Saturday, October 19, 2019


This isn't the entirety of my inventory going into the show season, but it's all I have and - other than the scarves still stored at the annex - about all I'm likely to have bar the few rayon chenille scarves I got woven this month.

This level of inventory feels very low to me.  I usually have nearly double this at the beginning of the sales.  But I've been sick more days than I haven't been, and at the end of the year, I'm retiring from doing craft fairs, so...

The main goal at this point is to reduce my inventory, not grow it.  Some of the items have been around for several years, and it may be that no one wants them, period. 

As I count up the benefits of retiring, it is necessary to remind myself that I no longer will be in the rat race and it isn't imperative that I scramble getting as much woven as possible in the next few days.

Instead I have been focusing on finishing what was in the queue.  To that end, I finished off the rayon chenille warps that I had wound in September and this morning cleared off the dining room table so I can begin fringe twisting them.

Doug will go press the last two dozen mats and their matching runners tomorrow, so there will be one more pile of mats to add to the shelves shown here.  He will also pack up whatever scarves are at the annex because he will begin loading up the van on Tuesday.  The first show of the season begins with set up next Friday, sales Sat/Sun, then a couple of days off and set up the following Thursday with the sale running Fri-Sun.  Then we get a week 'off' before heading to Calgary for Art Market.

Beyond the guild sale on Nov. 30/Dec. 1, my textiles will be available at the CAC Studio Shop on consignment or from me directly.  What I do is ask what the person is interested in, then send photos of what I have on hand.

Normally I would be scrambling to make as much as possible in order to sell enough to tide me through the slow months of the coming new year.  But this year is different.  By shutting down my business, I am hoping that whatever residual income I have (book sales, consignment sales, etc.) will cover the reduced amount of money needed for buying more yarn, covering bank fees, paying membership dues and so on. 

I still have not decided if I will attend Convergence in Knoxville.  I know a lot of weavers in the area and it would be fun to spend some time with them, especially at a large fibre festival.  But do I want to make the trip?  It won't be cheap, flying to TN in tourist season.  Not to mention the dark o'clock departures.  I'm so not wanting to deal with 6 am flights anymore.

Next week I will also deal with the paperwork and lab tests for the foot surgery.  They won't give me a surgical date until I've been cleared by the anesthesiologist, plus they will be closed for a couple of weeks in December.  So I may not be able to get it done until January.  In which case Doug will chauffeur Mary and me around because I won't be driving until I recover.

So - lots of count downs in progress.  Craft fair season.  Retirement.  Surgery.  For today, I'm going to go to the Megado and see how well I did beaming that #3 test warp. 

At least the sun is shining today.  Which makes a nice change.  And snow is in the forecast.  A timely reminder to folk to attend the craft fairs and think about the upcoming Christmas season.

Friday, October 18, 2019

When Things Don't Go 'Right'

As adults we think we should not make mistakes - that everything we turn our hand to should be 'perfect' the first go round.

There is a hard lesson in there.  Because whenever we try something new, something different, there is a high probability that not all will go smoothly.  That our results won't be perfect.

Far from perfect, at times.

When you are slithering around at the bottom end of the learning curve, it is hard to feel joy.  Irritation, yes.  Frustration?  Absolutely.  Joy?  Not so much.

Yesterday I beamed test warp #3 on the Megado.  Part of my mistake was once again beaming a warp that is a very dark blue/black.  This made it hard to see as I tried to evenly fill each section.  I thought I was getting better at it, things seemed to be progressing in a direction that looked better than the time before.

I left the warp to thread until today.  Which is when I discovered that I had not done as good a job as I had thought.  Instead of progress, it felt like failure.

I'm supposed to be a 'master' weaver.  Today I am not feeling like a master of anything at all.

However, there is no learning without effort, and so I got nearly half of the warp threaded, then stopped for lunch.  I'm not certain the slight discrepancy in the warp ends will actually be a big problem, or is small enough that I can still get something out of this warp.  I put some extra on because I am still only getting to know this loom and if I have to, I can cut off after the first scarf and re-tie. 

A reminder that it took the best part of a year to get comfortable with the AVL keeps me going.  Obviously this is going to take longer than I'd hoped.  However, I still have a few more tweaks I can apply to the next test warp.  And each time I do this, it's a bit better.

Rome was not built in a day.  Getting to know a new loom will take time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Meaningful Life

Tamara O'Brien

This week a young woman I never met died.  To those who knew her she was an inspiration - talented, kind.  Diagnosed with cancer, she struggled with the fact that she wasn't going to reach old age.  Instead she chose to live what life she had as meaningfully as she could.  Her friends and family mourn her absence from their lives.

In the interview linked above, she talks about how some people refer to getting cancer as a 'gift'.  She denies that cancer is any such thing, but rather for her it was an awakening.

So wise for one so young.

Over the years I have sought for meaning in my own life without really coming to much of a conclusion, just driven to do what I felt I had to do.  Until my brother died.

My brother was well loved in this community.  He worked tirelessly on projects he felt were important.  He sought always to become a 'better' person.  To be kinder, while not putting up with things he felt were wrong.  Like when, at the age of 10 or so, he stood up to a playground bully in defense of the younger children the bully and his buddies had been tormenting.

His death triggered survivor guilt in me.  Especially when I saw the church filled to overflowing, standing room only, including the balcony.  So many people my brother had touched, helped, inspired.

Why him?  I was the older one, why not me?  I had to come to grips with the fact that I was still here.  I chose to try and find a way to live with meaning outside of my own agenda.  To help others more.  To lift others up.  To shed light where it was dark, if I possibly could.

Awakening to the white privilege that is mine because of my accident of birth, I now see and recognize how that white privilege is ingrained into our society.  But I was also raised as a Christian, attending Sunday School weekly, listening to the words of Jesus - and as I grew older other spiritual leaders.  Recognizing that the spiritual lesson is love.  Not hate.  Not othering.

As the world staggers under the change of climate, storms worsening, wildfires burning hectares of forests, sea levels rising, humans also seem to be going a little bit 'mad'.  Resources are finite.  Petroleum will run out - maybe not today, or tomorrow, but at some point.  In the meantime we poison the ground and the water by squeezing every ounce of petroleum out.  We pave over the parking lots (thank you Joni Mitchell, who brought us that message in when, 1970?)

On the internet we bicker and shout at each other, trying to fix blame for whatever is happening that we don't like.  Fake!   Fake!  some of us shout, while ignoring the science, the data.

I have 'scored' left leaning on every questionnaire I've ever taken to determine political alliance.  I believe that we are all human, we are all related, none of us are lesser than the other.  That if something is a human right, then we all have that right.  Like access to clean drinking water.  I believe that people who have more than enough ought to expect to give a little more so that those of us who have little can have some comfort - like health care, housing.  Build a bigger table, not a wall.

For many years when I was first trying to build my business I looked forward to the day when I'd earn enough money in order to pay taxes.  To me that signified that I was finally a success.  I wanted to pay taxes to help support infrastructure, public libraries, schools, health care, etc.  It meant I could start paying back for those years when I didn't make enough money, but was never denied what I needed.  I had roads to drive on to go to shows, a hospital that would not turn me away, a doctor who would see me even when I didn't have any money.  Because those things get paid for out of the taxes our government levies.

A meaningful life means many things to many different people.  To me it means helping others to the best of my ability.  Even if all I can do is hold open a door.  Or vote for a government that sees the value in all people, regardless of skin tone.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

And Still Not Perfect

If you look really closely, over there on the right you might be able to see that four of the ends are not in the lease sticks.

I was distracted today and nearly at the end of rough sleying, I took two pairs out of order.  This meant they were 'crossed' and when it came time to transfer the cross behind the reed...oops.

This is not terminal.  Not even close.  First I sighed - because still not perfect.  Then I simply made sure that both lease sticks were slid in under the threads that were crossed.  When I got to them in the threading, they were entered into the heddles in as close to the proper order as I could manage.  It really won't matter if they are not in perfect order - they just have to be close.  Rayon chenille has enough elasticity in it that having a couple of threads out of place by a couple of threads really won't make any difference to the weaving.

This is the last of my pre-wound warps.  By the time I finished threading, sleying, tying on and getting the header woven, it was after 4 pm.  I have other things I need to do today so I decided the weaving will just have to wait until tomorrow afternoon.  I may - or may not - get both scarves woven.   I have things to do tomorrow so it will depend on whether or not my energy lasts.   Once they are, it will be back to the Megado to see if I can make friends with her.  (She seems to be a 'her' to me.)

We have had typical autumn/October weather - grey, dreary and mostly wet.  It was blustery today and leaves were dropping - well, like rain.  I'm trying not to let the dreariness affect me too much, but I'm kind of at the end of my rope.  I may increase the amount of vitamin D I take, I might set up the SAD light.

For now I have done the minimum I wanted/needed to do and if I can make friends with the Megado with the next test warp, who knows?  I might even get a shawl warp into the loom.  Not that they will be ready in time for any of the sales, but it will make ME feel better to get that done.

Of course with a huge stash of rayon chenille, I found myself thinking up more ways I could use it.  So we'll see.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Beginner Mind

One of the most valuable things a teacher can do is fail.  Failure is a wonderful reminder of how it feels to experience 'beginner mind'.  When things don't go right, right from the get-go, you are forced to remember another time, another place, when you had to think through a problem and find a solution.

While working on the latest rayon chenille warp today, I found myself thinking about the Megado.  I bought the Megado for the benefits I knew it had, smaller footprint, easier to operate, but forgot about the fact that I did not befriend the AVL in a warp or two.  In fact, it took over a year to become friends with that loom, constantly tweaking my processes all along the way.  Then, when I upgraded to the Compu-Dobby, I had to do it all over again.   And again when the air assist was added.

Beginner mind helps remind me to be compassionate with my students.  Especially the Olds students.  Some of them are very experienced, which usually means they have processes in place that they might have to work hard to change if they decide to do that.  Some of them are quite inexperienced, which means they may not have the vocabulary - of language and of processes - in order to grasp principles.

This afternoon I beamed the second last rayon chenille warp.  Doug has just made a small tweak to the Megado and if all goes smoothly with these last two chenille warps, I could get back to the Megado by Wednesday.

I have a threading designed for the next test warp, and I am scaling up slowly.  Instead of 10" in the reed, it will be 12 (minus 4 ends, due to the repeat) and it will be beamed for three scarves instead of two.

I will pay more attention to the rhythm of this loom, which is very different from the AVL.  I think I have the threading sorted, with a stool that I can fairly comfortably sit at to thread.  I'm hoping Doug can install the lamp holders before Wednesday, too, because we have had a number of grey dreary days and it will be another dark navy (mostly) warp of 2/16 bamboo rayon - which is difficult to see.

Without the pressure deadline of trying to make inventory, I can relax and let myself think through additional tweaks. 

Remembering to embrace beginner mind was a good reminder today.  A little compassion for me, as I slither along on the slippery end of the learning curve.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Of Toolboxes

A weaver's toolbox will reflect the quality of the cloth they routinely weave.  A weaver who frequently weaves rag rugs will have tools/processes different from one who routinely weaves damask in fine linen.  Unless s/he does both, of course.

Because we are not stuck in doing just one kind or quality of cloth, but anything that we wish to do. 

As human beings we discovered that tools could make a task easier, more ergonomic, increase efficiency.  But tools also take time to learn how to use them effectively, and not everyone wants to do that.

I have my standard type of textile that I enjoy making so most of my tools and processes have been honed to make the job of doing those fabrics as efficiently as possible.  Even though I won't be production weaving any more, there are just some things that are physically uncomfortable enough that I'd rather do them as efficiently as possible so that I can be done with that bit.

For example, threading and sleying the warp.  I had been weaving for over 20 years when I learned about the brass hook and how efficiently I could complete those tasks once I learned to use it.

It isn't that I don't enjoy threading, because I don't mind it.  I like the meditative quality of getting the threads into the heddles.  My back and neck don't enjoy it nearly as much.  So, for me, using this tool is a benefit.

I have other tools and processes that I prefer to use that others find puzzling.  But not everyone is the same, and no one has to do anything in terms of weaving in the 21st century.  I simply share what I do and let others judge for themselves if my processes/tools are something that they might find valuable.

So I use a temple - when I need to.   There are times when using one gives me the results I desire by working more slowly.  If I need to use a temple, I get into the mindset of using it, going more slowly in terms of weaving, but having fewer problems in getting the cloth I want.  I may adjust my weaving speed in order to carefully place the weft to the fell rather than my more usual speed when I beat it into place.

I like to use the warping valet (or sectional beam) but if those tools aren't available, I know how to beam a warp without them.  While I much prefer the bamboo or wooden blinds, I can use sticks or paper.

If necessary I know how to adjust the shed geometry of my looms by shortening the distance between breast and back beam, or raising the height of the back beam.

I can adjust my shuttle throwing to accommodate a tender yarn, or a cloth that is very open - or very dense.

These are all adjustments that can be made so that I am successful at what I am aiming to achieve.

Every new tool requires an adjustment period.  The Megado certainly is requiring me to tweak my processes, and under deadline pressure I am waiting until I've crossed a few more things off my list before I go back to that loom.  While I have made progress, more tweaks need to be made, and I need inventory, not more flawed test warps while I work through the slippery end of the learning curve.

For people wanting to learn more, take a class, preferably in real life so you can get real time feedback from an instructor.  If that isn't possible, then on line classes are available.  If you learn by reading, there are rafts of books (including mine) which will shed light.

There is no one correct answer in anything related to weaving.  It depends.  Fill your toolbox with as many different processes/tools as you can afford.  Know when to use a tool or tweak your process.  Keep learning.  Keep digging.  Keep peeling the layers off the onion of knowledge.

Those Pesky Numbers

Super Lamb, made from Superwash treated Merino Lambswool, offers the best of both worlds.  The special qualities of worsted spun*** wool are combined with the convenience of being able to machine wash and dry without fading or shrinking.  Garments made from our solid and heather shades of Super Lamb 2/24 retain their softness, resilience and durability after countless machine washings and dryings.  (taken from the Jaggerspun website)

When it comes to yarn, there is much confusion about how to tell what size it is.

This seems to have gotten even worse since so many people have come into the craft of weaving from knitting, where they don't generally use numbers at all but word descriptions.  It becomes even more confusing when weavers and spinners start using terms like 'worsted' and 'woolen' which mean something quite different to knitters and crocheters.

Add to that the fact that not everyone who weaves spins, and they may not understand 'worsted' and 'woolen' in terms of how fibre is spun into yarn either.

(Although I have it on good authority that those terms don't necessarily mean what most people think they mean anyway, but let's go with a simplistic explanation, ok?)

So getting fibre twisted up into yarn is a spectrum.  At each end of said spectrum are worsted and woolen.  Roughly speaking, worsted generally refers to having the fibres all lined up nice and parallel while woolen the fibres are every which way.  And then of course all the degrees along the spectrum, but let's go with the above.

How the fibres are prepared and spun will affect the yarn, as will how many twists per inch, both in the singles and in the ply.  The direction the fibre is spun and then plied can also affect the yarn.

So here we have two yarns that are rated to having the same number of yards per pound.  Are they the same?  No, obviously not.  They are both natural white in spite of the fact the one on the bottom looks grey in comparison to the one on the top.  (I am using a black and white photo which enhances the difference between the two.)

When I began weaving, the one on the top was identified as 2/8 cotton.  The yarn was - and still is - readily available in Canada.  It is ring spun from fibre that has been prepared so that the fibres are as parallel as possible.  It is smooth, strong and works very well for warp.  It is not, however, quite as absorbent as the one below which is readily available in the US as 8/2 cotton.  It has been open end spun, the fibres are disorganized, the yarn is weaker, loftier, and more absorbent than the yarn on the top.

The 2/8 cotton would be roughly equivalent to worsted spun yarn while the 8/2 would be more equivalent to woolen spun yarn if we follow that simplistic explanation I used above.

Do the numbers tell us anything about the characteristics of the yarn?  Well, possibly, if the numbers are being applied in the way spinning mills apply them.  

When I purchased directly from a spinning mill in Ontario, which I did for quite a few years, I was asked how many twists per inch I wanted.  I had no idea so I sent them a sample.  They told me I wanted 2/8 cotton with x numbers of twist per inch.  I don't now recall how many that number was, but it was the quality I wanted so that was what I ordered.  And then just put in repeat orders about once a year - because their minimum order was something like five cases.

According to some spinners, when the ply comes first, then the count, (2/8) that generally means a worsted type of preparation.  If the count comes first then the ply (8/2) that generally means a woolen type preparation.

Which brings me to the Jagger Spun website.  They widely advertise their yarn as worsted - as in the spinning definition.  Their counts are all expressed with the ply first, then the count.  See my *** in the opening quote.

So what do those numbers mean, anyway?

2/8 cotton means that a pound of yarn has been spun into (roughly - these numbers are only ever approximates) 6720 yards per pound, then two were plied together to create a yarn with approximately 3360 yards per pound.

The value for '1' for cotton is 840.  In other words, a pound of cotton fibre was spun to have 840 yards.  Finer yarns will have the value for 1 (840 yards) multiplied by their count - be that 4, 8, 10, 16 or whatever - then plied, usually with 2 plys, sometimes 3 or 4 or 8, depending on the quality of the yarn the mill is making.  Whatever the count is, divide by the number of plys to get yards per pound for that yarn.

Other fibres have other values for '1'.  

Wool(en) is 300 
Worsted 560
Silk is 840
Linen is 300

These are all imperial but more and more metric sizing is becoming common.

Ulla Cyrus-Zetterstrom's book Manual of Swedish Handweaving has the most succinct description of metric sizes that I have found.  She gives the formulas for converting Denier and Tex to metric as well, which is very useful, especially of you have purchased yarn from an estate sale.

I highly recommend finding this book just for the few pages of this information.  It should be readily available through second hand shops or in guild libraries.

For those new to the craft, learn and understand how the various numbering systems work.  Understand that how many epi you use yarns at can - and will - vary, depending on the quality of cloth you desire as your finished result.  

This very important lesson is addressed in level one of the Olds College Master Weaver program and really unlocks the secret to choosing an appropriate number of epi/ppi for your cloth when you begin to design your own.

Other things you might consider - a McMorran balance (or equivalent) and learning about burn tests.  Both important for identifying yarns purchased at an estate sale - because usually labels have faded or fallen off.  And never ever trust the label in the base of the cone.  Cones get used and reused, sometimes multiple times.

Did you figure out how many yards per pound in that 2/24 Jaggerspun?  It's worsted spun so the value for '1' is 560.  24 x 560 = 13,440 divided by 2 = 6720.  Approximately.