Textiles (November 18, 2008)

on using appropriate materials....

"As final maxims: never forget the material you are working with, and try always to use it for doing what it can do best: if you feel yourself hampered by the material in which you are working, instead of being helped by it, you have so far not learned your business, any more than a would-be poet has, who complains of the hardship of writing in measure and rhyme. The special limitations of the material should be a pleasure to you, not a hindrance: a designer, therefore, should always thoroughly understand the processes of the special manufacture he is dealing with, or the result will be a mere tour de force. On the other hand, it is the pleasure in understanding the capabilities of a special material, and using them for suggesting (not imitating) natural beauty and incident, that gives the raison d'être of decorative art.". -Wm. Morris

Nation (November 24, 2008)
"Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be." -
Terry Pratchett

The Dresden Files (April 2, 2008)
Life can be confusing. -
Jim Butcher

 Stalking the Elephant (October 12, 2003)

-excerpt posted with permission by the author

The myth of the poor boy who makes good and becomes a captain of industry is seductive.   The only problem is that is has about as much to do with reality in America as the prospect of winning the lottery.   One of the secrets of the great success of American capitalism in the 1990’s was that the earnings of the majority of wage and salary earners increased very little during a time when fabulous fortunes were being amassed and productivity was on the rise.   The fortunes of the wealthiest Americans are so gigantic that they bear in comparison with no previous ruling class in world history.   And those fortunes have been expanding explosively.   When Forbes magazine published its list of the hour hundred wealthiest people in America in the autumn of 1997, Th. average super-rich person on the list had a net worth of $1.6 billion.   Two years later, that figure had shot up to $2.6 billion, for an increase in the net worth of the average mogul on the list of a cool $1 billion.

More shocking still is that the combined net worth of those listed on the Forbes 400 was $1 trillion, not much below the Gross National Product of Italy.    These four hundred individual, .00015 per cent of the population of the United States, had net assets equivalent to the net assets of the 170 million least wealthy Americans, or the 63 per cent of the U. S. population.   (These figures include home ownership assets, by far the largest component of the assets of most American families.)

The poorest 11 million households in American, with a population of about 30 million people, actually have negative assets, that is to say they owe more than they own.   On average, the net debt of these households is $6,852.   Indeed, the mean net wealth of the poorest 85 million Americans is a little less than zero.   It is only when you get above the level of the 85 million poorest people in the U. S. that you start to encounter net assets that are at all appreciable.   The next 29 million Americans on the way up have net assets per household, on average, of $36,711, including the money they have put into the ownership of their houses.      The next 45 million Americans as we move up the wealth pyramid have assets per household, on average, of $72,456.   By now we have accounted for 190 million American, or 70 per cent of the population of the United States.   Even at this level we are very far from anything you can call real wealth. James Laxer

What Weaving Means to Me (September 27, 2003)

It is easiest to begin by defining what it does *not* mean:   it is *not* having to weave our own clothes and other textiles because of necessity. It is simper, easier and quicker to go to the nearest shop and purchase what is needed, cheaper also. We have come a long way from the self sufficient household, when women’s production of textiles had an economic significance.   

But what about quality? I am certain that the quality of industrial production can be equally good – and sometimes even better, than what we ourselves can make. I cannot flameproof, stain proof or make my hand woven fabrics wrinkle resistant. I am one of many who find that it is convenient to have clothing that can be machine washed and dried.

What then are the differences between hand woven and industrially made textiles? These are questions that we must be able to give clear answers to if we want hand weaving to develop and progress. We can perhaps begin with getting rid of some old and habitual thought patterns. It is time to stop unproductive conflicts, such as: natural materials versus man-made fibers or synthetics. Then there are the newer variations: Are patterns made with the help of computers always worse than those made in the traditional way? Or the old approach to the question that the craft associations have given so much time and energy: What is a real hand craft and what is not?

Don’t we have room for all of these? Both for copies of the regional textiles for everyday use and the new textile sculptures in polyester and paper? Isn’t the tablecloth that the handicapped person weaves in therapy also of great value? Even if some find it of poor quality?

This discussion about good and poor quality has been going on since the late 1800’s, but this argument has not encouraged the growth of knowledge about hand weaving, or prevented the closing down of weaving schools! Perhaps it is just as simple as this: if the limits of what is good and what is poor quality are so fixed, it may be restricting the development and creativity of the individual. Good and poor quality obviously exists in textiles made both in hand woven and in industrial textiles, but the one is unique, and the other is made in 10,000’s of meters, distributed over a great part of the world.

Hand woven fabric is unique, frequently produced by only one person. It has its own history, it’s own expression.   Antiques get a higher price if you know the provenance of the object, if you know who has made it, how, and when. This knowledge comes with hand woven textiles. The distance between the producer and the user is short; it can even be the same person. This is what is special about hand weaving. We usually know how and when something is produced – it is the story behind every hand woven textile. We can, besides, influence colour and form, either our self or by commissioning another.  The result is unique and entirely different from everything else, if we want it to be so. In short, we can achieve textiles which are adapted to our own individual desires, as counterbalance to all the other mass products with which we choose to surround ourselves.

How many of us have cutlery specially designed for us? But how many of us don’t have a specially designed hand woven tablecloth where we furthermore know who wove it and when?

As a consequence, I find that we handweavers have to be more creative in stepping forward to let the public know that we can fulfill these desires that others may have. If we succeed in this we will see a growth in membership equaling sports groups.

I hope this stimulates further discussion!

(first published in Riksfo:rening fo:r Handva:vning Medlemsblad, issue no 2, May 1991) Ingrid K. Hanssen

Live and Love Each Day (August 25, 2003)

As the setting sun.....

As the setting sun slowly disappears from view,
The day is over, you did what you had to do,
Tomorrow is another day that soon will come
As the earth slowly revolves around the golden sun.

This too shall pass, the seconds tick away
The sands of time will fall continually,
Life passes with each breath your body takes
With each heart beat   too, and   not silently,

Your time on earth is slowly ebbing away,
Each breath and heart beat cannot   be redone
Once done it passes   into oblivion , gone forever,
Just like the golden rays do each day of the sun.

Another day arrives in twenty four hours,
To let you live, to love, to learn, and to enjoy,
Treasure each moment, each second that you live.
This too shall pass, Live and Love   each day, that I employ. Anne R. C. Neale

Magic in the Water: wet finishing handwovens (October 15, 2003)

......some reviews/comments about Magic.....

Some months ago Laura Fry published "Magic in the Water", an extensive in depth study of wet finishing handwoven fabric. The book was critiqued by those with expertise in the subject as an absolute must for all handweavers libraries. A review well deserved.

The book offers guidance and insight into the final finishing of handwovens that allows the fabric to achieve the full glory of the artistic creativity woven into it. As a result, the general impression of handweavers in general was that the information presented in the publication was targeted for the advanced weaver and something the newbie or intermediate weaver would grow into somewhere down that learning curve. Not so.

We have many (many) new weavers coming on list every day and all come with the same questions, awe and enthusiasm we all had at that point in our weaving life. The fact is that "Magic in the Water" answers many of those questions common to all newcomers and provides it in a format that a newcomer will understand.

There are a wide range of fabric layouts most every newcomer routinely starts with, from Tea Towels to Table Linen to Scarves to Apparel, and all with the basic yarns and sizes, weaves, thread count(set), etc. And then the final touch that makes the fabric, the Wet Finishing. As Laura has championed for many(many) moons, and rightfully so, "it isn't finished till it's wet finished".

I have been privileged to be involved with textiles all of my career, many years with some giants of the industry and can recall annual production of a mills seasonal layout publication of the type Laura produced in "Magic in the Water". In the early years of my career I recall mills having complete sampling depts.(people and equipment) devoted to producing that type publication for internal use. The contents of which were guarded   like the gold in Fort Knox. Few were more complete or contained more vital information than "Magic in the Water". In my opinion the book is as necessary for the newby as the experienced weaver. And every Library, Guild and public, should have it available.

For the answer to many basic handweaving questions, from set to soap, look to "Magic in the Water", you will probably find your answer and much more.

Keep those Beaters moving, it is good for our wellness :) -Tom Beaudet

"This is something that has been needed for many, many years. It's the only work that not only details the wet finishing process but by the included examples clearly shows the effect." -Allen Fannin

"Back in the 1970s, when I first began weaving, I decided to concentrate on rugs and tapestry primarily because most of the handwoven clothing I saw looked as if it would make good potato sacks simply because weavers were not only afraid to cut into their fabric, but they didn't know how to wet finish what they had woven. If only they and I had known then what could have been easily done to turn weaving into beautiful cloth!

After writing numerous articles and teaching wet-finishing workshops, in November 1999, Laura Fry announced that she would be compiling "the book," which would make its official debut at Convergence 2002. I had arranged for a pre-publication order with Laura while she was in the
compilation process; the book arrived in early July 2002. I spent that evening poring through it. The next day I took a scarf that had not been wet finished and, using the information gleaned from Laura's book, I wet finished it. Now I have a totally different looking scarf. With the kind
of information Laura provides, I may embark on other projects - not just rugs and tapestry."                    
-Frances McClure

Royal Purple (June 30, 2003)

"There is a white vein with a very small amount of liquid in it:::

....Men try to catch the murex alive because it discharges its juice when it dies.   They obtain the juice from the larger purple-fish by removing the shell:   they crush the smaller ones together with their shell, which is the only way to make them yield their juice...
The vein already mentioned is removed, and to this, salt has to be added in the proportion of about one pint for every 100 pounds.   It should be left to dissolve for three days, since, the fresher the salt, the stronger it is.   The mixture is then heated in a lead pot with about seven gallons of water to every fifty pounds and kept at a moderate temperature by a pipe connected to a furnace some distance away.   This skims off the flesh which will have adhered to the veins, and after about nine days the cauldron is filtered and a washed fleece is dipped by way of a trial.   Then   the dyers heat the liquid until they feel confident of the result."

from Historia naturalis, first century A.D. - quoted by Mark Kurlansky in Salt: A World History Gaius Linius Secundus, Pliny the Elder

Girl in Hyacinth Blue (April 9, 2003)

If a story or a painting or a poem can urge us toward more contemplative living by which we discover some truth, then, yes, that function of art justifies sacrifices incurred in the making of it, and is a worthy goal of any artist.   As for eternity, that, in part, is the responsibility of the receiver.

This quote was from an interview with the author at the end of the copy of Girl in Hyacinth Blue that I read.   

I have also read her book The Passion of Artemisia, a fictional account of the first female painter accepted to the Academy of Art in Florence, Italy.   She is working on a book about Emily Carr, a well known Canadian painter, and I will look forward to reading that when it is published. -Susan Vreeland

Stardust -(January 23, 2003)

We are made of stardust.

It's not just a poetic sentiment; it's a fact. In a young universe built mostly from hydrogen and helium, the self-immolation of stars in supernovas forged almost all other chemical elements and spewed them into space.

Over time, they congealed into other stars and solar systems and, eventually, into life itself.   So, in a sense, the urge to understand stars is woven into the fabric of our existence. -Karen Wright

The Weaver (March 19, 2002)

Beside the loom of life I stand

The Weaver

Beside the loom of life I stand
And watch the busy shuttle go;
The threads I hold within my hand
Make up the filling; strand on strand.
They slip my fingers through, and so
This web of mine fills out apace
While I stand ever in my place.

One time the woof is smooth and fine
And colored with a sunny dye;
Again the threads so roughly twine
And weave so darkly line on line,
My heart misgives me. Then would I
Fain lose this web -- begin anew --
But that, alas! I cannot do.

Someday the web will all be done,
The shuttle quiet in its place,
From out my hold the threads be run;
And friends at setting of the sun,
Will come to look upon my face,
And say: "Mistakes she made not few,
Yet wove perchance as best she knew." Mary Clark Huntington

Some Thoughts on Succeeding (March 6, 2002)

These thoughts on being successful were recently shared by Peter Collingwood on succeeding, in no particular order.

  1. Throw out all traditional methods and techniques which are slow, however many designs possibilities they offer.
  2. Concentrate on one type of weaving, so that eventually your name is associated with it.
  3. Develop new ways of patterning using the shafts and not your fingers. I initially tried applying all sorts of techniques normally used in fine fabrics.
  4. Work fast and long and be willing to repeat. My aim was to weave a 3 x 5 foot rug in two days; so that meant at least three rugs per week. And that meant I could sell them inexpensively and just get by.   So don't think of yourself as an artist, but as an artisan weaver.
  5. At first, take them to shops which from magazines seem to favour hand made objects. Private orders will not come at the beginning.
  6. Join as many exhibiting craft societies as possible and always send in many pieces to the annual shows.
  7. Get in touch with furniture/design magazines; be willing to weave a rug simply to go in one of their advertising photos.
  8. Don't try to expand or employ assistants. Do everything yourself, making, packing, delivering (on a bicycle in London!).
  9. Don't worry about house style, special note-paper, fancy packing, printed business cards. Hand write all your correspondence.
  10. Be obstinate in your belief that you are going to succeed.
  11. Don't think you can do a little pottery, sketching, carpentry on the side.
  12. Be lucky!

And one last thought….

BE super-critical of your work. Don't let the glow that results from producing something yourself dull you to the fact that it may look very ordinary or derivative to others! Is it worth weaving it by hand if a machine could have done it? -Peter Collingwood

Do it anyway (February 13, 2002)

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, People may accuse you of having ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you'll win some false friends and some true
enemies; Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway. -
Mother Theresa

More good advice (November 10, 2001)
you need quality and
class to sell quality and class. -
Jacqui Southworth

The Daffodil Principle (October 16, 2001)

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come see
the daffodils before they are over."


Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I will come next Tuesday, " I promised, a little reluctantly, on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and so I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house and hugged and greeted my grandchildren, I said, "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in the clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see bad enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother."

"Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her.

"I was hoping you'd take me over to the garage to pick up my car."

"How far will we have to drive?"

"Just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this."

After several minutes, I had to ask, "Where are we going? This isn't the way to the garage!"

"We're going to my garage the long way," Carolyn smiled, "by way of the daffodils."

"Carolyn," I said sternly, "please turn around."

"It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand-lettered sign that read, "Daffodil Garden."

We got out of the car and each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn
down the path. Then, we turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns -- great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted as a group so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.

There were five acres of flowers.

"But who has done this?" I asked Carolyn.

"It's just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property.   That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house that looked small and modest in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house.   On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking" was the headline.

The first answer was a simple one."50,000 bulbs," it read.

The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and very little brain."

The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

There it was. The Daffodil Principle. For me, that moment was a life-changing experience.

I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun -- one bulb at a time -- to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountain top.

Still, just planting one bulb at a time, year after year, had changed the world. This unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived.

She had created something of ineffable (indescribable) magnificence, beauty, and inspiration.

The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration. That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time -- often just one baby-step at a time - and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces   of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world.

"It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty-five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years.
Just think what I might have been able to achieve!"

My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way.   "Start tomorrow," she said.

It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?" -Author Unknown

A Carousel (September 15, 2001)
"Life wasn't a continuum of events, although it wore the guise of exactly that. Instead, it was actually a carousel. In infancy, one mounted a galloping pony and started out on a journey during which one assumed that circumstances would change as the expedition continued. But the truth of life was that it was an endless repetition of what one had already experienced...round and round and up and down on that pony. And unless one dealt with whatever challenges one was *meant* to deal with along the route, those challenges appeared again and again in one form or another till the end of one's days."

-Elizabeth George "A Traitor to Memory"

Good Drape (March 14, 2006)

"...a great misnomer in chenille weaving is the one where weavers believe drape will come from looser setts and looser beat.....good drape is the result of well woven cloth - cloth woven in a proper sett for the fiber chosen......"

Su is writing a book on weaving with rayon chenille - watch for it around November 2001. -Su Butler

The impossible? (July 30, 2001)
I am always doing things I can't do, that's how I get to do them. -Pablo Picasso

Real friends (March 25, 2001)
Real friends are those who, when you've made a fool of yourself, don't feel you've done a permanent job. -
Jo Petty

How We Learn (January 13, 2001)
"I never met anyone who learned anything by talking." -
Elvis Presley

(December 7, 2000)

This quote appears on page 608 and confirms Ed Franquemonts' observations that weaving "is more like jazz than brain surgery".......

"Absolute adherence to routine does not prevail in the finishing of wool materials. The operator must utilize or abandon, change the order of application or adapt the intensity of the treatment to the requirements of the case in hand." - J. Schofield

The Dance (February 7, 2005)

I wrote this poem as the Artists' Statement for my first
(and only!) solo exhibit at the Prince George Art Gallery

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
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

Good advice (March 23, 2001)

The following suggestions seem to make a great deal of
sense to me.......

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three Rs:
    1. Respect for self
    2. Respect for others, and
    3. Responsibility for all your actions
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
  7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16.  Once a year, go someplace you've never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon. -Attributed to the Dali Lama

Musical Connections...(August 7, 2009)

Born to Live

Ann Mortifee is a talented singer/songwriter who has recently begun exploring the connection between music and healing.   Her song Born to Live written with Michel Legrand always lifts my spirits.   The last verse goes:

We were born to live, to be right and wrong
To be false and true, to be weak and strong
We were born to live, to break down the walls
And to know that life is to taste it all. -
Ann Mortifee

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