Thursday, December 30, 2010

Improvisation and Creativity

some of the yarns for John C. Campbell that I hope to get woven off while there....

The above URL is a link to an article about improvising while playing music. I found the article quite interesting and learned more about some classical composers than I knew before.

But I started thinking that all acts of creation are really human beings improvising. Before we can improvise we must have a foundation of knowledge - we must understand the limits of the materials we are working with, how to use them to their fullest, perhaps even push them beyond what might at first thought may have seemed a limit.

When I was first learning how to weave I was almost paralyzed by the limitless possibilities that were available. So many yarns, so many colours, so many different textiles that could be made! And let's face it, my base of knowledge was pretty limited so there was also the fear of failure - of making a textile that wouldn't perform as it ought to.

Fortunately I don't fear failure all that much, preferring to consider each failure a lesson and another brick in the foundation of my knowledge. Even if the lesson is "Well, I won't do that again!" It was all the other stuff that I found daunting. What weave structure? What density? What colour?

The way forward was through the doubt and the path I used was to set creative limitations. The first limitation was that I had to make a functional textile and make it with as much beauty as my limited knowledge of colour and design would allow. I found that by setting up limitations (four shafts, twill, cotton = household textile) I could, little by little, see the possibilities by taking each step at a time. (four shafts, overshot, cotton = household textile of a different quality)

Each step forward was linked to the step I had just taken. Where I went next was sometimes not known until I actually got there. The goal was always a functional textile.

I've said elsewhere that I consider my 'failures' to be stepping stones. Each step forward has been interesting and not always the destination I thought I was heading towards. At times I had to cut and toss things that were simply not working out.

Sometimes I just experimented to see what the materials could tell me about themselves.

When I look back on my career, I consider that most often any creative leaps were improvisations on where I had been before. But those leaps were always based on my current knowledge, that each element in the new cloth came from somewhere so that I built on what I knew, allowing me to extrapolate where I might - potentially - go next.

The journey continues........

Currently reading Needles and Pearls by Gil McNeil

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Breaking Barriers

two scarves from latest painted warp - done - well, woven, anyway....

Human beings really like to be in their comfort zone. They really don't like being uncomfortable. Not much surprise, really, as if you are feeling uncomfortable it probably means that you are experiencing a certain level of 'danger'. And we all know that survival of the species depended very much on avoiding danger!

But as a creative person, it is necessary for us to sometimes leave our comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.

For example, learning something new is uncomfortable, especially for adults who wrongly suppose they are supposed to know everything already. :}

One of my mentors always said that if we aren't making 'mistakes' we aren't learning anything. The challenge being, of course, to understand that a 'mistake' in weaving is not terminal. Nobody is going to die because a warp didn't act nicely in the loom, the weft wasn't quite the right colour, the drape of the cloth wasn't as luscious as envisioned.

The last couple of days I've had a chance to visit with some friends and I confided that I was having a really hard time breaking through the barrier of getting words down on paper for The Project. As we talked about it I remembered that I started Magic in the Water about 6 times before it gelled. As soon as I realized that it didn't matter what I wrote, just that I wrote something - anything! - with no thought that those first few words would be writ in stone, suddenly the opening of The Project fell into place.

This morning I opened a Word file (Word was open anyway for another job), wrote down the title, the introductory quote that I knew was going to open The Project and wrote the first sentence.

19 whole words. Wow! Count 'em. 19 of them!
But they are down, and they feel right. And I know that now I can slip through that barrier and begin.

Gimp and Boucle'

When I was learning to spin, I was told that the yarn on the left was called a 'gimp' and the yarn on the right was a 'boucle' (accent over the e').

Since I'm not really a spinner I don't know the finer points of distinction in how they are constructed but they are both spun.

To my eye the biggest difference is that the loops in the boucle' have lots of air in them. They are a true loop.

The gimp has a much stiffer hand which leads me to believe that it has much more twist in it. It *looks* like there is a core around which the tightly spun silk is spun. The little knobs have no space or air in them and they are like a little bead in comparison to the loop in the boucle' which is very soft and lofty.

The two yarns have very different hands. The mohair loop is lovely and soft; the silk gimp is harder and much more textured to the touch. They both weave up nicely - I don't think I've had a broken end in either yarn - but they make drasticly different qualities of cloth.

Some people feel the silk gimp and they do not find it tactilely satisfying at all. They wonder what on earth you could make that would be nice. They decide that it isn't a good yarn.

But it actually makes quite a nice shawl set at 10 epi and woven square in plain weave. The little 'beads' of the gimp help hold everything together - although the cloth is 'delicate' - I think it's actually quite A Good Yarn.

Currently reading A Play of Piety by Margaret Frazer

Monday, December 27, 2010

More Smiles

some of the painted silk gimp warps....

some of the silk gimp dyed for weft for warps above....

The dye god(dess) smiled again today. 10 pounds of silk gimp dyed, most of it successfully.

I don't try for a truly solid colour - generally I like a slight variation in value but a couple of the skeins have too great a value change for effective weft. On the other hand, they will also knit up quite nicely so I may just toss those into my creative figgiting pile to be knitted into the scarves that I donate to worthy causes.

Just before I left for the guild room the phone rang and my latest student asked about getting more yarn for her scarves. I brought some yarn to the room and we made the skein into a ball and she started winding a 5 yard warp for two scarves. Her family were so impressed with the first scarf she made she had requests. :) Nice to have an appreciative family. Even better, her dh came and took measurements and will make her a warping board, wider lease sticks that I find work more efficiently for the method of dressing the loom I use and now teach, sticks for warp beaming and a bobbin winder for her. What a keeper! :D

So all in all, a very productive day. So happy to cross the dye day off my list, even though I still have about 30 pounds left to do, at least I've got some weft for the painted warps - some of which I'll take to JCC to work on there. And Sharon assures me that she has a naked loom so I can weave while she's at work, too.

Can we say 'bus man's holiday'?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Setting Goals

last four painted scarf warps.....

I always work best when I have deadline pressure bearing down on me. Doesn't matter if the deadline comes from outside or from within - no deadline, no pressure to get anything accomplished. :}

So I learned a long time ago that I am a person who needs to set goals with a time frame. Not much point for me in saying I want to do such and such if I don't also set a date for completion.

Not that I always meet the arbitrary date but without it I rather suspect I'd get a whole lot less accomplished.

One of my favourite quotes is from, I believe, Alice in Wonderland "If you don't know where you're going, any road will do."

Or another one, source escapes me "If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?"
And so I have long term goals, mid-range goals, and short term goals. Generally I have a list each day of what I want to accomplish before the day is done. I have lists for the things I want to accomplish this week. And then there are the long range goals, generally associated with events for which I must be prepared - teaching workshops, selling at craft fairs and so on.

Really BIG projects (writing a book, for instance) are sometimes difficult to get started on. Why? Well, partly because I spend quite a long time staring at the elephant wondering which bit I should chew first. Partly, I think, because it takes me a while to work through the sequence of tasks that need to be done in order to eat that elephant.

I'm not a person who thinks quickly. Mostly I tend to let big projects simmer for quite a long while until I get a really clear picture of all of the steps required to get me to completion.

In the meantime I make lists of smaller jobs that I know I can accomplish. I even use the Big Job to spur me on to getting to some of the smaller jobs I may have been procrastinating about completing! :O (Oh the psychological tricks we play on ourselves!!!!)

I leave for John C. Campbell Folk School on Jan. 7. Before I leave I want to:

Weave the scarf warp currently on the loom plus the 4 that are left.
Dress the AVL with a prototype warp of 2/20 merc. cotton
Finish transcribing WeaveCast 55
Dye Day (tomorrow) - 10 pounds of silk gimp

I also have to pack my bags and prepare the yarn I'll be weaving at JCC.

Last but not least - I hope to write the introduction for the Big Project.
We'll see how I do.

Currently reading Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs

Friday, December 24, 2010


latest painted warp - done!

I was originally going to title this post "Isolation". Creative people many times work in isolation, all alone in their studios, working on their 10,000 hours of practise learning their craft. Whether you are a musician practising scales, a writer getting those words down, or any other craftsperson - a potter throwing mugs, a glass blower blowing glass, a weaver making yards and yards of fabric - most of the time you are all alone while you do it.

But I started thinking about the word "isolation" and realized that the word is far too negative in its connotations because what the practising craftsperson is doing is working in solitude while they explore their materials, hone their skills, experiment and fail - or succeed - until they get it 'right'.

As I mentioned in my previous post, an artistan must be self-motivated. It's not much fun to do the work of learning, especially when you are new and things are not turning out the way you want them to, but the only way to achieve success is through the process, being analytical, trying things differently, exploring various options.

Once you have gained a certain amount of proficiency, you still have to do the process. The warps need to be wound, beamed, threaded and then woven off.

Then there is collaborating. That is a different thing altogether. It can be a wonderful experience - to collaborate with another creative person. Sometimes they have a completely different perspective, bring different knowledge to the association, and voila - new insights can occur.

What I'm talking about is the day by day getting up from your chair, going into the studio and doing what needs to be done.

Not all of it is interesting. In fact a great deal of it may not be of interest at all. But the bottom line is - no warp, no weaving, no cloth. And so, regardless of how much time it takes, it is necessary to go wind that warp, beam it, thread it, sley it, tie it on and then pick by pick, weave it off. And for me that happens in solitude - just me and my cd player - going through the process, making cloth.

Currently reading Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Of Dreams and Plans

2nd scarf on painted red/blue warp....

Scene: neighbourhood greasy spoon where Doug and I used to walk for coffee.

Time: January 2, about 10 years ago

Waitress (pouring coffee): So, did you have a nice holiday yesterday?

Me: No. I worked all day.

Waitress: You did?! How come?

Me: I work for a b*tch.

Waitress: No kidding! Who do you work for?

Me: Myself.

This is a true story. I hadn't planned it - it just came naturally to my lips. And I had to think about that for a while. Why do I drive myself harder for me than I would for any other boss?

I work hard because I have dreams. I have incredible fibre dreams that simply will not let go of me until they come into (pun warning) material being. I get so caught up in the dream of taking this thread and turning it into that cloth that I work many more hours a day - on average - than I'd ever think about doing for someone else in some other job.

I've told the story elsewhere about my commenting to Doug that a person could weave fabric and earn some money. But what on earth led me to believe that I could do that? I had absolutely no training in textiles other than as hobbies, mostly taught to me by my mother.

The dream had taken root by the time I expressed that observation.

But dreams only come true when you execute them. In order to make them happen you have to make plans. You have to have a goal and you need to know the in between steps that will get you to that goal.

I wasn't that smart when I first started to weave. The lessons have come the hard way - through trial and error. Lots and lots of error. Both in the weaving, and in the learning of the business of being a professional creative person.

Dana Stabenow had a quote on her Face Book page the other day "In order to be a writer you must embrace rejection." I think that is true for every person relying on their creativity for their income, whether in whole or in part.

But when you have a dream you want - need - to make happen, there are a few things that are necessary.

You must be highly self-motivated. When there is no one else cracking the whip, can you set aside all the distractions and show up for work? Can you work with purpose, all day, every day, in the face of negativity and rejection? (Just try surviving your first few craft fairs to experience the negativity and rejection!)

You must believe in your own dream. If you don't believe in it, why should anyone else?

You must act confident, even when you aren't. You have to have faith. You have to be an optimist.

You must hone your skills both as a designer and as a craftsperson and never forget that you are doing this first and foremost because you must but also because you need the income.

You must be somewhat selfish, putting your needs before others at times, because if you don't do the work, no one else is going to do it for you.

You must take the time to educate yourself, be analytical, and willing to change when you realize that the approach you are taking isn't working out as well as you'd hoped.

And while I could go on at length, last but not least for now? You must never give up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

...and the Dye God(dess) Smiled

half of the yarn I dyed today....

The other half of the yarn is spinning out, soon to be hung (by the chimney with care?)

Things went exceptionally well today. Both the cyan and magenta dyes set, almost immediately, all the dye vats exhausted and the yarn rinsed clear right from the get go. I worried I'd be there forever but all in all, I was finished much sooner than I hoped or expected.

Perhaps it was the phase of the moon, or the humidity was just right, or - who knows - it's the solstice? Whatever reason I'm very grateful to get this lot all done. I may go back and dip dye some of the skeins to get some true varigateds, not just semi-solids, but for now all of this yarn is now officially 'not white'.

What's left is the silk gimp. A cool 30+ pounds left (better than the 50 pounds I was thinking!) I've got enough skeins wound for another dye day but I need to go buy a new timer (my measuring cup, timer and measuring scoop disappeared from the guild room) and another case of vinegar from Costco first. While I made do with the alarm on my Blackberry, a small kitchen timer works much better.

I'm not a dyer, just like I'm not a spinner. I can go through the motions. I can make yarn 'not white' and I can get a continuous thread accomplished. But I am not knowledgeable about these crafts. I admire and respect people who really know what they are doing and I know that if I spent more time learning I could maybe get more proficient at each. But for now I'm happy just to get a little continuous thread, preferably 'not white'.

My main focus is weaving. What I have learned over the years is that in order to sell textiles, cloth with lively colours will sell much faster than white. So I dye protein fibres. I don't really want to deal with fibre reactive dyes so I buy my cellulose fibres already dyed. There are so many talented dyers - it's nice to support another craftsperson.

Currently reading Somewhere Inside by Laura and Lisa Ling

Sunday, December 19, 2010


electric skein cone done, 9 to go

Requiring creativity in my life on a daily basis, I chose to become a weaver as my career many moons ago. I love being a weaver. I love working with threads every day. I love it when people buy my textiles and choose to bring them into their lives or the lives of their loved ones. I love teaching and writing about weaving.

There are many things - just like in every other job - that I don't much care to do. But they are things that must be done in order to realize the larger goal of working with thread and textiles as my career.

There are also consequences of being a professional creative person that I don't much like.

One big consequence is financial.

Let's be clear. I'm not independantly wealthy. I am not married to a wealthy man who can support his wife in her creative pursuits. The income I bring in to the household is needed.

It's the same for other creative people. For every Dan Brown there are thousands of writers who aren't getting huge contracts for their books. For every Jon Bon Jovi there are thousands of musicians who are just scraping by. For every Robert Bateman there are thousands of artists who can barely afford to frame their paintings.

Now I am better off than some creative people I know in that I do have a partner. To make it on your own with no other support must be incredibly challenging. It's hard enough with the two of us, and that Doug is supportive in terms of driving to shows, helping with show set up and sales and making/maintaining tools. To do all that all by myself - well, I just don't know if I could.

People who don't understand the life of a creative person have no understanding of the sorts of things that go on in the background. I have done the local high end craft fair for over 30 years. So often people walk by and comment "Oh, you're still weaving? Well, how nice you have something to keep you busy."

It's all I can do not to grind my teeth to powder. Busy? If you consider that for many years I worked 60 hour weeks, 52 weeks a year, oh yes, I'm keeping busy. :}

People who don't understand what is necessary to keep a creative business going tell me that I am successful. Well, to a certain value of success, yes, I suppose I am. I'll never forget the day Doug's step-mother commented that Doug and I were rich. I told her that if by 'rich' she meant that I set my own hours and could take time off to have lunch with her, then yes, I supposed I was rich. But the fact was that at that time we were living well below the poverty level.

Because I travel a lot, people assume that I am wealthy. The reality is that the only time I travel is when a guild (or several) pay my way to teach. Or we drive long distances to attend a show/conference to try to sell yarns, books, textiles.

The reality is that we sold just enough product to cover the show expenses in Vancouver - notice I say show expenses, not the cost of the materials or the time Doug took off from work, using his holiday time to cover his time away from work. Not my time away from the studio. Not my time to make the product.

But we made some valuable contacts at the show which may (may!) bear fruit in the future.

Craftspeople and farmers - the most optimistic people on the face of the earth. Next show, next season, will be better.........

So why do I do this if it's so challenging? The reality is that I can't not be creative. And face it - after so many years of being self-employed I'd be the world's worst employee. You want me to show up, every day, on time, with a smile on my face? Ain't gonna happen! Because the only place I want to be is at a loom...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making Headway

a portion of my store room with scarves/tea towels...

I've managed to break through the lethargy that has been plaguing me this week and unpacked all the boxes (well, not all, I left scarves in two boxes for ease of storage) and put the textiles onto the shelves in my store room. Ideally I ought to go through everything and re-arrange it but that may, or may not, happen anytime soon.

There are still a couple of plastic buckets with more scarves/tea towels in them but room is running out on the shelves so they will likely just stay where they are. Not 'away' because there is no more 'away' to put anything.

There is a load of skeins soaking in the washing machine with a second load to go in tonight. That will give me 49 skeins to dye on Monday. This yarn is a merino, bamboo, silk blend that I imported from China and it had some problems - too many for me to try and sell to others so I've gradually been dyeing it and getting it woven or knitted. These skeins are the last to be dyed and I have A Plan for them so it will feel really good to get them dyed and woven.

Plus I've started skeining the silk gimp. I have a bunch of warps to dye and weave and need weft to weave them off with so I'm hoping to get some of that done before I leave for NC/FL.

Speaking of which I now have my flights all arranged. I'll need to stay overnight not one, but two nights en route to Atlanta. I don't trust getting out of here on a 6 am flight - successfully - at this time of year so I'll fly to Vancouver on Friday and overnight there, then overnight in Atlanta so that I will make the shuttle to John C. Campbell Folk School in plenty of time. That also gives me a bit of a cushion in case of weather delays.

Frankly I get a little neurotic trying to travel during the winter - I've had too many close calls with flights delayed or re-routed to ever feel sanguine about winter travel. If I were going on holiday it would be no big deal - just another adventure. But when I'm supposed to be somewhere with people counting on me to be present - it's a whole nuther story in terms of stress levels......

Found a new author in the Strange Brew short story collection and got one of her books out of the library yesterday. I'm going to have to rein in my tendency to take lots of books out of the library because I leave in less than 3 weeks and I've loads of things to do before then. Anyway, she has several series but the one that appealed to me is the Weather Warden series. Her name is Rachel Caine and the first in the series is Ill Wind.

And now it's time to get back to the skein winding. I have a lot to do before I have enough for a productive second dye day, hopefully between Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Post Show Slump

Like a re-chargable battery it seems like the older I get the longer it takes me to re-charge after a big expenditure of energy. :} And it seems like I've been running pretty much full tilt since September.

So since getting home Monday night I've done very little other than read (one book was overdue at the library and I wanted to finish it), watch video clips on You Tube and play Zuma Blitz on Facebook. :(

But I no longer worry about these periods of low energy. I understand that wells run dry and need time to re-fill. Batteries run low and need to be re-charged. It's the same with me and, I suspect, other people - especially those relying on creativity for their income.

I haven't been a total slug. I did get my banking done and the November ledger balanced, reconciling it to my chequebook. A job that can take an enormous amount of time but went fairly smoothly this time. Thankfully. Doing the number crunching isn't one of my fav jobs but absolutely necessary. Year end is coming soon, too, so I need to get my books ready to take to the accountant.

I've also started working on the trip in January and things are beginning to fall into place. I'll get to visit with Sharon in NC (hi Sharon!) after all and another friend in the Tampa area in between the two FL workshops. So on this trip I'm actually going to have some 'holiday' time. And hopefully some warm weather. :D Warmer than here at any rate.

We were approached at OOAK by two other shows so we'll be investigating those for next year. OOAK was okay but quite a few customers wondered why we weren't doing the other older more established show in Vancouver so we'll see if my work gets accepted by their jury. If not I can always return to OOAK. The show in Calgary Doug used to do eons ago also approached us so we'll look at their show dates and prices. The good news there is that they have changed venues and move in/out will be much simpler than the previous venue.

I've also decided on my next warp for the AVL - even have all the yarn I need on hand so more stash busting will happen. Always A Good Thing! For part of the warp I'll be doing a prototype for a craftsperson who approached me at OOAK and I'll need to use a temple. Thank goodness I borrowed one the right size from Syne Mitchell - that was intended for another project but I can make good use of it for this one! (Thanks Syne - you're a life saver!)

There are still some errands to run today and tomorrow and hopefully we can finish unloading the van - there is stuff to be delivered to the annex and stuff to be picked up and brought here but I haven't felt like battling the parking lot there to deal with it. And it will wait.

For now I'm off to pick up my mother as we need to do a Costco run and much better to get that over and done with today rather than next week.

Currently reading Strange Brew, edited by P. N. Elrod after finishing No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong. I'm really enjoying KA's writing - her approach to her subject matter - the supernatural - is a bit different as she writes via the different characters in her universe. And if you're wondering about the red maple leaf on the spine of her book, that's how our local library indicates a Canadian writer........did I ever say how much I love my local library????

Monday, December 13, 2010

Work in Progress

Let me begin by explaining that these pictures are not great - I just took quick snaps when I had a second during set up....

So many people don't understand what goes into setting up a booth at a high(er) end craft fair that I thought I would talk a little bit about what goes into it.

So from the empty area I showed a few days ago - Doug with the hand truck piled high with booth apparatus, electrical box, cash box, product, etc., etc., - here is the booth after the apparatus has been set up. It took us about an hour to get to this point, at which time we called it a day (after a 10 hour drive) and went looking for dinner.

Doug built the wooden shelving/racks and behind the black draping is a grid wall in a /\/\/ type of formation. The black draping has been sewn to the top of the grid wall and we use 4" hooks to hang the scarves from. I also have a couple of metal stands called mondi's. In this instance we tied the mirror to the smaller one and set it up on the bottom shelf at the short end of the 'L' shaped booth (I had a corner space).

At this stage the overhead lighting is still on and the scarves look a bit helter skelter. Each /\ has a different design in it with a few more stacked on the shelf below for additional colour selection.

Now the short end of the 'L' has been done except for our coats still draped on the tall mondi. All of the product boxes store under the drapes in the booth. At this show part of your booth rental gives you a 10' by 2' area behind in which we stored the booth apparatus boxes, our boots, the complementary umbrella from the hotel (a necessity in Vancouver in December!) and other miscellaneous tidbits.

And here you see a quick shot of the booth right before opening. The overhead lights are now dimmed and we have adjusted our lights to spotlight the scarves. The large mondi has a red shawl on it. Every day (or as each shawl sold) I changed the display on the mondi and around the mirror.

One day I offered to show a customer some of my overstock and another lady grabbed the red scarf on the top of the pile and bought it! :D

There are many approaches to display and touring around a show like One of a Kind will give loads of ideas. Many people are as creative with their packaging and display as they are with designing their product.

But essentially I feel there need to be a few essentials when you put together a booth to sell your hand made items.

1. Your display should enhance your product. If you have a very refined product and a very rustic display, I think that the customer gets a mixed message about what you are trying to do.

For my display we try to make the booth itself as inconspicuous as possible in order to let the scarves take centre stage. Other approaches would likely work just as well, but this approach is comfortable to me. The booth also breaks down fairly quickly into several boxes for transportation in the back of the van.

Have a tall stool to perch on. If you are sitting 'down' in a chair, people will assume you are resting and will not want to bother you. Make eye contact and say hello to people. Do not ask "May I help you?" as the answer will almost always result in an automatic "No thanks, I'm just looking." Instead offer a piece of information - such as "These scarves have been hand-painted" or "I have more colours in overstock if you don't see the colour you like" or "Please touch or try on - I have a mirror so you can see how you'll look" or something neutral but inviting.

2. You *must* have your own lighting. There were several booths at this show that had either no supplemental lights, or only one or two lights. Those booths looked very dim and not terribly attractive. People are like moths. They will go where the lights are.

3. You should have some sort of provision for writing up your sales. This can be a clip board you carry, or a small section of the booth. For this show we took a 5 x 10' booth so we didn't set up our usual cash drawer. I also anticipated that the vast majority of sales would be by credit card, and this was so. We took a very few cash sales and no cheques at all.

4. Business cards with our booth number were left on the shelves for people to pick up and some of the 'be-backs' did indeed come back, card in hand. I even arrived home to a phone call from one customer who bought a scarf and wants a second. I'll phone her back tomorrow once we get the van unloaded. Neither of us can bear doing that tonight. :}

5. A sign with your name is essential. Several of the booths at the show either had no sign, or only an ambiguous name and a couple of them I really had to look hard to figure out what they were selling.

6. Clothing should be properly labelled. In Canada that means there must - by law - be a label with fibre content and care instructions. IMHO clothing should also have a size listed! There were several booths where I was interested in the garments but could not find a size anywhere. Granted I could tell the garment I had in my hand was too small, but I'm a big enough person that I don't like to ask if they have the item in size XL - especially if the person in the booth is obviously a size S. :(

7. Last but not least - I truly believe that items for sale ought to have the price on them. If there is no price I always assume that I can't afford it.

There are lots of other considerations, but that's about all I'm capable of tonight. We didn't sleep well at the hotel, the drive was long and the road home - for the last four hours at any rate - very dark. We still have to unload the van and figure out where to store everything. But this is the last show of the season and 3 weeks away from winter in January sounds more and more attractive! ;)

Currently reading Divas Don't Knit by Gil McNeil - if you like British humour I give this 5 stars for funny - had me laughing and sharing bits with Doug

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The foyer

This is the entrance to the new Vancouver Convention Centre. The floor has large 'carpets' made of glass tiles. Very weaverly. ;)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Clean slate

And so it begins
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Monday, December 6, 2010

Older and.....Wiser?

Doug stayed up til midnight last night packing product. He' perfectionist? So he's very careful about packing everything well so that it arrives in a state to be displayed. Much more careful than I am. :}

While he did that I did my best to tackle the mess in the kitchen. In a few minutes I'll drag the vacuum out and see if I can get the floors tidied and then mop the kitchen floor down.

I now understand very well my mother's flapping around cleaning just before we set off on a trip. I now understand that she couldn't face the thought of returning to the mess!

The last few trips I've not pushed and pushed myself to do more, get just one more warp woven, wet finish one last load, squeeze one more thing in before departure. Do you think I'm finally gaining wisdom? Or just too old to expend the energy being frantic????

Today I had a short list of things I wanted/needed to get done and after sleeping in (thanks to Doug leaving quietly at 6:30 am for work) I managed to get everything done then came home for lunch. I've got a large pot of home made soup in the fridge so I had some of that for lunch and will have it again for supper. We'll freeze what ever is left for when we get home.

We still have to pack our personal items and load the van. Doug gets off work at 4 pm and we'll see if he needs a pick-me-up nap or if we get that done before full dark. Departure will be around 6 am tomorrow morning with load in between 6 and 9 pm tomorrow night. Wednesday we have all day to set up, which ought not take us more than 3 or 4 hours. Once that's done we can rest up for the killer hours - 10 am-10pm Thur/Fri/Sat, with the show closing at 5 pm Sunday. It takes us about 2 hours to pack up and out. We'll leave Vancouver as early as we can manage Monday morning, perhaps waiting until 9 am to miss the worst of the rush hour traffic, and be home late Monday evening.

Ah, the glamourous life of the wandering craftsperson!

I'm bringing a bunch of books with me. Don't know how much time I'll have to read - certainly the 9 hour trip will give me some reading time - and since the due date is rapidly coming up on some of them I really want to read them over the next week.

Currently reading Sara Paretsky's Body Work with the following in the queue:

Dancing for Degas by Kathryn Wagner
Bad Boy by Peter Robinson (17th in the series, I think)
Duel at Dawn by Amir Alexander (sub-title: Heroes, martyrs, and the rise of modern mathematics - told you I seem to enjoy weird science!) :)

I will leave at home No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong and Strange Brew, a collection of short stories. I also bought a compendium of novels by Kelley Armstrong because they had it for cheap at Costco. That will likely go with me in January. I like to bring a bunch of paperbacks that I can leave in airports or at my hostess's house as I finish them.

In addition to that I think I'll bring my Project notebook and get some of my recent thoughts about that on paper.

On the health front (TMI, no doubt!) I've decided I can't tolerate the metal plate in my ankle so I've talked to the surgeon's receptionist and will phone in February when I get home from Florida for an appointment to discuss having it removed and how long it will take to get that done. Initially I thought it would be fine but the last month it's been really bugging me. Talking to others who have had the same thing, the reports seem to be that you reach a state when it's just not all right any more so my experience is not uncommon, and probably why the surgeon made such a firm assurance that if it bothered me he'd take it out. :)

I'm hoping that by the time I hit my next birthday my health issues will all have been dealt with and I'll be good for another 20 years. One lives in hope........... :^)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Clearin' Clutter

I suppose that while piles of product in process probably don't really qualify as clutter, until they are put onto the shelves ready to be sold clutter is actually what they are.

So it was with a great deal of satisfaction I surveyed these piles of scarves, all of them woven since the end of September, ready to be wet finished. I even did the fringe twisting on the 32 scarves in the background myself - a job I usually hire out. But deadlines were looming, my fringe twisting elf moved away and I was trepidatious about shipping them to her and getting them back in time for One of a Kind next week. Not to mention the extra expense of shipping.

Unfortunately after I'd finished patting myself on the back for getting all that twisting done, I found another bucket with four shawls and 8 rayon chenille scarves, also needing fringe twisting. So instead of clearing the table off (I do the twisting on the table so I can sort-of watch tv while I'm doing it) it is now more cluttered than ever because the shawls are nearly 4 times the width of the scarves. Oh well. Only four of them. I doubt I'll get very much of that done before we leave on Tuesday for OOAK, but at least they are now in the system, so to speak, and ought to be done before the end of the year.

In the meantime the AVL sits nekkid, but I'm dressing the small loom with one of the last 8 painted scarf warps. These ones are Tencel and Bamboo and should not be nearly so tangled so I'm hoping to get as many of those woven off as I can by the end of the year, too. I think I counted 8 warps - should be able to weave those off without too much trouble. The twisting? That might take a little longer. :}

Year end is looming - a good time to finish some things that have been cluttering up my studio, store room and thinking.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Book Review

I'm a hunter. I hunt weekly at the public library for good authors. In the case of Laurel Corona, she found me - via this blog. Who knew that sharing my musings with the world would bring me a new story teller!

I love stories well told. I love it when authors manage to craft words into an emotion, trigger a memory, or bring a greater understanding of the human condition. I especially love it when they set their stories in a culture that may be familiar - or unfamiliar - and mix in a dollop of what it means to be human, to be creative.

After reading Penelope's Daughter a few months ago I checked the local library for Corona's The Four Seasons. They didn't have it but were willing to bring it in on inter-library loan. The local library is pretty good about buying new books, but it's December and their book buying budget for the year is about used up and since this is an older title, they didn't want to purchase it for their collection. :(

The story takes place in Vivaldi's Vienna beginning in the late 1600's into the early 1700's. A great deal of the story line embraces the music of the time in a way that makes me want to listen to Vivaldi's music. I'm not well educated about classical music - most of my knowledge about music comes from accordian lessons, then choir and then ballet. My listening preferences are generally rock music (the rhythm is great to weave to!), some folk, some classical jazz - pretty eclectic, really - but not a lot of classical music.

So for this story to make me want to listen to Vivaldi is saying a lot.

I'm going to quote two passages from The Four Seasons just to give a flavour of the power of Corona's observations and wordsmithing:

The end of the motet began with slow, melancholic notes on the low strings of Maddalena's violin, accompanied by a cello and a delicate pizzicato on the other strings. "Gloria Patri, et Filio..." Chiaretta began. When they reached the next words of the doxology, "et Spiritui Sancto" she hung on to the last note, allowing Maddalena to pick up the beginning of the melody before her voice fell off. Then, when Maddalena reached the same point, she held her last note while Chiaretta picked the melody up again in the same fashion, making transfer after seamless transfer between voice and violin, over, under, around, like fabric woven by an invisible hand. Chiaretta's voice climbed higher, and Maddalena went with her like an echo. Then they were together again, finishing in unison, their music rising and falling like the sound of God breathing.

A couple of pages later:

"Et Jesum benedictum," Chiaretta began, wrapping her arms around herself as she melted into the beauty of the simple tune. "O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria." The most sincere of love songs to the Virgin Mary filled the chapel, though it felt no louder than a whisper, and at the end the music simply evaporated.

Chiaretta felt drops of perspiration making their way into the small of her back as she opened her eyes. The fading last note of a composition always sucked something out of the air in the chapel, creating a momentary vacuum before the music was entirely gone and the ordinary world restored. But this time that void in sound was not there. Rising up from the floor of the chapel was not the sound of shuffling feet, clearing throats, or murmured exchanges of approval in a place where applause was not allowed. She looked through the grille and saw the entire congregration on its feet clapping.

Maddalena came up and put her arms around her sister. "You were perfect," she said. "Look at them!"

"So were you," Chiaretta said, her voice hoarse with emotion. Together they left the balcony while the audience, having recovered its decorum, watched in silence as their silhouettes disappeared.

If you don't know a lot about music it doesn't really matter. There is a glossary in the back of the book but the context explains enough (and perhaps I know enough about music terms to begin with) that the story flows in and around the musical terminology. And for us fibre fanatics, Maddelana is also a lacemaker so lots of references to lace. :)

The really good news is that I won't have to wait long for the next book - Finding Emilie will be on the book stands next spring. And Laurel Corona is well along the path of her next book. I shall look forward to both with great anticipation.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No valet? No problem

I'm dressing the guild loom with a tea towel warp using a couple of vinegar bottles to provide tension during beaming. :)
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Monday, November 29, 2010

Admin Work is Also Work

This afternoon I've just invested about 2 hours in uploading information on the Diversified Plain Weave scarves to my Art Fire store, then creating a 'collection'.

Collections are a new sales tool Art Fire recently introduced and until now I haven't had sufficient inventory to create one. You need a minimum of 12 items plus 4 more items to fill in when the collection items sell.

I was going to wait until after I got home from One of a Kind before I did this, but decided that if I'm going to take advantage of Christmas buying, I'd better do it now and just put my Art Fire store on vacation mode while we are in Vancouver.

And while intellectually I know that doing this sort of work is still work, it always feels like I haven't really accomplished anything.

But when you are trying to sell your textiles as part of your income, the fact of the matter is that your job isn't finished until you've sold them.

After two hours of peering at the computer and fighting with a dying camera battery and websites that freeze up in the middle of trying to enter data little wonder I have a headache and that all I really want to do is go have a nap. We won't discuss the 4 hours of sleep I got last night, no doubt contributing to that urge. :}

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Neverending Warp

with broken end repair threads hanging from the back of the loom.....

This is beginning to feel like the Neverending Warp! Of course it is the third 40 yard warp in DPW all black, so perhaps I'm justified in feeling this way. But it seems like very time I start a new scarf I think to myself "This one and one more and this warp will be done."

Well, I've thought that 3 times, now, and there is still warp left!

I have my references and materials to begin work on The Project but since Deadlines Are My Friend, I've sternly told myself that before I can begin on The Project I must
(must!) finish this warp! The reason I need to finish is two-fold - I want some of these scarves for One of a Kind Vancouver in 10 days and some of these scarves are gifts for a few of my everyday heroes.

Stacey Harvey-Brown blogged about hidden talent and heroes today which set me thinking about the heroes in my life and how grateful I am they are with me. I don't always let these people know how much they mean to me so it was a wonderful opportunity to use this warp to make some of them personalized scarves.

Waiting for a few days before beginning The Project was also a good idea because I've let some of the organizational aspects of doing The Project simmer in the back of my mind and have come up with some solutions - which ought to make The Project move along a little more smoothly. It's also helped to flesh it out and given me a clearer view of my objective. Always A Good Thing!

With One of a Kind coming up so quickly I'll likely leave both looms naked until I return. By then I will know whether or not I should put another 40 yard DPW warp on the AVL as the well from which I draw my inspiration appears to be a little low at the moment and it would also be nice to see if any of these scarves sell to make it worth my while to do another run of them. :}

So let me finish up this rather rambling post by encouraging everyone to let their everyday heroes know how much you value them. This time of year, it seems like a natural thing to take a few minutes to show your appreciation of their example and presence in your life.

Magic: 37

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting Ready for January

in with the new, out with the old......maybe....

I really love the grey carry on case. It has travelled with me for literally thousands of miles, to Europe several times and all over the continent for nearly 20 years. :)

But all those miles have taken a toll on it and although you can't see it, it's got a big hole on the other side where Doug did his best to patch it. But - just like it's owner - it's getting old(er) and a bit tattered around the edges!

And there is one thing I don't actually luv about it - it has no wheels. There have been way too many times as I rushed through one huge airport or another with a tight transfer that I really, truly wished it had wheels!

After 40 years of marriage Doug and I tend to find something fairly pricey that we have been lusting in our heart after and name it our Christmas gift. This year Doug chose a tool storage chest he'd been eyeing for a while and which he thought was on sale for half price. Turns out it was the cheaper version that was on sale, which he discovered after he'd already got permission from me to get it for his Christmas present. Feeling magnanimous I told him to get the one he really wanted anyway.

Which gave me permission to be a bit spendy on my own gift! ;) Right? I mean it's only fair?

Well, the carry on case I really and truly lusted over is the new version of the grey suitcase I'm about to retire, but it was hugely spendy and I just could not justify spending nearly $400 on something that is literally going to get kicked around the continent. So I settled for the cheaper one pictured above.

But I don't think I'm going to toss the grey one out yet. I don't always travel by plane, after all. :)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Baby Steps?

the cover of Magic in the Water....

one of the project pages from Magic....

Does anyone not know what Magic in the Water is? It's a 2 inch ring binder filled with information on what wet finishing is and how to do it. The 'meat' of the book is the project pages where you see the completed project in a full colour photo (taken by Joe Coca, the official photographer for Handwoven), the draft used with suggestions for fewer shafts if many have been used, an explanation of how the cloth was wet finished with not just the finished state sample but the loom state as well. Samples cover cotton, linen, wool (both woolen and worsted), alpaca, mohair, Tencel, silk. Techniques include things like brushing up a nap, how to do on-loom twisted fringes for woolen blankets/scarves, one way of how to do a four sided fringe for cotton, warp sizings etc.

If weavers learn through examining fabrics woven by other handweavers (or industry), then there is much to muse over in Magic.

I've just decided with the holiday season upon us I would do a special offering - order Magic by the end of the year and get a free hand woven tea towel as a special gift from me to you (or go ahead and re-gift, I won't mind!)

With my intention to reduce the amount of stuff I have, I thought this would be a perfect way to make a baby step in the right direction. Find new homes for some of the last copies of Magic, and give people a present which will also help to clear some of the inventory from my storage room.

So please, even if you have your own copy of Magic - spread the word?

Wishing everyone the best for the coming holiday season.....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


my 2011 calendar....

I really wish I were better organized than I am, but (you saw that 'but' coming a mile away, didn't you?)........but I'm not.

People who are not organized always have a million reasons why not. I think we spend more time thinking up excuses than it would take to simply get organized! But the fact remains that I live - and work - with a level of clutter that many people would find hard to deal with. Heck, even I find it hard to deal with!

Having 3 years worth of health issues to distract my attention really hasn't helped, either. There have been days (weeks, truth be told) that I just couldn't face the reality that I probably belong on an episode of Hoarding.

It doesn't help that I live with a DH whose level of tolerance for mess is even higher than mine, but that's just one more excuse.

With some forward movement on the health front, plus the start of a new major project, I've done some thinking about what needs to happen for me to get a grip on my disorganized life.

The first thing I need to do is to stop doing so many things. Between production weaving (and trying to sell the fruit of my looms - sorry about the pun - just couldn't resist), retailing yarns and fibres, publishing teaching aids (books, cd's), writing said teaching aids, teaching - all of which require copious reference materials, space to store yarns, products, etc., etc. plus my 'hobby' activities (knitting, spinning, bobbin lace, reading, jigsaw puzzles) - well, you get the picture. And all of this being done out of a fairly modest home.

DH also wants to retire as soon as possible - right now that's about 16 months from now IF the Canadian government in their wisdom doesn't push the minimum age to collect full pension to 67 - which means I want to pare my business expenses as much as possible before then. Which means letting the steam press and annex go. I don't know if we'll be able to sell the boiler that drives the press, but I'm pretty certain the press (made of cast iron mostly) will simply get delivered to the scrap yard and sold for whatever the metal is worth. Hopefully for enough to cover the cost of delivering it to the scrap yard.

But there's all that stuff stored there, too - yarns, books, left over samples from Magic, looms (two of which should really find a new home) etc. And then there's all the booth display apparatus that has to live somewhere.

So in order to make this happen, I need to finish skeining off the rest of the yarn that needs to be 'not white' and get as much of it dyed as possible in December after One of a Kind - which means I really need to get skeining NOW!

I need to sell the rest of Magic (down to 40 copies, plus the abridged copies which number around 60), Weave a V (haven't even recovered the cost of publishing that yet), decide to throw out the rest of the samples from Magic just to free up that space, sell as much of the retail yarns as possible (Fibres West March 18/19, and HWSDA conference in Calgary in June) and think hard about getting out of yarn sales. Getting out of fibre sales is a given - they are far too bulky and way too little profit in them.

As for teaching - I have one shelving rack with my binders holding the handouts (which get reviewed and edited every time I teach them), plus all the yarns I have specially for teaching those topics above and beyond the yarns for production, the numerous buckets of samples for each topic and which I have toyed with tossing out on more than one occasion. But if I'm not going to be in high production (and given this economy, will selling hand wovens really be economical?) then should I focus more on the teaching instead?

Then there's writing. Although I would love to write and be published, it would be best if I could get paid for that. There is only one major publication that pays for articles and there's no guarantee of getting a project accepted there and the once a year (or two years) I've had an article published isn't enough to pay the electric bill to run the computer.

So what do I actually wind up cutting out? Since the chances of winning the lottery in Canada are about 1 in 14 million, I guess that's even worse odds?

Currently reading The Waters Rising by Sheri S. Tepper

Saturday, November 20, 2010


a fan of scarves showing my on the image for an enlargement

People quite often exclaim over the straightness of my selvedges. They want to know my secret, or assume that I must have some trick up my sleeve for getting ruler straight selvedges (most of the time, depending {there's that word again} on weave structure and yarn).

The secret to getting straight selvedges is no secret at all. Or at least, I've not kept how I do what I do a secret. I've been active on the internet since 1994 (anyone remember bulletin boards and usenet groups?) telling people what I do and how I do it. (Check the labels here or my You Tube channel for video clips.)

The 'secret' to getting good selvedges is learning the physical skills that need to be utilized and using 'good' tools/processes.

What those tools are will depend on the individual - their physical size, their personal hand/eye co-ordination, their equipment.

But to gain proficiency at something like weaving or any other skilled craft, the practioner must understand the essential theory behind what they are doing, be analytical about how they are doing it, and practice, practice, practice with a self-awareness of what they are doing, gauging the success of their results and tweaking their processes, sometimes changing their tools for ones that will work better for them.

Instead they rely on what I call 'magical thinking' - if I use this trick or this tool I will magically get good selveges without my having to do anything else.

Getting good selvedges requires a succession of steps, any one of which if not done well, will lead to poor selvedges.

First you must beam the warp well and under tension. The longer and wider your warps, the more crucial this step becomes. If your warp is 'cigar-shaped' on the back beam, you will have problems with your selvedges. (Unless you build that shape properly so that the outside threads don't slide off causing them to be shorter than the middle ends.)

A short narrow warp simply doesn't have the length and breadth to show poor beaming techniques because it's all too soon done. So a weaver who has consistently woven short (less than 5 yards) and/or narrow (less than 15 inches wide) warps who decides to put on a longer/wider warp will suddenly run into problems that s/he has never experienced before and cannot figure out what went wrong. They've been weaving for years and never had the problem before, after all!

A weaver should know how to hold and throw the shuttle efficiently. I know, I know, many people aren't interested in being efficient. What these people don't realize is that holding and throwing the shuttle efficiently simply means that you are doing this process in a way that will lead to good selvedges and a good consistent beat. In other words, they will get a better quality cloth.

Some people don't even know that there is an efficient way of holding and throwing the shuttle. I so often see shuttles being thrown (or should I say shoved) 'backwards' or even upside down. When I mention this to the weaver I generally get a blank look and a response of "I didn't know there was a 'right' way to hold the shuttle."

Again, if the weaver is only weaving on a narrow warp, how s/he holds the shuttle doesn't matter as much as when they try to weave a wider warp.

I watched a sheep to shawl demo one time where the weaver held the shuttle 'overhand' which meant she could not get the shuttle from one selvedge to the other as it could only travel 3/4's of the way across the web which meant that she was reaching into the shed to retrieve it. The net result of this? The handspun alpaca warp was stretching at the selvedge and I could see that the selvedge was starting to pull apart from the repeated stretching and abrasion due to fishing the shuttle out of each shed.

Over and over again I read/hear people being advised to leave sufficient slack on the weft. This is absolutely true - as far as it goes.

But over and over again I see weavers leave a nice lovely angle on their weft pick and then as they beat they pull the hand holding their shuttle towards their body which effectively shortens the weft pick and results in excessive draw in. And they get frustrated because they don't realize what they are doing and continue to do the same thing. Or they make longer and longer 'bubbles' in their weft which results in loops forming at the selvedge which in turn results in loose selveges ends and then..........poor selvedges.

Since I have begun having private students come to learn how to weave I have been delighted that they all appear to be 'natural' weavers achieving good selvedges on their very first sampler. It occured to me during a recent bout of insomnia that perhaps in addition to being naturally adept they are also benefitting from my tutoring. They are learning from the get-go how I hold and throw the shuttle and they are very quickly achieving selvedges that are generally consistent and pretty straight right away.

Ultimately if a weaver is happy with their results there is no need for them to change what they are doing. If they are not happy with their results, perhaps a good analytical look at how other weavers achieve their results will get them closer to the results they desire.

For a complete look at what I do and how I do it, CD Weaver III pretty much sums up everything I do except for how I now sley the reed. Since I've posted extensively on that technique (learned from Syne Mitchell who learned it from Peggy Ostercamp) I don't feel the need to upgrade the cd for that technique.

My advice? Get Peggy's new book and look at how she does what she does. Or buy CD Weaver III and try out a few of the things I do and see how they sit with you.

Christmas is coming - ask Santa for either of these resources and be open to trying something different if you aren't happy with your results.

(CD Weaver III is $60 on my website - if you order before Dec. 6 I'll include the sample packet set for free - this combination is $75.00 plus shipping on my Art Fire store.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review(s)

What can I say? Guess I must have a secret corner in my soul of a geek because I often find myself picking up books on weird science/history........

I just started How to Mellify a Corpse by Vicki Leon this morning and reading the Foreword realized that I'd already read a couple of her books before - a couple of the Uppity Women series.

"In Latin, the root of our word 'destiny' meant 'that which is woven or bound together with threads.' " - reference to the Fates that spin our lives, measure them, and cut them thus ending our lives.

Anyway, I had a conversation with a potential customer at the craft fair. Turns out he was an engineer and we got started talking about books and I gave him a short list of books I'd enjoyed beginning with Jacquard's Web, which has been around for a few years and I read long enough ago I don't recall the author.

From there we went on to Ken Alder's The Measure of all Things - the history of the development of the metric system during the French revolution. Penny Le Couture's Napoleon's Buttons, a layman's (woman's?) introduction to everyday chemicals in our lives was equally fascinating to me.

When I started reading Leon's book this morning I started thinking about other 'weird' science/history I've enjoyed.

There was Honey, Mud, Maggots and other Medical Marvels by Robert S. Root-Bernstein. He's written other titles and a quick Google or search on Amazon will give you a list of those.

Simon Winchester has written many titles, of which I've only read a few but enjoyed them all. Of particular interest was The Madman and the Professor. Again Google for a complete list.

I also enjoy historical fiction, especially those authors that have taken the time to get the culture and technology correct. The most recent of course was Laurel Corona, but also Lindsey Davis and her Falco series. I love Davis' sense of humour and have learned so much about the technology in use 2000 years ago.

If you like layered stories, Dorothy Dunnett is one of the few authors I've actually re-read and would do so again if I could get all of the books in the two series so that I could romp through them one after the other and had about 3 months in which to do so. I first encountered her with her stand alone book King Hereafter which gives enormous insight into Viking culture in around ad 900 or so. Her Niccolo Rising series profiles Nicolaus, who begins as a dyer's apprentice in Bruges and then takes him on an amazing journey throughout the then known world and parts of the 'dark' continent - into Timbuktu and darkest Africa. If you're at all interested in the role alum played in European economy, the first in the series deals with that. Other books look at commodoties like sugar and gold. The time frame is around 1460-90 or thereabouts and one of the books takes place in Iceland around the time of the huge volcanic eruption and the race away from the pyroclastic flow.

The Lymond series takes place in the years preceeding Elizabeth's accension to the throne in England. One of the books uses textiles as trade goods with Russia as part of its plot line.

Sharan Newman has a series set in 1100's Europe, and of course there is Ellis Peters, around the 1300's if memory serves. It's been a while since I read her series.

There are other titles niggling round in the back of my brain, refusing to come out. Needless to say, I'm a very good customer of my public library!

(A Perfect Red and Travels Through the Paintbox - two more titles that may be of interest to weavers/dyers.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Weaver

Click on the picture for an enlargement and check out those selvedes!

Nicole arrived shortly after 1 pm and we reviewed how to hold and throw the shuttle (she'd done a bit last Tuesday at the guild room) and the quirks of my particular loom. It's a rescue loom and has a few eccentricities in terms of advancing the warp.

I'd set the loom up with a fairly thick wool at 10 epi and Nicole wound some bobbins (again we'd reviewed that last Thursday with Sarah) and she set to weaving some plain weave. Then I showed her the treadling variations I'd printed out for her and she wove about 6" of each.

Then I showed her how to weave with an open beat with a very fine wool as well as a boucle and she did a bit of that.

Then she chose one of the treadlings from the sampler, I showed her how to hemstitch and she wove a table runner (about 36"). She was running out of time so I hemstitched the other end of the runner, gave her instructions for how to wet finish (well, you didn't think I wouldn't, did you?) and she left with nearly 3 yards of woven web for her afternoon's efforts.

And some aching muscles. :)

She'll come back Friday and we'll do a scarf warp for her, but this time she will have to wind her own warp and dress the loom with supervision.

Currently reading Wildfire in the Wilderness by Chris Czajkowski (I've met Chris on the craft fair circuit where she sells her books. This is just one of several she's written about her experiences living in the wilds of north/western BC.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


All of the above shawls were woven on the same warp....

The above photo isn't great - took it with my Blackberry and the focus is 'off', but it shows the drape and the slight irridescence of the fabric quite nicely.

The shawls in the above photos were woven quite a long time ago. It took a while before they rose to the surface of the fringe twisting pile and Mizz B delivered them to me last weekend at the craft fair. They went through the washer and dryer yesterday and I've just returned from pressing them.

The warp was a stash busting affair with lots of small odds and ends of lots of different colours. In the end I just went along with a mantra shared with me by my friend Betty - Value is more important than hue.

The warp was an unlikely combination - a mixture of green/blues and reds. Nor were some of the weft choices 'safe' ones. But there are times when you just have to step up to the cliff's edge and live dangerously. And in the end, these shawls are unsual in their colours. While they won't necessarily suit everyone's taste, I'm hoping they find a new loving home next month at One of a Kind Vancouver.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

End of the Line

A few months ago I posted a photo of the box of painted warps to be done. Today this is all there is in the box.

Today I wove 3 scarves, and just now beamed the 3rd last warp.

I have really enjoyed making these scarves, in spite of having to wrestle them onto the loom but it is time to move on. In a way it's kind of scary because the painted warp scarves have been popular. I've made dozens and sold many of them. In fact it was kind of shocking when I packed up at Studio Fair at how few scarves in this series were left.

Which is good! Don't get me wrong. But it's a bit of a gamble discontinuing a line that has sold well when there is no clear candidate for the next good selling item.

On the other hand, I learned my lesson when we were earning our only income by making textiles for the table. Even though I had seen the writing on the wall, I continued to make placemats, runners and napkins until well after the market for them had collapsed.

At which point I was left with no income because I hadn't taken the time to do product development and come up with something new for the market.

When I first started making scarves from Tencel and bamboo, there weren't a lot of other weavers using those fibres. Now there are many.

My goal is to weave these last three warps (there is one on the loom, remember) before One of a Kind in Vancouver so that I will have a good range of scarves for people to choose from. There are 8 more painted warps which will be made into shawls, also - I hope! - in time for OOAK.

And then I'm moving on. Not sure what direction yet, but that's part of the fun.

Currently reading Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Friday, November 12, 2010

Word of Mouth

One of the most powerful marketing tools a creative person can benefit from is 'word of mouth'.

What does that mean? Pretty much what it sounds like. Get people talking - in a positive way - about your product, letting their friends know you think the product is A Good Thing for them to invest their money in. :)

Recently I was asked to read and comment on a new work of historical fiction by the author, Laurel Corona.

Corona, like other authors in the 21st century, is facing the challenge of getting enough people to buy her book to make it worthwhile for the publisher to consider publishing further works that she writes. Not to mention any royalties that may accrue based on sales. To that end she has a FaceBook page and no doubt a Twitter account.

When I took a marketing class a number of years ago (my how time flies), one of the methods of marketing that was addressed was word of mouth.

The presentor gave some statistics. If a customer is unhappy with your product s/he will more than likely tell an average of 26 people about their negative experience.

If the customer is happy with your product, they will more than likely tell on average about 11 people about their happy experience.

Why the disparity? Mainly because anger is a form of energy and if a person is unhappy they are likely angry and that anger will fuel their desire to dissipate their anger by venting (telling lots of people about it, garnering sympathy for their plight) and from a sense of warning others of the danger in buying that product.

Creative people - whether or not you are making up stories or cloth - generally don't have a big budget for advertising. There is the added complexity of the new age of information - how many people actually watch commercials on tv, listen to them on the radio, or read them in a newspaper/magazine? How many instead rely on their friends to give them a head's up about a great new product? How many of us tweet or post on Face Book.....or have blogs?

The most effective advertising/marketing of creative works is done to a target market. So authors try to get reviews posted to Amazon. Authors writing technical works (like weavers) try to get mentions on the chat groups. Weaving teachers try to get good reviews on chat groups and in guild newsletters.

So you, dear reader, must not underestimate the power of your endorsement of a writer, teacher, or creative person who is trying to earn an income by their creative efforts. If you get a great new weaving book, or read a novel with textiles/weaving in it, attend a fantastic lecture or take a fabulous workshop - tell your friends.

And continue to watch this space for books I enjoy reading. :)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep; though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt. Col John McCrae MD 1872-1918
Canadian Army

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"When you don't know....

what you don't know, you don't know that you don't know it....." (Judith MacKenzie)

So today I dragged my sneezing, sniffling, aching body all over town looking for books on colour theory, all to little avail.

I finally found this one at the local library, but it is so very basic it's of little use for my purpose.

So I did what I had to do and went to Amazon and bought two books, spending $35 gambling that they will have sufficient colour theory/terms/vocabulary in order for me to do the research I need for my proposed ebook.

Which will be, yes, about using colour in weaving.

Many new weavers have a hard time choosing effective colours, partly because colour behaves in strange ways in a woven structure. If you don't have an intuitive sense of how to choose colours, it's a bit of a crap shoot at times.

But if there are so few resources for weavers who are insecure about colour use, how are they going to learn? Extrapolate that to any aspect of weaving - fibre characteristics, yarn characteristics (no, they are not the same), how density affects the fabric, and why certain weave structures behave in certain ways.

If you don't know you should know this, how are you going to learn?

I'm quite confident that weaving will not die. It's programmed into our genes. People who could construct textiles to protect them from the elements survived better than those who didn't or couldn't.

But at what level will the craft survive? Even if a weaver is only interested in dressing the loom and throwing the shuttle s/he should at least be aware of fibre characteristics and how choosing the appropriate yarn will enhance their efforts. They should understand why density affects their cloth and what they need to do about it and so on.

In my not so humble opinion, of course.

My post yesterday was in the way of being a devil's advocate. I hoped to stir up some discussion and get people thinking about the resources currently available, and which resources were lacking.

With my current health issues and no resolution in sight, yet, I've been thinking more and more about writing. I am hopeful that Syne Mitchell's skills as editor and publisher (and writer, of course) will translate into a successful boutique publishing effort which will help fill the void I see in the current weaving climate. That is to bring awareness to new weavers that while weaving can be done on a kit or recipe level, it can be so much more, too. While I understand that delving into the technology of weaving is not for everyone, I am convinced that every weaver should at least have a basic understanding that there is more and where to find the information when they want to find out about it.

While in Albuquerque I presented a one day workshop called A Good Yarn. At the end of the day one of the weavers in the group asked "Why don't weavers know about these things?"

Why, indeed.