Thursday, January 17, 2019

Light and Shadow

no supplemental light at the front of the loom

supplemental light at the front of the loom

Winter is here and we have been plagued with a series of really grey dreary days with heavy overcast.

One of the things that becomes necessary during these kinds of days - or if you have to weave after dark, after work, after the children are in bed - whatever - is some supplemental light.

The big consideration in choosing light is to make sure the light is actually illuminating your work area so that you aren't working in shadow - either yours - or that of the loom.

I don't attach supplemental lights to the loom because over the years I have broken light fixtures and bulbs due to the vibration of the loom while I'm weaving.  Now, not everyone weaves as much as I do, or as quickly as I do, so attaching lights to their loom might not be a big deal.  For me, it was.  So my lights are to the side of the loom and adjustable.  As I move from threading to sleying to weaving, where I need the light changes.

When I'm threading, I need the light trained onto the heddles.  An overhead light means I would be working in the shadow of the loom castle and the tops of the shafts.

Then I'm sleying, the area needing to be lit has moved out of the heddles and now needs to be on the reed which is inside the beater.  (Some people do this job with the reed laid flat, so their light placement would be different than mine.)

When I'm weaving, the area needing to be lit changes slightly again.  My lamps can be adjusted for all of these positions, simply by swinging them where they need to be.

As I get older and grow my 'baby' cataracts, supplemental light will become increasingly important.  My lamps will serve me well so that I can see what I'm doing.  

When choosing lamp placement, keep in mind what it is you need to see and make sure the light shines on that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Today the last of the padded envelopes will be taken to the post office.  Tomorrow the multiple copy orders will be mailed.  They don't qualify for the small packet rate and require different customs forms, so it is just easier to deal with those last.

Once the 'dust' of dealing with the books is over, the next things on my priority list will be Olds College master weaving marking.  I'm working on one student's work now, with another box waiting for me to pick up at the post office when I drop the books off.

The college is working on Fibre Week and the satellite classes.  Hopefully there will be news about the Cape Breton classes soon.  The Gaelic College wants to run them a wee bit earlier in the year - May, not June.  Olds Fibre Week will be in July.  In between?  The conference.

Which - if you haven't heard - opens for registration on Jan. 27.

The conference website has the scheduled workshops and seminars listed.  Do go and look, make a list of your #1, 2 and 3 choices and be prepared when you go to register on the 27th.  :)

The website also has links to the hotels where we have block booked rooms, links to entry forms for the exhibits, fashion show and for any authors attending, registration for the author signing event.

There are also codes for those planning on flying, either by Air Canada or WestJet.

Currently reading The Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Elbow Room

I'm back to weaving - or trying to, in between book shipping distractions - and decided the easiest thing to do would be to weave up all those scarf warps I wound before Christmas.

As I was weaving today I thought about the yarns we choose to work with and how to determine an appropriate density for the cloth we intend to create.

Some yarns/qualities of cloth just need more elbow room than the standard charts recommend.

For instance with these warps I'm using two different yarns.  The green is a lightly textured rayon which may well be cabled (I haven't deconstructed it to find out how exactly it was spun) and a textured rayon 'boucle' (the purple).

The boucle (I call it that because I'm not sure what exactly to call it - again I've not deconstructed it to find out how it was spun) is thinner than the other, over all.  But the texture of it means that it needs more elbow room.  I think you can see in the photo that parts of the yarn are quite a bit thicker than the other.  The density of the cloth needs to take that intermittent thickness into consideration or else the resulting cloth will be tighter and stiffer than I really want for a scarf.

Another yarn that needs to have density adjusted is linen.  While a linen yarn may be the same thickness as a cotton yarn, the fact that the linen is denser than cotton, and stiffer than cotton, means it needs to have more elbow room than cotton.

Charts giving standard recommendations for various yarns are always just a starting point.

One of the challenges in the master weaving program through Olds is to weave sett samples.  In level one the yarn is wool; in level two the yarn is cotton.

Students always want to know what the 'right' density is.  The truth is that there is no right density.  For 2/8 cotton I've seen charts telling people to use 2/8 cotton for plain weave anywhere from 18 to 24 epi.  And you can.  Using the different degrees of density can be done but cloth of completely different qualities will result.  18 epi/ppi will make a much better towel than one at 24 because the denser and stiffer the cloth, the less absorbent it will be.  The higher density will, however, be much more durable in terms of abrasion resistance.

Whether someone does a yarn/ruler wrap, uses the Ashenhurst formula, or follows the recommendations of a chart, remember that those numbers are just a starting place.  The yarn being used may require more - or less - elbow room, depending on the quality of the cloth desired.

This is why we weave samples.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mommeee! It's Overrrrrr!!!

The Introductory Offer is over.  Has been since Dec. 21, 2018.  I extended that period for a few people who emailed me saying they'd only just heard the news and could they, pretty please?  Since I ordered 'extra' hard copies for sale at the ANWG conference I accepted a few more orders based on the IO.

But now that I'm in the middle of shipping those IOs out, it is time to officially close down the offer and direct people to purchase from the website

Both Magic in the Water and The Intentional Weaver are available via Blurb in either print-on-demand or PDF formats.

As an individual self-publishing a book for a slim niche of a niche market, I welcome people sharing news of the book to their friends.  I am doing all the marketing myself.  I don't have a marketing department or a big marketing budget.  I can't afford ads in trade publications because I didn't build in a big enough margin in my price because I wanted to keep the book as affordable as possible.

I just did a quick search for "Laura Fry book" and the third item on the list was for Magic in the Water via Blurb.  So my books can be found - it may just take a little digging.

Or a little help from my friends

In the 21st century, social media can get the word out very quickly to a target market.  So feel free to share the news of the book and where it can be found.

Sending best wishes to everyone during the coming year.    

Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Anachronism

Anachronism:  person or thing out of harmony with the time

I am the very definition of an anachronism.  I knew very little about weaving when I chose to become a professional weaver.  It had not been a hobby that grew.  I wasn't trying to sell enough to cover the cost of my materials.

In fact, I realized that the accepted pricing 'formula' of the day of 3 times the cost of my materials would lead to not being in business very quickly.

I also recognized that in order to make any kind of money at all, I was going to have to become very efficient at doing it.  I bought the most efficient equipment I could afford, or borrow to purchase it.

Weaving was not an escape from work; it was my work.

I had to learn how run a business as well as hone my craft - and that included doing market research (what would people be willing to purchase and for how much), manage my finances, discover exactly what it was that I was actually selling (it wasn't my textiles as much as it was my designs and the uniqueness that my personal creativity brought to my textiles), and develop a reputation for producing quality textiles that were worth the price I was charging.

With income from selling textiles being quite cyclical, I also started teaching and tried to balance my life and approach as a teacher with producing inventory for the shows that I deemed worthwhile presenting my textiles at.  Because not all of them bring in the type of clientele willing to pay my prices.

I had to learn how to respond to comments that were less than positive in their nature.  Both in selling and in teaching.

There is no real need for anyone in this day and age in North America to hand weave cloth.  I do it not because it is necessary but because I am offering my creativity - my designs, my colour ways, my approach to creating functional cloth that will do its job as well as I can make it.  What I am selling is myself as a designer.

All of this did not happen overnight.  At times I was more successful than at others.  When ever I wasn't as financially successful as I wanted, I had to look to ways to increase my income.  I wrote for magazines.  Eventually I wrote a book.  Two. 

My income streams were diverse, and at times unequal.  There were times when there was very little in the way of income.  At times it was our only income.

What I never did do, was quit.

Despite the challenges.  Despite the insecurity of income.  Despite negative comments.  Despite the stress.  I tried to figure out another way to make this career work for me.  Being an anachronism in the 20th and 21st centuries.

With 'retiring' from teaching guilds, making a firm decision last summer, I fully expected that my income would decrease severely.  Instead a couple of opportunities have gently strolled into my life and I find myself approaching teaching from a different tangent.  Only time will tell if these opportunities will develop into something long term, or just as an interim while I sort out what the future holds for me.

In the meantime, I have a book or 3 (hundred) to go sign...

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Home Stretch

300 copies.  That's how many I ordered.  This morning they arrived and I have begun signing them in preparation to packaging them up and getting them to the post office.  Hopefully the first batch will go tomorrow, although that may be a little...optimistic. 

But - they are here and I am in the home stretch.

When I published Magic in the Water, there really wasn't such a thing as digital books so it was - at first - exclusively a print publication.  It took the better part of 10 years to sell the entire print run. 

Now, we have various digital means of publishing information.  For this book I went with a website that does print-on-demand and offers digital options.  We never did get the ebook technology to work, but the manuscript is available as a PDF download.  This makes it a lot cheaper for people, especially those living in places far away from North America.

What I didn't realize when I chose this website was that they have printing facilities elsewhere, which makes it a lot cheaper for people in Europe and Australia/NZ to get a print copy, too.  They aren't paying for shipping from back-of-beyond Canada.  (Magic is now also available on Blurb as both a print and PDF versions.)

Overall my experience with Blurb has been good.  They have been professional in paying for units sold in one month by the 5th of the next.  (This month was a couple of days later, but there were holidays, which no doubt delayed things.)

If anyone is looking for a print-on-demand or digital option, I would recommend this website.

But for now I need to get back to the pen and pile.

Currently reading The Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


People are always amazed at how fast I am.  The secret is that...anyone who practices, mindfully, with similar manual dexterity to what I have can be just as, if not faster, than me.

In this video on You Tube, I break down the motions so that anyone can see how I do what I do.

Over the years I have worked hard to have ergonomic motions.  Turns out these ergonomic motions are also the most efficient ones.  So working ergonomically results in yes, less injury, but also more speed.

Working ergonomically, efficiently, with a good rhythm also results in more consistency and therefore better results in terms of the cloth being created.

So no, someone new to weaving will not be as fast as I am.  It took time to work out the motions, then practice them, training my muscles to do the motions consistently, while also learning when and how to adjust what I was doing depending on the fibre being used, to develop the speed that I now have.  There are times when I slow my weaving rhythm down to a snail's pace in order to weave, for example, a very open cloth and the weft isn't so much as beaten in but simply pushed into place.  Going slower in that instance gets me the results I desire much more quickly.

Everyone has to work at a pace that is comfortable for them, given their equipment and their intention.  It is not a contest.  It is personal growth and development that must be the first goal of any weaver.  Pay attention to what you are doing, do it the most ergonomic way you can, and in the end, efficiency may well increase, too.

A short profile of me done by the local cable channel is here

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Such a big job meant it had to be broken down into 'batches'.

First job was printing out the orders and their payments, keeping the two together.  Keeping track of the sending of the link for the pdf was noted on the payment paperwork.

The orders were filed alphabetically in case of queries so that they'd be easier to find.

Once the introductory offer period ended, I pulled out the Canadian orders (because they didn't need customs forms) and the four orders to be sent overseas and put them into separate files.

And then I began writing out mailing labels for the envelopes.  This took some time.  Yes, I could have typed them and printed them on my printer, but I already spend way too much time sitting at a computer, and I could get up, refresh my tea, stare out the window to clear my mind of numbers/names and take a wee break before going back to it.

Once the mailing labels were written out, the customs forms were done.  I had adhesive return address labels so that I didn't have to write out my own address, which helped enormously.

Boxes of padded envelopes were purchased (buying in bulk saved a few pennies, but it also saved plastic wrapping - iow, garbage).

This morning I began affixing the labels to the envelopes, again beginning with the Canadian and overseas ones.

Now I'm doing the US ones.  I'm taping the labels down because I've had such labels come off in transit - and I really don't want that to be a problem for these.  The customs label gets tucked into the envelope.  It will get taped (temporarily) to the outside of the envelope when the book goes in.  (Temporarily because the post office clerk needs to weigh the parcel and write in the depot code, weight, date etc. then stick it down to the envelope.)

The Canadian ones have been sorted by province.  The US ones will be sorted by zip code.  When we take the envelopes to the post office, this should make their job easier and faster so that we don't have to wait for ages while they deal with the flood.  Organizing by zip code will streamline their process.  I've talked to a clerk and we'll go in around 2 pm - after any lunch 'rush' and before the after work 'rush'.  Most likely we will do this over the course of several days.  The shipment of books weighs +550 pounds.  The majority of them are being mailed out and I doubt either of us will be much looking forward to carrying them into the post office.  I may request that we use their loading dock but the bins still have to be carried out to the van.

I'm hoping to get labels onto the envelopes done so that when the books do arrive all I have left to do is sign them and get them packaged up.  Doug will help with the packaging up part.

My goal is to have the books on their way before conference duties ramp up again, which they will very soon now.

Eating that proverbial elephant, one bite (batch) at a time.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


It feels like my life since becoming a production weaver has been one long stab at de-cluttering.

Since I have been working to earn an income from weaving, and there are so many steps that need to be done to get a warp into the loom, weave it, wet and dry finish it - I have always worked in batches.  The warp is the initial batch - planning multiple items on it, winding the warp, dressing the loom (beaming, threading, tying on, weaving it off) - then wet finishing, dry finishing (or vice versa depending on the dry finishing involved), tagging, then storing until they are sold.

As a result there has been a constant heap of bins with warps in various stages of preparation, then bins of finishing (hemming, fringe twisting), etc.

When I taught, there were bins of yarn with drafts being prepared to be mailed out.

When I did publications, the number of bins increased exponentially.

With all of this creative activity, my life was similarly cluttered with teaching dates, publication dates, deadlines, soft and hard.

Finally I have come to the point in my life when all this activity is becoming less of an issue as I downsize my expectations, and therefore the number of deadlines, projects, teaching that I am willing to schedule.

Normally with the conference just six months away, I would have been loading up my calendar with deadlines post conference.

Right now I have a few - Olds College (if they want me) in July, one teaching event in September, then three craft fairs I have decided to do in Oct/Nov.  But otherwise?  I am not booking anything for the second half of the year.

Realization has dawned that not only can I downsize my calendar, I am actually looking forward to it.

Even more, I am looking forward to downsizing my stash, the general physical clutter in my studio, and even, maybe, in my house.

Currently reading The Woman who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone (the true story of love, spies and the unlikely heroine who outwitted America's enemies - Elizebeth Smith Friedman)

Friday, January 4, 2019

Choosing Direction

Above are two drafts for a four shaft 'pin wheel'.  Notice anything about them?  The cloth is identical, the only difference is in the direction they have been threaded and the tie up.  

The one on top is how I prefer to thread.  I am right handed, prefer to thread from right to left with the straight draw direction beginning at the back of the loom coming forward to the front of the loom.

Why?  Because I find this to be the most efficient way to thread.  (Left handers may find threading from left to right easier.)

In almost all publications (now) drafts are written with the first thread on shaft one.  Why?  Probably because weaving software likes number 1 to be on shaft number 1.  I really don't know.  But for me, threading with the straight draw going upwards and away from me leads to a physical position that I find very uncomfortable and fatiguing.

Thing is, drafts are not written in stone.  With Fiberworks Silver there is a 'shaft shuffler' tool which allows me to quickly change a threading draft to something I find easier to thread, be that changing the diagonal of a straight progression, adjusting where pattern ends fall in a draft, etc.

Once a weave structure is understood, it is fairly easy to make adjustments - add extra repeats of a border on the selvedge, separate motifs within the body of a draft and so on.

The above is a partial image (because the complete draft is too large to copy properly) where I took the Canadian Snowflake draft (I reduced the 8 shaft Swedish Snowflake design to four shafts) then turned it into a twill block draft.  This will be the next warp that goes into the AVL.

There are times when the straight draw has to change direction, and I live with that, but when the straight draw is all one way?  I will change it to my preferred method where the diagonal goes from the back of the loom to the front to make the job of threading easier.

The more someone understands how threading drafts work, the more they can adjust the draft to fit their intended cloth and get closer to the results they desire.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Highs, Lows and Long Slogs

I know a number of writers personally and follow some more on social media.  Inevitably some of them will hit a low patch in their writing, so I was well aware (also because of having done this once before) that getting this book 'born' and into the world would resemble a roller coaster.  Life also conspired - as you know if you have been reading this blog for a while - to add a few twists and turns to the ride.

All writing is challenging.  Writing fiction is challenging in terms of coming up with the story line, then figuring out how to best tell the story.  Technical writing is challenging in terms of writing with clarity about techniques and processes in a way that aids understanding.  Or at least, that's the goal.

After years of writing magazine articles and class handouts (as well as essays in school) I was no stranger to what would be involved.  It was every bit of what I expected it to be, this journey, and more.  There were more highs, more lows and more long hard slogs.  The difference between this and Magic was the scope.  Magic was about one slice of the craft of creating a textile.  The writing part wasn't hugely difficult, rather it was the choosing of the projects to provide examples of how to do wet finishing and why it was so important to do it.  And then, of course, weaving the hundreds of yards of samples.

For Magic there were initially 20 projects, which grew to 22.  The initial warps for those samples started out at 40 yards, but some of the projects required more.  20 times 40 yards is 800 yards, plus the additional warps - so very nearly 1000 yards.  Warps were typically 40 to 48" in the reed.

But that wasn't all - then came the preparation of the samples.  Loom state samples were taped and cut apart.  Wet finished samples were wet finished, most of them including a hard press.  At the time I did not have the industrial steam press, so all of that pressing was done on a small flat bed press.  It took hours and hours.

Then those samples had to be cut to size and both loom state and wet finished samples stapled to their respective pages.  In the end, all the pages were assembled and put into custom 3 ring binders.

So most of the work of Magic was the labour of preparing the samples.

This book was different in that most of the work was in the writing.  Deciding what to include, how best to describe the techniques, what photos were required.  Of course there were some samples to be woven, but the bulk of the work was in the writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, more re-writing, back and forth with my beta readers.  (Truth to be told, some of them were truly alpha readers, a few hung on to be beta readers.)

There was so much text that it became overwhelming which is why I finally broke down and hired an editor.

In both cases I self-published.  Magic was done with the assistance of a local printer, his off-set press and graphic designer son.

20 years on and the technology has changed to such an extent that I needed the expert assistance of someone who could wrangle the new technology to the mat.  I just happened to find someone who also knew and understood the 'old' technology.  Not only that, but Ruth is also a spinner and weaver.

The majority of the books are being shipped outside of Canada.  I wrote out mailing labels earlier in the week, then did the customs forms, finishing those just now.  The books are very close to being ready, but I also have other things that need to be done.  Year end, for one.  Remitting sales taxes.  Balancing my ledger.

Work has also continued on the conference.  Announcements will be forthcoming very soon, as in a matter of hours.  This has also taken longer than we'd hoped, as these things are wont to do.  But our goal, right from the beginning, was to work our darndest to make it a good event for all participants - the instructors, vendors, volunteers, as well as the participants.  So we took extra time to make sure the information that will be posted to the registration website will be as accurate as we can make it.

As with so many Big Projects, it may appear that not much is happening, but there is plenty going on behind the scenes! 

Textile practitioners are well acquainted with the degree of preparation and labour that goes into creating their pieces. 

It's no different to write and publish a book.  Or craft a conference.

Buy the books at blurb
Check out the instructors and their workshop/seminar topics on the conference website - click on Schedule

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


One of the reasons I like the AVL is that I can do things like this and not have to do anything remedial because the tension on the warp is not held at the cloth beam but up at the front on the 'breast' beam (aka the sandpaper beam).

On an ordinary loom, this overhang would have to be dealt with in some way.

In this instance it has happened because I finally used up (yay!) the cottolin and switched to 100% linen.

Linen is much denser and more rigid than cotton or cottolin (which is half to 60% cotton) and therefore it does not draw in nearly as much as the other yarn.  That means the web is wider and the selvedges tend to hang over the edge of the cloth roll.

On an ordinary loom I would either cut off and re-tie so that the linen weft was only building up on linen weft layers or I would insert several sticks (warp packing sticks, whatever) to support the linen layers.

Since the mechanics of the AVL are different, though, none of that is necessary and the web just rolls on up and nothing nasty happens to my warp tension.

When the loom is working properly it's a dream.  When it isn't it becomes a nightmare and careful diagnosis of what the problem is needs to be done.  With more mechanical 'aid' comes more opportunity for things to go horribly awry as a friend says.  Fortunately right now the loom is behaving, and I'm making good progress on this warp.  So good, in fact, that I might even be able to cut it off tomorrow, or Thursday at the latest. 

I haven't decided if I will switch to the scarf warps on the Fanny or immediately dress the AVL again.  I'm sort of leaning towards the latter while the loom is behaving!


Humans seem to need to set milestones as they navigate through life.  So we mark the turning of the sun/calendar into a new year, birth/death and so on.

Two years ago I began life as an 'orphan', although when your parent dies at 90 and you are no longer a child I don't know if that word really applies - but we don't really have another for that life transition.

Since then life has been full of change.  I have continued, as best I am able, to live my life as well as I can while also recognizing that I need to also change the expectations I have held for myself for decades.  Expectations of being able to work, to live life fully, completely, in terms of goals and productivity.

In many ways I have succeeded, in many I'm no different than I was at 29.  I still dream big dreams, tend to set myself big goals.  But now I have an inner voice going, what, wait - what are you thinking!  I enter this year working on acceptance.  That life does not go on forever.  That all things come to an end.  That plunging into the deep end of the pool becomes less sustainable the older I get.

Acceptance is not giving up, exactly.  Acceptance to me is the suspending of expectation that this body will continue to go on as though it was much younger - and fitter - than it is.  Acceptance is not trying to push it beyond its endurance.  To recognize that it will take longer to heal from injury and to not get upset at the length of time that it will take to do so.  (My knee being the case in point - falling in early October, ripping it up pretty badly, only just healed at Christmas.)

Instead of setting myself on the road to big tasks, I work on cultivating contentment with where I am.  Tranquility with the way things are.  That doesn't mean I neglect progress.  After not being able to really weave much for a couple of months I have been slowly getting back to the loom, working on regaining muscle tone.  But now my goal is to get to the loom once or twice a day, not 3-5 times.  That may come, or it may not.  Progress is progress, no matter if it is one step or a dozen.

I have been calling myself semi-retired and getting comfortable with that definition.  Still working on it, but when you have done what you love to do for 40+ years, it is also hard to contemplate not doing it at all, which is what 'retirement' would mean.  So, semi it is.

As I work on changing my definition of what work means, I find one of the most valuable things I can do is encourage and support others who are younger, fitter, and still have energy.  I won't say enthusiasm, because I will always be enthusiastic about weaving. 

2019 means that we will get cracking on the conference in June.  Semi-retirement for me means I have not come up with any Big Projects to tackle once the conference is over - as I would do, normally.

Instead I will work on lending whatever support I can to those who are taking up the mantle of being the dreamers, the movers and shakers. 

Sending best wishes to all.