Saturday, July 20, 2019

Clue by Four

I'm not stupid, but I can be incredibly stubborn and therefore slow to change course when I set my mind to a goal.  There have been several times during my life when The Universe (or whatever) has had to resort to a handy 'clue by four' to make me see reason and change what I'm doing into something more...appropriate.

This week has finally seen some signs of gradual improvement in several areas.

I've been sleeping better, had more energy, even dropped a couple of pounds (yay!).  But mostly there has been a reduction in the amount of pain/discomfort in my hands.  Still not all the way there, but a definite improvement.

People keep asking me what comes next.  I still have no answers.  I need to finish dealing with closing down my old life before I can really begin to think about my 'new' one.  Or at least my new direction in this life.

At the very least I get to continue my life for a while longer.  I think about my brother almost daily right now because the fact that I am able to make such a huge change in my life is - in large part - due to him.

I didn't realize how much of a supporter of me doing this crazy thing called being a professional weaver he was until he died.

He retired 'early' from a job that he had dreamt of doing for his childhood, and did, for 27 years.  But he was still a young man when he saw the writing on the wall and let management know that he'd be open to a 'golden parachute'.  They offered him a deal he could not refuse and he retired in his mid-40s.

Like me he didn't squander his money.  We'd been raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression and every penny was squeezed hard before it was spent.  We wanted for little as adults.  He loved to travel and loved taking trips, sometimes with friends, sometimes by himself.  He especially loved Australia and went several times.

He encouraged me to write my first book and let me take over his basement for literally years in order to assemble it.  1000 copies, 20 projects (originally) before and after samples needing to be first stapled to the pages, then all the text and sample pages assembled and put into the three ring binders.  Doug did the bulk of the stapling - 40,000 samples.

From 2002 until his death in 2008 Don held his annual holiday party but told his friends they couldn't play pool or go downstairs to the rec room because his sister was still working on her book.

Several of his friends told me at the reception after his funeral service how proud he was of me.

My biggest regret was losing track of the diary that he wrote during the construction of the electric train line to Tumbler Ridge.  We were going to one day get it published.  I still feel guilty about how that diary got 'lost'.

Which was in many ways one reason for my dedicating the second book to him and launching on his birthday.  I wanted to go 'live' soon enough before Christmas that people might use their Christmas money (or request it as a gift) and Dec. 2 seemed like the perfect day. 

The AVL is a pile of sticks and bolts and the first 'shipment' will be made next week.  The wood will go to woodworkers and several boxes plus the small sectional beam will go to a friend to update her loom.  Another box will be delivered in September.  The rest I'm waiting to hear if the people who inquired will actually take what they were interested in.  Adjustments have to be made and they may decide it's too much trouble.

In the meantime I am working - slowly but steadily - on making more inventory for the upcoming craft fairs.  Today I finished the next warp and cut/serged the mats apart.  I'm about to rough sley the next warp. 

I slept in this morning and got a late start so I'm not going to get the loom dressed.  But I can at least get the warp beamed.  Since I'm feeling better than even a couple of weeks ago, I don't run out of energy as quickly.

Slowly but surely I am crossing the jobs that must be done off the list.  Several new things have presented themselves, tantalizingly inviting me to consider them (pick me, pick me!) for once I'm fully 'retired' (in other words, the business is shut down, come January.)

I still have card stock if I should wish to do another short print run of something educational with samples.  I am keeping the electric stapler, just in case.

I began mulling over another 'major' writing project which may, or may not, get written.  And if so, what form will it take?  Does anyone even want to read such a thing, written by me?

Convergence is happening in Knoxville, TN next year.  I have friends in TN it would be nice to go hang out with.  ANWG is in Salem, OR in 2021.  A two day drive, but still.  Lots of friends in the Pacific northwest, too.

I'm quite sure my brother would approve of my using some of the money he left me to travel...

Friday, July 19, 2019

Endings...and Beginnings

And so, it has come to this.  The loom is taken apart, leaving this pile of 'rubble' on the floor.  These bits and pieces are the air assist.  When I upgraded to air assist, I also upgraded from two box to four box fly shuttle capacity.  The beater became rather heavy and changing the boxes became physically demanding, so I challenged Doug to design air assisted 'elevators' for the boxes.

My loom had an underslung beater with pickers to launch the shuttles from side to side.  The pistons mounted easily on the loom to the bottom of the picker.  The 'elevator' apparatus took a lot more thinking, in no small part because people kept telling Doug it wouldn't work.  In the end, he found a way to make it work.

The air assist was the last upgrade we did to the loom (other than a new computer to run the dobby) and it is the last thing on the floor to be dealt with. 

The rest of the 'bits' have been piled up with the names of the people who expressed an interest.  One person will have her pile delivered next week.  One - hopefully - will get hers in September.  The others are still thinking if the things will work for them.

There are other things that will go up for sale when I'm home in September.  I just have zero time to deal with it now.  In fact I may not have time until the end of November when I've finished the last (the very last) craft fair I will do as a professional weaver.

At that time there will also be booth stuff that may be offered for sale, too, although that is more difficult to ship.  But maybe someone 'local' will be interested. 

Weaving, as is Life, is full of endings and beginnings. 

Threads end.  Warps end.  The point is to understand that nothing is 'forever'.  Things change.  Metamorphose.  New opportunities arise.  Beginnings offer themselves.  Until they, too, end.

People ask me if I'm sad about the loom.  No, I'm not.  Not really.  It served me well for almost 4 decades.  It arrived here in 1982, took me about a year to get comfortable with it, then in mid 1980s I started weaving for a fashion designer and continued weaving for her, sometimes with the help of a studio assistant I hired, until 2002.  Many, many miles (yes, actual miles) of cloth off these beams.

So, I will admit to a bit of nostalgia, but I am also happy to know that another loom will be arriving to sit in this space.  The new loom will be smaller, quieter, require less physical exertion to weave on.  It will allow me to continue to weave for a while longer.

How long?  Don't know.  As long as I can, is about all I can say.  The useful life of this loom - for me - has come to an end but some of it's bits and pieces will live on in other people's looms.  While it ends it's service to me, part of it will serve other people and their needs.

Endings.  Beginnings. 

It's all good.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Voting for Hope

Change is never easy, especially when that change is something that comes from outside of yourself, so to speak.

I found myself musing to a friend on what is to come in my life.  As best I can tell, of course, because the future isn't here yet.

We are half way through July of this year, and I am about 7 months away from a massive change in my life - shutting down my business.

It was not a change I was prepared to make but outside 'forces' have managed to convince me that it is time.  Beyond time, really.  I just wasn't emotionally prepared for it.

Shutting down a business is not a small task.  There are things that have to happen.  Contracts to fulfill.  Obligations to others to honour.

When it comes to the business - so much in the way of details.  Things that have to happen to make it official.  Every one of which is done reluctantly.  Because emotionally I was not, am not, ready to do it.

However I am working on acceptance.  I am 'here', now.  This is what I can - or cannot - do.  Things may change.  I might change my mind as to what I can manage.  Or cannot.

Next year is a big 0 type birthday coming up.  I had hoped to teach until I was 75 - and I still hope to be able to do that for Olds.  But every year is a new assessment of where I am, what I can - and cannot - do.

As the AVL comes apart I repeatedly ask myself why I am buying a new loom.  Especially a rather expensive one.  As I set my thoughts down to share with my friend I shared the fact that buying the loom is a vote for the future, a vote for hope.  I  made the decision to buy the loom before I decided to shut down the business and I did think about cancelling the order.  Except that I am not 'done' weaving.  Yet.  I still have ideas I want to bring into material form (pun alert - well intended).  I can still educate through the written word and one of the ways to do that is to explore further.  Follow rabbit holes I had to turn away from before I'd rummaged in them completely. 

I still love weaving - all of it, from planning the cloth, dressing the loom, throwing the shuttle, watching the web transform during wet finishing.

No, I won't have the big industrial steam press after this year, but I do still have the small flat bed press that we used for easily 20 years before acquiring the big press.

Not doing craft fairs anymore means that I won't need to weave to the production levels needed to stock a booth, but that doesn't mean that I won't want to make useful things, either for gifts, or donations.  I can still sell through the guild booth or on consignment, which will hopefully bring in a little money to pay for materials, if needed.  Or trips to conferences, should I desire to go to one.  Or take a workshop!  Yes, I still learn!  I still get inspired by others and the paths they are following. 

It was brilliant to be able to take a workshop with Bonnie Inouye a few years back.  I came home all inspired and then couldn't do anything with that dip into the material she presented because Life Happened.

I have the booklet she handed out as part of her workshop and I still would love to investigate those techniques further.  With the Megado, I can do that.  With the four shaft Fanny?  Not so much.

As I deal with muscle pain and the prospect of potentially more to come with the next cancer drug, the Megado will allow me to keep weaving because it doesn't require so much physical effort. 

The thing I am dealing with right now, mostly, is how long it is taking me to 'bounce back' from the latest round of physical challenges.  Previously I have been able to slowly but surely regain nearly all I had lost - through the adverse drug effects, the broken ankle, the chemo, the bypass surgery.  But this time?  It's been almost six months since I stopped taking the cancer drug, and I'm still dealing with muscle pain.  Granted it is about half of what it was when I stopped taking the drug, but it just keeps on and on.  Knowing that it could begin all over again with the next drug?  Dismaying, to say the least.

So even though the decision to shut the business wasn't what I was emotionally ready to do?  I look ahead, not knowing what will happen in 7 months, just knowing that it is the right decision.  It is the correct decision. 

And buying the loom is my straw of  hope that I will persist.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Coming Down

Doug made a good start on taking the loom apart while I was gone but needed help with some of the 'bigger' pieces - the sectional beams for instance.

We talked about what needed to be done yet, then last night I helped him lift beams out and take things apart.

We went through the lists of pieces people want, got the parts for my friend ready to deliver next week, boxed up what another person wants, which will hopefully get delivered in September, or mailed if I don't go to TN/NC then.

There are three others who I need to email and check in with and will do that today.

I have also spent time rummaging in the store room and nooks and corners in the studio, finding more pirns, more shuttles, more bits and pieces that I'd completely forgotten about. 

Part of the challenge with this loom is that it is so old and some parts are quite worn.  Others we replaced at various times so people are getting the 'best' parts as we send them off to new homes. 

The fact that it bothers me so little is indicative of the fact that I am ready to let it go.  Of course I am replacing it, so that helps! 

I started weaving place mats and the first warp will come off the loom today, to be cut/serged apart, then the next warp dressed.  I'm hoping to get that warp off the loom before we leave on Monday, which I should be able to do.  But I doubt Doug will have time to do any pressing so the wet finishing heap will have to be done once we are at home.

There are a few things I need to deal with today - order yarn for the level one class in August, book my tickets, my housing, and work on packing.  I don't leave until the 10th of August, though, so I'm focused on the trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island next week.  Fingers crossed the surgeon will consider me a good candidate for the new surgery to fix my toe, which I'm hoping will reduce pain.

Since the cancer drug, my muscle/joint pain has not gone away - and it may never go away.  The bad news is the new cancer drug, which I hope I won't have to begin taking for a while, also has muscle/joint pain as an adverse effect.  If I start taking it while I'm having this much muscle pain, it doesn't bode well for the future.

OTOH, I may never have that adverse effect with the new drug - not everyone gets all of the adverse effects, after all.  But at least reducing some pain in my foot will help.  And the Megado takes so little physical effort to treadle, that can't but help, too.

Even though my hands and feet ache, it does feel really good to be weaving again.  And seeing inventory begin to grow. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Today I thought of a good way to explain how I feel about 'acceptance'.

It's like driving conditions.

When you live in a place where you have cold weather, snow, learn to accept that some days the road conditions are going to require extra care while driving.

Accepting that there will be snow and ice is not giving up.  It is clearly seeing the driving conditions for what they are:  not summer driving but winter driving.

It is accepting that care will need to be taken braking at intersections and accelerating from a stop.  I can't tell you how many times I see people in front of me who do not get this simple but necessary fact.  If there is ice (and there usually is), it will take longer to stop and forward progress is more reliably made by gently pressing on the accelerator rather than trying to apply more gas, which means you go precisely nowhere - except maybe sideways - because there is no traction, therefore no forward motion.

So when it comes to dealing with the reality of my health, accepting that some days I will have more energy than others, that I need to pace myself and only take on the things I can do at my own pace on my own schedule?  That is acceptance.  Because I refuse to give up entirely.  I may give up for an hour or a day.  Maybe even longer.  But I do try to accomplish something that brings me closer to my goals every day, even when energy is at a premium.

Acceptance is understanding what is, not what I wish it were.  Acceptance means saying 'no' at times, so that I can say 'yes' later.  Acceptance is taking the medication until my quality of life isn't allowing me to do even the bare minimum, and then trying something else.  (Right now it's taking nothing while the cancer appears to be 'sleeping'.)

Acceptance is not a 'bad' word.  It is a word that says I am learning how to cope with what my reality currently is, knowing that things can change - just like driving conditions.  That doesn't always mean I'm happy about it, or that I don't have regrets, but that I'm working on it.  It's a process...

Monday, July 15, 2019


A friend has said she would like the smaller sectional beam from my loom and it just so happens that we can deliver it later this month so the pieces she wants are being readied for transport.

I haven't used the beam for a rather long time and instead of stripping the old warp off of it, I left it.  Over the years (yes, it has been literally years) the tag ends of the last warp vibrated and jiggled and...tangled. 

If I had dealt with it in a timely fashion it would not have presented the mess I had to face today.  But procrastination ruled and here I am.

It wasn't that I didn't know it was there.  It was just that other things seemed more important, more pressing, than cleaning up this mess.  So it just got worse and worse.  In the end, being able to take it off the loom and deal with it in the work table made the whole job a lot easier than trying to pull it off while on the loom.

Which is kind of the story of my life.  I abandon things that have no 'pressing' deadline and deal with those that do.  So a mess like this just sits, waiting until I must deal with it.

Over the weekend I poked around in the studio and found a few more things that I could get rid of.  Things related to the AVL that won't be useful on the Megado or the Fanny.  Anything to do with the fly shuttle for instance.

There is one person who has expressed an interest in the pirn winder but it will mean modifying her loom (probably) to accept the slightly larger fly shuttles.

If she doesn't feel she can successfully do that, the whole works will get disposed of.  I *might* offer the shuttles (12) and the pirns (+/-1000) which can be wound on any double ended bobbin/pirn winder, but the Whitin winder itself will go to the scrap and salvage place along with the steam press.

Since I have to hire a truck for the press, it can as easily take the winder.

Doug is carefully setting the parts/pieces that people have inquired about aside and I'm hoping that as people commit to taking them he can box them up and clear my work table off.

I desperately need to get back to weaving.  There is a mat warp ready to go on the Fanny, but that end of the studio is covered with bins.  I went through them this morning and pulled out what I absolutely need for the next class and can load them up to be delivered to the annex.  Going to keep using it while we still have it.

While I wait for word from the next class organizer and the college re: travel arrangements, my mind is pulled in two directions.  Three if you count the trip in a week. 

I suppose what I am mostly dealing with is stress 'fatigue'.  There has been too much for too long.  OTOH, I'd like to exit gracefully and not appear at the craft fairs with so little inventory there isn't any hope at all of paying for the expense of doing the shows.  I may yet cancel the show in Calgary, although there are people I would like to see one last time and farewells I'd like to make in person.  Because the craft fair circuit is a community in much the same way as the fibre community. 

This  morning I worked carefully (didn't want to cut the sectional leader strings) and methodically, stripping the old warp from a few sections at a time, carefully cutting the warp away and tidily tying the strings to the beam for my friend to use - or not - as she felt appropriate.

As I dealt with the tangles I thought about how the rest of my life is going to be about dealing with the left over tangles of my life.  Using up stash.  Setting aside old priorities.  Finding new reasons to get up in the morning.  New threads to follow.  Different rabbit holes to fall into.

A few tantalizing opportunities have been peeking at me but until I'm done putting my old life away, cleaning up the messes I have not been dealing with leaving them for later?  Later is now.

None of us knows how long we have in this life.  None of us know how long we can stay healthy enough to do the things we want to do.  Uncertainty surrounds us and control?  Control is well beyond most of what we call 'life'.  Mostly we react to things.

I hope that I can react in a way that will be helpful and supportive to others around me.  And not beat myself up because I can no longer do what I am used to being able to do.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.  Time to stop fooling myself and accept what I can and cannot do.  Make the most of what time I have left.

And clean up my own messes...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Just the Facts

I've been around for a while.  Joined the internet in 1994 when Usenet was the place to go to find other like minded people.  The textile group then moved to, then Yahoo.  Now it seems most chat groups are proliferating on Facebook.

In the 'old' days, people interested in weaving mostly learned from books if they didn't have a local guild or yarn shop that ran classes.

Books were factual.  Information was presented in a straight forward way, generally by very experienced authors.

Lately it seems as though one person's inexperienced opinion is given as much validation as someone who is much more knowledgeable.  The internet is filled with people who earnestly want to know, people who only want to dabble and everything in between.

How is a person who really wants to understand cloth construction to learn the principles?

Not everyone can learn from books.  I find this over and over again in teaching the Olds program.  There will be at least one person who either can't read due to dyslexia or other processing issue.  It's one reason I have jumped into teaching this program so completely.  Students come, get 5 days worth of in depth spoken, demonstrated, personal feed back experience as well as the written word.

As part of the class I have prepared my own personal handouts to amplify the course materials.  One sheet of paper is a full page long, single spaced reply I made to a thread on a social media site.  One of the students who had difficulty processing written information was able to absorb my written word, which made me feel like I had done a decent job of describing what is a physical activity - getting good selvedges.  There is no 'silver bullet' to getting selvedges because first you have to understand WHY selvedges are 'bad' in order to take appropriate remedial action.

There are many ways to approach weaving.  It can be a therapeutic approach with little emphasis on 'correct' process or results.  It can be a release from the tensions of living in our current state of uncertainty and divisiveness.  It can be the making of gifts for family or friends or donations to fund raisers.  It can be an intellectual study of the intricacies of how threads come together to make cloth.  It can be an examination of the principles and conveying those to others through teaching, either in person or through the written word.

The thing is, there ARE principles that underlie the craft of weaving.  I refer to them often enough that most of my regular readers or in person students will have learned them.  My hope is that those principles then get applied and shared.  Rippling out into the community.

There is no reason that weaving need have tangled messes (unless we make some kind of 'error' in judgement.)  For all those people on the internet that moan about hating beaming or threading?  Look at your process.  Perhaps there is a way that will cause fewer issues.

There are facts and there are opinions.  If people want facts, there are resources.  Judith Mackenze has written a number of books as have others.  Try to find A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers.  This is a textbook, now in it's 3rd edition.  Look for the 1st edition, which is still routinely available for around $5 on re-sale sites.

Can't find that one?  Look for 'textile science' or 'fibre science'.  There are lots of books available.  You only need to know that you need to look for them.

New to the weaving community?  Look for the voices of the more experienced weavers.  Take some time to identify who they are and pay attention to what they say.  We don't always agree on details, but we do agree that there ARE principles that need to be paid attention to.

Still not sure who to pay attention to?  Check out Interweave Press for the names of people who have had books and DVDs done.  There is a whole array of people.  Again, there isn't complete consensus, but principles shine through.

As human beings we learn most effectively from our mistakes.  Don't let something not turning out turn you off weaving.  Every experience brings a student closer to success.  Find a supportive group who will encourage, but also educate, even if it is just sharing their own mistakes/learning lessons.

People who are very experienced didn't get that way by never making a mistake.  One of the things that makes me an effective teacher (according to the students at Olds last week) is that I have made nearly every mistake it is possible to make.  But I didn't stop there, I kept going to find out how to recognize it, how to fix it, and when to cut my losses and start over.  Students say I present the material in a way they can learn from.  One comment was that "If I don't understand when you say it the first time, repeating it exactly the 2nd and 3rd time will not help me understand.  You say things in different ways."

But the student has to be willing to listen when the voice of experience speaks and consider that perhaps they need to do some of the heavy lifting in terms of their learning.

Again, this is why I support the Olds program - I get to convey principles and help the students gain understanding by encouraging the application of analytical thought processes.

This is what I did, this is my result - which is not what I wanted - what do I need to change to get closer to my intention.

So I took the title of Judith's book and applied it to weaving.  Because intent matters.  And in order to get to where we want to go, we need facts, not opinions.

Just the facts, ma'am.  Just the facts.  When I stand on a solid foundation of facts, I can spring board off of them into my own personal creative journey.

When you don't know what you don't know, you don't know that you don't know it.  

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Life is a Highway*

Yesterday a 12 hour trip stretched into 13 - and that it wasn't longer was because I didn't stop to eat dinner, just picked at some tortilla chips and drank ginger ale - or it would have been 14.

Not that I'm any stranger to 14 hour road trips.  It's just that I'm that much older - and tired-er.  I would have stopped somewhere except I was heading for home, my own bed - and no 'extra' medication with me.  I'd only packed enough for the week.

I cranked my music, sang when I felt like it (croaked would be more accurate) and allowed my mind to muse.

Everything was going fairly well until I headed west out of Hinton.  There was a massive line up of stopped vehicles with nothing on coming.  Yes, our fifth season is well under way.

Almost winter, winter, still winter, spring, road construction.

I nearly turned back to Hinton - except - home was 5 hours away (hopefully) and no medication with me.

*Tom Cochrane's Life is a Highway came to mind.  I didn't have that CD with me, but there are other song writers with other songs that use the same metaphor and I get it, I really do.  Especially at this time of my life.  I've had plenty of rough road, detours, road construction - it all makes perfect sense to think of life as a journey.

The weather yesterday was pretty much perfect for a long road trip.  Through Alberta it was plenty of blue sky, not hot, traffic was steady but not too much in the way of craziness.  When we hit the mountains, the clouds coming from the west had stacked up against the mountains so the blue sky was mostly obliterated, but the textures, the value scale of the greys, the beams of sunlight piercing through made for a delight to the eye.

In the photo above you can see the clouds stacked up against the Rockies, just visible in the distance.

I was reminded that when we decide to make changes in our lives, it has to get 'worse' before it can get 'better'.

Heading home to a packed schedule, I had been dreading the next few months.  As I wound my way through the Rocky Mountains (always the same, ever changing) I was able to think about the coming days and weeks.  Relish the week I'd just had, think about the 12 students I had the privilege of interacting with - their gentle good spirits, their willingness to help others, their excitement as they grasped principles, their delight as things began to make sense and their eagerness to go home and weave the samples, understanding that samples are practice so that we can become better at this craft that we love so.

While at Olds I got the news that level two at Yadkin didn't meet minimum requirements but there are now 10 in level one.

The next opportunity for level two master weaving would be in BC on the Sunshine Coast - sometime in April, I've been told.  I'm not sure what is being planned for Cape Breton, if Dianne will try level two again next year (I assume so as she is working hard to develop the program at the Gaelic College), then Fibre Week at Olds.  This year Fibre Week coincided with the Calgary Stampede, which made things difficult for some of the fibre producers, so I heard they were going to look at their timing.

I reaffirmed my desire to continue teaching the program, so I hope that I will be able to do so - not just from the college standpoint, but from my own health.

But life IS a highway.  It has ups and downs, twists and turns, it has pot holes, subsidence and road construction.

But it also has blue skies, fantastic cloud formations, beautiful landscape, loving people to meet and get to know.

And I get a new loom next month.  What's not to love?

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Birthday Special.

I came back from lunch to find a birthday surprise on my desk and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

Watermelon is one of my favourite fruits and the lovely card from everyone was so unexpected.  The flowers brighten the 'desk' for everyone's enjoyment.

Totally surprised.  Completely appreciated.  Thanks to all - my students here and all the well wishes on Facebook.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Day Three

Setting up for the lecture on colour and value in the morning.

Some good progress has been made and weaving is beginning to come off the looms.  Students are exploring the relationship between density and the kind of quality of cloth that results.  Problems are being dealt with as they come up and some tips and tricks being shared.

As usual I'm focusing on ergonomics and efficiency, encouraging students to think analytically, ask the why question a lot, think through processes to decide if something is necessary...or not.

There is some angst, some amazement, some courage.  There appears to be a lot of learning going on and that is what this is all about.

There is still a lot of feeling overwhelmed, but I think that is beginning to ease as weaving commences.

All in all, a good first two days.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Of Omelettes

And so it has begun.

You can't make an omelette without breaking the eggs. 

Yesterday I started stripping the loom of it's heddles.  I had thought to sell them, but it turns out they appear to be a tiny bit longer than the usual length.  Mine, even the new ones, never been on a loom, measure 320 mm while the TexSolv website says 318 mm is their standard.  I don't know if that 2 mm would make much difference so long as all the heddles on one shaft were the same length, but I don't know if anyone wants to chance buying them.  I just hate to see +4000 heddles go into the landfill.  OTOH, there are plenty to outfit an entire 60" weaving width loom.

I did have one person express an interest, but she hasn't gotten back to me about them, so it will just have to wait until I'm home from Olds.  Plus she may not want all 4000 anyway. 

While I have felt a small pang beginning this disassembly, what I regret most is the decisions I wasn't quite ready to take, that have been pretty much forced upon me.

I was ready to let go of the AVL and replace it with the Megado.  I wasn't ready to shut down my business.  I find that is what I am feeling the most - regret for the things that will not now be.

OTOH, the universe - or whatever - has been shoving me in that direction for several years.  Me, being as stubborn as I am, was refusing to go there.

I am not stupid, but I can be very very slow to change direction.

But it is time.  Beyond time.  I commented to my accountant yesterday that I know people who have been happily retired since age 55.  I'm turning 69 in less than a week. 

So many times during my life I have had my choices derailed.  At times it was health issues - my own or family members.  Death in various ways, including death of dreams.  Life roads that suddenly end because that bridge really was on fire and there was no going that direction no matter how much I desired what was on the other side. 

Acceptance is not giving up but a clear eyed understanding that sometimes?  Sometimes you are not meant to be doing that thing, going that direction.  Acceptance is understanding where you are right now so that different choices can be made.  Acceptance lets go of anger at being stymied and acknowledging what can be achieved instead.  If I can't do that, what can I do?  Oh, this!  This looks nice...

Inevitably the new direction became fulfilling and satisfying in a way that was completely unexpected.  The growth and learning always made me a more well rounded person.  Hopefully a 'better' person - more understanding, more compassionate.

Still working on the 'patience' lesson...

Several people have contacted me about parts.  One very eloquently commented that she would be honoured to have parts of my loom become a part of hers.  I thought of DNA, of organ donors.  I am happy to see parts of this loom go on to serve well in another loom, another context, another life.

I leave tomorrow for Olds.  Doug will try to keep disassembling the loom while I'm away, although he's in the midst of doing some Mr. Fix-it jobs for several people, so I'm not sure how much he'll be able to do here.  But it needs to be torn apart so that the Compu-Dobby (and parts), the small sectional beam with brake assembly and the high pick auto-cloth advance can be delivered at the end of the month.  Someone attending Fibre Week at Olds asked about lags and she will get what I have left of those.

Another person has agreed to buy the old style auto-cloth advance.  I have a second set of pick wheels from 20->30 picks if anyone is interested.  They have wear but they are the ones I've been using and they work just fine. 

Someone else has inquired after the manual dobby and other parts - I may not hear back from her until I get home.

As for the loom frame?  We have a woodturner in mind but if he doesn't want the wood, there is a woodturner's guild here in town. 

At this point in time I have no idea what 2020 will bring.  Right now I'm just trying to get through this year and January, shutting the business end of my weaving practice down.  It feels like my new life is on hold until I can clear out the clutter of my old.

Until I can make that new 'omelette'.  In the meantime, eggs will be 'broken'...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

A Big Mess

A big mess.  That is what my life feels like right now. 

Major life changes always lead to big messes.  It seems a person really can't re-direct their life purpose, change careers, retire, whatever, without causing disruption and a gigantic ball of oh, what a mess!

The past three months I have been pretty much 'forced' into making some defining decisions.  Yesterday I made another.

By the end of this year I will move out of the annex.  The steam press and pirn winder will go to the scrap heap.  Everything stored up there will somehow have to be crammed into the studio here.

The ripples from those decisions morphed into getting rid of the AVL (being sold for parts, not as a loom), and buying a new loom.

My efforts for the past three years to enter 'semi' retirement have not worked, and one final straw dropped onto this camel's back and yesterday I told my accountant that I trusted her to sort out the issues with my account with GST and that as of Dec. 31 I would be shutting my business down.  I would see her in January to make sure that all my business dealing with the federal and provincial governments are terminated properly.

And hope that GST will not decide to 'assess' me further.

I found myself just completely and utterly done.

Shutting down the business at the end of the year will add another  layer to the mess that my life will be turned into as I will have to close my business account at the bank, probably my business credit card, deal with re-directing direct deposits for things that go into my business account.  Changing my contact phone number to my personal phone number (or change my business number to my private one and then Doug will have to change all of HIS contact numbers - so I guess it will be me that goes through the mess because it is my decision to close the business.)

The economic impact of doing this will also reverberate down our life as I will no longer have that income. 

It is just going to be a huge mess that is now going to continue on well into the new year.

But once again I have been reminded that none of us gets out of here alive and that if we don't deal with our own messes, they will be left for others.  Since I don't have kids to do it for me, I am going to have to deal with it my own self.

On the other hand, the benefits of embracing retirement are legion!  I have been finding lazing around in my jammies until um, late, not having to mad scramble to get stuff done, quite attractive.  Indeed, comfortable.

While I contemplate cleaning up my own, personal, mess, I think about the mess that human beings are making on a global level.

If we are not willing to clean up our own act, how can we expect anyone else to do it for us?

Personally I started 'composting' back in the early 1980s when Canadian Tire offered backyard digesters.  The amount of garbage set out at the curb reduced by 1/3rd.  Several years later when REAPS began recycling initiatives, we saved our newspapers, then all paper goods, and took that to recycling depots.   The amount of garbage we set out at the curb reduced by 1/2.

A few years ago the province initiated province wide recycling programs.  We now go two weeks between garbage/recycling pickup, while garbage alone is picked up weekly.  Frequently we don't have enough to bother setting at the curb for the garbage only pickup. 

I refuse plastic bags when I don't need them, try to remember cloth bags when I need one or two of those.  I try to remember to refuse a straw.

But plastic is everywhere.  It's really hard to live without plastic entirely, so I've been watching with interest the alternatives to petroleum based plastics being developed.   Coffee cups made from compressed coffee grounds being just one.

On a local level?  I just now checked my town's website to find out what is happening regarding sewage.  I switched to non-phosphate detergents back in 1969 after seeing the suds in the St. Lawrence River.  But my town only has primary waste water treatment so I was interested to find out what their plans were.  Seems they have been working towards a better approach and are looking at where a fuller treatment plant could be built and will soon be bringing a proposal to the electorate.

It is time that we human beings stop thinking about sewage once we flush it away.

On a global level, we can look at other initiatives.  There are several groups trying to clean the plastic out of the ocean.  While one of them might make little difference, many hands make light work.  Choose one and support their efforts.

Stop buying so much cheap clothing.  When you buy something wear it out.  Choose clothing made from natural fibres (as much as is possible - seems everything has polyester in it!)

Support local farmers as much as possible.  Climate change is already impacting crops and food is going to get more and more expensive. 

If you own shares in large corporations, ask the board what it is doing to reduce their carbon footprint. 

There are so many things that we, as individuals, can do to take small steps towards progress.  If anyone thinks that they can't make a change, I urge them to remember - Many Hands Make Light Work.  We can do this. We must clean up our mess.  We all need to do a little bit so that all those little bits add up to change.

Many Hands Make Light Work.

Monday, July 1, 2019


There is pretty much always some sort of upheaval in terms of life.  It seems that whatever the current upheaval is, it's all consuming.  Or, at the very least, like walking into a gigantic spider's web and trying to get it off, wondering all the while where the damned spider is that could spin a web so large.

Today is grey and gloomy and rainy.  I'm trying to not complain because rain is a darn sight better than the wildfire smoke we had last year.  At least if the lightening strikes don't start fires, the rain will keep the bush damp.

But the grey and gloomy are affecting my mood, which was already 'low' and I'm really struggling to stay on track.

Yesterday I cut the cloth off the AVL and sacrificed the balance of the warp.  It was about 5 yards - or about $8 worth of yarn.  (I buy wholesale.)  I had a bit of a pang because I really liked the colours, but frankly?  I have more.

The frustration of trying to get the loom to work reliably had been sucking out any satisfaction I normally get from weaving, and by the time I took scissors to it, I was relieved.

But today I stripped the leader/ties off the sectional beam and started thinking about what comes next.

A whole lot of upheaval.  This loom will go away and that end of the studio can be cleaned and readied for the Megado.

Doug and I took a look at the other end and figured out how to add more shelves almost right away by getting rid of a dresser that had been storing most of my silk stash.  Once that is gone, the walls can be lined with shelving to store the estate silk coming at the end of July.

Some things I can do now, some will have to wait until after the craft fair season is over and we begin moving out of the annex.

On the other hand, I found myself last night discussing plans for projects going into the future - once all the obligations for this year are over.

A friend might come in January to help with studio re-organization.  The big challenge will be fitting the stuff stored up there, back into here.  :-/

There are things that Doug will keep - the compressor for one.  No doubt some of the other tools will come in handy for him in his work space.

But today is a day for processing the emotions closest to the surface.  What feels like a monumental sea change in terms of my weaving practice.  And my teaching practice.  I'm sure that once all this studio re-arranging is done it will be fine.  But when you are in the midst of the storm, it's not always easy to be calm.  And enthusiastic.

As for the loom, the following have been spoken for:

The old style auto-cloth advance.
The higher pick old style auto-cloth advance.
The Compu-Dobby and spare parts.
The lags for the manual dobby.

Potentially for sale:

The sandpaper beam with brand new gear.  Can be cut down - it's 60" weaving width
Sandpaper beam with cheese grater cover.  Nearly new.  Ditto 60" weaving width
Plain beams for cloth storage (I would remove the beam with apron and replace with a plain beam so I could keep cutting off the cloth but carry on with another plain beam while processing the cloth built up on the other - 60" weaving width.)
The parts for the manual dobby (which we kept when the Compu-Dobby was installed.)
Leclerc sectional rakes.  Set of six cut down to fit into 60" AVL sectional beam.
Leclerc sectional rakes.  Set of four (were attached to the AVL's 'plain' beam)
TexSolv heddles.
Industrial shuttles - larger and heavier than the AVL shuttles.  Doug modified the fly boxes to fit them.
Pirns for Industrial end feed shuttles - can be filled on a double ended pirn/bobbin winder.  Will only fit into the shuttles for them. (friction fit into a clamp in the shuttle)
AVL  end feed shuttles.
AVL pirns
Some cable for shafts/treadles.  There may be other 'spare' parts as we sort through the tool/equipment boxes.

While Doug will take the compressor, there are pistons and foot switches from the air system that he may not want.

While I am listing stuff that will be for sale, I will add here:

industrial cone winder - would need to be picked up.
'baby' boiler - ran the industrial steam press -would need to be picked up.
industrial pirn winder - would need to be picked up.

The pirn winder will go to the scrap metal place along with the industrial steam press by the end of this year.

If anyone wants more information, email me laura at laurafry dot com

Conference Blog

I have just now deleted the conference blog.  People interested in the conference photos should go to the official conference website.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Rest in Peace AVL 181

I wove on an AVL at the 1981 ANWG conference and - after reading Allen Fannin's book Handloom Weaving Technology from cover to cover on the bus home - ordered this loom.

It was more mechanized than the one I'd woven on - I was told I could order an auto-cloth advance and double box fly shuttle.

When it came time to ship it, I was informed that it would not have those two features as they would be coming later.  Thus began my relationship with AVL.

I did get the loom with the double box fly shuttle finally in February of 1982 but the auto-cloth advance didn't arrive until much later - August, as I recall.

It took me a year to get fully comfortable with it.  It had the manual dobby at that point.  I waited until a year after the introduction of the Compu-Dobby before I invested in that.  Then in the late 1990s I added air assist to the treadle and fly shuttle.  And upgraded to a four box fly shuttle because my primary client routinely used 3 or 4 different wefts for stripes.

When the new fly box assembly and air assist were on the loom, I asked Doug to design an air assist to change the fly shuttle boxes.  In spite of everyone telling him it couldn't be done, he managed it.

Long story short, I could not have accomplished nearly as much as I have done if I had not had this loom, this tool, in my studio.  Doug made other tweaks to the loom to tailor it specifically to what I was doing and how I wanted it to work.  There have been - quite literally - miles* of cloth come off the beams of this loom.  It has served (for the most part) well and faithfully.  As we replaced parts when they wore out.  For the better part of 37 years this has been my primary loom and at times my only loom.


The last three years it has not been behaving well.  After multiple tweaks, money spent on replacing worn parts, more tweaks, way more 'seconds' or 'rags' than was really tenable, today I declared this loom not just retired, but deceased.  Dead.

If Doug and I cannot get this loom to run reliably?  It's worn right out.

It has worn right out just as I am fully accepting that I, too, am worn right out.

The loom is large - 60" weaving width - made even wider by the fly shuttle boxes.  It's noisy.  I've always worn hearing protection when weaving on it.  It became even noisier with the addition of the Compu-Dobby and then the air assist.  The compressor is in the next room, but still.

So I have quietly (mostly on this blog) been saying that I was going to get rid of it.  Several people have already contacted me about buying parts and they will be able to do that as soon as we get the loom disassembled and we can arrange for shipping.

There are more things that will be sold, but I don't have a lot of time to shop them around right now so that may have to wait until after the craft fair season is over.

But I have things like industrial fly shuttles and pirns, AVL fly shuttles and pirns, and heddles.  Boy Howdy, do I have heddles.  Probably over 2000 although I will have to go through and count them out in bundles of 50.  I'll get Doug to make me a  jig to do that job.

The wood will be offered to a wood turner.  If he wants it we can deliver it on our trip to Salt Spring in July.  The wood can be dropped off, then the van filled up with the silk yarn I've accepted from a weaver's estate.

Before anyone contacts me about buying this loom?  No.  It is not functioning reliably.  I will not sell a loom to someone that I cannot make work my own self.  Especially a loom that I know as well as this one, having woven on it for 37 years.

So the wood will be offered to a woodturner and the loom can be reincarnated into something else.  Something useful and beautiful.

And as for me?

I have ordered a new loom because I'm not done weaving.  Yet.  I chose a Megado because it has a smaller footprint, is quiet and much easier - less physical - to weave on.  It arrives the end of August.

I am hoping I can make friends with it quickly because I am extremely low on inventory.  Too much fighting with a loom that wasn't working properly, creating seconds I cannot sell.  Even so I don't know how much I can get done given my travel schedule.  However, after today I can switch to the small loom and start pumping place mats and rayon chenille scarves out.  Hopefully.

My hand is still going numb when I hold my arm in certain positions.  Today I concentrated on figuring out how to lessen that and have some ideas to take to the Leclerc and see if I can put them into practice.  Proprioception.  It's a thing.  Apparently I have it.

*During my most productive years I was routinely pulling 240 or so yards off of this loom every month.  For the best part of 9 years.  I wove the samples for Magic in the Water mostly on this loom.  With the standard fly shuttle (single), prior to adding the air assist I was weaving approximately 90 picks per minute as my standard weaving rhythm.  I was averaging approximately 1 million picks per year.  I stopped telling people any of this because I was so frequently met with disbelief.  I can no longer do this, nor do I want to.  Which pretty much tells me I am ready to ease into the next phase of my life, whatever this is going to look like.  Rest in Peace AVL 181.  You have earned it.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Weaving Interlude

Bad photo of what I've got on the loom.

Made even worse because one bobbin had a dye lot 'issue', so right in the middle of the towel is a band of lighter colour.  Guess I'll be keeping that one for myself.

Since the conference I've been dealing with a body that seems determined to make life less than comfortable and I didn't want to stress it further by weaving.  Instead I focused on wrapping up the conference - as much as I could to this point - and dealt with class prep for the level one class in Olds coming up very quickly.

There were other irons in the fire as well - making arrangements to get rid of the AVL (parts), dealing with getting the industrial pirn winder out of the studio (most likely on a truck to the scrap place along with the cast iron steam press), dealing with a minor surgical issue, then - as a result of a connection at the conference - an extension to the trip to Vancouver to see the surgeon - to deal with a few other things.

On Thursday I phoned my family doctor only to be told he was out of town until next week.  I felt I couldn't wait that long so I hied myself off to the walk in clinic, book in hand.  Only to discover no one in the waiting room, and I was shown into an exam room.  Then I waited for a while so I managed to get some reading done.

Long story short the doctor there was adamant that I did the right thing by coming in and not waiting and 'toughing it out'.  I have an infection, but I also now have anti-biotics.  I suspect I've been dealing with a low grade infection for some time, possibly a cause of the lack of energy I've had.

Still not feeling up to weaving, I dug into my bookkeeping and managed to wade through the mess of the last quarter.  Hopefully I've got it sorted but doing a show with items that I only collect GST on plus items that I collect both just made the job that much more difficult.  Add in the Square and their reports I could not make head nor tails of, and it took hours longer than it ought to have done.

Retirement is beginning to look more and more desirable every day.

My hand was feeling well enough that I finally fired up the AVL this afternoon and managed to weave two towels.  I am teetering on the brink of just cutting the warp off and dumping it into the recycle bin.  I've used up the turquoise weft.  OTOH, I'm pretty happy with the old copper brown on the malachite warp, so...

But the loom continues to limp along and I was relieved that I appear to have made the right decision to get rid of it.  So I will likely weave a second towel with the old copper brown for weft, but may cut the warp off after I have a pair of them.  It looks like maybe 5 or 6 yards left.  I just want to stop having this fight with my equipment.

Plus Doug is getting anxious to start disassembling it.  I've sold some things for parts already, to people who want them.  Getting it taken apart so I can clean that end of the studio up will feel like some real, actual progress on re-organizing and beginning to figure out what the rest of my life is going to look like.

But all of these things, happening now, mean that the likelihood of making any kind of significant inventory for the fall craft fairs less and less of a possibility.  If I cut my losses on the AVL, I could be weaving on the small loom and bumping up place mat inventory.  Which I am very low on.  Plus rayon chenille scarves.

I can't remember when my life felt so disrupted.  I suppose it was while I was waiting for by-pass surgery.  And that wasn't all that long ago, come to think.  Oh, really it hasn't felt organized ever if I'm truly honest.  Trying to get the book published, work on the conference, all while dealing with adverse effects to the cancer medication?  It has been disrupted for years...

But the rest of this year is going to continue to be really busy.  I'm hoping that once this infection is dealt with I'll have more energy so I can feel like I can manage what needs to be done.

The goal is to be out of the annex by the end of this year but in order to do that, I need to re-arrange and re-organize the studio here.  Getting rid of the AVL and having a loom with a smaller footprint and getting rid of the industrial pirn winder will help.  But I suspect it will be back to goat trails until I get more of my stash woven down.  Sigh.  I've gotten used to being able to actually walk through my studio, not dodge piles of boxes and bins.

And I'm bringing home a huge stash of silk from that trip in July - another weaving 'estate'.  But silk!  How could I not?  However I didn't promise to weave it all myself.  There may be some stash reduction once I've sorted through it and decided what I will actually keep and what I will try to sell on.

Never a dull moment, it seems...

Currently reading A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Yesterday I saw a graphic that noted the position of various political parties around the world on a left/right spectrum.  The graphic showed the 'median' political line, and then charted where various parties fell on that spectrum.

The Republican Party in the US and the Conservative Party in Canada are - at the moment - way off to the right side of that median line.

Beau of the Fifth Column is an American political commentator I follow on line.  He issued a challenge to left leaning people to remind those on the right of the core values of their country. 

Tonight people began accepting that challenge.  They are reading the poem that was used at the base of Lady Liberty.  They are using the hashtag #thisisvirtue

I would like to encourage people who have moved off to the right to look back at the middle.  Maybe think about what their core values are.  Maybe take a few steps back to that middle.  Maybe consider that just because someone may have more 'colour' in their skin, they are still a human being.

We have some serious global issues we need to be addressing.  As in extinction level issues.  In the past 10 years there have been more and more super storms.  Ocean levels are increasing.  Temperatures are going higher and higher.  Permafrost is thawing, glaciers melting. 

It won't matter how many billionaires there are once we can no longer grow food because bees and other pollinators have died off.  It won't matter how many gold toilets or yachts the 1% have if there is no more food to be had because floods have wiped out the fields and crops can't grow.  And if they do grow, there are no workers to pick the perishable crops.  It won't matter how many cars or boats someone owns if there is no petroleum left.

Come back to the middle.  Come back to actual Christian values instead of 'prosperity Christianity' and extremely rich 'pastors'.  Come back to the teachings of Jesus - love everyone.  Help everyone.  Raise everyone.  Respect everyone.  Feed everyone.  Keep everyone safe and healthy.  #thisisvirtue

Monday, June 24, 2019

Politics and Textiles

There has been a great deal of ruckus the past couple of days at the popular social platform Ravelry due to it's stance against white supremacy.  (8 million some users justifies the word popular, I think.)

Some people are furious that they should be 'censored' and can no longer post patterns or comments in support of Mr. Trump and white supremacist viewpoints.  They rail against the suppression of 'free' speech (without understanding what the term actually means, assuming that they get to say whatever they please without any push back.)

The comments from some of these people on the more 'liberal' groups has been rude and in some cases downright vile.  And yet we liberals are supposed to roll over and let them say such things without objection.  Because something something free speech.  On the other hand, they object to my using my free speech to tell them what they are espousing is not acceptable to me.

Another segment insists that politics and textiles should be kept entirely separate, that they knit for enjoyment not to be made uncomfortable by politics.

Thing is, textiles have been political pretty much from the beginning of human beings working with fibre.

In the very early stages of human development string or cordage was used for a variety of things, including string skirts depicted on the paleothitic goddess figurines.  Since string/cordage was very time consuming to make (still is, by hand) the fact that these skirts were made most likely had some sort of religious or political significance.

As human beings evolved, textiles continued to play increasingly political roles in culture, from the ceremonial robes worn by 'royalty' or religious leaders, to funeral uses such as mummy wrappings.

Textiles were used as trade goods as were chemicals for dyeing such as alum.  Nothing more political than trade goods between nations.  (Dorothy Dunnett wrote historical fiction and includes this in a couple of her books - the Niccolo Rising series stars 'Claes' as a dyer's apprentice in Bruges, who rises to become a wealthy merchant (Niccolo) in the 1400s, Francis of Lymond series has one book using cloth as a trade good with Russia during the 1500s.  Recently republished they are also now available as audio books.)

Textile workers were a large and important part of any work force of all the cultures.  Fibres had to be harvested, processed, spun, dyed, woven, turned into garments or for other uses.  This all meant enormous numbers of people to grow the crops, harvest them, break the fibre out of the flax or hemp or which ever crop was being used.  In colder climates, shepherds had to tend their flocks, shear the sheep, and then the fibre needed to be spun/dyed/woven.

As cultures evolved even further, restrictions were placed upon the populace about who could have access to certain textiles.  The royal purple dye, silk damasks, gold and silver threads, to list just a few.  You could tell at a glance what level of society a person was by the clothing they wore.  Look up sumptuary laws.

Again the most expensive textiles were reserved for royalty and religious/ceremonial use.

Come the 1700s and the development of the flying shuttle which immediately put half of the broad cloth weavers out of work.  Only one was needed to throw the shuttle once the fly shuttle was developed.

Luddites were sworn to destroy the latest textile equipment to preserve jobs in textile manufacture.

Saturday, June 22, 2019


playing with elastic yarns and shrinkage differential

Inspiration can come from anywhere.  It could be something someone says, or does.  It could come from nature - a walk in the park, the bark on a tree, a sunset, or -rise, clouds roiling in the sky, water falling.  It could be sparked by something someone else has done or by the materials themselves.

The conference was a confluence of all of these things.  A chance to meet and talk to other textile people in real life.  An opportunity to touch the textiles others had made (with permission, of course!)   Workshops and seminars were inspirational in terms of bringing new information and sparking the 'what if I...' question.

The vendor hall had materials to die (and dye!) for.  Jane Stafford brought her silk yarns and the colours were glorious.

Truth be told, I only ever saw my booth and Jane's.  I was wearing 77 hats and never did manage to go shopping.  Not that I need more yarn, mind you.  I have a basement full as well as more in storage.  On the other hand I have dug deeply into my own stash over the past few years and made a credible hole in it.

But I am making new/different conscious choices about my life going forward.  Somehow my 69th birthday seems...momentous.  Of course it is just a confluence of health issues and a number, but there seems to be a significance to this birthday.  One where I will spend it at Olds during Fibre Week, amongst a community of textile folk.  It seems right.

As I contemplate what the next few years will be like, I am steadily working towards reducing stress in my life by saying 'no' to more things.  No to dark o'clock flights, arriving at midnight.  No to worrying about lost luggage.  No to deadlines.  No to road trips through the Rocky Mountains in winter driving conditions.  No to doing expensive shows, not knowing if I will do anything but recoup the cost of doing said shows.  No to business expenses that drain me because I need to keep doing those long trips and shows to generate the income to hopefully cover them.

All of these things have been a constant in my life for too long and I need to get rid of those thoughts and concerns so that I can free up brain power to think about my weaving practice.

I have mulled over the concept of writing more articles but have not settled on anything.  I have mulled over the kind of things I would like to make versus the ability to actually make them.  My eyesight continues to deteriorate, plus I was told last year I have 'baby' cataracts so at some point choosing colours is going to become more of a challenge until they are 'ripe' enough to be removed.

The new Megado should reduce the physical effort of weaving while still allowing me to weave 'fancy' cloth.

Plus I will be picking up the entire silk stash of a weaver who died recently.  I have no idea what that stash consists of, but...SILK!  If the yarns are very fine I can bundle them or even spin them.  I do have a spinning wheel after all!  If they are undyed, I could even dye them, although I did get rid of all my dye stuff when I stopped dyeing yarns to sell.  However, there are dyers in the guild and a trade could be effected.  Confluences!

I have several very tight deadlines and trips coming up so I am focused on those right now.  The Olds marking from last year is done - just waiting for one more thing from one person and then I can submit their marks to the college and cross that off my list.

Yesterday I started winding skeins onto cones so I can wind the warps for the level one class coming up.  I need to check how many Harrisville brass hooks I have and order enough for the class.  Tomorrow I will go to the annex and fetch the rest of the bins of teaching samples and start a pile to be packed up to go to Olds.

In the meantime I am not pining over what I will do next year when my deadlines are complete.  I am just nose to the grindstone, plodding through the deadlines, confident that once I am through the next six months something will come to me.  Just like the silk.  Out of the blue, completely unexpected.  And will no doubt bring inspiration as I contemplate and consider what to make with it.

Inspiration comes in many ways.  Sometimes in a blaze of glory, sometimes on quiet feet, slipping into the nooks and crannies of your mind, quietly waiting until you take notice.  Sometimes you need to quiet your mind to discover it has been there all along...

Friday, June 21, 2019


I weigh more now than I ever have before in my life.  I don't feel comfortable in my own skin.  It's too tight.  I can't bend the way I could before I got this big.  I'm quite sure my feet, knees and hips would be much happier with me if I could just shed some weight.

But here's the thing.  I weighed exactly the same weight - given slight variations - for nearly 20 years.  And then I took a medication with the adverse effect of weight gain.  I gained almost 60 pounds and when I was done with that medication, I only lost 30.  So my 'normal' weight increased by 30 pounds.  I wasn't happy, but I had got 'me' back again, so accepted the new 'normal' and moved on.

Another 20 years went by and failing bodies need additional medication so I started a new drug to help deal with chronic pain, neuropathy from two partially collapsed discs, both pinching my spinal nerve.  I gained those 30 pounds 'lost' - and then a few more just for good measure.

Am I happy?  No.  Not at all.  I know I'm overweight and apart from starving myself, the weight will not shift.  If I could be more active, that might help, but my body is not co-operating with that variable, either.

According to society I am 'fat'.  According to some standards I am 'obese'.  According to the cancer clinic, I have 'resources'.  When they ask if I've lost weight since last time, they are not concerned about my being 'fat' but that one of the primary indicators of my cancer is sudden unexplained weight loss.  So not losing weight?  Is A Good Thing so far as they are concerned.

Even my cardiologist never seemed particularly worried about my weight so long as I stayed active and took the cholesterol medication (not statins, Praluent) and kept my blood cholesterol levels down low.

I eat 'healthy', which for me means fresh fruit and vegetables, plain meat.  I have followed a (very) low salt diet since a child.  I eat too much sugar, but it's not hidden in baking or processed foods.  I eat lean cuts of meat and drain the fat off.  I have fish almost every day.

I have consulted with the cardiac nurse about my lifestyle and - when she assessed the results and said that I had been doing everything right?  I asked why, then was I dealing with cardiac blockages.  She looked at me and said that you 'can't fight genetics'.

None of us gets out of here alive.  We will all, at some point, some sooner, some later, die.  That is the way life goes.  You are born, you live, you die.

I'm aware enough that I want my being here to mean something.  I want to share my love of textiles with others.  I want to encourage others in their journeys.  None of us know the extent of the potholes in someone else's life - just know that everyone has them.  I have wonderful people in my life who show me, sometimes daily, what it means to navigate those potholes with grace and a generous spirit.

I want to be like those people, not the ones who are never satisfied, never grateful - it seems - for anything.  I want to live in peace, not anger.  Anger takes too much energy and I have so little energy - I want to keep it for doing the things I love, helping the people around me as much as I am able.

As I turn 69 in a few weeks, I work towards retiring from production weaving.  I have worked hard, long hours, scrambling to make and sell my textiles for a long time.  This year marks 44 years since I made that fateful decision to quit my job and become a full time production weaver.  Turns out I also became a part time teacher of weaving - either through workshops or writing.

Travel is becoming more and more difficult for me so it is time to give up that baton and pass it on to others.  Time to stay home.  Have quiet, not chaos. 

I am not 'fat'...I am...'substantial'...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Dust is Settling

The dust from the conference is settling.  We had a wee meeting tonight and wrapped up a few things.  I have some conference errands to do tomorrow, plus my final report to start writing.

I made a mighty effort today and dug deep into the pile of homework to be marked.  One last box, with two others to send additional info.  But I should be mostly done tomorrow.  And then I start doing class prep.  I leave in exactly two weeks!

I also need to deal with my own business bookkeeping - GST, PST from the conference sales, plus submit the GST I owe, preferably before I leave.  I am on a very tight schedule from now until - well - the end of the year.  That retirement I keep talking about?  Beginning to look more and more attractive!

There are 12 registered (the max) for level one at Olds.  There are 7(?) for level one in NC.  I emailed today to try to find out about level two.  Also emailed the folk school about September.

I have a trip to Vancouver and Vancouver Island when I get home from Olds and before I leave for NC.  I need to finish the warp on the AVL, then we can dismantle it and figure out what can be sold on, clean the studio up in preparation for the Megado to arrive sometime the end of August.

In the meantime I am VERY low on inventory for the upcoming craft fairs, but have been having problems physically.  I'm hoping to feel well enough to finish that warp before I leave for Olds.

Once the AVL is moved out of the studio, I'm hoping my floor cleaning elf can come but she may have gone off to her dad's for the summer by then.  I'll have to do it myself if so.  But I can slam some place mat warps through the Leclerc while I wait for the Megado.  I started winding rayon chenille warps, but I'll begin with place mats.  Then see about the rayon chenille.  I'm very low on those - like maybe a dozen?  Too few.

Things seem to continue to be 'complicated' with on going health issues, but I'm hoping the trip to Vancouver will provide a solution for at least one of them.  My next cancer clinic appointment isn't until after the last craft fair so unless something seems totally 'off', I can ignore that for a few months, at least.

Right now I'm focused on meeting each deadline 'just in time' - because there doesn't seem to be any 'extra' time.

But at least the dust from the conference is settling...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Textile Science

Understanding your materials when you work with yarn is one of the cornerstones of being a textile artist.

I discovered this book (the first edition - it's all you really need, not the 2nd edition which is a lot more expensive) back when it first came out in the early, oh, 1980s?

The format appealed to me because the information was given in concise clear language and there were lots of diagrams/charts illustrating various points.  The fact that it was then, and may still be now, a textbook for textile science classes and that the two authors were, at the time, teaching textile science at the U of Manitoba just made it all that much more appealing!

There are other textile science books.  I even own some of them.  But time and again I return to this one.

So when people offer opinions, especially when they are incorrect, this is the book I point them at.  When I'm teaching I always give the title and authors to my students.  And I consult it regularly.

There seems to be such an emphasis on someone's experience or opinion and a de-emphasis on actual science these days, textile science is not immune.

For the Olds master weaving class especially, the whole point is to steer students towards actual, factual, information, not my opinion or someone else's opinion, but facts.

The book has great charts which allow me to compare the characteristics of one fibre to another.  My experience at spinning allows me to understand how the spinning of yarn from the fibres can be used to modify the behaviour of fibres in thread, then how to further modify them during weaving.

I have also learned as much as I can about the actual production of fibre - how animals are raised, plants are harvested and how each are prepared for spinning.

I know that sheep are not routinely killed for their fibre, but shorn.  Some animals that are killed, either for meat or because they are ill may possibly have their hides shorn to harvest their fibre, but the whole point of sheep and other animals that produce fibre is not to kill them for their fibre but to keep them as a renewable resource - producing at least one crop a year.  Shearing is not harmful and it is not traumatic when done by an experienced shearer.  Most shearers can complete the job in a matter of minutes and then the sheep are free to return to the flock.  There might be a nick at times, but I've had a hair dresser snip my ear or poke me with scissors and I was just fine afterwards, too.

There are ads for 'vegan' fibres, by which it is meant that the fibres do not come from animals.  Fair enough.  Cotton, linen, and other plant fibres can be lovely.  I admire people who have the courage of their convictions.  But by and large, and most especially small holdings of rare or 'exotic' sheep breeds are not mistreated.  Domestic sheep pretty much must be shorn because they don't shed their fibres anymore and the burden of several years of grown can actually be harmful to their health.

My opinion is that I want to use fibres that will degrade back to dust, just like I'm going to one of these days.  I prefer to not use synthetic fibres.  I do still have some acrylic yarns in my stash, and I will use them.  They might as well be put to use since they already exist.  But I don't buy them and prefer to not use them.

But that is my personal line in the sand and I don't insist that everyone else follow me.  When it is a moral issue, we each have to decide how to approach our textile practice and work accordingly.

However, I do strongly suggest that people find out facts, not react to a meme they saw on social media.  Those memes are designed by media folk, they rely on emotional trigger words/images, and may not be the best thing to be paying attention to when facts are out there, readily available when you take the time to look for them.

When doing a web search, pay attention to who is sponsoring a web site.  If the web site is paid for by the cotton council, they may not be telling the whole truth about bamboo, for example.  I'm not saying bamboo is 100% wonderful - like every other fibre, it has issues!

It is because I think this information is so important that I included some fibre info in my book.

And listed A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers in my bibliography.