Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Student's Journey

Nancy T included this summary of the experience doing Olds Master Weaving class as part of her homework.  I asked if she would allow me to post it to my blog.

My Journey from Olds to Final Project

This has been a journey of learning, disappointment, achievement and frustration.  Weaving with wool was my first challenge as I had never woven with wool until I arrived in Olds.  I thought the comparative book report would be the death of me; I seemed to get over that hurdle, then there was the weaving. 

My next plan of attack was to wind one warp 8 yards long which would weave 2 yards of plain weave and two yards of twill along with the six sett samples.  I found a very nice Peruvian wool, which I enjoyed working with.  I was very pleased with the sett samples, and the 2 yards of plain weave.  With a square at my side I wove and measured and unwove and rewove and remeasured, cut off samples, washed samples, resleyed, wove, measured, unwove as I tried to achieve a 45 degree angle for the 2 yards of twill.  I was at the point of settling or declaring defeat and walking away from the remainder of the homework.  So I settled and that is what I submitted.
With my remaining warp I moved on to the weft faced sample which I wove 3 times and was satisfied with the third sample.  Finally I reached the warp faced sample; only to discover that I couldn’t get an open shed as the friction of the yarn that was sleyed and threaded so closely together was impossible to pry apart.  I tried this sample with a reed and without a reed and was unsuccessful.  I was very discouraged as I would have to start again with the sett sample exercise using a different yarn as the instructions indicated that the same yarn was to be used for all sett samples.
I had woven beautiful samples that I couldn’t use, I was disappointed.

I decided to change gears and weave the value gamp.  I thought the book report was bad, how hard can it be to weave a value gamp? It was as if I had never woven a thing in my life.  My edges were so bad, they were like nothing I have ever woven.  After weaving samples and finishing them it appeared I had figured out the sett and ppi and was ready to go.  Again I couldn’t master the final product to achieve 2 inch squares so I settled, not pleased with my work again it was decision time to continue or declare defeat.  I dusted myself off and thought I’d better see if I can achieve a warp faced sample using the remaining warp from my value gamp.  A true test to myself to achieve this weave structure would be to use the rust yarn for the weft in a warp that contained the six colors of my value gamp. I did it!! Finally there was something positive to build on so I would wind another warp to redo the sett samples along with the weft faced sample.

As I worked through the sett samples I liked what I saw with the colors which got me thinking of the final project which I had decided long ago, it would be a scarf.  Through the finishing of the sett samples I was pleased with the hand and drape of the 9 e.p.i. so I was quite sure that would be the sett I would use for my scarf.  One additional sample was woven at 10 e.p.i. just to confirm that 9 e.p.i. was what I wanted, and it was so I completed my final scarf project.

I’m very happy that I have become very proficient and oh so comfortable in threading, resleying and dressing looms. I have learned so much throughout this journey.  I’ve learned how to place yarn instead of beat it, how lightly dyed yarns have more spring than darker dyed yarns which was most likely the reason for the uneven tension in my value gamp; about keeping better records, what fibres can and can’t do and how they react when finished; what I can and cannot achieve, how determined I am to continue and hopefully succeed, and how important it is to weave with your heart.  Nothing that I have woven throughout this journey was done by my heart (with the exception of my final project) it was woven with a tape measure and square being used every ½ inch to see if I was on track and if not it was unwoven.  I’m sure I unwove just as much as I wove.

When it was time to weave my final project, and with the luxury of it being my own design, I put all that I learned into play but with no “rules” I wove the scarf with rhythm and enjoyment and most of all the way I like to weave, from my heart, it was a joy to weave and I am very pleased with my final product.

Without the support of a fellow classmate I’m not sure I would have made it to the end.  Through all of the trials and tribulations I was never turned off of weaving, to which I am thankful and happy.  I’m looking forward to weaving my next project using all that I have learned and once again weave from my heart.

At the end of it all I am looking forward to returning to Olds to take the Level 2 course.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ready to Go!

The level one and two of the Master Weaver classes being held in Prince George, BC are now ready for registration on the Olds College website

It looks like interested students will have to create an 'account' before they can register.

Although the course description is not on the website, it differs only in that a) the class runs in Prince George for six days, not five, and b) the maximum is 10 not 12.

Questions?  Email me laura at laurafry dot com

Currently reading Red Bones by Anne Cleeves.  One of the characters is a fibre artist.  :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Away We Go!

Heard from the college today.  They anticipate that registration for the classes in Prince George will go live sometime on Tuesday. (Feb. 21)

To recap -

Level 1 - May 13-18
Level 2 - May 20-25

The classes here are six days, not five, with a maximum of 10 students.  They will be held in the guild room, and some floor looms are available for the use of the students.  The guild room is fully furnished, has a/c, a small fridge, tables, chairs, bobbin winders, warping boards and a mill.  Shuttles are available, but best to bring your own as well as bobbins.

Otherwise, bring the usual sort of things - binder, paper including graph paper or laptop with weaving software, scissors, measuring tape, pins, etc.

If you are from out of town, there are hotels/motels nearby - a five minute or so walk - more further away.  There are also restaurants at most of the motels or bring a lunch.

The room can be open in the evenings - I usually return to the room for an hour or so after dinner to answer questions.

If you have any questions, contact me laura at laurafry dot com

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Fun Begins

While this isn't the first box of homework from the Olds class (in Olds) it is the first of this year.  I'm feeling weary right now so probably won't do more than just go through it, and then really start on it tomorrow.  I like to get an over view of what has been sent in, then read through the written work and get a feel for the progress the student has made on this journey.

I think level one is hard for a number of reasons.  It is not like a weaving workshop - the aims and objectives are different, for one thing.  It is perhaps more challenging in some ways partly because the goal is to bring a consistency to the learning of the craft.  The graduates of this program should all have similar basic foundations of knowledge because they are all working to the same curriculum.

Will they know everything there is to know at the end?  No.  Not at all.  But they should have achieved the ability to think critically about the craft and their approach to achieving their intended cloth.  They should be able to think through how to approach an area that they may not have encountered before.  They should be able to bring creative solutions to difficulties they may encounter.  They should be able to understand the basic principles of the craft, understand their equipment and materials and how and when to use the various tools.

As an instructor it is also challenging for me, too.  I have to follow the curriculum and ensure everyone understands it.  I need to give them the tools to go further on their own.  I need to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.  I must not spoon feed them information, but encourage them to seek answers for themselves.  Because sometimes my answers will not be theirs.

Change one thing, and everything can change.

Registration for Fibre Week will begin on March 1.  Registration for the satellite program in Cape Breton is open now.  Last I heard there were just five places left.  Registration for the satellite program in Prince George should be available on the website by the end of next week, possibly earlier.  Classes at Yadkin are taking registrations now.

To recap:

Prince George Level one May 13-18
Prince George Level two May 20-25 (both classes are SIX days, not five as elsewhere)
Cape Breton Level one June 5-9
Old College (AB) potentially all levels June 16-22

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Procrastination for the Win?

The past year has been so stressful with one thing after another I find myself completely derailed.  I find no appetite for doing what needs doing, so I am procrastinating by doing things that really aren't very high on my to-be-done list, but need doing at some point.

So today, instead of firing up the AVL and working on that 60 yard warp there, I am winding place mat warps.  Because I will need some of them for this fall, and why not begin now?  

The AVL will wait, after all.

Currently reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Appropriate Tools

I have many tools in my studio, mostly because they provide a savings of time in some way.  An electrical bobbin winder makes winding bobbins faster.  I bought one when I realized it was taking longer to wind a bobbin by hand than it was taking to weave it off.  

This is a Silver Needles cone winder.  I much prefer to use yarn from a cone than a ball.  For a while I was working a lot with skeins of yarn, and getting them into a package that didn't provide a lot of problems was making working with that yarn a chore.  So when I first heard about the Silver Needles cone winder, I bought one right away.  It was a bit pricey (between exchange rate and shipping, it was even more expensive), but the ability to quickly and relatively trouble free process of getting skeins onto cones makes the purchase well worth while.

My original cone winder was getting very worn out.  I do, after all, use it a lot and parts wear.  Then I heard that the company was back in business making the winders again.  I thought long and hard about buying another one because really, how much longer am I going to be doing this?  Well, as it happens, I hope for a good while longer.

The yarn I wound today is for a research project and is a hand spun singles wool, fairly fine.  I was able to get all of the skeins wound this afternoon with no muss, no fuss.  The combination of winder and squirrel cage swift makes getting skeins onto cones a piece of cake, as they say.

If you contact Silver Needles tell them where you heard about the winder.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Because I don't have enough yarn.  Or things to do.  Or knowledge.

Sometimes I see or hear comments about not using hand spun for weaving.  Or, you can use it, but only plyed.  Which is completely contradictory to the historical record.

I have used both commercially and hand spun yarns for warp and weft.  Some yarns are more tender than others and may require sizing to add strength.  But yes, you can weave with hand spun singles.

After extensive consultation with a master spinner and multiple samples, I now have the yarn to make 'something' - in this case three scarves - one for the dyer, one for the spinner, one for me.  

The spinner and I drew on our respective personal database of knowledge, consulted extensively, then she set about making samples of the hand spun singles which I then wove.  Because that is how you find out if your extrapolations are correct - you sample.  Change one thing and everything can change.

People sometimes ask me if I sample any more.   The answer is, as so often, it depends.  I now have an extensive pool of knowledge to draw upon, and frequently I will not make a sample when I am working with known yarns using a known weave structure.

But when I get a new-to-me yarn, yes, I sample.  That is how I find out the limitations of the yarn, and the hidden beauty that may be revealed in the process...including wet finishing.

Working with other fibre workers with complementary skills means that we all benefit.  I don't have the technical skills to make such a consistent yarn (in thickness, in twists per inch), and she doesn't (yet) have my weaving skills.  The dyer contributed by making yarn colours to our taste and that means that all three scarves are different colours, not all natural white.  By working together we learn a lot more, a lot faster, than if we had each tried to do this exploration from beginning to end.

Curiosity.  Love it!