Saturday, April 30, 2011


Four different cotton yarns - from left - seine twine, 2/8 warp twist, 8/2 and 3/2 Perle
click to biggify

Chart showing cotton close up and fibre characteristics

New weavers sometimes don't understand that just because a yarn is made from a particular fibre, that doesn't mean that they are the same in terms of how they function.

Cotton fibres for textiles range from about .75 of an inch to up to 3" depending on the variety.  Some of the best quality fibres are Egyptian, pima and Sea Island.  A new variety called Supima is now available commercially although I doubt handweavers can get their hands on that, yet.

Even though all four of the above yarns are made from cotton, they are very, very different in how they behave as yarns, and therefore will create very different qualities of textiles.

Cotton seine twine is the original netting yarn.  It is extremely dense, hard wearing and stiff.  It is very useful to weavers for rug warp.

2/8 warp twist cotton is less dense than seine twine but more than strong enough for warp.  It is more flexible than seine twine and can be used for things like placemats, table runners, heavier weight garment fabric.  I've even used it doubled for rep weave rugs where it behaved quite nicely.  I still have some of these rugs and they are wearing quite well in lightly trafficked areas.

8/2 cotton is carded and much more loosely twisted than 2/8 warp twist yarn.  It is loftier and more absorbent.  It is also weaker than 2/8 and not much loved for warp because of that.  It is useful for weft in towels, baby blankets and other textiles where a lofty, flexible textile is desired.

Perle cotton is combed, not carded, mercerized and engineered for embroidery so built to withstand abrasion.  In comparison to 8/2 cotton, Perle cottons are extremely strong and much loved by US weavers for warp.  The yarn is generally available in a multitude of beautiful colours.

While all of these yarns are made from cotton, they are very different and weavers need to look beyond the colour at how their yarns have been manufactured to know and appreciate them for what they are, and what can successfully be made from them.

Currently readying Lying Dead by Aline Templeton

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Flowers

A tiny, perfect little orchid

bouquet delivered a week ago and still going strong

Latest arrangement

Plum shawl warp

April is not the nicest month here, especially when winter has overstayed it's welcome.  The tulips in my front bed are barely above ground, buds still tightly furled.

So it was especially nice to be gifted with lovely fresh flowers the last couple of weeks - their cheery blossoms chasing the drab grey days away. 

The plum shawl warp is turning out very nicely, too.  Often when I do a run of something on the same warp I will try to make each item different in some way - changing the treadling/tie up or the weft yarn.  Since this yarn is all about stash reduction and I know that this particular combination makes a lovely quality of cloth, and because I am also trying to use up a bunch of very fine yarn for weft, I'm making all of the shawls on this warp the same.   Besides, with shows in the Seattle area (2), here, Vancouver and Calgary, hopefully the shawls will sell in different geographic regions.  :)

The weft is a lace weight alpaca and I'm hoping to use it up on either this warp, or another.  I think I've got 5 or 6 more shawl warps in the queue.

Unfortunately just before lunch time the fly shuttle stopped working.  The piston on the left hand side came apart so I took that as a sign to take a break, have lunch and do the repair after I ate.  I have to dig out the wrenches that will remove the bolt that holds the piston coupling onto the picker, screw the end part of the coupling back onto the piston itself, then reattach that to the picker.  Not a big deal, but awkward with my ankle still tingling and protesting too much flexing. 

But Doug isn't home and won't be for several hours, so if I want to finish this shawl today I have to be the loom mechanic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

As You Think.... shall you be.

I believe that thoughts are powerful.  I try very hard to think positive thoughts, rather than negative ones.  Not always successfully.  :} 

Recently I saw a sig line that said "Worry is to pray for what you do not want."  So I also try very hard to not worry.  Unfortunately in the face of no information, as was the case the last two months, worry is about all what one can do.

But since I do believe that thoughts are powerful, that metaphors are more than just words, and that symbols can be mighty tools to help keep one's thoughts on what one wants rather than on what one doesn't want, I was intrigued with Peg Cherre's website because as part of her offerings she makes talismen.

I am aware that precious and semi-precious stones have properties attributed to them but don't know what they all are.  It was very interesting to me that rubies (my birthstone) build "courage, provide emotional and physical energy and promote cheerfulness."

Peg sent 3 talismen, one of which she suggested should be kept by me as much as possible.  With the use of the ring attached to it, I threaded it through my Medic Alert necklace, which I wear pretty much every day.  I'm not sure where the other two will go yet, but they will be nearby to help me remember to be strong, energetic and cheerful.

Currently reading Cape Storm by Rachel Caine

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The Quebec presentation is much on my mind these days as the deadline slowly creeps up on me.  I decided to not use this photo as it is rather dark, and I had a somewhat better photo of the work table to put in the Power Point presentation.  This one better shows how the cloth storage roller fits onto the table for inspection/repair/cutting.  If you look closely at the upright in the front left of the photo you can see a 'notch'.  There is another one at the other end of the table and into these notches the second warp beam fits.  The table top comes off and then the table can be used to beam a warp while the other (dressed) warp beam is being woven off in the loom. 

Having the ability to prep the next warp while the loom was functionally weaving cut down turn around time by at least a day, if not two, when I was in high gear.  Now such efficiency isn't required so I rarely use this tool, just dress the loom each time it is empty.

But I've come up against a scheduling dilemma.  My 3rd chemo treatment is supposed to be June 1, but I'm booked to leave on the 6 am (yuk) flight on the 3rd of June for the conference in Quebec.  This prospect does not thrill me, so I'm hoping to shuffle my treatments in order to allow me to continue to live my life and meet my work committments.

In the pell-mell rush to treatment, life can get shoved to one side.  But there are a couple hundred people counting on me to be in Quebec and cancelling now would be detrimental to them - and my bankbook.  :(

Unfortunately my oncologist is in India - busy man, flying all over the world! - and no one else at the clinic wants to take responsibility for re-scheduling my treatments.  And so I have to wait until May 10 when I can talk to him personally and find out if he is agreeable to moving my treatments to accommodate my life/work.

I do not want this dis-ease to take over my life to the point where that is all that is considered.  Neither do I want to disappoint a couple hundred people who are willing to pay me to talk about weaving.  I know that weaving isn't in the same league as a whole lot of other human endeavours, but it's important to me and it's important to enough other people that I don't want to cancel any of my teaching contracts during treatment.  There are only 3 contracts - June, July and August - and hopefully this will happen.

So, once again I'm on hold, waiting to hear how this is going to play out.  If my treatments can get shuffled to better accommodate my teaching schedule, I won't have to cancel anything.  But right now all I can do is wait and see.

Currently reading Mennonite in a Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Monday, April 25, 2011

Latest Creation

This is the jacket pattern packet

And here is the jacket on the photo to biggify

The fabric was woven in 2001/2 and entered into the Convergence 2002 Carnegie Yardage Exhibit in Vancouver, BC.  It was one of those occassions when I had a warp on the loom and decided to use some of it to make fabric for a garment, fabric that could be entered into the exhibit.  Mostly I wanted to get some feedback from the juror, and there was talk that the organisers would attempt to provide translations of the comments, but that never happened.

OTOH, receiving second place in the exhibit was a pretty eloquent degree of feedback.  :D

When I got the fabric back I realized that 3 yards wasn't really enough cloth to create a jacket for someone of my size and I wound up having to dress the loom again anyway for additional samples for Magic, so it was a simple matter to make the warp a little longer and incorporate enough for sufficient fabric that I could actually get a jacket out of the cloth.

Since life never runs smoothly, however, I wound up weaving about a yard before I realized I was using the wrong file and had to quickly find the correct treadling and weaving some more.

This was one of the warps that I needed to do more than once in order to get enough samples for the print run of Magic in the Water, partly because I wove the jacket fabric for myself, too.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the only warp that needed to be woven more than once.  There were several that needed 3 warps before enough samples were produced to fill the sample pages of the book.

Even so, the print run was capped at 900 instead of the originally planned 1000.  I just could not face dressing the loom again with 6 more warps to weave up 100 more samples to fill the last few copies!

I still have about 60 copies of Magic that have 14 or so samples instead of the original 20.  Once the last 23 full sized copies of Magic are gone, I'll once again offer the abridged copies for sale at a reduced price.  But when these books are sold, Magic will officially be Out Of Print.

Currently reading The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Memory Lane

One of the things writing the presentation for Quebec is doing is taking me down Memory Lane.

This is the wedding photo of Doug's niece Heather.  (Unfortunately I don't have a photo of Shannon's wedding dress.)  I offered to weave the fabric for both girls wedding dresses and they wound up using the same seamtstress to sew their dresses.

Both girls got silk yardage - about 10 yeards worth, 48" wide.  The design for Heather's dress was a woven heart - Hearts for Heather.

It's been fun going through old slides and pulling out images of garments that I wove and had sewn - for myself, primarily, but also for other special people in my life - Doug, my mother, the two nieces and some friends.

I'm finding that writing the presentation in sections over a couple of weeks is allowing me to rummage through my memories and choose stories I particularly want to share.  Right now I'm trying to figure out how to add in some of the special things I've woven - the fabric for the Ukrainian dance troupe, Doug's sport coat, the wedding dress and so on.

Most recently the fabric that won second prize at Convergence 2002 yardage exhibit.  Selah sent me a jpg of the completed jacket, which looks great on the dress dummy.  Hope it looks as good on me when I get it this fall! 

Currently reading River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thinking Ahead

So, here is a much younger me with my Whitin winder.  One of the things I want to talk about during the general session address in Quebec is the equipment I have invested in over the years.  This winder is the cat's meow in terms of winding pirns.

I bought it from Allen Fannin in about 1986.  I remember telling him I wanted 100 pirns with it and he laughed and said  "more like a 1000, Fry".

It cost as much to have it shipped from New York as it did to purchase it, but it was worth the price.  We actually decided to buy two heads although I've only ever used the one - the other is there for spare parts if nothing else.

So long as you keep pirns in the carousel and yarn for it to wind from, it will continue to dutifully wind and doff nearly perfect pirns.  And all with a minimum of supervision.  I'm just in the photo to give scale to the machine.  My left hand is resting on the carousel that holds the pirns, you should be able to see a pirn being wound and which will get doffed and fall down a chute below the red 'tab' you can see in the foreground.  Click photo to biggify.

The one feature the machine does not have is the tail cutter, so after the collection box is filled with pirns, I generally cut the tails off and stack the pirns neatly in another small box which then gets taken to the loom.

I don't usually use the AVL shuttles and pirns which I have to wind by hand unless I'm using something like rayon chenille or a really heavy wool which doesn't wind in the Whitin winder without major adjustments.  In the years that I've had the winder I've accumulated something like 1700+ hours of winding time on it.  But that time has meant good, well wound pirns, and generally allowed me to work on other things while the machine just keeps reliably chugging along.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If you've been following along for any time at all, you'll know I'm a sucker for books.  And books about textiles?  Irresistible!

I also have friends who are willing to indulge me in my addiction and today when I got home from the clinic, there was a box from Amazon waiting for me.  A friend has sent me this book.  (Thanks Tien!)

Talk about eye candy.  :)  The author is Hamish Bowles.

Now I admit I know very little about haute couture and Balenciaga - as a child of the 70's I was more informed about Mary Quant.  So I'm looking forward to learning more about this fashion designer and his source of inspiration.

Another fascinating designer was the Italian Fortuny.  Weavers everywhere should be aware of his work, I think.

Currently reading Naked Heat by 'Richard Castle'

"Chemo Sucks"...

according to the er doctor around 4 am this morning. 

All I can say is that it not only sucks, it sucks big time...........


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 1, Cycle 1

As usual I'm being a challenge.  The clinic nurse could not get the iv into my left arm so it had to go into my right arm.  And since I'm going back tomorrow for the 2nd dose, they left the iv in so that we don't have to go through that again in the morning.  :}

What it means is that I really can't do much of anything today so it's a good thing I picked up another bag of books from the library.  Today feels like a really good day to just sit and read.

As for the experience itself, so far so good.  I'm home with a baggie of meds and a complicated schedule of when to take them.  They provided a chart so that the doses can be kept track of simply and a list of instructions for what to do if I start feeling ill in any way.

While there the pharmacist came by and told me that most of the nutritional supplements I take to keep me healthy are going to interfere with the treatment so for the next few months I will stop taking those.  No point in going through all of this if I sabatoge it by taking stuff to make me healthy!  :D

The social worker came by and allowed me to vent (and 'leak') and told me to phone at any time if I need to talk to anyone.  Any concern at all, and she would try to find answers for me.  I mentioned I was blogging and venting that way and she thought that was a good thing to do. 

By the time I left I was impressed with the care and consideration given to me and the others also receiving treatment. 

The shape of my world for the next few months - depending on how well I tolerate the chemo - this week I get my meds over two days.  Then every 21 days I'll get another treatment, all on one day.  They will repeat this for about 8 cycles which puts my last treatment mid-September.

So far the anti-nausea meds seem to be working, but one of the things chemo does is knock out the immune system so they will watch my white cell count and make sure it doesn't go too low.  If it does I will be susceptible to infections so they will delay further cycles until it goes up to safe levels.  So while I have a general idea of what to expect it will all depend on how my body manages during treatment.

The day before each treatment I have to go to the hospital for bloodwork and a consult with the doctor or nurse to see how things are going - the free parking pass they gave me is a little thing but much appreciated! 

Various people have given me different viewpoints on the fatigue factor so as far as that goes I will just monitor how I'm feeling and pace myself accordingly.

I had hoped to weave today for some physical and mental therapy but with the iv left in that's simply not going to happen.  We'll see about how I feel about that tomorrow.  It will be a long day - 5 hours in the chair.  I'll bring my mp3 player, a couple of books and lunch.  Who knows, maybe I'll even nap. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Vanity

I don't consider myself a vain sort of person.  If I'm clean and tidy, that is pretty much sufficient for me.  :}

But there is one aspect of this particular detour in the journey of my life that leaves me squirming.  Losing my hair.  :(

For a number of reasons, the prospect of my naked skull is not a pleasant one.  And while I have in the past worn wigs, I was really reluctant to wear one now.

However, today I found out that in all likelihood I will, indeed, lose my hair - just in time for the Quebec conference.  I was going to simply wear head scarves, but thinking about travelling by plane, teaching and trying to feel as though I'm healthy, I decided on the drive home from the hospital today that I am going to invest in a wig for those times when it is important that I look good in public.

I'm not talking about going to the post office to check my mail, or the library to grab some more reading material, but those occassions, like the Quebec conference when I want to look capable, strong and above all, healthy.

My mother has been buying wigs from this company for years so I just happen to have a catalogue on hand as the latest one arrived this week. 

Currently reading Cold Wind by C. J. Box

Monday, April 18, 2011

Textile Art

In my early days as a weaver I explored pretty much every aspect of weaving up to and including textiles as art.  In 1985 I was accepted as a student at the Banff School of Fine Art in Banff, Alberta.  The head of the textile department was Mariette Rouseau Vermette (not sure if the spelling is correct) from Quebec and she was a totally amazing lady.  The class leader was Naomi Kobayashi - another truly inspirational lady from Japan.

I had managed to book exhibit time at the Prince George Art Gallery for September of that year and during my time at Banff worked out the details of several of the pieces which were to eventually be installed at the gallery.  This piece was inspired by my stay in Banff, but executed once I got home.  I forget how many yards of fabric I wove - likely 30 or so yards.  The ceiling was about 9 feet high and the longest piece is nearly that with the other sections shorter.  This piece - Waterfall - took up most of the longest wall in the gallery.

Of course it didn't sell.  None of the pieces sold.  Ultimately I realized that I could never earn an income from creating textile art, except perhaps on a very much smaller scale, and I left the world of textile art behind. 

Although I do still have this piece.  Who knows, perhaps one day it will see the light of day once again?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Memory Lane

My presentation for the Quebec association is essentially the story of my life as a weaver.  In some ways that is an easy assignment - in some ways it's difficult.  How much of myself do I share and how much is too much information?

Well, if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know that generally I subscribe to the 'it's never too much information' theory of sharing.  :}

One of the things I wanted to do was give my introduction to weaving some context and I remembered that  my mother had given me a rattle that my father had carved from a single block of wood when I was born. 

It isn't polished - the ball isn't completely round, the wood shows the strokes of his pen knife - but it was made with love and that makes it extra special to me, even though I have no memories of it.  I'd been told he had made it but until she gave it to me a few years ago it lived in the realm of family myth for me.

This journey down memory lane has been somewhat difficult, emotionally.  My father died the same month I started my formal weaving class.  He would never have understood my decision to give up an extremely well paying job in order to do something as flakey as weaving for a living while he was alive.  Once he died I felt him nearby as I spent hours in the weaving studio, hours beyond scheduled class time, knowing that if I were going to become proficient I had to study every aspect of weaving and invest my 10,000 hours of purposeful study to master the skills involved. 

It has also been difficult to remember that time because he died from multiple myloma - yes, cancer.  But I am already older now than he was when he died at age 56 nearly 57 - about the same age I was when my coronary artery disease was discovered and dealt with.

As I look back at my life and wonder how I ever thought I could earn an income, even actually earn our living (for 9 years), I am amazed at my temerity.  I'm still not sure how someone who craves security as much as I do could ever have thought she could survive in a vocation with so little.  On the other hand, without some form of creativity in my life on a daily basis, I think I would have been a very unhappy person.

Do I consider myself a success?  That depends on what scale of success you use.  Financially, not so much.  In every other way that counts?  Yes.  I have succeeded in living my life, my way.  Money is just a means to an end.  So long as I have a roof over my head, food on the table and fibre to create textiles, I am content.

Currently reading Gale Force by Rachel Caine

Saturday, April 16, 2011


One of the regrets of my life is that I never did learn either French or German.  My mother is Quebecoise, my father first generation Canadian of German extraction.  But for a number of reasons, they did not teach me their 'mother' tongues.

I have tried to learn another language as an adult, but it seems my brain just isn't wired that way.  I really envy people who can speak more than one language - it seems almost magical that some people are proficient in more than one language.

So when I was asked to present seminars, workshops and the general session address for the ATQ (the Quebec provincial weaving association) I was flattered - and very intimidated!

The ATQ has been great to work with - they are arranging translation of my handouts - and while many people do speak English in Quebec, I felt it was important to learn at least some words in order to be able to communicate a little better.

So I asked a friend who speaks French to translate a list of words I felt were important for me to know - or at least be familiar with - and made a Power Point presentation for the workshop A Good Yarn (Une Bonne Fil) in both English and French. 

This workshop has a lot of technical information in it, so it is important that everyone understand what is being presented.

I can't guarantee that my French version is correct, but hopefully it will be accurate enough so that people will get the gist.  And I'm sure that there will be enough people there who understand both languages that we will all benefit from the experience.  I know I will.

Currently reading Dead Cold by Louise Penny (the Inspector Gamache series which takes place in the Eastern Townships of Quebec)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moving Right Along

When I said the oncologist wasn't letting any grass grow under his feet, little did I know.....

Chemo begins April 20.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Little Wobbly

No, this isn't deja vu all over again - it just feels like it.  :^)

Anyone remember those inflatable toys - usually a clown?  They had a weight in the bottom and you blew them up and then over active little boys could punch the willies out of them and they always bobbed up again, ready for the next punch?  My brother had one - don't remember what they were called, although I must admit I'm beginning to feel a little - a lot? - like one.  And wondering how many times Life can smack me down before I deflate and stop staggering upright again.

But today I got some good news, news that gives me hope that I can and will keep bobbing up again.  I'd done a little reading on the internet so that I didn't go into the appointment with the oncologist completely ignorant.  But what I'd read wasn't great so I was prepared for some not-so-great news.

Instead I got some hopeful news.  Yes, I will be getting chemo.  Yes, I can expect to lose my hair.  (cringe)
But the chemo I will be getting won't be the really horrible stuff that makes people sicker than anyone has a right to be in order to get well.  In fact it should not incapacitate me too terribly much.  Yes, it will be done here so I will have my own bed, my own bathroom (in case I am the exception and sick with it) and my toys for when I feel well enough to go play in the studio.

While I will get the details of treatment when I meet with the clinic team, he did say that I will receive two different drugs, likely one on day 1, one on day 2 - so two days a week for a while.  In other words, lots of reading time coming up!   Doug and I did not process the information the same way so we're not clear on duration, but I'm assuming weeks, possibly over the summer.  In the meantime he's started me on another drug that will help prevent the build up of uric acid in my blood, preventing gout.  I'm all for that!

The other news that I did not expect to hear was that he gives an 80-90% chance of remission for at least 2 years after treatment, more if he will be allowed to follow his protocol, which is different from the current protocol common here.  I got the impression that he is more than willing to fight for his patients so I'm keeping fingers crossed that he will write that letter to the powers that be and that they will grant permission for him to follow his protocol with me.  If not, oh well.  It was just good to hear that this can be beaten back for a relatively significant period of time.

As for weaving, I haven't done a lot of that the last few days and won't likely for a few more.  My ankle is fairly sore and because I'm using the fly shuttle on the shawl warps I need to use my left foot to activate the shuttle.  It's feeling a little better this afternoon, in spite of the walking I did all over the hospital so I'm hoping that if I ice and elevate it this afternoon that by tomorrow it will be into recovery mode.  Maybe even feel up to weaving on Saturday.  But for that I will just have to wait and see.

Monday, April 11, 2011

All the Excitement

Some of you may have attended Convergence 2002 in Vancouver and saw the fabric I submitted to the Carnegie Yardage Exhibit that took second place.  (The juror was Junichi Arai of Japan.)

Eventually I found the above jacket pattern, and recently asked a tailor, Selah Barling, if she would be willing to sew the fabric up into a jacket for me.  She agreed with my choice of pattern, and last weekend one of the reasons I drove down to Seattle was to have a fitting of the muslin.  Selah then came to Syne's and worked like the proverbial beaver all evening getting the jacket sewn to the point where she could do a 'final' fitting and then complete the sewing after I left.

I didn't think to bring a swatch of the fabric with me, so you'll have to wait unitl the jacket is back before I can get a photo of the completed garment.

In the meantime, I've sent in an entry form to the ANWG conference in Salem, OR, so if you are attending that conference you may get to see it live and in person.   (No, I won't be there myself - ANWG is the same weekend at the conference I'll be teaching at in Quebec.)

The lecture at the Seattle Guild meeting was interesting.  Afterwards Selah and Syne took me shopping at Weaving Works and then over to Nancy's (on Queen Anne) which has the most luscious fabrics and notions.

Sunday I started for home intending to stay overnight somewhere along the way.  As usual this time of year, it was raining in the Lower Mainland and through the Fraser Canyon.  Unfortunately there was a largish rock in the road just south of Lytton and by the time I saw it, it was too late to safely swerve to avoid it given the wet road and, hoping for the best, I straddled it. 

Unfortunately it was too large and it wrecked havoc on the undercarriage of the van.  Needless to say it was nerve-wracking listening to all the banging and clanging as the rock bounced around under the van,  tearing the spare tire off it's mooring, which then joined in the gay abandon before shooting out from under the van and skidding across the road.  The barrier prevented the tire and wheel from going over the edge and I managed to safely stop the van and assess the damage, retrieving the spare tossing it into the back.

Heart in mouth, I started the engine again and carefully eased back out onto the road, heading north.

Ten minutes later the rain had stopped.

When I said I wanted some boring in my life, what part of that request did the universe not understand?
(whine, snivel)

We delivered the van to the dealer this morning.  Initial damage estimate is in excess of $1000.  But it could have been so much worse!  There could have been oncoming vehicles when the tire was skidding across the other lane of traffic.  The rock could have been much larger, disabling the vehicle entirely.

And my surgery is booked for tomorrow - I report to the hospital at 11:45.  The procedure itself will take about 15 minutes and then I'll spend a couple hours in recovery.  I'm going to request a spinal block so that I don't have to deal with general anesthetic.  But at last, the metal will be out!  And then I can deal with the latest health crisis beginning on Thursday when I get the word from the oncologist.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Road Trip

I finished off the green warp this afternoon and got the next one beamed, ready to thread.  This one is various shades of purples, some more red, some more blue, a little lavender, some of it even a reddish coppery shade.  They don't all show in this photo.  If you look really closely you can just see the green cloth still on the cloth storage roller at the bottom of the photo.  Click photo to biggify.

Tomorrow I leave on a road trip that is a bit of spring madness, and pretty much all for me.

The Seattle Weavers Guild has meetings on Saturdays a couple of times during the year and this month they are having a guest speaker who will talk about fibre characteristics - a topic I'm always intrigued with.  In addition someone in the Seattle area is sewing a jacket from the fabric that won second place at the yardage exhibit in Vancouver (Convergence 2002).  I'm finally getting that made up into a garment for myself and Selah will have the muslin ready for the first fitting.  Bless her, she will even sew all weekend and hopefully have the jacket ready for a final fitting before I leave.

And I'll be visiting with a friend and her family.  No business.  No teaching.  No sales.  Just for me.

With the surgery to remove the hardware from my ankle on Tuesday I'll have to leave Sunday afternoon and will try to get half way home before stopping for the night, arriving home Monday afternoon.  (It's about 600 miles.)  That will also give me time to photocopy the handouts for the guild program (A Good Yarn - yarn characteristics) that I'm doing Wednesday evening. 

If that goes well I'll even have time to thread the loom so that as soon as I feel up to weaving the warp will be ready to go.

Thursday Doug and I will meet with the oncologist.  And then we'll see what he has to say.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Overcoming Challenges

Using Kerstin Froberg's method of fixing knots in the warp - a new end is threaded through the same heddle as the end with the knot and both are woven for about 1 inch or so, then the knot is cut out.

Weaving proceeds until the original end is long enough.  It is then threaded into it's original heddle and both the repair end and the original end are woven together for about an inch, then the repair end is cut out.  Nothing else is required once the cloth is cut from the loom  Tack, Kerstin!

The yarn for this warp is - well - challenging.

It arrived from the mill a day or two before my brother suddenly died three years ago, and I couldn't get to it right away.  In the days and weeks after Don died, I began to realize that this yarn had a lot of issues.

It is a very softly spun, loosely plied yarn, more appropriate for knitting than weaving.  The tendency is for it to start shredding at the selvedges when used as warp.  It is also poorly plied with some of the singles going into the yarn as a 'pig tail'.  And knots.  Lots and lots of knots.

I'd imported the yarn intending to dye and sell it to others.  It very quickly became apparent that that plan was not going to fly.  I threatened to take the whole shipment to the landfill, but Doug cautioned me to not make a decision I would come to regret later.  It was a lot of money to literally throw away.

Eventually I realized that the only way to recoup some of the money was to go ahead and dye it and weave it up myself.

It's taken 3 years, but all of the yarn is now dyed and I have woven some of it and made quite lovely shawls and baby blankets with it.  It's a combination of merino, bamboo and silk and has a lovely drape and handle once wet finished.

I've also been able to use up some of my very fine wool yarns as weft for the shawls, so even though it is a challenge to weave, it's getting done.  Stash is being reduced!  :)

Yesterday was a very challenging day.  One of the things I've discovered about myself over the years is that I don't deal well with uncertainty.  I am, in a phrase, a control freak.  Being unable to control what is going on in my life right now is emotionally difficult, and not knowing what is going on means I can't make plans - I'm left on tenterhooks, waiting for word.  I'm a great planner, but in order to plan, you have to have information.

I don't feel strong or brave or courageous right now.  I feel out of control and weak.  Not knowing what lies ahead generates fear.  One of the reasons I'm sharing these feelings here is that I need to vent them or I'd keel over entirely. 

After I blogged yesterday, wonderful things started happening.  Your lovely supportive comments helped enormously.  They remind me that this too, shall pass.  That word will come in it's time - the oncologist is working hard on my complex issues and answers will come when he has them.  And that no matter how isolated and lonely I may feel, I am not alone.

And one dear soul emailed to say that she'd nominated me for the Handwoven Teacher's Award.  I was so touched I was speechless.  :}

Currently reading Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

If I Were Strong...

...I would not need the support and encouragement of family and friends to make it through these days.

If I were brave I would not be afraid of what is to come.

If I were courageous I would not have qualms about the road ahead.

What I am is optimistic.  Hope is the 'weed' in my emotional garden.

What I am is determined.  I have made promises that I intend to keep.

What I have is way too much stuff - yarn, equipment, textiles - that I need to deal with.

What I am is selfish - I want to use those yarns, make those fibre dreams come true, stay here to enjoy my family and friends for many more years to come.

What I need is patience - a lesson that I have had brought to me too many times to count.  I thought I'd learned it, but alas, I'm still working on it.  :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Operator Error

They say that stress impairs brain function.  Guess 'they' are right.

Took me about 14 inches of fighting with the cloth advance before I finally twigged I had it set up in the wrong configuration for what I wanted to do.  Once I got it set up correctly - piece of cake.

If the warp looks a little strange, it's because it is 30" in the reed in my 60" weaving width loom so I offset it 3" to the right in order to have the fly shuttle work properly.  The fly shuttle is air assisted and the toggles on the top of the box on the beater control the four fly boxes - a Douglas special.  :)

The other night I rummaged through 4 boxes of the same sort of yarn this warp is made of and put together enough yarn for at least 6 more warps.  I'm hoping that I won't start chemo right away so that I can weave as many of them off as possible - which will give me lots of fringe twisting to do during treatment.

I guess I'm proving a challenge as there is still no word from the oncologist.  I did have a meeting with my family doctor this morning and he assured me the oncologist is thorough so I'm sure he's just waiting on the test results.  And you can't hurry those - you just have to let them do what they have to do.

At any rate, the surgery to have the ankle hardware removed is scheduled for April 12 and while I expect to be a bit sore from that I don't need my left foot to weave on the AVL so I'll concentrate on weaving these shawl warps until the incision is healed.  And in so doing, I'll use up a whole lot of my stash.  Always A Good Thing!  :D

Sunday, April 3, 2011

More Dyeing

Another dye day - looks like two more days ought to pretty much finish up the silk gimp.  Today I did 5 more warps.  Unfortunately after I had soaked the yarn out I counted the warps in the box and there were more than I'd expected so it may take a third day.  Or a really looooong day.

The orange-ish skeins at the top of the rack are really a more rust/red rather than the dark pumpkin they look on my monitor.  I'm thinking of maybe combining them with lavender of the same value.  We'll see.  First I want to finish weaving off all the warps.

I'm thinking that, since these warps are really easy - plain weave, very slow gentle beat, that if I'm feeling well enough to weave these might be just the warps to tackle.

I'm hoping to hear from the oncologist on Monday about when he wants to see me to present the details of all the tests he's been running and hear what he proposes for treatment.  Whether or not I'm going to have to cancel any of my teaching contracts or if we can fit my life into the treatment schedule.  The one contract I cannot cancel is the conference in Quebec.  Since I'm the keynote speaker cancelling that would cause a great deal of hardship for a great number of people.  So whatever happens, I have to be able to travel the first week of June. 

Besides, I've never been to Quebec City before and I really want to go!

Currently reading Thin Air by Rachel Caine

Saturday, April 2, 2011

With Thoughts of Springtime

spool rack with yarn for shawl warp

tension box, ready to go

showing one of the modifications Doug did

warp 1/3rd wound

After a week filled with things going pear shaped this morning I found myself weaving on the Summer and Winter test warp and really unhappy about being there.

Why, I asked myself, am I spending so much time on something that is making me so unhappy?  Time is precious, life is too short for struggling and if it isn't fun, why am I doing it?

Especially when I had such a pretty warp waiting impatiently in the wings!

So after lunch I went down and cut the warp off the loom.  I think I tossed maybe a half pound of yarn into the recycle bucket - if that - about $6 worth of yarn, maybe a little more - and saved myself 3 more days of misery.

A bargain!

I was going to set up the video camera now that it's functioning again, but quickly realized that a) there was no room to put the tripod where it could capture what needed to be seen, and b) that a static camera angle wasn't going to work, anyway.  So until I re-arrange the studio and wrangle a cameraman, any video clip of beaming sectionally will have to wait.

The shawl warp is predominantly a darker rich forest green with a few brighter colours - a new green and turqouise - and an accent - the peach/salmon colour.  The colours are scattered evenly but not strictly and will be threaded randomly as they come off the tape.

I don't use a cross - just tape the bouts.  For me and the type of yarns I use and cloth I design, this works just fine.  Other weavers find they need the cross in order to accomplish what they need to do.  Since I don't make a cross, Doug removed the cross making mechanism from the tension box.  He also cut the top off the gathering reed and added a wire gate so that I just lift the gate and drop the threads into the slots at the back, then thread them into the swiveling reed at the front.

He also made extra dowels in order to add additional tension to the warp when necessary - generally when I'm using cones and beaming directly from the cone top instead of using spools.  In this case it's faster to wind spools than to wind the skeins onto cones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fixing A Threading Error

I started weaving on this Summer and Winter warp and only after messing about with the cloth advance for a while, cutting off, re-sleying and started weaving again did I realize that I'd had a brain cramp while threading and that 3 units were threaded onto the incorrect shaft.

When you have a threading error there are several different ways of fixing it.

In some cases the only way to fix a threading error is to cut off, remove the warp ends from the reed and heddle and re-thread from the error onwards.

In this instance since everything else is correct and the error is that the pattern ends are on the incorrect shaft, you can either cut the offending ends, tie in a repair heddle, thread the ends correctly and then deal with the cut ends, re-attaching them to the rest of the cloth.

OR, you can do as I do in this instance and tie a repair heddle so that the incorrect end is contained within the eye of the repair heddle and then cut out the incorrect heddle.

I begin by identifying the incorrect ends by marking them with a coloured thread.  By lifting the ends up, you can then mark the ends behind the reed like this:

Having a visual marker of where the incorrect ends are located means I don't have to go hunting for them as each one is corrected - in this case, 6 warps.

I generally have lots of 2/8 cotton around so I use a doubled length a different colour than my heddles or warp to make it easy to see what I'm doing.  Here I've looped the repair thread around the bottom of the shaft and tied a double knot at the same level as the bottom of the heddle eye and passed one side of the repair thread so that I can now tie the eye with the warp end travelling through the eye.  Like this:

New heddle eye tied with the warp thread passing through it.

Repair heddle tied on shaft three with the warp end now passing through the heddle on shaft four and three.

The incorrect heddle is then carefully cut out - top, bottom, and eye.  You can also do this if you have metal heddles but you'll need a pair of wire cutters to cut the metal.  Be careful cutting the heddle eye to release the warp end, carefully bending the eye open so you can release the warp from the metal eye without snagging the thread and damaging it.

A matter of moments and a few cents worth of heddles and voila, you're weaving again!

Currently reading A Murderous Procession by Ariana Franklin