Saturday, October 24, 2020

Progress Tracker


empty cardboard tubes

With the stated goal of using up/emptying tubes of yarn, it seemed to be taking a very long time to get significant progress happening.

So far, on the current warp, these tubes were emptied.  I didn't count, but it is a satisfying pile.  A confirmation that I have made progress, that stash is being used.

There will most likely be another 3 or more tubes emptied before I've finished the current warp - today, I hope.

It was supposed to come off yesterday, but I had some volunteers to assist with getting the guild room prepared for the upcoming sale dates, so instead of weaving, I spent a few hours at the guild room.  

By the time we left, the room had been re-arranged, things cleared out of the front half of the room, display equipment set up, ready to receive inventory.  I'm hoping for another helper on Nov. 6 to put out the textiles ready for customers.

I look at my shelves and see years more of weaving without ever needing to buy more yarn.  But I am beginning to weary of the endless tea towels.  Several times in the past few months I have concluded that I was 'done' doing these tea towels, viewed the quantity of yarn still sitting on the shelves, found more colour combinations I could love enough to weave...and pulled more warps.  But I'm thinking that the two in the queue, plus one more with a darker blue base, might just be The End.

I am making progress on the jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table, and I think that by the time I'm finished it, it will be time to pull out the spinner and start spinning some of my fibre stash.  Because I also have more than a little fibre!  And those rolags I made two years ago really need to be spun into yarn.

So, that would appear to be my winter sorted!  Not to mention my stack of books that wants to be read.

Somehow I don't think I will have much trouble staying home (because I can), wear a mask if I need to go out, maintain safe physical distancing.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Textile Science


When the coming of computers was touted as delivering us into the Age of Information, what the pundits failed to mention is that not all information is 'good' or 'helpful'.  

There is a lot of poor information that floats around the internet with people seeming to rely on what they have been told instead of looking at the actual science of fibres and textiles.

In my younger days, I would leap into every fray, trying to let people know actual facts instead of the myths that were being perpetrated.  But it seems a certain subset of humanity wasn't all that interested in facts but wanted to cling onto their perceived knowledge.  They could never be 'wrong' about anything, did not suffer any kind of additional information with any kind of grace, or admit that someone else might actually know more than they did.

Over the years (I entered the world of the internet in 1994 so I've been around for a while) I got tired of being told I was wrong, that my factual information was suspect, that their source was more accurate than mine.  Fair enough.  If I am wrong, tell me how so I can adjust my information.

One of the confrontations that about did me in was the soap/detergent controversy (for the umpteenth time).

I explained how what you used depended on the quality of the water you were using - if it was highly mineralized, the soap will bind with the minerals creating a grey skuzz (technical term) on the surface of the water, in which case you will want to use a detergent.

I had a pile of people tell me I was WRONG - that you should never, ever use evil detergents on your wool.  Then, much to my amusement, some of them would highly recommend Synthropol or Orvus Paste as being The Best Thing Ever!

Both of which are detergents.  But that information seemed to go right over their heads.

So a recent discussion on a group had people highly recommending using ammonia on wool.  This is not something I would recommend, and if it is used, should be used in a very light solution.  

In terms of wool, the book pictured above has really great scientific information.  There are other books but I prefer this one because it breaks information down into 'just the facts, ma'am' and also has comparative charts.

For wool, which is a protein fibre, it lists wool has having low resistance to alkalis - in other words, alkalis can damage wool.  It has medium resistance to acids.  Again, light solution, limited time.  It has high resistance to solvents.  Poor resistance to sun and microorganisms and insects.

When using soap or detergent, use a light solution for a limited time.

The optimum range for wool is pH neutral - around a 7 on the scale.  There are times when - for special purposes, pH can be shifted either end of the pH scale, but not to the extreme ends.  Alkali will begin to damage wool over10 on the scale.

I did an experiment with my guild - asked them to bring whatever they use for soap/detergent and got some pH paper.  We then tested each of the products to find out where they fell in the pH range.

In light solution (and those words are critical) every single one fell within the safe range of pH for wool.

Another problem that crops up with wool (or any fibre for that matter) is mould.  What do you do if you find you have mould in your yarn stash?

There is a product called Concrobium Mold that actually kills mold.  Bleach is not the best way to get rid of mold, and used in quantity isn't good for human beings, either.

Boiling it is not best practice for wool, either.  Wool + moisture + agitation = fulling.

When in doubt, find some science.  I highly recommend The Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers.  This book has been used in the textile science classes at the University of Manitoba - the authors are professors there - and is now in it's 3rd edition, I think.  Since it's a textbook, the latest edition is very expensive, but can routinely be found in 1st and 2nd editions for cheap.  Worth every penny, imho.

Currently reading Louise Penny's latest - All The Devils Are Here.

Thursday, October 22, 2020



The internet has done a great job of promoting pithy comments, sometimes quite eloquently.  I think my faourite is 'Don't hang onto a mistake just because you spent a long time making it'.

For me the break through was using something called risk assessment and deciding what was most precious to me - my time, or my yarn.  Which was I going to risk?

With my father dying at the tender age of 56, I came to the craft knowing that life is short.  That while I could always make more money, I could never make more time.  And bottom line?  We don't know how long we have, anyway.

When I ran into an obstacle - whatever that might be - the question was - is this going to take more time than it is worth to fix?  If so, then remove it and move on.

I know, I know, not everyone has money to buy more yarn.  I was, after all, a starving artist for 4 plus decades.  Money was always, always, tight.  But saving a few dollars in yarn preventing me from putting my time and effort into creating something that I could sell?  Writing an article I would get paid for?  The yarn got sacrificed.  Because I could always get more of that.

Some people hang on to a project because they have a notion that they are not allowed to 'fail' so they must pull a success out of a situation.  Sometimes people have been told that mistakes are not allowed, so they have to fix what is going wrong.

But what if the problem isn't with them, their processes or anything else they can control?

Like the silk warp I was working on in January.  I wove one scarf, then something called my attention away from the studio for a week.  A week during which time humidity dropped like a stone.  And I hadn't released the tension on the silk warp because I was going to get right back to it.  And then I didn't.

When I came back to the loom - same warp, same weave structure - threads began to break.  And break.  And the selvedges were no longer behaving.  I might have been able to weave the second scarf, but it would have taken me days.  And I didn't have days.  I was on deadline to submit the article.

And so I emailed the editor, said the second scarf would not be forthcoming, but I had the first one - the one I had promised - done and would mail in the next couple of days.  Because I also had company coming so I needed to get the scarf and article ready before then.

So that silk warp?  Went into the recycle bin.

Yes, it was silk.  Yes, it was probably $20 worth of yarn.  Maybe a bit more.  But $20 worth of silk had become a huge obstacle and it needed to go.

Recently I listened to a podcast with Sara Lamb and she talked about yarn not being precious. 

I agree.

But we all get to choose.  We choose to invest the time in fixing a mistake.  Or removing the obstacle, if that is what it has become.  Just don't hang onto it because you've spent a long time making it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020



two towels from latest warp - left - beige weft; right - white weft

Today is a grey day and it was hard to get a photo of these two towels to show the subtle difference the change in weft colour is making.

In real life, the beige is a bit darker, dull in appearance.  The white isn't quite this bright but still seems livelier, cleaner.  To my eye.  Which may be becoming suspect depending on how quickly the cataracts are developing.  It's one reason why I'm trying to get this series done, this yarn used up.  

And I have been thinking a lot about 'boredom' and 'fatigue'.  

In my life I have experienced very little 'boredom' - at least since I left childhood behind - but a lot of fatigue.

It was one reason I latched onto weaving in the first place - I could see the scope for constant learning, constant studying, constant experimenting.  Constantly being surprised - sometimes in a good way, sometimes...not.

This warp has provided some of those surprises.  The sleying error that turned the first towel into a piece of cloth that may wind up as dish rags.  Oops.  Still not perfect!

The biggest (good) surprise was how much I liked the white as weft.  Which was a good thing because I had quite a few nearly empty tubes I wanted to use up and I'm going to use up a lot of them.

There might be enough white for four more towels leaving a bit of warp left for maybe using up some more beige.  Just a different shade of beige than the one used first.  There are two I'd like to use up - one is more brown, the other more peach.  I doubt I'll use up both, but it would be nice to use up some.

People shake their heads at me, wondering if I don't get bored with my 20 yard long warps.  The honest answer is no.  There is very little boredom in my life.  Boredom is when you think of something you'd rather be doing.  If you'd rather be doing something else then perhaps what you are doing doesn't need to be done.  Or it might be changed in some way.  Sometimes people cope with a long warp by changing the tie up after every item.  Or they change the weft colour.  Or both.

And as for the selvedge on these towels not being ruler straight?  They were on the loom.  But during wet finishing, physics took over and the tiny scallops developed due to the threads shifting and moving to areas of least resistance.  The more resistance at the selvedge, the less the threads drew in.  

Do I consider the selvedges on these towels to be imperfect?  No, I don't.  It is the threads doing what they will do once off tension and relaxed during wet finishing.  They are consistent.  And that's good enough for me.

I'm not bored yet with this series of warps, but perhaps I'm ready to move onto something else soon.  However my desire to use up as much of the 2/16 cotton keeps over riding my interest in anything else as I pull yet one more combination of colours off the shelves and put it into the queue to be woven.  

Right now I have two combos waiting in the wings, with a possibility of one more.  We'll see.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020



chart tracking Covid-19 cases in BC

I have been following two main websites for information on how many Covid-19 cases there are, one counting numbers worldwide and the other breaking down the numbers for Canada.

The above is the chart for BC that was posted for today.  

Yesterday Dr. Henry officially declared that our province is in the second wave.  The chart makes it quite clear that numbers are growing and we need to address those growing numbers.

I know all y'all are tired.  I know you're bored.  I know you are disappointed that things have been cancelled - things that you were looking forward to.  Jobs are being lost and uncertainty is high.

Add to that the fact that there are elections happening and some politicians seem bent on sowing discord, not bringing people together to work out how best to survive this pandemic - not just economically but physically.

BC was hit hard right at the beginning when the virus got into long term care homes, plus a very large convention happened before people know what was happening.  

Dr. Henry swung into action and started advising people to stay at home.  Since there was not a lot of protective equipment, we were warned to leave masks and such for health care workers, and to stay home, maintain distance and wash our hands.

Now that protective equipment is more readily available, the advice includes wearing a mask.

Wearing a mask provides a barrier to transmission.  Herd immunity is being touted as the fastest way to protect people but unfortunately the rate of transmission is high and vulnerable people will suffer and many may die.

So experts are saying that politicians recommending that we all just get sick and get it over and done with are being reckless with people's lives.  Because this virus is NOT 'just the flu'.  We don't know the full extent of the damage it causes in many people - the so-called 'long haulers'.  The ones with never ending fatigue and organ damage.

Some countries did actual lock downs, not the voluntary 'stay at home' recommendations we have had here.  Some work places were shut down, but we were not confined only to our homes.  We are simply being asked to wear a mask when we go out.  

The number of people who cannot wear a mask is tiny.  For the rest of us?  It's the very least we can do.  The sooner we stop the spread of this virus, the sooner we can go back to our classes, workshops, guild events, weddings, graduations, etc.

Stay at home if you can.  Wear a mask if you need to go out.  Maintain physical distance.  Keep any groups small, preferably within your 'bubble', preferably in a well ventilated space.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay Covid aware.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Silver Linings


view from my back window this morning

It started precipitating yesterday around 3 pm - right when my weather app said it would - and turned into wet snow that came down pretty much all night.  I woke up to this sight this morning.

It's a bit early for winter to set in, in any serious way, but it's not unheard of to have snow in October.  Whether it stays or not, time will tell.

Both vehicles have their winter boots on (snow tires), Doug dug the shovels out of the shed the other day.  And while I don't feel 'ready' (I never do) for winter, it might just have arrived.  Time to dig my winter boots out and put away my summer shoes.

While I'm not particularly happy about an early winter, especially after our very damp and dreary summer (which didn't feel much like summer), I can't help but appreciate the beauty of the fresh snow draped over every surface.

Yesterday someone posted a bit of poetry which essentially said that no matter how dark it is, look for the joy.  The worse things get in the world, the more important it is to find some spark of beauty, some tiny flame of joy.  Some hope that we can get through this (whatever 'this' is in the moment).  Because nothing is forever.  Things will change.  The bad stuff will eventually end.  As will the 'good'.

And that's the thing.  We might not control the big things in our lives, but we can work on the little things.  Appreciating fresh fallen snow - safely from inside the house, if nothing else.

I can go to the loom and, if not joy, have satisfaction in doing something that makes something to counter the things that seem broken.

If I only focus on the broken, on the things I cannot change, I rob myself of being a creative person.  I drain myself of hope.  I go to the loom, not just to weave a towel, but to send positive, creative energy out into the world.

The good thing about the internet is that I can see interesting things, beautiful things, and I can amplify those.  I can share things of interest.  Focus on the creative work on others.  Share the mic for people who are doing good work.  Making good trouble.  Trying to bend society towards justice for all.

So while I had a wee twinge when I saw the 'early' snow this morning, I also saw beauty.  The reality of winter and isolation wasn't welcome.  On the other hand, I'm isolating due to Covid-19.  So I might as well focus on the beauty.  Appreciate the wonder of nature.  What a wonderful world we live in.

I also acknowledge that I am living a pretty safe, pretty privileged life right now.  I share what I can, when I can, with people I can.  I choose to build a bigger table.  And if I can't manage that, I can at least set another place and we can metaphorically squeeze together a little closer.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay Covid-aware.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Value Matters


beige and peach warp with white weft

Yesterday I managed my 'usual' two towels and counted up the tubes so far emptied.  It was a satisfying pile.  I'm pretty sure that a nearly equal number of tubes will be emptied by using up the white as weft on this warp.

As mentioned, I'm not really a 'beige person'.  It's not a colour that excites me much.  But I'm really pleased with how the white is working on this mostly beige warp.

In fact if I don't manage to use up another colour as weft on this warp, I won't be disappointed.

When people talk about 'seeing' in their mind's eye, I am one of those people who can visualize.  But it's never 100%, just close.  And frankly, this combination is turning out much nicer than I expected.

Theoretically I knew it would work because the values are close.  there are a few darker ends for contrast but the beige and peach are pretty close in value.  What you are seeing is the contrast in hue.

And this is an error that many people make, especially if they might be partially colour 'blind' or if they can't visualize.  They don't understand that hues can make contrast while being the same or similar value.

If this photo was changed into a black and white photo, the stripes would be quite hard to see because the contrast in value is low.

With ipad and phone cameras, it is easy to turn a colour photo into black and white and sometimes when you do, things become a lot clearer.

So here is the same photo converted to black and white.  

Remember I said that a few ends were a darker value?  Now you can see them clearly.  It only takes a few ends to make it all work.

Value is more important than hue.