Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Enablers

 


Happy Tuesday to me.  :)

I am blessed with enablers who send me yarn (and books).  On this snowy Tuesday morning, a kilo of fine singles linen arrived from Lithuania.

It's a bit finer than I had envisioned, which means I will have to re-tool my plans for it, but never mind, anticipation is all part of the fun of weaving.  Thinking about what to do, how I may need to make adjustments to achieve the desired results is all part of the fun!

The company sells this yarn either singles, or 2, 3, or 4 ply.  If the singles is anything to go by, it should weave up very nicely, and then wet finishing with a good hard press ought to produce a really nice quality of cloth for things like tea towels.

I'll be pairing this as weft on a 2/16 cotton warp.  I needed more of that yarn to finish off the rest of my 2/16 cotton weft yarns anyway, so it will all come together quite nicely, I think.  Giving the singles the eyeball test, it appears to be a wee bit finer than sewing thread and is labelled Tex 56.  They convert that to 8854 yards/pound.  It has slight texture, and a lovely subtle sheen.  I think I'm going to like the results! 

They also offer it dyed, but I chose the natural colour which is has a bit of a golden glow to it.

So I won't get to this yarn right away.  I have the current warp of blue/peacock to finish weaving, then two more of that colour to finish up, which will give me time to cogitate on how to use this lovely yarn and then order what I need from Brassard.

Thank you to this particular enabler who has given me the gift of anticipation and being able to work with a new-to-me yarn.  

Monday, February 19, 2024

Second Hand Bobbin Lace Books for sale

 The following books are from a non-smoking household, and generally in good condition.  Shipping rates apply to addresses in Canada or the US.


Chart for Lace Identification and the Meshes of Handmade Lace by Lolita Eveleth asking $10 plus $6 for postage



Lace for Dolls and Dolls' House by Ann Collier asking $20 plus $20 shipping



Special Effects in Bobbin Lace by Sandi Woods asking $45 plus $20 shipping



The Book of Bobbin Lace Stitches by Bridget Cook and Geraldine Stott asking $30 plus $20 shipping



Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace by Bridget Cook asking $35.00 plus $20 shipping  SOLD




Complete Book of English Bobbin Lace by Pamela Nottingham asking $40 plus $20 for shipping



A Manual of Hand-Made Bobbin Lace Work by Margaret Maidment asking $20 plus $20 shipping



Lace in the Making by Margaret Brooke asking $10 plus $20 shipping



The Bobbin Lace Manual by Geraldine Stott asking $30 plus $20 shipping  SOLD




If someone wants more than one item, I can check to see what the shipping would be for a 'bulk' order.

There is just one copy of each, first person to contact me will get the book(s).  They will be sent via Canada Post.

Lace Books

 


I have done a search on line for the books I'm offering for sale.  The above pamphlet appears to be highly sought after, but I have put a low price on it because I really have no idea if anyone is interested.

Most of the books are 'classics', still commonly in use and valued, although some are older publication dates.

The books are from a non-smoking household, and while they are used (and some of them quite old) are in decent condition.

Here is the list.  The price listed does not include shipping.  I will be adding $20 each for shipping in Canada and the US.  

I'm not going to run an eBay auction (just don't have the spoons for that - been there, done that, know exactly how much effort it takes).

I will be listing these books on my ko-fi shop, which will simplify payment, especially buyers outside of Canada.  The listings should be up later today or tomorrow - I have to get photos first.  I'm just posting the information here in case anyone is interested, or know someone who might be.

Bobbin Lace Books

Chart for lace Identification and the Meshes of Handmade Lace by Lolita Eveleth  $10

Lace for Dolls and Dolls’ Houses Ann Collier $20

Special Effects in Bobbin Lace Sandi Woods $45


The Book of Bobbin Lace Stitches Bridget Cook and Geraldine Stott $30

Practical Skills in Bobbin Lace Bridget Cook $35

Complete Book of English Bobbin Lace Pamela Nottingham  $40

A Manual of Hand-Made Bobbin Lace Work Margaret Maidment  $20

Lace in the Making Margaret Brooke  $10

The Bobbin Lace Manual  Geraldine Stott  $30



Sunday, February 18, 2024

Memories

 The Dance 

Watch the feet as they step and slide in perfect time, they find their place and never miss a beat 

Watch the hands sure and deft, no wasted motion as they sweep on their appointed path 

Watch the eyes watching: they observe the placement of the hands, the threads, the tools. 

They watch and help to dance the dance 

And when the music ends the dance is done, the cloth is cut the loom left bare then, yes, then the dance lives on a static record left to prove the dance begun 

This solitary dance goes on unseen, a private act seen only from within. 

And if one other sees within the cloth one half the joy felt in the dance, then I have danced for them as well. 

Laura Fry, 1983


This was a poem I wrote for my first (and only) solo exhibit at the local art gallery.

Tasked with writing an artist's statement, I got stuck and could not think what to write.  Then one day, while I was weaving (and everything was going smoothly), these words came to me.

Even though it was not time to stop, I stopped anyway, because I knew I needed to write those words down before they floated away on the river of time.

I used this poem as the dedication for A Thread Runs Through It.  

Today I spent several hours going through boxes of books from a dead weaver's estate.  Although she was older than me, we were in the same weaving class in 1975, so I felt like she was a contemporary.  As she aged, her body began to fail her and eventually she had to stop weaving, but could not let go of her books, looms, yarns.  So, when she died a few years ago, her spouse and children began to give, sell, get rid of things.

The local guild benefitted receiving some of her things - yarn, mostly.  Eventually her spouse also died, and now the children are needing to get rid of the rest.  Hence the boxes of books and some small tools that arrived at the guild room last week.

Since the guild was founded just as we were beginning our weaving journey, the guild already has many of the books in her carefully kept library, so we are selling the duplicates or the ones that are very specific that we don't think the guild members will be interested in.  Some of her books date to her home economics education, and I'm hoping to find someone who really wants one particular one, because a quick search online indicates that it is still prized amongst seamstresses/tailors.  There are a few other 'precious' books that I hope people will be interested in having - a signed Peter Collingwood Rug Weaving, Allen Fannin's Handloom Weaving Technology (2 copies, like new).  No Common Thread - with handwoven samples, by Dini Moes and ? Heggtveit.  Two copies of Linda Heinrich's The Magic of Linen (like new).

As I look at my book shelves, I find that I still cannot part with what books I have left (after purging my library on at least two occasions).  I suppose someone will be tasked with getting rid of what is left in my studio when I move on to...where ever the weavers hang out.  

Anyway, if the guild decides to run an eBay auction, I will be sure to let folk know.  


Down Sizing

 


It's taken me a while to get to this point, but this morning I decided to finally begin downsizing my bobbin lace stash.

I will keep two pillows and all of the handmade/painted bobbins made by my friend Jacqui Southworth (Larkholme Lace) because, well, she (and Eric) made/painted them.  I will keep my original cookie pillow because I prefer it over most others.  It was purchased from my first bobbin lace teacher, made by her spouse and is filled with sawdust.  It's just the best pillow I've worked on (imho).  But it isn't the best for some applications, so I'll keep one of the others which is a little bit more versatile.

The rest I'll offer to my lace student if she is interested in continuing, although she may find that she doesn't 'love' it enough to invest in the equipment.  Or she can make her own.

I've sorted the bobbins that I am willing to sell into packages.  Most of them are spangled, but not all.  I'm not interested in investing in beads and wire to get the unspangled ones spiffed up so I'll offer them as well.

Then there are the books.  I've 'inherited' a bunch of lace books and have duplicates of some, and some I'm not interested in, so those will get listed and hopefully sold off.

I'm old enough, and my eyesight is not great, so I'm not going to work with anything very fine.  I'm using sewing thread right now and managing, but I certainly don't want to go any finer.  And I don't want to invest too much time into a 'big' project.  So I will work on small items - ornaments for xmas trees, or window decorations.

In the photo above, there are 3 pillows - one roller pillow, the others are cookie or square with foam.  The two bags are full of books.  This coming week I'll be looking for where to list these for sale and try to figure out 'fair' prices, given shipping is so expensive now.  

I hope the pillows will stay in western Canada due to the cost of shipping them.  However, I would be willing to ship via courier *within* Canada.  Especially if someone buys a pillow and some books or bobbins, for example.  

If anyone knows of a sales site for bobbin lace makers, let me know.  I found 3 groups on Facebook, but none allow sales.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Not Done

 


Latest 'tiles' design, loom state

Yesterday I cut the first seven towels off the loom so I finally got a good look at what is intended to be the 'right' side of the cloth.

It's still not 'finished', so it will change when it hits the water for the first time, but the photo shows it pretty accurately.  

When it is finally 'done' (wet finished, including a hard press) the warp and weft threads will shift into their final place and the overall design will resolve and become more cohesive.

And this is why I keep banging the drum - it's not finished until it's wet finished.

Right now the cloth feels loose and not structurally sound.  Individual threads can be pulled or shifted out of place.  When I cut into it, the raw edges will fray.  Which is why I use a serger to protect the raw edges.  

After wet finishing, this cloth can actually be cut and not have it fall apart.  Yes, it will fray somewhat, but it will not disintegrate before your eyes/in your hands.

One of the intriguing things about this weave structure (whatever it might be called) is the textures that build which add depth to the look of the design.  It has been quite fascinating to push and pull the design lines, this way and that, and watch how the weave structure changes the overall look of the design lines/areas.

 

Friday, February 16, 2024

Expectations/Reality

 


Re-learning bobbin lace is almost like starting over again, from scratch.  OTOH, I have been a bit surprised - and very pleased - that if I just trust my hands, they actually remember.  Quite a lot, to be honest.

I made dozens of these little birds about 20 years ago, so I got pretty good at making them.  Now, I'm having to re-learn how to move the bobbins through the pricking (the pattern) and come up with something that doesn't totally 'suck'.

This little bird is several skill levels higher than I'm currently at, so it's been a bit of an exercise in frustration as I pick my way through making each.  And there is plenty to improve upon.  However, I have a very large spool of a very bright lemon/lime, a friend who adores that colour and has no interest in learning how to make lace, so I'm re-learning how to do it by making her what will likely turn into a flock of these little birds.

The design actually comes with a separate 'tail' which I'm ignoring, because she is a quilter and may want to use them to embellish a quilt.  Or hang them in a window, make a mobile, or...whatever she may choose to do with them.  

They are serving a purpose - I'm getting comfortable with moving the bobbins through each other, and studying the results.  The bottom bird was the first I made, using option A but I really didn't like the 'logic' behind that one so I'm now using option B and finding that a lot easier to work.  I'm not working it the way the pattern says but using my own approach.  Which, when it comes to lace, is pretty standard, from what I understand.  

I'm not going to starch them, as per the instructions, because I don't know what my friend will want to do with them.  The thread I am using isn't very stiff so they are pretty flexible.  But if she wants to spray starch them. I'm pretty sure she knows how to take care of that.

We have another sunny day today.  I may try to get photos of the rest of the Matrix towels.   They are dark navy warp with dark weft colours and don't photograph well so I've left them on the back burner for a sunny day.  

Looks like today is the day.  Check my ko-fi shop for the new towels with more coming, perhaps later today.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Feeling the Love

 


Yesterday I finished the peacock blue weft and started weaving with the natural white.  

This is intended to be the 'back' side of the cloth, but weaving it 'upside down' means I lift just 6 shafts, not 10, so that's what I do.  (Some people call it 'lazy', I call it 'efficient'.)  

Yesterday I also launched A Thread Runs Through It.  Some people have already purchased, for which I want to say a heart felt thank you.  This book is probably the most 'personal' I have written, hence the tag 'memoir'.

One of the things I didn't really touch on in this book is the fact that I made the decision to become a weaver as my father was dying from multiple myeloma.  He was diagnosed in 1969 while I was in Sweden, and for the next 6 years lived through some pretty brutal health issues.

My father was a hard worker, took his duties as husband and father seriously, and was a man of few words.  But his words, while short, were to the point, and I'm quite sure my sudden pivot to taking up weaving was confusing to him.  All his life he had worked to provide for his family, provide them with as much security as he could manage and, while he never said anything, I could sense his doubt at my decision to make weaving my career.  Especially in the 1970s when women didn't actually have careers, unless they fell into extraordinary circumstances.  Getting married and then pregnant was usually seen as the top priority and so women were not given opportunities to advance in most professions since everyone knew they would soon stop working to become care givers for their children.

Then the fact that I was leaving a rather well paying job with a steady paycheque for something as insecure as being a self-employed weaver?  I'm sure he had many many doubts.

As it happened, the night he died I was teaching my first ever fibre class.  There was a group of people who wanted a spinning workshop and the instructor at the college was asked to teach it.  She refused, saying that she was teaching full time, she wasn't interested in doing even more 'work' outside of her already full schedule.  The person approaching her then asked how they could learn if she wouldn't teach?  My instructor's eye fell on me, sitting quietly in the corner and, bless her heart, she pointed at me and declared "Laura will teach you!"

I, who had taken weeks to finally figure out how to get fibre twisted into yarn?  That Laura?  

It was easier for me to say I would teach the class (along with another of the weaving students) than it was to say 'no' to my teacher.

And so, that Wednesday evening, in the unfinished basement of our new home, a group of students and my co-teacher gathered to begin to figure out how to turn fibre into yarn.  

Halfway through the lesson, the doorbell rang and my 'best' friend arrived to tell me she had just come from the hospital where she and my mother and my mother's friend, plus the minister, had been present to send Dad on to...whatever comes next.

My co-teacher offered to tell the students to leave, but I said no.  My father would not have wanted that to happen.  He had always instilled in me (and my brother) that you did what you said you would do.  That you would finish your obligation.  That your highest priority was for the living.

It was no surprise that dad was dying; we'd known that for years.  I just found it interesting that he would leave the one night that I could not be present with him as he passed.  

The days and weeks afterwards, I spent at the weaving studio because I had decided that weaving was going to be my job.  And I needed to learn as much as I could to become the best weaver that I could.  So I treated that year at the college as though it was my job.  And it was during those quiet days in the studio when no one else was there that I felt the constant, steady presence of my father's spirit.  He now understood.  And while he may have still had doubts, he respected my choice.

Or so I like to believe.

I hope that whatever is left of 'him' has watched me live my life.  I hope that my brother is also watching.  I hope that they have not been disappointed in me.  In how I have tried to learn, but also to teach.  I know that I have grown in ways I had no way anticipated.  I hope I have become a better person, not just a better weaver.

When my brother died in 2008, I had to deal with survivor guilt.  In the end, I realized that Don had left me with a level of security I had no right to expect, and certainly never anticipated.  Don lived his life to the fullest, but now he was gone, and I wasn't, it was up to me to grab whatever life was going to give me, live the best life I could manage.  And so I decided to talk about that aspect of my life that I rarely discussed - being in the business of taking thread and turning it into cloth.

It has not been an easy life.  Far from it.  But I have no regrets that I made that decision.

Wayne Dyer talked about the different phases of life.  I do believe that I am fully into 'mentor' now.  If anyone can take any lessons from my life, then I must share what I have learned.  All of it, not just the 'good' stuff.  Because we learn the most effective lessons from the mistakes that we make and how we correct them.

And yes, I've made mistakes that I regret.  But I also learned.  And that is what I will focus on now, inner critic be damned.  

I saw a meme yesterday to the effect that an artist needs to make their art.  Others will 'judge' if that art is good or bad.  The artist must continue to make their art.

The above warp is quite likely the last in this series.  I feel I have explored the technique as much as I want to - for now.

It is time to move on.  I will likely go back to something 'easy' for a while and continue to work on stash reduction.  

Today the sun is shining.  I will soon go to the loom and weave some more.  Will there be another book?  I honestly don't know.  If I write one, will anyone want to read it?  Maybe.  But even if there isn't one more book, my childhood aspiration to become a writer came true.  Four books, now.  My inner child is kind of gobsmacked I actually did it.

To all who have purchased any of my books, or my textiles.  Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart.

For my Ko-fi shop - two signed copies of Stories from the Matrix, A Thread Runs Through It, and lots and lots of tea towels

For my first three books, both pdf and print versions.

Classes at School of Sweet Georgia

Workshops at Handwoven

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Experiment Time

 


Well, it's done.  I'm still not exactly tech savvy, so I hope I've done it correctly.

This is the fourth 'book' I've written.  (Well, I've done one other, which may never see light of day.)

It is the most personal, and I share more of my life's journey than ever before.  This book looks at how choosing to be a professional/production weaver has shaped my life.  It chronicles some of the challenges and how I approached them.

So, I've uploaded the file to ko-fi, in part because ko-fi doesn't take a share of the sales price (just Paypal fees, but I have to pay those as well as blurb's fees for my other books).   It is *only* available as a pdf to keep the price as low as possible.

Since I figure there will not be a whole lot of people interested in knowing more about my life, I wanted to keep the selling price low, in part because those most interested are likely also trying to earn an income from making things and probably don't have a very large budget.  So, ko-fi says a cup of "coffee"  is worth $3.  This approximately 200 page 'book' should give you several hours of reading, and a lifetime's worth of my journey plus the lessons I learned along the way.  The final chapter is probably worth $12 (or 4 coffees) all by itself.

If uploading the file to ko-fi doesn't work, I can always email a dropbox link directly to you.

In my bones I suspect this will be the 'last' 'book' I write.  OTOH, I said that after Magic in the Water, and yet, here I am...

Ultimately, this publication is a kind of love song to weaving - and weavers.  Surrounding myself with so many talented (mostly) female (and male) people has given me a gift I had no idea was waiting for me when I made that fateful decision, just about exactly 49 years ago.

While I may regret some of the things that have happened in those 49 years, I do not regret making that decision.  There are things I would, upon hindsight reflection, do differently.  But that core decision?  I have no regrets at all.  My life has been far richer and I've met more talented people than I ever had any right to expect, growing up in a small 'northern' town in central British Columbia.  I have travelled to places I never expected to go, met people I had no right to think I would get to know.  Explored more, learned more than I ever anticipated.

And here's the thing.  The learning continues.  And more people enter my life, even if for a moment, just because I made that decision.  

So, if you go to ko-fi and purchase A Thread Runs Through It and have any problems at all, let me know.  I can email a Dropbox link to you directly if the ko-fi link doesn't work (because I'm not great at the technology!)  But hopefully it really is as simple as ko-fi makes it look!

Happy Valentine's day.  Sending love and light to you all...

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Ko-Fi Updates

 


The current towels are difficult to see, in part because the repeat is bigger than the space up on top of the loom, in part because I'm using one of the warp colours as weft.

I have managed to update my ko-fi shop with four more 'matrix' designs, and I am feeling a bit, well, restless, so I think this will be the last in the series.  

The gift linen yarn from Lithuania is already in Canada and in customs for clearance.  It might even arrive before the weekend.  So I'm already thinking about what I want to do with it.  :)  

A kilo of linen yarn should produce quite a few towels and the natural beige of the linen should look nice on the peacock/bleu moyen yarn that is still on the tubes.  There should be enough for two more warps which ought to use up the linen.  Whatever is left will get used up with more of the natural white, of which I have plenty to use up.  Sure feels good to see those tubes go away.

As for the warp currently on the loom, the design is a variation of the 'tiles' I've been playing with but I got 'clever' and found a way to expand the design creating different versions of the 'tiles'.  I may have gotten too clever for my own good, but we'll see.  Since the weft and warp are so similar it's really hard to see the design, but I only have enough of the peacock for 4 towels, so the rest will be woven in natural white, which will be a much greater contrast and show off the changes in the tiles more clearly.  

It might look 'nice', it might not.  Guess I'll find out tomorrow when I run out of the peacock weft and start using the natural white?

Monday, February 12, 2024

Mid-February

 


draft for heart motif

Well, here we are, nearly the middle of the shortest month of the year.

We have sun today, which is lovely, a welcome change from the string of grey dreary days we have been having.  But the weather is not...'normal'...far too warm, and already the slumbering wildfires that never got put out last autumn are re-awakening.  

I learned about the 'curse' "May you live in interesting times" when I was in my 30s, and while I thought I understood why it was actually a 'curse', I never actually thought I would live to see this level of 'interesting'.

When I was in my 20s I was preparing for the Cold War to heat up and nuclear weapons to be used bringing about nuclear winter.  I didn't expect that humans would bring the apocalypse slowly, rather than quickly and that it would be heat/drought.

And yet, here we are.

There is going to come a time when people like me, and others who either grow the fibre, prepare it, spin it, then turn it into cloth, are going to become necessary again.  If that happens, I hope I will have left enough good information for people to learn how to do the cloth making part.

Human beings have been playing with fibres and string for nigh on 40,000 years.  We may see a resurgence of interest as things continue to get more difficult in terms of supply of necessary items.

Today we have sun, so I'm going to try to get some decent photos of the latest batches of tea towels made since the last time I updated my ko-fi shop.  

So, shameless plug:

Tea towels and two signed copies of Stories from the Matrix (and lots of Weave a V) available in my ko-fi shop.   Check later this week to see the new listings.

My books are still available on blurb in both pdf and print versions.

Classes on School of Sweet Georgia are available - four different classes.  I hang out in the forums and answer questions.

Workshops on Long Thread Media are still available.

And my lectures via Zoom.  I'm still taking bookings for this year (and started filling in dates for next).  I've even customized topics for a couple of guilds.  

Last but not least, you can always email me laura at laurafry dot com if you have questions.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Bobbin Lace

 


setting up the lace pillow

So, what is bobbin lace?

Well, it's kind of like weaving, where you build your loom as you make the textile; where warps can turn into wefts, and back again; where you can tie knots, or twist threads together, creating holes or plain weave (whole cloth) or any number of combinations to create different textures and holes.

People look at all the bobbins and shudder, but honestly?  You only (usually) work with four bobbins at a time.

There are only two things you can do - cross or twist.  It is in the order you do those two actions that the design begins to grow.  Working the bobbins is logical, too, as you follow design 'lines'.  (There is, of course, free-form lace, but that's not what I'm doing right now - I'm trying to re-learn the traditional Torchon lace stitches.)

Bobbin lace, like every other textile craft, has grown up in various locations, using different tools, and different approaches.  The complexity is in all those different approaches.  But when you break it down, it all comes from crosses and twists.

As I re-learn the craft I am also confronted with the variety of ways different instructors present the information.  Each one has their own approach to beginning a piece.  Some methods I find more helpful than others.  And then when I change sources, I have to figure out what each designer intended to happen, because the notation is simple and open to interpretation.

I think, however, I have learned enough to do an introductory session with someone who wants to learn.  Today I am challenging myself by upping the degree of difficulty again.  (Too soon?  Probably!)  I'm trying a bookmark I obviously made previously because the pricking has holes in it.  The problem is, I don't remember doing it, and I really don't remember how it was supposed to begin.  So, I fudged.  

The bookmark has areas of 'rose ground', which is fairly complex as it takes a longish series of pins, twists and crosses to complete.  But I like the look, and since the areas of rose ground are small, I'm going to give it a try and see if I can do it.

But I'm also working with sewing thread, not 2/16 or 2/20 cotton.  This is much finer and it's a much bigger challenge than I wanted, honestly.  However, the rose ground won't really show well in a thicker yarn, and I really want to see if I can produce something even close to the intended cloth.

After this, I think I'm going to tackle that little bird I made a couple of decades ago, from the design by Eeva-Lisa Kortelahti.  She is Finnish and has a number of books out with a large variety of traditional and modern designs.  I like her work, although most of it is far above my skill level.  But I do remember making a flock of these birds a long time ago and enjoying them.  Every one was different as I tried (and tried) to make them the way they were intended.

Once again textiles reminded me that just because something isn't 'perfect' doesn't mean they are 'bad'.  In the end, I doubt anyone (who doesn't make lace) would know (or care) that my little birds weren't entirely the way they were intended by the designer.  

And bobbin lace is something else I can do quietly during the night when I can't sleep.  Making lace provides enough distraction I can more or less ignore the pain.  And that, all by itself, is worth my fwipping the bobbins quietly.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Chaos and Entropy

 


Just finished threading, sleying and tieing on the next warp.  This time the thread and heddle count were identical, and the sleying worked out to the exact number of dents.  It seems I *may* have not made any mistakes.

But that will be determined when I begin to weave...

Earlier today I was reading The End of Everything (astrophysically speaking) by Katie Mack.  She was discussing chaos and entropy.  As such, bringing order out of chaos was in the back of my mind as I tied the last rather satisfying knot.

And I thought about how I have always enjoyed that sweet feeling of 'order' in so many things.  (Not housework, nope, too much entropy there!)

But I've always been very satisfied to make jigsaw puzzles, knitting, embroidery, sewing.  Playing with threads.  Part of what attracted me to weaving was that whole aspect of bringing order to chaos.  All those threads, unruly, with minds of their own, bent to my will.  Or, at least, I tried to bend them to my will.  

I 'discovered' quantum physics in my 20s when I was working at the high school library and one day a book called The Dancing Wu-Li Masters arrived.  At first I thought there was something 'wrong' with the book because every chapter was headed as Chapter 1.  And then I read it.  

Mind blown.

I cannot claim to understand everything Katie Mack is talking about, but we routinely watch tv documentaries, sometimes about physics, space, the universe, et al.  So some of the concepts she discusses I've heard about.  Can't say that I understand them, necessarily, but the whole astrophysics field is a great way to break open one's mind and think beyond (way, way beyond) one's own reality bubble.  

I mean, how much further outside of my reality can I go than into deep deep space???

So, no, I don't understand it, but I think about it.  And I wonder.  I think about the possibilities in this universe, this galaxy.  I think about how tiny and insignificant we all are.  How little we actually matter beyond our own tiny corner of this reality.

And I think about how I can bring something positive to this life I lead, because being positive to me means 'order', nor chaos.  And I far, far prefer order to chaos.

I suppose it is one reason why the loom keeps calling me back.  It challenges me to experiment.  Explore.  Try, and find out.  Sometimes I'm pleased.  Sometimes, I'm not.  

But in the end, I feel my activity has, on the whole, been a positive one, not a negative one.  Even when I make mistakes.  Because mistakes are opportunities to learn.  And knowledge is good, I think.

It is late enough in the day and I'm tired enough that I'm not going to begin weaving today.  Instead I will wind some bobbins.  I'm using up tag ends of spools from one of the last warps I did but some of them are a little bit too heavy to play nicely in the shuttle.  So I'll wind a bobbin and relieve the tube of some weight so that it will weave more co-operatively.  The goal is to use up the last of the peacock tubes on this warp, and what is left will get woven with natural.

I think this will be the 'last' (for now) of this weave structure.  I'm quite pleased with the design I've generated - although the proof will be in the wet finishing.  Right now I'm feeling pretty 'clever', but weaving always serves up a dish of 'humbility' whenever I get feeling confident.  So who knows?  Maybe it will work out, maybe it won't.

But the results will still dry dishes, so there is that.

February Blahs

 


I have never been a 'fan' of February.  If we are going to have grey dreary cold days, they generally come during the shortest month of the year.  

This year we have had an atypical year.  Too warm.  Too little snow on the ground.  Grey dreary days.

As I get older, the weather seems to affect me more.  I'm told the body reacts poorly to cold, damp, dreary, more.  Turning into a weather barometer was not my goal in life.

Yesterday we had sun, and it was lovely to see it.  Today we have snow.  I am relieved to see it, even if it is another grey dreary day.  We rather desperately need more precipitation, and after years of drought conditions, we are poised to have another record breaking wildfire season.

Rivers up and down the province are at record lows.  Lakes are showing the lack of rain/snow and ground aquifers are drying out.  

Yesterday we were told that the fires that never got put out last year are now springing (heh) back into life and smoke warnings are already being sounded.

I pull the edges of my life closer, make my goals smaller, my aspirations more...modest.  

That doesn't mean I am withdrawing from all social interaction.  Of course not.  The internet does do one thing and that is to allow people at distance to stay in contact.

So I have zoom presentations booked for later this month and next.  I can do these from the comfort of my studio.  I have 11 topics (I think) and have been known to develop a topic on request.  My fees are 'low' and I  may raise them later this year.  Still mulling that over.

The manuscript for my next (last????) book is going through final formatting and we are on schedule to launch on the 14th.  A modest effort - pdf only, available on ko-fi, when it is ready.

In the meantime, I continue making tea towels.  Someone has sent me a gift - a kilo of fine linen yarn, from  Lithuania.  I am gobsmacked, but looking forward to getting it.  More tea towels will be coming.  The tracking info says it was in France yesterday, coming via FedEx.  Which means it might be here by the time I'm finished the warp currently being threaded.  

I feel ready to do something else for a while.  It's been great working my way through the whatever this weave structure might be called.  Time to work on something else for a while.

My other textile focus is the bobbin lace.  After a week or so of messing around, re-learning how to do Torchon, I finally feel like I can guide someone else through the basics.  I'm going to do one more practice bookmark, then see if I can start making 'ornaments' for the guild to sell as a fund raiser.  In my deep dive into the dark recesses of my studio, I 'found' a bunch of die cut triple fold card blanks.  I figure I can make small ornaments and mount them in the cards.  The guild can sell them in the guild booth at the craft fair.  We are always looking for ways to pay the guild room rent.  

For today, I will finish threading the 'last' warp, then sley and tie on.  Weaving should begin tomorrow.  Fingers crossed it turns out the way I want...



showing the hem area and the beginning of the design


Friday, February 9, 2024

Threading

 


ready to thread

Yesterday I beamed the next warp and today I will begin threading.  The Megado has a removable breast beam, so I take the reed out of the beater and the beater top off, then remove the breast beam.  I have a lower stool (than what I sit on to weave) and I have spot lighting.  

The lamp on the right gets directed into the heddles on the shafts and another lamp on the left shines light from over my left shoulder.  I want the light where I need it, which is in the 'threading zone' ie, where the light can shine on the heddles I am threading.

Given my current series of tea towels, which has a fairly complex threading, I print out the entire threading draft and mark each group as I complete it.  Since each group may vary, I find it easier to just track my threading myself, not rely on iWeaveit, which gets set to a specific number of ends.  But my drafts rarely fit nicely into a constant number of threads, so it makes more sense to me to break the threading sequence down into groups that make visual sense.   That may vary from 4, to 5, to 6, to 7 or even 8 ends.  I rarely do more than 8 at a time.

I also have a lamp at the back of the loom that lights up the back few shafts and the stick that holds the bouts of the sectional beaming.  This is especially helpful on grey dreary days when it can be harder to see the back few shafts.

Some people 'treadle' their threading but I have never tried that.  Those who do it, love it, so you might want to explore that if it seems like a good idea.  

Instead I have numbered the top of each shaft on the bottom, several times across the width of the loom.  As I move the heddles from left to right, I still have the numbers as a visual guide to work from.  I don't dye my heddles, but prefer to keep the data in the same format - numbers on the draft, numbers on the shafts.  I don't have to remember that shaft one is red, shaft two green, etc.  And, with 16 shafts, I would run out of colours so I'd be repeating them.  And for me, that way lies chaos.  But again, if it works for you, by all means, you should use processes that are effective for you, not me. 

Because we are all different.  What works for me, may not work for anyone else.

As I thread each group, I pull the threads upwards as I tie a slip knot into the group.  Doing this will sometimes catch oopsies - a thread that didn't make it into the heddle eye will stand out and can be quickly fixed.  Sometimes I can tell I did a progression in the wrong direction.  Again, I can quickly fix that.

Each threading repeat gets tied into a larger grouping.  Again, one way for me to track my progress through the threading sequence.

The typist's clipboard works well to hold the draft and the little ledge holds my pencil so I can easily find it to mark the group just done as being complete.  As I do that, I check for the next group, then pull the needed heddles out of the forest, position them in their intended order, select the number of ends in that group, then thread them.

Rinse, repeat.

The current towels have 760 ends.  I go slowly, not rushing, and take a break every 45 minutes or so to give my back and hips a rest.  I used to be able to thread that many ends in a single day.  Now I try and spread it out over two days.

I don't mind the 'old'.  I mind the 'decrepit' deeply.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Absorbency

 


several different cotton yarns

This morning I opened my email and discovered an opinion piece that reflected on absorbency and was reminded once again that I did this article for Handwoven's Yarn Lab a few years ago now.

So many weavers have noticed that different cotton yarns vary in how much they will absorb and wonder why.

The above article sets out the best information I have found to explain this phenomenon.  And when you understand the structure of the fibre itself and how cotton actually absorbs water, then have a rudimentary understanding of how absorbency can be moderated by how the fibres are prepared for and then spun, it all makes sense.

Instead people look at the yarns, note that most mercerized cottons appear to absorb less well than unmercerized cottons, and assume that the mercerization process is the deciding factor.  When it isn't.

Generally the difference between yarns commonly available in the US is that unmercerized cotton yarns are open end spun, which means lots and lots of airspace trapped into the yarn, and mercerized cotton yarns are ring spun with the fibres lined parallel with little space for the fibres to absorb water and swell.

Thinner yarns will absorb more easily than fatter yarns (generally - fibre prep and spinning method will play a factor.)

In the above photo, the yarn on the far left is seine twine.  This yarn was designed specifically for seine nets.  Therefore it needs to be extremely strong, but also?  The less water it absorbs the better.  So it is extremely tightly spun, generally cabled.  You cannot break this yarn with your hands.  (Well, I can't and I doubt very many others could, either.)

As such it is extremely inappropriate to make towels with.  It is stiff, not wanting to bend or drape, and certainly not dry dishes.  It is used by weavers primarily for tapestry or rug warps, for which it works very well.

If you (or your guild) are interested in learning more about fibre facts, my Zoom presentation A Good Yarn will reveal more about fibre and yarn characteristics.  Email me laura at laurafry dot com

I'm still taking bookings for this year and even have one for next.

Or buy  The Intentional Weaver where I outline many of these factors in writing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

The Teacher Learns

 


Torchon lace bookmark in teal and peach

One of the challenges to any craft is the learning curve and the fact that if you don't use it, you lose it.

It was a bit of a happy surprise that when I sat down at the pillow last week, my hands retained so much of the basic movements.  That led to a bit of hubris, and I found myself trying levels of difficulty that were far beyond where my current skills happen to be.

So I had some pretty 'sad' results until I realized I really did need to dial back and re-enter the craft at a more beginner level.

Happens I have a few (ahem) books on lace and one of them is a pretty basic introduction to the craft that I feel will be appropriate for teaching purposes.  Both for myself, and anyone who wants to learn.

Last night I prepped and started this bookmark and (thanks to insomnia - has to be good for *something*) I worked on it in the wee hours of the morning until it was finished.

No, it did not go without errors, but they were soon fixed and onwards I went.  I didn't like the 'ending' the author had given, so I did something different, with some level of success.  But I can see I might want to adjust what I did on the next one which is similar to this, see if I can come closer to what I would like it to be.

My plan for the 'taster' session(s)* is to introduce the student to the basic stitches and how they are formed, and do that through the making of a sampler of stitches.

I have lots and lots of tag ends of unmercerized 2/8 cotton, which isn't the usual yarn/thread used for lace, but will serve.  I'm not going to go out and buy more yarn!  Plus all my tag ends come in lots of different colours so the student can choose something pleasing to them.

Once bobbins are wound, we'll begin and do a 'lace along'.  I'll do the sampler on my pillow and they can follow along on theirs.

If that goes smoothly, this bookmark will likely be 'next'.  There are just two 'stitches' - half and spiders, with some extra fillips to help make it all work.  

Hopefully it will be enough to get the person started and then they can see if they want to go further.

In the meantime, I know I have to practice more and go a bit slower.  The basics are there, if I don't rush, I'm sure I can figure it out.  

Slow and steady will get me there.

*Scroll down the page to the appropriate event


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Zoom Presentation

 


The EHS guild is hosting a  Zoom 'workshop' with me on Sunday, 3rd March 2024 and welcomes non-members to join in.  

I'm looking forward to this because it is 2.5 hours (scheduled) which means I won't have to 'rush'.  :)  

Mind you, I can talk about wet finishing for lots more hours!  However, this should be an opportunity to answer questions, show some samples, and generally explain what wet finishing is and why it isn't just 'washing'.  Even though it looks a whole lot like that, it is actually a little more than 'just washing' it.

I talked with the guild person a couple of days ago and she says they can take more people, so if you are interested, the time zone is Ontario.  If you are outside of Canada, you'll have to check if they have other ways to pay - the poster only lists e-transfer.

For more information, email EHSWorkshops@gmail.com

Yes, I'm still taking bookings for 2024.  Check out my topics on my website  or email me laura@laurafry.com for availability.  


The EHS guild is hosting 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Be Prepared to Suck

 



This morning I saw a post by Abby Franquemont who said (I paraphrase), when you are learning something new, or re-learning something you haven't done for a while, be prepared to 'suck'.

I think this is something that we, as a society, have forgotten.  That *skilled* labour takes time and effort to learn.  And while we learn, we are going to produce less than stellar results.

The photo is of the very first thing I ever wove on a floor loom.

It's pretty...rustic...honestly.  

But it did one critical thing for me.  It showed me the potential involved in taking string (and in this case lowly rags) and turning them into something else.  

I've written about the 'birth' of this rug elsewhere, so I won't repeat it here, but I have kept this rug for nearly 50 years.  We don't use it.  It doesn't lay flat, it's a bit of a trip hazard.  But!  It was, and is, the very first thing, the very first step, on my way to where I am now.

And sometimes I need a reminder.  It marks one of the two points of my journey - the very first thing, and the latest thing I have woven.  

It ties the journey together, much like ol whatshizname who took a ball of yarn into the labyrinth in order to find his way back to the start.

When I come across it - and I do, from time to time, it's just in my studio and I come across it now and then - I always pause for a moment.  Sometimes I pick it up and open it.  And I look at it.  All the flaws.  The lumps.  The bumps.

And all of the potential contained in the effort that went into making it.

I still make mistakes.  And I frequently share them here, because that's the thing, isn't it?  We ALL make mistakes.  We wind up with messes.  Disappointing results.  

The thing to remember is that we are not the sum of our mistakes.  We are the sum of what we *learn* from our mistakes.

Making something that disappoints is, well, disappointing.  But we can try again.  And again.  And multiple times, if necessary.

So, be not dismayed at mistakes.  Learn from them.  Make 'better' choices.  Try, try, try again.

We are very close to launching my 'latest' book A Thread Runs Through It.  This book talks a lot about my journey as a professional/production weaver.  But mostly it is about the lessons I learned along that particular journey.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Yarn Choices

 



attempting to tame the dry linen by making a 'humidor' and letting the bobbins 'steep' in a humid environment for several days before attempting to weave with it.  See link to previous post given below.

Had a question this morning about yarns listed in a very old booklet with projects for weavers.  The yarns given are no longer 'common' and the question was, what could they use if they can't find the yarns listed?

One of the yarns was linen, so I rooted around looking for a substitute, but it's a bit hard to find things that have gone out of 'fashion' and are not now available, so I offered some suggestions.  

But, I also just finished weaving with linen as weft and thought it might be a good idea to review working with linen, when you live in an arid environment.

(If you want to read my original blog post, that's here.)

Sourcing yarns can be a huge challenge when trying to replicate an 'old' project and sometimes the best you can do is come close.

I just cut my cotton warp/linen weft tea towels off the loom yesterday and so far I'm pleased.  Of course they are enormously stiff in loom state - a factor of using a singles 12 linen for weft.  Brassard still sells that quality of linen yarn, and I've used it previously (obviously, since I have/had it in my stash!).  I wish I could find finer linen singles, but they are not commonly available, so I make do.

Linen is more expensive than cotton, so I tend to use it as weft only.  (No loom waste.)  Not to mention that right now the relative humidity in my house is running around 30% - on a good day.  During the cold snap last month it went down to 20%.

Linen becomes very brittle when the environment is arid and if using it for warp, expect breakages.  There is a reason linen is woven in humid environments - it just behaves so much better.  

When it is starved for humidity, it becomes very unruly, and as mentioned, brittle, tending to break when used as warp.  

But all yarns need a little humidity, even cotton.  Wool and silk will also develop static electricity when warp winding, bobbin winding, or even in the loom.  

A further challenge to sourcing linen is that so many linen yarns are now 'cottonized' which means the long staple length has been cut into about 2" lengths.  Finding actual 'line' linen is difficult and when you do find it, it will be expensive.

I did, however, stumble upon a listing in Etsy:

They may possibly still be spinning line linen and offering larger cones, not tiny spools.  I would have to do further digging to find out if their yarn is line linen and what kind of pricing they are asking.

Since I'm in Canada, I try to purchase from Canadian suppliers.  Brassard does still carry some linen yarns, but it would depend if what they carry is suitable for your project.

Yesterday I did a Zoom presentation called A Good Yarn.  The lecture is about yarn characteristics and I was happy to answer questions.  Weavers really do need to know at least a little bit about how yarns are sourced for their fibre and prepared for and spun into yarn in order to understand how they will behave - in weaving, yes, but also after wet finishing.

I did some very short run booklets on this topic back in the early days of this century (gawd I feel old when I say that, but it's true!).  If I can find the files on one of those old CDs I kept, who knows, I might even offer the text as a pdf again.

Or book me for a Zoom?

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Lace Samplers

 


Now that I'm feeling a little more confident in being able to make lace, it was time to work out a sampler for students to work on in order to learn some of the basic 'stitches'.

I figured out how to print out graph paper to a desired size, then marked out a simple pricking to begin with.

Since I wasn't sure what size yarn would work 'best', I did two; one with 2/8 cotton (teal) the other with 2/16 (navy).

I made a couple of mistakes on the first one (the 2/8) so it was good to re-do it and work out where I went 'wrong'.

The 2/16 is too 'thready' and I'm not really happy with the quality of the textile.  So I'll get the students started with 2/8 on this pricking.

I will do one more sampler, this time in linen.  I have some 'fine' linen left over from the towels I was weaving.  Too much to toss, too little to weave much of anything.  Historically lace was made with linen, so I think a sampler made from a nice linen thread will make a good thing to share with the students.

I may change the pricking slightly in terms of the spacing of the pins and see how that affects the lace, too.  I've got quite a bit of the linen - in bobbin lace making terms - and curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought it back.  And I'm curious to see if I can manage to do this, rusty as I am. 

The current warp in the loom is about 2/3 (or a bit more) done.  There may be 5 more towels worth of warp left in the loom.  If I can continue with my current two sessions a day, I should be finished this warp on Tuesday.  We'll see.

While I have the next warp designed, I still have more 2/16 yarn to use up, so it's time to design another draft or two.  Once I'm done the current colour combination, I suspect I'm going to switch to something else for a while.  Time to use up other things in my stash, too.

But I'm actually enjoying making lace more than I thought I would, and given how many years it's been since I touched the lace stuff, I'm grateful my hands remember as much as they do.  

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Valentine's Day

 



I designed these little hearts late in 2007 and used them in a number of ways.  The cloth shown (still on the loom) was for tea towels; rose cotton warp with a fine rose slub for weft.  

My internist received a pair of these towels (the first time I gifted my textiles to a health care provider) after I had stents installed in my heart May 9, 2008.  I had been so sick without knowing why, and because he had believed me and ordered the MIBI stress test, effectively saved my life.

Since then, I have gone on weaving, teaching, and...writing.

My latest effort is a memoir, and in a way I feel it is a love song to weaving, to the life I have lived.  Especially since 2008, when I nearly left, following close on the heels of my younger brother.

So, my next book will officially launch on Feb. 14, 2024.  This one will not be on the Blurb website, but will be pdf only and sold via my ko-fi shop.

However, this morning I opened my email to discover that Blurb is offering a two day discount of 15% with the code FEBFLASH on Feb. 2 and 3, 2024.

If you are interested in one (or all?) of my books, now would be a really good time to purchase.  

As for ko-fi, I've just caught up on all the finishing pressing and hope to get photos of the newest towels listed fairly soon.  However, there are lots of towels there now.  Just saying...

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Change One Thing

 


bottom cloth with cotton weft, top cloth 'strip' with linen weft

Truth be told, I did change more than one thing when I ran out of the navy cotton and sampled the singles linen in my stash that I wanted to use next.

Giving the yarns a cursory examination, it appeared the linen was somewhat thicker than the cotton, but it is a slightly slubby singles, and when I actually wove with it, it behaved very much like the 2/16 cotton in terms of how it beat in.

However, I anticipated that the linen would slightly elongate the 'tile' design I had been weaving, so I switched to an undulating design instead.  That way if it didn't 'square' it wouldn't much matter.

On the other hand I knew, from previous experience, that linen weft will not draw in nearly as much as cotton weft.  The linen is stiffer and resists drawing in as much as the cotton will.  So when I finished weaving the cotton, I cut off what was woven, then re-tied and started over again.  I did not want to begin layering the wider linen on top of the narrower cotton cloth because the selvedges would 'suffer' if I did.  (Yes, I could add packing sticks to the cloth beam, but I needed to cut off because the cloth beam was getting 'full' anyway.  Easier to cut off and tie on again, start 'fresh'.)

Before I cut off, however, I wove a wee sample with the linen, just to make sure things would work out.

Now, before and after the linen sample is cotton, so the little strip is drawing in more at the very beginning and end.  The centre linen yarn, however, is pouching out, nearly an inch.  You can clearly see how the cotton draw in is causing the linen to curve and not sit flat on the table.  

I'm weaving these towels slightly longer than my 'usual' because I expect the cotton warp to 'shrink' more than the linen weft.  So, in anticipation of the wider width, I thought I'd weave them a bit longer to compensate for the shrinkage differential of the two yarns.

Now, to be really accurate, I should have cut off after the first linen weft towel and wet finished it.  But I didn't.  I don't actually care if they are slightly larger overall.  They will make a good table centre if someone thinks they are 'too large' for a tea towel.  

OTOH, they could also be useful as a sauna rub down towel, or hand towel, or to 'turban' your hair when you wash it?  

Or you could just dry pots and pans with it.

It looks like I have enough of this linen singles to weave 7, possibly 8 towels.  After that, I'm not sure what I'll use.  I have some finer linen yarn that weaves up beautifully on 2/16 cotton.  Or I could switch back to 2/16 cotton.  I have plenty in white, and some in a kind of turquoise green that might look ok on this blue-ish warp.  

More samples to be woven at the end of this section?


Mylar

 


Nancy asked how I used the mylar thread in my lace.  This is a bookmark I made a while ago (a really long while ago!)

The shiny thread in this one isn't the same as the hologram thread I'm using in the current bookmark, but shows how I use it.  Normally I will wind one of the cotton threads with the mylar as part of my working threads, not as a separate gimp.

This bookmark isn't one of my best.  I'm not terribly happy with how I used the mylar.  It does act to 'frame' the spiders, though, so it's not terrible.   But it does divide the 'heart' motif at the edges so that you lose the shape.

For the current bookmark, the mylar is much thinner and not textured, as such.  I placed those pairs one pair inside the edge threads and I'm not all that pleased with that placement, either.  I had intended to make it the outside pair, then changed my mind as I was setting up the pillow.

It's the same pricking as this one, and since I don't have the instructions for how to make it, I'm winging it.  And making a bit of a hash with it.

I'm also finding it hard to see.  My eyesight has deteriorated over the years and it's harder to see the fine threads and the fine lines/dots of the pricking.  Let's just say I've unmade nearly as much of the current bookmark as I've made!

This design is probably (likely!) a skill level or two above what I should have tried next.  But I had bobbins already wound with the red 2/20 merc. cotton and it seemed like A Good Idea at the time.

The above bookmark was 'mounted' by using a trifold piece of heavier paper, a 'slot' was cut into the paper just the width of the narrow point of the book mark, then the bookmark was carefully inserted into the paper.  The paper had a 'cover' (back and front) printed on it and I offered some for sale.  I did sell a few, but mostly I gave them as gifts.  

The bookmarks I am making now are practice pieces and will be given as gifts.  My goal is to make 'ornaments' for an xmas tree and donate them to the guild's tree, decorated co-operatively with some of the other tenants of the arts studio building.  The Festival of the Trees is a fund-raiser for the local hospital and generally quite popular.  It is one way to give back to our community, and I'm happy to make some small items that can decorate our tree.

Bobbin lace is a kind of weaving where you build your loom as you create your textile.  Warps can (and do!) turn into wefts.  You can twist, cross, knot, and generally make the threads go 'off grid' in order to create motifs.  You can work in the round, a square, or long lengths.  Or make shapes.  I've done a bit of designing, usually tape lace, some simple Torchon items, but I'm hardly an expert.  But I am pleasantly surprised at how much my hands 'remember'.  I think I can, at least, show people who are interested the basics.  And then let them loose to carry on if they wish.