Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Progress

20 yard warp - done!

yarns for next warp of tea towels

Hallelujah - the grey warp is woven! The next warp is going to be a lot more colourful. (Ignore the blue cone - it's just hangin' around.)

I'm looking forward to finally using up the last of the fine linen, but am not sure another 20 yard warp will do it. So I'm looking around to see if I have enough of the 2/16 cotton to do one more warp of maybe 10 yards. I was positive I had a box of partial tubes of black 2/16 but can't locate it so we'll see what I come up with. :}

This afternoon I went and made lace for a couple of hours. Got half a bookmark done while catching up with my friends and sneaking peeks at the hockey game. The Olympics are now over. Some truly amazing athletes and stories.

After finishing the tea towels I went to the small loom and finished off scarf number one and started number 2. Click on the photo for a close up.

This section of the warp has a lot of bright spring, almost lime, green and rather than mute it with chocolate I switched to kelp - a very dark green with a yellow cast. I think it's turning out quite well. The green mutes the rose but there isn't nearly as much rose in this section so I think it will be just fine.

Tomorrow I'll beam the warp onto the AVL. The threading will be something fairly simple so that it will go quickly. I'm feeling like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I've got a chenille warp in Diversified Plain Weave planned for the AVL for scarves, but just really wanted to get the linen used up first.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Painted Warp

painted warp - rose and greens

same painted warp - blue/greens with more rose coming up

Back to working on the multitude of painted warps. It was hard to get a picture of the colours as they shifted through the warp.

This warp is fairly subdued with browned roses, deep blues and greens. I'm using chocolate for weft. The dark brown has a reddish cast so I figured it would highlight the slightly brownish roses. Click on the photos for close ups.

I don't do my own fibre reactive dyeing but get Teresa Ruch to do it.

Teresa will have a booth at Convergence. She also dyed the HGA special colourway for Convergence this year.

It's been great working with another creative person. We both have similar tastes in colour palettes so I pretty much give her carte blanche to do what she wants. About all I'll say is "I need some nice reds" or blues or whatever, send her the warps and then dive in when they come back all pretty. :)

The warp is a strand of soy protein fibre (sorry - just cannot call it 'silk') and one of bamboo. The two yarns take the dyes very differently. The most effective weave structure is plain weave, I think. I did a bunch with fancy twills, but the weave structure and the contrast between the two yarns and their different colours meant a textile that was overly textural to my eye. So it's back to basics. :)

I've got 3 boxes of warps waiting to be woven, so that's next on my priority list for the small loom.

After rummaging in the store room I cobbled together enough yarn for another tea towel warp. This extremely fine linen goes a long way! I may have to put one more warp onto the loom after the next one to use it up.

That's one of the benefits of working with fine threads though. They don't cost substantially more than fat threads, and you get hours of play time out of them.

It's one of the biggest reasons why I urge people to become more efficient. The more efficient you are, the less fine threads will intimidate. If you can thread 300 ends in an hour, there will be less resistance to using a thread that requires 30+ epi. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Inching Along

Made pretty significant progress today in spite of some retail therapy (shopping for a new vacuum cleaner) and continuing issues with pain. :(

Got a better picture of the cloth tonight. It still looks better in photos than it does in real life - go figure! Maybe I should get over being disappointed and withhold judgement until after it's wet finished. It's the advice I'm always giving others, after all. :}

Tally for the day - 6 towels, 6 yards. I'm over the one-third mark and should be able to finish this warp off by Monday at the latest.

I think I've got enough yarn for one more warp. It will take that to finish off the pesky linen. Haven't rummaged through the buckets yet, but if I remember correctly there might just be sufficient for another 20 yard warp. That should put a period to using the 12 and 24 nm linen doubled.

Doug works opening shift tomorrow - if I can drag myself out of bed at 5:15 I should be able to get an early start. I'd like to weave at least 6 more towels Saturday. Sunday it's lace and I'm looking forward to getting together with the other gals to fwip (technical term) a few bobbins.

The other thing that happened today is that I was invited to be Featured Artist at the CAC Studio Shoppe for April and May. The official opening reception will be April 8. We get back from Fibres West on Monday March 29 and I have to deliver inventory to them before March 30. It looks like March is going to be a bit crazy with appointments and deadlines.

Oh yes - deadlines are my friend. Nearly forgot!

Currently reading Vanished by Kat Richardson

Thursday, February 25, 2010

When You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling

option #1

beginning of option #2

The AVL had been sitting nekkid for far too long and for that reason and a bunch of others, I needed to slam a warp onto it pronto.

My first inclination was to have a predominantly black warp with the blue and plum colour accents. Unfortunately I didn't have enough black 2/16 on hand to wind a warp. :( One of the disadvantages when you are trying to use up stash and not buy more yarn - you do start to run low - eventually.

What I did have enough of was a blued grey and since both the blue and plum had blue in them decided that should work just dandy.

Well, I don't know if it's the old 'grey muddies' at work, or my grey mood, but I wasn't really liking the warp as it was being wound on. I think it's also the big contrast in values at work. The black would have been much closer in value to the other colours than the pale blue/grey.

And then I'm crossing the whole thing with natural linen - a grey-beige.

So what happens when you're sitting at the loom with a 20 yard warp and your little heart is not going pit-a-pat?

Well, the first thing you do is get up off the stool (in my case) and look at the cloth from different angles and distances. Sometimes what doesn't look great sitting at the loom takes on more interest when you see it from a different perspective.

(I apologize for the photos - it was really hard to get a picture of this fabric on the loom!)

So I got up and walked around the loom and decided that, while my heart did not have to be coaxed to be still, it would do. Not my best work, by any means.

But since I've worked with this yarn combination before, I know that the resulting fabric will work well as tea towels and just because the colours don't make my heart sing doesn't mean that the project is a disaster.

This isn't the first time I've woven fabric that didn't make my heart sing. Believe me, when you're a production weaver weaving for someone else, you quite often wind up weaving stuff that can be a big ho-hum.

At this point I have to tell my ego to go stand in the corner because it doesn't matter that "I" don't really like the cloth, it's got to be woven off. I have to shut the nag that wants to keep whining "I don't really like this" up and just get on with the weaving. So I focus on getting into the zone - being present with the loom and the yarns (regardless of their colours, as boring or mundane as they may be), feeling the physical satisfaction of treadling, throwing the shuttle and beating. Concentrating on the process, not the colour.

After all, the next warp can be much prettier, right?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Just cut the red scarves off the loom and it's a perfect example of the principle that value is more important than hue.

Each of these scarves was woven with a different weft colour, but all of them were about the same value.

From left to right the weft colours are:
burgundy, kelp, black and chocolate

Not a totally fair comparison of course because none of the scarves have exactly the same colours in the warp, but interesting nonetheless. I think you can see that the black weft scarf has the purest/brightest colours - the rest are a bit softer in appearance.

When I'm weaving a painted warp like this, I try to match the weft colour (hue) to the dominant look of the warp. Therefore the bit that had the most of a dark olive green got the kelp. The bit that had a dark brownish purple got the chocolate.

Having such a lively red on the loom was very happy making. :)

Fibres West

Yesterday the postcards arrived for Fibres West being held in Abbotsford, BC March 26/27.

This is the show I'm getting ready to do, introducing myself for the first time as an Ashford and Ashland Bay dealer.

There are classes in various textile media and a nice vendor hall.

Started packaging the merino/silk fibre yesterday and hope to finish that off today along with stripping the AVL down for the next tea towel warp, finishing scarf #3 on the Fanny and maybe even weaving #4. But since I also have a massage booked this afternoon, we'll see how that goes.

Also started spinning a sample of the merino silk last night - it's very nice stuff! :D

I've been plagued with muscle spasms in my lower back and groin for the past 10 days. So far it hasn't interfered with actual weaving, but standing for any length of time is - a problem. I'm grateful Doug will be with me at the show so that I don't have to face setting up, standing for two long days and then tearing down again all by myself. Not to mention the 8 hour drive each way.

The Olympics will be long over by the end of March so I'm hoping to see lots of people at the event. Bring something to show and share when you come and say hello. I'd love to see what you're working on.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fear of Colour

scarf #2

When I began weaving lo, these many years ago, I was interested in weave structure as the primary element of design. I would joke that my favourite colour was white. White on white, to be precise!

I loved the look of damask, but of course without a drawloom that was a bit of a stretch. Fancy twills, however, were possible and I thoroughly enjoyed playing with them. Still do, in fact.

My forays into using colour were tentative and conservative. I did not feel confident that I could put colours together in a pleasing way. Therefore I pretty much confined myself to things that I knew were 'safe'.

Eventually I decided that I wanted to learn more about colour and one of the things I did was enroll in a workshop with Jack Lenor Larsen. The topic was Irridescence, but really it was just about colour. Colour in all it's glorious combinations.

What really broke through my mental attitude, however, was the fact that I consistently got positive critiques from JLL. Since he didn't really know who had done which samples pinned to the wall of the building I knew that what he was saying was completely unbiased. I mean, why wouldn't it be? :} But I finally got it through my thick head that I did know something about putting colours together!

Shortly after that I found myself in a position where weaving rayon chenille scarves seemed like a really good idea. And so I started winding 5 meter long warps - sufficient for two scarves. What do you do with rayon chenille, after all, but weave plain weave and use lots of colour?

And so I did. Lots of them. And the more I designed and wove them, the more adventurous and confident I became.

On the spectrum of structure <----> colour/texture, I found myself shifting from structure all the way over into colour. And now I feel that I'm solidly in the middle of that spectrum. That when I design something, both go hand in hand. That I do not consider one without considering the other.

Many people insist that the only thing to do with a painted warp is to weave it in plain weave. Although at the moment I am weaving them in plain weave, it's not an exclusive thing. It has more to do with which loom I'm using, what quality of cloth I want to wind up with and other factors.

So even though a weaver may start out at one end of the spectrum, there is no reason why they can't shift a little ways toward the other.

Currently reading Backstabber by Tim Cockey

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back to Scarves

back to scarves and plain weave....

Finished the 11 meters (actually 10, I cut the warp off sooner 'cause I ran out of weft!) this afternoon then dressed the loom with a 10 meter painted warp.

The warp is a mixture of soy protein fibre and Tencel about a 5/2 grist, set at 20 and woven in plain weave with Bambu 12. The warp was wound with one strand of each and threaded randomly.

Unfortunately the Bambu 12 doesn't come in all the gorgeous dark colours that are available in the Bambu 7. :( Any guesses as to which colour I'm using for weft on this warp?

The last placemat warp wasn't really to my taste in terms of colour. I'm not a big fan of olive greens and beiges. But that's the thing about weaving for sale - I don't have to absolutely *love* every single warp I put on the loom. I only have to believe that it is attractive and will co-ordinate with someone's dishes or decor. One of the reasons I had so much of these colours on hand is because I had a special order for a table runner last month.

The customer had paint chips of the colours in her dining room, and I matched the cotton to the chips as closely as possible. She was delighted with her runner and I figured if she was happy with those colours, others might be too. And besides, I had this yarn to use up....

The colours are also similar to a fairly popular glaze a local potter uses, so I figure there are likely people with that pottery, possibly looking for placemats to go with them.

Tomorrow I'll start getting the AVL ready with another tea towel warp. Doug is on 'early' shift this week, and I'd much rather watch the rest of the figure skating tonight than work any more today. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Once More - Mats

Spent most of the afternoon pressing, but did manage to get another placemat warp on the loom.

Wasn't sure about the choice for hem colour so I wove a header with the hem weft, then an inch with the weft for the mat body. It looked okay, so I've gone ahead and wound bobbins so I can start weaving tomorrow.

Doug is going back to work Monday, still snuffling and sneezing, but feeling much better than he did on Friday. He spent much of the weekend watching the Olympics and loading up the boxes of yarn for Fibres West - coming all too soon. Just over four weeks, in fact. March 26/27 in Abbotsford, BC.

What that means is that we'll have a living room filled with boxes for a month, but at least we've got a good head start on packing! :}

I've about run out of yarn for placemats, so once this warp is done - perhaps by tomorrow evening - I'll start in on the painted scarf warps.

And I've figured out what will go onto the AVL - more tea towels, hopefully to use up the last of the 24 nm linen. That will still leave at least one cone of 12 nm linen, but I'll get to that eventually, too. I know that Lynn has at least a couple more 12 nm cones of linen that she wants me to take away, so the tea towels are not done yet!

One of the things I need to do is get rid of more 'orphan' yarns. Little bits and pieces of yarn left over from other projects. Not enough to do a project with, but too much to throw/give away. So I may put a random stripe warp for tea towels or table runners onto the Fanny at some point to try and use some of that yarn up. Think Joseph and the Amazing Coloured Dream Coat.

We'll see how it goes.

Currently reading Murder in the Hearse Degree by Tim Cockey

Saturday, February 20, 2010


orange all used up - changed to cream - the beauty of a neutral warp!

After a weaving demo at a workshop, a new weaver came up to thank me for the demonstration. Essentially she said that she'd resigned herself to the fact weaving was going to be slow forever, and after watching me weave now realized that with practice she could eventually get faster.

Time is a precious commodity. Very few people have the luxury of taking a long time to make something. Granted some techniques are a lot slower than others, but no matter what someone is weaving, there are efficencies that can be introduced in order to make things flow more smoothly.

The past 3 days I have woven 3 eleven meter long warps. Including winding the warps and dressing the loom.

(Warps were 2/8 cotton, 20 epi, 300 ends. Eleven meters is approximately 12 yards.)

No, I have not been chained to the loom. In fact I would have been disappointed in myself if I hadn't woven off a warp a day. After all, the placemats are only 12 picks per inch. It takes nearly as long to weave the hems as it does the mat itself.

I am happy to pass on my techniques to others, either in person or through CD Weaver (a book on cd with video clips). When I'm teaching workshops I make a point of offering to show people how I hold and throw a shuttle. I think this is the area where I most often see inefficient technique and where - with a little help - most weavers can benefit. Not just in speeding up their weaving, but improving the quality of their selvedges.

There are video clips posted to this blog showing how I hold and throw the shuttle. Click on the label Video Clip to view the videos.

I have about 20 CD Weavers left. They are available at

Harvest Cloth

next placemat warp

One of the advantages of participating in a show like the Seattle Weavers Guild is that I don't need to pay as much attention to the development of a line as I do when I'm exhibiting only in my own booth space.

I can go ahead and do colours that won't necessarily look good together, because they won't necessarily be seen together.

The Seattle Guild sale has been running for years. It takes the form of a large department store. There are areas for household textiles, fashion accessories, clothing, rugs, and so on. All the guild members bring their textiles and each department head arranges everything within their department.

Since there are generally around 70+ weavers participating, that means there is a vast array of colours, styles and approaches to designing cloth.

It's very exciting!

But as I said, it's also very freeing because I can go ahead and scrounge through my storage area, using up bits of this and that with no thought to how it's going to look in a 10 by 10 booth.

I've about used up the yarns suitable for placemats. If I want to make more I may actually have to buy more yarn! So I expect that unless I stumble across something later today it will be back to scarves tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Efficient Weaver

next 11 meter warp for placemats

When I chose weaving as a career in 1975 I immediately ran afoul of some of the attitudes of the time in the weaving world.

To wit:

#1 When pricing, figure out how much you paid for your materials and multiply by 3 (or 4 if you were feeling cocky)

#2 Do not under any circumstances use any equipment more efficient than a standard floor loom

I rejected #1 out of hand because it does not recognize one's labour - the largest investment in any hand woven textile - nor overhead costs - all those expenses that continue regardless of production or actual sales.

Other weavers were aghast at my temerity. Some told me to my face - trying to be kind I suppose - that I'd never sell my textiles because my prices were way too high.

But I persisted and lo and behold, my textiles sold. And sold well, thank you very much.

The next brick wall of attitude I ran into was when I bought my AVL with dobby, fly shuttle and auto-cloth advance.

A chorus of "You can't label your textiles hand woven any more!" arose. Which perplexed me enormously. That attitude came with a sub-text: How can you do that? Don't you get bored?

The truth is I didn't get bored with it. I did get tired, but not bored.

Then came the introduction of computers and computer dobby's. Once again a chorus of "You can't call your textiles handwoven" arose again. I bought one anyway.

During all of the years of my career, I have sought out and learned from people who weave efficiently. I bought books, initially, because that was the technology of the day and took workshops. As many workshops as I could afford. Along the way I picked up nuggets of information that I incorporated as best I could when I saw that they would improve my performance.

I continually analyzed what I did and where the bottle necks were. If it was an equipment issue, I saved up enough money to buy more efficient equipment. If it was a physical issue, I tried to figure out how to make my body work more ergonmically, more efficiently.

The goal was always to do what I do faster and/or better. Speed that introduces error is not efficient. But when learning a new process, one must also allow for time at the slippery end of the learning curve. Eventually I decided that if I couldn't make the process work for me after 6 warps, it probably wasn't for me.

I have tried over the years to share what I do. When teaching workshops I offer to demo how I hold and throw a shuttle and talk about other efficiencies. So often I hear muttering in the background "I could never do that".

I know it's hard to unlearn something. Muscle memory is stubborn! But it can be done. It just takes conscious effort - purposeful study.

Over the past few years I have seen a growing interest in the weaving community in weavers wanting to learn more efficient methods. Conferences are now booking me to present seminars and workshops to address efficient methods. Since I started accepting private students, there has been some interest in that, too. When I teach beginning weaving classes, I now teach my methods, not the ones I was taught lo these many years ago.

I'm still waiting for the contract from NEWS, but I think I can go ahead and announce that I will be doing a couple of seminars there next year on issues of efficiency. And it's official with the John C. Campbell Folk School. I returned the contract to them last week. The workshop there will be January 9-15, 2011.

For this year I'll be teaching a beginning weaving class at the Folk School in Joplin, MO. Contact info is on the schedule page on my website. I'll be listing the 2011 events once I get the NEWS contract.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I Yam Wot I Yam


I am not an artist.

While I have in the past woven pieces that were artistic statements, this is not my primary goal.

I am a weaver.

I make textiles that are functional. Scarves. Dish Towels. Placemats. Etc. I make them as well as I can, with as much beauty and grace as I am able.

But I am not an artist. That is not my goal.

I am a weaver.

I have no other 'real' job that comes with a 'real' paycheque that I can cash to pay the bills. There is only me and my loom and my yarns.

I am dependant upon others to pay me for my skill as a weaver, and my artistic aesthetic in terms of how I design my textiles.

Therefore, woven into and through everything I create are efficiencies. Efficiencies of scale. Efficiencies of motion. Efficiencies of tools.

At times I will even go so far as to modify a design in order to be able to execute it - yes - more efficiently.

Efficiency is not my primary goal, but it is one of my three interwoven goals. To efficiently make attractive textiles that others will purchase.

I weave for myself, but my textiles are not made for me, but by me.

Why weave as a job, a career, instead of something far more lucrative?

First and foremost, the ability to - every single day - be creative on one level or another. To set my own goals. Master (mistress?) of my own schedule.

It gives me great satisfaction to know that other people buy my textiles because they appreciate them and want them to enhance their homes/lives.

I love to commune with my yarns and looms, becoming one with them as the inches build up on the beam. I love the physical activity, the dance over the treadles, throwing and catching the shuttle.

But in the end, in order to actually make enough money to buy my equipment, pay the rent, purchase new and exciting yarns, rent booth space at craft fairs, travel to attend conferences, plus all the other expenses of running a business, I must always work as efficiently as possible.

In a craft that is as time consuming as weaving, efficiency should not be ignored or discouraged. Learning how to work ergonmically and efficiently is as much a part of the craft as learning how the equipment works and fibre characteristics in order to make appropriate choices.

Currently reading The Hearse You Came In On by Tim Cockey

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Slow Cloth

scarf #2

A friend sent me an URL for a website with an article about developing a Slow Cloth movement.

(as per Elaine's request and with my deepest apologies for not including this in the first place: )
I was all set to embrace the concept until I read this:

If efficiency and sameness are the primary goals, it's not Slow Cloth.

Let's think a little about this.

A loom with shafts and treadles was developed in order to create fabric more efficiently than without. This was the primary goal of developing this equipment, and why most people use such a tool. According to the statement above, a loom with shafts and treadles could disqualify the cloth made on such a loom from the Slow Cloth philosophy.

We won't even discuss drawlooms or Jacquards whose primary goal was to create complex patterns more efficiently than by using a pick up stick. We'd also have to rule out an AVL or similar loom with auto-cloth advance, dobby and fly shuttle - all options for weaving more efficiently.

Okay - so let's say a floor loom like my Fanny with four shafts and treadles might be allowed to create Slow Cloth. Let's look at the other tools in my studio.

Boat shuttle. Primarily created to be more efficient than a stick shuttle.

Electric bobbin winder. Heck - a bobbin winder, period. The only purpose these tools have is to more efficiently wind a bobbin.

Swift. Nope - primary goal is to unwind a skein more efficiently than draped over the knees, or the arms of a willing assistant.

Scissors. Much more efficient than a sharp rock.

Threading and sleying hook. More efficient (to me) than using my fingers.

And so on. We won't even talk about the processes I've learned whose very purpose is to work more efficiently, allowing me to quickly get a warp onto and off the loom so that I can go on to the next, and the next and the next, delighting in the laying in of each pick, smoothly, rhythmically, watching the inches roll by.

Let's take the second part of that statement. My goal when weaving a set of placemats is to make them as similar as possible. The goal is sameness. Ergo, they might not qualify for the Slow Cloth movement according to the above statement.

Ditto towels, or a set of table runners.

Such a pity when I am so completely in tune with the other tenets of the movement. To paraphrase:

1 Joy in the process
2 Contemplative while working
3 Work with skill
4 Honouring diversity and history of textiles
5 Honouring teachers and lineage of skill practitioners
6 Use of sustainable materials
7 Quality
8 Beauty
9 Community
10 Expressive

But underlaying all of the above is that I want to make cloth as efficiently as possible. Partly because I want to make so much more cloth than I have time to execute, partly because I want to work ergonomically (which has the side benefit of efficiency) to cause the least amount of harm to my body, partly because to me being skilled means being efficient, partly because I want to experience as much joy as possible which manifests itself in the creation of another fabric, another textile, another design concept to bring into material form.

My desire to work efficiently never excludes any of those other tenets, but is thoroughly woven into and through them. It cannot be separated from them. I want to make cloth that will perform it's function as beautifully as possible, and I want to make it as efficiently as possible. If that means that sometimes I make repeats (i.e. placemats) I am willing to do that, too.

For 35 years I have hand woven cloth - functional fabrics - and tried to sell them to earn my income. The Slow Cloth movement may grow or not. It may embrace efficiency or not. I'll still be sitting at my loom, weaving - as efficiently as possible - making fabric as well as I know how.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scarfa-Stash Reduction

beginning of scarf showing header picks taken to the ends of the apron rod to prevent the warp from curling

Finished weaving the silk warp after lace this afternoon, then dressed the Fanny loom with one of the many painted warps I have kicking around. Unfortunately I only have enough of the lovely blue weft for two of the four scarves on this warp so I'll have to go digging and see what else is lurking in the store room.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I am not a patient person. I really hate waiting to hear what's going to happen next, especially when I have no idea how long it's going to take to find out.

I am also extremely deadline - or goal - oriented, so much of my time today was spent formulating a game plan. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. :}

So I am back to stash reduction with a vengence. I'd stopped making scarves because I already had a big inventory of them. However, since being accepted to the One of a Kind Vancouver show for next December, it seems prudent to make some more. Besides, I have all these painted warps....

And if - and I won't know for sure until I see the specialist - I have to have surgery, I won't be able to weave for 4-6 weeks. I know - that's hardly any time at all and will no doubt pass by all too quickly! But that's 4-6 weeks of no production, with shows starting in September.

While I might not be able to weave, I will be able to fringe twist and hem, so I'm pouring on the coals to get as much stuff woven as I can so that I can do the finishing while I'm healing.

I'm not a big fan of surgery, but if in the end it fixes the problem once and for all, then let's get it done. Just saying....

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Scarfaweekend #2

click on photo to see close up

In spite of spending the morning at the guild room dyeing, I managed to thread and sley the warp this afternoon and after dinner got about half of it woven in between minding the industrial cone winder.

I have a new temporary studio elf coming in on Monday, so I needed to get some prep work done in order that she have things to do when she arrives. The Bambu 7 is now coned off, ready to be labelled and packed. Next week I'll do the Bambu 12 in case she can come the following Monday, too. Add to that the textiles that require labels, the tea towels and place mats I cut off the looms that need serging, vacuuming, etc., she will have lots to keep her busy.

Fibres West will be upon us rather quickly. I have already fallen behind in my expectations of what I felt needed to be done but have made progress getting samples spun and knitted. And the 2/20 silk yarn is all dyed, too. In the end, the festival will come whether I'm ready or not, so I'll just keep plugging along while waiting for phone calls from two different specialists' offices for appointments.

It appears that 2010 is going to be devoted to fixing my body. While I'm grateful to be living here and now where there are medical treatments for both issues, I can't help feeling that my body is letting the side down much too soon. :( Not to mention I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

I like being my age (59 going on 60 in case you were interested). I like having a life times worth of experience to draw on. I like the skills I've acquired over my career in weaving. I like the perspective all of this gives me.

I don't like having my body break down. Especially when I still feel like I'm young - or at least young at heart?

Now I'm over the initial shock of hearing what I expected to hear but not wanting to hear it, I'm determined to get everything dealt with so that I can continue to weave after surgery, if it should be necessary. The last two years it's just been one thing after another - but - and it's a big but - 40 years ago there were no treatments. And now there are.

We've come a long way, baby. :D

Currently reading Underground by Kat Richardson.

Dye day

Decided to experiment and see if I could include a photo with text from my phone.

If it doesn't work I will delete when I get home.

So far today one skein spun and one dyepot done. Three more pots and the 2/20 silk will be done.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Praise of Trying

next silk warp

The opening ceremonies are on for the Olympics and I'm in the studio thinking a lot about 'trying'.

A sage has said that "There is no try. There is do or do not."

Well, he's right - sort of. When it comes down to the wire, when you need a gold performance, you either do it, don't.

But before you get to that place, before you get to the start line at an Olympics or other world event, there is a whole lot of trying that goes on.

No one comes into this world at the peak of their performance. They must acquire knowledge and skill - and then apply it.

People buy a loom (or potter's wheel, or you name it) and then throw up their hands in dispair when they see their initial results. As though the tool was the secret to good results.

Instead of learning the physical skills required to weave (or pot or turn wood) they look for more and better tools, more and better 'tricks'. And yes, buying the best tools and materials and applying 'tricks' will bring a certain level of improvement but if they never learn the basic skills involved, will they ever achieve a gold medal performance? Perhaps.

Let's face it - anyone can weave. Weaving well.....well that's another thing entirely.

Any craftsperson must have knowledge of their materials, know how to use them effectively, be aware of appropriate tools and tricks, when to use them and when not. This knowledge does not come quickly or easily. It is only through the application of purposeful study that skill levels increase.

And making mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. Choosing inappropriately and understanding why that particular yarn was a poor choice for that application.

Being analytical. Adjusting your hand motions, your body position, tweaking subtle changes that all the time bring you closer to being efficient. Being skillful.

That's not to say that someone working inefficiently can't do good work - of course not. But when seconds count, efficiency is A Very Good Thing.

Athletes (and I include dancers in this category - they epitomize artistic athletics) learn how to move their bodies in order to maximize output with the minimum of input. They are aware of shaving nano-seconds off their movements. They constantly work to improve their performance. Then they put themselves into the limelight and strive to be the very best they can be at whatever it is they have devoted their lives to doing.

Ultimately their first and foremost competitor is themselves. That's why so much is made of an athletes personal best. And yes, while the goal is to bring home the gold, only one person can do that. The rest have to accept personal best.

Weavers don't have Olympics. But they can enter juried (or non-juried) exhibits. They can ask for honest feedback from others with more skill than themselves. They can be honest about their efforts, analytical about what they have done, question if they could have made more appropriate choices, work toward being a more efficient/ergonomic craftsperson.

And never, ever stop learning.

So while the Olympics are on and I'm thinking about pushing one's boundaries, I'd like to issue a challenge - if you have never entered a juried exhibit, think about entering something this year. Convergence is coming and have a number of exhibits planned. Submit! If you can't manage Convergence, how about your county fair?

Remember that the gold medal is not what it's about. It's about doing your best. And do, instead of do not.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Navaho Plying

first skein ever Navaho plied by moi

I think I may have fallen in love. :) I'm madly trying to get some samples made up of the fibre I'm now carrying and I decided that I'd like to try plying. Since I have plied the traditional way before and found it time consuming getting two bobbins spun up, and wasteful cause I can never get two bobbins with the same yardage on them, thought I'd try Navaho plying.

Since I'd never done it before I only had a rudimentary grasp of what was required so I did a bit of a rummage on the internet and found a video tutorial here:

It looked simple enough.

I started spinning the merino/nylon blend fibre that I'd carded last night and done a bit of a hash job on, so I carded one more batt on the Wild Card tonight sandwiching the nylon between two layers of merino and spun that, too. That did indeed work somewhat better, but I'm sure there must be a simpler way to do blends. When Loralee gets back from her cruise I'll see if she can walk me through the process. Maybe I need to alternate the two fibres throughout, except I'm trying to do a 10-12% nylon content.

Anyway, I finished spinning the singles at guild meeting tonight and having an empty bobbin with me, got that on and the full bobbin on the kate and started plying. (Typo originally was playing, which I suppose I didn't really need to correct!)

Perhaps tomorrow I'll wet finish it, and then next dye day I'll try dyeing it. Nylon is supposedly good with acid dyes - one way to find out is to toss it into the dye pot.

There isn't really enough yardage to do anything with so I'll card up some more and do at least one more skein. I think this yarn would make a good toque so I may look for a knitting pattern. It may take two more skeins - will have to figure out yardage and if I can replicate - within reason, given I'm a non-spinner - and find a pattern that appeals to me.

On the weaving front I did weave two more towels with one left on the loom. Decided to save it for tomorrow or else both looms will be empty and I have colour gamp kits to make up tomorrow, too. After all that is done I will slam that silk warp on the Fanny loom for another scarf and think about the next warp for the AVL. Still some single 24 nm linen left - my goodness do you ever get a lot of play value with fine threads!!!!

Doc put me back on another week's worth of anti-biotics and between that and getting a good night's sleep last night my energy lasted much better today. :)

Currently reading The Parisian Prodigal by Alan Gordon

Sunday, February 7, 2010


This week has been pretty busy, what with the eBay book auctions for the guild (and me) ending every day of the week, plus getting ready for the weekend workshop.

Somehow I never seemed to have a lot of time to get to the loom(s). :(

I did manage to finish off the placemat warp, weaving a mat or two here and there, and then got a silk scarf warp wound and onto the loom Friday. I started weaving last night after class and got about half of it woven before my energy totally petered out. But it's looking nice and will make a good sample of the 2/20 silk yarn I've been dyeing. The weft is Bambu 12 black.

I decided to take my rigid heddle loom up to the guild room and worked on that while the students worked on their looms. With only two students, if I don't have something to do myself I tend to hover overmuch, which is not good for the students.

Since I'd woven a scarf at craft drop-in on Wednesday we wet finished that scarf so that they would know how to wet finish. I didn't quite get the scarf on the rigid heddle loom finished today, so I left it at the guild room to finish Tuesday night at spin-in.

Since I'm pretty tired I don't think I'll fire up the AVL - rather I'll go work on finishing the silk scarf and cone off two more skeins of a different colourway to pop into the loom as soon as the blue/black warp is done.

Currently reading Poltergeist by Kat Richardson (this series is set in Seattle and since I know some of the neighbourhoods and landmarks she mentions, it's kind of fun)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lashing On

Someone emailed me a few days ago and asked if I ever lashed on. The answer is, yes, I do lash on sometimes.

I'm trying to get some samples of the 2/20 silk yarn that I've been dyeing woven up, and this yarn is a prime candidate for lashing.

The yarn is slippery and fine and doesn't really like to hold a knot. That makes it difficult to secure the yarn to the apron rod by tieing directly to the rod as I would, ordinarily.

The secret to successful lashing on is to use a slippery cord. Tie the warp into bouts of about 1 inch - or a little less - then secure the cord to the apron rod. I tie a loop in the end, then wrap the cord around the rod, pulling the loose end through the loop. I work from left to right but I assume you could work from right to left if you wanted. I just find working this direction feels more comfortable to me - and I'm all about comfort when ever possible!

Open the shed and alternate passing the cord through the shed in the bout, and wrapping around the apron rod.

At the end, tie several half hitches to secure the loose end. Adjust the tension on the warp, flicking the individual cords between the warp and the apron rod until the tension is equal. Sometimes just pressing down on the warp threads will be enough to equalize the tension on the cord, too. Experiment and see which works best for you.

And here is the first few inches of the scarf woven. I threaded an advancing twill and am treadling in straight twill progression. There are times when I will thread something more complex so that I can treadle something simple. Why? Because in this scarf there are 324 ends and approximately 2300 picks. I'd much rather do something complex for 300+ times and something easy for 2300 times.

You can just make out the undulations in the weave structure in the header picks, I think. Click on the photo for a close up.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Playing with Fluff

Ruby Merino Top

Firestar blending filament

So just what have I been doing today? Not much weaving! But playing with fibre? Oh yes.

Started re-packaging the spinning fibres last night, and today I took photos, labelled packages, entered data on my website. The Ashland Bay pages will go live tomorrow morning (Friday, Feb. 5, 2010)

Still lots more to do, but it's a start.

Doesn't the firestar look like whipped cream? Well, in real life it sparkles, too, and adds a lovely bit of sparkly shine to fibres. I was a little leery about spinning with it, but so far it's been just fine to spin. (And I'm no spinner, trust me!)

And dealing with eBay auctions closing - all this week. I'll be very happy to ship the last of the books off and get them out of my living room! And the guild ought to be very happy about the revenue, too.

The looms weren't entirely neglected today - I did weave a couple of placemats. My bp has been erratic again since getting off the anti-biotics, which leads me to suspect that the infection is back. I've since discovered that such a long standing infection in the body can lead to all sorts of other complications so I've made another appointment with the doctor and will see him early next week. Hoping my lab work is done by then so that we can get some concrete answers. And if not answers, at least rule some things out.

In the meantime, it's back to the placemat warp - there should be enough to do a nice table runner to go with the mats, and the beige tea towels on the AVL.

Next up for the Fanny loom are some samples of the varigated 2/20 silk. Have to cone off the skeins and wind the warps, but that won't take too long.

As for the AVL, I'm not sure. It looks like there is plenty of the fine linen left for another tea towel warp, so I expect I'll toss another 2/16 cotton warp onto that in aid of using up the linen. I need to clean off some shelves so I have somewhere to store all the new inventory coming in for the shows.....

Currently reading Greywalker by Kat Richardson (I enjoyed her novella and the public library has 3 of ther titles so I took out the first two)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Scarf A Day

Scarf number 1 (orange) and Scarf number 2 (blue - on loom)

One of the blogs I follow is Janet D's:

Scarf A Day: Everything Old is New Again [Scarf #42]

She essentially challenged her readers to join her in her Scarf A Day goals. So today became a Scarf Day for me, too. :)

I had managed to weave one scarf on the little Ashford rigid heddle loom a few weeks ago, but the loom had been languishing. Today was crafts drop-in day, so I grabbed some wool that I'd balled up a while ago, quickly wound a warp then headed for the drop-in where I would have a nice big table all to myself to dress the loom.

Since it took hardly any time to dress the rigid heddle loom, I started weaving, and managed to finish the scarf just before 4 pm.

Still have to weave the header (footer?) before I can cut it off, but I didn't have any 'extra' yarn with me for that. So it had to come home still on the loom.

All of which is to say that no, I didn't finish re-packaging the spinning fibre, nor take the photos for my website. :(

It has been a bit of a challenging couple of days on the personal front and it was nice to just get away from the mess and chaos here and spend a little time with some other creative people.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reed Marks

Reed marks - before and after

On one of the lists I belong to a newbie asked about the wisdom of putting more than one end per dent in a reed. She was concerned about the marks left by the reed.

The above photo shows a before and after shot of towels that I've been making. The peach towel is loom state, the purple is finished. The set is 32 epi and I've sleyed four ends in an 8 dent reed. The reed marks are very clear in the peach.

During wet finishing threads will slide to areas of least resistance. They will generally fill in small gaps such as those left by the reed and if not disappear completely, will be significantly reduced.

In these towels the linen weft is not so inclined to move as much as a cotton weft would, so while the reed marks are not entirely gone, they are greatly reduced. Click on the photo for a closeup.

Remember - it's not finished until it's wet finished!