Tuesday, June 29, 2021

July 2021


From the bin to the spool rack, the next warp is in the works.

After much thought, I decided to not use that bleached white for weft.  I should do a burn test on it to confirm it is, in fact, cotton, but if so it is mercerized cotton and fairly 'stiff'.

5/2 mercerized cotton (or Perle if it is DMC brand cotton) was engineered for embroidery.  Therefore it is dense due to the fibres being aligned parallel, then firmly twisted.  As such, it has less bend or drape to it, and - most importantly for a towel - less absorbency.

In a rummage in my yarn stash I was reminded that I have four cones (about 1 pound each) of 16/2 cotton of the right shade of turquoise.  

This yarn is thinner than the warp, but 2 strands of 16/2 cotton plied together will be about the same thickness as the 2/8 cotton, and I have a spinning wheel, so...

Right now we are in the  middle of an extreme heat event.  This is more serious than a 'wave' and high  temp records are being shattered up and down the west coast of North America, all the way up into the Arctic.  Not just on North America, either, but in the north on the other side of the globe.

Fortunately my studio is in the basement and I'm able to go down and get some relief from the heat.  Yesterday I reached the end of the last warp and got set up to beam the next.  I'm playing a bit of yarn chicken with this warp.  I'm pretty sure I have enough of the main colour to wind the warp, but I won't know until I actually do it.  So I'm thinking of reducing the length a bit, which will mean one less towel.  However, since I'm not entirely sure I will have enough of the 8/2 and 16/2 yarn to do 16 towels, one less might just be good planning.  Or a lucky happenstance.  

Beaming the next warp today is a lucky happenstance because today is supposed to be even hotter here than yesterday, but the forecast says the heat dome we are living under will begin deteriorating and the temperature begin to go down tomorrow.

So today I will begin beaming and maybe even threading.  I may not start weaving until Thursday though when the temps are supposed to be merely hot instead of extreme.

Currently reading The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Potrel  (need to check the spelling of her name) while I wait for my next library book.  I'm finding the book dense with information and I tend to read it in short bits so I can think about what she is saying.  Just now reading about mathematics and weaving, and seeing familiar names - Carrie Brezine, Tien Chiu - and getting a little frisson of delight at nuggets of information.  Yes, I will do a 'proper' review but I'm only at about page 55 or 60 with a lot more to come.  Lovely!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Easy Button


One of the road blocks to my doing more on line content is the technology.  (There are others, but...)

I've done some video work and have a basic (very basic) understanding of some of the things that need to go into creating visual/on line content.  Such content is usually done by a team of experts (or at the very least, trained, people).

During this time of covid, I dabbled a bit and eventually started the study groups but they are done on a figurative shoe string, and only because companies like Zoom were developing prior to the pandemic and were able to step up quickly to offer on line services.

But that meant I had to learn how to use their site (and pay for their services) and figure out a way to make what is essentially a static lecture work to teach a hand's on activity.

I chose to focus on people who already knew the basics and were interested in fine tuning what they were doing.  So that a simple description, perhaps with a photo, would be sufficient for them to pick up the nuances.

Other teachers had been working on presenting on line classes using video.  Rather than compete with them, I preferred to recommend them and do my own thing.

I have done some 'video' work (converted to 'classes' by Long Thread Media) and when the crew arrived here I had done my homework.  We were able to film two different topics in the course of three days of very intense work.  We filmed out of sequence in order to make the job go more quickly and the editor dealt with sequencing when they got back to their studio.

In the end I was satisfied, even as I saw sections that I wish had been done 'better'.  But knowing how to storyboard, set up a filming schedule to pitch to the crew, have my samples organized, have the processing worked out with multiple 'samples' at various stages already organized made things go smoothly enough that we were able to finish and the crew returned home on schedule.

In the end, the result needs to look as though it was 'easy' to get to that point.  The lightning needs to be good.  Camera angles show what is necessary to be seen.  Audio should be, well, audible.

I could, if I had more energy, learn how to do the film editing.  I could, if I had more money, buy a better video camera, better lights, tripods, etc.

But I can't clone myself.  I can't be on camera and behind it at the same time.

So I will continue with the study groups for the scheduled topics.  And in the meantime, I'm tentatively exploring other options for the future.  If anything will come of that exploration - or not - remains to be seen.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Not Set in Stone


Posted the Birthday Bash details yesterday.  Today there are just two of the pale green towels shown in the above photo left.  Most of the colours have lots, but some are low numbers, in part because I was using up yarn stash and just made as many as I had yarn.

This morning as I sat and had my 'jitter juice' (as a cartoonist labelled it recently) I thought about the next warp.

Initially I thought I would have plenty of the dark variegated yarn, but as I near the end of the current warp, so am I nearing the end of that yarn.  There won't likely be enough to weave on the next warp, so I have been looking at alternatives.

I have a giant tube of what I think is a 5/2 mercerized cotton in bleached white and had thought I could use that on the next warp.  But the more I think about it, the less inclined I am to use it.  5/2 Perle cotton is quite stiff and thicker than 8/2, so the towels wouldn't be great.  Probably that yarn should be used for table runners or something that doesn't need absorbency or drape.

There is a partial cone of a solid turquoise 8/2 cotton in the right shade, but that will only weave a few towels.  What should I do for the rest of the warp?

I have a bunch of cones of 16/2 cotton in the correct colour, but it's finer than I want to use on these towels.

But ah-ha, I have a spinning wheel.  Instead of using a doubling stand, which would work but be a bit of a pain, I can ply two strands of the 16/2 together.

We talked about how much fibre dust that would create in the house and instead - since it's summer and no rain to speak of in the forecast after highs of 40+C on Mon-Tues, the temps are supposed to go down to the mid-30s.  Which, while hotter than I like, is at least do-able to be outside.

Most of the pollen should be over by then as well, so Doug will set up a table in the carport to protect me from the sun and I'll spend some time outside plying yarn.  I have 6 bobbins for the Device and plan to just go straight from the spinning wheel bobbin to the weaving bobbin so it should go fairly quickly once I get going.  And, doing the plying outside, the fibre dust would be kept as low as possible.  While weaving I have a fan with a filter on it next to the loom to help remove dust from the air.

I've woven enough of my cotton yarn stash that I'm having to carefully consider my options.  I think that's a 'win' in the stash reduction olympics.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Blue Blazer


The next week is going to see record breaking temperatures here.  On Wednesday, I have an appointment with my massage therapist and it is supposed to be 40C.  I'm reluctant to go except I'm not doing well in the back department.

Yesterday we made a temporary adjustment to the Megado that I am hoping will help with the pain in my hip/glutes/lower back.  Last night I felt pretty good but woke up this morning with pain in my hip again.

Then someone posted on Facebook asking what age you are, as opposed to what age you *think* you are.

Well, I am completely aware of my chronological age.  My body is constantly telling me it's been rode hard, put away wet far too many times.  But I also think about the fact that if I hadn't worked ergonomically for my life, I'd be in far worse shape than I am.

Part of the massage treatment has been coming to grips with just how much pain I am in.  Not just from my back and the nerve pain associated from two partially collapsed discs, pinching the spinal nerve, but from all the wear and tear of working at a very physical job for 40 plus years.

I am old enough now that I am no longer expected to work for an income so I work at my own pace as much as I can.  And try to not beat myself up when I can only manage a fraction of what I could when I was, say, 36.  Which is the age I have always felt myself to be, to be honest.

When I was a kid, a day that had a blue sky and really blisteringly high temperature was a 'blue blazer'.  I am grateful beyond words that we have a/c.  During this time of continuing pandemic, when I am still pretty much isolating from others, being able to stay home and stay relatively comfortable is a great privilege.  One I do not take lightly.  

The problem is, we are getting this temperatures in JUNE, not August.  It is very concerning that we are dealing with these temperatures this early in the year and I hope that this is the peak, not just the start of 6 weeks of intolerable heat.

In the meantime, I have yarn.  I have a loom.  And I have power.  Yesterday I put a couple of bottles of water into the freezer, just in case we do lose power.  It won't help much, but it might help keep the freezer cool enough to not lose the meat we have in there.

But climate change is real.  It's happening.  It's been happening for a while.  And it is time to deal with it.  Between the heat extremes and the more severe storms, the next decade is going to become even more difficult.  A 'blue blazer' might become the standard here, not the record breaking exception.

Friday, June 25, 2021

A Work In Progress


Yesterday I reached the estimated halfway point of the current warp, cut off what had been woven, separated the towels and got them into the washing machine.

With such a dark hue, I tossed a couple of Colour Catchers into the machine and after the first wash (with 'extra' rinse) noticed they had turned every bit as dark as the towels.

Back into the washing machine for another wash cycle (with extra rinse) and more Colour Catchers.  This time they were about half the value of the previous two, so I left those in the machine, added two more and ran just the rinse cycle.

After that, the two new ones were just 'blush' so I deemed the web 'done'.

About 20 or so minutes in the dryer left the towels a little bit more damp than I usually aim for, but the afternoon was shot and I didn't feel like weaving so I went ahead and pressed them.  In the end they weren't all that damp and pressed up fine.

The transformation was interesting.  The cloth is mostly plain weave with fine 'lines' of 2:2 twill running through to make a medallion design.  After wet finishing the cloth developed a nice texture and I'm pretty sure these will work well as towels.

Tonight there will be hemming to do.  One of the reasons I wanted to get these done now is that we are still having light well into the evening and they will be easier to see to hem.  

Here is the draft for the current warp.

I have more of the 8/2 cotton so my next warp will be set up with the same draft.  Hopefully next week.

Back in the 1980s I installed house a/c because at the time I was earning my income from weaving and couldn't weave once it reached 90F or so.  Once the studio warmed up, there was no way I could keep going.  Now we are facing 100+F temperatures early next week with 90+F temps either side of those record breaking days.

Staying home in the cool of the a/c, working in the studio, sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

45 Degrees


The other day I saw a question from a fairly new weaver asking about getting a 45 degree angle on their weft and the answer was to do the best they could.


It's impossible.

The photo is a tea towel I wove, about 24" in the reed, finished width of 20.5".

When I folded it so that a 45 degree angle could be shown, the photo shows what that 45 degree angle would look like in the shed.  The side height of that angle is 20" tall.  Therefore, for that 24" in the reed warp?  The shed would have to be in excess of 20 inches long in order to lay the weft into the shed at a 45 degree angle.

I *think* people conflate the 45 degree angle suggested as the ideal for a twill line in the cloth with the angle the weft should take in the shed.  When that is clearly impossible.

(The cyan triangle is my little 45 degree gauge I use to check my twill angle.)

So what should a new weaver do?

First of all, understand that the angle that is used should be appropriate for the cloth being constructed.

My general angle of weft in the shed can be as low as 5 degrees, to around 15 degrees.  

It is much more important to NOT trap the active/live end of the yarn in the selvedge.

So.  Once the shed is opened, throw the shuttle, giving a tiny 'tug' on the weft yarn to seat it around the selvedge.  

Then let off any pressure on the bobbin and as you bring the beater forward, lift the hand with the shuttle just enough for the beater to pass beneath your hand.

As the beater comes forward to press the weft into place, the weft will find a natural balance point through the cloth and the actual *angle* it has been laid in doesn't much matter.  

There are even times when I will keep tension on the weft in order to increase draw in - for a particular purpose.  

But mostly, I just try to be as consistent as possible and allow the weft to find it's natural place in the cloth and not bother too much about the actual angle.  But if a guideline is needed, around 10 degrees.  

If you don't have a protractor, you can make a rough one by folding the little 45 degree angle in half, which will give about 22 degrees, then fold the 22 degrees in half for about 11 degrees.

Rather than fuss too much about angle of weft, though, I would encourage new weavers to learn how to wind a 'good' bobbin (yes, under tension, smoothly wound), practice their shuttle handling skills, hold the shuttle in the cradle of their fingers using their thumb to break the cast off of yarn, lifting their hands so the beater travels beneath the hand, and be as consistent as possible every step.

Developing a good rhythm will help as each movement flows smoothly into the next.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Fallow Means Resting



There are times when I don't have much brain power, for whatever reason.  During those times I find that when I have a series I'm working through, I can do the physical aspect while not needing to draw upon brain power.  Of which I may have little to none.

Over my lifetime I have dealt with one health issue after another, not knowing at times what was causing my physical distress.  As one health professional put it, when one's primary symptom is fatigue, that doesn't narrow the field much.

But I also do a lot of back of the burner kind of thinking.  Where an idea will pop up - usually a Big Project of one kind or another - and I park that thought in the back of my mind where I will let it simmer.  From time to time I poke at it.  Add a little more information.  Stir it around.  Let it simmer some more.

And so it is right now.

I have just finished a series of warps, all the same quality (dimensions, weave structure, yarn quality) during which time I wasn't required to think very much.  Most of my time was therefore directed at poking at the Zoom lecture series I've been working on, wondering where to go, what to do, when they are finished.  

I have three groups right now, one of them two lectures ahead of the other two.  So I get to test drive the lecture with the one group, then if I need to make corrections or additions, I can do that for the following ones.

All of the information I'm including is stuff I consider essential if someone is to truly master the craft.  But get 10 weavers in a room and ask a question and you'll likely get 20 answers.

So I encourage people to read lots of books, watch videos by other people, think through their own particular situation.  Because it depends.  It really, truly does.

Thinking about the pandemic and my own personal health issues, I am becoming more and more convinced that my travelling (in person) days are over.  But!  I would like to pass my knowledge on, as best I can, to others.

So while the Zoom lectures have been simmering, I was also letting a somewhat smaller pot simmer back there as well.

Lo and behold, an opportunity to explore that idea further and yes, it is just as complicated/complex as I thought it would be.  Frankly, when I read through the recommendations?  I hesitated.  Do I have enough energy to do this?  Perhaps.  Do I feel comfortable enough in front of a video camera to do this?  Um, not really.

The years have not been particularly kind to this body and a camera always adds visual pounds on top of what is actually there.  Not to mention I have worked with my hands all of my life and they show it.  I am reluctant to tape myself doing stuff close up and personal because my hands are not 'pretty'.  This body has been rode hard and put away wet.  And it shows it.

OTOH, when I was having chemo wondering why I wasn't losing any weight the clinic nurses told me to celebrate that I had 'resources'.  Because chemo is not kind to the body and people dealing with cancer and chemo need all the resources they can get.

So I work on my attitude towards my body.  And remind myself that people will participate for the knowledge I have, not for my physical appearance.

The caterpillar undergoes a massive sea change in it's form when it is in chrysalis form.  Fallow means 'resting', not unproductive...

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Checking My Perspective


view from the loom bench (colours are darker irl and harder to see what is happening)

view from the side of the loom (colours are more accurate)

There are times when our 'usual' viewpoint really doesn't tell the story.  So it is with weaving. 

When I sit at the loom to weave, my view is close up and only from one direction.  With this particular warp, I really cannot see much of the weave structure because the colours are overwhelming my view.  The way the threads weave together becomes very subdued.

When I am weaving something like this, then, I tend to get up from the loom and walk around it.  As the direction of light changes, as my perspective and angle change, I can begin to see more clearly what the cloth actually IS, not just what I experience from one, very narrow viewpoint.

So it is with life, too.  We get so accustomed to our 'usual' view that we forget there are other viewpoints.  That other people may have completely different experiences in society, in life.  And we tend to forget that their views, their experiences are just as valid and 'real' as our own.

Right now the United States and Canada are having a moment.  It is a moment where we can stop and listen to other people when they share their experience.  We can get up from our usual seat and begin to examine our society from different angles, step back and allow other people to share their reality.  Acknowledge that we can learn, change, grow, as we know more fully what is going on.

As human beings we tend to believe that our experience, our 'normal' is everyone else's.  If we don't experience something, then it doesn't happen.  But some of us became aware that the world is much larger than our own small personal bubble.  And some people are working to reduce the damage done by systems that oppress others.

Do the best that you can and when you know better, do better.  But before you can know better, you need to accept that you don't know everything.

I'm working on the listening part.  I'm working on knowing better.  I'm working on the doing better.

I'm walking around situations trying to get better light on them in order to see them more clearly.

I'm checking my perspective.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Suddenly Summer


After a winter that seemed to drag on forever, and spring break up that appeared it was never going to end, suddenly we have summer.

The coming week is supposed to hit 30 degrees plus (that's Celcius, not Fahrenheit).  I cannot say how grateful I am that we have a/c and I may skip walking when it hits that high.  I have books.  I have yarn.  I have a body that is protesting my doing much of anything right now.  

I also have a bunch of photos to take for my 'birthday bash' special and get things organized for July 1-9.  I know how to do it, I just don't like doing it.

This is the part I like the least about making stuff - getting it moved on out to someone else's home.  But my shelves are now filled with tea towels and I really need to free up some space.

With a new Big Project looming (heh) I may need to do another re-organization of the studio.  It will be easier if I can put things away 'properly' instead of bins stacked in every corner.

On the other hand, I've done a really good job of using up my cotton yarns, so there is that.

This coming Sunday I have no Zoom meetings.  OTOH, July 4 I have one and I need to finish writing the Power Point for that.  Sounds like sitting in front of the computer for a few hours might be a good hot summer activity.

Today I will press the last of the towel series I just finished, then if my back feels up to it, I'll try weaving one towel.  I have no lack of things I could be doing, just a lack of spoons to do any of it.

But never mind.  I'm still here.  Hopefully my back will settle and I can get back to weaving.  Because I still have Way Too Much yarn.  

Sunday, June 20, 2021



Last night 9:50 pm

We don't usually get to see spectacular sunsets because we have a big hill to the west of our house.  But this weekend is the solstice and this was the view east out my 'office' window, last night at 9:50 pm.

At this time of year the setting of the sun means a long lingering in-between of not full daylight but far from dark.  According to one weather app we currently have about 17 hours of daylight.  Of course the opposite happens in winter - about 17 hours of dark.

As we wend our way through the cycle of the pandemic, we are currently (here) fairly safe.  Most of my (local) friends have gotten at least one vaccine dose, many of them their second.  Or at least have their second booked.  

But there are lots of places where things are not going well.  Yesterday I found out that Yukon is having a surge of cases again, which is very concerning, given their geographic remoteness and limited health care options.  Fortunately they are also among the most vaccinated as the federal government recognized that aboriginal communities were being hit hardest and mobilized the military to help with the vaccine rollout, during winter, in the far north.

But it was a reminder that the course of the pandemic can change in a moment as new variants come.

The sooner everyone in the world gets vaccinated, the better.

Climate change continues to bring extreme weather.  Tropical storms are more severe.  Heat indexes have had to be revised - upwards.  While it is hard to focus on more than one emergency at a time, we cannot overlook the fact that climate change and new diseases may be linked.

Generally I call myself a pragmatic optimist.  There are days when it has been difficult to stay optimistic in the face of so many...'interesting'...things going on.

So I take a step back from time to time and regroup.  I try to keep weaving - except my body is having issues with doing stuff right now.  

In a few minutes I need to collect my thoughts and get ready for another Zoom presentation.  If I can at least keep teaching, keep helping weavers to understand the craft, it doesn't so much matter if I can't make it to the loom myself.  I guess.

But for me weaving is also about maintaining my mental health.  So I curb my irritation at a back that hurts and try to show myself the same compassion I would show to others.

In the meantime I have books.  The weather report says summer has arrived.  Finally.  I will focus on taking the good where I can find it, even if it means a deep dive into the clouds to find the silver lining.

Stay safe.  Stay well.  Stay covid aware.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Right Question


When it comes to life, sometimes we need to ask the 'right' question in order to get a 'good' answer.

So it has been for me, these past few years.  Not that I have ever stopped asking questions, of course not.  But there come to be times in life which, upon reflection, can be identified as watershed moments.

After floundering around for a while, suddenly you ask yourself the question, in a different way, in a different context and voila, an answer comes.  

Sometimes the answer comes from inside of you.  Sometimes it comes from outside of you.  An interested person will contact you.  Or someone will ask *you* a question that seems to bring things into focus.  Like a door opening, your thoughts become flooded with light and things seem...sensible.  Achievable.  Appropriate.  Exciting, even.

About this time last year I started putting the Sunday Seminars together, based on my knowledge of the weaving (and fibre generally) community.  As I worked at getting a good cross section of people signed on to the idea, I was also working with some of my students, trying to keep them on track and focused on the learning, not just the achieving.  That a delay in acquiring the next level was sad, but should not mean the end.

Since then I worked on developing my skills in terms of doing Power Point presentations, learning how to Zoom, working on what I know so that I could convey it better.

In the end I'm happy with what I have come up with and - about halfway through my content - I'm confident that I'm passing on good knowledge that *some* weavers do want to know.

But the pandemic is winding down (at least here in Canada) and people are anxious to get back to in person classes.  

For me?  With my compromised immune system?  I'm not so anxious.

I would still like to teach but what I'm not at all interested in doing is producing video content.  I'm too old and this dog has had enough new tricks to learn.  

I've been thrashing around trying to work out how I can continue, maybe even reach a wider audience.

Each time I thought of something I could do, it was, um, nope.  Not that.  And I would think of why not that, what I didn't want to have to deal with all by myself (pretty much).  I do have people who have supported me, helped me, given me tutorials on how to make Zoom work, but as for going the route of others who jumped into the on-line teaching?  Nope.  Not me.  

I guess I finally asked myself enough of the not quite right questions that someone popped up this week and this morning we had a meeting about if and how we can work together.

They were bringing exactly the kind of skills and technology to the equation that I did not want to deal with.  More importantly?  They want the kind of information I want to share.

So, not going to say more than this, at this point in time.  It may all fall through the cracks because there is a tonne of stuff that needs to be considered.   The logistics of working together, 500 miles distant for one thing.  But at least it is only 500 miles.  And we are in the same time zone!  No dark o'clock mornings.

Just as I am beginning to feel a bit better, comes a new opportunity.  Funny how that works, sometimes.

Other people producing video/on line content, doing it much better than I could ever hope to do:

Tien Chiu, Janet Dawson, Jane Stafford, Daryl Lancaster, Abby Franquemont.  Each has their specialty and others are also providing content on line for other parts of the weaving community.  Knitters have a large number of people also producing on line content.  For people like self-employed textile folk?  Very few have allowed grass to grow under their feet.  They have continued to scramble in order to put food on the table during the pandemic.  It should not take very much effort to do a quick search and find someone who might be teaching what you want to learn.  Also, textile events are going to continue to be on line for at least the rest of this summer and into the fall.  A great opportunity to learn from someone from far away.  (Including the rest of the Sunday Seminars - next one in July is with Janet Dawson talking about her textile adventures in Turkey.)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Lovely Linen


Linen is a wonderful fabric in so many ways, although it does have its quirks.  

Linen comes from flax plants.  The fibre is from the stem of the plant - called 'bast'.  Other plants also have bast fibre and some of them provide fibre that can be harvested and spun to make yarn.  For example hemp, nettles, ramie and so on.

As a crop, flax is challenging, as is the fibre to spin and weave, requiring much labour to harvest the fibres, care in spinning it and then in the weaving of it.  But it also requires careful wet finishing.

The top fabric was woven for Magic in the Water, the bottom was produced for a short run publication I called A Good Yarn; Linen.

I don't much like using linen as warp because I live in an area with relatively low humidity and linen really behaves much better in higher humidity conditions.  But once wet finished, the selection of samples I did for the short publication really turned out well.  All of the samples woven for A Good Yarn were done on the Leclerc Fanny (counter balanced loom).  I also did them in the spring/summer when the relative humidity was higher than it is during the winter.

Magic in the Water can still be purchased, but with photos only, not actual samples.  Unless you are lucky enough to find an older weaver downsizing and selling off their library.  But the information on wet finishing is still relevant, so I took photos of all the samples for Magic and produced a publication in 'magazine' format which can be purchased from blurb.com.  Or you can get the PDF - blurb sells both.

For my Zoom study groups, the 11th lecture will be on wet finishing, of course it will.  It is the final step, so to speak!  And still not well understood.

A lot of people don't use the term 'wet finishing', just say 'washing', but the wet finishing process can be quite different from simple washing - especially when it comes to wool.  

The final step in terms of weaving with linen is the compression.  Linen is a very dense fibre and the heavy compression involved in wet finishing really makes the cloth.  It is through the flattening of the yarn that the shine we associate with linen begins to happen.  Without the compression, the cloth remains rather dull.

Understanding the fibres/yarns we work with means we can make appropriate choices.  Like using linen for warp when the relative humidity is high, not low.

Currently reading Castle Shade by Laurie R. King

Wednesday, June 16, 2021



If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Now, I've been a weaver for a very long time and doing the math involved is necessary for a lot of reasons.  But the math that I normally do is pretty specific - do I have enough yarn for this application?  Or no?  I am more concerned about the pounds, not the miles.

So when I read in The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel that a pair of jeans has about 6 miles of thread in them, it took me aback a bit.  I mean, I *know* that weaving cloth takes miles of yarn, but 6 miles in a pair of jeans?

So I did some quick calculations and yes - depending upon size, style and weight of the type of denim, it is entirely probable that the cloth needed to sew a pair of jeans has about 6 miles of yarn in it.

Ms Postrel makes the case that the trope of the spinster always at her (because it was almost always a 'her') spinning is less about how dainty and delicate a young (or even older) woman was, and more about the miles and miles of yarn needed to make...well...anything.  That Viking fleet that we all love to talk about?  It would take longer to grow, prepare to spin, spin and then weave the cloth than to craft the boat it powered.

And hand made was the ONLY way to get any kind of cloth for all of history, until the Industrial Revolution, which started in the 1700s.  That's just about 400 years ago out of what, 40,000 plus years of working with fibre, making string, making cord, eventually making cloth.

That's a lot of fibre prep and spinning.  No wonder the art of the day showed nearly every female person with a spindle in their hands.  Because using a spindle meant multi-tasking.  You could spin as you walked, looked after the sheep, kept an eye on babies, waited while the pot boiled.  Any second your hands were not needed for something else, they would have been spinning.

It is estimated that a spinning wheel with flyer was developed in the 1400s or so (if I remember correctly).  And then spinsters would gather in public to spin because they could chat, visit, have a creche to look after babies communally, and a good bitch when necessary.  The 'stitch and bitch' circle is far from new.

I am like literally about 50 pages into this book and finding so much information put together in ways that I might have known the individual tidbits, but connected in ways that is making me rethink what I know.

I'm not deep enough into the book to do a proper review - yet.  Let's just say, I am very glad I bought my own copy.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Changing Plans


After working out that the dark variegated yarn would only do one warp, I had to re-think the next warp.

I found a cone of 8/2 turquoise the same (or close enough) to the main turquoise colour, but it was nowhere near enough to weave the entire warp.  Then I took a look at a gigantic cone of bleached white and it was also an ?/2 something, maybe 6?  Slightly thicker, but I could make it work on the same warp.

But then some of the accent yarns I had were deemed to be 'too dark' for the paler weft colours and in the end all of those came out and several more mid-range colours were chosen.  And then I realized that with the lighter value weft I could even use the baby mix variegated as the paler values would play ok with the rest of the yarns.

With the darker warp now beamed and threaded, it should not take too long to weave that off, and then I'll put this one into the loom.

The down side of weaving with the softer spun weft is that it sheds a great deal of lint.  And, because cotton is a fairly light fibre, that fibre tends to float around in the air which can then be breathed in.  So I cleared off the bins in front of the square fan that was installed precisely to filter fibre dust out and will run it when I weave these two warps.  I'm already dealing with sinusitis (adverse reaction to medication I take to keep myself alive) and seasonal allergies, so I don't need to further stress my body by breathing in fibre.

I'm really reaching into the 'bottom of the barrel' in terms of my cotton stash.  But I've done so well with using up a big chunk of that part of my stash there is huge incentive to keep going.  There is enough cotton woven up that I'm eyeing the stash of linen, but some of it is so fine I'll need to buy more yarn, OR finally decide to pair that fine linen with 2/20 mercerized cotton.  Which ought to make a nice quality of tea towel.

But we'll see.  It's best not to get too locked into a plan because sometimes you need to make changes.  Do the best you can.  When you know better, do better.  Weaving is a constant lesson in learning from the choices we make, then - hopefully - making better choices.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Doing the Math


I inherited these two cones of 8/2 variegated cotton from a friend and have been pondering for some time what to do with it.

Being 8/2 cotton it is loosely spun and I didn't feel like using it in the warp, which is my usual approach to working with variegated.  When it is used as weft, variegated yarns can sometimes have the colours 'pool' in not very attractive ways.  But this one has very dark values of all the colours in it and it shouldn't look too bad as weft.  Or, at least, that's the theory!

So I planned a warp of mostly dark value colours, the same as in the variegation, in my 'usual' approach - a mixture with no particular stripe sequence.  

As I planned this warp I kept in mind that the colours will blend most thoroughly in plain weave, but I didn't want to weave exclusively plain weave because that isn't the most absorbent.  So in the end I decided to go ahead and use 20 epi, over 16 shafts, with a fine line of twill with plenty of plain weave.  The pick count should be around 20, and the line of twill should improve absorbency.

As I worked through the details, I wondered if the two cones would actually do more than one warp so I planned another combination in case there was yarn left over.  And finally, last night, late, I crunched the numbers.  As in, do the math!

So now it looks like these two cones will provide weft for about 18 towels, which is about what I get off a 20+ yard long warp.

Since the yarn is very loosely spun it will produce a lot of lint (I know this from having used other 8/2 yarn from my friend's stash) so I am going to clear enough clutter off the shelving unit beside the loom so I can run the filtered fan.  The filtered fan was installed as a way to reduce the cotton lint flying around in the air about my head.

But I expect that by the end of this warp I'll need to do a bit of a clean to get rid of what settles on and around the loom, including the stuff on the shelves beside the loom.

The back up warp will be used for the cotton boucle that still needs to be used up.  I haven't decided what weave structure to use - yet.  Perhaps a variation on what the current warp will be done.  But both warps will need to have some experimentation done once the warp is set up so I can determine actual ppi and adjust the treadling accordingly.

Or I can use some of the other 8/2 cotton I have, from the same friend's stash and maybe get rid of more of this very loosely spun yarn that will make good towels, but will cast off fibre.  

Decisions, decisions.

Just finished Aline Templeton's latest book Devil's Garden and about to begin War Widow by Tara Moss.

Sunday, June 13, 2021



Mount Robson on a sunny day

In the 'normal' times, I'd be heading off to Olds for Fibre Week about now.

But the times are 'interesting', not 'normal', and so I'm staying home.

Yesterday I finished the 10th warp of towels using up the cotton flake.  Today is a Sunday Seminar, and my studio is a bit of a mess in dire need of tidying, if not exactly deep cleaning.

Yesterday I also got the 2nd vaccination against covid and so far I have a tender arm, but not much else in the way of after effects.  Which in a way isn't good because I don't know how effective the vaccine will be for me and my compromised immune system.  All I can do is take the best advice I can get, which is to have the vaccine, and hope for some protection.

Today, then, I'm taking things 'easy' (so to speak).  Once the seminar is done I'll be working on setting up the studio for the next (short) series of towels.  This time the goal is to use up as much of some 8/2 variegated cotton I inherited.  I'm not exactly sure how far each large cone will go, but I'm pretty sure there is more there than needed for a warp or more of towels.  And if there isn't, I have other options that can be used.

I'll vacuum the floor and get all those bits removed from the carpet.  I'll also move some bins so that the filtered fan can be run while I'm weaving in hopes of reducing some of the lint that will fly off the very loosely spun 8/2 cotton.  Keep as much of it out of my lungs as possible.

If there is time and energy left after that, I will begin setting up the spool rack and get things ready to begin beaming the next warp tomorrow.  Beyond that, I'm not sure that I will do much of anything except maybe walk (if it's not raining) or read my library book (because I have four at home and I want to read all of them!)

I have been enjoying the longer daylight hours but the solstice will soon be upon us and the days will begin to shorten again.  Soon enough it will be winter again.  Funny how the days seem to drag and the weeks to fly by...

Saturday, June 12, 2021



As with many other tasks in my studio, cleaning up tends to be done in 'batches', not every single time I make a 'mess'.

So, today I am hoping to cut the current - and last in this series - of towels off the loom, get them cut apart and serged and into the washing machine/dryer.  

With all of that cutting/serging (160 towels) an accumulation of bits lives on the studio floor by the foot pedal for the serger.  Each warp produces a small amount of these 'bits'.  Not enough to bother me into dragging the vacuum cleaner out, so they get left where they fall until the series is done.

I know not everyone will have the tolerance for 'mess' that I do, and I don't expect everyone will let a mess like this go unchecked.  But I'm not supposed to vacuum in the first place (bad back) so I do it once in a while, frequently when I reach the end of a series as I hope to do today.

Yesterday I was reviewing one of my Zoom lectures, talking about efficiency, and how I have come to the conclusion that while I can make more money to buy more yarn, I cannot buy more time.  And so, instead of taking that 15 or 20 minutes each time I use the serger to clean up a few bits of yarn, I let them build up.  It doesn't take much longer to clean up a mess this big, and a smaller mess produced after one session of serging.

My studio (and house, to be honest) is littered with half done projects.  As a textile maker, I have dust buffalo, not bunnies.  And again, they tend to build up into a sizable herd before I deal with them.  I used to apologize to people coming to the house and now I mostly just don't invite people over.  I don't have to feel as though someone is judging me for my 'mess'.

When I was a kid, my mother would set up her sewing on the kitchen table, and then put it all away every night so that we could eat there.  Now that I'm an adult, my dining room table gets used for all manner of things, rarely to eat on.  Neither of us is much bothered by this.  

I used to make a point of inviting company for a meal as an effort to force myself to clean up, and it worked - when I was younger, healthier and cared about such things.  Now I 'clean' when I feel able to and just meet people outside of my home.  

All of this is to say - if you come to my house, I trust you are coming to see me, not how clean/tidy my house is.  

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Wrapping Up


Yesterday I started the second half of the last warp of this series.  I'm pleased with the series overall, in no small part because I used up a lot of yarn along the way.  In the end there are 10 warps in this series, so 160 towels woven in the past few months.  Not anywhere near what I'm used to doing, but what I can manage these days.

Does this mean I'm 'done' weaving?  Not by a long chalk.  I already have the next two warps pulled with ideas for more.  More towels!  Different yarn combinations.

As I work through this chunk of my stash, I see the 'end' of a useable amount of yarn and rather than buy more now, I will be turning towards other types of yarn.  There is a rather large amount of fairly fine rayon to be used up.  I don't much feel like making shawls, so I'll work on scarves.  I should get to that point by the end of summer.  Maybe sooner.  It depends.

For far too many years my goal has been to produce for sale, and I've done that.  Now I have shelves full of towels and some placemats.  Hopefully by autumn shops will be looking for inventory and the local craft fairs will be back.  I need to check to see if the big one is actually going to go ahead or not.  The guild takes a booth there and I will have plenty of inventory for them.  Plus I've been helping with the guild sale in December, and will likely be involved in that, as well.

Over the years I have played with various ways of getting thread made into cloth.  I've ignored techniques that interested me for a number of reasons - either they were too time consuming, or I wasn't sure people would buy cloth in those techniques.  Now that I'm not primarily weaving for sale, I can begin to look at those more time consuming drafts and maybe explore more.  Or not.

But if I can stay on track, the last warp in this series will come off the loom on Saturday.  

Then?  On to the next.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

In Real Life


A few years ago I got to know about a person because of their on line posts, then briefly met them in real life at a fibre event.  There was no time to do more than chat because fibre events are, by their very nature, not conducive to having any kind of in depth conversation.

Last night I had a Zoom 'meeting' with that person, and it was lovely and delightful and rare - and I found myself wishing I could do that sort of thing more often.

Then this morning on Twitter, two other fibre folk were saying the same thing - how much they missed hanging out with each other and they should really get together via Zoom (or whatever platform) and erase the miles and time zones and enjoy each other in real time (if not actually in 'real life')

And suddenly I felt...lonely.  Wanting more interaction with people who are as passionate about fibres as I am.  People who dig deep into the craft, then joyfully share their discoveries.  People who aren't afraid of making mistakes - because that's how we learn.  I wanted more one-on-one time with some people.

Last night we talked about how this pandemic has begun to open opportunities to interact with people in a new way, people we might never have come to know because of the aforementioned thousands of km and time zone changes.  

The problem is, most of the people I would love to interact with are busy as beavers trying to scratch out a living and there is little time, energy or opportunity to sit down, even across the miles via the internet.  They have on line classes to teach - or prepare for - they only have so much energy, so much time, and they have to use it wisely.  

My schedule is no longer crazy with travel and classes which means I have even less interaction with folk about textiles.  And after a year plus of not getting together with fibre folk, I find I'm missing it.  

The Sunday Seminars have really helped as I have had a chance to learn from others about textiles/techniques I know little about.  They have kept me engaged and inspired.  And the next one is coming up THIS Sunday.

Stefan Möberg will talk about some of his projects that I find intriguing.  He has been working to develop a Swedish tweed, using Swedish wool.  He also managed to acquire a Hattersley loom, and has been working to get it set up and reliably running.  Plus another project that I find very interesting and would love to know more about, but we'll see if he has time to discuss that one as well as the other two.

There are seminars booked through to October, then three more in 2022.  If interest in this series continues, I will consider adding more, but it will depend on there being enough interest to make them profitable enough to pay the speakers (and a little left over to help pay the guild room rent.)

Stay tuned...

Monday, June 7, 2021

Interesting Times


This is a photo from a park within city limits of my town, taken one autumn not long ago.  The little waterway that fills earlier in the year making a 'path' from one river to the other and a little island of the land to the left is mostly dry as the water level goes down.  Right now the park is closed due to spring runoff/high water and some of the low lying homes near the rivers are under flood watch.  

I've lived in this town all my life.  I am well aware of the cycles of the seasons.  It is comforting to watch the transitions of one to the other.  It is home.

Since I was very young I have read, avidly.  I mostly read whatever books I could get my hands on and I read pretty much indiscriminately.   My mother gave me free rein to read pretty much whatever I wanted to read (although I'm pretty sure she would not have approved of Fanny Hill - even though I found it distasteful and didn't actually finish it).  

If a book caught my attention on the first page, I pretty much read it.  If it didn't, I'd set it aside.  \

It was only years later that I found out that the library phoned my mom and asked if she knew what sort of books I was taking out and if she approved!  She did and I never knew until I overheard her telling a friend.

Many of my teachers approved (or didn't disapprove) of my pulling out a book if I'd finished my classwork before others did.  And so I continued to read, everything and anything - fiction, non-fiction, it didn't matter.

As it happens, I still do.

I don't remember when I heard the phrase "May you live in interesting times" and had it described as a curse.  I remember being taken aback by it, then understanding the full intent of it.  Because much of what I read about was people, living in 'interesting' times.

We are currently in a state of 'interesting' times, in many ways, pretty much all round the world.  As I remember the stories set in other times, stories of war, conflict, plagues, I can't help but think we are currently in very 'interesting' times.  Throughout history human beings have gone through tumultuous times, 'interesting' times, times that have caused upheaval and change.  

I have no idea what societies (because there are many) will look like in the next few years.  But I do feel as though we (human beings) are poised at the peak of changes.  Will they be good changes?  Will they be helpful changes?  Will they be welcome changes?  The answer to those questions will vary according to the person.  And just as with the seasons, human beings will go through another watershed as we navigate the current 'interesting' times...

Currently reading Can It Happen Here? by Michael Adams.  Written in 2017, I'm going to go to his website and see what he is observing now

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Making Progress


Yesterday I started weaving the last(?) of this series of towels.  The cotton flake is going down quickly and I'm not a fan of playing yarn chicken, so I expect that this warp will be the last of this design.

Overall I'm pleased on several fronts.  I've gotten practiced enough at doing it that it hardly seems to take any time at all to set up the loom.  AND the last tweak I made to the tension box filling seems to have worked and there are practically no areas of concern re: tension with this warp.  The couple of very slight tension difference areas is truly not really distinguishable now that I'm four towels in.

I wanted to show the 'right' side of the cloth because the back side is predominantly white.  The 'right' side is much more interesting and I'm pleased with it.  Must be time to move on, right????

This afternoon I had some more technology issues, with Power Point this time, but managed to punch enough buttons in the correct order, or something, and was finally able to save the file to a thumb drive in order to transfer it to the laptop.  Now that I have the password changed, and carefully recorded, I'm hoping I won't have any more problems.  Time will tell!

I also poked around in Zoom and figured out what a few more of the tools are for, which answered my need for a 'pointer' of some sort.  Turns out I have two to choose from, and I can even change their colours.  

But my deadlines keep rolling.  This Sunday - two hour Zoom, next Sunday 1 hour Zoom, the following Saturday and Sunday, back to 2 hour Zooms.  The content for the rest of the Zoom study groups needs to be finished and now I seem to have Power Point working again, maybe I can get them done.

But folks, I gotta tell ya, I'm tired.  I'm going to put the idea for the short video clips on hold for a while and take some of the pressure off of me.  If and when I feel up to doing any, I can record and caption them, then save to You Tube for future release dates.  When I'm already pouring so much energy into the long form presentations, I just don't seem to have any energy left over to do the short form.

Plus I'm trying to get towels posted to ko-fi for July.  

The weather has been too grey, too wet, too...much...going from chilly to hot, then thunder and buckets of rain.  Yesterday it was almost literally - don't like the weather? - wait 15 minutes.  I didn't feel up to walking.  Today the breaks in between the buckets of rain have been longer, and I finally got a short walk in after doing the two towels and finishing the set up for tomorrow's Zoom.

And I'm delighted, intrigued, and challenged by The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel.  More on that book when I'm further into it.

Thursday, June 3, 2021



Change one thing...

So this is the 10th warp in the current series.  It is 2/8 cotton at 20 epi.  As such I was having some issues with beaming these warps.  No matter how hard I tried, the bouts didn't seem to go onto the beam well - not even/level in the section.  This lead to mild issues with tension as the threads, especially at the edges of the section, went on differently than the middle.  Hard to explain, but I'll try.

The number of ends in the section and how I spread them out in the final reed of the tension box were too narrow.  In an effort to keep the 'ribbon' of yarns going into each section flat, the edges of the ribbon were not building up at the same rate.  The yarns piling up in the middle also had to go on top of the cord that attached to the bout to pull the ribbon into the section, meaning the middle of each section built up ever so slightly higher than the edges.

In the end, when I cut the towels apart and wet finished them, all evidence of this tension/length issue disappeared but it annoyed me that I wasn't doing a better job.

Over the course of the series I have, several times, adjusted how I filled the last reed in the tension box and on this warp (the last or second to last in this series) I think I may have finally figured out how to better spread the yarns out.

Of course I have other warps planned that will use the same yarn at the same epi, so I will have several more warps to test out this approach.

The slight difference in build up was made worse due to the small circumference of the beam.  Every little inconsistency was magnified as each rotation was about 15" instead of the 36" I was used to on the AVL.  Any slight discrepancy on the AVL had more distance to even out.  I will find out when I begin weaving this warp if I've cracked it.

Persistence.  It's a thing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021




There are times when I hit a pot hole in life and I just kind of...fall in.  The world, as they say, has been too much with me.

Yesterday I came to the realization that part of my problem with working on short form video clip 'lessons' is that I can't produce them to the quality I would like them to have.

On the other hand, I started doing video clips a number of years ago, have 24 on my You Tube channel some of which have over 30,000 views.

So why am I having such a hard time now?  

The past week I worried away at Zoom and felt totally inadequate to the task.  Then other things happened in the world and my way of coping was to try to ignore as much of it as I could and keep on weaving.  I have this artsy-fartsy notion that if I can just keep pouring creative energy into the world, that I can keep trying to add positivity to counter what is happening.  

I can't solve the pandemic.  I can't solve racism.  I can't solve the crumbling politics, or the poverty, or...anything.  My power, if you will, is to keep being creative, keep trying to educate those who want it.  But it all got more than a little overwhelming.

We have also had a string of grey rainy days which hasn't helped my mood.  The rain has meant that the bush has been kept from drying out, which is A Good Thing, because our snow levels here were below average.  And if it goes dry, there could be severe wildfires again this year.

Yesterday I cut the latest warp off the loom and wet finished the 8 towels.  They will get pressed today and then I'll begin beaming the next warp.  I'm still not happy with how I'm getting warps onto the Megado, so after 10 warps I will tweak my process again and see if I can get better results.

And that's the thing about life.  To live it without getting stuck in a pot hole.  Especially one of one's own devising.

So back to the short video clips.  I need to understand why all of a sudden I am holding myself to a higher standard than previously.  That I need to accept that my clips won't be 'perfect', and that ultimately, it won't much matter so long as I can get the information out there.  I had estimated that I might have content ready for my birthday in July.  Well, it's June now.  If I'm going to do this, I need to climb out of that pot hole and get started.

I have managed to post towels to my ko-fi account shop, so if anyone is interested they can use the link (on my monitor it appears in the lower left corner) and browse.  My plan right now is to offer the current run of towels between July 1-9 at a special birthday offering.  I should have at least 11 warps completed by then, which might be the total number of warps in this series, and I will post one colour per day.  Or at least, that's the plan.  Which all too often gang aft aglay...

This Sunday is another Zoom meeting, and the Sunday after that the next Sunday Seminar.  At some point I need to put my thinking cap on and start working on the short video clips.  And see how awful they wind up once I hit 'record'.  Or if I'm just being far too hard on myself.

In the meantime I've gotten my hands on The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel.  I got it through the library, and decided I needed my very own copy, and voila, the local indy bookstore had a copy on their shelf.  It now has my name on it and I'll pick it up tomorrow.  Barely 20 pages in (if that) and already glad I bought the book.  I'll do a proper book review when I'm further into it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Textile Art


I wove this piece back in the mid 1980s for the one (and only) solo art exhibit I had.

At the time I was trying to find my way in terms of my creativity and the need to earn an income.  I was also dealing with some pretty severe (undiagnosed) allergic reactions that were making my life some kind of hell.

I forget how many pieces I wound up making, some of them very large, some of them smaller in terms of weaving, some of them from fine yarns, some of them - like the above - using thicker.  I can't remember the title I chose for this one - Flight or Flying Free, based on the kite shape.  The warp was a fairly thick tow linen, the weft was 1" grosgrain ribbon.

The intention was to have the fringe be even, but when I'd finished knotting the fringe and hung it up (there is an armature holding the top) I liked the asymmetry and left the fringe as was.

It was through this exhibit that the use of a butterfly and flight became a theme, and as a result I adopted the butterfly as my logo.

One of the high school English literature teachers brought all his classes to the art gallery and their homework was to write up their reactions to the exhibit.  They also left thoughtful comments in the guest book and I found it interesting that so many of these teens seemed to instantly understand what the exhibit was all about, while so many adults didn't.

An artist I'd become quite friendly with grabbed me during one of his visits (he said it was the third time he'd been) and quizzed me about one piece in particular - said it broke every 'rule' about making art and somehow...worked.

In the end I analyzed the amount of time, effort and actual money I'd invested in the show and decided that trying to make textile art was not going to put food on my table and carefully boxed up the pieces and put them away.  I still have some of them.  The above piece was traded for a piece of turned wood so it moved to a new home.  Another was gifted to someone in return for a service they provided.  I had hoped to donate the one I feel most satisfied with to another arts group but then the pandemic hit.  So it still lives in the box in my studio.  Another is hung in the back of a closet.  Or was.  I might have found a home for it, I can't remember.

Textiles have played every role in society/culture - from survival through to decorative, to political, religious, ceremonial, etc.  Artists have used textiles to express every emotion and today?  Today we have the ubiquitous t-shirt with the slogan du jour.  I even wear some.  

Textiles are so common we don't think about them - how they come into being or where they go when we throw them away.  

I will be back in a few days with a book review.  Initial reaction?  By the end of page 2 I had already decided I needed it in my personal library.  A copy is waiting for me to pick it up from the local bookstore.  In the meantime, I thoughtfully chew through the library copy.