Monday, November 28, 2022


 Proprioception, or kinesthesia, is the sense that lets us perceive the location, movement, and action of parts of the body. It encompasses a complex of sensations, including perception of joint position and movement, muscle force, and effort.

I didn't know what the word proprioception was until someone said I had it.  It's a 'fancy' word for body awareness, but not just being aware of one's body, but how it fits into the world, how it interacts with tools.

I came to weaving having been coached in various activities, and perhaps that stimulated my awareness.  Or perhaps I always had it and the coaching just enhanced it.  But regardless, I came to weaving with that awareness already fine tuned and when I began weaving with the express purpose of earning an income I realized very quickly that I needed to fine tune my movements.

So I analyzed what I was doing and constantly made tweaks in things.  I was fortunate in that I'd had a good introduction to ergonomic practices, so I didn't have to unlearn too many 'bad' habits.

Over the years I paid attention to how other people did things and when I saw techniques or tools that I felt would be 'better' than what I was doing, I took the time and effort to adopt the new information, tools, motions into my own practice.

At the same time I was trying to protect my body from repetitive stress injury because I also came to weaving with pre-existing conditions - injuries sustained before I began weaving, then another whiplash injury when I was in my 40s.

I've mentioned all this previously, but new readers don't necessarily have the time to go back in the archive, hence the quick recap now.

When I teach I try to convey to students how they must pay attention to their bodies.  But I also now know that not everyone has my level of proprioception.  So I explain, as best I can, how and why it is a good idea to work *with* one's body instead of against it.  

People also tell me I have a way with words, so I use my words to paint pictures while I do the motions, explaining what is going on in my body as I hold the shuttle cradled in my fingers, as opposed to holding it 'overhand'.    And so on.

Recently I saw someone comment, with photo showing what they were talking about, that when they weave they get blisters on the first knuckle of their finger.  I thought about that for a while wondering how on earth they could get a blister in that location, then realized they must be holding their shuttle overhand.  Because when I hold my shuttle underhand, by knuckles are rarely in contact with the reed.  Another argument for cradled in the hand, not held overhand?

Just this week, two people complained about how awkward and uncomfortable dressing the loom is.  Yes, it can be!  Especially if you are dealing with a 'broken' body.  

Try to find a loom that 'fits' you.  Not all looms are 'equal' - some are more accommodating than others.  Some are taller or shorter, with more room between the breast beam and shafts, harder or easier to treadle.  The 'best' thing to do is try before you buy, but that isn't always possible.  My next best advice is to buy second hand, and give it an honest trial, then sell it if it isn't working in a way that is going to be acceptable for you.

Take breaks.  I know people like me say this over and over again.  We say it because it is true.  It is much easier to prevent repetitive motion injury than recover from it.  Once inflammation has set into the soft tissue it can take weeks, months, even, to heal.  

Part of why I harp on this so much is that I hate to see people in pain.  I hate to hear that people cannot weave because of the pain.  

Check out the tag 'ergonomics' on this blog.  Check out my You Tube channel.  Check out the class on Long Thread Media, or my class at School of Sweet Georgia, or my book.  I harp on this all the time because I so frequently see people struggling.

The word 'efficiency' has a bad connotation when all it means is doing something with the least amount of effort or excess motion.  

In this day and age with personal time so scarce, it feels nice to go to the loom and walk away 45 minutes or an hour later, having made progress.  All I can say is, if you feel like weaving is just too complicated, too uncomfortable, too awkward, maybe it isn't weaving, but the particular processes you might be using.  There might be a better tool, a better process, a different way to do what you are trying to do.  

MY way may not be your way.  But maybe you can find a better way for YOU.  

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Red and White


latest tea towels cut off the loom, not wet finished

Cut these off the loom the other day, now begun the dark green.  The design is Snail's Trails and Cat's Paws, but woven star fashion rather than rose fashion.  

This is an example of the cross pollination between weavers.  Or maybe it is.  Because most weavers know this motif as an overshot pattern, where it was fairly commonly used in the weaving of coverlets.  As an overshot motif, all that is required is four shafts, while this twill block rendition needs 16.  Or 12 if you use a 1:2 twill instead of a 1:3 for the blocks.

The speculation is that overshot was developed as a way to get nice large designs with fewer shafts.  So far I've seen no actual documentation of this, but given this design appears to pre-date the overshot version, perhaps?

The design is found in a weaving manuscript that dates from around the early 1700s.  It isn't listed as being original to the author, and my best guess is that the designs in the manuscript pre-date the publication by quite some time.  The conclusion is that these designs were around for a while (100?  200? years) before the manuscript or pattern book was produced.  They may be much older.  I haven't done a deep dive into Keep Me Warm One Night by Harold and Dorothy Burnham, but they certainly have motifs of this type of design in their collection of coverlets.  One of these days I might sit down and see if I can find any evidence of how old the overshot versions are and see if the speculation is based on any kind of written documentation.

But that's the thing with textiles.  They are ephemeral.  They disintegrate (or did until synthetic fibres were produced) and not much of the textile record remains.

It was a great gift that Patricia Hilts gave the weaving record when she translated the books (there are two) and published the information in Ars Textrina.

With textiles such a scarce presence in archeological excavations, it has been hard to get much information.  And, dare I say it, respect from male practitioners since textiles are currently seen as 'women's work', therefore of little value?  Yes, even today among some.

There have been some books written about textiles throughout history.  Maybe one of these days I'll dig through the internet and see if I can find some of the ones I know about - and find some I don't.

In the meantime, I have Beverly Gordon's book that I really need/want to dig into, but just haven't have the mental wherewithal to sit down and begin.  What little energy I have gets spent on answering questions on the two websites I belong to, weaving, or thinking about weaving.  

Today we have a lovely sunny day (so far) but with warnings of colder temps to come.  We also have another crew coming on Friday to deal with the tub surround.  Another day I'll spend in the guild room with my hemming heap.  If I remember I may pull Elizabeth Wayland Barber's book Women's Work: the first 20,000 years and check her notes.  I seem to remember a rather long list of resources.  :)

Saturday, November 26, 2022



This is the beginning of me exploring a concept that I have been toying with lately.

It's not 'new' - I doubt much is actually new, as in no one has ever come up with this before, when it comes to textiles.  I have, in fact, played with the concept previously but set aside as other things took top of mind and energy.

At this point it's all very direct and not very complex, but I can see ways of playing with it to make it so.

One of the ways humans interact is to bounce ideas off each other.  I shared this with a friend who immediately started playing with it and came up with something far more complex, just by changing the tie up/treadling in a direction she had been exploring.  And came up with something much more dramatic than this simple proof of concept.

I have been mulling it over in the 'back of mind' way I do, and after thinking about it decided that I can continue with the current approach of 2/16 cotton at 36 epi and 2/20 merc cotton for weft.  There are fewer interlacements than the twill blocks I've been weaving, but that should not be a problem.  I'm only making tea towels, after all, and a little higher density (more ppi) won't be a problem.

I have nearly reached the half way point of the current warp.  This week kind of knocked me off my rails ending with the window guys coming on Friday to install the new window in the living room - a welcome notification, but one that left us scrambling to make room for them to come into the house and do the work.  Then putting things back to rights again.

It seemed better for me to simply leave the house, in case of covid, so I took my hemming to the guild room and managed to get the black rayon chenille scarves hemmed at long last - the log jam in my getting any hemming at all done as I was forcing myself to do the scarves first.  But they are done now, and who knows, may show up in my ko-fi shop on Monday, since there are still rayon chenille scarves in the inventory for the guild sale.

So the goal today is to get back on track after barely getting to the loom last week, finish off the current warp, then set up for the new design.  I still have to crunch the motif to fit into the width of a tea towel, and if I'm happy I will start tinkering with the threading/tie-up/treadling for the next warp.  I won't run out of yarn any time soon - I 'found' the other box of 2/20 merc cotton that had been shuffled once too many times and was hiding beneath boxes/bins of 2/10 merc. cotton.  A box of dark almost black navy blue.  On top of everything else I was beginning to worry I'd never get used up!  At 8400 yards per pound, each towel taking about 900 yards, I have enough yarn to last me all of next year - and perhaps beyond.

*unventing - a term coined by Elizabeth Zimmerman when she came up with a concept but didn't want to claim it had never been done before

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Sands of Time


photo of an ornate hourglass

As the climate changes, we see how things are no longer the way they were.  The thing that doesn't change is the slow march of the sun across the sky, north, then south, then back again and how that changes the length of daylight in our days.

We have had a string of dreary overcast days with temps higher than 'usual'.  Apparently that will change as the temps are set to plunge according to the Weather Network.  Will this bring clear skies?  Who knows, these days. 

It used to be that colder temps meant beautiful clear skies with brilliant sunshine.  Now?  Not so much.

As I get older, I find I have even less energy than ever and the sands of time seem to run through the clock ever more quickly.

As Bonnie Raitt put it, time becomes more precious the less of it you have.  (I paraphrase.)

I look at my stash and despair of ever getting it all woven.  OTOH, I still have fibre dreams.  Combinations I'd like to try.  Designs I would like to weave.

I've promised a project to go with the lace workshop on SOS and last night pieces I had been moving around seemed to fall into place.  Today I'll drag out the boxes of 2/10 yarn and see what colours I have and if I have enough to make something pleasing.  Until I see how much I have of the various colours in my stash, I can't make any final decisions.  So I'll work on that over the next few days.

In the meantime I'm making slow (but steady) progress on using up the 2/20.  I'm pleased - so far - with the quality of cloth that is resulting.

OTOH, we've just now been told that the window guys can come at 8 tomorrow so all my plans for today and tomorrow have gotten tossed.  Good thing I'm flexible????

Wednesday, November 23, 2022



Someone mused on line about books about Canadian textiles/by Canadian authors.  I started thinking about my learning curve, which began in 1975, and the history of handweaving in Canada.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, just what I can remember off the top of my head.  It will attempt to be somewhat chronological, but I don't know the actual publication dates of some of the books, so don't take the order as any kind of 'gospel'.

The first author I think more Canadians ought to be aware of is Oscar Beriau.  He is much better known in Quebec than the rest of Canada and I think he ought to be better known and his pivotal role in the development of Leclerc Looms should be recognized.  His grandson has created a lovely website which outlines M. Beriau's many accomplishments, including assisting weaving groups on the prairies.

Mary Black.  Ms. Black is very well known, but what may be less well known is that her roots are in Nova Scotia and her papers were archived online.  She, along with Mary Sandin and Ethel Henderson eventually set up the Guild of Canadian Weavers and the master weaver certificate program.  Last I heard, 29 people had successfully achieved the master level, with many more working on the other three levels.  This is a self-directed approach to learning - and testing - one's knowledge of weaving and it is not 'easy'.  Anyone who achieves the master level has invested a lot of time and energy into it.  

Ms. Black's book The (New) Key to Weaving is still around, and while dated in terms of graphics and approach, is still my go-to when I have a four to eight shaft weaving structure question.

Robert Leclerc.  M. Leclerc wrote a small book on how to weave as a support for people purchasing Leclerc Looms.  The booklet is now available as a free download from the Leclerc Looms website.  He also acquired the newsletters produced by T. Zielinski, sorted the information according to topic and then produced the Master Weaver Series of over 20 small booklets that are chock full of really good information.  Those books are still available for sale on the Leclerc website.

As people began completing their master level program, some of them began writing books, some of them as a direct result of their master level monograph.  

Nell Steedsman did several booklet type publications as did Grace McDowell.  Dini Moes (the only person I know of who achieved the GCW master, Boston Guild master AND the HGA COE certificate) published a book with swatches called Uncommon Threads.  All of these are now out of print but still reside in many guild libraries.

Linda Heinrich wrote The Magic of Linen, Jane Evans, A Joy Forever, Mary Andrews did a small run self-published book on fundamentals of weaving and of course I wrote Magic in the Water, then The Intentional Weaver.

Carol James has written about sprang and finger weaving.

Not weavers but historians, Harold and Dorothy Burnham became very well known for their book Keep Me Warm One Night, about coverlets, and Dorothy went on to write several other books including Unlike the Lilies about Doukhobor textiles in western Canada.

Paula Gustafson wrote about Salish Weaving (there is an older booklet but I can't pull the author's name up right now) and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (Vancouver) has done some stunning exhibits around coastal First Nations textiles.  Cheryl Samuel has also written books about Chilkat weaving.

I'm not too familiar with knitting, but Sylvia Olson has written about the role of knitting in coastal First Nations culture and society.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is well known for her books on knitting.

As for magazines, there have been a number over the years.  Loom Music in the 1950s and into the 60s I believe.  Heddle, a short lived publication that I contributed articles to from time to time, until it faded away.  Now we have Digits and Threads by Kate Atherley and Kim Werker.

I am sure that there have been many more, smaller publications, regional publications, but these are just the ones I could pull out of my memory this morning.

We must keep our history alive and one way to do that is to remember those who have gone before.  Books are one way of keeping history at our fingertips.  

Monday, November 21, 2022

Coles Notes


Coles Notes

I honestly had no idea Coles Notes was a Canadian 'thing'.  They were just there, for most of my student life and I assumed everyone had them.  

So I was going to write a blog about my answers on social media forums as being like Coles Notes, but then realized younger folk might not know the reference, so I Googled it. 

Wow.  My how things have changed!

Anyway, back to my personal version of 'Coles Notes' - my answers on social media.

Social media isn't a great place for deep dives into subject matter.  Even here on my blog, I tend to write out quite specific information.  So when people ask questions online, what they tend to be looking for is an answer to a very specific circumstance that is causing them issues.  When I answer such questions I don't always share what I do, particularly, but try to just answer their question.  In Coles Notes form.

Even in my book, I wasn't able to write it ALL down.  If I'd tried I would never have finished writing the damn thing!  As it is, since the book was published I have continued to learn more, so the book is still just a 'snapshot' in time of what I knew - or thought I did - when it was written.

My lectures on SOS actually wind up more targeted and in depth, in part because I have a live audience who can ask questions at the time of recording, and I'm happy to expand when someone wants to know more.  The lectures are themed around specific principles of the craft and I am able to connect the dots between that theme and other aspects of weaving.

Generally the lectures last about two hours.  That's enough time for most people to feel saturated and unable to absorb more (which is where the recording comes in handy - they can go back and review the lecture as many times as they want) and myself wrung out from trying to stay on track and keep my language fresh.

The lectures tend to include lots of textiles as examples of what I'm talking about, too.

For guild I can pare down my lectures to around 60 or so minutes, but that usually means I tend to rush through.  If guilds want the full two hour experience, I can do those as a 'seminar'.

My relationship with SOS will continue for at least all of next year.  The woven lace workshop launches in July (at least that's the schedule right now), and in August I've agreed to do a Q&A with anyone interested.  I'm looking forward to more interaction with the students and hopefully guide them through anything that remains obscure.

I'd like to remind folk that my books are still available at, and signed copies of The Intentional Weaver are at Sweet Georgia Yarns website.  Last I looked they still had lots of copies.  Might be a nice xmas present for a weaving friend?  

Saturday, November 19, 2022



The view from the back of the loom, poised to begin weaving the new warp, is quite satisfying.

I once did a seminar on weaving drafts, explaining how a threading draft can be manipulated, how I have made co-ordinating fabrics all on the same warp by changing the weave structure, changing the tie up, and the treadling sequence, AND the weft yarns and someone mused "so you're saying a threading is just a set of possibilities?"

YES!  Yes, that is exactly what I was saying.  But sometimes just *saying* that doesn't make any sense until people understand what a threading sequence is, and that you can change how you use the combinations within a particular sequence to create an effect.

People do not always realize that how we write drafts today is different from how people used to write them.  They also do not always grasp that for hundreds (thousands?) of years, weaving knowledge wasn't written down, but passed on through the transference of skills.  There are still cultures today that largely do the same thing because paper is scarce or difficult to store without it deteriorating.  So the knowledge is learned, then passed on to the next generation by showing how it is done, and a language that encodes the knowledge in a way that makes it easier to learn.

I get testy when I read books or watch a tv program that blithely dismisses the work of our ancestors as 'primitive' - or worse, ascribes what our ancestors have done to 'aliens'.  If someone takes the time to look back at history, accept that complex chemistry was being performed with little help in terms of *technology*, but great skill in the application of systemic knowledge, we would have nothing but the highest respect for our ancestors. 

Over the years I have tried to learn as much as possible about the history of textiles.  But that is a vast pool of knowledge, because every human around the globe was dependent, one way or another, on fibres for all of human history.  The current level of knowledge is pushing the start date of working with fibres back further and further, but if you, too, are interested, you could begin with Elizabeth Wayland Barber's book Women's Work; the first 20,000 years.  Her book was published in the 1990s, and new finds are pushing that date back to 30,000+ years.  

There are dozens of books about different cultures, many of whom are still making textiles in the traditional ways, but may be incorporating something of the present in their textiles.  I'm thinking of the tanks in the rugs made in Afghanistan, for instance.  There are other examples, but that one hit me hard, at the time.

But ultimately, when I go looking for books on cultures and history, I pay attention to the attitude of the author, in part because I was taught to watch the language being used, and to look for editorial bias.  When I read a book that talks about ancient dyers being 'only' craftspeople, not scientists?  I think about how many years indigo has been used as a dye stuff, and how for centuries dyers were able to develop colours, reliably adjusting the pH of the vat to achieve specific colours.  I think about the ancient dyers who extracted the 'royal purple' from mollusks through a complex process.  They may not have had the words for things like pH balance, but they knew what it took to make the colour and apply it to not just one type of fibre but both protein (silk) and cellulose (linen).  They may not have had 20th century science language, but they had the skills.  And to disrespect them by calling them *just* 'craftspeople' and raise up the 'scientists' - who were doing basically the same thing - trying things until they found something that actually worked, is to disrespect our ancestors.  

So I continue to look for books that celebrate our past and our ancestors and their knowledge.  I have not read all of the books there are, but I will focus my time and attention on those authors who also have a deep and abiding respect for the shoulders of giants we all stand on.

And if you want to know my approach to weaving, the latest lecture on weaving drafts has been posted to School of Sweet Georgia.  My two classes are also available, and I now have a release date for the next class, which will be in July.

And of course my books are still available on or signed copies can be purchased from Sweet Georgia Yarns   

Friday, November 18, 2022

When Plans Go Awry


I had a plan for today.  It was a good one.  I was going to Get Things Done (TM)

The day started out badly because I had a rough night, woke up lethargic and under slept, but got going right away.  Because I was going to Get Things Done (TM).

We headed up to Canadian Tire so Doug could pick up the truck, with it's winter boots on, I bought a couple of puzzles from the meager stock they had and came back to have breakfast, pour some coffee into me. 

And then discovered a voice mail.  A mysterious voice mail about an appointment neither of us had booked.  But it was from a health care person, so we finally figured out it was possibly intended for me and I phoned back.  Busy.  Leave a message, we'll call you back when we can.

I still think they called the wrong person, the wrong number, but.  

So instead of heading to town to do a string of errands, I'm finishing my coffee wondering if my doctor really does want to, need to, see me, and if so, why?

I'm going to finish my coffee, package up a towel that sold, and then go thread and see if the office calls me back.  Because I really hate playing telephone tag, wasting both parties time.

I'm going to practice being flexible.  And not be unkind if I find out it's a mistake.  But I feel off kilter because I had plans.  They were good plans.  I'm just going to have to do them in a different order.  Because I am still determined to Get Things Done(TM).

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

It's the Perspective


I meant to crop the yellow out of this photo and forgot 

And this was what I was 'hiding' when I so artfully posed the towel

Because I wove that entire warp with yet another threading error in it.  I swear that at times they crouch to hide.

Now that threading error isn't going to cause any sort of grief, the towels will still dry dishes.  And to be honest (if not a little boastful) they turned out really nicely.  I'm pleased with them.  And relieved, because frankly I've not done this particular combination before and wasn't entirely sure I'd chosen the right density.  

The warp is unmercerized 2/16 cotton at 36 epi, the weft is mercerized 2/20 cotton at around 36 ppi (around 30 for the towels below).  I've done the 2/20 as both warp and weft, and hadn't been entirely pleased with the results.  The fine mercerized cotton gets saturated very quickly, which is fine, but then once the cloth is saturated it can't really soak up more water, so then they are too wet to use effectively.

However, the slightly thicker unmercerized cotton seems to feel less 'wet' for longer.  Would a mixture of one for warp, one for weft actually entice the best qualities of both to come forward?  Or not.

Figuring that they were, after all, 'just' tea towels, I completed the warp and I have to say - I am quite pleased with how they felt coming out of the dryer.

This warp was my tentative attempt at using the two different yarns in one cloth for tea towels.  Before I began, I had two other yarns that needed using up and they turned out quite nicely as well.  

These in particular, are much better than I hoped for and will make lovely hand towels (or small bath towels if you don't want huge ones).

These towels are more subtle, and I wasn't sure how the cotton/linen ply would feel once wet finished, but I have to say, they feel lovely.  I wondered if the beige of the linen would make the cloth look 'dirty' but instead it looks like 'oatmeal' in terms of colour, the cloth has a wonderful hand, and they should be very thirsty.

I actually liked these enough I'm tempted to buy more of the cotton/linen ply yarn.  But here I must stop and rein myself in - because I've got pounds and pounds of the 2/20 merc. cotton to weave up and I'm determined to do that before I buy in more of anything.

But this is one combination I am going to remember.  I hope.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Plans vs Reality


I had nothing on the calendar for this week.  Nothing. weave.  But. 

And aye, there's the rub.  Life happens.

First my body objected.  For some 'silly' reason.  And last night I could not get to sleep until...dark o'clock.  With an obligation to go help pack up the guild's pop up sale this morning.

And then my body objected.   Again.  And I don't feel great.  But I'd promised to go help.  So I went.  But I was grumpy and not much fun to be around, so as soon as I could I left.  Feeling...bad that I hadn't been more pleasant, or on time, or able to do more.

But that's the thing with bodies.  If you don't make time to rest, your body will take rest when it has reached its limit, no matter what is on your calendar.

Then, because everyone else was busy with the aforementioned tear down, and re-set up (back in the guild room), someone had to attend an AGM.  And because I could register and attend remotely, guess what I'll be doing in about 55 minutes?

I'd better get some knitting to do during the meeting or I'm really going to be a very unhappy camper.

OTOH, I did finish off the warp that was on the loom, the next warp is crunched (I did that over the weekend), and the tubes are still on the bobbin rack so that can go onto the beam just as soon as I finish pressing the towels I wet finished yesterday.  Sitting pressing seems like a really good idea today, while my body pouts.  After the AGM.

However, the combination of unmercerized cotton warp and mercerized cotton weft felt really good coming out of the dryer, so there is that.

I've been ignoring the hemming pile for weeks but Dec. 2 we have people coming in to install a new tub surround, so I'm going to head up to the guild room for the day with my bin of hemming and ipad.  I'll sit and listen to my music while I stitch.  The guild room has really good light and I'll likely be alone.  Which is fine.  I don't mind being by myself.  If anyone joins me, the room air filter runs and the windows open.  

But given my mood today - I'm probably better off by myself for a while.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Aaaaaand, Next!


click on the image to biggify it

Just now finished the last towel on the warp and will begin on the next soon.  First I have some things to take care of, and given my brain power (or lack thereof) it seems like a good idea to do the next steps on the current warp before I go all gung-ho on the next.  There is no rush, after all - anything I get into the loom this week won't be ready for this year's Xmas sales.

So I will have a break, then go down, cut the web from the loom, cut/serge the towels, then repair the weft loops - or as many as I can find.

Because there are some.  I tried to fix as many as I could in the loom, but sometimes I just didn't spot them until I had woven far enough it would have taken longer to unweave, then re-weave, than to just needle weave the loop in later.  

I'm returning to a more 'traditional' design.  It's the same threading as the Snail's Trails and Cat's Paws, but woven in 'star' fashion instead of 'rose'.  (If that doesn't mean anything to you, never mind, it's just using the units/blocks in a different sequence.)

It still incorporates the curving lines, and I enjoy seeing those curves happening in the cloth.  The warp will be natural 2/16 unmerc. cotton, the weft 2/20 merc. cotton.  Given that the design kind of reminds me of Christmas ornaments, the weft colours will be red (two different shades to use) and forest green.  Nice bold graphic look to it.

I have woven this design before, many times, but usually in the STCP treadling.  Since I have some of that design in other colours, I thought I'd do this one, this time.

Tomorrow we will tear down the guild's pop up 'shop' and set up for the sale in the guild room.  I believe that will begin not this Saturday, but the weekend following, and continue on into Dec.  I may offer to shop sit the later dates because we usually don't get much of a crowd then, plus I have new N95 masks.

It's hard to believe that we are about five weeks from the solstice, but the other morning I was reminded how far south the sun gets this time of year.  Reminding myself that the sun will soon return meant I could give a nod to the low rising sun, say bon voyage, come back soon.

Winter is a great time to be weaving.  Keeping my nose to the fell means I can feel some kind of sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction, at the end of another day.

My plan for this week is to - get the current crop of towels mended, then wet finished.  Strip the thrums off the loom and clear the decks for the next one.  I need to remove a repair heddle with the eye tied too high, plus one of the leader strings on the sectional is too short and needs to be replaced.  

Tomorrow deal with the shop, plus attend an AGM (via Zoom), while running the towels through the washer and dryer, then get them pressed before I begin beaming the next warp.

And then, just because I couldn't stop myself, I pitched an article to a publication - just after saying on social media that I wasn't interested in writing for publication anymore.  (!)  Seems I was wrong.  Of course they may not be interested in what I have to say, so it may appear here...

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Not Done - Yet


I'm in my 70s now.  

What can I say?  It's been a trip.

Remembering my dad because it was Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who died in war, who gave the ultimate for the concept of freedom and democracy, I have also stirred up a lot of memories of my dad, who died in 1975 - the same month I quit my rather well paying job to become a professional weaver.

Yes, it was a career decision.  I've talked about it previously here and elsewhere.

My dad loved all things related to the 'space race'.  He followed the news about Sputnik, when JFK announced that the US would head for the moon.  He sat, fascinated, watching the coverage on tv about the space launchings.

I remember when Sputnik flew over - he insisted mom carry me outside while he spread a blanket on the ground, and then, when it flew overhead he excitedly asked us if we had seen it.

Honestly?  I hadn't.  I was near sighted and very sleepy, but I said yes to make my dad happy.  Because he was.

Even though he couldn't read, he always made sure that both us kids got an education.  The year I was supposed to go to university, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, spent 6 months in hospital as they tried to treat the cancer eating away at his bones, not able to work.  So they couldn't afford to send me to school.  

In the end, I wound up becoming a weaver, something he would never, ever, have understood because doing so was so very risky, financially.  

I don't understand myself how I managed to make that decision when I am someone who needs security.  OTOH, I had a spouse who supported me (financially, at first, but always in other ways) and somehow, between the two of us, we made it work.

And now?  Now I'm a 'senior' citizen.  But I still love this craft.  I enjoy it on multiple levels.  I also enjoy passing on my knowledge.

In the 21st century we now have the internet and while my body breaks down, I can still teach, remotely.

When I started this blog I had little expectation of anyone being much interested in what I had to say.  OTOH, last week page views rolled over 2.3 million, and some readers have been kind enough to say that they enjoy my musings.

So I guess I'm not 'done', yet.  

I have an account on Facebook.  I still have a Twitter account, but am monitoring that.  I have opened an account on Mastodon, although the jury is still out on that one - it's an 'escape hatch' if Twitter implodes.  I'm on there.

But most of my energy will be with the School of Sweet Georgia.   The team continue to work on the post production of the two new classes there, to be released in the new year.

OTOH, I'm also being supportive of other online resources, including Jane Stafford.  Her offerings are different from what SOS is doing and she is also a thorough instructor, delving deeply into the craft.  And soon the Handweaving Academy   I have supplied them with resources (FAQ) and am happy to belong to the site to field questions.

And I have my online lectures.  Just did one for a guild in Ontario, with another booked for Missouri in the new year.  Since I am mostly staying home these days, I'm happy to take bookings.  Check my website for topics.  

And always, I am willing to answer questions, either on the forums above, or emailed.

Because I'm not done.  Yet.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

"Crazy Quilt"


Yes, there IS a threading mistake in this warp.  It's hard to see from this angle, but it's there.

The photo shows the end of the towel I just finished weaving, so you can see the end of the motif and the hem area.  I tend to adjust the length of my towels by designing a motif, then adding or subtracting to the hems to get the final length.

Sometimes I can get pretty close.  Other times, not so much.  But they are tea towels and a bit of a change one way or another isn't a deal breaker.  They will still dry dishes.

I suppose, in a way, I was always open to changes.  Perhaps it was hardwired into my personality, or perhaps Life Happened frequently enough I had to learn to go with the flow, bend to the inevitable.  Be flexible.  Move feasts to another time, another day.  Or maybe it was all of it.

As a kid, I had to contribute to the family by doing 'chores' although they were never labelled as such - it was just 'do this thing' or 'do that thing'.  In August mom would begin canning and I would be instructed to wash canning jars, cut up the peaches/pears/apples - bite size or slices, depending on what she was planning.

It would get hot in the house with the stove going from before I would wake up until long after I'd gone to bed.

Jams.  Jellies.  Pickles.  Canned fruit, so that we would have some in the winter.  Because in those days, fruit was seasonal, not year round.

One of the things I really hated was helping with the raspberry jelly.  It was my job to pour the washed berries into the colander, a cone shaped aluminum one, then using a wooden tool squeeze the berries against the metal and get the juice out, leaving the pulp behind.  (She would put that into jam.)

I loathed the sound and feel of the wooden tool rubbing the seeds against the metal.  It made my teeth ache.  I nearly cried from the sensory agony of it.  

When I complained, my mother's reaction was "Do you want jelly for your toast this winter?  Then do it!"

I learned to set my discomfort aside for later gratification - home made raspberry jelly on my toast when the snow was blowing.

So I learned.  I learned that not everything in life was going to be perfect.  That for some things there was going to be a cost, and sometimes that cost had to be paid up front, long before the benefit.

I'm not happy about the threading error.  But not enough to take the several hours it would require to make it be gone, when it is in no way interfering with the function of the cloth.

My eye snags on the 'mistake' constantly - an irritating reminder that I'm Still Not Perfect.  That I still make mistakes.  That my level of emotional discomfort at contemplating my imperfectness is still less than the actual physical discomfort I would experience by cutting this warp off and re-threading a quarter of it.

As I have been weaving this warp, another in a series of warps with mistakes in them, I have been thinking.  I have been thinking about all the overshot coverlets I've seen, with threading/treadling errors in them, in museums, people oo-ing and ah-ing over how beautiful they are.  THEY don't see the mistakes.  They see the intent.  The fact that they were very obviously used and loved, some by generations.  

And I put myself into the continuum of history.  I'm just another person, doing the best she can, juggling deadlines, obligations, working towards perfection - and never really quite obtaining it.  But never giving up.  Still trying.  Still making things.  Some of them with imperfections in them.

And I thought about 'crazy quilts' made from scraps of cloth.  They are not perfectly sewn with teeny tiny stitches in optical illusion designs that knock your socks off.  They are made with all sorts of weights, colours, designs of cloth, usually in weird, wonderful, scrap shapes, assembled with some care but more than likely utmost speed, because a family needed a quilt to keep them warm.

As I look at this cloth, I see a similar kind of effect - a motif that is wonky - not perfect.  And I learn to accept it for what it is - not perfect.  But perfectly functional.

And why, I suppose, I am willing to tolerate the discomfort of wearing a mask to prevent getting sick from an air borne virus.  Willing to accept current discomfort for hopefully a reduction in viral load in the air.  And why my workshop in the new year will be masks required.  If students want to learn from me, they will have to accept the discomfort of protecting me.

Friday, November 11, 2022

How It Started...


How it started (sort of)

How it's going...

The four bins in the top photo are some of the 2/20 mercerized cotton that I began with - there are actually more cones on a shelf that are even older than these tubes, but they are a mixed bag of colours and since they are on small cones, they store more easily than tubes with less and less yarn on them.  Plus I've already used up some of the yarn in previous warps in the past few weeks.

The bottom photo is my caddy at the loom as of this morning.  Yes, I will weave directly from the tube, if the tube is small enough.  Since I want to use up as much 'bulk' as possible, as quickly as possible, I've been concentrating on weaving the dribs and drabs of tubes.  Some of the tubes are just a wee bit too much to fit into the shuttle, so I wind off onto bobbins, use those up first (so I don't wind up with a bunch of bobbins with left over yarn on them) and then work on emptying as many tubes as I can.

The caddy shows just what I've used up in the past couple of days.  I'll empty the caddy now that I've taken the photo.

Today I managed to weave enough that I need to cut off what I've woven because the cloth beam is building up and becoming 'padded' by the yards of woven cloth on it and resetting the tension is getting more difficult.  If I weave much more, the beam becomes thick enough my knees touch it, and that's annoying.  So instead I count how many towels (or whatever it is I'm making) and when I've reached around 7-8 yards or so, I cut off and then re-tie and begin again.

Cutting off from time to time (three segments in a 24 or so long yard warp) means I can deal with any small tension issues that may crop up.

I've reached the point now where the tubes that are left are getting larger so the pace of emptying tubes is going to slow.  

There is rather a lot of yardage in 2/20 mercerized cotton (8400 yards in a pound) and each towel is taking around 900 or so yards to weave.  That varies according to the design - some are more, some are less.  I try to make pretty generous sized towels, but sometimes I get the math wrong and some of them turn out a bit smaller, some a bit longer.  Never mind, they will still dry dishes.

Bottom line?  I figure I've got enough yarn there that I will be making tea towels for months.  What keeps me going is coming up with new designs.

On the spool rack is the 2/16 unmercerized cotton I used for the warp.  I should get 4 more warps out of those tubes, and then I'm going to change to a teal/turquoise green.  I have that forest green to use up, plus other colours that would look good - like one half pound cone of a bright pink, which should look nice in a 'fancy' twill on that teal/turquoise.  Plus I have a kilo cone of 16/2 teal/turquoise that needs to be weft only, plus I remembered I also have a 20/2 teal/turquoise unmercerized kilo cone, plus a soft buttery gold, and unmercerized 16/2 white.  While white on white is nice, it's hard to see when I'm weaving and most people seem to want colours, not white on white, so...guess I'll be buying more yarn next month?

I also need to buy yarn for the upcoming weaving workshop, and since Brassard generally shuts down for two weeks over the holidays, I need to order now, not wait.  

So I'm making up a list, checking it twice...

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Remembrance Day


It's Nov. 10 and tomorrow is Remembrance Day.

Too many people have no real idea of what Remembrance Day actually is.  

In Canada, it is a day for *remembering*.  For acknowledging the people who were called to war, and ultimately gave their lives.  Some people refer to them as 'heroes', and in some ways that is true.

But let me tell you about my dad.

My father was born here, in Canada, in 1919.  His family identified as German although their immigration papers said they left Europe from Belarus.  However, they spoke German, and had relatives in Germany as well.  (All contact with them was cut off during the war and afterwards - long story.)

So as a family who left Europe, for whatever reason, arriving first in the US (because my grandfather had a brother already living in the US), then making their way north to the Canadian prairies, then west to here, they managed to acquire some land, build a house and begin farming.  

The family was 'large' with 8 children, 3 girls, 5 boys.  They worked hard to make a life for themselves.  

Dad's mom died (breast cancer) when he was 10.  He was the last child in the family and the year he was to begin school, the school house burned down.  So his older siblings taught him how to draw his signature and read a bit.  But he was illiterate, not because he was stupid (he wasn't) but because he never had the opportunity to learn.

When the war started, it became...difficult...if you had German roots.  No matter you left Germany.  No matter you had whole heartedly given your life to come to a new country, put down roots, you were viewed with suspicion (ditto if you were Japanese or Italian background.)

(One person told me years later that they took pride - yes they used that word - in harassing the Germans in this community during the war.  Given my father would have been one of the people they were proudly harassing, I didn't join in their 'proud' moment.)

At any rate.  My dad, born of German speaking immigrants, experienced discrimination during the years leading up to the war, in spite of the fact that he kept his head down.  He still had that anglicized German name, was tall, blue eyed and pretty much fit the mould of an 'Aryan', and determined to avoid confrontations.  He stuck to his farming, then mining (he worked at the gold mine in Wells, BC), his music playing (the boys made guitars and violins for the boys and mandolins for the girls) and they would play at community dances.

And then...war.

Did my father run to enlist?  No, he did not.  He was, at heart, a pacifist.  But eventually it was his turn to sign up, so he did.  

I acquired his military records at one point, and the enlistment person basically said my father was 'stupid' but could be a good 'private'.  Not in so many words, but...

So he joined, in spite of the German connection, and was sent to the Aleutians.  I'm quite sure the army felt that someone with close ties to Germany, like my father, was best sent to the west and out of the way.  But the war dragged on.  And on.  And on.  And eventually the allies needed cannon fodder for D-Day.  So my dad got sent to England to be part of the D-Day forces.

He survived, obviously.  He managed to survive the Juno Beach landing, make his way east to the Netherlands as part of the Canadian forces who liberated Holland.  And came home.

When he demobbed, he took all his medals, and gave them back.  He took no pride in what happened 'over there'.  He didn't feel he was any kind of 'hero'.  He almost never spoke of the war, and if we kids (my brother and I) asked him questions he would recoil and mutter "you don't want to know about that" - if he said anything at all.

(He also took his hunting rifles and gave them away to a nephew and he never shot another thing again, ever.)

My father-in-law also served, as did family friends.  So when Remembrance Day comes around, I remember.  I remember my father and the other people I knew who served in WWII and managed to survive.  But I also am well aware of the thousands of people who did not.

And on Remembrance Day, it is those who did not survive that we honour.  

When I see posts on social media screaming about the ugly antifa - I remember my father and the others who went to war to fight against fascism.  The original 'antifa'.  Who fought to preserve democracy.  Freedom from tyrants.  Equality (if not equity - we still need to work on that.)

I have never, and will never write obscenities on the Canadian flag and call the current Prime Minister a tyrant or dictator, and scream about my freedoms being curtailed.  

Because I remember.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

After the Zoom


Last evening I did a Zoom presentation for a guild in Ontario.  This morning I need to put my things away, get the laptop set up with the loom again, and ponder what I do going forward.

The big local craft fair was successful, but we still have sales events to do including a 'pop up' at the Studio gift shop, plus several weekends in the guild room itself.

But things are calming down - for me - and giving me time to think instead of scramble to get ready for the next deadline.

The SOS team is doing the post production on last week's lecture, and the two classes are in the post production queue.  As they become ready I will have to provide more documentation for those as well as the lecture, some of which I sent yesterday.  

I'm anxious to get the local four day weaving workshop sorted out but need to wait until my local team has the time to deal with that (see comments about sales events above!)

I've begun weaving the 2/20 mercerized cotton and so far am fairly pleased.  I finished off one shade of beige, decided to adjust the tie up removing some plain weave, and will begin weaving that this morning.  You can just see the bin (one of the bins) of 2/20 mercerized cotton to the lower left of the photo.  It's close to the bobbin winder so I can easily grab tubes and wind bobbins.  What you can't see, tucked away behind the loom, is the stack of towels and a table runner waiting for the rest of the warp to come off the loom and get wet finished all at once.  One 'big' load instead of three small ones.  I'm trying to be more economical in terms of my electrical use.

But the first order of the day will be to put away my teaching aids, get my stool and laptop back to the loom, and weave the next towel.

If anyone is interested in a Zoom presentation - one hour (ish) program or two hour(ish) lecture, my topics are on my website.  Right now I only have one guild booked and my calendar is pretty open.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Social Media


Social Media.  Yeah.

The rise of the internet promised so many things.  Access to knowledge.  Instant communication around the globe.  All of that.

The internet in its early days was quite amazing.  We were all 'new' to computers and access to others.  I well remember the 'handshake' squeal of the first internet connection I had - via a FreeNet portal supported by the new university in town.  I could have a one hour window of opportunity for free to access the few websites around, mostly all educational because they were hosted by other educational institutions, and then various bulletin boards.  I discovered Usenet and their rec.crafts.textiles board early on and followed it from Usenet to, then Yahoo.

Every time the group moved, we had to learn new protocols, new platforms.  Eventually the communication changed from text only to being able to add images, and I finally managed to scrape up the money to buy access to a proper server.

Since then I've changed servers, then had my latest server change to Google for platform, which meant a whole lot of messing about getting my computer and other devices sorted out.

During the early years of this century, other opportunities for communication happened - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, plus many others.  I confined myself to those three for the longest time, but recently decided I needed a back up in case Twitter foundered.

It seems most social media reaches a certain stage when it begins to fall apart.  I wonder if it is time for Twitter to reach that tipping point.

For me Twitter has been more than I expected, given I was exposed to Usenet boards originally.  On Twitter I was able to 'meet' a number of interesting people and 'follow' them.  Some I kept following, others got left by the way as my interests changed.

Twitter allowed me a snapshot into the lives of others, which enlarged my reality bubble in ways that I hadn't expected, but welcomed.

As someone who was self-employed, trying to reach a very niche market, I was able to leverage the internet by having a presence on line, first with my own website, then this blog.  The blog allowed me a personal platform where I could express my thoughts in long form, teach in short form, explore concepts, encourage others by supporting them, reviewing their books, referring people to them for more information.

As computers got more complex I had to grow along with them.  Ditto the internet platforms.  I confess it has not always been easy.  Truth to be told, it's been more frustrating than anything else.  But.  But.  I can present my thoughts and ideas, explain myself in greater detail, refer people who want more in depth information to this blog rather than take up bandwidth on someone else's timeline or site.

I've marketed myself as a teacher and author, and even managed to sell my stuff.  Because I can directly address people who I *know* will be interested.

And that's what marketing is all about - it's sharing information with people who will be interested.  If not for themselves, then for others.

So my internet experience now includes my website (newly redesigned this summer with info on the Zoom lectures I can do for guild programs/lectures) at, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, my ko-fi shop (link lower left of the screen) where I offer things for sale (watch for new listings coming soon), and now?  Mastodon.  If Twitter collapses under its own weight, I wanted another window onto the world and while Mastodon isn't Twitter, it might do.  Time will tell.  If you want to follow me there, I'm at  @laurafry

So basically I will continue to use this blog for long form mostly weaving content.  FB has evolved into long-ish form content about current events.  Twitter tends to cover current events where I share whatever 'good' info I can find about things going on and where my sarcasm tends to come out more often than on Facebook or here.  Mastodon is likely going to be a kind of Twitter/Instagram mashup, for now, at least.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  So I'll stick around on Twitter for now, see if it can get through this latest upheaval and who knows, Mastodon might turn into something more than I expect, too.  

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Lessons Learned


Just finished weaving the lime green towels, and wanted to check a few things.

The first 5 towels on this warp were woven with a natural white cotton slub plyed with a 'natrual' (beige) linen yarn.  This yarn is quite textured, and I was essentially weaving natural on natural.  When I finished those yesterday, I set up to weave off the lime green in a similar but not quite the same treadling.

The lime green was smooth, not textured, and the colour was enough different that I could actually see the design.  And as I wove, my eye kept catching on an anomaly.  As I was nearing the end of the lime green I became quite certain there was a threading error where my eye kept snagging.

When I finished the green I rolled the cloth forward, dug into the heddles (of *course* the issue was in the last 8, not the front 8) and sure enough, I'd made a basic mistake.  Instead of threading 9, 10, 11, 12, I'd threaded 9, 10, 11, 13.  Then I had carried on by threading 12, 11, 10.  So I had a thread on 13 where it should not have been, then there were two threads on shaft 10 - because the next repeat started on 10.


OK tie a repair heddle in where it was needed on shaft 12, move the thread on 13 to 12.  Now I had two threads on 12 because I needed to move that progression down to 9 instead of ending on 10.

Tie another repair heddle where it was needed on 9, move the 'extra' thread from 12 down to where it was required on 9.

I could have cut off the warp at that point, but before I did that I needed to check the ppi for the next set of towels.  So I just tied yarn onto the threads I had to cut in order to move them, pinned them into the web, and rolled the cloth forward.  

Since the linen had almost zero draw in I had to weave at least an inch for the draw in to stabilize, then I used a contrasting colour (barely seen in the photo - rose thread) and laid a short length of it into the shed and wove 36 picks.  Eyeballing it I could see that 36 picks was longer than an inch, so I closed that group off by laying another bit of the rose thread into the shed and wove 30 picks.  Then I closed that section off by laying another bit of rose into the shed and finished with about 8 more picks.

By weaving some at the beginning and at the end, the picks are stabilized and you get a more accurate count.

I could adjust the tie up by removing some of the plain weave, but I kind of like how this is looking so far, so I'm going to go ahead and weave some towels with this set up - perhaps six?  Dunno.  Then I might change my tie up and weft colour and finish the rest of the warp.

However, I designed the treadling sequence for 36 ppi and since is is actually going to be 30, I need to edit the sequence and delete some of the picks so that my towels are a reasonable length.

Yes, I tend to make my towels larger than commercially made ones, but they shouldn't be so large they don't function all that well.  So, out comes the calculator as I re-do the math and work out how many picks I need for a towel, then adjust the treadling.

And yes, I anticipated this last bit and made my plans accordingly.  It was the threading error that I had *hoped* not to make, but oh well.  Still Not Perfect!

(And the threading error in the first 5 towels is invisible while I doubt the person who will be getting the lime green ones will care.  Since the threading error won't interfere with the function of the towels, I'm not fretting about it, especially when it was a fairly simple fix.)

Saturday, November 5, 2022

White on White


White on white can be very subtle.  In fact, during weaving, I don't actually see the design at all.  The only reason it shows in this photo is because I moved the light at the loom very low and directed the light across the plane of the fabric.

Once woven and wet finished, and the cloth is in use as a towel (hung up?) the design will be a subtle effect, and one I quite like although don't much use these days because most people like a bit of colour.

So over the years, as I gained confidence in my ability to work with colours (I'm NOT an intuitive colour person, I had to work hard at it) I wove with white on white less and less.

But I still like it, and I still do weave with it from time to time.

I had the cotton/linen plyed yarn in my stash and had been using it on coloured warps, but there were only two tubes left and my goal of stash reduction means I've been looking at yarns, clearing them out by weaving them up.  So for the first towels on this natural 2/16 warp, I decided to use the cotton/linen ply.

I had been thinking of using it on the pale blue/grey warp, but realized the natural linen with it's brownish tones would muddy the paler hues.  So I finished the blue/grey with something else and reserved this yarn for this towel.

I'm pleased enough with it, and it should be enough for 5 towels.  Then, a lime green 2/20 linen, and then?  The 2/20 mercerized cotton.  Finally.

Told a friend yesterday that I have so much 2/20 mercerized cotton it will most likely take all of next year to use it up.  If I can keep weaving two towels a day.  Longer, if I can't.

I have about 3 pounds of 2/20 bleached white mercerized cotton and a huge cotton of unmercerized bleached white 2/20 cotton.  So either I buy enough dyed 2/16 yarn to use the white on, or I make more white on white.  Perhaps I'll do a bit of both?

We had our first 'serious' snow over the past few days.  Seems winter has arrived.

Stay safe everyone.  Drive according to the road/weather conditions.  And wear a mask (if you can*).  Flu/cold/covid season is upon us.  The trifecta of viruses is here.

*I recognize not everyone CAN wear a mask for reasons - but for those of us who can, let's protect ourselves and others and break the chain of transmission...

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Step Eleventy-zillion


This wasn't how I planned to spend my afternoon, but...

Life this week got a bit, um, fraught, what with one thing and another.  Add in the first snowstorm of the year, and a whole buncha other things and I decided I wanted some 'closure' in my life.  

Yesterday I made up more care/hang tags and today I started tagging the recent towels that I wove over the summer.  It's quite an impressive pile, especially given that's not all of them.  Some have sold, some are already tagged and put away.

Since the rest of my inventory is packed up ready to be delivered to the guild booth this afternoon, I expect that these will stay here, at home, until such time as inventory goes down in the guild booth.  

If it does.

But there is no guarantee.  

You do your best to design and create the textile, offer it for sale and wait.

The plan is to begin posting items to my ko-fi shop again beginning Monday.  Which is Step Eleventy-zillion and one.  Selling them, and then shipping them is Eleventy-zillion two and three.  At some point I will need to buy more padded envelopes for shipping.  But for now I have enough.  

But here's where I'm at:  the end of the process - or very nearly.  For these towels, at least.  There are still the cotton/linen towels to be done, but they need different care/fibre content labels.  So I'm focusing on these because the pile was getting huge.  

And yes, I still have some that need to be hemmed, then final pressed before they can be tagged.

But for now, for today, I need some 'done' in my life.  And this will suit very well.

(On a personal note - I'm still in remission of my cancer, so no treatment required unless symptoms suddenly develop.  I'm back on the emotional roller coaster of having some time of not needing to think about what cancer is doing to my body before I need to go through this again in six months.  In the meantime, my doctor encouraged me to upgrade to N95 masks.  I assured her that I was in the process of doing that.  The sampler mask package will arrive in a week and we'll try them on for fit, then decide which model/size is best for each of us and donate any of the too small masks to someone who needs them.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Rayon Chenille

 There is a yarn available to handweavers called 'chenille'.  It comes in different fibre contents - acrylic, cotton and rayon - even silk - and rayon chenille has become a staple for many handweavers.

Acrylic chenille is very...stiff...mostly, and can feel very prickly.  I have woven with it and it just doesn't compare to rayon chenille after wet finishing.

Cotton chenille is also stiffer than the rayon, but I have used it to good effect in certain circumstances.  For example:

The jacket was woven in a honeycomb with the cotton chenille used as the outline yarn to frame the cells.  I chose cotton over rayon for this garment because cotton is more resilient and I knew it would wear better.  In fact it worked so well I used this jacket as my go-to travel jacket for many years.  So many that I wore the nap off the chenille around the neck and the sleeves were showing a bit of wear as well.  :)

But there is nothing quite like rayon chenille for weaving a cloth with incredible drape and a luxurious nap, like velvet.

But what IS chenille?  The name tells you when you understand that chenille is based on the French word for caterpillar, and that is pretty much what it looks like - a furry 'worm'.

It used to be woven (long story) but now it is spun and if you were to magnify a strand of spun chenille it would look a whole lot like:

Yup.  That's a bottle brush.  

Some people describe chenille as a skinny thread masquerading as a fat thread.  Because if you did a ruler wrap to see what the epi should be and went by the thickness of the yarn based on the bristles, you would wind up with a very sleazy cloth.

The bristles do nothing to add stability to the cloth, so you have to concentrate on the core yarn that is holding the bristles in place.

In a 1450 yyp rayon chenille, the general consensus among handweavers who work with rayon chenille a lot is to use 16 epi and then beat it in firmly (about 14 ppi in my experience).  It's really hard to judge ppi, so I counted picks, then measured how much I'd woven to determine the 14 ppi.  Others may vary.  And of course the width of the cloth may also affect ppi.

Why so tight?  Because rayon chenille will 'worm' or migrate and can eventually inch its way out of the structure of a looser cloth forming loops that will twist back on themselves - hence the 'worms'.

Now when you cut the web from the loom it will be stiff like cardboard.  Never fear, the magic will occur in the wet finishing and the end result will be a lovely, plush, drape-y scarf (or shawl, or whatever).

My experience with cotton chenille is much less - all I can tell you is that the cotton chenille in the well worn jacket did not worm.  It did not feel plush, but then it wasn't next to my skin - the jacket is lined for ease of taking it off and on.  

I got 9 scarves off the warp I put into the loom.  I used 2/16 bamboo rayon warp at 32 epi and beat the rayon chenille in firmly although not particularly forcefully, and was pleased that it wasn't stiff as a board.  However, when I wet finished them, one of the yarns - a different brand from the rest, did something unexpected:

While the rest of the batch looked like:

So what happened?  


It was a different brand from the rest, so may have been spun differently.  If it had active twist in it and I added more when I wound my bobbins, it could have led the chenille to want to contract (tracking?) in an active way as the active twist in the rayon chenille overcame the much finer 2/16 bamboo rayon warp. 

I had used this colour previously, but only as small accent stripes in warps predominantly 1450 yyp (this yarn is 1300 yyp) and it behaved so this was a bit...unexpected.

Since the effect is consistent along the entire length of the scarf, I could sell it but I won't, because I can't predict how it will behave in future cleanings.  I may give it away if a friend likes the colour (and the texture). because there is nothing really 'wrong' with it.  Out of the multiple cones of 1300 yyp rayon chenille, this colour was the only one that behaved this way, even though they had been treated exactly the same.

But I'm not an expert on rayon chenille.  If you really want to dig into the topic, Su Butler wrote the book Understanding Rayon Chenille.  It is not available as a hard copy but you can purchase it directly from Su for $28.00 US.  The digital download includes 50 .wif files.  She can be contacted at:

subu at subudesigns dot com

Always something more to learn.  Always another surprise to experience.