Thursday, August 30, 2012

Counting Blessings

rayon chenille sample warp for A Good Yarn: Rayon ready to weave....

Yesterday I threw myself a gigantic pity party and wallowed in the emotional mire for a while.  Why?  Life isn't fair and sometimes I forget that it isn't and rail against the 'unfairness' that we all must deal with when it rears it's ugly head in our lives.

After a day of moping about the house I finally picked myself up (venting at a good friend helped!) and got myself into the studio to do something productive.

Even so, before I managed to get a grip and shake myself out of the doldrums I did something incredibly stupid and then had to deal with the consequences.  Needless to say, dropping the entire assemblage of reed and lease sticks through the beater onto the floor was counter productive in the extreme, but I was able to straighten the warp out and get it onto the beam with the help of a brush.  Now a brush is not recommended as a great tool for rayon chenille but used carefully it helped deal with the resulting mess.

And doing something so incredibly clumsy focused me away from the unfairness of life and back to where it should always be - on the task at hand!

Today is my 4th blogiversary.  When I started this blog it was with the thought that my major health issues were safely behind me, that I could now proceed through my 'golden' years without too much fuss and ado.  After all, I was fixed, right?

Unfortunately such has not proved to be the case.  The reality is that, although I am well past my expiry date, life continues to be a series of challenges.  I have to remind myself that I am not 'special' in this.  That pretty much everyone I know has their own set of 'special' circumstances and I had better put my big girl panties on and just get on with it.

This morning Doug and I talked about the timing of his 'retirement' and I told him that with the way things were going I figured I would be lucky to have another 10, maybe 12 productive years left so whatever it is I feel driven to accomplish, I'd better do it now.  Therefore the trip over the pond next spring - a trip that I can ill afford, frankly - and if I don't get any teaching gigs while over there, well, so be it.  So far I've no firm plans (one tentative booking in Scotland) but hopefully I can spend about 3 weeks in Sweden and the UK and see some of the things I'd like to, meet some of the people in person that I've corresponded with.

(I know that last sentence isn't grammatical but making it so always seems so contrived - 'with whom I've corresponded' - see I do know how to write good!)  :^)

Anyhoo - one of the services Blogger provides is to keep track of things like page views, followers and such.

Therefore I know that this is my 982nd post - in four years.  I know that I have 232 official 'followers'.  I know how many page views each post receives.  It is a bit humbling.  I had no idea who might be interested in my pithy comments when I started this blog or if anyone even would be.  Interested, that is..  It has been heartwarming and the support and encouragement received  incredibly helpful as I have stumbled through life's hazards the past four years.

Part of the challenge yesterday was the fact that after the angioplasty, the broken ankle, the chemo - I really and truly thought that finally life had been 'unfair' enough and that I could now, finally, sail through my 'golden' years without further worrisome health issues.  Apparently not so much.  Right now I am not dealing with anything immediately life threatening, so I'm not sure why the nagging minor issues seemed so burdomsome..  But I sank into the gloom, feeling incredibly put upon, quite unfairly.

Life isn't fair.  Get over it.  Big girl panties.  Need big box of them.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom

waiting for dryer, winding spools for next warp - Diversified Plain Weave with bamboo and rayon chenille

finished scarf

When a piece of grit gets into an oyster shell, in order to protect itself the oyster exudes a protective layer to cover the grit.  As time passes, the oyster builds up layer after layer of this protective coating to create a pearl.

Which is why I really like the phrase "pearls of wisdom".

Knowledge is built up of layers of practical experience and theory that the practitioner then attempts to bring into reality.  Sometimes the theory is correct, sometimes, well, not so much.  But as each attempt to create something comes to fruition more knowledge is gained and the practitioner can make a more educated guess as to how something that is theoretically possible may actually work the way they want it to.

It was with a certain air of arrogance then that I went ahead and wove all the samples for AGY: Rayon using a yarn I'd never actually encountered before.  I hope I don't sound vain but suitably grateful that the finished cloth is every bit as nice as I hoped it would be.  So much so that I am going to order in more of the yarn in different colours in hopes that I can do a short run of the new scarf for the shows in November.

The textured rayon is hand dyed, and as such I anticipated that there would be fugitive dye during wet finishing.  Rinse, rinse, rinse until the water came clear.  Then into the dryer until damp and because I didn't feel like firing up Puff, hand hard pressing to finish it off.  I'll trim the fringes (don't personally like the fuzzy bits at the ends of the knots) and the scarf will be done.

The photo doesn't show the lovely sheen the cloth has.  It is light and airy and feels like butter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I know I yammer on and on about consistency, but it's true - you really do have to be consistent on just oh, so many levels in weaving.

One way to check for consistency of beat is to drape your cloth in front of a window and let the light shine through it.

Today there wasn't a lot of light by the time I finished weaving the scarves so this is a pretty pathetic photo which doesn't show how lovely the cloth really is.  I took it without a flash so that the light coming through the cloth would show the placement of the threads.

This cloth is a tiny bit challenging to weave.  First off, it's plain weave.  Remember plain weave?  The simple weave structure that is technically way more difficult than any other weave structure to get 'right'?  Secondly one of the warp yarns is quite textured and the two warp yarns are different in terms of their elasticity.  The beat itself isn't a 'beat' as such but more of a placement - a light kiss of the beater against the fell.

So I was curious to see how well I'd managed.  I think I did ok.  :)

(The different colours of green reflect the scene outside my window - my lawn, the street and the neighbour's lawn and tree - the tree is to the upper left and looks like a darker green blob.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

In Praise of Longer Warps

Am just about to cut the tea towels off the AVL.

This warp was 30 yards long and about 10 yards of it went towards fabric for new office curtains.  Which I hope I will have time to sew up sometime this fall....or winter!

While it may look like there is an awful lot of warp left, the fact is the end is just over the top of the beam - in other words, about half a yard on the beam itself.  Which means that there is not enough warp left to do one more towel.

I could weave a square for a bread cloth or 'doily' but quite frankly I don't want to.  I have other projects in the pipeline and this warp needs to come off.

Do I feel bad about the amount of loom waste there will be?  No.

For one thing, there is less loom waste here than if I'd put 3 ten yard warps onto the loom.  For another, my thrums get recycled, one way or another.

Anyone worried about loom waste might think about mastering beaming longer warps.  You wind up with less waste per item than doing many shorter warps.  :)

Currently reading (or about to start) Two of the Deadliest, edited by Elizabeth George.  "New tales of lust, greed, and murder from outstanding women of mystery"  Several of my fav mystery writers are included in the collection so I'm looking forward to them and perhaps discovering some new favourite authors.  :)

Fund Raising

From time to time I donate stuff to worthy causes.  My latest has been to do some fund raising for Weavolution, a social networking site for weavers.  They are wanting to initiate some improvements to the website but for that they need some hard cash.

Over the summer I've run a series of auctions - things donated by generous people - hand spun yarns, hand woven textiles.  Since I begin travelling again in September, I've decided to wrap up the current round of auctions by finally letting go of the very last complete copy of Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens.

I kept one copy in reserve in case I had to deconstruct it to make the digital version, but in the end it was not necessary and so - ta-Dah! - here it is.

The auction is taking place on the Chat forum of Weavolution.  While I don't think you have to be a member of Weavo to post there, it's free so if you don't belong you might like to visit and join.

The auction ends at 7 pm September 1 Pacific Time Zone.  The shipping is also being donated so all funds bid on the book will go directly to web site improvements.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Here We Go Again!

Finished weaving the sample this morning and cut the 'before' samples, serging the rest to be wet finished.  I'm planning on 145 copies, as for the cotton, but of course that may change.

Beginning a big project is a bit - daunting - perhaps is the best word.  It's exciting and scary all at the same time.  Will it work?  Will I be happy with the results?  Will anyone else be interested enough to buy?

When I started this blog, nearly 4 years ago, I had no idea I had this much to say about weaving.  Not only have I wound up posting (embarrassingly) nearly every day, I still contribute to the chat groups and write articles for publication.  And now another self-published publication is underway.

When I see how often I post here I oftentimes feel like I should just be quiet!  And then people approach me at conferences or workshops and say they check my blog every day.  Which sort of gives me permission to write/post often.  :}

Anon mentioned in a comment that it would be good if I could travel around to help people with their posture and processes.  Well, I am, sort of.  Several guilds and conferences have booked me to come to their area and present workshops on working efficiently/ergonomically.  The next is next month in Texas.  Then January at the John C. Campbell Folk School - the title is Weaving Boot Camp, but no doubt we will cover ergonomics there - and so on.

I think I've got all my booked workshops listed on my schedule page (although a niggling thought that I'm missing one means I ought to go through my emails to check).  A couple more groups are talking to me about it and details will be listed on my website as they become available.

2013 is going to be a very busy year for travelling.  One of the trips I really want to make is to go across the pond.  One date is reserved for Scotland  in mid-May but mostly I think I will be touring, hopefully with a friend.  Again, details are waiting to be finalized.

Anyway, back to A Good Yarn: Rayon - I'm hoping to get it finished sometime in the spring but with so many trips (teaching, craft fair circuit, teaching again) I have to get started now.  But I also need to work on more inventory for the craft fairs, so will have to really get focussed so that I can be as productive as I need to be.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Niche Market/Saturation

threading the first warp for A Good Yarn: Rayon

First sample woven

It seems my days are getting more and more disrupted this week - first clinic visits which were supposed to happen last week and got moved to this week, then a family event tomorrow that never got put onto my calendar and therefore fell right off my radar.  So my plan to work on the Seattle guild program will have to move to Sunday.  Oh, well.

All I managed to do yesterday was thread the first of the AGY:R samples and weave the first bit to see how I liked it.  And I do.  Like it, I mean.  Well enough that I may do a short run of this cloth as scarves/shawls if I can squeeze that into my schedule before the sales in November.  I'm such an optimist!

One of the realities of trying to earn an income by weaving cloth is that you are appealing to a niche market.  A very tiny niche, at that.  What happens is that the market for one's designs can very quickly become saturated so that if you don't keep bringing new designs to the marketplace, sales stall.

It is so very easy to get seduced into repeating a well selling item over and over and then watch as your sales begin to droop, then sag, then become so small it isn't worth while doing the shows you've always been doing with the same designs you've always had success with.

As soon as a weaver/designer sees sales beginning to fall off it is imperative that new designs are begun.

One of the traps that can open up under one's feet is that of pricing product so low that sales are going gang-busters - so much so that there is no time for new design/product development because all available time is being poured into production.  Then when sales sag, there is no time for designing and all of a sudden, there are no sales at all.

How do I know this?  As you might guess, it happened to me.  And the result when sales finally dried up was not pretty.

One way to cope with drooping sales in a market is to find a new market.  Another way is to increase prices.  This strategy is called 'scarcity pricing' - in other words, make a small niche even smaller so that you sell fewer items but make more per item.  This can free up time for designing and perfecting new designs.

There are customers who can become 'fans' and will continue to buy new designs just because they like your designs and are willing to start a collection.  For instance I've been told there is one lady in my home town who recently bought her 12th Laura Fry scarf.  :)  But in order to keep her buying a 13th or 14th, that means I must bring new designs to the marketplace or there will be no incentive for her to keep adding to her collection.

Currently reading Until the Night by Giles Blunt

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guest Post - Betz

Winston Church once said “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles with it” and that’s what Laura Fry did during the five days I spent with her at her studio in Prince George, Canada.  I wanted to learn how to be a more productive weaver and how to design projects and that is exactly what I did.  When I arrived, the loom was warped so that I could immediately begin to weave. She videotaped me at various times when I wasn’t paying attention and we watched the video on the last day.  It was obvious how much my weaving had improved.  I was amazed. 
It is difficult to put into words all that I learned, but below is a short list that I think you might be interested in:
·     The shuttle should be brought above the beater not in front of it so that the thread doesn’t get caught in the selvedge. 
·     Grab the beater so that your arm is perpendicular to it not in the middle of it
·     Push the treadle with your entire foot, not the ball of your foot
·     Use a rocking motion when weaving, i.e., lean forward to throw the shuttle & push the treadle then lean back
·     If using two shuttles, put stripes on the edges using the color that is being carried so it doesn’t show
·     Minimum input, maximum output
·     Perfection kills good
During the five days I made one towel and 4 beautiful scarves.  My weaving skills improved, I used a trapeze to warp the loom and how to use a reed rather than a raddle.   I learned a few of Laura’s secrets about how to design my own projects. In addition, Laura showed me how to wet finish and cold hard press my projects.   It was a wonderful experience and one I will never forget.  Thank you Laura to being an outstanding teacher and allowing me to light my candle in your knowledge.

  Betz Frederick

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Got back to the loom late this afternoon and wove one towel in the 25% green Fox Fibre yarn, then after dinner switched to a natural 2/15 cotton - and changed the tie up and treadling.

A threading sequence is just a set of potentials.  I like putting on a long warp and weaving various tie ups, treadlings and wefts, just to see what happens.

Sometimes I'm not terribly thrilled with the results but other times I'm quite pleased with what happens.  I will probably do 6 of these and then maybe change to a waffle weave and see what happens with that tie up/treadling.

Currently reading Dying in the Light by George R. R. Martin

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Rough Sleying

After winding the second half of the warp, I rough sleyed it.  I prefer to use a reed rather than a raddle to spread the warps out. In this case I wound two ends at a time for 16 epi, so the warp went into the raddle four ends every second dent in an 8 dent reed.  It didn't take very long to do and will give me better separation of the ends during beaming which ought to make that part of the process go smoothly.

A little extra preparation at one stage to save time during the next is not a waste of time, so far as I am concerned.

But I know people who adamantly refuse to consider rough sleying because it is a 'waste of time'.

Ultimately everyone has to do what they think best.

There are some people who swear that front to back warping is the best thing since sliced bread.  There are others who are just as devoted to back to front.

Personally I am in the back to front camp, even though I dressed the loom front to back for quite a long time.  Eventually I found that that particular method just wasn't giving me the results I needed so I changed what I was doing.

Bottom line?  If you are happy with what you are doing, there is no need to change.  But if you are running into difficulties, you might want to look at a different method.

There are lots of videos, DVD's and plenty of books available which will show either way and variations on those methods.

Find one that works for you and stick with it until you are proficient.  If it still isn't working, figure out why and what you need to do to make it work better.  Become proficient.  Still not working?  Analyze and repeat.  And keep repeating until you are happy.

First choose your expert.  Then become your own expert.  Only you will know what is right for you - your physical strengths and weaknesses, your equipment, your space.

Winding a Warp

I have no doubt posted about warp winding before but not everyone new to my blog will want to dig through all (nearly!) 1000 posts to find the information so I thought I'd approach the topic again, perhaps adding more information than I've included before.

While my board is rated to 13 meters, I really don't like using every single peg so I pretty much keep my maximum to 11 meters.  The pegs are removable so I only put as many pegs into the board as I actually need to wind my warp.

I don't use a guide string - the first pass of the yarns becomes my guide string, so to speak.  Notice the yarns are pushed well to the back of the pegs, near the board itself.

Some people wind their warps with a great deal of tension and let the yarns creep out along the length of the peg.  The high tension isn't necessary - you only need as much tension as required to keep the threads from sagging.  As always, if you can't be perfect, be consistent.  :)  Ultimately the further out along the length of the peg, the more stress on the peg causing it to bend inwards.  The end result is warp ends that become shorter and shorter the wider a warp you wind.  Taken to the extreme, the peg can actually break off.

I don't overlap the ends as I wind but simply keep pushing the threads to the back of the peg.  This keeps the ends as close to the same length as possible.

The counting string is that bright pink yarn down on the last section of the warp at the bottom left.  I always use a yarn thicker than the warp yarns.  If the junk yarn I'm using is thin, I fold it several times to make it thicker.  The combination of contrasting colour and thicker yarn makes finding and removing the ties much easier.

As usual I tie off the four arms of the X, not around the waist.  I find that tying the waist of the X the yarns become compressed and it is harder to find the next pair (in this instance - I'm winding two ends at a time) in the sequence and the cross tends to get kind of messy.

And here is the warp all ready to be removed from the board.  The cross is tied, the counting string (lower left) is tied, the choke tie is secure and the length of the warp has been tied in two places.

This yarn is fairly co-operative so I don't see the need to tie any more often than this.  I only tie more often if the yarn has twist energy left in it making it unruly.

The more ties you use along the length, the more time is required to remove them and the more chances you have to disrupt the yarns making beaming more difficult.

Notice how close to the base of the peg the yarns are.  This warp is 10" wide (16 epi x 10" = 160 ends).  As mentioned earlier, I don't overlap the ends but simply push succeeding ends as close to the base of the peg as possible.  

Since the pegs are removable it is a simple matter to pull the last peg out of the board to remove the warp.  I don't chain it but simply drop it into a box or plastic tub ready for rough sleying into the reed.  Since this particular warp will be 20" in the reed, I wound just half of it and will wind a second warp the same width.  

Each warp will get weighted separately for beaming using the warping valet.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Courting 'Disaster'

The photo shows the hem area and a bit of the pattern at the end of the tea towel that I wove yesterday.  Looks good on the loom.  But I am courting disaster because the weft is one of the Fox Fibre yarns and it is going to change colour during wet finishing.  This particular yarn is the 25% green, and I've found the green changes much more dramatically than the brown.  So after wet finishing this towel might be quite fuggly with the green crossing the grey (which looks a bit purplish).

I'm also courting disaster on a couple other levels today.  I bought a new yarn for AGY: Rayon.  A yarn which I've never used for warp before and which will be used for warp.  I have given it the 'snap' test and it seems quite strong.  I've abraded it quite severely with my thumb nail and it seems quite stable.  So I'm going to go ahead and take the plunge and assume that it is going to behave as warp and put on the entire run for the samples for AGY: Rayon.  And hope.

Another front is that I'm about to send a sample and quote off to someone who wants yardage for a very specific purpose.  I'm not entirely sure I can supply them with the quality they want, although they seem willing to work a little harder on the sewing end to work with handwoven fabric.  Whether or not they like my sample, a quick and dirty rendition of what I speculated they needed for their intended purpose, only they can decide.  Whether or not they will be willing to pay my price?  Ditto.  Whether or not I actually want to make said yardage?  Hmmmm....   But it sure would be nice to have some steady income.

We are facing a very busy show season beginning next month and I'm tired.  I've been doing the show circuit for a good many years.  I'm not 30 or 40 or even 50 any more.  Some days I feel like I've been rode hard and put away wet.

Generating one's income from the craft fair circuit is amazingly hard work and a crap shoot.  Will you sell anything?  Will it be enough to cover your costs?  Will it be enough to pay for the show fees, most of them due in February-April of the following year (the time of year when there is practically no income to speak of).  A nice steady contract means you don't have to scramble every month to cover the bills.

With Doug 'retiring' soon my income will become even more important because we have not managed to put much of anything 'away' towards retirement.  Life is uncertain, this I already know.  Having a tiny bit of security from a source that would need my fabric during my slow time?  Potentially a god-send.

But until they see my samples and prices, I won't know if even that bit of income is a possibility.  And so I need to write that letter, include my samples and wait to see what they think.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One Warp Variety

All of these scarves were done on the same warp.  I just changed wefts for each one.

One of the challenges involved in weaving for sale is having variety without having your booth look like a fruit salad.  (A jumble of unorganized colour, in case you are wondering!)

Some people also say they get bored after weaving one thing so by changing either the weft or the treadling, or both, boredom can be set aside.

Quite frankly I don't get bored while weaving.  The last year I have been weaving a lot of plain weave.  And by a lot I mean a lot.  It was the fastest and easiest way to use up some of my variegated stash.  Part of the challenge with the yarns I wanted to use up quickly is that they are thicker than I ordinarily prefer to work with so in order to create a lighter weight fabric, I chose to use a slightly higher epi, a finer weft than the warp and plain weave.

In all I have been satisfied with my results.  I think I've made a nice weight of cloth suitable for its intended purpose.  The colours were ones that I had dyed so I pretty much liked them to begin with and the challenge became to use up what finer yarns I had on hand for weft and combine the warps and wefts in a way that was pleasing to me.

I would never myself wear that brilliant yellow/orange scarf on the left, but I think someone who had the right colouring and a bold enough personality will enjoy it.   Or at least, that is the hope.

Farmers and craftspeople - the most optimistic people on earth.

One More

The warp is a muted blue black with turquoise (cyan) highlights.  The weft is a dark (blue) green.  I rather suspect that there will be some iridescence happening when it is finished.

The last scarf will have a black weft.  The only scarf in this run of - how many - 48?  more? - of scarves on which I used black weft.  And only because the warp has black in it.

While black is always a 'safe' choice when working with a variegated warp, I find that the value contrast is sometimes a little 'harsh' to my eye.  I've gotten comfortable using a very dark blue instead.  Or sometimes, as in this instance, a very dark green.  Or purple.  Or chocolate brown.  Each colour will shift the resulting cloth in the direction of the hue I am using.

Having different weft options allows me to make the same quality of cloth, using quite similar warp colours, but end up with a vast array of different scarves.  Sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimes it's more obvious.  But the range of scarves will look good when displayed together.

Currently reading Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson.  A bit different - will be interested to see how she ties in the several story lines/characters.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fear of Failure

5 meter long red soy protein warp being beamed back to front using a reed as a raddle

A friend once confided to me that because a project she had devoted a couple of years and a great deal of money to had failed she was battling the feeling of being a failure herself.  I told her that just because a project she had worked on had not produced the results she desired did not make her a failure.

Our society judges success and failure by how much money a project generates.  When the project does not make as much money as we need it to generate, sometimes we have to pull the plug on it, no matter how successful it may have been on many other levels.

Wayne Dyer says that when we do something, what we get is a result.  The result may not be the one we wanted and therefore we call it "failure" when in reality all we have is a result.  It is how we respond to that result that matters, not the result itself.

If we react to the result by calling it 'failure' and give up, then that truly is a 'failure' because we have failed in a much more important way.  We have failed to learn from our result.  We have tarred ourselves with a negative image, diminished ourselves, possibly setting ourselves up for not even trying in the future at another project, another time, fearing more 'failure'.

A sage once said "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

There is a poster on Facebook that compares what we think the path to success looks like and how it really looks.  Every time I see it I remember that yes, that path is not a straight line.  There are many twists and turns, many detours.  And ultimately success - and, indeed, failure - is not a destination but us walking that path.  It is a process.  A process fraught with results that do not necessarily please us, that may not come close to where we want that result to be, many lessons learned along the journey.

During my years as a weaver I have tried many different things.  Ultimately almost all of them ended in 'failure'.  That is, the effort being poured into them was not generating enough positive outcome to continue with them.  And so I had to face that fact and end the project.  That does not mean that there were not levels of success along the way.  Each 'failed' project brought interesting people into my life who encouraged and supported me in many ways.  Each project taught me lessons that I needed to learn.  And each project ran it's course.  Just because the project stopped being 'successful' doesn't mean that I failed.  It just means that perhaps I learned the lessons I needed to learn, met the people I needed to meet, and it was time to move on.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Here is warp number 3 (as in counting down from the 8 I had left to do after I thought I was done with them) rough sleyed ready to be beamed.

How much longer does it take to rough sley instead of use a raddle?  I don't know.  I haven't used a raddle for 15 or more years when I decided that a raddle really wasn't giving me the results I wanted and switched to rough sleying a reed.

Why did I change?  At the time I was using quite fine yarns (2/20 and 2/16 cotton) - the raddle I had borrowed simply had too many ends per section so they tended to grab onto each other and snag, then tangle.  The 2/20 cotton was around 36 epi, the 2/16 at 32 epi.  A raddle just wasn't working all that well for me and rather than continue to fight with it during the beaming, it seemed a lot more productive to just use a different tool.

What I've found is that rough sleying works for every yarn at every set I tend to use.  YMMV.

The above warp is 16 epi, wound two at a time and is rough sleyed in an 8 dent reed.  There are 160 ends in total for a width in the reed of 10".  I turned on my boom box, set up the reed, lease sticks, removed the ties from the four arms of the X and rough sleyed it, all before the first cut on the cd finished.

Before the 12th cut on the cd was over I had beamed the warp, threaded, sleyed and tied it on, throwing the first 6 picks of header.  The cd in question was one of Neil Young's so the cuts are maybe a bit longer than normal, but not all that much.  :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last Three Warps

Well, here they are - the last of the soy protein warps.  This time I really do think that this is the end of the yarn.  If I find any more it will likely get tossed into my "Good Cause" knitting box because I am so done with this!

It was an interesting experience - figuring out how to import yarn from China (and how to pay for it), skeining it off, dyeing it, coning it (mostly) and selling it.  But in terms of stash reduction, it seemed to me that it was time it got used up and it was a quick way to get a line of scarves ready for the fall sales.

Today I mailed a couple dozen to my friend for the first sale of the season.  I will bring more with me when I go down for the show along with some tea towels.  I generally bring tea towels as a hostess gift when I'm teaching, anyway, so that works.

I've set the chosen weft yarns out beside the warps.  Note that in this entire run of scarves the dark blue/black warp will be the very first one I actually use a black weft.  The other colour is a very dark not-quite-solid somewhat blued green.  Remember that it isn't the colour but the value that means whether something will work or not.

In terms of stash reduction this has been a pretty good success - one and a half boxes of soy protein gone and bits and pieces, odds and ends of Bambu 12 and 10/2 Tencel were used up.

Unfortunately I still have way too much 10/2 Tencel but at least I have seen a significant decrease and that is A Very Good Thing.  :)  My goal is to free up enough shelf space to empty some of the boxes of yarn still living on the floor.  Mostly I remember what's in them, but sometimes I forget so it would be good to have the yarn shelved rather than boxed up.

Have also been number crunching for AGY: Rayon and as soon as the soy scarves are done the first warp will go into the small loom.  Still have tea towels on the big loom to do, too, so I expect I'll alternate between the two until the towels get done.  I'm needing a break from knitting so some hand hemming sounds like a good thing to get ready.

And my treatment got postponed until next week.  After discussing my travel committments with the doctor we juggled dates so that my treatments will now fall in between trips instead of during them requiring juggling to fit them in.

Currently reading No Defense by Kate Wilhelm

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Expiry Date

a sneak peek at the first yarns for A Good Yarn:  Rayon....

Got the box of yarns to do some of the 'samples' for A Good Yarn: Rayon.  As you can see I was charmed by the rosy-green palette this time round.  More 'summery' colours, influenced by the season?

This week I am also back to the cancer clinic for the next of my maintenance Rituximab treatments.  Fortunately there are zero 'side effects' to this drug - as I understand it, it is more of a support for the immune system than trying to seek out and eradicate the cancer cells.  I'm all for helping the body find it's own balance.  But trying to fit these treatments into my schedule is proving a bit of a challenge with all my trips and of course, the whole cancer experience comes to the fore of my mind instead of just hovering in the back.

So I am thinking once again about time and how precious it is.   We have to remember that we all come with expiry dates and since none of us knows precisely that that date is, we need to take care to stay in the present as much as possible, enjoy the time we have been given and make the most of our lives.

I have been blessed in that I discovered my passion early (age 25) and was able to re-arrange my life so that I could actually live my passion as a full time occupation as well as my avocation.  People sometimes ask me if I never takes breaks.  Well, of course I do.  But when what you are doing is what makes your little heart go pitty-pat, why would you want to take too long of a break?  :^)

My husband, bless his heart, is counting the days to retirement while my retirement plan has always been to do more of the same - or variations thereof.  No, I don't plan to 'retire' in order to do what I love.  I'm already doing it.

Sure there are aspects of this that don't engage me as much as other aspects, but it's all related to my life as a creative person.  I can make all I want - it also has to be sold (the most difficult part for me).

We must learn to love our passions enough to believe in our dreams and work to make them come true.  To paraphrase:

If not now, when?  If not you, who?

Our happiness comes not from others but only from within ourselves and it is in our own hands.  Carpe diem, as they say.

Currently reading Uniform Justice by Donna Leon

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wear and Tear

Don't recognize these as loom parts?  Don't blame you.  Most hand looms don't have them.  The metal thing in the middle is the old bracket that attaches the piston to the 'knife' that opens the sheds on my AVL.  The brass thing to the left is the cintered bushing that takes most of the wear and tear of the movement.  The metal thingee to the right is how the middle bit is supposed to look.

The loom hasn't been behaving properly for a few days and I've been limping along until Doug could take a look and trouble shoot the problem.  As part of his examination he discovered the wear on the bracket and replaced it with a new bushing and bracket.  But we were pretty sure that wasn't the problem at the root of the trouble - just evidence that yes, indeed, I do actually weave.  A lot.

Considering how many millions of picks the loom has seen since the addition of the air assist in 1998, we were actually a little surprised the bracket had lasted as well as it has done.

Further investigation led to the discovery of what we believe is the problem as the part actually catastrophically failed during the testing.  Doug is now trying to find a new part and, since the parts are so 'old', is having some difficulty coming up with a replacement.

No matter.  I still have the small loom and 7 more warps to weave on it.

Currently reading Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Back to the soy protein yarn, this time to use it up, once and for all!  Unless I find more stashed away somewhere, although I am pretty sure this batch is the last of it.  Whatever is left will go into my 'good cause' scarves that I knit in the evenings.   Four warps of 4 scarves, four warps of 2 scarves each.

I've also been thinking a lot about the path I ought to take in the future.  I am hoping very much to be able to continue to teach and have a pretty full schedule for 2013.  Nothing for 2014, yet, but that's okay.  Let's get through '12 and '13 and see how it goes.  :)  (Dates on my Schedule page on my web page)

DH wants to add another craft fair to the circuit, but that means doing a show in December, something which I'm really not wanting to do because of the iffy travelling conditions at that time of the year.

Writing isn't terribly lucrative - there is really only Handwoven and none of the published themes for the rest of the year appeal to me in terms of wanting to weave or write for them.  There are a few other publications but frankly, the weaving community is so small that one really can't look towards writing about weaving for magazines for any sort of significant income.  Some of them don't actually pay anything at all so the contribution is a donation, which is fine - I've done loads of those - but right now I'm looking for income producing activities.

So that leaves me with more publications like A Good Yarn.  Right now I am wrestling with the number of copies to produce.  Initial sales were brisk and then fell off pretty much completely.  While I realize that it is summer and most guilds are not in session, I have to decide what to do about marketing.  Paying for an ad in Handwoven is not an insignificant amount.

Recent discussion on one of the chat groups indicates that people want to see more 'technical' content, which is what I tried to provide in AGY and intend to continue that with the next installment, on rayon.

But what I really need, gentle readers, is for those of you who invested in AGY and let me know that you were pleased with it to do book reviews publicly.  It's called Word Of Mouth and is one of the most effective marketing tools in this society.

If you are not on my contact list and are interested in AGY:  Rayon, email me at laura at laurafry dot com.  If you did not get a personal notification when AGY: Cotton was ready, I don't have you on my list (or your email changed - I did get a couple of emails returned as undeliverable).

The other thing on my consideration list is whether or not to shut my website down.  The hacker who is 'stealing' bandwidth from me continues to send out spam via my website.  I've had my website since the late 1990's and this is the first time I've actually been significantly hacked so I'm at sixes and sevens about it all.  Grateful that I got away without problems for so many years.  Vexed because we can't seem to shut the person down from using my website.  Sigh.

Currently reading Before the Poison by Peter Robinson

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Raw Materials

Most weavers in this day and age wind up weaving rectangles - place mats, scarves, shawls, etc., etc.  What we tend to forget is that historically what weavers wove were the raw materials for people who cut and sewed something from the yardage.

Here is the damp yardage for my new office curtains.  I'll press it in the morning, then try to find a couple of hours to sew the curtains.  They won't be anything but a 'quick and dirty' solution to a pressing problem - curtains that are threatening to fall off the curtain rod because gravity is proving too much for the shattered fabric.

Handwoven fabric is no more difficult to sew with than any commercial cloth of the same quality.  The 'problem' is that - even after a couple of decades of leaping to my soapbox to talk about wet finishing, including the importance of a hard press - many weavers till don't understand the process.  They sometimes build fabric that is too 'weak' for the intended purpose, fail to apply compression, then get dismayed when their fabric either falls apart at the sight of scissors or simply doesn't perform the way it should.

The more weavers understand about what makes a good cloth for their application, including the wet finishing, the more success they will have when it comes to things like sewing fitted garments.

Now leaping off my soapbox.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


On Weavolution, Kerstin posted some of her loom modifications and asked if others had similarly modified their loom.  The short answer to that is yes.

For me a loom is a tool and if it isn't working the way I want it to, it needs to be changed.

Peg also posted on Weavolution about the position of her underslung beater.  It was too far away from her and her fingers kept getting caught in the heddles.  I had a similar problem with my rescued Leclerc Fanny.  You can see the original beater 'bumper' on the castle upright and the new bumper Doug installed to hold the beater further away from the shafts.  He had some high impact plastic, screwed that into the loom upright, then got a new 'bumper' and screwed that into the plastic.  Now, instead of the back of the beater top resting on the bumper, the sword does, which holds the beater out just enough that I can grab the beater without getting entangled with the shafts/heddles.

Works like a charm.  :)

One of the things I found when I got my AVL (lo, these many decades ago) was that the heddle keepers jumped up when the shafts came down and very quickly started drilling holes into the shafts.  After thinking about it for a while I grabbed a bag of small (1"?) elastics I had hanging around and looped one end around the metal pin, under the shaft and over the pin again from the other side.

The elastics aren't 'perfect' as they do tend to dry out and break, but when that happens I grab another elastic, drop it onto the pin, under the shaft and over the pin again.  Takes a few seconds and it's done.  And it's cheap.

Now there probably isn't another person on the planet who has the same problem but if I'd left them, the heddle keepers would have drilled themselves right through the shafts and then I would have had a much bigger problem.

So, if your tools aren't working as well as you'd like them to, there may be a very easy and simple solution to hand.  A little creative thinking - outside the box, as the saying goes - and things might go much more smoothly.  And that's always A Good Thing, right?  :)

Monday, August 6, 2012


Welcome to my steam bath.  :)

It never fails - I wind up hitting the steam press on the hottest days of the year.  Yesterday and today the temps were/are in the high 20's (C not F) and after spending a couple of hours each day pressing scarves I'm pretty much 'steamed'.

The photo was taken with my phone so isn't great.  Both doors are open for maximum air flow and I'm standing in the loading dock looking back into the room.  To the left is the nice shiny boiler that provides the steam, and the big yellow/greenish thing in the background is Puff - the industrial steam press.  On the right the bucket with the scarves I pressed yesterday ready to come home and the rack with what I'd pressed so far today.  They will stay overnight to complete drying as they are still slightly damp.

The room in the far back (washed out by the sunlight coming through the one window in the space) is my storage area for extra copies of A Good Yarn, Weave a V and the yarn I have for re-sale, along with other miscellaneous bits and pieces.

I keep thinking I really can't afford to keep the space but am loathe to say goodbye to Puff.  Using Puff it takes about 6 minutes to press a scarf - a job that would take closer to twenty minutes otherwise.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


One of the advantages of being self-employed is that you set your own schedule - and when Life Happens, you can also change it.

I'd intended to go pressing on Monday, making a marathon of it - the curtain fabric, 4 towels and 3 dozen or so scarves.

But there is a 'family' meeting on Monday to finalize plans for the dedication ceremony at the railway museum of the rest area in memory of my brother so I will  go pressing tomorrow instead.  The curtain fabric is still on the loom and I may not get all of the scarves wet finished, so I will just do what I can and the rest can wait until next time.

The other thing that happened today which is fouling my schedule is that all of a sudden the air assist on the treadle isn't working properly.  I'm limping along until Doug gets home and can do some trouble shooting for me.  I'm suspicious that the piston is getting old and needs replacing.  It's been doing faithful duty for more years than I can remember.

I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with the weft on this warp for towels but since I've got enough yarn wound for two I'll finish those bobbins and then change colours.

Currently reading Woman Chased by Crows by Marc Strange who, sadly, died this year after writing just four mysteries.  This is the most recent and I'll probably try to track down the others.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ladies in Waiting

It's always a bit of a let down when a student or company leaves.  I have so much fun talking about weaving, teaching/learning.  When it's time for them to go home, I kind of want to cry "Mooommmmy!  It's ooooover!"  :^)

Ah well - back to 'work'....

While my student was working on her own I started winding the last of the soy protein fibre into scarf warps.  There are still 4 more skeins that have to be wound onto cones, which I expect I will do in the next couple of days, and then it will be back to the small loom to weave them off.

The curtain fabric is almost finished and then I have to weave some samples for a possible commission.  I have mixed feelings about even tackling the samples because it is a quality of cloth that is much sturdier than I do for my usual products and I'm not confident I can actually make what the client needs.  So sampling is very much in order.  If I do get the order, some 'steady' income would be - well - wonderful.

The thing with weaving for sale is that unless you have a confirmed client, it's a bit of a crap shoot.  There is no guarantee you will find the 'right' person who loves your textiles enough to actually cough up their hard earned cash (or plastic, these days) to buy it.

So there are attractions to weaving to order.

There is also the challenge of getting it exactly 'right' and having a happy customer because if they don't like it, you can be 'stuck' with it - out the money for the yarn and all your time and no income to show for it.

So I will attempt some samples, see if I think the fabric will even serve their function and then decide if I will go ahead and send them to the client for their approval.

In the meantime, I have all these lovely warps - a heap of potential - waiting patiently for me to get to them.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


We must not judge ourselves by how far away from perfection we are, but by how much progress we have made towards it.....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Long and Winding Road

There won't likely be much to update on the blog for a while because I've started on the curtain yardage.  Initially I thought 10 yards would be enough but I may decide to do more as the warp is on the narrow side and I may need more panels than originally calculated.  I may wind up weaving 15 yards, which means a lot fewer tea towels than planned.  Oh well.  I've got more yarn!

My student has had a busy (almost) 3 days.  Day 1 she practiced for a while, then wove off a tea towel.  Sent her home with homework (design stripes using the Fibonacci sequence for proportions).  Day 2 she wound a scarf warp, we dressed the loom together and then she wove off most of the scarf, returning at 8:30 am this morning to finish weaving.

Last night her homework was to design a rayon chenille scarf warp using the colours she selected from my stash and after clearing the loom of the Tencel/bamboo scarf, she wound her warp and beamed it with supervision.  She's just now finished threading (160 ends in one hour) and is starting to sley.  She is hoping to weave the scarf today, but whatever she doesn't get done will be finished tomorrow.

In between shuffling paperwork, ordering more yarn for next year, dealing with teaching contracts, flat tire and miscellaneous other distractions I have woven almost two yards.  At 32 ppi, this warp is going to take a while to get off the loom.  Lots of play time!

Currently reading Sleight of Hand by Kate Wilhelm