Monday, May 31, 2021

Political Textiles


There has been much chatter on line at times about keeping politics out of (name textile craft).

What people don't seem to realize is that textiles have been political for a very long time.  Colours are also political - see the colours various political parties use.  Colours have psychological effects on people, usually culturally based.  For example in European based cultures, black is the colour used for death and mourning.  In some Asian cultures, it is white.  And so on.

Lately textiles are being used to honour, recognize and remember missing and murdered indigenous women who have disappeared.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands of them.  Red dresses, hung up to represent those missing women, taken from their families, sometimes found, many more times, not.

The First Nations/Indigenous communities are left to wonder and mourn.  And so the Red Dress Project.

Now we have the news of 215 children found in a mass burial in Kamloops, BC.  The outrage is long overdue.  This is not the first mass burial and there will no doubt be many more found.  Thousands of children were taken from their families, by force, some of them never to return to their families.  Those that did frequently suffered from PTSD from being violated - everything from starvation to physical to yes, sexual abuse.  

If you are just finding out about this now, I suggest you begin by exploring the link below to the Red Dress Project, then expand your horizons to discover other abuses perpetrated upon First Nations/Indigenous people.  Urge the current government to implement the measures that were recommended, continue to work on the issues of water on reserves/First Nations communities, and bring the Spirit Bear Plan and Jordan's Principle into effect.

RedDress Project

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Ground Hog Day


Mount Robson on a sunny day

In many ways, the past 15 or so months has been a bit like the movie Ground Hog Day.  Pretty much the same every day.  

I get up, have my coffee, pretty much ignore things like house cleaning, get to the studio twice (if I can), veg a lot.  Much of the past year or so has been dealing with being 'retired' (for certain values of) and trying to figure out what direction the next few years should take.

Last year the summer was grey and wet and kind of miserable.  It didn't bother me too much because it meant any wildfires had little opportunity to spread and smoke was at a minimum.  Given the pandemic and the admonishments to stay home and not travel or even gather, the chilly wet summer seemed to encourage everyone to just stay home.

For me that wasn't a hardship, although it was for many.  

Classes were cancelled and cancelled again for this year, so I am not getting my drive through the mountains again, not getting a (rare) chance to see Mount Robson in all it's glory.

Things may get back on track for next year, but it's been hard for a lot of people to see their plans disrupted, events cancelled, societal norms for celebrations downsized, put on line.  That sense of community celebration is curtailed and a lot of people are re-examining their life priorities.

For us it hasn't meant much of a change.  Not having much in the way of income for most of our lives, we are used to doing without of a lot of things.  We have rarely taken 'grande' holidays, in large part because I was already traveling so much - even the 'usual' things like birthdays and anniversaries got moved to when I was in town.  Moveable feasts.

Last week it was announced that BC would begin booking 2nd doses of the covid vaccine.  Given the original date was months after the first, moving it up to 'in the next few weeks' is at once a relief and anxiety ridden - when, when, when?  Patience, Grasshopper.

Some of the provinces are still staggering under a huge load of cases, so while Canada is, generally, beginning to bend the curve, there are still hot spots and some provincial governments (whose responsibility health care is) seem hell bent on encouraging a fourth wave, opening up too soon and encouraging large festivals that they rely on for tourism and such.

So I am content to stay home, and I will continue to wear a mask until BC reaches herd immunity.  I might continue to wear a mask anyway because I enjoyed not catching a cold this past year and because wearing a mask when I walk means less discomfort from my allergies to air born particles (smoke, pollen, dust).

Like I said to the guy on my walk yesterday, while covid might be over by the end of the summer, my allergies won't be.

In the meantime, I keep going to the loom, weaving down my stash, thinking about ways to teach on line.  Fighting with the technology.  Yesterday it was my monitor, so a back up monitor was brought up and swapped out for the one that was slowly dying.  Of course the back up didn't have speakers, so then rummaging through our 'saved' older (replaced) technology, finding the speakers that we kept and getting them installed.  And once again I wondered why I keep trying to do this on line thing.

So today, with no Zoom to host, I am going to go weave a couple more towels.  Who knows, I might even get back to the spinning, too.  I may have turned into a hermit permanently.

Saturday, May 29, 2021



Yesterday I got to the halfway point of the current warp.  Crossing the grey/blue warp with white means that one side of the cloth is predominantly white, the other shows more of the warp.  The warp colours are very similar in value so the effect is more subtle.  Quiet.  

The variegated yarn has white/blue/pink mostly and is 1/4 of the yarns.  There are also two ends of a brighter blue, slightly deeper value than the rest.

Today I will begin the 2nd half of the warp and since, wonder of wonders, I have no Zoom meetings on Sunday, the goal is to be cutting the rest of this warp off the loom on Tuesday.

The cotton flake is going down nicely.  There are two full cones, about 2 pounds each, plus a little bit left on the current one.  Last night I wound enough bobbins for 2+ towels and it looks like enough for two more towels before I need to begin a new cone.  

I have the yarns pulled for a somewhat darker blue warp, also with the same variegated (Baby Mix).  After that warp, I will work on something different in an effort to use up more of my 'odd' yarns in the stash.  Since I will have some flake left, plus those cones of cotton boucle, I'll do something in plain weave, I think.  The flake works well in plain weave, too.  The towel in my ensuite is one of that quality - 2/8 cotton warp at 20 epi, woven in plain weave with the flake.  It's not as absorbent as something with warp/weft floats, but over the years it has broken in and works fine.

And that's the thing with textiles.  Sometimes they need to experience a bit of life, a bit of 'wear' before they truly begin to shine.

Not unlike human beings...

Currently reading Dark Sky by C. J. Box

Friday, May 28, 2021

New Studio Stool


For many years I used a low stool to thread the AVL.  Doug made one that fit the height I needed it to be.  The cover was handwoven, and has been getting thin around the edges for some time.  

I now use the stool while I beam warps sectionally on the Megado and I finally had to admit that the cover was well and truly worn out - it was time to replace it.

Well, since I AM a weaver, I knew I had some cloth I'd woven for another purpose (and wasn't now likely to use it for that purpose) that would do.  Given the last cover lasted close to 20 years, it didn't matter if this one only lasted 10 - it would likely be enough for the rest of my weaving life, at any rate.

Yesterday Doug took the stool apart and started working on it.  It needed new padding and he found some foam that would do, cut the fabric to size and started affixing the new cover cloth to the seat.  He got this far by the time he ran out of steam, but it should not take too long to finish it off.  If he is still working on it when I need the table, I can just wait until he is done.

The yarn is 2/16 cottolin woven in a 1:3 twill.  I had planned on some summer tops, but since I'm not a big fan of sewing clothing anymore, only one got made and the fabric has languished ever since.  When we did the big studio re-organization, the cloth got moved several times, and now I'm thinking I could use it to do new curtains for my office.  Thing is, there is really nothing wrong with the curtains currently on my office window, so...

Anyway, it's fabric.  I needed some, it was there, it is being used to re-vitalize a stool that I use frequently.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Pick by Pick

 Well, Blogger seems to be having a problem today and won't let me load a photo, so it's all text today, I guess.

So here is a four shaft colour and weave pinwheel.

Yesterday I managed my goal of two towels.  A friend also acted as tech guinea pig so I could work through figuring out the white board option on Zoom.  I learned some stuff, as usual!  But it was an exercise in frustration again, so once we finished, I had to sit for a while with thoughts of 'what on earth do you think you are doing?'  And 'how much irritation are you willing to go through to learn more new tech stuff?'

With more and more North Americans beginning to engage in real life (as they say), how many are even going to be interested in learning on line?  Will everyone fling their on line Zoom meetings out the window and head for the nearest in person class?

On the other hand, travel is expensive and will remain problematic for a while, and for some of us?  We may never travel again, so...there is that.

What so many people really and truly do not understand is the shelf life of a virus.  In BC, we have just come through a third wave, and we hope like crazy that there will not be a fourth.  But you know what?  There could.  There really and truly could.  Because a virus will mutate.  And it will lodge in a warm body and grow and sometimes mutate into something quite different, and carry on.

There is nothing inherently 'evil' about a virus.  It just is.  Knowing how they work, more or less, we can take appropriate precautions to avoid them, but that relies on everyone understanding how they work, or at least take direction from others who do, and then follow those recommendations.

When I decided to 'retire' (for certain values of), one of the things I had to figure out was what that retirement was going to look like.  Into the midst of my trying to shape a future for myself, COVID appeared.  

Now, the influenza pandemic at the end of WWI isn't all that far ago, so I was pretty sure people would bear that disaster in mind and follow the best practices.  Isolate, mask, etc.  Unfortunately, I was wrong.

We have seen this dynamic play out in real time - denial, accusations, blame shifting, refusal to isolate/quarantine/mask.  

After 14 months of it, people are tired.  Everyone just wants their lives back.  Well, best remember how many people have died.  The 3.5 MILLION people who are no longer with us.   Who cannot get *their* lives back...because they DIED.

As I look at options for myself, I doubt very much I will be travelling anywhere very far.  So any options I have are all on line (unless people come here).

Olds College cancelled Fibre Week and all the master classes for this year and frankly I was relieved because Alberta is still dealing with the pandemic.  I would be very reluctant to go to Alberta right now given my compromised immune system.  I rarely leave the house here in my home town and only go to very specific places, for short periods of time.  Masked, of course.

As we wend our way through the pandemic, it is much like weaving.  Pick by pick, day by day, we keep on keeping on.

It was supposed to rain today, but so far it isn't.  I really need to get back to walking, I'm just not a fan of taking exercise in the rain.  So we'll see.

In the meantime, I have done four towels on the current warp, with two more scheduled to today.  If I then do two more tomorrow, I will have reached the half way mark of this warp.  It's looking quite nice - and if blogger would load photos, I could show you.  But it isn't, so I can't.

The weaving right now is going fairly smoothly, so I'm taking time to let my thoughts going forward simmer on the back burner.  While I *think* the short video clip idea is do-able, I really wonder how much more new tech I am willing to try and learn.  

Guess I'll find out...

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Staying 'Motivated'


shelves of hand woven textiles

My 'inventory' has grown over the past year plus, in no small part due to the pandemic and the closure of shops and other sales events.  My woven textile stock is now about four times this, and grows daily if I can manage my two towels per day goal.

It doesn't seem like much, but two towels a day?  Add up.  

Not every day, of course not.  When a warp runs out, I have to set up the next one, but each current warp produces 16 towels.  So every two weeks or so, another 16 towels hit the shelves.  Averaging 8 towels a week for 52 weeks of the year?  That's over 400 towels a year.

Sometimes people ask me how I can stay motivated.   Well, I have too much yarn.  I also find that getting to the loom daily helps my mental health.  If I can manage to do something in the studio, I feel as though I have accomplished something positive that day.  Even if that 'positive' is just emptying another tube or cone of yarn.

But I've never been too bothered about instant gratification.  I couldn't and be a weaver.  Because nothing about any hand craft is 'instant'.  Making things take time, effort and yes, a degree of skill.  

The other thing about weaving is that I'm moving, even if I am sitting while doing so.  I know I need to get up onto my feet more, but advancing age means my feet aren't terribly happy with me, for reasons.  Nor my hips, truth be told.  So far my knees aren't too bad.  But I also know that I need to keep my legs working because that will help reduce falls.  OTOH, the weather has been variable and the rest of this week rain is in the forecast.  And I'm still not a fan of walking in inclement weather.  Something I should work on getting over.

The Zoom meetings keep me occupied as well.  Currently finalizing the Power Point for lecture #7 on Colour.  Not a deep dive, but basic info.  Deep dives are provided by Tien Chiu and Janet Dawson as well as Jane Stafford.  Not everyone has time for a full blown class and sometimes all they need is a few pointers.  Sot that's the approach I'm taking.  Focusing on the principles.

Still wrestling with the technology, I have another Zoom practice booked for this afternoon.  In the end, it will be what it will be and people will accept or not.  Not every teacher is a good fit for every student.

Wayne Dyer used to talk about the stages of life and that elders needed to mentor younger folk.  A few years ago I decided to embrace my 'elder' status and try to help others who wanted it.  I stay motivated by trying to pass on my knowledge to others.  And weave down my stash.  And try to sell my completed weavings, in a desultory way.  But it is obvious that I need to do a push to find new homes for some of my cloth.  One benefit is that woven cloth takes up less space than tubes/cones of yarn.  But still.  There are now four shelving units cheek by jowl with handwoven towels, table runners and scarves.  Time to move some of them out of here and into other people's hands.  Check my ko-fi account for my 'shop' as I continue to list a new towel on Mondays.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

May Long Weekend


Over the weekend I managed to:

Press 8 towels, ready for hemming (and even manage to hem some of them)

Have a Zoom/You Tube tutorial on how to add captions to video clips on You Tube

Beam the above warp

Two hour Zoom Sunday Morning; 3 hour in person (outdoors, physically distant) visit

Thread, sley and tie on the above warp.

Having been self employed for 40+ years, my concept of 'holiday' is a bit shaky.  Every day was (and still is) a potential 'work' day.

When you love what you do (mostly - not all of it) it doesn't seem onerous to do it every day.  So this long weekend was just another time to keep on doing stuff.

Yes, even 'retired'.  Yes, even during a pandemic.  Yes, even when I don't feel great.  If I can at least get something done in the studio, I feel 'better' than if I'd just given in to the fatigue and lack of energy and sat like a lump.

I also know I need to increase my activity, but right now there is plant sex going on and my allergies have been having a time with all the (first) dust and (then) pollen in the air.  Plus I hurt in ways and places that make walking uncomfortable.  So I continue to give up on that idea.  

Now I have the perfect excuse - several days of predicted rain.  Never mind I have an umbrella (or three).  Never mind I have a couple of rain coats.  

This morning I had to be up 'early' for a 9 am appointment to renew my driver's license.   It meant getting dressed and downtown before I'd had my 2nd cup of coffee and breakfast.  But never mind, I made it.  That has now been dealt with, and early enough I don't need to worry about it.  I really don't like taking care of such things at the last minute.  It used to be because I was out of town so frequently I needed to make sure things were taken care of while I was in town.  Now I just don't want to forget!

As the clerk processed my renewal, we talked about how covid was going and that things seemed to finally be getting 'better'.  We both agreed that we hope things don't open up too quickly.  The nice thing about being first in the door was not having to worry too much about people.  Until the doors opened, everyone in line outside was being quite good about keeping distance and wearing masks.  Something I was relieved to see.

This week I want to work on the blue/grey warp, see how far I can get.  There are no Zoom meetings next weekend but I have to finish writing the Power Point for the one June 6.  Nearly there, just trying to think of anything else I need to add.

I am trying to add one towel each Monday to my ko-fi shop - managed yesterdays at 11 pm or thereabouts.  As always, if you don't see something you like, contact me because I may have something in stock, just not posted yet.

Currently reading Spoils of the Dead by Dana Stabenow

Monday, May 24, 2021

It Takes a Village


white roses

Like so many teachers, I have had to jump into the world of Zoom and adapt my approach to teaching.  I was pretty good at setting up Power Point, but from there a whole new world was entered.  

Power Point presentations are fine, as far as they go, but they can't do everything.  I tried adding video but either they didn't run, or ran so poorly it wasn't worth adding them.  So then I had to figure out other ways to show what I wanted to show.  Back to the good old white board.  Which worked, sort of, but I'm not an artist, and sometimes pens didn't write or they didn't show up well, etc.

Enter the villagers.  People with more expertise in using Zoom or other on line tools, ready, willing and able to help this 'old dog'.

One person off handedly mentioned the white board option built into  Zoom.  It took me a few days to absorb the fact that I didn't need any additional software, it was a feature built into Zoom that I could use.  

As I worked through options for continuing to teach, I knew that I had to do something other than offer long form presentations.  As covid ended, people were not going to have long chunks of time, nor would they want to do that sort of learning on line, once in person events began opening up again.

However, most people are willing to view a short video if it is to the point.  So I began to rummage through the long form presentations and work out how I could present bits of them in a short form.

But for that, I wanted to use my desktop as being easier to work on than the laptop that I use to run the loom.  However, my monitor doesn't have a web cam/microphone, so on one of my rare forays out of the house I went and bought a web cam.  Then couldn't make it work with Zoom.  It rook a more tech savvy person than I am to help me get that sorted.

Also, it was pointed out to me that I really needed to use captions for accessibility.  The challenges to be overcome kept piling up.

Then I discovered the 'personal room' on Zoom, so I could go in and do practice runs of things, like their white board.  It quickly became obvious that trying to draw diagrams with a mouse wasn't going to work well, so then I tapped a couple of people for info on drawing stylii(?)   I found a cheap one on sale locally and asked Doug to go pick one up so I could try it out.

There has been much poking at buttons and gnashing of teeth and many times I have been very tempted to throw up my hands and move on.

But my giving up now would be a disservice to the folk who have helped answer my questions.

I'm still working out the details but I'm getting there.  Now the big challenge is to start fleshing out the content for the short form presentations and how/where I will launch them.

Ko-fi has a subscriber option so the plan now is to offer the information to my ko-fi subscribers.  A subscription can be as little as $3 per month (Canadian, so less than a latte in most places).  

The reason I keep pressing on is the feedback from the attendees of my long form presentations.  Yesterday there were at least half a dozen who commented that the information from that presentation answered so many questions they had about why things might be going 'wrong' in their weaving.

I really hate to see people floundering when I might be able to help them sort out their problems.  So I guess I will keep relying on my 'village' to help with the technical stuff in order to help people pursue one of the most ancient of crafts...weaving...

Today's goal is to thread the loom for the next (blue) warp.  If I can shift myself down to the studio, I might even get it sleyed and tied on.  It is also supposed to be the last 'nice' day with several days of rain predicted.  Guess I'd better plan on walking today, too.

Sunday, May 23, 2021



"If it was easy, everyone would be doing it."

"Look out for someone who makes something look easy."

I was raised on such homilies.  My parents steered me in the direction of understanding that some things people did were skilled, to recognize when that might be the case, and to respect the effort that went into making (that thing) look easy.

I remember my mother sweating (literally) as she learned how to make roses from icing to decorate cakes.  How many times she tried and tried and tried - and failed.  But it was just icing and it all went back into the bag to be expressed through the nozzle over and over again until she finally managed to make roses.

I remember how many times my mother would rip out her knitting - or more importantly, mine - in order to re-do it to make it turn out better.  There was never any judgement, just, ok, let's try that again.

Failure wasn't something to be ashamed about - it was just another step in learning.  Mom's patience in showing me, over and over and over again, how to cast on was not an imposition on her time.  It was her gift to me to help me learn.  Same with cooking, sewing, embroidery.

Learning choreography in ballet class.  Fine tuning physical motions in track and field - especially field.  Throwing a discus meant try, try, try again to get that motion as close to perfect as possible.  Tiny tweaks each time.  Paying attention to my body - how it felt each time I tweaked what I was doing.

It is an attitude I carry into the classroom with me.  Failure IS an option, but it is not The End of trying.

After all, if it was 'easy', everyone would be doing it.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

It's Complicated


Picture of an elk, in the bush by the side of the road...

Life is full of complexity.  

The older I get, the more I understand that there is very little that human beings actually understand.  About anything, really.

I figured out at a rather young age that Life was Complicated.  And Hard.  But also?  Beautiful.

See?  Complicated.

Wellness and Illness are all part of the human condition.  Some people have the constitution of an ox (as we used to say), and others?  Not so much.

The problem with illness is that it can be mild or severe or anything in between.  A spectrum, if you will.  Just like so many other things.

Happiness?  A spectrum.  

Since Life IS complicated, a realization I came to at a very early age (10?  11?) I settled on aiming for the middle ground.  Happy?  I would settle for Satisfaction.  Wellness?  I would settle for Functioning, even if some days it was just barely.

In my craft work?  Completed was always good.  Finished so that I could wear the knitting or sewing, use the hand embroidered tea towels, eat the home made bread.  I never bothered too much about Perfect, Good would do.

I've never been overly much bothered by other people's opinions.  Not enough to change what I was doing, that is.  Since I never felt that I fit into society's definition of attractive, I never much bothered.  I settled for clean and as tidy as I could manage.  My house will never win the Good Housekeeping award, and that never much bothered me.  My approach was to simply stop inviting people to visit my home unless I knew they were there for me, not my housekeeping.  

Over the past year I have become more aware of the level of disabled people in society and just how invisible disability is.  If someone needs mobility aids, it's pretty obvious that they are coping with Life using some sort of assistance.  Other things are much less visible.  Chronic pain for instance.

As a society, we have gotten used to some forms of 'dis'ability aids, such as corrective lenses, hearing aids.  When I purchased my hearing aids the young woman took care to point out that they came in a silver colour which would go nicely with my grey hair.  I said that I wasn't bothered about hiding them, I just thought the silver was pretty so I would get that colour.

I've worn eyeglasses almost continually since I was four years old.  My frames have been large and loud, smaller and more 'traditional'.  The last time I bought new frames I wanted the brightly coloured ones but they didn't fit my face.  So it was back to the 'standard' frames.

When I needed a cane, a friend fancied hers up (she was loaning me one) with decals.  If/when I need one in the future, I'll have something 'fancy' because why not?

Other forms of 'dis'ability include people who need to watch their diet, for whatever reason - diabetes, food allergies, celiac or other gut issues.  My mother became quite upset when I would refuse food at social gatherings.  But I knew I could not have some things and protected my health by politely but steadfastly saying 'no, thank you'.  She accused me of being rude for refusing.  I'm sure others thought the same, but I didn't care.  I had to protect my health.

For the past few years, it's my energy levels.  After years of dealing with my lack of energy, I now understand that fatigue is the kind of tired that never gets resolved by simply sleeping longer.  I wake up tired.  I make my way through the day tired.  I go to bed tired.  This also is a form of 'dis'ability.  

The other day while scrolling through Twitter, my eye lit on a post that said something to the effect that willpower is just the ability to moderate one's dopamine.

Since I have lived most of my life relying on my willpower to get up, get moving, work, continue in the face of chronic pain and fatigue, knowing that if I can just get to the loom and weave aerobically I can generate endorphins and feel better...this comment kind of slammed me between my eyes.  It is something I have been processing and can find nothing wrong about the statement.

Brain chemistry is...complicated.  I went through burn out a few years ago, brought on by a complicated set of circumstances.  Finally after 18 months of trying to continue, I went to a different doctor, laid out what was going on with me, and she told me that if I had been dealing with these things for 18 months I was in a clinical depression and no amount of pulling myself up by my bootstraps would lift me out of it.  My brain chemistry had changed and the only way back was to medicate and rebalance.  So I went on medication.  Once it seemed I was beginning to recover I asked how long I would need to take the medication.  She told me that I had to medicate for as long as it had taken me to hit 'bottom'.  In other words, 18 months.  She was not wrong.

I am now able to moderate my dopamine again and I do that largely by continuing to work in the studio, weaving, generating endorphins as best I can, given my new physical reality and fatigue levels. Some days are easier than others to dredge up my willpower and do that.

But always I need to consider my personal health limitations - what I can, and cannot do - and remain functioning.

During this time of pandemic isolation, people like me who are immune compromised need to factor in precautions so that we don't catch this virus.  For us, wearing a mask is going to remain a first line of defense.  I really hope that once herd immunity has been reached that people who are 'healthy' who blithely wave away the protection that wearing a mask provides, not just for covid but flu and colds, will realize that some of us who have 'invisible' health issues need to risk assess every single day and that general societal acceptance of the wearing a masks becomes routine.

It's Complicated.

Friday, May 21, 2021



This morning things aligned so that I got that 'perfect' splash of light tossed across my floor.

The front of the house faces more-or-less east and as the sun makes it's annual journey from spring to autumn, how the light comes through the fanlight will move from the floor up the wall and back again.  Until at certain times of the year I rarely see it because it happens in the wee hours before I wake up.

And of course, we need the sun to be shining, as well.

So when I walked into the living room and saw the 'rainbow' of light on the floor I stopped to admire it, be reminded that time flows, one day to the next, and that this particular image is fleeting and needs to be appreciated when it happens.

Just like all of life, really.

Yesterday I never did make it to the loom because I had a busy day with appointments.  But I got some things done that I'd been 'saving' for a town run.  Then I did some digging on line for new methods of teaching - from tools to programs/apps.

Zoom has a 'white board' feature, but I am not finding 'drawing' using a mouse very helpful.  I don't have the time to spend getting more proficient at trying to 'write' or 'draw' in the feature that way so I contacted some people who are way more tech savvy than I am and they were able to help point me in a direction to find out more.  I have also scheduled some training sessions with people willing to help.

Needless to say, that pretty much ate up whatever energy/brain power I had left so the loom had to be patient - as they are!

I did find time to get the next warp organized.  Four spools of the variegated are wound and the tubes/spools set into the spool rack.   Then I pulled more blue for a darker value warp.  And that, I suspect, will be the last warp in the current series.

So today I will finish the current (beige) warp, then cut off, cut/serge the 8 towels, get them through the washer/dryer to press tomorrow morning.  And then begin beaming the next warp.  Sunday will be Zoom, then a real life visit with a couple of friends.  We'll meet outside in my carport, physically distant.  It's been months since we have gotten together, and while we are all being very cautious, it will be good to have some time to catch up.

Tomorrow I will also have a Zoom meeting with someone who will help me with captioning options and I'm still poking around on the internet for options for video clips.  I'd much rather be weaving, but if I'm going to continue this journey of teaching but on line, I need to spend the time to dig and decide on how I feel comfortable doing so.

But for now?  It's time to start drifting to the studio and do some weaving.  The 'perfect' moment of rainbow splashes on my floor is over for today.  

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Down the Home Stretch?


The plan was to finish the beige warp today and begin working on the blue one.  But today got busy and it looks like I'm not going to make it to the loom today, at all.

During the pandemic I have limited my excursions out of the house and when I do, I try to do several things at once.  Today's appointments didn't work out well, but it means that I can go to the bank and deal with a cheque that needs depositing in between massage and chiropractor.

The cotton flake is going away faster than anticipated (in part because of my faulty math!) and so it looks like two more blue warps will use it up.  If there is any left, I also have cotton boucle to use and if I keep that in mind, I could use up the last of the flake before beginning the boucle.  But I will decide that once I've done the above blue/grey combo, plus another more blue warp.

The satisfying thing is that the yarn is gradually going away.  Well, not away, exactly, but transformed into textiles and they store a lot easier than tubes of yarn.  

I have begun posting photos of towels to my ko-fi account and bought more padded envelopes in hopes of selling some towels.  I am looking at doing more stuff on line and may need to get a web cam for my desktop and maybe even a stylus for drawing on/with the computer.  I try very hard to not buy such things out of household accounts, so I need to sell textiles to cover teaching/weaving expenses.

But I was also reminded that I should be providing captions for my on line stuff.  There is a way for You Tube to do that for me, but I need to figure out how that works.

Always something...

Anyway, I'm tired of doing towels.  It's been towels, towels and more towels for over a year (with small detours to do place mats and samples) and with the advent of spring I am looking to change what I'm doing.  Not sure what that will be yet.  Once this run of towels is done I have linen yarn to use as well, but since that would change what I'm doing somewhat, it might be enough of a change.

I have also begun spinning a bit.  I'm not a good spinner, plus I have no idea what I'm going to do with the yarn, but something will come to me.  Right now the goal is to transform the fibre into yarn.  One step at a time.

But for now?  I'm quite happy to see the end (nearly) of the current towel design.  

I'm also happy to see sun today and warmer temperatures.  There have been too many grey days of late.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Carrying On


After my blog post yesterday, I asked on Facebook if people might be interested in short videos.  I was thinking of taking just one of the points out of my long form presentations and doing maybe 5 minutes (or less) and posting to You Tube.  I have - amazingly enough - over 1000 subscribers to my You Tube 'channel' so I could look at monetizing the content and maybe earn a little bit of money that way.

Or I could look at other options.

Platforms such as You Tube seem to be getting more and more problematic in terms of small producers like me and a number of people have suggested other platforms.

So I did some poking around.  In the end I wasn't happy with anything I found and then I remembered that is it possible to load short videos to this platform.

So I will think about how I might do this kind of thing.  

I have been using blogspot since 2008 when I started this 'diary' and it's pretty simple to use.  I can also link this site to Facebook and Twitter and could possibly also link to my ko-fi page.

For a number of reasons, this week has been more challenging and I'm short of spoons right now.  But I can use my weaving time to let ideas like this percolate on the back burner.  

Bottom line, I'd like to stay with programs/platforms I am currently using, not throw myself into another pool at the deep end.  Since I've bought a PRO Zoom account, I might as well avail myself of that even if it isn't 'perfect'.  My goal is not to become the next TicTok sensation but just to continue to provide information about weaving principles to those who might be interested.  

Given my dwindling supply of energy, doing short form video clips would be less taxing on me.  So - lots to mull over.

But the concept seems to be of interest to enough people, so I am cautiously heading in that direction.

As always - time will tell...

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

My 'TED' Talks


When I first learned of TED talks I was intrigued and, truth be told, a little envious.  Oh, to have such a large audience to hear what I would like say about weaving, cloth, etc.

But I knew the audience for what I wanted to say was tiny.  A niche so small that standing up to talk at a TED presentation was a silly ambition.

Lately it has occurred to me that the technology now exists for people like me to do a TED type of presentation via Zoom and You Tube.

What I am doing is not teaching in the 'old' way, but teaching in a way that I feel needs to be done, right now.  

Firstly, we are all safe at home - no danger of any virus being shared along with knowledge.  Secondly, I can focus entirely on the kinds of things I feel get left out of the 'traditional' approach to teaching weaving.  Thirdly, it doesn't matter if everyone can attend for the live presentation because I can (fairly easily) load the recorded presentation to You Tube for anyone in the group to view at their convenience.

As I work my way through my message, I find myself more and more identifying with the kinds of TED talks I have enjoyed viewing.  But, because I am trying to also teach at a fairly deep level, I am not confined to 20 minutes (or less).  In fact, my presentations are more routinely lasting around 2 hours.

This is kind of stretching the limits of people to focus so I build in times to pause and allow the viewers to stop and absorb for a bit.  In addition, because the viewers can go to the video to review, I feel I can push beyond the normal limits of what I do live.

When we live through 'interesting' times, we can approach what we do differently.  In so many ways, weaving (and other craft practitioners) have stepped up, learning new technology, re-tooling their classes, dealt with new skills in order to continue to support their students.

And, going forward, we can continue this approach even after the pandemic is over.  Teachers won't have to always be jumping on airplanes at dark o'clock (in many cases), dodging weather, dealing with strange beds, time zones, etc.  Once we can safely travel again, there will be a desire for the kind of in person teaching/learning we are familiar with.  But I can see the on line options that I and others have taken up also continuing.

Those who, like Jane Stafford, Tien Chiu and Janet Dawson, Abby Franquemont, Daryl Lancaster, who had already begun teaching on line have made great strides in this already.  I will continue to poke along at my own speed on my own terms.  Time will tell if the audience will continue to be there.

Thank you for coming to my 'TED' talks...

Monday, May 17, 2021

Risk Assessment


This morning I parked at the shopping mall and walked up the hill to the cancer clinic for my appointment.

The type of cancer I have is not considered curable, so I visit the clinic every six months for a check up, see how I'm doing, if I'm still in a very unexpected (but very welcome) remission.  Or not.

Since my cancer is of the immune system, the B cells the vaccine is trying to educate to recognize covid, the risk of my catching covid and surviving it is...not good.  My immune system just doesn't work very well and so my efforts to avoid getting in the cross hairs of the virus have been pretty stringent.

As soon as I was able, I got the first shot, and even though I'm well past the two week date of that first shot, I am well aware that my immune system doesn't work well, and I will continue to isolate and wear a mask if if need to go out.

The good news is that my remission continues.  For how long?  No one knows.  I wasn't supposed to have this time of grace from it, but I do, and I'm grateful.

The news about covid is disconcerting on so many levels.  Yes, here in BC things are improving, but not every province.  Yes, Canada is getting vaccines, for which I'm grateful, but many countries are not.  Everyone needs to get a vaccination in order to roll this virus back and make things safer for the world.

While I completely understand that some people have found wearing a mask difficult, it is the front line of protection.  As such, I will not stop wearing one for a considerable amount of time.  I want to see actual herd immunity develop, not just 'nearly' there.  60% vaccinated is not considered herd immunity - that means 4 out of 10 people are not protected by a vaccine and that's just too many for my compromised immune system to risk.

People are always very concerned about themselves.  That's just human nature.  But we also need to be concerned about the rest of humanity.  Already over 3 million people around the world have died due to covid - and it is reasonable to assume that the official number is well below the actual number.  Some statisticians are saying the number is more likely double that, and some are saying it is even higher.

As many survivors are dealing with long haul symptoms, the number of people taken out of the work force is much higher.  There is now significant data to say that some people with long covid are also dying within months of 'recovering' from the initial infection.  So expect the death toll to go even higher.

When I talked to the nurse practitioner at the clinic this morning, we agreed that people need to be wearing masks for a lot longer.  In fact she was double masked and had a face shield.  Something I appreciated as she sees a lot of patients through the day, nearly all of them with compromised immune systems.

We talked about our reluctance to travel long distances for the foreseeable future.  Because while covid might be starting to come down in Canada, this IS a pandemic and there are many countries that will be dealing with it for months to come.

I was relieved to hear that Mr. Biden has promised to begin shipping 'excess' vaccines to other countries and I hope that Mr. Trudeau will also ensure that any unused AZ vaccines in Canada go to other countries.  We have the enormous privilege to pick and choose from a variety of vaccines - something that is unheard of in medical history.  And we got them in record breaking time.  The mRNA vaccines appear to be working well, even on variants.  But the sooner the growth - and the mutations - stop, the better off we will ALL be.

So I suggest to people who are fully vaccinated - before you begin planning vacations to exotic places, make sure that those exotic locations are ALSO fully vaccinated.  

Stay home until the pandemic is actually over, not just in your country.  Wear a mask when you go out until actual herd immunity as been reached.  Gather carefully in small groups, in well ventilated spaces, physically distant, for short periods of time.  Get the vaccine.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay covid aware.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Rainy Sunday


This photo is from a few years ago, after the plum trees have finished blooming.  Today it is raining, a nice soft rain at the minute, but chilly with it.  I won't be going walking today.

Today's Sunday Seminar just wrapped up.  I've sent the link to Birthe but we are waiting a bit to see if Winnie sends the list of books she mentioned.  I have a few books I know of that I can add to the list as well if Winnie doesn't reference them.  Birthe is busy with her gardens and will send the link as soon as she has some time.

For today's seminar, the speaker was in Florida, there were participants from the eastern seaboard of the US and various places in Canada.  And those were just the ones I knew about.  There was also one person from Bolivia.  I don't think we have had any registrations from Australia or NZ.  Unless I know the person myself, I don't really know where they hale from so perhaps there have been and I just don't know.

I didn't sleep well last night (or the nights before) and after getting chilled (again) sitting in the studio, I've decided to declare today a day 'off'.  I won't be walking, but I have a library book I'm enjoying and my spinning, which I've been ignoring.  

Tomorrow I have a 10 appointment, so I'm hoping to weave a couple of towels tomorrow afternoon.  My goal is to have this beige warp off the loom by the end of the week, then get the blue warp into the loom and see how much of the cotton flake is left when that one is done.  Right now I'm planning another blue warp after that one, leaving my options open based on how much of the white cotton flake I have left by then.

There are two warps planned for as soon as this series is done.  Then I will have to decide which direction to go once all of those are finished with.

For the moment I am trying to keep my head down, nose to grindstone and not think too much about the future.  But the time will come and I will be ready for something different.

Friday, May 14, 2021

A Quiet Day


draft based on a design in Jane Evans' book A Joy Forever

Yesterday I reached the halfway point of the current beige warp around 4 pm.  I cut off the 8 towels then cut/serged them and popped them into the washer/dryer.  They are now ready for pressing, then hemming.

Today I have a major personal maintenance appointment at 1 pm.  My goal for today is press those damp towels this morning, then see how I feel when I get home.  I may at least re-tie the warp in preparation of weaving again.  Whether I weave will depend on how I'm feeling.

One thing about 'retirement' is that my goals are literally my own personal goals.  I have very few deadlines and most of them are related to my Zoom meetings.  As such I need to finish the next Power Point on colour, then start thinking about the next two, which will be deep dives into a) twill and b) lace weaves.  Something that will present a bit of a challenge on line.

The weather here I haven't been walking much.  One forecast says possibility of scattered storms today.  I may decline to be productive this afternoon and brew a pot of tea and grab my library book.  Or I could do more spinning.  I have options!

The cotton flake is being used up more quickly than I had anticipated and I'm hoping to be done with it sooner, rather than later.  I'm ready for a change I think.  With that in mind, I will likely finish this series with two blue based warps since I have a bunch of cones of the 'baby mix' variegated to use up.  I won't come lose to getting it all used, but would like to see it go down some more.

I posted one of the towel designs to my ko-fi shop on Monday and my aim is to post another every Monday.  I'm trying to be organized about tracking what I post, how many towels of each design/colour so I can keep track.

With one thing and another, I am still dealing with The Tired (my Nurse Practitioner says that what I have is 'fatigue' although I've been fighting using that term.  To my mind 'fatigue' never ends, 'tired' can be cured.  OTOH, I've been dealing with The Tired for long enough now I have begun to accept that it is, indeed, fatigue, even if I don't have the level of brain fog I used to associate with 'fatigue'...)

These days I carefully dole out my spoonsful of energy.  When I run out I no longer beat myself up because I didn't get more done.  I'm retired.  Or I'm tired.  Either way, I have begun to give myself less grief when I run out.  We need to be kind to ourselves, not just to others...

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Sunny Day


pastel tints colour gamp

We seem to have arrived at 'spring'.  The plum trees in the back yard are in blossom, although I don't see many bees.  

I am supposed to be working on the next Power Point, which is on Colour Considerations.  A lot of new weavers find choosing colours to be challenging, in part because they don't really understand much colour theory or how colour works in the different woven structures.

(If you are looking for help with colour, you might check out Tien Chiu's website and the classes she and Janet Dawson are hosting.)

Part of the challenge with colour is coming to grips with scale and the distance at which the textile will be viewed.  

I didn't come by my approach to colour naturally.  I worked at it.  I had things that didn't turn out the way I wanted them to, but I learned from that.  In a 'well, I won't do *that* again' kind of lesson.

One thing that helped was taking a dyeing workshop where we took the primary colours and then made all kinds of different hues, tints, tones and shades.  Seeing what went into making a certain colour made it easier to choose what other colours to go with that colour.  Understanding that a green was more blue or more yellow meant I would look for other hues with a blue or yellow base to go with them.

And so on.

Weaving colour gamps helped, too, because I could see how the colours interacted when they crossed each other and how a different weave structure provided a different 'look' to the cloth - plain weave and twill, but others like lace weaves or waffle weave, or...

I'm nearly at the halfway mark on the current warp.  I'm pleased enough with it.  But I admit I'm tired of using up beiges.  The next one will be back to blue which is much more to my taste.  The cotton flake is going away faster than I expected, which is actually A Good Thing.  Because I'd like to move on to something different for a while.

It has been gratifying to see my stash evaporate, although I still have way too much yarn.

Ultimately I have no idea what is in the cards for me next year.  (I figure it will take most of the rest of this year to use up the next yarns in the queue.)  I also have way too much 2/16 rayon type yarns, which could make a lifetime's worth of scarves.  I'm not sure I feel up to tackling shawls, not because of the weaving, but the endless (feeling) fringe twisting of fine threads.  I can do it - I'd just rather not.

Yesterday I put away the spinning fibre and dug out the Ashford e-spinner and made a tentative start at spinning again.  I'm looking forward to using up the last of the hand dyed roving and turning to my own blended fibres.  Again, an exercise in working with colours.

Currently reading The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear - the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Interesting Times


There is a yard in my neighbourhood that has no front lawn, only a garden of delights.  The owner of this garden has worked diligently over 30 or so years to establish a garden that always has something blooming through our short summer.  For a while, it has a flourish of red poppies.  When I'm into a routine of walking, I love going by this house to see what is growing, which colours are on display.  It is most definitely - and perhaps even defiantly - not the 'standard' North American front yard.  And I love it for that exuberance and out of the 'norm' presence in my little neighbourhood.

It is a yard that I would love to own, were I a gardener.  Instead I am just a delighted audience.

I don't think I'm a Pollyanna - awash with toxic positivity.  Instead I would call myself a pragmatic optimist.  I always think we can do things better and work towards that goal of being better.

As the past year of pandemic living has progressed, I was able to do risk assessment and follow the science, in part because these are skills and thought processes that I have used all my life.  Especially as a weaver.

As a weaver, there is a constant examination of risk assessment.  If I use this yarn, will it produce the cloth I want?  If I combine these colours, will the result be pleasing to the eye or not?  This risk assessment isn't all that different from examining the actions of a virus.  How does a virus function?  How does it spread?  How do I best protect myself - and others - from catching and passing it on?

As more information became available, I adjusted my approach.  I am also extremely privileged insofar as I have a partner who is less at risk than I am and who was ready, willing and able to do the public things that any household needs done - such as shopping for groceries.  I withdrew from society to a large extent - at least in person.  Instead I grounded myself in on line activities such as this blog and then teaching on line, too.  Something I never thought I would or could do on my own.

Over the months I have witnessed great sacrifices by medical staff and others as well as great swaths of people who do not (maybe even don't want to) understand how a virus spreads and the damage it can do.  In many cases it is the very people who are supposed to understand these things and help protect the vulnerable who have driven the narrative that social distancing and mask wearing is some kind of conspiracy to take away people's freedoms.  In fact the opposite is true - the pandemic protocols are meant to help protect people from becoming ill and dying.  The short term 'pain' of staying separate is meant to provide everyone with safety from the illness so that we are all still here at the end of it.

We are now about 15 months into the pandemic and there are places where the virus has taken root and is raging through populations.  We are privileged to have not one but several vaccines available, which will hopefully soon be available to every country, not just the rich few.  When it comes to protecting ourselves, we must remember that until we are ALL safe, none of us are truly safe.

In the meantime, I continue to stay home as much as possible and wear a mask when I need to go out in public.  I believe that we can get through this pandemic time, but ultimately we will not - perhaps even should not - go back to the old 'normal'.  It will be interesting to see what changes occur in terms of society and politics.

We are living in those proverbial 'interesting times'...

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Running Out


I must admit, I am running out.

I am running out of a lot of things, options mostly.  Mining my stash means that my colour choices are gradually being used up.

For this warp I used four ends of a variegated yarn with yellow, peach, pink, blue and green, the rest of the warp is various shades of beige.  The values were pretty close so while it may sound a bit like fruit salad, they worked well together.  But I used up the last of that yarn (except for dribs and drabs too little for another warp).  On the other hand, I still have lots of beige left.

While I wove on this warp yesterday I thought about how I would combine colours for another beige warp.  The weft will be the same white cotton flake, and I wanted something a little more interesting than just beige.  Then I realized I didn't need a variegated, I could just put some of those colours, which I have in solids, in with the next beige warp.  

Working in series like I do, I can make minor tweaks/adjustments with each fresh warp.  The pot on the back burner keeps simmering away while I think through the options.  Picking, choosing, changing my mind.  I rarely stop with one of any design because I find as I weave each warp, I continue to examine, think, puzzle over, try something else, then something else again for the next warp.

I got two towels woven yesterday and plan on two more today.  That's my goal lately.  Just two towels.  So far that's been working ok so I'll keep at it until the flake is used up.  Then I'll do the cotton boucle as weft on a similar type of warp set up.  I dug all of the loop that I have out and there is enough blue to do a couple of towels, and enough white to do maybe two warps.  After much thinking over the past few days, I've decided to use a brighter combination - turquoise green and blue for one of those two warps.  

After that I have yarns pulled for a couple more 2/8 cotton warps, one of which will have a variegated 8/2 cotton weft (the draft is already designed) and another with much darker beiges which will have the cone of single linen.  I will most likely use the same draft as for the 8/2 cotton weft.  Or not, depending on how that one turns out.

I reserve the right to change my mind at any point in the process!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Jack Lenor Larsen


One of the books languishing in my pile of  books-to-read is this memoir of Jack Lenor Larsen.

I bought the book a few years ago, but somehow have yet to find the time to read it beyond the first few pages.

He was a most interesting person, although the memoir is a bit dry (at least what I've managed to read so far).  His accomplishments were many and varied, not least among them the many books he researched and wrote about textiles around the world.  I was gifted one of his books by my mentors "Material Wealth" upon attaining my master weaver certificate.  Another book I have yet to read because the photos of the fabrics are so gorgeous I get captivated by the cloth and forget about the words.

I had forgotten that he died last December - another loss among so many the past year.

Having been in the weaving world for 40+ years, I have actually met many of the people who are just names on books nowadays.  I was extraordinarily fortunate in managing to get into a rare workshop led by Mr. Larsen on Whidby Island in 1994.  At the time I was very much involved in organizing the ANWG conference here in 1995, where I had contacted Mr. Larsen about being keynote speaker.  When I introduced myself to the class (as we all did) I was the last person in the class to provide a little mini intro and I included the fact that Mr. Larsen would be the keynote speaker at the conference the following year.

When I sat down Mr. Larsen looked pensive and then said something to the effect that when I had sent the invitation to speak in 1990, he couldn't think of a reason to say no, so he said yes.  

As part of that conference we were able to have a small exhibit of some of his textiles and I was part of the crew that hung it so I had the chance to see the fabrics up close and personal.  A rare opportunity.

There are many people who have provided strong shoulders to stand on.  I would count Mr. Larsen among them.

Sunday, May 9, 2021



Yesterday I got the towels pressed, then beamed the next warp.  The day wasn't looking very nice so instead of walking, I went ahead and began threading the loom.  Forgetting that I have a Zoom this morning.

So right now the studio is particularly chaotic with the loom half threaded and me trying to cram all the stuff I need for Zoom into the tiny space in front of the loom.  Because that is the space in my studio that best meets the set up needs for doing the Zoom classes.

But - it's not ideal.  And it feels disorganized - even to me.  

On the other hand, my teaching space has, historically, rarely felt anything but cramped and disorganized, so this is nothing new.  I have taught in cramped rooms with little light, barely a table to put my samples, sometimes just a flip chart for doing diagrams, barking my shins on looms.  One workshop was in a basement with two lightbulbs and a broken piece of blackboard.  But the students were there to learn, so I taught.  

When I booked this date for a Zoom, I was well aware that it is our wedding anniversary, but I frequently was away from home teaching and it has always been a moveable feast.  When mom was alive she would check to see when I would be in town and we would get together when I was.  We never cancelled, just moved it.  It took mom a long time to understand that being self-employed didn't mean I could drop everything at her beck and call, something that she ought to have understood herself, given she was self-employed at the time.  But she did finally accept that I also had obligations to others and respected that.

What I failed to realize was that today was also Mother's Day, until just last week, in fact.  Part of my blinkered approach to Mother's Day is the fact that none of our mothers are alive anymore and we have no kids.  So a lot of times these 'holidays' go unremarked and uncelebrated.

So here I am today, feeling kind of crappy, both physically and emotionally as I get bombarded with seasonal allergies and constant reminders that I am outside of societal norms.  Again.

The older I get the less energy I have to spend but I'm hoping that there will actually be a few people this morning or else I'll be talking into the void.  But that's actually ok because I will record the presentation and post to You Tube.  I was just hoping for some interaction for this topic.  And maybe having fewer people will actually allow for more of a 'conversation'.  Who knows.

The big thing is that I am getting the information 'out there'.  And that seems important to me right now.

And yes, that's a boombox with cassette player.  And stacks of cassettes.  Golden oldies.  Just like moi.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Another Beginning


Yesterday I finished the blue warp, cut/serged the towels and ran them through the washer and dryer.  Today I'll press and add to the  hemming pile.  Once that is done and out of the way it will be time to set up the spool rack again, this time with a beige warp.  

What I have left in my yarn stash (2/8 cotton) are blues and beiges.  I'll be alternating between the two until I finally use up the flake yarn.  Then blue for the cotton boucle because I have several tubes of a royal blue.  Or not.  My blues are mostly greyed blues and the boucle is a pretty pure royal blue.  But neither can I use that on beige, so...

On the other hand, there is nearly 4 pounds of white boucle, so there is also that to be used and it can go on either.

My goal today is to get the pressing done, then beam the next warp.  It's also not raining today and it has been warming up such that walking should be attractive.  I walked up the hill to the cancer clinic yesterday and did better than anticipated, given how little I've been getting out of the house over the winter.  But it felt good to make it to the top and only be a little winded, which gives me incentive to keep going, see if I can reclaim more of the physical fitness I lost over the past couple of years.

And that's the thing, really.  You can always begin again, from where ever you currently are.

My massage therapist assures me that my body is healing, improving, just a lot more slowly than I might wish.

If I can keep beginning from the beginning when it comes to weaving?  I can begin again in terms of trying to improve my physical fitness.  

What's that meme I've seen floating around?  Fall down 7 times, get up 8.

I think I can, I think I can...

Friday, May 7, 2021

Stash Diving


Many of these tubes are now reduced in size, but very few have been emptied.  Yet.

My goal was to use up the cotton flake, and to that end I have mostly succeeded.  The dyed flake is pretty much gone and I'm working my way through the large mill tubes - about 2 pounds each.  Each tube seems to be doing one warp.  I have 5 of these tubes left, so another five warps.

In the process of digging through my stash I found some dyed and undyed cotton boucle (loop) so now I'm thinking that should be next after the flake is used up.  I can use the same set up for warps, weave the hems in 2/8 and the body of the towel in plain weave.  I've done this before and it works well for general toweling.  But I could as easily do those on the 4 shaft loom so I'm trying to decide if I weave all that plain weave on the 16 shaft Megado or not.  Do I want to hand wind chains and dress 11 meter long 24" in the reed warps, or beam them sectionally?  I think I know which way I'm leaning.  :D

I also have a warp pulled to begin working on the linen in my stash.  I have a large cone of a single yarn, a little bit coarse, not line but not as hairy as tow.  It may just be a poorer line quality generally.  In spite of that, I know it makes great towels, so I'll use it on 2/8 cotton for warp.

But I'm running low on colour options in the 2/8 cotton so I may have to switch to scarves and spend some time working on my finer rayon yarn stash while I mull over how much yarn to purchase going forward.

Currently reading Snow Blind by Ragnar Jonasson.  This author was recommended by Ian Rankin and it's interesting enough I may look for others in the series.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Shoulders of Giants


As I get older, so do the 'leaders' in the weaving community.  Recently a couple more have died.  We should not forget the debt we owe to the people who came before us, stretching out into the distant past.

Archeology studies that past through the remnants that were left behind.  Textiles are few and far between, which makes what we do find even more precious.

In my personal library, there are quite a few books that were published in the late 1800s, early 1900s.  There are other books that attempt to record and preserve information - Patricia Hilts, Jane Evans, Elizabeth Waylund Barber.  Others are working with other cultures in efforts to sustain their practices.

In North America we have so many people to thank for encouraging, supporting and preserving knowledge.  In Europe, there are actual textile collections that can be studied, whether it be at the Victoria and Albert in England, or houses in the National Trust.  Recently I began following the Ashmolean Museum and they frequently post photos of textiles in their collection.  Here in BC the Museum of Anthropology has an extensive collection of textiles.

Textiles, by their very nature, are ephemeral - they are (mostly) fragile in terms of antiquity.  Until modern synthetics came along, the lifespan of a typical textile was measured in decades (in some cases) not centuries.  Textiles are sometimes found in special circumstances such as buried in the permafrost, or bogs, are sometimes found.  These are rare and deserving of close examination.

I am reminded of the debt we owe to those who have gone before us, first learning how to work with fibres, then construct textiles from them, the pioneers who pushed boundaries, developed the technology to where we are now.

Thank you to those who persevered.  Giants, one and all.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Of Legacies


One of the things we - or at least I - tend to think about at some point is...what are we leaving behind?

For some people this legacy leaving centres around material goods.  How much money (stocks/bonds/whatever) will be passed on to the family.

For me the question is not so much about money, but knowledge.

As a new weaver, I looked at the available books and - because I'm a book lover - I would also check the copyright date.  Some of the books available in 1975 were actually written decades before, but were still widely used.  The (New) Key to Weaving by Mary Black was one of my textbooks along with the Davison green book.  Other authors that took up space in the library included Atwater, Tidball and others of that generation.  

As a new weaver I didn't really have much inclination to write a weaving book.  That came about much later growing out of the GCW monograph required for the fourth and final level.  By that time, I was aware of other master weavers who had published monographs/books.  Mary Black was the most famous, but others came along, too.  Some were only known regionally, but others gained wider readership, such as Linda Heinrich (one of my mentors) with her book The Magic of Linen.

Magic in the Water was built on the work I did for my GCW monograph, but this time it was presented in a format to address the lack of information currently available.  Wet finishing was - and still is, to a large extent - a not very well understood process.  Since joining the internet in 1994, one of my goals was to help people understand what wet finishing was, and why it was necessary.

The second book grew out of teaching people about things like ergonomics, working efficiently, taking care of one's body.  Then the misunderstood nuances of equipment - best practices to work efficiently and not injure oneself in the process.

As I wove more, taught more, I tried to work out why something was happening, to understand the dynamics involved in how the threads came together to make whole cloth, as it were.  It was in response to a direct request for a book recommendation from one of my students when I realized that much of what I understood about weaving was not documented in any one place.  It was time to write another book!

I didn't want to.  Having done Magic in the Water, I knew what I was setting myself up for in terms of effort and expense.  I started and stopped multiple times as life ebbed and flowed - renovations to the house, a mother dying, my own ill health.  

But things would resolve and there was the manuscript.  Patiently waiting.  It took the better part of 5 years to bring it to life and, while it isn't perfect, it was the best I could do in terms of quantifying in words something that is physical in nature.

Technology had also developed to the point where I could publish it on a website that offered either PDF download or an actual printed copy.  That meant I didn't have to pay a printer to do hard copies, then hope I could sell them all.  It offered a way for both books to live on.

Ultimately it will depend on their usefulness and future weavers to determine if they are, truly, 'classics'.  But regardless, I have come to consider these to be my legacy.

Both books are available through (or .com)  Or use the link at the bottom of the page.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Trade Offs


how it started...

how it's going

Well, not quite.  It actually started this morning by weaving one of those white towels, then cutting off and setting the heap on the cutting/work table.

Then I went back to the loom after lunch and started on the second half of the warp.

One of the big differences between the AVL and the Megado is that the AVL had a storage roller at the back of the loom so I could weave long lengths without ever having to cut off.  The Megado does the traditional approach of storing the woven web on a beam right in front of my knees.  There are two down sides to this arrangement.  When advancing the fell, the cloth builds up on the beam and then the tension adjustment becomes a bit trickier.  As the roll builds up on the beam, my knees press into it.  It's not really a problem, as such, just annoying.  But I find that anything more than about 10 yards on the beam begins to mess with re-tensioning when I advance, so it's just easier to cut off about halfway through and re-tie the warp and begin anew.

This is not a big deal for me, just something I miss about the AVL - not having to do this.  (There are a bunch of things I miss about the AVL, but how heavy it was to weave on is not one of them - the Megado is much lighter to treadle and beat - trade offs.  There are always trade offs.)

The older I get, the more difficulty I find doing some things and dealing with half a warp of towels is a lot easier on my body than doing the entire warp all in one go, so I remind myself that there offs...

This is the 7th warp of this series, with at least 3 more, possibly 4, to come.  At 16 towels per warp (approximately) that means this series will consist of  +/- 160 towels.  

I am running out of storage space.  So the time has come for me to stop procrastinating and begin photographing the towels and putting them into my ko-fi 'store'.  I've been saying this for weeks, perhaps months, now, and it is time to actually do it.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny so the light should be better.  Part of the challenge is getting photos that are close to 'true' in terms of colour.  On a grey day, that can be next to impossible.  So I'm hoping tomorrow will be the day to begin.

On the reading front, I have decided to give up on the nearly 700 page historical novel by Sharon Kay Penman, not because it isn't good - it is.  It's just that it is taking me far too long to get it read and I now have 4 library books waiting for me to read.  I managed to renew one of them that was coming due in two days, but some of them are brand new with holds on them so I can't renew them.  Time to let the Penman go and start on one of the others.  

The one I chose is This is the Fire by Don Lemon.  He is eloquent and the less than 200 pages should go quickly.  I wasn't sure if I would enjoy reading it, but his way with words is keeping me engaged and I'm glad I requested it.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Textile Magic


textile remnant showing mending

This morning I saw a meme on Facebook that said something like:  Someone mended my pants using string and a tiny sword and it was MAGIC!

My first thought was wait til they see knitting.  Or crochet.  Or any other textile activity.

Another saying that came to mind was (paraphrasing) Science that isn't understood appears to be magic.

Archeology has been finding older and older remnants of textiles, pushing the date back to +/- 30,000 years.  The quality of skill required to make those textile finds is such that it is obvious (to anyone who knows anything about making textiles) that humans have been working with string for much longer.  Thing is, fibres will eventually return to the earth, unlike pottery, so evidence is difficult to find or preserve once removed from their burial grounds.

The remnant in the photo above dates to somewhere in the 1700s and was found in a midden (hence the brown colour).  I may - or may not - get back to Nova Scotia to examine the collection more closely but the majority of the remnants were wool, mostly woven with some knitted items (balaclava, socks, mitts) some were woven from single yarn, others from 2 ply.  All were of a grist that modern handweavers don't much use.  The skill level of first (hand*) spinning the yarn, then (hand*)weaving and wet finishing it, was of a very high quality.  Since they were found at a military base (fort), it seems reasonable to assume that much of the cloth was made in England and imported to Canada.  But someone who specializes in wading through documentation would have to try and winkle that information out of the records.

My interest is more about the cloth itself.  What twist direction in the yarn?  How many twists per inch, especially for the single used as warp?  (I've done some experimentation with a spinner on this.)  What epi/ppi?  What weave structure?  (It looked like mostly plain or 2:2 twill.)

Society in North America is so removed from the production of the goods they use daily that many of them think that it just 'magically' appears on the store shelves.  Knowing how to repair things has become a lost art for much of society.

I wear my clothes until they wear out.  We have some sheets older than some of my friends - no cotton left, just polyester.  But no holes, so we keep using them.

It's time we, as a society, stopped the endless consumerism we have been trained to accept as normal.  It certainly never was in my younger years, and it is an attitude I live by to this day.  Use it up.  Wear it out.  Recycle if that is an option.

Textile crafts are far from a 'lost' art.  The people who keep those crafts alive work to understand their craft and work to the highest standards they can.  The fact that the bulk of the population is divorced from the making of textiles means that there is no understanding of how textiles are made and just how 'magical' they all are.

*because the making of textiles was still done by hand in the 1700s