Tuesday, May 31, 2022



It happens.  Not often, but I've been a weaver for so long, used my equipment for so many years, sometimes things break.  Usually *when* I'm using them - or trying to.

So it was today.

I'd done my goal of two towels for the day but had finished early enough, and had energy enough left over that I decided to prep the bobbins for tomorrow.  

Several of my bobbins don't fit very well on the shaft of the bobbin winder and so they vibrate during winding.  A lot.  This vibration can eventually cause a stress fracture in the shaft of the bobbin, and if I don't notice it (which I don't, always) the next time I go to use it the vibration during winding can break the bobbin at the stress fracture.

The bobbin was just over half filled when it failed and I am not about to try and salvage the yarn on it.  It is, in fact, already in the garbage.

Am I upset?  No.  The value of the yarn is less than $1 and I don't really *need* it.  If I run out I'll just weave one less towel.  Whatever is left over will get used elsewhere.

I finished emptying the tube I was working from which should be enough to do two more towels.  There is one more tube, about half full, and that should have enough yarn for three towels.  Which means I should get 7 yellow towels.  If I get 8 I'll be very surprised.  Seven towels is actually about 1/3 of the warp so I'll cut off and re-tie and then finish the rest of the warp using some of that 16/2 teal.

The next draft has been generated - a variation on a theme.  

If I can keep on track, I should be able to finish this warp and get the next into the loom before it is time to leave for Olds.  I've heard from a couple of the students so I know they are getting ready, too.

Fingers crossed for good driving weather - there and back.  

Currently reading the latest by Sara Paretsky - book is in the other room.  She is one of several authors that I look for the next in the series and this one just came out recently so I was happy when I got it from the library the other day.  My pile of 'want to read' books is growing again with a number of my favourite authors bringing new titles out - Guy Gavriel Kay, Patricia Briggs just to name two.  Plus I've had new-to-me authors recommended.  Doug is reading one of them and quite enjoying it, so I'll look forward to reading it, too.  It's about 11 hours of driving to Olds - I should be able to get a few hours of reading there and back.  Who knows, maybe while there as well.  No tv in the townhouse, so we both might just binge read for a week.  :)

Monday, May 30, 2022

Daisy Chain


the horizontal line in the middle is a reed mark, no doubt made more noticeable by a small tension problem, but should minimize during wet finishing - the warp runs left to right in the photo, not top to bottom

Fancy twill designs can get to be rather large.  I didn't actually realize how this design was going to render because the graphic in the book that I adapted only showed a portion of the repeat.  So it was a bit of a pleasant surprise when I generated the entire draft in Fiberworks and saw this rather large repeat nestled in amongst the different elements of the draft.  I had really liked the little 'starburst' you can see in the centre of the daisy chain, but I hadn't been able to tell that the draft would produce this larger motif until I did the work of getting it into my weaving software.

And life, like weaving, is often like that.  We see small fragments of something, aspects of living or weaving, that we really like, all unaware that once you get involved in the bigger picture, there is something quite lovely waiting for you.

The daisy chain motifs also overlap each other, each chain part of others next to it, and the pattern links up and become bigger than the pieces they are made up of.

Weaving or spinning is frequently seen in the European 'fairy' tale traditions and I think it was because every family did some aspect of preparation in the creation of the fibre into yarn, the yarn into cloth, the wet finishing that made it 'real' cloth.  Everyone knew the steps involved, and how much work and effort was required.  So it was something very known to every person in a village and likely even the bigger towns and hanging a morality tale onto the creation of textiles was meaningful to everyone who heard it.

Because fairy tales are much older than our modern day history.  When the Brothers Grimm* published their book in the 1800s, they didn't write those stories - they had gone round the countryside in what is now Germany - and collected the oral traditions of the people.

(And if you think they are gruesome, let me explain that they expurgated them of the worst of the blood and gore.)

Working with fibres goes far beyond European written history.  Latest archeological finds have been pushing that date further and further back in time so that Elizabeth Wayland Barber's book Women's Work; the first 20,000 years should have more accurately been 'the first 30,000 years'.  And I do believe that it goes further back in time than that.

One of the more recent finds was a bit of cordage that bound a flint to a handle and the thread that did it was so thin and so consistent, it is pretty much impossible to achieve that level of expertise very quickly.  

I believe human involvement in the making of yarn goes much further back in time than we can ever know.

When I chose weaving as a career (because it was not a hobby that turned into something more), I never dreamed of all of the things I would set my hand to for 40+ years.  And still want to do it, even if it is at a slower pace.

Weaving has taught me many things - to be humble, for one.  To keep going until it's obvious continuing in a direction is never going to produce the results I want.  That sometimes things just don't work and it's ok to leave them behind in the dust as you move forward.  That people are, by and large, pretty nice and decent.  And the few that aren't?  Don't need to continue to be a presence in my life.  Just - keep moving forward.

So yesterday I generated the next draft for the warp coming after this one.  My shelves of 2/16 cotton are *almost* empty, but I still have some left.  I have enough natural for two more warps, so I will make a dent in what is left.

But I'm also aware that I have other yarns that are crying out to be used up, so once I've used up the natural 2/16, I think I'll pull out the 2/20 mercerized cotton and start working on those yarns.  What weave structure will I use?  Well, they will make more tea towels so probably in the twill family.  Maybe instead of weaving such large motifs, I'll take a walk through Oelsner, which has multiple 16 shaft twill drafts, all done on a point progression, as does the small booklet The Fanciest Twills of All.  So maybe I'll do some small motifs for a while, as I work on using up some of my even finer cotton and linen yarns.

Time will tell.  

*(from the Wikipedia page)  

The brothers were directly influenced by Brentano and von Arnim, who edited and adapted the folk songs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Boy's Magic Horn or cornucopia).[15] They began the collection with the purpose of creating a scholarly treatise of traditional stories, and of preserving the stories, as they had been handed from generation to generation—a practice that was threatened by increased industrialization.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

21st Century Problems


I grew up in the last century (and boy, howdy, do I feel old when I write that!) and discovered science fiction as a genre when I was about 11-12.  I'd read everything in the children's section of the library and asked if I could take books out from the adult section.  Given permission, I wondered where to start, and because I could think of no better way to approach the wealth of reading material in front of me, I began in the As.  And discovered Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot.

There was also a comic strip in the newspaper called Dick Tracy.  It started out as a fairly standard 'detective' series, but soon the characters were sporting wrist communicators and riding around in single passenger flying machines.

It all seemed very far fetched, but I continued to be fascinated by science fiction and fantasy and the limitless possibilities the authors presented.

In my lifetime we have gone from spirit duplicators, Gestetner stencils and carbon paper to computers and printers in our homes.  We have gone from multiple party telephone lines to phones in our pockets - and in some cases our wrists.  Phones are no longer phones but have dozens of different functions.  Right now my phone is a better camera than the digital camera I bought in 2002.

The internet has broadened our horizons in ways that I did not foresee.  Being able to share photo files, documents and videos, and now on line classes?  Wow.

The hidden benefit to all of this is that people who were isolated can now participate in things like classes, seminars, conferences.  If they have an internet connection.

I spent the better part of 40 years either driving hundreds of miles or getting up at dark o'clock to catch a plane to teach.  And of course in person is in many ways 'better', but you know what?  On line is better than nothing.  And for a lot of people, that's what they had.  Nothing.  They either couldn't afford to travel, or they weren't healthy enough to travel long distances.  They did the best they could with books and magazines,.

As I got older, long distance travel was becoming onerous.  I never did react well to time zone changes, and before I could get anywhere I had to first get to Vancouver, then hop, skip and jump to where ever I was going.  And sometimes my destination was ALSO 'remote' - as in several hours from the airport I was arriving at.  (Yes, I have stories.  Every fibre teacher has stories.)

Add in my allergies and there were far too many occasions when I was teaching 'sick' - or at least compromised.

So I am getting ready to once more travel about 500 miles to teach a class.  While I am going to enjoy being there, the *getting* there won't be much fun.  Plus I'm not sure how I am going to manage 5 intense days of pouring everything I can think of out for the students to drink up.

I am facing the reality that I may be 'retiring' to teach in person, period.  Instead I am putting more effort into on line offerings.  I know they aren't 'ideal', but...they are what I can do (with the support of a great crew at School of Sweet Georgia).

And of course I'll keep posting here.  

In the meantime, my two books are still available at blurb.ca (link at the far bottom, scroll down, way down) and I've been starting to write articles for SOS as well.

Bottom line?  I doubt I'll go to any fibre conferences again, either as an instructor or a participant.  But if you are ever passing through my town, let me know.  I'd love to have coffee and chat.  :)

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Behind the Scenes


The Olds College program is 5 days of in person instruction and then the students have a year to complete their homework and submit it for marking.

I thoroughly love teaching the level one class because it hits so many of my personal ideas of what is necessary - a deep dive into density (using wool) and then wet finishing for just two.

I add a certain amount of 'extra' material because I consider it essential - position and posture at the loom, working ergonomically, thinking analytically.

In order to give myself 'extra' time to include the 'extra' class material, I do a lot of prep work for the students so that it doesn't have to be done during class.

In addition to winding the value gamp warp ahead of time, arriving a day 'early' to dress the loom so that it is ready to go day 1, I also wind all the skeins of yarn onto cones.  And then I wind the first warp for the class so that they don't have to do that before they can begin dressing their looms.

Once I have all my prep work done, I'll sort through all my bins of samples and other class equipment (water colour boxes, paint brushes, colour wheel, books for reference, samples, etc.) and then I'll review the lesson plan.  Because it's been three years since I last taught this class in person, and I want to refresh my memory on how I'm going to present the material.

Because I don't teach this class in a linear fashion.  In other words, I do not simply open the class manual and teach the material in the order it is presented in there.  One of my focuses is to work efficiently and it is far more efficient to work out of order in terms of the class material.  It also allows people who are more experienced to focus on the areas they may be less experienced in and allot their time based on their energy and ability to focus while they learn new things.

I also bring a van load of equipment with me.  A warping trapeze/valet, small flat bed press, and my own warping board because there are only a few warping boards and many students who need to use one at some point in the first couple of days.

Even very experienced weavers have told me at the end of the class that they hadn't expected to learn much as they did and they wanted to express their thanks.

Because that's the thing.  Weaving isn't difficult, but it's complicated.  And there is a great deal to learn because of all the variables.  Change one thing, and everything can change.  What those changes are and how to work with them is all part of the process.  So I spend a lot of time exploring some of those things and encouraging everyone to figure out what they need to do in order to get the results they desire.

And so I do as much prep work as possible in order to give the students the time to look beyond the actual printed manual so that they know there is so much more to weaving than what is contained between the covers of any book.  Yes, even my own.

In the end?  It all depends - on the fibre/yarn, the weave structure, the density, the loom, the skills of the weaver.  It's not any one of those things, it's ALL of them.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022



Yellow arrow shows where the mistake is

Pulling the thread out of the heddle from behind in order to thread into the proper heddle

Mastering a craft doesn't mean you don't make mistakes.

Mastering a craft is partly about recognizing when a mistake has been made, and knowing how to fix it.

Twill block motifs are good and all, but they do tend towards a sameness and I wanted a change so I messed around with a fancy twill for the current warp.

However, fancy twills are harder to thread than twill blocks and sure enough I had a brain cramp and made a mistake.  

The easiest way to find a threading error is to weave the cloth and then look for the mistake.

The error I made was subtle enough that I wove the entire first towel and still couldn't see the mistake.  So I left the loom for a few hours, then came back to take a closer look.  Much like finding a typo.

In the end I had to do a side by side comparison of the shapes woven into the cloth to finally *see* the error, which was about 160 threads from the left selvedge.  I had a choice to make.  Weave the entire warp with that error, hoping it wouldn't be noticeable after wet finishing, or take the time to re-thread those 160 ends.

With 20 yards or so of warp, I decided fixing it was worthwhile.  Then to work out how best to accomplish that.

Rejecting the first idea, for a number of reasons, I figured out what I'd done - or not done - finding my place in the threading draft so I could see where I went wrong in the sequence, then tied in the 'missing' 8 heddles.  Then, one by one, I moved the threads out of their incorrect place to their correct place.  In the bottom photo you might be able to see that my left hand is behind the heddles, pinching the thread between my index and middle finger.  My ring finger is lightly pressed against the target empty heddle and when I put the hook through that heddle and pull the thread through it, the thread comes out of the incorrect heddle from behind.

It took about an hour (the length of the U2 CD I was listening to) to tie the repair heddles and move the threads, one by one, to their proper place.  As I completed each group of threads, I marked them off on the paper copy of the draft, in a different colour from the first go through so that I could keep track of where I was in the rather lengthy threading repeat.

This morning I will resley the warp, tie on, and with any luck at all weave a towel this afternoon.  And hopefully I didn't make any other mistakes while I was correcting the first one!

Sunday, May 22, 2022



All set up to begin threading.  I have one more lamp, out of frame on the left because I need to illuminate the area in the heddles in order to see what I'm doing.  On overcast/gloomy days I also have a lamp that will shine on the loom from the back so I can more easily see which bout gets threaded next.  You can just see the stick behind the heddles with the green painter's tape holding each bout.

When I had the AVL, I could tape the draft to the loom frame, but the Megado doesn't have anywhere handy to do that so I found my typing holder (whatever it's called).  Generally I put it on top of the lap top and extend the arm down so that it's more at eye level.  It has a little tray at the bottom where I put my pencil, and as I thread each group I check off what I've done.

Working with 'fancy' twills or other large threading repeats that have long sequences that change a lot, it's just a lot more efficient to go slowly and carefully, double checking each section.

Frequently I work on threading drafts at the end of the day when I'm tired.  Which means sometimes I make mistakes.  So it was with this draft.  I'd made a sequencing error in the first repeat, then repeated that section (mirrored, then rotated), so the error was in every repeat of the motif.

It's a common error and when I realized I'd done it (again!) I immediately got up and went to the desktop to go through the entire draft.  For one thing I wanted to see if correcting it would affect the thread count.  If it did, I might pull out the two inches or so I'd done and adjust the selvedge.

In this case, it didn't.  After correcting the draft, it was still the same number of ends and I printed out the corrected draft, carefully X-ing out the wrong one and tossing it into my paper recycle pile.  But I also marked the corrected draft to the point where I'd stopped threading so I knew where to begin again went I went back to the loom.

When I thread, I remove the beater top, reed and breast beam from the loom.  I use a shorter stool to sit on, which brings me closer to eye level of the heddles.  I refer to my printed draft for each section before I do it, and check each section I've completed off on the draft.

I have task lighting that illuminates the area I need to see - that is, the heddles.  I tend to do groups of 4, 6, or 8 or groups of 5 or 7 if that helps keep the overall draft easier to thread.  With large 'fancy' twills that reverse, sometimes you wind up with a section with an odd number of threads in order to keep the rest in a more logical grouping.

Each section of 4, 6, 8, (or 5, or 7) gets slip knotted together.  This makes sleying easier to do (for me) and I have fewer errors if I keep the groups small enough to also double check my threading.  Because sometimes I have a brain cramp and thread a point in the wrong direction.  I might thread the point /\ instead of \/.  Yes, I've done it, recently.  (Still not perfect!)

I'm going to continue using up my 2/16 stash as much as possible.  I'm down to just a few colours left, but one of those colours is nearly 3 kilos.  So I'll have a lot of that colour coming down the pipeline.

Why am I so focused on getting this yarn out of my life, my studio, my way?  Dunno.  I could do something else.  But in the end it all needs using up, so why not keep going with this one until it's gone?  And, once the 2/16 is finally used up, I will take the 2/20 mercerized cotton out of the boxes it is in and begin working on using *that* yarn.  More tea towels!

Once I get back from Olds I will have to begin working on the filming schedule for the next two classes for SOS.  Felicia wants me to do one on sectional beaming because she feels that tool is best seen in video.  She also wants the lecture I did on lace weaves to be a class, which is nice because I can demo how to do Bronson Lace in pick up.  Something that is much easier understood by seeing it happen, not trying to work out what is happening from the written word.

I bought yarn for the lace class while I was in Vancouver last month.  I bought a thicker yarn than I usually weave with so that it will be easier to see on camera.  I hope.  

Beginning now, my schedule is going to be very full up to and including the guild sales in Nov/Dec.  I'm still not anywhere close to where I was even a year ago in terms of health and energy.  But I'm determined to get these classes in the can (so to speak).  And to keep teaching for as long as I am able.

And that means continuing to avoid covid like the, um, plague.  And any other plagues that arrive in the future.  And that mans continuing to stay home as much as possible.  Avoiding crowds, especially indoors, as much as possible.  Wearing a mask whenever I'm out and about.

Because I have way too much yarn and too many plans to stop now.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Life's Journey


Today's post - Life.  Not weaving.  As such.  Ignore if you're only here for weaving content.

I live with cancer.  I was diagnosed with Small B Cell lymphoma in 2011.  In one way it was a 'fortunate' diagnosis insofar as it is 'indolent' (slow growing).  At the time the gold standard treatment was chemotherapy (including Vincristin, derived from mustard gas).

I fared well on it.  In the end instead of getting 8 infusions, I had only 6, and then I was put onto the Rituximab maintenance protocol - the first person in the province.  I was lucky because the oncologist was new to town and the province and he had developed the maintenance protocol, then fought hard to get permission to treat me with it.

He told me at the time that he had been having patients achieve a 6 year remission and I became another one of his patients to also have an extended remission from treatment.

Because you see, Small B Cell lymphoma is not - at this time - curable.  In other words, it will come back.  It may come back sooner.  It may come back later, but it seems to come back at some point in the future.

The next step in treatment was an oral medication and I took that for a year until the adverse effects became untenable.  I went off the drug and was monitored closely to see how the cancer would act.

Getting my system clear of the medication meant I felt better than I had been - until other parts of my body started breaking down.

It's been several years now and I am once again considered to be in remission.  Apparently I am one of very few people with this type of cancer who has managed to NOT require treatment for an extended period of time.  Again.

I am monitored, though, because the assumption is that at some point the cancer will come back again.  So every six months I go into the cancer clinic, get blood drawn, and then go back to find out - am I still in remission?  Or not...

Today is that day.

This six month cycle is one of first relief when I find out that I am still in remission, then stuffing all thoughts and feelings about living with cancer into the back of my mind.  Until covid.  And then I had to keep that awareness of a compromised immune system (B Cells are one of the two cells vaccines target to 'train' to identify covid - and mine don't work - hence my immune system is only half as effective as a healthy persons - at best).  It has been 2 plus years of riding the cancer clinic monitoring appointments while being hyper aware of the fact that I am at high risk of becoming seriously ill up to and including death from covid.

I'm tired.

People tell me my constant harping on covid isn't healthy.  I need to just ignore it and live my life.  What people don't understand is that if I ignore covid my life won't last very much longer.  We are, everyone of us, living on the edge of life and death and catching covid will flick me over that edge.

So I cannot ignore covid.  I don't accept invitations to gatherings because I don't know if the people there will be aware of covid or care if I catch it from them.  Because they may not have been wearing a mask and are asymptomatically infectious.  So I just don't go.

I continue to isolate myself, by and large, from the public.  I wear a mask when I go out.  And I watch the numbers to try and figure out the level of risk in my community.  

Right now the numbers are higher than I feel comfortable with and once again I refused to accept an invitation to a gathering that I would have liked to attend.  But it was a Spring Tea - which means masks off to eat the goodies and drink the tea.

And too many locals have been reporting they have contracted covid the past couple of months.  All vaccinated, all with 'mild' symptoms.  Which is great and I am relieved to hear that they haven't gotten terribly ill.  But with my immune system, now completely trashed after a severe outbreak of shingles?  I declined.  Regretfully, but I declined.

It's time to get dressed and head up to the clinic and find out - am I still in my rare remission?  Or nah?

I will hold this post until I find out.  And be grateful for the sunny day which means I can park at the mall and walk up the hill to the clinic.  A little ritual I go through every six months.  Walking up the hill with trepidation.  Down with relief.  Hopefully.


Relief.  For another 5.5 months, when the anxiety begins again...

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

To Float or Not to Float


Mug rug woven in rep weave with plain weave hems (unhemmed)

This is a sample of warp rep.  It was designed for a workshop topic where students would weave 'mug rugs' in weave structures and yarns suitable for table.  As a 'mug rug' or coaster, they still got a usable textile at the end (if they wanted one) but could quickly explore a variety of options.

One of the things that some people insist on as being 'essential' is floating selvedges.  By and large they are not particularly essential if you understand how to 'lock' the two different wefts at the selvedge.

So this little sample did not come with floating selvedges because I never use them.  Instead I would show the participants that they simply had to watch what was happening to the threads and then twist the two shuttles around each other to keep the pattern weft weaving right to the edge of the cloth.  As the blocks changed, sometimes you would twist the shuttles one way, then the other.  But it didn't take long to begin to see the pattern and just accommodate the sequence and keep things going.

Some people would insist you HAD to have a floating selvedge.  I told them to add one if it was important to them, but in point of fact it wasn't necessary for this (or most other two shuttle) weave(s).

Some two shuttle weaves are more consistent and the twisting remains the same throughout.  Some structures like warp rep change as the block sequence changes.   But it was pretty obvious that I needed to change the direction of the twist of the shuttles.  And then it remained the same for the duration of that block.

If someone prefers floating selvedges, then they should use them.  But they are not 'essential' to the weaving - unless the weaver wants to use them.  Nor is a plain weave selvedge 'essential'.  But that's another post, for another day (or check out what I've already written on selvedges.)

Monday, May 16, 2022



When is something an issue in weaving?  

When you aren't getting the results you desire.

This morning I read through a thread on a weaving group where people were worrying about beaming issues.

Some of the things they were discussing would IMHO cause grief.  Others?  Might not be that big a deal.  They wouldn't really know until they were weaving.

But here is what I saw in the photos.

One warp that appeared to migrate from one side of the loom to the other.  The person was using a rough sleyed reed not a raddle and I suspect the reed was sliding sideways during the beaming.  Sometimes reeds are loose enough in the beater that they can slide in the grooves.  That could account for the warp shifting sideways and making a 'cigar' shape on the beam.

Insufficient warp packing.  Sticks with multiple layers between each layer of sticks so that the warp was beginning to take on a cigar shape.  With insufficient tension, the threads can roll sideways and upper layers cut down into lower layers.  OTOH, it wasn't so great that it might be a problem during weaving.

Loops in a warp indicated that the warp had been beamed with too little tension.  The weaver commented that they hadn't placed the sticks well.  My opinion was that they had used far too little tension while beaming so that the sticks couldn't work well.  The slack in the warp due to low tension manifested itself in loops on the beam.

Some of the issues the weavers were discussing would absolutely cause a problem during weaving.  But others would be minor and probably not cause too many problems.

Since no one asked me for my opinion I didn't give it.  For one thing it would have required too much of my time and energy to try to address each and every issue being raised.  And goodness knows, I've already written thousands of words on just these issues on weaving groups, blog posts, and a book...

I'm not the only one.  Peggy Ostercamp has written a series of books addressing various technological problems, giving a variety of solutions - because frequently there isn't a one size fits all answer.  It's weaving after all - it depends!

Then of course there's the whole issue of changing something and having tried and true processes no longer work.  Change the width, the length, and things can go pear shaped.  What works on a narrow/short warp may no longer work when you scale up.

Change the yarn - from a highly elastic yarn to a non-elastic yarn and things can go 'wrong' very quickly.  

Change the weave structure and/or the density and yup, things can become different and issues can arise.

People do the best they can.  They try to figure out the why, which is great.  But sometimes they come to a conclusion that doesn't really answer the question.

As always, if someone *wants* my opinion they can contact me.  My goal is to help people and encourage them to keep trying.  But weaving is complex and sometimes it's hard to know what is going wrong and how to fix things.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

On Honours and Recognition


I don't do what I do for awards or honours.  I do what I do because it satisfies a deep need within me to explore, to answer the question "What if...?"

OTOH, it's always nice to be recognized by others.  I just never let it go to my head.  Because as quickly as someone can be held up, put on a pedestal, they can be knocked off of one, too.

Weaving is a constant dance with success and failure.  We think.  We dream.  We experiment.  We fail.  Sometimes repeatedly.  And once in a very rare while, we succeed.

When I submitted the above articles to Handwoven I had no idea they would choose my textiles for the cover of the magazine.  For a long time I was hoping to make it a 'hat trick' (maybe you have to be Canadian to get the reference), but it never happened.

And it's ok.  I don't need a third cover to hang on my wall.  

But some days?  Some days it's a nice reminder that I can do stuff.  And that some people have recognized that I can do stuff.

This morning someone posted a link to a New York Time Obituary.  Apparently they run a series on 'overlooked' people - people who made a contribution that they never did an obit for previously.  This time they did one for Junichi Arai, a textile genius.  A term I do not use lightly.  He was innovative, daring and not afraid to fail as he worked with unique fibres to create textiles in new ways, from new materials.

He was the juror for the Convergence 2002 yardage exhibit, sponsored by the Carnegie Institute (I think, memory may be faulty) and I decided I would enter a piece to see if I could get some feedback

The warp was silk, the weft a very fine rayon chenille.  2000 yards per pounds as I recall.  I knew it was subtle, woven in a fancy twill, and likely would not draw the eye because at a distance it would just look white.  A piece of white fabric hung in a gallery with white walls?  I knew it wouldn't look like very much from a distance.  But I was interested in Mr. Arai's response, not the casual viewer.

2002 was an extremely stressful and in many ways punishing time for me.  I had timed the publication of Magic in the Water so that I could take a booth at the conference and sell the book.  I had also begun buying and reselling yarns because I knew I couldn't afford the booth with the book alone.  I had also applied to teach and was accepted to do a one day workshop and several lectures.  Then I offered to do the informal fashion show, because I was 'young and had endless supplies of energy'.  (HA!)

So during the conference I was constantly on the go - teaching, scrambling to get to my booth to help my then studio assistant, preparing for the fashion show, running to see which ever exhibit I could get to, grab a bite of food, run, run, run.

On one of my dashes from the convention centre to the hotel one of the conference organizers stopped me in mid-dash to congratulate me - Mr. Arai had given my fabric second place.

Later I overheard a couple of people talking about the yardage exhibit, grousing because that white 'sheet' had gotten second place for goodness sake!

You get lifted up, then knocked down.

But I hadn't done the fabric for their opinion.  I had done it to see if Mr. Arai had an opinion.

I never met him.  But he had an enormous impact on me.  The weaver who thinks.  Dreams.  Experiments.  Dares to fail.  And sometimes succeeds.

A belated thank you to someone who all unknowingly made a lasting impact on this particular weaver, and many more, with his innovation and daring to dream.


Friday, May 13, 2022



You'd think after this many years putting together something like a marketing package for a presentation to a guild would be dead easy.

And it will be, once I get over my lack of desire to do it.

I know, I know, it's necessary.  Be nice if everyone in the weaving world would already know who I am so that all the guild would have to do is say "Laura Fry will be doing a seminar" and all their guild members would rush to register.

But even my ego knows that isn't about to happen!

So I've been distracted with some other stuff and my promise to get the package of information to the guild got kind of buried under other obligations/deadlines and only late last night did I remember - oops, I promised to do something.

However, the dust has been clearing (a little) and just before bed I remembered.  But I had other things scheduled for today and frankly I ran out of spoons.  So, tomorrow then.  Top of the list, priority.

I did manage to do all the rest of the things on my to-be-done list today.  Not that the list these days is very long or extensive.  But I still only have a limited amount of spoons and weaving always comes first.

The tea towels I wet finished yesterday got pressed.  Three were seconds, to the degree that I cannot sell them.  So they will go to locals, willing to do the pressing and hemming.  And I don't have to pay postage to send them somewhere.

After lunch I tied on the warp, wound bobbins, and then wove a towel.  It looks fine, but the yarn isn't stretching quite as far as I expected.  So I'll only get two towels out of this first colour not three.  Not that that is a bad thing, given my goal of using up as much of my stash as I can.  Eyeballing another colour and I think I can finish off this section of the warp with that one, and then finish the last section with another colour.  And that brings down my 2/16 yarn stash considerably,.

The next warp is designed, I just need to tweak the treadling to make it long enough for a towel.  That won't take long when I get to that point, which is at least a week away.  

Sunday morning is the next Sunday Seminar and I really want to attend that one live.  It is Abby Franquemont and she will talk about the reconstruction of the burial textiles that was done.  Should be fascinating.  

And in the back of my mind the marketing materials for the guild presentation are percolating, simmering on the back burner.  I'll get to it.  Hopefully tomorrow.  Sunday for sure.  Along with the final draft of a short article for the School of Sweet Georgia.  

It's all good.  Even when I don't really wanna do it.  I know it needs to be done.  I just need a minute.  Or a day.  I'll get there.  Wish that damned button worked, though.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

May Flowers


I had to reduce the size of this image to fit it all in because there is quite a large repeat happening which doesn't show up until you get the design shrunk down - or get far enough away from it to really see what is happening.

And this is why I keep coming back to the loom!  These delightful surprises when you put something onto 'paper', generate the tie up and treadling and something appears that absolutely surprises and delights.

So this one is definitely going into the queue as my next tea towel warp.

When I bought weaving software it was still pretty controversial in handweaving circles.  Some people felt that using software would be detrimental.  That people would not understand what was happening unless they did drawdowns by hand.  Or at least that was one argument.

What I found was that I didn't spend any less time generating drawdowns.  What I did was make a whole lot more of them.  And because I could make them quickly and fairly easily, I felt no qualms about deleting the ones that didn't please me.

So the above?  I'm well into hour two of messing around with twill progressions,.  Fine tuning.  Tossing the ones that I didn't like out.  Starting over.  Trying again.  Adjusting things.  

Using weaving software has made me a better designer as I am less inclined to keep a draft just because I'd spent hours making it.  

And now?  Now I feel compelled to get to the loom and weave another towel.  That will make 8 on the cloth beam, tension is getting more difficult to reset when I advance the fell, and it is time to remove the nearly 10 yards of cloth on the loom and start the next section.  

Because this draft delights me and I'm looking forward to getting it into the loom.  But first?  I have to finish weaving the warp currently on the loom.

I'm calling this one May Flowers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

No One Reads Blogs


I have been told repeatedly by People Who Know that no one reads blogs anymore.

Which kind of makes my blog an outlier, then?

I am constantly amazed at how loyal a following I have with this blog.  When I started writing it in August of 2008, it was partly a celebration of life, partly the story of how I became inextricably tangled up in the threads of this amazing craft.  (All puns definitely intended.)

I have shared my life, both successes and struggles, and found overwhelmingly that people have kept coming back and been supportive and encouraging.

One of the ways I process what is happening in my life is to write it out.  Sometimes I don't even know what I think about something, but something happens, and I write about how I feel about that thing happening.  Sometimes I surprise even myself where I end up.  

Sometimes I only write about what is happening after I have been through the worst and come through the other side.  

Sometimes I report from my bed - like when I fell and broke my ankle - and shared (some might say 'over shared') what was happening.

Many of the people who used to write blogs have given up, for whatever reason is important to them.  But I have kept going.  Why?  Because you, dear reader, keep showing up.  You read what I have written.  Sometimes you comment, sometimes you don't.  But the numbers keep growing, and I keep writing.

Until no one comes anymore, at which point I may continue just because I figure out how I feel about things when I write it out.  

I'm currently reading a small book of essays about various things, including living with chronic pain.  Given how much of my life these days is given over to coping with chronic health issues including pain, I wasn't sure I would find such essays of any particular interest.  But I am finding the first one incredibly affirming.

Sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone in your thoughts about growing old/decrepit.  Sometimes it helps to see how other people, coping with similar issues, manage to keep going.  To find value in their lives and a reason to pick oneself up and buckle on the harness of life and just...keep going.

The little book of essays was written by Luanne Armstrong and is called Going to Ground.  She has written a lot of books and I may look for more of her essays.  Always helpful to find a kindred spirit.  And thank you to the friend who shared this author and book with me.  I'm very grateful.

Sunday, May 8, 2022



Aware of (ahem) looming deadlines, I checked the Olds College website this morning and levels 1, 2 and 3 of the master weaver program  next month are confirmed.

So now I need to work out how much (more) yarn I have to order.

It has been my practice to take the skeins of wool yarn for the class and turn them into cones to make things easier (more efficient) for the students to do the in-class weaving assignments.

I also wind their first warp for them.

Recently someone was a wee bit shocked that I would go to 'all that work' to make the student experience easier.  More beneficial.

It just made sense to me that I do this because otherwise?  There would be 12 people waiting to use a warping board to wind their warps and a lot of time spent (and frustration)  avoided so that each and every student would be able to jump onto the class work as soon as my initial lecture was complete.

I was a production weaver for 40 or so years.  I have the tools (still) and the expertise to use them.  By doing this pre-class preparation, the students can focus on what they need to learn, not be hanging around waiting, feeling anxious.  Because the five days is heavy duty information and the best way to learn new processes and set the knowledge is to get right at doing the job.

I warn them that it will be 5 days of trying to drink from an information fire hose.  That it is completely expected and normal to feel absolutely overwhelmed the first couple of days.

The class manual has a list of in class exercises for them to work on and given the (usually) wide range of skill levels amongst the class, it just really works 'better' (imho) if the students work through those on their own time while I focus on the stuff I feel is essential to convey, in person.

What this means is that I do not follow the manual from page 1 through to the end but jump around from section to section.  Some students find this disconcerting, but this sort of jumping around is part and parcel of the weaving process, once you start designing your own projects, not just following the directions determined by someone else.

My goal is to help students begin to see how all those disparate pieces begin to link together to get the results they want.

I do at least two major lectures a day, sometimes 3, depending on the schedule and how the days go by.  And then the students are largely left to do the work as outlined in the manual in the order they wish.

The final day there are oral presentations to be done, so during the week I also remind them to read through the parameters of those presentations in order to be prepared to give them.

The program is intense and it's a lot of work.  But it's also one way to really dig into the craft and begin to understand the principles.

OTOH, not everyone wants to spend 5 intense days at a college so I am happily settling into SOS developing content for them.

The SOS classes/lectures are by and large based on the lectures I developed for my Olds students during the pandemic, and some longer form classes with video footage, based on the topics I have been teaching for decades before I started teaching for Olds, many of them rolled into the Olds class(es).

I feel the biggest leg up I can give the level 1 students is the knowledge to analyze their processes and their results.  To think through the principles.  To recognize when something isn't working, and hopefully determine why so they can change their approach, or equipment, or their materials.  To help them be more ergonomic to reduce injury and efficient so as to not waste time.

All of these I have focused on for at least two decades.  It felt right to bring that experience and knowledge with me to the Olds College master weaver program, and now to SOS.

It seems right on this day, which is Mother's Day, even though I am not a 'mother', to reaffirm my commitment to my students to help them as much as I can, for as long as I am able. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Samples? Check!


Single strand of Harrisville yarn

GIST Array woven, up close and personal

Scarf woven from GIST Array

Today was a bitty day.  A bit of this, a bit of that...

One of the things I wanted to do was install my digital microscope onto my new laptop, but the microscope only had a CD and the new laptop didn't have a CD drive.  But, my old laptop had a CD Drive, so I copied the file from the CD to a thumb drive on it and installed the microscope onto the new laptop using the thumb drive.

That makes it sound easy, but it took a while.  Then I tried to figure out how to share my new laptop screen to the classroom smart screen at the Olds College.  Which also took a lot longer than I hoped.

So even though I'd gotten the last two samples woven earlier in the afternoon, it was after 4 before I got two of the samples wet finished and only just now finished giving them a hard press.

The yarn tracked in the plain weave sections, which I had pretty much expected.  And it's fairly stiff at 20 epi, so for maximum drape and softness, weaving this yarn in twill would be my recommendation.  However, if someone wanted to weave garment fabric for a tailored garment, the plain weave would work well, I think.  And the tracking would make the cloth interesting because it tracked consistently, so it looks like a really 'fancy' twill.  

To test the microscope I looked at a single strand of Harrisville which clearly shows that the dark grey colour is made up of mostly dark black with some lighter fibres to give the tweedy appearance.  You can also see how disorganized the fibres are in comparison to the GIST Array in the middle photo.  A function of how the fibres have been prepared and spun,.

I'll be writing up my process of working with the Array for the School of Sweet Georgia, plus I had enough warp to weave them a set of samples for the store.  The samples that I wet finished are drying now and I should be able to get them into the mail next week so they will have them to show their customers.  Nothing like being able to fondl...er, feel the actual cloth.

One thing that did kind of surprise me is that the natural didn't shrink as much as the dyed Array.  You can just see the rippling in the stripe of white yarn across the warp in the weft in the above photo.  Since it's a scarf, I'm not too bothered by it, but I might if the cloth was intended for sewing a garment.  If the white was used not in a solid stripe but mixed in with other colours, it would be fine, but in the stripe it tends to behave as it wishes.

Anyway, I now have enough information to start getting the warp ready for the Olds class.  I'll do that just as soon as I hear from the college.  I'll also place an order for the rest of the yarn needed for the class.  Once it comes, I'll turn the skeins into cones to make it easier to work with.  I don't want my students to be spending the coin of their time wrestling with skeins when I have a cone winder and can make things easier/more efficient so that they have more time for learning.

Last I heard the class was full with a waiting list, but I don't want to spend more money before I've got the confirmation.  Truth be told I should have waited to buy the Array for the class, but I wanted to sample it and I was in the store so it was just too tempting to buy the yarn then and there and save the shipping.  :)

Currently reading Murder with Peacocks by D. Andrews

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Pushing the Boundaries


The last couple of days have been a bit busy, but I did get started on weaving the scarf on the sample warp.

It's going about how I expected.  The epi is 20, which is a bit open for twill and so the beating in of the weft is not as consistent as I would like.  But I'm about 3/4s done the scarf and the recipient will be delighted with the colour and not pay too much attention to the fact that this scarf is far from 'perfect'.

The value scale is quite close and it's difficult to tell some of the steps apart so I've had to set up a system to keep track.  Even so sometimes I forget which direction I'm going with the steps and I've had to unweave because I picked up the wrong shuttle, or woven the twill in the wrong direction.  I'm changing direction with each colour change, which may not be visible in the photo.

The threading is a herringbone or Dornick twill which changes direction and skips a shaft in the threading and the treadling, which means when the twill line changes direction the selvedge threads don't drop out of the cloth but stay weaving in.  The maximum float length is 2.  What it means is that no true plain weave is possible, but that's ok because the scarf has no plain weave in it.

When I do the plain weave samples, I don't care if there will be two ends weaving together.  At that point it's just a sample.

So my theory that 20 would be good for plain weave, but 24 would likely be better for twill has pretty much been proved.  OTOH, the drape of this scarf should be really nice given it is being woven at 20 epi.  Of course this is a narrow warp and for a 36 or 48" wide warp, I'd likely go with 20 epi.  Because change something like the warp width, and sometimes the epi needs to change, too.

But I wasn't sure and only weaving it would tell me that.

Sometimes a sample is 'just' a sample.  Sometimes?  It's a scarf.  Or a tea towel.  Or a napkin.

Array is fairly expensive, but so far it's looking good for weaving clothing, if someone is inclined.  It's strong.  It comes in a vast array of colours, with 4 step values of the hues.  It's hard to find fine wool yarns that can be used for clothing, so this yarn is looking good for making really nice cloth for shawls, or garments that need to be cut/sewn.  I'm looking forward to seeing the final results after wet finishing, which will include a good hard press.

Sunday, May 1, 2022



What is quality?

Most people take the word quality to mean *good* quality, not bad.  But the word 'quality' isn't inherently good or bad.

It's always a good idea to choose a yarn suitable for the purpose of the intended cloth.  Yarn all by itself isn't good or bad - it just has built in characteristics that make it a good or bad choice for what you want to make.

The yarn going into the Leclerc right now is the right hand one in the photo.  It's finer, smoother, stronger than the yarn on the left.  Does that make it a better quality?  Not really.  The difference in the fibres used, how they have been prepared for and spun will make a big difference in how they behave but also?  In the quality of cloth they will make.  Will one be good and the other bad?  No.  They will just be different.  They will each be 'better' AND 'worse' at some things than the other.

Neither of the yarns is 'cheap'.  They are not typically found in most knitting yarn shops because they are not knitting yarns.

They are *weaving* yarns.  That doesn't mean you can't knit with them, just that they have been engineered to be used in a loom.  They have less elasticity than the 'usual' knitting yarn.  They are two ply, not 3, which for many years had been the standard for knitting yarns (not so much lately).  

Each of the above yarns will create a lovely fabric if the weaver works *with* the inherent characteristics, not against them.

So the one on the left was built with the intention that it be fulled.  The one on the right, while it *can* full, was not the primary feature.  The one on the left is loftier, hairier, and weaker than the one on the right.  The one on the left can be used as warp, but the one on the right is a lot stronger.  The one on the left will make a warmer cloth, the one on the right a cooler one - because it has less trapped air to act as insulation.

Learning how to assess the qualities of the yarn and use it appropriately is the focus on my presentation A Good Yarn.  Sign up for School of Sweetgeorgia and catch the live lecture on Wednesday, May 4 or view it later because it will be recorded.

The cloth in the photo above is the left hand quality - Harrisville.  I wrote about it for Handwoven a few years ago.  It can make a nice blanket, shawl or outer garment quality of woolen cloth.  The yarn on the right is GIST's Array, a worsted yarn.  I'm going to start weaving my first sample with it today.  I'm expecting it to make a nice garment type of cloth.  It's finer, more tightly spun, will withstand abrasion better than the Harrisville.  And I think with a good hard press as part of the wet finishing process, it might even feel quite nice against the skin.  But only a sample will tell me that for sure.