Sunday, March 31, 2019


Aerial view of my town showing the horizon

Naturally enough, conferences have been much on my mind of late.  I thought I would share some thoughts...

A conference is so much greater than the sum of its parts.  The whole package adds up to an event that can inspire, inform and broaden horizons. 

Choosing the theme of Confluences, we looked at inviting instructors who - in many ways - epitomize the theme.  They look at how cultures inform each other.  They look at how the various stages of fibre prep affect each other.  They look at how manipulation of the materials can create a range of qualities of cloth and decorate it.

Instructors were chosen for their commitment to the craft and their specific knowledge set.

We tried to choose people mainly from the region, but also a few from further away.  People who ANWG members might not be able to learn from because the cost of getting to them might prove too great.  Bringing those people here means more people can have access to their knowledge.

But we are also blessed with a large number of textile practitioners here in BC, so many of our instructors were drawn from our own pool of very talented and knowledgeable people.  (Instructors are listed on the conference website.)

What do conference registrants get?  First of all, three seminar time slots.  The seminars range from introductory, historical, or technique exploration.  The seminars can be used to find out more about something that is of interest to see if further investigation is the direction to go.  Or maybe a little is known but resources are thin on the ground (eg ceinture fleche')  Or take knowledge to the next level, find out about more resources, maybe try a little hands on.

Seminars are a menu tasting while workshops are the full meal.

Traditionally there is a key note speaker.  We have invited Abby Franquemont for her unique perspective on Peru and North American approaches to textiles.  She is currently in Peru gathering up to the minute information and will no doubt have a lot to share.  (She may even have textiles and spindles for sale - we have offered to manage sales in my booth in the vendor hall.)

The fashion show is always fun.  I'm hoping that my challenge to think about pockets makes a splash in the fashion show, but also in the other exhibits.  Speaking of which, we now have in excess of $5000 in sponsored awards to give out - BUT!  You do have to be registered at the conference to be eligible for awards.

There will be some special interest group meetings - the time and place will be listed in the registration area.

But most of all?  Conferences are a time to meet with others who are as interested in textiles as you are.  There will be time to socialize.  There will be time to shop.  The vendor hall is filling with some great booths. 

There will be opportunities to be inspired - by textiles, by people.

Conferences are an opportunity to educate yourself and grow - as a textile practitioner and as a person.

Prince George isn't hard to get to.  WestJet and Air Canada both fly in/out.  Regional airlines such as Pacific Coastal and Central Mountain Air have flights.  Or drive.  BC is a beautiful place and the highways (97 and 16) intersect here.

A conference can be an adventure.  Of the very best kind.

Friday, March 29, 2019


...I've had a few...

obligatory pretty textile picture

As I was writing up my latest conference blog post I thought about adventures.  I remembered how many fantastic experiences I have had since I took up weaving, all the people I've met, the textiles that have inspired me.

My first conference was 1978 Convergence in Fort Collins, CO.  (I wrote about that recently so I won't repeat that story here.)

Having dipped my toes into the biggest textile event in North America, smaller regional events such as ANWG (Pacific northwest, western Canada) were far less intimidating - and far less expensive.  They were, if nothing else, within reach - either a one or two day drive.  So my first ANWG was Spokane in 1979.

After that I attended as many conferences as I could afford - ANWG as it moved around the region (Oregon, Montana, Washington, here in 1995, Victoria 1997, Alberta)  Convergence when I could scrape the pennies together.  I even managed to get to Vav in Sweden two years ago - a dream I thought I'd never manage.

Eventually I started teaching at conferences, my first in Montana in, um, 1983?  

On the way I met so many talented people.  Some became friends and the internet makes it possible to stay in touch.

As an introvert I was nervous about attending these events, but the people are just as fascinated about textiles as I am and if nothing else there is the learning in the workshops/seminars - and smaller groups make it easier to get to know people.  Then there are the exhibits.

At Victoria's ANWG in 2017 one of the entries in the fashion show was a silk shawl made by one of our instructors - Coleen Nimetz - made from silk she had spun (may even have raised the worms and reeled it, I can't remember) and then knitted.  It was a show stopper.  

(If you want to know about silk, sign up for her workshop!  She is incredibly knowledgeable.)

One of the down sides of organizing an event like a conference is that I have no time to actually take anything.  And because I helped  choose the people and their topics, I want to take every single one!

Early bird registration ends on April 15.  If you haven't made holiday plans yet, consider coming to Prince George and join us in a fibre adventure.  Y'all come!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Where DOES the Time Go?

Goodness, while I have been distracted with book, health issues, conference, suddenly a deluge of homework to mark and - gulp - deadlines to sign up for the Olds satellite classes are upon us!

There are several classes that need to be registered for very quickly - Tenino, WA and Cape Breton, NS.  These are satellite classes, presented outside of the Olds College campus.  (There was another satellite class on the Sunshine Coast but that one slid by on me already...Date: March 20 - 24, 2019, 9am - 4pm  Location: 12887 Sunshine Coast Hwy, Madeira Park, BC V0N 2H0)

Tenino, WA is just outside of Olympia, WA, about two hours south of the Sea-Tac airport (Seattle-Tacoma).

The class in Cape Breton is at the Gaelic College in Englishtown, NS.

The Tenino class is level two, following on from level one last year, May 6-10.

In Cape Breton, Dianne is trying to build on previous years and they are offering level one May 6-10, level three May 13-17 and level two May 20-24.

The other satellite program is in Elkin, NC and the dates in August are level 2 Aug 5-9, level one Aug 12-16 (I'm scheduled to teach these classes). 

Fibre Week will take place July 5-11 this year.  The master weaving and spinning classes will take place July 7-11.  I am reserving the dates although I have not yet heard if I will be teaching there this year.

I see on groups that people ask, from time to time, about stepping up their game, where can they go to learn more?  There are a number of options, but the Olds program is a bit different.  Firstly it is a for credit college certificate course.  However, you don't need to attend for two years, you go for five days in person instruction, then go home to fulfill the homework requirements. 

The focus is on understanding the principles and honing the physical skills.  There is a lot of theory, but also a lot of challenge in that the goal is to produce a textile as close to the course requirements as possible.

Classes are generally between 8 and 12 people, so not a huge group.  And the other advantage is that if you take one level at one campus, you can take the next level at a different campus. 

I am keeping fingers crossed that everything planned runs - although sometimes it doesn't always work out.  But if a class doesn't run at one location, or the dates aren't good for you, you can switch to a different location.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Dare to Dream

Fear of failure is a big obstacle to many people trying to move beyond their current level of skill.  But failure isn't something to be feared.  Unless of course the consequence of doing something is actual injury!

As a child I was never too worried about failing.  Oh sure I would be upset that things hadn't worked out but failure was just a step on the road to learning.

Sometimes the lesson was to not do that particular thing again.  The results were not what I desired.  But being analytical, it was just another step on the learning curve.

I suppose part of me was never too worried about what other people thought of me.  Falling flat on my face?  Oh well.  Get up and try again.

Part of my learning about failing was music lessons and dance lessons.  Didn't get it right?  Try again.  Again.  Again.  Until I did get it.

Flub at the music recital?  Oops.  Do better next time.  Practice more for next time.  Flub at the dance recital?  Oops.  Still not perfect.  Try harder.  And guess what?  That mistake?  That flub?  The world did not come crashing to an end.

A very important lesson to learn as a child.  A valuable lesson to learn as a child.

As an adult, being tossed into the deep end of the pool teaching?  Learn how to accept that I made a mistake, confess to the class I'd made a mistake.  Work to make it right.

As a weaver, setting up a warp that didn't turn out?  Accept that the results were not what I desired, change the end purpose, or choose the scissor solution and make an offering to the loom goddess.  Then move on to the next, absorbing the lesson, learn from it, make better decisions.

Before we can move forward, we have to break out of our limitations, face our fears.  And to it anyway.  Dare to dream.  Dare to dream big dreams.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


The scarves on the cover of TIW are woven from Tencel.

I was an early adopter of Tencel.  It appealed to me on a number of levels.  As I put it into production, however, I found that it would sometimes behave beautifully - other times?  Not so much.

Since I am a rather analytic type of person, I began trying to figure out what was happening and why.

The two big issues were that - at times - the yarn would seem to become almost brittle and a thread 2 or 3 or more in from the selvedge would suddenly, and without much warning, snap.  It would also shed a huge amount of fluff.

As I worked with it I began to track the trend of it behaving in the summer (our humid months) and behaving badly in the winter (our arid months).

As more people began weaving with it there would be questions on the weaving groups about the sudden failure of the yarn not at the selvedge but several ends inside the cloth.

Typically all the usual culprits were blamed - excessive draw in, poor shuttle handling, poor bobbin winding, poor beaming, etc.  People who had never had the issue blamed the one who was having difficulty for the problem concluding that they had done something 'wrong'.  Because they had never had a problem like that.

I would, instead, ask if the person having the problem lived in a humid or an arid climate.  Inevitably the answer would be "arid".  Ah-ha, I thought, Tencel needs higher humidity to behave.  I began advising those having the problem to run a humidifier.

My point is this.  Your experience is your experience.  There are factors that contribute to your experience that may be significantly different from someone else's. 

When people tell me something must always or must never be done a certain way, I ask them what their experience was that led them to that conclusion.  Their experience may be different from mine.  They may live in a humid environment, have a different loom than mine, be using yarn different from what I am using.  I want to know the specifics so that I can judge whether or not their experience shines a light on mine.

We can learn from other people's experiences, not just our own.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Skilled Labour

For thousands of years, weaving - the complete supply line of raising and harvesting the fibre, spinning and weaving - was skilled labour.  Still is.

I just started reading a book that I'm going to promote here and then do a 'proper' book review when I get a little further into it - The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair.

But thoughts.  Oh boy, have I been having thoughts!  Especially paired with my work on crafting the ANWG conference, and my own craft practices, including teaching weaving, especially the Olds College Master Weaving program.

The creation of textiles became segmented many years ago because for one person to do everything?  Takes an enormous effort and a range of knowledge that is - quite frankly - awe inspiring.  Don't get me wrong, there are a few people who do know it and they have my admiration.

As a weaver, I know a little bit about spinning (spinning was how I got sucked into weaving, after all), a little bit about dyeing, a little bit about felting, knitting, lace making.  I've done embroidery, mostly cross stitch - and sewn my own clothing.

But I'm not particularly good or nuanced at anything except weaving.

Because the ability to create a wide range of qualities of cloth requires a wide range of knowledge.

People new to the craft don't always understand that weaving is not something you can pick up easily and get the results you want without putting in some time to learn.  If you want to become good at it, it takes time and effort to understand the principles, understand how weave structure works, how the loom works, how the various accessory tools work, how to fix mistakes (like the missed dent, and then the two threading errors in the current warp on the AVL), and last, but not least, how to properly wet finish the web so that you get the cloth you were aiming for.

It takes time to learn the language of the technology - because it is a technology, was, in fact, one of the the driving forces behind the industrial revolution.  It takes time to acquire the physical skills required to put a warp into the loom without a tangled mess.  Further skill is required to set the loom up and then weave it off.

These skills do not come overnight.  And it is really difficult to help someone when they don't have the vocabulary or understand the principles.

So - back to The Golden Thread.

It is a partial history of textiles. but mostly it is a love song about them.  If you trust my judgement in books?  Find this book now.  Today.  You won't regret it.

If you want to wait for the book review - it will be a while.  This is a book to chew thoughtfully, carefully, enjoying the flavour.  I'm not going to rush through it.  Just take my word.  Track it down.

Oh - and if you are a new weaver - take a class, either in real life or from Janet Dawson on Craftsy or Jane Stafford's on-line guild.  Take the time to learn.  It's perfectly fine to leap into the deep end of the pool, but it's nice to have a life saver handy...

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Girl Friends

All of my girlfriends are textile people.  As I engaged more and more with weaving, writing about and teaching it, the more weavers/spinners/etc. I met and the more I found myself wanting to spend time with a group of people who were as passionate about what I was passionate about.

One of the ways I met most of these wonderful women was through attending conferences.  How better to expand your contacts by going to where other like minded people are going to congregate?

Eventually we started meeting up whenever we could, not just at conferences, but at other times as well.

I'm really hoping some of the people I have gotten to know in the fibre world will come to Prince George while the Prince George Fibre Arts Guilds throws a party to celebrate fibre, share their talents, delve into techniques perhaps heard about but not really studied, maybe due to not having a teacher or not knowing where to find literature.

My very first conference?  I knew three people there.  One was the person who talked me into attending Convergence 1978 in Fort Collins, CO.  One was my weaving instructor.  One was the owner of a shop I had been buying yarn from and visited a couple of times.  She introduced me to another weaver from her area.

Otherwise?  I was by myself, surrounded by literally hundreds of people.  My host had been detained by a family emergency.  My teacher warned me she had her own interests she wanted to pursue.  The shop owner?  I only knew because I'd written letters to her.  None of them were 'girl friends' to hang out with.

I'd never been on a university campus before and it was huge.  There were long distances between events, so those few people I knew to speak to?  Never saw them again for the entire event.

I'm an introvert and I was feeling very lonely and isolated.  In fact I was throwing myself a pretty serious pity party, when on a march from one event to the next I spotted a man weaving on a back strap loom, attached to a very young sapling.  There were two women close to him and one was explaining to the other that the man was from Peru.  He had come with an anthropologist who had encouraged the man to attend the conference and could give him a ride.

I didn't know if the man spoke Spanish, let alone English.  His journey to arrive at that place at that time had to have been much more difficult than mine.  I'd simply climbed on a plane, been met at the airport and driven to the conference. 

But even more importantly...I spoke English!

I chewed over my pity party for the rest of the walk to my destination, where I lined up - again.  And realized that if I really wanted to get to know people?  All I had to do was turn around and see if the people behind me were open to talking to a perfect stranger - but one who was at an event celebrating textiles, just like they were.

So I turned around and interjected a comment into their conversation and then happily chatted while the line moved forward.

I'm really hoping that even if someone doesn't know anyone else attending Confluences that they will come by themselves.  Because they will be surrounded by people just as fascinated by fibres as they are themselves.

And the campus?  Small.  Three blocks by three blocks, not huge with long walks.

Come to the party! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

In Control (sort of )

Bronson Lace heart motif designed using Fiberworks for one of my publications

One of the things I like about weaving is that I get to decide about, well, everything.

Design.  Yarn.  Density.  Colours.

When I bought Fiberworks in 1988, it was because it was the only weaving software at the time that looked like a piece of graph paper when you opened it.  (It was also Canadian, and I didn't have to worry about what the exchange rate was going to do to the price.)

Since then Bob has updated it and it has become more robust, doing so much more than I really need.  While I can use it, I know that it will do a lot more than I currently use it for, and I had hoped to take Bob (and Margaret Coe's) workshop in Victoria.  But it sold out in the first few minutes of registration opening.

So we decided to have him here.  As it happens there are still some seats available in his workshop and seminars.

We have him in the library multi-purpose room where they have a lovely large space, big screen, lots of plug ins for laptops, big tables to work on.

And I still can't take the workshop because - well, I'll be a little busy! 

Maybe next time?

Monday, March 18, 2019

Don't Do It

A few days ago I was scrolling through Facebook and a headline caught my eye.  Something about not turning your hobby into a 'side hustle'.

Since weaving was never a side hustle for me, I kept on scrolling.

I get it, though.  The cost of doing fibre arts has certainly gotten more expensive.  Especially yarn for knitting and crocheting.  Mind you, there are some really interesting yarns available for those crafts now.  Much fancier than most weaving yarns.  It is extremely difficult to knit or crochet and sell what you have made and make any kind of money for the effort.

Weaving is different.  If you are careful, purchase yarns in weaving type quantities, not knitting type quantities, focus on creating unique textiles, you can sell your work.  It's also a really good idea to become very efficient.

But again, I agree, don't try to turn a hobby into any kind of 'side hustle'.  Weave (or spin, or knit, or crochet) because you love it.  Leave it be something you do purely for enjoyment, for satisfaction.  Use it as an intellectual stretch, or a mindful meditation, not another chore to be done to deadline.

However, if your goal is to earn an income, be that supplemental or exclusive, then you are no longer doing it as a 'hobby'.  You are now in business.  And that comes with all of the responsibilities that any business comes with.

When you are weaving as a business, even a part-time business, you have to learn how to run a business.  How to market your products.  How to design your own designs - because face it - in the  21st century, what you are really selling are your designs.  Providing something that cannot be found anywhere else but from you.

I made the decision to become a weaver/designer many years ago.  I'm having a hard time 'retiring' from that work because I still enjoy the physical input of sitting at the loom and weaving.  My production far outstrips my market to sell even 'retirement' production.  In other words, I'm having a really hard time turning my work into my hobby.

I've been working on the conference, thinking about all of the instructors we have booked and how none of them really does what they do as a 'hobby'.  I really hope that people will make an effort to come to Prince George to learn from this amazing cast of characters because we have assembled an enormous pool of knowledge for people to leap into.

If you are sitting on the fence, early bird registration ends on April 15.  After that the cost to register will go up.  We will make our final adjustments to the schedule and swing into final preparations - goodie bags, fashion show commentary, exhibit props.

Go on over to the conference website and take a look through the workshop and seminar offerings, read through the instructor bios, then click on the blue Register Here button, click on the green Tickets button, open a cart, make your selections and join us for an amazing week with like minded people just as passionate about fibre as you are!

Started The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair this morning.  I will do a review when I'm further into it, but even the introduction is sparking lots of thoughts about cloth and the role it has in society.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


My work has been on the cover of Handwoven twice.  I was hoping for a 'hat trick', but the news that F & W, the current owners of Interweave are in Chapter 11 re-structuring has left a lot of people - not just fibre folk - wondering about the future.

As weavers, spinners and knitters, there are already options for publications.  Plyaway for spinners has really come into it's own for information about spinning, and Heddlecraft, Vav, SS&D and Complex Weavers present weaving information.  There are other knitting publications than those published by Interweave.

Eventually things will sort themselves out.  Either some astute fibre supporter will purchase the Interweave 'brand', or small publications will start up to meet the demand.  Or information dissemination will happen more and more on line.

Whatever happens, fibre folk have been and will continue to be a close knit (pun intended) community,.

Having been part of that community since 1974/5 I have watched it go through cycles of interest waxing and waning.

Along the way I have met and been inspired and encouraged by many others as fascinated with fibre and cloth as I am.

One of the delights of working on the ANWG conference is getting to work with some of them.

Some of the instructors I have met in real life and consider them more than colleagues or acquaintances.  Those that I do know are without exception positive, encouraging, have a great sense of humour (they laugh at my puns - what's not to love?)  All of the instructors are well informed about their particular specialty (some have more than one!) and generous in presenting that information to eager students.

Part of getting a conference of this scope formatted/organized is getting people matched up with rooms that fit their needs.  And then some of the offerings are more popular than you expect and in both cases, the two most popular presenters have quickly and graciously agreed to take more than they were scheduled for originally.

We are working on juggling the facilities to make sure that the rooms they will be assigned to will hold more and also have the requirements they need to do their job.

Working with people who are ready, willing and enthusiastic in co-operating to make this event work well?  Priceless.  Beyond rubies.

Friday, March 15, 2019

In the Darkness

So much sadness today and every day, it seems.

When I despair, I try to remember Fred Rogers' advice - that when bad things happen, look for the people who are helping.  (I paraphrase)

What can I do?

Not much, it feels like.

I can amplify voices promoting love and acceptance.  I can try to still the voices of divisiveness.  I can look for the silver linings in every cloud.  I can cling to hope.  I can acknowledge the humanity in all of us.  I can recognize that injustice has happened, continues to happen.  I can continue in my craft practice, making textiles that I hope will add value to life generally.  In the face of fear, strive to make beauty.

There are days when that last seems useless, I remind myself that every candle of love, positive action, serves to push back the shadows, invites in the light.

Sending virtual hugs to all who need them. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Part of my rayon chenille stash

I keep needing to learn to never say 'never'.

I have been in the business of selling my textiles for a long time and all during that time - as soon as it became possible - I have been accepting credit cards on the original knuckle buster imprinter machine.

A few years ago a company called Square began offering credit card processing via the internet.  Never being one to jump on the latest technology (well, ok, some!) I resisted - for a number of perfectly valid reasons.

The past few years even customers have been commenting on my old imprinter. 

Recently after another phone call from my provider, doing their best to get me to sign up for their version of Square internet card processing, partly by making it financially impractical to continue doing things the way I had been doing them, I decided that instead of using a 'Square-like' service I would simply go directly to Square.  I figure they have been in business the longest and probably have their systems worked out.  This is not a service I particularly want to be beta-testing.

This morning was spent partly in getting signed up (on my part) and then figuring out how it all works (on Doug's part).

In the meantime I pulled my big girl panties up and marched myself to the loom where I threaded, then sleyed, tied on and managed to get approximately half of the mat warp woven.

In between I've been working on the conference, trying to figure out how to get the word out about our fantastic instructors and event.

As I was shutting down for the day, my eye caught - again - on the shelves full of rayon chenille.  There are an additional.two large boxes of rayon chenille in storage at the annex.  It is time to put a run of rayon chenille scarves on the to-be-done list.

Time is quickly running out.  My first sale of the year is for the hospital auxiliary conference in April  It won't be a busy sale, so perfect for testing the new Square payment option.  Then the conference in June.  And then three craft fairs in Oct/Nov.  I'd really hoped to not have to learn another new thing to work out my business years, but this morning I had to eat that 'never' I'd been saying and just get on with entering the 21st century.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


The movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had this quote running through it.

The optimism of the characters, the determination to see a dream come to reality, resonated with me. 

Recently I told someone that I had made a career out of mining for the silver linings in clouds.  No, I'm not 100% Pollyanna.  I have my 'bad' days.  Days when I'm tired of digging.  Tired of scraping away at dross to find the silver.

It's very easy these days to rely on cliches but cliches are how many of us get through our days.

I well remember that time in grade five.  It was in deep winter.  The day was grey and gloomy.  It was cold and snowy.   I didn't know it at the time but I have multiple allergies and I now recognize how I was feeling was another allergic reaction - headache, weary, low energy, just yukky all over.

I stood at the window looking out at the ice fog hanging in the air, snow piled high, jack frost decorating the glass and slowly coming to the realization that in my life I was going to have to work hard for anything I wanted.  I even remember that inner voice telling me that nothing was going to be handed to me on a silver platter. 

It was a sobering moment.  I had - at that point - to either accept that this was going to be the way my life went and just get on with it - or be angry about it.

Anger takes too much energy and I didn't have any.  So I decided then and there, that morning, to just get on with it. 

And so I have done.  Choosing weaving as a career was choosing to work hard, physically and emotionally.  Nothing like a life of expressing one's creativity to bring on the opinions of others, some of which are far from flattering.  I had to learn how to cope with negative feedback.

Nothing like choosing a 'job' without a steady paycheque to make navigating the daily expenses of living and running a business challenging.

Nothing like choosing a lifestyle that insisted on flexibility to learn how to change what you are doing, sometimes mid-stream, sometimes abandoning a line of endeavour and just get on with the next thing.  Learning how to cut my losses.

With a business plan of 'I think a person could make fabric and sell it', I can't say I was particularly intelligent about making that decision.  On the other hand, I had a background that made it possible - just - to jump in and start to do it.

A childhood of physical activity - ballet, track and field - meant good body awareness.  An ability to self assess and determine how to change my movements to be more ergonomic, therefore more efficient.

That fateful decision as an 11 year old to accept that I would, I could, work hard.  And do it willingly.

The decision to earn an income gave me the strength to ignore what other people thought of what I was doing and the equipment I was doing it on and keep an eye on my personal goals - selling my textiles.

Over the years I kept changing things as things either worked - or didn't.  A 'failure' wasn't the 'end' because it wasn't OK - yet.  So I just kept going.

Over the years my goals changed somewhat.  I had always taught, even though I wasn't trained as a teacher.  My mother was a good intuitive teacher then, when I was 16, she enrolled in Early Childhood Education, and by reading and helping proof read her papers, I learned vicariously, too.

As I taught, I also learned about how people learned and was able to fine tune my approach to conveying information.  And dealing with students.

I'd always loved reading and writing, fancied myself a bit of a poet as a teen.  Took English 101 and Creative Writing only to realize that I really wasn't a fiction writer. 

All of that was good practice as I developed workshop handouts, then dabbled in writing articles for magazines.

Not all of my articles were accepted, so I learned to deal with rejection.  To realize that it was the article that had been rejected, not me, personally.  And move on to the next.

I learned to juggle multiple streams of income, multiple deadlines.  In high school I had taken Law 11 and Office Practices, so I knew what a cheque was, what constituted a contract, how to keep a double entry ledger and read a financial report.  All of which was necessary to the running of a business.

All of this is to say - it's absolutely normal to have a 'bad' day.  It's ok to feel down because you are in the middle of the hard slog of a big project. 

On those days I remind myself of the Winston Churchill quote on my fridge:  When you are going through hell...keep going. 

It's not the end - yet.

Currently reading Human Face by Aline Templeton

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Sitting Pretty


Not Recommended

I see so many photos on the internet of people sitting at their looms in postures that can lead to injury and my heart aches for their bodies.

When sitting at the loom, sit up on your sitz bones, not rotated back on your tailbone.  If you are having problems with a sore tailbone, I assume you are a) sitting on your tailbone - rotate your pelvis and sit up on your sitz bones and b) sitting too much on the bench rather than perched more on the edge of it.

Your back should be straight, not hunched through the upper spine, or rounded through your lower back.

You should be sitting tilted slightly forward which engages your abdominal muscles and helps protect your lower back.

Your shoulders should be at rest.  This means sitting high enough your elbows clear the breast beam.

If you are sitting fully on your bench, there is a risk of cutting off blood flow or the nerves to your legs causing numbness.

If you are sitting too low, the subconscious result is to hunch your shoulders, stressing your shoulders/neck/pectoral muscles.

There should be no pain.  If at any time something becomes fatigued or painful, stop, get up, do some stretches, do some other activity for a while and rest your body.

Weaving is filled with repetitive motions.  This is a 'feel the pain, stop now' type of activity.

Most 'ordinary' chairs are not suitable for weaving because most are raked towards the back of the chair.  If you sit fully on the chair you will be in poor position/posture for weaving.  If you don't have a bench, build the height of the chair up and fill in that raked angle so that you are at a better height and position to weave.

While I am on a 'let's not injure ourselves' rant, consider how you hold the shuttle.  You might want to change your grip to reduce stress on the shoulder girdle/pectoral muscles.

Do you need a bench?  Not really.  I have an adjustable bench for the Leclerc which makes it easier when students come so that the height can be adjusted for them.  For the other two looms in my studio, I have sturdy stools.  I know people who have adjustable music stools they find suitable, especially if they have more than one loom.  Piano benches can be adjustable as are drummer's stools.

Be aware of your body.  Let it rest when it gets tired.  Do something else that uses a different set of muscles.  Get up and walk around.  Consult a physical therapist for exercises to stretch those muscles that get overused.

No pain.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

It’s Been a While

This afternoon the mail delivered a copy of the Spring issue of Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot, the magazine produced by the Handweaver's Guild of America.

It's been a while since I had an article in this magazine.  It was nice to be asked to contribute, especially when they gave me free rein about what to write about.

There are philosophies that propose that there should be no rules.  People should be free to do whatever they choose, whenever they choose.

I don't disagree.  It's just not the way I approach weaving.

When I am spending as much time as it takes (because no matter which way you slice it, any kind of handwork is 'slow cloth') I would really like to wind up with a fabric that performs it's intended function as well as I can make it do that job.

Right from the get-go, with my stated aim of earning an income by designing and creating textiles, I had to achieve a certain level of quality.  So I made a point of looking closely at different qualities of cloth, trying to work out how they wound up to become that quality of cloth, then set about trying to hit that bench mark with my own work.

I don't want to make everyone who weaves do what I do.  All I try to do is explain the principles involved, which can be ignored, and show what I do for anyone who is interested.

In the end we need to follow our passion.  Find our joy.  Feed our creative spirit, in whatever way that fulfills us.

I hope people will read the article.  I hope they take away what they need from it.

As for the textile?  I was asked to create the cloth for the local Ukrainian dance troupe.  In addition to fabric for skirts and vests, which I had made over the years, they wanted to create group clothing so that people didn't have to buy their own, but share and pass along to the next crop of dancers.  So they splashed out and got me to weave cloth for the head dresses for one dance, and sashes for another as well as more skirts (two different skirts) and the vests.

In the end I did four 10 meter long warps, dressed the Leclerc Fanny and threaded the heddles, but left the reed and beater top off the beater and essentially used the loom as a band loom.  The sashes had to be sturdy, warp faced but flexible so that they could be tied.

I used two ends of 2/8 cotton per heddle, and then a bundle of 2/8 cotton for the weft.  Using a bundle of thinner threads that were loose, not twisted together, makes for a more flexible finished cloth.

It became a challenge to get the right amount of draw in to ensure the warp faced effect, and the sashes were woven with a stick shuttle which was then used as the beater.

The sashes were wet finished and given a good hard press and the lengths turned over to the group to cut to length and finish the ends of the sashes with fringes.

For this commission, the clothing fabric had to absolutely function as required.  The cloth had to withstand regular laundry as well as the dances themselves, which are quite physical.

I have to say, I'm quite proud of the work I did for the dancers.  

Sunday, March 3, 2019


Next place mat warp ready to go into the loom

There are two sides to everything.  As someone who has taught weaving for a long time, one of the things I have had to do is understand my assumptions.  First I had to understand that when someone didn't know something, they didn't know that they didn't know that thing.

But I also had to understand that knowing as much as I do about weaving, I could not assume that anyone else also knew that thing.

My knowledge and learned processes are so ingrained that there is real danger in simply forgetting to mention something crucial.

I also have a bias because there are certain processes or approaches that I find work best for me.  Again, there is danger in assuming that my processes are 100% best for everyone.

So I have focused on principles and then let people choose how best to incorporate those principles into their practice.

Then there is trying to articulate a motion.  How to find the words to make something so automatic that I almost never think about it any more understandable to someone who may never have the option to actually see someone do that motion.

I addressed this by making short video clips of things (posted to You Tube) but the camera angle determines what the viewer sees.  And sometimes they need to see things from a different perspective.

Interweave gave me the opportunity to do DVDs but again - camera angle is critical.  We did the best we could, but they don't always carry the information everyone wants to be able to see.

Video clips and DVDs are also approaches that are less in depth.  And so I wrote a book.  I could explain in more detail, but the words are static on the page.  We included lots of photos, but again - camera angle.

As teachers know, it is critical to be able to convey information in various ways, different formats.  It is always 'best' to learn in person so that you can get feedback from the instructor.  Having an actual interaction with the instructor reminds the instructor to not make assumptions and the student that they don't always know everything.  It is, in a very real way, a conversation.

When I was first beginning I took every workshop, attended every conference I could afford.  I still take workshops, usually because I want to have that interaction with the instructor, find out how they think, how they process information.

Now that registration is open for the conference I am looking at the offerings and regretting that I'm going to be teaching myself because there are several people giving seminars I would love to sit in on.  Abby Franquemont talking about Peruvian textiles.  Sarah Wroot about historical textiles.  Maureen Faulkner about her travels and textile collection. Susan Pavel about Salish weaving and culture. And more!

When I chose weaving as a career I knew I would not, could not, learn everything there is to know about textiles.  Once again I have been proven right as I longingly peruse the tasty menu of the conference offerings.