Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In Praise of Learning

When I began weaving, information on wet finishing was scarce.  Most of what I know about the process I learned from books, and - most of all - trying things to find out what was what.

The best way to learn was to have someone who knew something about it explain it, but they, too, were hard to find.  In the end I 'found' two people, both of them at conferences.

So why do we have conferences?  There are many benefits to a group of like minded people gathering in one place to share information and knowledge, either formally in workshops/seminars, or informally by meeting in person.

Having an in person experience means being able to not just see the textiles but to feel them.  This is very much a tactile craft and the proof of the textile is in how it feels.

The knowledge of how to make a textile by hand nearly disappeared after the industrial revolution, kept alive in pockets here and there - Quebec, Appalachia, other small areas.  It was Margaret Atwater who became best known for her writing - newsletter and books - then others who followed along.

Now we have the internet, You Tube videos, on line classes, etc.  But none of those provides the opportunity to actually feel the textile. 

If you live in a geographically remote area, the internet can be a god-send.  But there really is nothing quite like getting together as a group, to share, to learn, to inspire each other.

Prince George has always been considered far away from everything.  I know because I was born and raised here.  If we needed something that wasn't provided locally, it was generally a 500 mile drive to Vancouver. 

When I began weaving the local college was running a class but again, resources were thin on the ground and everyone was pretty much in the same boat - we wanted to learn but there wasn't much available beyond the college library.

So I made a gigantic leap and traveled to Finland to take a two week class at the Varpaapuu Summer Weaving School in 1977.  While there I met hand weavers from Europe and the United States.  (There were supposed to be two Canadians but one had fallen ill so both had cancelled.)

There was the French woman living in Moscow.  The Swede living in South Africa.  The Japanese woman living in Sweden (I think - it's been a good many years), some Germans, and half a dozen Americans.

Us English speakers tended to hang out together mostly, and one of them invited me to attend Convergence 1978 being held in Fort Collins, CO.  So my very first conference was the biggest textile arts conference in North America.

Quite the deep end of the pool for someone who had never even been on a university campus before, never mind a conference with 1500 or so people.

It was overwhelming.  It was also a good lesson in so many ways.  I knew exactly two people, and managed to run into each of them once during the conference.  Otherwise?  This introvert had to get comfortable with talking to perfect strangers.  But they were strangers who were just as interested in textiles as I was.  And suddenly I found myself able to talk to people about a subject that was dear to our hearts.

My next conference was the following year - ANWG in Spokane, WA.    Again, it was easy to talk to people because we all loved textiles and talking about them.

There were exhibits.  There were seminars.  There was the fashion show.  There were people attending wearing their hand made textiles.  There was talk and laughter and the joy of being with others who were 'warped' in the same way you were.

It was a time to delve deep into subject matter where resources had been difficult to find.  Over the years I have taken workshops and always, always, learned something.  Sometimes the lesson wasn't what I had been expecting, but valuable, nonetheless.

Sometimes I learned that I really didn't need to explore that technique any further, but I walked away with more knowledge than I had had.

Sometimes I learned that I really wanted to know more, and generally had a list of resources where I could do further exploration.

Sometimes I just was completely and totally inspired and in awe of the person doing amazing things and I became a more informed viewer and appreciator of their work.

A conference is a short, intense, exposure to a variety of techniques and tools that could be done on one's own, but it would take a lot longer and still might not pinpoint the resources needed to fully understand the process.

It is also an opportunity for people to meet face to face and talk to each other. 

Knowing that you aren't alone can be very helpful.  There has been a great deal of growth in knitting over the past few years, and gradually there seems to be interest in spinning/weaving growing, too. 

For our conference we have tried to have a good range of textile techniques because weavers and spinners rarely do just the one - if you spin you are making the raw materials for the next stage of textile making.  So, many spinners knit and/or weave.  If you weave, you can either make a finished item, like a towel, or yardage to be sewn into something else.

We have assembled a fantastic team of instructors.  Having been in the weaving world (and peripherally in others - spinning, knitting, bobbin lace, even a wee bit of felting) I have gotten to know a lot of people involved in teaching.  Having attended many conferences (and taught at a fair number as well) I have gotten to know many of the 'name' teachers in the world.

I think we have a good range of topics, presented by some fine instructors.

So while it may seem 'expensive' to travel All This Way, people will have the opportunity to access very knowledgeable people, see exhibits of really good work, and spend some time getting to know the faces and names of people they may have seen on line.

There will also be a vendor hall...just saying...

We have worked to create a good experience for everyone.  The facilities are all within a block or two of each other and all are accessible with elevators to the upper floors.  There are plenty of restaurants within the hotels themselves, or a short walk away.  Our town has a broad range of cuisines to choose from and many are just five minutes from the convention complex.  Including craft breweries and a chocolatier!  There is a fruit winery about a 10 minute drive away, on the bank of the Nechako River.

We have a conference rate for both hotels and discount codes for both major airlines.  There is an airport shuttle that will take people from the airport to either hotel for a reasonable rate. 

For Americans?  Remember that all prices are quoted in Canadian dollars.  As of yesterday $395 Cdn was approximately $300 US.  The airlines are Canadian and are quoting Canadian dollars, as are the hotels. 

If you've never been north of the 49th parallel, you'll enjoy our long daylit summer days.  Prince George is at about the 54th parallel.

Check out the website for tourism information.  Come early, stay late if you like.  But do think about the rare experience of being able to talk to others as 'warped' and 'twisted' as you may be.  Share your textiles.  Broaden your horizons.  Learn.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


One of my mentors always asked me what mistakes I'd made recently and if I said 'none' she would observe that I wasn't learning anything, then.

A lot of people have a really hard time putting colours together.  I was one of them.  My former favourite colour was white.  Or any hue in both warp and weft.  I felt very insecure about my ability to put colours together in any meaningful way.

After I'd been weaving for about 10 years, I had the opportunity to weave for a fashion designer.  She would send me the yarns and tell me which ones to use to weave the cloth she needed for her clothing designs.

Quite often I was like, wait - what?  Those colours?  Together?  Seriously?  But she was paying me to weave, so I did as instructed and always, always, she was right.  Those colours together were great.

As I wove for her my eye became trained but it was really at a subconscious level.  Then I had the chance to take a couple of seminars from Michelle Wipplinger and began to learn at a more conscious level about how to make colours play nicely.

Value is more important than Hue.

White (pale) washes out
Grey (medium) muddies
Black (dark) intensifies

In 1994 I was very fortunate in getting into a colour class led by Jack Lenor Larson.  He didn't so much 'teach' as set challenges, then - by the process of critiquing what we had done - teach via the examples - good and bad and in between.

To my astonishment, he gave my weaving encouraging comments.  Since he didn't know anyone, nor who had done what, I knew that I wasn't in any way being singled out. 

Getting this feedback gave me the confidence to go further, explore colour combinations in a more adventurous way, and not fret so much in the decision making process.  Because even if the colour combos weren't to my particular taste, if I could still make them work together other people might find them nice enough to purchase.

A couple of years after the class with JLL, I essentially did an in depth study of colour by designing and weaving a couple hundred rayon chenille scarves for the sales I did for the next few years.

I would make a warp long enough for two scarves, sometimes weave the two in different weft colours, but sometimes just make 'twins'.  I didn't worry too much about having two identical scarves because I was selling at quite distant shows and it would be unlikely the two would ever cross each others paths.

By the time I'd finished working so intensely in rayon chenille, I could usually come up with a colour combination that I was happy with.

That isn't to say I don't make mistakes.  I frequently do.  But they are usually more a matter of my not being entirely happy, wishing I'd used a slightly different shade/value.  Nothing is truly 'horrible', just - could be improved upon.

Each time this happens, I analyze and hope that my eye becomes trained a little bit more.

On the other hand, if something is truly awful?  I have a recycle bin and every once in a while I cut my losses and into the bin it goes.  Yesterday a warp went in.  This morning a scarf. 

Neither were hopeless - I just calculated how much time and trouble it was going to take to fix them and decided I was going to spend more time than I cared to 'fix' it when I could easily just start over again.

So I did.  No regrets.  I have also learned not to cling to my mistakes just because I spend a long time making them.

For people interested in learning more about colour with some assistance, I recommend Tien Chiu's on line course.   Having some guidelines and feedback can do wonders for one's self-confidence.  I know it did for me. (Tien is giving a two day workshop on colour at the conference here in June.)

Currently Reading Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Learning Curve

For the 1995 ANWG conference here, one of the people on the conference committee had really wanted a workshop on bobbin lace.  When it came time to confirm or cancel the lace workshop, we needed one more person to make it 'go', while the workshop I was supposed to be teaching was lacking 5 or 7 (I forget the cut off). 

Looking at the numbers I told everyone to cancel my workshop and I would sign up to take the lace workshop because I wasn't all that interested in learning, but I was willing to provide a warm body.

At the end of the two days I walked out with $150 worth of lace supplies.

Bobbin lace is just another kind of weaving, one where you build your loom as you weave, where warps can turn into wefts, and vice versa.

I made quite a bit of lace, mostly Torchon, and even taught a few people enough to get them started.  Three of us have kept up a friendship but all three have had significant health issues over the past few years and it had been a rather long time since any of us had felt up to making lace.

Which means, we'd pretty much forgotten everything we knew.

Last year I had to make a decision:  either make lace or get rid of my supplies.

Well, lace supplies are pretty hard to come by these days and I had some really good quality things - pillows, bobbins, loads of thread, books.

So I talked to my friends and we decided that we would like to get started again.  I did manage to make a couple of small items last year, but it was just here and there.  Today the three of us got together and started making a tiny star.

As part of my studio destashing, I found some die cut cards and this tiny star just fits into the 'window' of the card so the intent is to make some stars with hanging loops and put them into Christmas cards for this Christmas giving.  Recipients can use them as window dangles or Christmas tree ornaments.

However, my supplies are mostly put 'away' and I've lost track of some of my things so I'm going to have to make do until I have time to rummage and find my pin pusher and sew in tool.  The sew in tool is fairly easy to work around but the pin pusher is sorely missed.  My fingers don't like the pressure of pushing the pins down into the pillow but I have to or else the threads will get tangled up in the pins standing proud above the pillow.

I have worked the points on the star three different ways because I don't remember the 'correct' way to do it.  I will check in some of my books what I ought to be doing and see if anything I've done so far is even close to correct!

But the star is tiny and no one is going to be able to tell I've not done it 'properly'. 

This little star is pretty simple, but it has a few things that are causing me to scratch my head to see if I can figure it out.  And it's something that I think I will enjoy once I get it figured out.

Last year I mailed out just 9 cards.  Surely I can make 9 stars this year?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Developing a Line

Since I am a production weaver, one of the things I do is work in series - or a 'line'. 

This is a photo of some of the table runners that I wove for the craft fairs last fall.  I wanted them to be thicker than towels so instead of 20 epi, which is what I use these yarns at to make towels, I increased the epi to 24.  A good example of making different qualities of cloth of exactly the same yarns by changing the density and the weave structure.

I began by deciding if I wanted the main focus of the table runner to be the centre, or along the sides.  In this case I chose the sides, so these stripes are repeated on the other selvedge and the middle is plain.

Using Fibonacci, I worked up a stripe sequence I felt was pleasing, fiddled with it, and then started working on the colours I would use.

In each case the variegated yarn was chosen first.  There are three sizes of stripes in the runners, one stripe an outline of two threads of a solid accent colour, and then the background another solid colour.

This is perhaps most visible in the two top runners - the very top one is less orange in real life and more of a 'rose'.  As it happens the variegated yarn is the same in the top two runners but with such a big difference in the main solid, the variegated stripes look quite different, especially once the weft crossed it.

In the upper runner the weft was a rose the same hue as the background.  In the peach runner, the weft is pretty much the same hue as the background.

The rose is darker in value than any of the colours in the variegated so the variegated yarn stands out more than in the peach because the value of the peach is much closer to the same value of the colours in the variegated which tends to subdue the variegated.

Most people would have to look very closely to see that the variegated yarns in those two runners are the same yarn.

I wound up weaving 10 different warps, all with different colours but all in the same stripe design.  

Friday, January 25, 2019


As part of my never ending attempt to use up my stash, I have been going through my wool yarns and knitting them into shawls.

For the most part there is too little of it to weave with, but there is no reason that I can't knit with it.  It all started with my wanting to have portable handwork I could take with me on trips or to coffee with the local stitch n b!tch group, but also something to make with the hand spun I had been making.

Well, I ran out of hand spun with no time to do more, which was when I turned to my surplus-to- requirements commercially spun wool.

As I dig deeper and into more of my boxes (yes, that means I'm actually using some of it up!) I've come across yarn that I really don't much want to knit with.

My odds and ends of wool yarn have been going to a guild member who makes dryer balls for the guild to sell and it suddenly occurred to me that there is no reason on earth I need to knit the yarn that is really not appealing to me.  So I bagged it up and - with the accumulated bits and pieces - it will go away next week.

Recently I've been seeing all sorts of comments about a young woman who has been promoting a mindful way of getting rid of clutter.  I think tackling destashing in a mindful way is a great idea.  I've not read her book or watched her tv show, nor do I have any desire to, but the way I've been getting rid of surplus stash is very similar in terms of asking - can I use this?  Do I want to use this?  If not, why am I keeping it?  Who can make better use of it than I can? 

Being mindful about living is A Good Thing, I think.  Staying aware of one's goals, working towards those goals, being aware when something isn't working and changes need to be made?  All good things in my opinion. 

Just like in my weaving practice.  In many ways I suspect I'm much like this young woman, telling people "This is what I do.  If it resonates with you, you might find it helpful, too.  If not, ignore me."

So for those people who are finding what Ms Kondo has to say useful?  Good for you.  For those who don't?  Ignore her.  Bottom line is that you don't have to mock someone you don't agree with.  I find there is far too much mocking going on in our society generally.  Whatever happened to "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"?

And yes, my coffee table IS cluttered.  Yes, it has some of those bits and pieces of wool left over from shawls on it.  And they will go away.  In the meantime, I'm ignoring them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


I have - more than likely - shared more than I should have in terms of getting this book 'born'.  OTOH, it's my blog, I get to vent how and when I want, so one final post about The Intentional Weaver (I lie, I'll probably bring it up again, but the conference is about to get very crunchy, so that will most likely be my focus for the next while).

When I placed the order for 300 copies of the book on Dec. 21, the initial estimate for delivery was about 5 weeks.  Given there was a major week of holidays in there, I estimated in my promotional materials that I would receive the book around the end of January, beginning of February.

That would give me about a month to recover from the work (and stress) of getting the book through it's final birth pangs and processing orders.  I was looking forward to making some puzzles, maybe pulling my spinning wheel out, my lace pillow, reading some of the piles of books currently on my coffee table and hearth.  Oh yeah - and maybe even weaving a bit.

Instead the printer appears to have been just waiting on me to place my order and began working on it immediately/over the holiday.  It arrived much sooner than expected.  I have been having some health/physical issues, one of which is a right hand that has been going numb on me, so instead of giving myself that little 'holiday' I'd looked forward to, I began writing out labels, and - when those were done - customs forms.

I finished the customs forms the day before the 30 boxes of books arrived on my doorstep.

The padded envelopes had arrived two days before the books, so knowing that the books would arrive on Wednesday (January 9), I had started immediately sticking the mailing labels to the envelopes, sorting them into zip codes for the US and provinces for Canada.

Wednesday afternoon, as soon as lunch was out of the way, I began signing the books and when I had completely covered the living room floor with boxes of signed books, I cleared the table off and Doug began filling the envelopes.  The books for Canada and overseas went out on the Thursday.

Friday got messed up and I wasn't able to get all of the 0s and 1s ready but we got as many as were ready down to the post office.  Over the weekend, Doug continued to package up the books into the envelopes and on Monday the rest of the 1s, the 2s and 3s went to the post office and we were back on track.  Tuesday the 4s, 5s, 6s and 7s were taken to the post office and last Wednesday, the 8s and 9s were mailed.  Friday the multiple copy orders were mailed because Thursday got messed up, too.

(Did I say I've been having health/physical issues?)

By the end of last week people were beginning to let me know their books had arrived.  Today I got word that books to NC and TN (3s and 4s?) were beginning to arrive.

So the books are going out in ripples, from the furthest away to the nearest, which means that those closer to me will likely start showing up any day.

As I contemplate the amount of work it was to a) write the book (say it fast, it doesn't sound like it was much of an effort at all), then b) market it and c) process and ship the orders of the physical copies, I am grateful that that part of it is done.  There is still more b) to be done because I don't have a big advertising budget and it will need continuous nudging from me to keep people aware of it in the first place.

After honing my craft for 40 years, after having students tell me I have a good grasp of the craft and a knack for explaining it, after having weavers lament that they cannot come to seemed like the most natural thing in the world to write another book and send it - and what I know - out into the world.  In ripples.  Because hopefully if people find the book useful, informative, valuable, they will let others know.

For all those people who emailed to say they didn't know, couldn't find it?  I just did a very basic search for The Intentional Weaver

The first two listings were a) a book review by Tien Chiu (who so kindly wrote the foreword for the book) b) a review by a local arts council newsletter and c) the direct link to the website where you can buy this and Magic in the Water - both in either print-on-demand or PDF versions.

As for the health/physical issues?  We are working on them.  Be assured that there is nothing very serious going on, it's more a matter of getting a handle on how best to manage the adverse effects of the cancer drug so that it continues to keep the cancer at bay while not kicking the snot out of me with said adverse effects.

I had not planned any trips out of town for the first quarter of the year given the book, the conference, the Olds homework marking, so this is a really good time to work on getting me a better quality of life.  And hopefully my hand will stop going numb - which may or may not be related to anything else going on in my body.

Just so long as I can keep the numbness from preventing me doing what I want to do, I'm good.  So far, so good.  It's mostly just really really annoying!

Currently reading A House of Lies by Ian Rankin

Sunday, January 20, 2019


So, I'm back working on those scarf warps I wound last year and thought about a comment someone made, somewhere, about whether or not you could manipulate yarns into their 'proper' place.

Yes you can. 

Depending on the yarn, you can actually displace most (not all) yarns by up to about an inch.  What does it depend on exactly?

Well, first the yarn itself.  It has to have at least a little bit of elasticity.  It depends on the loom.  The longer the distance from the heddles to the back beam, the more you can displace the yarn from its path.

So for these scarf warps, I have been winding two ends, one fairly smooth, one very textured.  I thread them randomly, except for the selvedge.  Why?  Because I have found that a highly textured yarn at the selvedge can sometimes make a bit of a 'messy' selvedge, plus sometimes such highly textured yarns are weaker than smoother ones.  In this case, the textured yarn has less elasticity than the smooth one, but it can still be manipulated so that instead of being in one of the outside two heddles, I can move the two smoother yarns to the outside and shift the textured ones inside the selvedge.

This particular series is being woven in plain weave, but even if it was twill, I would still shift the selvedge threads in this way.

I tend to wind my warps with two ends at a time, in part to halve the winding time, in part to do something like this textile which will have the yarns threaded randomly for a less structured look to the cloth.

As always, sample first to make sure the yarns you are working with will tolerate what you intend to do with them.  As it happens these are yarns I used to use for 9 years weaving for the fashion designer and I am very familiar with them and how they behave.

For the book I included one colour and weave scarf woven in four end pinwheels.  I wound the two colours then when threading I manipulated the colours into their 4 x 4 end sequence to create the pinwheels. 

Again, I had worked with this yarn previously and knew it would tolerate this much deflection, in my Leclerc Fanny. 

Sample, sample, sample!

Completed Pendant

a not very good photo of the pendant when Keith posts one to his Instagram/Facebook page, I'll connect to that.

When mom died two years ago, one of the jobs I had to do was deal with her estate.  She had some jewelry, none of it particularly valuable.  Since I don't wear much myself, little of it appealed to me.

In the end I gave away pieces to people who would appreciate them, sold some, but she had opals that my brother, Don, had purchased on a trip to Australia and I knew what he had paid for them.  Mom had the two small fire opals made into earrings for her pierced ears - she always loved earrings and had been so disappointed when I decided to let mine heal over and not get them pierced again because she had been looking forward to giving me all of hers one day.  In the end she gave many pairs away and only kept some that were meaningful to her, including the fire opals.  The larger stone she had a local jeweler set into a ring but the setting was...frilly...and not anything I would wear, so I was a bit hesitant about what to do with them.

After some months I contacted a local artisan and asked if he would be interested in designing a piece for me, utilizing the opals.  He hesitated because he didn't generally work with opals, which are a soft stone.

The opals had not been worn for months and had gotten quite opaque, and Keith wasn't attracted by them very much until I started to polish the larger one with my thumb, bringing it back to life.

The transformation intrigued him, and after talking about what I wanted (a pendant) he came up with a concept.  Unfortunately my desired size constraints meant that the three stones would not 'fit' into one disc and so the two fire opals were set aside while he concentrated on the disc with the larger stone.

As the first (upper) disc neared completion, I suggested incorporating the fire opals into a second disc which would be suspended from the first.  He agreed to incorporate the ability to do that into the first disc and I saved up my money so that I could order the second half.

On Saturday Keith delivered the completed pendant.

The design in the first disc is the Raven, who stole fresh water and shared it with Earth.  The design shows Raven with the fresh water (the opal) in its mouth.

The Second disc shows Salmon with one of the fire opals as its eye.  The second fire opal rides on a gold hoop, representing all the fresh water on Earth.

The piece is worn every day as Keith mounted the pendant onto my Medic Alert necklace.  Mostly it sits under my clothing.  On special occasions I wear it publicly. 

But the piece is deeply personal to me - a remembrance of my brother, who brought the opals back from a trip that was deeply personal to him - and my mother who brought the two of us into the world.

Thank you Keith Kerrigan for listening and designing a piece holding so much meaning for me.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Is Blogging Dead?

Recently I've seen comments about blogging being 'dead'.  That no one does it any more. 

It's true that I've noticed that many of the blogs I am subscribed to have, in large part, gone dormant.  There are still a few that post once in a while but I seem to jumping onto blogspot and sharing my thoughts, sometimes daily.

I find the format of the blog useful for a number of things.

The format is such that I can explain in some detail (when necessary) what I am trying to convey and add photos to illustrate my point.

Twitter and Instagram are perhaps more visible these days, but neither lends itself to anything more than a few sentences of text.

Since it is my platform, I can feel free to choose the topic du jour, be as brief or detailed as I like.  There is no editor (which can be bad) to re-write what I want to say or tell me I can't say it (again, can be bad!)

Blogging has been helpful to me in terms of keeping my writing chops in practice for the most part.  I also feel that it is a way for me to share my knowledge without expectation of getting paid.  One reason I haven't gone to a patreon format is that I don't like the expectation of product.  When I'm not feeling well or travelling, I don't want that expectation to become further stress.

I can share and promote the works of others who I feel are helpful/useful.

This blog has allowed me to promote the things I DO expect to get paid for - teaching workshops, my self-published items, my actual weaving.  Fellow weavers have been my best customers for my publications, of course, because they are my target audience.  But they have also been good customers of my textiles, which kind of surprised me until I realized my tea towel collection is all (pretty much) woven by my friends.  I think of each of them every time I grab their tea towel and it's a lovely feeling of connection across the miles.

I have also used the blog at times to express my frustration with my on going health issues and I have appreciated the emotional support provided by you, dear reader, as I wend my way through the health care system and deal with an aging body.

So basically I guess I'm saying that I'm not dead and neither are my blogging days.  Thank you for coming to my TED talk!  :D

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Light and Shadow

no supplemental light at the front of the loom

supplemental light at the front of the loom

Winter is here and we have been plagued with a series of really grey dreary days with heavy overcast.

One of the things that becomes necessary during these kinds of days - or if you have to weave after dark, after work, after the children are in bed - whatever - is some supplemental light.

The big consideration in choosing light is to make sure the light is actually illuminating your work area so that you aren't working in shadow - either yours - or that of the loom.

I don't attach supplemental lights to the loom because over the years I have broken light fixtures and bulbs due to the vibration of the loom while I'm weaving.  Now, not everyone weaves as much as I do, or as quickly as I do, so attaching lights to their loom might not be a big deal.  For me, it was.  So my lights are to the side of the loom and adjustable.  As I move from threading to sleying to weaving, where I need the light changes.

When I'm threading, I need the light trained onto the heddles.  An overhead light means I would be working in the shadow of the loom castle and the tops of the shafts.

Then I'm sleying, the area needing to be lit has moved out of the heddles and now needs to be on the reed which is inside the beater.  (Some people do this job with the reed laid flat, so their light placement would be different than mine.)

When I'm weaving, the area needing to be lit changes slightly again.  My lamps can be adjusted for all of these positions, simply by swinging them where they need to be.

As I get older and grow my 'baby' cataracts, supplemental light will become increasingly important.  My lamps will serve me well so that I can see what I'm doing.  

When choosing lamp placement, keep in mind what it is you need to see and make sure the light shines on that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Today the last of the padded envelopes will be taken to the post office.  Tomorrow the multiple copy orders will be mailed.  They don't qualify for the small packet rate and require different customs forms, so it is just easier to deal with those last.

Once the 'dust' of dealing with the books is over, the next things on my priority list will be Olds College master weaving marking.  I'm working on one student's work now, with another box waiting for me to pick up at the post office when I drop the books off.

The college is working on Fibre Week and the satellite classes.  Hopefully there will be news about the Cape Breton classes soon.  The Gaelic College wants to run them a wee bit earlier in the year - May, not June.  Olds Fibre Week will be in July.  In between?  The conference.

Which - if you haven't heard - opens for registration on Jan. 27.

The conference website has the scheduled workshops and seminars listed.  Do go and look, make a list of your #1, 2 and 3 choices and be prepared when you go to register on the 27th.  :)

The website also has links to the hotels where we have block booked rooms, links to entry forms for the exhibits, fashion show and for any authors attending, registration for the author signing event.

There are also codes for those planning on flying, either by Air Canada or WestJet.

Currently reading The Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Elbow Room

I'm back to weaving - or trying to, in between book shipping distractions - and decided the easiest thing to do would be to weave up all those scarf warps I wound before Christmas.

As I was weaving today I thought about the yarns we choose to work with and how to determine an appropriate density for the cloth we intend to create.

Some yarns/qualities of cloth just need more elbow room than the standard charts recommend.

For instance with these warps I'm using two different yarns.  The green is a lightly textured rayon which may well be cabled (I haven't deconstructed it to find out how exactly it was spun) and a textured rayon 'boucle' (the purple).

The boucle (I call it that because I'm not sure what exactly to call it - again I've not deconstructed it to find out how it was spun) is thinner than the other, over all.  But the texture of it means that it needs more elbow room.  I think you can see in the photo that parts of the yarn are quite a bit thicker than the other.  The density of the cloth needs to take that intermittent thickness into consideration or else the resulting cloth will be tighter and stiffer than I really want for a scarf.

Another yarn that needs to have density adjusted is linen.  While a linen yarn may be the same thickness as a cotton yarn, the fact that the linen is denser than cotton, and stiffer than cotton, means it needs to have more elbow room than cotton.

Charts giving standard recommendations for various yarns are always just a starting point.

One of the challenges in the master weaving program through Olds is to weave sett samples.  In level one the yarn is wool; in level two the yarn is cotton.

Students always want to know what the 'right' density is.  The truth is that there is no right density.  For 2/8 cotton I've seen charts telling people to use 2/8 cotton for plain weave anywhere from 18 to 24 epi.  And you can.  Using the different degrees of density can be done but cloth of completely different qualities will result.  18 epi/ppi will make a much better towel than one at 24 because the denser and stiffer the cloth, the less absorbent it will be.  The higher density will, however, be much more durable in terms of abrasion resistance.

Whether someone does a yarn/ruler wrap, uses the Ashenhurst formula, or follows the recommendations of a chart, remember that those numbers are just a starting place.  The yarn being used may require more - or less - elbow room, depending on the quality of the cloth desired.

This is why we weave samples.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mommeee! It's Overrrrrr!!!

The Introductory Offer is over.  Has been since Dec. 21, 2018.  I extended that period for a few people who emailed me saying they'd only just heard the news and could they, pretty please?  Since I ordered 'extra' hard copies for sale at the ANWG conference I accepted a few more orders based on the IO.

But now that I'm in the middle of shipping those IOs out, it is time to officially close down the offer and direct people to purchase from the website

Both Magic in the Water and The Intentional Weaver are available via Blurb in either print-on-demand or PDF formats.

As an individual self-publishing a book for a slim niche of a niche market, I welcome people sharing news of the book to their friends.  I am doing all the marketing myself.  I don't have a marketing department or a big marketing budget.  I can't afford ads in trade publications because I didn't build in a big enough margin in my price because I wanted to keep the book as affordable as possible.

I just did a quick search for "Laura Fry book" and the third item on the list was for Magic in the Water via Blurb.  So my books can be found - it may just take a little digging.

Or a little help from my friends

In the 21st century, social media can get the word out very quickly to a target market.  So feel free to share the news of the book and where it can be found.

Sending best wishes to everyone during the coming year.    

Thursday, January 10, 2019

An Anachronism

Anachronism:  person or thing out of harmony with the time

I am the very definition of an anachronism.  I knew very little about weaving when I chose to become a professional weaver.  It had not been a hobby that grew.  I wasn't trying to sell enough to cover the cost of my materials.

In fact, I realized that the accepted pricing 'formula' of the day of 3 times the cost of my materials would lead to not being in business very quickly.

I also recognized that in order to make any kind of money at all, I was going to have to become very efficient at doing it.  I bought the most efficient equipment I could afford, or borrow to purchase it.

Weaving was not an escape from work; it was my work.

I had to learn how run a business as well as hone my craft - and that included doing market research (what would people be willing to purchase and for how much), manage my finances, discover exactly what it was that I was actually selling (it wasn't my textiles as much as it was my designs and the uniqueness that my personal creativity brought to my textiles), and develop a reputation for producing quality textiles that were worth the price I was charging.

With income from selling textiles being quite cyclical, I also started teaching and tried to balance my life and approach as a teacher with producing inventory for the shows that I deemed worthwhile presenting my textiles at.  Because not all of them bring in the type of clientele willing to pay my prices.

I had to learn how to respond to comments that were less than positive in their nature.  Both in selling and in teaching.

There is no real need for anyone in this day and age in North America to hand weave cloth.  I do it not because it is necessary but because I am offering my creativity - my designs, my colour ways, my approach to creating functional cloth that will do its job as well as I can make it.  What I am selling is myself as a designer.

All of this did not happen overnight.  At times I was more successful than at others.  When ever I wasn't as financially successful as I wanted, I had to look to ways to increase my income.  I wrote for magazines.  Eventually I wrote a book.  Two. 

My income streams were diverse, and at times unequal.  There were times when there was very little in the way of income.  At times it was our only income.

What I never did do, was quit.

Despite the challenges.  Despite the insecurity of income.  Despite negative comments.  Despite the stress.  I tried to figure out another way to make this career work for me.  Being an anachronism in the 20th and 21st centuries.

With 'retiring' from teaching guilds, making a firm decision last summer, I fully expected that my income would decrease severely.  Instead a couple of opportunities have gently strolled into my life and I find myself approaching teaching from a different tangent.  Only time will tell if these opportunities will develop into something long term, or just as an interim while I sort out what the future holds for me.

In the meantime, I have a book or 3 (hundred) to go sign...

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Home Stretch

300 copies.  That's how many I ordered.  This morning they arrived and I have begun signing them in preparation to packaging them up and getting them to the post office.  Hopefully the first batch will go tomorrow, although that may be a little...optimistic. 

But - they are here and I am in the home stretch.

When I published Magic in the Water, there really wasn't such a thing as digital books so it was - at first - exclusively a print publication.  It took the better part of 10 years to sell the entire print run. 

Now, we have various digital means of publishing information.  For this book I went with a website that does print-on-demand and offers digital options.  We never did get the ebook technology to work, but the manuscript is available as a PDF download.  This makes it a lot cheaper for people, especially those living in places far away from North America.

What I didn't realize when I chose this website was that they have printing facilities elsewhere, which makes it a lot cheaper for people in Europe and Australia/NZ to get a print copy, too.  They aren't paying for shipping from back-of-beyond Canada.  (Magic is now also available on Blurb as both a print and PDF versions.)

Overall my experience with Blurb has been good.  They have been professional in paying for units sold in one month by the 5th of the next.  (This month was a couple of days later, but there were holidays, which no doubt delayed things.)

If anyone is looking for a print-on-demand or digital option, I would recommend this website.

But for now I need to get back to the pen and pile.

Currently reading The Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


People are always amazed at how fast I am.  The secret is that...anyone who practices, mindfully, with similar manual dexterity to what I have can be just as, if not faster, than me.

In this video on You Tube, I break down the motions so that anyone can see how I do what I do.

Over the years I have worked hard to have ergonomic motions.  Turns out these ergonomic motions are also the most efficient ones.  So working ergonomically results in yes, less injury, but also more speed.

Working ergonomically, efficiently, with a good rhythm also results in more consistency and therefore better results in terms of the cloth being created.

So no, someone new to weaving will not be as fast as I am.  It took time to work out the motions, then practice them, training my muscles to do the motions consistently, while also learning when and how to adjust what I was doing depending on the fibre being used, to develop the speed that I now have.  There are times when I slow my weaving rhythm down to a snail's pace in order to weave, for example, a very open cloth and the weft isn't so much as beaten in but simply pushed into place.  Going slower in that instance gets me the results I desire much more quickly.

Everyone has to work at a pace that is comfortable for them, given their equipment and their intention.  It is not a contest.  It is personal growth and development that must be the first goal of any weaver.  Pay attention to what you are doing, do it the most ergonomic way you can, and in the end, efficiency may well increase, too.

A short profile of me done by the local cable channel is here

Sunday, January 6, 2019


Such a big job meant it had to be broken down into 'batches'.

First job was printing out the orders and their payments, keeping the two together.  Keeping track of the sending of the link for the pdf was noted on the payment paperwork.

The orders were filed alphabetically in case of queries so that they'd be easier to find.

Once the introductory offer period ended, I pulled out the Canadian orders (because they didn't need customs forms) and the four orders to be sent overseas and put them into separate files.

And then I began writing out mailing labels for the envelopes.  This took some time.  Yes, I could have typed them and printed them on my printer, but I already spend way too much time sitting at a computer, and I could get up, refresh my tea, stare out the window to clear my mind of numbers/names and take a wee break before going back to it.

Once the mailing labels were written out, the customs forms were done.  I had adhesive return address labels so that I didn't have to write out my own address, which helped enormously.

Boxes of padded envelopes were purchased (buying in bulk saved a few pennies, but it also saved plastic wrapping - iow, garbage).

This morning I began affixing the labels to the envelopes, again beginning with the Canadian and overseas ones.

Now I'm doing the US ones.  I'm taping the labels down because I've had such labels come off in transit - and I really don't want that to be a problem for these.  The customs label gets tucked into the envelope.  It will get taped (temporarily) to the outside of the envelope when the book goes in.  (Temporarily because the post office clerk needs to weigh the parcel and write in the depot code, weight, date etc. then stick it down to the envelope.)

The Canadian ones have been sorted by province.  The US ones will be sorted by zip code.  When we take the envelopes to the post office, this should make their job easier and faster so that we don't have to wait for ages while they deal with the flood.  Organizing by zip code will streamline their process.  I've talked to a clerk and we'll go in around 2 pm - after any lunch 'rush' and before the after work 'rush'.  Most likely we will do this over the course of several days.  The shipment of books weighs +550 pounds.  The majority of them are being mailed out and I doubt either of us will be much looking forward to carrying them into the post office.  I may request that we use their loading dock but the bins still have to be carried out to the van.

I'm hoping to get labels onto the envelopes done so that when the books do arrive all I have left to do is sign them and get them packaged up.  Doug will help with the packaging up part.

My goal is to have the books on their way before conference duties ramp up again, which they will very soon now.

Eating that proverbial elephant, one bite (batch) at a time.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


It feels like my life since becoming a production weaver has been one long stab at de-cluttering.

Since I have been working to earn an income from weaving, and there are so many steps that need to be done to get a warp into the loom, weave it, wet and dry finish it - I have always worked in batches.  The warp is the initial batch - planning multiple items on it, winding the warp, dressing the loom (beaming, threading, tying on, weaving it off) - then wet finishing, dry finishing (or vice versa depending on the dry finishing involved), tagging, then storing until they are sold.

As a result there has been a constant heap of bins with warps in various stages of preparation, then bins of finishing (hemming, fringe twisting), etc.

When I taught, there were bins of yarn with drafts being prepared to be mailed out.

When I did publications, the number of bins increased exponentially.

With all of this creative activity, my life was similarly cluttered with teaching dates, publication dates, deadlines, soft and hard.

Finally I have come to the point in my life when all this activity is becoming less of an issue as I downsize my expectations, and therefore the number of deadlines, projects, teaching that I am willing to schedule.

Normally with the conference just six months away, I would have been loading up my calendar with deadlines post conference.

Right now I have a few - Olds College (if they want me) in July, one teaching event in September, then three craft fairs I have decided to do in Oct/Nov.  But otherwise?  I am not booking anything for the second half of the year.

Realization has dawned that not only can I downsize my calendar, I am actually looking forward to it.

Even more, I am looking forward to downsizing my stash, the general physical clutter in my studio, and even, maybe, in my house.

Currently reading The Woman who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone (the true story of love, spies and the unlikely heroine who outwitted America's enemies - Elizebeth Smith Friedman)

Friday, January 4, 2019

Choosing Direction

Above are two drafts for a four shaft 'pin wheel'.  Notice anything about them?  The cloth is identical, the only difference is in the direction they have been threaded and the tie up.  

The one on top is how I prefer to thread.  I am right handed, prefer to thread from right to left with the straight draw direction beginning at the back of the loom coming forward to the front of the loom.

Why?  Because I find this to be the most efficient way to thread.  (Left handers may find threading from left to right easier.)

In almost all publications (now) drafts are written with the first thread on shaft one.  Why?  Probably because weaving software likes number 1 to be on shaft number 1.  I really don't know.  But for me, threading with the straight draw going upwards and away from me leads to a physical position that I find very uncomfortable and fatiguing.

Thing is, drafts are not written in stone.  With Fiberworks Silver there is a 'shaft shuffler' tool which allows me to quickly change a threading draft to something I find easier to thread, be that changing the diagonal of a straight progression, adjusting where pattern ends fall in a draft, etc.

Once a weave structure is understood, it is fairly easy to make adjustments - add extra repeats of a border on the selvedge, separate motifs within the body of a draft and so on.

The above is a partial image (because the complete draft is too large to copy properly) where I took the Canadian Snowflake draft (I reduced the 8 shaft Swedish Snowflake design to four shafts) then turned it into a twill block draft.  This will be the next warp that goes into the AVL.

There are times when the straight draw has to change direction, and I live with that, but when the straight draw is all one way?  I will change it to my preferred method where the diagonal goes from the back of the loom to the front to make the job of threading easier.

The more someone understands how threading drafts work, the more they can adjust the draft to fit their intended cloth and get closer to the results they desire.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Highs, Lows and Long Slogs

I know a number of writers personally and follow some more on social media.  Inevitably some of them will hit a low patch in their writing, so I was well aware (also because of having done this once before) that getting this book 'born' and into the world would resemble a roller coaster.  Life also conspired - as you know if you have been reading this blog for a while - to add a few twists and turns to the ride.

All writing is challenging.  Writing fiction is challenging in terms of coming up with the story line, then figuring out how to best tell the story.  Technical writing is challenging in terms of writing with clarity about techniques and processes in a way that aids understanding.  Or at least, that's the goal.

After years of writing magazine articles and class handouts (as well as essays in school) I was no stranger to what would be involved.  It was every bit of what I expected it to be, this journey, and more.  There were more highs, more lows and more long hard slogs.  The difference between this and Magic was the scope.  Magic was about one slice of the craft of creating a textile.  The writing part wasn't hugely difficult, rather it was the choosing of the projects to provide examples of how to do wet finishing and why it was so important to do it.  And then, of course, weaving the hundreds of yards of samples.

For Magic there were initially 20 projects, which grew to 22.  The initial warps for those samples started out at 40 yards, but some of the projects required more.  20 times 40 yards is 800 yards, plus the additional warps - so very nearly 1000 yards.  Warps were typically 40 to 48" in the reed.

But that wasn't all - then came the preparation of the samples.  Loom state samples were taped and cut apart.  Wet finished samples were wet finished, most of them including a hard press.  At the time I did not have the industrial steam press, so all of that pressing was done on a small flat bed press.  It took hours and hours.

Then those samples had to be cut to size and both loom state and wet finished samples stapled to their respective pages.  In the end, all the pages were assembled and put into custom 3 ring binders.

So most of the work of Magic was the labour of preparing the samples.

This book was different in that most of the work was in the writing.  Deciding what to include, how best to describe the techniques, what photos were required.  Of course there were some samples to be woven, but the bulk of the work was in the writing, editing, re-writing, more editing, more re-writing, back and forth with my beta readers.  (Truth to be told, some of them were truly alpha readers, a few hung on to be beta readers.)

There was so much text that it became overwhelming which is why I finally broke down and hired an editor.

In both cases I self-published.  Magic was done with the assistance of a local printer, his off-set press and graphic designer son.

20 years on and the technology has changed to such an extent that I needed the expert assistance of someone who could wrangle the new technology to the mat.  I just happened to find someone who also knew and understood the 'old' technology.  Not only that, but Ruth is also a spinner and weaver.

The majority of the books are being shipped outside of Canada.  I wrote out mailing labels earlier in the week, then did the customs forms, finishing those just now.  The books are very close to being ready, but I also have other things that need to be done.  Year end, for one.  Remitting sales taxes.  Balancing my ledger.

Work has also continued on the conference.  Announcements will be forthcoming very soon, as in a matter of hours.  This has also taken longer than we'd hoped, as these things are wont to do.  But our goal, right from the beginning, was to work our darndest to make it a good event for all participants - the instructors, vendors, volunteers, as well as the participants.  So we took extra time to make sure the information that will be posted to the registration website will be as accurate as we can make it.

As with so many Big Projects, it may appear that not much is happening, but there is plenty going on behind the scenes! 

Textile practitioners are well acquainted with the degree of preparation and labour that goes into creating their pieces. 

It's no different to write and publish a book.  Or craft a conference.

Buy the books at blurb
Check out the instructors and their workshop/seminar topics on the conference website - click on Schedule

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


One of the reasons I like the AVL is that I can do things like this and not have to do anything remedial because the tension on the warp is not held at the cloth beam but up at the front on the 'breast' beam (aka the sandpaper beam).

On an ordinary loom, this overhang would have to be dealt with in some way.

In this instance it has happened because I finally used up (yay!) the cottolin and switched to 100% linen.

Linen is much denser and more rigid than cotton or cottolin (which is half to 60% cotton) and therefore it does not draw in nearly as much as the other yarn.  That means the web is wider and the selvedges tend to hang over the edge of the cloth roll.

On an ordinary loom I would either cut off and re-tie so that the linen weft was only building up on linen weft layers or I would insert several sticks (warp packing sticks, whatever) to support the linen layers.

Since the mechanics of the AVL are different, though, none of that is necessary and the web just rolls on up and nothing nasty happens to my warp tension.

When the loom is working properly it's a dream.  When it isn't it becomes a nightmare and careful diagnosis of what the problem is needs to be done.  With more mechanical 'aid' comes more opportunity for things to go horribly awry as a friend says.  Fortunately right now the loom is behaving, and I'm making good progress on this warp.  So good, in fact, that I might even be able to cut it off tomorrow, or Thursday at the latest. 

I haven't decided if I will switch to the scarf warps on the Fanny or immediately dress the AVL again.  I'm sort of leaning towards the latter while the loom is behaving!


Humans seem to need to set milestones as they navigate through life.  So we mark the turning of the sun/calendar into a new year, birth/death and so on.

Two years ago I began life as an 'orphan', although when your parent dies at 90 and you are no longer a child I don't know if that word really applies - but we don't really have another for that life transition.

Since then life has been full of change.  I have continued, as best I am able, to live my life as well as I can while also recognizing that I need to also change the expectations I have held for myself for decades.  Expectations of being able to work, to live life fully, completely, in terms of goals and productivity.

In many ways I have succeeded, in many I'm no different than I was at 29.  I still dream big dreams, tend to set myself big goals.  But now I have an inner voice going, what, wait - what are you thinking!  I enter this year working on acceptance.  That life does not go on forever.  That all things come to an end.  That plunging into the deep end of the pool becomes less sustainable the older I get.

Acceptance is not giving up, exactly.  Acceptance to me is the suspending of expectation that this body will continue to go on as though it was much younger - and fitter - than it is.  Acceptance is not trying to push it beyond its endurance.  To recognize that it will take longer to heal from injury and to not get upset at the length of time that it will take to do so.  (My knee being the case in point - falling in early October, ripping it up pretty badly, only just healed at Christmas.)

Instead of setting myself on the road to big tasks, I work on cultivating contentment with where I am.  Tranquility with the way things are.  That doesn't mean I neglect progress.  After not being able to really weave much for a couple of months I have been slowly getting back to the loom, working on regaining muscle tone.  But now my goal is to get to the loom once or twice a day, not 3-5 times.  That may come, or it may not.  Progress is progress, no matter if it is one step or a dozen.

I have been calling myself semi-retired and getting comfortable with that definition.  Still working on it, but when you have done what you love to do for 40+ years, it is also hard to contemplate not doing it at all, which is what 'retirement' would mean.  So, semi it is.

As I work on changing my definition of what work means, I find one of the most valuable things I can do is encourage and support others who are younger, fitter, and still have energy.  I won't say enthusiasm, because I will always be enthusiastic about weaving. 

2019 means that we will get cracking on the conference in June.  Semi-retirement for me means I have not come up with any Big Projects to tackle once the conference is over - as I would do, normally.

Instead I will work on lending whatever support I can to those who are taking up the mantle of being the dreamers, the movers and shakers. 

Sending best wishes to all.