Sunday, August 30, 2009

Guest Post - Katie

My name is Katie Rivas and I met Laura Fry in January '09 while taking a class she did for my weaving guild in Southern California. I liked Laura off the bat and even though the class was round-robin, I spent way more time asking Laura about a million questions I had stored up regarding weaving.

You see, I live in Lancaster, California which is about an hour northeast of L.A. in the high desert. It's a great area to live in but is isolated when it comes to things like weaving (and shopping and finding good gelati - you get the idea).

I learned to weave while living in the Washington DC area, and then moved back home and was like, "Hey - I'm a weaving lone wolf out here!" There aren't any teachers for about an hour radius from me. So I joined the guild and took Laura's class - and by then my list of questions had grown to several pages!

So meeting Laura was GREAT for me! We also talked about her health issues, my mom's health issues, and other stuff.

So when Laura invited me to come to Canada to visit her and weave, I jumped at the chance. I had been emailing her and had told her my long sob story about my love/hate relationship with rayon chenille. Very long story but basically I felt rayon chenille to be the Darth Vader of the yarn world!!

No matter what techniques I tried to get a consistent, even warp on - I could never accomplish this. One side of the warp would always loosen (or both sides), and my back would hurt just trying to get the thing on the loom. It usually took me about 7-9 hours to do one scarf. So when Laura asked me what I wanted to focus on in my 3 days weaving in her studio, I told her - "Learning your technique for getting a good rayon chenille warp on the loom!!" Talk about a no-brainer for me!

I also wanted to learn more about how to do things faster, since I have very limited time in the week to weave. And I wanted to learn about how to do things in an ergonomically correct way, so I'm not tweaking my back out more.

Well - Laura is AWESOME - is all I have to say!!! She taught me how to warp from Back to Front - which I actually had never done. A little hard to get, since am not used to it - but after weaving 5 rayon chenille scarves in a 2 day period (can you believe that?!) - I truly believe B2F is much better with this particular fiber.

Laura's CDWeaver has all of her B2F steps in it if you have that. I can't express what a BREEZE it is warping in this way! We're talking about 1-2 hours to thread the loom and warp on, compared to about 4 hours before. And the warp goes on like a dream - is evenly tensioned and very effortless to weave on.

Laura wanted her rayon chenille stash used up some - twist my arm - so I did 3 different scarf designs. After the last one was done today I was pretty wiped out - am not as tough as Laura - you should feel how strong her forearms are!

Doug and Laura have been WONDERFUL hosts to me the past few days. They are the most generous people with their time, and I got a good look around Prince George - very green with TALL trees. If you're ever here, Connaught Restaurant serves the best salisbury steak dinner I've ever had. Wish I could stay longer, but leave tomorrow for 105 degree heat.

I did purchase a Laura Fry Weaving Studio t-shirt that I've already worn. When someone asked me who I was going to visit in Canada, I said, "You know Yoda from Star Wars? Well, this is the Yoda of the Weaving World" - and she really is :)

Bamboo Rain

Shawl #2

In between helping Katie get started I did get the AVL dressed with the Bamboo Rain yarn. It's weaving up co-operatively and looking quite nice on the loom.

The bright pink has been somewhat subdued by the paler purple being used for weft on this shawl. The first shawl I used pink weft and it's pretty bright. But with winter coming soon, bright isn't necessarily a bad thing. :}

I'm going way out on a personal creative limb for the next shawl. I have some dark turquoise dyed and will get over my trepidation and go ahead and weave the next shawl using that for weft. The bobbins are already wound, so I'm committed!

This afternoon, though, is lace. Since my pillow is bare I'll probably just go with pillow, bobbins and some yarn and try to find another bookmark pricking to do. My goal is to have some bookmarks to include in with Christmas cards this year. So far I've made a half dozen but I've also given some away so there is a ways to go before I can meet that goal.

Katie dressed the loom this morning, pretty much by herself. A big step for her as she's not done back to front beaming before and was finding it all a bit overwhelming. However, she has just about finished sleying and it isn't even lunch time yet. :)

On Friday I dressed the loom while she video taped - she is a visual learned and wanted a visual record for reference. Part of that video will be loaded onto my website (it was too large to post on blogspot). Watch for it next week sometime. It will be on the Education page if I remember correctly.

I've offered to let her do a guest post here, so we'll see if she has time.

Currently reading A Vein of Deceit by Susanna Gregory

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Silk Yarn

50 skeins of silk dyed today
The dyeing went quite well. I got four dyepots done (two colours per skein) and some of the colours are unusual but attractive, I think.
The red/green at the bottom will look terrific with a dark teal weft - it will be hard to put these skeins up for sale!
The blue/purple above the red/green also looks great in real life. The light purple is not solid but shades from a pale almost pink to a lavender.
I'm really happy with the turquoise/blue. The red/blue isn't my personal taste, but looks pretty good for 'spring' type people. The red in these skeins is more of a coral colour.
These are 50 gram skeins. In future if I import more yarn I'll get it done in 100 gram skeins, so I'll sell this yarn two skeins at a time. That should give enough for a scarf warp at 30 epi.
It should show up on my Art Fire store in a few days as it will take a couple days to dry.

Currently reading The Lacemakers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri

Monday, August 24, 2009

On Intentions

Bamboo Rain (merino, bamboo, silk blend)

I've been toying with the idea of making afghans from the Bamboo Rain yarn. But when I dug out all the boxes and looked at my colours, I realized that afghans weren't likely the most marketable textile to make with these bright pinks, corals, blues and purples.

One of the intended afghans was going to be given to my cousin (her DH died a few days ago and I wanted to give her something comfy/cosy) and while the colours would be good for her in terms of a shawl, I really couldn't see them in an afghan.

So there are intentions and then there is reality and today, reality won out.

I don't generally dress the AVL with less than a 10 yard long warp, so I wound enough spools so that I could do a 20 yard long warp with a rich magenta and a dark purple. The warp will be a straight draw over 16 shafts and I'll play around with some twills and different weft colours. All the yarn has been hand dyed and is not level. Industry does level very well. If I want a true solid, I'll buy it.

Since the yarn has bamboo blended into it and the bamboo doesn't take acid dyes very well the final effect is tweedy, anyway.

Doug is doing the final painting of the main bathroom. I'm still keeping fingers crossed it will be done in time to put everything back together before Katie gets here Thursday afternoon. :}

Currently reading Paris Noir

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dye Day

20 skeins of Bamboo Rain and 40 fifty gram skeins of 2/20 silk

I bought this drying rack a couple of weeks ago, knowing I needed to do a lot of dyeing. Having gotten fed up with the two dinky racks I had and which were falling apart, it seemed time to buy something else. It was more expensive than I'd hoped, but after setting it up last night I realized that it was much bigger and studier than the one I'd originally seen and had gone to buy - until I spotted this one.

The silk skeins are tied too tightly, so there are some issues with resisting the dye on some of the skeins. However, it will be a lot faster to simply re-tie the skeins than buy the yarn on cones and skein the yarn myself. So now I have another tv watching job - re-tieing silk skeins and cutting off the too tight tie. One per skein. Sigh.

Fortunately the new tv season is starting soon, so at least there will be (one hopes!) new episodes to watch. Speaking of which, I've sort of gotten hooked by Defying Gravity. And I've gotten hooked on So You Think You Can Dance Canada, too. :) I watched the finals last year because a dancer from my town made the final 20, and then Sharon said she enjoyed So You Think You Can Dance. So we watched the first couple of episodes while she was here and I've continued watching..........

Given the areas of resist on some of the skeins, I toyed with the idea of doing shadow weave with one white end and one dyed. This idea is in keeping with the realization that I don't have to only do the fastest techniques possible, but can invest a little more time in more complex/time consuming approaches to weaving. And shadow weave has intrigued me for a long time - I've just never had the time to really work with it and weave with two shuttles making textiles for sale. :)

The Bamboo Rain is a merino/bamboo/silk blend. The bamboo doesn't take the acid dyes the way the protein fibres do, so the result is a kind of tweedy effect. The plan is to make afghans with it. The yarn feels wonderful, and throws should feel scrumptious. But first I have to finish dyeing the yarn.

Equipment Failure

I admit it - I expect my equipment to perform under what some would label 'adverse conditions'.

So it was with the warping valet at the AVL last night.

Now the bar mounted in the ceiling was not originally intended to support a lot of weight. It was originally intended to get repair ends up off the floor. As such, the bar was mounted inside the footprint of the loom.

What this meant was that the water jugs would jam up against the tension box rail as the warp was being beamed. And last night they jammed up against the rail one too many times and just yards away from finishing the warp, one of the support brackets pulled out of the ceiling and dumped the bar, lease sticks/reed/warp into my arms. Since I'm taking Plavix, I bruise like a peach (as Doug puts it) so I have the bruises to show for it. :}

Now that Doug has to repair the valet anyway, the plan is for him to move it a foot towards the back of the loom so that in future the water jugs will not jam against the tension box rail. He'll also install much sturdier screws into the ceiling to help support the weight of the water jugs (and the tugging I give the warp to straighten it) and in the end, that should make beaming the painted warps much easier, ergo faster.

Sometimes there are little things that need to be fixed but they haven't been a big enough pain for me to ask Doug to find time in his schedule to actually do the fix. And sometimes things break so that I have to deal with equipment down time and let him get to it.

Fortunately in this case I can finish beaming the warp without the valet - albeit more slowly - and continue to weave, but I really need the valet in order to beam the last painted shawl warp.

For today, however, I'm off to the dyepots with the 2/20 silk. I'm hoping to get the skeins up on my Art Fire store soon.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Musings

Some of the towels on the towel rack after pressing

Pressing is the sort of job that is necessary, so I do it. It's not something that I love to do, so I play upbeat music (really loudly!) and try not to do more than 90 minutes to two hours at any given time. I find it kind of mind numbing so quite often I use the time while pressing to think things through.

I don't think quickly when I'm trying to unravel a Giordian knot. I'm more of a "look at every facet of the thing" kind of thinker when I'm trying to figure something out, especially something like "where do I go from here" or "what do I really truly want to do with the rest of my life" type of question.

So some of the themes that ran through my head this morning were - how much inventory is too much? What sorts of textiles do I want to make? How much time can I invest in making textiles, now that I don't actually have to scramble to make more (I've got enough inventory for several years worth of craft fairs, after all.)

If I can afford to invest more time in making textiles, can I look at doing things that are, by their very nature, more time consuming (complex threading structures, two shuttles, two warps)? These are techniques that I have pretty much avoided unless I was making something special for myself - not for production.

The question "do I want to weave" remains a very firm yes, so now all I need to do is figure out what sort of textiles I want to make and then chart a new course.

No conclusions yet, but opening the door to new possibilities is the first step. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Of Weaving and Patience

Shawl #3 at the back of the loom.

Upon finding out that I am a weaver, so many people exclaim "Oh you must be sooooo patient!"

Er - actually - Not!

I am probably the least patient person I know.........

During a discussion with Tien we both agreed that when one has deemed something necessary, no patience is required. You do what you have to do to obtain the results desired.

We did not discuss the other side of the equation, probably because we would have agreed on that, as well.

In other words, why would I do something that wasn't necessary?

The answer to this simple question - is what I am doing necessary or not? - has meant that at times I have ditched an entire warp. The biggest fiasco was a 30 yard long warp that was giving me fits right from the get go. We won't go into why - I don't like to air all my dirty laundry in public - let's just say that after fighting with it getting it beamed, threading it (48" in the reed, double weave warp of 2/8 cotton), I could tell within the first 6 inches of weaving that disaster lay that way.

So I cut it off the loom and threw it away and started over from scratch. (That didn't exactly make me a happy camper, understand - just that I knew when to cut my losses.)

My time is precious because it is limited. It is also the largest investment I make in my textiles. It is not worth it to me to expend dozens of hours on a warp that might cost me $200 or even $500 for materials when the cost of my time could multiply out into a much much greater sum.

It is the same with the processes I use in weaving. Why would I spend 10 hours beaming a warp using one method, when I can beam the same warp in half or a quarter (or less) of that time?

As Syne phrased it - I don't want to work artifically slowly. (Love that phrase Syne, I'm keeping it!)

So I have spent much of my career fine tuning and honing my physical skills. I have learned when 'good enough' is just that - as Margaret phrased it "Perfect kills good". When we over work something, we can wind up with a mess. A painter friend often talked about knowing when to stop painting a picture - that fine line between done and ruined from over working it.

I think weavers need to look carefully at their equipment and their processes. If they find they are requiring patience to dress the loom, or fighting with their equipment or work methods, then it's time to ask why they are using this particular equipment (perhaps it's not them, it's their equipment?) or this particular method. Analyse why something is not going smoothly and try to figure out how to change it to make it less of a fight and more of an enjoyment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Musings

Warp for Katie - 2/8 cotton warp with cotton/linen slub weft woven in broken twill.

My energy levels have been low the past few days and I've given myself permission to take it 'easy'. :}

However, Karena got the tea towel warp for Katie dressed yesterday, so rather than tackle the AVL I decided to get started on my portion of that warp. Katie arrives on August 27 and only has 3 days here so we'll try to get as much done as possible. If her plane arrives on time and she isn't too tired, she can start weaving after dinner. But Tien's flight was delayed so we'll just play it by ear.

There are a number of reasons for my slump in energy. When I look back at the past 18 months, so much has happened - life was a real roller coaster ride, with very little time to rest and recuperate. It's hard to believe that it will be exactly 18 months on the 27th since Don died, and the you-know-what hit the proverbial fan.

I'm not sure if my fatigue is due to the increase in the Niaspan, in which case that should soon pass, or if it is just the accumulation of stress. Add to that a very busy teaching schedule from January onwards, dealing with a construction zone and company at the same time, plus another death in the family - again someone who should have had many more years - and perhaps it's not too surprising that I'm not feeling terribly energetic.

So I worked a bookmark on my lace pillow, then made a couple of small jig-saw puzzles over the weekend. Last night I cleared the dining room table off so that I could get back to fringe twisting. I've got a bucket full of shawls that need to be dealt with.

Then, of course, there's the mountain of wet finishing that needs to be done, the dyeing of the silk, and on it goes. September will be pretty much a write off in terms of production as the show season starts and I've got two road trips in September, one in October, followed closely by 3 craft fairs.

So taking a little breather now seemed like A Very Good Thing.

Currently reading Various Positions; a life of Leonard Cohen by Ira. B. Nadel

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Musings About Conferences

While I haven't been completely unproductive today - I did thread the shawl warp - I haven't done much else in the studio.

Partly because I am on the board of a regional association whose main mandate is to bring a conference to the region every other year and there is an on-line meeting going on, and partly because there has been a very lively debate on one of my chat groups about conferences. So I have been dealing with association business and thinking about the nature of conferences.

A bit of background here to explain my perspective - I have chaired two conferences and sat on a third conference committee. The last of the them was the regional conference of the board I am currently sitting on and which I chaired. It is probably the largest georgraphical regional association in North America, and I put it that way because it encompasses both US states and provinces of Canada.

The conference routinely attracts about 400 (down from 600 or more a decade or so ago), and the conference has been running for a while. If I remember correctly, the first conference was in the early 70's.

The format has been honed over the years to include a number of events - two or three days of seminars, vendor hall, guild booth display, juried exhibits, runway fashion show, etc.

The conference is generally held on the campus of a university so that participants can take advantage of dorm room rates and cafeteria for food.

The down side to using a university campus is that generally classes are scattered over a large geographical area. Not something that bothered me much when I was in my 20's and 30's, but I see older weavers struggling with walking long distances (to them) and having to deal with stairs in many of the older buildings. Older buildings also don't always have a/c.

Throughout my career I have participated first as a registrant taking classes, then as an instructor, then conference organizer and now as a vendor. Sometimes I've done all of them, or 3 out of 4, at once. I have also attended a large number of various regional conferences, generally as an instructor. So you could say that I have a kind of overview that a lot of people don't have.

One of the concerns I have about conferences is that each committee seems to feel the need to make their event 'bigger and better than ever'.

My thought is "Why don't we concentrate on making the event as valuable as possible and does that necessarily mean 'bigger'?"

Like several people on the chat group, I value the opportunity to gather with like minded people. I don't particularly like rushing hither and thither to events that have been so tightly scheduled that there is no time to eat, view the juried exhibits, shop, and just have time to talk face to face with other weavers.

As a vendor, I really dislike having booth hours scheduled from early in the morning to late at night when the participants are scheduled so tightly with events they don't want to miss that they can't make it to the vendor hall. I am going to try really hard to convey to the current conference chair that if conference organizers want to continue to attract vendors, they must allow participants to at least get to the vendor hall! I have all too often been enticed to pay my booth fee (which can be significant, even at smaller conferences), then stand there watching the clock tick while a few hardy souls managed to straggle in. Usually hot, bothered and exhausted - too distracted to focus on much, let alone make good yarn choices.

As an instructor I have generally had a good experience with the conference organisers, but my assigned aide has sometimes let me down, usually because they've been so tightly scheduled they couldn't do what was necessary. I now do not even count on a workshop or seminar aide but make sure I've got everything I need. (That's not to say I haven't had good aides - just that the others have left me relying on myself - a good aide then becomes a joy.)

As a participant, I am no longer willing to pay huge registration fees for conferences when I inevitably wind up skipping all the seminars I've signed up for in order to go to the vendor hall or the exhibits (often times a significant walk/drive away), or snag a friend (new or long standing) in order to talk, skipping the cafeteria meals because I can't eat the food. I'm also tired of sleeping on plastic covered dorm beds, with noisy neighbours. The last conference I attended I talked my friend into sharing a motel room and frankly by the time we split the room costs, it wasn't a whole lot more expensive than staying on campus.

So it seems to me that conference committees need to stop thinking about making events 'bigger and better', but focus instead on what participants want.

Feedback from participants, teachers and vendors have led me to conclude that:

People want venues with air conditioning, classes that are not more than 2-3 blocks away from the hub of the conference, elevators. Cafeteria food should have some variety to meet various food restrictions, be they medical, religious or personal preference.

Events should not be so tightly scheduled that people are rushing helter skelter in order that they don't miss anything that is important to them.

Adding more and more events to make a conference 'bigger and better' is not necessarily A Good Thing.

Next year Convergence rolls around again. It is a huge undertaking with attendance breaking 2000 a number of times. That many people means that many 'problems'. Some people deal with things going wrong better than others. I intend to be there, but as a helper in a vendor booth, not as a participant. What I am hoping to do is register for Complex Weavers - an event that I've never before managed to attend.

We'll see how it all goes.

Bobbin Lace Bookmark

Still trying to get a photo of bobbin lace that's in better focus. Once again this looked fine in my camera but looks blurry to me here.

However, I think you can see well enough to get an idea of what is happening.

I'm using 12 pair - 10 0f them with a 2/20 mercerized cotton, 2 pair with a heavier hand dyed Tencel. The varigations in the Tencel are subtle and looking good as the colours are a short 'repeat' not a longer one.

I think some of the problem with getting good photos of the bobbin lace is partly my camera - it doesn't have a great close up feature - and partly the lace (depth of field) - the camera isn't quite sure where to focus. I tried to take the photo from the side as I'd found taking it from above was hopeless. The camera didn't know whether to focus on the pin heads or the textile, I think. :}

So far this year I have made quite a few bookmarks. They are small and soon finished, which is quite satisfying. I may do another fan yet - just felt too tired this weekend to deal with anything that wasn't dead easy.

Having company has been great, but the long period of hot weather we had, plus a change in medication and all the excitement of company has, I think, been a little more tiring than I had anticipated. Add the construction mess to the equation, and instead of steaming ahead on the shawl warp I beamed on Friday I decided that a day 'off' was what was required.

(The good news is that construction is nearly done - once the new light fixture is installed, the mudding and taping finished, I can paint. After that the flooring will have to wait until mid-to-late September or October.)

So I putzed the morning away (not entirely 'off' - I'm secretary for an association and had responsibilities for that to pay attention to), spent the afternoon having coffee with a friend (bringing a bucket of hand hemming with me - she doesn't mind if I do hand work while we talk) and then in the evening finished reading my library book and started the next in the pile.

This morning we're going for brunch with my mother - and then I think perhaps I will be refreshed enough to thread the loom. :)

Currently reading We'll Always Have Paris by Ray Bradbury

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weaving Coaching

This summer I've had the treat of having several students come for weaving coaching. All of them have been interested in improving their physical skills, with the aim of increasing their productivity.

Sharon has a busy life and a satisfying but demanding job and therefore her time to weave is limited. She was interested in using that time wisely and well and had a feeling that she could not only weave more efficiently but also more ergonmically.

She had not woven on my type of small loom before, so I set the loom up with a tea towel warp and let her get used to the loom. And then, without her being aware of when I was doing it, I video taped her to get a benchmark of where she was with her current weaving skills.

Video #1

After watching her weave for a while, I stopped her and made some suggestions. We discussed holding and throwing the shuttle, and how to treadle - what muscles were being used, how to track your place in a treadling sequence and so on.

And then I let her weave some more. The next day I video taped her again.

Video #2

Sharon had worked hard on changing her method of throwing the shuttle, and worked on her treadling. We also talked some more about rhythm and the over all motions involved in weaving. We discussed ways that she could break out of her 'default' motions, even though that meant slowing down even more in order that she could isolate the motions and concentrate on the new movements.

And then she wove some more.

At the end of Day 3, Sharon had a breakthrough and hit her stride. She had designed, wound, beamed, threaded/sleyed and woven off an entire 5 meter long warp before dinner at 5:30 pm.

Video 3

Video 3 was done about half way through the shawl Sharon beamed the morning of Day 4.

Sometimes what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing are two different things. Having someone take a video tape while you are weaving can be tremendously helpful in order to discover where you might make some small but significant changes. Discussing your technique with an experienced weaver can also help, and having a video clip or letting them watch while you weave might help sort out where you need to adjust in order to improve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Next Fan

Once again the photo looked fine in my photo software but now looks blurry - at least you can get an idea of what it looks like. :}

It's not perfect - not even close - but there are no 'design elements' in it that I'm aware of and frankly I'm pretty pleased with it. Pleased enough that I may even go ahead and put an order in for fansticks to mount it on. I'm sure that if I do it a few more times that it will get better. I'm thinking that the next one I'll use a mylar as the worker in the fans - which will no doubt be nearly impossible to photograph (shiny, shiny!) - but should look quite nice.

On the weaving front, I'm nearly finished the Sweetheart Towels on the AVL.

So far Sharon has woven 3 towels on the 16/2 cotton warp I set up for her (and samples to get used to the loom and the new hand/foot movements), wound a warp and woven a shawl (17 inches in the reed, 86" long), and today wove off a 5 meter long 2/8 cotton warp for placemats. In between she's learned a bit of bobbin lace (over 1/3 the way through a bookmark) and we've spent a number of hours talking weaving.

One day and a bit left - we have yet to decide what tomorrow will bring.

Currently reading Midnight Fugue by Reginald Hill

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Making Choices

I'm in a rambling frame of mind with thoughts loosely connected - perhaps I can weave a complete post from them....

The next issue of Handwoven is sliding through mail slots, but I haven't yet received mine. However I have seen the galley proofs, and know that they didn't use all of the photos I sent them, due to space constraints. So I thought I'd share some of them here and talk about them a bit.

The project was a set of placemats and a table runner made from 2/8 warp twist cotton for the warp and a weft that was made up of 5 threads bundled together.

Now I generally much prefer a boat shuttle, but such a thick weft meant that a stick shuttle was the most effective/efficient tool to use.

What many people don't know is how to wind the yarn onto a stick shuttle. It is not wound end for end, but wound in a figure eight around the spine of the shuttle. A good stick shuttle should be bevelled with the spine thicker than the leading edge. Winding the yarns in a figure 8 around the spine give the shuttle a wedge shape and a nearly flat bottom which makes it easier to pass from one selvedge to the other.

The length of shuttle should be slightly longer than the warp is wide so that you literally pass the shuttle through the shed - you don't try to 'throw' a stick shuttle.

In order to wind the yarn onto the stick shuttle, I worked from the tubes. Doug made several stands with different numbers of spikes to set the tubes onto. For this project I used five threads - two of the 2/8 cotton the same as one of the colours in the warp (the warp was made from a brick red and chocolate brown wound together as one) plus three of a cotton slub of a lighter shade of the brick red which was more of a rose colour. I always set tubes so that they wind off counter-clockwise - if you can't be perfect, be consistent.

No, I don't wind off the side of a tube. I find that they run off unevenly creating tension problems, especially when working with more than one tube at a time.

I stand above the group of five winding them as smoothly and evenly as possible, straightening out any large loops, but not paying too much attention to slight unevennesses (if that is a word) as with such a thick bundle, little loops bury themselves in the cloth.

This photo shows cutting the placemats apart after running them through the washing machine. I spread the cloth out on the top of the washing machine and use the slot between the lid and the machine as a cutting guide. After drying the fringes get their final trim where I even all the fringes out.

There has been a flurry of posts on a couple of the chat groups I belong to about whether or not one should use an electric dryer.

Some people are convinced that electric dryers are evil incarnate. Others find hanging things on the line to dry onerous and/or impractical. (I'm sure that my industrial steam press would qualify for evil incarnate as well.) One of the arguements is that using a dryer shortens the life of a textile.

Well, yes, the tumbling action does provide abrasion, but hanging things outside to dry can subject them to UV light which can also shorten the life of a textile and fade colours.

Personally I use the washing machine and dryer rather than line dry. For one thing, I produce sufficient quantities that trying to use the line to dry would be impractical and time consuming.

Since the biggest investment in a hand woven textile is one's time, I'd rather let the dryer do the work than drag a load of placemats or scarves or yardage out to the yard, peg it out and hope that no bird contributed their droppings, no dust and/or pollen settled on the textiles or that the wind didn't rip the things off the line and send them flying. Not to mention drying time - 45 minutes in the dryer as compared to hours(?) on the line....

I use the industrial steam press for the same reason. I could do the same job with a hand iron, but it would take me hours longer, and in the end the hand iron being used for hours and hours would likely use up as much electricity as the steam press for a much shorter period of time.

But it's all about choices. Someone who weaves as an avocation, who doesn't care about investing hundreds of hours in a textile can easily make choices different than mine as a weaver who needs to sell the 'fruits' of her loom.

I've been aware of ecological issues since the late 1960's - I've recycled since long before it was fashionable to do so, buy in bulk to save packaging, refusing plastic and paper bags (unless necessary) buy raw ingredients rather than prepared foods, compost the majority of my food waste, save up paper and yard waste to take to the municipal recycling area. I've used non-phosphate detergents since they first became available in the late 1960's after seeing the soap suds on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The pounds of yarn waste I produce was first given to art programs and anyone else I could find to take them (until they ran out of space and cried 'enough'!) and now gets saved and passed on to a surface designer who takes what she wants and then both of our scraps get given to the Salvation Army who has a textile recycling program. Even when I put them into the garbage I knew that my threads were biologically degradable and would eventually return to the earth.

I try to plan an efficient route for my errands so that I burn the least amount of gas and tire rubber - again have done this for 20+ years - buying vehicles with good gas mileage but still allow me to move show stuff efficiently. (i.e. a mini-van)

So I get a little vexed when people point fingers at me accussing me of not being aware of the damage caused by appliances such as electric dryers. I *know* the costs, but have to make choices. I choose to live as frugally as I can (partly because one doesn't make a whole lot of money as a weaver in the 21st century), looking at my entire lifestyle for where I can make changes so that I use the least amount of resources, but aware that there are times and places where I simply have to use electricty - to power my computer which runs my loom, the compressor, the lights in my studio, the bobbin and pirn winders, my boom box and yes, electric washer, dryer and steam press.

These are choices that I have thought about and made with full knowledge of the impact they are making. Am I living as small a carbon footprint as I can? Well, I could do more - but it would be at the cost of taking more of my time. And after the past year or so - well, my time is precious to me and I don't want to use up even more of it doing things that I know can be done faster if I use a little electricity.

Like so many other things about the production of textiles - we have to make choices, and those choices depend on so many other issues that it seems to me that no one's choices are any better or worse than anyone else's. Just because I use an electric dryer, etc. doesn't mean that I'm not doing my best in many other areas of my life to be economical and ecological in my lifestyle.

Currently reading Below Zero by C. J. Box - who always has interesting thoughts on the ecology in his series of books featuring Park Ranger Joe Pickett

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Towels for Sharon

Perhaps it was my cold, perhaps the many days of hot (for us) weather or the poor night's sleep, but this afternoon I lay down for a few minutes and got up an hour later. :}

However I did manage to beam the warp tonight for Sharon to weave on when she arrives. It took somewhat longer than it ought because I wasn't paying attention and allowed the two warp chains to twist around themselves instead of maintaining a nice flat 'ribbon', making it more difficult to keep the threads straight. In total, from the time I inserted the rough sleyed reed into the beater to the time I transferred the cross was 90 minutes - 11 meters long, 24 inches wide, 16/2 cotton at 32 epi.

But it's done and ready to thread. However tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment (will find out how my cholesterol is doing on the Niaspan) and then I go to look at a loom for a new weaver who isn't sure if the loom is complete. It was given to her, but she really doesn't know anything about it.

I also have some admin type stuff that desperately wants doing, so I may work on that in the morning and try to clear it off my desk.

In reviewing Tien's stay she:

wove about 5 yards on a 16/2 cotton warp (tea towels)
wound, dressed the loom and wove off a 5 meter long tea towel warp 8/2 cotton 20 epi
wound, dressed the loom and wove off a 5 meter long sample warp
wound, dressed the loom and wove off a 5 meter long warp for a shawl which she hemmed and wet finished - based on the sample warp
learned Torchon bobbin lace, making 3 bookmarks, learning 4 different stitches
rummaged through my library looking at books and samples, taking lots of photographs
practised a different way of throwing/catching the shuttle, concentrating on ergonomics
practised beating for speed on the tea towels, then for precision on the shawl
practised a different way of threading and sleying

In 5 days. And she called it a 'vacation'. A girl after my own heart. :D

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sweethearts Again

I know this photo looks strange - it's because I'm weaving the hearts 'up-side-down' and wanted to show them to you right way up. :) This is a picture of the cloth as it is rolling onto the cloth storage roller and the photo is upside down, too.

The towel has 5 hearts in the centre, then a pair on either side for a border with the rest a 1:3 twill that was threaded on the first four shafts. The hearts were theaded on 5-16 in a point progression. The hems are 1:3 twill the same as the area between the rows of hearts.

The draft is the same as for the t-shirts in my CafePress store: or the link on my website will take you there too - click on Store, then Merchandise.

I've toyed with the idea of breaking the row of hearts into 'blocks' but with one thing and another, just haven't gotten a round tuit. Blame my cold/allergy (there are hundreds of wildfires in BC and I'm sure that we're getting some of the smoke plume from a big one west of us), or the distractions of living and hostessing a student in the midst of a construction zone. Poor Tien has had to deal with it too - not something she anticipated, I'm quite sure.

The good news is that the bathroom is nearly finished - Doug still has some trim work to do, then the room gets a brand new paint job. The floor will likely have to wait until September - two more students arriving this month and no time to deal with flooring in between. :(

So rather than mess with the treadling I've settled on being content with the way they look for the moment. I may change the tie-up/treadling when I change from the cotton flake to the cottolin. Or I may not. Some days it's enough just to be weaving - thinking is a step too far. :}

Monday, August 3, 2009

Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Some of you may remember last January that just as I was weaving up most of my fine yarns I wound up buying a bunch more 20/2 cotton. Well, what could I do? It was on sale after all!

Well, I finally got some of that red 20/2 cotton beamed yesterday. I've got a couple of wefts to use on it. This one is a cotton flake - a lighter version of the two reds in the warp - verging on a deep rose colour. Anyway, the first word that popped into my head when I saw the pattern developing was 'sweet'. :) The other weft is a cottolin in a darker red, closer to the shades in the warp.

And thanks to Tien, who spotted the 'stripe' on the back side of the cloth which I see you can spot in the photo. It was a thread out of it's order in the reed which meant it was floating on the back, but invisible on the front. That is now fixed and I can forge ahead with my Sweetheart Towels.

At the other end of the studio, Tien has been doing some experimenting. She wanted to try some 'interesting' cloth created through wet finishing.

Recently I'd received some yarn that has lycra as part of its construction, but had not had any opportunity to get some samples done. Last night we discussed the yarn and worked up a warp to try some shrinkage differential effects - if they work. :) One never knows until the web hits the water.

I started by weaving a bit using an effect yarn with nops in it - an acrylic or some sort of synthetic, then a little bit of a very fine highly twisted singles wool.

Tien had some ideas she wanted to try, so I showed her where the yarn was in the store room, and she's weaving up some samples now. She has one more full day here, so we're hoping she can do another warp to make an actual scarf based on the sampling in this warp.

We'll also set the lace pillow up for one more bookmark so she can learn another stitch.

Lots of sweat equity in the past few days. :D

Sunday, August 2, 2009


In amongst all the other things going on since Wednesday, I managed to run the Diversified Plain Weave rayon chenille/bamboo afghans through the washing machine/dryer.

I was a bit leery because I wasn't sure I'd got the set right and it was with a dollop of trepidation that I tossed them into the washing machine and dryer, but they all came out with nary a worm in sight. Plus they feel lusciously wonderful! One - the first one - has a series of oopsies so that will go to my mom. She'll get to hem it herself (she's a vastly superior needlewoman after all).

Ultimately I'm pleased with the results and am tinkering with the idea of doing some scarves. After all, I've still way waaaaaaay too much rayon chenille left in my stash - it has to be used up somehow! The fly in the ointment is that the technique requires two shuttles, something I avoid doing unless I absolutely have to. Well, this is one of those 'have to's' if I'm going to move forward on the idea. :} The results seem to be well worth the effort.........

Tien is nearly finished her second warp on the Fanny, and started her second bobbin lace bookmark. Not sure what we will do tomorrow, but I'm sure we will think of something. ;)

Currently reading Colour - travels through the paintbox by Victoria Finlay