Sunday, July 31, 2011

Next Up

Today I wet finished the last two prototype textiles.  As it happens, all four are 'seconds' in one way or another.  The red Bambu weft one suffers from two different dye lots.  Unfortunately the colour difference was not noticable when it was on the cones, it only showed up when I wove with the pirns.  But as prototypes I now have enough information to go ahead with a 'real' warp. 

There is one more piece of the puzzle which I hope to discover on this warp - do I need to weave with a temple, or not?  I'm thinking I'm going to be much happier with the results if I do.  Unfortunately I don't have one the correct size so I'm going to have to try weaving on this warp and find out if I need to order one in.  Hopefully I can start weaving before chemo on Wednesday and place an order.  I don't know if I'll feel up to weaving until after the chemo ick wears off and Leclerc are very good about shipping things so I'll probably dress the Leclerc Fanny and weave on that loom if I need to wait for a temple to arrive from Quebec.

I've still got oodles of yarn I need to reduce from my stash, writing/editing/photography to do, fringe twisting, preparation of inventory to be shipped soon, spinning, and so on and so forth.  There is no lack of things to be done other than weaving on the AVL! 

The next warp is over half threaded and I'm hoping to finish that off tomorrow afternoon and be able to weave on Tuesday.

Friday, July 29, 2011


For the last prototype I tried the Bambu 12 (about 2/16 grist).  The colours together were lovely and vibrant, just what I needed as this week continued grey, wet and dreary.

This afternoon I cut the warp off the loom - had the happy circumstance of running out of weft just about the same time I ran out of warp at just the length I think I need for my full sized sample.  :)  Tomorrow I'll wet finish the two lengths of fabric on the beam and press on Sunday.

I've been working with another creative person to work up these samples/prototypes and we're thinking of sending them off to a 3rd person to test drive them.  Perhaps we are too close to them to be objective.  I think I've come pretty close to matching the cloth to the function but only a field test will work to see if I have.

None of the ffs's are 'perfect' but that's what prototyping is all about, right?  And yes, I do watch Prototype This from time to time!  :^)

I'm currently reading a biography of Leonard Cohen.  I'd read one written in the 1990's and wanted to find out how his life has gone since that book was written.  I have to confess I'm not all that happy with the book.  It seems to suffer from too little human editing with too much reliance on spellcheck and I'm finding lots of typos and poor grammar.  But I will continue to read because I am interested in the subject.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fox Fibers

before and after

Well, I was going to run the sample through the washer 6 times before comparing the colour of the before and after samples, but this shows the change in colour after only 3 times through the washing machine.

I will continue to process the 'after' sample to see if the colour continues to change or not, but this is a pretty dramatic difference already!

It will be very interesting to see if the lighter value colours will change as much since it looks to me as though they are made by blending white fibres in with the naturally coloured ones.

Made some headway on sewing up the prototypes of the new product.  One is complete, a second ready to be sewn, which I will do today.

Since cycle #5 has been delayed until next week, I am going to try to finish weaving the rest of the prototype warp and get the last two prototypes at least wet finished this weekend.  But the samples are looking promising and I will probably go ahead with a production run and then see about presenting the items to the potential market to find out what the reaction from potential customers will be.  Still lots of groundwork to accomplish.

Currently reading Hitman by David Foster

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lace Bookmark

It's been months since I've done much bobbin lace.  A couple of weeks ago I got a simple Torchon bookmark started and today I finished it off. 

We'll meet again the end of August - perhaps I'll get another bookmark started before then, although I have rather a lot of items on my to-do list. 

For today I decided to take a day 'off' from weaving. The two prototype samples are ready to go into the washing machine and I'll press them tomorrow.  Looks like I probably won't get any weaving done on Monday or Tuesday as both days are loaded up with commitments. 

Today instead of weaving I've been spinning more of the roving from my stash I'd forgotten I had.  Plus I found a bunch of singles I had spun up a few years ago.  I think I'll wind those skeins onto spools and ply them.  Once those are plied I'll have a pretty good selection of skeins to offer for sale in September.  And hopefully some of it will go to new homes and be gone from my stash?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Black and Red

Here is prototype (aka full sized sample) number 3.  On this one I used black for the weft.  Not sure what I'll use for weft on #4 - will have to go digging in the stash to see what I have.  Even though I'm thinking the bamboo will be too slippery, I do have enough of the Bambu 12 in a red to weave a fss, which I may do just to satisfy my curiousity.  That's what sampling is for, right?

The poll I put on the blog is almost over and with 123 votes 89% are for yes, 10% maybe.  That's quite strong favourable results.

After discussing technology challenges with my web maestro today we have come up with a plan.  It will need a bit more work on  my part but will mean a whole lot less work on his part. 

I still have to deal with photographing the samples but think I've got a workable plan for that, too.  I just need to set the studio up with a photography area.  Since that means dedicating my work table for that until I'm done, and I need to sew the prototypes first, I'm waiting until those are ready before I jump into that part of the job.

After a lot of thought and reading through the comments received I have also decided to 'publish' Magic on a cd.  That way if people have computer crashes they will not lose the content but can simply re-load from their cd.  Given that the files will be on a cd I see no reason to involve a 3rd party so rather than sell digital Magic via some other website, I will do that myself.  Since I would have to do all the marketing myself anyway, I could not see the wisdom in paying a 3rd party to host the files.

And my web maestro dangled an intiguing idea before me today - more on that once he investigates a bit further to see if it's feasible.  But as usual, he's right on the cutting edge of the technology.  And that's all the hint I will give about that right now!

Currently reading Lamb to the Slaugher by Aline Templeton

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Yarn!

There's only one thing better than reducing stash and that's adding to it!

My order of Fox Fibers arrived today and there were a couple of extras in the box - a cotton boll of the natural brown fibre and some labels that I can use to attach to my weaving.  Nice touch, Sally!

One of the features of this yarn is that the colours do not fade.  They are not dyed but are naturally coloured.  In fact the colours may deepen over time and exposure to alkalinity. 

As soon as I've finished weaving full sized sample #2 I'll weave a sample using the darkest of the browns (I think she gets her shades by adding white fibres as the lighter colours look a bit tweedy), and then I'll run half of the sample through the washing machine a half dozen or so times and see if there is any discernible difference in the colours.

Two more yards and a bit to finish weaving with the dark blue.  I'll see how tired I am after the next yard.  It may have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review

Today the mail brought a copy of The Fleece and Fiber Source Book.

I am a big proponant of weavers (and other fibre craftspeople) having at least a basic understanding of the nature of their materials.  While each fibre shares inherent characteristics, natural fibres come from living things - whether plant or animal sources - and as such are at the mercy of their environments and individual health systems.  Most fibre characteristics fall within a spectrum and we ignore those and the nature of the individual yarns in our hands at our peril.  Or the peril of attaining a successful textile at the very least.

It was with a great deal of anticipation that I learned that Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius were putting together a book about fleece and fibres and I am delighted to add this book to my personal library.

The book is beautifully presented and organized.  Each category of sheep has an overview and then individual breeds within each category are presented in more detail - i.e. a description of each breed of sheep/fleece is then followed by a Fact 'sheet' with fleece weight (approx), staple length (range is given), fibre diameter (measured in microns, again a range), lock characteristics, and natural colours available.  Additional info is given for dyeing, preparation/spinning tips, knitting, crocheting and weaving, and then 'best known for'.

Additional material in the form of a glossary, maps showing the location of the breeds, some history, systems for measuring fibre diameter, a word about allergies, information on rare breeds - there is much to digest in this hefty book. 

In addition to sheep, information about the following is also included:  goats, camelids, and Other Critters (dogs/cats, bison, fur and pelt animals, horse, musk ox, rabbits and yak).

Deb Robson spun the samples and even knitted or wove small swatches.

It would be marvelous if every guild on the continent bought a copy of this book for their libraries.  And if an individual really wants to know more about their raw materials, they might well consider their very own copy.

The more we know, the better able we will be to create textiles that are not just beautiful in appearance but appropriate for their intended purpose.

Fantastic reference book not to mention pretty coffee table book if you like photos of sheep.  :)  Well done Deb and Carol!

Currently reading Songs of Love and Death edited by George R. R. Martin

Saturday, July 16, 2011


This afternoon I wove some samples and then decided to go with my gut and proceed with a prototype of the new product.

I'm not going to do a reveal just yet - this idea is too new and the sampling/prototyping isn't done and somehow I feel like talking too much about it will in some way jinx it.  :}

(What, me?  Superstitious?)

Doug has also been asking me if the fix he did on the fly shuttle worked so it felt good to report back to him.  Turned out it still wasn't quite right so he tweaked the piston and I left it shortly before 9 pm with it working well.  We'll see for how long as it worked perfectly fine for the sampling and well into the prototype before going all wimpy on me again.

The warp is two shades of dark red 2/20 mercerized cotton, one slightly darker value than the other but very close in hue - both are slightly on the brown end of the spectrum.  I tried several different wefts in both cotton and bamboo and will judge them for suitability after wet finishing.  But as I say, my gut is telling me that the unmercerized cotton is going to out perform the bamboo so I went ahead with that for the prototype.

I have enough warp on the loom to make four of the new product and then I'll give one or two to a friend to test drive them and report back on suitability.  The function of this product is very specific so it really needs to go into the field, so to speak, and get used before I decide which way to go in terms of putting this into production and offering it for sale.

Sometimes it's not enough to just weave a sample; sometimes you have to actually make a sample product, too.

Currently reading Damask Days by Evelyn Hood

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seeking Answers

I've just added a poll to this blog and to my Facebook page asking if I ought to convert Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens to digital format.

I've spent a number of hours going through the pages, hired someone to scan the draft pages and am about to borrow a camera with macro lens in order to photograph the samples.  To convert the pages to digital format and make the book available for download is going to take upwards of 50 hours - or more - at my best guestimate. 

Should I be spending my time in this way?  Are people interested in the information in digital format at a much reduced price over the original Magic with actual fabric samples? 

A friend mentioned that if I was getting positive feedback I really ought to continue.  So, how about it?  Yes or no?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

warp bundles threaded - I tie each group of 6 or 8 ends in a slipknot, then tie each repeat into a bigger slipknot as one way to keep track of my threading....

It seems as though I've been weaving nothing but plain weave for months.

Oh wait!  It seems that way because I've been weaving nothing but plain weave for months!  

Since it's been ages since I've threaded anything but a straight draw I figured I'd better choose something fairly simple for my sample warp and it wouldn't hurt if it was something I was already very familiar with so back I went to Wall of Troy extended over 16 shafts.

This warp has a very rigid stripe that does not fit into the Wall of Troy threading sequence in any way but I figured that would add some zest to the cloth and make the stripe less rigid visually.

Today I got the warp 2/3's threaded and will finish the rest tomorrow.  I may or may not start weaving as it will depend on how long it takes to finish threading, sley the reed and get tied on.  But it would be nice to at least have some samples to show a friend on Saturday to get her feedback.

I'm aiming for a very specific purpose for this fabric, a purpose I'm not intimately familiar with, so getting some knowledgable feedback will be critical before I weave the prototype textiles and offer them to a very discerning market.

Saw an interview with Deepak Chopra tonight in which he commented that he doesn't know everything.  That the search for answers is part of the journey.  I feel the same way.

Currently reading Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


This week is bittersweet.

On the one hand I'm about half way through chemotherapy and I have survived the last 3 months continuing to weave, at least a little bit, almost every day.  (I did 'lose' Saturday as I spent most of the day in bed after cycle #4.)  And I still have (most of) my hair - I'm just vain enough to be happy about that.  I don't look like a typical cancer patient and since my hair is only thinner and not gone by this point, I probably won't lose it all.  :}

The chemo ick from #4 is abating and my energy and brain power is returning from where ever it goes to hide out while the cocktail does what it needs to do.  So much so, in fact, that I was able to deal with both of the last silk gimp warps today and they are now....ta-DAH! - done.  Weaving, that is. 

Part of the incentive to get them done came from the fact that my new yarn arrived yesterday and I'm eager to get samples woven and begin my new textile/product. 

On the other hand I was supposed to be getting ready to leave for NEWS this week.  On the advice of my doctor I cancelled all the rest of my teaching contracts after Quebec, which means I also cancelled my budgeted income for the summer and early fall.  Not to mention that NEWS is a really nice regional conference and I'd been looking forward to seeing some people I haven't seen in a rather long time.

With any luck I'll have just enough money to last until the cheques start to arrive from the fall sales in October, but of course there is never any guarantee how many sales will happen at any given event.  Part of the insecurity I talked about recently is never knowing what your income will be month to month.

On the other side of the equation is that I've developed a new adverse effect - my feet are going tingly numb.  Another good reason for cancelling travel and teaching - probably not a good idea to be trucking through large airports and standing on my feet all day.  The good news is that this adverse effect will wear off once chemo is finished and I should be fine.  So far my hands are okay and I'm hoping that, since I use my hands so much, they won't be affected. 

The weather here has not been nice.  We had a huge t-storm roll through this afternoon and the day was mostly dreary and grey.  Thankfully the clouds have parted and the sun is shining now, but the next few days have more dreary grey days in the forecast.  The up side of that is that there is lots of incentive to stay in the studio and weave!  And we don't live anywhere near the river so we've not been affected by the high water levels.

I have managed to tie knots on enough shawls that I can probably schedule a pressing day, maybe on Sunday if the weather stays cool.  The summer is proceeding and I need to get product into the mail for the upcoming fall sales events.

Still have to get to the fringe twisting, though - that pile remains far too high - and intimidating.

While I've done a good job on stash reduction I still have way too much yarn.  I would have liked to order in a better colour selection for the new textile but I'm trying to be conservative in my spending.  I have, however, come up with some plans for the old stash - just need some time to put those plans in action.  But first I will explore the new textile in hopes of developing a new product for a new market.

I also have to get working on the new workshop topic as two groups have expressed an interest for next March.  There is a possibility that I may have a small tour in February - if the guild in Tennesee finds a couple more groups to share travel costs.  Right now I'm just letting things happen as they may until I get a pronoucement of NED (No Evidence of Disease).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

White Rabbit Syndrom

I'm late!  I'm late for a very important date!!!

I am enormously goal oriented and deadline driven.  This is not actually a bad thing given I am a self-employed craftsperson, relying on the production and sales of my own textiles (not to mention teaching and writing about weaving) for my income.

But there are times that panic can set in when I see those goals not being met, or hear the sound of deadlines as they whoosh by.

Today was one of those days.

I have been supremely focused on getting first the merino/bamboo/silk yarns used up which I did accomplish successfully, and then on using up the last of the silk gimp dyed warps.  My intention was to get those warps off my floor out of the storage bins and woven up, if not actually finished, finished, before the yarns for my new prototype cloth arrived.


Guess what arrived today and me with still 3 more warps to weave?

Panic set in and I started to spin.  Not a very helpful situation.

So, I took a deep breath, centered myself, reminded myself that these are self-imposed goals and deadlines and that the world was not going to end just because the post office had been a bit more efficient than anticipated and delivered that rather large box of yarns to my mailbox a couple of days sooner than expected.

Perhaps maturity is beginning to set in because I calmed down, selected a mauve slightly varigated weft for warp #3 and wove it off. 

I also made a resolution that I would not let panic set in again, forcing me to stay home and dress the loom with warp #2 tonight so that I can finish warp #1 tomorrow.  Rather I will go to the guild drop in with a few more shawls to tie the fringes on, dress the loom tomorrow with #2 and finish the last warp on Thursday.  And then I will change looms, threading the AVL with the new cloth design and weave some samples.  I hope to have some ready to show off on Saturday, but if not?  The world will still not end.

Currently reading 40 words for sorrow by Giles Blunt

Monday, July 11, 2011

Of Comfort Zones

shawl warp #4 on the loom

#4 off the loom

I'm down to the last 3 shawl warps done with the silk gimp hand dyed yarns.  All three of the last warps are the same sort of blue/green as this one.  The problem, if problem it be, is that I'm all out of 'safe' colour choices for the weft and am having to go beyond my comfort zone in choosing weft colours to go with the warps.

For shawl #4 I chose a pink varigated that changes value, not hue, and think it turned out okay.  I suspect that once wet finished there will actually be some irridescence happening.  You can just almost sort of see it in the off the loom photo.  The colours aren't quite true in either photo - the actual shade of pink is somewhere between the two.

As I struggled a bit choosing the weft colour for this warp I started thinking about comfort zones in general and wondering how someone like myself who craves security as much as I do wound up in a profession with as little of it as a craftsperson has.  I mean really, how insecure can you be - relying on your own creative abilities to craft something, offering it for sale, hoping that even one other person will like what you've dreamt up and created enough to plunk down their money in order to purchase it?

Even the teaching and writing I've done is a bit of a crapshoot - just because I think something is worthwhile writing down or offering in a workshop doesn't mean anybody else will value it. 

So how did I wind up here, anyway? 

As I look back on my life it all seems terribly irrevocable.  When I look at the choices I've made in my lifetime, I wonder how I could have made any other choices - and remained sane.  Oh sure I could have opted for the security of a 9 to 5 job in an office somewhere - and died a slow smothering spiritual death.  I was, after all, headed that direction when I suddenly veered off the beaten track and chose weaving as a career!

My life has not been a string of successes, either.  I've had my failures.  The challenge, in the end, is to not get defeated by the things that don't turn out the way you hope.  To pick yourself up again, try something else, keep going.

Again I come back to Winston Churchill's advice - when you're going through hell, keep going!  For one thing I've learned is that nothing, and I do mean nothing, lasts forever.  Not the good - and not the bad, either.  Comfort zones are just that - a zone.  They too will end.  But so, too, will the discomfort zones.....

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Bought some batts from Jude Pilote of Ewesful Creations which arrived yesterday and I got inspired to set right down and start spinning.  Today I plied the first bobbin using a black rayon with glitter.  The glitter is a little stiffer than I'd hoped, but I still think the yarn turned out rather well.  :)

Also continuing the count down of the last of the silk gimp warps - finished #6 today and just about to go and dress the loom with #5.  Running out of choices for weft colours so I may get inventive and be a little bolder about weft colours.  Necessity being the mother and all.  :^)  And sometimes it helps to get shoved out of one's comfort zone and be forced to be a little bit brave or adventurous or sometimes just a little silly.

The road less travelled and all. 

Ultimately I'm hoping to finish these warps before the yarn I just ordered starts arriving! 

It's been raining for several days with more to come.  It could stop now - I wouldn't mind....

Currently reading Darkness of the Deep by Aline Templeton

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Quiet Day

The morning went smoothly although the night was far too short and I'm tired today.  After we left the clinic we went to get my driver's license renewed before it expired on the 9th - I really don't need to be dealing with re-writing my driver's license right now! - and then to city hall to pay the land taxes which were due tomorrow. 

We had lunch out because Doug had an appointment at 2 pm and he dropped me off home after we ate.  A friend phoned to see if I was up for a visit - I was! - and we took blueberry smoothies for refreshment.  :)

After she left I played games on the computer for an hour then decided to have an early dinner and after that watched some recorded tv and plyed the yarn I'd finished spinning last night.

I'm pleased to  notice my plying is becoming a lot more consistent.  I think both of these skeins can be used in one project even though the singles is pretty 'textured'.  Nothing like a little practice in order to become more consistent!

Finished reading Blackfly season this morning - nothing like having 3-4 hours to just sit and read - and will begin No Such Creature by Giles Blunt tonight.  Also stocked up on more books yesterday at the library - some new-to-me Canadian authors as well as some other favourites that became available.

Monday, July 4, 2011

CanLit - sort of

Finished reading Blackfly Season this morning and just started the next in the series by Giles Blunt.

Bearing in mind that I usually read (although not exclusively) mystery, fantasy or science fiction, and historical novels (quite often mysteries), my range of authors is narrow. 

Recently I discovered Giles Blunt and fortunately the local library had all of his John Cardinal books in stock and I was able to get all of them except the very first so that I can read them in order - something I generally prefer to do with a series.

If you are Canadian, or are interested in life in Canada, Blunt is, well, blunt, about things like politics, current events and cultural references.

Other Canadian authors who unabashedly set their stories in Canada are, in no particular order, and not close to a complete list:

L. R. Wright (who died much too young) with two series set mostly on the Sunshine Coast
Laurence Gough - Vancouver and environs mostly
Gail Bowen - Saskatchewan
Louise Penny - Montreal area
Maureen Jennings - Toronto area, late 1800's - series was turned into a tv series although the movies made with Peter Outerbridge are truer to the flavour of the novels
James Huston

Then there are cultural icons like Farley Mowat, Mordecai Richler, Stephen Leacock, Margaret Atwood, Robertson Davies.

Other Canadian authors with a more universal 'voice' - Guy Gavriel Kay, Spider Robinson (actually an American ex-pat, living in the Vancouver area last I heard), William Gibson, Alan Bradley, Kelley Armstrong.

These are just some of the names I remember off the top of my head.  I know there are many, many more but these I enjoyed enough to remember and watch for new books as they become available.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New Directions?

Next warp on the AVl - 2/20 mercerized cotton in two shades of red.

I've been on a mission for several years now to drastically reduce my stash.  I've also been looking for new directions to go with my weaving.  Sometimes one just has to wait until the universe (or whomever) gets things aligned.

This weekend I had an ah-ha moment as pieces of the puzzle appeared to begin to fall into place.  I even had sufficient yarn in my stash to put a full-sized sample warp onto the AVL in preparation to weave some prototype textiles. 

In point of fact, if this idea pans out I actually need to buy more yarn in order to go into production so I've been looking at colour cards and rummaging on the 'net for sources of supply and today I'm placing some small-ish yarn orders with the intent of exploring this new type of textile.

Of course there is no guarantee that customers will buy what I make.  But that's the gamble anyone who weaves for sale takes when they make and offer their wares to the buying public.  The one consolation is that if they don't sell I can turn them into something else.  One advantage of weaving rectangles!

I can share the fact that I have applied for a wholesale account with Vreisis to purchase Fox Fibres organic, natrually coloured yarns.  If things go well I may be able to offer these yarns for sale at shows etc.  I've also been looking for more yarns to offer on my Art Fire site and these may fit the bill. 

Next week I'll be coning off the last of the wool/lycra yarn (I acquired a couple more kilos) and the singles 6 cotton with high twist energy.  I've used the singles 6 yarn to create 'collapse' fabrics and it works quite well.  It goes well with 2/10 and 2/12 cotton yarns.   I also have to decide if I will skein off the 2/28 worsted wool and dye it - or not. 

But as for the bulk of my stash?  I've actually done quite a good job of using up much of it - enough that I don't feel as though buying more is a bad thing.......

Friday, July 1, 2011


The last 12 silk gimp warps - yes I know they look scary but really they are pussy cats once under tension.

I've been thinking a lot lately about 'perfection'.  I know that we all strive for it but in my case at any rate, I rarely achieve it.  The best I can get, usually, is good. 

So I've been thinking about why 'perfection' is so difficult to achieve in the construction of textiles.

Partly, I think, it is because there are so many variables.  Change any one thing and everything changes.

Add to that the fact that what we are essentially trying to do is exert control over a tangle of threads, each one quite willing to act and react as an individual and is it any wonder we (or at least, I) so seldom see perfection appear?

The first thing we have to do is get those individual threads to co-operate.  Then they need to adhere to a compromise and reach consensus on things like length and tension during the dressing of the loom.  Once on the loom they need to co-ordinate with it during the actual weaving in order to create good clear sheds for the shuttle to pass through.  And all of this is achieved through consistency.

Weaving truly is a process, first and foremost.  Perfection is a happy consequence of all of the above going well plus good choices in terms of yarn, colour, weave structure and wet finishing.

The search for perfection is what keeps me intrigued, fascinated and motivated to keep going back to the loom again and again.  If it were easy to reach perfection it wouldn't be nearly so frustrating or challening or, ultimately, satisfying.