Tuesday, November 29, 2011


One of the things weavers new to selling their work don't understand at first is the aspect of marketing/selling and how much time winds up in the details of getting their textiles ready for sale and then actually offering them for sale to the public.

It is legally required in Canada and the US (and I assume other countries) that textiles be labelled with fibre content and care.  In Canada, household textiles and fashion accessories can be labelled with a simple hang tag. Garments must have 'permanent' labels (with permanent defined as 10 cleanings or launderings).

It is one reason why I don't make garments - I don't want to have to deal with the issue of permanent labels.  To buy commerically made labels generally means an order of at least 100, more usually more than that in order to get a decent price and since I often change the yarns I use, I'd be constantly running into the problem of changing fibre content.

Getting the textiles labelled takes time.  The system I now use is that of a paper hang tag with my name, logo, a little marketing promotion on the front with a small hote drilled in the top of the tag.  On the back I apply a label with general washing instructions and then hand write in the fibre content as required.  Once the labels are ready I use a stem gun with 1 inch stems to attach the labels to the textile.  Sometimes I price them at the same time, sometimes I leave the pricing for later.

This is just one of the unseen - and largely unpaid - jobs that newbies to selling don't take into consideration in their pricing formula. 

Most new sellers come up with a price that will cover the cost of their materials with maybe a little extra for their time to make the cloth but they don't cover things like overhead (all the expenses that continue regardless of whether or not one is actually making something), and the myriad expenses involved in marketing.

The problem with marketing is that largely it is more expenditure of time rather than money, although money can also be spent - the aforementioned tags/labels, booth fees, travelling to and from shows, website fees when selling on line, banking fees (including Paypal, Art Fire, etsy, eBay fees) and so on and so forth.  It is these expenses that get covered in the retail mark up portion of one's price calculation.

If the weaver does not have a retail mark up in their formula, then they will be working for nothing, or else working at a loss as those expenses are not covered except for coming out of the weaver's pocket.

From time to time people ask me to submit articles for guild newsletters on the business of selling.  From time to time I give seminars - usually discussing pricing issues.  I'm wondering if people would be interested in a small publication geared toward business issues of selling weaving......?

(Yes, that's a handwoven tablecloth on my table - Swedish Snowflake, woven double width in order to get a cloth wide enough to cover my table properly.  And yes, it was a once in a lifetime project, never to be repeated!)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Little Procrastination...

wet finished Fox Fibre towels - the colour has developed nicely - from left to right - 50% green, 50% brown, and 25% green

...is sometimes a good thing.

Got some pressing done today and as it's a fairly mindless task pressing is, my mind tends to wander.  With the Big Project sort of dominating my thought processes I was worrying away at the logistics of getting everything done - text written, diagrams to include, samples to be woven and so on.  And of course the assembling of the sample pages and text pages. 

For Magic I had my brother's basement rec room.  I don't have that option for this project.  Nor will I have my mom's basement as we are hoping hard that her house will sell quickly.

One option is to re-organize the annex and set up an assembly station there.  Which means that I'm going to have to hang on to the annex for a while longer - first to press the samples (so much easier to do on the big press, even though all of the samples for Magic were done on the small flat bed press), and then to assemble the pages.

As I was thinking about all of those things, including the samples I want to include, it suddenly occurred to me that the current warp on the AVL pefectly fits the parameters of one of the samples I want to do.  Even better, there is just about exactly enough warp left to actually weave that sample!  And I had been fretting about not having gotten more of this warp woven by now.  :}

So tomorrow, instead of carrying on with the towels I had planned - I can always make more towels later, right? - I will redesign the treadling to weave the samples and begin weaving those. 

Wow!  Progress on the Big Project before December!  Maybe I can make the May deadline for the Alberta conference after all????

Currently reading Brute Strength by Susan Conant

Friday, November 25, 2011

Satisfying Progress

Today I cut off what I've woven so far on the beige towel warp.  Considering I've been sick with a cold, progress is...satisfactory.  I'm trying very hard to not get on my own case for having done 'only' this much.

I have, after all, done a bunch of administrivia and cleared a lot of the paperwork I'd been procrastinating over off my desk.  :)

Today I mailed the contract for HWSDA next May.  Only one seminar, but since I don't know for sure if Doug will be able to come with me and I'll have a vendor booth I figured I'd better not apply to do more.  The call for instructors for Mid-West 2013 also came through today but as it's the same week as ANWG and I've already applied there, I can't apply to Mid-West, too.  Another time perhaps.  Of course there's no guarantee I'll get to teach at ANWG, but it would be too embarassing to get accepted at both and have to turn one of them down.  :(

One of my jobs in the next little while is to review and update my workshop topics.  I already know I have to update Magic in the Water part II so I've pulled some yarns for a new warp for that workshop.  I'll weave the sample as soon as I get the towel warp done.  I need to order more yarns for that, too, so I'm going to try to get all the yarn orders done at once.  I have to watch my budget, too!

I've also been thinking that I ought to move up publication date for the sample packet to co-incide with HWSDA.  Unfortunately my energy levels still aren't great so I haven't done much about that - yet.  Instead I set out a jigsaw puzzle and I've been vegging fiddling with bits of coloured cardboard.  But I am hoping that my energy will start to come back now that I'm pretty much over my cold.

A dozen towels are in the washing machine and I'll go press them on Sunday along with the rest of the place mats I finished hemming and whatever else I can manage to get ready by then.  These towels are particularly exciting because they have the Fox Fibre yarn for weft and the colours should develop to a much greater degree than the loom state.

In the meantime it's back to the loom to weave the 2nd towel of the day.  We'll see if I manage 3 or not.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking Control

remember these?  All gone except for one...

Yesterday I got all the inventory unpacked and put away and was able to see what is low and what needs to be replaced.  It was very satisfying to note that only one of these scarves were left.  A nice stash busting warp and some good income as a result.  Win-win!

With the last of the craft fairs done and my cold just about gone it is time to start thinking about the future.  With the decision to go ahead with the next sample set my coming days will have a certain amount of structure as I work on planning the projects, ordering the yarn and beginning to generate the text and samples.

But I am also highly aware of the fact that my next treatment is coming up and I decided to take my life into my own hands to a much greater degree.  If I had to stop taking most of my nutritional supplements during chemo because they would interfere with the treatment by protecting the cells (yes, even the cancer cells) then obviously taking the supplements must be A Good Thing.

So I booked an appointment with a naturopath who specializes in helping cancer patients with the goal of doubling my remission if I possibly can.  I do not want to go through chemo again any time soon so the obvious thing to do is to make sure that I am living as healthy and protected a life as I possibly can.  

I picked up a rather lengthy questionnaire and filled it out - now to make lists of all my allergies and nutritional supplement/Rx meds and next Tuesday I'll go find out if what I'm taking is sufficient or if there are gaps that need to be filled. 

Currently reading Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Dynamics of Craft

showing the end of the towel including the hem area (at the top)

I think this is my favourite of the wefts I've used up until now.  Although the weft is actually natural, it looks very bright against the beiges of the warp and puts me in mind of icing sugar on baked goods.  :)

One of the blogs I follow is The Textile Blog.  Today John posted a very thoughtful post called The Dynamics of Craft.  I found it quite interesting.

It is something that people who want to sell their work ought to read and consider, I think. 

What do we offer the marketplace that is different or unique from industrially produced goods?  Industry produces everything we might require, and then some.  I remember reading somewhere that in it's heyday, the British wool (worsted) industry produced enough cloth for every man in England to buy 3 new suits a year.  Talk about market saturation!

So what makes what we make worth someone's while to purchase?  My tea towels are no better or worse than much of what is readily available in the shops in most any medium to large town.  What makes my towels diffferent is my design sensibilities - how I have chosen the yarns and the colours and put them together and the size I choose to make them.  I'm not copying someone else's design, I'm making up my own.

My approach to design falls within my personal preferences.  Do I prefer symmetry?  Assmymetry?  Do I prefer blues rather than greens?  Do I prefer cotton and linen rather than some other fibre?  I have acquired a stash of yarns (a palette, if you will)  - yarns that I like in colours that appeal to me.  I tend to work from this stash so my textiles will have a certain similarity - a style, some would call it - that makes my textiles pretty recognizable if you are familiar with what I make.

Just like Yves St. Laurent or Coco Chanel had a distinctive 'style', so do most creative people. 

From time to time we challenge ourselves to push the boundaries of what we usually do.  That is generally when we have our 'failures' - in the vein of "Well, I won't do that again" type of failure.  But learning what doesn't work is just as valuable as learning what does work.  Sometimes even more valuable.  Because in the end if we don't have a failure or two, are we really pushing the boundaries or are we actually continuing to stay in our 'safe' zone?

Market saturation is one spur to trying new and different things - a new item, new colours, new yarns.  But we have to be willing to 'fail' in order to succeed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Next Big Project

next Fox Fibre towel

I think the towels on this warp are turning out quite nicely.  They will make excellent hostess gifts next year when I travel to teach.  They will also eventually be listed on my Art Fire Store as soon as they are wet finished, hemmed and pressed - which will take a while.  I'm just about at the half way mark on this warp with quite a bit of weaving left to do - it's a 40 yard warp.  :)

In the meantime I am getting over my cold and finally my brain and energy seem to be returning.

One of the things I have had to do is take serious stock of where I am at in my life and what direction I would like to go in terms of weaving/teaching/writing.  I'm now 61 years old with no pension plan other than to continue to weave.  No lottery wins for me!  (Of course one is supposed to actually buy a lottery ticket in order to win!)  :}

A number of people have urged me to produce more sample packets so I have been giving this very close consideration and have decided that if I scale back and do a much more modest presentation than Magic in the Water that it is feasible.

Right now plans include 10 projects with before and after samples.  This will mean 10 (approximately) 16 yard long warps to weave, cut up and wet finish the actual samples plus the prototype project warps.  The samples will come as loose pages (no binder) which will help save on shipping and production costs and the print run will be 150 maximum.  Printing will be done by a laser copier, not an off set press which will further reduce the expense of production.  Samples would be stapled to card stock as we did for Magic.  Yes, all projects will have project notes and be for either 4 or 8 shaft looms.

My deadline to have this ready would be by Convergence next year.  Ball park pricing is between $50 and $60 for the package plus shipping.  If you are at all interested you can vote on the poll at the top of the page (or email me laura at laurafry dot com if you want to be on my pre-publication contact list and I'll let you know when it is ready for sale). 

If this first publication is well received I have plans for 3 additional publications.

Currently reading Leave the Grave Green by Deborah Crombie

Friday, November 18, 2011

Is Weaving Hard?

click to biggify - 25% green Fox Fibre weft

I never tell my students that weaving is hard.  Rather I tell them that the creation of cloth is a complex process and if they take the time to learn the steps in that process and the language of the technology, they too can learn how to weave.

Weaving is a physical activity as well as a mental one.  There are also many levels of committment to the craft.  Once one learns the steps in dressing the loom they can spend the rest of their weaving life following 'recipes' and never learn how to choose yarns, colours and patterns on their own.  There are plenty of projects available in magazines and on the internet to choose from.

Or they can take the time to learn how colour works in weaving and choose effective colour combinations.  They can learn the characteristics of the various yarns available in order to create their own unique fabrics.  They can learn how weave structures work in order to create designs specifically for their purpose.

All of these aspects of weaving can be learned - but not overnight.  Weaving is not a craft that can be mastered without effort, without the time and energy required to absorb all the knowledge that goes into the manufacture of materials from the fibre/yarn up, including appropriate methods of wet finishing.

Learning the physical skills of weaving takes time and effort as well.  People often comment to me that I make weaving look easy.  They sometimes email me after watching my You Tube Channel and say that after watching what I do they have found they have been able to improve their own weaving skills.  When students come to study with me, they generally improve their efficiency in terms of shuttle throwing - and their selvedges - the first day or two.  I also show them how I dress the loom.  Some of them find my methods help, but not always.  It all depends on each person's manual dexterity, their physical abilities, their equipment at home and so on. 

There is no secret to what I do.  It has taken a lifetime of concentrated study to get to the level of mastery that I have achieved.  To quote Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters, I'm what you might call an 'expert'.  The difference is that I encourage people to try what I do at home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

another view of the Fox Fibre towels

I've woven enough that the cloth can now be seen at the bottom of the loom.  The design is a bit 'static' but nice enough.  I'll do four of these and then change treadling and colour to one of the paler shades of green.  What that new treadling will be I'm not sure yet.

We got hit with a snow 'storm' and received about 12" of snow.  My neighbour, knowing I wasn't feeling at the top of my form, shovelled my driveway for me.  I was able to get to town, mail the scarf and pick up the first of this month's quota of bills.  Oh joy. 

Finally dealt with the stack of paperwork on my desk, most of which related to the teaching I'm scheduled to do next March.

So far my little tour looks like this:

Triangle Weavers (Durham, NC) guild lecture A Good Yarn Friday March 2
Triangle Weavers workshop Magic in the Water part II Sat/Sun/Mon March 3-5

From there I'll head over to Sarasota, FL - just waiting on the contract from them with their choice of topics.  That will be Thur/Fri/Sat March 8-10

March 12-16 will be The Efficient Weaver at the John C. Campbell Folk School.  I heard today that there are 4 signed up already.  I think the maximum is 12 on that one.

March 17 will be a one day workshop at the Sutherland Weaving Studio in Asheville, NC, topic to be decided.

I've applied to teach A Good Yarn at the HWSDA conference in Alberta next year and hope to actually make it to the arts festival in Grand Forks in August.  I also have a couple of conference calls for teaching on my desk and I'm trying to decide if I'll apply and what I will offer to teach.  So I guess my paperwork isn't actually all caught up, after all.  :}

Currently reading The Complains by Ian Rankin (I actually started this before I left for Vancouver and left it behind instead of packing it!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Weaver's Weaver

The greenish shade in this cloth is actually more blue in real life - I just can't figure out how to adjust the colour in my new camera software.  :(

From time to time I will weave for another weaver.  Sometimes it is in trade for their services.  Sometimes they simply don't have the time to do the weaving themselves.  Sometimes they don't have the equipment to execute what they need to have done.

In this instance, it was time that was lacking so I offered to weave a sample for Trish of Indigo Moon using a new-to-her yarn of BFL (Blue Faced Leicester) super wash in a fingering weight (knitting term).  The yarn has 400 meters per 100 grams or 430 yards per 3.5 ounces (or just under 2000 yards per pound).

The yarn was engineered for knitting, is a four ply with a fairly tight twist so it's plenty strong enough for warp.  Since it is a knitting yarn it has a fair amount of stretch, but not so much that it is difficult to weave.  I did have to be careful letting off the tension or too much warp would come forward.

With two colours - Celestial Blue and Divine Purple - I used a Fibonacci sequence to design a stripe.  I used 15 epi (I have a 15 dent reed but this could also be woven on a rigid heddle loom using two 7.5 dpi heddles).  The picks per inch were around 10 in the loom under tension which relaxed to around 12 ppi afterwards.  I didn't so much beat as press the weft into place.

The warp was wound at 3 yards in length and I lashed on to save yarn, hemstitching at the beginning and end to make a short fringe.  I wove about 80 inches (under tension) which relaxed to 74" off the loom.  The warp was just a hair under 9 inches in width with 132 ends; 8 inches off loom.

After wet finishing (hot water, rinse, rinse, rinse to remove some excess blue dye), it was tossed into the dryer for a few minutes until just damp and given a hard press on low heat.

The measurements were now 70" long by 7.75 inches wide.

The weave structure is plain weave and the cloth has a little bit of crispness but a fairly smooth feel.  The cloth shows mild tracking which imo looks quite nice, giving the cloth a little visual texture.

The colours are not completely level so the cloth has an abrash appearance - the slight variation in the colour is not truly variegated as such.

I'll mail the scarf to Trish tomorrow so she'll soon have a woven sample for when she does shows, selling her yarns.

Currently reading Dare to Die by Carolyn Hart

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Road Trip Adventures

There is nothing quite like travelling for business when you simply must be somewhere at a particular time - and running into 'adventures'.....

While I love being somewhere other than here to teach or learn or sell, sometimes the getting there is more than I can handle.

Planes are delayed - or don't leave at all - causing all sorts of havoc when I generally need 3 or 4 different planes to get me to where I'm going.

I've arrived late - extremely late - like at 2 am with a 7 am wake up call to teach at 9 am - and this on top of a 2 hour time zone difference.  I've arrived without luggage, meaning I had to give the guild program in my travelling clothes and no samples to illustrate the presentation.  I've even arrived at a completely different airport from the one I was scheduled to arrive at.  Without luggage.  Again.

When driving, Doug did one season where, after arriving in Vancouver every single road out of the Lower Mainland was either flooded or washed out and he didn't know until the morning of his departure if he could make it to Calgary.  He did - dodging washed out bridges and potholes.

One cruel February every single pass through the Canadian Rockies was closed due to avalanches and it was only on the morning of our departure that Hwy 16 was opened.    We nearly expired of hypothermia as the temperature dropped to something like -50F in the mountains and the heater in our poor little van simply could not cope.

I've gotten sick from inadvertent exposure to allergens and had to pull myself together to present a coherent lesson or man my booth at a craft fair with a nasty cough/cold when all I really wanted to do was crawl under a table and pull the tablecloth down over me.

And so it has happened with this trip.  While my booth was not right next door to booths with scented products, it was close enough that I began to have problems with my allergies - which eventually turned into a nasty cough and cold.  Since I wasn't alone on this trip I asked Doug if he would drive me home and do Calgary by himself.  Bless his heart, he agreed.

Instead of heading east to Calgary this morning, we turned north and headed home.  Doug drove through rain, sleet, a spatter of snow and blowing backwash from big trucks as well as some good driving and things were going well until...about 20 minutes north of Quesnel where we encountered a long line up of traffic, mostly large trucks.

Doug walked to the big truck behind us to find out if the driver had a cb radio and knew what was going on.  Apparently a vehicle had had a run in (literally) with a moose and the road would be closed for a couple of hours.  We discussed turning back to Quesnel, although there didn't seem to be much point as there isn't really a viable alternative to Hwy 97 - or at least one we were willing to attempt in the dark - with a tight deadline looming.

Fortunately the road was opened sooner than anticipated and we were home only a couple of hours later than planned.

But he will be leaving tomorrow morning heading for Calgary all by himself.  I am feeling very bad for ducking out on him - and once more not being at Art Market in person - but the thought of waiting on potential customers feeling like Typhoid Mary just didn't seem very attractive.  I think he'll do better without me hacking and coughing in the booth....

Monday, November 14, 2011


To listen to the interview go to the CBC website scroll down to Saturday Nov. 12 and click on the black 'bar'.  Sheryl MacKay interviews two other craftspeople as well as me (my part starts at 8:10 or so).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada when we stop to remember the people who have died in service to our country.

I have posted the poem In Flanders Fields previously which was the inspiration for the wearing of a poppy in remembrance. As more countries adopt the poppy it might be a good idea if they knew more about the origin of the tradition.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Circle Craft Day 2

A promising day 1. :)

A little tweaking this am hoping for a good turn out although the weather is supposed to be dry so people may opt to enjoy a rare nice autumnal day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2 Hours Later

Nearly ready. Colours are more vibrant in life than in the photo. And the booth will look much better when the nasty overhead lights are turned off.

Currently reading Beyond Belfast by Will Ferguson.

Circle Craft, Vancouver

Set up is underway.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dealing with Rejection

bamboo/tencel scarf on left, silk scarf on right

silk gimp shawl

wool, bamboo, silk etc. shawls

Remembered to pop a new battery into my camera and bring it again today.

Yesterday was not quite the worst ever day of sales I've had, but it was a very close second.  Since this is not an inexpensive show, it was highly distressing.  Not that I wasn't getting all sorts of compliments on my work.  Compliments were to be had in plenty.  But sales?  Not so much.

So what do you do when your work is 'rejected'?  The very first thing you do not do is get depressed.  All too easy a response, believe me!

The first thing to remember is the statistic given in the marketing course I took back in the mid-90's.  For every sale there are (on average) 26 non-sales.

The next thing to remember is to read between the lines - so to speak - and analyze exactly what people are saying.

Ok, one of the things they were saying was that my prices were too high.  Given the multitude of scarves I'd seen at the mall priced at $15 each last week, I could see that response coming a mile away. 

So, ignoring the 'too high' comments, what was the next most common response?  "I love your scarves.  I wear mine all the time." 

Hmm.  Okay, they already owned one (or more) of my scarves. 

What is the message behind this comment?  Very likely the message is that the market here has become saturated.  Everyone (or nearly everyone) who wants one of my scarves and who can afford to buy one, has already purchased.

The market for placemats got saturated here years ago - I routinely have people come into the booth saying that the placemats they bought from me 10, 15, 20 years ago still look like new.  Today I had a lady come in who was wearing a scarf I wove back in the 1980's.  Her comment?  "I just wash and wear it, it never wears out!"

There are a million reasons for someone to not buy your product.  When the market becomes saturated, it is time to move on - time for me to dream up a new product.  Or face more 'rejection' the next time I do this show.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Studio Fair

Day one of Studio Fair.

I remembered to bring my camera with me but immediately got a 'low battery' message so all I got were a couple of shots before it died entirely.

Day one of the fair and the city, in it's wisdom, closed off the major road leading to the Civic Centre and parking.  I'm sure that's partly why there were so few people in attendance.  I'm hoping that the road will remain partially open - as it was when I came home - so that people can at least get to the hall without too much hassle.

Doug did the opening and closing shifts while I worked the afternoon.  The show is still on for another 30 minutes, and I have to say - it's been dismal so far.  The worst in the 30+ years I've done this particular show.  I sure hope things pick up tomorrow because Sunday is generally for families and 'looking'.

Currently reading Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet - a recommendation from author Louise Penny's blog

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Smooth Weaving

This morning I opened my email inbox and found the following message:

"I was weaving a scarf last night and realized something awesome. I just had to tell you that since watching your video a few months ago on throwing the shuttle, my edges have improved tremendously. I don't fiddle with them anymore and both edges look good! Thanks for sharing those videos with all of us!"

You Tube video

Rather made my day.  :) 

Weaving is a complex process but there are ways and means of making the whole thing go more smoothly.  It all depends on what you are trying to accomplish - your tools, your physical skills, etc.

In addition to teaching The Efficient Weaver at John C. Campbell Folk School next March, the guild in Sarasota FL is also interested in You Have to be Warped* as a workshop.  I'm looking forward to sharing hints and tips for improved efficiency with more weavers.  I'll be updating my website schedule soon.  Just waiting for contracts from a couple more groups.  I'm also looking at applying to ANWG for their conference in 2013 which will be held in Bellingham, WA but we'll see how that goes.  At any rate, I'm accepting more teaching contracts for 2012 and 2013 now.  (There is a possibility that I'll get to NEWS next year after having to cancel this year - watch my website on the schedule page for updates.)

Now that I'm (more or less) healthy, it is time to look at my workshop offerings and update them.  That is a job that I'll be tackling once I get home from our next road trip.  If you have a topic that you'd like to see me offer, let me know.  Sometimes others see us more clearly than we see ourselves.  :)

*The difference between the two presentations is that at JCC Folk School people have 5 days to practice the process while You Have to be Warped is more of a demonstration with limited hands on for the participants.