Saturday, April 30, 2016

Process Path

A while back I offered to make cloth for 'sister' wraps for a couple of young women I know.  Katie sent me a photo when I asked what colours they liked and Carol pretty much said - what Katie said.

This photo was taken by Katie near Telkwa, BC and I was given free rein to design something inspired by it.

First things first.  Baby wrap cloth.  Right now I know most hand woven wraps are being woven of 2/8 cotton so I looked at the Brassard colour card.  Their cotton comes in about 80 different hues/shades so I just looked through what they had and ordered a bunch of yarns in the various greens plus some blues, a dark brown and a russet and a few purples for the fireweed in the grass.

I also ordered some greys/blues based on the colours in the sky.

When the yarn arrived I had already number crunched, working out width, length, epi.  At first I intended to weave in plain weave as many of the wraps are done, but after some mulling decided that a very simple twill would help the cloth drape.  I had also decided to use 2/16 cotton for weft instead of 2/8 in order to make a lighter, thinner cloth, because both wanted the 4.6 meter length and I felt that using 2/8 for both warp and weft was going to make a too heavy/thick cloth to wrap well.

Fortunately I had some options for weft in the studio already.

The bag was unpacked and the yarn intended for the wraps laid out on my work table where I would see it every time I went into the studio.  I find that a colour combination - especially not one of my own choosing (so to speak) - gels better if I can let it seep into my brain subliminally, catching the grouping in the corner of my eye while thinking about something else.  If there is something visually jarring it helps me to let it simmer on the back burner for a few days.

Over the course of the week I worked on other stuff and I kept going back to the table, grouping the threads in different ways, in different combinations, adding some more colours from my stash.  And I just could not make those light value blue/greys work.  Finally I grabbed the whole lot and removed them from the table.

Although there wasn't a lot of blue in the photo, I chose to use a dark blue/emerald green (mostly) stripe combination on one side, then gradually move through the colours winding up with the muted greens and purples on the other.

My loom has a one inch sectional, so it's fairly easy to gradually change out one or two ends for different colours making a gradual change.

Here the mostly dark blue/emerald green has been threaded.  Each repeat was 42 ends so I thread groups of 4, 6, or 8 depending on the threading progression, then when the entire repeat is finished slip knot those together so I can keep track of how many repeats I've done.

At the beginning I tested three colours, then let Carol choose which she preferred and started weaving hers.  This morning Katie came and we agreed on her weft colour.  I was going to change the treadling but both seem to like the design so the difference between them will be a very subtle change between the deep forest green for Carol and the dark navy for Katie.

The loom fix I did yesterday is so far holding up so I'm hoping I can finish weaving without further bodging.  Then the loom will be taken apart and inspected with parts needing replacing, replaced.

The loom is 'old' - not just in terms of years but in yards across the beam.  Nothing lasts forever and the part that gave way is metal against metal.  It was just a matter of time/use until it wore out.

Fortunately I have another loom and a dozen pre-wound warps ready to go into it, not to mention writing, lesson planning, guild room organizing and a bunch of other things that need to be done, too!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Behind the Scene

Goat trails through the studio...

It usually takes me the better part of two days to pull a weaving workshop together.  

First I go through the drafts for the topic, check yarn availability, adjust if necessary.  Then the pages get photocopied, one to go with the yarn another for the packet of handouts.  

I make a list of the drafts, indicating shafts required, table or floor loom, if two shuttles are needed. 

The welcome letter is updated suitable for the class and copied. 

Then I start pulling the required yarns, putting the yarn and paperwork into baggies.  For this workshop, I'm driving so I also stopped at Staples and ran the entire packet, which I will collate for distribution.  Normally the hosting guild provides the copies but there are extenuating circumstances.  

I have to go to the annex tonight to get a large box to pack the yarn into and pick up some yarn as well so I can finish packing the baggies.  Then everything will get put into the mail so participants can dress their looms in time for the workshop. 

But I'm still not done!

The week before I leave I will start collecting the samples, make sure I have the handouts, plus, since I am driving, my sewing machine, small flat bed press and hand cold mangle will be coming with me.  

I will also bring some finished items as examples.  Oh yes, clothing and personal items will be packed and then it will be a full day's drive there on Thursday, workshop Friday/Saturday, and a full day's drive home on Sunday.  

The glamorous life of a travelling weaving teacher...

Currently reading The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R King

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Making It Work

No one is perfect, no matter how hard we try.  So, mistakes happen, there are 'flaws' that need to be fixed as well as possible.  

The weft here was a fairly stiff three ply linen and at times instead of beating in properly a loop formed, usually on the back side of the cloth where it remained, invisible and therefore I couldn't remediate while weaving.  

Now that it's off the loom, they are all too visible so I'm needle weaving the loop into the cloth.  

It isn't going to be 'perfect' but it will still work. 

Recently I saw an interview with an engineer.  At one point he said that it wasn't the engineers job to make things perfect, but to make them work.  

Wise words to keep in mind when once again, I have aimed for the ideal and fallen short. 

Friday, April 22, 2016


One of the lessons in Level one of the Olds program is to look at colour value.  As such, it is sometimes hard for people to distinguish the difference in value between shades of the same colour.  One nifty way to help see value differences is to render them in black and white.  I took the top photo with my iPad, then saved it in the Instagram app in black and white.   Another way to do this is to make butterflies of the yarn or wrap the yarn and then photocopy it to get the grey value scale.  

I think I may add natural to the value gamp but I'm still thinking about black.  Yes?  No?   Maybe so?

Colour interactions between shades that are of a high value contrast can sometimes be a bit jarring visually.  Weaving a value gamp can be a very useful learning tool.  Colour gamps are also helpful in order to see how colours interact in woven structure.  Different weave structures can cause the colours to blend differently.  I have colour gamps in many different combinations and will have all of them available in class for the students to study.  (Along with a whole bunch more of my samples!)

So, my teaching schedule for the next few months looks like this:

May 21-26.  Level one Olds program, Prince George

June 3-5.  Mug rugs and more, Edmonton guild

June 19-23 Level one Olds program in Olds

August 26-28 Cape Breton (still looking for another workshop in the Maritimes between August 30 and Sept 8 - either that or a weaver friendly b&b)

That's all I have booked for the rest of the year.  I tend to not book teaching from October onwards because then we are well into the craft fair season and even though I have cut back one show this year, I'm not overly fond of traveling to teach during the winter.

Next year, other than Olds (if the classes get sufficient registration to 'go'), all I have is the ANWG conference in Victoria, BC June 30 to July 2

However, I am very much hoping that level two will run in PG in May next year.  I have had a few people say they would also like level one in PG, but I will need at least 6, preferably 7, so if anyone thinks they might like to take level one here in PG in 2017, let me know.  If I get enough names, I can approach the college about setting up a level one, perhaps in April.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


So the six month emotional roller coaster successfully crested another hill and I am coasting for another six months.  Now that I know I'm good to go for a while longer I can start making some plans for the coming year. 

I am also delighted to be off the beta blocker which was causing way more problems than benefits and I feel like I have myself back again.  

Over the past year I have had zero energy and therefore turned into a slug, dragging myself through the days, consuming far too much sugar, exercising far too little and gaining weight.  Not recommended for someone with coronary artery disease!

Getting the go ahead to live without chemical interference, enjoying a beautiful early spring day, I started walking again.  If I am no longer healthy, I can at least be as fit as possible...

One of the reasons I needed off the beta blockers was the fatigue that was preventing me from being able to think...something I had to do on the weekend in order to be able to teach.  There were seven students, all of whom did very well.  I hope that they feel inspired to continue.  

The good news just kept on coming today.  There are seven registered for the Olds class here in PG* and 12(!) for Olds Fibre Week in June. 

I have two more students work from level one last year to mark, three more who have asked for extensions and hopefully will submit this summer.  

But best of all?   I am beginning to be able to think again, which means I should be able to get back to writing as soon as the homework is marked.  

There are plans for teaching in the works and holidays/travel to plan.  I try to live in the moment, but cultivate dreams for the future. 

*there are still a couple of spots left...just sayin'

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Waste Not

Waste not, want not.  One man's waste is another man's treasure. Both good pithy quotes, do we define 'waste'?   What happens when we 'waste' one thing in order to 'save' something else?

In my studio, my life, my most valuable commodity is my time.  I will therefore 'waste' yarn when salvaging yarn will cost me too much time.  If I place a value on my time of, let's say $10/hour, am I going to spend $2.50 worth of time to rescue 5cents worth if yarn?   No, I'm not.  

I am now experienced enough that I don't need to weave a very long header, but I always do,  a header is where you examine the cloth for errors that need fixing.  I check weft colour to make sure I am using the best colour.  I check my beat and warp tension.  

If I need to re-Sley, I do that before I weave the entire warp and wind up with a cloth that is too dense or not dense enough.  A header is never a 'waste' of yarn...or time.  

I sample.  Over my 40 years of weaving I have sampled a lot.  None of that yarn - or time - was a 'waste'.  The acquisition of knowledge is never a waste.

And if you haven't spotted my mistake?   I miscounted the lavender threads in one of the stripes.  After thinking about it I'm not going to fix it.  The mistake is a visual one, not one that will in any way compromise the function of the cloth.  It is, instead, a reminder that when I'm not feeling well I really shouldn't be doing something that needs concentration.  They will go into the gift box or be sold as 'seconds' even though they will still work just fine.   And once again weaving has served up a little humbility!

Currently reading Visitor by C J Cherryh

Friday, April 15, 2016


One more box of homework to mark.  I will get to it on Monday because the Beginning Weaving workshop begins tomorrow and I need to do class handouts today. 

The Olds program is not a how-to weave program, it is much more than that.  To me it addresses foundation knowledge that lays the groundwork for an intellectual examination of the variables that need to be considered in a thoughtful approach to the construction of textiles.  It dovetails with what I consider important information.  It also requires that students prove they have a good grasp of the theory and the physical skills of weaving.  It attempts to cover in an organized fashion the basics, including weave structure, density, wet finishing, materials and design fundamentals.  And that is just level one.  The other levels build on that beginning.  

It is a for credit college course and certain levels of communication are examined, and homework assigned.  It is meant to expose students to essential (imho) aspects of weaving. 

Because I am who I am I also talk about issues of ergonomics/efficiency.  

Weaving can be done on many different levels, in many different ways.  My hope is that there will be enough people interested in the nuts and bolts of weaving so that this information is not lost but continues.  Each one, teach one.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


It is really hard some days to remember that a little tension can be A Good Thing, in life as in weaving. 

Tension or stress is most often portrayed as being bad.  But there are times when a little tension actually helps.  

A few examples...

When dealing with a loose thread, a little tension will keep it co-operative and much less prone to tangling.  

During weaving, the right amount of tension on the warp will keep the threads straight and true.  Sheds will open cleanly and consistent tension will make beating in the weft easier.  

The right amount of tension on the weft will help make good selvedges.  

Firm tension on the warp during beaming will mean easier weaving as does firm tension winding weft packages.  

In terms of teaching a little tension helps me stay focussed on the topic and the information I want to convey.  

Doing anything new can create stress/tension because it can be scary to try something never attempted before.  When I decide to do something different, I try to concentrate on what I mean to accomplish.  When the Inner Critic points outs ways it could all go terribly wrong, I think through consequences and try to formulate solutions.  I try very hard to not let the Voices of Fear clamour unchallenged in my head.  

If we never confront those fears and work at overcoming them, accepting the stress and tension involved in the exercise, we will only do the known, stay in the safe.  Which is fine, but limiting in terms of personal development, I think.  

So as scary and stressful as some things may be, there are times when forging ahead in spite of the challenge is, truly, A Good Thing.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Inner Voices

More yarn - what was I thinking?

What I was thinking is that I need a new scarf/shawl line, that this yarn comes in beautiful colours, and that I can use them to make beautiful scarves and shawls.

After having several discussions this past week with other creative people, I have also been thinking quite a lot about how, 41 years ago, I found the audacity to quit a rather good paying job and become a full time self-employed weaver.  Where did I find the courage to cut the ties to a regular pay cheque, be self-directed, have the confidence to think that my creative expression would find approval in the larger marketplace?

How did I still the Inner Critic who constantly berates me for not being good enough?  Talented enough?  Successful enough?  (Because nothing I do is ever 'enough' for my Inner Critic!)

Being a weaver (or any self-directed creative type person) is a constant battle to subdue the critical inner voices that we all have.  I have no idea how I have managed to curb mine - and quite frankly, there are days when I can't and wonder how I can continue.

One way I have coped is to not have all my eggs in one basket.  I not only weave, I write about and teach weaving.  At various times I've dyed yarn for sale, too.  I have made a variety of textiles from rugs through to fine silk scarves.  I've made household items and clothing.  I have even attempted to do 'art' - and decided that I really wasn't cut out to be an 'artist'.  My Inner Critic had a field day with me over that particular approach to making textiles.

I found that if I formed a very clear purpose I was more successful at telling my Inner Critic to shut up and confine her to the very back of my brain where her negativity seemed less...toxic.

I had to find my Positive Inner Voices and learn to listen to them, not just the Critic.  I had to learn to accept my textiles for what they are, not for what I wish they were.  Our creative visions rarely come to material form the way we would like them to - but that doesn't make them any less serviceable, any less lovely, any less, period.  

It is precisely this reaching for perfection and constantly missing that keeps me intrigued and motivated to try yet again to match the reality with the illusive vision in my head.

It is a constant journey of learning more, trying something new, exploring beyond the known.  It is a balancing act, and I don't know how to tell someone else that they need to find a way to believe in themselves and not allow the negative feedback they will get from outside and inside which will prevent them from doing what they want to do, what they may even love to do.

All I can say is that yes, your Inner Critic may nag you, but you need to quell that negative voice and find the positive, the loving, the giving voice that will support you and encourage you to keep going, keep trying, keep learning.  That is the only way I know to muzzle the negative voice in my head.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


One skein of Corriedale, commercially dyed, carded on a drum carder to make this blend, hand spun and plied.  

What is it worth?   How much do I value the time and expense of making it?

The question of worth versus value is tricky.  It is a question that confronts me all the time - in terms of my hand woven textiles, my teaching and writing.

Some things are easy.  The customer makes an offer - X number of dollars for Y services or products.  All I have to do at that point is figure out if it is worth it to me to provide the service or product for that amount of money.

Other times I have to come up with the figure of what I think I am worth and see if there are any takers.

It becomes especially hard when people's expectations are vastly different from mine.  

I am wrestling with this very thing right now in terms of The Book.  I have already spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars learning this craft - with the workshops I've paid to attend, the samples I've woven, the failures that have taken up time and money simply to be a Learning Experience.

There are the services I will be paying others to do - from the editing to the other creative people who will contribute to the manuscript.  In the end, how will I decide what to charge?  Since it is going to be a book, there is hope that sufficient copies will be sold to add up to covering the out of pocket expenses of producing it (electricity to power the computer, printer ink to print out hard copies to edit - because I'm old school enough that I edit 'best' with a hard copy - the yarn for the woven samples, etc., etc., etc. - the stuff purchasers never even know that go into such an endeavour) not to mention the hours I've already spent and the hundreds of hours more that will go into the writing, designing of the learning examples, the editing (and editing and editing and editing).

There was a conference I attended where a participant was at the registration desk complaining bitterly about the $10 hand out fee she paid for the seminar she had just taken.  The hand out consisted of two sheets of paper, single spaced, both sides, so four densely packed pages of information.  Information that the instructor had spent years researching (I knew the instructor), and compiled as notes for the seminar she was presenting.

All the participant saw was 50 cents worth of paper, not the thousands of hours of research that had gone into the topic and the distillation of the information into hand outs she could take home and reference (there was a bibliography included).

To the participant, she was being 'ripped off' (her words).  She did not see anything beyond the value of the paper she had been given.  To her, the four pages of information had zero value.

So, how do I come up with a price for things like my teaching, writing, weaving?  I don't know.  There is no tried and true formula.  All I can do is come up with a price I think is fair and hope sufficient other people agree - and purchase.  Because even if you think a price is 'fair', it may still be out of your budget.  I am all too aware of limited budgets...sometimes sacrifices have to be made - either giving up something else, or giving up the thing you want.

Everyone has to figure out for themselves if a service or product is worth the price being asked and how much they value it.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

ANWG Conference, Victoria, 2017

This morning I signed the contract with ANWG to teach a couple of 3 hour seminars at the conference in Victoria and emailed it, along with the supporting information to the workshop committee.

It's very exciting to be part of this conference - again.  The association is possibly one of the largest geographical regions in North America and spans the border.  Given the population of Canada, the conference has only been held here a handful of times, so to have it here two times in a row, especially when the exchange rate is pretty awful for Canadians, means that I expect a large turn out for Canadians.

And since Victoria is a bit of a 'destination', I hope to see lots of representation from Americans, too.

The conference typically attracts 400-600 attendees.  The conference in Prince George in 1995 had just over 400, counting instructors.  Prince George guild members are beginning to volunteer for the conference committee for 2019 and there should be a fairly good number of people from here, attending Victoria.  Mainly because so many of our current active guild members are new to weaving etc., and they haven't attended an ANWG previously.

It's very exciting to see the Victoria conference take shape, and begin to make plans for ours.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Life is full of ups and downs, ins and outs, lefts and rights, backwards and forwards.  The only thing certain about life is that Things Will Change.  (And Death and Taxes, but that isn't the subject of this post!)

About 12 years ago I had the opportunity to obtain a large steam press.  So large it would not fit into my studio.  This necessitated renting additional space which came to be known as The Annex.  It was space in the same building as where I originally learned to spin and weave.  Not the exact same room, but in the same building.

The space was large enough that part of it became devoted to storage, first for copies of Magic that remained unsold, then yarn, then completed inventory.  Renting this space has been a constant drain on my resources and it has been a struggle at times to make the money to pay the rent.  So off and on, now and then, I have thought that I really need to give up the press and the space.

Well, the universe has spoken.

The space below where I have the annex has been rented to a tire store.  (The space is in a light industrial area.)

The thought of having even yarn in a space that will soon be filled with the fumes from tires is the final straw in finally making a decision.

I've asked Doug to find out when the tire store will move in (I am assuming the beginning of next month) so that we can begin to arrange for the removal of All My Stuff from The Annex.

When you don't make a decision, sometimes it is made for you.

Of course, I've just purchased several hundred pounds of yarn which I had been intending to store in The Annex...oops.

Currently reading Off the Grid by C. J. Box

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Definitive Answers

New weavers want definitive answers.  Unfortunately, usually the correct answer depends.

Making cloth is not a straight forward linear process.  The factors that go into making suitable cloth for the intended purpose are varied and interdependent on each other.

For example, drape is dependent upon the fibre choice, how it has been prepared and spun (degree of twist), density and weave structure.

Wet finishing will depend again upon the fibre choice and materials since wool and linen (as an example) are wet finished differently.

The appearance of the cloth will depend upon the colour/texture of the yarns and the weave structure.

And so on.

One of the challenges with writing a book about weaving is that it is extremely difficult to present the information in a linear fashion.  This gets confusing and frustrating to people who think linearly.  But so far I have not found any way in which to logically present this information that will make sense to everyone.  

Therefore I know some people will be disappointed in my book because the material is going to jump around, back and forth, when they will want a straight line.

Unfortunately, no matter how I twist and turn my thoughts, no matter how logical I try to be, the above factors have to be weighed each against each other.  And that is a kind of messy organic blob, not a nice straight line narrative.

On the other hand, that is part of what makes weaving exciting for me and why I still learn something new all the time.  So many factors - so many ways to combine them.

Friday, April 1, 2016

April Spools


Bobbins wound for place mat weft.  My mats are made thick by winding six strands of yarn together.  There are four 2/8 cotton, one cotton boucle, one cotton slub.  All yarns from Brassard.