Saturday, March 23, 2019


The scarves on the cover of TIW are woven from Tencel.

I was an early adopter of Tencel.  It appealed to me on a number of levels.  As I put it into production, however, I found that it would sometimes behave beautifully - other times?  Not so much.

Since I am a rather analytic type of person, I began trying to figure out what was happening and why.

The two big issues were that - at times - the yarn would seem to become almost brittle and a thread 2 or 3 or more in from the selvedge would suddenly, and without much warning, snap.  It would also shed a huge amount of fluff.

As I worked with it I began to track the trend of it behaving in the summer (our humid months) and behaving badly in the winter (our arid months).

As more people began weaving with it there would be questions on the weaving groups about the sudden failure of the yarn not at the selvedge but several ends inside the cloth.

Typically all the usual culprits were blamed - excessive draw in, poor shuttle handling, poor bobbin winding, poor beaming, etc.  People who had never had the issue blamed the one who was having difficulty for the problem concluding that they had done something 'wrong'.  Because they had never had a problem like that.

I would, instead, ask if the person having the problem lived in a humid or an arid climate.  Inevitably the answer would be "arid".  Ah-ha, I thought, Tencel needs higher humidity to behave.  I began advising those having the problem to run a humidifier.

My point is this.  Your experience is your experience.  There are factors that contribute to your experience that may be significantly different from someone else's. 

When people tell me something must always or must never be done a certain way, I ask them what their experience was that led them to that conclusion.  Their experience may be different from mine.  They may live in a humid environment, have a different loom than mine, be using yarn different from what I am using.  I want to know the specifics so that I can judge whether or not their experience shines a light on mine.

We can learn from other people's experiences, not just our own.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Skilled Labour

For thousands of years, weaving - the complete supply line of raising and harvesting the fibre, spinning and weaving - was skilled labour.  Still is.

I just started reading a book that I'm going to promote here and then do a 'proper' book review when I get a little further into it - The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair.

But thoughts.  Oh boy, have I been having thoughts!  Especially paired with my work on crafting the ANWG conference, and my own craft practices, including teaching weaving, especially the Olds College Master Weaving program.

The creation of textiles became segmented many years ago because for one person to do everything?  Takes an enormous effort and a range of knowledge that is - quite frankly - awe inspiring.  Don't get me wrong, there are a few people who do know it and they have my admiration.

As a weaver, I know a little bit about spinning (spinning was how I got sucked into weaving, after all), a little bit about dyeing, a little bit about felting, knitting, lace making.  I've done embroidery, mostly cross stitch - and sewn my own clothing.

But I'm not particularly good or nuanced at anything except weaving.

Because the ability to create a wide range of qualities of cloth requires a wide range of knowledge.

People new to the craft don't always understand that weaving is not something you can pick up easily and get the results you want without putting in some time to learn.  If you want to become good at it, it takes time and effort to understand the principles, understand how weave structure works, how the loom works, how the various accessory tools work, how to fix mistakes (like the missed dent, and then the two threading errors in the current warp on the AVL), and last, but not least, how to properly wet finish the web so that you get the cloth you were aiming for.

It takes time to learn the language of the technology - because it is a technology, was, in fact, one of the the driving forces behind the industrial revolution.  It takes time to acquire the physical skills required to put a warp into the loom without a tangled mess.  Further skill is required to set the loom up and then weave it off.

These skills do not come overnight.  And it is really difficult to help someone when they don't have the vocabulary or understand the principles.

So - back to The Golden Thread.

It is a partial history of textiles. but mostly it is a love song about them.  If you trust my judgement in books?  Find this book now.  Today.  You won't regret it.

If you want to wait for the book review - it will be a while.  This is a book to chew thoughtfully, carefully, enjoying the flavour.  I'm not going to rush through it.  Just take my word.  Track it down.

Oh - and if you are a new weaver - take a class, either in real life or from Janet Dawson on Craftsy or Jane Stafford's on-line guild.  Take the time to learn.  It's perfectly fine to leap into the deep end of the pool, but it's nice to have a life saver handy...

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Girl Friends

All of my girlfriends are textile people.  As I engaged more and more with weaving, writing about and teaching it, the more weavers/spinners/etc. I met and the more I found myself wanting to spend time with a group of people who were as passionate about what I was passionate about.

One of the ways I met most of these wonderful women was through attending conferences.  How better to expand your contacts by going to where other like minded people are going to congregate?

Eventually we started meeting up whenever we could, not just at conferences, but at other times as well.

I'm really hoping some of the people I have gotten to know in the fibre world will come to Prince George while the Prince George Fibre Arts Guilds throws a party to celebrate fibre, share their talents, delve into techniques perhaps heard about but not really studied, maybe due to not having a teacher or not knowing where to find literature.

My very first conference?  I knew three people there.  One was the person who talked me into attending Convergence 1978 in Fort Collins, CO.  One was my weaving instructor.  One was the owner of a shop I had been buying yarn from and visited a couple of times.  She introduced me to another weaver from her area.

Otherwise?  I was by myself, surrounded by literally hundreds of people.  My host had been detained by a family emergency.  My teacher warned me she had her own interests she wanted to pursue.  The shop owner?  I only knew because I'd written letters to her.  None of them were 'girl friends' to hang out with.

I'd never been on a university campus before and it was huge.  There were long distances between events, so those few people I knew to speak to?  Never saw them again for the entire event.

I'm an introvert and I was feeling very lonely and isolated.  In fact I was throwing myself a pretty serious pity party, when on a march from one event to the next I spotted a man weaving on a back strap loom, attached to a very young sapling.  There were two women close to him and one was explaining to the other that the man was from Peru.  He had come with an anthropologist who had encouraged the man to attend the conference and could give him a ride.

I didn't know if the man spoke Spanish, let alone English.  His journey to arrive at that place at that time had to have been much more difficult than mine.  I'd simply climbed on a plane, been met at the airport and driven to the conference. 

But even more importantly...I spoke English!

I chewed over my pity party for the rest of the walk to my destination, where I lined up - again.  And realized that if I really wanted to get to know people?  All I had to do was turn around and see if the people behind me were open to talking to a perfect stranger - but one who was at an event celebrating textiles, just like they were.

So I turned around and interjected a comment into their conversation and then happily chatted while the line moved forward.

I'm really hoping that even if someone doesn't know anyone else attending Confluences that they will come by themselves.  Because they will be surrounded by people just as fascinated by fibres as they are themselves.

And the campus?  Small.  Three blocks by three blocks, not huge with long walks.

Come to the party! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Control (sort of )

Bronson Lace heart motif designed using Fiberworks for one of my publications

One of the things I like about weaving is that I get to decide about, well, everything.

Design.  Yarn.  Density.  Colours.

When I bought Fiberworks in 1988, it was because it was the only weaving software at the time that looked like a piece of graph paper when you opened it.  (It was also Canadian, and I didn't have to worry about what the exchange rate was going to do to the price.)

Since then Bob has updated it and it has become more robust, doing so much more than I really need.  While I can use it, I know that it will do a lot more than I currently use it for, and I had hoped to take Bob (and Margaret Coe's) workshop in Victoria.  But it sold out in the first few minutes of registration opening.

So we decided to have him here.  As it happens there are still some seats available in his workshop and seminars.

We have him in the library multi-purpose room where they have a lovely large space, big screen, lots of plug ins for laptops, big tables to work on.

And I still can't take the workshop because - well, I'll be a little busy! 

Maybe next time?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Don't Do It

A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook and a headline caught my eye.  Something about not turning your hobby into a 'side hustle'.

Since weaving was never a side hustle for me, I kept on scrolling.

I get it, though.  The cost of doing fibre arts has certainly gotten more expensive.  Especially yarn for knitting and crocheting.  Mind you, there are some really interesting yarns available for those crafts now.  Much fancier than most weaving yarns.  It is extremely difficult to knit or crochet and sell what you have made and make any kind of money for the effort.

Weaving is different.  If you are careful, purchase yarns in weaving type quantities, not knitting type quantities, focus on creating unique textiles, you can sell your work.  It's also a really good idea to become very efficient.

But again, I agree, don't try to turn a hobby into any kind of 'side hustle'.  Weave (or spin, or knit, or crochet) because you love it.  Leave it be something you do purely for enjoyment, for satisfaction.  Use it as an intellectual stretch, or a mindful meditation, not another chore to be done to deadline.

However, if your goal is to earn an income, be that supplemental or exclusive, then you are no longer doing it as a 'hobby'.  You are now in business.  And that comes with all of the responsibilities that any business comes with.

When you are weaving as a business, even a part-time business, you have to learn how to run a business.  How to market your products.  How to design your own designs - because face it - in the  21st century, what you are really selling are your designs.  Providing something that cannot be found anywhere else but from you.

I made the decision to become a weaver/designer many years ago.  I'm having a hard time 'retiring' from that work because I still enjoy the physical input of sitting at the loom and weaving.  My production far outstrips my market to sell even 'retirement' production.  In other words, I'm having a really hard time turning my work into my hobby.

I've been working on the conference, thinking about all of the instructors we have booked and how none of them really does what they do as a 'hobby'.  I really hope that people will make an effort to come to Prince George to learn from this amazing cast of characters because we have assembled an enormous pool of knowledge for people to leap into.

If you are sitting on the fence, early bird registration ends on April 15.  After that the cost to register will go up.  We will make our final adjustments to the schedule and swing into final preparations - goodie bags, fashion show commentary, exhibit props.

Go on over to the conference website and take a look through the workshop and seminar offerings, read through the instructor bios, then click on the blue Register Here button, click on the green Tickets button, open a cart, make your selections and join us for an amazing week with like minded people just as passionate about fibre as you are!

Started The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair this morning.  I will do a review when I'm further into it, but even the introduction is sparking lots of thoughts about cloth and the role it has in society.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


My work has been on the cover of Handwoven twice.  I was hoping for a 'hat trick', but the news that F & W, the current owners of Interweave are in Chapter 11 re-structuring has left a lot of people - not just fibre folk - wondering about the future.

As weavers, spinners and knitters, there are already options for publications.  Plyaway for spinners has really come into it's own for information about spinning, and Heddlecraft, Vav, SS&D and Complex Weavers present weaving information.  There are other knitting publications than those published by Interweave.

Eventually things will sort themselves out.  Either some astute fibre supporter will purchase the Interweave 'brand', or small publications will start up to meet the demand.  Or information dissemination will happen more and more on line.

Whatever happens, fibre folk have been and will continue to be a close knit (pun intended) community,.

Having been part of that community since 1974/5 I have watched it go through cycles of interest waxing and waning.

Along the way I have met and been inspired and encouraged by many others as fascinated with fibre and cloth as I am.

One of the delights of working on the ANWG conference is getting to work with some of them.

Some of the instructors I have met in real life and consider them more than colleagues or acquaintances.  Those that I do know are without exception positive, encouraging, have a great sense of humour (they laugh at my puns - what's not to love?)  All of the instructors are well informed about their particular specialty (some have more than one!) and generous in presenting that information to eager students.

Part of getting a conference of this scope formatted/organized is getting people matched up with rooms that fit their needs.  And then some of the offerings are more popular than you expect and in both cases, the two most popular presenters have quickly and graciously agreed to take more than they were scheduled for originally.

We are working on juggling the facilities to make sure that the rooms they will be assigned to will hold more and also have the requirements they need to do their job.

Working with people who are ready, willing and enthusiastic in co-operating to make this event work well?  Priceless.  Beyond rubies.

Friday, March 15, 2019

In the Darkness

So much sadness today and every day, it seems.

When I despair, I try to remember Fred Rogers' advice - that when bad things happen, look for the people who are helping.  (I paraphrase)

What can I do?

Not much, it feels like.

I can amplify voices promoting love and acceptance.  I can try to still the voices of divisiveness.  I can look for the silver linings in every cloud.  I can cling to hope.  I can acknowledge the humanity in all of us.  I can recognize that injustice has happened, continues to happen.  I can continue in my craft practice, making textiles that I hope will add value to life generally.  In the face of fear, strive to make beauty.

There are days when that last seems useless, I remind myself that every candle of love, positive action, serves to push back the shadows, invites in the light.

Sending virtual hugs to all who need them. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Part of my rayon chenille stash

I keep needing to learn to never say 'never'.

I have been in the business of selling my textiles for a long time and all during that time - as soon as it became possible - I have been accepting credit cards on the original knuckle buster imprinter machine.

A few years ago a company called Square began offering credit card processing via the internet.  Never being one to jump on the latest technology (well, ok, some!) I resisted - for a number of perfectly valid reasons.

The past few years even customers have been commenting on my old imprinter. 

Recently after another phone call from my provider, doing their best to get me to sign up for their version of Square internet card processing, partly by making it financially impractical to continue doing things the way I had been doing them, I decided that instead of using a 'Square-like' service I would simply go directly to Square.  I figure they have been in business the longest and probably have their systems worked out.  This is not a service I particularly want to be beta-testing.

This morning was spent partly in getting signed up (on my part) and then figuring out how it all works (on Doug's part).

In the meantime I pulled my big girl panties up and marched myself to the loom where I threaded, then sleyed, tied on and managed to get approximately half of the mat warp woven.

In between I've been working on the conference, trying to figure out how to get the word out about our fantastic instructors and event.

As I was shutting down for the day, my eye caught - again - on the shelves full of rayon chenille.  There are an additional.two large boxes of rayon chenille in storage at the annex.  It is time to put a run of rayon chenille scarves on the to-be-done list.

Time is quickly running out.  My first sale of the year is for the hospital auxiliary conference in April  It won't be a busy sale, so perfect for testing the new Square payment option.  Then the conference in June.  And then three craft fairs in Oct/Nov.  I'd really hoped to not have to learn another new thing to work out my business years, but this morning I had to eat that 'never' I'd been saying and just get on with entering the 21st century.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


The movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had this quote running through it.

The optimism of the characters, the determination to see a dream come to reality, resonated with me. 

Recently I told someone that I had made a career out of mining for the silver linings in clouds.  No, I'm not 100% Pollyanna.  I have my 'bad' days.  Days when I'm tired of digging.  Tired of scraping away at dross to find the silver.

It's very easy these days to rely on cliches but cliches are how many of us get through our days.

I well remember that time in grade five.  It was in deep winter.  The day was grey and gloomy.  It was cold and snowy.   I didn't know it at the time but I have multiple allergies and I now recognize how I was feeling was another allergic reaction - headache, weary, low energy, just yukky all over.

I stood at the window looking out at the ice fog hanging in the air, snow piled high, jack frost decorating the glass and slowly coming to the realization that in my life I was going to have to work hard for anything I wanted.  I even remember that inner voice telling me that nothing was going to be handed to me on a silver platter. 

It was a sobering moment.  I had - at that point - to either accept that this was going to be the way my life went and just get on with it - or be angry about it.

Anger takes too much energy and I didn't have any.  So I decided then and there, that morning, to just get on with it. 

And so I have done.  Choosing weaving as a career was choosing to work hard, physically and emotionally.  Nothing like a life of expressing one's creativity to bring on the opinions of others, some of which are far from flattering.  I had to learn how to cope with negative feedback.

Nothing like choosing a 'job' without a steady paycheque to make navigating the daily expenses of living and running a business challenging.

Nothing like choosing a lifestyle that insisted on flexibility to learn how to change what you are doing, sometimes mid-stream, sometimes abandoning a line of endeavour and just get on with the next thing.  Learning how to cut my losses.

With a business plan of 'I think a person could make fabric and sell it', I can't say I was particularly intelligent about making that decision.  On the other hand, I had a background that made it possible - just - to jump in and start to do it.

A childhood of physical activity - ballet, track and field - meant good body awareness.  An ability to self assess and determine how to change my movements to be more ergonomic, therefore more efficient.

That fateful decision as an 11 year old to accept that I would, I could, work hard.  And do it willingly.

The decision to earn an income gave me the strength to ignore what other people thought of what I was doing and the equipment I was doing it on and keep an eye on my personal goals - selling my textiles.

Over the years I kept changing things as things either worked - or didn't.  A 'failure' wasn't the 'end' because it wasn't OK - yet.  So I just kept going.

Over the years my goals changed somewhat.  I had always taught, even though I wasn't trained as a teacher.  My mother was a good intuitive teacher then, when I was 16, she enrolled in Early Childhood Education, and by reading and helping proof read her papers, I learned vicariously, too.

As I taught, I also learned about how people learned and was able to fine tune my approach to conveying information.  And dealing with students.

I'd always loved reading and writing, fancied myself a bit of a poet as a teen.  Took English 101 and Creative Writing only to realize that I really wasn't a fiction writer. 

All of that was good practice as I developed workshop handouts, then dabbled in writing articles for magazines.

Not all of my articles were accepted, so I learned to deal with rejection.  To realize that it was the article that had been rejected, not me, personally.  And move on to the next.

I learned to juggle multiple streams of income, multiple deadlines.  In high school I had taken Law 11 and Office Practices, so I knew what a cheque was, what constituted a contract, how to keep a double entry ledger and read a financial report.  All of which was necessary to the running of a business.

All of this is to say - it's absolutely normal to have a 'bad' day.  It's ok to feel down because you are in the middle of the hard slog of a big project. 

On those days I remind myself of the Winston Churchill quote on my fridge:  When you are going through hell...keep going. 

It's not the end - yet.

Currently reading Human Face by Aline Templeton

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sitting Pretty


Not Recommended

I see so many photos on the internet of people sitting at their looms in postures that can lead to injury and my heart aches for their bodies.

When sitting at the loom, sit up on your sitz bones, not rotated back on your tailbone.  If you are having problems with a sore tailbone, I assume you are a) sitting on your tailbone - rotate your pelvis and sit up on your sitz bones and b) sitting too much on the bench rather than perched more on the edge of it.

Your back should be straight, not hunched through the upper spine, or rounded through your lower back.

You should be sitting tilted slightly forward which engages your abdominal muscles and helps protect your lower back.

Your shoulders should be at rest.  This means sitting high enough your elbows clear the breast beam.

If you are sitting fully on your bench, there is a risk of cutting off blood flow or the nerves to your legs causing numbness.

If you are sitting too low, the subconscious result is to hunch your shoulders, stressing your shoulders/neck/pectoral muscles.

There should be no pain.  If at any time something becomes fatigued or painful, stop, get up, do some stretches, do some other activity for a while and rest your body.

Weaving is filled with repetitive motions.  This is a 'feel the pain, stop now' type of activity.

Most 'ordinary' chairs are not suitable for weaving because most are raked towards the back of the chair.  If you sit fully on the chair you will be in poor position/posture for weaving.  If you don't have a bench, build the height of the chair up and fill in that raked angle so that you are at a better height and position to weave.

While I am on a 'let's not injure ourselves' rant, consider how you hold the shuttle.  You might want to change your grip to reduce stress on the shoulder girdle/pectoral muscles.

Do you need a bench?  Not really.  I have an adjustable bench for the Leclerc which makes it easier when students come so that the height can be adjusted for them.  For the other two looms in my studio, I have sturdy stools.  I know people who have adjustable music stools they find suitable, especially if they have more than one loom.  Piano benches can be adjustable as are drummer's stools.

Be aware of your body.  Let it rest when it gets tired.  Do something else that uses a different set of muscles.  Get up and walk around.  Consult a physical therapist for exercises to stretch those muscles that get overused.

No pain.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

It’s Been a While

This afternoon the mail delivered a copy of the Spring issue of Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot, the magazine produced by the Handweaver's Guild of America.

It's been a while since I had an article in this magazine.  It was nice to be asked to contribute, especially when they gave me free rein about what to write about.

There are philosophies that propose that there should be no rules.  People should be free to do whatever they choose, whenever they choose.

I don't disagree.  It's just not the way I approach weaving.

When I am spending as much time as it takes (because no matter which way you slice it, any kind of handwork is 'slow cloth') I would really like to wind up with a fabric that performs it's intended function as well as I can make it do that job.

Right from the get-go, with my stated aim of earning an income by designing and creating textiles, I had to achieve a certain level of quality.  So I made a point of looking closely at different qualities of cloth, trying to work out how they wound up to become that quality of cloth, then set about trying to hit that bench mark with my own work.

I don't want to make everyone who weaves do what I do.  All I try to do is explain the principles involved, which can be ignored, and show what I do for anyone who is interested.

In the end we need to follow our passion.  Find our joy.  Feed our creative spirit, in whatever way that fulfills us.

I hope people will read the article.  I hope they take away what they need from it.

As for the textile?  I was asked to create the cloth for the local Ukrainian dance troupe.  In addition to fabric for skirts and vests, which I had made over the years, they wanted to create group clothing so that people didn't have to buy their own, but share and pass along to the next crop of dancers.  So they splashed out and got me to weave cloth for the head dresses for one dance, and sashes for another as well as more skirts (two different skirts) and the vests.

In the end I did four 10 meter long warps, dressed the Leclerc Fanny and threaded the heddles, but left the reed and beater top off the beater and essentially used the loom as a band loom.  The sashes had to be sturdy, warp faced but flexible so that they could be tied.

I used two ends of 2/8 cotton per heddle, and then a bundle of 2/8 cotton for the weft.  Using a bundle of thinner threads that were loose, not twisted together, makes for a more flexible finished cloth.

It became a challenge to get the right amount of draw in to ensure the warp faced effect, and the sashes were woven with a stick shuttle which was then used as the beater.

The sashes were wet finished and given a good hard press and the lengths turned over to the group to cut to length and finish the ends of the sashes with fringes.

For this commission, the clothing fabric had to absolutely function as required.  The cloth had to withstand regular laundry as well as the dances themselves, which are quite physical.

I have to say, I'm quite proud of the work I did for the dancers.  

Sunday, March 3, 2019


Next place mat warp ready to go into the loom

There are two sides to everything.  As someone who has taught weaving for a long time, one of the things I have had to do is understand my assumptions.  First I had to understand that when someone didn't know something, they didn't know that they didn't know that thing.

But I also had to understand that knowing as much as I do about weaving, I could not assume that anyone else also knew that thing.

My knowledge and learned processes are so ingrained that there is real danger in simply forgetting to mention something crucial.

I also have a bias because there are certain processes or approaches that I find work best for me.  Again, there is danger in assuming that my processes are 100% best for everyone.

So I have focused on principles and then let people choose how best to incorporate those principles into their practice.

Then there is trying to articulate a motion.  How to find the words to make something so automatic that I almost never think about it any more understandable to someone who may never have the option to actually see someone do that motion.

I addressed this by making short video clips of things (posted to You Tube) but the camera angle determines what the viewer sees.  And sometimes they need to see things from a different perspective.

Interweave gave me the opportunity to do DVDs but again - camera angle is critical.  We did the best we could, but they don't always carry the information everyone wants to be able to see.

Video clips and DVDs are also approaches that are less in depth.  And so I wrote a book.  I could explain in more detail, but the words are static on the page.  We included lots of photos, but again - camera angle.

As teachers know, it is critical to be able to convey information in various ways, different formats.  It is always 'best' to learn in person so that you can get feedback from the instructor.  Having an actual interaction with the instructor reminds the instructor to not make assumptions and the student that they don't always know everything.  It is, in a very real way, a conversation.

When I was first beginning I took every workshop, attended every conference I could afford.  I still take workshops, usually because I want to have that interaction with the instructor, find out how they think, how they process information.

Now that registration is open for the conference I am looking at the offerings and regretting that I'm going to be teaching myself because there are several people giving seminars I would love to sit in on.  Abby Franquemont talking about Peruvian textiles.  Sarah Wroot about historical textiles.  Maureen Faulkner about her travels and textile collection. Susan Pavel about Salish weaving and culture. And more!

When I chose weaving as a career I knew I would not, could not, learn everything there is to know about textiles.  Once again I have been proven right as I longingly peruse the tasty menu of the conference offerings.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Learning Journey

Life, as they say, is a journey.  So is learning. 

As always one to think ahead, plan ahead, I'm beginning to think beyond the current crop of deadlines.

The next six months looks like this (for me)

Craft fair/vendor hall for the Hospital Auxilliary conference in April.  It won't be very busy most of the time so I'm thinking of what I can bring to work on/demo during the slow times.

May 6-10, level two in Tenino, WA.  One of the benefits of taking the Olds College program is that students are not confined to one campus.  You can take level one at Olds, for example, then move to another location for level two.

June will be pretty much taken up with conference.  Our guild has the stairwell at the public library for the month, so we can set up our display before the conference begins and take it down after the conference ends.

During the conference I will be wearing way too many hats, but that's pretty much standard.  Doug will man my booth in the vendor hall while I deal with conference stuff including presenting seminars and so on.

Still waiting to hear about Fibre Week at Olds College and if I will get to teach, but I'm holding the dates, just in case.

August 6-10 I'm booked to teach level two at Yadkinville, NC and 12-16 level one.

September I'm scheduled to do The Efficient Weaver at the John C Campbell Folk School.  I have no idea if anyone has registered for this class yet - I think, like the Olds classes, I need 8 to make it 'go'.

Once home from that it will be craft fair preparation all the way.  It's already March (tomorrow!), the AVL is waiting for repair parts, I'm setting up the Leclerc for more place mats, I need to do shawls because I'm out.  I was also surprised at how few tea towels I have in inventory when I last looked - my goal of stash/inventory reduction was apparently quite successful in 2018!  But that means I need to find my round tuit and get weaving...

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Planting Seeds

Today when I walked into the school to spend a couple of hours with a class of teenagers, I heard songbirds singing.  It is nearly the end of February, we are still having cold temperatures and snow lies thick on the ground.  But birds were singing.

I looked around to see if I could spot them - their voices were so loud I felt surely they must be very near by - but in the brilliant sunshine, they must have been hiding in a protected shadow of the building.

It made me smile to hear such a delightful harbinger of spring.

I don't know how many kids tried out weaving a bit of 'tapestry' on the cardboard I supplied.  They came and went as their interest waxed and waned.  A few had completed small bits of cloth by the end of the two hours, so I was able to show them how to finish their weaving off.  The teacher had a button and bead box and one added a button to her strip of cloth to turn it into a bracelet.

A couple of the students seemed interested in doing more on the floor loom so the teacher and I talked about giving the kids time to think about what they did, maybe finish their little cardboard loom weaving, maybe try the floor loom (one of the students says she remembers what to do so she has been designated 'teacher' for any others!), then maybe come back again to help those who want to learn more in a few weeks.

The past couple of days have been more about planting seeds than harvesting a crop.  Weaving cloth takes time.  Sometimes a student knows immediately they want to explore further.  Sometimes it takes a while.  If nothing else, those who tried it have an appreciation for what is involved.

And today I heard the songbirds singing. 

Currently reading Pandora's Boy by Lindsey Davis

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

How Much Love?

As I was scrolling through Facebook this afternoon, a headline caught my eye "How much love you put in the doing".

Intrigued, I read it and thoughts bubbled up - as they do.

First of all, I spent the morning talking to a group of high school students about weaving.  I found it a real challenge because I didn't have a point of instant connection with them, like I do with weaving guild members.  I had to find a way to connect them with my story, my passion, my love of textiles.  With a 40+ year gap between us, I have no idea if any of them were the least bit intrigued, or stirred.  If nothing else, I might have planted a seed.  But that is impossible to judge.

After spending that time this morning and reading the headline and short article, plus a few other things going on in my life right at this minute, I started to think about my 40+ years of twiddling with string.

And just how much love there has been.

Oh it hasn't always been a bed of roses (and if it was, someone forgot to strip the thorns).  There have been the usual ups and downs, road closures and detours.  Successes and failures.

There have been things I have worked hard to achieve.  There have been great gifts that were completely unexpected.

When I think about my life it is a tangled mess in so many ways.  To try and find an end to that tangle seems impossible - even if I could, would I really want to? 

I keep dancing around the concept of 'retirement'.  Every time I think I have a plan, something happens to upend my expectations of what direction my life is going to go.  This isn't new - it's the way my life has gone.  I rather suspect it is the way most people's lives go.

A while ago I was asked to talk about being a professional/production weaver.  By that point in my career/life there had been a number of changes in direction, but I'd always managed to find a route that kept me at the loom.

At the end of the presentation, one of the attendees came to talk to me and she mentioned that she admired how I had managed to stay on course, to re-imagine my life within weaving.  While she had totally and completely changed direction, changed careers three times, I had re-imagined myself as a weaver.  I think she found that puzzling, but also somehow inspiring.  At least, that was the message I got from the way she framed her observations.

That first time I sat at a floor loom, shuttle in hand, I knew I had come 'home'.  Wanting to maintain that sense of 'home', I just kept trying different things.  Weaving different things.  Just kept on, keeping on.

Because I love it. 

Monday, February 25, 2019


Someone on a weaving group asked recently how to keep two yarns from tangling when winding a warp.

Here's my two cents (partly because I can't remember which group).

I prefer to wind from tubes or cones.  I have little posts I can stand the tubes on. 

My tubes are always set up to unwind counter clockwise.  I don't remember why.  I think I determined that 2/8 cotton set up to unwind this way would remove a twist per rotation.  It seemed preferable to me to remove a twist rather than add one, but it's all lost in the mists of time.  Let's just say I always do it this way.

Which ever way it is done, they need to both be winding off in the same direction.  If one winds one way, the other the other direction, the yarn coming off will snag onto the opposite yarn and tangle.  If they are winding off the same direction, they snag less.

The larger the cone or tube, the further apart they need to be.  For these half pound tubes from Brassard, a couple of inches apart seems to be fine.  Larger cones will be set further apart due to the size of the 'balloon' as the yarn whips around the yarn package as it comes off.  The further apart the packages, the less inclined the yarns will be to tangle.

The yarns are run through a dent in the reed laid flat at the bottom of the board.  This keeps the yarn feeding off the package straight, again reducing tangles, but also keep the packages upright, not tipping over and wrapping themselves around my ankles.  This is especially helpful when I'm winding several different coloured stripes - there is enough room below the board for a number of yarn packages.  I simply drop the yarns I'm not using and pick up the ones that are next in the sequence.

During winding I keep a finger in between the two yarns.  Lots of people say they don't bother and it's not a problem.  For me it was, so I do.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Never Ending Learning

So photos from, oh, 1984?  A long time ago because I'm, ahem, a brunette...and thin...

My initial interest in weaving was in making cloth for clothing.  I wove a lot with 2/60 silk.  These garments are both woven with silk from Treenway Silks.

My background is that I learned to knit age 5 or 6 (so long ago I can't really remember), embroider when I was about 10 (multiple bouts of tonsillitis meant days in bed), sew my own clothing when I was 12.  Weaving was just going one step further and weaving the cloth for me to sew with.  And yes, I sewed both of those garments.

Over the years I have delved into most areas of weaving, but not all.  There are whole swathes of the craft I never see myself digging into - for reasons.  And that is just fine and dandy - no one needs to be an expert on every single aspect of turning thread into cloth.  My focus has evolved into developing fashion accessories (scarves/shawls) and household textiles (towels and table napery).

That doesn't mean I'm not interested in other types of cloth, and which is why I'm casting longing eyes at the conference schedule.

For example, I'd love to attend Abby Franquemont's seminar on Preserving Textile Traditions in the Andes.

Maureen Faulkner's seminar Travel and Textiles:  Culture, Shopping and Making Souveniers a Part of Your Life sounds intriguing.  Partly because I know I'll never get to India or Indonesia as she has done.

Fibres on the Wild Side by Sue Perron is going to look at fibre sources from locally sourced plants. 

Sarah Wroot has studied historical textiles and will use historic fabrics to analyze how they were made.

What's the Point of Spinning off the Point by Mary Lessman?  I didn't know I needed to know this!

I'd especially like to sit in on Dr. Susan Pavel's seminar Weaving Words.  She will bring a traditional Salish Loom and share stories, bridging cultures.

Heide Kraus is a fount of knowledge about cashmere - I learned more in an hour listening to her and Mary Lessman talk than I ever knew I needed to know.

While I know a little about the sashes most commonly known as ceinture fleche', Sue Perron has studied them in detail.

I've never steeked, but Elizabeth Schatz will take the Eek out of Steek. 

Syne Mitchell will look at Etextiles - a marriage of old technology with new.

Ack!  So many wonderful choices.  So much more to learn...I'm going to need another 40 years, I think!

Saturday, February 23, 2019


Photos of scraps of fabric from the textile collection at the fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.  Photos by Janet Dawson (I had my head buried in the boxes!)

One of the down sides of teaching at a conference is that you can't - or don't have the time - to sign up to take anything.

One of the down sides to organizing a conference means that you get to choose the seminars and workshops - BUT - you don't have the time to sign up to take anything. 

And so...

There are a number of things I would just love to take at our conference but can't. 

When we selected the conference teachers and their topics, we first and foremost looked at the talent available in our region.  The instructors might not be well known outside of our region, but we wanted to give them a chance to share their knowledge and perhaps become better known. 

We wanted a range of instructors who could teach a variety of topics or who had specialized in parts of the craft that perhaps weren't very well known.

We also looked beyond our region for others who were well known further afield, but who also brought a broad spectrum of knowledge, or filled in gaps in our offerings.

We looked for people who were very specialized but also for those who were more general in their approach.

We wanted to cover the spectrum of fibre arts.

We didn't manage to cover every single approach to making textiles - we were limited in the number of rooms available to us to book.

But I think we did a pretty good job, all in all.

Out of the 18 workshops, 4 are spinning, with an additional one that tackles spinning specifically for weaving.  So that one kind of bridges spinning and weaving.

Six are weaving - one is on a backstrap loom, one is on rigid heddle.

One is weaving related because it is about using Fiberworks weaving software.

One is working with colour in weaving - again, primarily weaving.

One workshop is about nuno felting and one is about shibori - a resist dyeing technique.

One workshop will look at dyes from nature, one is about design principles for textiles and we have one Fair Isle knitting workshop.

There are any number of seminars I would personally like to take but since I'm also booked to teach, that won't happen.

However, I can - and will - have an opportunity to talk to as many teachers as I can track down, maybe at meals or at the social gatherings in the evening.  One of the seminars I would really love to attend is Sarah Wroot's where she dissects historic textiles to find out how they were made.  The photos above are from the textile collection at Louisbourg when Janet Dawson arranged for us to see what they have tucked away - mainly because they don't have a budget to do anything more than catalogue the textiles they found in the middens.  I just wish I didn't live so far away because I'd love to study these textiles.  What an honour - to examine them and maybe even give them some information on how they were made.  I'm trying to talk one of the students taking the Olds program in NS to maybe consider studying these textiles for their final level.  And then I could learn more about the textiles from them.  

Friday, February 22, 2019

Never Thought I Would See the Day

One of my earliest memories is getting my very first library card.  I never thought I'd see the day when something I wrote would be in one.

Our library is part of the inter-library loan agreement.  Which means that if you are interested in seeing the book in real life, you can see if your library will bring this copy to you.

I will have some copies for sale at the ANWG conference here in June.  Or if you want your own copy, you can buy one at blurb

Thank you to Wendy who suggested our public library purchase the book for their collection.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

John Kennedy perhaps put it best here when he talked about going to the moon.

There are times when we dream those big dreams and they become a lot bigger in terms of getting them to completion than we had hoped.  Or Life Happens and we wind up dealing with stuff that we hadn't expected.

We dare to dream, anyway.  And we work to make them happen.

Take weaving.  When we first begin, it may seem like it's a huge big dream to get something usable off the loom.

But humans have been playing with fibre and string for thousands of years.  Our ancestors needed string to carry parcels.  They needed something to keep themselves warm - what better than have an animal donate their fibre to the cause?  Because once you've figured out how to make string, you can then take that string and loop or interlace it together to make a textile.

Weaving isn't particularly 'easy' - if it was everyone would still be doing it.  Weaving is labour intensive.  It takes up huge swathes of time.  If you also harvest and spin the fibre, it takes even longer.

It isn't 'easy' insofar as you get results quickly.  But neither is it particularly difficult if you learn how the fibre behaves, how spinning it can modify the characteristics of the fibre, then how to get those yarns to work together as one.

We did it for generations upon generations.  And we still do it now.

If we take the time.  If we invest in doing it as well as we can.

There are many things in life that are not 'easy'.  But they are worth it.  When you find your happy place, when you find what makes your heart beat stronger, your curiosity to be engaged?  It is worth it. 

I find designing and creating textiles satisfying and fulfilling.  Teaching others means that the craft that I love will continue on, into the next generations.

It is why I write.  It is why I teach.  It is why I have organized conferences. 

I was 12 years old when Kennedy gave this famous speech.  I don't doubt that it was in some way inspiring to me to think about tackling the hard things.  To aspire to increase knowledge.  To do something, not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

Yes, I have failed at times.  But every failure has brought more knowledge.  And while I don't like failing, I do recognize that sometimes you need to find out how to not do something.

And so - conferences.  They are challenging.  They are inspiring.  They are 'hard' because of all the details.  But they are also so much more than the sum of their parts.

We are in the dark days of winter winding down.  It is February, shortest month of the year.  Whoever made it so knew what they were doing!  It will very soon be spring and the deadline to register for the ANWG conference here will be coming up very quickly.  Take a look at what is being offered.  Expand your horizons, or dig deeper into something you would like to know more about.  Sign up by clicking on the big blue Register Here button, Then on the Green 'tickets' button.  Some things are beginning to fill up.  I suggest you sign up sooner rather than later.

And come see us in June!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Those Big Dreams

After writing about my brother yesterday, I started thinking about the people I admire and respect.

They all, in one way or another, dream the big dreams.

Some people I have met and am delighted to call friend; others I know by their reputation or their presence in books/magazines, feedback from others, or their on line presence.  Some I met because of our shared on line presence, which then led to meeting in real life.

I started thinking about our line up for the conference and they all, every one of them, have my admiration and respect.

Some are authors (and hopefully will participate in the author signing event - if they aren't too over scheduled/exhausted after teaching for two full days).

All are teachers, of course.  The teaching model up until recently was in person, either in workshops for guilds or at conferences.  Now we have on-line opportunities.

Some are out spoken about issues of ethics. 

All are enthusiastic about teaching, but also about learning.  Being open minded, sharing experiences with others. 

All have dedicated large chunks of their time to the exploration of possibilities in terms of fibres/yarns.

Some of them have - by and large - earned a large portion of their income by teaching and/or by making and selling their textiles.  (Not an easy task!)

Having done this myself, I know how hard it is and the degree of dedication required to show up, regardless of how you might be feeling, and do the job.  (Ask me about the time I got food poisoning the night before teaching a five day class...)

We come into this life with a whole lot of potential.  I suppose it boils down to my respect for those who have figured out what they really want in life, then worked every hour they could to make that dream come true.

You cannot write a book, develop and present an on-line class, create and sell a line (or dozen) of textiles, teach multiple workshops all over the continent, fair weather and foul, without enormous energy being put into making those things happen.  Some of our instructors have done not one of those things, but several of them.  And generally with good grace and cheer.

So I'm going to 'fangirl' a bit and list all the instructors here, again, just to remind everyone of the fabulous event our guild has put together and invite everyone to think about attending the conference in June.

It's going to be fabulous!

Keynote speaker:  Abby Franquemont (Ohio)

Workshops and Seminars: Michelle Boyd (Alberta)
Tien Chiu (California)
Janet Dawson (Nova Scotia)
Maureen Faulkner (British Columbia)
Abby Franquemont (Ohio)
Alison Irwin (British Columbia)
Bob Keates (British Columbia)
Mary Lessman (Tennessee)
Kim McKenna (British Columbia)
Syne Mitchell (Washington)
Coleen Nimetz (British Columbia
Elizabeth Schatz (British Columbia)
Robyn Spady (Washington)
Jane Stafford (British Columbia)
Laurie Steffler (British Columbia)
Bernadette Thompson (British Columbia)
Diana Twiss (British Columbia)
Sarah Wroot (British Columbia)

Seminars Only
Laura Fry (British Columbia)
Heide Kraus (British Columbia)
Yoriko Oki (British Columbia)
Dr. Susan Pavel (Washington)
Sue Perron (British Columbia)
Leola Witt McNei (British Columbia)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tracking Treadling

I don't know if this chart is going to show up in its entirety - I only did half of the repeat in hopes that the numbers would be legible.  But let's give it a go...

So I'm weaving a set of samples and one of them is an advancing twill progression.  It's fairly simple, but since it backtracks on itself, I had to put on my dancer hat to work out the choreography of it.

In an effort to explain what I do, I came up with this little chart.

The numbers are the numbers of the treadles from left to right as we are used to seeing numbers written out.  I did this for visual simplicity, so that people could refer to what I'm about to describe.

If we take the column of numbers vertically as representing the treadles themselves, then each column is the treadle number from left to right.

Each row of numbers is one pick.

In this chart, I began upper right with treadle number 8 with the weft traveling from right to left.  Each pick then followed:  8, 7, 6, 5.

After the pick on treadle 5, the sequence backtracks to 6 and then becomes: 6, 5, 4, 3

After the pick on treadle 3, the sequence backtracks to 4 and proceeds: 4, 3, 2

These 11 picks are exactly half the treadling.  From here, the sequence reverses and becomes:

1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7

This is the complete 22 pick treadling repeat.

To weave this, I begin with treadle #8, and call that pick one.  I count through to 22 and by that number I should be back ready to begin the treadling repeat all over again.

Depending on the weave structure, I may approach it differently - for example Summer and Winter and overshot have two shuttles, one carrying the pattern weft, the other carrying the tabby weft, and the pattern end gets repeated.  In those cases, I might just record the pattern pick and indicate how many times the pattern block gets repeated, knowing I must insert tabby.

There are many ways to set up a tracking system.  Post It notes, file cards, metal sheets and magnets, and now apps.  I use iWeaveit, but it works best when the tracking is consistent.  In this particular treadling, the runs are not consistent, so I prefer to visualize the 'lines' or 'runs'.

If someone can't visualize, then a pick by pick method of tracking is the most accurate way and you can set iWeaveit up to do a line by line tracking in the liftplan mode.

Whatever you do, you do have to pay attention, stay in the moment, don't let yourself be distracted.  For me, counting to 22 lets me stay literally on track, and if I do get interrupted, I can usually find my way back to a starting point so I can go forward again.

Friday, February 15, 2019

11 years

It was 11 years ago this month my 'baby' brother sat down and left this earth.

It was such a shock when he died.  Last night I woke up thinking about him and his birth.

You see, when he was born, it was into a tumultuous time for our family.  The pregnancy had not been an easy one, then my uncle was killed in a car crash, my aunt in a coma from a severe brain injury, 8 children left behind.  And my mother had to pick up the pieces.

When Don was born he 'failed to thrive'.  So on top of everything else that was going on in her life, mom was faced with an infant who might not make it through the night.

It was 1956 and breast feeding was the norm.  But every time he fed, it all came back up again.  Mom agonized - was something wrong with her milk?  With her?  She remembered a cousin who died because of 'bad mother's milk'.  No such thing, of course, but no one knew why these things happened.

So all the available alternatives were tried - cow's milk, goat's milk.  Eventually baby formula was tried.  When it, too, came up, the doctor advised mom that if Don could keep it down for 20 minutes he had enough nutrition for 2 hours.

A schedule of 2 hour feedings with cleaning up after it came up again kept the washing machine chugging.  We had a wringer washer and a line outside and mom would get the machine going, the diapers and onesies washed and hung and when I got home from school it was my job to take them all in.  During the winter the diapers freeze dried and taking them off the line was an exercise in frozen fingers and a stack of frozen diapers piled high and placed by the wood stove to thaw.

Somewhere mom got a 'Jolly Jumper' and after feeding Don, he would get placed into the jumper which was hung in a doorway central to our little house.  Mom didn't have to worry about him choking on his own spit up and he seemed to enjoy the gentle action of the swing on the giant 'bungee' cord.

His survival became an exercise in perseverance and - ultimately - resilience.

He grew up into someone who pretty much rolled with whatever came his way.  He was in many ways fearless - but not entirely reckless.  Having survived such a risky entrance into life he didn't seem particularly eager to leave by doing dangerous things.  But neither did he seem to have much fear.  Or, if he did, he did what he wanted to do anyway.

He was fair minded, didn't like bullies, stood up for those who needed support.  He loved life, was a keen observer of what was happening around him.  Enjoyed the outdoors.  Respected others who knew more than he did and wasn't afraid to say he didn't know something when he didn't.

His dream as a child was to become either a fireman or a railroader.  When he wanted to leave school at grade 10 because that was all that was needed to get a job with the railway, the entire family came down on him like a load of bricks - he would not be leaving school until he graduated.  He accepted that but not exactly with good grace.  Since dad was already in the final throes of multiple myeloma, Don didn't fight it too much, knowing dad was thoroughly against him leaving school.

So Don continued with school until he got his diploma. 

It took him some months, but he got his job with the railroad.  It wasn't the 'best' job due to the travel and being posted to other towns for weeks at a time but again, he persevered.  He worked his way up until at last he realized his dream of driving the locomotives.

He was part of the crew that learned how to drive the big GE electric engines that took the coal out of the mines at Tumbler Ridge, and in the end, drove the last engine out again when they were mothballed.

After 27 years with BC Rail, he took retirement and became the park manager for the railway museum.   And that was where he died.

When I think about my brother, I remember his steadfast desire to be a better person.  We often sat and talked about what that meant.  I miss those conversations.  He challenged me to be a better person as he sought to be one himself.

No, he wasn't 'perfect'.  He didn't pretend to be.  He just wanted to be better.  He understood that life is a journey, with ups and downs and adventures along the way.

At his memorial, one of his friends called Don a catalyst.  I had to agree.  Don would come up with an idea, plant the seed, encourage it to grow, celebrate when it happened, expressed appreciation to his friends who helped make it come to fruition.

He was also very supportive of me and my weaving.  In many ways we were different, but in many ways we are/were the same.  And 11 years on?  Yes, I still miss him.

Don, in his happy place, driving The Little Prince steam locomotive

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Sample warps can be done in a variety of ways.  Gamps give the most bang for your effort 'buck' so this warp is a gamp for Tien's colour class

Gamps can be done in a variety of ways.  This warp was painted by Tien in repeating rainbow colours and it will be crossed with different weft colours to show what happens, when.

In addition, half of it is threaded in one sequence, then the other half in a different sequence.

In order to keep track of what was needed, I counted out 18 heddles on shaft 1 for the first half and when I had filled all of those, I knew that I'd done the first half.  Since it was later in the afternoon and I've been dealing with rather more 'tired' than I'd like, it was an easy way to track what I was doing without having to pay a lot of attention.  I could kind of zone out and just concentrate on getting the threading sequence correct without thinking about how many repeats I had done - or had yet to do.

The second half of the warp was threaded in a more complex sequence so I left that to do when I was feeling more alert today, then printed out the threading draft in a size I could easily read so I didn't have to squint.

As I threaded each group of four (or three as the repeat dictated) I tied those in a slip knot and when all the groups in the repeat had been done, I bundled all of them into a larger slip knot.

I don't leave the lease sticks in unless I need to adjust the shed geometry of the warp for some reason, so the next step will be to remove the lease sticks and the little box I put under the shafts to lift them higher so I can see the heddles more easily, then sley and lash on.

My goal is to begin weaving today to make sure I've got the epi correct.

Our days are now noticeably longer than they were 6 weeks ago.  We have been having rather cold temperatures but also clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine.  On the other hand, I'm pretty much ready for winter to be over!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

F. A. I. L.

obligatory pretty picture

Words matter.  The words we say to ourselves - and to others - matter.

When I was a child, the playground taunt was 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me'.

But that's not true.

Words do cause harm.  Too often we believe the people telling us that we are failures, losers.  When we become adults we have had it drummed into our inner most self that if we 'fail' at something, we are a 'loser'.

But if there is a loser when we don't get the cloth we were after, who is the winner?

No one.  No one 'wins' when we don't manage to get the results we desire.

We need to re-imagine what is happening and we can do that by changing our inner language.

I'm not a huge fan of memes, but I do find short, sharp, pithy comments will sometimes break through to allow people to see the 'truth'.

Recently I saw the definition of 'fail' as First Attempt In Learning.

Our language seems to have become militarized, with people being 'beaten in their battle with cancer', the person 'fought valiantly but lost their battle with (name disease)'.

Life, *learning* isn't a battle.  We come.  We live.  We learn.  And then...we die.  Dying is not 'losing', it is the natural order of a life.  None of us gets out of here alive.

We need to change the inner dialogue so many of us live with on a daily basis.

We need to open ourselves to new experiences - even when we don't get the results we were after the first or even the 10th time.  It is famously said that when Edison was asked how it felt to fail at finding a filament for the light bulb 600 (or so) times, he replied that he had not failed - he had learned how NOT to make a filament.

If we let 'failure' determine what we will dream to do, attempt to do, fail at doing, then our horizons will be rather circumscribed.  Because every time we try something new, every time we attempt to learn how to do something, we will experience how not to do it.  Sometimes several times.

Like my dressing the loom and forgetting to go over the back beam.  Not just once, but twice.  In a row.  I'm not stupid, but I can be very, very slow...

Did I let that stop me?  No.  It was a head-desk moment, especially the second time in a row,  but I took it to heart, and remembered.

Most of the time we learn best by our 'mistakes'.  Sometimes the most valuable lesson is in learning what NOT to do.  Every time you find out what not to do, you come closer to finding out the answer for the 'right' way.  Or at least in the new circumstance.

Because every time you change something?  The 'right' answer might change, too.

Speaking of language - when you set out to learn a new craft, the very best thing you can do is learn the language of that technology.

The one that always puts my teeth on edge is when I see 'dying' when the word the person meant was 'dyeing'.  I've seen 'dying' more and more frequently, in publications where the author ought to have known better.  I blame auto-correct, but that's what proof reading is for and why authors need to proof read their galley proofs.

When it comes to weaving, the current correct terminology is treadles, not peddles.  My preference is for shaft instead of harness, but both are appropriate so long as everyone knows there are two words being used for the same thing.****

It's a brake not a break.  At least on a loom.

The 'reed' (because the splines used to be made from split reed) is made up of 'dents' (the spaces in the reed).

The ends per inch (epi) determines density, and is based on so many factors other than just the thickness or wraps per inch of a yarn.

Wool comes from a sheep or sometimes other animals although I prefer to specify what that other animal is.

Synthetic fibres are made from chemicals, most generally petroleum products.  Rayon is not actually 'synthetic' because its chemical make up is cellulose - it behaves like other cellulose fibres and will degrade back into 'dust' unlike synthetics.

Pay attention to language.  It does matter.

**** 'harness' when it comes to drawlooms means a group of shafts, not a single shaft - so you have the ground 'harness' which may be four or five or 10 shafts, then the pattern shafts which may be a harness of 50 shafts - and so on.

Currently reading Careless Love by Peter Robinson

Sunday, February 10, 2019


As I have taught over the years I have come to realize that not everyone can visualize what something will look like...later...after it's been woven.

If this is the case, then I strongly recommend people weave samples.  Sampling is the only way to know for sure how something will turn out, especially how colours will look after being woven together.

I've been learning about colour in weaving for a long time because I wasn't very good at choosing colours to put together to make a pleasing cloth.  I studied colour theory.  I wound little practice warp wrappings.  I dyed yarn.  But none of those things reflected - precisely - what happens when you take one colour and cross it with another.

Gamps of various colours then became my most effective way to learn how to visualize.

gamp of tertiary colours

gamp of 'neutral' colours

gamp of pastel colours

One of the big complaints about weaving a colour gamp is the expense.  You need to buy a whole cone of yarn for just a little bit of each colour.  So for several years I sold colour gamp kits.  In addition to the more usual primary/rainbow gamp, I offered tertiary, neutral and pastel kits.

This allowed people to explore a greater range than they might have been able to do otherwise.

For some people they just don't know what is going to happen when they cross purple with, say, a red/brown.  Orange with green.  Black with yellow.

If you've never done it, how would you know?

However, if you can't afford to buy all the yarn, you can study what other people have done.

For example, you can look at something you really, really like (or dislike - both have lessons) and examine it for what the weaver/designer has done.  What colours did they use?  In what proportion?  In which weave structure?

The picture at the top is the next painted warp for Tien's class.  I don't know how much she will be able to cram into her suitcase when she comes in June to teach her workshop and seminars on colour at the conference but I'm sure she will bring some.  What better way to learn about colour than to actually see - and handle - woven examples that show precisely what happens when weft crosses warp?

Friday, February 8, 2019


I think one of the things that many weavers have in common is a desire to be in 'control'.  We aim for perfection and we are disappointed when we fail - yet again - to be 'perfect'.

It was a revelation to me just how much control I needed and how much the craft of weaving allowed me to exercise and even feed that desire for control.  I got to choose every thing involved in bringing my vision into material form (pun intended).

From choosing the yarn, the colours, how they went together, the process of getting the warp into the loom and the weaving of it, right down to the wet and dry finishing.

When I self-published Magic in the Water I not only controlled every facet of the samples, but I also worked closely with a local small press printer who consulted with me on every decision in terms of format, paper choice, etc.

It was a massive exercise in controlling All The Things.

For The Intentional Weaver I let loose the strings of control somewhat by choosing to go with an on-line publisher who could provide both digital PDF and print-on-demand formats.

Not only that - they would accept orders, ship them out, pay me my % at the end of the month.

For someone who needed to be in control of All The Things, making this decision was a really difficult one to make.  But it was one that I needed to make for so many reasons.

One of the things I do still have to do is market the book.  It seemed like a good idea to retain control of this aspect because The Intentional Weaver is aimed at a small slice of a small niche market.  Who else than me to deal with getting the word out to the target market?

That said...if people are purchasing from Blurb?  I have no control over their cart.  Zero control over their delivery.  Zero control over their delivery system of PDF formats.  And zero control over their quality control.

If someone has purchased from Blurb, then if they have a complaint or an issue?  They need to talk to Blurb.

If someone has purchased from me during the introductory offer?  By all means contact me.

For those of you who did buy - either from me directly or from blurb - grateful thanks for your patronage.  I really hope that those who invested in the book are finding it useful (some of you have let me know you have, so thank you for the positive feedback).

Currently reading Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Live, Laugh, Love - diversified plain weave scarf

A friend used to say that 'perfect kills good'.  I know I've talked about this before but it seems like it needs to be said again.

None of us are 'perfect'.  Not from lack of trying!  It's just that we don't always do things perfectly.  We don't always think of the perfect thing to say.  We don't always measure up to what we think is perfect.

If we get caught up in some sort of dream of perfection, we will quite often be disappointed.  Because what we manage to do so seldom ever turns out the way we think it ought to have done.

So the ideal of perfection tarnishes what is 'merely' good. 

But good is...good!  There are times when we really need to recognize that while something isn't 'perfect', it is 'good enough'.

Over the past little while I've had conversations with several people who want very much to do 'perfect' work.  Problem is, that desire for 'perfect' begins to interfere with doing anything at all.  When you get caught on the horns of the dilemma of making choices but can't because you can't decide if you are making the 'perfect' decisions...then you can't do anything at all.  And you put yourself through the meat grinder of agonizing over what you are going to do - choice A?  B?  C? 

Then there's the whole issue of finding that mistakes were made in the set up of the loom.  A colour is in the 'wrong' place.  Or the wrong colour was used (but is it really wrong?   Gah!)  My last 'big' mistake was threading the warp that came off the AVL a few weeks ago.  It's an overshot motif that I converted to twill blocks.  I wasn't feeling great while I threaded and damn if I didn't make a mistake and instead of one of the blocks being 4 repeats of twill, one of them wound up 3 repeats. 

I knew I'd made the mistake by the time I finished threading because I had four ends left over and there should have been an exact match of threading draft and threads.  It had taken me a couple of weeks with long interruptions before it got completely threaded (Life Happened) and I had little energy to try and figure out where the problem was by going through all 768 warp ends.  Instead I chose to sley, tie on and start weaving.  If the error had been fairly close to the left hand selvedge I would have sighed, inserted the lease sticks and taken out the threads from the mistake onwards. 

Instead the error was quite close to the right hand selvedge, which would have meant re-threading almost the entire warp.

I did not have the heart.  Or the energy.  Or the mental capacity.

So I just started weaving.

They were tea towels.  Having such an error would not impede the function of the cloth in any way.  In point of fact, when I posted a photo on line, most people couldn't see the problem, even when I told them where to look.

At that point in time, what I needed was to not beat myself up for being an imperfect human being, but to get into the working meditation, the zen of weaving.  Give up the myth of my superhuman powers of never making mistakes.

Because I do.  I make mistakes. 

Sometimes I choose to fix them.  Sometimes I choose to live with them. 

I don't claim that making or having mistakes in my cloth is any kind of spiritual practice - other than a nod at my own humanity.  I'm just a weaver, trying the best I can to not make mistakes.

If such a mistake bothers anyone else, then they must do what they feel necessary.  I have chosen - at times - to embrace the entirety of my craft practice, warts (mistakes) and all.  I always vow to do better, but sometimes the runner stumbles. 

One last pithy comment - those who can laugh at themselves will be endlessly entertained.