Friday, July 31, 2020

Sunny Ways

View of Mount Robson - about a three hour drive east of where I live.  Rarely seen without a 'toque' of cloud it is always a delight to see it in full.

I am not a Pollyanna, far from it.  I'm far too pragmatic.  That doesn't mean I don't look for silver linings in clouds, or neglect to see rainbows.

I am a cautious optimist, I suppose.  I believe that people can be, and frequently are, kind and helpful.  But I also know that sometimes people are frightened, stressed and angry.  How do I know?  Because I can get stressed and impatient and lash out.  I don't like myself much when I do, and every time I vow to do better, be better.

Just like I expect the people I interact with to also try to do better, be better.

What I have learned over the years is that not everyone wants to. Perhaps it is their upbringing - they have just been wounded too often in their lives to ever trust that people aren't out to take advantage of them.  Or they have bought into the story that in order to make their way up the ladder of success (or just survival) they must do it over the backs of everyone else.  I don't know.

Stressful times will shine a light on those who will shove everyone else aside and put themselves first.  Stressful times will also bring out the best in some people.

So while I am stressed right now - just like every other person on the planet - I try to find the helpers.  The cheerleaders.  The fixers.  The problem solvers.

Most of all I try to be that.

There was a meme going around on Facebook not too long ago:  Just because someone carries it well doesn't mean it isn't heavy.

So I also try to reach out to those who appear to be coping and give them encouragement.  I know people with children who are struggling right now.  In the past couple of weeks I have told them that they are doing an awesome job, that they are terrific parents.  One person nearly melted in tears, so I knew that they needed to hear that, right here, right now.

I don't do it every day, but I try to reach out several times a week, letting people know I am thinking about them.  Applaud the grace with which they are carrying a heavy load.  I have made small donations to some efforts.

Mostly I stay home as much as possible and keep myself out of the line of transmission.  And very much appreciate when someone reaches out to tell me that I'm helping them.

Currently reading The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

Thursday, July 30, 2020


This is part of my book hoard - the books I own, therefore do not have a deadline by which they must be read.  As I say, only part of my hoard.  

This morning several things happened that seemed to be a 'thread'. 

The first was viewing a video comment from Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, answering questions from children, one of which was what was your favourite school subject?

He said language.  He said he loved language and has learned to speak French (our other official language here in Canada) and Russian (because astronaut, working on the Russian space station he had to.  Plus he just likes languages.)

Then Abby Franquemont posted about discussing words in different languages.  She said:

"This made us have to have a whole discussion about “window” in Quechua. Why? Because at higher altitudes like where I grew up, traditional houses don’t have them, only colonial and later ones, and they’re called “ventana” or “wintana” depending on your beliefs about transliteration and representing the Cusco Quechua accent.
We literally called around asking people for their opinions and no two were the same, and this is one of the things about Quechua. None of the answers are wrong. Neither is any one of them correct. They are all descriptive. And this is what makes colonial language speakers really struggle.
We could have asked a university professor of Quechua or a schoolteacher who has pioneered multicultural and bilingual education centering Indigenous communities, and eventually I will, but that also kind of misses the point of #runasimi which is that it’s for people to communicate with mouth noises."

It was an eye-opening comment.  Quite literally.  I'd been scrolling through twitter trying to get my first coffee into me and my eyes quite literally snapped open.  And pieces started falling into place.

Like Chris Hadfield, I have always loved language.  Unfortunately I cannot seem to wrap my brain around any other languages than English, not because I can't learn the vocabulary, but because of the grammar.

But language, the written variety in particular, has always been fascinating to me.  Books were a magic carpet for me from my earliest memories.  I simply love to wallow in a good book, where the author uses descriptive language.  Hmm.  Descriptive language.  Yes, a good description that makes me SEE something, some ordinary thing or object in a fresh new way.  A story that brings illumination to human emotions fascinates me.

A story teller that sees the humanity in us all excites me, helps me understand other people, their feelings, their wounds, their motivations.

I started thinking about all the authors I particularly love to read and all, every one of them, has this gift of being able to see beyond the obvious and help me to see it too.

During this time of pandemic, with so much stress, I have been having a hard time focusing and my reading of actual books has been reduced to almost nothing.  It has only been the last couple of weeks that I have found myself needing the distraction of a good book and begun to read with more regularity.

Library books.  Books with deadlines.  I still can't tackle anything too complex - like Dorothy Dunnett, whose books you might just be able to make out sitting in that heap on the hearth.  She is an author who isn't as well known as she should be.  She is, as others have commented, an author's author.  Many of the really good authors I read for their stories are also fans of Dunnett.  But in addition to a fantastic observer and interpreter of human beings, she is complex.  And I just can't sit and read in large chunks right now.  I need smaller 'tastes'.  But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate a great writer.

Regular readers of this blog will notice that I haven't been listing books I have been reading.  Because I haven't been reading books.

However, I am working to make that change because I find it helps me get through the stressful days, the days of uncertainty, of not knowing what will happen in the coming months.

So I finished Laurie R. King's latest Riviera Gold the other day and started Terry Windling's The Wood Wife yesterday.  Both quite different writers, both with a good way with words.

And I am going to think further on how we communicate with mouth noises.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


Yes, I wear out ballet slippers when I weave.

People are always looking for definitive answers when weaving is full of variables.

My goal is to help people prevent injury.  I cite principles.  People hear firm statements.

Yes, I recommend people not go barefoot to weave.  With these caveats:

Weaving on a Scandinavian style loom that is easy to treadle probably doesn't require footwear.  Unless the weaver is weaving for long periods of time.

Weaving on a jack type loom that is heavy to treadle/lift the shafts?  I highly recommend some kind of foot protection, especially if they are weaving for lengthy periods of time.

When I started weaving I did not wear anything but socks.  But my goal was to production weave/earn an income, and I was spending 5-6 hours a day at the loom.  At the time I was weaving on Leclerc jack type looms.  Very quickly I became aware of growing tenderness in the soles of my feet from the repeated treadling.

Since I was, at the time, an adult ballet student I grabbed my leather slippers with the heavier, thicker sole, close fitting to my feet, and started wearing them to weave.

The reduction in tenderness was quick and I was able to meet my daily goals of weaving without further problems.

When I got the AVL, the loom was rising shed and 16 shafts.  It was also 60" weaving width and very heavy to lift.  At the time I was taking aerobics classes and quickly became aware that my feet were going to have problems if I didn't do something to protect them.  So I grabbed a pair of the shoes I was wearing for aerobics class and again, the improvement to my feet was immediate.

So I share my story of my feet (and another weaver, who upon weaving for many hours over the course of a short period of time wound up barely able to walk until the inflammation in her feet settled) and give the conditions under which I chose to wear foot protection and why I think it is a good idea generally.

Because I don't want people to wind up with repetitive injury to their bodies.

But then I hear of people saying "Laura says you must..."

What Laura actually says is - given these circumstances X is a good idea.  Y is a bad idea.  And then I say why.  What happens is that the ''why" seems to get lost along the way.

Choose an expert.  Learn as much as you can from them.  Then find out what a different expert says.  Learn as much as you can from them.  Adopt what seems appropriate to you.  Ignore the rest.  But please, be aware of the principles, the variables.

We are all different.  We come to the craft with different underlying health issues, different injuries, different physical abilities and disabilities.  We have to find our own best practice.  Understand the ergonomics.  Understand the physical toll weaving for hours a day can take, especially with the different types of equipment.  Understand that there is no gain from weaving in pain.

People susceptible to inflammation need to be particularly careful with repetitive motion injury.  If a weaver is only ever weaving for a few minutes a day there is probably little risk.  YMMV.

Stay well.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020


cotton boll, ripe for picking

This morning I woke feeling weary.  I am frustrated with the confusion people are expressing about how to cope with a respiratory pandemic.  How many people are STILL not understanding why it is important to wear a mask, or even how to wear one properly.  How you will not be poisoned by your own 'carbon monoxide'.  (We breathe out carbon dioxide, just saying.)

Some people continue to equate wearing a simple piece of cloth as 'suppression' instead of the simple common sense solution that will protect us all.

I found myself scrolling past posts that seem to have increased in frequency over the past few days, contemplating how anti-maskers and anti-vaccine folk are using the same arguments about not doing either.

Thing is, I am old enough to remember how many people died from diseases we now have vaccines for.  I've mentioned here previously how my mother made damned sure that when polio and small pox vaccines became available, she was right there, ensuring that both her children got them.  (I am old enough to have gotten sick from measles, chicken pox and mumps the 'old-fashioned way' - not a process I would encourage when there is a perfectly effective vaccine for all three and more besides.)

The death toll from diseases that we can easily control by the simple expedient of vaccines used to be staggering.  Don't believe me?  Check the death rates prior to oh, say, 1950 from these illnesses.

There are people who cannot, for one reason or another, have a vaccine.  In that case, they are relying on the rest of us to help protect them by getting vaccinated ourselves.

And so it is with this latest virus.  ALL of us need to wear a mask to help slow the spread of this terrible disease, a disease where we have no idea just how badly it is going to affect people, even if they have 'just a mild' case.  

Feeling weary and incapable of being supportive and encouraging, I had decided to skip a post today.  I had nothing to say that I haven't already said - almost daily - for the past four months or so.

And then the mail was delivered.

A real piece of snail mail.  A lovely card.  With the most supportive and encouraging message.

A delight and a treasure.  And just the injection of positivity I needed to say it all again:

Stay home if you possibly can.  If you can't, wear a mask.  Maintain physical distancing.  Wash your hands.

Stay safe.  Until we can safely meet again.


Monday, July 27, 2020

When the Well Runs Dry

In terms of creativity, my well of ideas rarely runs dry.  Usually it is my energy or focus, or desire to actually do something that evaporates - like water in the sun.

If I find myself procrastinating, it is a signal that I need to stop ignoring what is preventing me from getting to the studio.  Because I've not run out of ideas.  In point of fact, I usually have too many ideas, and some of them simply fall by the wayside as some other idea that looks more interesting comes along.

Or - in my previous life - a critical deadline that knocks what I want to do out of kilter.

Like everyone else I am feeling the strain of the pandemic.  The current political unrest is not helping either.  But the fact that I am not participating in the protests is an indication of my privilege.  An indication of the place I live in, certainly, but also my personal limits.  My health.  My age.  My special snowflake-ness, and the fact that if I should catch the virus (or it catch me) I very likely would become very ill and may not survive.

That is just a fact.  I am not frightened of the virus because I can protect myself from it - by staying home as much as possible, wearing a mask when I have to go out.

But the daily strain of considering the pandemic certainly wears on me.

After some weeks of berating myself for returning over and over again to that good old standby of tea towels, I finally realized yesterday that it's ok to stay 'stuck' in that rut.  Yes, I have other yarns, other ideas that I would like to work on.  But not now.  Not right now.  My brain is weary and staying with the tried and true - especially when I still have 2/16 yarn to use up - is a perfectly valid thing to do.

Today I am going to give myself a day 'off'.  I have a library book due, and a large stack of books in the queue with deadlines.  Time to dig in and let myself read.  It takes my mind off the current situation and lets me travel in time and place, without ever leaving the safety of my home.

And that isn't a bad thing.  At all.

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Yesterday I did the edits on the latest draft in readiness for when the current warp is woven.

One part of me takes enormous comfort from repeating the tried and true.  Another part of me frets that I have more than enough tea towels, when am I going to work on something else?

But right now my need is for comfort.  And stash reduction.

The yarn I am using up is 2/16 cotton which has about 6700 yards per pound.  Each 20 (approx) yard long warp takes about 2.5 pounds of yarn. 

On this warp, I will be continuing to use up the bits of pastel/mid-value colours as weft.

The problem is, most of those 'bits' have dye lot differences.  Sometimes so minute as to be impossible (for me) to detect in the tube.  It isn't until I'm weaving that I see the faint line of demarcation between one dye lot and another.

But at this point?  If the difference is that slight, I figure most people won't ever see it, so I'm not going to worry about it.

It is becoming harder and harder for me to select yarn for warps.  Usually it is because I don't have enough of any one value (value is more important than hue) but I'm finding the rather simple stripe approach that I have been doing recently works quite well.  So I expect to be doing more of those in the coming weeks (and months?  I have a LOT of yarn!)

Doing something completely different - different yarn, different product - means a level of discomfort that I find myself not wishing to have right now.

My province fairly successfully navigated the first wave of the pandemic, but with the recent loosening of guidelines, there has been a steady increase in numbers of cases.  Nothing to panic over - yet - but worrisome, nonetheless.

The reports coming out of the US are truly terrifying.

Times are very much of the 'interesting' variety.  You know, "May you live in 'interesting' times"? 

No one knows how or when things will settle down, allow for more 'normal' life.  No one knows what the new 'normal' will even look like.

And so I keep on making tea towels.  My comfort zone.

Stay at home if you can.  Wear a mask if you need to go out.  Maintain physical distance of at least six feet.  Wash your hands.


Saturday, July 25, 2020


view from under the loom - this cloth has two distinct sides.  The part of the cloth on the beam is the 'right' side, the part above shows the 'wrong' side - which is what I see while I weave.  Because I prefer to lift fewer shafts.

Got the first towel woven on the striped warp yesterday and I am...satisfied.

No, it is not a work of great art.  I don't aspire to be a 'great artist'.  My goal has always been to make functional textiles, but also to look good - which includes making them look pleasing (to my eye).

And what is 'beauty', anyway? 

Media constantly tells people of the female persuasion that they are not pretty enough, not thin enough, not beautiful enough.   So, many people internalize the message that they are not 'enough'. 

I reconciled myself to not being able to meet the marketing message of 'beauty'.  I am well aware that I am not ever going to fit into that mold, especially now that I am 'old'. 

But getting to be 'old' is a privilege denied to many.  So I look for meaning beyond that messaging.

I try to create textiles that will be pleasing to the eye while they perform a specific function.  I want towels that dry (without becoming soaking wet quickly), scarves that keep someone warm, shawls that bring comfort as well as style.

I think modern day marketing has developed the message of 'buy this thing to make yourself/your life perfect' to a very high degree.  It is a message I struggled with in terms of trying to sell my own textiles over the years.

Because I was raised to not 'toot my own horn'.  I was taught to try to achieve excellence without it going to my head.  I was never told I was 'exceptional' - rather I was told that in order to achieve 'excellence' I had to work hard.

And so I did.  I worked hard.  I dug deep into the craft of textiles.  I learned the principles, the physical skills. 

But my textiles have always been about enhancing other people's lives by how they provided service to their owners.

So, no, these towels are not 'great art'.  They don't have to be.  My hope is that they will dry dishes - or hands - and bring a smile to the user while they do. 

And if they do?  That is 'enough'.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Nothing Fancy

"I like boring.  Boring means nothing is going wrong."   Allen Fannin

I also like boring.  I like when nothing is going wrong.

Yesterday I managed to thread this latest warp, made of a mid range blue/green, turquoise and an odd sort of mid range blue that would not, at first glance, go with the other two, but somehow does in this stripe arrangement.

It would have looked odd in my more usual approach of mixing things up randomly, but grouped in stripes, it works.  (See yesterday's post for a close up of the beamed warp.)

Like the recent rose/beige stripe, I'm not sticking strictly to solid groups of colours, but allowing them to blur at the margins.  Will this be successful?  To be determined.

It is a 'quiet' design, nothing fancy.  The threading was dead easy, a straight draw over 16 shafts.  It will be woven in a 1:3 broken twill and could be done on four shafts.  But the Megado has 16, and it was simpler to just thread over all 16 because the warp has 768 ends in it and the shafts don't have that many headdles on just four of them, but do, spread out over the 16.

It will be woven upside down to lift the fewest number of shafts so I'll be looking at the 'back' side of the cloth to weave it.

Still on a quest to weave down my stash, I stumbled on some cones I inherited from my friend Lynn who died about 5 years ago and left me her entire yarn stash.  I have mostly woven or given away her yarns, but kept 9 large cones of cotton in the exact shade of the main colour in this warp, but only realized a couple of days ago that it isn't all 2/16 size, but 2/20, 2/16 and 2/10.  I was going to use the 2/16, which was a slightly darker teal, but there was only one small cone of that, not enough to weave the entire warp, so instead grabbed one of the 2/10 cones.  While I haven't weighed it, it looks to be about a kilo - plenty to weave the entire warp.

The cloth won't be fancy, far from it.  But the colours should be pretty enough to brighten someone's kitchen (or bath - we've been using my 'tea' towels for hand towels).

And sometimes 'boring' is just the thing to get me through the day.

We have been having nearly daily rain and today is dull, grey and wet.  I am weary of it.  I am also weary of pandemics, and politics.  A little 'boring' is just what the doctor ordered.

Stay safe everyone.  Take time to rest if you need to do so.  You can't pour from an empty cup.  Etc.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sunny Day

Considering how many towels I have woven with some variation of these colours in them, a person would be forgiven if they made the assumption that I like these colours.  :D

I do like them, but mostly, it is because I like them that I have so much yarn in them.  With the stated goal of weaving down my stash, I have to weave it up - and so another turquoise/blue warp is going into the loom.

With so much uncertainty in the world, I remind myself daily that an accident of birth means I live in a place that is currently quite safe.  We  have universal health care and the federal government has been providing income protections and monies for businesses to stagger on during the pandemic.

But we also have issues of racism and inequality that need to be dealt with.  The pandemic has highlighted many of these issues in other countries, but also here.

As a country we are not homogeneous.   We are far too large geographically and backgrounds differ far too much.  Plus the colonialism that this country is built on with all the history and trauma that entails.

As a single person I feel my power to change things is very limited and every day I have to figure out what to do.

So I try to focus on positive things, encourage people to do better, be better, follow the teachings of their personal god if they have one (every major religion has the same core - be kind, do no harm), stay positive, but above all Stay Safe.

I continue to weave, not because there is any great need for another warp of tea towels, but because that is my super power (so to speak).  I can make things.

And right now?  Making something out of 'nothing' seems to me to be very powerful.  It is an expression of my personal creativity.  It is a vote for the future.  It is a wish for stability.  A prayer, if you will, for the safety of all.

Stay safe at home if you can.  If you must go out, wear a mask, keep physically distant.  Wash your hands.

{{{hugs}}} to all struggling during this time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


This view of the river was taken around this time of the year a couple of years ago.  When I knew how my life was going to play out.

Um, yeah, about that...

I have always known life was fragile - too many deaths in my family all while I was growing up left me with no illusions about that.

But there was always within me a 'knowing' that I was strong enough to get through most everything.

Over the years, many of which consisted of struggle in various guises, years where I dealt with chronic health issues, there was a certainty in me that everything would be ok.  Well, I might have a wee wobble, but that certainty would come through again.

Sometimes it was just denial - like my first visit to the cancer clinic when I knew I couldn't possibly have cancer.

Yeah, I could.  The good news was that it was 'indolent' (slow growing) and that my cardiac issues would likely kill me before the cancer would.  That didn't mean the process would be pleasant - far from it.  And I still am.

But this decade has brought home to me the transformation of knowing things will be ok in the end, to understanding that yeah, everyone dies at some point.

The pandemic has served to change that intellectual knowing that life is fragile and ends, to a very personal understanding that yes, I am also fragile and my life will, at some point, end.

I say this, not to be morbid, but realistic.  Believe me I have no intention of dying just yet, thankyouverymuch!  I have way too much yarn left to use up, and I still have classes I want to teach.

But somehow I have become comfortable with my life as it now is.  In it's twilight hours.  Of course where I live, twilight, especially during the summer, lasts a very long time.

If I am to do anything more with my life, I need to be thinking of what that will look like and how I will manage it.

At this point I have no idea.  But the idea is in the pot simmering on the back of the stove (so to speak) and I am aware that something needs to happen.  Will it be another Big Project?  Dunno.  I still have card stock to staple samples to.  I now have a gigantic collection of silk - I could finish that A Good Yarn series and do one with silk.

Or I could just be content to teach the Olds classes when and where I can, and mentor people who are as interested in the creation of woven cloth as I am.  I could just keep writing this blog, be it musing about life (and death) or textiles.  I could write articles and shop them around for publication - although there are very few choices these days.  What I will not be doing is writing another book.  I think two is sufficient!

What I have learned is that when I become aware, become ready, something will appear on the horizon.

To be determined...

Monday, July 20, 2020

Weaving Police

Craft fair booth

People want definitive answers to technical questions.  It was one of the things I had to accept while learning how to weave - it all depends.

In many cases my weaving instructor was almost as inexperienced as her students, but her approach to teaching was to tell us to go look it up.  Try it and see.  Experiment.  Analyze.

All of this ensured that I became a weaver who wasn't afraid to fail.  Not that failure ever was of much importance to me.  I'm not competitive and I don't mind 'losing' at a game because I'm not playing the game to 'win' but for other reasons.  To pass time.  To challenge myself.  Of course 'winning' is always pleasant, but it is a very minor interlude and not my actual objective anyway, so...

I ran afoul of the weaving 'police' when I bought a dobby loom with fly shuttle and auto cloth advance.  A number of highly respected people in the weaving world informed me that I could no longer call my textiles hand woven.

This attitude puzzled me because I was still designing the cloth, winding the warp, threading it, weaving it, wet finishing it.  After doing some research, I discovered that at the time the government of Canada defined hand woven as 'each and every action of the loom is initiated by the weaver'.  Which I was very much doing.  I could not throw a switch and walk away.

After much thought, I tweaked my public profile and my hang tags read "Laura Fry Weaving Studio".

I called myself a 'weaver'.  And I ignored the naysayers.

As I learned more about how cloth was constructed I began to see the variables.  All the 'it depends' scenarios.  And realized that weavers need to focus on the principles of the craft, not the details - which usually need to change when changes are introduced.

Scaling up from 5 yards to 10 yards to 100 yards meant I had to change how I did what I did.

Scaling up from 12" width, to 60" width meant a fly shuttle or risk injury.

Changing from wool to cotton meant changing my approach and sometimes my tools.  It certainly meant changing the physical action of weaving.

In North American society, weaving (and many of the textile arts) are practiced by women (mostly).  Sometimes the practitioner is doing it for creative fulfillment, intellectual curiosity or creative expression.  Very few try to earn an income from weaving. 

But some do.  And they need to make different decisions from those who don't. 

Rather than 'police' how someone practices their craft, we need (I believe) to respect the fact that weaving (and other textile arts) are - first of all - not 'lost' and not 'dying'.  There is a large number of people who continue to work their looms, needles and hooks making textiles for what can be very intense and personal reasons.

A small core of people need to understand the bones of the crafts so that good patterns can be designed for those who don't have the time or opportunity or interest in taking a deep dive into the principles of the craft they practice.

That core of educated practitioners may need to generate an income and many of them do that by designing patterns or teaching classes. 

There has been much discussion about #fairfiberwage over the years and how people need to 'share' what they know with others.

I have also seen people insist that on line classes are 'cheaper' to run than in person classes so instructors should be paid less.

Um, no.  What is being 'saved' in terms of on line classes might be the cost of bringing the instructor to a venue, the cost of renting the venue, accommodation/food for the instructor.

The instructor is bringing the same knowledge, the same experience, the same information.  While the experience of an on-line class is not the same as an in person class, the amount of prep time it takes to do a good on line class means extra prep time.

Typically that prep time is not paid for, only the actual in-person experience.  So most instructors tend to quote a daily rate that will cover that prep time as well as the in-person time the student is receiving.

Since I live so far away from, well, everywhere, I tended to keep my daily fee low knowing that guilds were going to have to pay a high travel cost.  While I visited various guilds I was able to promote my book (at the time I had only the one) and frequently had a suitcase of tea towels I could sell as well.

The life of an itinerant instructor is a hard one.  You are generally travelling on a very tight schedule, and I can't tell you how many times I missed flights due to weather or other reasons, and arrived in the middle of the night only to have to be up in four hours to teach. 

Because I live in the Pacific Time Zone, I was frequently jet lagged on top of everything else.

Since I have food allergies there was always the worry of being exposed to allergens.  I finally made it a condition of teaching that the class be scent free.  Too many classes where I lost the ability to form a coherent sentence due to an allergy to perfume or hair spray.

I did not always perform to my best and the students suffered for it while I suffered headaches, aphasia and feeling generally ill.

Over the years I had to come to grips with what level of 'standard' I would weave to.  I had to learn when an 'error' or 'not perfect' was important - or not.  Would my customer even notice?  They would not, after all, be closely examining my textiles with an eye to checking for 'perfection' but for usefulness and function.

I have, at times, found myself being the weaving police and learned to rein myself in.  I learned how to accept others, gently give information, mostly encourage and support.

If we want the textile arts to remain viable, especially during this very difficult time of pandemic, we must figure out a way to help those who are struggling.  But I would also like to suggest that people who are requesting more of the pattern designers/teachers understand that they also have a role to play in their learning.  And that is to recognize that they do need to learn.  To seek out the information for themselves - because it is there.

We now have the benefit of the internet where I had the public library and a research librarian who sought out the books I felt I needed to consult.  And found all except two, plus two that were going to cost too much - they each had loan fees that were beyond my budget.

Don't know where to look?  Start with the bibliographies in published books.  Allen Fannin's Handloom Weaving Technology has an excellent one with lots of technical books listed for those who want to do a deep dive.

Other books have lists as well.  If you belong to a guild, check the guild library.  Consult

Pay the very modest fee to subscribe and then you can consult the books that have been uploaded to their site.

Heddlecraft usually has a good bibliography in each issue.

Take an on line class.  Tien Chiu, Janet Dawson, Daryl Lancaster, Jane Stafford and others had been moving to on-line presentations before the pandemic hit.  They had already put systems in place and have been able to provide good quality instruction for a modest price.  Be aware that these people have teams producing their classes.  It isn't just them with a single camera.  They might have several cameras, a couple of people organizing their samples, setting up the next shot, keeping track of what shots/information needs to be filmed, then an editor to edit the footage and create the video.  If they provide captions, that is another expense - time and quite possibly money.  So in reality an on line class might have just as much administration cost as an in person class.

There are also the costs of registration, banking fees, high traffic in terms of mailing lists, the cost of high speed internet - while these things may remain 'hidden' from the customer, they are very much part of doing business and teaching on line.

There are a number of bloggers who routinely provide information including resources. 

The information is available.  But first a person needs to recognize that they need to know something, then figure out where the information currently is available.

In the meantime, I am holding out hope that next year the Olds classes will begin again.  But we all need to survive this time.

So stay home if you possibly can.  If you need to go out, wear a mask.  Wash your hands when you get home.

Survive, my lovelies.  Until we can meet again in person.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Seeking Substitutions

Photo of four different yarns, all approximately the same thickness and yards per pound.  Sort of.

Further to the earlier blog post, I wondered if I could show how difficult it can be to make substitutions or not.

I found four different yarns that were approximately the 'same' when it came to thickness, two of them rated the 'same' yards per pound, the other two not very far off.  Remember that yards per pound (or meters per 100 grams or whatever scale is used) is only ever an approximation.  A guideline.  Not set in stone.  It varies.  It depends.

The two red yarns are both types of rayon (regenerated cellulose).  Both of these yarns are made up of finer two ply yarns, one with 5, one with 6.  The one on the left has 5 2-ply yarns very loosely twisted together.  The next one to it has 6 2-ply yarns much more tightly twisted together - both the finer yarns and the plied thicker yarn.

The kind of yellow/green shiny one is silk and is a two ply - two thicker singles plied together.

The white one is a 4/8 cotton.  In other words, four singles have been plied together.  This format is not as common as it once was as one of the major suppliers of 4/8 cotton now plys several 2/16 cotton yarns together to make up the yarn that has the same number of yards per pound as a 'true' 4/8 cotton, very similar to the rayon yarns in the photo.

The red yarns could most likely be used interchangably.  They are pretty close to the same thickness and both made from rayon.  The one that is more tightly twisted will be somewhat stiffer, and will likely hold it's shape better than the one that is very loosely twisted together.  It might also resist abrasion better than the more softly twisted yarn.

The rayon and silk both have excellent drape qualities, both will press up a lovely sheen after wet finishing if given a good hard press (or cold mangle - the compression is the key, not whether it is hot or cold).

The cotton would not make a good substitute for either the rayon or the silk.  It will not drape as readily, even at the same epi/ppi and weave structure, and it will not finish up with much of a sheen.  It is unmercerized, so generally matt in appearance.

So this is why it is difficult to just willy-nilly substitute a yarn of a similar thickness, yards per pound for another. 

Textile artists need to understand their materials.  They need to know how the preparation for spinning and actual spinning affects the inherent characteristics of the fibre.  They need to understand the quality of the cloth they are trying to produce and how to choose appropriately when it comes to the yarn they are using.

A few years ago I did a small run sample series called A Good Yarn.  Each title looked at an individual fibre - cotton, wool, linen/hemp, and rayon.  I had intended to do silk, but Life Happened and that issue...didn't.

I have heard of people being able to find these at estate sales.

As far as resources go, a place to learn more?  Google Textile Science or Fibre Science, or fibre characteristics.  There are websites with some information, or there are textbooks, like the one I linked to in the previous post:  A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers.  While the focus of the book is on interiors, there is a gold mine of information about fibres that any person working in the textile field can find useful.

The book was used as the textbook for the textile program at the U of Manitoba, and still is, so far as I know.  The most recent edition is expensive, as textbooks frequently are.  I paid $35 for my 1st edition back in oh, 1989 or so, and it has been worth every penny.  You can still find the 1st or 2nd edition for fairly cheap prices.  The link in the previous post was to where the copy I found there was listed for $17.50, I think.  Look at other re-seller sites like abc books and so on.  My students routinely find the title for less than $10, although sometimes they do have to dig.

To expect a pattern designer (regardless of craft) to provide info for multiple different yarns is asking the designer to provide a lot of information.  They are usually making pennies for their effort, needing to sell hundreds of patterns just to cover the cost of the copy editor, paying their sample knitters, or their time developing the pattern, providing technical information on sizing, etc., etc., etc.

Textile crafters would do themselves a favour by learning more about the technical issues involved themselves so that - if they want/need to make a substitute - they will be able to make A Good Choice by choosing an appropriate yarn.

And just an FYI - it took me the better part of an hour to dig through my yarn stash to find a variety of yarns of approximately the same thickness/ypp, then take photos, then sit down and write this post.

If I were teaching, I would be expecting to be paid $55/hour (which is the going rate in BC for people teaching classes - IF you can get it.)

Instead I have given this hour to you, dear readers, to do with as you will...

(and if you want to buy me a 'coffee', you can do so on my ko-fi account - link at the side or the tags for this post)


Image of two different yarns.  Long time readers will recognize the image as being of two yarns spun to the same number of yards per pound from cotton.  Obviously quite different.  Obviously will not behave the same.  But because they have the same number of yards per pound, the expectation is that they will behave identically and create identical qualities of cloth.  They will not.

The knitting (and crochet, I assume)  world is being rocked with controversy over patterns - what they should include and what they might not.  Designers are being asked to be very specific, but use different/cheaper yarn.  Provide sizes from infant to 3X (or even larger), all charted out.  Provide sample/models of the item made up in a variety of different yarns, especially cheaper yarns.  And so on.

Many of these requests (demands in some instances) are completely unrealistic.  All of these things but keep the price of the pattern cheap - or better yet! - free.  (!)  Because designers are 'raking in the money' with their pattern sales.

This type of conversation echoes through the weaving world, too.

New practitioners don't understand anything (or much of anything) about the craft, but want instant *perfect* results right out of the starting gate.

They don't understand that all of the textile arts rely on basic understanding of the tools and materials and at least a nodding acquaintance with the degree of skill involved in getting even close to 'perfection'.

I have been weaving since 1975 when I quit my job in order to become a professional/production weaver.

The same argument goes around about every decade or so.  The same myths are perpetuated.  The same expectation of 'perfection' based on the myth that the textile arts are 'unskilled'.  Can't have anything to do with the fact that the vast majority of textile practitioners are female, amirite?

Women do uncounted hours of free labour every day.  That labour is diminished in the eyes of society because of the very fact that it is unpaid.  Therefore not to be respected or honoured.

When the largely female professionals speak up to explain why patterns cannot always be free, because they also have bills to pay, some of the people requesting (sometimes demanding) all this extra information can get quite grumpy.

I eventually withdrew from most groups on the internet because I got tired.  I got tired of defending myself for asking for payment for my services.  I got tired of defending my level of knowledge - and yes, skill - from people who expected to achieve that same level instantly.

I got tired of people telling me I didn't know what I was talking about.

I got tired of people arguing with me without ever going to the trouble of - oh, I don't know - cracking a book?  Doing a simple Google search?

The first expectation from a number of people wanting to take up weaving is - how hard can it be?  It can be very very hard.

The next expectation is that substitutions are easy.  They are not.  (see photo above)

The next expectation is that perfection can be achieved with the first warp.  A very few people sometimes can get very good results, but the vast majority cannot.

The expectation that someone can give definitive answers without knowing all the parameters is completely unrealistic.

When an experienced weaver answers a question with 'sample!', they are not being facetious, they are giving the very best advice they can.  If someone contacts me asking what they should do with their yarn, a yarn I have never seen let alone worked with, all I can do is advise them to weave a sample.

When they ask what they should do with a yarn I may have worked with, but never made the quality of cloth they want?  I have to suggest a sample.  Because I do not know.  Because I have never done that.  I can give my best guess (which might be a rather informed guess, but still a guess) but ultimately *change one thing and everything can change*.

I have been having a bit of a conversation on a group and the other person lives in an area of high humidity while I don't.  Their experience has been quite different from mine.  And we finally agreed that perhaps the difference was due to the humidity.

Because change one thing and everything can change.  And environmental factors are one of those variables that will affect how a yarn behaves.

All of these things are what keeps me engaged in weaving, keeps me going back to the loom to learn more.

But ultimately?  We also need a core of informed practitioners who will write the patterns, teach the classes.  And they need to be paid for their time and labour just like any other professional.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Thread Runs Through It

I am not averse to taking inspiration from others and have a library of resources to draw from.  That doesn't mean I can't or don't come up with something out of my own brain, just that sometimes it is faster to thumb through a book or something until I find something that looks pleasing to me, then tweak it to my own purposes.

A weaving draft is not a set-in-stone kind of thing, but more of a concept drawing.  How one applies that, the colours one chooses, the density, the fibres...all will make my interpretation of a draft quite different from someone else's.

I have also been working with another weaver, working up her concept into finished cloth.  Last week she sent me a draft that she had gotten from another weaver, tweaked to her purposes, which I then crunched to make it work for the specific requirements of her project.

When I thought about the yarns I had pulled for another tea towel warp, I looked at the draft I'd been working with - a four shaft overshot profile draft, and thought...hmm.

Then I tweaked it to become a twill block (turned twill) weave structure and adjusted the blocks to fit my intended warp width/length.

Creativity is not completely individual insofar as we take in our surroundings, get input from others, from books, magazines, on-line resources.  It is how we apply those resources to our own requirements.

Nature is a wonderful resource, full of inspiration.  One of the things I am missing this year is the drive through the Rocky Mountains.  The lines in the sides of the mountains can look like fancy twills.  The vegetation can be texture.  The colours change with the seasons, sometimes in surprising ways.  The drive gives me ample time to just drink it all in, especially if I'm doing the drive on my own.

But not this year. 

Hopefully things will be better next year.

In the meantime, there is the internet.  There is working with other weavers.  

Friday, July 17, 2020

Marking Time (and other things)

While many of us, myself included, are finding it hard to find and keep focus, some of the Olds students from last year have completed their homework.  One box is being returned today, another will be sent to me next week.

No one knows what the future holds and this year has driven that lesson home like a bull dozer.  But we can only do what we can do, and even one step forward is still progress.

Yesterday I only managed one towel, but one more today and I can cut off the first 10, separate them and get them into the washer/dryer so I can begin hemming them.  I'm not sure if there will be more than 18, but that doesn't really matter.  I am using up the left over bits of tubes as weft, and any stash reduction is good.

The college has offered to provide extensions without charging a fee, so I know some of the students have applied for that and a few have let me know that they are making some progress.

While it would be easy to get mired in disappointment, Life has provided us with an opportunity to examine our lives and determine if we are on the road we want to be or if we need to change things.

I don't want to make light of the negative impact this year is having on many - far from it.  But as a society, we can take the opportunity to look at how our society is shaped and decide how we want to change it.

As for most of us participating in things like weaving, this activity is our 'bonus' time.  Very few of us even try to earn an income (I never say living).  We do it because it brings satisfaction on some level.

I love the thought of people using my textiles in their lives and experiencing happiness from that use.  My textiles are not made to languish in the linen closet - far from it!  Their very existence is to be useful in this life, not preserved in a museum somewhere.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, either. warms the cockles of my heart to think that what I have made brings someone a tiny bit of joy in the using.

So, here we are mid-July.  While things begin to gradually open up more here, other places are seeing gigantic surges of Covid-19.

I truly hope all my students and friends are staying at home if they can, wearing a mask if they have to go out, maintaining physical distance when/if they do.  And wash their hands when they get home.  Let's beat this pandemic back so that we can meet again next year and continue the journey.

Stay safe y'all!  And happy weaving.  

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Rainy Day

On this grey rainy day I share a pretty picture of a flax field in bloom.

It seems like it is the summer of our discontent.  One day after another of grey dreary days here.  On the other hand, there is little incentive to leave the house, so there is that, during this time of pandemic and staying safe at home.

The string of grey days does get wearing, though.  Yesterday a small group met here for an appropriately physically distant visit.  One of them commented that our carport was nice and big.  Doug also sets out long 'tables' so that people who bring a drink or their knitting have a place to put their things.  It also reinforces the concept of staying further apart than we are used to.

My goals for each day are few.  I keep them simple and as undemanding as I can.  We are all stressed.  And I am 'retired' so there is little of any critical nature that needs to be dealt with.  Usually.

On the other hand, I do have deadlines - it's just that they are softer than they used to be. 

I have my personal goal of weaving down my stash.  As I see how long that is going to take, I have incentive to get to the studio every day, for at least a little while.

But I have also been working with another weaver, weaving samples for her.  And her deadlines are much crunchier.  It's also fun to work with someone else who has different goals and priorities.  It forces me to look at textiles in a way I wouldn't necessarily do on my own.

I am still having problems with focus and I notice that mostly in how little I read these days.  I have piles and piles of books that I would like to read, but can't somehow drum up the desire to actually pick one of them up.

All a consequence of adjusting to retirement, dealing with health issues, including avoiding the coronavirus...

I hear that the Gaelic College is working on dates in May of next year so hopefully I will hear soon if I will be scheduled to teach them.  In the meantime the days roll by, one after another.  The hours of daylight shrink as we slide towards winter.

And hopefully come to grips with the pandemic so that we can once again safely travel.

Stay safe everyone.  In the meantime {{{virtual hugs}}}

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Journey Continues

I have, for the most part, been confining my excursions out of the house to maintenance.  Necessary, but not always a 'fun' time.

So it was yesterday.  I had been having issues with my eyes which led me to believe that it was time for another eye exam.  It had been about two years, so I dutifully made an appointment, thinking it would take some weeks to get in given the pandemic and so on.  However, I was able to get an appointment for yesterday (about 10 days after I phoned, and my choice to not take an earlier appointment because I already had a different maintenance appointment for that day/time!)

I wanted to know if my watering eyes and muscle twitches were an indication of needing a new prescription.  And to find out how the 'baby' cataracts I had in both eyes were growing.

Some good news - and some 'bad'.

Yes, I needed a new prescription, but I needed it because the sight in one eye had improved.  (Apparently a not uncommon occurrence in 'old' folk!)  Unfortunately the cataract in my right eye had also grown such that part of my problem was the cataract.  It isn't bad enough yet for surgery - he figures another 2-3 years.

So I'll go back in another two years (or sooner depending on how things are going).  But in the meantime, my night vision won't be great so any driving I do will be limited to town and street lighting.  On the other hand, I don't do the long road trips I used to do and when I do, they are usually in the summer with our long daylight hours.

But it came home to me again how lucky I am to live in this time.  Prior to modern medicine, issues like hearing and vision loss would have meant obstacles to living.  Now we have prescription lenses that help with a variety of vision issues - from lazy eye muscles (as they were called when I was a child), to astigmatism, to just plain poor vision - like I have, since I was a child.

The hearing loss so far isn't huge, but it won't ever get better so I try to wear my hearing aids daily to get used to them, and keep my brain processing sounds. 

Over the years I've dealt with mobility issues (broken ankle, non-weight bearing) and benefited from things like a walker and crutches. 

During the pandemic, we know how viruses (virii?) are spread and we can take precautions.  Wearing a mask is a bit annoying, especially in times of hot or cold weather, but better than catching the disease.

We have been fortunate in the town where I live insofar as we have had very few cases, and they were mild.  But now that the province is 'opening' up and people are travelling again, it would only take one person, asymptomatic, spreading the virus to those around them. 

So I will continue to wear a mask when I go out like I did yesterday.  I will continue to physically distance when visiting or meeting with others, like I will this afternoon. 

Yesterday while talking to the ophthalmologist, I mentioned being triply at risk and he asked in what way - so I told him - cardiac, cancer and age.  He nodded and said yes, I needed to be cautious.

So I will continue to be 'covid cautious'.  I have a brand new (less than one year old) loom and way too much yarn I need to use up.

Stay safe at home if you can.  Wear a mask if you need to go out.  Wash your hands when you get home.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Never Ending

The photo is of a runner I wove a couple of years ago.  People had been asking me for longer table runners and I had a whole bunch of cotton slub that needed using up so I designed a line of wider/longer table runners.

another colour combination

Seemed that while people wanted longer runners, these weren't it.

I think I did 6 or 7 different colour combos

Another disappointment in a lifetime of them.

But the thing can't let the 'failures' stop you.  You can't give in, give up.

Well, you can, but...

This year has kind of put the icing on the cake of disappointment.  So many plans, so many people had, all for naught.

The fake cake thing happening on Twitter right now?  Just kind of sums up 2020.

In the category of 'just because you can doesn't mean you should', making cakes that look rather realistically like something else entirely is kind of, well, symptomatic of life right now.

The cakes are - quite frankly - amazing, a tour de force of the baker/decorator's skills in making something out of cake and/or fondant that at first (or even second in some cases) look like something else entirely.

I admire the skill and artistry of the people making the things.

I also recognize the number of 'failures' these people dealt with on the way to that level of skill.

And also?  Just because you can, doesn't always mean you should.

So, disappointments.  Yes, I have had a few.  More than a few, truth be told.  I have had out right failures in terms of concept.  I have failed to deliver designs that people were willing to purchase.  I have had to put plans on hold while things sorted themselves out.

When I started the Guild of Canadian Weavers tests, I assumed that it wouldn't take very long to complete the four levels.  Recently I was looking through my boxes and realize that it was a journey of about 12 years.  With plenty of failure and disappointment along the way.

Even so the work I sent in wasn't 'perfect'.  A clear eye told me where my weak points were.  Sure enough the markers saw them, too.  Of course they did.  But I managed to pass.  In the process I learned a ton of stuff.  And I finished.

Articles I wrote were rejected.  Classes I proposed to events were not what the event wanted.  Went to craft fairs and watched people dismiss my work with comments like "Huh, I can buy those cheaper at Kresges".

I have had poor student reviews - usually about something over which I had zero control, sometimes about expectations of the students that were not appropriate.

But.  But.  There have also been successes.  If I had given up at the string of disappointments in the early days, I wouldn't have made it to the successes.  I wouldn't have made it to the cake that looks like a croc shoe, or a glass of water with flowers.  I wouldn't have had the experiences I have had, been to the places I have travelled to, met the people who have enriched my life.

So yes, today another disappointment - the Olds classes scheduled for Cape Breton have been postponed until spring.

Will I teach them?  I don't know.  I hope so because I was contracted to teach this spring, postponed to September, now to...2021.

I know students are sorely disappointed.

Interestingly I had a dream just before waking where I was consoling someone who was experiencing a very stressful time.  I held her and assured her that her feelings were valid, and that she could have all the feelings that she felt, but that ultimately she had to figure out a way forward.

Maybe that lesson is the sum of my life, I don't know.  We are allowed to feel what we are feeling.  But then we have to step out of those feelings and move - hopefully forward.

Personally 2020 is beginning to feel never ending.  But it will end.  Where we will be in three months, six months, 12 months?  No one really knows.

We need to keep working towards our goals, even when we don't know if we will succeed this time.  Even if it seems pointless.  Even if we know we will fail, sometimes repeatedly.  We need to hope.  We need to move from where ever we are to somewhere else.  Like Winston Churchill says - if you are going through hell...keep going...

Monday, July 13, 2020

A Little Sun

Today I awoke to some sunshine.  Things always look - and feel - so much better when the sun finally shines.

Yesterday was a sort-of day off.  I've been plagued with sinus headaches and nothing much fixes them except just taking a painkiller and waiting for it to take effect.  (Yes, I take a daily anti-histamine and yesterday I took a Benedryl while I sat outside visiting with friends - I've lived with allergies and sinus issues for my entire life - I know what works and what doesn't, thanks anyway.)

I share this only to say that when I look back on my life I have lived with chronic pain of one kind or another for as far back as I can remember.  Pain is nothing new.  What is new is my not pushing through it.  I just don't seem to have it in me anymore. 

While I don't feel 'old' as such, my body tells me otherwise.

The other day I commented to a friend that now I have stopped being a professional weaver, now that I no longer have rolling critical deadlines, I have also lost the adrenaline that kept me pushing through the pain. 

I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.  Maybe it's just a function of the age of my body and how broken it is.

When the doctor told mom that there was nothing more they could do for her except keep her comfortable and the best place to do that was in hospice, she looked at me and back at him and said "Well, I've had 90 years and 85 of them were good."

I thought to myself that if she could live the life she had, the heart break, and the pain, and still see the 'good' that came along as well, that was a wonderful gift.

And so I look at my life and set the years of pain to one side and embrace all the good that has come to me.  The people I have met.   The places I have been.  The things that I have done.

And if it means I sit for an hour or so and wait for a pain killer to kick in and play games on the ipad while I do so, that is a perfectly valid thing for a 'retired' person to do.  I would love to not have health issues to deal with, quite frankly, but so far the good still out weighs the 'bad'. 

Time to get dressed.  There is a loom waiting for me.  And who knows, maybe I can generate some endorphins.

Happy place, here I come!

Sunday, July 12, 2020


cover of Magic

cover of The Intentional Weaver

cover of Handwoven  (one of two covers my work has graced)  Just got the galley proofs for the next article scheduled for the end of this year.

One thing about turning a significant zero birthday and entering the world of the 'elderly' is the time spent remembering.

Sometimes the journey down the past is bittersweet.  Sometimes it's uncomfortable.  Sometimes it's a lovely trip of remembering fondly some of the people and places one has encountered along the way.

In many ways my life has surprised me, although why that should be so, shouldn't.  I worked hard to bring my dream to life.

I got up every morning and showed up to do the work.  I learned how to promote myself (something that remains, to this day, uncomfortable, having been brought up to not 'toot my own horn'.)

Without any sense of self pity I can say I have come to the beginning of the end of my life.  And that is perfectly ok.  It is perfectly normal to acknowledge that I have had a (mostly) good life but that certain aspects of it are no longer tenable.

So I began cutting away the things that were causing me too much stress, one way or another.  It was similar to Marie Kondo's 'method' - does it bring you joy?  If not, let it go.

The first thing to go were the teaching tours.  I stopped approaching guilds, trying to set up tours.  I began saying 'no' to requests to teach for guilds.

Last year I made the decision to retire from doing the craft fairs and shut down my business, which was based on making and selling textiles, mainly through craft fairs (although we had also wholesaled textiles for about 10 years in the 1980s and 90s).

Now I am focused on stash reduction.  And on that front I am making pretty good headway.  However, when you prefer finer yarns, that takes a while.

The other day I did some number crunching.  Each 20 yard (approximately) tea towel warp uses up about 2.5 pounds of yarn for the warp.  Which isn't a whole lot when I have pounds and pounds of the stuff.

What is even more dismaying is the two plus shelving units crammed full with silk.  Some of it fine silk.  Some of very fine silk.

just two shelves of the many of silk yarns - this stuff is so fine it will take three strands to equal a 2/20 size silk

I keep saying I am going to take out my espinner and start plying it, just so I can make it thick enough to see.

Because one of the effects of my eyesight is that I simply cannot see very fine yarns well enough to work with any more.

On Tuesday I get another eye exam.  I go every two years - and generally wind up with another, stronger, lens prescription because my eyes have gotten that much worse.  Again.  Now I also have cataracts so I want to stay on top of how those are growing.  Because cataracts are going to affect how I see colour.

While the good news is that they can be removed when they are 'bad' enough, I'm not fond of people poking stuff into my eyes.

However, they can be fixed, and for that I am grateful.

Milestones.  Some are nice.  Some not so much.  But it's life in all its glory.

Currently reading Riviera Gold by Laurie R King