished fringe twisting the green shawls, then cleared the table so I can deal with banking.

The end of September marks the end of the third financial quarter of the year.  I have to report any GST (goods and services tax) collected and paid out.  I also need to review my finances because I have been carrying debt (travel and show fees) and need to make sure I can pay the current crop of bills. But in order to report the GST I have to finish entering my financial records into my ledger, balance it and figure out the figures to submit.  Not my favourite job.

So I keep track of what needs doing and try to keep the work flow logical.  And timely.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Language Matters

I have been weaving long enough that I was part of the growth of weaving in the mid-70s, part of the shrinking of practitioners, part of the recent growth in interest again.

As such I have a library of books that span all of that time.

One of the things the level one Olds students do is write a comparative book review - comparing two books to the course curriculum.  Mary Black is frequently one of the two.  Also Debbie/Deborah Chandler/Redding.

Mary Black wrote her book in the 1940s.  It was always intended to be a textbook, and it is reflective of the time it was written.  In other words, it's dated.

By the time Redding's Learning to Weave was published I had already been weaving for quite a few years and I didn't see the need to purchase a beginners book, so I don't actually own that one.

My weaving class textbooks consisted of Mary Black's book, Shirley Held's book Weaving and M. P. Davison's green book.  Regensteiner's book was also recommended as additional reading.  So those were my first books.

Over the years as I learned more, I bought books to add to my library.  As I gained in knowledge, I fine tuned my interests and bought more specialized books.  Since I had a connection to Sweden, several of my books were purchased - originally in Swedish - reflecting that interest.

I also bought English books, partly because they seemed me.  Since I was interested in weave structure, I wanted to know more about how threads could move through the cloth to create pattern.

The above photo is just a very small selection of books from my library.  Some I rarely use (the Regensteiner, for example) some are used infrequently, but consulted for specific information, some I just can't bear to sell.  Yet.

What these books have in common is the variety of weaving terms that get used.  There is not a standard language for things.  Or wasn't, when I began.  With the growth of the internet and the popularity of Handwoven, weaving terms have swung more and more towards American usage.

Someone commented recently that Mary Black only used the word 'sett' to refer to the colour order of a tartan.  That's because she tended to use 'set' for the number of epi/ppi, not the American 'sett'.  If you look through Black's book she always refers to epi, never to 'sett' to indicate density.

Having a broad based approach to reading books, I am familiar with the many varieties of terms - portee and pourrey cross, for example.  Heald instead of heddle (British vs American usage), batten instead of beater (ditto), woof for weft (woof now being referred to as 'archaic' usage).

Other cultures have different approaches to weaving.  Swedish weavers don't have 'names' for all the different overshot patterns that Davison lists in her book - or Black in hers.  Instead they tend to group weaves by category of structure.

I'm sure other cultures with other languages probably show similar differences.

But I don't speak those other languages, so I have to communicate in English.  On the other hand, I am Canadian enough that I well remember that the 'proper' spelling of colour is, well, with a 'u'!

Lately I have noticed that more frequently we are seeing dying being used instead of dyeing.  I'm sure it is a combination of auto correct (or auto carrot as one person I know says, or auto INcorrect as a friend and I call it) plus a lack of knowledge on the part of editors who either don't know or don't realize that dye in the past tense is actually dyed and that while dying is a perfectly good word it doesn't mean to add colour to yarn/fibre/cloth!

Having an editor who actually weaves was very important to me. I didn't want someone who really didn't understand the craft cutting the manuscript indiscriminately.  Having an editor who not only understands the language of weaving, but also has familiarity to the processes meant that we could cut right to the chase - make sure that my words were as clear as we could make them for others to read.

I am on tenterhooks right now as she finishes doing the part I could not face.  I am trying very hard to be patient while she does what needs to be done.  My schedule for Sept-Nov was such that if I were doing this by myself I couldn't have touched it anyway.  So having someone else work on it means that we are still on track for publication in early Dec.

If you hear a ginormous sigh of relief on Dec. 2?  That will be me, pushing 'send' on the ms file...


As I was twisting the fringe on a shawl this morning I started thinking about how fragile the web is when it is cut from the loom.

The threads are no longer under tension.  The threads can easily be pulled out of alignment.  Slippery yarns like this rayon can slither and slip.  The weft yarns don't want to stay where they have been placed but start to fall out of the web entirely.


Once the fringe (or raw edge) has been secured in some way, things are better but the cloth still won't - can't - perform its function properly.  The threads, warp and weft, are still individual.  They have no cohesiveness.  No strength.  They are interlaced but that web has no structural integrity.  It is fragile.

Weavers have to wet finish their results just like potters have to fire their bisque, glass workers have to anneal their glass, etc., etc., etc.

Almost every craft I can think of has to 'finish' their product in some way before it is finally done, done.

Textiles have been used for centuries as metaphor for life.  In some versions Hansel and Gretel use a ball of yarn to mark their path through the forest.  Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on a spindle.  Rumplestiltskin spins flax into gold.  The Swan Princes have to have their curse broken by their sister making a dozen shirts of nettle   And so on.

I look at the web of my life and stand here, near the end of my warp (so to speak) and pick out this thread and that, threads that I had no idea would be incorporated into my life when I set out on this journey.

I have met wonderful people, made dear friends.  Been to lovely places.  Enjoyed conversations that ranged from quantum physics to the history of language.  I have been welcomed and treated royally.  People seem to enjoy my writing - something I dreamed of as a child but never imagined would become any sort of reality for me - blue collar poor, living in a geographically remote location.  And yet.

I traveled to Sweden (by freighter, across the Atlantic in May, which was...interesting), took a bus tour of Europe, toured England, visited Sweden several more times, have been to Greece and Istanbul (only 24 hours in Istanbul, but still).  I have been to nearly every province in this country (still a few more to get to) and many of the US states.

This blog is coming up to 1.5M  (Million!!!) page views.  I've published books, created educational weaving 'kits', done not one but two DVDs.

I've attended - and organized - conferences, sold my weaving wholesale, worked for a fashion designer, done 'ghost' weaving for others.

I've had the privilege of transcribing interviews (WeaveCast, Tien Chiu and others) and been interviewed for podcasts.

As a child I grew up thinking I was fragile.  That I'd never really amount to much.  But through the challenge of creating textiles, I seem to have 'finished' myself.  Into something "not fragile".

Currently reading The Prisoner in the Castle by Susan Elia McNeal

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


end of a towel showing part of the motif and the hem area...

One of the things that really appeals to me is how the threads march steadfastly in order as I weave them into the cloth.

Yes, I know about the threading error in that block.  No, I'm not going to 'fix' it.  It won't affect the function of the cloth and I have decided to accept it as my unique maker's mark.  Yes, I know I'm lazy and I should have re-threaded 2/3's of the warp to fix it.  No, I didn't feel like it.  Which just goes to prove that I am not, and never will be 'perfect'.  Yes, I know some people will judge me.  That is their prerogative.

I have spent many years of my life making sure every textile I produced was 'perfect'.  IOW, without obvious error.

However, there comes a time when another part of you says, you know what?  I don't have the time or energy for that level of 'perfect' for this warp.

When it came to this warp, I felt ill (from the adverse effects of the 'miracle' cancer drug I'm taking) and I had a brain blip.  When I finished and had four 'extra' threads left over I was pretty sure I had made a mistake, went ahead to sley, tie on and start weaving.  If the mistake had been closer to the left hand side of the warp I probably would have sighed, taken the warp out and fixed it.  But it was much closer to the right hand side and I just Could Not Face re-threading that much warp.  For a mistake that really wasn't going to adversely impact the cloth's function.

It was also smack in the middle of the spring teaching trips and I just did not have the energy to deal with it.

Instead I decided to just accept the fact I could not deal with fixing it, that this warp was going to have a flaw - just like it's maker.  With all my wrinkles, excess poundage, aching muscles and joints.

On the other hand, this warp is bringing me a lot of happiness.  In spite of the mistake.  In spite of the flaw.  Just like I hope the towels will bring their future owners happiness.

After much delay while I worked on other stuff, I think I'm at about the halfway mark.  The loom is finally behaving - mostly - within tolerable limits - and I am going to try to weave as much of this warp as possible.  Because if I can bring the towels on my next trip to hem in the evenings, that would also make me happy.

And I will continue to enjoy the order as I lay the weft threads in and beat them into place.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Not Just Washing

Climbing onto my soap box...

These are Color Catchers.  Today I've been wet finishing a load of red scarves and shawls.  I knew beforehand that the weft on these items bled copious amounts of fugitive colour and it needed to be dealt with in the wet finishing.

If all I had done was wash this load of cloth, there would have been a significant amount of dye left in it and any friend or customer who owned one might have had a really nasty surprise when they tossed it into their laundry.

So no, wet finishing isn't 'just washing'. 

Wet finishing means that if there is fugitive dye, it is - as much as humanly possible - removed.

Wet finishing allows the yarns to shift to areas of least resistance so that weave structures like lace weave, deflected double weave, honeycomb, waffle weave and others will develop to their finished state.

Textiles that rely on shrinkage differential will not look anything like they will coming off the loom and after wet finishing.

Wet finishing may be much harsher in terms of water temperature or agitation than simple washing.

Other processes such as a good hard press (which these scarves and shawls will receive tomorrow) or brushing (to raise a nap, usually on wool) are applied during wet finishing.

Once the web has been brought to it's 'finished' state, every rule you ever learned about cleaning that textile kicks into play, especially for wool.

These shawls and scarves went through a standard wash cycle of 8 minutes with gentle agitation and spin, warm water wash, cold water rinse.  I used four rinses.  The three Color Catchers on the left went through two rinses and the wash cycle.  The medium coloured one in the middle went through three rinses.  The two on the right went through two rinse cycles.

The washing instructions that I will attach to the items will read "Wash separately in warm water, dry until damp, press if desired."  Quite a different process than the wet finishing I just applied.

For more info on wet finishing...

(to see the entire photo, click on the photo and open in another tab)

Friday, September 21, 2018


Plain weave doesn't have to be 'plain'.  And 'simple' isn't always 'simple' to achieve.

One of the things that endlessly fascinates me about constructing textiles is how the layers can be peeled away, revealing another dimension of the craft.

It is the very exploration that keeps me getting out of bed of a morning, wondering what discovery will be presented today.

Sometimes it is how colours interact.  Sometimes how different textures can be created.  Either by texture in the yarn itself, or through how the threads interlace.

When I first started weaving I was particularly interested in weave structure.  My former favourite colour was white - usually on white.  And the 'interest' was in how the threads moved, combined, shifted as they made their way through the cloth.

I never really got comfortable with weaving plain weave until I got comfortable combining colours.  In many cases, the 'best' way to combine them was one on one - plain weave.  The colour blending became pointillist with one pixel of colour next to the next, next to the next.  Distance or scale then helped the colours blend completely or with contrast even shift the perceived colour into something else entirely.

As I wove more plain weave I got better at doing it.  Plain weave is so consistent that every little inconsistency will show up.  Especially when using two different colours, warp and weft, even more when those colours are of high value contrast or across the colour wheel from each other.

I had to get really good at paying attention - to my beat, to advancing the warp frequently, to re-tensioning the warp after advancing.

Weaving plain weave is now comfortable for me - although I'd be the first to admit I'm still not perfect.

But I also know that tiny inconsistencies will usually disappear in the wet finishing.  And what better reason can there be for wet finishing - to hide the slight imperfections and make us look more 'perfect' than we are.  So no, I'm not the least bit concerned about the reed marks in the web.  I know they will, by and large, go away once the shawls are wet finished.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Old Lady


When I first took up weaving, intending it to be my profession, I resented the fact that the stereotype of a weaver was a little old lady in running shoes.

Now I are one.

The above photos are from a conference held in Victoria, now a very long time ago.  How do I know?  I was a brunette.  It may have been 1984, but memory fails on this one.

I taught the first workshop ever the month I started weaving class.  The fact that it was a spinning class and I knew very little about spinning was kind of incidental.  I knew more than the others in the room and that was all that mattered.  But I had my first taste of what it would be like to involve myself in this world of teaching about textiles.

Since then I have run the gamut of being valued...and not.  I have stories.  Oh my yes, I have stories.

Dini Moes used to say that 'comes from far away, tastes better'.  And that seems to be in large measure true.

For a great many years very few people in my home guild had any idea that I was traipsing all over the continent teaching.  Not only that, but my expenses were paid, I was housed in comfort, people were interested in what I had to say.

At home - well, I was just me, doing what I did.  I almost never mentioned when I had an article published in a magazine, or was attending a conference in order to teach there.

I didn't want to boast, or make it seem like I was anything other than just me, doing what I wanted to do.

But eventually people started to find out what I was doing.  That when I flew off to parts far away, it wasn't that I was going on holiday, but...working.

At one point the program person for my guild asked if I would present a program.  I looked at her and said that I would but that I got paid (at the time) $50 to do a guild program.

She literally gasped and sternly informed me that "we don't pay for programs!"  I looked at her and said "Yes, you do.  Every out of town teacher who does a guild program gets paid.  I get $50 - or more - for doing a guild program."

She sputtered and finally sniffed and said that she would have to get approval from the board.  "Fine" I said.  "Let me know what they say."

Eventually she said they would pay $25.  I agreed.  I would, after all, be sleeping in my own bed, no travel involved.

The night of the guild meeting, I impatiently waited while the guild business was done.  I'd told the program person I did an hour long presentation, and I watched the clock ticking away.  Finally they wrapped up the business and because it was getting late, some guild members left before I started.

At the end of the hour, I collected up my samples and other teaching aids (including my own slide projector) and program person brought over my cheque.  She stood there, awkwardly, finally said that the program had been excellent.  She hadn't expected that.

Inside I died a little, firstly because she had not expected me to do a job worth $50 and hadn't, therefore, fought for my right to earn the money.  Secondly because she had been a teacher and her words saying she had expected me to 'fail' in her estimation cut, most especially since I'd already told her that I earned an income by doing this very sort of thing.  Did she think I was just that bad, or that other guilds were that gullible?  I didn't know.  I looked her in the eye and said something to the effect that this was how I earned an income and doing this sort of program was just part of it.

Over the years I've taught at a number of conferences, again, all over the continent.  ANWG was the first, then local/regional gatherings, but also Mid-West, NEWS, OHS and ATQ among others.  I have also taught at Convergence.

Some of them have been miles ahead of others in terms of how I was treated.  Some of them have been miles behind.

There is a school of thought that says 'this event is sooooo prestigious that instructors should subsidize the event because this is how we make money to keep operating as an organization.'

My attitude is that, without instructors, all you have is a giant shopping event with perhaps an exhibit or two thrown in for good measure.

People who teach at conferences are - by and large - professionals.  Do they earn the entirety of their income from teaching?  Not likely.  Usually they will write and sell things as well.  But they do take their commitment to teaching seriously.

Time and again they are asked to work for less than they might otherwise wish to do because they will get 'exposure', they will 'build their resume' by teaching at such a well known event.  They will benefit in the future by participating.

Well, I'm done with that.  I gave up adding prestige to my resume back in the 1990s.  Where I live, people die of 'exposure'.

Teachers are frequently required to finance the event by buying their flights and carrying that debt for weeks, sometimes months, until the event happens and they finally get paid.

I think it's shameful that teachers leave an event without their pay and we will be moving heaven and earth to make sure that all the teachers leave Prince George with their pay in their pockets.

I am also building into the budget compensation for things like checked baggage (because what teacher ever travels without at least one checked bag, full of samples?) and shuttles to/from the airport.

We will be paying a per diem for food.  Which means we will give them an allowance that we will pay for each day, no questions asked.  If they want a glass of wine or beer at dinner?  None of my business.  No receipts will be required to be submitted, no questions asked about their food choices.

They will be given a room at one of the hotels, material fees will be collected at the door by an assistant and handed to them directly.  They will not have to go get the money because - in my experience - they will be busy getting the room set up the way they want it, organizing their samples, their audio/visual presentations (if they are using them).

All too often it has come time to begin and I have not collected the material fees and I don't want to spend presentation time trying to collect them.   I have just absorbed the expense, even when it may have been a really hard lump to swallow.

My philosophy in working on this conference is to treat ALL the participants with respect.  That includes the vendors, the exhibitors, the volunteers and... the teachers.

My goal is to have everyone enjoy the event as much as possible.  Our schedule will allow time for socializing - because all too often people say they didn't manage to connect with everyone they wanted to because there wasn't enough time.  Or they never did make it to one of the exhibits - because there was not time.

Our conference will be held in a very small geographical location - the Civic Centre, library, art gallery and the two hotels are in a three block by three block area.  All buildings are accessible, all buildings have elevators for the upper floors.  All buildings have a/c, although it's rarely required in June, here.

If I do nothing else in this life, I hope to help bring this conference into being by treating everyone fairly.  It may very well be the last conference I choose to attend.  I want to make it a good one.

...and now.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Under Tension

Over the years I've seen the debate on tensioning or not tensioning a warp during beaming.  One view is that beaming with zero tension is 'equal' tension.

Unfortunately while that may be correct, it is not particularly helpful in many instances.

In my observations, beaming with zero tension may work in a narrow range but may very well stop working when that narrow range no longer applies.  (And yes, I tried beaming with zero tension - once - and it was a disaster.  That warp eventually wound up in the round bin as a sacrifice to the loom goddess...)

Let me give some examples:

Let's say hypothetical weaver has been weaving with 5/2 cotton, mostly short warps - 5 yards and under.  And beams with zero tension and has perfectly satisfactory results.  Let's say that said hypothetical weaver wants to up their game and decides to use that 5/2 cotton and make a run of tea towels, decides to wind a warp of 15 yards and beams it with zero tension.

This may not work so well. 

In my experience, the longer the warp, the more tension it needs during beaming.  I have written elsewhere about my experience beaming 14 meters instead of my usual 11 meters and how tension issues cropped up during weaving as the yarn slithered and slid unevenly as I wove.  I added four cups of water to each jug I use for weight and voila, no more tension issues with the successive warps.  A Swedish friend commented that the guideline in Sweden is that for every additional 10 meters, you need another person to pull tension on the warp while beaming.

In my experience, changing from one yarn to another of a completely different nature may mean beaming with zero tension doesn't work well any more.  For instance, changing from that tried and true 5/2 cotton to, say, linen.  Or silk.  Or a very elastic wool.  Or a very slippery yarn like rayon.  And suddenly, beaming with zero tension may not look like a very good practice after all.

It can also depend on how much tension is applied during the weaving itself.  Something like linen that requires fairly high tension during weaving may mean increasing the amount of tension during beaming.  In my experience, the warp needs to be beamed with at least as much tension as will be used during weaving.

So for those weavers who don't use any tension at all during beaming, be prepared for things to change when the parameters of the 'usual' warp change - like warp length or yarn being used.

In terms of where to start?  I use about half a gallon of water per jug for my 'usual' warp of 11 meters.  I use old bleach bottles because the plastic is a much heavier grade than a water or juice bottle.  In the picture above one of the jugs has to be at least 25 years old, the other is newer because the cap failed on the other one I had been using for about the same amount of time. 

Currently reading Sunshine and Rhubarb Wine - a memoir of a friend's mother who lived for 105 years.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Too Many Irons

"One reference says it has to do with the blacksmith trade. A skilled blacksmith has "a well-trained apprentice who maintains such control of the bellows and the placement of the irons that each is ready in turn at the anvil and hammer...'Too many irons in the fire' would mark an inefficient smith or one with an unskilled apprentice. Figurative use of either saying takes us back only to the middle of the sixteenth century." From "2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings & Expressions from White Elephants to a Song and Dance" by Charles Earle Funk (Galahad Book, New York, 1993)."

As a self-employed craftsperson, I frequently have many irons in the fire.  Just now for example?

Craft fair production.  With the craft fair season beginning in October, I have had to keep an eye on my inventory of hand woven textiles, try to gauge how many place mats, table runners, tea towels, scarves and shawls I might possibly need for the three shows I am doing this year.  I need to have sufficient selection of colours and designs to appeal to a variety of people.  Too little and there isn't enough choice.  Too many?  There is never 'too many'.  Ever. So I am pressing forward trying to increase my inventory of shawls from zero to...something...and scarves to a better selection of colours.

Conference planning.  We have been working on the conference for several years, lining up facilities, lining up presenters, working on event details.  

Teaching.  This year I taught four Olds classes, one on the west coast, two on the east coast, one in Alberta.  There was marking to be done and I am waiting for the last box of homework from 2018 to arrive in order to mark that one.  I also taught a 5 day class on the east coast and will teach one two day class plus guild program next month on the west coast.  All of those classes required preparation, about two days prep for each class.  No matter how many times I teach a class, there is always about two days prep for each.  Not to mention doing travel bookings.

Writing.  I write for this blog frequently - sometimes every day.  I also do the posts for the conference blog and other marketing such as the Facebook page for the conference.  For the past 5 going on 6 years I have been working on the book manuscript.  Right now the ms is in the able hands of an editor I trust, partly because her job is editing technical writing but also because she is a weaver and spinner and will not be gutting the ms of the stuff that I think is important.  We hope to hit publish on Dec. 2.

I have also contributed to a Handwoven 'look book' - two in fact, just submitted an article for SS&D (which may - or may not - be accepted - but I still spent a couple of days writing it) and will have another article in Handwoven's upcoming issue.

And all of the past two years I was dealing with cancer related fatigue, then adverse effects of the 'miracle' cancer drug I am now taking daily.

I have been doing this and many other things (weaving for a fashion designer for nine years, dyeing and retailing yarns, writing and publishing Magic in the Water, achieving the master certificate from the Guild of Canadian Weavers, etc.).  

I call myself a professional because this is how I earn my money.

But.  But.  I am now 68 years old in, shall we say, not exactly robust health.  When I started weaving I thought I would weave and sell my work for 25 years, which would bring me to the age of 50.  Then I would teach for 25 years.  Instead I did both, right from the get-go.  

I find that I'm tired.  I'm tired of being a travel agent, tired of dealing with flights with tight connections, tired of, quite frankly, selling myself.  Taking the cancer drug just makes me tired, period.

But I am also not done with weaving.  I have a stash that seems to go on forever and I really don't want to leave a weaving 'estate' that will be a burden for my family/friends to deal with.  I've heard of way too many stories of stashes that take up entire houses, or that get loaded up and taken to the dump.

I want to use up my yarns, not have them go into a land fill.  I want to see some of the ideas floating through my head come into physical reality.  I want people to find my work attractive, enough to pay for it to grace their homes and wardrobes.

So I have, over the past couple of years, begun removing some of the irons from my personal fire (energy well).  I have begun calling myself semi-retired.  I have begun to conserve my energy for the things I find important, now.

I no longer have to scramble for income every month.  My house is paid for, my wants are few.  

For the next year there will be four classes of homework to mark (I don't expect every person in every class to submit homework, but four classes of 10-12?  That's a lot of marking.)  There may, or may not, be four classes next year (I doubt that all four will proceed to the next level, but you never know.)  There is the conference.  There is Olds Fibre Week - for which I may - or may not - be asked to teach level one again.

One of the things that outsiders don't understand is the level of uncertainty involved in being a professional teacher/weaver.  With such a high level of uncertainty about events going ahead - or not - my strategy has always been to grab onto every opportunity presented to me, then scramble like mad to meet the deadlines.  For the things that get cancelled?  I would focus on the next.  And sometimes be grateful for the cancellation so that I could take a deep breath and carry on.

Well, I am tired of that, too.  At 68, after a life time of scrambling, I get to step back.  I get to step aside and let other, younger, people take on the writing, the teaching, the space at the craft fairs.  Because everyone has something to contribute.  None of us are the same.  We all have different experiences, different approaches to creativity/design.  We all have ourselves to contribute to the community.

It has been a struggle to accept that I am tired.  But I am.  And that's quite ok.  As they say in Newfoundland - it's been a time.  And hopefully will be for some time yet.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Shape of Things To Come

When I helped organize conferences previously (1980, 1985, 1995) there were few resources other than pencil, grid paper and a very large eraser.  By 1995, I had a personal computer, but there were very few tools for conference planning - in fact we had a registration program custom written for us to use.  But spread sheets were rare and we scheduled workshops and seminars the old-fashioned way.

This time?  Things have changed.

We also have more resources on the ground and are taking full advantage of them!

The Civic Centre can hold 500 (plus, but we need to reserve some seats for the vendors and guests) and we are planning as though we will fill all of those seats.

Registration will be done on line, which will take an enormous load off of the committee.  Instead of continually crunching numbers, the site will track registration, give us seat counts for the various events, and just generally make our life a whole lot simpler.

In addition, the site will collect the fees so we won't have to be trekking to the bank to make deposits and such, dealing with foreign currency, etc.

We have spent a good portion of the summer honing the schedule, selecting workshop and seminar topics we think will be of interest to people, scheduling the instructors into rooms at the various facilities.  We are renting workshop/seminar spaces at the art gallery, the library, the Civic Centre and the Coast Inn of the North.  The Courtyard Marriott will have the exhibit and one seminar room, plus some other smaller events, most likely the author signing and special interest groups who wish to meet.

The entry forms for the author signing, the fashion show and the general exhibits are being reviewed and should go up shortly.  With so many people out of town during the summer (some of them simply trying to avoid the pall of wildfire smoke), things got delayed a bit.

But the next meeting to finalize much of these things is Saturday, and hopefully the info on the exhibits and such will be posted to our website very soon.  (We'd rather everything was correct than rush and find out we've made errors!)

Personally I will be stepping back from the conference planning for a few months while I deal with personal deadlines, including (hopefully!) publishing The Intentional Weaver.  Once registration goes live it will be time to start sorting out the fine details and I will be back in the thick of it again.

But honestly?  A friend says that it is so much better to be able to say "I have done x" than to say "I will be doing x".  Yes, I'm looking forward to the conference being successfully complete...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Special Handling

Yesterday I posted about yarns that are 'tender' and need special handling. 

This yarn is not tender but it still needs special handling.

Even though it was stored in a plastic bag, the bag was loose and during transportation, the coils of yarn around the cone loosened to the point where it was pretty much impossible to find the end of the yarn, and trying to unwind it would have turned into a nightmare of snarls and tangles.

In the end when I gently grabbed the snarl of loose coils and gently pulled them off the cone and onto the table, there really wasn't all that much in terms of yardage - certainly well under an ounce of this 16 ounce cone.

Stripping the loose yarns off the cone took less than a minute, the value of the yarn was very low and many minutes of my time (not to mention the frustration of trying to salvedge it) were saved.

I used to work with this quality of yarn all the time when I wove for the fashion designer.  In point of fact I bought this yarn from her when she decided to retire and close down her business.  So I knew what I was getting in terms of quality - and behaviour.

In order to keep the yarn well behaved I got a bunch of net scrubbies and kept them to put onto the base of the cone.  I cut them long enough to pull up over the cone for storage, but they need to be pulled down to the base or else there is too much friction and the yarn won't feed off without a lot of tension being applied to the yarn.

The scrubbies prevent the yarn from slithering down the cone and wrapping around the base so that as you are winding it catches and snags.  They are also quite elastic and as the diameter of the cone reduces, they simply shrink to accommodate the smaller size.

I finished winding the warp with this yarn with no problems. 

There are other things that can be used in similar fashion - old pantyhose, for example.

Currently reading More Bitter Than Death - remembered to look up the title of the Dana Cameron book I'm nearly finished.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


magnification of seine twine and a 2 ply cotton yarn - seine twine is generally made up of several plys and much more tightly twisted and an 'ordinary' 2 ply cotton yarn

At a recent class I talked a wee bit about working with 'tender'* yarn.  About how more twist will make a short staple fibre (like cotton) stronger.  But that with the addition of more twist, absorbency will be compromised.

What makes a yarn 'tender'?  It depends.  (OK, now you've all had your drink...)

Short staple is one thing that will contribute to a yarn being 'tender'.  A longer staple fibre will produce a stronger yarn - if all other things are equal - than a shorter staple fibre. 

Examples would be things like quiviut, cashmere, cotton. 

A singles yarn will be more tender than a plied one. 

A thinner yarn will be less strong than a thicker one.

So, when working with a yarn that is likely tender, can you use it in a warp?  Well, yes, but you need to treat it more gently than a stronger yarn because it is, by it's very nature tender.

Winding the warp there should be less tension applied (most weavers hold their yarn way too tight anyway, but really important to wind with only just enough tension and not very tightly).

Beaming the warp, wind more slowly, carefully straighten out any areas with slack tension, finger comb gently rather than use a brush or comb.

To weave, set the tension on the warp as low as it can be effectively woven with.  When advancing the warp, try to re-apply the same low tension.

Stay carefully within the 'sweet spot'.  Do not weave too close to the reed as this will place too much stress on the yarns and they can break.

Beat once, gently.  Do not bang away at the fell or double/triple beat.

Keep your bobbins on the skinny side rather than fill them full to maximum capacity.

Use a sizing if the yarn is really softly spun or - if you haven't used a sizing prior to beaming - use a sizing that can be sprayed or painted onto the warp.  The cheapest hair spray works well on many fibres, like cotton and rayon.  I wouldn't use it on silk.

Many yarns have special 'needs'.  Weave a sample before plunging into a long project to find out if the warp chain should be sized before going into the loom, test how much tension the yarn can withstand, find out where the sweet spot is and get comfortable with advancing the fell frequently.

*tender being another word for a yarn that is weaker and cannot withstand as much as a yarn that is more robust - tender is not necessarily a bad thing...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Dates on a Calendar

I keep two planning calendars - one for this year, one for next - to record events and remind myself of deadlines.

Even though I am cutting back on teaching by no longer accepting guild workshops, it seems I still manage to fill my calendar with dates.  These are just the potential teaching events coming up that I know about.  Of course they all depend on getting sufficient students to 'go'.

Olds Master weaving level 2 and 3 in Cape Breton in May, the conference here in June, for which I'm scheduled to do three seminars (in addition to the organizational duties of co-chairing - which ought to be pretty much over and done with prior to the event - one most fervently hopes), Olds level one (I haven't been asked yet, but I'm reserving the dates in case) and John C. Campbell again in September.

In addition to that I have craft fairs in October and November - how many and where are yet to be decided.  I'm old enough now that I tend to reserve that decision until after this year's shows.

Technically I have Jan-April for production for next years shows.  Which really doesn't leave me a lot of time to do much in the way of designing new lines.  So I expect that I will extend the current line of scarves I've been working on, maybe come up with a new kitchen towel design, finish the tea towel warp on the AVL and do another (mostly) natural white warp in order to use up the cottolin (already have that pretty much designed - another Snail's Trails and Cat's Paws to sell at the ANWG conference where I will also have a booth - and thank you to Doug for manning it).

I have come up with a shawl design which I may crunch today even though I have six more scarf warps already wound.  I am 'out' of shawls and really ought to have some to offer.

Today I need to write a 1200 word article for publication.  It has a really tight deadline and I need to find my words rather quickly or I'll miss it.  And it's for a magazine I haven't written for in quite a long while - plus they have agreed to mention The Upcoming Book.  It's an opportunity I don't want to fumble.

But my body is three hours out of sync and I'm feeling tired.  So the first thing I am going to do is carry all my studio stuff down to the studio.  And maybe just beam a scarf warp onto the Leclerc Fanny.  Because that really doesn't take a lot of thinking

Currently reading - oh the book is in another room - author is Dana Cameron.  A 'light' mystery that is just about the right degree of engagement.  I'll look for other of her titles.  Seems she also writes urban fantasy type books, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Folk School

morning mist at the folk school

This was the first time I'd been at the the John C. Campbell Folk School in September and it was quite different from the previous times in Jan/Feb/March.

The mornings dawned with mist and heavy dew on the grass, but it was in the 90's(F) during the day and very humid.

The studio is air conditioned and at times, walking out of the studio into the thick air outside was a bit of a shock for this northerner, but the walk between the studio and the dining hall was a welcome break from the thick concentration in the studio.

My cough and voice improved over the week and we decided that I had not actually caught a cold but with all the 'adventure' of the stressful flight, spending hours upon hours in airplanes and airports, then the off-gassing of the new windows and caulking where I was staying, I had been having a massive allergic reaction.  I may have a touch of bronchitis, but will wait a few days and see if it all settles down.  The cough is much improved and I'm hoping that now I'm home it will go away entirely.

Speaking of which, the fire situation is also much improved here and with cooler temps and some rain, the provincial State of Emergency has been lifted.

The class The Efficient Weaver is not a particular topic as such but an opportunity for students to come and hopefully fill in the holes in their foundation of knowledge.  I have been teaching this class in one form or another for the folk school since 2011, I think.

What I present is much of what I teach in level one of the Olds Master Weaving level one.  So if people are interested in upping their game but don't want to take the Olds program, they could come to this class, which is less stressful, partly because I'm not teaching to a curriculum and there is no homework.  Now, I don't cover ALL of the Olds curriculum, partly because there is no curriculum and there is no homework!

What I hope is that students will come in at whatever level of knowledge they have and maybe learn something new to increase their knowledge.  But most of all what I hope is that they begin to think through their process.  The 'think-y' part of weaving as some say.

While it isn't necessary for people to do this, if they are interested in understanding the why of the process, figuring out what is best for *them*, I hope this class will begin to shine a little light and that they can then go home and continue the exploration,.

What I love, and why I keep tackling these long/stressful journeys, is to see the ah-ha moments and the light that shines when people 'get' what I'm trying to tell them.

One student had never studied with an actual teacher, but had only had access to books, DVDs and You Tube.  Her warp was tensioned so tightly you could bounce a quarter off it and I suggested she loosen her tension - by quite a lot.  She was doubtful and hesitated, so I told her to do it gradually, just one notch less each time she advanced the warp, until it was too loose, then start tightening it again until she found a level of tension that worked.

She was very doubtful, but by the end of the week her cloth no longer was so stuff it could stand in a corner, her selvedges had improved and her beat become even more consistent.

Sometimes you just need to have a little feedback and encouragement to try something a little bit different.

So when I left, I had left a signed contract for next year - Sept. 8-14.  Because helping people understand the process and how they can apply it to their own practice is what makes my heart sing.

And in the future I will pay less attention to buying the absolutely cheapest flight and try to find flights with longer layovers for connections.  And avoid O'Hare if I possibly can!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Too Much Adventure

We are using Mary’s dining room table as a staging area.  Mary is the best studio assistant ever(TM) and has gone out of her way to run and fetch things for the students.  I packed very light for this trip so I don’t have a large suitcase filled with materials and gewgaws like I usually do, plus I was running low on Mason’s line for lashing on.  

On top of everything else, the stress of missing my flight, having to stay overnight (an unbudgeted expense), then multiple flight delays and at least four gate changes sending me chasing all over O’Hare airport, and I came down with a cold.  Too late to cancel now, we stopped and got boxes of tissues, hand wipes and masks for anyone who wants to keep my bugs at bay.  I will wear one when I’m not lecturing but my voice is weak and a mask will further muffle my voice.  

I am feeling somewhat better today so I’m hoping it won’t last very long.  

But I’m very disappointed in catching a cold while travelling.   :(