Monday, December 31, 2012

Sweeping Cobwebs - Still

Obviously I wasn't thinking clearly when I set up my schedule for the end of this year.  Generally I can cope with the myriad deadlines that peak throughout the year, but who thought it was a good idea to have so many things all come to a head the last couple of weeks of the year - after a very busy craft fair season?  Well, I guess that would be me!

However I have continued to work on getting the details of the trip sorted out (embarrassingly forgetting to check one of the contracts for information I wanted!), writing the rough draft of the text for A Good Yarn: Rayon, typing up and copying my mom's 'seasonal' letter, getting my books balanced, receipts sorted and everything boxed up ready to go to the accountant, drag my suitcases out and start piling up the things I want to bring with me.

In two weeks time I will be leaving - given the weather co-operates! - staying overnight with friends in Seattle so that I don't have to try to get out of this town on a 6 am flight.  I will stay with friends for a few days to recover from jet lag (and get over the crush of deadlines here!) so that I can hit the ground running upon arrival at the folk school.  From the 20th of January until Feb. 12 will be a very busy time and I have been aware enough to not book anything for the week after I get home.  So far.  :-}

I will, however, leave the small loom dressed so that when I come home there will not be two nekkid looms to greet me. I am not sure what needs to go on to the AVL next, so a short towel warp on the Leclerc will allow me to enjoy some weaving time right away.

Sitting at my loom and weaving is, after all, my happy place.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cob Webs

In some ways I feel like the past few weeks I have been squeezing myself through a tunnel - a not particularly well lit tunnel, one with lots of sticky cobwebs that I've had to brush by/through.

But I also feel as though I'm nearing the end of that tunnel and the cob webs are mostly swept away.

Yesterday I worked some more on the article for Handwoven and it is almost done.  I still have to do the weaving draft, print out all the paperwork and copy it to a cd as well.  Then all that's left is to find a box of the right size, confirm the address to which the parcel should be shipped and get it into the mail.

Brought my ledger up to date and balanced.  Found a box for my receipts.  Will phone the accountant and find out when she is open so I can drop all that off for year end.  On the 2nd I'll file the sales tax for the last quarter and pay that before I leave, too.  And hope Doug remembers to pay the bills while I am away.

I also wove on the last sample for A Good Yarn: Rayon.  The before samples were taped and cut and the rest wet finished.  This morning I dug through my reference books and drew up an outline.  Who knows, I may yet start on that today.  Or not.  Tomorrow is another day.  :^)

The pressing also got done today and I have a stack of place mats and towels to hem.  The yardage for the designer just needs to be measured and an invoice drawn up.  Then that can get mailed, too.  If I can find the address - they moved mid-December and gave me a different address.  Where I put it I'm not too sure at the minute.  :(

There was a bunch of other administrivia, too, so I feel like I haven't stopped!

Tomorrow I will phone the travel agent.  My tickets were supposed to be ready Friday and I never did remember to phone - until it was too late.  So I will phone first thing in the morning so that if I do have to go to the mall, I can do it while it isn't terribly busy.

Then my suitcases will come out and things will get tossed in as I think of them.  Not a very scientific way to pack, but it seems to work for me....I have two weeks left before I leave and a few more things I'd really like to get done.  We'll see if I make it.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


I think maybe Bonnie Inouye coined the term 'furrows' for this sort of collapse effect.  :)

This is the last of the samples for A Good Yarn: Rayon and I just love when things turn out the way they were planned!

Even in the loom state the cloth is creating these lovely furrows.  After wet finishing the cloth should collapse into deep 3 dimensional folds.

I've started cutting apart the 'before' samples and as soon as that is done I'll wet finish the rest of the web.  Tonight I'll tie the yarn samples into their bouts and tomorrow Doug will start to staple the last of the sample pages.  I will be pressing the huge stack that's accumulated over the holidays.

Monday I will start writing the text and we'll see how quickly that goes.  I may have some copies ready to bring with me on my trip in January.  "May" being the operative word....I still have to pack and do a few other things before I leave.

Currently reading Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Pack, or Not to Pack

A while ago I talked some about warp packing and why it is generally A Good Thing.  

There are, however, some exceptions.

Yesterday I beamed the last of the samples for A Good Yarn:  Rayon.  Rather than wind a whole bunch of spools in order to beam the warp sectionally, I wound an 'ordinary' warp on the warping board (11 meters) and beamed it onto the AVL's sectional beam.

First I took all the tie cords for the sections to be filled and taped them out of the way on the axle of the beam.  Then I attached two tie cords (yellow) to hold a steel rod.  Although I tried very hard to make the strings exactly the same length, they are slightly different.  I found that this tiny difference in length really didn't make any difference so the rod remains slightly out of true.  :/

Then the loops of the warp were put onto the steel rod.  Notice that the cords are not at the ends of the rod but right next to the warp.  The tension of the warp and the tie cords are equal and no bending will result.

The warp is then routed under the tension box rail (not all AVL's have this - my loom is very old and came with it.  I find it useful for beaming with a warping valet) and up over the rod attached to the ceiling.  The warp is 12.5 inches wide and I use one half-full bottle of water for a weight.  (About half a gallon.)

The lease sticks are positioned between the tension box rail and the valet rod in the ceiling.  The reed is between the rail and the beam and helps to keep the warp filling the appropriate sections.

The sectional rakes keep the threads in their place.  The warp is beamed with sufficient tension that no warp packing is required.  If the rakes were  not there, the lower warp threads could roll to the side and the upper layers cut down into the lower layers.

The cross is transferred to the other side of the reed, the reed removed and the lease sticks hung just behind the heddles with the warp now ready for threading.

Currently reading Doctored Evidence by Donna Leon

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hemp Review Part I

Initial observations about the hemp yarn:

The yarn is equivalent to a 2/16's linen with about 2400 yards per pound and about a 2/8 cotton grist - slightly finer to my eye but since it is stiffer than cotton I used 24 epi for a twill sampler.

Comparing it to the 2/16 linen I have on hand, the hemp is hairier and more pliable.  I assume the hemp fibre is shorter than the linen used in the linen yarn.  It feels 'softer' than the linen, especially after weaving.  I was actually expecting the yarn to produce quite a dense stiff fabric and even before wet finishing it feels quite nice.  Certainly appropriate for towels and other household textiles (placemats, runners, etc.)  It would probably weave up nicely for curtains.

The yarn is only available in natural so any colour will have to come from whatever crosses it.  In this instance I used the yarn for warp and as many different types/kinds of weft I had available.  In order:

2/8 cotton (green - lower right)
2/16 hemp
7's cotton/hemp (very dusty!)
12 Bambu (brown)
7 Bambu (teal)
cotton boucle
cotton slub
singles linen (20/s? looks too fine for 12's)

There is a fair amount of twist in the yarn and because it is so hairy I would not recommend trying to beam a warp of this yarn front to back.  Back to front for a short warp worked okay but needed some coaxing.  If I decide to put this yarn into production, it will go onto the AVL sectionally and as such, I don't expect any problems with it.

I will also use the 2/16's hemp as weft on a striped cotton warp for towels.  I think that will also work quite nicely.  I am not so enamoured of the singles cotton/hemp because it casts off so much dust although I think the resulting cloth will be quite nice.  I will probably try using that on a 2/20 mercerized cotton and see how it looks.

Further update after wet finishing.

Doug has gone up to the annex to repair Puff and I hope to get up there with a huge pile of wet finishing in the next day or two.  The towels for the Handwoven article have to be done as well as the hemp sampler and the place mats I used to kick start myself back to work before Christmas.  There are also some scarves but not enough for a load in the washing machine so those will wait until I have more to go in the machine.  No rush for the scarves - those are for next fall's inventory.  The towels I need now so I can finish the article and get everything into the mail.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Gift

Who else but another weaver to appreciate a handwoven gift?  Got these mug rugs and bookmark (because Sheila knows I still read 'paper' books!) which will go into service immediately.  The mug rugs are a nice generous size and delightful motifs.  Thanks Sheila - the mug rugs will actually be going with me on my trip as examples of multi-shaft Summer and Winter!  :D  (And your gifts will be late this year - sorry!)

This morning I finished getting the last of the workshop materials ready.  I forgot the demo warp for Memphis in their box and since Chattanooga is before Memphis I will add it to this box so I can pick it up en route.

Working on Christmas Day you say?  I say, why not!?  Being able to weave and teach about weaving is the greatest gift I have received - the gift of life.  For all it's ups and downs, life is the most precious thing we have and since my work is my joy, why not work on Christmas?

Sending my best wishes for a joyful life - this week and the coming year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No More Messing About

As suspected, both the yarn orders had gotten caught up in the Christmas mail volumes and today I received not just the first notification of arrival but the last notice!  Anyway, no matter, both orders are here and now I really feel the pressure to tackle the rest of the job list.

The hemp yarn is actually what I hoped, not what I expected.  Obviously I made a crucial math error somewhere when I was converting metric count to imperial.

The singles is about a 2/16 grist by looking at it and the 2 ply is about a 2/10 size - somewhat smaller than a 2/8 but bigger than a 2/16.  I'll drag my scale out and weigh out a gram and see how many meters are in it and then re-calculate.

Either way, both will work for my intended purpose.  Now I just need timed to wind and weave off a sample warp.

In the meantime progress is being made on the southern tour.  Two boxes of yarn were mailed for NC and TN this morning.  I also stopped in to the travel agent - the mall wasn't horrible at 10 am so I was grateful.  The travel agent is working on the best routing/price she can find and will issue the tickets Thursday.  Then I can put the final touches on my end and let all the organizers know my eta(s).

Today I'm working on the Memphis workshop.  I had to re-tool a couple of the warps because I was out of the specified yarns and had to make substitutions, but I think I'm about ready (now that lunch is over) to fire up the photocopy machine and start getting the handouts and yarn packages ready.

Today is a lovely day - a little overcast but the sun is trying to shine.  It's cold but not terrible - and we will have a white Christmas.

Time to get back into the studio and put the finishing touches on this one so I can begin the next.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Block Weaves

One of the things I've had on my to-be-done one-of-these-days list is to revamp the workshop handouts for Mug Rugs and More.  I have been teaching this topic for a very long time and the handouts were very, um, crude, compared to what is available now in the way of weaving and word processing software.

The impetus to actually do this has come because Chattanooga chose this topic for their workshop.  I also wanted to provide an 8 shaft variation, so I spent some time today re-doing this and other of the drawdowns.  The 8 shaft draft will be used in the Focus on Block Weaves workshop at Memphis.

It was a good exercise because I really had to dig through the old grey cells and think about double weave, which I haven't done for a very long time. You know what they say - use it or lose it!  I knew the effect I wanted, but I had to twist my brain into a pretzel to get it.  A good reminder that some concepts are easier than others and to get myself back into 'beginner mind' mode.

Currently reading Quietly in their Sleep by Donna Leon

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The Nashville workshop, Focus on Lace, is full.  This afternoon I've been photocopying handouts and selecting the yarns for the drafts.  Am running short on some so I've had to kind of jockey things around and make a few minor changes.

They want some of the dry finishing techniques from the Mug Rugs workshop so that required a bit of jockeying around, too.  Just waiting for the cone winder to break some large cones down into smaller ones - don't need a pound of 10/2 cotton and don't want to pay the postage to ship something that isn't needed.  As it is I always send more than enough to go round.  :)  Or, at least, I try to.  Nothing worse than running short!

As soon as the cones are wound I'll start bagging up the drafts and yarn.  I think I've got a box big enough.  Still have to make up the list of warps/yarns with the number of shafts for each and the welcome letter, but this ought to be done by dinner time if I just keep at it.

With the trampoline laid out so I can do at least one, preferably two, short sessions every day (I'm still building up muscles and stamina) it became a handy 'table' to lay out some of the yarns and drafts.  The rest went onto the floor because I just don't have enough flat surface anywhere else to do this job.

I am still waiting to hear from Memphis how many people are signed up.  I was told to plan for 6 in Chattanooga, but I will confirm with them before I ship anything.  Christmas festivities are a distraction!  :}

We will have brunch tomorrow with my cousin who is visiting from a nearby community for the day and my mom, and then mom, Doug and I will have dinner on the day.  In between I'm still trying to knock stuff off my to-be-done list - things that absolutely must get accomplished before I leave.  I'm hoping that I can get them all done plus some of the jobs with 'soft' deadlines so that they aren't waiting for me when I get home again in mid-February.  Being away for so many weeks means I have to be super organized about stuff like bills to be paid (cheques written out for Doug to fill in and deal with) and so on.

I am really hoping that there will be nice weather in NC/GA/TN while I am there!  But I will bring my snow boots and winter coat just in case because last time I was in NC in January it was cold and the snow was several inches deep at the folk school!  It is winter, after all.

Friday, December 21, 2012


silk warp for Magic in the Water

My camera was intent on focusing on the wall behind, not the warp, which is the point of this photo.

The temperature dropped overnight and with the cold weather comes low relative humidity.  As I wound the warps for Magic in the Water at the folk school today, the silk became very charged with static electricity.  The threads were determined to stay as far away from each other as possible.  My solution?  A quick spritz with some water when the static seemed about to take over and start causing problems with the winding.

The warps for the workshop are now all wound.  I may toss in a bonus warp I wound for another workshop and made a mistake - something I didn't want someone else to have to deal with but won't faze me - it's just samples, after all.  :^)

I still have to do some photocopying but otherwise that workshop is about as ready as I'm going to get.  One demo warp for the Boot Camp is done, and I'll wind one more for that class.  The rest of my 'spare' time during Boot Camp will be dressing the looms for the weekend workshop.

As I dealt with the silk threads I thought about how life always hands us static in one form or another.  Christmas holidays can be particularly fraught and I, for one, would be happy to just ignore it.  We don't have any kids, therefore no g/kids, there is just us - and my mom.  I have no desire to cook a huge meal and have turkey leftovers for days afterwards so we booked a reservation at the one eatery that will be serving a buffet Christmas dinner.  I don't think mom is too anxious to cook - and clean! - either as she didn't protest too much when I told her the reservations were made.  :^)

But life will always present us with challenges - we just have to figure out how best to deal with them and not get overly anxious about them.  There is always a solution, after all.

And remember when the metaphorical oxygen masks drop in front of your face, put yours on first before you try to help others.  Sometimes the solution to static is simple - we just have to be willing to use it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Testing, testing


As a kid I longed for Christmas.  As an adult, I long for the solstice.

The solstice is the pivot point for the sun and today is the shortest day of the year.  It also happened to be overcast and the flurries that were predicted turned into a steady dump of fine snow that was more sleet at times than snowflakes.

The official time of sunrise today was 8:27 am.  The official time of sunset was 3:51 pm.  The above photo was taken at 3:15 pm.

These short days are why I am looking forward to take off south in January.  By the time I get home the days will be significantly longer, especially for this upcoming trip which is about 2 weeks longer than I usually schedule.  And of course the days in NC/TN are longer than ours are anyway.

On Feb. 15 the official sunrise will be 7:30 am and the official sunset 5:35 pm.  I should be recovered from the jet lag by then.  :)

Today I finished the last of the warps to illustrate the article for Handwoven.  I will set those webs aside and start on the warps for the Magic in the Water workshop at the folk school.  They need to be into the mail by Monday.  Then the workshop in Nashville, which is now full.  Chattanooga will be a smaller class with around 6, I think she said.  I'm still waiting to hear from Memphis how many people there will be and if they will do a short Efficient Weaver on the Monday and/or Tuesday.  As soon as they confirm I can buy my tickets.

But in the meantime I have a lot of prep work to do.

And oh, yes, I ought to do something about Christmas.  I'm sure my mother is expecting something!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More Happy Colours

the natural weft is really toning down the yellow in the warp...

One more day to the solstice and I can hardly wait.  It's another overcast dreary day here and I've got a mild headache that is dragging at my energy so I feel like I'm wallowing in procrastination.

Fortunately I have more happy colours on the loom.  :)  I'm really liking how the variegated colours are 'pooling' in this towel giving an almost ikat effect.

Since a little yellow goes a long way, I am using natural on this particular towel.  I'll weave two of these and then two using a warm beige for weft.

My goal for today is to finish this yellow warp and see if I can't get the green one into the loom so I can weave those off tomorrow.

And then it will be full steam ahead with the workshop yarns/instructions.  My goal is to have as many parcels as possible ready to mail on Monday.  Which reminds me - I need to get the addresses of the workshop organizers.  It seems like we get so entwined in communicating by emails we forget that actual mail needs to be sent, too!  Even if I don't get all of the workshops done by Monday, the things for the folk school have to go out for sure as that one is the first on the list.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One Armed Paper Hanger

darker areas are shadow from the lights behind me

I am beginning to feel like a one armed paper hanger as the clock ticks down on the many things I've got going right now.  I have to be very mindful of the deadlines - the soft ones - and the very hard ones.  If I miss any of them things are going to get very crunchy in about three weeks time!

Distractions abound as we try to nail down the fine details of the tour in Jan/Feb.  I find myself zoning out while winding, threading, weaving.  Not a good thing when the current warps require very specific numbers of 4 different colours.  I can't afford to waste any time right now - especially correcting mistakes! I am going to put away the jigsaw puzzles, too.  The dining room table is needed in order to do my journal entries and balance that and my chequebook.  One of the deadlines I added to my list of stuff to do before I leave is get my year end done and delivered to the accountant because otherwise it really will be crunch time when I get back.

There are so many things that go on behind the scenes (so to speak) when you run a business with as many different facets as I do.  Sourcing yarns, placing orders, receiving them, putting them away (if there is an away to put the stuff - right now that is a challenge, especially with a very large order coming from Silk City. That yarn may just have to live in the boxes until I get back again.)

Doug is busy stapling samples to card stock while I await the Silk City yarn order for the yarns for the last of the Rayon samples.  As the days drag by it looks less and less likely I'll get that woven before I leave.  Getting that finished before I left was optimistic.....and one of the 'soft' deadlines....

Today I will dress the loom with the yellow warp and finish winding the green one.  But first, lunch.  Gotta keep good fuel going in or the furnace goes out, as my dad used to say.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Colour! Give Me Colour!

showing the hem and towel body

Over the years I have discovered that I am very much affected by the seasons - probably have a low grade SAD condition.  February was always the worst month for me and I assumed the ancients knew what they were about when they made it the shortest one!

The past 10 or 12 years our climate has changed.  Instead of the mostly cold days with clear brilliant skies we seem to be having more and more grey overcast and dreadfully dreary weather.  As the days get shorter and the sunlight less and less, I find myself drawn more and more to the brighter more spring like colours.  Perhaps that is why I'm enjoying working with the variegated cottons so much - most of the colourways are quite light and cheerful.  Even the darker ones are still pleasant.

I wound up designing four different colourways using this especially spring like variegated.  I've just sent off the instructions for how I choose the colours to Handwoven along with this photo showing how it looks on the loom.  Now to wait and see if it is something they want for the May/June issue.  :)

Whether they want it or not, I have several days ahead of me with these lovely spring colours.  And that is A Good Thing to be doing while waiting for the winter solstice and longer days to come.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

New Year

Yes, yes, I know that technically it is still the 'old' year, but today was the last commitment of this year for me so I feel as though I'm done with the old one and am now looking towards 2013.

Yesterday I wound 3 warps for the article (proposed) for Handwoven, and today decided that to fully illustrate what I will be talking about I really need one more.  No hardship there, I really like this stripe design and don't feel I've yet fully explored the possibilities.  And this is with just one of several variegated yarns available to me.  Not to mention I've still got a huge stash of 2/8 cotton to work with.  :)

Today was the date I set for the Jan/Feb workshop organizers to give me the official go or no go.  Memphis will get back to me tomorrow (their meeting was today) and I'm still waiting to hear from Chattanooga but otherwise everything is pretty much lined up.  I still have to confirm the guild presentation for Nashville but that's a minor detail.

In between weaving these warps for the article I'll be pulling yarns, revising drafts and packaging up the workshop materials/handouts.  I'm hoping to get everything into the mail by Monday, Dec. 24.  The line ups at the post office should be minimal - way too late to be sending parcels for Christmas - so I shouldn't have to wait on line for ages like I've been doing lately.

We are just one week away from the solstice, and I'm working on some lovely spring colours.  My new year has begun!

Indie Craft Fair

All set up and ready for customers. The ambient light in the room is low and very yellow. So glad I brought my own lights!

This is the first time for a craft sale in this venue and while I don't normally do shows that sell table spaces this hall is well known for arts events.

I was also able to set up my scarf racks because I snagged the spot right beside the entry.

But my expectations are low. Better to expect little and not be disappointed. If it goes better than expected one has cause to celebrate!

Brought my knitting so that I can accomplish something during the day....
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Happy Place

The same variegated yarn - the way it has been wound onto the cone makes it look very different, even though it is actually the same colour way.

Spent much of the afternoon on the proposed article for Handwoven.  I am working from a towel I designed last year sometime - February?  Anyway, I really like the stripe sequence so decided to render it in several different colourways.  Below are the towel from which I am working, the first two warps (wound in two sections each) and the yarn for warp #3.  I may do a fourth warp, I am not sure yet.

A while ago I experienced what is called 'burnout'.  I wound up in a depression that I could not shake myself out of no matter how hard I tried.  As part of my recovery process I worked through The Artist's Way.  One of the 'lessons' is to take a news fast - no tv, no newspapers, not even any radio, for at least a week.  I discovered that I was a much happier person when I wasn't confronted hourly with all the ills of the world.

From that time on I only listen to music in the studio.  I listen to the radio first thing in the morning, mostly to get the local weather forecast, skim the newspaper, mostly to read the comics, and ignore as much as possible the tv newscasts.

Some people might assume that I am uncaring about what is happening in the wide world outside of my studio and home.  Not so.  What I am is...pragmatic, I suppose you could say.  I know that there is nothing I can do to fix the tragedies that happen.  When I learn of a disaster I send a thought (a prayer some might call it) of positive energy to the survivors, take a moment to feel gratitude that I am not, currently, suffering some dire fate and then carry on with whatever I am doing.

I do not quake in fear of terrorists or anger at the unfairness of life.  I have learned that everyone at some time will wind up on the pointy end of the unfairness stick.  In the end life will go on.....or not.

And for those instances when I can do something - such as the loss of Judith Mackenzie's studio - I go ahead and do something.  Whenever possible I would much rather light a candle rather than curse the dark.

Currently reading Birds of a Feather by Jaqueline Winspear

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Change of Plans

The view from my living room window at noon today.  What you can't see is the very fine snow 'falling' sideways.  Needless to say, my shopping excursion to the sewing store for loom apron supplies got cancelled as the store is in the local snow belt.  And it was snowy enough here that the highway was doubtless going to be filled with fraught.

Instead of leaping back into the studio, I took it easy, reading, drinking a nice cup of coffee, working a bit on my jigsaw puzzle (5 more in the pile I'd like to finish) and then taking a long hot shower.

I needed to be fortified to face...

the make up warp.

Yesterday I had so many things on my mind I didn't pay attention when I taped and cut apart the 'before' samples and wound up making a costly error.  I cut only 105 samples instead of 135.  Instead of double checking my count before tossing the rest of the web into the washing machine, I just went ahead and wet finished what was left over so I could start pulling drafts and yarns for the Magic in the Water workshop at the folk school.  While the machines ran I felt I made good progress.

Only to be confronted with the truth when I started cutting apart the finished samples and had lots of cloth left over.  Way more than I ought to have!  With a sinking feeling I did count the 'before's and sure enough - there weren't enough.

And so I get to do this warp all over again, taking up a day when I'd thought I could get started on the rest of the prototype Emerald Stripe warp and get that out of the way.

So I learn once again that life is not always perfect, the skies are not always sunny and clear and mistakes happen.

Time to pull up the big girl panties and deal with it.  But I sure do dislike having to re-do something I thought was done!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deadlines - Just In Time

One of my 'failings' is that I tend to treat deadlines as a way to procrastinate.  Deadline is two weeks away?  I've got a week before I have to actually do anything about it.  Which can then turn into 5 days.  Then 3 days.  Finally when there is no more room to procrastinate, I find a surge of adrenaline energy and tackle that deadline to the ground!

Well, that worked - sort of - when I was younger and had more energy to burn.  But working on adrenaline all the time is wearing and I must be growing up or something because I find myself looking further ahead, starting work on a large project sooner and ultimately trying to get a large project done ahead of time instead of just in time.

Doug is going to start stapling the samples for AGY:Rayon today, which means I really need to finish weaving them.  I'm still waiting for the yarn from Silk City, but these can be 'finished' so today I taped and cut apart the 'before' samples and will wet finish the rest of the cloth, possibly today, possibly tomorrow.

I also want to clear the decks because I will need to start working on the workshop handouts.  The two day Magic in the Water workshop at John C. Campbell needs to have the yarns not just pulled, but the warps wound too.  The added attraction of this workshop is that participants don't have to bring a loom - I will be dressing the warps during the Boot Camp.  Doing double duty by demoing how I dress looms and getting the warps for the workshop onto the looms.  The folk school has more than enough looms for the 8 registrants in the Boot Camp as well as the 8 or so warps for the workshop.  :)

Atlanta, Nashville and probably Memphis are all a 'go' - Chattanooga has until Saturday to give me the go/no go word and Nashville and Memphis both have to have drafts and yarns mailed to them.  It takes a day to review the drafts and choose the ones appropriate for each class.  For example I don't send a lot of wool to southern climes, which sometimes means a bit of rummaging through the stash and re-tooling the drafts.

I also need to wind demo warps for the Boot Camp and Atlanta.  So, lots of details to be taken care of before the end of the year.

In between I'm waiting for the go-ahead from the designer - do I weave fabric for her or finish that warp off in tea towels?  Which ever, I need that loom for the last AGY:Rayon sample.

Then of course, there is the text to be written, edited, copied and the packages collated.  If I'm going to get them done before I leave, there isn't a day between now and January 14 to waste!

So, in spite of my trying to get everything done in time, I really don't want them to be done just in time but in a timely manner!

Maturity.  Something to be said for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Warp Packing

bamboo blind used as warp packing or separator - 5 more blinds in a tidy 'puddle' on the floor

From time to time a new-ish weaver will wonder if warp packing is really necessary and if so, what should be used?

The short answer is - it depends.

If you are only ever beaming very short warps and your loom's warp beam is fairly large, you may not need anything at all.

The problem comes when longer warps, especially of yarn with little elasticity, is being used for warp.  Add to that beaming with little tension and you are setting yourself up for a nasty experience.

As to what to use - that also depends.  It's pretty much personal preference.  Traditionally sticks were used. When I first started weaving the studio where I took my weaving class had both sticks and corrugated cardboard.  Both worked although the cardboard did get squished after a time.

I mostly used sticks until I started beaming sectionally.  The trick to using a sectional beam is to wind the warp on with a good amount of tension.  The rule of thumb is to use at least as much tension (preferably more) as will be applied during weaving.  (If you use warp flanges, that is like having one huge section and if you wind with sufficient tension you don't need any warp packing.)

The point of doing these things - warp packing (or separators) and beaming with tension is to build a nice solid warp, one where the upper layers cannot cut down into the lower layers when tension is applied to weave.

Eventually I got a small(er) loom and began pulling warps on again.  I needed something for warp packing. A friend gave me some very heavy vinyl wall paper which worked reasonably well.  The problem with long lengths of cardboard or wall paper is that they need to go on perfectly straight or they will begin to spiral as you wind the warp.  And as the warp is woven off, the length of either begins to buckle and pile up messily under the warp beam.

One day I was shopping in a store and spotted bamboo blinds.  Ah-ha!  I bought several, asked Doug to remove the hardware and started using them.

The advantage of the blinds over sticks is that you only need to stick the end into the warp and wind until the blind is all wound into the warp.  You don't need to stop every few inches to insert another stick.  Another advantage of the blinds over sticks or cardboard (or wall paper) is that they are self-unloading.  They simply drop down onto the floor in a fairly tidy 'puddle'.

My usual warp on the Leclerc is up to 11 meters.  The other advantage of the blinds is that they are approximately 2 yards long.  As each blind drops to the floor I know I've woven another 2 yards or so.  It's a nice way to keep track of my progress.

Currently reading The Buzzard Table by Margaret Maron

Monday, December 10, 2012

Breaking the Ice

Breaking the ice with the no-thinking-required white place mat warp last week I've been able to start to tackle my to-be-done list.

Since I am deadline driven, especially when several deadlines are looming (pun alert!), once I got back at it I was able to see more clearly what needed to be done and begin to do it.

The good news is that both classes are a 'go' at John C. Campbell albeit with only 3 so far in the two day workshop.  The class sponsored by SEFFA in Atlanta is a go, although they have more spots available.  The workshop in Nashville is a go with 11 (more spots available) and I think Memphis is also a go although I'm waiting on numbers from them.  Not positive about Chattanooga but they have until the 15th to get back to me.

In the meantime I am making headway on A Good Yarn: Rayon with sample #6 on the loom and weaving up nicely.

Doug is going to go to the annex to get the room ready to begin stapling and also deliver the 5 buckets of samples ready for stapling up there - and out of my way in the studio.

The prototype fabric has been mailed to the designer.  As soon as the sample above is woven and the before samples taped and cut apart I will begin preparing the yarns and handouts for the tour in January.  By the time those are done and in the mail the yarns will (should?) have arrived from Silk City and hopefully the AVL will be empty.  I put a 10 yard warp on for the prototype and am waiting for the designer to say yay or nay.  If it's a nay I'll weave the rest of that warp off as tea towels.

As for Christmas, is that soon or something????  I'm actually a lot more interested in when the solstice is happening because that means the return of longer days....

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Technical Challenges

One of the reasons I was approached by the designer in Vancouver was because she needed some fabric of very particular specifications that the mill wasn't able to accommodate.  They recommended that she contact me.  (I did some 'sample' weaving for them a few years ago.)

The cloth had to be a particular quality in a very specific width.  And she wants just 50 meters of each design.  At least, to begin with.  The mill has a minimum length of 100 yards and they didn't want to deal with such a narrow fabric (47-48 cm).

For me the width was not a problem, nor was the length.  I used to do 100+ yard long warps for the fashion designer I wove for so 50 meters isn't that big a deal.  I know what I need to do to weave 100 yards - 50 meters presents no difficulty for me.

The challenge was getting exactly the width required.  Since the same yarn at the same epi but woven in a slightly different weave structure will lose different amounts in terms of width (granted only a 1/4", perhaps, but enough to make the cloth too wide for it's purpose) it required extensive sampling to find a) the right weave structure to produce the quality of cloth required and b) the correct width in the reed to provide a finished cloth of 47-48 cm.

Since the ideal width in the reed requires a fraction of an inch I had to figure out how to make that fraction work in my one inch sectional beam.  The easiest way to work with it was to beam whole numbers, then cut back the excess threads.  (It is not a good idea to fill one section with fewer ends than all the rest as those threads will be a different length than the rest of the warp.)

To make it easy, I threaded the extra threads and tied them on, wove my header and then cut the extra threads away.  

If you squint you can see the cut threads at the top of the photo.  The extra threads where then stripped out of the reed and heddles and taken to the back of the loom where they were wound around an empty cardboard tube and suspended from the tension box rail (there is no back beam as such on my AVL).

As I weave the tubes will drop and when the threads are long enough I'll route them up over my warping valet so that they have a longer drop and I only need to wind them up every 2 yards instead of just under 1 yard.

And no, the extra threads won't go to waste.  I know someone who weaves a lot of inkle bands willing to deal with these bundles of yarn in order to get 'free' yarn for her inkle bands....

Currently reading Skeletons by Kate Wilhelm

Saturday, December 8, 2012


The sampling is done, and we think I've managed to get the quality of cloth the designer needs.  Now it's time to work on the prototype of her first design.

It's challenging to work with other creative people, especially when they are in slightly different media.  I've worked with a number of designers, some of whom knew more about weaving than others, in which case part of the challenge is to take their vision and interpret it in threads trying to make their vision come into material form (Pun alert - sorry - can't seem to help myself today!)

The fairly complex asymmetric stripe design for this cloth required that I re-set the spools on the spool rack 8 times for the 8 different combinations of colours per one inch section.  Pretty labour intensive for the 10 yard long warp, but neither of us wants to commit to 50 meters until we are both sure that the cloth will be exactly what she wants.

The good news is that the threading is dead simple so I'm hoping to finish threading today and start weaving tomorrow.  But I had exercise class for the first time in about 5 weeks and my neck isn't very happy with me.  However my friend gave me a new gizmo which seems to be helping a lot.  It's a chemical based heating 'pad'.  It's filled with gel and you 'click' a metal tab inside the plastic pad - it heats up to 130F and lasts for 2 hours.  It's shaped so that I can wear it around my neck and shoulders.  My neck is already feeling like threading is going to be a real possibility.  :0

Currently reading Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon

Friday, December 7, 2012

Marketing 101

When I go through my moments of angst about self-promotion, I try to remember the definition of 'marketing' i.e. sharing information (as opposed to advertising which is stuff you pay for - newspaper ads, tv, radio, etc.)

One rule I have for myself is that on any of my social media accounts - including this blog - I don't just only ever post information about stuff I'm trying to sell.  I sooth my conscience by telling myself that people aren't always barraged by my self-promotion but that I share my life, experiences and hints and tips re: weaving for free.

When I took a marketing class lo, these many years ago, it was really difficult for me to be up front about what I did.  I was caught in that self-deprecating cycle that so many introverted creative people go through - after all I know where all the mistakes are, I know how much better my stuff could be!

But over the weeks of the course I came to understand a few things.  Not everyone can do what I do, however well or badly I do it.  Not everyone wants to do what I do, but they appreciate the fact that I do it. Some of them enough to pay me for my efforts.

Those people want to know what I'm doing and if I don't tell them, how else will they find out?

And so, like badfarie says, I share my stuff just in case anyone else out there is interested because if I don't self-promote, how else will they know?

The answer to that question is personal endorsements.

I had a lovely phone call this morning from someone who just received her copy of A Good Yarn.  She told me how great it was and to be sure to let her know when the next one came out; even asked if there would be one on silk.  (I told her it was in the planning.)

While my ego was very gratified to hear her kind words, what would benefit me a lot more is if people who are satisfied with my publications/teaching would also share the information with their friends (or chat groups, etc.)  Its called 'word of mouth' and there's nothing more powerful.

The sad fact is that people who are not happy with a product/vendor will tell, on average, 27 people.  Those customers who are happy?  Will tell around 11.  (Stats from the marketing class taken in 1996 - they may have changed, but probably not much.)

The weaving community is a very tiny one.  When you look at the numbers of knitters or quilters as opposed to weavers, we are miniscule.  Suppliers who provide weaving tools, equipment and publications can't afford big advertising budgets.

If you are happy with the service a vendor in the weaving community has provided to you, the biggest favour you can do for the weaving community at large is to let everyone know how happy you are.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Court of Public Opinion

nearing the half way mark on the place mat warp

"You can please some of the people some of the time but you cannot please all of the people all of the time". A. Lincoln

I had to learn this very early in my career.  Since I am essentially a 'people pleaser' (iow, I really want people to like me) I also had to learn that it is perfectly ok if they don't.  Not everyone will like me and their opinion does not diminish me in any way.  It was a hard lesson to learn and I still struggle with it.

As a self-employed creative person depending upon writing and teaching for a good chunk of my income, it is a constant struggle for me to promote myself and my work.  I do it, but it's not easy and any hint of negatively can threaten to send me off my emotional rails.  But I've learned that while I may wobble a bit, and that there a few people out there who don't cotton to my self promotion much, there are others who do.

But lordy, do I get tired of tooting my own horn!  Watch my You Tube videos!  Buy my publications!  Hire me to teach!   Pay me to write articles!  Me, Me, Me!

What I have learned as well is that you can never underestimate the ability of someone to take offense when none is intended.

And so I juggle these two maxims and try to stay on course.

After managing a good morning's work, I am off to visit a new little one and his mom, something I am really looking forward to doing.  :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pick One - Any One

Decided that I'd better hoist myself up out of my chair and get started on something - any thing - so picked something that didn't require any thinking at all - an all white place mat warp.  The trampoline I borrowed is to the right of the photo.  When I want to use it I set it down on the floor between my 'library' and the Leclerc loom.  When I'm not using it I have to tip it up out of the way.  Of course that makes it nearly impossible to get to my books, but hey, nothing's perfect!

This is an 11 meter long warp, 15 inches wide made from 2/8 cotton at 20 epi.  No, I don't tie every meter.  This yarn is quite well behaved - mostly - and I find that two ties along the length are sufficient.  The other two ties are the choke tie and counting string.)  But I also beam my warps under tension which helps keep wayward threads under control.

And here it is ready to be rough sleyed.  I would have finished this except that it's lunch time and my stomach is getting noisy!  I'll eat, go to town to mail a couple of parcels, then come back and finish dressing the loom. I'm hoping to get weaving tonight after dinner.

One of my 'problems' is that now that Doug is home all the time I've had to adjust my schedule.  Not that we are joined at the hip or anything, but when I was alone in the house I could do what I wanted when I wanted.  It's going to take a while to adjust to the new reality and get back into the groove.  The fact that I am also exhausted from a busy autumn schedule means that I've been wallowing.  Not that there aren't things to do, of course.

So it was time to pick one - any one at all - and just (as Nike says) do it.

Currently reading Master & God by Lindsey Davis - not one of her Falco mystery series so I'm not sure if I'll finish it.  But I do enjoy her writing generally and have enjoyed other of her stand alone novels, so we'll see.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Janet Dawson (The Bobbin Tree, Sydney, NS) calls these the 'bunny eared bags of delight'.  This is how Maurice Brassard ships large orders of yarn.

I have had to be stern with myself and leave it sitting like a carrot (get it?) and organize my studio, complete some priority stuff on my job list (still one more I'm procrastinating over). and just generally leave it alone until I have a better grasp of what absolutely needs to be slammed onto either of the looms first.  Decisions, decisions!

The good news is that I have wet finished the two pieces of fabric off the sample warp, and surprise!  The one I was going to keep for holiday runners appears to more closely meet the requirements so I'll send both off tomorrow and see what the designer says.

I have also found a source of spun hemp and hemp/cotton at a price that I could actually resell it - if it weaves up as nicely as I'm thinking it will.  The sample order went in today and I will let you know how it works out.  If I decide to sell some of it, it would become available in the spring on approximately 8 ounce cones.  (Like I really needed to increase my stash - I have to buy 50 kilos of each kind of yarn to get a good price!  Looks like I won't be giving up the annex any time soon?)

Now I really really need to deal with that group email regarding the tour in Jan/Feb....

Currently reading A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Guild room sale

All set up ready for customers.
Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network