Tuesday, February 19, 2019


If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

John Kennedy perhaps put it best here when he talked about going to the moon.

There are times when we dream those big dreams and they become a lot bigger in terms of getting them to completion than we had hoped.  Or Life Happens and we wind up dealing with stuff that we hadn't expected.

We dare to dream, anyway.  And we work to make them happen.

Take weaving.  When we first begin, it may seem like it's a huge big dream to get something usable off the loom.

But humans have been playing with fibre and string for thousands of years.  Our ancestors needed string to carry parcels.  They needed something to keep themselves warm - what better than have an animal donate their fibre to the cause?  Because once you've figured out how to make string, you can then take that string and loop or interlace it together to make a textile.

Weaving isn't particularly 'easy' - if it was everyone would still be doing it.  Weaving is labour intensive.  It takes up huge swathes of time.  If you also harvest and spin the fibre, it takes even longer.

It isn't 'easy' insofar as you get results quickly.  But neither is it particularly difficult if you learn how the fibre behaves, how spinning it can modify the characteristics of the fibre, then how to get those yarns to work together as one.

We did it for generations upon generations.  And we still do it now.

If we take the time.  If we invest in doing it as well as we can.

There are many things in life that are not 'easy'.  But they are worth it.  When you find your happy place, when you find what makes your heart beat stronger, your curiosity to be engaged?  It is worth it. 

I find designing and creating textiles satisfying and fulfilling.  Teaching others means that the craft that I love will continue on, into the next generations.

It is why I write.  It is why I teach.  It is why I have organized conferences. 

I was 12 years old when Kennedy gave this famous speech.  I don't doubt that it was in some way inspiring to me to think about tackling the hard things.  To aspire to increase knowledge.  To do something, not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

Yes, I have failed at times.  But every failure has brought more knowledge.  And while I don't like failing, I do recognize that sometimes you need to find out how to not do something.

And so - conferences.  They are challenging.  They are inspiring.  They are 'hard' because of all the details.  But they are also so much more than the sum of their parts.

We are in the dark days of winter winding down.  It is February, shortest month of the year.  Whoever made it so knew what they were doing!  It will very soon be spring and the deadline to register for the ANWG conference here will be coming up very quickly.  Take a look at what is being offered.  Expand your horizons, or dig deeper into something you would like to know more about.  Sign up by clicking on the big blue Register Here button, Then on the Green 'tickets' button.  Some things are beginning to fill up.  I suggest you sign up sooner rather than later.

And come see us in June!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Those Big Dreams

After writing about my brother yesterday, I started thinking about the people I admire and respect.

They all, in one way or another, dream the big dreams.

Some people I have met and am delighted to call friend; others I know by their reputation or their presence in books/magazines, feedback from others, or their on line presence.  Some I met because of our shared on line presence, which then led to meeting in real life.

I started thinking about our line up for the conference and they all, every one of them, have my admiration and respect.

Some are authors (and hopefully will participate in the author signing event - if they aren't too over scheduled/exhausted after teaching for two full days).

All are teachers, of course.  The teaching model up until recently was in person, either in workshops for guilds or at conferences.  Now we have on-line opportunities.

Some are out spoken about issues of ethics. 

All are enthusiastic about teaching, but also about learning.  Being open minded, sharing experiences with others. 

All have dedicated large chunks of their time to the exploration of possibilities in terms of fibres/yarns.

Some of them have - by and large - earned a large portion of their income by teaching and/or by making and selling their textiles.  (Not an easy task!)

Having done this myself, I know how hard it is and the degree of dedication required to show up, regardless of how you might be feeling, and do the job.  (Ask me about the time I got food poisoning the night before teaching a five day class...)

We come into this life with a whole lot of potential.  I suppose it boils down to my respect for those who have figured out what they really want in life, then worked every hour they could to make that dream come true.

You cannot write a book, develop and present an on-line class, create and sell a line (or dozen) of textiles, teach multiple workshops all over the continent, fair weather and foul, without enormous energy being put into making those things happen.  Some of our instructors have done not one of those things, but several of them.  And generally with good grace and cheer.

So I'm going to 'fangirl' a bit and list all the instructors here, again, just to remind everyone of the fabulous event our guild has put together and invite everyone to think about attending the conference in June.

It's going to be fabulous!

Keynote speaker:  Abby Franquemont (Ohio)

Workshops and Seminars: Michelle Boyd (Alberta)
Tien Chiu (California)
Janet Dawson (Nova Scotia)
Maureen Faulkner (British Columbia)
Abby Franquemont (Ohio)
Alison Irwin (British Columbia)
Bob Keates (British Columbia)
Mary Lessman (Tennessee)
Kim McKenna (British Columbia)
Syne Mitchell (Washington)
Coleen Nimetz (British Columbia
Elizabeth Schatz (British Columbia)
Robyn Spady (Washington)
Jane Stafford (British Columbia)
Laurie Steffler (British Columbia)
Bernadette Thompson (British Columbia)
Diana Twiss (British Columbia)
Sarah Wroot (British Columbia)

Seminars Only
Laura Fry (British Columbia)
Heide Kraus (British Columbia)
Yoriko Oki (British Columbia)
Dr. Susan Pavel (Washington)
Sue Perron (British Columbia)
Leola Witt McNei (British Columbia)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Tracking Treadling

I don't know if this chart is going to show up in its entirety - I only did half of the repeat in hopes that the numbers would be legible.  But let's give it a go...

So I'm weaving a set of samples and one of them is an advancing twill progression.  It's fairly simple, but since it backtracks on itself, I had to put on my dancer hat to work out the choreography of it.

In an effort to explain what I do, I came up with this little chart.

The numbers are the numbers of the treadles from left to right as we are used to seeing numbers written out.  I did this for visual simplicity, so that people could refer to what I'm about to describe.

If we take the column of numbers vertically as representing the treadles themselves, then each column is the treadle number from left to right.

Each row of numbers is one pick.

In this chart, I began upper right with treadle number 8 with the weft traveling from right to left.  Each pick then followed:  8, 7, 6, 5.

After the pick on treadle 5, the sequence backtracks to 6 and then becomes: 6, 5, 4, 3

After the pick on treadle 3, the sequence backtracks to 4 and proceeds: 4, 3, 2

These 11 picks are exactly half the treadling.  From here, the sequence reverses and becomes:

1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 6, 7

This is the complete 22 pick treadling repeat.

To weave this, I begin with treadle #8, and call that pick one.  I count through to 22 and by that number I should be back ready to begin the treadling repeat all over again.

Depending on the weave structure, I may approach it differently - for example Summer and Winter and overshot have two shuttles, one carrying the pattern weft, the other carrying the tabby weft, and the pattern end gets repeated.  In those cases, I might just record the pattern pick and indicate how many times the pattern block gets repeated, knowing I must insert tabby.

There are many ways to set up a tracking system.  Post It notes, file cards, metal sheets and magnets, and now apps.  I use iWeaveit, but it works best when the tracking is consistent.  In this particular treadling, the runs are not consistent, so I prefer to visualize the 'lines' or 'runs'.

If someone can't visualize, then a pick by pick method of tracking is the most accurate way and you can set iWeaveit up to do a line by line tracking in the liftplan mode.

Whatever you do, you do have to pay attention, stay in the moment, don't let yourself be distracted.  For me, counting to 22 lets me stay literally on track, and if I do get interrupted, I can usually find my way back to a starting point so I can go forward again.

Friday, February 15, 2019

11 years

It was 11 years ago this month my 'baby' brother sat down and left this earth.

It was such a shock when he died.  Last night I woke up thinking about him and his birth.

You see, when he was born, it was into a tumultuous time for our family.  The pregnancy had not been an easy one, then my uncle was killed in a car crash, my aunt in a coma from a severe brain injury, 8 children left behind.  And my mother had to pick up the pieces.

When Don was born he 'failed to thrive'.  So on top of everything else that was going on in her life, mom was faced with an infant who might not make it through the night.

It was 1956 and breast feeding was the norm.  But every time he fed, it all came back up again.  Mom agonized - was something wrong with her milk?  With her?  She remembered a cousin who died because of 'bad mother's milk'.  No such thing, of course, but no one knew why these things happened.

So all the available alternatives were tried - cow's milk, goat's milk.  Eventually baby formula was tried.  When it, too, came up, the doctor advised mom that if Don could keep it down for 20 minutes he had enough nutrition for 2 hours.

A schedule of 2 hour feedings with cleaning up after it came up again kept the washing machine chugging.  We had a wringer washer and a line outside and mom would get the machine going, the diapers and onesies washed and hung and when I got home from school it was my job to take them all in.  During the winter the diapers freeze dried and taking them off the line was an exercise in frozen fingers and a stack of frozen diapers piled high and placed by the wood stove to thaw.

Somewhere mom got a 'Jolly Jumper' and after feeding Don, he would get placed into the jumper which was hung in a doorway central to our little house.  Mom didn't have to worry about him choking on his own spit up and he seemed to enjoy the gentle action of the swing on the giant 'bungee' cord.

His survival became an exercise in perseverance and - ultimately - resilience.

He grew up into someone who pretty much rolled with whatever came his way.  He was in many ways fearless - but not entirely reckless.  Having survived such a risky entrance into life he didn't seem particularly eager to leave by doing dangerous things.  But neither did he seem to have much fear.  Or, if he did, he did what he wanted to do anyway.

He was fair minded, didn't like bullies, stood up for those who needed support.  He loved life, was a keen observer of what was happening around him.  Enjoyed the outdoors.  Respected others who knew more than he did and wasn't afraid to say he didn't know something when he didn't.

His dream as a child was to become either a fireman or a railroader.  When he wanted to leave school at grade 10 because that was all that was needed to get a job with the railway, the entire family came down on him like a load of bricks - he would not be leaving school until he graduated.  He accepted that but not exactly with good grace.  Since dad was already in the final throes of multiple myeloma, Don didn't fight it too much, knowing dad was thoroughly against him leaving school.

So Don continued with school until he got his diploma. 

It took him some months, but he got his job with the railroad.  It wasn't the 'best' job due to the travel and being posted to other towns for weeks at a time but again, he persevered.  He worked his way up until at last he realized his dream of driving the locomotives.

He was part of the crew that learned how to drive the big GE electric engines that took the coal out of the mines at Tumbler Ridge, and in the end, drove the last engine out again when they were mothballed.

After 27 years with BC Rail, he took retirement and became the park manager for the railway museum.   And that was where he died.

When I think about my brother, I remember his steadfast desire to be a better person.  We often sat and talked about what that meant.  I miss those conversations.  He challenged me to be a better person as he sought to be one himself.

No, he wasn't 'perfect'.  He didn't pretend to be.  He just wanted to be better.  He understood that life is a journey, with ups and downs and adventures along the way.

At his memorial, one of his friends called Don a catalyst.  I had to agree.  Don would come up with an idea, plant the seed, encourage it to grow, celebrate when it happened, expressed appreciation to his friends who helped make it come to fruition.

He was also very supportive of me and my weaving.  In many ways we were different, but in many ways we are/were the same.  And 11 years on?  Yes, I still miss him.

Don, in his happy place, driving The Little Prince steam locomotive

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Sample warps can be done in a variety of ways.  Gamps give the most bang for your effort 'buck' so this warp is a gamp for Tien's colour class

Gamps can be done in a variety of ways.  This warp was painted by Tien in repeating rainbow colours and it will be crossed with different weft colours to show what happens, when.

In addition, half of it is threaded in one sequence, then the other half in a different sequence.

In order to keep track of what was needed, I counted out 18 heddles on shaft 1 for the first half and when I had filled all of those, I knew that I'd done the first half.  Since it was later in the afternoon and I've been dealing with rather more 'tired' than I'd like, it was an easy way to track what I was doing without having to pay a lot of attention.  I could kind of zone out and just concentrate on getting the threading sequence correct without thinking about how many repeats I had done - or had yet to do.

The second half of the warp was threaded in a more complex sequence so I left that to do when I was feeling more alert today, then printed out the threading draft in a size I could easily read so I didn't have to squint.

As I threaded each group of four (or three as the repeat dictated) I tied those in a slip knot and when all the groups in the repeat had been done, I bundled all of them into a larger slip knot.

I don't leave the lease sticks in unless I need to adjust the shed geometry of the warp for some reason, so the next step will be to remove the lease sticks and the little box I put under the shafts to lift them higher so I can see the heddles more easily, then sley and lash on.

My goal is to begin weaving today to make sure I've got the epi correct.

Our days are now noticeably longer than they were 6 weeks ago.  We have been having rather cold temperatures but also clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine.  On the other hand, I'm pretty much ready for winter to be over!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

F. A. I. L.

obligatory pretty picture

Words matter.  The words we say to ourselves - and to others - matter.

When I was a child, the playground taunt was 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me'.

But that's not true.

Words do cause harm.  Too often we believe the people telling us that we are failures, losers.  When we become adults we have had it drummed into our inner most self that if we 'fail' at something, we are a 'loser'.

But if there is a loser when we don't get the cloth we were after, who is the winner?

No one.  No one 'wins' when we don't manage to get the results we desire.

We need to re-imagine what is happening and we can do that by changing our inner language.

I'm not a huge fan of memes, but I do find short, sharp, pithy comments will sometimes break through to allow people to see the 'truth'.

Recently I saw the definition of 'fail' as First Attempt In Learning.

Our language seems to have become militarized, with people being 'beaten in their battle with cancer', the person 'fought valiantly but lost their battle with (name disease)'.

Life, *learning* isn't a battle.  We come.  We live.  We learn.  And then...we die.  Dying is not 'losing', it is the natural order of a life.  None of us gets out of here alive.

We need to change the inner dialogue so many of us live with on a daily basis.

We need to open ourselves to new experiences - even when we don't get the results we were after the first or even the 10th time.  It is famously said that when Edison was asked how it felt to fail at finding a filament for the light bulb 600 (or so) times, he replied that he had not failed - he had learned how NOT to make a filament.

If we let 'failure' determine what we will dream to do, attempt to do, fail at doing, then our horizons will be rather circumscribed.  Because every time we try something new, every time we attempt to learn how to do something, we will experience how not to do it.  Sometimes several times.

Like my dressing the loom and forgetting to go over the back beam.  Not just once, but twice.  In a row.  I'm not stupid, but I can be very, very slow...

Did I let that stop me?  No.  It was a head-desk moment, especially the second time in a row,  but I took it to heart, and remembered.

Most of the time we learn best by our 'mistakes'.  Sometimes the most valuable lesson is in learning what NOT to do.  Every time you find out what not to do, you come closer to finding out the answer for the 'right' way.  Or at least in the new circumstance.

Because every time you change something?  The 'right' answer might change, too.

Speaking of language - when you set out to learn a new craft, the very best thing you can do is learn the language of that technology.

The one that always puts my teeth on edge is when I see 'dying' when the word the person meant was 'dyeing'.  I've seen 'dying' more and more frequently, in publications where the author ought to have known better.  I blame auto-correct, but that's what proof reading is for and why authors need to proof read their galley proofs.

When it comes to weaving, the current correct terminology is treadles, not peddles.  My preference is for shaft instead of harness, but both are appropriate so long as everyone knows there are two words being used for the same thing.****

It's a brake not a break.  At least on a loom.

The 'reed' (because the splines used to be made from split reed) is made up of 'dents' (the spaces in the reed).

The ends per inch (epi) determines density, and is based on so many factors other than just the thickness or wraps per inch of a yarn.

Wool comes from a sheep or sometimes other animals although I prefer to specify what that other animal is.

Synthetic fibres are made from chemicals, most generally petroleum products.  Rayon is not actually 'synthetic' because its chemical make up is cellulose - it behaves like other cellulose fibres and will degrade back into 'dust' unlike synthetics.

Pay attention to language.  It does matter.

**** 'harness' when it comes to drawlooms means a group of shafts, not a single shaft - so you have the ground 'harness' which may be four or five or 10 shafts, then the pattern shafts which may be a harness of 50 shafts - and so on.

Currently reading Careless Love by Peter Robinson

Sunday, February 10, 2019


As I have taught over the years I have come to realize that not everyone can visualize what something will look like...later...after it's been woven.

If this is the case, then I strongly recommend people weave samples.  Sampling is the only way to know for sure how something will turn out, especially how colours will look after being woven together.

I've been learning about colour in weaving for a long time because I wasn't very good at choosing colours to put together to make a pleasing cloth.  I studied colour theory.  I wound little practice warp wrappings.  I dyed yarn.  But none of those things reflected - precisely - what happens when you take one colour and cross it with another.

Gamps of various colours then became my most effective way to learn how to visualize.

gamp of tertiary colours

gamp of 'neutral' colours

gamp of pastel colours

One of the big complaints about weaving a colour gamp is the expense.  You need to buy a whole cone of yarn for just a little bit of each colour.  So for several years I sold colour gamp kits.  In addition to the more usual primary/rainbow gamp, I offered tertiary, neutral and pastel kits.

This allowed people to explore a greater range than they might have been able to do otherwise.

For some people they just don't know what is going to happen when they cross purple with, say, a red/brown.  Orange with green.  Black with yellow.

If you've never done it, how would you know?

However, if you can't afford to buy all the yarn, you can study what other people have done.

For example, you can look at something you really, really like (or dislike - both have lessons) and examine it for what the weaver/designer has done.  What colours did they use?  In what proportion?  In which weave structure?

The picture at the top is the next painted warp for Tien's class.  I don't know how much she will be able to cram into her suitcase when she comes in June to teach her workshop and seminars on colour at the conference but I'm sure she will bring some.  What better way to learn about colour than to actually see - and handle - woven examples that show precisely what happens when weft crosses warp?