Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Magic in the Water


top sample wet finished, bottom sample loom state

Linen example from Magic in the Water

I can usually tell when someone has been talking about my books because I will see an uptick in sales.

Lately it's been Magic in the Water.  :)

It warms the cockles of my heart when I see it - it means people are still interested in knowing more, learning more, about this 'magical' process that transforms a web into real cloth.

I have also been pleased to be asked to write some articles (like the one in Heddlecraft for the June 2024 issue) that talks about the wet finishing processes.  Robyn asked me to talk about the role of compression and I was delighted to do so, because some people don't understand that a hard press is not ironing.  

I used to get into scrapes online because I would recommend to folk that as a part of any fabric they intended to cut and sew (specifically for garments, but any cloth, really) they apply compression.  Inevitably I would get some people who were sewists who would scoff and tell me that if I knew how to sew properly I wouldn't need to do all that.

Thing is, almost all commercially woven fabric comes to the market wet finished - including a hard press.

So, yes, if you are working with commercially produced fabric, especially high quality fabric, it has already *been* compressed.  But if you have woven the threads into cloth and expect to be able to sew it into something that will wear well and hold a seam, you might need to consider that part of the finishing as well.

For years I have been trying to come up with a way to illustrate what happens when those webs are compressed, and I have finally come up with a plan to show how it works.  I have to do some hard pressing today, plus the new warp is ready to weave, so I probably won't get to it today.  But I have the materials I need, I just need to work out the details to make it happen.  I'm trying to decide if I livestream the experiment on FB.  OTOH, if I fail, it will be in public, so maybe not.  :D

Monday, July 15, 2024



I thought long and hard about doing this post, but I decided I am going to put this out there for people's consideration.

Last winter, there was a movement in the entertainment industry to 'save' an actor by going to their performance ***wearing a mask*** to help protect them from catching Covid.

Given the news out of Convergence, where not one, but three individuals (so far) are reporting they attended the conference positive for Covid, perhaps it is time for that ultimate in personal responsibility...keeping our teachers safe so that they can continue to teach in this craft we love so much.

I am immune compromised, so even IF my body was functioning, I would NOT attend any weaving conference because no one is wearing a mask.  (Well, hardly anyone.)  But just consider all of those instructors at Convergence.  Consider how, if they got sick there, the impact that would have on their other teaching dates.  Consider how, if they get Long Covid, their ability to teach would be compromised.

We had a chance when the pandemic hit to recognize that we need *clean* air, but instead our public health officials mealy-mouthed about washing hands and keeping distance between us instead of, you know, mandating cleaning the air, just like we do with water.

The alt-right didn't help by protesting about masks being an infringement on *their* 'rights' to spread a deadly virus.

Not deadly for everyone, true.  But we are only now starting to find out the extent of the damage being caused by Long Covid.

We have to remember that the majority of the teachers we love to learn from are...older...and thus more vulnerable.

If we want them to feel safe to remove their masks while they teach, it would be a boon, a gift, a mitzvah (if I've spelled that correctly) for the participants to WEAR A DAMNED MASK and protect the instructors from getting sick.

At the very very LEAST, wear a mask until people know they are not positive, after sitting in an airplane for several hours with who knows how many people breathing the virus (any virus, come to that) into the shared air of the plane.

More and more people who are knowledgeable about communicable diseases are describing Covid as a mass disabling event.  There are thousands of people now dealing with Long Covid.  I now have to remember when I am answering questions on line that *some* of the people are dealing with Covid brain fog, and what I thought was a clearly worded response might not be clear to the person with brain fog from Covid.

The irony is not lost on me that the film industry STILL has higher Covid protocols than hospitals.  Because the film industry knows that if their star(s) go down with Covid, it will be very expensive for them.  

If we infect our beloved teachers with Covid, pretty soon they won't be teaching anymore.

Maybe some people are ok with that, but I'm not.  

So, please.  Next time all y'all attend a workshop, how about wearing a mask to protect not just yourself, but the teacher.  Send them home without a dose of Covid, so they can keep teaching.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

State of the Studio


Here's a teaser - one of the samples I wove for one of the articles I'm writing.  And yes, I did sort of expect that to happen - it's all part of what I will be looking at in the article.  :)

Right now my studio is a bit of a shambles.  I'm back to juggling too many balls, trying to keep too many plates spinning on their rods.

Truth is, I'm only juggling 3 balls, spinning 3 plates these days, but some days that's still 'too many'.

I keep trying to 'get better', but the fact is, I'm not going to.  The best I can hope for (and I *know* I'm not alone in this) is to delay further sliding down.

Funny thing about finally accepting the reality of my situation.  It is allowing me to make decisions.

What truly matters to me?  What do I really want to accomplish?  Is doing this, or that, important enough to spend my energy spoons on?  Or do I need to save them for the 'important' stuff?

Accepting my reality is a great mind cleanser.  Do I spin my wheels moaning because I cannot do certain things anymore?  Or do I get on with what I *can* do?

I have one more obligation to the guild, which I have been putting off because a) the very long set of stairs up to the guild room is more than I can manage some days and b) it's been too damned hot and the guild room gets to be an oven.  Dressing a loom in that hot box is not in any way appealing.  And, because the guild goes 'quiet' over the summer, I'm not stressing myself over it, even though the loom does need to be 'tested' before the guild can offer it for sale.  But that little obligation is on hold at the minute.

In the meantime I *think* I have now woven all the samples I need to, for the 2nd article.  The first is essentially 'done', the text sent to the editor to see if I've covered all the essentials of if they want something more.  I'm trying very hard to get these articles done well before their deadline so that I can move on from there.  If the editor approves, I will seal the box of samples, which I tagged/labelled and carefully packed up, ready for the mail, and send that to the person doing the photography.

Am I hoping to write more?  Well, yes, but there is always here if no where else.

Yesterday I cut that green warp (above) off the loom, started working on the prep of the samples for article 2, pressed the towels, got the two pieces of yardage ready to be wet finished.

But today the goal is to beam the next warp.  I'm going back to 2/16 cotton and the linen weft.  I took the natural linen bobbins left over from the last warp and put them into a humidor, then started winding bobbins with white.  In the course of doing the samples, I wound up with bobbins filled with yarn from the sample weaving.  Now to decide if I strip them of the yarn, or see if the 2 dozen bobbins I have available, will be sufficient.  In the meantime, I can empty some of the 'extra' bobbins using that yarn for headers and weaving in the cut lines between towels on the next warp.  

I do like to steep the linen for several days before weaving with it, so I may give in and strip the 'mystery' yarn off the bobbins so that those 6 can be used for the linen.  TBD.

In the meantime, I'm reading that book of essays on knitting Knitting Yarns.  I think the essays are pertinent to anyone who makes things by hand, not just knitters.  So if that is something you think you might enjoy, I do recommend it.  I've promised to write a book review for my local guild newsletter.  If I don't have the spoons to edit the newsletter, I can help by writing entries for the editor? 

It is halfway through July, and with the current hot spell, the bush is drying out after the too little, too late precipitation we had a couple of weeks ago.  Fingers crossed things don't 'blow up' any more than they currently are.  

Where ever you are, what ever you are doing, I hope you find some peace in your making (if you make) or joy in the nature around you.  

In the meantime, my studio will continue to be a shambles, because that's just the way I roll...

Saturday, July 13, 2024

A Different Perspective


This is not a black and white photo.

I was awake most of the night (yes, pain flare) and around 6:30 am I decided if I was going to be awake I might as well get something done rather than sit around and accomplish nothing.

Since I had a bin of towels ready to press, down I went.  Around 7 am the sun was shining directly into the window of my studio, but with the curtains closed, this was my view.

As some of you know, I worked as a sales person for a custom drapery house, assisting people in their choices for window coverings.  As part of that job I learned a lot about fabric for curtain/drapes.  I also learned about 'railroading' your fabric.

So, in this photo, the warp is running horizontally.  Knowing I could do this meant that I knew I could set up my loom to weave fabric just wide enough to make my curtains without seams in them.  Since this was a bit on the heavy side for curtains, not having seams was A Good Thing.

The design is stripes of twill and a lace weave.  If I remember correctly I set this up to weave on a double two tie threading so I could easily weave twill, then lacy.  The yarn has a slub in it and I didn't particularly want a very open cloth.  What I did want was for the light to come through while blocking the actual sunshine.  

As I sat at the press this morning looking up and through the cloth on the window, I was reminded about how much the threads shift and move to areas of least resistance.  You might have to biggify the photo to really see the threads.  I got as close as I could to the fabric, but since I have shelving and worktable against the wall below the curtains, this was about the best I could do.  But if you click on the photo, I think it will open in a new window and give a larger view.

What is really interesting to me is that in the twill areas, it doesn't look like the yarn has moved very much at all, but in the lacy areas, you can clearly see the rounded plain weave area, and even trace the undulating path of the threads in the lacy areas.

This yarn had some twist energy in it, and it's obvious that the twist energy is still playing in the cloth in the areas where there are longer floats/skips.  The twill keeps the threads more effectively corralled.  But just because we can't see the twist energy at work in the twill stripes, doesn't mean it wasn't playing on the threads in those areas, too.  It's just a lot more subtle.

Sometimes it's a good idea to let go of what you know in order to take new information on board.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Magic of Colour


end of the yellow, beginning of the blue/green

Yesterday I finished the yellow weft and started on the blue/green weft.  

I chose to weave plain weave for a number of reasons.

The yellow would blend more evenly with the warp colours and *appear* to be a bright green.

The epi on this warp was set for the thicker white weft I was trying to use up, which meant it was a little too 'sparse' for the 2/22 cottolin for anything else.  OTOH, 20 epi was perfectly fine for the cottolin woven in plain weave.

Plain weave is a bit 'thinner' and since I wasn't sure how much fabric I would get out of the tube, I didn't want to weave the yarn to 'measure' with hems.  Besides, my friend might like to make something other than towels with the cloth.  Plain weave would be more versatile, I felt.

Since I have a couple of different tubes of cottolin, weaving them off in plain weave seemed like a prudent thing to do.

But, as I was weaving, I was thinking ahead to the next article and wondered if I could weave some samples with that singles 6 with high twist energy in it, and if it would do some 'interesting' things?

I've used it before and it has loads of twist energy in it - it was spun to be plyed, so all that twist is still in the yarn.  It's just old enough it's gone 'quiet' but will re-awaken when it hits the water.


So I looked in my storage area, and sure enough I've got loads of the stuff.  So instead of switching to the blue cottolin (only about 1/4 of a tube left), once I've done with the teal cottolin, I'll wind some of the singles 6 and weave some samples.

I don't know how much warp I will have left when I've done that, but I might be close to the end.  Once I'm done weaving the samples, I'll take a gander at the warp beam and decide if I keep weaving or cut off and re-tie.  There is still that hemp to be used up and it would work nicely on this warp.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Simple is not always Easy


I've been weaving a lot of plain weave lately, in part because I need plain weave samples for a couple of the articles I've been writing.

It has been good to get back to 'basics' and hone my skills.

Because 'simple' does not equate to 'easy'.

I frequently see beginner weavers confidently stating that they are going to begin with  something easy, like plain weave.

Well, it may be 'simple', but it is not easy to do *well*.

Plain weave will show off every inconsistency in beat, especially when woven with contrasting colours in warp and weft.  OTOH, if the beginner can 'master' weaving plain weave well, every other weave structure will be a lot easier when they try those.

So I stifle any comment I might make and let them figure it out.

By the time I got to this, I'd already woven several yards on 2 different warps, all in 2/8 cotton.  With this warp I finished off the 'mystery' yarn in that 'fancy' twill I've been weaving, then grabbed a rather obnoxious yellow cottolin to use as weft on the blue/greens with accent colours of yellow, pink and peach.

The yellow had been sitting in my stash for quite literally decades because it was SO 'loud' I couldn't think what to do with it.  However, I have a friend who adores bright green, the brighter the better, and I thought the yellow would shift the mid-range blue/greens further into the green and be fairly bright.  Since she also likes turquoise, I figured this would be welcome in her kitchen - or wherever.  The tube was full because I hadn't used any of it, not quite knowing what to do with it, so I'm weaving it in yardage.  If she wants to make a table runner or something else with it, she can do that.  Or cut it up into towel lengths.  I'll leave it up to her what she wants to do with it.

Back in the early days of internet chat groups, there was the attitude that if you had a fly shuttle, or lord forbid, a dobby (then a computer assisted dobby), you were somehow 'cheating'.

I pointed out that I had two looms.  When I wove something the selvedges were straight and my beat was consistent.  Unless I did a fancy twill using all 16 shafts, no one would know which loom I had woven the cloth on.  And yes, I do weave plain weave over 16 shafts, like this bright green.

I no longer have a fly shuttle or auto-advance cloth system, but I can, and do, weave plain weave on all 16 shafts at times.

When I'm done with the yellow, there is a half tube of a blue/green, slightly darker than the darker hue in the warp.  That should also look good.  Again, I'll weave yardage, then decide what to do with it.  I might give it to my friend along with the brighter green.  TBD.  OTOH, I like the darker blue/greens so who knows, I might keep them for myself.  

I've finished the rough draft of the first article, and processed the samples for it.  My alpha reader says she has time to maybe read through it today.  If she does, I'll send the file to the editor and ask if she's satisfied with what I've done or if she wants something more.  I'm not sure how many words I've written, but I've got 7 pages (using a large font - because old eyes!)  (Just checked, and I've got just over 2200 words.)

In the meantime I am enjoying weaving this plain weave on the 'fatter' yarns.  But I am also getting antsy wanting to begin using up the white linen.  Hopefully I can finish this warp off over the weekend and start beaming the next.

Summer has arrived, the sun is currently shining, we don't have any particular wildfires bothering us (most are to the north, with one a little bit too close to the south and east, but no smoke from it - yet).  We are hoping that the recent rain has dampened the bush so that we don't have too many wildfires, but the province has issued a campfire ban for the entire province.  I really hope people pay attention and don't risk starting a fire while they are out enjoying the great outdoors.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Another Roadblock


When I went to the eye doctor yesterday, it was in expectation of being cut loose.  My last appointment showed nothing wrong with my eye, and the shingles appeared to have retreated to...wherever it goes when it goes 'quiet'.  (Yes, I had chicken pox as a child - I do NOT recommend anyone doing that - get your kids vaccinated and save them from...this...)

Instead, I was told that it had come roaring back and I now had extensive scarring to my cornea.  

It was *not* the birthday 'gift' I had expected walking into the examination room.

When counting 'blessings', all I could do was be grateful that it was my 'bad' eye, not my 'good' one.

I'm back on medication, primarily a salve that she hopes will beat the virus back and heal the, so far, light damage to my cornea.  She doesn't want to put me onto the anti-viral drug because she said I would need to be on it for literally years - and it is 'hard' on the rest of my body, which is already dealing with far too many other...things.

She also recommended adding Lysine to my vitamins and other meds as it has been seen to help reduce the herpes virus (shingles is in the herpes 'family').  No studies yet, but anecdotal reports that it helps.  I'll take it and hope it will.

Yes, I'm vaxxed with Shingrex, but I'm also immune compromised, and the shingles virus will use any opportunity it can to start growing again.  Because it *is* a virus, and that is what a virus will do - grow, when it has the opportunity.  My compromised immune system is, apparently, not well enough to keep it in the dungeon.

Needless to say, that news in the morning knocked me completely off my rails so I did what I usually do - I went to the loom and wove a towel.  

If I felt pressure before, I feel it all the more intensely now.  Between my eye and my back/legs, I have no idea how much longer I will be able to continue to weave.  So I *must* do it now, while I still can.

I did work on the experiment for the first article I'm doing and got the samples tagged and organized so that I can go ahead and run the experiment today.  My alpha reader has been warned that the text will be ready in the next couple of days.  And then I'll send the text to the editor, see if that's acceptable, or if they want more.  But I think I've covered the basics.

The second article is going to take a lot more time and effort to work through, both in terms of research, and expanding my theory into some kind of reasonable conclusions.  And the deadline is October, so I really need to stay on top of things.

If I can't weave, I hope I can still write.

I keep thinking about Emily Carr, who when she could no longer paint, took up her pen and wrote.

I told a friend the other day that I am a 'true' Cancer in that when I run into an obstacle I will go around it, under it, or simply rise above and over it.

In the meantime, I will take the pills (mohr pills!) and use the salve.

To the three friends who phoned yesterday to express birthday wishes, thank you for letting me vent.  I may not be on an even keel - yet - but you helped get me anchored and not thrashing around trying to figure out what I could do.

To the folk who bought towels on my ko-fi sale, thank you.