Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sunny Day


Today is more typical winter weather than we have been having lately.  The temperature, the blue skies.  It finally feels like 'proper' winter weather.

Yesterday I spent much of the day dealing with setting up the second on line 'study' group.  I have enough interest now that I think I will likely set up a third.  I could wait until the first two are done, but that will be about a year from now.  And I think people are feeling anxious, wanting to learn, not able to get to in person classes.  Some have the time now, but may not in a year's time.  So it feels like now is when I should do this thing.

In the meantime, I am also writing the Power Point presentations.  It's been like writing the book, except that really it's a synopsis of the effort that went into the book.  The presentations are allowing me to look at the information in more manageable  chunks.  I'm not writing a book, just the Coles Notes version of the information?  (If anyone remembers Coles Notes - yes, I'm *that* old!)

Part of getting old and having done this craft for as many years as I have done, is that I remember a tonne of stuff.  I even met some of the people we now accept as experts.  Attended seminars, took workshops.  Like Peter Collingwood.  Allen Fannin.  Both now gone.  Others still living have even become colleagues, people I can email and ask questions and get answers.  A privilege I don't take lightly.

As I try to set up these study groups, I remember one of the motivating factors of my doing this - building community.  Modern day hand weavers are thin on the ground.  Those who are interested in the nuts and bolts of the craft, who want to go down the rabbit hole to discover the why of things, who are interested in the craft the way I am are the ones I really want to reach out to.

Pragmatism is a big part of who I am, and I realize that my time is running out for the kind of travelling and effort it took to teach the way I used to do.  It's why I 'retired', after all.  But now, here, suddenly (as it were) I see the possibility of another run at it, via Zoom.  I had to think long and hard about it, but came to realize that the very things I want to share can be done remotely, on line.

We must always stay open to changing times, changing technology, changing the way we think.  Sometimes the sun shines into dark corners and we see things that we had not considered before.

Friday, January 29, 2021



Mount Robson

So, what is success, anyway?  Is it making pots of money?  Is it achieving public acclaim?  Winning medals or awards? 

How do YOU define 'success'?

For me I wanted to be able to spend my life doing something that held my interest, that I could spend a lifetime learning about, that satisfied me on many levels - intellectual, yes, but also physical.  I was interested in writing, unsure I would be any good at it.  I didn't want to teach in the schools, but found that I was quite happy teaching weaving.

Success meant that I was doing it well enough that I could earn enough money to *keep* doing it.

And I really liked the feeling of helping others.  Not so that they might shower me with gratitude, but that they were also able to enjoy weaving in much the same way I enjoy it.  Happiness around me makes me happier.

I had a Plan about how to reach my Goal.  And frankly, living a life isn't that much different from climbing a mountain.  You set your sights on the peak.  You assess the terrain.  You decide on what you need in order to get up there.  And once you have done all the preparation you can, it is one step at a time.

No I have not climbed to the peak of Mount Robson, but I have climbed to the glacier lake at the base of it.  Which was not exactly an easy journey in itself.  It's not an impossible hike, but it's not insignificant, either.

The pathway to success is much the same.  Set a Goal.  Form a Plan.  Prepare yourself as best you can.  And then go do it.  It may require changing a route.  It may involve more rest stops along the way than anticipated.  But it won't happen without putting one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes you get part way there and decide that wasn't actually what you wanted after all.  And you go another direction entirely (back home to soak your blisters, sometimes).

But every step of the way can be a discovery.  We took our dog with us, and at times it was her sense of wonder and excitement (SQUIRREL!)   (PORCUPINE!)  (RASPBERRIES!) and then her utter exhaustion which meant she would simply lay down and fall sound asleep - and then spring up again to tackle the next leg. 

Both of the trips I made the weather was fine - partially cloudy so that the sun didn't beat down on us, not wet, not even very cold at night.  The views from the higher elevations down into the valleys below were breathtaking.  And even though it was hard physical effort, it felt like standing on top of the world.  What a wonderful world it was.

In many ways I feel the same sense of wonder and awe about weaving.  It's a different scale, of course.  But it has been the same approach:  Goal, Plan, Proceed.  

At times I have had to stop, reassess, change what I was doing.  Take detours.  Build bridges.  Stop going in one direction and choose another.

But I still find myself enjoying the physical aspect of weaving, the intellectual, the ties to the weaving community.  And I still enjoy sharing what I know with anyone who wants to hear it.

Thursday, January 28, 2021



flowers determined to break through the concrete

Goals and Plans.

Goals are where we want to end up.  Plans are the route map we intend to use to get there.  But sometimes?  Sometimes Plans need to change.

My goal for the past few years has been to use up my stash.  To that end I made plans.  I settled on one of the yarns in my stash and set about using up as much of it as I could.  In November I could see that I was getting close so it was time to think about the Next Step.

When I was done with the 2/16 cotton, what should I do after that?  I had, at the time, intended to set about making scarves, but that would have been using up finer threads, about the same thickness as the 2/16 cotton.  Not a deal breaker.

But as December turned into January, I started looking at my shelves (and shelves, and shelves) of yarn, plus I wanted to see if I could weave on the Leclerc again, and instead of working on a new scarf design, I slammed some place mat warps through the Leclerc.  

I had intended to do 4 warps, but stopped after three.  Because the first warp was ok, the second, mmm, maybe this wasn't such a good idea, the third?  Pushing the boundary of enough and too much.  So I am going to have to move a lot more carefully as I regain my physical fitness and not push as hard as I used to be able to do.  The fact is, I may never regain that level of 'fitness' again.  That doesn't mean I can't do things, just that I have to swallow the bitter pill of realizing that I am dealing with some physical issues and my present body simply does not heal as quickly or completely as my younger body.

Acceptance can be difficult.  But acceptance is also a reality check on what is possible and what needs to be moderated.

And so, flexibility rules the day.

After three place mat warps (heavy beating, hard on my neck, shoulders and that loom is even hard on my hip) I am taking a break from that loom and going back to the Megado which is kinder on my body.

However, instead of doing the planned scarves, I am doing...towels.  Like I need more towels (not!)

My eye caught on the tubes of cotton flake I still had sitting in the store room.  And the 2/8 cotton.  A combination I have used before and quite liked for a heavier, thicker towel, suitable for wiping hands.  I called them kitchen utility towels.  At 20 epi and about the same ppi (need to test that in the header) they will weave up much more quickly than the 2/16 cotton at 32 epi/ppi.  

Each towel will take about 30 minutes to weave, not 50, which will make both my therapists happy since they both say I should be limiting my weaving time to 30 minutes, twice a day.

But also?  I am spending a lot of time right now writing.  No, not another book, Power Point presentations for Zoom meetings.  It is challenging to try to distill segments of the book into a one hour presentation using Power Point.  What do I want to focus on?  What photos/diagrams do I need to present?  Bullet points or full sentences?

Personally all my bullet point lists very quickly evolve into sentences, plus the meetings will be available for review later, so I'm not too bothered about providing more encompassing text.  A video can be paused so that it can be read, which also stops the voice over.  Just another tool in the teacher's and student's toolbox.

My approach is not to attempt to teach a specific skill but to explain the principles.  Not the how, but the why.  As I have been working through the presentations, I am beginning to see them as a 'master' class.

Which may be egotistical, but it is the kind of information I was thirsting after when I set out on this journey.  I picked up nuggets of information here and there.  Every book, every teacher, every workshop and seminar, I learned something useful.  It may not have been what I was expecting, but...

So in the end I determined that these 'master' classes would last for about a year, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.  As I begin to break the info down into manageable chunks, it is becoming clearer to me what my investment in time and energy is going to be and I am able to more clearly see what needs to be done.

Spending a little less time at the loom in order to present this information is not a bad thing.

And none of it would have happened without a pandemic and all in-person learning postponed.

My goals remain the same.  How I get there can change as the circumstances change.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Beaming with Tension

 This morning I got a question from someone that I feel others would also like to know about:

I have a question regarding weighting the warp when winding on. What factors might cause you to alter the weight you use? If I understand correctly weighting isn't necessarily about how much but how even but that being said I'm sure there are factors other than stretch of yarn that might affect how much. Thank you.

It may have been sparked by the photo I shared on Instagram yesterday:

The warp is the most recent place mat warp that I wove. The warp is 2/8 cotton at 20 epi, 11 meters long. It had been a while since I'd woven place mats - like a whole year or so - and it took a while to get comfortable weaving this quality of cloth again. On this third warp I was comfortable enough to pay attention to the more subtle aspects of weaving it.

I use jugs with water as my beaming weight. I use water for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is very easy to add or subtract weight as required. I use a measuring cup and add 1 or 2 cups of water when a warp needs more weight, then empty one or two cups of water when a warp needs less weight. It depends.

The first mat warp I did I was re-learning all the things that needed to be done for this quality of warp and I didn't pay enough attention to the tiny signs that perhaps I should have used more tension while beaming. Frankly I've been a bit distracted while I work on other projects. These warps were just stash busting and testing to see if I could actually weave on the Leclerc without too much physical pain. So I was more focused on my body than what was happening on the loom.

The second warp I was beginning to have pain so I was again distracted by other things.

By this, the third warp things had settled down on the group/community building front, and I'd made the decision that I needed this warp to be the last one for now and I began paying attention to what was happening in the loom.

The first thing I noticed was that when I began weaving the warp, the tension kept getting looser. After a few picks it would loosen slightly and I would tighten it. A few picks later, same. This continued as I advanced the warp until I had woven about a yard/meter or so and then it seemed to settle.

Typically this happens when the brake is not holding and needs to be adjusted, but the Leclerc is pretty stable in that regard. Only if it continues do I begin to suspect the brake is the problem. However it *had* been a year since I'd woven on it so I wasn't about to diagnose a slipping brake. Yet.

This warp is designed to produce sturdy cloth, suitable for place mats. The weft is thick and needs to be beaten in quite firmly. Therefore the tension is kept tighter than for a tea towel or other qualities of cloth.

As I wove it, I paid more attention to advancing the fell and out of the corner of my eye (love peripheral vision!) I noticed that when one of the blinds I use for warp packing fell out and I then re-tensioned the warp, the first thing that happened was that a small amount of warp on the beam straightened out.

This is an indication that the warp was on the beam with a tiny bit of slack in it.

The next blind that came out I stopped and examined the beam before I re-set the tension and yup - slack on the beam.

Then I paid more attention to the web. That was when I noticed tiny fluctuations at the fell each time I advanced the warp. Within a few picks the fell would straighten out again.

If I had beamed with more tension/weight on the warp, if the warp didn't need such high tension in order to weave it, if it didn't need such a heavy beat, if the warp had been shorter, perhaps, these things might not have been happening.

So my general guideline is this - beam the warp with the same degree of tension as it will have in the weaving off. How do I know? That comes with experience. It depends on the warp packing that is used. It depends on the fibre. A yarn with less elasticity may well require much higher tension during beaming (looking at you linen!) than something with more elasticity.

A yarn with lots of elasticity will behave entirely differently from a yarn with little to none.

The type of loom may well make a difference. The Leclerc Fanny is counter balanced and as such opens the shed equally, up and down. A rising/jack type loom might behave quite differently because as tension on the warp is increased, some looms will respond by 'floating' the shafts. Some loom manufacturers provide ways to hold them down by using various means. Some looms have their shafts 'raked' such as the AVL. In other words, the rest position of the shafts descend towards the back. It's a complex equation that attempts to create as clean a shed as possible.

Other factors that might induce me to alter the tension during beaming is how tender the warp threads are. How wide the warp is. As mentioned previously, how much elasticity the yarn has. How textured the warp yarn is.

The signs that indicate more tension should maybe have been used are:

Tension slips during weaving and the brake itself is holding, not slipping.
The fell line isn't straight, but where it is crooked changes

The good news is that if the difference is slight, it might not be a big issue. For instance with this quality of cloth, I was just careful about advancing and re-tensioning. After wet finishing the cloth was perfectly fine.

All I can recommend is that when someone gets a new-to-them yarn they weave a small sample. Experience how the yarn is going to behave in the loom. Work out the processes that it needs to make it behave. And don't fuss too much at tiny inconsistencies. Many of those will work themselves out during wet finishing.

If you can't be perfect, be consistent.

On the book reading front I just finished reading Donna Leon's book Trace Elements and started Tana French's latest, The Searcher.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021



It seems I am re-inventing myself once more.

It was just 12 months ago that I was in the process of shutting my business down, curtailing my activities, preparing to 'retire'.

And now?

Now I have a calendar full of Zoom meetings.  Like I mean, literally full.  So full I had to go to Zoom yesterday and enter all of them so that I didn't double book myself.

But this is no different from other folk who have retired only to find themselves just as 'busy' - just that now they are busy doing other things than the daily grind.

I cannot say that I am now doing what I want, when I want.  I pretty much always have.  Sort of.  Paying the bills meant I took on work that didn't much appeal to me - except for the money that came in at the end of the job.  I was still weaving, and that was fine by me.

What I am bringing to my life now is a greater understanding of how I have abused my body and finding a better balance of continuing the physical aspects of weaving and the more, shall we say, cerebral?

12 months ago I thought the cerebral aspect would be more experimentation, more intellectual.  But I was (am) faced with a yarn stash that just doesn't seem to quit so I concentrated on weaving that down.  Forgetting how much yardage my stash represented.  It took literally over a year just to weave down the 2/16 cotton.  Granted I'm not weaving at the same pace as before, but still...

As I use up my yarn, other yarn comes to my attention.  So instead of starting on scarves, I am going to see if I can use up the cotton flake.  And some of the 2/8 cotton.  Today I will finish off the place mat warp on the Leclerc, then switch back to the Megado.  While I was able to weave on the Leclerc, I have to be careful when weaving something that needs a hard beat.  My body is telling me three place mat warps are enough, thankyouverymuch.  So, back to the Megado for a while.

I also have to make a decision about the electric spinning wheel.  I mean seriously, how much hand spun yarn do I want to add to my yarn stash?  What was I thinking?  I might instead just sell it off.  The local spinners and felters will no doubt be happy to buy my spinning fibre stash from me.

Except.  Except spinning keeps coming back into my life.  So I'm going to sit on that decision for a while.

In the meantime I'm going to be spending a lot more time at the computer.  I have a dozen Power Point presentations to build over the coming months.  Plus the recording/rendering/uploading of the meetings.

Plus I got an inquiry from Handwoven yesterday.  Something that I think I can handle.  But it has a deadline, too.

So.  Not 'retiring' so much as 're-inventing' it would appear...

Monday, January 25, 2021



One of the reasons I decided to stop teaching for guilds was the extreme toll it was taking on me physically.  I didn't want to be a travel agent any more.  I didn't want to deal with time zone changes any more.  I didn't want to sleep in strange beds, eat food that I didn't know was 'safe' (not allergens).

So I 'retired'.  I intended to continue teaching for Olds College because I believe in the course content, but then the pandemic hit.  And all the classes were cancelled.  Even now, as we ease into 2021 and vaccines are rolling out, there is no guarantee that the classes will go ahead this year.  Things just are not going well, travel is not recommended.  Mr.  Trudeau has not issued blanket travel bans, as such, just strong recommendations against travel, but there are still people flying off here and there - because they can.

The number of cases continues to rise and now there are mutations - because of course there are.

Many people are starting to get antsy about not being able to gather, wanting to learn.  Wanting to have the opportunity to learn.

I kind of got dragged, kicking and screaming, into doing on line presentations.  I have done a couple, but only as a presenter, not the person doing the logistics of it.  But.  

So this 'old dog' is learning 'new tricks'.

No, I don't enjoy the administrivia of setting up on line groups, answering the questions, explaining why I am making the choices I am making, and no, I won't do that thing you want me to do.  Because I have sorted through my options and come up with a plan that I can live with.

Yes, I know about Patreon.  I chose not to use it.  

Yes, I know Facebook is evil.  I chose to use that platform because I can do what I need to do on it.

No, the group is not for everyone.   No one needs to tell me why that is so.  Join, or not, do what is best for you.  

As I remind my students, I am not a helicopter teacher.  I assume that as adults everyone can do a Google search for stuff.  Most of the time I will provide a link to point someone at a specific site, but sometimes, doing the search oneself might turn up something related.  Kind of like thumbing through the card catalogue at the library.  Surprising what you can find when you just go looking.

Since last summer I have set up monthly seminars with presenters literally around the world - or a big chunk of it.  I have bought Zoom Pro and started to learn how to use it.  I have figured out how to record the meetings, edit it (rough edits, not fine tuned), render, save, up load to You Tube.  And then?  Decided to run on line groups.  Yes, plural.  I now have two groups I am leading.  Plus monthly meetings with local knitters because we are all feeling the lack of in person socialization.  And Zoom at least allows us to show what we are working on and each other's faces.

So it was a good thing I set up my planning calendar for this year.  Because almost every Sunday this year I will be on a Zoom call.  

I struggled making that decision, I really did.  But if not me, who?  If not now, when?

So, how's that retirement working out????

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Good Ideas


linen placemats, woven for Magic in the Water

I always forget how much work it takes to bring a new idea into reality.  I look at the end goal and think - that looks like a good idea.  Forgetting the logistics of doing it.

You'd think that, by now, after years of dreaming big dreams I'd know better.  But apparently not.

I did it right from day one, deciding that weaving looked like a good idea.  Selling hand woven goods?  How hard could it be?


I did it with the Guild of Canadian Weavers master weaver program.  That looks like a good idea.  How hard could it be?


I did it with Magic in the Water.  Information on wet finishing was (imho) desperately needed.  How hard could it be?


Selling 1000 copies?  Easy-peasy.


I busted a gut making those good ideas become reality.  And, while I don't regret it (much), you would think I would know better than to come up with more 'good ideas' now, when I'm supposed to be 'retired'.


So.  Study group.  How hard could it be?


Herding cats.  Getting ducks in a row.  Butterflies to fly in formation. You'd think I would know better, right?


So no, I won't do the study group on any other platform than Facebook.  If someone is completely averse to being on there, I get it.  But it's the platform that is available and it works for my purpose.

So no, I'm not going to set a price to participate.  It will be by donation via my ko-fi account.

The group is now set up and if anyone wants to participate they can let me know.  OR, people who are now members can invite others.  But I want this group to be interested in taking a deep dive into the craft.

I expect it to last between 10 and 12 months based around monthly Zoom presentations.

I expect to prepare/write a Power Point with the main points, then take questions.  When appropriate I will do demonstrations.  I bought a small white board and will Katie Porter when that is appropriate.

I mean, really, how hard can it be?


Study Group


Ok, so there was enough interest in a study group that I have gone ahead and formed a group on Facebook.  It is hidden because I want to keep the group smaller and focused on the principles of the craft.  I want people with at least some background knowledge so that they can build on what they know.  Or newer but interested in more than just recipes.   People who want to take a deep dive into the craft.  This group is not meant to be a 'how to learn to weave' group, but 'how to weave better' group.  If you are a newer weaver but this approach rings your bells, message me and we can talk more about what I expect, and what I hope to offer.

As mentioned previously, it will be hosted through Facebook so if you are interested, send me a friend request (if we aren't already) so I can add you.  (A direct message would be good so I know that you want to join.)  Once we are friends, I will send you an invite to the group.  Once you accept that invite, you're in.

I will post resources and some 'things to think about' from time to time, but the serious content will be in once monthly Zoom meetings.  The link to the Zoom meetings will be posted under the Events tab of the group.  After the meeting, which I will record, render and upload to You Tube, the link for that will be posted in the FB group as well.  The You Tube videos will not be public but unlisted and only found by using the link.

This group is not meant to go on forever but may last around 10 to 12 months (Zoom meetings)

I have started an introductions thread.  As you join, please introduce yourself to the group.  

Any questions?  Email me.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Onwards into the Future


I decided to make a few more place mats for several reasons.  I had been having issues weaving on the Leclerc Fanny and stopped for a year.  The physical issues I was having (long, looooooong story) appear to be somewhat resolved and I wanted to see if I could weave on that loom comfortably enough to decide if I should keep it or get rid of it.

It was a difficult decision because the Leclerc is a workhorse and well suited to things that require a firm beat.  So - place mats for one.  Also good for things like rayon chenille.  And it's great for striped warps because it has a regular back beam not a sectional.  While I can, and do, wind a warp and beam it onto a sectional beam, it's not something I prefer to do.  Much easier to just toss it at the Leclerc.

There was also a warp I'd wound way back in 2019 and had never woven off because I was just having way too much pain.  So I began with that.  Then I took a long look at the 2/8 yarn stash, checked my place mat inventory, and there were some colours that I was low on and decided to beef up those colours.

While rummaging, I came across a quite bright green and I have a friend who loves green, bright green the very best.  Since she does a lot for the guild - and for me - and she hosts large dinner parties in non-covid times, I figured I would do a warp of that bright green for her.  She will get the table runner and all 12 mats, in part because I know she will use them.

So far I've woven the grey warp that was in the holding pen, and the green, which is in the dryer as I write this, and I will wind one of the blue combinations today and get the loom dressed again.  Or at least start to do that.  

Once I finish the two mat warps in the queue, I'll go back to the Megado and give my body a rest from the heavy pounding needed for the mats.

But of course, during the dive into my 2/8 cotton I had more ideas bubble to the surface!  So now my plan is to weave one scarf warp, then maybe one or two more (with 5 or 6 scarves, depending) and then go back to the Leclerc and weave some striped warp kitchen towels on that loom.  Because I have a huge amount of cotton flake to use up.

2/8 cotton warp and cotton flake weft makes a nice thick cloth that works well as a utility kitchen towel.  It's not what I would call a tea towel because it won't dry glasses very well - too thick!  But it will still work to dry large pots/pan or one's hands.  Those warps will go onto the Leclerc but since they don't require a heavy beat, I'm curious to see if I can weave that quality of cloth without setting my recovery back.

If I can, I plan on keeping the loom so that I have the option of winding warps on the warping board and using it, or if I have to resign myself to taking off the sectional rakes to do that on the Megado, or mess with beaming a wound warp onto the sectional beam.

Decisions, decisions.

It is a marker of my recovery that I am actually beginning to have the energy to do things again, and my 'dreams' (if you will) are beginning to expand.  Yes, I can do this!  Yes, I can do that!  Well, that remains to be seen, but at least I feel more functional, just very tired.  All the damned time.  There doesn't seem to be much I can do about that.  The Nurse Practitioner reminded me that fatigue is a function of the dis-ease of my body.

So - new normal?  Not really.  I've been dealing with fatigue since the end of 2006, off and on.  Now it seems to be 'on' all the damned time.

With covid and my age (and thankfully I *am* aging, because the alternative sucks), I have to make some decisions.  So far I assume I'm still scheduled to go out to Cape Breton in May - except that I doubt covid is going to allow that kind of gathering and long distance travel.  So I'm prepared to see that cancel.  I've agreed to teach level one at Olds College in June - but Alberta isn't doing well on the covid front, and frankly, I'd like to just see everyone stay at home until vaccines can bring herd immunity.  Trudeau projected September on the news the other night, but time will tell.

I turn 71 this year and frankly?  I'm not sure I'm up to driving the mountains anymore.  As much as I love the trip.  As much as I enjoy long road trips, yes, all by myself, the reality is they are getting more and more difficult.

So.  Here we are in the 21st century and I've learned Zoom.  I've given two presentations with another booked for Jan. 31, one in Feb., and more to come.  I've started a mentoring group on line, learned how to record, edit, render, upload to You Tube.

Can I teach on line?  It seems I can.  It's not the same as teaching in real life, but still...

If I were to begin a study group on line - Facebook page (I know, FB is evil, but it can also be used effectively by most), private, Zoom meetings, recorded, link to an unlisted video, and....I would expect some kind of payment.  Because for the Zoom meetings I spend a couple of hours preparing for them, I monitor the FB group page and answer questions, and generally make myself available for feedback.

If anyone would be interested in participating in such a study group, based on my book The Intentional Weaver, you must *email* me to indicate your interest.  Email works best for me so that I could contact you when (and if) I decide to proceed.  You should also have a copy of my book as that is the resource that would be used.

If you want to know how much investment you would have to make, let me say that I have a ko-fi account where people can buy me a 'coffee'.  It would be up to each person to decide how much they could afford, how much value they derive from each Zoom meeting.

So - interested?  Email me  It must be an email, not just a comment here or on the links I post to FB and Twitter.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Number Crunching


I hated arithmetic/math when I was in school.  Numbers and me just didn't seem to go together in any meaningful way.  I inwardly raged that I would never use it once I left school, so why was I needing to be tortured by it?

And then I took up weaving.  And started a business.  Needed to do double entry bookkeeping, balance my cheque book,  Number crunch for yarn needed.  Work out a price for my products.  File my income tax.

Et cetera...

I started this blog back in 2008, when quite a few people were blogging.  It seemed like something I should do, in part to promote myself, in part to teach, in part to give back to the community.  I tried monetizing the blog but by then there were fewer bloggers and blogs seemed to be dying in terms of anyone interested in reading them.

But I enjoyed the writing.  Writing is how I process things, figure out how I feel about them.  So this blog, started after my brother died and I was still wrestling with my own health issues and mortality, became a diary.

One of the things blogspot does is provide some statistics, which is how I know that my page view count is approaching that unforeseen and someone magical number of two million(!).

But it also provides a number count of how many posts I have written over the years.  That number recently rolled over 3000.

3000+ times I have come here to educate, philosophize, encourage, explain, and yes, defend.   3000+ times I have sat down at the computer and tried to put my thoughts into words that would make some sort of sense.  

Each post takes between 20 and 60 minutes - so let's average that to 40 minutes for the sake of simplicity.  (Because I still don't get along with arithmetic/math very well.)

3000 x 40 = 120,000 minutes or 2000 hours over the past 12 years.  Some of you who have been reading along with me have spent time with me, maybe drinking a cup of coffee/tea.  As I frequently do while I am writing.  So, in a way, we have been coffee buddies for a while now.  

I keep writing because people sometimes let me know that they appreciate what I have to say.  That I might educate them, or make them think.  And so I keep going.

Truth be told, I write this as much for myself as I do for anyone else, but such comments encourage me to keep going.  Keep writing.  Keep trying to puzzle things out.

2020 saw me slip into the role of pandemic diarist and isolation encourager.  Our federal government has tried to help people and the medical officers, especially in BC, were given centre stage to explain what was happening and what needed to happen as the pandemic progressed.  Since I had a good source of information, it seemed right that I educate about the pandemic, not just weaving.  So I shook the pom-poms of encouragement to stay home, wear masks (once there were enough for health care workers, Dr. Henry pivoted into that message, although many people seemed confused about it so I took it as my duty to amplify it), maintain physical distance, etc.  It was not on my life bingo card, and yet...

As things spiralled into a full blown global pandemic, I was encouraged to do on line presentations, which I at first rejected, then realized that I could do that.  We now had functioning resources like Zoom and others.

It's been an interesting year of sudden change, an upending of plans, pivoting to other approaches, but throughout it all, I came to the desktop to write about it, to try to make sense of it.

I hope it has helped others to make sense of it as well.   Not just the weaving, but the pandemic.  Because right now, the pandemic trumps all else.

Vaccines are beginning to roll out, but there are the usual hiccoughs.  We were told that vaccines would probably be available by this autumn, and yet, here we are in January and there are two with more on the way.  Not being ready for them is not really surprising, but people get their hopes up and don't deal with disappointment very well.

So we have to hold tight and be patient.  Not something I'm good at, but I had been mentally prepared to wait until at least September, so the current delay in Canada is not distressing me overly.  I know it's different for other people who are concerned about elders in long term care, vulnerable people.  But the logistics of getting shots into the arms of 35+ million people - and that's just Canada - means there will be waits, there will be challenges. there will be time passing.

I expect that I will continue to blog, to write about weaving, my life, and the pandemic for the coming months.

If anyone wants to buy me a 'coffee', they can do that at my ko-fi account

Thursday, January 21, 2021

One and Two and Three and...More!


A few years ago, when the page view count surpassed one million, someone suggested I should give out a prize.  Well, I hadn't thought about it, but now?  

Now the page view count is nearing *two* million and I've been thinking that it would be nice to have some sort of contest or something.  Yes, with a prize.  

But it took me a while to come up with an idea.

No I can't give out a prize to everyone who reads the blog.  I could make a draw from the list of subscribers, but so many more people read my blog than just those who are subscribed.  What to do?  What to do?

Tonight when I saw that the number was less than 25,000 away from that magical number I thought that maybe I could do a pool, of sorts.  Have people predict the day the number would roll over, and whoever came closest, I would mail them a tea towel.  (Lord knows I have lots!)

The easiest way for me to deal with keeping track would be to just have people make a comment to this post.  One guess/prediction per person.  Include a time - that way if more than one person wants the same day, they can specify the time and I can see which one came closest?

The page view count increased this year, in part because I was posting daily (nearly) from March on.  And it doesn't look like I'm going to stop any time soon,  

I will add that the page per view count changes at 4 pm, so that number you can see for today?  Is only from 4 pm until 10 pm or so.

Anyway, play along if you like.

The Kids are Alright


I'm not going to link to Amanda Gorman's poem or copy it here - if you type her name in, you'll find plenty of places to access it, either her reciting it or the text of it.

Over the years I have seen many young people do amazing things, from Severn Cullis-Susuki and her speech in Rio de Janeiro a very long time ago now, until today with Autumn Pelletier and Grete Thunberg advocating for the environment and climate.

For every young person doing something stupid and thoughtless, there are others who are working to improve their communities, help others, paying attention to global matters.

Young people are not uniformly any one thing, just like adults.  They have different lives, different perspectives, different ways of dealing with what they are going through.

A friend posted today that she has now reached the stage of her life where her vote will be based on what is good and beneficial for young people.  I made that decision a long time ago.  I just happen to live in a place is 'conservative' politically and never felt like my vote counted for much.  Did I ever vote differently?  No.  I have always voted the more 'liberal' candidate.  It felt pointless at times, but as far as I was concerned, if I didn't vote, I didn't get my right to bitch card.

But I have paid attention.  I have seen the work of various people trying to make things better, from Rachel Carson to David Susuki.  I have not agreed with some of the groups and what they were doing, but I also recognize that the population is not black and white, but many shades of grey.  That some groups may be doing harm elsewhere even when they were trying to do good in one sector.

Some people who comment on things like politics assure me that the arc always bends towards justice.  That pendulums swing back and forth, but always towards more liberal, more inclusive attitudes.

I won't likely live long enough to see that happen, entirely.  I certainly thought, as a 20 year old, that we would be there by now.  Instead the pendulum took a abrupt swing 'back' and things were not getting 'better', more liberal.  And in many ways, still are not.

So while the US seems to have begun to right their boat, we, as a people, a world, are still in a precarious state.  Much work needs to be done.  If we are to bring peace and safety to all.

Canada is not innocent in this.  We need to do more to be inclusive for all, regardless of skin colour.

We need to examine our beliefs.  Pay attention to our political leaders.  And, when they show us who they are, believe them.  

Peeling back the layers of white privilege is a lifetime work for me.  But the kids are alright.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Many Hands


Growing up in a 'remote' (at the time it was pretty remote) small town, the people of the town were always ready and willing to help others in distress.  If there was an emergency, either large or personal, someone was always there to rally the troops, as it were, and make things better.

I remember talking to someone newly arrived in town and she was bemoaning the fact that something or other wasn't being done.  I suggested she get together with some others to help make it happen.  She literally took a step back, astonished that I would even suggest such a thing.  I told her that that was how things got done in this town.  If someone saw a need, they would collect a bunch of other residents and set about doing it.

Like the new university.  (Well, new in the 1990s)

Most people don't know that this town was a planned community.  It was a railway town and as such the streets were laid out long before there were many people living in the area.  Lots were then sold along pre-existing streets.  But the thing is, the city 'fathers' (because they were only male in the early 1900s) also set aside land for a university.

In the 1980s people began to clamour for a university here.  There was a lot of lobbying of both provincial and federal levels of government and eventually the spokesperson for the community group found himself in Ottawa talking to the minister responsible for funding such things.  The government basically asked what the town was bringing to the table and the question then became, how much?  How much does the town need to raise in order to get federal funding for this necessary thing?  One million dollars was the answer.  A not insignificant sum in the 1980s while we were going through an economic recession.

The spokesperson came back and got onto the local media and started getting the message out.  Individuals were asked to make a donation.  Anything.  One dollar, five dollars, whatever.  There were bake sales, auctions, car washes.  And individuals donated money.

In less than one year, this little town scraped and saved and the spokesperson went back to Ottawa, slapped the cheque down on the minister's desk and said, here.  Now get us the rest.

This isn't the only story, just the one that is, perhaps, the most memorable to me for many reasons.

It is something I have carried with me through my entire life - my mother and her friends, catering weddings for the church, at X per plate.  Putting together services to make the hospital nicer - the library cart, the flower delivery service, the baby layettes, eventually the gift shop and thrift shop.  And donating thousands of dollars to the hospital to buy needed equipment that wasn't in the budget.  

If a natural disaster happened - like flooding - dozens of people along the riverbanks setting out sandbags.

Just a few years ago when our area was under threat of gigantic wildfires, our town took in 10,000 evacuees.  Many businesses donated things, like discounts at restaurants or other stores.  Many people fled with very little notice and they just grabbed what they could and ran.

Many hands make light work.  

Want to stop a pandemic?  Wear a mask.  

Want to make things better?  Work to make it so.

Want to promote equality?  Be inclusive.

Lighting someone else's candle does not diminish my own...

Tuesday, January 19, 2021



Work has come to a halt on the spinning front.  I have an electric spinner, and it has, slowly over time, been working more and more erratically, as in not holding the speed it has been set to spin at.  At first it was only a mild fluctuation, but gradually the variation has gotten worse, to the point where it was frustrating and my results were...variable.

Having a handy in-house maintenance person who seems to enjoy tinkering, I explained what was going on and when I finished the burgundy rolags, he tore the spinner apart to see if there was a bad solder connection or some other reason for the inconsistent behaviour.

When all looked to be ok there, he called someone he knew to come and take a look at the speed controller and after taking a long hard look at the set up and then using a testing tool, he diagnosed that the part was not working properly and needed replacing.

Doug is never shy about checking websites, and eventually between Jim and himself, he found a supplier of the part and just now ordered some spares.

Thing is, the business that made this spinner is no longer in business and whatever warranty they might have provided (plus my initial inquiry about the problem to the business wasn't very helpful anyway) long ago lapsed so I had no qualms about letting Doug and Jim have a go at getting it working again.

My desire to spin down my fibre stash is strong, so I even paid for courier delivery from the warehouse in Texas, and Doug bought four of the parts.  They are 'cheap' and the point is to have a part that works, plus spares should they be necessary.

All being well, the parts should be here by the end of the week.  

So, my spinning is on hiatus until the necessary maintenance is done.

In the meantime, I have hemming again.  Yesterday I finished the grey warp, cut/serged the mats, wet finished them, including their hard press.  Then because that warp seemed to go ok, I wound another mat warp.  This one will be a gift for the guild treasurer, a thank you for all the work she is doing with the Sunday Seminar Series.  I have two more colour combinations pulled and may do a couple more warps on the Leclerc before I switch back to the Megado and start making scarves.

I realized that my making dozens of things in order to use up one of my yarns entirely (or as close to that as I can manage) probably isn't the best strategy right now.  So I expect that my series weaving will be shorter - both in terms of numbers of things woven and time involved.

The tea towels served a purpose and I'm not sorry I made so many.  Once I had the nuts and bolts of the quality of cloth I wanted, I didn't need to think much any more, just choose colours that appealed to me and then just go do.

But hopefully the pandemic will begin to be suppressed now and I'm beginning to look forward, to the 'after', the life beyond the pandemic.

The first of the seminar series happened on Sunday, and there is a pretty good chance that I will do more for 2022.  But that decision will be made around May or June.  In the meantime, I'm making a list.  If there is someone *you* would like to participate, I can consider that person if you let me know.  Email please laura at laurafry dot com

Monday, January 18, 2021



GCW Master Weaver Certificate holders and their monograph topics:


1955      Mary Black:  Tartans and Mary Sandin:  Linen


1958      Nell Steedsman:  Two Frame weaving


1959      Grace McDowell:  Box Loom Weaving


1973      Adrienne Whitelaw:  Ceinture Fleché


 1975      Mary Andrews:  Fundamentals of Weaving


1976      Sandra Feenstra:  Double Weaves and Dini Moes:  The use of Colour in Handweaving


1979      Judith Rygiel:  Stitched Double Weave


1980      Eileen Shannon:  Point Twill Treadling Variations


1986      Jane Evans:  Tied Latvian Weave; Linda Heinrich:  Linen; Noreen Rustad:  Beiderwand


1989      Anke Keizer-Bles:  Exploring the Moorman Technique for Clothing and Margaret Berg:  Multiple Tabby Weaves and Twills


1990      Sandra Fearon:  Shadow Weave Design


1991      Patricia Corbett:  Colour and Texture Variation in Knotted Pile; Ruth-Carrol, ; Gaye Hansen:  Twice warped – Twelve Techniques for the Second Warp Beam; Kay Reiber:  Summer and Winter – a System for All Seasons; Frances Timbers:  The Handkerchief.


1992      Valerie DePorto:  Design Dynamics of Multishaft Swedish Lace


1993      June Bell: Finnweave; and Mabel Verigin:  The Forgotten Weaves


1994      Margaret Hahn:  Opphamta


1995      Christine Hill:  Wool – Fleece, Fibre and Fabric; and Evelyn Oldroyd:  The Wonder of Weaving Silk


1997      Laura Fry – Transformations:  Fulling Handwoven Fabrics


1998      Carol Oberg:  Brain-based Learning in the Weaving Studio – process of regeneration


2001    Ruth Jarvis:  Ramie


2003     Helene Ruel:  La Magie de l’Ikat (The Magic of Ikat)


 There may have been more people who have achieved the master level granted by the Guild of Canadian Weavers since 2003, but I have not belonged to the organization for a number of years so no longer get the newsletter where such things are announced.

The program is a testing program, not a teaching one.  It is a way for people who may not have easy access to others to discover if they have enough knowledge about the craft to be considered a 'master' at it.  I chose to do this program in part because it was economical compared to others, and I could do it on my own schedule.  I could set my own goals and deadlines, which was helpful given my work load during the time I was working on the program.

Not everyone wants to take a deep dive into the craft, but for those who do?  This program might be just the thing.

If, however, someone wants an element of teaching of the craft, the Olds College program approaches the craft from that direction.  There are other programs, here and there, that do similar things - either testing or teaching/testing.

However one approaches learning the craft - on their own, taking as many workshops as they can afford, having a teaching program they can follow - I encourage people to look below the surface by reading, watching videos, taking on line classes.

On the other hand, it is also valid to work from kits and/or published patterns.  There is room for all.

With the growth of the internet we now have multiple resources.  Janet Dawson's Craftsy class is a great introduction.  Jane Stafford's on line guild will take students through the craft on a much deeper level.  There are all the videos through Long Thread Media, including my own, available as on line 'workshops'.  

With Covid and self-isolation, the internet has been a god-send and even I have bitten the bullet and begun to learn Zoom.  

But neither should we forget our history - the Margaret Atwaters, the Harriet Tidballs, the Mary Blacks and so on.  

I encourage new weavers to take a look at resources like the GCW library where many of the monographs done by the above are stored and available for guild members to take out and examine, including mine and the copy of Magic in the Water I donated to the guild.

Over the years many of the master weavers have gone on to write books, from Mary Black, to Nell Steedsman, Linda Heinrich, Jane Evans, Mary Andrews, Dini Moes.  Some were published by the authors themselves, others were done via traditional publishing houses.  I took the self-publishing route because I wanted to include actual fabric samples for Magic, then because The Intentional Weaver was a niche topic for a niche market, I didn't even try to find a 'real' publisher.  (I was asked to send a sample of the manuscript to one - they declined saying it wasn't 'right' for their market, which I expected and wasn't actually disappointed about.)  

One of the challenges about being such a small/independent publisher is that the marketing also falls on my shoulders.  OTOH, the book is as I wanted it - nice large text, white space, photos that showed what I felt needed to be seen.  Yes, I could have done better, but after five years of working on the manuscript, off and on, in between Life Happenings, I had to stop.  

It is said that authors never finish writing a book, they just stop writing the book.  I wrote until I felt I had the essentials, then stopped and called on expert assistance to first edit, then publish it on line via Blurb.

 A person can pursue weaving in the way that brings them joy.  Follow the rules or not.  Learn the rules well enough to break them.  Follow a pattern or make up their own.  Or all of the above.  The thing is, the people who hand weave in the 21 century are continuing a tradition that goes back thousands of years.  No one person can know everything there is to know about how to create cloth.  But individuals can 'master' the craft in such a way as to remember the shoulders of the giants we stand on.  And maybe help others along the way.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Sunday Musings

 Today was the first of the Sunday Seminar Series and it was...bittersweet.

I have so much missed getting together with like minded textile folk, just sitting down with them, maybe passing samples or finished items back and forth, my fingers feeling the quality of the cloth, and just talking.  About textiles.  About life.  About following ones passion.

While I have been doing really well during this time of pandemic, the seminar really jolted me into what we have been missing for the past year, what we have had to set aside, what we are having to do without.

But Abby talked about community, and serving, and how time is a commodity, and it all rang so many bells, I longed to be able to meet with her in real life and just sit and chew the fat, follow the threads of a conversation that we could weave into stronger community.

So while I long for in person interaction?  This morning was a pretty darned good second best.

I don't know Carol James in real life, but I do know the work she has been doing with sprang and I know I am going to find her presentation just as interesting.

Carol has focused her time and attention on ceinture fleche' and sprang.  With more archeological finds finding textile goods, there has been speculation that some of the first trousers ever made were made with sprang.  Art from Grecian times shows 'amazons' (Sythians, from the area around the Caspian Sea) wearing trousers with decoration that can easily be achieved using sprang.  Sprang is a textile technique that lends itself to any number of uses, and can be quite elastic, much like modern day leggings.

photo of trousers by Carol James

If people are interested in learning more, Carol's website has a lot more information.  Check out her classes, too.

Registration is open for Carol's seminar in February.  A bargain at $15.75 Cdn ($10.50 if you are a guild member.  

After Carol comes Deborah Chandler, then Deborah Robson.  Both Deborah's seminars are now open for registration as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

To Full or Not to Full


wool after wet finishing and fairly significant fulling

linen after wet finishing

Just a friendly reminder that plant fibres do not full.

Fulling is something that *some* protein fibres do.  Not all wool will full, but ALL fibres need to be wet finished IMHO.

Plant fibres will bloom as they absorb water.  The threads will shift to areas of least resistance, such as in the above lace weave.  A hard compression while damp will then flatten the threads and further fill in the spaces between, but fulling is not what is happening.

Some people say that the term 'wet finishing' is an overblown term that doesn't add to the discussion.  I disagree.  It is a very specific term for a very specific phenomenon.  It encompasses fulling as part of the process when fibres that *will* full can be encouraged to do so.

I am not the only person in the weaving community who has espoused this term or this process, whatever someone calls it.  Beverly Gordon wrote The Final Step outlining how to wet finish wool and mostly focused on fulling.

When I finished the Guild of Canadian Weavers master weaver program, I chose to look at wet finishing with an emphasis on how to make textiles appropriate for cold weather climates.  As part of the monograph I produced for the fourth and final level, I wove hundreds of samples and wet finished them.  Not all were wool, although that was the major focus of my work.

I set up an experimental process and wet finished the woollen samples to different degrees, then analyzed them to determine how the set experimental lengths affected the fulling.

After that I was encouraged to write a book.  So I did.

The original publication was a 2" ring binder filled with samples for 20 different projects.  Both before and after wet finishing.

finished jacket and vest

part of the technical information provided, wet finished/fulled sample with unfinished sample below - the samples started out the same size so the wet finished sample shows the degree of dimensional loss that happened during the process

It is never a bad idea to understand the principles of a craft, understand the processes involved.

And unless the web will never be touched by water, everything should be wet finished.  In my not-so-humble opinion...

(Magic in the Water is only available with the samples as photos.  If someone wants the original publication with samples, check out guild sales, estate sales, second hand book sites.  Otherwise, or .com carry both Magic in the Water and The Intentional Weaver - both PDF and hard copies.)