Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Best Laid Plans


I really thought this week would be less busy and I could spend more time weaving/writing/whatever.  But it's tax season and I needed to meet with my financial advisor, then Wednesday there is a Zoom (for which I need to set up tonight) plus the truck needs to go into the shop for some warranty work, then the guild executive meeting is Friday and whoosh, this week is gone.

I'm over the halfway mark on the current warp so I have been cleaning up the next draft to make sure I have it the way it needs to be because hopefully the current warp will come off the loom this weekend.  And then the next one can go on.

I have also managed to hit my goal with the essay writing, except today's took a bit of a tangent.  I hadn't really planned on talking about teaching, as such, but that is what came out when I opened the file and started typing.  Since this whole project was conceived by my subconscious, I figure I might as well give it full rein and let whatever comes out, come out.

Recently I commented to a friend that I feel like all that *I* am doing is typing, and struggling to keep up!  OTOH, it feels good to just let it flow and see what is going on in that pot of 'soup' on the back burner that I call my brain.  Seems there is also a different 'voice' in there who is insisting on being heard.  Well, so far I think she's brought up some interesting things, so I will keep typing.

Today's essay makes 17 (I think) and I am hoping to get 5 per week done for the next 8 weeks which should put the collection at 60-ish - given I don't run out of ideas.  Time will tell.

In the meantime today was quite lovely.  The temps have warmed and the sun shone brilliantly most of the day.  Sunset is coming later in the day so it feels like spring might be stirring.  Although it's only the end of February, and anything can happen.  So, we'll see.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Monday, Monday


this is an 'old' photo - there are no empty spots on the shelves now...

Even though I'm no longer working (and frankly, as a self-employed person whose major public events were mostly on the weekends) Mondays come just like they usually do, and every day is a potential weaving day.

It's the last Monday in February and I am dealing with the February 'blues'.  I'm tired.  My body is tired of the cold.  Tired of the grey dreary days that seem so never ending in February.

Today I need to leave the house (dammit) so at some point, real soon, I need to get myself collected so I can do what needs to be done, preferably today while I need to go out for an appointment, so that I don't have to leave the house again until later in the week.

I'm an introvert and staying home with my looms and yarns is no real hardship.  OTOH, I have sold some towels so need to get the parcels to the post office.  And while my back  is 'better', it's still not great so that massage at 1 pm is not an indulgence but a necessity in order to keep going.

The past few days I was able to get back into my 'usual' routine - two towels a day.  The heap of 2/20 mercerized cotton is diminishing, but so slowly.  Lots of weaving in 2/20 cotton.  OTOOH, I'm quite enjoying the explorations in this new-to-me concept of shifted twill blocks.  Yesterday weaving was going well enough it only needed surface attention and I thought through an idea I had for another warp.  It had been simmering for a couple of weeks without my having the mental wherewithal to actually think it through, but yesterday I did.  Now I need to sit down with some graph paper and work out the details.  But I'm pretty sure I can do what I want to do.  Next step?  Chart it out.

When I get home from massage I will work on some small tasks that have been left to, um, mature?  More like waiting until I dug my round tuit out.  

I've been picking away at the hemming, although not nearly as much as I should be, and while I have done some more is coming down the pipeline.  At two towels or so per day, 20 towels tend to come off the loom every 12-14 days.  I'm already over the halfway mark on the current warp so it won't be long before those 20 towels are ready for wet finishing.  And then add them to the 14 towels needing to be hemmed.  

So the fact that today is Monday isn't all that big a deal in my scheme of things.  It's just another day to get to the loom, my happy place, see what else bubbles to the surface of that pot on the back burner.  Because I'm going to be doing a bunch more tea towel warps and there will be plenty of time to work through more options.  I have no idea where this will all end up, but I'm enjoying the journey!

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Warming Cockles


There is nothing quite like hearing from someone that something you have done has been helpful to them.

I did a zoom presentation a few weeks ago and a couple of days ago I got a nice letter from someone who was in the audience.  They say (in part) "I personally certainly learned a thing or three, despite being a long-time weaver (for over 50 years - Yikes!)  And also as Guild librarian, I immediately went through your "Magic in the Water" book again and thank you for all the work it took to produce it."

Magic in the Water was published in 2002, making it 20 years old now.  The fact that people still use it, refer to it, and incorporate wet finishing into their designing, warms the cockles of my heart.

Because Magic was truly a 'labour of love'.  

Someone asked recently how long it took to produce.  I never actually gave them a number because I went off on a tangent, but years.  It took years and years.

First off I needed to have years of experience doing the processes involved, learning how to do them, what to expect when I did them, and when I'd done them 'too much' and 'ruined' something.  And how to tell people all of that.  Having the knowledge is not the same as explaining it.  Just saying.

Then there was all the weaving.  The original book came with 20 projects and had a generous sized loom state and finished sample so that people could see and *feel* the difference.  Because sometimes it's obvious and other times it's subtle.  I began weaving a 40 yard warp for each sample, but wound up having to do duplicate warps for some of the projects because of production issues.  20+ x 40 = 800+ yards of cloth to produce the book.  Then the taping (of the loom state samples) and cutting both of them apart, stapling them onto the pages.

The assembling also took years.  I essentially took over my brother's basement rec room from 2002 until 2008 when he died as the assembly station.  At one point I worried I was interfering or imposing on him too much, but he assured me that with his basement bedroom and rec room full of my book, he couldn't have a room mate.  It was all good.

Even so, I didn't sell the last copy until years later.  I would say the actual production of and sale of the original print run took at least 12 years.  

To know that years later it is still valued makes all of that effort worth it.

Now that I think about it, I must have sold the last copy in 2011 because that was the thing I did while I was having chemotherapy - I took the photos of the samples for the pdf.  When I was working on The Intentional Weaver, we used that pdf to 'test' blurb to see if it would be a good match for me.  I honestly didn't expect to sell many copies, but at least once a month (on average) someone will buy Magic, either pdf or printed 'magazine' format.

And now?  A third book.  A hat trick, as they say in hockey parlance?  But first I have to write it.

Better get back at it...

ps - if you've ever wondered if an author would like to hear how much you value their book, tell them.  Even if it IS 20 years since it was published.  That kind of feedback becomes even more precious - to know that your book remains relevant and valued years after you published it?  Priceless...

Friday, February 24, 2023

Age is 'Just' a Number


I come from the generation that coined the phrase 'never trust anyone over 30'.


Oh yes, I was once young.  And invincible.  Or so I thought.

Younger me could be heard saying things like 'Age is just a number; you are only as old as you think you are!'

Current me laughs, uproariously.

Yes, 'age' is 'just' a number, but life?  Ah, life.  

Right now I'm reading Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta and the First Peoples viewpoint on, well, everything.  I am pitched right back into my 20-something body trying to make head or tails out of The Dancing Wu Li Masters.  First Peoples have a great deal to teach current quantum physicists.  

The Dancing Wu Li Masters was a book bought by the high school library I worked at and where it was my job to process the books as they came in.  (Yes, those ancient card catalogue cards were hand typed by people like me for your browsing pleasure.)

Since I could also slide books out of the processing pile and into my bag to come home with me to read, I was intrigued and quietly went home with it.  Only to look askance at it because every chapter was labelled Chapter One.

What the hell?  I thought it was defective.  So I took a look to see if the first chapter had been repeated but no, each chapter had different content, but was still labelled Chapter One.  My first introduction to non-linear time, I suppose.

Curious, I began reading.  And tried to wrap my brain around the concepts.  It's a particle!  No, it's a wave!  No, actually it's *both*.  Er, um, what?

I'm feeling much the same way about Sand Talk and the First Peoples relationship with time.  No, not *to* time, *with* time.  And linear lines of times which are not.

I'm absorbing the concepts, slowly, and being able to connect them to the creation of textiles.  Because when you talk about the ultimate creation story, you are really talking about the creation of anything. Everything. So I see the linear parts of weaving, but I also see the non-linear, in a way that I never quite grasped before.

As for my 'age' - it is so much more than 'just a number'.  It is lived experience.  Knowledge.  Wisdom (one most fervently hopes).  

It is recognizing the continuing cycle of birth and death and regeneration as energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed into something...else.

First Peoples knowledge and quantum physics certainly agree on that.

As I teach others, I learn from them.  The circle of life continues.  Learning continues.  Growing continues.  Wisdom becomes deeper.  Wider.

Yunkaporta talks about 'yarning' with elders and I see my current foray into 'essays' as me 'yarning' with others - if they wish.  My stories.  They may live.  They may be ignored.  They may be absorbed into someone else's weaving practice.  But the cycle goes on regardless of what I do, or do not do.  If I want to see more positive/creative energy in the world, it is up to me to grasp some of it from the cycle of life and transform it into...something.

Right now that something is a series of tea towels.  In the end they will dry dishes, but right now they are also allowing me to explore the limitations of a weave structure.  To tweak it here and there.  To try this and that.  The 'order' of the tweaking is rather random, truth be told.  Rather like what happens in the universe as stars are born and die.  

We all follow the path of being born, living as best we can, with the resources we have available, dying and being re-born again.

So yes, my age is 'just' a number because the molecules I am made from are eternal.  When I leave this mortal coil, they will continue, transformed into something else.

We are stardust...

Wednesday, February 22, 2023



There is a lot of confusion about bamboo fibre - what it is, and what it isn't.

What it is, right now, is mostly regenerated cellulose.  As such there are certain environmental issues involved with the production of bamboo and claims about how 'green' it may - or may not - be.

I had been aware that bamboo bast fibres were possible, but had never seen any in real life.  I wasn't sure if they were even 'bast', but apparently the pith of the plant can be harvested, then mechanically broken down using naturally occurring enzymes to break the pith down and expose the bast fibres in pretty much the same process used for other bast fibres like flax, hemp, etc.

But most of the bamboo fibres we see in the marketplace today are 'rayon' - regenerated cellulose.

I have seen claims that some factories use the lyocell closed loop process, but honestly, I don't know how accurate those claims are.  The more reasonable assumption is that caustic chemicals have been used to break the cellulose down to make the viscose solution, which is then spun using a spinneret.

When looking on line I found a number of websites some of which were more marketing than factual but Wikipedia actually has some good information.  It seemed balanced and covered both types of fibres - mechanical and chemical processes.

There have been claims made about the anti-microbial properties of rayon, but I doubt they differ much from other cellulostic fibres (flax, hemp, cotton).  The 'green' part of the equation for rayon bamboo would appear to be the bamboo plant variety being primarily used to make the fibre which is extremely fast growing.

If the fibre being sold is about 2" long, very pliable, soft and shiny, my assumption would be that it is regenerated cellulose.  If the fibre is longer, stiffer, coarser, looking more like flax/linen, my assumption would be that it is mechanically processed and it would probably require spinning as for any other bast fibre.

As a newish weaver I chose to primarily work only with 'natural' fibres, not synthetics produced from chemicals.  Rayon (regardless of cellulose source) falls into the category of 'natural' because it IS cellulose and will eventually degrade back into the earth while the synthetics will not.  

Since discovering the damage the regeneration process causes to the environment and the workers in the factories I have made the decision to weave down my rather extensive rayon stash but NOT replace it.  

The more information we have as weavers, the better able we are to make informed choices.  When we know better, we can try to do better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023



After a period of  'too warm' weather (for February), we are back to winter.  Yesterday started with steady fine snow, which then alternated between heavier snow, then finer, but snow all day.  Mostly it was fairly dry, not the heavy stuff that other places get, but it turned into a lot.  Depending on drifts, accumulation was well over 12".  Which is still not a lot compared to other places, but it was a lot for us.

Given we are both 'retired' and had no appointments for the first few days of this week, we have decided to just hunker down and not go anywhere.  

Doug does the snow shifting, but I doubt I'll poke my nose out the door.

The snow stopped overnight because the temperature dropped and we are now having a glorious winter day with fresh fallen snow (over *everything*) and light sparkling off the snow.  It's quite beautiful - if you don't have to be out in it.  The wind chill is sneaky and dangerous.

Hopefully this will be the last major 'storm' of the season, but with climate change, who knows, I sure don't!

Yesterday went fairly well.  One essay got written, then a tentative approach to the loom, which seemed to go well enough I did a second towel.  But my shuttles are getting 'worn' so Doug is going to deal with them today (I hope) because they are my favourite shuttles.  I have others, but one isn't quite 'right' and the rest are low profile which don't really like weaving on the Megado.  

My preference for shuttles is the Leclerc standard, but not just any 'standard', but a specific era of Leclerc shuttle making.  I prefer the older ones with the small grommet in the side, not the wider slot.  I prefer the shaped ones, not the straight one.  And I really dislike the newer plastic ones because the weight of them is too light and the plastic feels - well, too plastic-y.

I used to have about a dozen shuttles but I would bring them to weaving workshops and over the years some of them simply walked away.  So I stopped providing shuttles.  

At this point in my life I don't want to buy more, especially since I don't actually like the newer Leclerc shuttles and actively dislike the other brands - their shape, their feel, their weight.  So I am a bit anxious waiting for Doug to get to his workshop (before the temperature drops even lower) and for the wood finish to dry/cure so I can have my favourite shuttles back again.

the finish has worn off to bare wood - you'd think I weave a lot or something?

In the meantime, I will make do with my less favourite ones.  Because I'm quite pleased with how the new warp is weaving up and I really want to finish the black weft and move on to the next colour.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Drama Queen


I'm not quite back to 'normal' (whatever that is, these days) but I felt like I could maybe weave, if I was careful.  

So I gingerly set out to get one towel woven before lunch.

The warp is that blend of teal/turquoise (threaded randomly, colourwise) that I've been doing with the previous couple of warps, with black as weft.  It's very 'dramatic'.  :D

I had two partial (nearly full and about half full) tubes of the black and they are really hard to tell apart from the dark navy blue, so decided I would use them up and get them out of my way.  I figured the black would look good on the warp.  From the looks of the number of bobbins I got from the half full tube, I ought to get six towels.  I will see if it looks possible to do a 7th when I get the 6th one done.

I think they look pretty good.  The appearance is a little like mud that has dried in the hot sun and cracked in a not quite symmetric formation.  My first response to the design was 'not pleased' because it isn't exactly symmetrical, but let's say it is symmetrically asymmetrical?  

It's hard to see the design at this point and I wanted to show both sides of the cloth, which made it even harder but weaving this towel is definitely in the 'win' column.  I'm not entirely sure I will try for a second, although I'm feeling ok.  And ultimately weaving isn't just about the physical, but the mental and emotional benefits I get while weaving.

Another essay was written before I went to the loom.  I'm trying to get them written before I have too much brain fog.  The essays are also making me do some exploration I have been intending to do but never quite got 'round tuit'.  So the blog post info from yesterday got incorporated into today's essay.

I'm now taking only 'ordinary' over the counter pain meds, so I took more a few minutes ago and will decide in about 15 minutes if weaving a second towel seems like a good idea.  The advantage is that they are now strong enough for the remaining pain and don't give me the brain fog the stronger stuff causes.

But I'm also a month out from the epidural injection, and that will start wearing off soon - maybe sooner after the pain flare last week, who knows, I don't.  :(   So I feel strongly that I need to stay focused on getting 5 essays done each week in case I can't write with clarity when I descend into active chronic pain that requires the strong stuff.  I am trying really hard to think of this as the worst merry-go-round on the playground rather than the worst roller coaster in the world.  For as long as the jabs provide enough relief to get off the hard stuff, at least for a little while, I guess I keep making the trip to Vancouver - until the local pain clinic can take me.  Like everywhere else, wait times for some health issues just keep growing as covid is now being treated as 'endemic' and little to no prevention is being done.  Lots of people with long covid suffering pain and fatigue and mysterious other symptoms, all needing help, too.

For immune compromised people like me, it's very depressing, so I need to keep weaving...

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Deep Dive


Two yarns, the beige is a known 2/20 mercerized cotton, the bottom is labelled 20/2 unmercerized cotton

Two different 2/20 mercerized cotton yarns, one is much more tightly twisted and therefore thinner than the less tightly twisted yarn

One yarn a known 2/20 mercerized cotton, the other unknown manufacturer or count

Having done a deep dive into my stash I gathered all of my known 2/20 mercerized yarns together, along with some 'mystery' yarns.

The gold in the bottom picture is shiny like mercerized cotton, and about the same thickness as the known 2/20 mercerized cotton, but I couldn't tell if it was rayon or cotton.  A burn test leaned towards cotton.   I made a small 'tassel' of each yarn and burned them simultaneously in order to compare how they burned - how quickly, their smoke (if any), and the residue when I blew the flames out.

And then when I wove with the gold, it shrank more than the known mercerized cotton, so then I was ambivalent - was it really cotton?  Or not?

When I examined both under the digital microscope, I can see that the individual fibres have the characteristic cotton twist along their length, so in spite of the higher shrinkage rate, I'm 99.9% confident that the gold is, in fact, cotton.

The two white yarns are both labelled 20/2 mercerized, but I'm fairly confident that they are both ring spun although the Astra has a much higher degree of twist and is therefore stronger, thinner and coarser both on the cone and in the cloth.  Not a deal breaker for a tea towel.

The top photo shows a yarn labelled 20/2 and further gives the information that it has 15 tpi while the other is a Brassard 2/20 mercerized cotton.  I'm pretty confident that the 20/2 is open end spun given that it is thicker (loftier) and has more loose fibres poking out of the yarn.

Once again, evidence that the count only tells the number of yards per pound (or meters per metric length) and nothing else.

Straight Talk


One more essay.

One of the things about doing these essays is that I am being fairly blunt about what I do and why I do it.

I'm sure that my opinions will not align with the opinions of others.  I've always been on the perimeter of the weaving community, pretty much from day one.  Offending others unintentionally has been something I've had to deal with for decades, in spite of being as tactful as I could manage.

When I've written articles, I've always done my best to be as inoffensive as possible.  You can catch more flies with honey, as the saying goes.  Sugar coat the 'bad', entice people by convincing them that the information you are conveying will help them.

But the thing is, it doesn't matter how much you sugar coat some things, someone will be offended.  

When I wrote my books, I was very careful to present only information I could document and defend.  It was only when I was teaching in person that I would let more of my opinions loose, but not before in my writing.

With these essays, I am writing them from the viewpoint of having someone sitting with me.  I'm answering questions they may not even know they needed to ask.  I am addressing information that is at best incomplete, sometimes inaccurate within the weaving community and trying to be as complete and accurate as possible (given the state of my knowledge at the present moment.)

They are being written from my perspective as a production weaver, needing to earn an income, therefore my lens is very specific.  And if that lens doesn't apply to anyone else, I can only hope that they will use the 'not all' rule and accept that what I am conveying will NOT be for 'all' and if it isn't for them, they must go their own way and ignore me.

But a lot of the things I'm documenting in these essays are things I didn't feel able to explore in detail, even in The Intentional Weaver.  It was a 'text' and therefore my opinion had to be kept at bay, to a certain extent.

The essay format is giving me much more latitude.  They are not articles for someone else's publication. I don't have to satisfy an editor who possibly knows less than I do about some of these things.  I can handle 'rejection' but I also don't want to have someone else edit what I am saying and removing the bones from it.

I am well aware that not everyone agrees with me.  Not everyone has done what I have done, or dug as deeply into the craft to understand the nuances.  (No, I'm not the only one, just saying that those of us who have done it are few and far between.  I will not name them because I highly respect them, even if I don't always agree with them - they came to the craft with a different lens, so their experience is not the same, therefore their conclusions are different because their needs are/were different.)

So I am not going to try and find a 'real' publisher.  They won't likely understand most of what I am saying or why I am saying it.  The revenue an author gets from a 'real' publisher is so little I can actually make more per unit by publishing it myself, just like I did with my other two books.

And if no one buys it?  I won't have an advance to worry about or remaindered copies to get rid of. 

Ultimately I am writing these essays as one last attempt to get what I know out into the world.  What happens to it then will be beyond my purview.

I'm quite sure Mary Black or Margaret Atwater didn't aspire to having their books still being used decades after they were published.  I have no such aspirations for this one.  What will be, will be.

But I can no longer travel to teach, so writing it all down, as best I can, is one way to spread what I know (or think I do - what I know changes) pass it on for others to do what they will with it.  For those who will be offended?  I accept that is going to happen.  For those who benefit from what I write?  Great.  That's my goal.  To help.  To shine a light, if possible.  Learn as much as you can.  Take the wheat, throw away the chaff.  Do what is good and right and correct for *you*.  These essays are *my* story.  If someone can learn from them, that is all I can hope.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Making Weavers


Today is the last day of class.  It snowed heavily overnight so I'm not sure all three will be able to make it into town.  In which case, I may suggest meeting next week at the Sunday guild drop in.

We covered a lot of ground, and while they have a long way to go they have a glimpse of what it means to be a weaver.  Even if they don't take it any further, I hope they have a greater understanding and appreciation of how thread gets turned into cloth.

Today will be review and wrap up, and a chance for them to weave some more.  I will monitor position and posture and give feedback where I feel necessary, but honestly, the real 'work' of learning how to weave has only just begun for them.  Making a weaver takes time and mindful practice.

Weaving is one of the original 'slow' makings.  Each person can approach the craft in the way that best suits them.

My hope with my teaching (be it in person, video or writing) is to help people pinpoint what is going wrong so that appropriate responses are used.  Rather than just try to fix the symptom, work out what the actual problem is, then fix that.

But like so many things, symptoms can be caused by various issues and until the weaver understands what the actual problem is, any solution can only be a bandage.  Understanding how a loom works will help in identifying when it is a loom problem, not a weaver problem.  

I continue to work on the essays, although not today.  With a goal of 5 per week, that keeps the pressure to what I can manage and if something prevents me from getting one done, it's not critical.  I have no idea how many essays I will wind up producing, but I have a deadline to get them to the editor as she has time this summer to slot me into her schedule.  When it will be ready, I have no idea at the minute, but hopefully sometime this year.  I do know that I won't wait but will get it done as quickly as I can.

Time to get dressed and head to the guild room.  Doug is clearing the driveway.  The snow has stopped - for now.  Hopefully the roads won't be too bad.  But I have options in case the students can't make it.

Friday, February 17, 2023



Over the past few years a number of people in the weaving/fibre community have gone to where ever people go when they leave this mortal coil.

It has been sad watching my mentors, elders, friends go.  When each announcement comes I take a few moments to think about them.  If I met them in real life or not doesn't much matter.  Frequently it was their activity on line that introduced them to me, allowed me to know them a little bit, enjoy their sense of humour or their perspectives.  Frequently their lives were very different from mine, which helped me to expand my horizons, think about other realities.  Accept that just because things elsewhere might be different, mine were not better or worse, just...different.

Sometimes they inspired me to be better as a person, as well as a weaver.  

And while I'm sure that my presence was felt very little in these on line circumstances, I send them a thought.  A little bit of gratitude, for having impacted me, even if only at a glance (as it were).

But that's the thing, isn't it?  We never know who we will affect, be it for good or not.  Generally my interactions with people have been positive.  Most negative interactions are taken as lessons to be learned from and filed away for future reference.

This morning I am feeling 'better' but still 'fragile' so I'm not going to be weaving today.  Not entirely sure what I will be doing, but my back is just cranky enough that I won't pressure it to go to the loom.

Which is a disappointment because the loom is ready to go with that new threading and I really wanted to see how it looked woven up.  But it will have to wait until Monday.  I'm sure my back will thank me for it.

Instead I wrote another essay.

Surprisingly they continue to range in the 1200-1800 word count.  I honestly thought they would grow once I got into the actual processes.  But on the other hand, I'm still not quite there yet, even though I inch ever closer.  This morning I looked at temples.

Ultimately, perhaps shorter is better when I am addressing things that may go against the prevailing wisdom of the craft?  

Keeping the essays more focused on just one concept, keeping them short, should make them more attractive and maybe even more accessible?  

I am trying to bear in mind that these are my stories I am telling and that people will agree or not, be interested enough to think about them, or not, be willing to change what they are doing, or not.  Because each of us must work within our circumstances.  The availability of materials, equipment, budget will be a factor in what we do.  I am hoping that if people keep in mind that they are free to do things differently they will be more accepting of things that seem different from the common wisdom.  That they might keep an open mind when they initially disagree with something I share.  But that, having been given the information, might remember that when they change what they are doing and are not getting the results they want, that there might be a different way, a different tool, to use.

Because change one thing and everything can change.  And one of the most difficult things we can do is change our way of thinking.

And that is what several of the people who have died have done for me.  Challenged me to change my thinking.  Change my mind.  Keep myself more open to change and new information.

Ultimately it is the greatest gift someone can give me - a chance to grow and expand my thinking.

A while ago there was a thread on a chat group that talked about weavers 'heaven' and I commented that if there were no looms there I wasn't going to go.  Allen Fannin said he would see me in the other place, then.  

I think of him at times, wondering if he is happily weaving where ever he is, having challenging conversations with Peter Collingwood and others.  Perhaps one day I'll find myself sitting at their feet, all ears...

Thursday, February 16, 2023

When Life has Other Plans


I got complacent.  I made plans.  Life decided otherwise.

Yesterday I had one goal - finish threading the loom.  My back was a bit sore, a bit achy, but not overly and so I went down to the loom and threaded for about 40 minutes (my 'usual').  When I stood up to go up for my lunch my back was *very* sore.  I took a muscle relaxant and assumed it would loosen up while I moved around, made lunch, then sat quietly to eat.

When I stood up it was still sore but I went back down because threading has never much bothered me for very long.  Before.

When I finished and went to stand up I could barely straighten, so I went and spent a few minutes on the inversion table, which seemed to help.

Then I laid down, used my massage thingee, felt things loosen, then took a nap to let things calm down.

When I got up at four I was still really sore, but pressing was going to be more active and I would not be bent over so I managed 8 towels, took another muscle relaxant and assumed things would continue to calm down.

I was wrong.

I had a major pain flare and needed the heavy duty pain killers in order to sleep.

So I'm not sure what, if anything, I will get done today.  If I don't sit too long at any one time things go 'better' than if I just sit still.

To say I am upset, disappointed, depressed would all be accurate.  

Someone said to me recently when I complained of being old and decrepit that 'you are only as old as you think you are'.  I told her it wasn't the old part I was upset about, it's the decrepit, and my body is letting me know that it's old and damaged.

Not the most polite of responses, I know.  Up until about 5 years ago I was 'younger' than my number of years - I was in pretty good physical fitness.  Yes, I had some aches and pains and injuries that limited what I could do.  But overall, I was still in better shape than I had any reason to expect given those injuries.

Now?  Now I can't walk too long, stand too long.  Can't (or shouldn't) lift anything heavier than about 10 pounds.  I have pretty much constant pain from the pinched nerve in my back such that I have Rx pain killers so I can sleep when it gets 'bad'.

And yesterday threading my loom became a trigger for severe pain.  I'm being aggressive about using the heavy duty pain killers today because I'm teaching on Saturday.  The down side is the brain fog those cause, but better that than not being able to go at all.  Besides, it's the last day of class so it's a wrap up and I don't have to do anything particularly physical.

But this is just one more confirmation that I cannot travel to teach and potentially teaching in person is not going to be possible for much longer, either.

This morning I'm going to finish pressing the 6 towels I didn't get done yesterday, go to the chiropractor and see if she can use ultra-sound on my lower back and then maybe sley the warp, tie it up and wind bobbins.  

And see how tomorrow will go.  I may leave weaving until Monday.  Back being able as well as willing...

Wednesday, February 15, 2023




This design may not look very different from a previous iteration, but it has some changes that make it different when seen side by side.


This may not look like a huge difference, but I am going slowly with the changes I am making and the small changes made to the threading and the adjustment to the treadling contribute to a change in the overall feel, minor though it may be.

I felt the diamonds that separated the motif in the earlier version were a bit distracting so I wanted to approach the repeat differently.  The shape of the motif also changed, slightly, in a way that I find pleasing.

So far the changes to the treadling have been zero to minimal.  Thinking for #6 is probably going to be more of a 'leap' as I tweak the threading and quite possibly the tie up.  But it's early days yet, and I still have the warp currently being put into the loom to weave, plus #5 before I can get to #6.

I 'found' the white 2/16 cotton I had been using (carefully put away) which appears to have another two warps worth of yarn on the tubes, so I didn't actually need to order more - but I did.  Because I can see this series continuing for a while yet.

There is still a heap of bins with mercerized cotton in them, so there is plenty of yarn to experiment with.

In the meantime I proceed with the essays.  Some of the essays will be about the 'same' thing, but hopefully expressed differently in order to cast light on the ways everything about weaving will depend in the various ways the 'it depends' answer will be shown to be correct.  

Over the years it has been proven over and over that repeating the information in different ways will help different people begin to understand the variables involved in the craft.  Or even the same person as their knowledge grows.

By creating 'short' bursts of information, then another 'burst' from a different angle, I hope to provide people with the information they need to grow their knowledge.

As I wend my way through the matrix, I can't help but feel a bit lost myself and my dreams are reflecting that.  Lately I've been having 'lost while travelling dreams' which usually happened when I was about to leave on a physical trip.  But I'm not physically travelling these days so I can only assume my dreams are processing my feelings that are bound up in my desire to share what I know.

But what I know isn't necessarily amenable to straight line progressions.  Because change one thing, and everything can change.

And so these essays are going to be looking at the same things, but from different lenses, from different places within the matrix.

People may find that they will read and then re-read this collection as their knowledge grows, and then they can fit in more nuggets or kernels into their understanding of the craft.

Because 'it depends' is the only correct short answer in weaving.  And understanding the why of how it depends can take a while to assimilate into our understanding.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Onwards. Onwards.


Yesterday I finished weaving the last towel on the warp and cut it off.  Today I strip the thrums and set up to beam the next.  We actually have some sun today, but I will not be leaving the house.  I did that yesterday and am happy to stay home today and get started on the next warp.

This design was my first tentative step in manipulating the structure into something that was less obvious in terms of design line.  It didn't actually turn out the way I expected and nearly deleted it but a little inner voice bade me wait.  Look again, it said.  So I did.  

The design is more, how shall I say it, chaotic, than what I usually aim for.  But on the other hand, it is interesting on several levels.  And I have to remember that these are tea towels and will rarely be seen in their entirety.  At least in our house, tea towels routinely 'live' on the handle of the fridge, so we almost never see the entire width anyway.

The design isn't fractal, but has a similar feel to it.  You can look at it and look at it and the relationship between the lines ebbs and flows.  Not restful for an art piece meant to be seen on a wall, plus that asymmetric push/pull won't be to everyone's taste.

It is certainly a departure for me.

But that's the thing, isn't it?  Change.  Growth.  Trying things out.  Seeing what results.  And bottom line, it's a tea towel.  It will dry dishes.  Or hands.

Last night I ordered more yarn in.  I'm nearly out of natural white, and I'm about halfway through the teal/turquoise.  Orders take about two weeks to arrive from Quebec, so I could have waited, but I'd rather have it on hand because I may grow tired of all the teal/turquoise and want to switch to white soon.  

Because I'm not done with this exploration.  Warp #5 is already begun growing.  The threading is sorted, just have to deal with the treadling.  For #5, I have changed the threading sequence, building on what I've done in the previous 4 warps, plus tweaked the treadling.  So far I have not changed the tie up, although I'm beginning to think about how (and why, and ultimately where) the tie up needs to be adjusted.

I am enjoying this seemingly slow pace of evolution.  For most of my life I had to work quickly, make decisions, get designs into production and then produce them.  I haven't shed my production tendencies entirely as I am beaming 20+ yard long warps, weaving the same design for the entire length of the warp, just changing colours along the way.  But there is no need to 'standardize' a design.  I can keep changing every warp.  I can take the time to methodically work through each iteration, taking notes as I go, seeing where further change might result in something interesting - to me, if no one else.

Onwards.  Onwards.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Stories From The Matrix


Definitions from Oxford LanguagesLearn more
See definitions in:
  1. 1.
    an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure.
    "free choices become the matrix of human life"
  2. 2.
    a mass of fine-grained rock in which gems, crystals, or fossils are embedded.
    "nodules of secondary limestone set in a matrix of porous dolomite"

The concept of textiles as a matrix was new to me before I read Elaine Igoe's book Textile Design Theory in the Making, but when I was introduced to the concept it made perfect sense.

The threads come together to make cloth.  Every individual thread has a role to play, and each one can affect how the cloth - the matrix - behaves.

As I considered writing the essays, I thought about my story telling, the craft itself, the processes, the materials, and wondered how I could weave them all together.  (You saw what I did there, right????)

As I thought, pondered, considered, examined each one individually and how they might be brought together in words, in texts, they swirled around and around, bumping against each other, nudging one this way, another that way.

I groped for a title for the collection, gradually creeping closer and closer to the concept I wanted to convey, all tied up in the title.  Because the title can set the tone.  Provide focus.  Illuminate the way forward.

The word 'matrix' floated by at some point and I grabbed onto it, although what I chose didn't quite fit.  It felt awkward, not conveying what I wanted to do, entirely.  So I let it sit for a bit, knowing that the word 'matrix' would be an important part of the title, but not sure just how.

A couple of days ago, I was half asleep, in that liminal space between sleep and waking, dreaming and thinking and 'Stories From the Matrix' suddenly popped into my conscious mind.

And I knew I had it.

Once I had it, the rest began to fall into place.  I re-wrote my introduction - that first groping attempt at trying to get my focus right, and failing utterly.  But it did the job of opening the door, breaching the dam.  But I knew in my heart it wasn't right.  It wasn't the right tone.  It wouldn't attract the readers I wanted to speak to.  Getting the title 'right' meant I could scrap that introduction (and perhaps the first two essays - TBD) and begin again.  This time with a much clearer vision.

My goal is 5 essays a week.  This morning I wrote another one.  The output seems puny in the face of what a 'book' would look like.  But a collection of essays is far less demanding (to me) than a 'book'.  I've done 'books'.  They were hard.  

But a collection of 'essays'?  A collection of 'stories'?  Much less daunting.

All I need to do is get the words out of my head and into 'print'.  Once I've done that, editing will be required, even if it is 'just' to find typos or minor grammar issues.

But I feel like I have fallen into 'my' place.  As story teller.  Stories of how textiles come to be.  Stories of and from the matrix.  An environment where those stories can form its own matrix?  

Whatever results, I will produce something.  It will be up to others if that something is worth their while.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

The Great Re-ordering


As I near the end of the current warp I think about the next.  (This is an old photo, but represents what will be happening next week.  I hope.)

With the goal of producing another 'book' this year, I have had to reconsider my 'usual' schedule and conserve my energy - and brain power.

To write I need to have clear thoughts and increasing brain fog makes that more difficult.  So I need to write earlier in the day when I can, and keep my weaving to later in the day when there is more doing and less thinking involved.  Usually.

I have been doing the indecision dance over my bobbin lace supplies.  Last week a friend I used to get together with to make lace and I discussed the prospect of the two of us offering a bobbin lace class to anyone interested.  I have accumulated a large stash of bobbin lace supplies and very nearly offered it all for sale at the conference here in 2019.  I did sell one of my pillows, but somehow could not part with any of the rest.

Since then I have not touched the bobbin lace stuff, other than to move it from here to there, then somewhere else as I rearranged the studio trying to make it more convenient to get at my weaving stash and weave it down.

This morning another friend emailed and asked if I would like her bobbin lace supplies.  I am taking that as a sign that I do need to refresh my skills and dig out my lace supplies.  I will have plenty of supplies to provide what is needed for students.  I need to find out who currently provides lace supplies in case they decide to continue.

When we talked about a 'class', we thought sometime early in the new (next) year would be a good time, so that gives me some time to get this 'book' written and out of my way and do a few other things before I dig out my bobbin lace books, pillow, bobbins and thread and see if I can still remember how to make lace.

I also want to get my spinning things out and start spinning again.  The target for that is after the workshop in April.

So I have a window of opportunity.  I have been doing fairly well at the writing aspect of the book, but things got a bit crunchy this week and hopefully I can get back to that this coming week.

Writing is just like any other creative endeavour.  If you don't actually do it, it doesn't get done.

One more week of class and that will take some of the pressure off of me - until the next class in April/May.  After that?  Who knows.  I'm learning to not plan too far in advance.

Friday, February 10, 2023

It Depends


Yesterday I got some pressing done and in the end, I'm quite pleased with the new direction I have been heading.

I have to also say I am having So Much Fun writing the essays.  I had one planned for today, then came across a comment that set me thinking about how that observation reflected on what I was doing with the essays and instead of doing the intended topic, was able to dig into the comment and reflect.  Once again observing that all the things are connected, one way or another.

Choosing to write a collection of essays has given me the freedom to tell the stories I want to tell.  The kinds of stories I share when I'm teaching in person, but never felt I could include in a 'text' about the craft.  For books and articles I felt I had to stay strictly within the 'lines' of what I could prove, or references I could point to, rather than flat out speculate.

But these essays will sweep up more of 'me' in them. My reactions to things as I think things through.  

So far the essays are averaging about 3 pages, or around 1800 words.

As I get into the actual 'craft' of textiles and begin explaining how the tools work, why I use the processes I have chosen to incorporate, I expect that the essays will become longer.  Because explaining the subtleties that make 'when you change one thing everything can change' or the short answer 'it depends' will require a lot more words in order for readers to make sense of what I am trying to say.  There may also need to be photos or diagrams.

In many ways the essays are an extension of what I do here, but in longer form.  A blog post generally needs to be short enough a person can read it without sitting down to study it.  So I try to keep my topics here to a 'kernel' rather than the whole basket.  To offer a seed and let the reader decide if they want to plant it, nurture it, grow it.  Because not everyone will be interested.

But there are some people who have been enjoying the Zoom lectures, and so the essays are a combination of this blog and what I tried to do with the lectures, with the advantage of being in written form and able to be referred to in the future.

The fact that I stumbled onto this format is a sense of delight and no small amount of wonder.  It was not something I ever set out to do, in spite of numerous people referring to me as a story-teller.  I just hadn't seen a way to be a story-teller when it came to the written record.

When the student is ready, they will begin to put the pieces that have been there, in plain sight, waiting for them to pull together and utilize them to create something new, something different.

What a journey it has been.  I look forward to the next essay, to see what influences come my way that may re-direct my intention but still be within the parameters of the story of thread and cloth.

Because it depends.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Still Juggling


I don't always remember to take photos of my textiles - having a ko-fi shop is a reminder that I need to document some of my productivity!

Today was an exercise in juggling the things that needed doing.  It was time to get the Shingrix vaccine so that took priority.  And, because I didn't know how or even if I would react to it, decided that weaving today was probably not the best idea.

Instead I ran around, did some 'shopping', was moderately successful with some of the items, not so much for the rest.  C'est la vie.

It was late when I got home from town so lunch was late, and therefore *I* was late getting started on studio stuff.

The weather continues mild (for February) and I wouldn't complain except it's dirty because it's above zero during the day so the snow melts, the roads are wet and everything gets covered with road dirt.  Plus, given it IS February, this is likely going to continue for weeks.  Last year spring break up lasted for months, it seemed like, not a couple of weeks and this is beginning to look a lot like a repeat.  Not one that I welcome.

On the other hand, I was astonished to see a few (a very few) more people with masks on.  The most surprising one was London Drugs.  The last couple of times I ran in to get something from the pharmacy, the only people masking (largely) were staff in the pharmacy area.  Not so much in the rest of the store.

Today pretty much every staff person I saw was wearing a mask.  I was pleasantly surprised, given the lack of masking over the previous year.  Maybe someone finally figured out staff shortages could be alleviated by having more staff wear masks so that fewer of them caught the plague?  Whatever the reason, I was grateful because I had some 'shopping' to do in the store.  And because I felt 'safer' I lingered longer, and bought more than I had intended.

The situation at the Bay was quite different.  I saw no one else in a mask.  Mind you, I barely saw any staff, and so I could not find what I needed and left when I had looked as best I could.

What depressed me was the long line up outside of the walk in clinic that had about 15 or more people waiting to enter.  One assumes they were 'sick' - why else would they be needing the walk in clinic?  And not a single person in the line up was wearing a mask.

The post office had a sign up saying they were closing at 4 today, and when one customer made a bit of a comment about the long wait, the answer was 'we are short staffed today'.  Really?  What a surprise.  Who could have foreseen that...given you gave up masking a few months ago - and have struggled to staff the wickets, sort the mail and get it delivered...

So I continue to avoid crowds and indoor, unventilated spaces as best I can.  I continue to mask.  I try my hardest to avoid the plague.

Because I have essays to write and tea towels to weave.  And I need to do both of those now, while I still can.  Onwards.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Begin As You Mean To Go On


Now that I have made the decision to write a book of essays, I had to think about when I needed to do that.  Because my energy wanes by the end of the day and when I have brain fog most of the time, I have to write when the fog is the lightest, not after a day of doing other things when my personal 'spoons' of energy have been depleted.

So I decided that I need to write in the mornings.  Which means I will be spending less time online and more time at the desktop pounding the keyboard.

But I have the title, the Introduction, and the first essay written.  (I have two more done previously that need to be re-written to fit the new approach.)

So far?  I think I'm on track for what I want to say and how I want to say it.

As I go along, the essays will become longer because I will be trying to examine the physics, mechanics and ergonomics of weaving and giving examples of how and why the only correct short answer to a weaving question is 'it depends'.

In order to 'master' the craft, the subtleties have to be grasped.  

Not that everyone needs to be a 'master' - just that there have to be enough people who actually understand the mechanics, the physics, the chemistry, in order to create good 'recipes' or 'kits' for others to follow (if that is the approach they want to take - and it is a perfectly fine approach!)

I have encountered far too many articles or projects where the writer/designer has given poor information in a way that confounds rather than illuminates.  IMHO, of course.

Can I do better?  I'm going to try.

This collection of essays is not targeted at the general weaving public, but at those who want to know the why as well as the how.

Big words, big claims!  Can I do it?  

Time will tell...

In the meantime, my two previous books are still available in either digital or print form from blurb.