If I taught a workshop/seminars at ANWG '19 would you be interested?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Styal, England

Mill conditions were anything but clean.  There were many hazards involved.  If you can find Tony Robinson's series The Worst Jobs in History, note how many are textile related.  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


There is a meme going round Facebook that says something to the effect that "I don't mind getting old, but my body is taking it badly."

So it is with me.

I actually like the age I am - my years of experience, the things I have managed to do during those years.  Oh, not all of them were wonderful, of course, but that's life, right?

As my physical limitations narrow I find myself less able to do the things I used to do without blinking.  My hours at the loom are fewer because I just can't do what I used to do.  I try not to mourn the shrinking circle of my physical capabilities but it is a fact:  between the two Big C's I live with, I also have growing issues with the Big A - Arthritis.  

The latest episode of fringe twisting made it clear that my thumbs are not happy with the firm pinching that is required and I may have to seriously think about getting rid of that huge stash of rayon chenille.  Because I don't want to wreck my thumbs doing that when I could be doing, oh, spinning?

I have recently re-discovered spinning and knitting.  Both are low impact activities and they have been bringing me a great deal of satisfaction.  Not to mention the universe kept gifting me with spinning wheels - none of which were 'right' for me.  So I bought a Canadian Production Wheel and a blending board and have been happily spinning my own blended rolag/punis.

But it wasn't 'right' for me either.  It was simply too large and too fragile for what I wanted to do.  I wanted something smaller, that would actually fit into my house instead of living in the guild room, and I wanted something portable.

So I ordered an espinner from http://questionableorigin.com/  Chad is Abby Franquemont's husband/partner and between the two of them they developed The Device - an espinner that fits into a small box, has an on board battery for when there is no power, and other features that seemed to make this the Device for me.

I sold my Canadian Production Wheel, returned the espinner I had borrowed to use at home and am looking forward to receiving my Device next month.

Because I have all this fibre that needs to be spun up...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Be Prepared

With both looms empty and today yet to work, I'm dressing the small loom with a place mat warp.

I really don't like leaving both looms empty when I go away, especially on a long trip with major time zone changes.  I come home exhausted and brain dead from jet lag so I really don't want to have to think.

Plus I need more all white mats as I'm woefully low on inventory.  Of course I never really know what will sell at any given season, any given show, but generally I need about 3 dozen white place mats and some runners to get through the season, so I like to have four dozen.

A friend did a study of her sales and she determined that if a textile person sold 40% of their inventory they had had a really excellent show.  So I always plan on having way more than what I think I might need.

Partly because I like to have a selection of colours for people to choose from, but also I have seen how, when inventory gets really low (like my current shawl inventory) nothing sells.  There isn't enough selection for people to choose from.

So I'm a wee bit concerned about not having much in the way of shawls, but this year really didn't leave me much time for getting any woven.  Not mentally, not physically, not emotionally.  I did the best I could and that will have to be sufficient.

I have nearly two weeks between trips and loads of appointments that can't be delayed so there won't be a lot of time for weaving.  Having the loom set up for mats means that I can squeeze studio time in between and hopefully get the two warps I wound last month woven and maybe even wet finished so I can bring them with me to hem while I'm away.  If there is room in the suitcase, which is already getting really full of stuff that needs to go.  Either that or they will get hemmed between the first and second craft fairs and ready to go to Vancouver and Circle Craft.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Road to Hell

One of the pithy sayings around the house when I was growing up was that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

In other words, you can dream all you like, you can intend all you like but that is only just the very first step in what may turn out to be a very long road.

As I grew older the next pithy saying that started to be bandied about was the observation that someone could talk the talk but not walk the walk.  I think this is just a variation on a theme.  Saying you are going to do something is pointless unless you actually DO the something.

So my life has been filled with doing.  

My mother modeled how to walk the walk by volunteering for organizations she felt were deserving of her time and energy.  My earliest memories are of her volunteering at the church, catering events, teaching at Sunday school (then volunteering me to do the same).  Then she got involved with the Hospital Auxiliary and worked tirelessly for that organization, locally, regionally and provincially.

She taught kindergarten, then when schools absorbed kindergarten into the school curriculum, pre-school.  If there was something needed doing, she pitched in.  Helping establish the Child Development Centre for children needing assistance due to cerebral palsy or other issues.  Getting behind the drive to establish a university here - the first in about 25 years to open in the country.  And so many more.

My energies have been more focused on weaving - the doing of it, the teaching of it, the writing about it.  I have been an active member of the local guild since the first day it was organized.  I volunteered first by doing the newsletter, then moved through various other positions - library, workshops, programs, chair.  And then started doing it all over again after a couple of decades.

I have chaired conferences, organized textile exhibits, sat on various organization boards.

Because good intentions are all well and good.  But they don't actually accomplish anything.

One of the things I see on social media is that people seem to feel that if they share their concern (thoughts and prayers) or outrage (how can XYZ do this!) they have done all that is needed.  But that's not how it works.  That is just the first step.  Outraged about something?  Work towards change.  Sending thoughts and prayers is a pretty empty sentiment when people are losing everything, up to and including their lives.  Concerned about people fighting fire and flood?  Donate to an organization who is boots on the ground.

There are so many areas that we as citizens need to work towards solving.  In Canada we are not immune to this.  We need to open our eyes.  We need to - if necessary - open our wallets.  We need to urge our governments to act, not mouth empty platitudes.  Because that's all they are - words without action are just one more cobblestone in the road to hell.

For obligatory weaving content - I am over the 40 yard mark on this warp.  Because intent without action accomplishes nothing.  Show up.  Do the work.  Eat the elephant.  Be the change you want to see.  Set an example.  Walk the walk.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


(the lines on the cloth are shadows from the loom)

My stated goal - for far too many years - is to weave down my stash.

I can say that little by little my stash is actually being used.  I made a good dent in the Legacy from Lynne yarns over the past year finally using up all (well, most - there is still a box of tow linen I have no idea what to do with...but it's linen!) of her linen and cotton/linen blends this spring.  Also some cotton flake, including some of mine that I had purchased for resale.

Some of my yarns are harder to part with than others.  The weft for this warp, for example, is Fox Fibre naturally grown coloured cotton.  As such it is more expensive than 'ordinary' cotton.  It is also fine, so you get a lot of play value using it.

In other words, it takes more time to weave up than a nice 'fat' 2/8 cotton.

Since it is more expensive, I am not really getting my money's worth out of it because I just can't charge enough to cover the cost of purchasing it, then the labour of weaving it off.  But, the time had come to deal with it.

I carefully sorted the cones because I had several different shades, calculated how much warp I would need to use it up and started planning.  My math figured I had about enough yarn to weave 40 yards so I thought I would go ahead and put 45 yards on and any warp left over I would weave off using some of the nice half bleached singles linen in my stash.

And then I found more cones on another shelf.

My warp grew to 50 yards.

I'm now about 40 yards into that warp and I will have Fox Fibre yarn left over.  Not much, maybe a cone or two.  A friend has spoken up saying that she would love to have whatever is left over, so what I don't weave myself will go to her.

But I am one step closer to my stated goal of weaving down my stash.

Not that I'm in any danger of running out - and even if I were, I know where to get more!

But all those bits of yarn that were too...precious...to use?  I'm going to finally get them woven, one way or another.  

Now, what to do with that silk...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Showing Up

I'm over half way through this bin of rayon chenille scarves, but still hours of work to do yet. 

Today Doug is working on installing a new light in the laundry room and, for safety's sake, the computer that runs my loom needed to be shut down.  Ergo, I could not weave.

While it was enormously tempting to take the afternoon 'off', things don't get done, so instead of weaving I'm back to fringe twisting.  My goal is to finish the fringe twisting and, if possible, get all of the scarves wet finished before I leave.

In a recent conversation with another fibre person, she commented about people running 15 things off the side of their desk.  Well, I do that, but I also use my dining room table...which is why there is a clear plastic cover over the hand woven table cloth that graces my table but largely remains invisible due to heaps of stuff all over it.  

Being self employed means showing up, even when you don't much feel like it.  I'd much rather be thinking about our upcoming holiday - the first in several years.  Frequently my trips are for 'business' and sometimes I can sneak in a few days here or there that might qualify as a 'holiday' - insofar as I'm not actually making any money during those days.  So, a holiday.  Of sorts.

All too often I work at least a little bit, every day.  Including 'holidays'.  Yes I have been known to weave on Christmas Day.  Thanksgiving.  There is always some aspect of being self employed that can be tucked into a day - ledger entries, project planning, writing (like this blog - although that is more unpaid labour), research, writing.

Now I will be adding conference planning.  More unpaid labour.  But that is part of returning to the weaving community some of the benefit I have had, being part of that community.

But if I don't show up and do it - well, nothing happens.

Dreams are well and good.  They are a pathway.  A goal.  But the only way to get there is to walk the walk.  Show up.  Do the work.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Deadline: Critical

Someone asked me recently how I keep track of what needs doing when.  As usual, there's not really an easy - or short - answer to that.

I keep calendars where I note events coming up.  Since I parse that information best by seeing it in print, I have several 'paper' calendars, plus one erasable one.  The erasable one has my business/studio events and the paper ones are mostly personal.

The studio ones get entered at the beginning of the year because those events are usually repeats, then when inquiries come in about teaching I can quickly and easily reference that calendar to see what I am already committed to and whether or not another event can be fitted in around those annual events.

These things are my priority and I have a pretty good idea of what needs to happen to meet those deadlines, partly because I know how much prep time is needed for teaching, and how long it takes me to make textiles for the craft fairs that I do.  

Articles for publication can usually be fit in here and there when I have the time and inclination to do those.

My biggest commitment of time and energy is, of course, the craft fair season.  As I scale back we are now down to three shows a year, two locally and one in Vancouver (plus the annual guild sale, but that's not a 'major' show for me, more an opportunity to put end of season stuff on 'sale').

So, even though I actually wove the above bin of scarves oh, last December?  Around the time mom got sick and went into hospital/hospice, they weren't needed until, well, now.

They don't need pressing, so they could be fringe twisted and wet finished much closer to the sale date.  

BUT - I am going to be out of town more than I am home for the next six weeks or so.  Which means I need to start getting the fringe twisting done now.  I may not get all of it done before my first trip, but I should be able to make a good dent in the pile.

Nothing like a deadline going critical to light a fire under me!!!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Planning Well in Advance

Fighting a low grade headache today made thinking challenging.  I realized I needed to see the shape of the conference so first I printed out a calendar (white sheet at the top) but the squares were just too small.

Sometimes it pays to be a pack rat, and I found a large roll of (very sun faded) paper and drew out the days of the conference, which events would be happening on those days, and then wrote in which facility we would be using for each event.  

It's only the broad strokes, and there is still more to be done in terms of contacting some facilities, but I need to book the one hotel now, so mostly I was looking for what rooms we would need at that hotel.

Even though the conference is nearly two years away, this is a small town and facilities get booked a few years in advance so we need to do this now.

Once I have the facilities dealt with I can go on holiday with a clear conscience and not think too much about any of this until after the craft fair season.

In the meantime workshop and seminar topic proposals are coming in so hopefully we will wind up with something for everyone.

We did not send out an open call for instructors/leaders.  We have, as I say, limited facilities to work with so an invitation was sent out to specific teachers.  I've asked for proposals by the end of September and when I get home from Circle Craft, I should have everything I need to start slotting people into appropriate rooms, which will let me know how many people can be accommodated.

Our conference team is small, so if I can do these sorts of things early, I won't be scrambling later!

Friday, August 25, 2017


After talking at length with someone this morning about efficiency (more on that in the future) I went to the loom, finishing one colour (below - very subtle) and starting the next.  The weft for the new stretch of cloth is 100% natural green, which will develop into a deep sort of sage green after wet finishing.  Knowing that the higher contrast between the warp and weft would be much stronger visually, I quickly changed the treadling/tie up to something much bolder, more graphic in appearance.

And as I did that bit of work, I thought about how the computer assisted dobby doesn't do anything that can't be done on a 'standard' floor loom.  It just allows me to do it a whole bunch faster.

I still have to know what I want and how to get it.  I have to understand the weave structure I am working with and how changing the tie up and treadling sequence is going to change the effect of the interlacements/design.

But instead of crawling around under the loom, physically untying and tying string/cord, a few keystrokes achieves the same thing.  And instead of an hour or more, I was back weaving in less than 20 minutes - probably closer to 15.

When I decided to buy the AVL in 1981 there were very few 16 shaft looms around, never mind a dobby.  But my goal, right from the beginning, has been to earn an income from textiles, one way or another.  With that goal in mind I wanted to work efficiently.  One of the first 'production' pieces of equipment I purchased was an electric bobbin winder.  The reason?  It was taking me longer to hand wind a bobbin than it was to weave it off.  I knew I'd starve at that rate, so since I was attending Convergence in 1978 at Fort Collins, CO, I saved up my money and bought an electric bobbin winder.

I still have that winder.  Well, to certain values of same!  The motor has been replaced along with the foot pedal.  I use it for winding bobbins, the AVL pirns for the fly shuttle when I need to use those (I also have an industrial pirn winder with industrial fly shuttle and pirns which I much prefer to use but can't always, depending on the yarn) and sometimes spools for sectional beaming.

Thing is, there are options.  We can each approach the craft at whatever level we want.  Some prefer a slower, more meditative practice (although for me weaving has always been a working meditation - I just do it a wee bit faster than most).  Some prefer to follow directions.  Some like to experiment, some to take a more research oriented, experimental approach.  Some like to make a lot of things because we like to eat.  So to speak.

All of these approaches are completely and totally valid for that person.  We each get to choose.  There are options and we get to decide our path, our processes.

It's one of the things I really love about the practice of making textiles, be that on an inkle loom, tapestry, 'standard' floor loom or other textile practices like bobbin lace (really just another kind of weaving), knitting, crocheting, felting.  Etc.

Most fibre craftspeople do more than one craft.  That was one of the reasons we chose Confluences for the theme of our conference here in '19.  We are looking forward to the confluence of many different textile practitioners and how they combine different fibre crafts.  Yay for options!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Day 'Off'

I have been working hard for a few weeks now, weaving pretty much every day, at least two sessions, three if I can.  

Today I gave myself a day 'off'.  

The picture shows some of my hand spun, most of it spun this summer in the evenings at the guild, then plyed.  I use it for knitting.  Spinning and knitting are my hobbies.  I don't sell either - rather I make scarves and shawls and donate them to causes that are raising money.  Or they get given as gifts.  My poor southern friends, freezing in the chilliness that is Alberta in June each got one.

Right now my spinning stash overflows into my dining room and I want to put it all away while I am busy in the autumn and will have very little time to actually do any spinning.  So today I dug into the plying, finishing the blue I'd begun yesterday, plus doing five spools of a rich red.  I have five more spools of a slightly different singles red to ply and I think I will use the same extremely fine tram silk to ply that as well as the one in the photo above, which is actually more red and less rust.  I doubt I will get the bin of rust rolags spun up before I go away, but I might.

Mostly I'm tired of looking at that heap of spinning fibre and just want to clear some of the clutter out of my living space.  So the bags of fibre will go back down to the studio until I'm ready to make more rolags and begin spinning again.  Hopefully when I get my Questionable Origins e-spinner.  

Currently reading L. E. Modesitt, The One-Eyed Man.  I've not read him before and am only in the first few pages, so I will see if I go looking for one of his series.  Because I'm running 'low' on fav authors!

Monday, August 21, 2017


It has been about exactly 2.5 years since the by-pass surgery, so a little over 3.5 years since I started to notice that things were starting to deteriorate.  I was warned that recovery from such surgery could be 2-3 years before getting back to 'normal' - whatever that might be, given I'm also that much older now and lost so much fitness during the lead up to, then the recuperation from, the surgery.

I have been trying my best to regain as much of what I 'lost' as possible, which was a bit of a struggle given the renovations which disrupted not just the outside, but the inside, including my studio.  Which still isn't quite back to 'normal' with a few more small jobs needing doing.  But those are inside so Doug has been concentrating on getting the outside as finished as any house ever gets.

The AVL sat, neglected, while I dealt with regaining my fitness, dealing with travel to teach, dealing with mom and the aftermath of that, then more teaching, also trying to write a book (currently on hold).  But since coming home from ANWG in Victoria, I have managed to complete the conference cloth (aka the Neverending Warp) and put this warp for table runners onto the loom.

The conference warp was woven as tea towel 'blanks', each one taking about 30 minutes to weave.  I tried to do three a day to build up my weaving chops on the AVL - which takes more effort, physically.

This warp however is continuous while I use up the Fox Fiber naturally coloured cotton, so I am doing 45 minutes, finishing on a repeat.  

Weaving on the AVL for 45 minutes at a time is aerobic for me.  Recently I did a rough and ready calculation, and I seem to be weaving about 36 picks per minute including bobbin changing, tail clipping, drink sipping (hydrate!), etc.  So my weaving rhythm on this loom with this yarn appears to be in the 40-44 picks per minute range.  

And yes, I work up a sweat doing it.  The beater is heavy and pushing that thing back and forth on average about 40 times per minute?  It's aerobic.  I may not be jogging or on the elliptical or treadmill, but if your heart rate increases and you break a sweat?  That qualifies for aerobic.

Most of all, it feels incredibly satisfying to see the cloth roll onto the storage roller, the yarn getting used up, and feeling like I'm pretty much as good as I'm going to get, given my age and overall health.


Thursday, August 17, 2017


I was supposed to have four threads left over when I'd done threading this warp.  Hmm.  Six.  

SIGH.  Still Not Perfect!

With 764 or so ends in the warp, a fairly straight forward but 'fancy' 16 shaft twill, I have no idea where the error is.  So I have sleyed and tied on and am now trying to find the mistake.  And it's hiding.

In the process, I discovered that the computer that runs the loom has suddenly disappeared ALL of my weaving files - except for the warp I just finished weaving.

There are days when I'd really like to hide in a blanket fort with a colouring book.  This is one of them...

Edited to add:

I spy with my little eye...two empty heddles just to the right of the red thread.  The solution is 'easy' - add two spools of the warp thread, enter them into the empty heddles, which is where they belong, obviously, move the rest of the threads 'over', re-tie and continue.  

After lunch.  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


(click on the image to see the whole thing)

With deadlines looming (yeah, I know) I can't waste any time so the table runner warp is going into the loom right away.  There was time yesterday to get it beamed, this morning I was busy, and this afternoon I am threading.

I usually do more complex designs/patterns because I do have 16 shafts and this will be no exception.  The pages taped to the side of the loom (three of them) show me the thread by thread sequence of the ends.  All 764 of them.  

It will take me about three hours to thread - hopefully with no errors! - so with any luck at all I will get it mostly done this afternoon and finish the rest tomorrow morning.  Then another hour or so to sley and tie on and I should be ready to weave after lunch tomorrow.

My first priority on this warp is to use up all of the 18/2 Fox Fiber naturally coloured cotton.  I figure I have enough for about 40 yards of weaving.  (You get a lot of play time with finer threads!)  The warp is 50 yards long because when I'm done with the Fox Fiber I will use some singles linen in half-bleached, which should look quite elegant on this natural and bleached white (well mixed) warp.

That's the plan, at any rate.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Declaring it Done

Today I declared the warp for the conference 'done'.  There is very close 65 yards of fabric on the cloth storage roller.

The cloth will be used for various conference purposes, such as decoration, name tags, souvenir tea towels/thank you gifts.

Some people don't realize just how far in advance preparations for such an event begin.  We actually started last year, booking the Civic Centre and our keynote speaker, Abby Franquemont.

Since then we have been in discussion with other instructors and are beginning to receive their information.

Yesterday we toured one of the hotels near the Civic Centre and reserved all of their meeting rooms.  Once I have all of the instructor information (maximum size of class, audio/visual aids required, other equipment such as sinks, etc.,) I can begin to slot instructors into appropriate rooms.

Our aim is to make this a quality event for all participants.  It's going to be a bit of a challenge because we are a small town, but it is a small town with a big heart.

In the meantime, I've got a 45 yard warp of table runners to get into this loom...toot sweet...

Friday, August 11, 2017

One By One

I am living 'dangerously' with this warp.  I'm so very nearly finished this warp I don't really want to cut it off until it is done, done.  But that means the cloth roll is probably the largest I've ever put onto the loom.  Well, one of the largest.

This warp began to feel like it was never going to end.  It was put into the loom last fall, around the time the house renovations began and a few months before mom got sick and died, which meant my life got totally derailed.

I worked on the warp in fits and starts but 100 yards or so of warp at 32 ppi takes time.

It just needs to be dealt with, one pick at a time...

In the same way the view count of this blog has added up, one view at a time.  Around 10:30 am today the total views rolled over the 1.3 million mark.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would ever have that kind of following.  I'm a bit of a heretic and my views are not always well received and I've had my share of controversy over the years.

But this blog was begun as a celebration of life.  My life, in fact.  I'd just come through some nasty health issues and was on the road to recovery and several friends had been urging me to start a blog and I thought, well, why not?

And so I began.  And almost 9 years on, here I still am.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Language Matters

Click on the photo to see the entire image

I consider myself fluent in English - it is, after all, my 'mother' tongue.  I also have a pretty decent grasp of British and American variants of the language with a smattering of Aussie and Kiwi tossed into the mix, partly because I read - a lot.  I grew up reading British children's stories as much as I did American.  One of my very first favourite authors was Enid Blytton (sp?)  I have always watched a lot of British tv programs, especially history or science, but also generally.

I also speak weaving with a smattering of spinning, some bobbin lace, knitting (although my knitting language skills are pretty dated) and embroidery.

I believe that language matters.  If we do not use language that we all understand, then communication becomes more difficult than it needs to be.  In my humble opinion, of course.

Generally I try to use correct words for weaving and spinning.  For example, the two yarn packages to the left in the photo are cones.  The yarn package to the right is a tube.  Or spool, although I feel that a spool should have flanges to be truly accurate.  But at least I can understand when someone asks me for a 'spool' of cotton - I'm pretty sure I know that they want a tube.  

The internet is written communication.  Therefore I try very hard to not only use the correct word, but to spell it correctly.  It's 'sley', not slay or sleigh.  It's 'treadling', not threadling.  (Do they mean threading?  Or treadling? - Sometimes context will give meaning, but not always.)  And a pet peeve is 'dying' when people mean dyeing.

Auto (in)correct plays havoc on technological terms but it can be taught.  I've managed to get both my ipad and my new phone (mostly) to at least give me the weaving term option.  

If the use of 'proper' words isn't important, then it isn't important.  To me it's very important.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Stash Reduction

Since I now appear to be officially below the 20 yard mark of warp left to weave on the AVL, I have been doing the number crunching for the next warp in the pipeline.

In the spirit of stash busting, I am putting a white-ish warp on (natural and bleached whites, well mixed) of2/16 cotton and will be attempting to use up all of the Fox Fiber naturally coloured cotton left in my stash.  

There are various percentages of the natural colour with white pima cotton and after wet finishing these differing percentages will develop to different values of the green or brown naturally coloured cottons, so I don't want to mix them up.  

Yesterday I grouped the various percentages so that I can keep them separate and then did the math to figure out how much weft they - in total - were going to provide.  Approximately, of course.

To the best I can determine there is enough of this yarn to weave off about 30 yards, so my plan of putting a 40 yard warp on seems sound.  I also have some half bleached linen (singles) that I can use to weave off whatever the Fox Fiber doesn't use.

There has been some discussion on the internet about how much experience someone should have before they teach.  And whether or not one should give unsolicited advice when you see someone doing something awkwardly.

I have learned to not jump into someone's practice unless I feel they are doing harm to themselves - i.e. not working ergonomically.  I may suggest their posture should be adjusted, or that they might find themselves more comfortable in a different chair.  

But I try very hard to not poke my nose into someone else's practice unless they express frustration.  

People generally don't do things that make them unhappy so anything I say probably won't be well received.  How do I know?  Because I used to offer advice.  And it wasn't well received.

I'm not talking about when I'm actually in a classroom teaching, I'm talking about 'social' situations.  But even then, I tend to do group demonstrations, listen to the comments, then quietly and hopefully tactfully, comment on the student's one on one.

Rather than jump into discussions on line much (and only if I feel what I say will be welcome) I have made a bunch of video clips showing various things that I do.

People routinely observe at how much I get done.  Well, if people like my results, they might like to study what I do and accept, adapt (or reject) what I do.  But most of all, I encourage people to figure out what works for them, what gives them the results they desire.

Change one thing, and everything can change.  Study what 'experts' do and then become your own expert.  Because it all depends...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Self edge

Selvedges.  So many opinions.

In order to get 'perfect' selvedges you must use a floating selvedge.

In order to get 'perfect' selvedges all you need is an end feed (or delivery) shuttle.

In order to get 'perfect' selvedges you must have a plain weave interlacement, regardless of the weave structure of the body of the cloth.

Well, those things are all well and good if they actually address the issue of the 'poor' results.

There are so many ways selvedges can go wrong.

Beaming.  In my experience a warp weaves off much more nicely if it is beamed under tension - at least as much tension as will be applied during weaving.

Warp packing.  In my experience warp packing should be firm enough to prevent threads from upper layers from cutting down into lower layers.

In my experience warp packing should be several inches wider than the warp to prevent ends from sliding off the warp packing and causing issues with different length/tension from the rest of the warp.

In my experience tensioning the warp as consistently as possible makes for better selvedges and body of the cloth than being wildly inconsistent.

Shuttle handling.  In my experience I get more control over the weft pick by holding the shuttle cradled in my fingers, not gripped from above.

So in the above photo, the edge of the beige is, in fact, the selvedge.  The weft is a reasonably smooth yarn, so all in all, it makes a nice tidy consistent selvedge.  But I get pretty much the same result with a 2:2 twill selvedge.

And no, I don't worry about a 2 thread float.  I don't even particularly worry about a 3, 4, or 5 end float.

The above photo is 1:3-3:1 twill blocks.  No the selvedges aren't ruler straight, but the cloth is 2/16 cotton for the warp and weft as 32 epi, 32 ppi.  The length of float isn't a problem.  To me.  Your mileage may vary...

Currently reading Martha Grimes Vertigo 42

Saturday, August 5, 2017


I remember the first time someone on the internet called me an 'expert'.

I cringed.


Because even knowing how much I knew, I knew there was so much more to learn.

So what makes an 'expert', and who gets to call themselves that?

Well, first of all, I think that the term 'expert' is not a mantle one dons for oneself.  Rather it is something that other people recognize and acknowledge about the knowledgeable person.

To me an 'expert' is someone who knows something in depth because they have studied it.  In terms of a craft, it also means that they have some sort of control of their equipment, processes and materials.

But just because you are an 'expert' doesn't automatically make you a good teacher.

Someone can be all kinds of expert in something and not be able to communicate how or why they do what they do.

An 'expert' usually has developed resources.  In my case I have dug around finding books written for the textile industry.  No, I have not read them all.  But I have read portions of the three books to the right in the photo above that pertain to what I am trying to learn.

Eventually I became my own 'expert' in terms of the type of textile I wish to make.

Abby Franquemont has begun doing live video chats via her Facebook page.  I agree with her on her take about expertise.  I look forward to viewing more of her video chats.  I just wish there was a way for people to meet in real life and have these conversations.  

Maybe one days 'they' will get that matter transmitter perfected...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Picking Away

I finally made it back to the AVL and this warp today.

Normally a 100 yard long warp wouldn't faze me, but this one?  It's been a challenge.  

It began last autumn.  You remember?  About the time the renovations began, and then mom got sick and died.  And I just got completely knocked off my feet in so many ways.  I finally got back to it in the new year, but the loom wasn't behaving well and the issues became just too much for me and instead I turned to my trusty, reliable Leclerc Fanny and a very simple (plain weave) series of towels.  A series that I have only just put to bed.

Administrivia consumed me for a few days but today I took a deep breath - and fired up the AVL.

Why do I say 'fired up'?  Because the loom is fairly high tech - for hand weaving.  It has the computer assisted dobby, but it also has air assist for the treadle (and fly shuttle although I'm not using that on this warp).

The loom requires a different sort of effort than the Leclerc and by the time I'd gotten about half way through the second 'towel' my neck was letting me know it wasn't very happy with me.  So instead of weaving three, I stopped at two.

I'm hoping to build back up to three per day so I can clear this warp off the loom and put the next one on - a warp for table runners.

Not only am I out of table runners (other than the ones that match the place mats) I also have a whole bunch of naturally coloured cotton that I really want to use up.  So I will be combining the two goals in one.  That warp will be 40 yards, which should give me a decent number of runners for the upcoming craft fairs.

The warp has been crunched, the yarn pulled - I just need an empty loom.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Loom 'Waste'

This is the loom 'waste' left over after weaving 10 towels.  It is less than 2 ounces.  Add the 'waste' at the beginning where I tied on, and the loom waste comes to about 2 ounces, or about $2.

I don't fuss too much about the amount of 'waste' involved in weaving.  As I've said before, the biggest investment in making hand woven textiles is time.  By the time I design the warp, wind it, get it into the loom, then weave it off, cut/serge the towels apart, wet finish them, hem them and give them a final press before tagging/pricing, that $2 is a drop in the bucket of what has been invested in making these towels.

So I focus instead on how to work more efficiently rather than spend my time saving these thrums and then trying to make something useful out of them.  I could have woven another 3 or maybe 4 inches on this warp, but why?  

Instead I send the 'waste' off to be recycled, just like I do my paper, glass, cans and plastic 'waste'.

We all get to decide how to invest our time.  I prefer not to use it trying to save $2 worth of yarn.  YMMV.

Friday, July 28, 2017


There has been conversation on one of the internet groups I belong to about what it takes to be a professional in the leisure/hobby textile profession.  An oxymoron, of sorts, but not really.  

Because there are many people who follow the profession of teaching or producing textiles to a greater or lesser extent.

There are people who practice the craft, designing and making textiles for sale.  There are people who research and write about the creation of textiles.  There are people who teach the craft.  And mostly?  There are people who do all of the above.

There are also people who provide the supplies for the crafts, from growing the fibre, to importing it from other countries, to dyeing unique colours, to having local yarn shops, to selling supplies on line.

For me, I did all of that including weaving cloth for others.  I made a great deal of my income for 9 years weaving for a fashion designer, which I discussed previously, but also for other textile artists.  Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't.  Sometimes an international border stood in the way, like the time I wove 'samples' for a designer in New York.  Getting materials across the border and back again was a pain - for both of us.

Right from the beginning I taught.  My very first workshop was a (gasp!) spinning workshop.  No, I wasn't very good at it.  But I was better than those people who came who knew nothing at all - and wanted to.

Right from the beginning I wrote - first the local guild newsletter, then bravely sending articles off to magazines.  The very first one that accepted one of my articles was The Weaver's Journal.  

As soon as I could create enough inventory I took a booth at the local craft fair, plus I sold my textiles on consignment at a local shop.

And I learned.  Boy howdy, did I learn!  I knew very little about retails sales, but I did know how to set up a double entry ledger and how to balance it, reconciling it to my chequebook.  I knew enough that I'd rather pay an accountant than do my year end and file my taxes, so I wove enough to pay for those services.

Eventually we were both working in the studio - Doug was my studio assistant, winding warps on a 'spare' beam while I wove, doing the wet finishing, hitting the road and selling what we were making.  At one point I was weaving 240 yards per month - 200 for the fashion designer, 40 of my own design.  We had 28 shops in western Canada buying place mats, table runners, napkins.

Then everything came crashing to a halt.  Instead of 28 shops, suddenly there were three.  There wasn't enough work for two so Doug got a job elsewhere while I tried to figure out how to continue.

I worked on the Guild of Canadian Weavers master weaver certificate, writing, teaching, scrambling to bring in enough money to keep going.  And I saw the need for a book on wet finishing, so I worked on that, eventually self-publishing so I could include before and after samples.

The book launched in time for Convergence in Vancouver 2002, but taking a booth to just sell a book wasn't going to pay for the booth, let alone anything else so I had started importing yarns and selling them.  From there I started selling yarns at other fibre events, but most of the vendors were all pretty much selling the same things so I started importing yarns from China and dyeing them so sell.

And in between, I wrote and taught, and wove.

I gave up weaving for the fashion designer when I spent more time away teaching one year than I was home.

But that sort of teaching schedule wasn't sustainable, especially when I started having health issues.  Something had to give and I pared back on the teaching.  And then the dyeing.  Because dyeing is actually harder physically than weaving (for me).  And of course I never seemed to have the 'right' colour in the right yarn in the right quantity.  Eventually I just wove up whatever yarn was left over from those days.

Because I had essentially three stashes - the yarn I actually used for weaving my textiles, my teaching yarn stash, and my re-sale yarn stash...

I've been in this business for 40+ years now.  I have pretty much tried everything.  I have pretty much enjoyed a lot of it - some of it not so much.

Bottom line?  If you want to be a professional in this line of work?  It's hard.  You have to show up.  Every day.  You have to be self-motivated.  You have to either do it yourself, or make enough money to hire someone else to do it.  But most of all?  You have to just do it.  Nike got that part right.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


I forget how many towels are in this stack - 70?  80?  Doug went pressing yesterday so there are 20 more waiting for me to hem while these wait for Doug to have time to go pressing again.

Plus all the ones that are in the later stages of production - some already tagged, some just needing tagging.  

Let's just say I have more than enough of this style of tea towels*, probably for several years to come.

But they were just the balm for my soul that I needed for the past few months.  I have two more warps of this design in the pipeline and then it will be (past) time to deal with the rest of the warp on the AVL - 40 yards of fabric for the conference here in '19.  Some of that cloth will be used to decorate the hall(s) for the conference, some will be used in other ways and, once the conference is over, they can be turned into souvenir tea towels.  But first they have to get woven.

In other aspects of my life, things are also slowly progressing.  I have a workshop to teach in October so that needs to be dealt with.  This class has way more 8 shaft looms than usual and most of them floor looms, so that means an extreme 'tweaking' is needed for the drafts.  I have been reluctant to do such a deep editing of the workshop because it will be the last time I teach this topic and the time it takes will be significant.  On the other hand, why not go out in a blaze of 'glory'?  

I have managed to clear some things off my desk - the oral history mom did back in oh, 2005? - was kindly transcribed for me by a friend and I added some stories mom had typed out - single spaced, no paragraph breaks, ALL CAPS!  I really had to force myself to transcribe those, but I'm glad I did because I 'heard' some stories I'd forgotten, or never really knew.  I will likely print out the edited transcript because I prefer reading from a paper copy, not digital.

I am nearly 'done' with my obligations for Olds College for this year - just one more student who is scrambling to complete her last sample.  I really want to finish this so I can clear my head space of thinking about Olds for a while.

Because...next phase...craft fair season.  I pretty desperately need more table runners and shawls.  I sold out of the one and almost out of the other at Vancouver's Circle Craft last year.  It is beyond time for me to at least get some table runners done.  I'm not sure I can manage shawls, too.  There just aren't enough days left in the calendar...

*for anyone interested in the details for these towels, check out my article in the Sept/Oct 2017 issue of Handwoven

Thursday, July 20, 2017


I'm waiting for an important delivery today, so instead of being at the loom where I might not hear the doorbell, I've been sitting plying the next yarn.  And thinking.  Lots of time to think when plying.

I started thinking about how we 'invest' in our lives.  So many ways to invest our time, our energy, our talents.

For me the investment for the past 40+ years has been primarily in weaving.  To that end I have invested some time in learning more about spinning.  But I'm not 'invested' in spinning the way I am in weaving.

Learning more about spinning, how yarns are created, is more about learning how to become a better weaver, understanding my materials at a deeper level.  I'm not invested in actually becoming an expert spinner, all I'm doing is playing, really.  My understanding of spinning is much more on an intellectual level, not a practical or skilled level.  And my play time feeds into my hobby of knitting.  Creating unique blends/yarns is a colour study in and of itself, watching how those blends spin up and then knitting with them is all grist for the creative mill.

Yesterday I was talking to a (much) younger friend and I commented that I had no clue when I chose weaving the experiences I would have, the people I would meet.  With all the challenges of being a self-employed artisan, trying to design, make and sell my textiles, this career has brought enrichment I never dreamed of.  Or only dreamed of.

In my secret thoughts I wanted to write.  Weaving has allowed me to do that.  In my secret thoughts I wanted respect.  I think I have earned that.  I certainly have an amazing circle of friends who support and encourage me when I falter, paralyzed by...fear.

As a teacher I am not so much interested in making mini-me's who will do exactly as I do but urge students to think for themselves.  "Become your own expert" I tell them.  And I mean it.

So when I mark the Olds homework, I am not looking for people to do the exercises by rote.  I am looking to see what lessons they have learned, what challenges they may have overcome.  I am looking to see if they are exhibiting critical thinking skills, increasing their physical skills (as shown in their samples), understand for themselves where they are weakest and need to invest their time.

The past while has been challenging for me on a personal level.  Trying to also write a book is proving to be one challenge too many right at the minute.  And so I am going to take a little more time before diving back into it, explore some options (I hear you when you say you want a 'real' - as in paper - book), think about the content I have generated so far and what I need to add.  I have not given up on it entirely.  I just want to stop and check I am on the right path before I invest more of my (and my friends) time in it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


My messy life...

I am trying to cross some long delayed chores off my task list, the primary one being getting my ledger entries done, balanced, reconciled to my cheque book and file my GST (sales tax) for the second quarter of the year.  I've got until the end of the month, but I'm due a refund and I really need the money.

My 'dining' room table has become my de facto office.  It is also the hold all for all manner of things.  
The spools of singles - because I ply on the table using a borrowed electric spinner.  Doug's ipad case.  A photo of my dad, brother and me, taken in oh, 1959?  It's a favourite of mine and I can't seem to put it somewhere.  I have another on display, but there is no accounting for emotions...

Contracts for upcoming craft fairs, partly because I need to send new photos to one of them.  And somehow the contracts haven't been filed 'properly' - yet.  Partly as a reminder to actually send the photos...

Doug's tools because he's been getting to a pile of 'odd' jobs that have needed done for a long time, some just since the outside got renovated.  The renovation domino effect has meant that things that we were content to live with have now been affected, or in some cases, new stuff that needs doing.  Like the tile surround in the kitchen that had to be removed to fit the new, larger windows.  Some, like the garage door, needs to be painted, so there is a colour/chip card with our choice of new paint colour.

And on it goes.

I've had little income this year and the usual - indeed, extra - expenses so to add to everything else I'm having to 'finance' the business for the next few months.  All part of being a self-employed weaver - the mad scramble to make things, paying for materials up front but the income from their potential sales months down the road.  Having to pay for travel to events ahead of time, sometimes months before, but not getting paid until well after the event.  With cyclical income streams - in other words, out for months, in for about six weeks in the fall, with a dribble of income from teaching during the rest of the year.

The past year has had 'extra' stress due to the renovations to the house, disrupting my studio with having to make room for the trades to work, plus the noise, dust and general kerfuffle.  Plus mom dying.  I'm also older and not so resilient.

So I have finally embraced the concept of 'semi-retirement'.  But not quite yet.  Because now we start gearing up for the 2019 ANWG conference.  

To that end I have been in touch with instructors.  I have almost filled all the spots, just two more disciplines to find people for - quilting and knitting.  I have some leads, just need to find contact info.  Then, once I have everyone's topics, we will go through them and begin to design an event that will hopefully provide a quality experience, not just for the registrants, but for the instructors, vendors, etc.

In the meantime, I need to be an 'adult' and get my books done...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mastering Spinning

I bang on about the Master Weaving program at Olds College, but I also want to tell people about the Master Spinning program.

I came to weaving via the orifice of a spinning wheel.  Once I discovered weaving, spinning got set aside because I simply had no time to do it.  Eventually I sold my spinning wheels and moved on.

But about 12 or so years ago, the universe began 'gifting' me with spinning wheels.  A phone call asking if I could come pick up a loom for free, which turned out to be a spinning wheel.  Another phone call asking if I could take a wheel.  And so on.

None of these 'gifts' was quite 'right' for me and eventually I wound up buying a Canadian Production Wheel.  I prefer to spin woollen (supported long draw) from rolags and I really needed a wheel with a higher ratio than most wheels on the market.

I have been happily spinning on 'Larry' for a few years now.

As the 'free' wheels began showing up in my life, I started taking workshops from spinning teachers, not because I particularly wanted to become a better spinner, but because I wanted to be a better weaver.  Having arrived at weaving with a basic level of understanding how yarn was made, and having investigated yarn and fibre properties on my own, I found myself wanting to know more, know my materials better.  I knew that the way to do that was to take spinning classes.

(Note - I always warn the instructor to ignore me because I am there to become a better weaver, not a spinner!)

And so over the past few years I've taken classes with Judith MacKenzie, Kim McKenna, and several from Mary Lessman.

Mary is a graduate of the Olds College Master Spinner program and has now begun teaching classes for that program.

If you are ever in a position to take a workshop from her, I highly recommend taking it.  She is teaching at several venues in the US (check out the off campus link on the college website above) plus she has agreed to be one of the instructors for the ANWG conference here in 2019.

I have lined up most of the instructors for our conference and the conference website should be up by the end of summer.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eye Training

If you can't be perfect...be consistent...  Laura-ism #3(?)

Do you see it?  The inconsistency?  The flaw?  (Click on the photo to biggify it - sometimes Blogger cuts photos so you can't see the whole thing.)

Do I make mistakes?  Yes.  Am I perfect?  No.  Do I strive for perfection?  Yes.  But if you can't be perfect...

Over the years I have trained my eye to see inconsistencies.  Imperfections.  And then fix them.

As I worked with finer and finer yarns, those little inconsistencies became harder and harder to see.  Sometimes I don't catch them until I've woven a couple more picks.  Once the float is 'framed' by more correct picks, it shows up better.

But as quickly as I weave and using finer threads, sometimes I have to rely on other sensory input to realize something has gone wrong.

In addition to seeing the actual problem, I pay attention to other indicators.  I watch the top of the shed.  If it doesn't open consistently I look closely at that area.  Sometimes the shuttle will hit an end if the shed doesn't open cleanly, pulling more slack on that thread.  Then it is looser than the ends on either side and may not open all the way so that the next time the shuttle will go over instead of under it.  Which is what happened in the above example.

I pay attention to the working of the loom and shuttle.  If something feels different than the time(s) before, I look more closely.  I pay attention to how the loom and shuttle sound.  

Staying in focus, paying attention to what I am doing, not thinking about other things - weaving becomes a working meditation.  Staying in the now, setting aside the tensions, the stresses of life, help to relieve the stress.  Putting those stresses firmly outside the studio allows me to have relief from them.  I get aerobic exercise, produce endorphins, plus at the end of a weaving session I have produced cloth.

Mindful weaving - it's helpful, healthful - and brings me closer to 'perfection' than not being present in the moment.