Friday, October 19, 2018

Passion - a long ramble

As we continue to work on the conference I have had time to think about this community of textile creators.

One of the things that appeals about conferences is the opportunity to meet other like minded people in real life.  To have actual conversations as we fondle each others cloth.  Exchange the 'weaver's handshake' (gently rubbing the cloth between your fingers).

What brings us together is our passion for textiles.  Our curiosity about how threads are made, then turned into fabric.

Material used to be a trade good.  Anyone interested in how this can play out, Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Series has one book of the series where an expedition to Russia is mounted with cloth in the hold to be traded for Russian furs.  In North America, Hudson's Bay blankets were traded for beaver pelts.  And so on.

Human beings have been playing with 'string' since the dawn of humanity.  Elizabeth Wayland Barber has a number of books about historic textiles and the role they played in human development and history.  The first one I read was Women's Work, the first 20,000 years.  Since that book was published the date for using yarn/textiles has been pushed back even further.

Creating cloth is a labour intensive process.  While there is no need for people to create their own as industry more than provides all the cloth humans need, there are other reasons for people to continue to keep the craft alive.

Research is showing more and more that people who make things stay 'healthier' than people who don't.  (Can't find citations at the minute but I'm sure they are easy to find with a quick Google search)

There is the simple pleasure of feeling the yarn running through your hands.  There is the meditative quality of creating one stitch, throwing the shuttle for one pick, one after the other.  I use weaving as a working meditation.  Weaving has helped me deal with stress, been instrumental in recovering from injury and also helped to pay the bills.  Spinning I do just for the fun of it and because I enjoy blending different colours to make unique yarn I then knit with.

Not everyone wants to make their textile practice a 'job', however, but there are plenty of other reasons to make cloth.

You can go right from the sheep's back or garden plot to ensure the fibres you use are appropriate for the quality of cloth you want to make.  You can dye it (before or after spinning) to get exactly the colours you want to work with.  You can use fibre prep and spinning techniques to make yarn with exactly the qualities you want.  You can then use knitting, crocheting, nalbining, weaving, etc., to make the cloth you want for the purpose you wish to fulfill.

Any hand made textile is slow cloth.  Even if you are uber efficient, you will still be vastly slower in making that cloth than industry.  Working ergonomically means you don't stress your body while doing it.  (the side benefit of ergonomics is increased efficiency - just saying)

In order to do all of those things, you must have a passion for it.  If you don't have that passion, it's just another kind of 'work'.

People who don't share that passion with me just don't understand why I do what I do.  Case in point - I have been doing a local show since before I actually started weaving.  I have missed just one year due to health issues.  After about 20 years of setting up my booth and offering my hand woven cloth for sale, some people would see me in my booth, take a second look and say "oh!  you're still weaving!"   "Yes" I would say, "I am."   I can't tell you how many times the response to that was "Well, I suppose it keeps you busy."   The first time that happened I was flummoxed.  I stammered out that yes, it did keep me very busy.  After 40 years or so of doing this I don't get that comment very often any more, thankfully. 

But yes, being a professional hand weaver has, indeed, kept me very busy.  I have drawn from my passion to work to deadline, keep coming up with new ideas for designs, burnt the midnight oil to get things ready for shows and other deadlines, like my publications, traveled far and wide to teach, woven for other weavers. 

Weaving for other weavers?  Why yes.  Yes, I do.  Because they know that I will be able to meet deadlines while they work on other stuff.  So yes, I wove for 9 years for a fashion designer.  I have woven for other weaver/designers on special projects.  I have written articles and woven projects for publication in magazines, beginning with The Weaver's Journal, SS&D, Heddle, the Ontario Handweavers Guild 'newsletter', Handwoven and others.  And I have self published books, partly because I had information I wanted to share.  I want to help make the creation of textiles less confusing, more interesting - for those who share my passion.

And so I press on with getting a second(!) book to the 'printer'.  At this point I have turned the ms over to a professional editor that I trust, in no small measure because she also spins and weaves, and am letting her do the job of the final polishing.  Because at this point and some nearly six years of working on it I have zero perspective left.

I told a friend this morning that I had wrung my brains out and onto the paper.  I have tried to cover all the 'it depends' issues that weavers face when they set about to make a textile.  I cannot tell them what to do in every circumstance so I have tried to give the background information that is needed to make good choices.  What anyone does with that information will be up to them.

It is actually painful to me to see weavers in photos sitting too low, inviting injury, working in such a way that can lead to injury.  Choosing inappropriate yarn for the project they want to create.  Not understanding the factors that need to be considered.  That every quality of a cloth is on a sliding scale.  That you can take one yarn and create a library of different qualities of cloth.

Over the years I have settled on a range of yarns that I trust to make 'good' cloth.  My palette of yarn choices is relatively small and I work within the quality that those yarns will produce.  It is just a very thin slice of the weaving 'pie'.  On the other hand, I have experimented with a lot of other yarns so I have a pretty good understanding of a wide range of different yarns. 

Someone recently commented that putting on lots of short warps is beneficial to a new weaver.  I agree with that because while weaving is not particularly difficult, it is complex.  The processes, the equipment, the choices of yarns can be very confusing.  By dressing the loom with shorter warps and doing as many warps as possible until the process of dressing the loom is understood and becomes second nature will be beneficial.  Learning how to think about your results analytically will help make appropriate choices in the future.

Weaving, especially as a hobby, should not be painful.  It should not be frustrating.  It should not be cause for tangles, tears and blue language.  Understanding the principles will help make weaving much easier, and vastly more pleasant.

Understanding the mechanics of the craft, including the equipment, will make the whole activity much more enjoyable and allow for full range of the passion of creating textiles to develop.

So I have been thinking a lot about the instructors we have lined up for the conference.  And I'm thinking that I need to sit down with them and invite them to share some of their passion with people considering attending the conference.  If I can find time when we can do that, I will - hopefully - begin writing up profiles of them for the conference blog.

Because the best thing about a conference is meeting - in real life - others as passionate as we are and having face to face conversations and give each other the 'weaver's handshake'...

Thursday, October 18, 2018


In the most recent issue of Handwoven, I have an article about Bronson Lace

One of the things I did was to use two different colours, one in the warp, one in the weft.  They are closely related, and the difference in colour really doesn't show in the photos they included in the article, so I've posted a close up here so that people can see how the two closely related but slightly different values look.

The pale value will 'advance' while the darker value will 'recede'.  Therefore the centre block will have a somewhat three dimensional look to it - subtle, but there.  Closer, the difference is much more obvious.

This is something that weavers can do to make their textiles more visually interesting.  Rather than use exactly the same colour warp and weft, two slightly different values of the same hue can provide more depth to the cloth.

Using two - or more - hues of the same value (blues to greens, perhaps), well mixed will also make a cloth have more life to it than one with only one.

Quilters have a saying that colour gets all the credit while value does all the work.  The phrase I use is that value is more important than hue.  Which is really just a different way of saying much the same thing.

If you find the whole issue of colour confusing, you might like to sign up for Tien Chiu's new on-line colour class.

Tien has been working hard to try to help people who are not intuitive colourists understand how colour works within a woven textile, with hints and tips for how to combine colours for effective textiles.

Tien is teaching a two day workshop and seminars at our conference next year.

Currently reading Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.  First in a trilogy.  Looking forward to part 2 - Grey Sister.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


While I was out of town, total page views of this blog rolled over the 1.5M mark.

Several friends have asked me that, now I'm 'officially' semi-retired (if I keep saying it often enough, I might actually come to believe it?) what's next?

Well, frankly, I don't know.

So, what does 'semi-retired' actually look like to me?

It means I no longer try to import and sell my own hand dyed yarns.  Stopped doing that a few years ago when I had to decide if I imported more or just dyed what I had and either sold it or wove it up myself.  In the end, I wound up selling some, but weaving most of it.  I still have some left - too much to give away/donate, too little to try to weave it.  It may show up in my 'worthy cause' shawls that I've been knitting and donating to fund raisers for organizations/causes I feel will benefit by selling or auctioning the shawls.  (The latest batch will be going to my local guild to sell at the craft fair and/or the guild room sale, this autumn/winter.)

It means I no longer take booths at fibre festivals and try to earn some money by selling weaving yarns.  Gave that up soon after I gave up the dyeing.

It means that I have been cutting back on the craft fairs that I do.  This year, two local, one in Calgary.  Plus the guild room sale where I can deeply discount discontinued lines.  I may do Calgary again next year because the timing of that show means we get a week to recover from the two local ones that are back to back weekends.  My ultimate goal is to stop doing any shows but the local ones by 2020 when I turn 70.

It means that the workshop and guild program I just did is intended to be the last guild event(s) I do.  I will continue to teach via the Olds College for a while yet, but that all depends on whether or not they want me as much as whether or not I can do it.  But I want to save whatever teaching energy I have for the program.

Now, I may, from time to time, offer a workshop with the local guild.  No traveling involved.  Which means no trying to find two or three guilds to form a tour, no financing the cost of the trip for several months (in some cases), no stress of worrying if I'm going to make my flights.  Hopefully no more face plants hurrying to the next gate.

I may from time to time, accept a booking with a conference or other event if it suits me to travel to that area and if I can combine the trip with visiting with friends.  In other words, a true working vacation. 

And of course there is still the conference here which is taking up a rather lot of my time and will continue to do so from January to the end of June.

This autumn I had another article in Handwoven.  I participated in two "Look Books" with Interweave Press.  I think I will have an article in SS&D's winter issue (no email saying what I sent was rejected, so...)

I continue to work on The Intentional Weaver - Ms Editor requested more text just before I left for Vancouver Island and after falling and hurting my knee badly enough I could not weave, there was time to provide the additional text.  We are still on track for publication Dec. 2.  We'd better be - my tickets are already purchased so I can meet with her and we can do the final edits and polishing.

There is still way too much yarn in my stash, so semi-retirement is going to look a lot like stash reduction continued. 

However, I may also work on the part of weaving that attracted me in the first place - looking at the different ways thread can be made to move through a textile to produce design.

I may feel inspired to write more articles for publication.

I may just find that sitting in the recliner with my feet up reading some of the heaps of books on my hearth looks mighty fine!

I may find that making jigsaw puzzles, sipping tea suits me down to a T.

What I will continue to do is to be as supportive of weavers as I can be.  That means amplifying their publications (Heddlecraft) or on-line classes (Jane Stafford's on-line guild, Janet Dawson's Craftsy class, Tien Chiu's on-line class on colour in weaving) and so on.

I will continue to encourage weavers to learn as much as possible about the craft, either by answering emailed questions, or who knows?  More small publications such as the A Good Yarn series.  I think I still have card stock for stapling samples to and the electric stapler with staples.

But all of those decisions are going to have to wait.  They can simmer on the back burner while I deal with the next 8 or so months of Big Projects - the craft fair season, getting the book published, the conference over and done with.

But one thing I can promise - I will no doubt continue to use this forum to explore my own thoughts on all things weaving.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll make 2M?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

That’s a Wrap

The end of the day, the workshop nearly done.  

The topic was lace weaves but we (I) wandered far from the topic on more than one occasion.  Because weaving encompasses so much more than just getting the threads woven.  So I did my usual soap box routines...ergonomics, position and posture, wet finishing.  Because these things all affect either our ability to keep weaving, or the integrity of the cloth.  Because it is all of a piece.  

This was the last guild workshop I intend to do.  It was bittersweet.  The Weavers taking the workshop ranged from fairly new to weaving for a long time, per usual.  But they were all of good cheer and we laughed and learned.  And I almost (almost!) started to regret my decision.  

It was the best kind of workshop and I will miss the experience.  But having limited energy, my resolve to focus on the Olds classes tapped me on the shoulder to remind me that this is where I need to place my time and attention.  

Tomorrow is the guild program which will be on wet finishing.  Someone asked if it would be a repeat of what I had just done.  I assured her I had plenty more to say.  Someone asked if I had more stories.  Oh my, do I have stories!   I hardly scraped the surface of the stories.  

Tuesday I go home again.  I have a big stack of work that needs doing.  I have a knee that isn’t healed yet so the one thing I won’t be doing is weaving on the small loom.  

Bottom line is, I have enough inventory for the first show.  Truth be told, I probably have enough inventory for all three shows.  

So I am not going to fuss about weaving too much when I get home.  

I will do what I can.  I will try not to regret what I cannot.  

It is time to step aside and let another generation take over.  

It’s a wrap.

Monday, October 8, 2018


This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada.

While there are many (too many!) things that still need improving in this world, it is always a good idea to stop for a moment and recognize that there are still things to be grateful for.

Randomly opened a book of quotes titled A Grateful Heart and this one was revealed:

Give us thankful this the season of Thy Thanksgiving.  May we be thankful for health and strength, for sun and rain and peace.  Let us seize the day and the opportunity and strive for that greatness of spirit that measures life not by its disappointments but by its possibilities, and let us ever remember that true gratitude and appreciation shows itself neither in independence nor satisfaction but passes the gift joyfully on in larger and better form.

W. E. B. Dubois.

While life is never always perfect, all of the time, and we may not have everything on that list of Debois', it has been my journey through life to try to find the silver linings in the clouds, to recognize that I have some of those items most of the time, and to be grateful for those that I have, while not moaning (too loudly) about those that I do not.

There are days when that is far easier said than done.  The past week has been one of those times.  The past year has been particularly challenging for a number of reasons, and falling (twice!) was, well, rude.

On the other hand, all of the medical people I dealt with in the aftermath have been absolutely wonderful.  From the clerk at the walk in clinic who sent me home to wait my turn instead of keeping me in the packed waiting room, the doctor who carefully tended the wounds, the wound clinic staff.  And my knee is getting better.  I can walk more easily, with less pain.

I was even able to change my seat selection on both flights tomorrow from a (cramped!) window seat to one in the aisle so that I can stretch my leg out when appropriate.  Both flights are short - 60+ minutes on the first, about 50 on the second.  I have long layovers both going and coming home, so no need to hustle my butt to make the connection.

Choosing to not weave allowed me to rest and let my body heal while working on conference and business administrivia.

During this season of thanksgiving, I was reminded of some of the wonderful people in my life as I grew up.  National Teacher's Day reminded me of the gift of teachers who were, by and large, really great teachers.  I learned so much from them, some of it even having to do with the curriculum!  But also how to think about other people and their experiences.  Critical thinking.  Recognizing emotional trigger words.  And how to stop myself from becoming ensnared by people who were trying to influence me and bend my thinking to their agenda.

I remembered to be thankful for many friends and acquaintances who have enriched my life in ways I could not list as it would take too long.  Just know that I value all of you in my life, whether it is in person, or on line.

Professional people have helped me develop as a weaver, teacher, business person by helping me wend my way through the learning curve every time I tried something new.  Authors have shared their knowledge in books and articles, allowing me to spring board from their information to asking 'what if...' and carry on in my own journey of learning.

Authors who write fiction have helped me see the viewpoint of others with different experiences, and authors who write memoirs have shared their experiences allowing me a glimpse into their reality.

Gratitude for my family, both near and far, who helped shaped me into the person I am today, both by how they treated me and the gift of their DNA.

Gratitude to the partner in my life, especially the past few days, helping me ease through the daily chores, driving me to appointments, and so on.  And so much more.

So no, things aren't perfect.  There will always be more that needs to be 'fixed', improved.  There will be things like falls, injuries and general health issues - more as the years go on.  Probably my biggest challenge right now is to work out what my new 'normal' is going to look like.  What I can realistically expect that I can do.  Hobbling around for the past few days has been difficult, but also a time to think.  I have been trying to do that for several years, but my inner 34 year old keeps telling my 'in real life' exterior 68 year old that I can do more than that body really wants to do, given the past 10 or so years. 

On the other hand, I am still here, unlike so many.  I get more chances to do things, albeit more slowly than I am used to, but still.  The rest of my immediate genetic family is gone.  The twig of this branch of DNA stops here, with me. 

But hopefully not for a while yet.

In the meantime, I remind myself to be grateful.  I did not break a bone.  I just tore up some skin, which will grow back.  More slowly than a few decades ago, but it will heal.

I can still go on my trip.  I will have a few days on the island before I have to teach.  By then I might be able to walk a lot more easily - today is already better than yesterday.  My hands are coming along and I can knit.  I have packed some simple knitting and a stack of tea towels that I will be able to hem. 

And I have books to read.

When I add it all up, the check marks in the positive column are far more numerous than the ones in the other.

Sending my best wishes to everyone, on this day that reminds us to find gratitude.  In spite of everything.

Currently reading Red Sister by Mark Lawrence.

Sunday, October 7, 2018


Autumn is well advanced for us now.  The glorious fall colours are mostly over their prime.  Now comes the interlude between that burst of colour and the coming winter season.

This morning it is raining.  A steady, gentle rain, welcome because summer had so little of it.  But it brings a chill that seeps into the bones.

My plans were to weave up as much as I could before I left on Tuesday, but the fall I took on Wednesday has nixed that idea.

Two falls in five weeks has shaken me up well and truly and while I could have woven on the AVL, my hands were also torn up and my neck and shoulders were tight and sore.  Weaving on the AVL would have been possible...but over all a bad idea.  My body needed time to rest and heal.

Instead I have been vegging and doing not much of anything, trying to keep my foot elevated as much as possible. 

On the other hand (heh) there was time to work on things I had been putting off - my sales taxes, conference budgeting, and today I printed out the awards from the conference last year and will work on a list of potential awards for ours.

Things are getting better.  I have a bag of dressings to keep my injury clean and protected and a follow up appointment with the wound clinic the day after I return home.  But there doesn't appear to be any infection developing.  If it does I will go to a clinic and get medication.  My immune system is compromised and I cannot ignore infections.

It is Thanksgiving weekend here.  I thanked the nurses for working the holiday.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Pride Goeth...

Two face plants in 5 weeks.  I think there is a message in there somewhere.

It looks bad, and it is, but mostly because my immune system is compromised due to the cancer drug and the medical professionals looking after me are taking every precaution.

My knee is scraped up pretty seriously and the heels of my hands are tender.  So - all that weaving I was going to get accomplished before I left for the Island? 

Not gonna happen.

OTOH, I have administrivia for both the conference and my business to get done, so yesterday I worked on the budget for the instructors and today I will be working on the awards list for suggestions to give to the guild assisting us with that part of the conference.

And I will just ignore the fact that I won't be getting much else done for a while.

I go back Sunday morning for the dressing to get changed and then Tuesday I leave for Courtenay.  I'll be asking to pre-board.  Because steps are difficult and I'm walking sloooowly.  But I also have a few days to rest and recuperate before the workshop.  And I'll be staying with friends who I know will give me good hospitality.

But I also think I need to stop and think about my life and why the universe seems insistent that I really must slow down!