Friday, July 10, 2020

"Normal" Times

various linen fabrics

One thing about turning a significant zero birthday is an opportunity to reflect.  This morning I thought about this blog, how and why I started it.

Long time readers will know it was begun in an abundance of hope that my life was finally returning to 'normal'.  Not the normal it had been, but still - a new 'normal' that would allow me to return to health and weaving.

During the time I have been writing these posts, many things have happened - some good, some...not.

In other words - Life Happened.

So 12 years coming up.  Twelve years where my health did a roller coaster of stress in various guises.  But through it all, I wove.  Most of the time.

There were times when I could not weave.  There were times when my brain was fogged with fatigue.  And pain.

I don't share this to evoke pity.  Far from it.  Just an acknowledgement that human beings go through stuff.  And we manage.  We find a new 'normal'.  We make do.  We try different things.  We persist.

As a child I wanted to write but discovered pretty quickly that I was rubbish at fiction.  And poetry.  But I was a decent essayist.

In the end, that ability to string words together turned into magazine articles, class hand outs.  Eventually a book.  Just not the book I had ever dreamed that I would write.  Then a series of monographs.  The photo above is the cloth for A Good Yarn:  Linen.  I was very pleased with how those fabrics turned out.  While I'm not a big fan of beige, once the fabric was wet finished, it positively gleamed.  You can just sort of make out the lustre on the fold of the one on the far right.  I hated to cut it up to put into the publication, frankly.  But I did because that was what they were for.

Eventually I succumbed to the siren call of the 'pen' and wrote a second book.  Again, I never imagined I would do any such thing.  I was positively burnt out after Magic, vowing I would never again...

Well, you know the saying...never say never...

Now I am 'retired' - officially - from being a production weaver, making things to sell for my income.  Doesn't mean I'm done with weaving.  I have way too much yarn stash to stop now!  So I continue to weave.

However, the world is going through enormous upheaval right now.  Our 'normal' is in doubt.  No one knows what life will look like once the pandemic is over.  We don't even know when the pandemic will be over.  If indeed it ever will end.

Climate change continues as well and people are so focused on the pandemic that gigantic elephant in the room continues to exist - ignored for the moment by all but the scientists and the young folk who continue to try to bring our attention to what is happening..  How that one-two punch of pandemic-climate change will affect our new 'normal' is unknown right now.  The one thing that I do hope will change is that people will adopt wearing a mask.

I am old enough that I have seen many changes through the years.  It is kind of sobering to hang out with people in their 30s and realize that I actually lived through things they consider history.  Funny - I don't feel ancient!  Except when I talk to them about things that they have little knowledge about but were part of my lived experience.

In many ways I feel part of my role is to be a voice for that recent history.  To let them know about things that they may have only read about - or didn't know at all.

This kind of history keeping is what elders in a community do.  If the pandemic kills off a large percentage of the elders, that thread will be lost.

So it is with weaving knowledge.  It is the elders in the community who help to keep the story of cloth alive.  So I buy books as well as write them.

For my birthday yesterday I bought Stacy Harvey-Brown's book Beneath the Surface.  In the 1980s I experimented with stitched double weave, pique and shrinkage differentials.  But there wasn't a lot of money to be made from making those fabrics, so I put that thread (pun intended) aside.

stitched double weave with shrinkage differential between layers creating texture on the surface

Stacey recently updated her book and I decided to make it my birthday gift to myself.

When I retired from production weaving I felt that maybe now I could get back to the sorts of things that I had set aside in pursuit of an income.  I'm hoping Stacey's look at this category of cloth will spark the interest I once had.  Who knows where that plunge down the rabbit hole will lead.

In the meantime?  Stay at home if you can.  If you need to go out, wear a mask.  Maintain physical distance from others as much as possible.  Wash your hands.

Stay safe y'all!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Mixed Feelings

Today's the day.

And ultimately?  It's just another day.  It might be great, it might not.  But here's the thing.  I'm still here.  I'm still weaving.  I'm still wishing to teach (when it becomes safe again).

With most of my father's family dying before their 60th birthday (including my brother), in many ways I had little expectation that I would make it this far.  And honestly?  I almost didn't.  I was teetering on the edge of the precipice in 2008 with undiagnosed cardiac blockages and when my brother fell over at work, the coroner sent me to my doctor to get checked out.

In hindsight I still can't fathom why he went first because I was the older one by six years.

And yet.

And yet.

Here I am.

I feel an obligation to live my life to it's fullest, simply because I am still here, and he isn't.

So each year that goes by, I sit and wonder...why?  Why am I still here?  What is my purpose?  Am I doing my best to make things better for others?  If not, why not?

We are given life to do with as we please.  Some people extend hands of welcome to others.  Some prevent others from having a seat at the table, a voice in the choir.

Am I doing the 'right' thing every day?  No, probably not.  But I am trying.  I am seeking knowledge and understanding.  I want to build a bigger table, not fences.

My wish is for all to have what they need (not just what they want - they are two different things in many cases).

As one single person with no power to move mountains, I can shine a light where there is darkness.  I can amplify the voices of those who are not being heard.  I can be supportive and encouraging when I see others tiring.

From my perspective of 70 years I have seen society cycle through periods of great stress and turmoil.  I know that even though the sun may not be shining here, it is shining somewhere.  And that we need rain as well as sun.  That all things will pass - the good and the bad.

Last summer I wrote, as part catharsis, part therapy, a 'memoir'.  My editor wondered if I really wanted people to know what I shared about my life in that document.  In the end I decided to let it sit.  While I have not deleted the file, neither have I decided to move forward with the project.

In the end, maybe the value of the therapy of writing it all down was enough.

But each and every one of us is shaped by the experiences we live through, the battles we fight, the losses we sustain.  So what and who I am today is the sum of those memories and experiences.  I freely admit I might not be remembering the things that happened accurately - memory is fickle, after all.  But my memories of the trauma our family went through are my bubble of reality and how I dealt with them in large part shaped who I am today.

Wayne Dyer talked about reaching an age when your role would change into that of mentor.  I accepted that role a few years ago.

I reaffirm that role now, today, and for the days going forward, for as long as I am able.

For anyone interested, the birthday special offer continues until midnight tonight.  Purchase The Intentional Weaver via, send me a confirmation of your order and your mailing address and I will send you a birthday gift of a tea towel.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


spool rack set up with tubes ready to beam the next warp

Yesterday I gave the white warp a good long stare, decided that while there was probably enough warp for one more towel I was having enough issues with dye lot differences that I didn't feel like pressing on.   And one section looked suspiciously low on wraps.  I didn't feel like playing yarn chicken with it.  The green I was using for the last towels had a very faint dye lot difference which most people won't even register - but I could.  And it was not bringing me joy...

The tubes were borderline enough to wind another warp from, and in the end I may take all of the tubes that are sort-of big enough for another warp and make a warp with everything tossed in.  Or not.  To be determined.

Since the next warp was all ready, threading draft generated, tubes pulled, I cut the white warp off the loom at end of day yesterday, cut/serged the 9 towels and got them through the washer and dryer.  And set up the yarn for the next warp.

The plan is to beam this warp for another 18-20 towels, then cross it with white.

Which may be reconsidered when I see how the cloth actually looks with such a high contrast warp and weft.  If it looks dingy, I will see what else I have on the shelves that might look better.  It it works, it should look kinda, sorta, like delft pottery.  That's the inspiration, anyway.

The yarns are mostly a dark blue with some darker tubes, some greyed blue and two dark green.  I have quite a bit of the dark blue and this warp won't use up very much of it.  But it will use up some.  And that's what it's all about right now - using up the yarn, one way or another.

The goal for today is to get this warp beamed.  Whether or not I'll get any threading done will depend on how quickly I get myself in gear.  I ran into an allergen last night and I have allergy 'hang over' this morning.  

Better living with chemistry?  Thank goodness for antihistamines!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Progress is progress, as they say, and I'm getting very near to done on this white warp.

(The group of yarns that are heading off at a different angle are surplus to requirements and are being hung off the warping valet mounted on the ceiling to keep them coming off the beam and out of the way.)

Life is slowly beginning to function again.  After pressing pause for four months our province seems to be coping - for the moment - with the coronavirus to the point that we are starting to figure out how to live with it.

As such, I have been able to book personal 'maintenance' appointments although so far Doug has been doing all the shopping and other errands like post office and library.

Most places have made arrangements to keep staff and public as safe as can be but Doug and I will continue to wear masks in public.

So much is unknown about this virus - does a person develop immunity?  How long does it last?  Will it be possible to have a vaccine?  Can science figure out a cure, not just try to deal with the symptoms, which are wide ranging and in many cases severe?

We must not become complacent even as we learn how to live with this new situation.

In the meantime I try to get to the loom for a couple of hours every day.  My yarns are beginning to get used up.  I have an inventory of tea towels and need to start thinking about other things.  My scarf inventory is pretty low as I managed to sell off a lot over the past couple of years without adding very many more.

On the other hand, who knows if there will be sales opportunities, or people with disposable income willing to buy?

So much uncertainty.

The only way through this time is one step at a time.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  When I find myself overwhelmed I remind myself that I can pause and regroup.  You can't pour from an empty cup.  Put your oxygen mask on before trying to help others.

All those cliches that are true.

Stay safe at home.  If you need to go out, wear a mask.  Maintain physical distance.  Wash your hands when you get home.

Monday, July 6, 2020


tubes of pale grey I want to use up

dye lot difference - yes that change from very pale to darker is a dye lot difference

Anyone who has worked with yarn is (or should be) aware of a thing called 'dye lot difference'.

Not even industry gets it perfect every time and people are always advised to buy sufficient yarn of the same dye lot to complete their project.

Which is all well and good if you only ever buy enough yarn for one project.

Having been a production weaver for 40+ years, I have accumulated a rather large yarn stash.  As I seldom ever made just one of anything, my stash eventually grew to have multiple dye lots of the 'same' colour.

I'm pretty good at differentiating colour but on this grey even my eye was fooled.  I thought I had sorted the tubes into their different dye lots, checked over several days, in different light conditions.  And yet.  And yet.  When I began weaving with the grey there was a distinct difference in value which had not been detectable in the tube, but became abundantly clear as soon as I started weaving with it.

What to do?

Many people consider a sudden change in colour to be a flaw and frankly?  If I were planning on submitting this tea towel to an exhibition I would not.  Because it is obviously a difference in colour.

However.  It's a tea towel.  The slight difference in colour might not even show on the other side (which is the 'right' side) and if it does?  It will be very slight.  So slight that many people won't even notice.

Recently someone posted a rainbow spectrum on Facebook saying if you could distinguish more than 34 different stripes of colour you had very good colour vision.  I could see 35.

Yesterday a friend came to visit (and I wound up putting her to work trimming shawl fringe - gotta love friends who will pitch in to help!!!) and we talked about how people see different colours, can distinguish many - or fewer - different values/shades.

Ultimately my goal at this point in time is to use up as much of my stash as I can.  How much do I, or should I, care about such things which are considered 'flaws' by some while not actually interfering with the ability of the cloth to do its job?

Now that weaving is my hobby, I find that I don't much care.  If the difference is really obvious, that towel will be set aside and given away.

I look around and see all the people who cannot bear to be 'wrong' or make something that isn't 'perfect'.  And I wonder if humanity would be a bit better off if we could be satisfied with 'good'.  Or be willing to embrace that we are all imperfect in some way, that most of us are doing the best we can in the circumstance, and that a few scars, wrinkles, or subtle dye lot differences don't diminish our inherent qualities or usefulness.

Life is not black and white, but subtle shades of grey...

Currently reading The Redeemed by M. R. Hall

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Golden Orb

After days, weeks, months (it feels like) of heavily overcast skies and almost daily rain, we have some sun today.  A welcome appearance of a golden orb, making it's sedate way across the sky.

Not that it hasn't been there all along - just not visible to us on the ground.

The plum trees had some blossoms in the spring but how many have set fruit we don't really know. 

A timely metaphor all way round for life in general.

Even in our darkest days, the sun does shine.  Maybe not on us, but it is there.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  In spite of the rain, the flooding happening, we don't have wildfire smoke pall.

Something to be grateful for, especially during a pandemic that attacks the lungs.

I never understood how people could keep going through things like the Black Plague, the times of extreme weather, mini-cold ages, etc.

Now I know.  You just keep going.  You keep hanging on.  You keep hoping that things will improve.  That the water will abate, the virus die off.

You look for the tiny good things that happen.  A card from a friend.  A phone call (or Zoom, these days).  A pretty picture that reminds you of how beautiful this world is.  How much you value friends.

Recently someone I knew primarily via the internet died.  I always appreciated her blog posts and kind words.  In the end I have a piece of her weaving that will serve as a reminder that people can be lovely and supportive and kind.  Especially on days when I'm dealing with people who don't seem to be any of those things.

I live for the day when I can teach again.  Hug my friends again.  In the meantime today will be a day of physically distant visiting.  A friend will come over this afternoon and we will sit in the carport and have a much needed catch-up.

As our province begins to slowly creak 'open', I will stay home as much as possible.  Wear a mask when I go out.  Keep distance.  Wash my hands with soap and water when I get home.

Stay safe as can be everyone.  Virtual {hugs} to everyone.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Bread and Roses

I would feel more satisfied about the 'holes' here...

...if it weren't for the bins of yarn pulled for the next warps here...

With my yarn out where I can (mostly) see it, I have been feeling a bit smug about the holes developing in the yarn stored on the shelving near the Megado.  

Yesterday while congratulating myself on the excellent progress on stash busting, it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't doing quite as well as I was thinking, given the several pounds of yarn pulled to make the warps (and weft) for the projects in the queue.

However, given that those shelves were packed cheek by jowl just a few short (long?) months ago, I have made progress.  And progress is still progress, no matter how much further there is to go in the journey.

During this time of pandemic and stress/worry about what will happen in the upcoming months, I constantly question why I keep making more stuff.

The craft fairs that I do locally are cancelled.  The consignment shops are also closed.  People are hurting financially in many cases.  Like someone once said to me a long time ago during a different economic recession, when they are worried about putting food on the table they can't be thinking about pretty cloth to put under the plate.

It is a comment that I have never forgotten, in large part because most of my life as a 'starving artist' my concerns were more about the food on the plate than anything else.

So what is the role of artists in our society anyway?  We often take them for granted.  Arts funding is one of the first things that gets cut in economic downturns.  People worried about their literal survival have no room to spare in their budgets for the 'frivolous' pursuits of the arts.  On the other hand, people frequently use things like music to lift their spirits, read to escape from reality.

Craftspeople participating in what we now call 'traditional' crafts frequently make useful things, not just decorative.

But throughout humanity, useful things have been decorated.  Given the time it takes to make something useful also beautiful, the very act of making the beautiful must mean something to our souls.

I was once asked to talk at an International Women's Day gathering.  It was sponsored by several unions so I drew on the value of making in society.  And ended presentation by saying that we need our bread, but we need our roses too.

Friday, July 3, 2020


With the pandemic continuing, especially in some parts of the world, things like classes or other gatherings are being put on hold.

It is very upsetting for a lot of people as their course of study, be it elementary/high school or college/university or other avenues of learning are so completely up in the air.  Many teachers are being forced by circumstance to convert their classes to on-line, with all the upheaval that entails.

If someone has never taught a course of study, there is little understanding of the kind of preparation that is required.  To then pivot and put that class on-line requires a further investment of time, expertise and technology that might be completely beyond an individual, never mind an institution that might have tech support but is overwhelmed with ALL the teachers needing to do the same at the same time.

Do teachers invest perhaps a hundred hours of prep time creating an on-line class that then becomes redundant in a year because the pandemic is over?  Or do they sit tight and hope that things will be able to return to some semblance of normality?

On the other hand, in the textile community a number of people had begun the shift to on-line learning, so they were already prepared with camera crews, appropriate physical space and on-line presence.

Others, like myself,  had produced DVDs and with the break up of Interweave and the creation of Long Thread Media, those DVDs were turned into on-line 'workshops'.

As for classes like the Olds master weaving/spinning classes, much of the value of those classes are the in person aspect where the instructor can view how the student is working (ergonomically) and give in person 'correction' plus answer questions in real time from which the entire class benefits.

There are other instructors who are presently working on on-line resources.  Some are beginning to roll out on-line data bases and classes.  Others are working on them and will launch as soon as they finish their production.

Some have Patreon accounts and may have on-line mini-classes for subscribers.

I can recommend the following:
Jane Stafford's on-line guild
Tien Chiu Warp and Weave classes
Janet Dawson - Craftsy class, turned into bluprint, now bought out by another company
Long Thread Media's catalogue of DVDs now on-line workshops
Daryl Lancaster

As other efforts go live I will announce/share the info as it comes available.

For myself, there are still the level two and four Olds classes scheduled for Nova Scotia in September.  Whether or not it will be advisable for people to travel to Cape Breton remains to be seen.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Rain, Rain...

pretty picture to brighten your day (stack of painted warp scarves)

This (ahem) summer has not been very nice so far.  We have been beset by rain and t-storms.  The rivers are rising, there is flooding in much of the province.


We don't have wildfires, so that's a win, I guess.

In going through my stash of yarns, I feel like I'm in a marathon.  Just completely focused on one thing - weave the yarn down.  As mentioned in a previous post, I have three more warps in the queue with a fourth in development.  And still the 2/16 lingers!  Whole lotta yardage in 2/16 cotton...

OTOH, I am making progress.  I was thinking yesterday how nice it was to see 'holes' on the shelves, then suddenly remembered that the holes are there because I have three bins of yarn pulled for the warps in the queue!

The current warp has 5 towels woven on it with about 14 or so left to do.  Guess I'd better go do them.  Now that I've seen how this warp is going to look, I'd like to weave it off and get rid of some of the 'left over' yarn on tubes.   Too little to really want to put into a warp, too much to throw away.  Just right for popping into a shuttle and weaving it off.

Eating the 'elephant' one pick at a time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Best Part

I enjoy weaving on multiple levels.  I enjoy the physical activity of sitting at the loom, throwing the shuttle, beating the weft into place.

But I also find the intellectual work of trying to figure out how to make the threads move through the fabric stimulating. 

So when I'm at the loom and things are going well and only surface attention is required, I will frequently mull over up-coming warps.

Right now I have 20 yards (give or take) of warp on the loom with three towels woven...with about another 8 or 9 days of weaving before that warp comes off. 

I also have at least three bins with planned warps waiting.  Two of them already have their drafts ready to go.  The third one I'm still letting simmer.  A fourth is percolating in part because of the draft I want to use and what I have available which may - or may not - be suitable.

In order to get a good fit between draft and planned warp you have to have the right combination of things and I'm not sure I have a good fit left in my steadily reducing stash of 2/16 cotton.

I also have some more linen (thanks to a friend giving me more linen just as I was finishing off my stash!  Um, thanks?)

So I may wind up using the linen for weft on that one, but given about two weeks per warp, I'm still several weeks away from needing to crunch that one while I deal with the ones that are ready to go.

Here is a glimpse at what I work on:  The draft has been turned so that instead of 16 shafts only 8 are needed.  But 16 treadles are required, so suitable for a loom with levers or a dobby.  The stripes are now weft wise instead of warp wise, but yes, it is possible to weave on fewer shafts.