Friday, March 31, 2017

Lessons Learned

Life is full of lessons.  You don't always get what you want (thank you Rolling Stones).  The customer isn't always right, even when the customer  A child has someone (one hopes) to look after them; an adult has to take care of themselves (with a little help from their friends {thank you Joe Cocker and the Beatles} - in other words, don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it).

I am well into my sixth decade and facing certain realities.  For one thing I am facing my next birthday without my father, my brother and my mother - all of the immediate members of my genetic family.  I am the last twig on that family tree limb.  It is sobering, in some ways - many ways.

Another reality?  I no longer have the body of a 35 year old even though inside I still think I am one.  The aches and pains increase every year, it seems like.  My activity horizon seems to shrink year by year.  Reality is...if there are things that I truly want to do, goals I want to achieve, I'd better damn well do them now.

I have also learned over the years to let go of stuff that I want to see happen, but which, for one reason or another, isn't going to happen.  Yes, I regret those, but sometimes?  Sometimes you just have to let go of those things and cast your energies in another direction.

When mom died on Dec. 31 it wasn't just the end of her life, it was an end to so many things.  While stress shoved me back and forth I couldn't really think clearly so I tried not to make any - shall we say - 'permanent' - decisions.

But spring is in the air (thank you woodpecker hammering on the metal lamp post at dawn!) and my energy and brain power are returning.

The deadline for the Olds classes in Prince George is April 15.  Right now it isn't looking good for either of them to go ahead.  So, while I would be over the moon if a sudden spurt of registrations appeared overnight, I'm not counting on it.

Instead I am turning to other things that need my attention - like the Olds classes in Cape Breton and Olds Fibre Week.  Cape Breton is full with 12, Olds needs two more to sign up for level one to go ahead.

I am anxiously waiting for a couple of friends to do their part in regards to The Book.  While I still find it challenging to try to write a weaving 'text', that is one of the huge items on my bucket list.  Having done it once before, I know I can do it again.  It is just that the scope of this one is much bigger and much more complex.  Which is why I need the help of friends to get it closer to completion.

Because last, but certainly not least, I have learned that I am not perfect.  I am just a human being, trying to do the best she can.  If I fail others, it is not for lack of trying.  But you cannot please everyone all of the time.

Currently reading The Hidden Man by Robin Blake

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Classroom Learning

We need three more people to register to have the second level class 'go' in Prince George.  I'm still waiting to hear about the level one.

For Americans, these prices are in those cheap Canadian dollars, so a good buy.  And you get to spend six whole days with moi, talking about textiles and weaving.

Wanna come play?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Right Answer

I make no secret that I use bamboo blinds as warp packing.  Usually I buy cheap ones, but they tend to wear out quickly - apparently I use them - a lot.

Yesterday I stopped at Jysk (a 'cheap' IKEA) to buy more and could not find any blinds.  Thinking that they sometimes put inventory in 'odd' places, I decided to walk the store and lo and behold, near the exit was a cart with wooden slat blinds.  Now, I don't usually buy this type of blind because they are more expensive than bamboo, but they were on sale for $5 each!

They are 140 cm wide and cut in half, that means I will have 10 blinds 70 cm wide.  This is a little narrower than I usually go, but since I rarely dress the Fanny with a warp much wider than 24", a 27" wide blind will be fine.  And a much higher quality blind so I figure I have enough warp packing to last the rest of my weaving life.

I sometimes see discussion about various kinds of warp packing on chat groups.  People love their paper.  People love their wooden slats.  People love their venetian blind slats.  I happen to love my wooden blinds.

Ultimately the 'right' answer to any question in weaving is that which gets you the results you desire.  

All I am suggesting is that if someone is having issues with their processes or tools, they might like to try something different.  If someone likes my results, they might like to try my approach.  If it doesn't work for them, then figure out what does.

The only 'correct' answer (in short form) in weaving depends.  Each person, each situation, each loom, each yarn, each studio space - each one may require a somewhat different answer to those I have found for myself.

Try it.  Accept it.  Adapt it.  Reject it.  Do whatever it is that you need to do to find your happy place, make the cloth you intend to make.  Become your own 'expert' for your circumstances.

Discover the principles of the construction of cloth and choose your own road. The 'right' answer?  It depends.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rode Hard...

...put away wet.

My loom is approximately as old as I am.  It was 'rescued' from an art centre where it had languished for a number of years, getting used for anything anyone else wanted to use it for - none of it related in any way to weaving.

We drove to Alberta, through the Rockies (because that's the only way to get to Alberta) in February.  Not the greatest time to be driving through the mountains, but the art centre was anxious to get it gone.

We brought it home, Doug cleaned it up and retrofitted a newer style brake (friction fit instead of dog and pawl), changed the antique cords on both the rollers and the tie up/treadles and she has been my faithful sidekick for - well, more years than I can remember.  1999?

I had worked my way through a number of other looms, none of them quite what I wanted.  This elderly Leclerc Fanny counter balanced loom and I became fast friends very quickly.

On her I have woven hundreds of rayon chenille scarves, hundreds of painted warps for scarves and shawls, hundreds of place mats/table runners, samples galore.

Over the years she has been modified as my needs changed - first to use a warping valet, then live weight tension.

She saw me through my recovery from a broken ankle (breaking many of the adhesions the very first time I tried to open a shed - OW!) and my by-pass surgery.

She is frequently sprinkled with dust from weaving, sometimes, in fact, coated with it.  (I don't have dust bunnies, I have herds of dust buffalo.)

Yesterday I took a good look at the upper cords and noticed the wear on them.  With all the miles they have travelled as I opened and closed shed after shed, the polyester is actually beginning to wear.  

Seems I am as hard on my equipment as my body.

Currently reading Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everything Old

is new again...

Some of you may know that I began this textile journey by spinning and dyeing.  Then I got sucked into the warped side and simply didn't have the time or energy to spin and set that aside.  Except a few years ago, spinning wheels kept showing up in my life.  Unfortunately they weren't the 'right' wheel for me and I kept trying and not enjoying it much.

After talking to a couple of people, I decided I needed a wheel with a much higher ratio to accommodate my supported long draw style of spinning and got a Canadian Production Wheel.

Unfortunately Larry (after the maker) is old, a true antique.  As such he's a bit - shall we say - testy, at times.  He is also not conveniently portable so I tend to leave him at the guild room and only spin up there.  Which is not exactly convenient for the guild room, storing a rather large delicate piece of equipment.

After my surgery, though, I got started on spinning more seriously and find myself thoroughly enjoying coming back to this craft.  It is fun to create truly one of a kind yarns.  Buying a blending board means I can make the rolags I prefer to spin from and I can make unique blends.  

I don't weave with my hand spun yarns.  Spinning has become a true 'hobby' - an activity that I do just for the pleasure of it.  I knit with it, then give those items away to friends or for donations to worthy causes.  There is far too much labour in hand spinning and knitting to have many people willing to pay a price that acknowledges that and rather than sell these items for pennies, I'd rather they just be gifts.

With the restrictions on using Larry, though, I have been looking around for something with a high ratio/speed plus a level of portability that would make it possible to say, spin at the fall fair or other public demonstrations.

Recently I had a bit of a windfall and I contacted Questionable Origins to inquire after their new electric spinning wheel.  I had heard about it last fall and - considering spinning is a hobby, not my business - hesitated to invest that much money into a new wheel.  Except that when I checked around, 'regular' spinning wheels were not that much cheaper and did not provide the aspect of portability I was looking for.  While there are other electric spinning wheels, this one came with some features that I felt would be helpful.  Since I had almost the exact purchase price burning a hole in my Paypal account, I tossed caution to the wind and ordered a Device (as they call it).

In the meantime I have borrowed an electric wheel on which I ply my singles and one day when I'm feeling brave I will try to actually spin singles on it.  Because my Device should be here in June.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Your Mileage

I was going to use a quote from, I think, Rumi - something about we are all different because we walk different paths and stop to smell different flowers.  But either I'm not remembering the person who said it, or I'm not remembering the quote well enough to find it. 

So, I'm going with Your Mileage May Vary.

So far I've marked 5 of the Olds Fibre Week level one students.  Several have used the same yarn and it has been interesting to see how each person has interpreted the same requirement, using the same yarn.  Which just supports my pithy comment that when you change one thing, everything can change.  And usually does.

Looms are different, yarns are different (even within the same brand - a couple students have noticed that the darker colours behave differently than the natural or lightly coloured yarns), and of course, weavers are different.  Especially the weavers.

Perfection is always aimed for, but my primary concern in teaching this course is to help people develop critical thinking skills, building their personal database of knowledge and fine tune their physical skills.  Which processes they use are less important to me than that they work ergonomically.  Weaving is a craft of repetitive motions which can lead to injury if done in a way that stresses the body.  Since many people coming to the craft are in their (ahem) middle or older years, they may already have injuries that they need to be aware of so as to not cause further harm.  

We only get one body and while some joints can be replaced, muscles cannot.  At least not at this time or without a great deal of discomfort.  Since my surgery a little over two years ago, I find that at my current age it is harder and harder to regain the fitness level I had enjoyed.

To that end we have signed up at the Y.  I watched my mother get more and more frail as her health issues became more severe and she lost strength, then balance, stamina and energy.  I need to keep this body as fit and healthy as possible because I got a whole lot of stash that needs weaving!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another box of homework.

This year's class has included a letter to me with their homework, many of them outlining the lessons learned that aren't shown in the weaving/samples.  

To me those lessons are the most valuable of all because the biggest lesson to learn is how to think about the creation of textiles.  In today's box of goodies was another letter, this time telling me a little bit about her history with textiles, which I found very interesting.  But I also found her conclusion heartening as well:

"I am satisfied that the learning experience is the most valuable lesson from this course.  I may have lots to learn but have learned a lot."

Which was pretty much my conclusion after completing the Guild of Canadian Weaver's Master Weaver program.  It was also the conclusion nearly all of the people who have completed the GCW program came to.

Learning how to weave, to create textiles suitable for their purpose, the many different kinds and qualities of cloth, is a life long journey.  No one will ever know everything there is to know about the construction of cloth.  But we can all learn a lot, even while knowing there is so much more to learn.

It is what keeps me going back to the studio, keeps me trying new things, exploring the interaction between warp and weft, colours, weave structures.  It's what keeps me sharing, teaching and exploring the craft.  It is an experience I treasure, along with the people I have met along the way.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Magic in the Water

Fibres West is done, for another year.  It was great talking to people, especially hearing from several how much they appreciated my writing/teaching.  I sometimes feel like I bang on to the point of boredom, but being able to hear so many say they have benefitted makes it easier to keep on, keeping on.

That said, I feel the need to continue to simplify my life and today I dealt with one thing on my to be done list...that of getting my website tweaked.  More needs to be done, but I want to make changes thoughtfully, in a way that feels right, that feels like a 'proper' course correction.

Several months ago I made an agreement with nWeavolution to sell Magic in the Water, digital version.  Today the link to purchasing Magic on my website went away, along with the link to Weave a V.  While I still have copies of Weave a V for sale, purchasers can just email me, then I will send a PayPal invoice.  

I am contemplating other changes to my website, but again, I want to think those changes through to make sure I am making good decisions.

It is never a good idea to make decisions while under stress, and there has been way too much of that of late.  I want to make sure I am not making hasty choices, repenting later.

Getting away from home, immersing myself in a supportive Fibre community, spending time with a group of creative people has been just the thing I needed.  I feel eager to get back to the studio, and yes, even the writing.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Big Picture

Sometimes, in order to understand the big picture, you need to be aware of the finer details.

So it is with fibres and yarn.

The above images are Scanning Electron Microscope images of, in this case, cotton.

The fibre once harvested 'collapses' into a flat ribbon with a twist in it.  This gives the fibre some grip, or 'tooth'.

Silk (cultivated), on the other hand:

is much smoother, slipperier.

So by their very nature, the two fibres are quite different and will therefore behave quite differently.

Then add in the differences involved in preparing the fibres, then spinning them into yarn.

Weavers should be aware of these (literally) microscopic differences so that they have a better understanding of how the fibres/yarn will behave.  In order to choose A Good Yarn.

I will be presenting this lecture at Fibres West on Friday morning.  It's free with admission.

Having obtained these images for my use, they will also be incorporated into The Book, currently on hiatus while a beta reader completes the next round of edits.  But hopefully back at it soon, refreshed.

Monday, March 13, 2017


Life has been trying - for a very long time - to teach me patience.  Unfortunately it's not a virtue I possess...

It feels like Life has been a whole lot of 'hurry up and wait' for a rather long time.  I am a planner and a do-er.  When I can't make plans because I am waiting for more information from someone else, I get a little...testy...anxious...and I can't concentrate.

So it has been for the past few weeks, waiting to hear if I was going to get the new cholesterol medication.  It's an injection and needs to be refrigerated, so I didn't know how that was going to impact my travel plans.

Turns out I can shift the dose as needed, or if I'm driving (say to Fibre Week in Olds) I can just take the syringe in a cooler bag with a cold pack.

I have had such poor luck with cholesterol medications I am really hoping that this one is the one for me.  It is specifically for people who cannot tolerate statins (raises hand) and for people with familial history of cholesterol issues (raises hand).  It's new on the market in Canada so I will be very interested to see how things go.

Now that I've been approved and questions answered, I can go ahead with my travel plans.  We have wanted to get to England/Sweden for quite a long time, and we might as well do it while we are still in reasonably good health.  To that end, we have also signed up at the Y.  I watched my mother become more and more frail as she dealt with one health issue after another,  I know that as fitness decreases, stamina decreases, energy decreases, etc.  So we are going to deal with our respective fitness issues and hope to stay as healthy as we can, for as long as we can.

Personally, I've got SABLE (Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy) and I need to weave that mountain down.  I have no kids to clean up after me.  I need to do it now, while I still can.,

Hurry up patience, I haven't got all day!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Life so Short...

...the craft so long to learn.

This quote is attributed both to Hippocrates and Geoffrey Chaucer.  The exact wording seems to depend on who is translating it.  Either way, it is all too accurate.

Any craft takes years to explore, learn, master.  Learning can be random, trying this, trying that, without a concrete goal in mind.  Or it can be focused.  Which is the 'correct' way, is completely up to the practitioner.

If you prefer a more focused approach, you might be interested in the Olds College Master Weaver program.

It has been very heartening to me to see this program begin to grow with more and more people enrolling.  It is a for-credit college program.  It is not a workshop, but rather seeks to assist people in learning how to think about the construction of textiles.  Textiles appropriate to their intended purpose.

That said, it is not about restricting creativity, but helping people understand the materials they use and why they might behave the way they do.  Of exploring the potential in the materials (and tools, and processes) before committing to a major project.

If you don't know where you are going, any road will do.  And that road can lead to wondrous places.  But personally, I prefer a road map, with some idea of the destination at the end.

Which one a person follows is less important than understanding the journey one wants to take and how to find one's happy place, one's joy.

For more information on the Olds program follow the link above.  If you want more information on the Prince George programs, email me.  The deadline for the Prince George classes is mid-April.  We need six people minimum to have the classes go ahead, preferably 8, with a maximum of 10.  The classes in Prince George are six days, not five, and smaller than Olds so you get more teacher attention.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


The fog of stress that has clouded my mind for too long appears to be lifting. 

For the first time, in longer than I can remember, I have done a solid three sessions in the studio today. 

My head feels clearer and I have been starting to think ahead.  In the aftermath of my mother's dying, I felt exhausted and stressed to the max.  All I wanted was to end the stress.  And get rid of some of the rubble of my life.  Having no children to either inherit or discard, I felt enormous pressure to start to get rid of some of the detritus of my life.  Sooner, rather than later.

One of my decisions was to discontinue teaching, other than for the Olds program.  Recently I was approached by another guild to teach, in a location that I had long wanted to visit but had never had the opportunity.  In spite of my best intentions, I thought long and hard about the subject matter I have taught over the years, thought about the satisfaction I find it seeing the light of understanding go on in the eyes of the students, and zeroed in on what it was about teaching that caused me the most stress.  And how I could eliminate that part.

So I have come up with Plan B (or Z, I've lost track) and re-tooled my topics to just one:  The Intentional Weaver.  With the book scheduled to come out by 2018, I'm sure there will be groups who will be interested in the material (yes, I do have an ego!) so if I present the principles that I feel are least understood, least taught, and best presented in real life, that might make a very good two day workshop.

With the bulk of the Olds teaching being done in the spring, I will entertain requests to teach this workshop July-October.  Since my travel costs generally exceed my actual teaching fee, I highly recommend at least two 'nearby' groups getting together to share the travel costs.

I am waiting to hear if the group who spurred this re-think is interested and if early October 2018 works for them.  And if no one is interested?  Well, that's ok, too.  Que sera, sera...

Thursday, March 2, 2017


The turquoise in this yarn is hand dyed so I used hot water to wet finish it because I expected the cyan dye to be somewhat fugitive.  And so it was.  

Dealing with fugitive dye is one reason to wet finish, either yarn or cloth.  

I learned to spin in the early 1970's when roving wasn't available, or if it was, it was quite expensive.  So I learned how to card rolags and spin supported long draw.  Since I pretty much use my hand spun for knitting I also prefer to ply rather than use singles.  As such I spin fairly tightly and even after plying my yarn frequently has active twist in it so I'm pretty aggressive when I wet finish it.  Just like I can be aggressive wet finishing my cloth. 

Some people consider me an expert in wet finishing.  Some people are appalled at how I 'abuse' the yarn/cloth in the wet finishing and prefer other more gentle approaches. 

At the end of a workshop on wet finishing, one of the students commented that she had always been trying to weave the cloth in the loom how she wanted it to be 'finished'.  Now she understood that she had to factor in the wet finishing to complete the process.

As for 'experts' - you can find an 'expert' to argue both sides of a question, plus another to take the middle.  In the end, it is up to the practitioner to decide how they want their finished cloth to be and what they need to do to make it be like that.  As close as they can get it.

It is why I tell my students that, while I think I have pretty good processes, it is up to them to weave like a 'pirate' -  Accept; Adapt; Reject.  AAR.

As for the wet finishing, I'm not as aggressive as some experts, more than others.  I use hot water to saturate the fibres and generally either throw the skein down against the bottom of the laundry tub or squeeze firmly during rinsing (which applies intermittent compression, a type of fulling).  I want the fibres to entangle and full a wee bit to add structural stability but not so much that the yarn becomes a wee bit 'hard'.  This is for knitting shawls, scarves, cowls, after all.

Whenever a student says to me that you can only do X, Y, Z, I want to know their particular circumstances - what were they trying to achieve?  What fibres were they using?  For weaving, what weave structure?  What density?  

Because it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish.  Change one thing, everything can change.

For anyone interested in my book Magic in the Water, a few months ago, a hard copy was available on for about 3 times the original purchase price.  Or you can buy the digital version either on my website (with Paypal payment option and a pdf emailed to you) or on Weavolution

You can also ask me questions, either via the Magic in the Water group on Weavolution, or email me:
laura at laurafry dot com

Currently reading Dark Waters by Robin Blake