Saturday, February 26, 2022

Yalenka Dance Troupe


about 40 yards of warp faced sashes for the male dancers

woven on my floor loom, instead of an inkle loom - I could do longer warps and had treadle controls but had to remove the reed and use a stick shuttle to beat the weft in

on the loom, weaving up nicely once I got the process figured out

in progress, building up nicely on the cloth beam

under tension on the loom, the cloth filled in nicely after wet finishing - see first picture above

starting to work on the head dress fabric for the female dancers

this fabric was woven on the AVL - multiple wefts including gold mylar - dancers added beads if they wanted but the mylar added sparkle under the stage lights, and little pom-poms to dangle off the edge

colour is not correct - the skirt fabric was VERY orange, not this washed out colour

skirt fabric for the female dancers - for this dance the 'skirt' was simple a front and back panel worn over a linen 'shift'

I did other fabrics for the dance troupe over the years.  For this particular dance I also did the wool fabric for the male dancer's vests which where then heavily embroidered by the dance troupe members (and their parents).

Another dance I did the fabric for had up to 7 different weft colours in a fancy twill block pattern.

The research I did (I'm not Ukrainian so I had to look up the history and find out more about the kinds of clothing that were typically worn) was enlightening.  

I had grown up in a small town which had a large number of Ukrainian immigrants, some of whom did not speak English, or did so with a heavy accent.  These people were friends, neighbours, and kind hearted.  Sophie (next door) tended a vegetable garden that took up nearly all of their back yard.  She preserved food, baked, took care of her family while her husband worked.  She was very kind to me and my family.  I didn't know the other Ukrainian family across the alley in large part because neither of the parents spoke English very well and their kids were enough years older than me we didn't play together.  

But I played with Sophie's kids, plus there were many others of Ukrainian heritage in my school.  We went to the bake sales, the perogi sales, the cabbage roll sales, the pysanky sales.  They were strong and stoic.  And they have a very rich textile tradition that we should probably know more about.

I was honoured to be contacted about weaving the textiles for their dance troupe, even though I'm not Ukrainian heritage.

Ukraine on my mind today, remembering the development and weaving of these special textiles.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Hills and Valleys


Today I finished threading the next warp.  It is a fairly simple twill block design but I took extra care with it because my eyes still don't work well yet.

The news from the eye doctor was not...great.  After five weeks of aggressive treatment, my left eye is still displaying signs of the shingles infection.  Instead of reducing treatment, I carry on, same as the last two weeks.  It really puts a crimp in your schedule when nearly every hour on the hour from the time you wake up until bedtime, you have to deal with putting drops in your eyes.

A fairly minor routine in the large scheme of things and it could be much much worse, but on top of the previous two years of isolation, the shenanigans that have been happening here and elsewhere leading to huge buckets of uncertainty, it's just one more irritation on top of a whole lot of 'interesting' things going on in the world.

Every time I begin to get annoyed, I try to remember to pull myself back and count my blessings - I have universal health care and the only thing I'm paying for are the drops in my eyes and the antiviral tablets.  I have confidence in my eye doctor and appreciate that she is taking such good care of me.

But it makes things difficult when your left eye is dilated 24/7, you are constantly dripping more chemicals into your eye which then makes your eye(s) water (because sometimes your right eye joins in, in sympathy?)  It's hard to see clearly, difficult to see fine details, even to read if the font isn't very big.

However, all that aside, I did manage to weave that last warp off and get this one set up.  All that's left is to sley and tie on, and I may still manage that after a break (and my next set of meds...)

One of the challenges with the Megado is how the heddles are put onto the shafts.  The loom is so tightly engineered there is very little room to reach into the middle of the pack to put more heddles on, but we did that as we set up the loom.  It came with a decent number of heddles but I do sometimes weave tied weaves so I wanted more heddles on shafts 1-4.  I also work with fairly fine threads, so I wanted more heddles on the rest of the shafts.

So Doug and I wrestled an 'extra' 100 onto the front shafts and an 'extra' 50 onto the rest.

What I didn't count on was the system for keeping the heddles on the shafts, which tends to fail at times.  The first time I had an issue with heddles falling off I didn't notice and tried to weave.  The loom simply wouldn't open a shed and it wasn't until I did a walk around I spotted the problem.  A bunch of heddles had fallen off the top of the shaft of several shafts, and then, because I hadn't noticed, they'd gotten all tangled up.  In the end it was just faster and less annoying to cut all of those heddles off the loom.  I made note of what had happened, figured I'd remember for next time.  But then I didn't weave on the loom for a couple of months and when I went to set it up again, I forgot and again, a bunch of heddles fell off, tangled and I cut them off.

Which was really annoying because TexSolv heddles are not cheap.

Over the course of the 2+ years I've had the loom, it happened often enough that I ran out of heddles on three shafts for various projects and rather than try to wrestle more heddles onto the loom, I simply tied repair heddles on the shafts where I needed them.  Hence the orange and blue in that forest of white.

But heddles kept coming off, one or two here or there and as hard as I could think, I couldn't think of a solution that would work and not interfere with the movement of the shafts.

Until the last warp.  I had tried a few different things and none of them had been effective, but this time I figured I had a solution.  It wasn't pretty and I wasn't happy with it but I was even less happy with losing more heddles with nearly every warp I put on the loom.

When I go back down I'll take a much closer look, but a quick glance at it as I finished threading indicates that it apparently worked.  At least for this warp.  I will know if it's a true fix if I can do 6 or 7 warps in a row without having further heddle losses.

Yesterday I was talking about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the person I was talking to was very upset and worried.  I told them that I'd seen reports of the Russian people holding huge protests against the invasion - in Russia - and that we couldn't lose hope that things would get quickly resolved.  

As human beings we can sink into despair, or we can try to find hope.  We can sink down in defeat or we can keep trying.

I have been remembering the fridge magnet I bought shortly after my first angioplasty - supposedly a quote from Winston Churchill:  When you are going through hell...keep going.

Keep trying.  Keep rising up.  Keep thinking up something else to solve a problem.  

Or the other quote that comes in handy at times: Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Ready, Set, Go!


Yesterday dawned dreary with a fine light snow blowing in sideways.  It matched my mood perfectly and I vegged for far too long before I finally hie'd myself to the loom.  It didn't take long to strip the left over warp off the beam and I already had the spool rack set up because it's the same as the last one and eventually I got started beaming.  

By 3 pm I was just over halfway done but it was time for meds so I left it and came up to take yet more pills and drop more drops into my left eye, then sat for a while before I could find enough energy to get back down there.

So it was 4 pm and time for the next set of drops and I still wasn't quite done.  I had two choices - I could keep going and finish and be late for my drops, or I could stop, do the drops (like a good little human being) and finish it afterwards.

In the end I chose to do the adult thing, did the drops, then went back down to finish the last three sections, transfer the warp to the stick I use for the purpose, then set up in front of the loom.

The draft had already been crunched a few days ago, so all I had to do was print it out (which I'd done before heading down in the first place), remove the beater top, reed and breast beam, set up the typing clip/holder thingee and find my pencil, then set up my extra task lighting.  I also have one light at the back of the loom that helps me see behind the heddles.  On a grey day this can be a life saver.

But I'd run out of energy and decided the best policy was to leave it for morning before digging in.

My goal for today is to thread the warp - a fairly straight forward twill block design - another I cadged from Ars Textrina and shared a while ago - because my focus still isn't great.  Neither my mental focus or my visual.  OTOH, I doubt I'll get it all threaded because I have appointments in the afternoon and the eye doctor usually takes nearly two hours.  

But I'll do what I can and if I don't get started weaving until the weekend, that's ok, too.  

My life is getting back to "pandemic normal" and this Sunday I have a Zoom meeting, then another the following Sunday plus a guild presentation coming up.  At least I managed a haircut, so I don't feel quite so shaggy.

A reminder of how this warp will look - with any luck.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

No One True Way


AVL tension box mounted on Louet Megado

Warp installed in tension box

Never fails - someone recommends a tool or process and a chorus of voices will insist that the One True Way works perfectly well for them, no need to even consider or think about any other way of doing something.

When I got the Megado, I was giving up a near 40 year relationship with the AVL.  A loom that we had heavily modified over the years to more accurately meet with my approach to weaving in order to create the textiles I wanted to make.

Over the years I had modified the AVL tension box, removing the cross making mechanism - because it didn't work well for me.  A lot of people were Very Concerned because you absolutely NEEDED a cross in order to properly thread your warp.

Um, no, not for what I was using (yarn) and what I was making (again yarn).

Doug made extra tensioning pegs for when I was primarily beaming off the top of cones because two tensioning pegs were not providing sufficient tension on my 100 yard long warps.  

When I stopped doing that, I was then using 1/2 pound tubes of primarily cotton and the drag from the side of the tubes meant I didn't need four tensioning pegs anymore, just two.  But I kept the extra pegs, because I found filling plastic spools and beaming from those provided less drag and I needed one or two of those additional pegs to beam under the level of tension required to give me good results.

At any rate, the first time I posted a photo of the Megado with the AVL tension box rail affixed to the back of the loom, I could hear a number of sharply in-drawn breaths at the sacrilege of drilling holes into my brand new Extremely Expensive loom.

It's a wooden machine.  If it needs to be something else and a couple or four holes drilled in will allow me to work the way I want, those holes can be filled later by the next owner.  Wood is very forgiving that way.

Too many weavers seem to think that the way they learned is the ONLY way to weave.  When they will not open their minds to something other than the One True Way, they may run into problems and then have no real way to work around the problem by adjusting their processes or tools.  And then they say 'oh you can't do that'.  Well, maybe not the way that was tried - and then failed.

When we don't allow ourselves the possibility of having multiple ways to address the challenges of weaving, we shut off the flow of knowledge.  If we open our minds when presented with a different way of doing it, the immediate reaction should not be 'I don't understand!'  but, oh, how does that work, then?

At least that is how I work in my studio.  Where there is No One True Way, but many ways something could be done, which one might be the best?  Then if it isn't working the way I want, what needs to change?  Do I want to make that change?  If no, then maybe I set that project aside until I am willing to make needed changes to my processes or my equipment.  Sometimes I need my in-house engineer to take a gander and suggest a different tool.  If he can then make such a tool, I might need to wait until it is ready before trying again.

It has taken me two years of working with the Megado to begin to become friends with it.  40 years of working with the AVL left me with certain expectations and assumptions, many of which had to be adjusted.  I had to learn how the loom behaved and what it needed.  There are things about it I still don't like - the very small diameter back beam, for instance - but it's the same diameter as most looms.  I'm just 'spoiled' because I had a one yard circumference on the AVL and that made beaming a warp 'easier' than the 14.x" beam the Megado has.  I'm not overly fond of the square (rounded off corners) shape of the beams, either, but they work ok.  My preference would be for a round cloth beam, but it isn't, so onwards we go.

I miss the cloth storage roller at the back of the loom that allowed me to weave an entire 20-40 yard long warp off but now I need to stop after every 7th or 8th towel and cut off and re-tie because the cloth beam is too padded to easily re-tension.  Rather than fight with the re-tensioning every time I advance the fell, I'd rather add a bit more warp length and cut off and re-tie.

See that gap in the gathering reed of the tension box?  I leave that to make room for the several wraps of leader string.  Without the gap, I was getting additional build up in the middle of each section because the profile of the leader string wound several times around the beam was causing an issue.

And so it goes.

Weaving can be a constant state of learning.  IF we allow ourselves to keep an open mind.

But ultimately?  If someone is happy with what they are doing and wouldn't change a thing?  They don't need to.  But when I share something on line it's because I know so many weavers, some of whom have issues with one thing or another and I simply want to point out that there are other ways.  Other tools.  Other techniques.  And sometimes, just because someone doesn't know that, they struggle, needlessly.  So I share information.  I try to share information about things that might help someone with an issue they might be having and have no idea how it might be done differently.

As for sectional beaming?  There are also other ways to do it than with this kind of set up.  There is the Warping Wheel/Square which some people adore, for reasons, none of which were good for me and my body so I tried it once, decided I could never make it work the way I wanted and moved on.  Some people like to wind a chain for each section and beam each one individually.  Again - tried it, didn't like it.   For reasons.  But if someone likes it and prefers it, then they should do that.

Weaving is a vast pool of knowledge and there are many many ways to create cloth.  Keep your mind open, always.  Keep learning, always.

The fact that I have been weaving for damn near 50 years and still learn new stuff is part of what keeps me getting out of bed in the morning.  But don't like something I share?  Don't do it.  Do what brings you joy.  

Monday, February 21, 2022

Progress, of a Sort


These towels are my shingles towels.  I had just cut the last warp off and was about to beam the next when I got the diagnosis and it took me at least a week, maybe a bit longer, before I felt up to even attempting to beam the warp.  Not knowing if I would be able to thread it, I took my time, checked, double, checked, triple checked, and in the end I had only two heddles where the thread had gone into the space about the 'eye' of the TexSolv heddle and were quickly spotted and fixed.  Not bad considering I was still only able to see out of one eye.  It would take closer to two weeks before the swelling went down enough the patch was becoming useless.  Irritating, in fact.

Unsure of my strength or stamina, I started slowly, at first only one towel a day.  But then I felt able to do two and after that managed two per day nearly every day.

The top of that pile consists of the 8 I cut off the loom this morning and in the photo they are still not wet finished.  Notice how much smaller the wet finished ones are.  

I succeeded in emptying another handful of tubes but I'm not using up all of a single colour on a warp.  I don't want large numbers of the same colour in the same design.  So on this warp, the emerald and green, the dark red and rose, then the blue and salmon pretty much still live on my shelves.  But shrinking.

The blue and salmon are in the washing machine and will be added to this pile soon enough.  I still have 20 of the previous warp to hem so the pile will about double once these are added to it.  

Time for me to get stuck into the hemming (as an English friend would say).

The next warp is designed, but until I'm done the pressing I won't set up the spool rack and tension box.  My studio is still not a tardis and I can only do one or the other as they happen in the same space.

Still, progress has been slowly happening.  Check my ko-fi shop for the next towel(s) on offer.  Posting those next.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Eye for Detail


My mother started me and then my brother on jigsaw puzzles when we were very young.  There were frequently puzzles on the coffee table as I grew up, and she continued making puzzles herself all of her adult life.  I tend to make them and then not for a while until I find I need a break.  Winter frequently sees me wanting such a break, wanting bright colours while so much outside is white or shades of.

Recently I had a student express some frustration.  She had come to the guild room in December during the guild room sale, and wanted to try weaving.  We happened to have a leftover warp from the last weaving class, right before the pandemic, so she was invited to give it a try.  The loom was all set up so we concentrated on just the weaving itself - shuttle throwing, treadling, etc.

"What should I be looking at?" she asked several times.  I told her to watch the shuttle because that was what was moving.

But later I thought about what it is I look at when I am actually sitting at the loom and weaving.  And the answer was everything but also?  Nothing.  

Today I thought about that some, trying to work out what I should answer the next time someone asks the question and I realized that what I do is based on my having spent the proverbial 10,000+ hours mindfully learning my craft.  I have studiously thrown and caught (or missed) the shuttle quite literally thousands of times.  My hands know better than my brain what they need to do at this point.

I have learned how to dress the loom so that there are few issues.  (Not perfect, still make mistakes.)  But even if there *are* issues, I know how to adjust to work around them.  I have learned how to wind bobbins that co-operate.  I've found shuttles that fit my hands and a method of holding them that is ergonomic and efficient.  

I feel the tension of the warp but also?  The drag of the weft as it reels off the bobbin when I throw the shuttle.  I am confident in my physical skills and being able to gauge how tight the warp needs to be for good results, and how heavy the bobbins can be before they cause too much stress to the selvedges.  I know where the sweet spot is and if I weave beyond it, what might happen.  Like the warp thread I broke yesterday because I was too lazy to advance the fell for the last few picks.  And the shuttle ran into a warp thread and broke it.  Sigh.

So what DO I watch when I'm weaving?  Everything.   Nothing.  I rely on my peripheral vision to make sure my selvedges are weaving in nicely.  I feel the flick of the shuttle as it passes to the other side and without looking, can catch it in such a way that as soon as the shed is changed, it can go back again.

I look at the previous picks to see if there are any inconsistencies.  And sometimes I will unweave to correct a loop that has formed in the weft.  Or perhaps the shuttle dove under a warp end and there is a float that needs to be fixed.

I feel how full the bobbin is when I brake the speed of the bobbin and prevent excess weft from reeling off and winding around the axis the bobbin rotates on.  But I also visually check to see how much might be left, from time to time.

My hand feels where the beater is to beat the weft into place.  I rarely look at the beater otherwise.  Just a glance as I look at one selvedge and then the other.

When the warp needs to be advanced, I feel for the brake release with my foot and without looking, reach for the handle to roll the beam forward.

For me weaving is a working meditation.  I will sit down at the loom, put my boombox on and my headphones (that help filter out the sharp clack of the solenoids and preserve the rest of my hearing) and music, mostly from my youth (which spans quite a broad time frame, tbh) plays as background to my weaving.  Quite frequently the music is the perfect speed and I weave in time to the song playing.

I try to limit my weaving to 45 minutes, but it is taking me 50 or so to weave a towel (depending how many times I need to backtrack and fix a loop). so I tend to complete the towel before stopping for a rest.  And frequently I'll be half done the towel before I tune into the fact that I've been weaving for 20+ minutes.  And wonder where the time went.  And then I see how much I've woven and I know exactly where the time went!

But mostly, I rely on my eye for detail.  To look for things that are inconsistent.  Then when I spot them, deal with them.  Whether that's a float, a loop, or a broken thread.  I'm not actually looking at any one thing, just absorbing it all.  Watching for the inconsistency to stand out, to catch my eyes as they flick here and there, up and down, side to side.

Everything.  And nothing.  Kind of like life, really.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Book Review - Fabric by Victoria Finlay


I first saw mention of this book on line, but it wasn't available in North America yet.  However, I found a UK bookseller who was quite happy to send a copy of the book, which arrived just before Christmas.

I wasn't feeling very well and had library books that needed to get back to the library, but I couldn't resist opening it and beginning to read a little bit.

Since I had read a previous book by Finlay, I knew her writing style and had enjoyed it and this one is much the same:  part travelogue, part memoir, part homage to her parents, part an examination of various fabrics through the centuries and how they have informed and affected human culture and history.

It is a fairly close look at how certain fabrics have been made, how individuals work the thread and their looms.  It is a lay person's look at the craft, and while at times the explanations are not what a weaver would emphasize or use, it is - so far as I can tell - a fairly accurate depiction.

But it is what could be called the 'trivia' that enchants me.  The little asides, by-ways, and observations that have consistently captivated me.  It is a book that I have enjoyed even during recovery from shingles when reading was difficult (one eye is still constantly dilated) so that the little chunks I can manage have provided insights into cultures not my own, but rooted in a craft that I know fairly well.

This morning's little nugget was this paragraph:

(the author quite by happenstance finds a weaver at the loom, weaving muga silk)  "...Minu forgets me and gets into the rhythm of her work - right hand flicking a yellow string to make the shuttle fly, left hand battening (English term for beating) *the new line (weft) into the body of it, pausing as she adjusts the weft to make a subtle pattern, right hand flicking again.  I feel happy here, watching this calm woman work in the space between the made and the unmade.  I reflect how the part of a woven cloth that's the most important is the part we can only see during the weaving process while the cloth is raw and open.  Usually when you contemplate a piece of fabric it appears to consist of basically two dimensions.   Width and length, not much depth.  But if you look with imagination as well as eyes, you can see that connecting the back and the front is a tight fencing of crossing places where the essence of a cloth is found.

I imagine how, if I were very small, I could be lost inside its complexity."

So while there are some places where the terminology used isn't the same as what I might use, I am finding some solace in how Finlay has crafted this look at how fabrics are fundamental to human beings - our culture, our society, our history, our economy, our very existence.

The book is apparently being released in North America in June.  But if you want to, there are UK booksellers happy to mail copies now.  And it wasn't even all that expensive - I paid under $40 Cdn and that included the shipping.

Recommended to sooth the soul of anyone tired of the madding crowd and our current 'interesting' times.

*my added comments intended for clarity

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Pacing Myself


blue version of the current tea towel

This morning I did my current routine of eye drops beginning as soon as I wake up and can pry my eyes open.  Then at 9 am, tablets and 3 different drops.  At 10 am I do multiple drops of one kind.  Then at 11 and 1, one drop of one kind.  At 3 pm more tablets and one kind of drop, once.  Then 4 pm, multiple drops of one kind of drop, then 5 pm one drop of one kind, and again at 7 pm.  At 8 pm I do multiple drops of one kind of drop, then at 9 pm tablets and three different drops, at 11 pm one drop of one kind, an ointment in my left eye just before I crawl into bed,.

With such a schedule, it's not easy to leave the house, so I don't.  My priority is to save the sight in my left eye, and the way my eye doc is throwing various chemicals into it, I can only assume the desired outcome is not yet guaranteed.

Today I'm waiting for a delivery of a different medication.  This one is for cholesterol levels and I've run out with tomorrow being next dose day.  So I'm upstairs, not at the loom, because I can't hear the doorbell when I'm in the studio and Doug has gone to do some self care of his own.  He's back into the routine of the Y three times a week.

Until a few years ago, we were both physically fit but between aging and the pandemic and my worsening back, we have both slid off the fitness scales rather significantly.  So he is trying to be more aware of his fitness while I hope I can start to get back to mine.  I just have to make it through this time and hope the back pain doctor will be able to help me.

While I was weaving this morning I thought about what I would request from life and it is that I can maintain a more active life than I've been able to manage the last couple of years.  I'm beyond tired of the chronic pain but until recently didn't know that there might be a treatment/procedure that would actually reduce the pain I've lived with and which will only get worse.  The treatment is not a cure, just a temporary relief but whatever, I'll take it if it will work for me.

Otherwise my life will continue to shrink and activities beyond home curtailed.  And that is sad to contemplate, so I try to hold onto hope and some better news in about 3 weeks.

In the meantime, hoping for something 'better' I continue to think about ways I can at least continue to weave and teach, even if only from home via the internet.  So I have several Zoom presentations booked, have agreed to teach level one at Olds in June (hopefully all those optimists who say covid will be over soon are correct) and investigate further opportunities via School of Sweet Georgia.

I'm annoyed the delivery I'm waiting for hasn't come yet, otherwise I could be weaving another towel.  But it hasn't, so I'm kicking the baseboards feeling somewhat annoyed.  So I'm going to go work on the next puzzle and listen to some music and enjoy the sight of a lovely brilliant sun.  And take another lesson in pacing myself.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Moving Forward


Introduction to Magic in the Water with School of Sweet Georgia

In about 24 hours (1 pm Pacific Time Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022) the class with SOS will be live.

This topic is one of several near and dear to my heart because it is the final step in turning that mass of interlaced individual threads into 'real' cloth.

One of the things I am enjoying about doing classes with SOS is the interaction with the students.  The first class The Intentional Weaver produced a lively discussion when it launched in January and I expect this class to be much the same.  Maybe even more questions, because wet finishing is so individual to each web.

Some people don't understand why I refer to the initial transformation as 'wet finishing' instead of just saying that I 'wash' it.  I have even been told I am pretentious for using 'wet finishing'.  As if I were making more of the process than there actually is.

Perhaps I am.

But I can never forget that on page 608 of J. Schofield's book on Cloth Finishing; woollen and worsted that he says:  "Absolute adherence to routine does not prevail in the finishing of wool materials.  The operator must utilize or abandon the intensity of the treatment to the requirements of the case in hand."

In other words?  It depends.  Is the web to be fulled?  Or not?  What temperature of water should be used?  What kind of agitation?  How vigorous?  For how long?  Will it be brushed?  With what implement?  A low nap or a long luxurious one?  Compress or not?

What will be the cleaning instructions for the finished cloth?  If wool, I can pretty much guarantee that 'washing' the finished wool will most likely not resemble the wet finishing processes.

And so I continue to inform people of what I consider is a necessary step in bringing all their effort in terms of getting the threads woven and understanding the final step, that wonderful, magical transformation that happens in the wet finishing.  Or whatever anyone chooses to call it.

Interested in learning more?    Starting tomorrow, 1 pm Pacific Time.


loom state

Monday, February 14, 2022

Heart Day


It has been nearly 14 years since my younger brother died of unsuspected heart disease.  

And because of that, mine was diagnosed.

I remember the last Christmas dinner we had, Doug and me, Don and mom.  I remember how Don and I had had a number of conversations over the preceding year saying how utterly exhausted we were.  How stressed we were.  How difficult every bloody thing had gotten.

And I remember sitting beside him noticing in a kind of oh, that's interesting way, we both had fingernails that were lavender in colour.  And then the noticing slid away from my attention and I thought no more about it.

Until the phone rang that February evening with his boss asking if there was a reason Don's lips might be turning blue.

In the space of a heart beat, I said "His heart." 

And it was.

One month later I was sitting in emergency, having been sent there by the (female) locum in large part because I mentioned to her I had pressure in my chest, that it felt like an elephant was standing on it.

The internist on call in emergency saw me, put me on nitro, had the emergency staff monitor me, kept me in overnight, then ordered a stress test.  And on May 9 I was told that I had several blockages and needed stents.

I thought a lot about my brother that day.  How his death led to my diagnosis.  And eventually Doug's, for his blockages.

In 2015 during surgical intake the anesthesiologist wondered how I had managed to wind up with stents and was now in the process of having triple by-pass surgery without ever having had a heart attack.  Which is practically unheard of.

My symptoms were not typical of heart disease.  Or at least, not the typical male symptoms.  And that is probably why my brother got missed - he wasn't having typical male symptoms, either.  

When I was able to think again (after the stents) I was able to catalogue my symptoms and recognize that my brother was most likely having much the same - fatigue, certainly, shortness of breath on exertion, hypoxia (lack of oxygen) leading to brain fog.  I felt like I was wearing a veil of fatigue from the top of my head to lower back.  And of course, those lavender fingernails.

When the symptoms came back, I requested a stress test.  When the (different) specialist saw me, he pooh-poohed my symptoms as being age related.  I was older, of course I would have less energy, not be as physically fit, etc.  I looked at him and said 'given I have a proven history of artery blockages, how about we do a stress test to rule it out?'   Er, um, okay.

Three weeks later I was having an angiogram, being told I needed by-pass surgery.  So when the anesthesiologist wondered how I had managed to arrive at the cardiac ward without having had a heart attack, I told him I had a good heart, crappy plumbing.  He assured me that Dr. Ye was a very good plumber.

And here I am.  Fourteen years on.  Still here.  Still weaving.  Still teaching.  I don't know why my brother didn't survive when I have.  I dealt with survivor guilt for a number of years until I realized that since I am still here, I'd better make the most of this life.  It is the only one I will get.  And I owe my brother, whose death gave me the gift of continued life, to not waste my life, but to do the best I can.

The past month has been challenging beyond words.  In many ways this episode with shingles has been worse than the surgery.  At least with the surgery I knew it was short term pain for long term gain.  With the shingles, it's just been pain and no guarantee the nerve pain from the shingles will ever go away.  Just another cherry on top of the chronic pain pie.

But it is less than a month until I have a consult with the back pain doctor.  And at least I still have hope that she may have a treatment to offer me to reduce the pain.  Otherwise, I face a life with continuing and increasing pain.  A prospect that doesn't appeal, but...

So today is heart day.  Take care of yours.  If you suspect you have heart disease, especially if you're female, try to get a stress test if you can.  If your family has a history of people dying suddenly from massive coronary events, pay attention.  Check out the symptoms for female presentation of cardiac symptoms.  

Fatigue.  Chest pain - not sharp but heaviness.  Shortness of breath on exertion.  Lavender coloured nails.  There are others, but that's a start.

In the meantime, I'm feeling better enough I can weave - some.  My next class for SOS launches this week.  Looking forward to continuing to teach, even if it is 'only' on line.

Don Holzworth, in his happy place.  1956-2008  

Sunday, February 13, 2022



Today I pressed the first 7 towels from the current towel warp.  People might remember that the reed marks were quite obvious in the loom with some of them being even more obvious than others.

Since I still have towels on the loom, I thought it would be useful to show the loom state and after wet finishing.  You might want to enlarge the photo to really see the threads, but even so, post wet finishing the reed marks are nearly gone.  I can still see a few faint lines here and there, but mostly, they are gone.  And of course the motif itself has 'lines' in it so some of the 'lines' are the weave structure itself.

I haven't checked twill angle before and after.  I wasn't all that bothered if I hit 'perfect' or not.  They are a little bit shorter than my usual - I could have extended the hems a bit more to have a size in keeping with my 'usual', but since size depends largely on the size of the motif my towels are not exactly the same.

Initial assessment?  I think they will be fine.  I now have a rather large stack of towels to be hemmed, but the addition of even more eyedrops on Friday means much of the time my left eye is watering and hemming is possible but not all that pleasant.  However, the doctor says that as I run out of two of the drops I can just stop taking them.  I really wish the one bottle was smaller because it looks like enough liquid to keep going for a few more months!  However, she may call a halt before it's all gone.  I'll see her again in less than two weeks, now, and hopefully there will be better news than just 'well, it isn't healed yet'.  In the meantime my day is cut up into one and two hour chunks as I fit all the different eyedrops into my day and still try to find time to do other stuff.  Between shingles and covid Mother Nature apparently seems to be determined to make sure I stay home and don't go anywhere.  

At least I *can* weave, so there is that...

Friday, February 11, 2022

Four Weeks


Time marches on...

It's been four weeks since the diagnosis of shingles in my left eye.  It's been four weeks of being first, incredibly sick, then dealing with multiple medications, strict scheduling, and feeling frustrated because shingles just seemed like the cherry on top of the pain pie.

But four weeks on and I can see actual progress.  And for that I am grateful.

But - four weeks of hoping, holding on, losing hope (at times), watching the march of the sun heading northwards, and hoping some more.

The pandemic front continues in spite of the fact that we are sick of it.  The isolation.  The cancellations.  The postponements.  

Given my compromised immune system (shingles tend to appear when one's immune system is weakened and mine very obviously is) I have to risk assess now more than ever as politicians begin dismantling the pandemic mitigations.

I am scheduled to teach level one master weaving at Olds in June.  Given my personal health issues, we have talked about how we can make this happen.

First off, Doug has offered to drive me.  Given my back and the uncertainty of my being able to drive myself on a road trip of about 11 hours each way, this means I don't have to worry about arriving so stove up I can't walk.  He will also do the hardest work of packing up the van, unloading it when we get there and run errands in the town should we need anything.  Masked, of course.

I will be requesting that we be housed in one of the condos so that we can make our own meals, not eat in the dining hall or going out to restaurants.

We will bring a filter that will run in the classroom.  This will help keep the room safe for everyone.  Most of the rooms have windows to the outside, but not all.

And I will be wearing a mask and requesting my students do the same.  This is not school policy, but I hope that the people attending will respect my health status and help to protect me.  We will provide masks for the students if they don't have their own.

In the meantime, with the lifting of covid mitigations, we will see if the class can go ahead or not.  We could just as easily be in the middle of a 6th wave.

In the meantime, the sun is shining again today and 'false' spring continues.  At least for a few more days.  We'll see if it turns into a far-too-early spring.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Messing Around


Today I got towel #6 (of 21, estimated) woven.  Tomorrow I will weave one more, then cut off and re-tie.  

I have an appointment with the eye doctor tomorrow afternoon, and depending on how tiring I find that, I could maybe cut/serge the towels, then re-tie the warp, ready to go again on Saturday.

The design started with a block design from Ars Textrina that I then messed around with, changing the tie-up and treadling from star to rose, worked out how many repeats I needed for a towel width, then how many repeats for the length.  Finally I adjusted the hems to make the towels as long as I would like them to be to make a towel the length I wanted to end up with.

I'm not sure what colours I will use up on this warp.  The current warp will get four dark value blue-red, then the next colour will be rose.  Of which I still have way too much.  The last 7 will likely be some of the beiges I have left - lots of small tubes that really need using up.  And maybe blue?  To be determined.  The challenge with the beige yarns is the dye lot differences and try to not have any in a towel.

In terms of the shingles, I have made progress, but seem to be stalled.  I am working hard to remind myself that healing will take as long as it takes.  And hope that I get some positive news tomorrow.

I'm getting weary of eye drops every two hours, especially now that I'm feeling well enough to weave.  I have to juggle my weaving sessions in between the eye drops.  Mostly I remain really tired and dealing with nerve pain, not just from my back but now the nerve pain from the shingles.  And no one can say if that will ever clear up or it will stay.  Oh joy.

I try to read for a few minutes each day.  I'm thoroughly enjoying Finlay's book Fabric.  It's a bit of a travelogue, but also a story of grieving (her parents died just as she was beginning to think about writing this book) and her journey around the world to do research on the various fabrics and the cultures that produced them is just the story I needed to hear right now.

She doesn't always describe the technology in the way I would as a weaver, but I remind myself her target audience is the 'lay person', not practitioners of the crafts she is sharing.  And so I glide over those, nodding I understand enough about the craft to agree, even if I wouldn't write about the techniques quite in that way.

We have also been enjoying the sunshine of this 'false' spring.  I am pretty sure that winter will come at least once more.  But in the meantime, the sun is very welcome.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Reed Marks


tiny black ^ shows an obvious reed mark

I get asked by newer weavers how to get rid of reed marks.  

I don't actually worry about them over much.  Remember that we don't judge our textiles while they are on the loom, but after wet finishing.

Here is the warp I'm currently weaving.  There are some areas where the reed marks are really obvious.  The thing is, when I talk about threads moving to areas of least resistance?  This kind of gap is what I'm talking about.  Once the warp has been cut off the loom and tension removed from the threads?  The ones next to a gap are going to tend to roll into those gaps.  Even *before* the web goes into the water.

So once wet finished, the cloth is going to have reduced the size of the reed marks by shifting into those gaps and either be gone entirely, or greatly reduced.

Whatever is left I don't worry about.  They are the mark of the loom.   (Well, the reed to be precise, but you get my drift!)

Likewise I don't fret too much about floats at the selvedge.  So long as the float doesn't interfere with the function of the cloth, I pretty much ignore them.  These towels have 5 end floats.  And they will be fine after wet finishing, which will include a hard press.

But if someone truly wants to eliminate all reed marks, a finer reed can be used.  For this warp I have 4 ends per dent.  A higher density will disguise reed marks, but these are meant to be tea towels and I don't want them really dense - I want them to get into tiny corners and be able to dry the dishes.

Plus the denser the cloth, the more it will resist absorbing water.

So - understand what will happen when something changes and work to create the quality of textile you want to have when you are done.  Yes, including the wet finishing.  Reserve judgement until it's done, done.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Busy Busy


Fancy twills can get quite...busy.  I wasn't entirely sure if I would like this draft in a high contrast colour for weft, but I think it's ok.

The design is symmetrical with a 'border' along each edge and a field in between the two flowers or snowflakes.  I will sometimes do this in order to reduce the overall busy-ness of a design.  It also means that the towel can be folded in half lengthwise and present the complete width of the motif running down the 'centre' of the folded cloth.

The motif was large enough that I had to juggle a bit to decide how long to make it and where the repeat would happen.  Since I didn't want to cut the motif in half, the individual motifs are linked, like a daisy chain or garland, lengthwise.  

While I can't see more than one motif at a time while I'm weaving, I am pleased enough with this to continue without any edits.  

There is a very small area at the beginning and end which will be turned under for the hems and should leave the motif complete if I'm careful in the turning/hemming.

It's another grey dreary day, far too warm, so streets are slippery.  But after weaving one towel yesterday, I think I'm ok to weave another today.

I'm still having 'fun' seeing fine detail but throwing the shuttle didn't seem to be a problem, so I am now on perceptible recovery.  I'm working hard at being patient (NOT my strongest suit) and reminding myself daily (hourly when necessary) that I AM 'retired' and my goals are simply my goals and if I need to take more time than I hoped to recover, then I need to give my body that time.

In the meantime I have my jigsaw puzzle(s), a good book (Fabric by Victoria Findlay) and the internet.  We have heat and light and food in the cupboards.  I'm fine.  Ignore that tiny violin and the saddest song ever played...

Monday, February 7, 2022



Someone new to teaching on line did a recap of their experience which kind of made me stop and think about teaching generally, and teaching on line specifically.

I taught my first workshop in September of 1975.  I knew very little about spinning (which is what I was teaching - I know, kind of shocks me, too!) and no training in how *to* teach.  

But I knew a little bit more than those who could not (yet) spin and in the end, my co-teacher and I managed to get the small group of wanna be spinners started.

As I threw myself into learning how to weave, it seemed more and more feasible to teach weaving, too.  Over the years I started doing more workshops, then was invited to travel to other groups in my region to teach there as well.

As I taught, I learned more about teaching and continued to learn more and more about weaving.

To say that teaching is challenging is an understatement.  Teaching adults has it's own particular challenges and over the years I learned a lot about how people absorb information, and how I, as the teacher, needed to adapt what I was doing, how I was presenting the information.  The longer I taught, the more I saw how differently people can be in terms of processing information.

Teaching in person means you can immediately give feedback.  You also 'see' a lot out of the corner of your eye, you get good at reading facial expressions and body language.  You adapt what you are doing and saying depending on the reaction you get in real time.

Moving on line removes much of that feedback so teachers are left to their own devices in terms of their previous experience of interacting with students.  Teachers on line have to anticipate where someone might falter, or miss something because they were busy processing information and didn't catch the next couple of sentences.

Add to that the camera angle, which may - or may not - show the view the student needs to see.

At the end of an on line presentation, after juggling all of the information that needs to be conveyed, after trying to anticipate questions and cover that material, answering questions in ever increasing detail, the 'standard' level of exhaustion is surpassed.  I find teaching on line far more exhausting than doing a presentation live and in person.

In part I think in person I get the feedback of the student's enthusiasm and excitement, something which is lacking on line.

But we are still in the midst of a pandemic and my current state of heath and age means that my ability to teach in person is going to continue to shrink.

So with what energy I have left, I have determined that I am going to do the very best I can to record what I know and leave that as part of whatever I can to assist weavers to navigate the complex world of taking yarn and turning it into cloth.

Things got even more complicated with shingles, but after a month of dealing with it, I can say that I am finally beginning to function - for certain levels of function.

Between my writing (numerous magazine articles for 40 years), two self-published books, numerous workshops/classes for guilds and conferences, videos on You Tube, Zoom meetings and now the School of Sweet Georgia, I hope that people will find answers to their questions.  Even if they just determine what their questions are, then go on to find a teacher who can answer them.  Because if you don't know you don't know something, you don't know you need to find answers.

Today the sun is shining.  I have a loom that is ready to be woven on.  And I think I feel well enough to start weaving.  I'll begin slow and try to not over do things.  It's been a rough four weeks, but some lovely sunshine and a warp ready to go feels like progress.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

False Spring?


Pretty soon I will see sunlight splashed across the floor as it comes through the fan light in the front door.  It is an indication that spring is coming.

But not quite yet.

Even though the temperatures are above freezing right now, this is 'false' spring.  Even though the forecast says it will stay warm all week, there is zero guarantee that spring is actually on its way.  Yet.  In fact cold weather and snow can - and probably will - return, sooner rather than later.

Given what is going on in my life right now, I am content to stay hunkered down for the time being.

Even though I have made progress, I was warned recovery would be a long and winding road.  It's been nearly 4 weeks since I got the diagnosis of shingles and progress has been very very slow, indeed.

However, I was able to begin threading the next warp yesterday, reaching the halfway point by around 4:30 or so.  At which point I declared the day over.

Life is far too...'interesting'...right now.  

So I am going to concentrate on the positive.  On what I *can* do, not on what I cannot.  People have been making choices and far too many are making choices that are going to seriously impact people like me, immune compromised for one reason or another.  Some people have made the decision that people like me are expendable.  They tell us to just get covid already, because they are done with covid mitigations.  It seems we are to be ignored, indeed, sacrificed on the alter of their inconvenience.

I am going to do my damndest to NOT catch covid.  I am going to do what I can to help others learn about this craft I love so much and encourage them to continue learning, creating, moving forward as they can, when they can.

Because even though we are in 'false' spring, I also know that spring *will* come.  And one way or another we will get through this time.

Saturday, February 5, 2022



One of the most difficult things I do is to diagnose - on line - problems someone is having with their weaving.

The next most difficult thing I do is try to explain what the person might consider in order to improve their results.

At times my advice puts me at odds with others in the weaving community.  There are so many assumptions made by people and frequently the same old advice will be given when my experience has told me that the 'usual' advice is only a part of the story.

And why I so frequently begin anything I say with 'it depends'.

So many steps along the way can go slightly 'wrong' and if there are enough of them in one piece it begins to get really difficult to determine what the root cause actually is.  And so people look at the symptom and give advice based on that.

There are times when I have been told that I don't know what I'm talking about.  And it's true - I don't know everything.  But I do know things.  

And so when people ask questions, I try to understand what their problem actually is, not just put a bandage on the symptom.

Of course teaching this kind of subtlety is so much easier in person when I can demonstrate what I mean, not just try to find words to convey a motion or action.  Or a principle of physics.

But neither to I enjoy seeing people who are truly puzzled and really want to do better get frustrated.  

My latest efforts are geared towards the SOS classes.  If anyone wants to know more, there are several hours worth of video showing people what I do and as much as possible, why I do it.  Then I wade in and answer questions.  Yes, even when I don't agree with what has been said previously.  

My intention is not to be disagreeable, but to shine further light onto the craft.  And bottom line?  Whoever is reading what I say must then filter my comments through their processes and decide if there is merit in them for their situation or not.

The life so short, the craft so long to learn.  

ps - watch for launch date around mid-February for Magic in the Water...

Friday, February 4, 2022

Sunny Day


After several days of snow/sleet/rain, we have achieved yellow thingee in the sky today.

Since seeing the eye doc on Tuesday, I have been noticing tiny baby steps of improvement.  Yesterday I managed to finish trimming the last of the scarves, then put away all the stuff required for the pressing and trimming.  Today I am seriously considering getting the next warp set up and see if I can manage to start beaming it.

The big thing right now is to not 'over' do anything and cause a back slide.  Or push my back too hard.  I seem to be alternating days of being able to mange and...not being able to manage.  

So I distract myself as much as possible with other things.  I read - a little.  I work on a jigsaw puzzle - a little.  I scroll through the internet.  Sometimes I even manage to chat with friends on messenger.  Seems like hardly anyone emails anymore.  My inbox used to be full of chatty emails.  Now it's mostly spam.  

Progress continues on the next class with SOS.  I reviewed the video and again I'm pleased with having Felicia participate in the fulling.  It works well to have someone else on camera to add their perspective and participate in the process.  What most people don't seem to realize is that fulling significantly can be quite physical.  

We have a launch date, for mid-month - I'll share when I have a firm date.  

In the meantime we continue to isolate as much as possible because Omicron continues to make it's way through our health region.  And the one thing I do NOT need to is catch covid on top of the shingles.  

I am going to enjoy the gift of a lovely sunny day, secure in the knowledge that there is no where I have to go and can stay off the roads.  While I desperately need a haircut, I'm still dealing with a very tender scalp so I imagine it will be a while before I feel able to brave going out and getting that done.  I do, however, have some Zoom meetings set up for the end of this month, beginning of March.  Hopefully I can get something done with my hair by then.  If not I think I might start wearing a hat as one friend suggested.  

Time to finish my coffee and hope for a little chemical assistance and see how beaming will go.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Attention to Detail


One of the things that I find essential to my practice of weaving is paying attention to details.

This morning I finished trimming the fringes of the scarves that I wove last fall and January.  In the photo, the fringes don't look terrible, but I don't like the 'messy' (to me) appearance of the splayed out loose fibres that create the tufts.  I feel they don't match the rest of the look of the scarf.  So after wet finishing and pressing, I trim the tufts off.  

Over the years I've tried various set ups and quite by chance, discovered that the back beam of the Megado is pretty much the correct height to drape the scarves over while I sit on a low stool and simply drop the bits of fluff into a plastic bin below.

Yes, it takes time, but in my humble opinion, it is time well worth spending to do.

But that's the thing.  We get to choose.  We get to say what is acceptable.  Or not.  We get to set the parameters of how we spend our time.  What I find acceptable, someone else may not.  And vice versa.

We have great freedom, here in Canada, to do what we feel is 'right' or 'best'.  I can never forget the privilege I have to live in this country.  Along with that privilege comes the responsibility to care for others in my community who do not have the privileges I have had.  As a person living in this society, I have a responsibility to assist those who may need help.  I have a responsibility to look beyond my reality bubble to realize that others have not had the privilege I have enjoyed to make my own decisions, my own way in the world.  That MY reality is not someone else's.

As I get older, I work at peeling away the layers of my reality to see how what happens in the world affects others.  To support and encourage those who may need it.  To recognize that they may be dealing with a reality that bears zero resemblance to mine.  And then, if I can, try to help them if they are struggling.

To light someone else's candle does not, never can, diminish my own.  And more candles mean more light.

And we can always use more illumination.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022



Yesterday I was able to carefully (very VERY carefully) begin trimming the scarves.  As I worked I studied the various colour combinations and this one was one that I had been hesitant to use, but after wet finishing was very pleased with.

I tried to get a photo that would do it justice, but this was the best I could manage.  And it is a very poor representation of how the scarf looks in real life.

The warp is the Brassard 2/16 bamboo and the weft a commercially dyed variegated 2/8 Tencel.

The Tencel can finish quite 'stiff', depending on a variety of factors (weave structure, density, how wet the cloth was while pressing - the wetter it is when starting to press, the stiffer it seems to 'finish') but in terms of colours, I was actually quite pleased.  I am disappointed this is the best I can do right now to get a photo.

Tencel can press up to be very shiny and so those really pale areas?  That is not the colour, but pure shine being reflected back into the camera lens.

The warp colours were black and a dark green.  The weft variegation was dark blue, purple and green, all about the same value.  There were no very light values in the yarn.

So what you see here?  Is an illusion.

I won't be putting the scarves up for sale on line because if someone bought this scarf thinking it looked like this?  They would be disappointed.  Unless they discovered that the real thing was so much better than this image.  

So much of life is like this.  We have our perceptions and think that is all there is.  We live in our own personal reality 'bubble', not understanding that we are seeing a  fraction of what is actually happening outside of that bubble.

I know I disappointed a bunch of people, cancelling or postponing some events.  But the reality is, I could not perform to my best.  The reality is, I was (still am, but not quite as) sick as can be.  I'm still far from 'well', still in danger of losing the sight in my left eye.  If I do that, life will become infinitely more difficult than it has been.  

So I am entirely concentrating on getting through this time.  I am trying to distract myself with jigsaw puzzles, reading (as I can), and puttering in the studio for a few minutes now and then.  Whatever energy I have left I keep for answering weaving questions.  Which is what is really keeping me going right now.  The fact that as awful as I was (and still am, although not quite as) feeling, I could still help someone else.  Still light a candle.

If you are struggling, feeling that you are going through really tough times, don't be afraid to talk to someone - a friend who will listen without judgement but encourage you to see all the value you bring into this world.  If you want to share with me, I can listen right now.  I can sympathize.  I can send gentle virtual hugs.  This is how we get through hard times - by helping and supporting each other.