Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wide(r) Weaving

So I realized that all of the video clips I've got posted to my blog are of narrow weaving. And since the current warp is a bit wider at 26", thought I'd do another video showing my weaving rhythm on this warp.

You can see that I'm a lot slower due to the simple fact that it takes the shuttle longer to traverse the shed than on a narrower warp.

After watching myself weave during the editing of these clips I was reminded of the poem by Robbie Burns - something about having the gift to see ourselves as others see us? I'm sure he never envisioned video cameras that would allow us just that gift.

Funny the things we focus on. I'm a - hmm - substantial - person (wish I were a little less substantial, but so far haven't been able to change that). Anyway, I got mesmerized by the muscles in my forearm. Not a view that I generally get to see, after all!

During a workshop with Norman Kennedy he showed us slides of the Old People living on one of the remote islands off northern Scotland. I remember him commenting on the women and their forearms.

I think I'd fit right in should I ever visit.

currently reading The Dance of Death by Kate Sedley

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tea Towels for Tien

So here is the first warp for Tien to weave on when she arrives.

Once in a while I do a time study to see how long a particular task takes me. I do this for many reasons - pricing - partly - so I know how much money I should be charging for my wovens. But I also do it for reasons of scheduling - what can I expect to accomplish in a certain time frame?

While I've been happy dressing the Fanny with the warping valet, I had not done a time study for a while, particularly for tea towels.

This warp is a pretty standard format for towels - a bit wider due to the stripe repeat in the warp at 26" in the reed - but using 16/2 cotton at 32 epi, 11 meters long.

I set the rough sleyed reed into the beater at 1:30 pm. At 2:45 pm I was securing the lease sticks in the angel wings.

So 1 hour and 15 minutes to set the warp into the loom attaching it to the apron rod and beam it, including transferring the cross. That's actually a little bit better than I was expecting.

Now to thread, sley and tie on.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Weaving Clip

The age old question - do you beat on an open shed? closing shed? closed shed?

I thought I beat on a closing shed until I really started thinking about what I was doing and observing what was actually happening. And then I began thinking that at the moment of impact, the shed was in fact closed.

So I set up the video camera so that it was recording what was happening behind the beater on a level with the warp in order to see.

And now you can, too.

Cold Remedy

Not sure how this raucous variegated got into my stash - lime green isn't one of my fav colours, after all - but it was time to use it up. The rust red weft seems to be taming it quite nicely.

After 5 days of languishing I was getting antsy. My cold has settled into my chest so my brain is functioning - sort of - and I decided to try to sweat my cold out by weaving. Rayon chenille is straight forward to weave anyway so thought I'd get cracking. There are 4 more wound warps ready and waiting for me, and I'd like to get them all done before I set the Fanny up for the tea towel warp for Tien (who is arriving next Thursday!)

Not feeling well my patience is at a low ebb and I got a bit exercised over a thread on one of the chat groups I belong to where people were, once again, decrying the use of mechanical assistance and when the line can be drawn about a textile being 'hand' woven or not.

I suspect the chasm between hand weavers and power loom weavers began during the Industrial Revolution. Hand weavers were being displaced by power looms, losing their jobs - and during an age where there were no social safety networks (or not many other than the church or the poor house) losing your livelihood to a machine must have been horribly frightening.

I suspect the chasm was widened further during the Arts and Crafts movement when useful items that were made by hand were extolled as being superior to items made by industry. Something that may very well have been true during the early days of mechanization taking over from hand work.

But let's face it - we have all seen inferior work produced by hand as well as by machine, and quality work produced by hand and by machine. The fact that something is made by hand is no guarantee of quality. Unfortunately.

Since I chose weaving as a career, I have from the get go been concerned with working efficiently, both in my actual hand movements and in the choice of tools that I have purchased. To my mind buying a loom with a dobby, cloth advance and fly shuttle just made all sorts of economical sense. Without my AVL dobby loom, I could not have been as productive as I have been over the years.

But the loom does absolutely nothing on its own. It is a hand loom and always will be so long as I own it.

The Canadian government (in its wisdom) came up with a legal definition for 'hand woven'. To paraphrase - each and every action of the loom must be initiated by the weaver.

In other words, I cannot flip a switch and walk away "to have a cup of tea" as one person put it recently. No weaver, no weaving going on.

I'm tired of having people who don't understand how a dobby loom (computer aided or mechanical) works, have never seen a fly shuttle let alone used one, or come to the realization that an auto-cloth advance does not take control away from the weaver, point their finger at me and cry "not a hand weaver".

I disliked it 30 years ago, and I dislike it now. But I remind myself that these crys of 'impostor'
are being made out of ignorance. These people simply don't know and don't understand that the addition of mechanical assistance takes nothing away from the weaver. In fact, the weaver actually has to know a lot more because they need to know how to operate the equipment, and when something goes wrong, how to fix it. They need to know how to adjust it so that they get the results they want, just like they need to know how to adjust their technique when weaving on a loom without all this mechanical assistance.

Many people don't realize that I have more than one loom. One is the AVL equipped with computer assist, 4 box fly shuttle, auto-cloth advance etc. But my other loom is a 4 shaft Fanny counter balanced loom.

I love both of these looms - the AVL for it's complexity that allows me to efficiently weave very complex designs - the Fanny for it's very simplicity.

Today when I'm still feeling so sick, my tool of choice is not the AVL - I need way too much mental acuity to weave successfully on that loom. My tool of choice today is the Fanny.

And I will always consider myself a hand weaver, regardless of which loom I am weaving on.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More Missouri Memories

Mary sent a picture of the group that were in the workshop in LaMar, Missouri. Great folks, great food, great time weaving. The weather even co-operated, cooling down from over 100 to low 80's. Who could ask for anything more? :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Missouri Memories

Sorry about the focus on this photo - it was really hard to get a clear picture as the book has a foil wrapper and the camera really didn't know how to get a clear picture I guess. Either that or it's because I've got a cold and my eyes don't want to focus, either. :(

One of my favourite authors is Jim Butcher. He writes two series (well, perhaps he writes more, but two of his series are getting regularly published) and both of them are great. Quite often I'll like one series an author writes but not the others. The other exception to this is C. J. Cherryh, but that's another book review.

Anyway, after travelling to Missouri for the weekend (way too many adventures getting there, but I did arrive!) I was heading home Monday after enjoying great hospitality and wonderful people. I'd brought a couple of paperbacks with me, but wasn't really enjoying the second one and not looking forward to nearly 10 hours of travel and a book that wasn't engaging my interest.

So, I wandered through a couple of the book stores after I got through security and spied the brand new title from Jim Butcher - a book that I had on request from the library.

Now I don't usually invest in hardbacks when I'm travelling - they weigh too much to drag around in my carry on luggage. But - it was the most recent Jim Butcher. And I really wasn't enjoying the book I was currently reading.

I think I resisted the urge for about - oh, 10 seconds? - and bought it.

I sort of remembered that Butcher was from the US 'south' and flipped to the back flap. Yup. He's from Independence, Missouri. :D Seemed all the more appropriate that the souvenir I chose to return with was a book written in Missouri!

Butcher writes with wit and not a little sarcasm. The Dresden series is a combination of hard PI and inventive supernatural fantasy. But it is always laced with penetrating insights about the human condition. This morning as I was nearly finished reading the book, one of the characters says to Harry Dresden "Stop learning, start dying."

How appropriate.

Monday, July 20, 2009


All packed ready to head home. Great group. Several baby weavers as one referred to herself. :)

Great to see them coming to the warped world!

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Instant Gratification

I confess that the past few weeks or so I've been having difficulty staying on focus and doing everything that needs to be done. The job list made up with such good intentions a while ago has been largely ignored recently and I find myself constantly heading to the Fanny loom, the rayon chenille, the brilliant colours and the soothing repetition of good old plain weave. It's about as close to instant gratification as you can get in weaving. :}

Karena came on Monday and filled all the boxes with more warps, so I have an enabler. :^)

Oh well, I'm making a dent (a very tiny dent!) in the rayon stash! :D

When I'm not weaving on Fanny, I'm knitting, doing a bit of hemming now and then (still blaming my new glasses for not wanting to do any really fine work) and fwipping (technical term) bobbins.

The fan is going well with only a few oopsies needing to be frogged (knitting technical term - not sure what the bl equivalent would be - reverse fwipping?) and it's nearly done. I may even get it finished before I leave tomorrow. I'll see how I feel after I'm done packing.

The start is ratty, but I'll fine tune that on the next one. This one is being woven with 2/20 merc. cotton. I'm thinking black for the base and workers (weft) in the fans with something brilliant for the passives (warp) in the fans. (A bit confusing - I'm weaving a fan made up of fans - the bit that looks a little bit like feathers.)

For more info on bobbin lace see the article a few weeks ago in WeaveZine

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Shawl It Up

Here is the beginning of the painted warp shawl.

And here it is coming round to the cloth storage roller at the back/bottom of the loom.

I really love my AVL for the cloth storage and auto-advance systems. I never have to stop to advance the warp (unless I'm working finer than 48 ppi), just keep on weaving until the bobbin runs out.

While it may not seem like stopping to advance the warp would take all that long, every time you stop throwing the shuttle is 'lost' time. Being able to just continously treadle, throw and beat stopping every 10 or more minutes instead of every minute or two adds a lot more productivity to the day.

I have extra storage beams. When I go back down to the studio this evening, the first thing I will do is cut the shawl from the apron, insert the plain storage beam and tape the cloth to that.

The bad thing is that sometimes I ignore the webs on the beams and then I have several beams to deal with before I can clear one or more of them off. That is the situation I am about to encounter now - one storage beam has some of the red shawls I wove months ago, still waiting to be fringe twisted and cut off the beam. One beam has some painted warp shawls that I've been ignoring for several months, and a third beam has the Diversified Plain Weave afghans on it. The fourth - and last - plain beam will go into the loom tonight.

Time to clear off some of the storage beams!

It's also time to start packing my suitcase for Missouri.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Moving Onwards

It was only when I started to write this post that I realized I had taken a nearly identical picture for the blog only a few weeks ago!

I cut the Diversified Plain Weave afghans off the loom this morning and started beaming a shawl warp. The warp is made by dressing two scarf warps at once. These warps were not intended to be used together - I just grabbed two with similar colourways. As it happens one has brighter colours in it - magenta and a bright green and blue - the other is a more subdued dark blue/red.

I couldn't - or wouldn't - beam these warps together if it weren't for the warping valet. The long drop from the ceiling to the floor makes taming the tangles a relatively simple process. The warps are made by winding one strand of bamboo and one of Tencel at the same time and then sent to Teresa* to be dyed.

The warps are 11 meters long (a meter is approx. 38.something inches) and I don't make Teresa straighten them out completely. She straightens them out as much as she can but doesn't obsess over it. A tangle or two doesn't bother me unduly as with the warping valet it all comes out quickly enough that it's fairly painless.

In the photo, the warp on the right has been straightened out, the one on the left still needs to be done. The enlargement will likely show this more clearly.

After both warps have been straightened, I'll shove the lease sticks up as high as they will easily go, and then start winding on until the lease sticks are once again just above the tension box rail at the back of the loom.

You can just make out the reed in which I've rough sleyed the two warps and which I use to help roll the warp onto the sectional beam. The sectional beam holds the threads in place and since I'm beaming under tension, no warp packing is required. The AVL tension box has a reed that swivels to keep the bout inside the section - the reed works in exactly the same way to keep the entire warp inside the sections I'm using (18" wide). My sectional beam has 1 inch sections.

The water jugs are attached to the warp chains by wrapping a loop of 4/8 cotton around the chain via a Lark's Head loop, an S hook is attached to the loop and then the jug is hung from the S hook.

I know I could streamline the process a little bit more, but this seems to be working well enough so probably won't.

Detailed photos on my website -
Click on Education, then Warping Valet.

Karena came and rough sleyed the next chenille warp, then spent the morning winding more chenille scarf warps. I've got lots of work to do, but I also need to pack for the trip to Missouri.

* Teresa Ruch has been selected to teach at Convergence next year. I'm not sure which topic, but the HGA site will no doubt have details. Or perhaps Teresa will post the topic in the comments here?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sensational Sixties

more camo cloth

When I turned 49, I told friends and family that I was poised to enter my Golden Years. Little did I know.

Now I'm 59. A year and a bit after my angiogram, a month and a bit after changing my cholesterol medication to the Niacin, I am not only feeling better than I have for a year, I am feeling better than I have done for 10+ years. Because truth be told, upon reflection I now recognize that the CAD had been creeping up on me for more than 10 years. Talk about slow and insidious!

It's been 6 weeks since I started the Niacin, and after a bobble in my bp for a week - no doubt as my body adjusted to the chemical - my bp has been pretty darned good. My doctor somewhat reluctantly agreed that I could stay on the introductory dose for a further three months, at which time we'll check my cholesterol level and then decide if we push it up any further. Frankly, I'd much rather have a slightly higher cholesterol level than the basement low they are recommending and stay on the lower dose of medication.

As for the two blockages left, I'm supposed to monitor my 'symptoms' and go back when I have some. Since my 'symptoms' were atypical, it will be a matter of staying aware and then insisting on the stress test as soon as I feel it is necessary.

In the meantime I'm taking the Cardiac Cocktail - rich in omega fatty acids, amino acids and all sorts of stuff good for the cardio-vascular system, maintaining a high fibre diet, drinking the pomegranate juice and trying to weave for at least 30 minutes or more every day. For me weaving is aerobic, I enjoy it, and at the end of it I've got cloth to show for it. What's not to love?

We will also be heading back to the gym soon and I will try to do more aerobic stuff and build up stamina - something I lost over the last few years when I simply didn't have the energy or breath to maintain it.

So, now I am 59 and looking at the big 6-0 next July. I think my sixties are going to be Sensational!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Yes, it's that day. :) And how better than to spend it weaving?

The back of the loom is looking a little tatty as I 'suffered' a couple of broken ends. Using Kerstin's suggestion of running the repair end alongside the broken one means I won't have to do any needle weaving later.

Anyone wh0 has tried to needle weave chenille will know that this is A Good Thing!

I'm hoping to finish weaving afghan number 4 tonight after Doug takes me to dinner.

My loom also does double duty at times as a drying rack. I have way too little room for all the stuff I do, so my things have to multi-task just like I do! The pink draped over the back is some of the yarn I dyed yesterday.

Got word today on the travel plans for the third person coming in August, so that's all set up now. I'm really looking forward to all three of them coming to play in my playpen. :) It was great fun having Syne (and Kai) come earlier.

The summer is really flying by. Doug has made good progress on the bathroom, although it will still be a bit of a construction zone when Tien comes. The tub is now functional, although not the shower, but I'm hoping he will get that done while I'm in Missouri. Or at least done to the point where we can use the shower, even if the painting isn't done by the time she comes.

Currently reading Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. The first paragraph in the book reads:
The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachno-fiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest. Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel; feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

How could I not pick this one up at the library????

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Tally for the Day

Today I:

wove a chenille scarf and finished the warp on the loom
dressed the loom, wove two more scarves
dressed the loom, wove two more scarves
got the next warp attached to the apron beam ready to beam tomorrow
wound skeins to be dyed

next warp - pretty!

I also:
read my book
had coffee with the neighbour where we discussed traditional Swedish upholstery fabric and looked at yarn samples
helped Doug with the bathroom reno
messed about with Facebook

People tell me I'm fast. I guess I am, but then I've made a point of working as efficiently and ergonomically as I can.

Somewhere someone commented that they would love to be a fly on my studio wall. Well, people can actually do that. It was why I produced CD Weaver. The book on cd format allowed me to embed video clips into the pdf document and we literally shot the pictures over my shoulder for most of them. (For examples of two of the video clips, click on the 'video clip' tag to the right, or go to my website, click on Store, then CD Weaver.)

New weavers get so focussed on the cloth they forget that it requires physical skill to weave and that by concentrating on developing good physical skills, good cloth will result. Learning to be consistent will bring a new weaver closer to perfection than obsessing and fiddling with selvedges. It's why I keep telling people that if they can't be perfect, be consistent!

Perfection is just a concept, anyway - a goal to work towards.

Leonard Cohen has an amazing way with words - this verse from one of his songs kind of sums it up for me:

Ring the bell that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything -
that's how the light gets in.

Court perfection, don't try to hunt it down.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Rayon chenille is notoriously hard to photograph, and especially so when there is little contrast in value of the colours. This photo shows the hem area and the beginning of afghan number 3. The pattern weft is a variegated lavender/grey.

I'm really just playing with this warp - I have no idea if the rayon chenille will work in this weave structure - no, I didn't do a sample first!

So I'm hoping that the pattern will resolve better after wet finishing and that the chenille won't worm. But I won't know until the cloth hits the washer and dryer.

Yes, I could have set up a small loom and done a small sample first. In truth, I ought to have done. But I had a box full of the blue/black tweedy chenille that isn't suitable for scarves so I just jumped into the deep end of the pool. Whether this project sinks or swims is yet to be determined.

But sometimes it's good to just go for the gusto and see what happens. Sometimes it's a wonderful surprise. Sometimes the surprise is not so wonderful.

The thing is, I was willing to sacrifice this yarn in the effort to find out. Even if I wind up with a mess, the yarn/cloth won't be wasted as it will get donated to the local Salvation Army for their textile recycling program.

I've mentioned this before but it's worth mentioning again. Instead of taking the clothing that isn't worth selling in their thrift shop to the landfill and paying the fees to dump the rags there, the SA collects textiles from their own shop and other thrift shops in the area, sells the textiles to Asia to be re-made into new textiles and in the end have wound up earning a tidy income for themselves and the other charitable shops in town.

For someone like me who creates an enormous amount of 'waste' - way too much to use in other applications - this recycling program just makes wonderful sense. I've given pounds and pounds of thrums to the local schools, offered them to local weavers, and now give the bags of thrums to a surface designer who sifts through them for what she wants to use and then sends them on to the SA along with her scraps.

I think it would be a great idea for guilds to see if their local Salvation Army has such a recyling program, collect the 'waste' from guild members and pass them along.

"Shoot for the moon. If you miss you'll still land among the stars"

Friday, July 3, 2009


After years of trying to figure out how to make more space in our teensy tiny bathroom, we finally threw up our hands and decided to just do the needed repairs and update the facilities - new tub, toilet, basin and medicine cabinet.

But before that could be done, Doug needed to remove the existing fixtures and repair the tub surround. This is how it looked at around 1:30 pm today.

He is going to upgrade the plumbing, which meant I had to move a bunch of stuff in the storage area last night, so both the upstairs and the studio are once again in a state of upheaval. But at least the job is getting done at long last!

And yes, indeedy, I also made progress. The AVL was fired up and I finished off the second afghan before stopping for a late lunch. The current pattern doesn't show up very well on the loom. I'll see if the next one does so I can post a photo.

The loom is still intermittently being 'bad', but less often and I've figured out a somewhat easier way to get the shuttle box aligned, so all in all I'm feeling less inclined to procrasinate over proceeding on this slow going warp. :}

The good news is that I'm using up more of the rayon chenille, although not nearly as much as anticipated. I surely do have depth on inventory in terms of rayon chenille!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Queen of Procrastination

Apologies again if this photo isn't in focus. While I'm doing well with other tasks, the computer is still a bit of a blur - although it's getting better. :}

So, it's confession time. I've been avoiding the AVL and the two shuttle DPW - and the shuttle boxes that started misbehaving for some unknown reason. It's intermittant, so I just get going nicely and then the boxes don't align properly which means the shuttle gets launched into the stratosphere and winds up on the floor on the right hand side of the loom. You know, the side that is inaccessible unless I run aaaaallllll the way around the loom to get to it. :}

In spite of my best intentions to fire it up today, I wound up
a) finishing my book
b) weaving another rayon chenille scarf (finishing warp #2)
c) packaging up a copy of Magic (only 84 copies left - let your friends know that there is one week left in the special offer as outlined in my May 9 blog post) and mailing it
d) running to the annex to pick up my lace stuff, more silk boucle to wind into skeins
e) winding skeins
f) visiting with the neighbour and knitting while she hand sewed on a dress for her grand daughter
g) well, by now it was dinner time
h) you get the drift..........

So, my intention for tomorrow is to Fire Up The AVL! I have bags full of painted warps that need to be woven into shawls because another box of painted warps is en route and due to arrive in a few days.

Not to mention all the other yarn that I already have. Like the yarn in the above photo. This is a lovely wool/bamboo/silk blend that knits up wonderfully. I'm trying to get a sample shawl done in case I decide to sell the skeins I've been dyeing. I bought it to weave with, but it's a little heavier/denser than I like to go with the Bambu 7. :(

However it knits up into a luscious textile that feels quite wonderful. I'm using a size 7 (American) needles with about 7 stitches per inch and the shawl is coming along quite nicely. The skeins are 4 ounces, and I'm about half done the skein and the shawl is a nice size so it goes a long way.

With 15% bamboo, the yarn takes the colour so it has a nice tweedy effect (what I imagine the abrash the rug people talk about in rugs would look like) - solid but not quite.

And yes, the shawl is shaped. I started with 251 stitches, reduced two stitches on either side of the centre until there were 211 left and now I'm just knitting in the knits and purling in the purls until the shawl is the length I want.

Since I'm used to knitting scarves with about 36 stitches, I was afraid this shawl was going to take forever, but my AVL avoidance has resulted in my spending more time knitting than I would do ordinarily. :D Silver linings - there are always silver linings - even if you have to dig deep at times to find them. :^)

Currently reading Alexandria by Lindsey Davis