Friday, January 21, 2022

Jan. 21, 2022


tonight's sunset

So, 2022 was supposed to be a new start.  A more hopeful year.  A better year.  I last posted on Jan. 12 about the launch of the SOS class, anticipating that I was going to have a great time, interact with students, and things were just going to keep on being 'fabulous'.

If you are wondering about radio silence, it's because Jan. 12 was also the day I was told that my sinus headache wasn't a sinus headache and I didn't have pink eye, I had a *severe* case of shingles that had gone into my left eye.  

The next few days disappeared in a haze of pain and fistfuls of pills and multiple eyedrops.

I did manage to monitor the Q&A for the class, but it wasn't the joy I had been expecting.  

It's a really long story no one needs to hear - except that I have been too sick to even think about weaving.  I have managed to stumble along and yesterday was told that I am healing well, but this will be a long road to full recovery.

Here is a Public Service Announcement:

If you have ever had chicken pox, hie thee hence to a pharmacy and get the two shot shingles vaccine.  I had gotten the one dose, then assumed I was protected from another bout of shingles (I'd had two, years ago) and frankly missed the signs of it happening.  Until it was nearly 'too late'.

If you have never had shingles, please take it from me, you don't want to.  Ever.  Even a mild case, never mind a 'severe' one.

I have been holding off cancelling/postponing some Zoom meetings, but even though my healing is going well according to the doctor, I'm still feeling very ill.  I've cancelled all local appointments, hunkering at home trying to stay out of the cross hairs of covid, a cold, whatever is happening out in the big cold world.  Fortunately everyone has been very understanding and at this point I have two Zooms scheduled, the last Sunday of this month and the first of the next.  I'm going to cancel the one and re-book the other for another date, further down the Recovery Road.   Because it seems to have a lot (and I mean a LOT)  of valleys and mountain peaks.

I am beginning to feel well enough that I can read a bit, and I have some jigsaw puzzles so the next job I plan to tackle is clearing off the dining room table so I have something else to distract me, and a different place in the house to sit, which I'm hoping will help my back.  Even getting to the specialist in Vancouver has had to be postponed because of the shingles, so my back still hurts and I'm not much nearer getting it 'fixed' - if it can be.  But at least I'm on their patient roster and they will contact me in March.  Hopefully to the news that the doctor thinks she can help me.  And then maybe in April be able to travel down for an in person assessment.

But it's been a really rough couple of weeks.  

Currently reading The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny.  It's riveting and asks some pointed questions about societal values.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Launch Day


So today is launch day for the SOS class, The Intentional Weaver.

It was meant to be a happy day for me, and instead I'm still dealing with a body that seems bent on making me miserable.  I have an appointment - in person - with my family doctor, this afternoon, and I really hope he has something to help me.  Because I've been looking forward to this day and it's being 'ruined' by feeling ill.

Ok - whine over.

Felicia Lo was my on screen student and she has done a You Tube video talking about experiencing being a student.  She talked about how when I do the various tasks involved in weaving I make it look so 'easy' and how we talked about students might feel intimidated when the same techniques don't come easily to them.  And she agreed to be the student to show that when you learn something new it is going to feel awkward.  And the solution for that awkwardness is, in fact, to do them with intention.  With mindfulness.  Paying attention to the motions.

She asked her viewers to share some of the awkward things they have experienced, in part as a way to acknowledge that feeling awkward is a normal part of learning something new.  That you only gain proficiency by steadfast mindful practice.  

Sometimes I will answer a question on line and people will be amazed that I am able to put my finger on exactly what the problem is, and suggest a solution.  The thing is, the reason I know about these solutions, and the situations, is that every single one of them has happened to me.

Weaving is not difficult, but it is complex.  There are a multitude of steps tht must be taken, in order, so that you wind up with good results.

There are principles to be learned so that you can more easily diagnose a problem, then knowing the principle, make an appropriate fix.

The one I share about my own journey was the time I neglected to go over the back beam of the loom while dressing the warp.  The warp travelled directly from the beam up to the heddles.  When I treadled, I could not get a shed.

Doing this once was bad enough.  But I did it twice in a row.  So now when someone says they have their loom all dressed but can't get a shed, I look for signs that they, too, have neglected to go over the back beam.

I have even neglected to go over the knee roller on the AVL which meant I wasn't getting good sheds as the springs were being impeded from working properly because the apron was in the way.

Mistakes happen.  They are part of life, part of weaving.  My hope with writing the book and doing these classes is that people will learn the principles and fixes to problems.  And not be upset if they make a mistake.  Because we are only human.  

Sometimes we aren't feeling well and we aren't thinking clearly.  Sometimes we are stressed or distracted, and not paying full attention to what we are doing.  Sometimes it has been too long since dressing the loom last time and we forget things like knee rollers and back beams.

Embrace the journey of learning.  Accept your human-ness.  Take pleasure and satisfaction when things go right, but don't beat yourself up when they go wrong.

And PS - while setting up the loom for the taping, I showed how to check for a clear shed and discovered that oops - I'd crossed threads between the heddles and the reed.  This was not a 'planted' error (although I'm not beyond doing such a thing), but a mistake I actually made.  In the end I was glad because it showed that I just dealt with it and carried on.  That yes, I do still make mistakes.  Being a 'master' weaver doesn't mean you don't make mistakes, just that you don't panic, you just fix them.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Down Time


Seems whatever was ailing me yesterday is lingering, although I am feeling 'better'.  However, I'm still not feeling great and trying to decide if it is folly to attempt to beam that next warp in the queue.  I think I should be ok if I take it slow, and it's better than sitting in the recliner feeling sorry for myself.

The sun has come out finally, and the temps have risen.  The streets will be a mess, especially if it starts snowing/raining.  But for now I am appreciating the sun glancing across the fresh fallen snow.  Winter really can be quite beautiful.

I have a list of things I want to do but don't feel I can manage half of them, so the best course of action is to simply choose one.  The rest will wait.

Because that's the thing, when you are one person who does pretty much everything (with support and assistance from a spouse when needed.)  Everything will wait.  Everything *must* wait.  Until you feel better enough to try to do them.

One of the great gifts of 'retirement' is that I no longer have critical deadlines.  I have my desires.  I have my intentions.  I have my goals.  But it no longer much matters for most of it when I get at them.

Speaking of which, the SOS class launches tomorrow.  I should be better enough to engage with anyone asking questions by tomorrow (today is better than yesterday) so I'm looking forward to discussing all things weaving with new (to me) folk.  Or maybe even some I already know, looking for a refresher.

Anyway, it appears another quiet day is required, so I'm not going to push too hard.  But I'd surely love to see that next warp getting beamed, even if I can't do it in one day.

It will wait.

Monday, January 10, 2022





It is really hard at times to get accurate photos of textiles.  (Probably true generally, but textiles is what I mostly take photos of!)

Yesterday I got another 6 scarves wet finished, including a good hard press.  Once the compression was done, they really took on a lovely sheen and even though in several cases I was working with colours beyond my comfort zone, I'm pleased enough with all of them.

Some of the designs actually turned out better than I'd hoped.  Which happens so rarely.

This run of scarves was challenging on many levels.  Working within a severely limited range of colours, trying to figure out how to make them play nicely together, not really knowing how they would look after finishing.  I really had to stretch myself.  I am happy with the results and they do 'work' at both distance and closer up, when you can begin to see the different colours in the warp.

While I think they look good/interesting, the final judgement will be made by the person who buys them.  If anyone does.  

Because there is no guarantee that anything I make will sell.  And there is only so much I can afford to give away.

Given the difficulty of getting 'good' colour shots, I won't be offering these on line.  

The current tea towels, however, are destined to be sold on my ko-fi shop or on consignment locally.

I had great plans for what I was going to do today, but my body has other ideas.  So I am having a 'quiet' day, trying to stay mobile without attempting to do 'too much'.  Since most of what I'm working on this afternoon does need to be done at some point, it's just shifting my list to another day and moving 'quiet' things to today.

Sometimes one just has to listen to their body.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Weaver's Bottom

"Nick Bottom is a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream who provides comic relief throughout the play. A weaver by trade..."

It has been said that Nick Bottom got his name as a play on words because so  many weaver's had 'weaver's bottoms'.  It was a known work related injury.

  "Ischial bursitis (weaver's bottom or tailor's bottom) can result from sitting for long periods on a hard surface..."

Over the years I have sat on a number of different kinds of benches/stools etc.  Since I started weaving with the express purpose of making an income by doing the craft, I spent hours every day at the loom.  It didn't take me long to realize that loom benches are *hard*.  I have had a variety of cushions or pads at the various looms I work at and recommend that people consider such for themselves if they intend to do more than a session or two a day.

The bursa can become irritated and then inflamed.  Once inflammation sets in, it can take weeks rather than days for it to clear up again.  So I always took care to pay attention and use some kind of padding on my loom bench or stool.

I can say that I have never had weaver's bottom, nor have I had carpal tunnel - both things that I knew were an occupational hazard.  

During my years of production weaving I have had other injuries, usually outside of the studio (whiplash, twice, for example) but by and large I've managed the repetitive stresses of weaving reasonably well.

But do something long enough and a body can begin to wear out.  And of course just living takes a toll as well.

In the end, the current 'injury' I am dealing with was not caused by the weaving itself, but associated tasks required in running a studio.  Hefting 40-50 pound boxes of yarn, dragging 50-75 pound suitcases around, getting into and out of cars at the airport, thumping them up and down stairs at my hosts or at the guild rooms, up a set of stairs.  The years I spent dyeing yarn, moving *large* pots of water and large skeins of fully saturated water around.  Not much wonder my back would ache at the end of the day.

It is one reason I advocate for people to understand the processes and how their body functions and to work ergonomically - so that they reduce the chance of developing repetitive motion injuries.  So much better to avoid them than take the weeks/months to heal from them.  Because the older I get, the longer it takes to heal.  And sometimes now, I never do get back to where I was.  

So I cut back on doing the heavy lifting I used to do without a second thought.  I make sure I take rest breaks (which have gotten longer, meaning fewer sessions at the loom per day).  I have a massage therapist and a chiropractor (one for my lower back, one for my upper, because each end of my spine has something different 'wrong' with it.)

I keep weaving because the weaving itself doesn't seem to make anything particularly worse and I weave not just for the physical exercise, but for the mental health.  And because I have so damn much yarn!

Working ergonomically is one of the things I will discuss in the SOS class launching next week.

Let's keep in mind that weaver's bottom is no joke, even though Nick Bottom, the weaver, might have been a bit of a joker.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Details, Details


It's quite hard to see, but in amongst all the cotton fibres, I *think* I see some linen.  Enough to cast doubt on this yarn being 100% cotton, at any rate.

Cotton fibres are routinely between 3/4 of an inch to about 1.5".  After harvest they go from round tube to flat twisted 'ribbon'.  Linen fibres are longer and more rod like.  

Yesterday I mentioned that I wasn't going to use both yarns in the same tea towel and by that I meant I would not want to use both as weft in the same textile.  They will behave differently.  The one with linen will lose less width than the 100% cotton.  And, because of the difference in twist, they might look markedly different as well.

So the suspect tubes have been set aside and I'll use them together to make one towel.  Anything left over (which likely won't be much) will get put into my recycle bin.  

The difference between the two yarns of the 'same' colour tugged at my eye without my paying too much attention because I was busy sorting about 50 tubes of yarn into colours/dye lots.  It was only when I began looking at each pile of the 'same' colour that I paid more attention to that tiny difference I had noted without actually thinking about it.

In the end it took me a good 20 minutes of looking at the two yarns under the microscope to see if I could tell more about the yarn.  But if I had used the two different yarns randomly, I could have wound up with three towels that were...strange...with different shrinkage rates and looking 'odd' due to the difference in twist.  Instead I'll have 3 perfectly find towels.

Training one's eye to see such fine details is all part of mastering the craft.  Know your materials.  Understand their inherent characteristics.  Be prepared to make adjustments when you spot potential areas of concern.

Above all?  Keep learning.  Pay attention to your inner voice.  Sometimes it has an important message you need to hear.  When in doubt, do something different.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Looking Closely


In sorting through my yarns, I had quickly sorted by colour but when I went to use one of the colours, I took a closer look.  

When I examined the yarns, they looked different to me.  Although the colour seemed really close, one of the yarns was more shiny than the other one which also appeared to be more lofty, even though when I compared them side by side, they seemed about the same thickness.  Close enough to say they were both the same count.

But I kept coming back to the two lots of tubes and the more I thought about it the more I came to the conclusion that there was some sort of 'invisible' difference.

I wondered if the loftier one was actually cottolin.  Since my digital microscope can (barely) get close enough to distinguish linen fibre from cotton, I dragged it out today.

There does appear to be some linen fibre in the one strand, so I'm not going to use these two yarns together as weft in a towel.  However the biggest difference is in the number of twists per inch.

I think you can see from the photo that the upper thread is more tightly twisted than the lower one.  The lower one is also hairier (if that's a word) and it's the one with what looks like linen fibres in it.

While I can't guarantee this is so, I've separated the two yarns out and will not use both in the same towel because they could very easily behave and/or feel quite different, just based on the degree of twist.

Always listen to your inner voice.  Sometimes it might not be correct, but if it is...