Friday, June 29, 2018


Someone asked me why I chose to use the Leclerc Fanny instead of the AVL for the place mat warp.

Looms, like cars, have different features - different advantages and disadvantages.

When I design a textile I generally do so with which loom it will be woven on in mind.

Let's take a look at the two looms and compare them.

The AVL is a 16 shaft loom, 60" weaving width, has a computer/dobby interface, four box fly shuttle, auto cloth advance and two beams, both of them sectional.

The Leclerc Fanny is a roller type counter balanced loom with four shafts, six treadles and 36" weaving width with a plain warp beam.

This line of place mats lends itself more to the Fanny than the AVL partly because it needs to be firmly beaten, partly because I wind warps 10.5 meters long, using two different hues/values in the warp.  I change things as I find appropriate, given my 'taste' on the day I'm winding warps, partly due to what has been selling.  Each warp produces one table runner and a dozen mats.  I change each warp colours at whim also based on what I have on hand when I'm making up the warps.

The weft is thick - four strands of 2/8 cotton plus two novelty yarns.  All six are wound at once on the bobbin and because the shed on the Fanny is large, I can wind really fat bobbins as long as they don't rub against the shuttle cavity.

On the AVL I tend to beam a minimum of 10 yards of warp, more usually (these days) 30 to 40 yards.  The width is generally wider (unless I'm doing scarves when I want more than four shafts) and threaded in some kind of 'fancy' 16 shaft weave structure.  With the computer assisted dobby I can change treadling/tie up as desired although sometimes I don't change anything but the weft colour in order to create a 'line' of, say, tea towels that are related through their design but different colourways.  Frequently the yarns are much finer, 2/16 cotton size, although I do use 2/8 at times.

I choose each loom for it's strengths.  Each one is 'better' at some things than others.

Currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon; the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Rough Sleying Again

Someone told me that my last blog post didn't make any sense, so I will try again.

If, as part of tying off your warp chain you tie the four 'arms' of the cross (X), untie them before you begin spreading the warp chain to the width required in the reed.

In this photo you can see how I've tied in four places, one on each side of the lease sticks on the 'top', one each side of the lease sticks on the 'bottom'.  (If you can't see the entire photo, try right clicking on it and open in a new tab to get the full version.  Blogger seems to be cropping photos in ways that don't show the entire picture.)

If these ties are not removed, they will prevent the threads from spreading out to the width needed in the reed.

Hope this makes more sense.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rough Sleying

View from beneath as I rough sley

Just a reminder that if you tie off all four 'arms' of the cross to remove all four ties before doing anything about spreading the warp to the width in the reed.

I don't tie the waist of the X because I find it compresses the yarns and makes it more difficult to select the yarns in their proper order for rough sleying.  So I tie the 'arms' of the cross instead.

Yesterday I finished weaving the samples for Tien Chiu and will be sending them to her next week.  This completes the weaving I have been doing for her.  The last colour blanket was woven in 1:3 twill on my roller type counter balanced loom.  Yes, you can weave an unbalanced weave on such a loom, even without the shed regulator, if you sink the three shafts.  The shed was large enough I didn't even have to change to a low profile shuttle, just used my usual standard Leclerc shuttles.

I seem to be more or less recovered from all the travelling I have been doing and was able to think clearly enough to draw up a job list of what needs to happen in the next four weeks.

My editor should be arriving sometime around the end of July (date to be determined) and the studio needs a serious clean up.  Since it is easier to deal with wound warps by weaving them, I started rough sleying the first place mat warp this morning.  There are four of those, plus four table runner warps.  Since Doug is going pressing on the weekend, I'm going to try to weave as many of the mat warps as I possibly can and get them ready for wet finishing, pressing, then hemming (and then their final press).

Once those pre-wound warps are woven, I will begin shifting the heaps of bins and boxes to the annex for storage.  Because what she will be photographing is the studio, my work spaces, processes and so on for The Book.

If I can get that done quickly, I will start designing and weaving the rest of the book projects.  I have a couple done, friends are doing a few, which will help take the pressure off of me, and I may ask one more person if she would allow me to use some of her weaving as samples, too.  Still thinking that through.

After being on the lowest possible dose of the cancer drug I now have a much better idea of what my new 'normal' is.  And it isn't very much fun, but so much better than the higher doses, plus it appears to be keeping the cancer under control.  Now that I have an idea of what my new 'normal' consists of, I can begin to devise coping mechanisms.  With the muscle pain, it means shorter weaving periods and longer 'rest' breaks.  Since I also have a lot of conference administrivia to deal with, it will just be a matter of reducing my expectations in terms of what I can realistically accomplish in a day.

Life.  A constant round of adjusting to what is happening and focusing on what is important and what I need to let go of in terms of expectations...

Monday, June 25, 2018


One of the aspects of the Olds College Master Weaving program is being able to mentor the people going through it.  Mentoring students is just an extension of teaching.  It is a loosening of the student/teacher relationship, offering guidance and feedback.  A recognition of the fact that they are growing, learning, becoming independent of the student/teacher aspect of two people, both passionate about this craft we call weaving.

As part of my role in the program, I have made the decision to teach myself out of a job, so to speak.  Preparing the soil for other seeds to take root and grow.  As such I have agreed to mentor one student through the fifth level - the independent study.  Apparently the college is very close to publishing the requirements for that study, so hopefully those people poised to enter this final stage will be able to get the bit between their teeth and dig in.  (Mixed metaphors, but oh well!)

The older I get the less and less I am concerned about my own standing in society and the more I wish to see others succeed who will be able to take up the torch and keep the light of knowledge about this craft alive.  I am well aware that my time as a really active teacher of this craft will be drawing to a close - maybe sooner, maybe later - but that after 40 mumble years, I've done my bit.  It is time to start edging towards the side and let others take over. 

To this end, I have already talked to a few people about their intentions, whether or not they are interested in teaching.  For those that are, I will do my best to assist them in what ever way I can.

So many people have encouraged me along the years.  It's a great feeling to do the same for others.

How long will I continue to teach?  To be determined.  But I have already made the decision to stop accepting bookings from guilds.  My last guild workshop will be Oct. 13/14 for The Woolgathers guild (Comox/Courtenay) on Vancouver Island.  I MAY fill a few seminar slots at the conference here next year although I am holding myself in reserve in case we need a few more.  I have told Zachary that I will add two more classes to my schedule (given I'm not doing guild workshops).  I may also write articles, although - quite frankly - this book manuscript has about worn me out in terms of my wanting to write for publication.

The medication I'm taking for the lymphoma causes 'tired' and every day seems to be a struggle.  I need to conserve my energy for those things I feel most strongly about.  And right now, that is passing on my knowledge and ensuring another generation of teachers who will carry on teaching and keeping this craft healthy, vital and alive.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Story Tellers

As a child I wanted to write.  I dabbled in fiction, poetry, but nothing really gelled.  Not until I started weaving.  And realized that my 'story' was the story of textiles.

One of the advantages of the Olds program is that we get to tell each other our stories.  We get to share our experiences.  We get to know each other as people, as well as weavers (spinners, felters, etc.)

My opus major was Magic in the Water, but I have been writing for publication for many years.  Perhaps too many?  I recently told someone I'd been doing this for almost 50 years, but I was wrong.  It's only been 43 years.  I was tired and my brain blipped.  But however many years it has been, weaving has been part of me for many more years than I wasn't a weaver.  Or maybe I always was, and just didn't know it.

Weaving is integral to my well being.  My mental health.  My core as a person.

As we finalize the details for the conference, I am beginning to think of ways for others to express their stories, in their cloth.  To that end I am thinking about Challenges From the Chair and have come up with some ideas I will be running by the committee.

We have structured the schedule to hopefully give the participants plenty of time to socialize.  And tell each other our stories.  Getting to know each other means, I think, encouraging everyone to see that we are more alike than we are different.

Currently Reading The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon

Friday, June 22, 2018

Rode Hard

Remember this from a while ago?  There is no longer a heap of boxes, bins and suitcases on my living room floor.

Well, there wasn't - until Doug unloaded the van.  Now the pile is heaped high again and tomorrow I will try to sort, sift and hopefully put away as much of it as I can.  At least it is less than it was - the class materials were handed out, the seven boxes of homework returned.

Last night I could not, for the life of me, get to sleep.  I drove home today on about 2.75 hours of sleep.  If I could have slept in I might have gotten more, but everyone had to be up 'early' to begin their journey home.

What with one thing and another I wound up taking very few breaks and managed to stagger in the door in just under 12 hours from the time I left.  There was rain (not too hard today) there was road construction (Canada's second season - winter and road construction), there were delays due to several large (huge) oversize loads - all of which slowed traffic.  In the end I took fewer breaks - and paid for it with muscles seizing up.  Practically the first thing I did when I got home was make my way to the shower and have a long hot one.

I am trying to deal with an aging body, rode hard, put away wet too frequently by reducing the traveling I do and concentrating on the Olds program as the one that I feel teaches the principles of the craft.  Not everyone wants to dig this deep into the craft, but there has to be a core of people who do understand all the subtleties and why the most correct short form answer is 'it depends'.

All of the classes I have taught were just as passionate (for the most part) as I am about the craft.  You kind of have to be to invest this much time, effort and money in attending the five day class, sometimes travelling long distances to get there, being away from home, then the hours of homework when the in person instruction is over.

But I'm hopeful that this program will continue.  It has shown steady growth, with several satellite campuses (campi?) now offering level one, hopefully more levels as the students succeed in each year.  And I hear there are more locations interested in hosting more.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'm through the pinch point in my schedule - sort of.  Tomorrow I move on with the rest of what needs doing.  My inbox is full to overflowing and I suppose the best way to begin is at the beginning and work my way through...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Another Year, Another Fibre Week

All over but the packing.

Once I get home I have a ton of stuff waiting to be done.  Time to plough through them, one at a time.

I am so looking forward to being at home for a while.  Conference, book, inventory, all have been waiting patiently for me to get through to this point of the year.  Time to tug on the bootstraps and dig in.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

10,000 Hours

Another class, another hump day.

One nice thing about the Olds College is that it is a nice campus with gardens and a wetland area where students can go to pause, reflect, refresh themselves.

The first few days are chaotic and overwhelming.  I'm throwing a lot of information around, and some of the students have not encountered my firehose of information before.  It takes a while to sort out in their minds what they need to do and it all feels like too much, in too little time.

But bit by bit they are working on the in-class assignments and - in spite of what they think - they are making good progress.

I watch them work, explore, discover and revel in the light going on as they begin to understand the immensity of the craft and begin to feel they can grasp the principles.

Since we are always hardest on ourselves, they may not see the progress that they are making.  But I do.

The language of weaving is often confusing, too.  There are inconsistencies between authors.  One may use a sinking shed draw down, another a rising.  It is important to discover that what the symbols mean is more important than what symbol is being used.  The best way to understand a book is to read the introduction to find out the meaning of the symbols being used. If the author doesn't tell you, then it isn't all that hard to figure it out...if you understand the principle of how a weaving draft works.

But it all takes time. It takes work.  It takes that 10,000 hours of mindful practice.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Blogger

Mary Lessman is a master spinner (Olds College Master Spinner program), weaver and now - as of today - a blogger.

She has been toying with the idea of starting a blog for a while now and today I 'forced' her to sit down at my desktop and get 'er done.

Mary is also one of the instructors for Confluences.  She will be doing a two day workshop on dyeing with nature dyes, plus seminars.

Tomorrow we hop (crawl, maybe) into the van and head for Olds with stops at the Ancient Forest and Mount Robson along the way. 

Stay tuned for more of her adventures as she travels the US teaching spinning.  And maybe a wee bit on her adventures as a student in the weaving program, too. 

Here We Go Again!

Olds Fibre Week, here we come!   Well, soon.  

We will be staying in the condo unit, four of us sharing a kitchen.  Problem is, the kitchen doesn’t have anything in it other than the standard stove, fridge and a microwave.  So, in addition to this heap of student homework from last year, class materials and supplies and my personal stuff, I will be packing dishes, cutlery and some food staples.  We will buy produce when we get there. 

What you can’t see in the photo are the small flat bed press, because wet finishing, and the portable warping valet.  Which reminds me, I need to add warp packing for the group warp.  Details, details!

Mary is traveling light with her large suitcase, small carry on and...her ukulele.  She has joined the fraternity of players and enjoys her practice time in the evening. (She keeps trying to get me to sing, but...)

Several of my guild mates are attending this year, too, and will be promoting the ANWG conference we are hosting next year.  

The weather is supposed to be nicer tomorrow when we depart, as early as we can get going, but you never really know what the mountains will be like.  It has been chilly and windy here and yesterday it rained a bit. So I’m hoping for a dry day for the drive.  

Another adventure begins!

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Drinking Game

The level two students at Cape Breton were obviously well indoctrinated during level one and very quickly on day one someone suggested that every time I answered a question prefaced with the words "It depends" that everyone got to take a drink.

We very quickly increased our caffeine intake!

Because almost every weaving question requires those words, it depends, before the specific circumstances of what the question is asking is defined.

Almost every part of weaving lands on a spectrum.  Indeed, sometimes the distance on that spectrum is large.  Very large.  Because change one thing and everything can change.

The Cape Breton level ones are threatening to have my 'Laura-isms' tattooed as a way of remembering.  Not something I suggest, by any means, but...

And this is what I really love about teaching the Olds program - I get to delve into all the 'it depends' aspect of every question.  I am heartened by the people interested enough in the program to invest their time and energy (and money) to come to the course.  I am even more heartened by the number of younger people I am seeing in the classes.  In level one in Tenino there was one person in her 20s; in level one at Cape Breton there were three in their 20s and/or 30s (I guess, I don't ask people their ages!)

This morning the college confirmed 12 in level one at Olds.  I am interested in how many of this years crop of students will continue - out of last years classes, there was a 100% rate of people sending in their homework (one asked for an extension because Life Happened, but she is working diligently on it and I expect she will send sometime in the next while.)  I expect that most classes will see one or more drop out, but this year?  100%.  Wow.  Just wow.

One student at Cape Breton came from 'away' and is interested in getting a satellite class going in her geographic region.  I am looking forward to talking to the college about how we can continue to grow the program.  I have offered the college a free information table to promote the college's programs at the conference here next year, plus I have other suggestions.

Not sure I'm going to suggest a drinking game, though!

Currently reading To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear

Friday, June 8, 2018

Another Hotel, Another Flight

Three flights to be exact.  

My first flight leaves Sydney at around four pm.  First hop to Toronto, then Vancouver, finally home at midnight, or, as my body will feel it, 4 am.  

I only have 50 minutes in Vancouver so I am anxious about a delay in the first two flights.  But if all goes smoothly I will crawl into bed ASAP I stagger in the door.  

Mary should be waiting for me at the gate in Vancouver so we will be on the same flight.  Sunday will be a rest day.  I’m hoping I can get more than six hours sleep, which is about what I’ve been getting for weeks.  

Both classes seemed to go well and dates for next year have been chosen.  The program continues to grow as more people find out about it.  

I have a pile of emails waiting for action regarding the guild and the conference, medical appointments, repacking my suitcases, loading the van with class materials and kitchen stuff for our stay.  Then hop into the van and drive to Olds on Friday.  


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hump Day

Today completes day three of five.  I’m trying to not lecture too much and let them weave as much as possible.  But there is so much ch information to convey, and when people want to know all the ‘whys’ it’s hard to say no.  

Another great group, digging into the meat of the craft!

We have sorted out dates for next year. Now to settle with Olds College.  Stay tuned.  

Dianne already has a list of names for level one next year, plus two and three.  I simply cannot be away from home for three weeks, especially right before the conference next year so we are working on how to make this work. 

Tomorrow we will do two more fairly short lectures, they will wrap up their weaving (they have until 9 pm) and then Friday the oral presentations and a review of the homework to be done.  

Saturday I will fly home, arriving around midnight with five days to pack for Olds.  

Busy, busy, busy!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Rainy Day

I had planned on walking down the hill for dinner, but...plans change.  It’s not far, maybe a 20 minute walk.  But this morning I woke to rain pounding down, and while it isn’t as hard now, it is still wet and windy.  And I just don’t feel like heading down the hill and then hike back up again, getting chilled. 

Today I was supposed to be combing through the level two manual again, sorting out the daily lesson plans.  Instead I kind of crashed and burned and fell into bed for a little (ahem) two hour ‘nap’. 

Tomorrow I will dress the double Weave group warp on one of the studio looms.  And see if I can get my thoughts about how and when to present the class info sorted out.  Even though every day is a potential work day, apparently today was a day off...