Saturday, April 28, 2018

Launch Time

It's almost launch time.  There are a few more things to add to the pile, mostly 'personal' items.  The next six weeks are going to be crammed with deadlines, mostly of the teaching sort.  It is very exciting to see the growth in interest in the Olds Master Weaving program, and the desire for weavers to understand the craft more deeply.  At least, it's exciting for me.  I hope the students also find it exciting!

The level one class beginning on Monday has 11.  Level one in Cape Breton has five, with room for more.  Level two Cape Breton has nine, possibly 10 as one more person is contemplating joining us.  The classes at Olds College proper during Fibre Week are filling - level one has 12, which makes that a full class (although I have been known to accept one or two more rather than disappoint.  Plus I have a teaching assistant in Olds, so could potentially take a couple more.)

Level two and three are running during Fibre Week as well. 

Time for me to weave a bit on the warp I dressed yesterday.  I am so grateful I am able to keep weaving and teaching, even if my energy levels aren't what they were.  And that weavers are coming through the system, ready, willing and able to take the torch and carry the knowledge forward into the future.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Mad Scramble

My life seems to alternate between the calm before the storm and...the storm.

I wanted to use a 'cartoon' I saw on the internet about what your plans are and reality.  My plans being a nice smooth path to my goal.  Reality being a mountainous up and down over and around numerous obstacles kind of journey.

But you get the drift...

This morning I was chatting with a friend about how we always seem to be juggling way too many balls, wearing way too many hats.  We agreed that if we didn't we wouldn't likely get off the sofa of a morning.  Some of us just keep having Really Great Ideas.  And then of course, someone has to implement them, right?

Also, this morning, I have been shooting off emails and messages about the conference, the classes, and a friend about the progress being made.  Oh yeah - and weaving on the above warp.

The good news is that the class manuals for WA are scheduled to be delivered today.  A Just In Time delivery if ever there was one.  Because class begins Monday morning at 9.  Sharp. 

Plans for the conference are shaping up.  Still a few details to nail down, but so good.

I am looking forward to surmounting the next peak on  my path.  There won't be much time to rest when I get home, though, because I have work scheduled that has to be done in between WA and Cape Breton.

Where would I be without deadlines?  Sitting on the sofa eating bon-bons?  Nah, I'd think up something else wonderful that I just had to do...

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Dark Times

In the face of - it seems - rising stress, increasing darkness, people going through tough times, I choose to light as many candles as possible.

Thoughts and prayers are just the first step.  Lighting metaphorical - or even real - candles is a first step.  The next steps are up to each and every one of us.

I try, every day, I try to choose kindness.  To encourage.  To accept that people are having difficulties I may know nothing about.

As a child I was taught that God helps those who help themselves.  So if you believe in a God, pray.  But don't pray for God to 'fix' what is broken in this world.  Pray for the strength to fix what is broken.  Pray for understanding.  Pray for those who have things more difficult than they should be.  Pray to open your eyes to inequity - and the way to make things better, even for just one person.

The world may be breaking, but we can mend it. 

Light a candle.  Be kind.  Lift up those who are down.  Build a bigger table.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


Wayne Dyer had a talk he would give on the stages of human growth.  The last one, according to him, was mentoring the next generation(s).

I feel I have entered this stage of life.  And that is why I am committing myself to the Olds Master Weaving program (almost) exclusively.  (I will, from time to time, continue to teach the local weavers via the guild I belong to.  If anyone wants to study with me, they are more than welcome to come here!  Or one of the Olds programs I am teaching.)

Being a mentor does not mean you have reached a certain chronological age.  Rather it means you have reached a stage where you have a deep level of understanding that you can convey to others.

People tell me I can do this.

More importantly, I feel I need to do this.  

After being in this business for 4+ decades I have a great deal of experience.  I also have a sense of what new(ish) weavers need to learn, even if they don't know that they need to learn it.  It is one reason I keep blogging, frequently repeating the same message over and over.  Because not everyone grasps the message the first or second (or 10th) time they read it.

Sometimes people have to have developed a certain level of knowledge to understand what I am trying to convey.

And sometimes it isn't something they need to know at the time they hear it so it slips on by.

People sometimes ask what it takes to host the Olds program in their locality.  The Gaelic College is one of the locations I am teaching.  They have a fully loaded studio and a weaving instructor who was willing to get things set up.  However, you don't have to have a fully loaded studio.  The Olympia Guild had a person who was willing to do the ground work, located a facility large enough to hold the class and could be booked for five days.  She managed to locate a loom for me to use for the group warp, and acted as liaison for me and for the students.

The college does the registration, sends out class manuals, hires the instructor (in this case, moi) and pays the instructor.

I have informed Zach that I will be devoting my teaching efforts to the program and am willing to pick up more classes.  (Just in case it's moi a group is interested in!)  He said that a couple of guilds had been in touch, and who knows, the program may be growing even further.  Generally the minimum number of students is 8, maximum 12.  Since some people have Life Happen and they drop out of one level or another, having the maximum for level one means the likelihood of continuing through the other levels is higher.  OTOH, one of the benefits of the program is that, having taken level one at one location, it is possible to take the next level at a different location.

If a guild should be interested in hosting the program, they can contact Olds College and talk to Zachary Webster.  (Don't you love that the person overseeing the program is called Webster?)

Friday, April 20, 2018

Different Strokes

People adapt their processes to suit their personal preferences, the yarn they are using and their equipment.  I tend to weave within a fairly narrow range of yarns.  I'm very comfortable with them, know their limitations, how they will consistently behave.  (Doesn't mean they are always the same, just reasonably consistent!)

The above photo is an 11 meter long warp.  Half of it, actually.  The finished warp will be 24" in the reed.  With such a width, I only wind half of it, or 12".  The max width I will do on this warping board is 15" at 20 epi +/-

I tie off the four 'arms' of the cross, not the waist.  I used to just tie the waist, then would fight to find the waist and deal with how the threads became compressed.  So I take an extra few seconds and make four ties to save that PITA level I mentioned in yesterday's post.  Extra time at one stage to save time and PITA levels at the next is not wasted.  IMHO.  

Notice that I also do not tie this yarn every single yard.  This 11 meter long warp has the choke tie near the cross, the counting string near the end and just two more ties along the length of the chain.

Nor do I crochet the warp.  Here are the two chains for the next warp which will go into the loom later this afternoon.  Once the chain is tied off I take out the peg at the bottom of the board (the end of the chain, so to speak) and simply carefully drop the chain into a box or bin.  In this case, because two warp chains will go into the same container I use a larger plastic bin.

The bin is then taken to my work table (where I stand to work - otherwise I'd be sitting way too much - sometimes working standing up is A Good Thing to do).  The lease sticks and reed are set upon small boxes which raise the reed to a comfortable height for the rough sleying.

I also use really thick ties.  They are easier to see, tie and untie than a single strange of, say, 2/20 cotton.

This whole set up is now ready for me to remove the four ties securing the cross and to begin rough sleying.

Check the links 'rough sleying' or 'reed as raddle' for more info on this process.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


It seems there is nothing like a group of weavers discussing how to dress a loom to create controversy!

There are the front-to-back and then the back-to-front disciples.  Both are absolutely convinced - it seems - that their method is the best thing since sliced bread.

When I learned how to weave we were taught to use a raddle to spread the warp out to it's weaving width.  I did that for a while until I was shown how to use a reed to rough sley.  For a year or so I followed that process.  I got pretty good at using either a raddle or a reed.

Then I started beaming front-to-back and did that for a couple of years.  It worked ok with some limitations.


Until I changed what I was doing and it no longer worked.  Well, it did, but the 2/20 mercerized cotton I was then using for warps snarled and tangled and it took literally hours to beam a 10 or 12 yard long warp.

At that point I switched to sectional beaming and never looked back.  For literally decades.

Sectional beaming is great for a warp that is long/wide/has limited colour changes.  And that is how I usually approached my weaving designing while using sectional warping. 

But then I changed what I wanted to do and started winding warps with lots of color changes.  Not exactly efficient when beaming sectionally.  I was also making much shorter warps than what I did for the AVL. 

After trying and selling on several small looms I found a Leclerc Fanny, which turned out to be perfect for my needs.

Now rayon chenille is not one of those yarns I would willing beam front-to-back, and I didn't like having 8 ends in a 1/2" raddle, so I grabbed a reed and rough sleyed it - just like I had done all those years ago.  With just two ends in a dent, the rayon chenille behaved much better.  And the Pain In The Ass quotient went down considerably.

Rough sleying also worked 'better' with finer yarns, like 2/16 cotton, or Bambu 12 (about 2/16 cotton thickness).  Rough sleying also worked 'better' with 2/20 mercerized cotton.  And linen.

This is not to say I wouldn't ever beam front-to-back at some point.  Perhaps.  But there are many fabrics that I would avoid using front-to-back.

An incomplete list:

Any singles yarn, of any fibre.
Rayon chenille.
Any dense cloth - like the fine wool, set at something like 72 epi.
Any textured yarn such as a boucle.
Any grabby wool

Now I am quite sure that someone, somewhere, has successfully beamed a warp front-to-back using a yarn from the above list.

Great for them. 

For me, those yarns open up a world of PITA that I'm simply not willing to deal with.

I am known as an efficient weaver.  I have worked for decades to become efficient.  I am not interested in taking hours to beam a warp when my methods work for me and I can beam an 11 meter long cotton warp in about 10 minutes.

But for those who prefer front-to-back?  Do what you love.  I don't love that process much anymore, so I don't do it.

My advice to students is to pick an expert.  Learn everything they can teach you.  Learn enough to become your own expert.  Avoid PITA situations.  Because weaving should be pleasant, not a pain.  If you are happy and getting the results you want, you don't need to change a thing.  If you are not?  Then you might want to check out some different processes.  Or equipment.  Sometimes the equipment just isn't a good fit.  Because we are not all the same.  We are not the same height.  We are not the same in terms of manual dexterity.  We do not necessarily learn the same way.  Find what works - for you.

Live long - and prosper!  And weave the way you want.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thoughtful Thought

I have never been one to rush into a decision.  Well, hardly ever.  So I spent a lot of time thinking about the post I wrote yesterday.  Thinking about how much energy I may - or may not - have in the coming years.  How most people my age have long ago retired from their job/career.  About what I want to accomplish, really, and truly, with the rest of my life - however long that may be.

The past few years I have cut way back on my teaching.  I have threatened not once, but several times, to quit teaching altogether.  But then my health would take an uptick and I would look at my dwindling bank balance, check my energy levels and think, oh sure, why not?  And book another date with another guild.

But after writing out just the next four months of my year with all that is scheduled?  Looking in the mirror and seeing someone who has fought the good fight, but who is getting tired?  Who would like, once in a while, to not have rolling deadlines?

I thought about where I want to spend my time and energy. 

Recently I told someone I wanted to teach myself out of a job.  I was, at the time, referring to the Olds Master Weaving program.  And I decided that if I really want to do that, then I need to conserve my energy for that program.  To help create weavers who can receive the torch and continue to teach more weavers, on into the future.

At this point I have zero contracts for anything beyond this year.  I have had one inquiry for possibly doing a 'remote' video class sometime in the new year which may, or may not, materialize.  But other than that, no contracts.

Every other time I have threatened to quit teaching for guilds I have been at the low part of the 'poor' health trough.  But right now I'm not.  I'm not exactly healthy, but it is being managed. 

So I feel as though I am clear headed enough to be making a significant decision affecting the rest of my life.

The older I get the less and less I like the dark o'clock departures to go anywhere.  The less and less I enjoy the stress of traveling long distances (even though I'm delighted when I arrive).

The older I get the less inclined I am to hare after the rolling waves of deadlines. 


Drum roll please. 

I will not be accepting any more engagements for teaching for guilds.  I will be concentrating on the Olds Master Weaving program as my venue of choice for teaching. 

I will continue to work on stash reduction.  I aim to 'retire' from doing craft fairs at the end of 2020 although I reserve the right to continue doing one or both of the local fairs.  But I'm done driving pell mell through winter weather to attend craft fairs far far away.

I will finish The Book,hopefully before the end of this year, primarily because I'm sick of the whole project hanging over my head, but also so that I will be able to sell it at our conference here next year.

No, I won't be teaching at the conference, I will be one of the worker bees running it. 

For those of you who, at times, email me to say they really want to learn from me, keep an eye on the Olds College  website.  Because I will travel places to teach the college program. 

I will continue to contribute to Handwoven when their theme matches my interests - and they want what I have to contribute.

I choose to limit my activities in order to encourage serenity.  Who knows, maybe I really will drag my bobbin lace stuff out again.  Maybe I really will read all those books sitting on my hearth.  Maybe I really will make those jigsaw puzzles I've accumulated and had no time for.  Anything is possible?

Currently reading Island of Blue Foxes by Stephen R. Bown

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Seeking Balance

Yesterday I had a good chat with the nurse practitioner as we seek to find balance in my treatment - sufficient drug to control the cancerous cells, not so much that I have to deal with adverse effects.  To that end, I am now on one capsule per day.  I am really hoping that this works because there is nowhere to go from there...

In the event that I will still have some degree of adverse effect to the drug, I am having to also tweak my life. 

The things that are important become clearer when 'normal' changes to something...less...

My long range goal for the past few years has been stash reduction.  So I will continue to work on that.  As I use up the things I'm not all that fond of, I am hoping to pare my stash down to my favourite yarns and not have these other challenges staring at me from my shelves.

The next six months are getting very crunchy with deadlines but roughly these are my priorities (I tend to use this blog to sort out my thoughts and make them more real by writing them down)

Book projects.  The warps above started out as a book project.  But I'm also using up stash that is not necessarily readily available, so I will use one of the ones that is made entirely from Brassard yarns, rather than the ones where I have dipped into my non-standard stash in order to use it up.  Then I got captivated by playing with colour and went a little nuts pulling lots of combinations that will all weave up into table runners.

Because I also need table runners for inventory for the up coming craft fair season.

In addition to the above heap of yarn/wound warps, there are also 4 place mat warps wound, ready to be woven. 

Then there is the warp Doug just beamed onto the AVL - for more table runners - those ones a little more dressy than these will be with their textured/slubby weft.

One of those table runners will likely go into the book as well, perhaps as part of a 'gallery' of textiles for inspiration, not necessarily as a project.  OTOH, just because it is 16 shafts doesn't mean I can't include it as a project.  Hmm.

I have also volunteered to weave samples for another weaver.  Those will have to be done in a small window of opportunity in May.  A window which may be closing to a much smaller window at the possibility of a level one in Cape Breton looks more feasible.  There are 5 registered - we need 8.  It is quite possible three more could register before April 28.

In July I've arranged for a photographer to come and deal with the masses of photos required for the book.

I have also just 'volunteered' to weave a project for Handwoven - due in August.  Surely I can do that with no problem?  I can also piggy back a book project onto that warp,  If they are interested, of course.  They can say no if my proposal doesn't fit their theme.

Then there is the possibility of an on line class to be taped in August.  I will follow up on that soon because I still have to prepare for that - IF it will go ahead.

And that just takes me to the end of August...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rough Sleying

When some people find out my preference for spreading the warp to it's weaving width is rough sleying there can be a variety of reactions.

One is, why do I 'waste' time sleying the reed twice?  If I'm sleying the reed anyway, why don't I just cut the loops and dress the loom front to back?  If I prefer back to front warping, why don't I just use a raddle?

The answers to those questions take longer to explain than a short answer, which is, this is the method I have tweaked to fit my needs and it works best for me.

How I got to that conclusion takes much more detail.

The warp above is an example of how spreading the warp using a reed is most definitely rough

I'm aiming for 24 epi, but I have - mostly - wound two ends at a time.,  Except for where I haven't.  This means that in order to rough sley there is a bit of mixing and matching going on.

I don't have a six dent reed wide enough, which would be the easiest size reed to use.  I have two six dent reeds - one of which is too narrow, the other which is way too wide.  So I tried a 12 dent reed, which is also 'long' and the spaces are narrow.

So then I picked up the 8 dent reed.  I am sleying \4\4\4\0\4\4\4\0 for the most part.  Except for when the stripes begin and end and I wound 2 ends of a colour to outline the stripe.  So where the stripe begins and ends, I am putting 6 ends in the dent.

When I used the 12 dent reed, I put those 2 ends in their own dent, but then the warp was spread wider than the weaving width of 25" and my warp packing was perilously close to being too narrow.  Using the 8 dent reed, I'm putting those two ends into the same dent as the background colour to make the warp narrower than the weaving width. 

Now this is not my preference, but for this textile having the warp beamed narrow is not going to cause any particular issues as it has enough elasticity to take the deflection from narrow to wide to narrow (as it draws in during the weaving).

When I demonstrate this technique people get very concerned about how 'messy' the threads can look.  So long as I have tied a good tight choke tie, any disruption in the threads isn't going to matter much as long as I don't yank on the ends and pull slack up out of the length of the chain.

So why don't I just use a raddle?  Well, when I started winding and beaming warps on the Fanny I did borrow a raddle.  But I found that filling the raddle really wasn't much of a time saver - the objection some have to rough sleying a reed - that it will take longer than filling a raddle.  The real reason I gave up on a raddle though was that the sections were too large for the usual yarns that I use.  I wanted a finer separation of the yarns so there would be less tendency for them to wrap around each other.

In the end, after trying both - and I tried the raddle several times - I find this method more efficient even though I may take a little bit more time at this stage which will save me a lot more time at the beaming stage.  Of course my default length is 11 meters.

Or at least...this has been my experience.

But there are many ways to accomplish all of the stages of weaving - from winding the warp in the first place, spreading the warp for weaving, beaming, threading (or the other way round if you prefer front to back), tying on.

It depends on your goals which processes will work 'best'.  It depends on your personal preferences, your equipment, yarn, environment. 

As they say...Your Mileage May Vary.

Currently reading The Nothing That Is; a natural history of Zero by Robert Kaplan

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Satisfying Life

Choosing a life of textiles doesn't mean that there was no stress.  Oh my, no!  But it has been a different kind of stress.

And my days have been filled - not just with dealing with that stress - but with textiles.  Yarn.  Creativity.

As a child I assumed that being an adult meant I could do whatever I wanted to do, instead of what the adults around me told me I had to do.

What a shock!  What a surprise!  Adults have responsibilities to a level I could not - as a child - imagine or comprehend.

As an adult it now fell on my shoulders to pay the bills and keep the home fires burning.  So to speak.

By choosing to do that through the life of a creative person, I simply exchanged one set of stressers for another.  But the daily grind was now  of my choosing, not dictated by a boss who had their own level of responsibilities and stress to deal with.

I became my own boss.  Therefore I set my own agenda in order to meet my schedule, my long term goals.

There were still interactions with people but I had more control over how those interactions played out.  I set my obligations to others, and then - hopefully - I had more control over how those responsibilities were met.

Dealing with students, workshop and conference co-ordinators, editors, show organizers became my front line interactions with people.

I learned how to communicate, more or less effectively.  Since we are talking the 1980's, most communications were done by snail mail, not email, or telephone.  Things had to be sorted out months in advance in order to allow that slow communication to happen and events to be organized in a timely manner.

Customers also needed to be dealt with.  Sometimes those customers had their own agenda and deadlines.  I learned how to say 'no' when their expectations collided with my schedule.

Because the thing is, as an independent creative person, weaving, writing and teaching about weaving, meant my schedule was filled with deadlines.  It had to be in order to bring in enough income from my several income streams to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.  I never had just one deadline I was working toward, but many.

The stress never stopped.  The deadlines rolled on by, like waves in an ocean.

One year I was gone from home more days than I was at home.  And the trips, the deadlines, the stress never stopped.

At times I would step out of that reality and think, "Wow!  Is this really my life?  How did it get to this point?  Where did that month, that week, hell, that year go?"  At which point the only appropriate answer was "this is the life you chose".

It was never said in a mean way, just a realistic way.  That this constant running in order to stay on top of the deadlines was the life I had, in fact, chosen to do.

Of course the next statement always had to be - if I am not happy with this life, what do I change?  What choices do I make next?  Because this was the life I had chosen, all those decades ago.

But right now, in this moment, I am no longer in my 30s.  I am in the latter half of my 60s.  And for the past 10 years I have been dealing with overt health issues.  I feel my clock ticking and time running out.

And so I have been struggling with my choices.  I am trying to make different choices now.  I am looking at my calendar and trying to book deadlines with less stressful time frames.

After 4 plus decades of cramming every single opportunity into my calendar, into my life, I am trying to listen to my body and give myself recovery time.  I don't always listen to myself and so I do still wind up with rolling waves of deadlines.  But I am trying to be more mindful that peers have been retired for years instead of continuing to work like they were just beginning their careers instead of approaching the end, and the retirement from the stress of earning their daily bread and butter.

As a weaver, I have only the meager state pensions as retirement income.  So I feel the pressure to continue, at some level, to sell my textiles, write articles, teach.  But I also feel the need to step back from all of that.

I have a big personal investment in the Olds Master Weaving program because the goal of the curriculum is to produce weavers who understand the underlying principles of the craft in order to pass on the information to others.   It is fine to weave from published patterns, but someone has to design those patterns for others to follow.

Recently I told one of the Olds students that my goal is to teach myself out of a job.  I am getting tired.  My body is 'broken'.  It will soon be time to pass the torch onto the next generation.

Regrets?  I've had a few.  But I have lived the life I chose when I was 25.  And I have no regrets about making that choice.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Life I Chose

I was 19 - and in Sweden, a trip I'd worked hard to make happen the year following graduation - when the first intimation that my life was about to change significantly occurred.  My father was gravely ill.

When I got home about 4 weeks later, my mother finally told me dad had multiple myeloma and the prognosis wasn't good.  He hadn't even turned 50 yet.

My intention to pursue higher education had to be scrapped.  There would be no money for tuition, textbooks, food, shelter.  Instead I went back to the telephone company as a long distance operator.

While the job paid good money it wasn't much fun.  It was very obviously a dead end job as technology was already creeping in.  It was also dealing with people who varied from kind and polite to rude and stressed, at times, down right abusive.  And at that point I was once again a 'new hire' so wasn't getting full time hours and pulling the 'nasty' shifts - the split shifts, the early morning shifts, the evening shifts.

The stress at home wasn't great either as mom traveled frequently down to Vancouver where dad had been in hospital for months, with various crisis due to his illness.

I finally found an office job - the only thing I had any kind of qualification for, knowing how to touch type - and even though it paid a lot less, it was regular full time hours.

If I thought I'd had an education in human nature and behaviour at the telephone office, I learned more working at the credit bureau - about the tendency of people to get in debt, then all the stress they incurred.  The petty office politics and low level misogyny with male management and female worker bees.  The sense of privilege and entitlement some people assumed.

From there I went to work for an insurance adjuster.  More lessons in how people cope with stress - or not - filing claims for damages caused to their homes, sometimes catastrophic loss, sometimes minor.  Or their vehicles.  I got fired from that job eventually, partly because I got bored and I just didn't care any more.

It took some weeks to find another job, this time hospital reception, part time.  More shift work.  More dealing with way too many stressed people.  Since dad was constantly seeing doctors and spending way too much time in a hospital bed, I had compassion for these people.  But wished they wouldn't take it out on the people who were simply trying to do their jobs and actually help them.

I lasted six weeks there until I fell into a job at the high school where I had graduated only a few years previously.  It was again interesting to see the change in dynamic from being a student to being an adult, interacting with teachers, some of whom had been mine.  After about six months an opening happened in the school library and I applied.  When I got the job I thought I'd entered the gates of heaven.  All those books!  And I got first pick (more or less.)

Another lesson, this time in being a bit of an authority figure to the students who used the library.  I knew I had a reputation as a bit of a bitch, but I didn't care.  I simply firmly enforced the rules - bring your books back on time or pay the fine.  Don't bring them back in a timely fashion?  I would call you out of class to give you a warning.  Noisy?  I would calmly tell you to be quiet - or go to the cafeteria.  And yes, I told my brother and his friends to abide by the no talking rule or leave.  ;)  I was that kind of big sister!

All during this time as dad experienced declining health, mom insisted on ignoring the elephant in the room, refusing to discuss dad's nearing end, my teen aged brother living in the toxicity of terminal illness, unacknowledged, I found myself dealing with the stress in my own way.  I read.  And I knitted.

The job at the school had it's own bundle of stress.  It was only 10 months out of the year, paid very poorly, and I had no income for the two months school was out.  I started working for a temp agency, which was it's own kind of hell.

Lots more lessons about how people behave under stress - or just generally.  Some people were kind, but some were not.  When stressed even the kind ones could lose their cool.

And by this time I was extremely stressed.

I was working office jobs that left me feeling unfulfilled.  And poor.  I went back to the telephone company, this time in an office.  I was the only female in a male environment.  I was also a feminist and found dealing with misogyny more and more difficult.

As my father made his way through one health crisis after another, he became more and more unhappy.  He was dealing with all sorts of issues related to the disease and my mother continued to not talk about end of life issues.  My brother ducked his head and just tried to get through.

We were also fighting the good fight to keep my brother in school.  He kept insisting he would quit school and get a job with the railway - they would hire with a grade 10 education.  The entire rest of the family was united.  My brother would, under no circumstances whatsoever, quit school - he would have to graduate grade 12.  And he'd better just get on with that.  As dad became more ill, Don stopped complaining and did just that - got on with it.  But I knew he wasn't happy.  He did, during this time, finally discover the escape that reading provided.

At the telephone office I became more and more unhappy.  It, like the rest of the jobs before it, became boring.  I wasn't learning anything - I knew the job, I could do it, but...

Doug was travelling a lot during this time and one night the rabid thought squirrels hosting a rave in my brain box I faced the fact that life was pretty awful right then.  Instead of simply feeling sorry for myself, as I had been doing, I finally asked myself the critical question.  If not this, then...what?

If I didn't want to do what I was doing for the rest of my life, why not?  What did all of the jobs I'd done have in common?  They were boring.  They had way too many people interactions.

OK.  Well, that's a start.

So, then, what are they missing?  Stimulation.  What kind of stimulation?  Because the nasty interactions with people were not what I wanted, obviously.  Finally the answer slowly dawned on me.  Creativity.  None of the jobs I'd had were, in any way at all, creative.  I was happiest when I was making stuff.

My ex-boss at the library had told me about a class at the local college where people could learn how to dye with natural dyes and how to spin.  The spinning didn't appeal to me, but the dyeing did.  I had, in fact, been looking for someone to teach me batik but hadn't been able to find a teacher.

I enrolled in the Monday evening class.  Where I was told I had to learn how to spin so that I would have yarn to dye.  Sigh.

After enrolling in the class I'd applied for and gotten a job at a custom drapery house.  I have told this story elsewhere. 

But I found that I was attracted to the fibre, the yarn we made from it and then, in the new semester, the small loom techniques - inkle weaving, back strap weaving, and so on.

When I made the decision to become a weaver, I really had no clue.  I could see potential.  I could see possibility.  I wanted a job where I could set my own priorities and schedule.  Make my own decisions about the direction I would take my life.

Little did I know what the reality of that decision would actually consist of...

And perhaps this post is long enough and I should save the rest for part II...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Still Not Perfect

When winding this warp I apparently missed a Peg.  Decided I could live with a shorter warp rather than try to fix it.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lace Architecture

As I go through these books I am constantly amazed at how the threads can be made to move through the textile and the cleverness of our ancestors who figured this out.

This is a small table runner and rather than work with a bazillion bobbins, the lace meanders back and forth to create a much larger textile with a more manageable number of bobbins.

While I can't yet quite follow this diagram, I get just enough of it to be blown away by whoever figured this out.

After seeing Ivan Sayers collection of lace at Fibres West, the fineness of the threads used, and the designs that were created, usually in very low light conditions, I can only offer up my respect to the (mostly) women who made these lace textiles.

And, while I am intimidated, I am also inspired to dig my pillow and bobbins out.  I just wish I didn't have so many crunchy deadlines right now.  But never mind, I have the books and I can feast my eyes on these incredible patterns and - who knows - set up a pillow for a very very simple lace.

Currently drooling over Discover, Explore, Master Torchon - a three part series written by Ulrike Voelcker.  Available in Canada from Trillium Lace in Ottawa, ON.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Community.  A banding together of people with like interests or living in a 'common' area.

Weavers are rare these days.  I have constantly been greeted with blank looks when I tell people I weave.  Not only do I weave, but it has been my profession for 4 decades.

When I took my first weaving class I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  Truly.  It was only that I saw possibilities.  Potential.  For living a life filled with intellectual challenge, creative boundaries - and how to push beyond them.

I had no idea I would also find community.

By and large weavers have to be some of the friendliest, helpful, supportive group you could want.

I have seen this over and over again as I have traveled, meeting 'strangers' but treated with kindness at every turn.

And so it is happening again as we push our way towards another Olds class.  Looms have been loaned.  Ground transportation freely offered.  Strangers - friends, just not met in person - yet - coming together for the sole purpose of playing with string.  Figuring out the subtleties of the craft.  Challenging ourselves to learn more.  Understand more.

Our society seems so broken right now.  This fellowship is partly what keeps me going, some days.

I feel helpless in the larger scope of the current state of affairs in the world.  And my only 'power', if you will, is to keep creating.  Keep learning.  Keep building links to others - strangers who are people I just haven't met yet - future friends.

My values are to treat others as I wish to be treated.  To be kind.  To be creative.  To create joy.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

All About the Twills

This weekend the local guild is having a workshop on twills.

I really love designing with twills.  You can keep it simple, ramp it up, make it over the top complex.  Yes, even with 'just' four shafts.

The design we call Swedish Snowflake here in North America was originally made popular by Margaret Atwater.  But her version of the threading was not...elegant.  In fact it was extremely difficult to thread and treadle.  And it was for eight shafts.

Along came David Xnaxis (apologies if I've spelled that wrong) who saw the symmetry and twill progressions that lay scattered through the threading, shuffled shafts and hey presto, the sense of the threading and treadling was revealed.  His conversion is the one we use most often now.

My personal take on Atwater's version is that she did a fabric analysis of an actual piece of cloth, and because there was no software to easily shuffle shafts, her draft stood for many years.

But - eight shafts.  Many people have four shafts and were wanting to do something like the Swedish Snowflake design and felt hindered by the lack of shaft capacity.  I sat down one day and analyzed the eight shaft draft, looked at how the threads moved to make the motif, realized it could be compressed onto four and came up with what I blithely called Canadian Snowflake,  Since then someone (I forget who) has done a six shaft American Snowflake version.

Understanding the logic behind the twill progressions, how to extend the line, break it, advance it - all of these things can come together to make very complex patterns on just four shafts.

You can also make very large, non-repeating designs.  See Bonnie Inouye's book for more on that.

The weavers taking todays class are not very experienced.  But I'm hoping to share the twill love and introduce them to how to manipulate twill lines to create interesting designs.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Whoosh! Swish!

I love deadlines.  Especially the sound as they Swoosh by!

I knew that this spring was going to be crunchy with deadlines and I am now in the thick of them.

The first level one class is a 'go' and as much as can be done, has been done.  My tickets are booked, class materials sent, accommodation and ground transportation pretty much organized.  Still a few details to work out, but those are best done once I'm there.

But now it's time to deal with the next set - Cape Breton.  Dianne was bold and booked another level one the last week of May.  I still haven't heard if there are enough people registered to make that a go or not, so here's a shout out to anyone on the eastern seaboard -  Level one, with moi, May 28 to June 1.  The student accommodation at the Gaelic college is the usual sort of student rooming, but believe me, you won't be spending much time in your room!  :D  The food is decent and location quiet.

Level two in Cape Breton is probably going to go.  There are a couple more people who need to send in their homework but I am assured that they are working on it.

After that?  Level one in Olds during Fibre Week.  That class is confirmed to go, but we can take up to 12 (and I have been known to take one or two 'extra' if my arm is sufficiently twisted!)

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Counter Balanced

There is a persistent 'myth' about counter balanced looms.  Well, two, actually.

One is that counter balanced looms cannot weave 'unbalanced' weaves.  The other is that they can only be four shafts.

I have tried to explain on chat groups and such that this information is not correct.  These comments are more correct for roller type counter balanced looms, but completely incorrect for looms with pulley and lever systems.

This morning I pulled Jane Evans' book A Joy Forever off the shelf to look for some information.  When I opened it, the paperback book spine finally broke completely.  Since the pages are 8.5 x 11", I grabbed my box of plastic pocket pages and a binder and started carefully pulling the pages apart and inserting them into the pocket pages.

As I was doing this, the above diagram caught my eye.  I have been using Laila Lundell's Big Book of Weaving diagram showing how counter balanced looms with horses can be 6, 8, even 10 shafts.  This one shows a loom with pulleys with 16 shafts (on the left) and 10 (on the right).

Ten shaft looms were routinely used (and still are in Scandinavia - and I assume Latvia and other eastern European countries) for weaving cloth of two satin blocks.  A 10 shaft loom can do two 5 end satin blocks.  By their very nature, satin weaves are 'unbalanced'.

So yes, counter balanced looms can be more than four shafts.  And yes, counter balanced looms can weave unbalanced weave structures.

The constraints in the 'myth' are for roller type looms, not looms with pulleys and/or 'horses' (levers).

For anyone wanting to look this up - A Joy Forever by Jane Evans, pages 17 and 18.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Be Consistent

I've said it before and will say it again - more than once, guaranteed.  If you can't be perfect, be consistent.

One of the reasons attempting for 'perfect' is counter productive is that our materials are rarely perfect.  Yarns spun from fibres are reasonably smooth - or as smooth as someone can make them considering that spinning short staple fibres into a perfectly smooth yarn is pretty much impossible.  Which is why yards per pound are generally known to be approximations.

The extreme close up of this twill (with points) shows just how 'not perfect' a cloth can be.  Looking at the twill line this closely it is very easy to see the slight undulations of the twill diagonal.  (Biggify the photo to see the entire photo.)

Am I worried?  Not really.  This slight amount of deviation from a 'perfect' angle will pretty much even out during wet finishing.

Silk is a slippery fibre, especially a cultivated silk such as this is.  Those tiny little variations in angle will slip and slide during wet finishing and by the time it receives the final hard press, it will be extremely difficult to see that there was any imperfection at all.

My job as a weaver is to be as consistent as possible.  And trust to the process to do what needs to happen in the wet finishing.

Just another reason I say that 'it isn't finished until it's wet finished'.  If 'hiding' or reducing those tiny imperfections isn't reason enough to wet finish, add in developing the hand or drape of the cloth and making it shine would surely be the convincing argument!  IMHO, of course!

Monday, April 2, 2018

Be Bold

Writing a book, especially a technical one about a craft that is multi-layered, is a bit of a dance.  A waltz, perhaps.  Two steps forward, one sideways?

Like dancing, one never really writes a book All By Themselves.  In my case, I have had multiple 'partners' as friends have beta read and given their observations.  Two steps back, one step sideways.

Now I have a professional editor and the dance continues. 

Fighting through the fatigue brain fog I have come to the point where the bulk of the writing is now done.  Yes, there are some tweaks to be done - some editing of material that is, perhaps, repetitive.  OTOH, sometimes a thing has to be said several times before the concept sinks in.  So perhaps I will leave the repetition in.  Or not.

Two steps forward, one sideways.

A couple of friends are giving me yet more help by taking on the weaving of some of the projects that I want to illustrate the weave structures I have included.  But that still leaves me with some to do myself.

Today I started winding the first warp.  Two steps forward.

But all of this is done knowing that this book is not for everyone.  (Two steps back.)  My book will be a disappointment to some - and today's society being what it is, they will - no doubt - loudly share their disappointment on the internet.  (Two steps back,one sideways.) 

For all of you who have maintained that you can't wait - I do so hope that you will find information that is of use, that is helpful.  And that, if you do, when the time comes, that you will also share that on the internet.

Because I can't do this dance All By Myself.

Bottom line?  I'm going through this dance as a way to preserve some of the knowledge I have come to over the years.  I'm hoping it will serve as a companion to the DVDs, the video clips on You Tube, even, perhaps, this blog. 

Yes, I have covered almost all of the material in the book on the blog, one way or another, but putting the information between the covers of a book it will be easier to find.  That you won't need to go searching through my 1000+ blog posts to find what you are looking for.

And I'm still aiming for publication before the end of the year.  Two steps forward.