Tuesday, December 31, 2019


Yesterday it snowed, big fat wet clumps of it.  By bedtime it had changed to rain.  This morning?  Still raining.

The road out front - and likely everywhere - is lumpy compact snow turned to ice.  The highways are most likely treacherous and town will be difficult to navigate with iced up intersections and rough frozen ice on every surface.

I have decided to hibernate for the next couple of days.

Looking out the window just now, I spotted Santa, face down in the snow.  Which kind up summed up how I am feeling right now.

I'm done.  I'm just done.  With this year, with politics, with people (generally, not specifically - I still have lovely people in my life but humanity as a whole is pretty challenging right now).

I'm done with the chaos of shutting down my business, the constant snow globing of my studio (again yesterday, a minor shake).  I'm done with being IN business, the constant scramble of deadlines and never knowing if I'm going to earn enough money to pay the bills.

I'm concerned that the loss of income will be a strain on our personal finances so until we see how that goes I am not planning any travel other than for teaching - or Convergence (most likely my last Convergence, perhaps my last conference).

But I am hopeful for the coming year.  The pain treatments seem to be making slow improvement in my pain levels.  The new loom will let me keep weaving.  I'm working on a couple of article ideas.  I'm determined to weave up as much of my stash as I can.  After delivering five large boxes of yarn to the guild, I am looking at only keeping the yarn that I know I will use, one way or another.

The annex is almost empty.  Doug and his helper will continue to work on that, although not today with the roads in such awful shape.  One more shelving unit left at the annex and a spot here has been cleared for it.  There are seven more boxes of yarn on the store room floor here to be emptied and sorted and some more boxes on the shelves that also need to be emptied and put on the shelf without the box so I can see what I have.

There are some miscellaneous yarns that I have kept to be used possibly in knitting because knitting is a lot more portable than weaving. 

We slept in 'late' this morning and have been slow getting started.  But my goal for today is to beam the silk warp and see how far I can get dressing the loom.  I'm excited to see if my idea actually works or not.  If not, what do I need to do to tweak it?

I have no illusions that 2020 will magically turn into the 'best year ever'.  It will be what it will be.  I will continue to work my way through it, the best I can.

Sending my best wishes to all.  Today, tomorrow and all the days coming.  We survived 2019.  Let's survive 2020, helping and encouraging each other.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Closing of the Year

I have been using a butterfly as a personal motif for a long time - since my first (and last) solo art gallery exhibit in oh, 1983? 

The butterfly is a powerful symbol of change, metamorphosis, growth. 

2019 has been a very powerful year of...change, metamorphosis and growth for me.  Between closing the business of selling hand woven textiles, 'retiring' so to speak, and the changes that has meant to my studio and life?  It has been unsettling, stressful, and uncertain as to what the coming year will hold.

On the other hand, the changes were needed and the time had arrived to make them.

Talking to some people the other day, one of them again expressed surprise at my age.  I like being the age that I am.  I like the fact that I am still alive, able to change, metamorphose and grow.  It is an opportunity my brother had cut short at a much younger age.  I still miss him and regret the chance to grow old alongside him to see how he would have grown as he moved through life. 

He had plans.  He had dreams.  He accomplished a lot in his life and people in this town took him as a good role model.

Tomorrow it will be four years since mom died.  I have been thinking about dad, mom and Don a lot this week. 

Maybe because I am feeling 'better', not so crushed by the low grade pain I had been having, my mind is thinking more clearly.  I am starting to have ideas for textiles I want to weave, using - as much as possible - yarns from my stash.

Yesterday Doug and I took a good look at the annex (he was pressing the latest cloth from both looms - I now have a heap of hemming to do), then we took a good look at the studio and we discussed how the arrangement was shaping up.  He made a suggestion I hadn't considered but realized would actually be more useful than what we had.  Another tweak, another change.  Hopefully for the better.

His helper will come today and they will work on getting the table for the laptop that runs the Megado tweaked with castors and a larger table top, then if there is time, they will move things around - a small snow globe shake, but one I think will actually make things work better in terms of space.

Today the rent cheque for the annex will be delivered to the landlord along with the notice of our move out at the end of January.

That really is a light I see.  I hope.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Day of Rest


By the time you get to this point, most of the 'work' has been done and what is left is the 'fun' bit.

Today I am going to wind two warps and attempt to dress the Megado with a warp wound on a warping board instead of sectionally beaming it.

I would do this on my AVL for short warps where I wanted more than four shafts, or other reason where the AVL was the preferred tool, but I haven't done it on the Megado yet.

I am still working on fine tuning the studio layout so I will have to shuffle some things around.  Doug is going to make the table top on the table next to the loom larger so that I have more room for the laptop and mouse and perhaps room for bobbins, too.  Then I can get rid of the tv tray I set up to hold the humidors with the linen weft.

The table will get castors so I can more easily move it around, but not today.  So I will be shuffling things around so that I can more easily get to the front of the loom where the warp will hang from the breast beam.  Unless I try to use the warping valet.  Which might actually be better because I can more easily adjust the position of the warp relative to the sections.

(Still thinking my processes through!)

People tell me I work too hard.  Even as I declare I am 'retired' they tell me to slow down.  Thing is, I don't want to 'slow down'.  What I 'retired' from was a particular set of obligations.  As an introvert, doing the craft fairs was the least enjoyable part of what I did.  It was stressful and physically demanding.

Last night we went to a small gathering of local people who do craft fairs and talked about the shows and we all had pretty much the same experiences.  We talked about the long drives, the bad winter roads, the horrible move in and out situations at the different venues.  We talked about not having enough inventory, or the 'wrong' inventory for a particular show/region.  How you just never knew what any show would do in terms of sales.  How a good show could pay off debt and a bad show season meant you went into the coming year scrambling to keep going - pay/service the debt and still keep the lights on, buy more materials to make product so you could eventually pay down the debt.

I will not miss any of that.

But we also talked about the lovely people.  People who would order special commissions.  Or save up their money over the year after seeing our work and come back the following year to purchase something special for themselves or as a gift.  The people who delighted in letting us know how much they enjoyed having what we made in their lives.

I will miss that feedback.

But as for wanting to weave?  It is now officially - as of two days from today - my hobby.  I will now get to set the deadlines I want to meet.  I can now weave things that might not sell, in colours I prefer, instead of making sure I had sufficient inventory in a good enough range of colours that would be attractive to people with different colour preferences from me.

Oh, I will still make things not to my taste - I have a stash that goes broad and deep, and not all of it is in colours I like for myself.  And I will still offer things for sale at the consignment shop.

But selling textiles will not be my primary concern once I've filled the place mat orders I accepted this month.

My goal for weaving has reduced from five sessions per day to two.  Three if I'm feeling able.  But I still want to weave, to learn, to teach and no doubt I will write about all of that.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Two Looms in want of a Warp

Both looms are in want of a warp.  The above photo is all you'll see of what goes into the Megado next because I have pitched an idea to Handwoven and these will be the yarns I use to do the project.  Stay tuned!

Since there is a fair bit of prep work to get the yarn into the loom, I will likely wind the next mat warp and get that going while I work on the silk.

I am wrapping up this year and beginning as I mean to go on - weaving.  Maybe writing - for publication - or not. 

This past year was the bitter end to years of challenging years.  I am going to declare this decade over with 2020 the beginning on the next - and hopefully - much less stressful one to come.

In addition to a bunch of other things going on in my life, I have been plagued with chronic low grade pain.

There are many reasons for chronic pain (any pain that last more than three months without being resolved - or something like that.)  Sometimes it stems from disease, sometimes injury.  Where ever it comes from, it is pretty much invisible to anyone else.  Now I'm pretty open about what I'm going through, but the year on the cancer drug with muscle and joint pain as an adverse effect, just about did me in entirely.

Getting off of the drug helped, but I also have a life time of injury and over use and when I plateau'd, and then seemed to be slipping backwards down a very depressing slope, I cried 'uncle' and managed to snag an appointment with a local doctor who helps people with muscle pain.

I have several things that cause me pain, but to get rid of the muscle pain?  I was getting to the point where I couldn't see being able to weave at all because the pain was sucking all the energy and life out of me.

OTOH, I had a brand new, rather expensive loom sitting in the studio and I really wanted to be able to enjoy weaving again.

I have had two treatments.  They aren't much 'fun' - you have to deal with short term pain for hopefully long term gain.  But I've been told I have a high tolerance to pain, and I am motivated.  The good news?  After just two treatments, I am seeing improvement.

The worst pain is from whiplash injuries, one at 18, the other at 44.  One was side-to-side and never got any kind of treatment.  (Why?  Because in 1968 unless you were bed ridden no one paid much attention to a few injured muscles.)  The other I did have treatment but on top of the already existing and old injury, my neck was always hurting.  It was just a matter of degree.

Weaving didn't help, of course.  Using the pectoral muscles, even as ergonomically as possible, meant repetitive motion stress.  Aging didn't help, but the drug tipped me right over the edge.

With just two treatments, I am already noticing differences.  I'm still in pain, but it's a different kind of pain and the intensity is less.  But mostly?  I don't feel crushed by it.  Not only do I feel like doing things, I can do them.  The past few days I have gotten back into a much more enjoyable routine.  No, I'm not back to weaving like I used to - I'm retired (I keep reminding myself!)  But I have this stash I really want to use up.  Even better, I have designs that are bubbling to the surface that I would like to get into the loom(s) and I now feel motivated to work on them.

Getting old is one thing.  Feeling like you are old is quite another.  Especially when 'old' means you feel unable to do the things you want to do.

Now the treatment I'm getting isn't for arthritis or neuralgia, or other ailments.  It is for muscle pain.  Having rode this body hard and put it away wet for way too many years, my muscles are a large part of why I'm in pain.  If I can get that knocked back, I'm hoping I can deal with the other pain sources.

In the meantime?  I have two looms in want of a warp...

Friday, December 27, 2019

Lessons Learned

It's been four months since I got started weaving on the Megado and all I have managed is four warps.  Not my usual level of productivity - at all.  But Life Happened - I was sick, not feeling well, had shows to prepare for and when I did feel able to weave, I was on the Leclerc, trying to boost my inventory of place mats.

The Megado is a different loom than the AVL.  Different enough that I am hopeful I will be able to weave for many more years on it.  But it took time to make friends with it.

There are many differences such that I had to adapt not only my processes, but my expectations.

So I started small and upsized carefully, learning more about the loom and myself as I did.

This warp is 2/16 cotton at 32 epi, 24" in the reed.  The warp is approximately 20 yards and I seem to have finally gotten the sectional beaming sorted.  I prefer the AVL tension box for a number of reasons, but the beam is under the back beam with very little room for my hands to work, or to be able to see what I'm doing.  But after changing some things, primarily where my supplemental light was mounted, I could see better and the warp went on with fewer irregularities.

In terms of the weaving, I needed to know if I could fit the entire woven warp onto the cloth beam and still keep good tension on the warp.  As the cloth roll builds up, what you have is a squishy base instead of a good solid one, and this can sometimes cause issues with getting consistent tension as the fell is moved forward and tension reset.  The AVL doesn't have this issue because of the cloth storage roller at the back of the loom.  The tension is held between the warp beam and the breast beam, not along the length of the woven cloth to the cloth beam.

I also wanted to know if the build up of the cloth would become thick enough to interfere with my treadling.

So - lessons learned.

I can - with care - get a good enough warp beamed, even up to 20 yards.  I doubt I will go further than this - because I no longer need to produce to that level.  I will because I have depth of yarn inventory and it needs to get used up!

The cloth beam will hold about 20 yards of woven cloth without too much being in the way of my knees.

The loom will continue to hold tension as I weave that length of cloth.

In the end, I sacrificed one towel worth of warp so there isn't quite the full length on the cloth beam, but I am running out of time and I had learned what I needed to know.  To sacrifice about $2 worth of cotton so that I could move on to the next deadline on my list seemed like a small enough one to make.

The yarn will not actually be thrown away, but in the direction of a friend who asked for my thrums.  She is playing with them in her spinning.

As the year ends, what happens with 'retirement'?  When people would ask me what I would do, I could not give specifics, just that I would continue to weave.  So my list so far looks like this:  (not set in stone, could change)

Megado - silk warp for two scarves, one a gift.  I still need to wind skeins onto cones, crunch the details.  After that, more tea towels - I have more fine linen to use up as weft.

Leclerc - finish the 2nd lavender warp for the customer who wanted lavender themed mats for his mother.

Weave the special order of mats I received at the guild sale.

Weave the special order of mats to go with the tea towels someone  purchased this month.

Jan.  - welcome company for two weeks where we will have some studio fun and I will possibly get some of the white silk made 'not white'

Write up articles and submit to Handwoven to see if they are interested.

Feb - two Intro to Weaving workshops.  Potentially a follow up for those who decide they want to continue.

April - I am holding two weeks open for a possible level 1 and 2 for an Olds satellite class.
May -  Ditto - both of these to be determined
June - Olds Fibre week - level one
July - meet a friend and travel to Knoxville for Convergence where I will buy day passes and hang out with anyone who wants to hang out with me.  :)
August - local fall fair - I will volunteer to work in the guild display (and have my textiles for sale)

My mother always said she didn't know how she managed to find time to work she was so busy when she 'retired'....hmmm....

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Blue Collar

When I was a kid, photos were important to mom.  Appearances were also important.

Dad was a blue collar worker.  Well, green was his preferred colour, a lot like this:

His standard work 'uniform' was a shirt and pants in a dark blue/green.  He never wore blue or black, just always the dark blue/green.  Always.  

In the entire 25 years that his life and mine overlapped, I never once saw him wear denim.  He wore shirts that buttoned.  Or snapped, but usually, buttons.  They were always long sleeved, too.  In the summer he would roll the sleeves of his shirt up, but until he got sick, I don't ever recall seeing him in anything but a long sleeved cotton shirt.

For 'good', he would wear sharkskin pants - a lighter weight cotton, like the ones in the top photo, and again a buttoned shirt.  He always wore a billed cap.  In the winter, to go to work, it would be wool and would have ear flaps he could pull down to keep his ears warm.  Because he worked on the highways, in the days when graders and snow ploughs didn't have heat.

In the winter he would begin with Stanfield's kroy (wool) long johns.  If it was really cold, he would sometimes put on two before putting on his shirt and pants.  Then he would put a padded coverall on top, two pairs of wool work socks - you know, the kind people now use to make sock monkeys?  His boots would have thick wool felt packs (liners) and his boots would be winter boots with insulation, thick wool insoles and water proof.  Leather boots would be conditioned with thick waxy polish and it would be worked into the seams to make sure if he stepped in a puddle his feet stayed dry.

In the summer he would wear the shirt and pants, and a lighter weight jacket, and thick leather work boots.  With steel toes, when they became required.

At leisure, he would frequently wear a clean work shirt and pants because if he was mowing lawns or digging gardens, he was working and he didn't want to wear his 'good' clothing.

In those days, workers for the department of highways didn't  make much money - no government workers did, really.  But it was steady work and he was happy driving the big machines.  Happy enough, given he had a family to support.

Mom worked at times because there were medical bills to pay - for me and my brother.  Mom had some health issues, too, and in those days, there wasn't universal medical - that didn't come in until 1966 in BC.  

Mom and Dad had both lived through the depression.  Dad grew up on a hard scrabble farm but his family had a bit extra because they lived on the Fraser River and could go panning for gold to top up their coffers when needed.  There were five boys in the family and they scraped enough money together to buy harvesting equipment and would then hire themselves out to take in hay and so on.  They also played dances on musical instruments they made themselves for the most part - they might not have gotten paid much, but the crowd would usually stand them a few rounds of beer.

As a child, we had little but mom made sure we had what we needed.  We might not have gotten what we wanted, but she made it clear that life wasn't fair, it didn't matter that someone else had more, we didn't, get over it.

Both of us kids had work to do in the household.  We didn't get paid for it.  We didn't get an allowance, either.  If we wanted money, we had to ask and hope that we had been 'good enough' to deserve the treat we wanted.  (I know now that usually not getting money for the movies had more to do with the fact there simply wasn't a spare quarter, not that I had been 'bad'.)

I learned to make stuff.  Since I couldn't afford to buy clothing, I learned how to knit and sew.  In those days you could still go to a fabric store, buy a pattern, thread, notions and the fabric and pay less than buying new in the store.

The other thing mom and dad taught us was to not waste money on cheap stuff, but to save up our money and buy good quality.  Like dad's work clothing.  It wasn't cheap, but he would wear it for years, with mom washing and drying loads of laundry to keep us clean and respectable.

These were lessons I took with me into adulthood.  Want little.  Be satisfied with what you have.  Don't look over the fence to see what the neighbours may have, because that really isn't any of your business.

My father would likely have been very uneasy about my choice to quit a very well paying job (for a woman) in 1975 in order to become a weaver, for goodness sake!  But I wasn't happy, had never been happy in any job I'd had.  Some were bearable, but as I got older, I was less inclined to put up with the kind of crap that some jobs just seemed to come with.  If I worked with men, there were the sly innuendos, the being talked down to, the disrespect.  (No, not all men - but plenty to make me wary of all men until I got to know them.)

Learning how to budget, scrimp and save, and want for little, meant I could manage to navigate my way through the lean times of being a production weaver.  I also knew how to work hard - my mother and father had certainly showed me how hard they worked - and I assumed that that was 'normal' and only to be expected.  So I knew that I could be a weaver with all the hard work entailed in doing the job.

So I did.  I worked hard.  Worked to deadlines.  Fulfilled contracts.  Scraped money together to buy materials and pay show fees.  Borrowed for major purchases, like looms.

Retirement means several things to me.  It means I am giving up the pressure of weaving for sales.  I won't have show fees.  I won't need to buy as much yarn.  Goodness knows I have a basement full!  

Income will be reduced, but since the bulk of that income was going to pay for things like show fees, purchase materials, travel to do the shows, the insurance on the business ($1650 for this year to cover show liability requirements, loss of product en route to and from shows, the separate work space, etc.), business license and telephone, business insurance on the van and so on, I'm hoping that the reduced income (primarily from book sales, consignment sales - because I still have way too much inventory - and teaching) will cover the much reduced expenses of my new hobby.

My father never did go to school and was functionally illiterate.  He was smart, just never had a chance to have any kind of education beyond what his older siblings could teach him.  My mother dropped out in grade 9 or 10 - it was war time, she was 15-16, looked older, and wanted some money of her own.  My brother and I managed grade 12 (him kicking and screaming), me a few college courses because I loved learning.  But when I finally discovered weaving, all my education became focused on becoming the best weaver I could be.

The journey has been hard at times.  It's been difficult at times.  It's been stressful and sometimes I didn't know how I would pay the bills.  In the end?  Not much different than my mother's life.

Mom and I would knock heads over things, but ultimately?  I am the person I am today because I was my mother's daughter.  And my father's...

I may not wear a 'blue' collar - my wardrobe (such as it is) tends towards cotton knits - but that is my background, my base.  I'm not ashamed of my roots, but neither am I proud.  My life was what it was, and I am the person I am because of it.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Regular programming

Finished the copper-y brown weft and started on the green cotton.  The cottolin I'd intended to use turned out to be 2/8, not 2/16, and therefore too thick.  However I have a fairly deep and broad stash of 2/16 cotton, and so the rest of this warp will be woven off in cotton.

Based on previous warps, I was pretty sure that the green would marry nicely with the variety of beiges and slightly peach yarns in the warp, so much so that I just started right in.  Gotta tell ya, the first 1/4 of an inch?  Big doubts.  Still doubts at 1/2", but by the time I got to 1"?  The pattern was beginning to resolve and I could see it was going to be just fine. 

Sometimes you've just got to have a little faith.

The cotton was just slightly thicker than the linen, but more flexible, so I thought it would beat in about the same - slightly more ppi than epi.  But no, instead of the less than 45 degree twill angle of the linen, the cotton is almost perfect.  Which meant that the towel was a wee bit long, given I'd only changed the tie up, not the actual treadling.

So after the first towel, I removed about an inch from each end, and the first towel will be cut shorter to match the rest.  Too long is easily fixed.

I lost count of how many of the brown towels I wove.  It really wasn't important - I was only just trying to finish off the brown linen and how many towels wasn't any kind of consideration.  But I think there might be 12. 

When changing from one type of fibre to another, it's always a good idea to begin with the fibre that will draw in the least.  When I changed to the cotton, which is a lot more flexible than the linen, which means it will draw in more, it was clear that it was a very good idea to weave all the linen first.

The change in draw in is about 3/4" on each selvedge.

If I'd done the yarns the other way around, I would have to add sticks to the cloth roll to keep the two different yarns behaving nicely.  If you find yourself in a position where a change in weft means less draw in, just remember to add sticks to support the entire width of the cloth as it reaches the cloth beam and you should be fine.  If you don't the part that extends beyond the cloth below it will 'collapse' and selvedges will become very dodgy.

You can just see the different colour I've woven in to be a cut line to make cutting the towels apart easier.  I program an empty lag to let me know when to add the cut line.  When I step on the treadle and there is an empty lag, it's pretty obvious there is something happening!

I suspect I have a threading error in the last few inches of the warp, but even the camera isn't showing me a problem, so I am going to turn a blind eye and stop fussing about it.  The gaps you see in the cloth are due to reed marks, not threading issues.  (I've checked.  Multiple times.)  So all I can conclude is that my math was off.  Yes, there are five thread floats.  I wove twill blocks and reversed the direction of the twill.  So those aren't mistakes either.

With only a few yards left of this warp, I cannot fuss about it any more.

"Forget your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything.  That's how the lights gets in."  Leonard Cohen.

I'm going to channel my Leonard Cohen and let whatever light in that can get in.  They are tea towels.  If there is an error, they will still dry dishes just fine.

A Day of Peace

Summer memory - walking through the Ancient Forest not far from where I live.  Some of the cedar trees are estimated to be 1000 years old.  It is one of the few cedar rain forests not on the coast but in the slopes leading up to the Rocky Mountains.  I understand that there is another pocket rain forest further south, and folk there are working hard to also preserve it from logging, as this one was, due to the tireless efforts of countless people in the area petitioning the government to declare it a 'no logging' zone, building walkways to help preserve the forest floor from the trampling of human feet through it.  It is now the newest provincial park and should be safe from logging.

I spent the morning - as I routinely do - scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, reading all the declarations of peace and hope being sent.  But I also read some articles that were far less than hopeful.

In many ways, we are at a tipping point as a race.  We are currently at around 7.5 billion in terms of population, with predicted growth to 10 billion by 2050.  (The Reality Bubble, by Ziya Tong - and other sources)

Personally I won't be alive then, nor do I have offspring to worry about.  But I do worry about what we are doing to the planet - and ourselves. 

This morning someone posted a meme of the central tenet of the major religions of humanity.  They all boil down to one thing.  Harm none.

How have we taken that message and tangled it up into what it currently is?  How have we become so fearful that we section ourselves off from other human beings and 'protect' ourselves from that 'other' group over there?

How have we gotten from 'it will be more difficult for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle' to 'give me every single cent and you can go get food stamps - if we let you have them'? 

Something has to change.  I don't know how.  I do know that we cannot sustain what is happening.

Climate change is a thing.  If we don't want to accept refugees, we need to stop the increase in the sea levels due to the poles melting.  If we don't want to accept refugees, we need to get the temperatures down so that wildfires such as are being experienced in Australia, Africa and the Amazon right now, will not be so horrendous.

So far our snow pack is 'low', although that could change in Jan/Feb.  But for several years in a row we have experienced conflagrations here in BC and Alberta.  Two years ago we had about 10,000 people evacuated from the Cariboo region due to wildfires while further thousands went south or east.

If we do not want to accept refugees, we need to stop bombing their homes.

If we do not want to accept refugees, we need to address what is happening to our climate and our food sources.

It is hard to feel at peace right now. 

What can I do?  Not much.  So I will continue to do what I have done all my life.  Live with the smallest footprint I can manage.  Teach people how to weave.  Because if the apocalypse arrives, survivors will need clothing.

I lived through the Cold War.  I remember the Duck and Cover exercises.  I grew up in the shadow of a radar base linked to NORAD, well aware that if a nuclear war was started - hell, any kind of war - that radar base would most likely be on an early destruction list.  If a nuclear bomb was dropped, we would be destroyed.  If ANY Nuclear bomb was dropped, we could have a nuclear winter, and then there would be mass destruction from radiation poisoning. 

We already knew about the fall out (literally) from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We need to pressure our politicians.  We need to pressure 'energy' companies to stop squeezing every last drop of oil out of the ground and come up with viable options.  We need to listen to the scientists.  We need to accept that we cannot - probably should not - have more, more, more.

Today we woke - as usual - and are carrying on with our day.  I do not put up a Christmas tree.  There were no heaps of gifts wrapped in paper that could not be recycled.

We do not need things, so we now purchase experiences.  Doug got some books, we will attend a performance of Cirque du Soleil in June.  I also got books - I just need to give myself permission to read them - along with the five library books on the table and the six on hold that will be coming down the pipeline, likely in February!

So now?  Now I will shake off my feelings of sadness about the state of the world.  I will send my best wishes to all, whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it (because not all of my friends are Christian), I will go to the loom and weave.  Because what I CAN do is exercise my creativity. I can send the positive light of making something (hopefully) beautiful out into the world.  I can pay attention to what is happening and when I can, where I can, support those people working to make positive change in this world.

Peace to all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

'Tis the Season

The solstice has been an occasion for celebration for as long as humanity has existed.  There are many different ways to celebrate but for me the turning of the sun has gained more importance as I have gotten older.

There are days when I despair at humanity but then individuals do something loving and giving to restore my faith that we can work together, support each other, love each other.

To all my friends who have lifted me up when I have fallen down - sometimes literally - thank you.

To all my friends who encourage me in my crazy endeavours - thank you.

To my readers who recognize themselves in my thoughts as expressed here and elsewhere - thank you for letting me know.

To the students who take up the mantle of learning as much as they can about the craft of weaving - thank you.

To those who work for equity for all - thank you. 

To those to build a bigger table instead of a wall - thank you.

As we enter a 'new' year, I send love and light to all.  To those who struggle, those who are comfortable, all in between.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Progress, One Bin at a Time

Today Doug and his helper carried 14 bins and a box down to the studio and set them up on a saw horse table so that I could work on sorting and condensing them.

The bins and box are filled with miscellaneous stuff I've been ignoring - sometimes for decades.

Several bins of bobbin lace supplies, some teaching samples, some spinning stuff.

Plus, peeking out from behind, the bag from Brassard with a fill in order of 2/8 cotton, and from underneath an order from Ashford.  I notified guild members that I was giving up my Ashford dealership and several took advantage of the fact that they could get an order before I gave it up.  

It got caught in the truly nasty road conditions we had last week at the south end of the province and only arrived today instead of last week, but never mind, it's here.  As soon as I have more room on the table I will open the box and sort the order into who purchased what.  Including (ahem) my own top up of spinning fibres.

I'm not exactly sure where my blending board has gotten to, but I have several bins of rolags (punis?) ready to go so as soon as I've burned through some of my jigsaw puzzle stash, I will get my spinning out again.

I have also knitted the commercially spun wool yarns and should finish the last shawl made from those yarns in the next while.  In the meantime?  I have hemming to do as I did find a spool of thread to hem the first of the lavender place mats.  The second warp will have to wait a few days as I had another pain treatment today and I'm on 'light' duty for several days.  A place mat warp is not 'light' duty and I'm wondering how much longer I can continue to weave a textile that needs a hard beat.

However the doctor is very pleased with my progress after the first treatment and feels sure that I will regain some strength, perhaps even sooner than I expect.  OTOH, my whiplash injuries are decades old so I'm staying optimistic but trying very hard to not be impatient.  Goodness, at my age, perhaps I'm learning patience????  Who'd a thunkit?

Having the bins at a good level to work on means that I have actually managed to go through about half of them, but I have stirred up enough dust for now so I'm taking a break.

There is a jigsaw puzzle calling....

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Ch-ch-ch-changes (studio update)

Change one thing and everything can change.

Earlier this year I decommissioned the AVL Production Dobby Loom I had woven on since 1982.

For nearly 40 years it was my tool of choice for most things.  I was trying to earn an income from selling my woven goods and it was a production loom that I could weave on quickly/efficiently and produce a lot of cloth.

But it was large (60" weaving width) and had a large footprint taking up what would be a reasonably sized bedroom, if I had put it in a bedroom.  Instead it was installed into my weaving studio in the basement where it took pride of place from the time it was installed until the time it was dismantled.

As a piece of equipment meant to produce, it had certain features that allowed me to do what I needed to do.  Doug built options for me and as it was upgraded, first to a computer assisted dobby, then air assist for the fly shuttle and treadle, Doug further customized it.  He maintained and repaired it as I wore things out or found that a tweak here or there would be beneficial.

I got comfortable with the loom and wove pretty much any and everything on it.

But things wear out, like my body, and the loom.  It was time to make another choice.

When the air assist was added to the AVL it no longer was capable of weaving to my preferred rhythm.  Instead of my usual pace, I had to reduce my speed by about one half.  It was teeth knashingly frustrating but necessary that I accommodate the equipment and eventually I adapted and accepted my new weaving rate.

The Megado is also demanding changes in my routine.  It is a different tool with different needs.  I must again adapt my processes and pace to the requirement of the loom.  Once again my pace has to be slowed down, which was again frustrating, but a reminder that I am no longer producing to sell at craft sales and there is no need for me to go faster.

I am half way through the tea towel warp I put on the loom a few weeks ago.  It is weaving off nicely.  I have mostly ironed out the beaming and any minor tension issues are not going to make a huge difference to the cloth.  As I beamed the warp I worked hard to make sure the sections went on as evenly as possible and I think I'm going to be happy enough with the finished cloth that I can count this warp a success, even though it is not 'perfect'.

The dobby is slower to react than the AVL dobby, so I have to make sure I stop and let the 'fingers' settle before opening the next shed, but I'm now comfortable with the slower pace and in the end my speed has not been very slowed down.  Instead of about 30 minutes to weave a towel, it's taking me about 45 minutes.  A not unacceptable time change.

I bought the Megado because I could no longer physically work on the AVL.  The Megado is much easier physically, and even though I'm still having issues with my neck and shoulders, the new loom is much gentler on my body.  It also takes up less space in my studio which has allowed Doug to install a bunch more shelves for storage.

We are still unpacking boxes and moving bins.  Yesterday we discussed where things might be moved to, and we will continue to adjust for a while.  As my stash gets woven up, I'm sure the shifting and shuffling will continue.

My goal is to reduce clutter and eliminate goat trails.  I'm tired of those and want a more peaceful organized space to continue to weave in.

Doug is still looking to sell AVL loom bits although things seem to have gone quiet for the holiday.  He will go pressing today on the industrial steam press and may go once more to do the current tea towels once they come off the loom - hopefully in the next little while.  I am working on a couple of special orders for place mats on the Leclerc Fanny as well as trying to weave on the Megado.  But place mats mean beating 'hard' and I don't know how much longer my body can weave that 'hard'.  I'm hoping the current pain treatment will help with the physical wear and tear I've done to my body, but it may mean I stop weaving textiles that require such a hard beat.


Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Turning of the Sun

“...This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar...”

― Margaret Atwood, Eating Fire: Selected Poetry 1965-1995

Today sees the turning of the sun.  From days with shorter daylight hours, we now begin to see longer hours of daylight.  Today marks the beginning of winter, the beginning of a new year.  A day of hope for the coming year, for ourselves and others.  As quickly as it goes away, it returns.

Life is a cycle.  We are born, we live, we die.  It is that bit between the entrance and exit that makes our lives meaningful.  How we live.  What we do.  Where we put our attention.

I would also say, it is who we help.  Do we only help ourselves?  Or do we also help others?  Yes, self care is a thing - follow the rule of the air - when the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first.  But then what do you do?  Do you help the person beside you who may be panicking because they hate to fly in the first place but had to for work or a family emergency?  Do you hold their hand?

If you have 'enough', do you share the excess?  Do you hold the door for the person behind you?  Stand aside to let the person approaching laden with bags go by on a narrow sidewalk?

Do you make space for others?  Do you accept them into your orbit? 

People have challenges and struggles that other folk know nothing about.  I suggest that in this coming of the light we also remember to be kind.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Responsibility - rant part deux

Someone mentioned the things that they are personally taking responsibility for, to lessen their footprint on the planet.

I have mentioned here and elsewhere some of the things I have done over the years that are within my ability to control in terms of lessening my footprint.

Beginning with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, I became aware of the damage humans were doing with chemicals.  In 1969 I left Canada for Sweden aboard a freighter as a passenger.  As we sailed down the St. Lawrence River, I noticed the suds that news programs had been warning us about - all the phosphates that were being sent down our waterways from detergents.  I vowed to find phosphate free detergents when I got home. 

As a first time home owner I planted a vegetable garden - because that was what my parents had done, and so I did the same.  For the five years we lived in our first (mortgaged) house I grew the standard assortment of veggies - lettuce, carrots, peas, beets, radishes.  My little garden plot wasn't very big and I had to fence it off to keep our dog from 'helping' by digging things up.  Unfortunately when we moved to our current house, the soil was poor and since I was busy with Life Happening (the move, the death of my father, beginning the weaving program at the college) I didn't have the time or energy to try and improve the soil to the point where a garden would grow. 

A hardware company offered a 'digester' to deal with household compostible waste and I bought one.  As I diverted vegetable waste from the garbage to the digester, our garbage output reduced considerably.  And the end result was waste that could actually go into the soil to improve it.  A few years later the municipality offered large compost bins for free and I made the ultimate sacrifice and got up early enough that I could snag one.  We have used it ever since and Doug routinely takes the compost from the bin to use in the yard.

A local initiative was begun where people could bring their newspaper and other recyclable papers which would then be shipped to a recycling depot and we began saving all the newspapers and such.  Again our garbage at the curb reduced.  Significantly.  The initiative grew and recycling containers began to spring up at various locations and tins, glass, cardboard and paper could be dropped off.  Again our garbage reduced.

The original group called R.E.A.P.S. then pressured for plastic recycling.  In BC we have had glass drink containers (at first) with deposits that would be paid back when returned to the depot, and the group pressured for plastic drink bottles to also have deposits.   Eventually most drink containers had deposits added and people could return those to depots to get their deposit money back.

A couple of years ago, the BC provincial government instituted province wide recycling programs.  The bad news is that a lot of the stuff that we carefully sort and put into the blue boxes still winds up in landfills, but I continue to sort the things out in hopes that if enough of us do it, some business in the province will actually begin to recycle the plastic.

We have dedicated the space beneath the counter for the blue boxes and the small garbage bin for things that cannot be recycled. 

The end result of all of this is that we wind up putting the garbage bin to the curb every second week and it might have one small bag of garbage in it.  The recycle gets put to the curb every second week, and since our local newspaper stopped production of a daily paper, our paper recycle might go out once a month.

There are areas in my life where I could do better.  Over the years I have been guilty of travelling - a lot - by air.  With no longer teaching for guilds, my air travel will drop about 90%.  Quite possibly more.  I drive a minivan because we did shows and it was the most economical way to get us and the booth stuff to where we needed to go.  I also drive to Olds, partly because flying from here to Olds is difficult, partly because I can bring a van load of things to enhance the class.  If I'm teaching a class elsewhere, I try to just bring one checked bag on the flight, mailing the rest of the things ahead of time.

We have replaced most of our lights with LED bulbs instead of incandescent.  We recently upgraded our house with extra insulation, and bought a more fuel efficient furnace a number of years ago when our old furnace was threatening to quit.

Our vehicles are as fuel efficient as we can afford, and I have been seriously looking at a hybrid once I'm no longer teaching and need to drag teaching materials around.  OTOH, there are now quite a few options and it might be possible to downsize to a large sedan and still fit most of my teaching stuff into a car instead of a minivan.

I try to buy 100% cotton clothing, but that's difficult, especially outerwear.  So I have some jackets made from polyester, but they don't get replaced every year but get worn 'out' - usually around 8 years or longer.  I have some wool coats as well, and those last at least 10 years.

We don't eat 'fancy' foods although we do enjoy out-of-season fruit during the winter.  We don't have kids so we never had to worry about things like Christmas (over) giving and I gave up decorating for holidays a long time ago.  At first I was simply too exhausted to do it, then I just didn't care anymore.

I do still use plastic bags - because I have them.  They were purchased in bulk for customers to carry away their purchases at the craft fairs.  They exist.  I will use them, but not replace them.

I buy in bulk where possible, but our food needs are modest and bulk isn't always economical, when you wind up throwing excess away.

In terms of my weaving practice, I decided many years ago to not weave with synthetic yarns.  All the yarns I use will degrade back into the earth.  I have a lot of rayon in my stash, but since finding out how damaging the production of rayon is to the planet and the human beings who work in the factories, I don't want to use it any more.  Since it exists and I have it in my stash, I will weave it up but not replace it.

(Yes, rayon is 'natural' in terms of it's chemical make up - it's cellulose.  It may be man made, but it is not a petroleum product.)

None of what I do is particularly large or important.  But all of it is within my control.  When the natural gas pipeline blew up about 28 km (as the crow files) from my house, we had no natural gas for some weeks, just as winter was settling in.  We then were on reduced rations for some months afterwards.  We kept the thermostat at 66 F (our thermostat is pre-metric) and used a couple of space heaters to keep the house livable.

A friend asked me why I bothered because no one else would be doing it.  I told her I couldn't control what anyone else did, but I could do the right thing myself.  By reducing my needs, there would be natural gas for others down pipeline.  (The pipeline services people for hundreds of miles south of us.)

So no, I cannot, all by myself fix what is wrong with our planet.  We have ignored climate change to the point where we are in serious trouble and too many people continue to ignore it.  Corporations continue to do business as usual when they could look to ways to reduce their energy needs, or join the movement to reuse, recycle, or just use less.  Instead of constantly lining the pockets of shareholders, shareholders could redefine when enough is enough.  When you are a billionaire, unable to spend a tiny percentage of your wealth in your lifetime, perhaps you have too much?  At the very least wages could be raised so that those people at the bottom could have at the very least a living wage instead being homeless.  I try very hard to not purchase from companies I know have bad track records in terms of not paying their employees a reasonable wage.

I have been privileged to live in Canada where I have benefited from universal health care.  Times have been tough, but we have managed to make it to this point in our lives.  The very least I can do is pay attention to what I can do to make my footsteps on this planet as light as I can. 

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Uncomfortable Truths (long rant)

If you aren't interested in my thoughts on politics...scroll on.

One of the things I have been working on the past while is to see beyond my perception 'bubble'.

I grew up in a largely 'white' community.  As such I had little contact with people outside of the largely 'white' (European) cultural context.  Part of that non-exposure to other cultures meant that I didn't get negatively indoctrinated about other peoples/cultures.  I took to heart the teaching in Sunday School that 'Jesus loves the little children of the world'.  Didn't matter to me what colour someone was, or their religion, even, because somehow I missed the memo that Christianity was the 'best' religion.  Instead, as a teenager and young adult, I read about other religions and philosophies, noting similarities to the teachings of Jesus. 

On the other hand, because I grew up in a 'white' bubble, I have had to learn how to start to tear down my perceptions. 

I got an early start on this as a child, in large part because I read voraciously, just drinking it all in.  Discovering science fiction at the age of 12 meant even further exposure to 'the other', this time life beyond our earth, cultures that were stranger than I could imagine, finding common ground with other forms of sentience. 

But I still had my perception bubble, my version of 'reality'.

Breaking down that bubble is uncomfortable.  While I would like to think that I'm aware, I have found myself, over and over again, shocked at how other people are treated, even in my own country by my own government, beginning in high school when I first learned about the Japanese internment camps and how aboriginals were treated.

There are many folk who are trying to open the doors that have been closed to them, one way or another.  There are many folk who are trying to work on equitable treatment of all people in society (not just ours, although it is the one I am most familiar with, of course.)

The attitude in North America seems to be to at first deny there is a problem.  Then there is the disbelief that things can be as bad as people who are marginalized say they are.  Then there is the 'not all' deniers.  Then there are the folk who insist that those who have been discriminated against educate the person who has lived in a bubble of privilege.  And finally the segment of the population that throw up their hands and say there is nothing they can do about it.

There may not be anything major that one person can do, but I am finding many small ways that I, personally, can begin to break down the wall of my bubble.  I am a work in progress, and I still find myself bumping into another section of 'wall' I didn't realize was there.  But here are a few things that have worked for me.

Read books written by people who are not of your culture.  I have found books written by Canadian aboriginal folk who tell their story.  It may be painful, but we need to witness.

Read history written from the viewpoint of aboriginal people.  Yes, various aspects of the Canadian government tried to wipe out the aboriginal people in Canada.  Yes, smallpox infected blankets were distributed.  In BC one smallpox infected person was taken to coastal aboriginal villages to purposefully infect the aboriginals.  No, this isn't fiction, there are actual letters detailing the plan.

We watch programs on the APTN network and the BC Knowledge Network.  There are a number of programs that will enlighten and inform 'white' folk.

Lately I have been following aboriginal people on Twitter.  Cindy Blackstock, Paulette Steeves, and others.  While I am not an internet influencer by any means, I can hand them the microphone, so I re-tweet their posts with no comment from me.  They don't need me to interpret what they are saying, they can say it perfectly well themselves.

Paulette Steeves has a book coming out in 2020 which will discuss history and I will be reading it.

While reading The Reality Bubble, I have had to overcome my discomfort on a number of occasions because I am learning things I would rather were not true - but are.  There are things I can do nothing about as a person, but I can at least understand that this is happening.  I can speak out against those people who attempt to obfuscate reality by reinforcing the bias that people live with behind their bubble of perception. 

As human beings, we look always for a level of comfort.  Giving up oil and petroleum products is extremely hard because plastics have become 'necessary' in so many ways to our current comfort in North America.

I remember when people set out to 'save' the trees, replacing paper with plastics.  When I was a child, food came in glass, metal or paper.  Now?  Damn near everything comes with a covering of plastic.  Christmas mandarin oranges came in cute little wooden boxes.  Now?  Plastic mesh bags.  Ice cream came in cardboard boxes.  Now?  Plastic.  Medications came in paper envelopes or cardboard pill boxes.  Now?  Plastic. 

There is a segment of society that is rushing to condemn the use of animal products.  Instead of leather, plastic (vegan leather it's billed as, apparently).  Instead of wool, polyester.  Instead of dairy products, soy. 

Agriculture is now mega farms and soil depletion is a thing.  If our world does climb to a human population of 10 billion (think about how many zeros that number has), food shortages will become even more prevalent.  If climate change is not halted - or better yet, reversed - we will continue to see declines in wild animals in favour of domestic production and ultimately the collapse of agriculture entirely.  It is already happening with biodiversity shrinking and animals like bees and other pollinators disappearing.  I have noticed the lack of migrating birds coming through to eat the mountain ash berries, just in the last 10 years.

Where I live the forests are dying, first because of invasive bugs/beetles, then the standing tinder burns, releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere. 

Australia, Amazon, Africa and other places around the world are on fire - literally.  Sea levels rise as the Arctic and Antarctic melt.  Greenland had a fire this summer because so much of the permafrost had melted, fire was able to catch hold and burn for weeks.

Since I have no children, I can't tell you how tempting it is to throw up my hands and say "There is nothing I can do about this" and let it happen.  But we can make changes.  The oil industry could switch to alternative energy sources.  We as people can make different choices with our purchasing.  We can stop buying crap we don't need that ends up in the landfill (ugly Xmas sweaters?   Made from acrylic, worn once and tossed into the garbage?  We can stop doing that.)

We can define what is 'enough'.  We can tax billionaires as has been proposed by some politicians.  While it is all well and good to see some billionaires donate a tiny fraction of their money to charity, how about they pay their employees a living wage?  Companies like Wal-Mart who hand new hires an application for food stamps know they are not paying a living wage and are making money through corporate welfare.  Amazon (the company not the region) could give their employees better wages and treat them fairly instead of making them work insane hours for a pittance.  (I rarely buy from either Wal-Mart or Amazon - they are last resort options.)

Instead of buying - over buying - things that are not necessary, spending money on more and more and more plastic decorations for various 'holidays', we could just quietly celebrate without making a big splash at every house on the street.  We could have community celebrations instead of trying to out do the neighbours.

There are many ways we could make better choices.  My choices may not work for other people, but we each can at least poke through our bubble of privilege and begin to see what is happening before our very eyes, but that we cannot see because of our selective blindness.

Thank you to Ziya Tong for helping me tear down my bubble.  It's not comfortable.  It is necessary.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


When I began telling people that I was going to 'retire' and close down my business, the question would be asked - what would I do? 

The short answer was - I don't know.

I knew I would keep weaving, just not production weaving.  I knew I would write - for this blog, if nothing else.  I knew I would teach - the Olds program for so long as they wanted me and I was able.

Beyond that?  No idea.

Having been in the business of being creative for 44 years, the one thing I knew for certain was that when the time was right, the idea(s) would come.

The past six months have been a steady slog of downsizing, getting rid of production equipment I no longer needed or was useful, getting rid of yarn I would not use, re-arranging the studio to hold the new, smaller, loom, erasing the goat trails of clutter and working out the last of my contracted obligations.

Now that 80% of that is accomplished (still some AVL loom bits but Doug is dealing with those so I'm not sure what the status is on them), my shows are all done, shelves have been crammed into every nook and corner and lined every inch of wall space, boxes are being emptied and I can see what there is, it would appear that I was ripe for a confluence of things to happen and a way to show itself in terms of a creative idea.

The seed was planted last week.  When I picked up the silk from Ingrid Boesel, I wanted to make Bob a scarf from her silk as a thank you.  So I have had that idea quietly dormant in the back of my mind since July.  Then a bulk email from Handwoven with their upcoming themes dropped into my inbox.

At first I ignored it.  The deadline for the one theme that caught my eye was fairly tight, I have company coming in January, there are special orders I am working on, workshops to prepare for and a tea towel warp on the Megado.  So I closed the email and let it go.

Well, not entirely apparently because suddenly a tiny seedling appeared.  It was based on a weave structure I'd played around with in the 80s but it was slow and I'd let it go because I had to produce.

I no longer need to weave with a product to sell foremost in my mind.  It doesn't matter if the weave structure takes two shuttles, or is in some other way time consuming.  I can weave purely for my own intellectual stimulation and enjoyment.

Hmm.  Intriguing.  Remembering my desire to weave a scarf for Bob, I dug through Ingrid's yarn and found some that could double as a scarf for Bob, and a suitable project for Handwoven. 

Over the past few days I have thought about the colours I have available, changed my mind several times, ruminated over what I would do, remember how the weave structure actually worked, crunched the numbers, changed the colours I would use - again - so I could make a longer warp, make two scarves and still do a sample at the beginning of the warp to make sure I was remembering correctly.

Then as I started winding a skein of the silk onto a cone, I had a sudden flash that let me know how I could manipulate the weave structure to make it more 'interesting'.  Still just using four shafts, so still appropriate for Handwoven. 

Today while weaving a tea towel on the Megado, I thought about the project, decided that ideally I should do it on the Megado so that it didn't matter how many treadles my idea would take, it would still be 'easy' to weave.  And then I thought about the scarf for Bob, and further realized that doing it threaded on all 16 shafts would allow me to really play with the warp.

I still have to crunch the tie up and treadling, but already I'm getting excited about forging ahead.

It may all dissolve into tears if I've thought it through incorrectly, but never mind.  I'm having fun.  And seeing the whole concept of our conference theme of Confluences coming together.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Book Review - The Reality Bubble

“Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few are to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

― Francis Bacon, The Essays

The Daily Planet was a weekly news program on the Discovery Channel (in Canada, I don't know about the US) that covered developments in STEM - Science, Technology etc.

Ziya Tong co-hosted the program for quite a few years.  As a journalist interested in STEM, she was on the front lines of being aware of developments and covered the stories with enthusiasm.

Discovery Channel made the decision to discontinue the show after 20 years which was a great disappointment to me as it was one show I enjoyed watching, and being kept informed of the latest news kept me fascinated about what was either available, or where research was looking for answers to questions.

Tong writes eloquently and engagingly about how our perceptions colour our world view.  While I have not finished the book, I have read enough to be an enthusiastic promoter of folk reading the book.  We live in bubbles that we call reality when the fact is, those bubbles restrict our understanding of how amazing our world, our universe, our very existence truly is.

I have been trying to break down my personal bubble of social constructs and finding this book valuable in helping me see through the fog of my own perceptions.

The Reality Bubble should, in my opinion, be tasted, chewed, then read 'wholly, and with diligence and attention.'.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Shoulders of Giants

Wall of Troy (or extended point progression)

Had another weaver phone this morning with a question.  She wanted to pick my brain, and it was a lovely conversation as we examined a technical question about a weave structure.  Or rather, an approach to creating designs based on a weave structure.

It is the kind of conversation I just love to have as two weavers explore possibilities, what has been done before by our forebears, how it might be used, applied to create 'new' designs.  We agreed that there probably is nothing much that hasn't been done before, but that we are simply re-discovering something that had been 'lost' - for a while.

There is very little under the sun that is truly new.  There is a group of folk who adamantly insist that ancient humans couldn't possibly have done amazing things - we must have been visited by aliens in order to have the Mayan Temples, Stonehenge. the Pyramids and so on.

I very much doubt our ancient ancestors were stupid in the way that these people seem to think.  They may not have had the same kind of technology as we do, but they used what they had and made amazing things.

Cave paintings using perspective - something people assumed really wasn't understood until much later.  Rendering sculpture in three D - ancient 3D sculptures of bison have just recently been discovered, dated to 14,000 years ago.  The various 'Venus' sculptures are certainly 3D.

Agriculture, both plants and animals.  Sericulture.  The harvesting and processing of bast fibres - linen and hemp, rami and nettle.  Thousands of years old.

Navigation by the stars allowed Phoenicians, Vikings and Asians et al to travel by sea.  The sea was not a barrier, but a highway, for those who could read the stars. 

Just saw a post where archaeologists were trying to figure out the purpose of a bone - obviously a tool, but they didn't know for what purpose.  A modern day leather worker explained what it was and that to this day they still use bone tools to burnish their leather because it is simply the best tool available, superior to wood, metal or plastic.

Just because we don't know what something is, doesn't mean that our ancestors weren't clever and could work out higher mathematics, medical care, writing, astronomy, architecture.  The Dark Ages may have been dark in Europe, but they weren't dark in other places on the globe.  Asia, the Middle East, Africa continued to thrive.

Thinking that our ancestors were 'primitive' and 'ignorant' says more about us than it does about them.

This is one reason I continue to commit to the Olds College program.  Modern day weavers need good information, not speculation or misinformation built on misunderstanding the principles of the craft.  For anyone who wants to learn, I frequently recommend books and teachers.  For those who learn on line - Jane Stafford's on line guild - exciting things are being prepared for 2020.  Janet Dawson now on bluprint, for a good introduction to learning how to weave.  I have You Tube videos for anyone interested in my processes.

There are books that were published in the early part of the 20th century that remain classics to this day - Mary Meigs Atwater, S. A. Zielinski, Elmer Hickman, Clothilde Barrett, and so on.  Some authors have chosen a niche of the craft and dug deeply into the topic.  Others have done more of an overview.

Request the books from the public library, find out if it is something you want to own.  Or if you are fortunate to have a guild library, they tend to be repositories of older books that are not commonly available now.

Long Thread Media has acquired the video catalogue that F&W Media had, and now offer those as on-line workshops.  (including my two)

There is information out there, but as someone has famously said, if you don't know what you don't know, you don't know that you don't know it.

Or this quote from The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong:  When one does not see what one does not see, one does not even see that one is blind.  Paul Veyne.  I will do a proper review of this book because it is, in a word, amazing. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Tricky Twills

Most weavers have experienced the phenomenon of having the outside ends of their warp 'fall out' of the cloth when they reverse the direction of a twill.  It is the reason so many weavers recommend that a floating selvedge be used for twills.

Since I don't like using floating selvedges, I try to find work arounds.  For example, instead of using a large 'goose eye' draft, I will break the twill sequence and use what is sometimes called a herringbone or Dornick twill.

On the current warp, I designed a towel that has a twill diagonal going one direction at one selvedge and the other direction at the other.  The central motif is bracketed with \ and / at the selvedge.   For the majority of the towel, all is well - both selvedges weave as they are meant to.  But I also changed the twill direction in the hems, so when I get to the end of the towel, the change in the twill direction causes the two selvedge ends to drop out.  This is at pick 1140 of the treadling (I generate the entire treadling for one towel).  When I get to pick 1140, I stop, cut the weft off and then enter the shuttle from the other direction, which then brings the selvedge ends back into the cloth.

When that towel is done, I have programmed a lag that is empty and when that lag comes along, it is a visual/physical cue to stop, add a cut line in a different colour so that when the web comes off the loom it is an easy task to separate each towel and serge the raw edges for wet finishing.

The one pick of cut line automagically brings the shuttle back to the other side of the cloth and the towel weaves as it is meant to do with the shuttle catching the outside ends - until I hit pick 1140 when I cut off and insert from the other side of the cloth.  (Yes, I tuck the ends back into the selvedge of both ends.)

The treadling sequence is too long to 'capture' or I would share it here.

However, here is the threading draft showing 1.5 treadling repeats.  I ended on the half repeat to balance the motif.

Yes, there are areas in the treadling where the outside ends are not captured.  They equal 5 picks.  With a textile being woven at 32 ppi, I do not consider this 5 pick float to be detrimental to the textile and it's intended function.  YMMV.  If it was truly an issue, I'd change the tie up to add more plain weave to the mix and shorten the floats/skips.

This is a 16 shaft 'fancy' twill, the motif was taken from an Ars Textrina article about 17th century 'gebrochene' twills, modified to fit my towel format.  Thank you to Pat Hilts for providing the article to the publication.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Fast or Slow

Efficiency and ergonomics are integral to any 'slow' craft, like textiles.  When I discovered weaving, I was not expecting it to be so physical.  I was not expecting to enjoy the physicality of it as much as I have done.  Once I fine tuned my processes and developed good working methods, the end result of that was...speed.  Or as I prefer to say - efficiency.

Speed has a lot of negative connotations to some people.  Some people don't want to weave 'fast'.  They enjoy the slow measured pace of being deep into their zone of contemplation as they create their textiles.

Other people like to develop a rhythm that allows them to produce something in a shorter time frame.

Which is correct?  Both.

In the 21st century there are very few people who are actually relying on the income from the production of textiles for their entire income.  At least not in North America.    There are some, but usually, like me, the effort to keep a roof over one's head, food on the table, comes from a number of different sources.

The books, for example.  I have received a steady (albeit small) income from the sale of Magic in the Water and now The Intentional Weaver.  But that tiny income hardly keeps the lights on.

Magazine articles?  Barely covers the printer ink.

So during my career, I did a number of things - writing, teaching, weaving for designers, selling wholesale, selling retail.  Imported yarn, dyed it and sold it for others to weave with.  Everything and anything that I could do to keep an income, coming in.

To that end, being able to produce textiles efficiently was imperative.  But working that way isn't for everyone and I don't insist that anyone should do anything the way I do it.  All I'm saying is that if someone isn't happy with their results - they loathe dressing the loom because it always results in tangles and tears, they get bored throwing the shuttle or making something twice, or whatever is not giving them joy - that they might like to look at what they are doing to see if some other way might be better for them.

Some people are content to weave plain weave and play with texture/colour.  Some adore the complexity of multi-shaft looms and all the different ways thread can interlace to create a cloth.  Some like to slide back and forth along that spectrum, finding inspiration from many different sources.

Long time readers of this blog will know where I stand on these approaches - they are all valid. 

I keep coming back to Marie Kondo and her advice - if something does not bring you joy, get rid of it.  The past six months I have worked at deciding what I need to get rid of so that I can dwell in joy instead of stress and anxiety.

My new loom means I must slow down my weaving rhythm (yes I can weave 'faster' on the Leclerc Fanny than I can on the Megado, due to the the differences in the equipment) and once again I am trading speed for longevity.  I had to do that when the air assist was installed on the AVL, and now I am doing it for the Megado.

And it's fine.  I'm no longer producing textiles as quickly as I could before but neither do I need to.  My goal now is to weave for as long as I am able, not to do it as quickly as I can.

We are free to choose how we approach our weaving.  We are free to work as quickly or slowly as we find enjoyable.

And if someone really wants to know how I managed to weave as much as I have done, they might like to know more about my processes. 

Weave with intention, at whatever pace you find that feeds your soul.