Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Stick Shuttle

Took this photo for a blog post for Craftsy but it's out of focus so I won't use it after all.  I'm planning on a post about winding weft packages and when using a stick shuttle, I always wind the weft only over one edge of the shuttle in a figure 8.

I often see people recommending winding over both edges and around the middle which effectively makes a very fat weft package.  I'm told it's to cram as much weft onto the shuttle as possible.

Unfortunately that isn't really the best way to do it, in my opinion.  So, some free advice - and remember what free advice is worth!

By winding the weft in a figure 8 over one edge of the shuttle, the yarn builds up at the back of the shuttle and most of it lies on the top.  My stick shuttles are Leclerc brand, and I think you can clearly see that they are beveled on the leading edge.  By winding the weft on the other side, the 'spine' of the shuttle, in a figure 8, the shuttle can be used as a beater when weaving on a loom without one.  By putting the majority of the yarn on the top of the shuttle, the bottom is mostly wood, which will glide much more easily than yarn rubbing against yarn.

The weft package takes on a wedge shape which closely matches the shape of the shed.

All in all it just makes more sense to me to work with the tools and yarn.  A stick shuttle wound with a great big fat weft package will not go through the shed easily, will abrade the yarn, both on the shuttle and the warp and in the end is a form of 'hurrying' which really isn't very efficient.

Every yarn has a beginning and an end.  Learn how to deal with joins and ultimately, again in my opinion, make weaving a lot more enjoyable by winding smaller more efficient weft packages.  And that includes bobbins, quills and pirns.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Weaver

Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

This isn't the best photo - taken on my cell phone.

Would you believe this was woven by a complete and absolute beginner?  Perfectly straight selvedges and a beat that was pretty darned consistent!

The guild has a couple of looms with warps on so when I got a phone call the other day from someone saying she wanted to learn how to weave but didn't have a loom, was there any possibility of learning?  I invited her to the guild drop in.

Tonight she braved the cold temps (it turned into a serious cold 'snap'), I spent about 20 minutes giving her an introduction to the loom (this is warp, this is weft), quickly went through the names of the different parts of the loom, explained about threading, tie up, treadling, then covered basic posture at the loom, how to hold and throw the shuttle and wham, bam, she was off as though she'd been weaving for years.

She's going to try to come back on Saturday when I have another wannabe weaver coming.  They each can take a loom and see how it goes.  But I think the one tonight is...hooked.  

More Than One Way

There is more than one way to skin a cat (sorry cat lovers).

It seems everyone thinks their way is the absolutely best way to do what they do.  But we are not all equal.  Nor do we all want to make the same things.  Our looms are different, the yarns we are using are different.  So while I believe that my method is the best method for me, I know that it may not be the best method for anyone else.

Over the years I have fine tuned my processes in order to streamline the amount of effort required in what is a very labour intensive craft.  Once I figured out the best equipment to purchase for my needs, worked out how to do the processes with the least amount of surplus effort, set up my studio so that things are at hand, got looms that best make the type of cloth I want to weave, the rest was practice, practice, practice.

Over and over again I see new weavers assuming that they will get stellar results the very first time they make it to the loom.  Unfortunately weaving requires certain basic skills and they don't come without effort.

True there are some people who are better more quickly than others.  What I said about us not being equal?  Manual dexterity and eye/hand co-ordination are abilities that some people have in abundance, and others?  Not so much.  So yes, while some people do get really good results very quickly, it is not a given.

In addition to the actual physical skills required, obtaining appropriate equipment (warping pegs, warping board, mill, drum, wheel, sectional?), weavers must also learn about the materials they are using.  Being able to make good choices is sometimes intuitive, other times poor choices are made and results are not as desired.  Then there is the way colour blends in a woven structure, how texture affects the cloth, the appropriate density for the function the cloth is to serve.

There are many many facets or layers involved in learning how to create textiles.  It is what keeps me coming back to the loom, because there is always something more to learn.  I find that extremely satisfying.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I have been very low on rayon chenille scarves for the past couple of years and this year after all was said and done, there were just three scarves left.  I could have sold a lot more if I'd had more, and since I still have significant inventory of rayon chenille, I'm revisiting them.

Actually a friend came and wound this warp for me last summer but with my back issues they never got woven.  So it was a slam/dunk to take the already wound warp and get it onto the loom yesterday after I cut the last painted scarf warp off.  I even got it threaded before dinner so it took just a few minutes this morning to sley, tie on and begin weaving.

My challenge now is to use up as much of my rayon chenille stash without buying more to go with it as I can.  Of course that means stretching my creativity to the limit as I'm very low on the colours I like and have plenty that don't sing to me.  But sometimes that's when you really begin to stretch and grow as an artist/artisan.  It is only by pushing our boundaries that we do grow.

My friend wound two warps for me so I'm really hoping I can get both done and deliver the four scarves to the fringe twisting elf tomorrow night.  Since rayon chenille needs a pretty substantial beat, I don't know when I'll be able to whomp away at weaving so I'm trying to get these and some place mats done now.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


The beginning of the end...this is the last of the painted warps for scarves and it is now officially 'done'.  Weaving, that is.

Thinking a lot about Life and whatnot.  In the 1960's the Rolling Stones famously sang You Can't Get No Satisfaction.  For a while I believed that.  If anyone had told me that whether or not I was happy was based on the choices I would make, I would likely have sneered.  Happiness wasn't a choice - either Life was Good and you were, or Life was Awful and you weren't.

Well several decades have passed since then and I now realize that whether or not one is happy is, in very large measure, down to choice.

Come March of next year it will be 40 years since I made the fateful decision to give up everything I had been doing and become a weaver.  I don't know why I knew that was a good choice but what I discovered was that - while I'm 'poor' financially - I was to become rich beyond my expectations in terms of satisfaction.  Indeed, in that most rare of coins - happiness.

Weaving came to me at the persistent efforts of the universe, who obviously knew better than I did what I needed.  What I discovered was that weaving wasn't just about taking threads and making cloth.  Or, not just.

Weaving satisfies the creative thinker, the planner, the control freak, the mechanic, the athlete/dancer, the teacher/mentor, the author.  I even discovered the joy of certain parts of mathematics, much to my never ending surprise!  Weaving satisfies the tactile, the visual, the imagination, the physical.

I discovered that my path in life up to that fateful moment had laid the foundation for me to leap into weaving with gusto.  I had even taken classes in high school that proved invaluable - Law 11, Office Practices, Typing.

With writing came a computer - eventually - and my typing skills stood me in good stead.  Bookkeeping?  I could set up my own ledger and double entry bookkeeping system so that I could track my own financial records.  I could make up class handouts.  Eventually even self-publish a book.  Several 'books'.

Being self-employed allowed me to set my own hours (way too many, usually!), take time off when I wanted to, accept commissions or refuse them based on my desire to do that - or not - or the state of my health.

At my age, many people have much bigger pension funds and way more material goods.  But I've had experiences that they have not, met people I would never have met in an 'ordinary' job.

If I were to be told that this is the end of life, I would be sad - mostly because I have so much yarn, so many more ideas I would like to bring into being.  But ultimately I have lived my life in such a way as to say that I have had a great deal of satisfaction.

Yes, there have been pot holes.  Yes, I have some regrets.  But it has been a full and active life.  And I am satisfied.  So there, Mick Jagger!

Saturday, December 27, 2014


When the loom is working and only surface attention is required my mind can wander and think about other things.

One of the things I ponder is how much I ought to be adding to the carbon footprint of the world, the glut of textiles available in the 'first' world and if I should really be encouraging people to buy more...stuff...

The thing is, I have to be creating something.  Making is as much a part of me as, well, breathing.  Oh, I know, I exaggerate, but I am not a happy camper when I can't weave.  The amount of satisfaction, even joy, I receive from taking individual threads and making cloth?  Priceless.

The joy I see on the faces of people who buy my cloth?  Even better.

So, yes, even though I am adding to the material 'burden' of society - quite literally - I decided today that I was no longer going to feel guilty about it.  If joy is the ultimate result of the time I spend at the loom - not just mine, but others - surely that is justification enough?

Currently reading The Art of the English Murder by Lucy Worsley

Thursday, December 25, 2014

When Work = Play

Beaming warp sectionally - green first, then red

Completed warp

I rarely accept special orders any more - unless it is just doing one of my established designs in a different colourway.

But I agreed to tackle this special order for a couple of reasons.

One, the customer gave me complete freedom to design something.
Two, I had so many requests for table textiles that I figured even if the customer didn't like what I did I could probably find a customer somewhere.

When I do accept a special order I tell the customer that I will make something, no obligation on them to actually buy it.  

The cloth is to be a square that will fit on a round table.  Doing just one item isn't economical in terms of investment in time, so I put 10 yards on today (yes, I 'worked' on Christmas Day - my work is my play, too) and should be able to get 5 or 6 squares out of the warp.

I have ideas for several different designs.  At least one will be woven with dark green as weft, but I also have some fine natural linen in a sort of brown-ish hue, plus I have some two ply cotton/linen blend.  So that's three possibilities.  I'm sure I can find more yarn in my copious stash.  

Each square will be woven with a different tie-up/treadling and when completed I will invite the customer to take a look at all of them and see if she likes any of them.

As a side benefit, I realized that some of the red 2/8 cotton was actually 2/16.  This pleases me because I had been thinking of ordering in some 2/16 in reds and now I don't have to.  Win!

Currently reading The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince by Robin Hobb - a title I stumbled on at the library but which isn't listed on her website - not sure why.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Crossing Things Off

This is it - the last of the painted warps.  It's been a very long time, much longer than I had hoped, but then when Life Happens, all you can do is weather the storm as best you can and if your plans go awry?  Well, that is how Life Happens.

Weavers are, by their nature, a bit of a control freak.  We tend to love the tiny minutiae that is involved in the process.  We talk about a thread under tension being a thread under control.  We nit pick the slightest inconsistency.  We fuss when things don't turn out the way we want, even though the results are perfectly acceptable.

Weaving keeps us humble as time after time things go zooming out of our control and we fight to bring them back to where we want them to be.

So at last, at very long last, I am getting the 'last' of the painted warps into the loom.  It will be done before the official new year will take place (she says, trying to exert control).

I have a long list of stuff to make for the craft fairs next year and a much too large stash that I am hoping will yield the majority of the yarn with which to make it.  I'm really hoping to see my stash reduce, not grow.  So far that hasn't worked too well as I have bought yarns to use as warp in order to use Lynn's Legacy.  And I have used up quite a lot of that fine linen.  But there is more!

But now I need to turn my attention to other things, other yarns.  Topping the list are some special orders, which I'm really determined to get woven and delivered before surgery.  I'm just waiting for a part for the AVL and the wide table topper warp can go on that loom.  Once this scarf warp is done, I need to weave two special orders of place mats.  And then I can begin inventory for the shows next year.  I've already got the yarn for a run of shawls picked out and a tentative draft.

So much yarn, so many ideas, so little time.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tis the Season

I seem to be well into the season, given my colour choices!

The above picture is #2 scarf on the current painted warp.  Two more and this warp will be done.  And then one more red warp and I can finally cross "weave painted scarf warps" off my task list.  It seems like forever.

And way to go Canada Post.  I only placed the yarn order last week and the box is already here.  This warp is going onto the AVL because it needs to be wider than will fit on the Leclerc (41" in the reed).

While I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do - enough to go ahead and order the yarn - the fine details still need to be worked out.  While I wove on the scarf I ran through a bunch of possibilities and now need to sit down and crunch numbers.

Over the past few days I've been going over my check list for the surgery/recovery and today we decided to buy a LaZ-Boy recliner.  It reclines and lifts, heats and massages.  Now I need to get rid of my sofa and re-arrange the furniture to fit the recliner into my tiny living room.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Endings in weaving aren't really endings at all.  Yes, I cut this warp off the loom today so that could be considered 'ended'.  But it's not close to 'done' yet.

The cloth roll is being cut and serged in preparation for wet finishing.  After pressing, they still need to be hemmed, pressed again and then tagged/priced.  Only then will this particular cloth be truly 'done'.  But even then, the job isn't really finished.  They still have to be sold or gifted to a new home.

When your stated goal is to make things to sell, until they are sold you really aren't finished with them.  So as much as I find standing in my booth at a craft fair being pleasant to people uncomfortable, until it's sold, the job isn't finished.

As one exhibitor put it, if it isn't sold, it might as well have stayed raw materials on the shelf.

Now that is, perhaps, an over simplification, but if the whole point of making something is to sell it, then you have to do what needs to be done in order to get it sold.

Making stuff to sell isn't the only reason I make stuff.  I make stuff because I have to.  I have a creative urge that will not be denied.  If I wasn't making, I would be pretty awful to be around.  The difference between me and most other weavers (not all) is that my intention is to sell my textiles, and was from the very beginning.

This isn't something that everyone can do - financially it's a pretty hard road to travel.  Many people find that having a secure job with a regular paycheque and benefits allows them to be creative in their off work hours.  Not everyone can gamble on being able to make and sell things and still be able to eat and keep a roof over their heads.  Others wait until they've put their 25+ years in and can collect their pensions before they start creating and maybe selling a little.

I've always said that weaving can be a good supplemental income but a really hard 'living'.

But whatever level someone participates in making really doesn't matter.  What matters is that we find a life that gives us satisfaction.  Regardless of what you do, every single 'job' will have it's benefits and...frustrations.

Weaving is no different.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

For many years my new year has begun in December.  December, when all the shows are done.  December, when I could collapse for a few days.  December, when pressing deadlines were pretty much nonexistent.  December, when the shrinking hours of daylight turned around the solstice and began to lengthen once again.  

December, when the promise of returning light, spring and life brings hope.  

It is the human condition to be faced with challenges.  Without hope these challenges can seem daunting.  Indeed they may seem insurmountable.  The only way out is through.  

Our ancestors celebrated the returning sun with light.  Huge bonfires were built to drive away the dark and encourage the sun to return.  Today we string lights, draping them over our houses, trees, fences. We erect trees inside our houses, similarly draped with light.  

We look forward to the new year, the coming spring, the return of life.  

Beginning today the daylight hours will increase.  I, for one, am celebrating the new year today.  

Wishing everyone the very best for the coming year whenever and however you celebrate.  

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Rabbit Hole

One of the things that attracted me to weaving was the intellectual pursuit of questioning "What would happen if...?"

Over the years I enjoyed digging into this or that aspect of weaving, learning as much as I could about changing various factors and what effect those variables had on the cloth.  

But for the last 10 or so years I simply haven't had the mental acuity to delve into cloth construction in any depth.  

I nearly launched a research project in 2010, then broke my ankle in two places.  Since then weaving has become mostly a "let's use up as much stash as possible while weaving becomes therapy" kind of activity.  

Last spring, after the DVDs were taped I started thinking again about a more intellectual pursuit of weaving and joined Complex Weavers, thinking to join a study group.  I did get the sample I agreed to woven but then life got...complicated...with more health issues.  

Now that surgery is nearly here, hopefully just a few more weeks to wait, I had been commenting to a friend that I would like to pursue the 2010 project, but the special yarn required was no longer commercially available.  While I could spin it myself I'm not a proficient spinner and I'm definitely not fast.  

Turns out she was just as interested in the topic as I am.  And so I have a partner willing to leap into doing some research.  And now I'm anxious to get the surgery over and done with!

As we discuss what could be done, I suspect that leaping into the deep end might be akin to disappearing down a rabbit hole.  Because when you change one thing, everything can change.  And that is part of what I have always found exciting about weaving.  

Currently reading Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


There are some aspects to weaving that are more...challenging...than others.

People can approach weaving any way they like.  Some people find the combination of warp and weft colours, texture, or the more 'technical' approach more intriguing.  Some people like all of those, all together or serially.

A weaver can focus on honing their technical skills, or they can just go with the flow.  As long as the individual is happy, it doesn't really matter.

However, if a weaver is going to enter a juried show or in some way put their work into the world to be judged, they really need to be aware of what they are doing and how they are doing it.

I have juried exhibits on a number of occasions and while how I mark is a reflection of my opinion, it is an informed opinion.  I have gone through the process of being judged and while it's not always pleasant to have someone point out faults, it is always educational - if we accept that perhaps the judge/jury may know more than we do and then see if their comments are applicable.

One time I agreed with another juror that a particular textile we were examining did not deserve first place.  When the third juror questioned why we would not give first place to that item, I pointed out a rather (to me) glaring technical fault with it.  In the end we all agreed that while it was a pretty impressive piece of weaving, it could not be given a first place ribbon.

So what's the story with the above photo?  And is it 'perfect'?

Well, first of all, no, it's not 'perfect'.  The weft used is actually a little bit too thick and the pick count is 'off'.  So I would never submit this textile to a juried exhibit.  But it was never intended to be on display for anyone but my family and friends.  It lives on my dining room table, covered with clear plastic so that it can be seen but doesn't get dirty.

The whole project came about because my Swedish neighbour desperately wanted this particular design which is traditional to the province she hails from, but wide enough to properly cover her large dining table.  She also wanted three cloths, one for each additional leaf to extend the table for small, medium and large family gatherings.  And she wanted each cloth to have a 'proper' border all around the edge.  In order to get the width required the cloth had to be woven double wide.  Whew!

I would not even consider doing it until after I got the Compu-Dobby - I simply did not have sufficient bars for the mechanical dobby to execute this design!  (The Swedish Snowflake design is a large one - twice as long with the double width thing happening, plus another chain for the borders?  Not happening until I had the computer assist.)

I decided to take a sabbatical from production weaving at one point and told her I would do the table cloths for her.  The warp was wound at 36 epi per layer (72 epi in total) 30 yards long, just in case I messed up one or more of her cloths.

Once I got the loom dressed and started weaving it became apparent that every single shed had to be checked and cleared.  I used a small hand mirror to check from each side to make sure the shed was clear before throwing the shuttle.  Out of the four sheds for each two picks, only one was clear some of the time - the other three always had to have some threads re-aligned to make a clear path for the shuttle.  And the fold.  Oh, the fold, the bugabear of weavers who try to weave a double wide fabric!

After managing to successfully weave her three table cloths (she got to hem them!) I still had some warp left over.  I also had enough of the singles blue linen to weave myself a cloth to fit my table, plus one for a friend.

The 30 yards took about 3 months to weave as I could only manage 9 inches a day instead of my more usual 10-15 yards a day.

It was an huge technical challenge.  By the end of it I felt enormous satisfaction.  There wasn't a single pick that wound up in the 'wrong' place - not one area where the two layers were 'stitched' together.  The cloths fit my neighbour's table 'properly' and she was thrilled.  I have a piece to display on my table and I gave a gift to a friend who had been very generous to me.

But it was a once in a lifetime project.  Been there, done that, got the tablecloth!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


This photo is a little out of focus but with my future a tad 'blurry' at the least the colours are pretty accurate and you can see the nice thick roll of cloth building up on the beam.  So, all in all, the photo seemed appropriate for where my life is at the minute.

A friend asked me if the waiting wasn't really hard.  I said that it wasn't, now that I had some sort of semi-accurate timeline.  Not knowing when it might happen was much harder.  Knowing that it is coming soon allows me to get mentally prepared as well as working out some of the logistics.  Another friend always says that it is better to have done something than that you will be doing something - especially something that has a certain level of...unpleasantness about it.

At this point in time I've reached the stage where I'd just like to get it over and done with.  I survived the broken ankle.  I survived the chemo.  I will survive this.  And ultimately, the quality of life after recovery should be better than it is now.

So for the time being I am using weaving as therapy.  My chances for a speedy recovery will be better if I can maintain some level of physical and mental fitness.  If I can continue to weave, even if it is just 'easy' stuff, I should be able to retain some physical fitness and the endorphins from the aerobic activity, mild as it may be, will help me mentally as I face at least 6 weeks after surgery before I can weave again.  And even then, I expect it will have to be on the Leclerc, weaving something that doesn't require a whomp of the beater.

To that end, I've planned to leave the Leclerc with a shawl warp that requires a very gentle open spacing of the weft, not a place mat warp or even a scarf warp.

I have purchased clothing that buttons down the front (won't be able to raise my hands over my head for a while), decided that Doug will stay at the hotel next door to the hospital so that he can bring me 'safe' meals (I don't trust the hospital to be able to cater to my very specialized allergy restrictions) and that we will fly home.  I have stocked up on books, puzzles and may possibly have hand hemming to do if I get a bunch of place mats woven.

My schedule (such as it may be) for the next few weeks are to:
- finish the towel warp on the AVL
- weave the two painted scarf warps
- weave place mats on the Leclerc - two special orders plus general inventory - as much as I can manage
- weave a special order for a table topper on the AVL as soon as the yarn arrives
- wind the shawl warp to leave on the Leclerc for recovery - and get it onto the loom before we leave, whenever that may be

The hospital will phone to let me know the anticipated date about two weeks before they think they can fit me in.  At that time we will hope the hotel has a kitchenette available for 10 days, which, being January, they ought to.  There will be things to deal with before we go - two weeks should be ample time to arrange them - house sitter, mail collector, driveway shoveler (probably all the same person), bills to pay, suitcases to pack.

I can't help but think of the line from Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Everything will be all right in the end.  If it's not all right, it is not yet the end.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Deadline Deluge

All of a sudden I feel as though I am being deluged by deadlines.  The proverbial tunnel with the  light at the end?  Feeling like an on-coming locomotive.

(The above photo is inside a beehive burner looking upwards - taken by Doug a few years ago at the railway museum - but feels right for today's post.)

As usual my request list at the library has entered into the 'feast' phase - after weeks of waiting for a number of new titles from my fav authors, suddenly they are arriving.  We won't discuss the number of books I own and therefore have no due date.

Each day I arise, determined to jump on the daily tasks and each day I move about as quickly as a sloth.  My energy seems to arrive around noon and disappear by 4 pm.  If I don't get into the studio during those hours I get nothing done down there.  Or anywhere else.

Add to that other tasks awaiting me and it feels like I am accomplishing very little at all with several things about to go critical in the next few days.

And yet, here I sit at the computer, ignoring what really needs to be done.

Back to my usual coping strategy I guess.  Make a list.  Start crossing them off, one at a time.

Currently reading The Secret Place by Tana French

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Begin Agin

....and here I go again.  The first few ends in a warp that will be 764 ends.  You might just be able to see that it's mostly blue with a little 'sea green'.  The threading is another variation on point twill that will likely be woven in an advancing progression.  It's not quite what I had envisioned, so I may play with the treadling and tie up some more once the loom is up and running and I can see how it actually looks in the cloth rather than on the computer screen.  In the flesh, so to speak.

Yes I do use weaving software - Fiberworks by choice.  I have played around some with Pixeloom which in many ways is similar but I know Fiberworks so very well I have never felt like wallowing at the bottom of the learning curve to learn a new program.  What I've seen and done looks great, though, so if you are in the market for weaving software, either of these programs is pretty intuitive for most people to use.

If you want to know way more about Fiberworks than I do, Margaret Coe has pretty much written the books you need.

For the iPad I use iWeaveit.  I began this threading by messing about on the iPad, then when I had a threading I thought I liked, emailed it to myself so I could open it on the desktop in Fiberworks.  From there I derived a tie up (my standard 1:3:1:3:2:2:3:1) and played with woven as drawn in, advancing, variations on advancing.  When I knew I could do something close to what I wanted, I generated the threading only to follow as I thread.  I keep a pencil or pen handy and as I do each handful, mark off where I am in the sequence.

When dealing with a very long repeat (5 repeats in this warp plus borders) it's all too easy to get 'lost' if the phone rings or something causes my concentration to fail.  Something that happens more and more often these days.  And something that I hope will improve after the surgery.  Or not.  I am 64.5 years old now.  I've been told memory gets a little funky as we age!

The small loom is still nekkid so perhaps I'll get that dressed too.  I would sure like to finish off those last two painted warps so I can cross that task off my job list.

And then I can begin agin with something completely different...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Colour Blast

After 30 yards of beige, especially during the dreary grey days we had been having, I really needed a palette change.  Since the AVL was nekkid and the Leclerc still had the last half of a painted warp in RED, it was a delight to switch over to that loom.

Not only that, but to finish one more warp was very satisfying!

There are two more red painted warps left, which I will continue to work on in between working on the AVL.

Now that I have an approximate surgical date we are beginning to make plans for the coming year.  Ultimately it is looking increasingly as though I am 'retired' from teaching in the US - the difficulty of getting across the border is just getting to be too much of a hassle - but I hope I can continue to teach in Canada - either here in Prince George taking private students, but most especially in BC and Alberta.

Right now we are looking at possibly being at the provincial conference in Red Deer next May, and Olds Fibre Week in June.  The ANWG conference will be held in Victoria in '17 so I'm hoping to be healthy enough to apply to teach there.

But essentially I have a couple of pretty large 'swords' hanging over my head in terms of health issues as well as the little ones most people have at my age.  So I'm not making big plans about much of anything right now.  Mostly I'm focusing on getting through next Jan/Feb and then see how things are going.

Stash reduction will continue to be a priority as I fill up the 'holes' in my inventory from a fairly successful craft fair season.  Such a nice 'problem' to have!  Even better that enough things have sold out that I get to design whole new lines of things.  I can hardly wait for my energy to come back!

Monday, December 8, 2014


This past weekend was the guild sale/demo.  Unfortunately it was rather more quiet than hoped, but a few of my 'discontinued' items found new homes so that made me happy.

On Sunday Doug went pressing and brought home the finished, finished, red tea towels plus a bucket full of the chocolate brown weft towels.  I am quite pleased with how they look but they are thicker than my preference for 'tea' towels.  They would make good 'kitchen utility towels'.  Or table runners.

In this photo you can see both sides of the cloth and the pinned hem at one end.  I started hemming last night, but didn't get very far.

However, these are close enough to done with one week left in my 'buy two items, get free shipping' offer to include them.  There are about 15 of them.

After a couple of weeks of lovely winter weather we are having a warm spell.  The bad news is that with the warmer temps comes rain.  It isn't raining yet, so I should really head to town and brave the line up at the post office.  The down side of running a 'sale' at this time of the year - everyone else is mailing Christmas parcels and the line ups are huge.

As for what is happening in the studio today?  Probably work on the next scarf on the small loom while I cogitate about the next tea towel warp on the AVL.  I think I know what I want but need to get it into the weaving software and crunch the numbers to see if the threading repeat will fit into the number of ends for a tea towel.  I've got one large and one smaller cone of the tow linen left that I'd love to see used up.  And after that?  Oh yes, the two large cones of singles 20 natural linen I 'forgot' I had...

Still lots of stuff left in the Cyber Monday 'sale' - check the Dec. 1 post for up-to-date numbers - the towels pictured above are  in the $28 category

Friday, December 5, 2014

Wet and Dry

towels with chocolate weft

The colour is so dramatically different because the towel on the left is wet while the one on the right is dry.  IOW, before and after wet finishing (although the wet one still needs to be pressed).

Even so, you can easily see how much the wet finishing changes the cloth (click on photo to biggify).  Although I know the colour will go back to its dry state, the reed marks are much less pronounced and to me it looks like whole cloth, not a set of interlaced 3 dimensional 'rods' (threads).

Believe me, cutting and serging this warp was a challenge because it tended to fall apart if you looked at it cross ways!  The brown linen is not tow but probably line linen, therefore very stiff and all too inclined to pop out of the woven web.  Serging at least prevented the part I wanted to keep contained, but the bit that was being cut off?  A mind of its own, to be sure!  I had to keep stopping to tame the wild loose threads, use the tweezers to remove them from the guts of the machine and from hitching themselves onto the part that was being sewn.  Even so, the serger thread broke twice because of those loose threads tangling.

So I was very happy indeed to finish cutting and serging, knowing that that yarn is all used up!

Stash reduction!  Gotta love it.

ps - since these towels are now off the loom and in the process of being wet finished, they qualify for the 'buy two, get free shipping' offer that continues until Dec. 15 - or inventory is sold.  14 towels with the chocolate, 5 with the natural beige tow linen.

Currently reading Enemy in the House by Lindsey Davis.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


My AVL is an 'antique'.  Yes, that's right, it's number 00181.  It was probably the first loom shipped with a fly shuttle and the auto-cloth advance arrived about six months later.

This was in, oh, 1982.  So the loom is 'antique' at 32 years old.  That's 32 years of production weaving, with literally miles and miles and miles of cloth over the beams.

As the weaver using it has aged, so has the loom.  Bits and pieces of it are wearing out.  And so it happened today that when I changed the pick wheel from 26 to 28, all of a sudden the auto-cloth advance would not work any longer.

Doug came into the studio as I was tearing it apart and helped diagnose the problem.  It's hard to see but there is a lever on the underneath of the pick wheel (that thing with the teeth) that prevents the wheel from slipping when the long rod pushes against the top pawl (I think that's the correct word.)

Unfortunately the hole that the bottom lever sits in is worn.  Badly.  So badly the lever would not align properly and was preventing the mechanism from working to advance the cloth.

Doug was able to jury-rig a fix which I hope will see me through the last 5 yards of warp on the loom and then he will do a better fix which will hopefully allow the loom to continue to work as it is supposed to do.

While he is doing that I will hop on over to the Leclerc and finally deal with those painted warps for scarves.  Hopefully it won't take long to re-drill the hole and insert a bushing, but I'm not sure he can do it himself or if he'll have to find a metal worker/machinist.

I'm hoping that he can get it fixed so that it lasts the rest of my weaving life.  I rather suspect that when I'm done weaving, this loom will be, too.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cyber Monday, My Way

Since I still have inventory that I would love see go to a new loving home, and since it would be nice to join in the spirit by having a sale, I am reprising my 'buy two (or more) and get free shipping' sale that I did over the summer.

What there is:

Weave a V by Kerstin Fro;berg - $20.

A Good Yarn:  Rayon:  $40

And tea towels.  These are just some of them:

100% cotton  $24 each
Red:  10
Blue:  0
Rose:  6

2/16 cotton warp with tow linen weft - $28 each:

beige/orange:  8
white/cream with natural:  6
turquoise with natural:  7

2/16 cotton with singles 20 weft - $36 each:

red:  2 ready, many more to be pressed (like maybe another 24?) perfect for festive occasions.  The pattern is Young Lover's Knot overshot translated to twill blocks
emerald green:  21 - another overshot translated to twill blocks
greyed blue/green:  11 - snail's trails and cat's paws in twill blocks
turquoise:  15 blooming leaf overshot in twill blocks

I can also burn Magic in the Water to a flash drive or CD - $25

My version of Cyber Monday will last until Dec. 15 or until stock is sold.  Items shipped closer to Christmas might arrive after the Christmas mail rush because I will only pay for the cheapest rate.  And yes, this includes outside North America.  

I also have a few 'orphans' - if you don't see a colour you want, I may have one or two left and will send pictures if you let me know what you are looking for.  

FOR ALL ORDERS, EMAIL ME:  laura at laurafry dot com

Season's Greetings to everyone - whatever you celebrate I hope it's a fantastic one.

*edited to show up to date numbers

For Diana

There are no purple shawls left, just this one blue shawl.  On my monitor the colour is pretty accurate.  Doug suggested using something to compare colour with so the blue lid is from a Kraft Miracle Whip jar, which also looks pretty accurate on my monitor.

This shawl is probably too blue but it's all I have left other than the pink/white ones.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bench Marks

The Efficient Weaver

From time to time I do a check on my productivity.  Partly it is a way to see how I'm doing.  Partly it is curiousity.  With all my health issues and not being able to weave over the summer, I started wondering if I had slipped on my skills.  Or was I back up to speed?

With the AVL and weaving software, I can easily count how many picks I weave in a session if I just keep track of the number of picks when I start and stop.  So today I did that.

In a 45 minute session I did about 1750 picks.  Now this includes the bobbin changes, the shuttle jams (because, linen), backing up a couple of times because the weft loop pulled in too tight (because shuttle jams), and so on.  So my actual weaving speed is higher than that.  I have been estimating about 48 picks per minute.  With all the stoppages, actual productivity was about 38 picks per minute, so it seems as though I'm pretty much back up to speed.

As I've said before (and will no doubt say again) working efficiently is not hurrying.  It is rather, a mental attitude first and foremost.  The attitude that one's time is more precious than anything else, and then consciously working towards minimizing the amount of effort put into a physical activity.  It is not something that happens overnight, nor all of a sudden.  You have to work at it.  The more often you do a physical skill (whatever that may be) the better you will get at it if you pay attention and constantly monitor your progress.

"If I change this to that, does it make it better?  Does it allow me to work more effectively with less strain?"

Minimum input, maximum output.

It's the name of the game.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Day Off

It is rare that I take a day 'off'.  Usually the reason I'm not working is because I'm too sick to get to the studio.  But yesterday I didn't go to the studio at all.  I had massage in the morning and as usual she asked if I was going to take the rest of the day 'easy'.  With every intention of going to the studio I assured her that I would - fingers crossed behind my back, so to speak.

But the day was nasty with near blizzard conditions and it was dark and dreary.  I hadn't had a chance to visit with my neighbour for a while so instead of heading to the studio after lunch, I phoned and asked if she felt like a visit.  She did, so I went over and we had a long visit getting caught up on the past month (or more) since I'd seen her last.

By the time I got home it was 4 pm and I just didn't feel like doing I didn't.

Today is a much nicer day, though.  The snow stopped after dinner last night and the temperatures dropped bringing a lovely bright sun shiny day today.  A quick trip to town for a few minor errands before the weekend and after lunch I fired up the AVL and finished off (sort of) the wound beige bobbins.  There might just possibly be enough for one more towel, but I was anxious to see the brown weft, so said to heck with it, and began.

The brown linen slub is just slightly thicker than the natural so I adjusted the pick count from 28 to 26 and I think it's good to go.

It doesn't seem like 28 or 26 picks per inch would make a significant difference over 32, but it does.  These are going to go so much more quickly than the singles 20 (or whatever it was) I have been using!

Currently reading In A Dark House by Deborah Crombie

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


click on photo to biggify

Perhaps it is because I'm still tired.  Perhaps it is because of the string of grey dreary days we have been having.  Perhaps it is because a similar coloured warp I wove earlier this year failed to sell at the craft fairs.  Perhaps it is because these neutral beige shades really don't speak to me on a personal level.  Whatever the reason, I'm finding myself rather uninspired by the results.

Last year at NEWS, I cleaned out a vendor of all of their fine slubby linen in a dark sort of reddish brown.  (I left the other 70's colours - somehow harvest gold and the green that went with it just did not call my name.  At all!  We won't even mention the orange.)

Once I've finished weaving off the bobbins of the natural beige linen that are already wound, which should give me about 5 towels - and finished a small cone of the 3 of this yarn I have - I am going to switch to the dark brown.  I'm not sure I'll like that any better, but it should be a lot more dramatic and visually dynamic.  If there is still warp left when I've finished the brown, I will switch back to the natural.

I'm quite sure that once wet finished the more neutral beige will look just fine.  I just need something a little more visually stimulating right now.  Not to mention the brown linen needs to be used up, too.

In the meantime, we are waiting for the snow that has been predicted in a snow advisory.  Supposedly 8-10+ inches by tomorrow morning.  It still hasn't started snowing, so perhaps we'll get lucky and the storm will pass us by.  If not, I expect to spend some quality time at the loom tomorrow.  Doug still hasn't unloaded the van, and may not be able to for a few days if the snow does dump on us.  But once the boxes are emptied I will be selecting things to go on 'sale' like I did over the summer - iow, buy two (or more) items and get free shipping.

I still have copies of A Good Yarn:  Rayon, Weave a V by Kerstin Fro:berg and lots and lots of tea towels.  Just in case Santa needs a hint...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Dear Laura,
I have just spent THE most enjoyable afternoon with you (via your DVD The  
Efficient Weaver).
You have brought enlightenment, many "ah ha" moments, along with several "duh -  
why did I ever do it any other way" comments. 

Living in Australia, there are very few weaving classes available, so most of my  
learning has been done via books, DVD's and the internet.  

Your DVD now has pride of place on my shelving units, never to see the inside of  
the filing cabinet where many other DVD's have been placed. 

Your clear and insightful instructions are the best that I have had the pleasure of  
viewing, and I just wish that I could pluck you from the screen and sit you down  
beside me just to chat and enjoy a nice drink and some lovely food. 

Thank you SO much for your generosity of spirit, and for making my weaving world  
a much less stressful place to be. 

So many thanks 

Happy Weaving 

Several people have sent emails with lovely comments.  Belinda's arrived while we were on our trip round the craft fairs and I was beginning to feel very exhausted.  What a lovely lift to read her words - and those of the people who have written reviews on Weaving Today, Craft Daily and Ravelry as well as the personal emails that have arrived over the summer and into the winter.

No matter how much I love weaving, there are times - especially right now - when doing what needs to be done takes more energy than I really have.  I told Doug last night that with all my health issues, I really can't do shows by myself any more and I am grateful beyond words that he is willing to do the (literal) heavy lifting.

The good news is that I have a tentative surgical date.  Hopefully sometime in January I will have the by-pass surgery and be back in fine form (other than all the other chronic issues I still have to deal with) by spring.  Also while we were away I received another request to vend at the Alberta conference in May - this time I said yes, because I ought to be fully recovered by then.  I should also be at Olds in June although I won't know for sure until spring.  But it looks like those can go ahead without any problems.  If, that is, my body decides to co-operate.

After a truly horrible summer, I am once again (cautiously) optimistic about being able to have my brain and body back and functioning.  But I doubt I will do much traveling to teach unless it is within driving distance.  Even then I'm not sure I can any more manage 12 hour drives on my own.  So I will probably attempt a trip to Seattle next summer to visit friends and see if I can manage on my own or not.

Getting old is not for sissies!

Friday, November 21, 2014


Art Market is halfway done.  I'm glad.

While I love weaving, I love even more that people pay me to take my textiles home.  While chatting with another vendor at another show, we talked about how the selling was the hardest part of being a professional craftsperson.   And then he summed it up by observing that if you don't sell what you make it might as well stay on the shelf as raw materials.

Since the whole point is to earn an income by making things, said things have to sell in order to pay the bills, buy food, and, oh yes, buy more raw materials.

Which is why it is disconcerting to have people offer to 'pay' you by offering 'exposure'.  The latest is a blog post by Revolvo.  (I'm on my iPad and can't easily link, but I am quite confident a quick search will bring you to her Blog.)

She said it much more eloquently than I could, so if you are interested, do read her blog.

It seems North American society has by and large lost an appreciation for the arts...unless someone soars to celebrity status.  Nowadays they don't even have to be particularly talented, apparently, because technology can fix less than stellar performances.  Most people are so removed from how things are made that they don't understand what goes into making textiles (or pottery, or whatever).  

And so craft fairs often turn into an educational experience as people ask if the vendors have actually made everything in the booth.  Then they want to know how long it takes.  I try not to get vexed at this question, but use it as an opportunity to explain how weaving works.  And how much time is involved.

An informed public has to be a more appreciative public.

What most people don't understand is that making things and selling them means that you are in business.  That means we have to pay attention to our budget, know how to schedule production, figure out legal requirements, design packaging or labels, hone our marketing skills.  The fact that we enjoy the making of our product does not mean that we should be expected to work for nothing.   Or 'exposure'.

Having spent about 40 years learning my craft, I have achieved a pretty high level of skill.  In any other field I would be making a whole lot more money and have a tidy pension plan.  Instead I chose to be self employed for the satisfaction of directing my own life the way I wanted it.

Am I complaining?   Perhaps a little.  But would I have changed my life in order to have more security?  No.  That doesn't mean that I will any longer work for 'exposure', though.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Art Market

At last, we are done.  Took longer today than usual, for some reason.   Maybe because we are getting tired?   Maybe because Doug returned the van to the hotel when it was empty.  Maybe because we use extra lights at this show to get more light on the product on the shelves.  Maybe all of the above?

We are finally back at the hotel having a toes up time.  We will probably go back to the bar and grill just down the block for dinner later.  The prices were good and the food is decent.  And I don't need anything fancy.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


We were very lucky with the weather on the drive from Vancouver to Calgary.  The road was dry, it didn't precipitate.  Things could have been a lot more...interesting.  

We stopped for the night, not terribly late, and when I went to enter the room, realized it was already occupied.  I don't think anyone was actually in the room, but I rapidly backed out and closed the door. We were able to get another room and didn't have to share.  

What we didn't realize is that the town of Golden, BC is undergoing some major construction.  24/7, no less.  Needless to say we didn't have a very restful night.  

We moseyed on to Calgary, arriving at our hotel along with a fleet of emergency vehicles.  There was some sort of natural gas issue.  We left the van in the hotel parking lot and found a coffee shop to wait while they figured it out.  Apparently the vent exhaust was getting sucked into the fresh air intake.  Fortunately it didn't take long to get sorted out but with one thing and another, we never did get lunch. 

I really hope that is the extent of the...interesting...unless it is mega sales at Art Market.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Friday night an individual came in and purchased this amazing tapestry and will donate it to a facility for sick children. So heart warming to hear this!!!

The artist, Sola Feidler, 78 years young, is already planning her next tapestry.  This one took about five years to weave (if I heard correctly).

Just finished Anne Murrays bio and started The Innovators.  Book is already packed and I don't recall the authors name. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Beauty Shots

Meg issued a challenge to see if people could capture textiles in a photograph.

Here are a few shots I took at the craft fair...

shawl - wool, bamboo, silk

shawl - wool with silver mylar

silk - hand dyed and commercially dyed yarns

rayon - hand painted warp

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sunny Day

The Wet Coast is showing off with a lovely sunny day.

We slept in this morning.  I think we were both pretty tired.  Of course, not setting the alarm properly may have had something to do with it not going off?

But we got to the hall without too much delay and by 1 pm we were pretty much done setting up.  No photos today.  The wifi connection at the hotel keeps dropping out and did not want to accept the photo I took from the hotel window.

I'm not entirely happy with the way the booth looks...but I never am and people seem to buy anyway.

The show here is six days this year.  The management always schedules the show so that it encompasses Remembrance Day.  It looks like the weather for the rest of the week is going to be sunny but chilly.  We will see if people come to shop or do last minute stuff in their gardens.  😊

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Packing Up

will be on display in my booth - Doug managed to get it pressed (along with a dozen others) in spite of electrical problems at the annex

We have spent the last couple of days getting ready to leave for Circle Craft.  It seems as though we are packing everything - booth, electrical stuff, inventory, our clothing plus food.  We will - hopefully - have a kitchenette in Vancouver so we will be able to make breakfast and lunch.  That will help with the trip expenses.

It has rained pretty much all day and it is black as can be outside.  I'm really hoping the weather forecast for dry weather in the morning is accurate!  Of course the weather can change - repeatedly - during a nearly 500 mile journey.

And then there is the trip from Vancouver to Calgary - a two day drive - through not one but several mountain ranges.  Keep fingers crossed for good driving conditions!

I think I'm getting too old for this

Friday, November 7, 2014

Change of Pace

In years past, I would scramble like a mad woman trying to get one more, one more, one more warp woven off in time for the shows.  After 6 years of dealing with health issues (and the fatigue from the undiagnosed issues for several years before that) I think I am finally learning that there comes a time when it really is too late to squeeze just one more, one more, one more thing into the schedule.

In spite of wanting to have these red scarves ready for this year, it isn't going to happen.  And I find myself strangely content with that concept.

They say with age comes wisdom.  Perhaps now I'm old enough to be wise?

Currently reading Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs (short story collection)

Thursday, November 6, 2014


It took me a while to figure out what TBT meant - what can I say, I'm a bit slow on the uptake at times.

A few months ago I joined a Facebook 'page' called Hell Yeah, Prince George.  It is a page for celebrating what is right and good about our town.  After decades of having nothing but negative reports made in the media about the town in which I was born and grew up, it's been great having a more positive spin put on the place - and the people who live here.

Today I posted a photo of my dad and 3 of his brothers.  And it's been fun having people say that their parents knew mine.  One even said she had the same photo and another photo with her dad joining in.  :)

I have another picture of the siblings and grandfather (grandmother died when dad was 10) but I haven't scanned that one yet.  These old time photos are so tiny I have to scan them at a pretty high resolution and it takes forever - even when I do it right!

The boys made their own violins and guitars, and mandolins for the girls.  There were 8 siblings, 5 boys and 3 girls.  The eldest died very young - he got pneumonia and although he made it to town (it was about a 20 mile journey and he wound up walking much of the way until someone picked him up and delivered him to the hospital) they couldn't do anything for him.  No anti-biotics in those days.  Yes, those 'good old days' weren't so good much of the time.

The boys formed a band and played at dances in the area.  They farmed, they hired themselves out as haying crew, they panned gold from the Fraser River.  They did everything they could to survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment.

One of the stories I've heard was that uncle Emil (far right) saved up enough money to buy an accordion from the Eaton's catalogue.  One night after playing a dance at a nearby community downriver from the farm, a couple of friends convinced Emil to stay, have a few beer and visit.  He said he would miss his ride, but they assured him they would get him home.

Some time later they decided it was time to leave.  Rather than a car or truck, his friends led him to the river and their canoe.  Needless to say, they tipped the canoe and the accordion floated away.  Harsh.  And unforgiving.  (Better the accordion than the three slightly tipsy - pun alert - canoeists.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Next in the Queue

Colour isn't quite right in this photo but about as close as I can come.  The linen (the cone on the top) is actually more brown and less green looking.

With the aim of reducing my stash of fine linen, the next warp is another 2/16 cotton and the weft is a fairly coarse/hairy tow linen, probably a singles 12.  Most of Lynn's yarn did not have identifying info with it so a lot of the time it's just my best guess.

I have about 6 pounds of this tow linen so I put a 30 yard warp on - well, I suppose I ought to say that I'm putting a 30 yard warp on because I'm only half way done winding.  Then I'll see how much of the linen gets used up and go up or down on the next warp depending on how much is left.

The threading will probably be a fairly simple twill with some straight runs and some advancing areas.  The kind of 'wood' colour of the warp is inspiring me to play with a draft that might sort of look like wood grain when it's done.  Still have to play with the draft and fit it to the number of ends I'm winding.

Monday, November 3, 2014

End of the Line(n)

all that's left of 3.5 pounds of fine red singles linen

about 30 yards of red tea towels on the beam

There was enough warp for one more towel - but I decided I'd had enough.  Plus if I'm going to get them cut/serged and wet finished, I needed to be done.

We have 6 days between the two shows and there is a possibility that I can get these towels ready to be hemmed during quiet times at the next show.  Who knows, maybe I can even sell some of them?  They would make great festive cloths for the coming holiday season.

The design is a twill block version of Young Lover's Knot traditional overshot pattern.  The red on red makes them look quite elegant.

Loom waste on this warp is 2 yards, but since I wound 36 yards, I'm not feeling terribly guilty about 'wasting' it.