Wednesday, September 27, 2023



Abby Franquemont's book Respect the Spindle

A couple of days ago I posted about Abby's book and tools.  Then she discovered that her book, Respect the Spindle had been used by a LLM (Large Language Modeling?) site to train AI.  Without her permission, of course.

Along with hundreds of other authors who had their creative work scraped to 'train' AI.  (Which isn't actually 'intelligent', just a plagiarism tool.)

The results were...cringe worthy...if you know much of anything about the subtleties of the craft of hand spinning.

Why does it matter that  poor/plagiarized information will now be available about a craft that we love (because I'm quite sure weaving will also be subjected to this treatment - and there is *already* enough poor info out there - we really don't need more)?

Well, it matters *because* it's not correct.  Or only marginally correct.  And only by the very broadest definition.

Experts in the field of textiles have been fighting a losing battle for as long as I have been weaving, trying to provide correct information.  Now we have plagiarism sites that are going to pump the nonsense out 24/7.

It isn't bad enough we get word salad from our elected 'leaders' about all sorts of things, now we are going to have word salad about so many other things, from cooking to crafting.

I see people whiffing away concerns about such sites but here's the thing:  if we begin to rely on such sites for our information, we will all become progressively less informed.  About *everything*.  Wikipedia will become a hodge podge of word salad.  

If you value *good* information about weaving, learn who is providing it.  If they write books, buy them.  If they offer online classes, register for them.  Do *not* rely on plagiarism sites for any level of information.  And don't for goodness sake, use them because they are filled with nonsense.

Plus, you know, the plagiarism thing.

Buy the actual books from the actual authors who actually know the things.  

Mine are here.

My classes are here and here

Abby is here

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

It Depends!


Two different red weft threads - same supplier

You would be correct in assuming that, given I am weaving down my stash, the two weft threads in these two towels were sourced from different suppliers.


Both Brassard yarns.

Yes, they are different shades of red, but they also behaved quite differently in the weaving and wet finishing.

Is this uncommon?  

Actually?  No.  It is frequently a cause of lamentations and woe when someone purchases yarn from a supplier, combines them in a textile only to discover they wind up with very different rates of shrinkage.  Or other cause for consternation.

Which is one reason why I don't very often use big bold solid stripes of colour.

The brighter red *may* have been spun with fewer twists per inch.  I didn't look at it that closely, to be honest.  Neither did I use them in the same cloth.  Because I've had other colours behave differently, too, like the forest green.

Erring on the side of caution, I tend to use these yarns either thoroughly 'mixed' (to equalize whatever differences they may have) or strictly all by themselves.

After wet finishing, one of the reds looks 'fuzzy', the red and white blend more, making a sort of pink (no there was no fugitive dye in the water - I checked - it *is* red, after all) and generally feels 'smoother' than the other.  Which leads me to believe that the difference is in the tpi.  But again, I didn't actually check, so I could be wrong.

While all else was equal - they were woven on the same warp - the rates of shrinkage were different as well.  They were also wet finished at the same time, so IF there was fugitive dye *both* towels ought to be tinted pink.  And they are not.

The yarns beat in differently, so even though they have the same number of picks per towel, the fuzzy one is longer than the other.  It is also narrower, so higher shrinkage rate of the weft of this particular red than the other.

None of these things makes either towel 'wrong'.  It's just different. depends...

So, same supplier, different results.  Why? 

Well, my stash is (ahem) elderly, and the yarns may have been purchased many years apart.  Therefore there *may* have been a change of some sort - different spinning mill, different set up for spinning, etc.  One of the things I learned when I ordered yarn directly from the spinning mill was that *I* needed to tell *them* the technical details of what I wanted them to do - i.e. twists per inch for the singles and the ply.  Even so, mistakes were made from time to time, like the one time I got a shipment of singles 6 instead of the 2/8 I ordered.  The mill took the shipment back, no question, when they looked up my order, saw that I had NOT ordered energized single 6s...

Most weavers don't have a lot of knowledge about how yarn is made.  I suggest they learn.  If nothing else, The Intentional Weaver will give an overview of fibre characteristics and very basic information on what to look for in a yarn.

Monday, September 25, 2023

"Old School"


Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont

This morning Abby Franquemont did a short video explaining how spindles are legitimate spinning tools because they are better at some things than a wheel.  They are a tool that does some things better than a wheel, kind of like a knife is not a cleaver and why a chef would want both in their toolbox.

I thought about what she said for about a nano second and realized the same can be said for many weaving tools, as well as spinning tools.

For example, so many people insist that end feed (delivery) shuttles are the 'best' shuttle to use.

And are surprised that I don't, as a matter of routine, use them - because I no longer use a fly shuttle - which is what an end feed (delivery) shuttle was originally designed for.

It isn't that I can't use one.  I just find them unnecessary for 99.9% of my weaving needs.  I actually use a stick shuttle more frequently than I use an end feed (delivery) shuttle. 

I use a computer assisted dobby, not because I can't weave without one, but it makes what I want to accomplish a lot easier.  For example, I can weave a complicated overshot pattern on my four shaft counter balanced loom, but it takes a lot more attention and concentration than weaving a tea towel with a 100+ pick repeat on the Megado.  What can I say?  I'm 'lazy'.

I'm also dealing with brain fog from pain/painkillers most days, so the mechanical assist is very welcome.  

That doesn't mean I can't also sit down and do a complex pickup design using a stick shuttle.  Just that I need to choose my days and check my energy spoon drawer.

I like a very specific style of hand shuttle.  The doesn't make the ones I dislike 'bad', just that I *prefer* that one style.  Others may have a different preference.  And if that preference includes an end feed (delivery) shuttle, that is *their* preference.  

MY preference does not invalidate someone else's preference.  Which is a really good concept to keep in mind, not just about weaving, but life choices as well (imho).

However, that said, a new weaver might want to pay attention to what more experienced weavers do and choose as their default tools.  And then find out how to best use them!

For example, I still use good old graph paper when it comes to laying out certain types of designs.  I also have Fiberworks weaving software, but it doesn't always do what I want it to do, in the way I need it done.

So it was with the new 'shifted twill blocks' weave structure I've been playing with.  I tried to lay it out in Fiberworks, but then had to find my graph paper and grab a pencil in order to clearly understand what I needed to do, then to make the weave do what I wanted it to do.

Over the weekend, I grabbed graph paper again because I needed to lay out a design and doing it in Fiberworks wasn't working for me - and I don't have the skills to use other design software.  It was far faster and easier to grab paper, pencil *and eraser* in order to lay the design out.

Now, however, I need to render the information in a way that the editor for SOS can work with it.  So that's (one of) my job(s) today.  Get that information finalized and send the files to SOS for the sectional beaming class, coming in November.  I'm very late sending it, but I'm finally confident I've got it correct.

Too frequently we carry biases in our attitudes.  We should at least understand why the various textile tools exist and what they do.  

I have the deepest respect for people who work with tools that I don't use because I recognize that they are using the best tools for the job - or that fit their environment (space issues) or physical needs, or just what they want to do.

While it is possible to weave a tapestry on a floor loom, it may not actually be the best tool for the job in hand.  While it is possible to weave with 3 rigid heddles on a rigid heddle loom, it might actually be easier to just use a floor loom - but the weaver may not have the financial or space resources to have a floor loom.  

So, utmost respect to those textile workers who use different tools than I do.  I see you making wonderful textiles.  I see you employing skills I don't have, understanding those tools (Inge Dam, for example, who incorporates tablet weaving *with* floor loom weaving), backstrap weavers, ikat weavers, brocade weavers, drawloom weavers etc., and celebrate your skill and creativity.

Above all, when it comes to any textile art/ depends is the only correct short answer.  It is in the 'it depends' part of learning about textiles that we begin to master the craft.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Working in Series


inspired by Snail's Trails and Cat's Paws

As I work through a series, I usually generate a lot more designs/drafts than ever see the loom.

So it is with this series.

I have a queue of designs I've messed about with over the months, some of them I found acceptable at the time.  Now?  Not so much.

My approach to designing in a series is to build on what I've done before.  Therefore some of the designs are minor 'tweaks' to a previous draft, and therefore quite derivative of previous work.

With not being able to weave for nearly three weeks, and then only for limited amounts of time since then, my weaving pace has been slowed considerably.

Right now I'm managing one towel a day - on a good day.  With hope of treatment and a new pain med, I've been 'pushing' that - a little - and weaving a bit longer,  But progress seems hopelessly slow, given I still have mercerized cotton to weave and made a promise to myself that I won't stop until it's gone (as in, too little to weave a towel).

However, the other day as I was at the loom with only surface attention required, I realized that I could pretty much use any four block twill design and translate it into this weave structure.   (Still no firm idea what to call it - 'shifted' twill blocks seems to be sticking - in my mind, at least.)

The other night I took a look at the 'traditional' Snail's Trails and Cat's Paws design and decided that while I wouldn't want to replicate it exactly, I could fairly easily convert it into something similar.

For reasons, I didn't do an exact 'copy', plus there is an issue of the two circles being two different sizes (because I'm lazy and threading that last 'block' is awkward and I just donwanna), but I think this draft will do.

Making this connection means - if I want to - I can go through my previous block twill designs (of which there are many!) and use them as springboards to spark new designs in this weave structure.

However, I am watching the pile of mercerized cotton going down and by the end of this year may be finished with it.

If (and it's a huge 'if') I can become more functional and at least go back to two hours of weaving a day, that will up my productivity and hopefully allow me to finish this combination of yarns and do something else for a while.

However, I'm not 'done' with tea towels - yet.  When I'm finished with the mercerized cotton as weft, I still have 2/16 unmercerized cotton to use up.  

And once I'm done with *that*, it will be time to consider making more scarves.  I can see this weave structure making nice scarves with 2/16 bamboo rayon, and various fine rayon wefts.  Since I have a stash of *that* to use up, it seems like a reasonable goal to work towards.

Because I can see yet more potential for this weave structure, so why not?

Saturday, September 23, 2023



Breaking down my reality bubble has been a lifelong task.

Today someone did a really excellent job of discussing the phrase '1st world problems' in a way that caused me to stop and think about that phrase more consciously.

I stopped using that phrase a number of years ago.

Thing is, I began to realize that when people used it, they were insinuating that 'we' (N. Americans, mostly) were 'better' than other countries because 'our' problems were trivial.  When it comes right down to it, our population of unhomed people is just exactly as deplorable as it is in any other country.  But the assumption in NA is that if you don't have a home, you are unhoused due to some character failing because we are a 'rich' nation.  Therefore if we are a 'rich' nation, no one is unhoused unless they aren't trying hard enough, working hard enough.  Or, it's because immigrants have 'taken our jobs and homes'.

It's a very 'privileged' point of view, and one I began to bristle at when I heard it.  Especially coming from my own mouth.  So I stopped.

Changing one's perspective is difficult when you are inundated every day with media that tells you that *you* are special, just because you are a citizen of a particular country.

The USA continually tells their population that they are *number 1* when in fact they fall far short on many metrics that make for a 'good' country - universal health care, education, child mortality.  

Now we have the far right telling us (it isn't just the US, the far right is fomenting anger around the globe) that the reason we can't have nice things is because (pick boogie man of the week).

Their whole agenda is to divide and conquer.  The more they yell about protecting their children (from drag queens but not white dudes with arsenals), the more they yell about protecting 'family values' (from LGTBQ+), the more they explain in words of one syllable that they *need* to 'control' their children in order to 'protect' them...the more concerned I become.

If you are liberal leaning, do you know about the IDU?

The International Democrat Union.

Don't let the word 'Democrat' fool you.  They are no more 'democratic' than the Nazis were 'socialist'.

If you don't know who or what they are, go look them up.  Find out who supports them financially and who they are friends with.  What seeds of discontent are they sowing?

When the alt right screams about conspiracies, it's because they are rife with them.  Every accusation is a confession.

If you are liberal leaning, make sure that in Canada no Conservative politicians are elected - until they become truly 'conservative' instead of alt right.  

That applies for every single election you can vote in - school board, city council, provincial, federal.

The alt right is LOUD and thinks they are in the majority.   They are not.  We need to show them that they are still the minority.

Last week there was a protest against teaching about sexual orientation in schools in my very conservative town.  Approximately 120 people showed up and and yelled a lot about 'protecting' their children.  There were about 300 people who showed up to *support* educating children.

Don't let the loudness drown out more inclusive approaches to how we treat other people.  Because the far right wants to choose who is 'worthy' and who is not.  In my opinion, we are *all* 'worthy' of being treated like a human being - fed, housed, healed when sick.  

And for goodness sake, realize that the notion of being a '1st world country' is at best antiquated, at worst really inaccurate.

Friday, September 22, 2023

"Dirty Laundry"


Cotton bolls on the plant, ready for harvesting

My mother would be horrified at the level of sharing I do about the things I am going through, especially the health issues.

"It's no one else's business!"

True.  It isn't anyone else's business what I'm going through, so why do I choose to 'share'?

This blog was started as a celebration of life after a very difficult time of health issues that, quite frankly, could have taken me out in 2008, just like they had taken my younger brother from us.  As such the blog became a diary of what I was going through, and a declaration that I was going to stick around, for as long as I could, to keep encouraging people to keep going, as well.

Because ill health is not a 'failing'.  Not of one's character, or virtue.

It can be, quite simply, bad luck.

Sometimes it is an injury, sometimes it is fueled by one's own genetics.  Sometimes you pull the short straw.

That doesn't always mean living is over.  It also doesn't mean that someone is having an 'easy' time of it.

Our society seems to worship youth and good health, offering up 'magic bullet cures' when sometimes?  There aren't any.

I am extremely fortunate in that I live in a country with universal health care.  That doesn't mean it is perfect, but it means I'm not going to go bankrupt or need to refrain from seeking care when I need it.

We tend, in our society, to ignore people with disabilities, as they are called, while assuming other issues are not issues of disability, in no small part because the 'aids' are so obvious and acceptable that they aren't even considered 'disabilities' any more.  Corrective lenses.  Dental appliances from braces to implants.  Hearing aids.

I discovered just how reliant we are on our teeth for clear communication when I had a tooth pulled and had to re-train my tongue to form certain sounds with that gap in my teeth.  Who knew?  Now *I* do.

We accept joint replacement as 'normal' now when previous generations had to simply deal with chronic pain and difficulty doing 'ordinary' tasks.

By-pass surgery saved my life and medication keeps me going.

A fall is assumed to be the trigger of my recent issues and it was a long time in getting to the root cause before I could get treatment that addressed the actual cause.

Even so, the medication I started yesterday is very 'new' to the world of pain control, and isn't actually listed to be effective for peripheral neuropathy in my feet (a lingering effect of the chemotherapy that also saved my life but continues to dog my steps - literally).

My new pain doctor was willing to prescribe it to see if it was going to work.  It's too soon to tell because it is necessary to begin at an extremely low dose, then gradually increase the dose to see if it will work and what dosage is best for me to be using.  It can take up to 12 weeks to discover what that dosage should be.

Plus we will do corticosteroids to my SI joint, which can mimic sciatic pain very well, in part because it is on the nerveway path of the sciatic nerve.  I get my first injection on Oct. 6 and hopefully it will last at least 6 weeks, hopefully longer.  

To deal with problems, including health issues, is a very human thing.  To be consistently *well* is what is unusual, although it took me decades to figure that out because in our society we don't talk about our ''failings", like poor health.  

By being open and acknowledging what I am going through people can take what lessons they like from my journey.

They can feel 'superior' to me because *they* are healthy, when the truth is every person is a micro second away from injury or poor health.  Or they can acknowledge that life is a crap shoot, not everyone can win the jackpot, but that doesn't mean their lives aren't worthy or meaningful.

The political climate right now is veering towards the great sifting of who is and is not 'worthy'.  During the last election, there were flyers distributed that announced to all and sundry that 'we' needed to get rid of the 'useless eaters'.  (That phrase is so abhorrent I can barely type it.)

Who do they lump into that category?  Anyone they decide to put there.  

I am reminded of the statement by Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

—Martin Niemöller

And yes, they came for Mr. Niemoller, too, in the end.  We need to choose.  To see the humanity of ALL of us, protect ALL of us, regardless of health, skin colour, sexual orientation, etm.  

So I will share my humanity, my very human struggles, my desire to remain, to teach, to create, to believe in the possibility of change for good.  

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Wish Me Well


We may have had first frost overnight - at least at higher elevations.  Here it wasn't so much 'frost' as heavy dew.  But at last, at last, the temps are heading downwards, which I hope means that wildfire 'season' will soon be ending.  Fingers crossed.

I got the next warp weaving and overall I'm pleased enough.  With the new colour warp I have new ideas percolating.  The dark colours (deep, deep blue warp, dark wefts) mean I feel like a change in direction is about to come over me.  

But it will take time and I will have to be patient.

However, the good news?  The new pain medication has arrived and I can pick it up later today.  I'm not sure how my body will react to it, so fingers crossed the adverse effects will be minor and the beneficial effects, major.

It has been a rocky road, for sure, and age takes a toll on everyone's body, some more than others.

My appointment with the physiotherapist yesterday went well.  Now that we know it is the SI joint that has been causing my problems, she was able to check if it was still mobile (it is) and will focus on the massive muscle spasms in my right hip.  And once the spasms are gone, it will be time to work on increasing strength to help support the injured SI joint.  

The hope is that the corticosteroid injection will relieve the inflammation, although after 9 years I don't know how much 'healing' will be possible.  But the fact that the joint is still mobile is at least good news, and who knows?  The body is pretty darned amazing, all in all.  And once the inflammation has been reduced, the pain should be, as well.  And the new pain medication may just help with the peripheral neuropathy, too.  

Can I hope for pain free?  Perhaps only less pain, but less pain is still...less pain.  And I will take that.

Hope springs eternal.  And I have a little patch of it beginning to sprout.

Send me good healing mojo, juju, gold dust, unicorn sparkle dust - whatever - I could surely use some just now.

In the meantime, I *can* still weave, even at a reduced rate, so I will.