Sunday, April 14, 2024

When the Muse Calls


Yesterday I received the contract for the first of the articles I agreed to write for School of Sweet Georgia.

I had been mulling over what I wanted to say for a couple of weeks without coming to any conclusions, but the night before I thought I'd found a good opening.

Generally my opening sentence is like the thread that Hansel and Gretel (in some versions) used to make their way through the woods to find their way back home.  For me, it's the thread I follow to reach where I want to end.

Once I'd signed the contract (with a slightly earlier due date than we'd originally discussed) I figured I'd better get that opening sentence down and get started.

Writing is something that takes time, not unlike any other 'craft'.  Very seldom do I ever publish something that hasn't at least been read to sift out typos (and still don't get them all, sadly).  Blog posts like this are more informal, and don't get the polishing that other things receive.  For example, the last book I wrote, the manuscript was sent first to an alpha reader who helped find glaring grammatical errors and typos.  Then I went through the ms correcting my original, then the files were left to 'mature' for a few weeks before I re-read them again.  This part of the process relies on time, because when the words are fresh in my mind, my brain sees what it expects to see, not necessarily what is actually on the page.

So this time of aging is really important.  Sometimes I re-write whole passages because the words are redundant, or not clear as to what I meant.  And then I re-read it again, letting the files sit for at least a week before I do a final read through before sending the files to an editor.  Who then goes through it, making suggestions, correcting typos and such.  And then I re-read the whole thing again, which sometimes generates more re-writes.  And we continue until we agree that it is a good as it can be.

I write these blog posts for free, so I don't hire an editor.  Therefore sometimes I re-read a blog post and wince.  And sometimes I learn something new about a topic I've already written about and I do a fresh post with the updated information.

So, I've written about selvedges before, but usually here, in this informal style, with no outside editing.

But not everyone reads this blog, so the opportunity to present some of my tried and true bits of information and present them to a largely new audience seemed like a good thing to be doing.  Even though I've written hundreds of words on things like selvedges, and tension, and 'a thread under tension is a thread under control'.

Just today I saw someone online, exasperated because they were having all sorts of problems getting their loom dressed.  And I wanted to chime in and say that thing I say about tension.  But they were done their loom dressing, and by then it was too late - for that warp.  So, I didn't say anything.

Life as a weaving 'elder' has morphed into a constant juggling of when to say something to help a newer weaver, and when to stay silent, and scroll on by.

I've agreed to do 4 articles for SOS, and I'm about 3/4s of the way to the agreed upon word count for the first one.  But today isn't a great day after another pain flare last night.  The good news is that the pain, overall, was less - just too much to let me sleep.

Probably not a great day to be trying to write.

Plus today is the day my eBay auction of bobbin lace books ends.  Once that is over and done with, I will begin listing the weaving books for the local guild.  You can 'follow' me on eBay, or look for the keywords PG Guild Book Auction.  (I think that's what I will use, anyway.  TBD if eBay will allow that.)

There are approximately 60 titles (a couple of books have multiple copies - Allison had a yarn shop and used to carry books), and I will be listing them 10 titles per day, alphabetical according to author.  What can I say, I used to work in a library!  

I may post the entire list here tomorrow so that if there are several titles someone is interested in, they can let me know and I will hold off shipping until the auction is completed and ship all purchases in one parcel.  (Trying to be mindful of carbon footprint!)

In the meantime, I need to go up to the guild room although I'll probably not stop long.  I do want to get to the loom at least once today.  Goodness knows, that warp won't weave itself!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Out of Focus


I confess to being rather...out of 'focus'...these days.  

For the past few years I've been struggling to keep going in spite of physical challenges that sapped me of energy and even the desire to do much of anything.

Part of me has done what it has always done - cracked the whip and tried to get me up and moving.  But there comes a time when the body simply cannot respond the way it has always done, and the minutes slip by until the day is gone.  And nothing to show for it except feeling out of sorts and upset that a day was 'wasted'.  Again.

Now that I'm feeling 'better' (for certain values of), I find that I *still* have little energy.  The part of me that wants to get up and do things can't seem to crack that whip hard enough to keep me going.

It is also that part of me that takes on new 'jobs' and then wonders why my body still refuses to get up and get moving.  I mean, it's always worked before, so why not now?

Truth to tell, I'm now in my 70s not my 30s.  I have gone to the well of determination too many times and frankly?  The well is about empty.  I peer down, down, down, deep into the depths, looking for the pool of energy I used to be able to tap and find...little to nothing.

I commented to my massage therapist the other day that I'm old and broken, and he laughed 'no, you're not' he said.

But inside me, I knew that I was right.  I am old.  I am 'broken'.  And I don't know if there is enough left in me to heal the 'broken' and overcome the 'old'.

I accept that I am now an 'elder' in the weaving community.  I accept that I have done my best to help others in their quest for knowledge, and that I am leaving enough students behind to continue with the transfer of knowledge to new generations.

And if that sounds egotistical, what can I say - yes, I have an ego, just like everyone else.

The guild book auction will begin next week and that is going to take up most of my energy 'spoons' for the following 10 days.  But I also have articles to write that I've promised I would, so I'm not sure how much actual weaving I will be able to do.  OTOH, the warp is weaving, so hopefully I can get to the loom at least once a day, preferably two.

I'm used to planning things 6-12 months down the road.  Right now?  6-12 days is about all I can handle.  

We are well into spring now.  This is a time of transition.  Politically things are very unsettled, and that is adding to my sense of unrest and uncertainty.  

Ultimately I cannot change the politics of the day, but I can keep teaching.  So I am going to open Word and see if the opening sentence I thought of last night is the key to the first article.  

Because I've promised to write.  The fact that I can keep teaching via the written word is a carrot that will keep me going - until I find my focus again.  Because usually when I'm feeling like this another Big Project is about to present itself.  We'll see what is in store, and if the gradual progress I have been making physically will be sufficient to tackle whatever is in the wings.

I also have an eye exam booked for May.  Maybe getting my eyes in focus will bring my life into focus, too?

Friday, April 12, 2024

Twinkle Stars


After a week of delay I finally got to the loom this morning.

I discovered a 'problem' with the threading, but nothing dire enough to scrap the warp and re-thread it, especially when I'm using a colour that isn't going to show off the design all that much.  There are some angles where the design doesn't actually show at all.  It's like 'damask' - dependent upon the light shining differently on the warp and weft to be seen.

The motif is large - what is showing here is the end of the first towel and the first few picks on the second.  Mostly what you can see is the tail end of the motif and the hem area.

This will be the last in the matrix series, and I do believe I wove it previously in a different colour way.  

The photo also shows the caddy I use to hold various tools.  I sit - or perch - on a tall stool, so I need something to hold wound bobbins, scissors, the other shuttle with the yarn I use for making cut lines between the towels and my drink.  (hydrate, hydrate, hydrate)  You can also just make out the ends of the tubes of the same yarn which will be used *as* bobbins and woven directly from the tube.

And yes, those ARE cassette tapes.  Right now my goal is to weave two 45 minute sessions a day, so I pop a cassette tape into my boombox (with headphones to help protect against the noise of the solenoids) and listen to one side, then stop weaving when the music stops.  The headphones are on top of the laptop and black so you can't really see them.  They are not just audio headphones, but also rated to provide protection against noise.  I have already lost some hearing, even though I have always worn protective headphones to weave.  But I didn't use them when doing other noisy things, like winding pirns or cones, etc.  But I don't have the industrial pirn winding machine any more and don't wind lots of cones anymore, either.  

The 'test' eBay auction is putting along.  I suppose there will be a flurry of bids on day 7.  I hope.  

I have managed to sell some of the guild books privately - guild members were given first dibs - and some of my students who I knew were looking for particular books.  The count is now around 60 titles, although I may cull a few more as being not really worth anyone's while.  I mean, who really needs an extremely old monograph on how rayon is made?  Not in particularly good condition, and printed in the 1940s, it's seriously out-of-date!  If anyone wants it and is willing to pay the postage, let me know.

We are well into spring here, but it's a lot drier than we had hoped.  The drought really has not broken, and a lot of us are holding our breaths, waiting to see how bad the fire season will be this year.  

One of the things taking up my time was the delivery of our new hybrid truck.  It's going to take some time to get used to it, but it comes with some 'comfort' features - heated seats, yes, but also heated steering wheel.  They are going to be very welcome next winter.  I have minor arthritis in my hands and I was having some trouble with that, especially when the temps went below -25C.  It also has a backup camera, and the cab is large enough for more cargo than the old Ford Ranger provided.  But the big thing was that it should use a *lot* less gas than the Ranger.  

It is also taking me a lot longer to dress the loom than it used to do.  So between the books, beaming, threading, sleying the warp, personal maintenance (or I can't do *anything*), and getting the new truck sorted, it was with a sigh of relief that I finally got this warp started.

The next warp will be a combination of two different shades of beige and the Lithuanian linen weft will be woven on that warp.  I also have a pound and a bit of a fine 3 ply linen in a slightly lighter beige, and that will also get used up on the beige.  Once those linen yarns are woven, the rest of the beige will be used to use up other colours of 2/16 - like the two *huge* cones of two different greens, and natural white.

I'm hoping the book auctions will be over in about 10 days, although it may take a couple of days to get all the sold books to the post office.  But I will be flipping through my pattern books, trying to decide on what threading/treadling to use for the linen weft towels.  I'm also planning a 'sale' of my tea towels the first 9 days of July, so that will take time - the photographing, listing, monitoring, then shipping.  The kind of thing that needs doing, but remains 'behind the scenes', while eating up time/energy.

I'm hoping once the book auctions are over that there will be fewer distractions and I can concentrate on getting through the next few warps.  If I can, I'd like to do one shawl warp before the craft fair in November.  Since I usually fringe twist those, I need to get them woven by September.  We'll see if I make it.

I admit to feeling a bit at loose ends because I have no clear idea of what I will do for the linen.  Once I figure that out I'm sure I'll feel a lot more focused.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Creativity and Mastery

I'd not been aware of this book until a friend recommended one of his other titles to me.  The local library didn't have that particular book in its collection, but it *did* have this one.  Since I've been intrigued by the concept of 'mastery' since I was a kid***, I put in a hold request and yesterday I finally opened it and started reading.

Dear reader, I would like to re-post everything I have read - so far - but instead I will suggest that if you, like me, are a teacher, or a student, or just interested in how people learn, I bet you will find this book thoughtful.

Now, I've only read a few pages and I may become disappointed in it (if it gets repetitive) but so far?  I'm hooked.  

I also like his writing style, using stories to make his points.  A form of teaching that I embrace.  (As any of my students will confirm!)

One of the things he talks about is that before you can achieve 'mastery' you have to spend time on the learning curve and what you make initially isn't going to be very good.  As a weaver, I have tried to explain to my students that expecting 'perfection' the very first time they try to weave is unrealistic.  So yes, his message is on point, as far as I'm concerned.

So, I'm going to keep reading and see what else he has to say about the topic of 'mastery'.  And if nothing else, I'm sure I will enjoy his stories.

***as a kid my father would frequently watch someone who was a 'master' at doing something and comment something to the effect of beware of someone who made something look 'easy'.  Took me a long time to understand that what he was pointing out was that the person doing the 'easy' thing had 'mastered' what it was they were doing, and to not assume that just *because* they made it look 'easy', it was.  It was a subtle observation, but once I understood it, I began to really respect people who made something *look* easy.  And I also understood that in order to make something look 'easy' they had a lot of 'failures' along the way.  So failure was just part of the process on the way to 'mastery'.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

No Silver Bullet


Most people have no idea what a cotton fibre looks like.  Or linen, silk, rayon, wool.  They don't know about the properties of the fibre, therefore fail to understand the nature of their materials.

I've been in the position of helping 'new' textile folk, some of whom are so focused on their internal 'dream' they fail to take into consideration reality.  Because when you work with actual materials that have ingrained characteristics, which can be adjusted in the fibre prep and how they are spun, simply saying you want to work with 'cotton' doesn't tell me a lot about what it is you actually *need*.

In my initial weaving class we didn't learn a whole lot about fibres, although we did have to take the spinning class as a prerequisite.  We did come to weaving with at least a rudimentary understanding of how threads are made.  

But there was still a huge 'hole' in my foundation of knowledge.  I came to weaving with a pretty common background for the 1970s - my family worked with yarn in various ways - knitting, rug hooking, embroidery, sewing.  I worked in a custom drapery house, so I got a crash course in window coverings and how the various ways window coverings would behave.

Over the years, I dug and discovered resources, primarily the Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers.  It became my go-to for technical information on fibres and yarns.  I added other textile science texts, and gradually filled in some of the holes in my knowledge.

"When you don't know *what* you don't know, you don't know *that* you don't know it."

As soon as I heard that phrase for the first time, I knew that I needed to get loud about things that *I* felt were necessary for weavers to make the cloth they wanted to make.

A lot of wannabe weavers just want to get some thread and turn it into...something.  Some of them don't really have any idea of what they want, or they have some vague notion and look around for something to manipulate into fabric.

But when you don't know *what* you don't know...

So they make a lot of things that don't turn out the way they want, and eventually they give up.  Or they get frustrated.  Some of them get angry when they ask questions and people like me say 'it depends'.

They don't like being 'interrogated' with 20 questions, they just want to make their dreams come true.  Problem is, dreams are not reality, and when working with threads, there are things like physics that need to be factored into the equation.

They also get defensive when they are asked about the results of their sampling.  I don't know how many people have angrily told me that they 'can't afford to *waste* yarn on making samples'.

There is a reason I included technical information in The Intentional Weaver.  As a craftsperson, no matter the craft, the common thing in making anything by hand is to have knowledge and understanding of your materials.

So, I tell people - don't just jump to the pretty pictures and project notes in a book - read the beginning bits.  I constantly see people asking online what author X means when they say Y.  Pretty sure most authors include an explanation of their terms in the beginning bits that they just skipped over because it was 'boring'.

If someone wants to make 'good' cloth, they need (imho) to understand the materials and equipment they are going to use.  

The Intentional Weaver is the book I wish I'd had when I first learned how to weave.  I consider all of it basic and essential.

If you have the book and you skipped over some of the chapters, maybe go back and read them now?

Monday, April 8, 2024

Of Libraries and Books


When I set out to produce Magic in the Water, my only thought was to try to educate weavers as to the necessity of taking this final, and (imho) essential step.  To *not* gloss it over with 'oh, just wash it'.

Because in my experience, that final step was - in so many cases - magical.

To be told that the book has become a 'classic' in the field is validation that all the effort and expense of making it was worth doing.

In 2011 I finally sold the last copy and no sooner had I done that, requests began arriving - was there any way to get the text, if not the samples?

Since I was distracted by doing chemotherapy (for the cancer I still live with) taking photos of the samples and then having a friend convert the text file and photos into a pdf was a do-able task.  

Then, when I was looking for ways of publishing The Intentional Weaver, we used that pdf to test the blurb website.

Since doing all that, sales of Magic have continued.  Usually just a sale here and there, but every once in a while there will be a little 'spike' of sales and I know that someone, somewhere, has recommended the book.  Or I've just done a guild program on the topic of wet finishing.

This morning I will be wet finishing the towels I cut off the loom on Friday.  It looks a whole lot like 'just washing', but I will be using the hottest water available from the hot water tank, and part of the finishing process will be a good hard press.  The care tags will read 'machine wash in warm water, machine dry, iron if desired'.  

Because I don't iron my tea towels.  They get tossed into the washer and dryer, then folded and put away.  We have very few commercially made tea towels, and most of our hand towels are also hand woven.  

People tell me my towels are 'too nice to use' when in fact the more they get used, the better they work.  And why not have something 'nice' to bring pleasure to mundane tasks?

So use the 'good' towels.  Use the 'nice' china.  Don't keep things for 'special' occasions.  What I have learned, especially over the past few years, is that being alive is enough to justify using the 'good' things.

I'm not sure what will happen to the books I've written after I've left this mortal coil.  I have no idea if any of my books will continue to sell or not.  But if I can help weavers in the here and now, then the time and effort (and expense!) of writing the books I have done will have been worth it.  And the revenue from continued sales will help fund my being able to *continue* to help new weavers - if they want my help - for as long as I am able.

As I look at the shelves of books left when the latest guild member died, I know that one day my library will be in a similar situation.  And I think about the books I have purchased, and used, and in some cases, loved.  Am I ready to get rid of any of them?  I have already purged my library on a couple of occasions, and what I have left are still used.  Maybe not frequently, but valued as the (sometimes rare) resources at my fingertips.

So, getting rid of a few lace books wasn't really a hardship to me.  They were pre-owned by another weaving friend who died about 10 years ago.  Many were duplicates to what I have, or on topics that I know I'll never pursue.  And setting up an auction on eBay was good practice for the coming guild auction.

If you are interested in the lace books (mine) or the weaving books (for the guild) you can 'follow' me on eBay and check out the listings, see if there is something you might want for your library.  

Sunday, April 7, 2024

eBay, oh eBay


one of the lace books I listed today

Well, I am *really* glad I did a 'practice' auction on eBay!

The last time I did an auction was 10 years ago, and of course...things had changed.

I had intended to share a link to all my listings so that the guild weaving books would be easy to find, but that was not particularly easy to discover.

However with the assistance of a guild member who has a better grasp of how software programs work than I do, she was able to figure out how to find my 'page' and take a look at my listings.

After uploading the 10 lace books I wanted to sell, I now have a much better grasp of what I need to do to prepare myself in order to make the guild listings go more easily.  (I hope!)

A number of the guild books have sold and instead of +100 books, there are now fewer than 70.  With another 10 days to run of the pre-sale for guild members, that number may go down some more.  I may also withdraw some of them from the auction as I was unsure if they would sell, or for so little money it would not be worth anyone's time (mine) to bother with them.  

I still have a few more administrivia things to deal with, but I'm tired and I've wrestled enough with computers and software programs and websites that aren't particularly intuitive enough for one day, so I will just share a link to 'my' page in case anyone wants to 'follow' me to find me more easily once I begin launching the guild books in a couple of weeks.

Just a reminder - prices are in Canadian dollars.  The lowest rate I can get to ship a parcel is $22 (and that doesn't even quite cover it), but if anyone is interested in more than one book I'm willing to hold off shipping until the guild auction is done or I'm told someone is done.  

I will be listing 10 books a day and the auctions will run for 7 days.  There are a number of payment options and eBay now processes all payments.  This may - or may not - make my life a bit simpler.  Time will tell...