Saturday, July 20, 2019

Clue by Four

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 19, 2019

Endings...and Beginnings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endings.  Beginnings. 

It's all good.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Voting for Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Coming Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


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

It's like driving conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 15, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And clean up my own messes...

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Just the Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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