Friday, October 31, 2008

Red Warp #1

After musing for several days about what I wanted to do with the red cotton I came up with a plan. A solid red warp didn't appeal, somehow, and I still had alllll this blue left, so...

I wound spools of red cotton, and then set up the bobbin rack with 8 red and 24 blue and wound the centre 6 inches/sections. Then I cut out 8 of the blue and replaced them with red and wound 3 sections on either side of the centre. Then I cut out 8 more blue and wound 2 sections on either side, and so on. The last 2 sections on either side have 4 blue and 28 red spools.

Since this warp is to do double duty - towels and shawls - I will set the towels at 36 epi/ppi and weave off the last of the fine red singles linen. I may use some of the natural beige for towels, too, but I don't think I'm going to be happy with that as weft. Only a sample will show for sure, though, so I'll do a couple of inches and check it out. But I think the natural beige isn't going to do the dramatic blue/red combo justice.

Once I'm done the red linen, I'll cut off and re-sley to 32 epi for the shawls. I've been quite pleased with the fine bamboo, which is about a 2/16 size, and with the 2/10 Tencel as weft for shawls.

While I've not yet decided on the specific threading that will be used, I know the effect I want over all. It's a matter of sitting down at the computer and working out the details.

That won't likely happen today, though. I've volunteered to demo at the guild booth at the local craft fair, plus I'll be doing door duty tonight as Doug is working late. :) Maybe later after the trick or treating is over for the evening, or tomorrow morning before I go demo again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Craft Fair

This is how the booth looked at the craft fair at the University of Northern BC over the weekend. The picture is dark because of taking the photo into the light coming through the windows. The advantage of the booth location was that there was lots of natural light.

Doug built the booth structure, and made it so that it collapses and folds down into small boxes, so it transports easily. It's also fairly versatile in that I can have shelves, or hang things from the cross bars. Or both.

The bottom shelf is draped and there is storage underneath. Doug built it to fit our most common packing boxes, so there is lots of room to store over stock in the booth. The boxes for the booth structure generally get taken back out to the van for storage during the fair.

I never do a show without my own supplemental lighting. So often large halls have either dreadful over head lighting, or they are low/no light shows (no overhead lights at all). I was extremely fortunate getting this booth placement as it had both natural light, and access to power for the supplemental lights.

Doug set the booth up so that the scarves could be hung, and the table runners and tea towels were put onto the shelves. The booth was 6 feet by 12, so there was lots of room to set things out so they could be seen.

We also use a tall stool to perch on, rather than sitting in an ordinary chair. We try to stand or perch in order to easily make eye contact with the customers. One of the biggest mistakes I see is a booth set up where the craftsperson is buried in the back of the booth.

During a recent discussion on one of the chat groups I belong to, I said that I cannot afford to give any of my booth space to demo-ing. Many people insisted that part of the job of selling was to educate. I agree! But I do that within the context of discussing the features and benefits of my product, not by dragging a loom into a booth and weaving. In my opinion, if you are weaving in your booth - and educating at that level - you aren't selling. If you strongly feel that you must weave in your booth to educate people, then my recommendation is to have a second person in the booth to handle customer service and write up sales.

This weekend I'll be demo-ing at another craft fair. I haven't decided yet if I will bring my bobbin lace pillow or a spinning wheel. I don't have a small loom that is easily transportable. The local guild will do several demos this fall/winter. Such demos are a great way to talk to people, show them what is involved in the craft, and get people interested in learning more. I'm hoping the guild will offer some classes as they haven't given any weaving classes for a couple of years.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stash reduction?????

With my stated aim of stash reduction, how did I manage to justify coming home with nearly 30 pounds of yarn????

Well, I never specified which stash I was aiming to reduce! So when Lynn encouraged me to help myself to more of her fine linens......well, what was a good friend to do but help her reduce her stash, too!

I still have lots of fine cottons, but had finally used up (nearly) all of the fine linen, so the opportuntity to get my hands on more - well, what could I do? I caved, of course. Lynn will get more tea towels next year as a thank you for the yarn.

The drive home was in nearly perfect conditions - no rain or sleet this year as has happened so often in the past. Traffic was very light so I was able to make good time, and I stopped as seldom as possible, for as little time as I could manage. I left Seattle at 4:45 am, and arrived home about 3:45 pm - just in time to head up to the University to help Doug pack up and out.

Next year I'll be teaching in Michigan the weekend of the Seattle guild sale, so won't be there in person (although a bevy of great friends have offered to help deliver and pick up my textiles). And the local craft fair is the weekend following, so I'll be able to be in attendance myself next year and Doug won't have to do it all by himself. :)

Today I'm trying to recover from the trip, unpack, deal with mail and banking, and then I hope to start dressing the loom with the red cotton. There are two spools of red singles linen left for towels, and the rest of the warp will be for shawls.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Road Trip

Today I finished the 30 yard shawl warp - just in time to bring the shawls with me to fringe twist when I can find the time on my trip. :) Which I am sure I will, in the evenings or when ever. One of the really nice features of the AVL is that the cloth is stored at the back of the loom and I can just keep weaving and weaving. This beam will get transferred to my work table in order to cut and inspect/repair the cloth. I think I remember one warp thread breaking early on, but perhaps that was the last warp.

I'm heading south tomorrow and will be back on the 27th. Well, late on the 26th if the weather is good. It's a long drive from Seattle to Prince George, but my host/ess rise early, so I plan to hit the road by 6 am. It's about a 12-13 hour drive with minimal stops, so it will be dark before I get home. Many years I've driven home in the dark, in the rain. So not nice! However, the Seattle Weavers Guild sale is great and I'm looking forward to visiting with the friends I've made there.

However, I'm not going directly there - first I'll be at the Desert Mesa Spin In in Cache Creek, BC with Loralee, helping her in her booth. And spinning. So many people have no idea I came to weaving via spinning and dyeing, and frankly I've done very little of it over the past 20 or so years. But somehow I managed to acquire 3 spinning wheels in the last little while, so I am looking forward to spending some time getting acquainted with spinning again. As always I'll be the odd ball - I spin woolen long draw and can't seem to get my hands to do worsted. :}

In between Cache Creek and Seattle I'll be visiting with another friend, helping her get her new-to-her loom fine tuned.

I'm looking forward to the trip, but also to getting home again as I will be re-tooling all the workshop handouts for the various topics that have been booked for 2009. There are so many new yarns in the market that I want to drop old ones and add some new. But it will be work of many hours, and probably some sample warps to test them out, so I expect most of Nov/Dec will be devoted to pouring through sample cards, ordering yarns, weaving samples, and re-generating workshop handouts. It's going to feel good to finally do that.

The local guild has booked several demo's in Nov/Dec so I'll also be helping out with that where I can.

So this will be my last post for a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 13, 2008


This morning and part of this afternoon I dyed about 8 pounds of yarn - 4 pounds of a silk boucle, and 4 pounds of a yarn called Bamboo Rain - 65% merino, 20% bamboo and 15% silk.

I bought the Bamboo Rain in February and it arrived just a few days before my brother died, so I didn't have much time or energy to get it dyed until now.

The bamboo is cellulose, so the dye doesn't strike it quite the same as the wool/silk and the result is a subtle tweedy effect. I'm dyeing the yarn in a "semi-solid", not trying for level colours, because I like the slight variations in shade used for warp or weft.

While I have managed to dye and weave a small amount of the yarn, I'm looking forward to trying some different combinations. One idea is shadow weave - or some other colour and weave effect - with one yarn in the Bamboo Rain, one in Bambu 7. They are about the same grist, so should work up nicely together. A project for the winter?

While the Bamboo Rain was all done in the semi-solid, the silk was done as 1 pound of the teal shade, 1 pound of the purple, and 2 pounds of a variegated teal/purple. Where the teal and purple overlap, a really deep navy results. Not sure what I will do with the silk yet - this is the same yarn as used for weft in the loofah towels, so they may turn into towel weft, or?

I'm also doing some shows next spring, so perhaps it will just get offered for sale in my booth. :)

Speaking of which, there are plans afoot for a fibre festival in March in Abbotsford, BC. Will let people know if it goes ahead, or check the Schedule Page on my website.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This weekend is Thanksgiving. It is also the weekend we "lost" Peter Collingwood. I'll miss his dry wit and encyclopedic knowledge about all things thread.

I've also been thinking very consciously about all the things for which I am deeply thankful.

With the passing of Peter Collingwood, I've been thinking a great deal about all the teachers that have touched my life. I think the workshop that Peter led here in Prince George was the third workshop I took.

My first weaving teacher, Elain Genser, was not primarily a weaver but a fibre artist. She gave probably the most valuable gift of all when she insisted that none of her students "copy" anything we saw in a book or magazine but draw upon our own personal creativity to design our projects.

At the time I was a pattern person. If I didn't have a pattern to follow I didn't know where to start. Elain showed us how to begin with a design inspiration and follow it with our own creative spark.

Some of the teachers have faded into memory, but some stand out for the value of the lessons they taught - not always about weaving, but also about how to be a creative person. Diane Mortenson, Lilly Bohlin, Allen Fannin, Dini Moes, Morfydd Roberts, Mary Bentley, Jack Lenor Larsen, Jane Stafford, Linda Heinrich, Madelyn van der Hoogt - the list goes on.

Others have taught through their inspiration - Noreen Rustad, Eileen Shannon, Jane Evans, Robyn Spady, Syne Mitchell. Some have taught through their friendship - Darlene Wainwright, Sheila Carey, Betty Bell, Teresa Ruch, Karena Pollard, Lynn Heglar, Loralee Schultz, Kerstin Fro:berg. Last, but certainly not least, some have taught through their example - mom, dad, my brother and Doug.

All of these people, and so many more, have contributed to make me the person, the weaver, I am today.

It is one of the reasons I am so supportive of WeaveCast. Syne has worked hard to bring us the people behind the writing and the designs, allowing us to get to know them in a way that we couldn't otherwise. Syne interviewed Peter Collingwood for a recent 'cast - link is to the right in my list of links. For even more information, Complex Weavers produced a DVD interviewing Peter and touring his studio.

So, at this time of the year, with the leaves turning colour and winter sending chills down our spines, it is good to think about all the things we have to give thanks for. This year, of course, my primary gratitude is simply for life itself, and the opportunity to go on being a creative person, playing with thread. :D

(Email me for info on my Thanksgiving "Special" on Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Next shawl

Not sure why my camera wouldn't work yesterday, but after removing the battery for an hour, it seemed to gather itself together and started working again. But I'm going to have to find the manual for my brother's camera and figure out how to get the flash working - just in case!

This photo shows the beginning of the next shawl, including the cutting line. I tested the blue bamboo weft at the cutting line to make sure it was going to work before committing to doing the whole shawl.

When I was first starting out as a weaver, I hung out with a group of artists - a painter, print maker, wood turner and a couple of potters. We collaborated on mounting shows/sales, and talked together about being creative people.

One of the things I learned was that creativity doesn't happen in a vacuum, and that artists rarely make a single artistic statement but rather build on an idea in a series.

Weavers quite naturally work in "series". Setting up the loom is such a lot of work, it makes sense to put a long warp on and do multiple items on that same warp. Sometimes I do identical things, such as placemats and a table runner. Sometimes I change the tie-up, treadling and/or the weft for each item, such as on this shawl warp.

At the end, I will have 9 shawls that will form a "series". They all have the same warp and they will share the same threading. I am changing the treadling and weft for each one, and as I move from Bambu 12 to 2/10 Tencel, will change the tie up as well. Seen as a "whole", the 9 shawls will make an artistic statement.

From time to time I have had assistance in the studio. One of these assistants once asked me why my scarves "all look the same". I told her it was called "having a line". Each year in my craft fair booth, I present 3 to 5 different scarf designs in a variety of colours. I may also change the treadlings as well as the weft colours. Customers often see a design that appeals to them, but want to choose from amongst a variety of colours. So I don't just make one of any particular design, but work in series.

Fashion designers are very familiar with the concept - every year, twice a year, sometimes 3 times - they have to put a collection together. The collection will centre on a theme of some sort.

The look of the collection, or "line", will have a cohesiveness that can be readily identified as their particular look.

Some of the best hand weavers (IMHO) have a style that can be readily identified as their work. Randall Darwell is perhaps the best known hand weaver, but there are others.

Sandra Rude has several lines of scarves. Lucille Crichton has a line of clothing. Once seen, either of their work can never be mistaken for anyone else's. I've posted links to their websites on my list of links to the right.

I belong to a large guild that has a sale every autumn. One of the members commented to me that she could always identify my work. I took that as a compliment. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Back to shawls

Today my digital camera died, so I dug my brother's camera out. I can't get the flash to work, but I hope this is clear enough to be seen.

Someone emailed me, asking how/why I make design decisions for a project. She noted that this warp is wider than the last one, and wondered why.

Dimensions for a textile are a range, not set in stone. So when I decide to make something, I already have a width range in mind.

The next decision is which weave structure to use. In this case, it is twill blocks. Then I decide how large a block I want. The unit for twill is generally 4 ends - how many repeats will set the width for the block - IF you want all the blocks the same size.

Once I've set the scale of the block, I start generating progressions. Do I want the design to be symmetrical? Asymmetrical? Do I want the design to repeat across the textile, or be non-repeating? When I've got the general look of the design, I start number crunching to fit the design into the general dimensional range.

For shawls, my general width is between 20 and 30 inches in the reed. In the case of the previous warp, the width in the reed was 22". The bamboo yarn shrank a lot more than the Tencel, and since I wanted to use the bamboo more often for weft I wanted to start a little wider in the reed, so the width of 24" in the reed should work out to a nice finished width.

The actual threading is mirrored in the centre, and in this case, the threading worked out precisely to fit the 24" width in the reed. If it hadn't, I might have added a border, or if I had planned a border, may have adjusted it if necessary to make it fit.

As for length, I weave shawls between 84 to 90 inches under tension on the loom, plus 12" for fringe (6" on each end) so roughly 3 yards of warp per shawl. With a 30 yard warp, I should get 9 shawls.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Towel draft

As part of my stash reduction plan, I am trying very hard to use up what I have on hand, and not buy more yarn.

These towels were made from 2/16 unmercerized cotton for warp, and cottolin for weft.

The warp was 21" in the reed, 10 yards long, wound in two sections or warp chains. Generally I use a warping valet (trapeze) to beam longer/wider warps, using one water jug for each section. The jugs have the same amount of water so that they provide the same degree of tension to each section.

During threading, I changed twill direction each time the colour changed, but skipped a shaft so that there is a break at the change. There are two advantages to doing this. The first is that no float is more than two threads. The second is that I can change direction of the twill line in the treadling and none of the selvedge threads will "fall out" of the cloth. This means that no floating selvedge is required.

If you follow the draft exactly, beginning with the shuttle entering from the right hand side of the warp, all of the threads will weave, all of the time. Unless, of course, a mistake is made in treadling.

In the photo in my previous post, you can see the reed marks quite clearly. These should mostly come out during wet finishing. An eight dent reed was used, 4 ends per dent. The selvedge was threaded with two threads per heddle in the outside four heddles, but the density was kept the same - 32 epi.

For finer or more fragile threads (singles, for example) I will frequently double the selvedges in the heddles, but keep the density the same in the reed.

The towels were woven with 60 picks of plain weave for hems using the 2/16 cotton in the darker of the two colours, then twill with the heavier cottolin. I used 20 picks of twill, then changed direction. By counting picks up to 40, I could tell exactly where I was in the sequence at all times.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mind Set

Tea Towels on the Fanny.

The weave structure here is sometimes called Herringbone Twill, or Dornick Twill. You can see the changes in direction in both the warp and the weft. One of the advantages of this weave structure is that no float is more than two threads. The other advantage is that you can change direction of the twill line without having the outside threads "fall out" of the cloth. This means that I don't have to use a floating selvedge to keep my selvedges nice.

So, what is the difference between weaving purely for one's own enjoyment and satisfaction, and weaving to earn an income? Essentially, it's in one's mind set.

Yes, I weave for enjoyment. Let's face it, most people choose a career that they will enjoy doing every day. :)

But the fact that I enjoy what I do is a wonderful bonus because I can never lose sight of the fact that I must also satisfy others to the extent that they will be willing to hand over cash to acquire what I've made.

And so I must be aware of the marketplace - what colours/textures/designs are available from industry and then choose to go with the flow, or produce something else - another choice for the customer. Let's face it, not everyone wants lime green or baby blue, in spite of what the stores may be carrying!

But I must do this with knowledge, and be able to find satisfaction from the choices I make.

I must also be aware of how much it costs to produce what I make, and how much labour is invested. If I can't sell what I make for a "reasonable" price, then I must decrease how much I am paying for materials, or get really efficient at the process so that it doesn't take me as long to make it. Or stop making that item and make something else that I can make more efficiently, and/or for less cost.

But the thing that I cannot do is make something that I am not "proud" to attach my name to - the textiles I make have to say something about me as a designer and a craftsperson. In the end, it's a balance between one's ego and reality. I can't afford to let negative comments overheard in my booth crush my ego. I have to don my Teflon suit and let comments slide off. Fortunately negative comments are fewer now that I've learned how to choose which shows to exhibit my work at, and developed a reputation for quality work. But every once in a while, someone says something to remind me that I can't please everyone, not even some of the time!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My First Craft Fair

Here is the first shawl on the 2/20 merc. cotton warp. Weft is black 2/10 Tencel.

Being a craftsperson as a profession is a real exercise in ego deflation. People always seem more than willing to freely share their opinion of what you've done with your talents. And while very often people are complimentary, sometimes they are not at all impressed!

My first craft fair I had worked very hard to bring a variety of different textiles - everything from rugs, tea towels, table runners, scarves. If it was a rectangle, I'd pretty much made it!

Unfortunately, not everyone loved what I had done. And I had to come to terms with the fact that I could not please everyone, all of the time.

I thought long and hard about the comments I'd overheard in my booth. Some of the objections I could address - fringes? Okay, I can do fringes. (Can we say 1977?) Texture? Okay, I can weave texture. It became a challenge to see how well I could fullfill expectations, and still maintain my creative integrity.

The following year I was back, and while I still had an array of rugs, placemats, table runners, and scarves, I had significantly changed my designs. And this time, there were a lot more people who expressed positive comments, instead of negative ones. And a lot more people bought my things. :)

There was absolutely nothing I could do about the fact that K-mart still sold textiles more cheaply than I was willing to work for, but I had found a receptive audience big enough to give me hope for the future - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I really hate it when I make a threading mistake.

Partly I hate it because my nice, tidy approach to threading gets all messed up. Partly I hate it because when I beam sectionally I don't use lease sticks. Partly I hate it because the potential to further mess up while re-threading seems to grow exponentially when you have to pull part of the warp out and re-do it.

So when I make a threading mistake, I will twist and turn trying to figure out how to "fudge" so that I don't have to re-thread.

Therefore, when I got to the end of threading the shawl warp on the AVL, I tried really hard to figure out a way to salvage it so that I didn't have to re-thread, but after several days of procrastination, I finally bit the bullet, inserted lease sticks, and started re-threading.

In the meantime, I wove on the Fanny because I do some of my "best" thinking while I'm picking my way through a warp. When everything is going well and only surface attention is required for the physical act of weaving, my mind is free to roam through the highways and byways of my neurons, turning the mirrored ball this way and that, looking for possibilities in terms of problem solving.

Because in a way, designing a new textile is a series of problems to be solved.

First question - what do I want to make?

Second question - what fibre do I want to make "it" from? Now is when I start to look at those different facets - cotton, linen, wool, Tencel, bamboo, and so on. How does the inherent nature of each fibre match the requirements of the intended textile?

Third question - what weave structure?

Fourth and onward questions - dimensions. And how those dimensions will "fit" with the number of ends and the required density? How will it be "ended" - hemmed? Fringe? How will those treatments affect the dimensions?

And last, but certainly not least (in my book!) - how will it be a) wet finished and b) cleaning instructions to be given to the customer?

Or, in the case where I've made an "oopsie" - can I fudge it and how?

In the instance of the shawl warp, the chosen weave structure and colour design meant that there was no fudging - and so acceptance set in, and the re-threading accomplished this morning.

Now to sley, tie on and - hopefully - start weaving tomorrow. In the meantime, I've got towels to weave on the Fanny. :D

p.s. Interweave Press has information on Judith Mackenzie McCuin's new book The Intentional Spinner posted on their website - due out in November - a must have for weavers who want to really know about the properties of copy is already on order!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Becoming, part II

Cotton warp with singles linen weft. The change in colour is due to the light and shadows falling on the web.
Saga continues..........
So that summer we sold our little house and bought a bigger one. We took possession the end of August, I quit my job Sept. 1, finishing Sept. 15, my father went into hospital for the last time over Labour Day weekend, I started the weaving class (first day posted to this blog earlier) and my father died............
The next few months were spent - as much as possible - in the weaving room at the college. I felt my father's spirit near, and supportive of me in a way that he could never have been in life. He was a "responsible" person and would never have gambled on a profession so "iffy" - so prone to failure - i.e. no guaranteed income. Having passed from this life, I felt that he now understood why I was doing what I was doing, why I *had* to have that element of creativity in my life on a daily basis, that my spirit craved it in a way that was difficult to explain, let alone justify.
So I wove as much as I could. Made *lots* of mistakes, and learned. Mistakes are valuable tools in learning. They tell you when you have strayed from the path of success. They also tell you that your knowledge is expanding, because if you only do what you know works, you aren't learning anything new.
And there is *so* much to learn about how to construct cloth!
So many people think that making fabric is a cut and dried process, but nothing is set in stone because of the very nature of the materials, and all the myriad ways one can combine them, how density affects the results, how the interlacement of the threads can change what is going to happen when the web hits the water. Making cloth is not a "hard" science, but an intuitive art.
When I first realized the extent of the possibilities, I was nearly frozen with indecision - what to make - *how* to make it? And that was when I came to understand the value of creative limitations. By setting boundaries, the possibilities are thereby limited, and then it becomes easier to choose which direction to follow.
As they say in Alice in Wonderland, if you don't know where you're going, any road will do!
So I call myself a Form Follows Function weaver. I always have a destination in mind when I put a warp on the loom.
Sometimes that destination is simply "Greater Knowledge" and that's when I put a sample warp on the loom, weave a while, cut off and wet finish and assess the results. What are you good for? I ask. What qualities do you have?
Then I will resley, either more open, or more dense, weave some more, wet finish again and re-evaluate the results. I may do this several times, with only the intended aim of learning more about a yarn.
Then when I go to make something specific, I have a starting place based on the foundation of knowledge gained from being open to what happens when..............
As a new weaver, I wove *everything*. Rugs, placemats, towels, scarves, shawls, garments. If it could be made from thread, I made it. Naturally there were course requirements, but I also wove other things because I was looking for something that I could make that might sell so that I would have an income.
Linda had a loom, and so after the class at the college was over, we shared warps on her loom, making rugs. We settled on rep weave mostly, although not exclusively. We read as much as we could, and wove as much as we could. We also made wool blankets or throws. Doug built a stretcher so that we could wet finish and brush them.
I don't know when I realized the importance of wet finishing, but my textiles were always wet finished, even the rugs.
In 1977 Doug and I went to Sweden and Finland, where I attended Varpapuu Summer Weaving School for two weeks. While there, I bought a "table" loom with stand. Doug disassembled it and carried it home in his backpack. He had it reassembled and ready for me to weave on by the time I got home. I started weaving a lot of placemats and other household textiles with the intention of taking a booth at the local craft fair that fall...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Becoming a weaver

This morning I started setting up the Leclerc Fanny for tea towels to use up the last of the fine linen singles in my stash.

The warp is 2/16 cotton, at 32 epi. The selvedge will have 4 threads per dent like the rest of the warp, but the outside four heddles will have 2 threads per heddle. This "trick" helps strengthen the finer yarns preventing breakage at the selvedge.

While threading I was also thinking a lot about how I came to be a weaver. As a child my family made things by hand, not just because they needed to, but because they enjoyed doing so.

My dad was the youngest of a large family and the boys made musical instruments - guitars and violins for the boys, mandolins for the girls - and they played at dances in the area. My mom is talented with various textile crafts, well taught by her mother. My favourite aunt crocheted and made hairpin lace.

Before tv mom and dad - and Aunt Betty when she visited - would sit around the kitchen table and hook rugs. Mom sewed much of our clothing, knitted and did embroidery. Dad carved wooden items and built things for the house.

Not surprisingly, I learned to knit at 5 or 6, embroider at 10 or so, sew my own clothing at 12.

My first loom, my mother reminded me a few years ago, was a small box loom someone gave us. Mom's memory and mine differ on my reaction!

Mom insists I was captivated. What I remember is finding the process tedious, much like darning my white cotton socks with sewing thread!

During high school, my best friend's sister-in-law was a spinner and Colleen was fascinated, wanting to learn to spin. I shrugged my shoulders and wondered why, when the stores were full of yarn, one would want to spin their own.

After high school, I travelled to Sweden to finally meet my pen friend to whom I had been writing since I was in Grade 6. I travelled to Europe by freighter, one of 4 passengers. My cabinmate was a woman who had been widowed 18 months earlier, spent 6 months with each of her sons, then decided to return to Norway to learn how to weave. "That's unusual" I thought.

My pen friend's mother-in-law was a weaver, with a Glimakra type floor loom in the basement, naked during the summer. Nearly all the textiles for the house had been handwoven - tea towels, hand towels, tablecloths, napkins, curtains and valances for the windows, stair runners. Oh well, I thought, each to their own.

Returning to Canada, life had changed irrovocably with the news that my father was teminally ill. Any thoughts of going to University flew out the window, and I looked for a job. The only thing I was qualified to do was office work.

After several years of bouncing from job to job, boredom setting in about 3 months after starting each new job, getting married, and watching my father gradually failing in terms of his health and slowly dying, much too young - I had plenty of time to think about the meaning of life and what's it all about, Alfie?

Gradually I came to the realization that the prime thing missing from all of my jobs had been the element of creativity. About the time I came to this realization, my boss told me about a new class at the local college - you could take a class in spinning and natural dyeing. Hmm, I thought. It wasn't the spinning that caught my attention, but dyeing using natural dyestuffs. I enrolled in the class.

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I found out that before we could do any dyeing, we had to spin our own yarn to dye! But by then I was enrolled in the class...

The class was made up of mostly 40 something women and one man and two 24 year olds. Me and Linda. Linda lived in Williams Lake, about a 3 hour drive south. Every Monday she would get on the Greyhound Bus, come into town for the Monday evening spinning class, stay overnight and take the all day weaving class on Tuesday. Every Monday evening, she would have a chair and spinning wheel set out next to her for me to use, and she would share what she had done in the weaving class the previous Tuesday.

At the time I was employed at a custom drapery house, selling curtains and drapes surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of textile samples. Beginning that September, I got a weekly tutorial on weaving while Linda shared her excitement and enthusiasm of what was happening in the loom room on Tuesdays.

In March of the following spring, new samples came into the store and my boss called me over saying that I'd be really interested in these samples, as they were made in Sweden.

One of the samples was a double weave with a bumble bee as the motif. After carefully examining the fabric, I knew in principle how the cloth had been made. I understood that two different layers had been woven simultaneously and that the threads from the bottom layer had somehow been brought up to the top, and the threads from the top layer had been brought to the bottom layer to create the little woven bee.

It took about two weeks of thinking about this and mulling things over in the back of my head before I finally said to my husband Doug "I think a person could weave fabric and sell it to make money."

Bless his heart, he replied "Then go for it."

I pointed out that our house was too small for a loom and so we set about selling our house and buying a new one, one with room for a loom..................

to be continued....