Friday, April 29, 2022



I have been so focused on getting my stash woven down I have been letting my other deadlines slide.  Of course I've always worked 'best' under the pressure of deadlines, so...

But April is nearly over, next week it will be May!  And I have things I need to take care of before June.  Weaving, being labour intensive, means that I have to get cracking and deal with getting ready for the Olds College class in mid-June.  Part of that is sampling the new-to-me yarn I got earlier this month while I was at Sweet Georgia Yarns.

One of the challenges with weaving is finding 'good' yarn.  Even better if that yarn comes in an array of colours.  

I don't weave much with wool these days, but level one of the master weaving course means weaving with wool and fulling it.  One of the class assignments is to create a value gamp, so you need at least 6 steps in the value of a hue and it has to be wool.

Since a percentage of the level one students are usually a bit less experienced, some of whom may have never woven with wool, I try to find 'friendly' yarn.  Many of the finer wool yarns that come in value gamp steps are extremely elastic/stretchy.  This makes them more challenging to weave with if you have never encountered a yarn with a lot of elasticity in it.

I've been using Harrisville yarns in part because it is meant to be fulled, in part because it doesn't have a lot of elasticity.  But it doesn't have a great value scale so I've fudged by reaching into the next hue for the darker values.  

Array (from GIST) is now being carried by Sweet Georgia, and the grey scale comes in a five step value package, plus you can buy natural white as an individual cone.  So I bought that for the class.  However, I also need to sample it so I did a two birds one stone thing and bought a set of their lime green value scale (plus white) which gives a five step value scale.  On this warp I will weave my samples in preparation for the Olds class and the grey scale, but I bought enough I can make a scarf for a friend who absolutely *adores* lime green.  

Yesterday was a pretty good day and after weaving two towels and taking a short break I wound the lime green warp.  I had re-designed this warp at least 6 times.  Array is not a cheap yarn and I wanted the scarf to turn out well but I don't have a lot of 'extra' yarn.  So I took my time combining the value scale concept and the stripe sequence in a way that was pleasing to me (I am not actually a fan of lime green, but I think this is going to look nice!) and stayed within the confines of the yarn I had available.

The changes in the value from one shade to the next are slight, so I will be needing to keep track of each step as I weave the gamp.  This should make a really nice gradient.  

The yarn is strong.  It's 'worsted', smooth, compact, and will full.  So it will be interesting to see how it is after a very light fulling and a good hard press.  It won't be merino soft, but it will be a lot friendlier to weave with than a sproingy (technical term) merino yarn.

And yes, it's a bit spendy, but worth it imho to have a less stressful weaving experience, plus the very lovely gradient of colours to work with.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

"Poor Man's Damask"


May be a little hard to see, but I've switched to white weft on white warp and while I'm sitting at the loom I can't really *see* what I'm doing.  It is only when I get up from the loom and look it from an angle that the pattern becomes visible.

Yes, I'm still weaving twill blocks (or turned twill) and this is sometimes called Poor Man's Damask, especially when woven white on white.

Damask is woven with satin weave and as such is very shaft hungry.  Usually it is woven on a drawloom or Jacquard in order to get those really fancy designs.  If you 'only' have a shaft loom, it's a lot harder to get very fancy with satin weave structures.  Satin also takes a *much* higher epi/ppi than twill blocks, so using turned twill to create motifs is a lot cheaper and quicker than satin.

Selvedges can be an issue with it (as mentioned in my previous post) but I don't fret too much so long as they are 'reasonable'.  

(Each weaver has to decide for themselves what level of 'not perfect' they are willing to live with.)

The next warp in this series will also be twill blocks but after than I think I will go back to 'fancy' twills.  Selvedges on a 16 shaft fancy twill can also be a problem, but again, usually not anything I'm too worried about.

My goal is to use up the 2/16 cotton this year.  (I *thought* it would be done by now, silly me!)  Once that's done, I have several boxes of 2/20 mercerized cotton.  More tea towels.

Am I bored with tea towels yet?  Nope.  Each warp is a different threading and I'm limiting how many of each motif I weave in each colour.  That is about to end as my dyed yarns are actually disappearing.  However, I have about 3 kilos of that turquoise I showed in my previous post, and a whole bunch of natural white.  Given all the other things I need to work on, weaving on the Megado will slow down for the next few months.  But I haven't forgotten my goal of reducing my stash.  It's just going to take a bit longer than I thought it would.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Not Up to the Challenge


When weaving 1:3 twill blocks, sometimes the selvedge doesn't want to weave in nicely.  For this warp, I doubled the four outside ends in the heddle (keeping them the same density as the rest of the cloth in the reed) but the pulling of the warp combined with the weave structure means that the selvedge ends tend to not want to pull in nicely to the body of the cloth and I'm left with 'loopy' selvedges.

This is NOT perfect.  Or ideal.  Or even acceptable if I were planning on entering them into a juried exhibit.  

But I'm not.  I'm just weaving up my yarn stash and trying to get it done as quickly as possible.  I don't have the spoons for fussing about it and frankly?  These loops really aren't going to much affect the function of a tea towel.  They might (might!) wear out more quickly, but should still give good service for several years.

I happen to like weaving twill blocks for the crisp motifs.  The 1:3 twill is easy to weave since fewer shafts rise than sink, therefore it takes less physical effort.  One down side is the selvedges tend to curl.  Where there is more weft than warp in the block the cloth will curl up.  Where there is more warp than weft in the block, the cloth will tend to curl down.  Much like the knitting.  If one side is all knit and the other all purl, the knitted cloth will curl to the purl side.

Wet finishing reduces that curling - in both knitting and weaving.  Unfortunately it doesn't always solve the 'problem' in it's entirety.

I do notice how much the wet finishing tends to camouflage minor inconsistencies, though, and so it is with these towels.  The high value contrast shows up my inconsistent beat, but after wet finishing and a good hard press, the minor 'streaks' are not jumping out at me.

So, here's to imperfection.  In spite of minor bobbles, these towels will still dry dishes.  I have another 3 or so kilos of this teal/turquoise yarn.  I may switch to a fancy twill for a while so that I'm not reminded so obviously that I'm *still* not perfect.

"Let go your perfect offering.  There is a crack in everything.  That's how the light gets in."

Leonard Cohen

Thanks for the reminder Leonard.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Goat Trails


This morning Facebook showed me a memory from six years ago when I was preparing for a workshop with a guild.  It showed the Leclerc with a warp beamed but waiting for threading and baggies with weaving drafts and yarns to be used for the workshop warps all laid out all over the floor.  There was about 15" of walkway between those and the shelving unit on the other side.

I stopped letting students use their own yarns when I did a couple of workshop on wet finishing, specified that people needed to use wool that would full and have a couple show up with their looms all dressed with acrylic.  So much for experiencing fulling.  :(

It just became a whole lot easier for me to provide the yarns (for an additional materials fee) and make sure the students experienced the workshop in the way that *I* intended.

But it was an enormous amount of work.  

At the time I was also weaving for production, planning for upcoming shows to sell my work, writing articles to submit for publication.  My studio was crammed wall to wall with...stuff...and my studio had a couple of goat trails through it.  It was a constant shuffling of bins, boxes, and equipment as I juggled the deadlines and dealt with the logistics of it all.

Most of this type of work is completely invisible to others - unless you've done it (or something very similar).  

In addition there was the constant self-promotion and fielding questions, setting up teaching tours (always cheaper for two or three guilds to share my travel costs), and so on.

Over the years I designed and made weaving kits, self-published booklets with woven samples in addition to the two 'real' books I did, made a CD in a very early effort to produce digital 'workshops'.

And I did all this - and more - for 4 decades.

When I 'retired' I wanted less stress in my life.  Getting rid of travelling to teach was a no-brainer.  That sliced a big chunk of mental scrambling out of my life.  No more being a travel agent, a booking agent, ordering in yarns for teaching, being a photocopy centre, assembling 'kits' for workshops and then mailing them out to the workshop organizers.  Then making sure I collected the material fee when I got there if the guild hadn't done it for me.

Constantly promoting myself.  Which, given I'm essentially an introvert, wasn't an easy thing for me to do.  Still isn't, honestly

So now I'm 'retired' - for certain values of - and I have to say...I don't miss the goat trails.  I don't miss the constant scramble of looming (pun intended) deadlines.  The pressure to be 'on' all the time.  The dark o'clock flights.  The adjusting to different time zones.

But I'm not dead yet, and I do still have goals.  So while I AM 'retired' it's the craft fair circuit and travelling to teach that I've officially retired from.  I'm finding that I can manage - just - to develop online content, with the very talented team at SOS.  

So even though there are still challenges (buying a new laptop and trying to get it set up before the first lecture on May 4) I am managing.  Mostly.

I am officially a senior citizen, have been for a while.  I ride the health roller coaster, even if I don't want to, because I still feel the need to share my knowledge with anyone who wants to know what I know.  Or what I *think* I know.  Because I'm still learning.  The deeper I dig, the more I understand that I don't know, *can't* know, everything.

And that is just fine by me.  It's why I drag myself from my bed each morning.  Because I never know what the day will bring, and what I will learn.

And I really don't miss the goat trails.

Reading the latest book by Donna Leon, Give Unto Others

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Self Promotion


I forget to promote myself and the things I've done.  I get caught up in what I'm doing now and ignore what I've done in the past.  So here's a friendly reminder about the books I've been involved with.

The two books I wrote and self-published are available on (or com if you are outside of Canada).  There is a link on this page at the bottom if you are ever looking for either title.  Magic in the Water sometimes becomes available second hand, through guild/estate sales or someone downsizing.  I find it hard to believe that 20 years later it is still valued.  

The Intentional Weaver is also available through Sweet Georgia Yarns.  I signed 10 copies when I was in Vancouver earlier this month.  (Their website says 30 in stock but I'm pretty sure there are only 10.)

Weave a V was written by Kerstin Fröberg and I encouraged her to translate it into English, then had it printed in Canada.  And yes, I still have copies for sale.  Price including shipping to Canada/US is $25.  

Right now my focus is on the first SOS lecture, set to launch May 4.  People who join SOS have full access to all of their offerings.  They have a number of instructors for a variety of textile crafts and in addition to the classes, there are articles plus forums where members can ask questions.  

I am also taking bookings for guild programs (60 minutes) or lectures/seminar (120 minutes).  My fee for a guild program is $150 and the lectures are $250.  

There are two more topics in the works for classes with SOS.  I just can't seem to make myself sit down and do the thinking and number crunching.  However that will have to change very soon!  I have always worked 'better' under the pressure of a looming (pun intended) deadline.  Apparently I still haven't learned to start early and avoid the pressure!  

However, I am looking forward to these two topics.  I need to start by dragging out all my bins of teaching samples and sorting through them to see what else I need to weave.

Anyway, if people want to contact me, I just renewed my domain name and website so the easiest way to reach me is to email

Friday, April 22, 2022

Magic in the Water


This morning I received a nice email from someone who had my book, but wondered if I had a DVD of the topic,  I pointed her in the direction of Handwoven, where they have the topic as a 'workshop' on line.  But of course, I also have the class on School of Sweet Georgia.

Because sometimes you need to *see* a process being done, not just read about it.

Given the time, energy and money it took to produce this book (with before and after samples) I am pleased that people still refer to it, still value it.  It is now 20 years old and the whole concept of wet finishing is still not very well understood.  Although I hope that my constant harping on it online has at least raised awareness that it is something weavers need to pay attention to.

As a brand new weaver I understood that what I was taking off the loom wasn't...good.  It was unstable, raw.  And in fact, industry still refers to the web fresh off the loom as 'grey or greige' goods, not cloth.

Once off the loom, the web is inspected and any repairs needed are done, and only then does it hit the water for that wondrous transformation, from web to actual cloth.

I'm pleased as punch that I am still being asked to do guild programs, and now to work with the School of Sweet Georgia.  I was very happy to do the DVDs for Handwoven but I continue to learn.  So for anyone who wants to see fulling in action, there are my video clips on You Tube, but if you want more extensive information, check out the workshops on the Handwoven website, or join me at SOS.

after wet finishing

before wet finishing

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Deeper Understanding


Harrisville and Gist yarns

Over the past year while I was developing my lecture series, I had to think about ways to inform people remotely.  I didn't have the capacity to do live video teaching, and besides there are others already doing that - and doing it very well - like Jane Stafford.  

I had no desire to 'compete' with those people in what is a rather small niche in a niche 'market', so I decided to focus on principles of the craft.

To say I am pleased that the School of Sweet Georgia picked up my lectures and are adding them to their course offerings would be an understatement.

As part of the school, they also publish articles by their various instructors and in our meeting at the beginning of the month we talked about the lectures and I showed them a blog post I'd written.  They asked if they could publish the blog post, but I wanted to do something more detailed, terms of the information I feel needs to be made more available to those who want to know more.  

Once I got home I looked at the blog post and dug through my resources, expanded the information in the post, added more photos, more examples and more information on the count numbering systems - imperial and metric.

People who have registered for SOS have access to the article along with all the other articles that have been published by the instructors and it's really a very good resource that might go unnoticed.

This morning I got an email from Handwoven and they also have an article on the numbering systems.  I am really pleased to see that other instructors are getting good information out.  I probably didn't cover the topic in complete detail so it's always a good idea for people looking for information to read what a variety of people have to say.  

Understanding our materials means we can make good choices when we plan our projects.

The first lecture, A Good Yarn, will look at yarn characteristics.  It's more of an overview, so if people want to know more detail, there are other resources.  My go-to resource is the book by Jackman and Dixon, A Guide to Textiles for Interior Designers.

If anyone is interested in following along with my classes for Sweet Georgia, you can register here.

Once a member, students have access to ALL of the school content - workshops in spinning, dyeing, weaving, felting, knitting, crochet.  Plus the articles as mentioned and beginning May 4 my lectures.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Giving Up Guilt


Given the fresh snow yesterday (that still lingers) it seemed appropriate to use this little 'snowflake' design that I wove a bunch of years ago.  The warp was 2/16 bamboo (from Brassard) and black rayon chenille and the weft the same (different colours for weft).  Diversified Plain Weave, as I recall.  It's been a while.

Been thinking a lot about 'the rest of my life'.  Things change when you begin to see an end date.  In 2008 when I had cardiac issues, I still had hope I could return to my 'old' life once I recovered.  And I did.  Mostly.

Broken ankle?  Ditto.  It took a long time, but eventually I was able to go back to what I had been doing.  A few more aches and pains, but no matter.  I was no stranger to those.  Just pile a few more on.

But then cancer.  And I fought my way back to functioning.  More cardiac issues and by-pass surgery.  I began to shrink my activity horizons and started cutting back on what I had been doing.  Dyeing yarn for sale was the first thing to go.  But I kept traveling to teach whenever I had the opportunity, even though I'd begun to loathe the dark o'clock departures, the 3 to 4 flights to get to where I needed to go, the time zone changes.

By 2019 I was losing ground physically.  My body was quite obviously breaking down, not just because of the weaving but the cardiac, cancer, adverse drug effects, whiplash injuries, etc.

The next thing to go was traveling to teach and shutting down doing shows to try and sell my textiles.  It seemed huge to me to cut that part of my life out.  And it was.  I'm still dealing with the shift in mindset after 40 years of doing that.  

I simply cannot do what I used to be able to do.  But I still have (most) of my mind, my knowledge.  And I still want to teach.  So I have swung quite happily into teaching on line with Sweet Georgia.  

Yesterday I was asked if I would write an article for a publication and after thinking about it for all of 20 seconds, I sent 'yes' as my answer.  The deadline is Aug. 15, which is good because the next few months are a bit hectic.  Not for my old self, but I'm not my old self anymore and I know the current spur of energy may not last once the pain begins to return.  So I'm going to have to pace myself and make sure I don't run myself ragged trying to do what I used to be able to do, given this is a reprieve, not a cure.

My main focus will continue to be to weave every day I can.  Yesterday I took 'off' because I had appointments and errands to run and I didn't get home until 3 pm.  I decided at that point that weaving was not in the cards.

And that's the biggest thing about being 'retired'.  I don't have to pushpushpush anymore.  I can listen to my body and rest when it says it needs it.  I have given up guilt, not just for lent, but hopefully forever.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022



We were warned last night that snow was coming - and it did.

Now it's not unusual for us to have an April snow dump.  We have even had snow fall in May, more rarely June, but it's been known to happen.

But it seemed very depressing to get up this morning and instead of seeing (brown) lawns, a thick layer of white covered everything.

Thing is, it's temporary.  It's a blip.  It will likely be gone by later this afternoon once it has warmed up and started raining.

We live in a place where there are seasons and they cycle through, sometimes predictably, sometimes, not so much.  

But I do admit to a moment of disappointment when I looked out the window this morning.

I have a 'busy' day today with appointments and errands to run.  I hope I can weave at least one towel when I'm done all that but I'll see how many spoons I have by the time I get home.  And remind myself I am supposed to be retired.  If I don't get to the loom one day, it's not critical.

There are other things I can be doing, like reading my library book, or thinking about an article I've just been asked to write.  Or plan my sampling for the new wool yarn I got with the intention of using it for the Olds class in June.  I've heard through the grapevine it is full with a wait list, so probably it will go ahead and I need to be prepared for that.  

One of the things on my to-be-done list is to go through my bins of samples.  I've 'lost' my lace samples, which is totally annoying because I just used them for a Zoom presentation the end of February, then put them...somewhere...I don't know where.  But I need them for later in the year and I'd rather not have to re-weave them!  Plus the samples for the Olds class.  And just...feel more organized as I begin to do the lectures for SOS.

So even if I don't feel like weaving, there are other things I could be doing.

I'll ignore the snow as much as possible, will drive carefully because we, like many others, took the snow tires off our vehicles, thinking we were done with snow.  Too soon, apparently.

Sunday, April 17, 2022



Spring comes to us later than places further south, but come it does.  We have had a number of sunny days the past while, a welcome break from a winter and pre-spring that seemed to be mostly grey, dreary and pretty depressing.

But the sun promises the flourish of returning life.  Sap is running, buds are forming, wee bits of green are showing their promise to return.

Yes, there are still 'bad' things happening in this world.  Far too many of them, it seems like.  But for now, for this time, we are okay.  We are battening down the hatches again with the rise of covid into a 6th wave, isolating as much as possible.  We will continue to wear a mask when we need to go out.  I'm hoping to begin walking again, try to regain some of the fitness I've lost over the past year.  Now that I have a 'wardrobe' of masks, I will walk wearing one - which will help filter out the allergens in the air - dust, pollen, wildfire smoke - if we have another bad summer of wildfires.

Human beings are very adaptable, although you wouldn't think so given the objections to new circumstances the past few years.  So we will continue as we have been doing - isolate, mask, get the next booster as soon as we can.

In the meantime, I have my weaving.  I'm just polishing an article for the School of Sweet Georgia.  ln some ways I feel like a broken record because I say the same things over and over again.  But not everyone has heard what I say, so I keep saying it.

My goal is to help people.  If they understand the principles, they can make appropriate choices.  

Honestly I didn't think I would still be teaching, at least not to the extent that I am.  Being able to teach from home, no dark o'clock flights, long travel days, all the stress and uncertainty of whether or not I would make it in time.  Now I just have to remember time zone changes and be at my computer at the appropriate time.

So yes, I bought a new laptop on Friday.  I even managed to get it set up so I can do Zoom and loaded Fiberworks on it.  It will be a back up should the current laptop running the loom break down but will make doing Zoom a lot easier. 

And next month, I'll be doing it again - sharing what I think I know with others.  But I never ever assume that I know it *all*.  I still learn.  There are still whole areas of weaving I know little about.  And that's ok.  Weaving is a craft that has been practiced for thousands and thousands of years.  Knowledge arrives, and sometimes?  It is forgotten, to be discovered again in another time, another place.

We learn.  We grow.  We learn more.  

So on this sunny day I think about the cycles - seasons, lessons.  How we learn something, then circle back in order to deepen our understanding.  How the only correct short answer in weaving is 'it depends'.  And so it is with life.  We learn, make more mistakes, learn more, maybe change our minds, based on the increased level of knowledge about the subtleties involved in weaving, in living.

And onwards we go, always onwards. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Working Meditation


Yesterday I threaded the next all white warp of cotton for tea towels.  Now to tie on, wind bobbins, get started.

I'm back to my 'default' length of 60 turns on the beam (about 25 yards or so) and should get 21 towels out of the warp.  The next design is a bit longer than some other designs so I'm not exactly sure how many there will be.  

But!  This warp should go a long way towards using up more of the dyed 2/16 cotton.  Except for the turquoise green.  I still have  a LOT of that left - about 3.5 kilos if I remember correctly.  That will produce a LOT of turquoise green towels, so expect my timeline to be a bit 'boring' if you tire of the same colour all the time.

And that is something I hear frequently - that someone will find out I put on long warps and weave multiple items all the same.  "Don't you get bored" they ask.

No.  No, I do not. I may tire of something, in which case I will go work on something else.  But bored?  No, not really.

I have been reading a series by author Tamora Pierce.  Her books are geared to the teen market, which is not a deal breaker for me if the stories are well written.  And I find her The Circle Opens series engaging for a number of reasons.  A large part of the story is young mages growing into their powers and learning how to control their power - and their emotions.  Pierce shows human beings, being human.  Making mistakes.  Learning.  Growing.  

I have enjoyed the series well enough that when I discovered that the local library did not have two of the books in the series I bought them from a second hand book site, where I found both titles for under $6 each (as opposed to $50-75 on Amazon).  Doug is waiting for them to arrive and in the meantime reading another favourite author, C. J. Cherryh.

Cherryh's Foreigner series also has children, although the story is not centered on them.  But again, young people making mistakes, learning, growing.  Both authors show the good and bad sides of human nature, but both are firmly on the side of human beings learning to be more compassionate, more inclusive, more kind.  That is the kind of quality I like to see in my fiction as I also aspire to grow in that direction.

Pierce includes a significant amount of craft work in her series - textiles, metalwork, gardening, cooking.  As part of the book I just finished - Cold Fire - one of the teenaged mages discovers two younger people who have the capability to work magic and she must get them training in their particular skill.  She winds up being responsible for their meditation.  One of the youngsters finds sitting quietly and calming herself works well.  The other?  Does not.  So that one needs to come to her inner peace, inner calm through movement.

And that's the thing about humans, isn't it?  We are all different and what works for one may not work for another.

I have always considered weaving to be - for me - a working meditation.  I've tried 'traditional' meditation and could not do it.  Like the youngster in the story, I could not find my centre, my calm, by sitting quietly.  But I find it very easily sitting at the loom, shuttle in hand.

So, no, I don't get bored weaving the same thing over and over.  It is my happy place.  My space to just be.  I need to shut out the cares of the world so that I can feel the rhythm of the process.  Listen to the loom.  The yarn.

As Wayne Dyer (and others) have said, we are human beings, not humans doing.  But some of us get to the being more quickly through the process of doing.  

Friday, April 15, 2022

Old Dog... tricks.

Honestly, I had zero desire to buy *another* laptop!  Truly, I did not want to learn how a new laptop worked.  Get it set up.  Deal with finding all my web site links, remember passwords.

And I am.

I have a laptop, but it's pretty much dedicated to running the Megado.  It also developed that it no longer holds a battery charge, in spite of a brand new battery.  I can only assume that there is a broken connection that prevents the laptop from charging/running from a battery.  And given I am (supposedly) retired, I didn't want to spend the money to try and get it fixed.  Not to mention the downtime while it was in getting looked at.  Because I keep it plugged in all the time and it runs the loom and that makes me happy.

But!  I'm getting busier with Zoom presentations and I'm not happy with my laptop set up as it is for doing those.  Throw in the need to shut it down to unplug, move it elsewhere, then plug it in, start it up again, etc., and...I began looking for something that would do the Zoom presentations that would be more portable.

The final justification was that if my old laptop finally gave up the ghost I would already have another laptop as back up, already with Fiberworks on it, and it should be a simple thing to swap the old one out and put the new one in.

I had thought to go with something cheaper, but it seemed like the cheaper ones were cheap at the expense of computing power and given the primary purpose of this laptop is teaching, presenting Power Point slide shows, connecting to the internet wirelessly, and it seemed like folly to be too stingy.  Plus this one had pretty good reviews on the sites I checked.  AND it was on sale.  Not a huge sale, but nevertheless.

It was still more than I had planned on spending so I guess it's a good thing I booked another Zoom presentation this week, and may be booking another with a guild as well.

It's checking for updates, and then I'll begin setting it up.  But for now?  I have a loom to thread.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022



Around this time of year I am awake early enough to see the sun as it shines through the fanlight in my front door.  As the sun moves through the sky, the sun flowers flow across my floor and up the wall.

When it feels like life is too much, this tiny reminder of the beauty in the world is welcome.

This morning the above tweet appeared on my FB timeline shared by a friend.  It was a timely reminder that we must not lose all hope, even in the face of things happening beyond our control.  Bad things happen, yes, even to good people.  There are those who believe that these bad things happen for a reason.  Sometimes that reason is that people can be cruel and nasty.  And we are seeing a lot of that these days.

But!  And here's the thing.  Cruel and nasty is just as temporary as good and kind.  I prefer to surround myself with people who are good and kind.  I try to be good and kind, even when I'm stressed beyond breaking.  When I am, I'm probably not nearly as good and kind as I would wish to be.

So when I'm struggling with cruel and nasty goings on in the world, I try to remember to hope.  

Hope that things can get better, if we work at it.  Hope that the sun will shine, flowers will grow.  Hope that we can move beyond cruel and nasty to good and kind.

I am fortunate in that I am pretty much surrounded with people who are of the good and kind variety. 

I am not oblivious to what is happening in the world right now, far from it.  But I also know that I cannot keep going if I allow the things I cannot control to take over my life, my thoughts.

Weaving continues to be an important part of how I manage to get through the day(s).  Weaving has been, at times, my profession, my meditation, my exercise, my physical and mental therapy.

And from time time I get to see sun 'flowers' flow across my floor.  They remind me that even in the midst of chaos there is still beauty to be found in this world.  And hope gives me the strength to keep going, even after being knocked down.  Again. 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Deep Dive


Left - Harrisville Tweed (Shetland); Right - GIST Array

While I was in Vancouver, I shopped at Sweet Georgia yarns because I am not familiar with all of their yarns and before I can design projects for the classes I'm doing, I need to know how the yarn will behave.  

It's not always easy to find fine wool yarns that will weave up nicely without too much coddling, so I am very interested to put the GIST yarn Array to the test.  

In the photo, the yellow tweed (yellow with white) weaves up nicely.  It's a yarn that was spun to be wet finished including fulling and while it feels a bit coarse on the cone, it actually turns out well after fulling and a good hard press.  It might feel a bit prickly to someone with sensitive skin, but can be used to make outer garments for cold climates and even a scarf if given a good hard press with a twill weave structure.  Even plain weave finishes up nicely, though, just saying.

But for those with more sensitive skin or who want to make a lighter weight cloth, there are fewer options so I was intrigued with this yarn from GIST labelled a tapestry yarn.

I did a quick snap test of the yarn while there and it seems plenty strong enough but I was also curious to take a closer look with the aid of my digital microscope.

The Shetland is spun 'woolen' fashion - the fibres are carded not combed, the yarn is lofty with lots of air in it and the fibres are disorganized with lots of fibre ends poking out.  

The Array is spun in 'worsted' fashion - the fibres are combed, not carded, they tend to be organized - as in parallel to each other and I think it's fairly clear to see that the yarn looks more compact with fewer stray fibre ends poking out.

That means the Array feels 'nicer' and I think once woven up and given a good hard press as part of the finishing process it will feel quite nice, even next to the skin.

The yarn comes in packages of four tubes (except the grey/black value scale which comes in 5) of a value scale of the hue.  The tubes are one ounce or about 210 yards each.

There are 3360 yards per pound and the size is given as 2/12 *worsted* spun.  (Note the mill puts the ply first as I mentioned in my post about the 2/16 - 16/2 cotton.

Now, why does the mill call this 2/12 not 2/8?  Because wool uses a different base for how many yards per pound than cotton does.  Worsted base is 560 yards per pound for a worsted yarn while woollen uses a different base.

And this is why people get confused.  You have to know the 'key' - the number of yards per pound for the fibre and type of prep and spinning that is being used.  And why the numbers alone don't give the whole story of the yarn.

The yarn count is not indicative - all by itself - of the inherent characteristics of the yarn!  

If you are looking for how many yards per pound in the imperial 'count' system, M. P. Davison has a chart in the front part of her 'green' book.  I'm sure there are others.

More and more, mills are turning to the metric system.  It is less confusing because regardless of the fibre or method of spinning, the measurement is made in terms of meters per kilo (or 100 grams).  It's much more sensible in every meaning of the word.  Certainly far less confusing!

I'm preparing an 'article' for SOS on these things so if you belong to the school, you also get access to various articles written by some of the instructors.  

Also?  If you want to know about this and other 'arcane' things about weaving, my first lecture/seminar, on just these sorts of things, goes live on May 4.  If you want to join, you can sign up for a month, a quarter or a year here and get access to all of the resources available at SOS.  Including moi, where I pop in several times a day in case there are questions.  

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Charting New Paths


The sap is rising, spring arrives, and with it?  Hope.  Hope for better days ahead.

When you live in the 'north' (and truly we aren't all that far north) you notice the change of seasons.  The sun moves and daylight hours become longer, the earth stirs with new growth.  This time, *this* time, things will be different.  They will be 'better'.  Or at least - we hope.

I've been pretty open on this blog about my health issues.  I started it in direct response to recovery from cardiac blockages, assuming all was well and there would be nothing but smooth sailing ahead.

Yeah, about that...see above diagram.

So I set off to Vancouver with high hopes on the one hand, and dread that I would be disappointed - again.

The jury is out as my body processes the treatment and I come to grips with a few details.  Because bodies are never simple, or easy, and I'm not 20 something anymore, either.

On the whole, it was worth going down to see the doctor and have the procedure done while I sort out how to make my body more comfortable while still carrying on with plans set in motion last year.

I had a great meeting with the SOS team and we have an action plan in place.  We are polishing up the next presentation on May 4 (info to come).  There are still some details to take care of but sometimes meeting in person is just so much faster than trying to deal with things on line.  And since I was down there it seemed wise to get together.

I came home with new yarns to sample (yes, I do still sample!) and will need to begin crafting the filming schedule for the two new classes that we'll do in October.  Dates have been set and will be entered in my calendar.  And I will need to get better organized.  I'm hoping that with a reduction in pain I will have more brain power.  (It felt very affirming when the doctor observed that chronic pain is exhausting - yes, yes it is.)

There are still about 6 or 7 towels worth of warp on the Megado and I need to get those off and the next warp on so I can keep plugging away at the 2/16 stash reduction.  I need to crunch numbers for the samples that need to be woven.  I need to design several projects to go with the two classes we are filming in October.  It would help if I could locate my lace samples - so very carefully put away I can't find them.  Oh well, they are in the studio somewhere.  I just haven't had a lot of brain power for the past three months.  Hopefully that will improve now.  And I still have some time to locate them, with a deep dive required in order to teach the Olds level one in June - covid willing.

One of the challenges with filming how to do a craft is that doing that craft takes time.  So part of my job will be working out how best to approach that (given my focus on efficiency!) so we get the most information within the shortest possible time.  It will mean preparation done before I arrive so that we can jump into the filming, then a willingness to film out of sequence in some cases.  Which then makes the editing challenging!  But the team worked well for the last two classes and we should be able to make the next two work as well.

Today I'll begin sorting things out in my mind and then - when I think I've got a workable plan - I'll start writing it all down.  I do a lot of my planning in my head as I sort through options, line them up, re-order them, re-examine them, reject them, think of something else and shuffle things around and around.  Sort of how I design my textiles.  :D

The sun is shining today and spring has arrived.  I'm feeling hopeful.

Monday, April 4, 2022

What's in a Name?


The yarn on the left is Brassard 2/16 cotton, the yarn on the right is a 'mystery' yarn labelled 16/2 cotton.

There is much discussion on what those numbers mean.  Many people say that the order of the numbers is immaterial, that they are identical.

What the photo above, taken with my digital microscope, shows is that they are not exactly the same quality of yarn.  

Even though they both have approximately the same number of yards per pound (6720 yards) it is quite clear that the blue/green one is thicker than the rust and the rust is much more tightly twisted.

And yet - they ARE both cotton, they ARE both the same (nominal) yards per pound.  The difference is that the rust has been spun out of longer staple fibres, which have been combed so that they are parallel and then plied much more tightly than the blue/green, which has been spun from carded fibres, or even from a loose fibre mass equivalent to a carded preparation (called open end spun).

You can also see that the rust yarn has somewhat shorter bits sticking out loose while the blue/grey has longer bits of fibre sticking out.

What is the effect of the two different preparations in spinning and the actual spinning?

The rust is stronger than the blue/green and will behave as warp quite nicely.  The blue/green is weaker and much happier as weft.

The blue/green will be more absorbent than the rust because the blue/green is loftier and has more air or gaps in it's structure so it will be easier for the cotton to absorb the water.

The blue/green will also shed more lint than the rust.  The blue/green is coming up in my stash very soon and when I begin weaving with it again, I will make sure that I have my filter fan running to filter some of the lint out of the air.  That will keep it out of my lungs, and hopefully reduce the lint getting into the rest of the house, too.

Just because something is the same 'number' as another yarn doesn't mean it is equal in characteristics.

As we move more into using metric sizing, we need to be aware of the actual method of spinning and look at yarns more deeply.  We can't just assume that because they have the same number of yards per pound they are the same.

These yarns also have the same number of yards per pound.  Again, look at the difference in thickness.  The yarn on the left is Tencel - a regenerated cellulose (rayon) where the fibre has been broken down into a viscous solution then run through a spinneret.  The fibres can be very long and shiny.  The yarn on the right is cotton.  While both may have been spun with the same fibre prep, the density of the Tencel, the long silky fibres are creating a yarn quite different from the cotton.  Both are given the 2/8 designation (or 8/2 because some people think it doesn't matter which order they are used in) but they will behave differently.  While it is true the Tencel has the same number of yards per pound, it is slippery and thinner than the cotton with the same number of yards per pound.  Generally a thinner, slippery-er yarn needs to be more epi than the thicker one.

When I first began weaving, I was told the 8/2 designation was equivalent to a 'woolen' type of preparation while the 2/8 designation was equivalent to a 'worsted' type of preparation.  That doesn't seem to be being taught now, but interestingly, I notice that Jaggerspun, a very American company that spins worsted yarns, used 2/40 and 2/18 and so on to designate their yarn sizes.

Sunday, April 3, 2022



This is an aerial photo of my town.  That line of white in the far distant background is the Rocky Mountains, normally not visible from the town in it's valley, but there, just over the horizon.

I spend a lot of time thinking.  I think about yarn.  Cloth.  What's it all about, Alfie.  (You have to be over a certain age to get that reference.)

I spend a lot of time considering possibilities.  Examining situations from various points of view.

It's been almost exactly 47 years since I made the decision to become a weaver.  Not just to learn how to weave, but to BE a weaver.  To do it as my profession.  To dive as deeply as I possibly could into as many different aspects of the craft as I could manage.

Forty-seven years of a deep connection with yarn, with the equipment required, with the processes.  Forty-seven years of fine tuning my approach.  My skills.  My knowledge.  

When I look back I see the steady thread (pun intended) of progress.  The many mistakes made along the way.  The lessons learned from making, then fixing those mistakes.

But even so, there are times when I got 'stuck' in my thinking.  I rode burn out all the way down into the ground - because I got stuck in doing what I had always been doing.  It took a long time to climb out of that hole again.

And yes, I've had successes.  I've won awards.  I've gained a certain level of recognition in the weaving community.  I feel as though it IS a community for me.  One that has supported me and cheered me on, while also keeping me humble and reminding me that no, I don't know everything.

One of the first workshops I took (maybe the 3rd?) was with Peter Collingwood.  He talked about how he had grown tired of traveling to teach so he decided to write a book, put everything he knew into that book and then people could just read the book and he could stay home.

So he spent an enormous amount of time creating his book on rug weaving, got it published.  And then got even more requests to go teach than previously.

I had a similar experience when I published Magic in the Water.  It came out in 2002, just in time for Convergence in Vancouver.  I call 2004 my year of coast to coast to coast travel, where I was away from home more than I was *at* home.  My year started in February on Salt Spring Island, in March I was on the Gulf of Mexico (Louisiana) and May in Nova Scotia and PEI.  And many many places in between.  

I have been places, met people I had no expectation of ever going when I chose this life.  And I've seen way too many airports at dark o'clock.  Driven hundreds of miles all over western Canada, from the deep south east and south west of BC, up to Fort St. John and through those Rocky Mountains multiple times they feel like old friends.

When I began, I thought I would weave for 25 years, then teach for 25 years.  Instead I did both at once.  And it was hard work.  I won't lie, it was very hard work.  The internet made some aspects of it easier but also, in the end made more work for me.  Instead of getting a travel agent to book my trips, I begin to have to do all of that myself.  And sometimes it would take several hours.  Hours when I could have been weaving, or writing.

But as I look back, I'm grateful to have had the life I have had.  I am grateful that I can still weave.  I am grateful that I can still teach, share what I know, encourage others to keep going.  Even when things go 'wrong'.

A few years ago the local cable tv station did a wee profile of me.  If you are interested, it's here

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Seeing Red


Seems in my pile of this red, there were two different dye lots, which I didn't notice until after I changed tubes and...oops.

The difference is slight and since the 'right' side of the towels will be the predominantly white side, I suspect the very tiny difference I can see will be all but invisible to most people.

The good news is that there is less of this yarn than I had been expecting and I may - or may not - get 8 towels out of it.  But at this point I don't much care since the goal is to use it up.

What I will use for the balance of the warp I'm not entirely sure.  Yet.  I have a whole bunch of natural white on nearly used up tubes and this design might look rather nice in white on white - a kind of faux damask.

Or I might use some of the 3.5 kilos of a mid-value turquoise green.  Goodness knows I've got plenty of it and it, too, needs using up.

The yarn is 16/2 and upon inspection it is typical of a 'woolen' type of spinning.  It's not very highly twisted and when I've used it previously the loom has worn a cloud of turquoise dust.  The lint filter in the dryer also accumulated a great deal of the turquoise when I wet finished the last batch of towels with six towels in the load.

But it needs to be used!  I will have to clear the filter fan I use for removing dust from the air, which will only take a few moments.  I piled a couple of bins in front of it because I hadn't been using it.  But given it is allergy season and I'm already having nose issues, using the filter will be required.  Plus I really don't need more dust buffalo in the rest of the house.

However, there is enough of the red to keep weaving for the next couple of days and I won't have to worry about what comes next until I'm home again.  Hopefully I can get back to weaving fairly quickly but I'm prepared to take a few days away from the loom to let everything settle down - if it needs to do that.

Currently reading Coldest Case by Martin Walker