Monday, March 27, 2017

Right Answer

I make no secret that I use bamboo blinds as warp packing.  Usually I buy cheap ones, but they tend to wear out quickly - apparently I use them - a lot.

Yesterday I stopped at Jysk (a 'cheap' IKEA) to buy more and could not find any blinds.  Thinking that they sometimes put inventory in 'odd' places, I decided to walk the store and lo and behold, near the exit was a cart with wooden slat blinds.  Now, I don't usually buy this type of blind because they are more expensive than bamboo, but they were on sale for $5 each!

They are 140 cm wide and cut in half, that means I will have 10 blinds 70 cm wide.  This is a little narrower than I usually go, but since I rarely dress the Fanny with a warp much wider than 24", a 27" wide blind will be fine.  And a much higher quality blind so I figure I have enough warp packing to last the rest of my weaving life.

I sometimes see discussion about various kinds of warp packing on chat groups.  People love their paper.  People love their wooden slats.  People love their venetian blind slats.  I happen to love my wooden blinds.

Ultimately the 'right' answer to any question in weaving is that which gets you the results you desire.  

All I am suggesting is that if someone is having issues with their processes or tools, they might like to try something different.  If someone likes my results, they might like to try my approach.  If it doesn't work for them, then figure out what does.

The only 'correct' answer (in short form) in weaving depends.  Each person, each situation, each loom, each yarn, each studio space - each one may require a somewhat different answer to those I have found for myself.

Try it.  Accept it.  Adapt it.  Reject it.  Do whatever it is that you need to do to find your happy place, make the cloth you intend to make.  Become your own 'expert' for your circumstances.

Discover the principles of the construction of cloth and choose your own road. The 'right' answer?  It depends.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rode Hard...

...put away wet.

My loom is approximately as old as I am.  It was 'rescued' from an art centre where it had languished for a number of years, getting used for anything anyone else wanted to use it for - none of it related in any way to weaving.

We drove to Alberta, through the Rockies (because that's the only way to get to Alberta) in February.  Not the greatest time to be driving through the mountains, but the art centre was anxious to get it gone.

We brought it home, Doug cleaned it up and retrofitted a newer style brake (friction fit instead of dog and pawl), changed the antique cords on both the rollers and the tie up/treadles and she has been my faithful sidekick for - well, more years than I can remember.  1999?

I had worked my way through a number of other looms, none of them quite what I wanted.  This elderly Leclerc Fanny counter balanced loom and I became fast friends very quickly.

On her I have woven hundreds of rayon chenille scarves, hundreds of painted warps for scarves and shawls, hundreds of place mats/table runners, samples galore.

Over the years she has been modified as my needs changed - first to use a warping valet, then live weight tension.

She saw me through my recovery from a broken ankle (breaking many of the adhesions the very first time I tried to open a shed - OW!) and my by-pass surgery.

She is frequently sprinkled with dust from weaving, sometimes, in fact, coated with it.  (I don't have dust bunnies, I have herds of dust buffalo.)

Yesterday I took a good look at the upper cords and noticed the wear on them.  With all the miles they have travelled as I opened and closed shed after shed, the polyester is actually beginning to wear.  

Seems I am as hard on my equipment as my body.

Currently reading Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Everything Old

is new again...

Some of you may know that I began this textile journey by spinning and dyeing.  Then I got sucked into the warped side and simply didn't have the time or energy to spin and set that aside.  Except a few years ago, spinning wheels kept showing up in my life.  Unfortunately they weren't the 'right' wheel for me and I kept trying and not enjoying it much.

After talking to a couple of people, I decided I needed a wheel with a much higher ratio to accommodate my supported long draw style of spinning and got a Canadian Production Wheel.

Unfortunately Larry (after the maker) is old, a true antique.  As such he's a bit - shall we say - testy, at times.  He is also not conveniently portable so I tend to leave him at the guild room and only spin up there.  Which is not exactly convenient for the guild room, storing a rather large delicate piece of equipment.

After my surgery, though, I got started on spinning more seriously and find myself thoroughly enjoying coming back to this craft.  It is fun to create truly one of a kind yarns.  Buying a blending board means I can make the rolags I prefer to spin from and I can make unique blends.  

I don't weave with my hand spun yarns.  Spinning has become a true 'hobby' - an activity that I do just for the pleasure of it.  I knit with it, then give those items away to friends or for donations to worthy causes.  There is far too much labour in hand spinning and knitting to have many people willing to pay a price that acknowledges that and rather than sell these items for pennies, I'd rather they just be gifts.

With the restrictions on using Larry, though, I have been looking around for something with a high ratio/speed plus a level of portability that would make it possible to say, spin at the fall fair or other public demonstrations.

Recently I had a bit of a windfall and I contacted Questionable Origins to inquire after their new electric spinning wheel.  I had heard about it last fall and - considering spinning is a hobby, not my business - hesitated to invest that much money into a new wheel.  Except that when I checked around, 'regular' spinning wheels were not that much cheaper and did not provide the aspect of portability I was looking for.  While there are other electric spinning wheels, this one came with some features that I felt would be helpful.  Since I had almost the exact purchase price burning a hole in my Paypal account, I tossed caution to the wind and ordered a Device (as they call it).

In the meantime I have borrowed an electric wheel on which I ply my singles and one day when I'm feeling brave I will try to actually spin singles on it.  Because my Device should be here in June.  

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Your Mileage

I was going to use a quote from, I think, Rumi - something about we are all different because we walk different paths and stop to smell different flowers.  But either I'm not remembering the person who said it, or I'm not remembering the quote well enough to find it. 

So, I'm going with Your Mileage May Vary.

So far I've marked 5 of the Olds Fibre Week level one students.  Several have used the same yarn and it has been interesting to see how each person has interpreted the same requirement, using the same yarn.  Which just supports my pithy comment that when you change one thing, everything can change.  And usually does.

Looms are different, yarns are different (even within the same brand - a couple students have noticed that the darker colours behave differently than the natural or lightly coloured yarns), and of course, weavers are different.  Especially the weavers.

Perfection is always aimed for, but my primary concern in teaching this course is to help people develop critical thinking skills, building their personal database of knowledge and fine tune their physical skills.  Which processes they use are less important to me than that they work ergonomically.  Weaving is a craft of repetitive motions which can lead to injury if done in a way that stresses the body.  Since many people coming to the craft are in their (ahem) middle or older years, they may already have injuries that they need to be aware of so as to not cause further harm.  

We only get one body and while some joints can be replaced, muscles cannot.  At least not at this time or without a great deal of discomfort.  Since my surgery a little over two years ago, I find that at my current age it is harder and harder to regain the fitness level I had enjoyed.

To that end we have signed up at the Y.  I watched my mother get more and more frail as her health issues became more severe and she lost strength, then balance, stamina and energy.  I need to keep this body as fit and healthy as possible because I got a whole lot of stash that needs weaving!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Another box of homework.

This year's class has included a letter to me with their homework, many of them outlining the lessons learned that aren't shown in the weaving/samples.  

To me those lessons are the most valuable of all because the biggest lesson to learn is how to think about the creation of textiles.  In today's box of goodies was another letter, this time telling me a little bit about her history with textiles, which I found very interesting.  But I also found her conclusion heartening as well:

"I am satisfied that the learning experience is the most valuable lesson from this course.  I may have lots to learn but have learned a lot."

Which was pretty much my conclusion after completing the Guild of Canadian Weaver's Master Weaver program.  It was also the conclusion nearly all of the people who have completed the GCW program came to.

Learning how to weave, to create textiles suitable for their purpose, the many different kinds and qualities of cloth, is a life long journey.  No one will ever know everything there is to know about the construction of cloth.  But we can all learn a lot, even while knowing there is so much more to learn.

It is what keeps me going back to the studio, keeps me trying new things, exploring the interaction between warp and weft, colours, weave structures.  It's what keeps me sharing, teaching and exploring the craft.  It is an experience I treasure, along with the people I have met along the way.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Magic in the Water

Fibres West is done, for another year.  It was great talking to people, especially hearing from several how much they appreciated my writing/teaching.  I sometimes feel like I bang on to the point of boredom, but being able to hear so many say they have benefitted makes it easier to keep on, keeping on.

That said, I feel the need to continue to simplify my life and today I dealt with one thing on my to be done list...that of getting my website tweaked.  More needs to be done, but I want to make changes thoughtfully, in a way that feels right, that feels like a 'proper' course correction.

Several months ago I made an agreement with nWeavolution to sell Magic in the Water, digital version.  Today the link to purchasing Magic on my website went away, along with the link to Weave a V.  While I still have copies of Weave a V for sale, purchasers can just email me, then I will send a PayPal invoice.  

I am contemplating other changes to my website, but again, I want to think those changes through to make sure I am making good decisions.

It is never a good idea to make decisions while under stress, and there has been way too much of that of late.  I want to make sure I am not making hasty choices, repenting later.

Getting away from home, immersing myself in a supportive Fibre community, spending time with a group of creative people has been just the thing I needed.  I feel eager to get back to the studio, and yes, even the writing.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Big Picture

Sometimes, in order to understand the big picture, you need to be aware of the finer details.

So it is with fibres and yarn.

The above images are Scanning Electron Microscope images of, in this case, cotton.

The fibre once harvested 'collapses' into a flat ribbon with a twist in it.  This gives the fibre some grip, or 'tooth'.

Silk (cultivated), on the other hand:

is much smoother, slipperier.

So by their very nature, the two fibres are quite different and will therefore behave quite differently.

Then add in the differences involved in preparing the fibres, then spinning them into yarn.

Weavers should be aware of these (literally) microscopic differences so that they have a better understanding of how the fibres/yarn will behave.  In order to choose A Good Yarn.

I will be presenting this lecture at Fibres West on Friday morning.  It's free with admission.

Having obtained these images for my use, they will also be incorporated into The Book, currently on hiatus while a beta reader completes the next round of edits.  But hopefully back at it soon, refreshed.