Tuesday, June 19, 2018

10,000 Hours

Another class, another hump day.

One nice thing about the Olds College is that it is a nice campus with gardens and a wetland area where students can go to pause, reflect, refresh themselves.

The first few days are chaotic and overwhelming.  I'm throwing a lot of information around, and some of the students have not encountered my firehose of information before.  It takes a while to sort out in their minds what they need to do and it all feels like too much, in too little time.

But bit by bit they are working on the in-class assignments and - in spite of what they think - they are making good progress.

I watch them work, explore, discover and revel in the light going on as they begin to understand the immensity of the craft and begin to feel they can grasp the principles.

Since we are always hardest on ourselves, they may not see the progress that they are making.  But I do.

The language of weaving is often confusing, too.  There are inconsistencies between authors.  One may use a sinking shed draw down, another a rising.  It is important to discover that what the symbols mean is more important than what symbol is being used.  The best way to understand a book is to read the introduction to find out the meaning of the symbols being used. If the author doesn't tell you, then it isn't all that hard to figure it out...if you understand the principle of how a weaving draft works.

But it all takes time. It takes work.  It takes that 10,000 hours of mindful practice.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Blogger

Mary Lessman is a master spinner (Olds College Master Spinner program), weaver and now - as of today - a blogger.

She has been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while now and today I 'forced' her to sit down at my desktop and get 'er done.

Mary is also one of the instructors for Confluences.  She will be doing a two day workshop on dyeing with nature dyes, plus seminars.

Tomorrow we hop (crawl, maybe) into the van and head for Olds with stops at the Ancient Forest and Mount Robson along the way. 

Stay tuned for more of her adventures as she travels the US teaching spinning.  And maybe a wee bit on her adventures as a student in the weaving program, too. 

Here We Go Again!

Olds Fibre Week, here we come!   Well, soon.  

We will be staying in the condo unit, four of us sharing a kitchen.  Problem is, the kitchen doesn’t have anything in it other than the standard stove, fridge and a microwave.  So, in addition to this heap of student homework from last year, class materials and supplies and my personal stuff, I will be packing dishes, cutlery and some food staples.  We will buy produce when we get there. 

What you can’t see in the photo are the small flat bed press, because wet finishing, and the portable warping valet.  Which reminds me, I need to add warp packing for the group warp.  Details, details!

Mary is traveling light with her large suitcase, small carry on and...her ukulele.  She has joined the fraternity of players and enjoys her practice time in the evening. (She keeps trying to get me to sing, but...)

Several of my guild mates are attending this year, too, and will be promoting the ANWG conference we are hosting next year.  

The weather is supposed to be nicer tomorrow when we depart, as early as we can get going, but you never really know what the mountains will be like.  It has been chilly and windy here and yesterday it rained a bit. So I’m hoping for a dry day for the drive.  

Another adventure begins!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Drinking Game

The level two students at Cape Breton were obviously well indoctrinated during level one and very quickly on day one someone suggested that every time I answered a question prefaced with the words "It depends" that everyone got to take a drink.

We very quickly increased our caffeine intake!

Because almost every weaving question requires those words, it depends, before the specific circumstances of what the question is asking is defined.

Almost every part of weaving lands on a spectrum.  Indeed, sometimes the distance on that spectrum is large.  Very large.  Because change one thing and everything can change.

The Cape Breton level ones are threatening to have my 'Laura-isms' tattooed as a way of remembering.  Not something I suggest, by any means, but...

And this is what I really love about teaching the Olds program - I get to delve into all the 'it depends' aspect of every question.  I am heartened by the people interested enough in the program to invest their time and energy (and money) to come to the course.  I am even more heartened by the number of younger people I am seeing in the classes.  In level one in Tenino there was one person in her 20s; in level one at Cape Breton there were three in their 20s and/or 30s (I guess, I don't ask people their ages!)

This morning the college confirmed 12 in level one at Olds.  I am interested in how many of this years crop of students will continue - out of last years classes, there was a 100% rate of people sending in their homework (one asked for an extension because Life Happened, but she is working diligently on it and I expect she will send sometime in the next while.)  I expect that most classes will see one or more drop out, but this year?  100%.  Wow.  Just wow.

One student at Cape Breton came from 'away' and is interested in getting a satellite class going in her geographic region.  I am looking forward to talking to the college about how we can continue to grow the program.  I have offered the college a free information table to promote the college's programs at the conference here next year, plus I have other suggestions.

Not sure I'm going to suggest a drinking game, though!

Currently reading To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear

Friday, June 8, 2018

Another Hotel, Another Flight

Three flights to be exact.  

My first flight leaves Sydney at around four pm.  First hop to Toronto, then Vancouver, finally home at midnight, or, as my body will feel it, 4 am.  

I only have 50 minutes in Vancouver so I am anxious about a delay in the first two flights.  But if all goes smoothly I will crawl into bed ASAP I stagger in the door.  

Mary should be waiting for me at the gate in Vancouver so we will be on the same flight.  Sunday will be a rest day.  I’m hoping I can get more than six hours sleep, which is about what I’ve been getting for weeks.  

Both classes seemed to go well and dates for next year have been chosen.  The program continues to grow as more people find out about it.  

I have a pile of emails waiting for action regarding the guild and the conference, medical appointments, repacking my suitcases, loading the van with class materials and kitchen stuff for our stay.  Then hop into the van and drive to Olds on Friday.  


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hump Day

Today completes day three of five.  I’m trying to not lecture too much and let them weave as much as possible.  But there is so much ch information to convey, and when people want to know all the ‘whys’ it’s hard to say no.  

Another great group, digging into the meat of the craft!

We have sorted out dates for next year. Now to settle with Olds College.  Stay tuned.  

Dianne already has a list of names for level one next year, plus two and three.  I simply cannot be away from home for three weeks, especially right before the conference next year so we are working on how to make this work. 

Tomorrow we will do two more fairly short lectures, they will wrap up their weaving (they have until 9 pm) and then Friday the oral presentations and a review of the homework to be done.  

Saturday I will fly home, arriving around midnight with five days to pack for Olds.  

Busy, busy, busy!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Rainy Day

I had planned on walking down the hill for dinner, but...plans change.  It’s not far, maybe a 20 minute walk.  But this morning I woke to rain pounding down, and while it isn’t as hard now, it is still wet and windy.  And I just don’t feel like heading down the hill and then hike back up again, getting chilled. 

Today I was supposed to be combing through the level two manual again, sorting out the daily lesson plans.  Instead I kind of crashed and burned and fell into bed for a little (ahem) two hour ‘nap’. 

Tomorrow I will dress the double Weave group warp on one of the studio looms.  And see if I can get my thoughts about how and when to present the class info sorted out.  Even though every day is a potential work day, apparently today was a day off...

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Before and after wet finishing...

One of the things covered in level one is wet finishing.  This most important transformation is not generally well appreciated amongst some Weavers.  

Many people advise to just ‘wash’ it, which at least (imho) is better than doing nothing at all, but also is just the bare minimum of effecting that change from woven web to ‘real’ cloth. 

One of the students is a conservator by training and has always been very reluctant to do anything more than scour her woven goods.  Today I convinced to to remove her conservation hat and take a leap of faith.  

The magic in the Water happened and she is now a believer.  

This is why I take the red eye across the country!

Magic in the Water is available in digital download or print on demand at http://blurb.ca

Sunday, May 27, 2018


The classroom is ready.  The studio is ready.  Well, a few more things, but as ready as I can be.  

I’m expecting students to begin arriving at any time now.  We will go out for dinner at a nearby restaurant along with some of the level two students.  

Even though flying across the country isn’t nearly as much fun as I’d like, the students never fail to inspire.  Their desire to learn more is the fuel that keeps me going. 

Level one has seven students so we should have plenty of time for All The Questions.  Level two has 10, but most are very experienced, several of whom have been teaching for years.  Their willingness to contribute resources, samples and their knowledge makes it a delight, too.  

And, while it is chilly, it isn’t raining...or snowing...so it’s all good.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Hi Ho, Hi Ho....

The red eye from Vancouver to Toronto shaved a half hour off the flight so my lengthy lay over became even longer.  Otoh, a half hour less in one of the more uncomfortable seats I have had the misfortune to sit in...

We arrived at 7 am to the hustle and bustle of a very large, very busy airport.  But I managed to snag a cup of coffee and an equally uncomfortable chair.  Since I packed very lightly I may grab a couple of t shirts.  A number of shops have sales on, so...

I did manage to doze for a bit on the plane but according to my body it’s actually 4 am and I ought to be sleeping.  In my bed.   Oh well, I can fall into bed early tonight.  I’m hoping to get over the jet lag quickly so that I’m functioning by Monday.   

I’m assured the snow is gone.  I should hope so!

Currently reading the latest Flavia de Luce book, which is packed away and I can’t recall the title.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


One small corner in the studio.  Squirrel cage swift for coning off skeins.  Leclerc Fanny loom in background with 2/3s of a warp to be re-sleyed and woven off.  Soon.  As in as soon as my teaching schedule allows.  Foreground - a heap of various projects - place mat warps for craft fair season (four more bins of table runners hiding in another corner), book projects, info for warp on Fanny, student homework peeking in from the left hand side.

The entire studio is this kind of mess. 

Behind me is the work table with a dozen skeins to be coned off for Olds.  Behind it are the bins and boxes of class materials for the Olds level one class.  (Cape Breton is all upstairs now, on the living room floor.  Because I leave on Friday.)

The AVL has not been touched in literally weeks.  Months.  Doug got a warp beamed and I just haven't had the time to thread it.  I'm hoping it won't sulk too much after being ignored for so long.

From now until, well, about 15 months from now, I am going to be in a mad scramble.  As usual.

Recently I saw an old Facebook post - a cartoon me in front of a door waiting for opportunity to knock.  My problem is not that I wait for it to knock, I can't say no when it does.

So year after year, I have - in an attempt to earn enough to keep the wolf at the door at bay - accepted pretty much any and every offer that ever came my way.

I have woven and sold my textiles at every show I thought might be suitable - at least once, to see if it really was suitable.  I've sold my work on consignment, with all the administrivia that entails.  I've written articles on spec and hoped the effort I put into them would be acceptable.  In the early days I did them for free, just to get my name 'out there'.

I've ghost woven for other weavers.  I've woven miles (literally) of black fabric for a fashion designer, developed her ideas into something that would work in woven cloth (she was a colourist, not a weaver as such).  I've developed workshops, acted as my own 'agent' booking teaching tours - again with all the administrivia that entails in terms of booking flights, financing them, arranging with locals for on ground transportation, appropriate equipment, sending out the class handouts and yarns for the warps.  Packing it all up and schlepping the boxes to the post office.

Having gained sufficient confidence in technical writing and seeing a crying need for information on wet finishing for hand weavers, I wrote, self published, financed an incredibly expensive publication, marketed it - and again with schlepping the boxes (literally hundreds of them) to the post office.  My dining room turned into a shipping office.

Recently an idea I pitched to a magazine was turned down.  Now, my usual reaction would have been to immediately turn around and offer a different project.  Instead I took a deep breath, thanked her for her consideration, and perhaps another time.

And walked away thinking that I had just dodged a bullet with a deadline of mid-August to submit the woven item and write up.

I realized that I really do not have to scramble any more.  I'm turning 68 in a little over a month.  Many people I know of my age - and younger! - are already retired, enjoying their leisure time, not scrambling to earn a buck or two.

I am getting the state pensions I qualify for - I have a level of financial security I have never had for my entire adult life - or at least since choosing weaving for a career.

So I am looking hard at my calendar.  Blocking out the time necessary to do what I have committed to for the coming 15 months and looking beyond that to a time where I can choose to toss out some hats.  Read the heap of books on the hearth.  Make some jigsaw puzzles.  Spin.  Make lace. 

Stop scrambling. 

I think this is what 'they' mean by 'retirement'.  Because I won't stop weaving.  But I can stop the mad scramble.

Stop the world, I want to get off...

Saturday, May 19, 2018

My Way!

The warp currently on the loom is for gamps.  Colour and value gamps.  As such, the wefts are 20 of the 'rainbow' spectrum, plus 10 shades/tints/neutrals.  A total of 30 different wefts, some of them very very close in hue and value. 

I'm not weaving just one gamp, which I could just go ahead and set the colours out, weave them off and never think about them again.  No, I'm weaving three gamps.  One in plain weave, one in 2:2 twill and one in 1:3 twill.

Not to mention there will be a gap of about four weeks between doing the first (plain weave) and the other two.  I had to come up with a way to keep track of the colours in their order.  At first I just laid them out in their order in the plastic tub, but there are multiple packages of each colour and at times it was very difficult to tell the packages laying next to each other apart.

So I grabbed a box of little baggies, numbered them from 1-20 (for the spectrum - I'll deal with the last 10 later) and carefully laid them out in their order in the bin.  Then I started winding the bobbins/quills (quills because I don't currently have 30 bobbins available!) and have laid them out in their order.  At first I started by carrying five at a time over to the loom but I was still having too much trouble distinguishing the colours, so now I weave one colour (5" or so) get up from the loom, walk over to the work table, put the used quill/bobbin into the appropriate baggie and take the next back to the loom.

It isn't the most efficient, in that I'm doing a lot of walking, but it is being very efficient in terms of keeping track of which ones I've done. 

And Fitbit is loving the 'extra' steps!  Win-win!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cha, Cha, Changes,

One of the things that one hopefully learns as they begin to master this craft is how things are likely to change when what you are doing changes.

I know I've posted about this before, but that was after I did it 'wrong'.  This time, I'm hoping I will have done it 'right', right from the start.

My usual warp on the Fanny is about 11 meters or approximately 12 yards.  The warp that went onto the loom today is not only longer at 16.5 yards, it is also slippery - mercerized cotton.

A couple of years ago I had a large warping reel and I started winding longer warps - about 14 meters or about 16 yards long.

The very first of the longer warps I started weaving I began noticing weird tension issues happening.  There were areas of inconsistent tension.  The brake wasn't slipping - there were actual patches or groups of warp ends that would get slightly looser, even out as weaving commenced, then a group elsewhere would exhibit loose tension.

It occurred to me that these longer warps required higher tension during beaming.  So I increased the amount of water in my water jugs and beamed using higher tension, and...voila!...everything was just fine again.

So, with this warp of slippery cotton at 16.5 yards, I added four cups of water to each of my weights and got Doug to help me beam the warp.  I could have done it myself except my back and neck aren't very happy with me right now, and having someone else add the warp packing and crank on while I groomed the warp chains made the whole job go a lot more quickly and easily.

This isn't my warp, there is none to waste, and I want to do a good job because these samples are for another weaver to use in her teaching, not mine to do over or make a big mistake on!  I'm just hoping that 4 cups of water was enough.

Time will tell...

Currently reading The Paris Spy by Susan Elia Macneal

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I'm Aiming for a Masters! - Dianne Q

Value gamp by Barbara S

I’m aiming for a Masters.....not in golf or after getting my Baccalaureate....no, I’m working on the Master Weavers Certificate Program. The program comes from Olds College in Alberta but I’m able to get instruction at the Gaelic College (GC). Last June, eight otherwise experienced weavers took the leap into the 5 year program being held in Cape Breton for the first time. We lived for one week at the GC with our instructor, Laura Fry. Most of us had experience with Laura as an instructor before - her tour de force called Magic in the Water and a workshop about Lace Weaves - so her style of practical tips and in depth instructing was not new but, as always, welcome. 

I am a teacher myself. I am the weaving instructor at the GC where the busy summer classes demand an efficiency of style not unlike Laura’s. I’ve incorporated several of her techniques in my practice (using a weaving trapeze/valet, using my hand as a ‘claw’ to thread and sley). The Master Weavers program would, I assumed, test my proficiency to a new level. It didn’t fail.

The week at the GC was jam packed with weaving exercises, lecture time, practice communicating with others, weaving samples, group discussions, weaving colour value samples and, of course, wet finishing. 

The group got to know each other better. Five of us came from the island of Cape Breton, one from the Annapolis Valley on the “mainland” of NS, one from the west side of Newfoundland and one from southern Ontario. 

We were all experienced weavers but it wasn’t crucial to take the course. Indeed, the way the course is set up, a nearly new weaver would gain yards of practical knowledge. You need to know a loom, you need to have dressed looms in the past, you need to be able to work within a time constraint getting those samples done. It was fun, a bit challenging, while reinforcing skills. 

At the end of the week, we went home a bit weary, inspired, focused and ready to take on the homework. Homework! For the next while, the “homework” was frequently on my mind while I did my usual....teaching at the college, preparing for my guild’s fibre festival, attending a workshop on tapestry, selling at market, preparing for Christmas and then finally.....the time slot was there for the homework.

The homework is laid out in a way that takes you step by step through the entire process of making one handwoven piece: tell us how you dress your loom, which of these authors books is good for what you are doing, show a study of colour and your skill at plotting to get what you want when you weave, take a yarn and weave it at several setts to see how it works, look at plain weave and straight twill and how they respond to different finishing techniques, make a scarf or shawl to show how well you have learned all these lessons.

It’s trial and error, it’s stimulating, it’s frustrating, it’s running out of the one yarn you thought would do the job, it’s challenging, it means you have to communicate in writing what you do without thought after years of weaving, it means you have to stay focused....watch every weft shot, make it fit just like all the other weft shots, drive the family a bit off the rails while you natter on and on about tiny incidentals of your work, it makes you want to do the absolute best, it’s disheartening when the washing machine won’t open at 10 minutes, it’s exciting when the samples and records are all gathered together ready to send for marking....it’s even a bit fearful when the package goes into the mail - did I remember everything, did I do it well enough? And then you wait to hear - did I pass?? 

For now I am ready and waiting for next year...1 down and 4 to go.....I’m aiming for my Masters!

 Dianne's final project

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Last Box

Today the 'last' box of homework arrived.  I think this year may have been a bit of an anomaly.  I would have to check my class list, but I think that every student in both level one classes I taught last year submitted (or will) their homework for marking.  Even though Life Happened in a big way for several people they stuck to it and managed to get their homework to me.  Even if it was just in time!  (One has asked for an extension, but is working away on submitting later in the year.)

It is not unusual for one or two people to drop out along the way.  Things happen.  Jobs change.  Life circumstances change.  Some people move.  Others have health issues suddenly crop up.  Some take a 'gap' year to work on what they learned in level one.

One of the most important lessons some of them have learned is that level one may look 'simple' but the nuances of the craft need to be understood and skills perfected.  And that doesn't happen right away.  Even people who are experienced sometimes find that the level one exercises are more difficult than might first appear.  That there is complexity in simplicity as one student put it.  (Search for Carol M's guest blog post for more on that.)

The Cape Breton class was unusual in that there was such a very high level of experience and knowledge.  As expected they pulled off getting it done, even if it was just under the wire for a couple.  This year all of the original students in level one at CB are continuing one to level two, plus this morning I found out that there will be seven in level one.  Dianne wants to continue to grow the program at the Gaelic College and we will be discussing that while I am out there.

Next year is going to be busy for me.  Four classes of homework to mark, plus the conference.  I may need to infuse coffee directly into my veins...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Direct Tie Up

I am weaving a 'library' of samples right now and this section is alternating between 1:3 and 2:2 twill.

Rather than spend a bunch of time on the floor changing the tie up, I opted instead to just use a direct tie up (essentially a 1:3 twill) and when a 2:2 twill is required, I just use two feet.

Much more efficient than constantly changing the actual tie up and way less time spent on the floor doing it.

Friday, May 11, 2018

And Life Goes On

I came home to a boat load of critical deadlines which took me several days to wrestle to completion.  It was a stressful few days while I dealt with them, several times messing up because I was rushed, or not thinking clearly, trying to bushwhack my way through my must-be-done list.

Lurking in the background was my check up at the cancer clinic today.  Was I responding well enough to the lowest possible dose?  Or not?  If not, what then?  I didn't know.

Turns out I'm doing just fine in terms of keeping the cancer under control.  I do still have adverse effects, although they have reduced somewhat in intensity.  It would appear for the next few years, this is my new 'normal'.

As such, I am now gearing up to keep plodding forward - with a reduced commitment - once the book and conference are done.  Just another 7 or so months for the book - if I can keep to schedule on that.  Just another 13 or so months for the conference.  The wrap up will largely be in the hands of the treasurer so once the event is over with, my input will be minimal.

I have just been approached to teach again at John C Campbell in Sept. '19.  I've said yes.  Not because they pay well, but because it is near friends and I can piggy back a trip to visit with them while I am in the area. 

And because I am just a sucker for helping weavers understand their craft at a deeper level.  In the meantime, I hear there are *already* six enrolled for Sept of this year.  Six spots left.  Just saying...

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

All About the Twist

tubes placed on end, yarn running up through a reed to keep the yarn feeding straight up off the tube (or cone) for winding warps

There is a school of thought about transferring yarn from one format to another - one that goes - never take yarn off the top of a cone or the end of a tube because you can add or subtract twist to the yarn.

I've always hated taking yarn off the side of a tube (with one exception - sectional beaming with the tubes stood on end).  Oh, I tried.  I rigged up shoe boxes with knitting needles, had a spool rack where all the tubes were dutifully lined up, horizontally.  And fought with excess yarn coming off the tubes, wrapping itself around the 'axle' the tube was rotating on as I tried to convert rotary motion to reciprocal and just finally decided that adding or subtracting twist really wasn't an issue with the yarns that I most commonly work with and have happily been winding warps on a warping board with my tubes stood on end for decades.

Recently, curiosity drove me to figure out exactly how much twist was added or subtracted and came up with about one twist per 10" when the tube was full, gradually decreasing as the tube reduced in diameter until it was empty where it was one twist per 1.75 or so inches.

Will this reduction or addition of twist affect your cloth?  I really can't say.  Each yarn is different and that degree of increase/decrease may - or may not - have any noticeable impact at all.

And then there are end feed/delivery pirns.

An end feed (or delivery) pirn means that the yarn comes off the tip of the pirn, adding or subtracting twist as it does.  And the diameter of a pirn is much less than a tube or cone, therefore adding/subtracting more twist than taking the yarn off a tube/cone.  Off the end of a cone, or off the tip of a pirn is just a difference in degree.

Bottom line?  If you can't be perfect be consistent.  Choose a direction to remove the yarn from your yarn package, weave some samples, analyse them to see if the change in twist is affecting your cloth.  And then do what pleases you.

I wasn't pleased dealing with horizontally placed yarn packages, so I set them up vertically.  YMMV.

Currently reading Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review: Hidden Tapestry

"All but a few artists struggle to pay their bills. This is the compact the artist makes with the universe: to create with no guarantee of remuneration, and yet to live always in expectation and hope. It requires nerve, faith, perseverance and above all the ability to survive disappointment." Debra Dean, Hidden Tapestry; Jan Yoors - his two wives and the war that made them one

A couple of months ago the author, Debra Dean, contacted me to see if I would be willing to read her new book on Jan Yoors.  I was happy to do so because I'm always looking for good books and one that deals with tapestry?  Yes, please!

It is not exactly what I expected but it turned out to be so much more.

Ms Dean has thoroughly researched the lives of Jan, Annabert and Marianne.  Any telling of their story would be incomplete without how World War II shaped their respective lives.  This book is a fascinating examination of how war impacts young people (all were children or, in Jan's case, a teenager when the war began) and how they managed to shape their lives as they became adults.

It is also an intimate look at an alternate lifestyle, one that includes being an artist in the post war era.  Of course my main interest is in the tapestry style that they utilized but also glimpses into the art world first in England, then the United States.

There is also information on Jan's relationship with another emigre family in New York - the Paternaya brothers and how they worked to provide Jan with custom colours for his tapestries.  The Paternayan line of yarns is still being used today.

Debra Dean has clearly observed the lives of a trio of artists and shows great understanding - and compassion - in her depiction of these people.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

One Down...

I use the living room floor as a staging area for my trips.  While this is an old photo, my floor will soon look just like this again - or very similar.  Some changes have been made.

For one thing, the attache case that has traveled with me for literally thousands of miles over the years is just about ready to give up the ghost.  So I have invested in a somewhat smaller backpack that I am hoping will see me through to the end of my travelling days.  This last trip was the first time I used it and I need to sort out some things about what I pack in it, but I think it may just do the trick.

I will probably still use the attache case when I'm driving somewhere.  It's an old, familiar friend after all, and still has some life it in.  :)

The next three classes are pretty much back to back to back.  I will have to prep the last trip - the drive to Olds College, prior to leaving for Cape Breton.  Or at least, as much as I can.

Since level one unexpectedly filled to the point where the college agreed to run it, I now have to scoop the class materials I'd brought in for Olds for Cape Breton, and order more yarn in to cover the full (12 students) class in Olds.  I will pull that order together later today and get it to Brassard tonight so they can get it into the mail to me. 

The skeins have to be wound onto cones for the Olds students to wind their 2nd warp - plus I have to wind the first warps for Cape Breton and Olds.  Not something I can leave to the last minute.

I had many hours in airports yesterday - way more hours in airports than airplanes, in fact - so I had some time to think.  It was something I have known subliminally for a while - that being an itinerant weaving teacher takes just as much forethought, problem solving, organization of details and dealing with administrivia as does weaving itself.  I realized that learning how to plan, schedule and meet deadlines is as much a part of mastering weaving as the weaving itself, if you are going to teach weaving as well as weave.

In school one of my teachers looked at the way I organized my time and work and found my approach sadly lacking.  I think of her sometimes, and her comment on one of my report cards that if only I would be more organized I would have gotten a better mark.  And I wonder if she would look at how I organize my studio - and life - and be appalled at how I do what I do.  OTOH, I feel that I have succeeded in most (not all!) of my life.  I've just done it in a way that she might not recognize as any kind of organization. 

But we each process information differently, and perhaps her comment was more a reflection of the differences in how we process information?

I have also had at least one student remark on an evaluation form that it was upsetting to her that I didn't go through the class manual in a linear fashion, but jumped all over the place.  She found this confusing.  But that is partly how weaving works - on the surface it seems as though the craft should be rigidly linear.  But it isn't.  Or at least, not in my mind!

The main part of linear thinking in weaving is in the process of dressing the loom.  But the designing of the cloth, well, that is far from linear.  It is a constant sliding up and down the scale of opposites...drape->firmness, porosity->density, smooth->coarse...and so on and so forth.

So my mind tends to hop from here to there and back again, constantly comparing, contrasting, tweaking.

But today I am tired.  It's a good tired because I saw such progress in all of the students.  But because I'm tired, I won't do much in the studio other than some organization - the afore mentioned yarn order.  And an inventory of the class materials to see if I need to replenish anything else (like the Harrisville threading/sleying hooks).  I have 2.5 weeks until I leave, other studio commitments separate from teaching, plus getting ready to charge forward with the three classes still to be done.

Not to mention The Book, guild responsibilities, conference planning etc.  I sometimes wonder that if my approach to planning was rigidly linear, would I be able to wear so many hats?  Keep track of so many different projects?  Who knows...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Day One

Day one, level one. 

The usual chaos reigns as people come to grips with the program.  

The master weaving program is not your standard workshop.  Workshops are geared toward conveying a nugget of information, or two.  Workshops tend to be more social, with time for the participants to chat.  

This course is not relaxed.  There is a great deal to do and time is limited.  Feeling overwhelmed is the normal state for the first three days.  It is only once the majority of the lectures have been given and the in class exercises done, or nearly done, that the students can begin to put it all together. 

Level one is probably the most difficult, for the students.  And for the instructors.  The students may, or may not, know some of the theory being presented.  The focus, for me, is to try to start filling in some if the cracks in their foundation of knowledge.  There are multiple processes being used, so that becomes confusing when students see different ways to dress the loom, or, after my demo, they try my way.  

It all feels very confusing on day two.  

So I am sitting quietly, fortifying myself with a cup of tea, getting ready to spread more information via the proverbial fire hose. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Launch Time

It's almost launch time.  There are a few more things to add to the pile, mostly 'personal' items.  The next six weeks are going to be crammed with deadlines, mostly of the teaching sort.  It is very exciting to see the growth in interest in the Olds Master Weaving program, and the desire for weavers to understand the craft more deeply.  At least, it's exciting for me.  I hope the students also find it exciting!

The level one class beginning on Monday has 11.  Level one in Cape Breton has five, with room for more.  Level two Cape Breton has nine, possibly 10 as one more person is contemplating joining us.  The classes at Olds College proper during Fibre Week are filling - level one has 12, which makes that a full class (although I have been known to accept one or two more rather than disappoint.  Plus I have a teaching assistant in Olds, so could potentially take a couple more.)

Level two and three are running during Fibre Week as well. 

Time for me to weave a bit on the warp I dressed yesterday.  I am so grateful I am able to keep weaving and teaching, even if my energy levels aren't what they were.  And that weavers are coming through the system, ready, willing and able to take the torch and carry the knowledge forward into the future.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mad Scramble

My life seems to alternate between the calm before the storm and...the storm.

I wanted to use a 'cartoon' I saw on the internet about what your plans are and reality.  My plans being a nice smooth path to my goal.  Reality being a mountainous up and down over and around numerous obstacles kind of journey.

But you get the drift...

This morning I was chatting with a friend about how we always seem to be juggling way too many balls, wearing way too many hats.  We agreed that if we didn't we wouldn't likely get off the sofa of a morning.  Some of us just keep having Really Great Ideas.  And then of course, someone has to implement them, right?

Also, this morning, I have been shooting off emails and messages about the conference, the classes, and a friend about the progress being made.  Oh yeah - and weaving on the above warp.

The good news is that the class manuals for WA are scheduled to be delivered today.  A Just In Time delivery if ever there was one.  Because class begins Monday morning at 9.  Sharp. 

Plans for the conference are shaping up.  Still a few details to nail down, but so far...so good.

I am looking forward to surmounting the next peak on  my path.  There won't be much time to rest when I get home, though, because I have work scheduled that has to be done in between WA and Cape Breton.

Where would I be without deadlines?  Sitting on the sofa eating bon-bons?  Nah, I'd think up something else wonderful that I just had to do...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dark Times

In the face of - it seems - rising stress, increasing darkness, people going through tough times, I choose to light as many candles as possible.

Thoughts and prayers are just the first step.  Lighting metaphorical - or even real - candles is a first step.  The next steps are up to each and every one of us.

I try, every day, I try to choose kindness.  To encourage.  To accept that people are having difficulties I may know nothing about.

As a child I was taught that God helps those who help themselves.  So if you believe in a God, pray.  But don't pray for God to 'fix' what is broken in this world.  Pray for the strength to fix what is broken.  Pray for understanding.  Pray for those who have things more difficult than they should be.  Pray to open your eyes to inequity - and the way to make things better, even for just one person.

The world may be breaking, but we can mend it. 

Light a candle.  Be kind.  Lift up those who are down.  Build a bigger table.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Wayne Dyer had a talk he would give on the stages of human growth.  The last one, according to him, was mentoring the next generation(s).

I feel I have entered this stage of life.  And that is why I am committing myself to the Olds Master Weaving program (almost) exclusively.  (I will, from time to time, continue to teach the local weavers via the guild I belong to.  If anyone wants to study with me, they are more than welcome to come here!  Or one of the Olds programs I am teaching.)

Being a mentor does not mean you have reached a certain chronological age.  Rather it means you have reached a stage where you have a deep level of understanding that you can convey to others.

People tell me I can do this.

More importantly, I feel I need to do this.  

After being in this business for 4+ decades I have a great deal of experience.  I also have a sense of what new(ish) weavers need to learn, even if they don't know that they need to learn it.  It is one reason I keep blogging, frequently repeating the same message over and over.  Because not everyone grasps the message the first or second (or 10th) time they read it.

Sometimes people have to have developed a certain level of knowledge to understand what I am trying to convey.

And sometimes it isn't something they need to know at the time they hear it so it slips on by.

People sometimes ask what it takes to host the Olds program in their locality.  The Gaelic College is one of the locations I am teaching.  They have a fully loaded studio and a weaving instructor who was willing to get things set up.  However, you don't have to have a fully loaded studio.  The Olympia Guild had a person who was willing to do the ground work, located a facility large enough to hold the class and could be booked for five days.  She managed to locate a loom for me to use for the group warp, and acted as liaison for me and for the students.

The college does the registration, sends out class manuals, hires the instructor (in this case, moi) and pays the instructor.

I have informed Zach that I will be devoting my teaching efforts to the program and am willing to pick up more classes.  (Just in case it's moi a group is interested in!)  He said that a couple of guilds had been in touch, and who knows, the program may be growing even further.  Generally the minimum number of students is 8, maximum 12.  Since some people have Life Happen and they drop out of one level or another, having the maximum for level one means the likelihood of continuing through the other levels is higher.  OTOH, one of the benefits of the program is that, having taken level one at one location, it is possible to take the next level at a different location.

If a guild should be interested in hosting the program, they can contact Olds College and talk to Zachary Webster.  (Don't you love that the person overseeing the program is called Webster?)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Different Strokes

People adapt their processes to suit their personal preferences, the yarn they are using and their equipment.  I tend to weave within a fairly narrow range of yarns.  I'm very comfortable with them, know their limitations, how they will consistently behave.  (Doesn't mean they are always the same, just reasonably consistent!)

The above photo is an 11 meter long warp.  Half of it, actually.  The finished warp will be 24" in the reed.  With such a width, I only wind half of it, or 12".  The max width I will do on this warping board is 15" at 20 epi +/-

I tie off the four 'arms' of the cross, not the waist.  I used to just tie the waist, then would fight to find the waist and deal with how the threads became compressed.  So I take an extra few seconds and make four ties to save that PITA level I mentioned in yesterday's post.  Extra time at one stage to save time and PITA levels at the next is not wasted.  IMHO.  

Notice that I also do not tie this yarn every single yard.  This 11 meter long warp has the choke tie near the cross, the counting string near the end and just two more ties along the length of the chain.

Nor do I crochet the warp.  Here are the two chains for the next warp which will go into the loom later this afternoon.  Once the chain is tied off I take out the peg at the bottom of the board (the end of the chain, so to speak) and simply carefully drop the chain into a box or bin.  In this case, because two warp chains will go into the same container I use a larger plastic bin.

The bin is then taken to my work table (where I stand to work - otherwise I'd be sitting way too much - sometimes working standing up is A Good Thing to do).  The lease sticks and reed are set upon small boxes which raise the reed to a comfortable height for the rough sleying.

I also use really thick ties.  They are easier to see, tie and untie than a single strange of, say, 2/20 cotton.

This whole set up is now ready for me to remove the four ties securing the cross and to begin rough sleying.

Check the links 'rough sleying' or 'reed as raddle' for more info on this process.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


It seems there is nothing like a group of weavers discussing how to dress a loom to create controversy!

There are the front-to-back and then the back-to-front disciples.  Both are absolutely convinced - it seems - that their method is the best thing since sliced bread.

When I learned how to weave we were taught to use a raddle to spread the warp out to it's weaving width.  I did that for a while until I was shown how to use a reed to rough sley.  For a year or so I followed that process.  I got pretty good at using either a raddle or a reed.

Then I started beaming front-to-back and did that for a couple of years.  It worked ok with some limitations.


Until I changed what I was doing and it no longer worked.  Well, it did, but the 2/20 mercerized cotton I was then using for warps snarled and tangled and it took literally hours to beam a 10 or 12 yard long warp.

At that point I switched to sectional beaming and never looked back.  For literally decades.

Sectional beaming is great for a warp that is long/wide/has limited colour changes.  And that is how I usually approached my weaving designing while using sectional warping. 

But then I changed what I wanted to do and started winding warps with lots of color changes.  Not exactly efficient when beaming sectionally.  I was also making much shorter warps than what I did for the AVL. 

After trying and selling on several small looms I found a Leclerc Fanny, which turned out to be perfect for my needs.

Now rayon chenille is not one of those yarns I would willing beam front-to-back, and I didn't like having 8 ends in a 1/2" raddle, so I grabbed a reed and rough sleyed it - just like I had done all those years ago.  With just two ends in a dent, the rayon chenille behaved much better.  And the Pain In The Ass quotient went down considerably.

Rough sleying also worked 'better' with finer yarns, like 2/16 cotton, or Bambu 12 (about 2/16 cotton thickness).  Rough sleying also worked 'better' with 2/20 mercerized cotton.  And linen.

This is not to say I wouldn't ever beam front-to-back at some point.  Perhaps.  But there are many fabrics that I would avoid using front-to-back.

An incomplete list:

Any singles yarn, of any fibre.
Rayon chenille.
Any dense cloth - like the fine wool, set at something like 72 epi.
Any textured yarn such as a boucle.
Any grabby wool

Now I am quite sure that someone, somewhere, has successfully beamed a warp front-to-back using a yarn from the above list.

Great for them. 

For me, those yarns open up a world of PITA that I'm simply not willing to deal with.

I am known as an efficient weaver.  I have worked for decades to become efficient.  I am not interested in taking hours to beam a warp when my methods work for me and I can beam an 11 meter long cotton warp in about 10 minutes.

But for those who prefer front-to-back?  Do what you love.  I don't love that process much anymore, so I don't do it.

My advice to students is to pick an expert.  Learn everything they can teach you.  Learn enough to become your own expert.  Avoid PITA situations.  Because weaving should be pleasant, not a pain.  If you are happy and getting the results you want, you don't need to change a thing.  If you are not?  Then you might want to check out some different processes.  Or equipment.  Sometimes the equipment just isn't a good fit.  Because we are not all the same.  We are not the same height.  We are not the same in terms of manual dexterity.  We do not necessarily learn the same way.  Find what works - for you.

Live long - and prosper!  And weave the way you want.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thoughtful Thought

I have never been one to rush into a decision.  Well, hardly ever.  So I spent a lot of time thinking about the post I wrote yesterday.  Thinking about how much energy I may - or may not - have in the coming years.  How most people my age have long ago retired from their job/career.  About what I want to accomplish, really, and truly, with the rest of my life - however long that may be.

The past few years I have cut way back on my teaching.  I have threatened not once, but several times, to quit teaching altogether.  But then my health would take an uptick and I would look at my dwindling bank balance, check my energy levels and think, oh sure, why not?  And book another date with another guild.

But after writing out just the next four months of my year with all that is scheduled?  Looking in the mirror and seeing someone who has fought the good fight, but who is getting tired?  Who would like, once in a while, to not have rolling deadlines?

I thought about where I want to spend my time and energy. 

Recently I told someone I wanted to teach myself out of a job.  I was, at the time, referring to the Olds Master Weaving program.  And I decided that if I really want to do that, then I need to conserve my energy for that program.  To help create weavers who can receive the torch and continue to teach more weavers, on into the future.

At this point I have zero contracts for anything beyond this year.  I have had one inquiry for possibly doing a 'remote' video class sometime in the new year which may, or may not, materialize.  But other than that, no contracts.

Every other time I have threatened to quit teaching for guilds I have been at the low part of the 'poor' health trough.  But right now I'm not.  I'm not exactly healthy, but it is being managed. 

So I feel as though I am clear headed enough to be making a significant decision affecting the rest of my life.

The older I get the less and less I like the dark o'clock departures to go anywhere.  The less and less I enjoy the stress of traveling long distances (even though I'm delighted when I arrive).

The older I get the less inclined I am to hare after the rolling waves of deadlines. 


Drum roll please. 

I will not be accepting any more engagements for teaching for guilds.  I will be concentrating on the Olds Master Weaving program as my venue of choice for teaching. 

I will continue to work on stash reduction.  I aim to 'retire' from doing craft fairs at the end of 2020 although I reserve the right to continue doing one or both of the local fairs.  But I'm done driving pell mell through winter weather to attend craft fairs far far away.

I will finish The Book,hopefully before the end of this year, primarily because I'm sick of the whole project hanging over my head, but also so that I will be able to sell it at our conference here next year.

No, I won't be teaching at the conference, I will be one of the worker bees running it. 

For those of you who, at times, email me to say they really want to learn from me, keep an eye on the Olds College  website.  Because I will travel places to teach the college program. 

I will continue to contribute to Handwoven when their theme matches my interests - and they want what I have to contribute.

I choose to limit my activities in order to encourage serenity.  Who knows, maybe I really will drag my bobbin lace stuff out again.  Maybe I really will read all those books sitting on my hearth.  Maybe I really will make those jigsaw puzzles I've accumulated and had no time for.  Anything is possible?

Currently reading Island of Blue Foxes by Stephen R. Bown

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Seeking Balance

Yesterday I had a good chat with the nurse practitioner as we seek to find balance in my treatment - sufficient drug to control the cancerous cells, not so much that I have to deal with adverse effects.  To that end, I am now on one capsule per day.  I am really hoping that this works because there is nowhere to go from there...

In the event that I will still have some degree of adverse effect to the drug, I am having to also tweak my life. 

The things that are important become clearer when 'normal' changes to something...less...

My long range goal for the past few years has been stash reduction.  So I will continue to work on that.  As I use up the things I'm not all that fond of, I am hoping to pare my stash down to my favourite yarns and not have these other challenges staring at me from my shelves.

The next six months are getting very crunchy with deadlines but roughly these are my priorities (I tend to use this blog to sort out my thoughts and make them more real by writing them down)

Book projects.  The warps above started out as a book project.  But I'm also using up stash that is not necessarily readily available, so I will use one of the ones that is made entirely from Brassard yarns, rather than the ones where I have dipped into my non-standard stash in order to use it up.  Then I got captivated by playing with colour and went a little nuts pulling lots of combinations that will all weave up into table runners.

Because I also need table runners for inventory for the up coming craft fair season.

In addition to the above heap of yarn/wound warps, there are also 4 place mat warps wound, ready to be woven. 

Then there is the warp Doug just beamed onto the AVL - for more table runners - those ones a little more dressy than these will be with their textured/slubby weft.

One of those table runners will likely go into the book as well, perhaps as part of a 'gallery' of textiles for inspiration, not necessarily as a project.  OTOH, just because it is 16 shafts doesn't mean I can't include it as a project.  Hmm.

I have also volunteered to weave samples for another weaver.  Those will have to be done in a small window of opportunity in May.  A window which may be closing to a much smaller window at the possibility of a level one in Cape Breton looks more feasible.  There are 5 registered - we need 8.  It is quite possible three more could register before April 28.

In July I've arranged for a photographer to come and deal with the masses of photos required for the book.

I have also just 'volunteered' to weave a project for Handwoven - due in August.  Surely I can do that with no problem?  I can also piggy back a book project onto that warp, so...win-win?  If they are interested, of course.  They can say no if my proposal doesn't fit their theme.

Then there is the possibility of an on line class to be taped in August.  I will follow up on that soon because I still have to prepare for that - IF it will go ahead.

And that just takes me to the end of August...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rough Sleying

When some people find out my preference for spreading the warp to it's weaving width is rough sleying there can be a variety of reactions.

One is, why do I 'waste' time sleying the reed twice?  If I'm sleying the reed anyway, why don't I just cut the loops and dress the loom front to back?  If I prefer back to front warping, why don't I just use a raddle?

The answers to those questions take longer to explain than a short answer, which is, this is the method I have tweaked to fit my needs and it works best for me.

How I got to that conclusion takes much more detail.

The warp above is an example of how spreading the warp using a reed is most definitely rough

I'm aiming for 24 epi, but I have - mostly - wound two ends at a time.,  Except for where I haven't.  This means that in order to rough sley there is a bit of mixing and matching going on.

I don't have a six dent reed wide enough, which would be the easiest size reed to use.  I have two six dent reeds - one of which is too narrow, the other which is way too wide.  So I tried a 12 dent reed, which is also 'long' and the spaces are narrow.

So then I picked up the 8 dent reed.  I am sleying \4\4\4\0\4\4\4\0 for the most part.  Except for when the stripes begin and end and I wound 2 ends of a colour to outline the stripe.  So where the stripe begins and ends, I am putting 6 ends in the dent.

When I used the 12 dent reed, I put those 2 ends in their own dent, but then the warp was spread wider than the weaving width of 25" and my warp packing was perilously close to being too narrow.  Using the 8 dent reed, I'm putting those two ends into the same dent as the background colour to make the warp narrower than the weaving width. 

Now this is not my preference, but for this textile having the warp beamed narrow is not going to cause any particular issues as it has enough elasticity to take the deflection from narrow to wide to narrow (as it draws in during the weaving).

When I demonstrate this technique people get very concerned about how 'messy' the threads can look.  So long as I have tied a good tight choke tie, any disruption in the threads isn't going to matter much as long as I don't yank on the ends and pull slack up out of the length of the chain.

So why don't I just use a raddle?  Well, when I started winding and beaming warps on the Fanny I did borrow a raddle.  But I found that filling the raddle really wasn't much of a time saver - the objection some have to rough sleying a reed - that it will take longer than filling a raddle.  The real reason I gave up on a raddle though was that the sections were too large for the usual yarns that I use.  I wanted a finer separation of the yarns so there would be less tendency for them to wrap around each other.

In the end, after trying both - and I tried the raddle several times - I find this method more efficient even though I may take a little bit more time at this stage which will save me a lot more time at the beaming stage.  Of course my default length is 11 meters.

Or at least...this has been my experience.

But there are many ways to accomplish all of the stages of weaving - from winding the warp in the first place, spreading the warp for weaving, beaming, threading (or the other way round if you prefer front to back), tying on.

It depends on your goals which processes will work 'best'.  It depends on your personal preferences, your equipment, yarn, environment. 

As they say...Your Mileage May Vary.

Currently reading The Nothing That Is; a natural history of Zero by Robert Kaplan

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Satisfying Life

Choosing a life of textiles doesn't mean that there was no stress.  Oh my, no!  But it has been a different kind of stress.

And my days have been filled - not just with dealing with that stress - but with textiles.  Yarn.  Creativity.

As a child I assumed that being an adult meant I could do whatever I wanted to do, instead of what the adults around me told me I had to do.

What a shock!  What a surprise!  Adults have responsibilities to a level I could not - as a child - imagine or comprehend.

As an adult it now fell on my shoulders to pay the bills and keep the home fires burning.  So to speak.

By choosing to do that through the life of a creative person, I simply exchanged one set of stressers for another.  But the daily grind was now  of my choosing, not dictated by a boss who had their own level of responsibilities and stress to deal with.

I became my own boss.  Therefore I set my own agenda in order to meet my schedule, my long term goals.

There were still interactions with people but I had more control over how those interactions played out.  I set my obligations to others, and then - hopefully - I had more control over how those responsibilities were met.

Dealing with students, workshop and conference co-ordinators, editors, show organizers became my front line interactions with people.

I learned how to communicate, more or less effectively.  Since we are talking the 1980's, most communications were done by snail mail, not email, or telephone.  Things had to be sorted out months in advance in order to allow that slow communication to happen and events to be organized in a timely manner.

Customers also needed to be dealt with.  Sometimes those customers had their own agenda and deadlines.  I learned how to say 'no' when their expectations collided with my schedule.

Because the thing is, as an independent creative person, weaving, writing and teaching about weaving, meant my schedule was filled with deadlines.  It had to be in order to bring in enough income from my several income streams to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.  I never had just one deadline I was working toward, but many.

The stress never stopped.  The deadlines rolled on by, like waves in an ocean.

One year I was gone from home more days than I was at home.  And the trips, the deadlines, the stress never stopped.

At times I would step out of that reality and think, "Wow!  Is this really my life?  How did it get to this point?  Where did that month, that week, hell, that year go?"  At which point the only appropriate answer was "this is the life you chose".

It was never said in a mean way, just a realistic way.  That this constant running in order to stay on top of the deadlines was the life I had, in fact, chosen to do.

Of course the next statement always had to be - if I am not happy with this life, what do I change?  What choices do I make next?  Because this was the life I had chosen, all those decades ago.

But right now, in this moment, I am no longer in my 30s.  I am in the latter half of my 60s.  And for the past 10 years I have been dealing with overt health issues.  I feel my clock ticking and time running out.

And so I have been struggling with my choices.  I am trying to make different choices now.  I am looking at my calendar and trying to book deadlines with less stressful time frames.

After 4 plus decades of cramming every single opportunity into my calendar, into my life, I am trying to listen to my body and give myself recovery time.  I don't always listen to myself and so I do still wind up with rolling waves of deadlines.  But I am trying to be more mindful that peers have been retired for years instead of continuing to work like they were just beginning their careers instead of approaching the end, and the retirement from the stress of earning their daily bread and butter.

As a weaver, I have only the meager state pensions as retirement income.  So I feel the pressure to continue, at some level, to sell my textiles, write articles, teach.  But I also feel the need to step back from all of that.

I have a big personal investment in the Olds Master Weaving program because the goal of the curriculum is to produce weavers who understand the underlying principles of the craft in order to pass on the information to others.   It is fine to weave from published patterns, but someone has to design those patterns for others to follow.

Recently I told one of the Olds students that my goal is to teach myself out of a job.  I am getting tired.  My body is 'broken'.  It will soon be time to pass the torch onto the next generation.

Regrets?  I've had a few.  But I have lived the life I chose when I was 25.  And I have no regrets about making that choice.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Life I Chose

I was 19 - and in Sweden, a trip I'd worked hard to make happen the year following graduation - when the first intimation that my life was about to change significantly occurred.  My father was gravely ill.

When I got home about 4 weeks later, my mother finally told me dad had multiple myeloma and the prognosis wasn't good.  He hadn't even turned 50 yet.

My intention to pursue higher education had to be scrapped.  There would be no money for tuition, textbooks, food, shelter.  Instead I went back to the telephone company as a long distance operator.

While the job paid good money it wasn't much fun.  It was very obviously a dead end job as technology was already creeping in.  It was also dealing with people who varied from kind and polite to rude and stressed, at times, down right abusive.  And at that point I was once again a 'new hire' so wasn't getting full time hours and pulling the 'nasty' shifts - the split shifts, the early morning shifts, the evening shifts.

The stress at home wasn't great either as mom traveled frequently down to Vancouver where dad had been in hospital for months, with various crisis due to his illness.

I finally found an office job - the only thing I had any kind of qualification for, knowing how to touch type - and even though it paid a lot less, it was regular full time hours.

If I thought I'd had an education in human nature and behaviour at the telephone office, I learned more working at the credit bureau - about the tendency of people to get in debt, then all the stress they incurred.  The petty office politics and low level misogyny with male management and female worker bees.  The sense of privilege and entitlement some people assumed.

From there I went to work for an insurance adjuster.  More lessons in how people cope with stress - or not - filing claims for damages caused to their homes, sometimes catastrophic loss, sometimes minor.  Or their vehicles.  I got fired from that job eventually, partly because I got bored and I just didn't care any more.

It took some weeks to find another job, this time hospital reception, part time.  More shift work.  More dealing with way too many stressed people.  Since dad was constantly seeing doctors and spending way too much time in a hospital bed, I had compassion for these people.  But wished they wouldn't take it out on the people who were simply trying to do their jobs and actually help them.

I lasted six weeks there until I fell into a job at the high school where I had graduated only a few years previously.  It was again interesting to see the change in dynamic from being a student to being an adult, interacting with teachers, some of whom had been mine.  After about six months an opening happened in the school library and I applied.  When I got the job I thought I'd entered the gates of heaven.  All those books!  And I got first pick (more or less.)

Another lesson, this time in being a bit of an authority figure to the students who used the library.  I knew I had a reputation as a bit of a bitch, but I didn't care.  I simply firmly enforced the rules - bring your books back on time or pay the fine.  Don't bring them back in a timely fashion?  I would call you out of class to give you a warning.  Noisy?  I would calmly tell you to be quiet - or go to the cafeteria.  And yes, I told my brother and his friends to abide by the no talking rule or leave.  ;)  I was that kind of big sister!

All during this time as dad experienced declining health, mom insisted on ignoring the elephant in the room, refusing to discuss dad's nearing end, my teen aged brother living in the toxicity of terminal illness, unacknowledged, I found myself dealing with the stress in my own way.  I read.  And I knitted.

The job at the school had it's own bundle of stress.  It was only 10 months out of the year, paid very poorly, and I had no income for the two months school was out.  I started working for a temp agency, which was it's own kind of hell.

Lots more lessons about how people behave under stress - or just generally.  Some people were kind, but some were not.  When stressed even the kind ones could lose their cool.

And by this time I was extremely stressed.

I was working office jobs that left me feeling unfulfilled.  And poor.  I went back to the telephone company, this time in an office.  I was the only female in a male environment.  I was also a feminist and found dealing with misogyny more and more difficult.

As my father made his way through one health crisis after another, he became more and more unhappy.  He was dealing with all sorts of issues related to the disease and my mother continued to not talk about end of life issues.  My brother ducked his head and just tried to get through.

We were also fighting the good fight to keep my brother in school.  He kept insisting he would quit school and get a job with the railway - they would hire with a grade 10 education.  The entire rest of the family was united.  My brother would, under no circumstances whatsoever, quit school - he would have to graduate grade 12.  And he'd better just get on with that.  As dad became more ill, Don stopped complaining and did just that - got on with it.  But I knew he wasn't happy.  He did, during this time, finally discover the escape that reading provided.

At the telephone office I became more and more unhappy.  It, like the rest of the jobs before it, became boring.  I wasn't learning anything - I knew the job, I could do it, but...

Doug was travelling a lot during this time and one night the rabid thought squirrels hosting a rave in my brain box I faced the fact that life was pretty awful right then.  Instead of simply feeling sorry for myself, as I had been doing, I finally asked myself the critical question.  If not this, then...what?

If I didn't want to do what I was doing for the rest of my life, why not?  What did all of the jobs I'd done have in common?  They were boring.  They had way too many people interactions.

OK.  Well, that's a start.

So, then, what are they missing?  Stimulation.  What kind of stimulation?  Because the nasty interactions with people were not what I wanted, obviously.  Finally the answer slowly dawned on me.  Creativity.  None of the jobs I'd had were, in any way at all, creative.  I was happiest when I was making stuff.

My ex-boss at the library had told me about a class at the local college where people could learn how to dye with natural dyes and how to spin.  The spinning didn't appeal to me, but the dyeing did.  I had, in fact, been looking for someone to teach me batik but hadn't been able to find a teacher.

I enrolled in the Monday evening class.  Where I was told I had to learn how to spin so that I would have yarn to dye.  Sigh.

After enrolling in the class I'd applied for and gotten a job at a custom drapery house.  I have told this story elsewhere. 

But I found that I was attracted to the fibre, the yarn we made from it and then, in the new semester, the small loom techniques - inkle weaving, back strap weaving, and so on.

When I made the decision to become a weaver, I really had no clue.  I could see potential.  I could see possibility.  I wanted a job where I could set my own priorities and schedule.  Make my own decisions about the direction I would take my life.

Little did I know what the reality of that decision would actually consist of...

And perhaps this post is long enough and I should save the rest for part II...