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Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, the Fabrics!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

It is so nice to be able to step back in time and revisit past journeys through our photos. The digital age has made it so easy to click, click, click and I think I took over 4000 pictures on my first trip to India. While having that many photos is wonderful, it also makes it hard to pick just a few, LOL. In this post I’ll share some of my favourite pieces that made their way home with me on that trip that I told you about in the January 29th post (click here if you missed it!).

Just to remind you, the village is in West Bengal, north of Calcutta. This village is famous for its extraordinary weavers, very fine weaving, Saris and an inlay technique called Jamdani. The majority of the weavers wove on simple 2 shaft looms, with fly shuttle attachments. Warping is an extremely meticulous process due to the fine warp threads and the finished fabric is breathtaking.

The piece below was woven on 2 shafts with reeled silk. The warp was black and the weft was the colour of copper. If you look right down in the bottom left hand corner of the photo below you can see what the cloth looked like when it came off the loom….simple flat plain weave. All of the texture that you see in the body of the cloth was done by using the thumbs to force the warp threads apart after the cloth was taken from the loom. When I first brought it home it had a wide border all across the bottom about 6” wide but over the years I have been adding texture to the piece by demonstrating how the warps threads were moved. I don’t have much space left to demonstrate…so I’ll have to go back and get another one. When I hold this cloth in my hands I realize that another artisan used their thumbs on every square inch of the cloth shifting the warp threads exposing the weft threads.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

I have draped the scarf on Mary our wonderful model to show you this simple piece of plain weave in all its glory.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

The next piece is an amazing example of beater control. It is woven in plain weave with weft faced bands of 3/1 twill. The warp is like a cobweb, so incredibly fine it almost disappears. A band of gossamer plain weave is woven and then a band of 3/1 twill is woven that covers the warp as it becomes weft faced but because the threads are so fine it has a drape and effect that is absolutely stunning.

You can shift those weft bands into the open space but in the 9 years I have had this piece they have never shifted on their own.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Another of my favourite simple plain weave pieces has several things going on.  The warp is cotton with a silk weft. This scarf is so soft…..it is difficult to describe just how it feels in the hand.

At first glance it is easy to see the horizontal space that is left every few inches, again controlled by the beater but it also looks like there is denting in the warp.  Denting is a technique where you leave an empty dent open in the reed. Those black vertical lines look like empty space but upon closer inspection it is really 3 ends of one colour and then one end of black, there is no denting happening in the piece just the illusion of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to use my thread magnifier to figure out what is going on in these pieces.

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

The last piece in this post is woven on 4 shafts and is plain weave threaded into blocks. Some threads are on 1 and 2 and another block is on 3 and 4.

It can be woven with a simple tabby tie-up where both blocks weave plain weave from selvedge to selvedge like you see at both ends or it can be woven with one block always weaving plain weave while the other block doesn’t weave at all. The is accomplished in the tie up. The threads on 1 and 2 are always changing places but the threads on 3 and 4 stay in the middle and have one pick that floats over the entire block of them and the next pick floats under them. When you weave this way through the entire length of the cloth you end up with stripes where your warp has no take-up because there is never any interlacement through them, just over and under them.
Those stripes are the wavy ones and they were warped in silk where the other plain weave blocks are warped in a very fine wool. The entire weft is the fine wool. There is also a fabulous graphic threaded into those blocks. It is such a simple idea and every part of this cloth, the hand, the drape, the shiny, the matte, the thin stripes, the wide stripes, the colour……screamed take me home! 🙂

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

I am so happy to be able to share these particular weavings because this cloth and the weavers of this village challenged beliefs that I had carried around since I started to weave 30 years before. They challenged my ideas around sett, use of reed and beater and about what you could and couldn’t do with thread or structure…it changed my entire thought process around design. I had always loved plain weave but I gained a profoundly deeper respect for it than was there before. I will be eternally grateful to these weavers, for their extraordinary skill and vision and for the gift they shared with me during my 10 days with them. Namaste.

Like this post? Please feel free to share their beautiful work on Pinterest using the graphic below!

Handweaving in India, Part 2: Oh, The Fabric!

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In Memory of Ann Belau

Once upon a time there was an online weaving guild and some weavers formed groups to follow along with the guild. There were big groups and small groups, formal guilds, and informal get-togethers. Some groups took on weaving projects or challenges together. Sometimes, they put on shows to share the beautiful things they created.

Ann Belau belonged to two of these groups. One was a small local group in Three Rivers, CA; the other was the venerable, valley-wide guild Handweavers of the Valley. It’s clear Ann was a key member of her weaving groups—a teacher, an organizer, an event planner—and that she was driven by her own innate desire to learn as much as she could of spinning, dyeing, and weaving.

Left to right: Ellen Henderson, Ann, Linda Hayden, Mary Lou Hanson, Sophie Britten.

I really connected with Ann and her weaving group when, last October, she designed the foyer for the 39th show and sale of her local guild—displaying her study groups samples of all the episodes of the online guild. It was, by all accounts, a stunning display of colour and weaving. As guests arrived, Ann sat at her loom and gave teaching demonstrations of preparing the loom for weaving. At the time, I was thrilled and inspired and a little awed to think that I had had a part in such a truly remarkable achievement.

Ann has left us now, although she will never truly leave her family, her community, and her weaving friends, by all of whom I know she was deeply loved.

But I am still thinking about Ann, about her weaving group, about the people she connected with, and about the people who connected with those people. I am reflecting on how weavers who belong to an online weaving guild—in the cloud!— still find ways to organize, to connect, and to form community and engage with one another in meaningful ways.

I always get this sense of awe watching people take up the lessons of the guild and run with them. But there was something about Ann and her group that laid it out for me in a new way. Somehow, thanks to Ann and the people connected to Ann and the people connected to the people connected to Ann–I saw something new about the creative spirit and how it tends to organize.

First, we weave and then, we find one another. We self-organize–in guilds, in small weaving groups, at the community centre, in our homes. We are bigger than the organizations we create, but we also sometimes find our home there, as Ann’s daughter says Ann did. We decide to create beauty out of our own spirit; then we find our partners, our sisters, our friends. And then we create astounding things together. We work, we create, we talk, we share, we laugh, we learn—and we produce beauty.

Maybe we are like the bees. Maybe each of us is a single bee. In solitude, we weave our own life and experiences. But then we find one another and come together, and maybe then we are like a hive. And within our hive, we reach out with our sisters for craft, for mastery, and for beauty. And then one day, when we leave the hive, maybe we are like Ann—we launch into the open air with sun on our face, the wind in our hair, the blue sky over our wings—on a mission to find the flowers, and then to dance their location for her sisters, also working and dancing under the sun.

This is what we do. It really is what we do. It is the most beautiful thing imaginable. And I am so, so privileged to be included in that. I have all of you to thank for it, but it took Ann to show it to me.

To see some of Ann’s beautiful work, please read this blog post written by her daughter, who has given us permission to share the link here.

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February 2019 Newsletter

Alpaca Lace, Tweed and Prime Alpaca. 25% off sale

Our beautiful Alpaca yarns have been lonely for too long so I have decided to let them go at great savings. All remaining stock will be discounted until these beautiful skeins and cones have found a new home. Now’s the time to add some to your stash.

100% Super-fine Alpaca made in Peru. 1330 yds/lb. Available in 1/2 lb skeins – 664 yds/skein. We carry this yarn in two styles, Prime and Tweed. All colours are naturally occurring. It truly is a heavenly fibre. In plain weave the prime Alpaca weaves up beautifully at 10 epi and the Tweed is fabulous at 8 epi. Both variations full beautifully.
Lace weight Baby Alpaca. This yarn is spun from the finest quality of alpaca fibre. It knits or weaves to a luxurious, supersoft hand. It is beautiful as a weft on a silk warp. After you finish your project all it needs is a gentle wash in warm water, a rinse and hang to dry. Finish off with a nice steam press.

880 yds/100g cone.

More Bouclé Blankies

Do you remember those gorgeous blankies from last newsletter? Well I just couldn’t stop working on them. The first lot were soft and subtle in their colour ways and you know me… I love hot and humid, LOL. So here you go… two limited edition colour ways: Salt Spring Berries and Carmanah Caress.

Coming up next on the Online Guild


Get set to learn about Cramming and Denting in the next episode airing February 7th. It is the perfect technique to follow on the heals of Denting which we did in January.

Latest Blog

I have had a few requests to write a bit about the weavers of India and those beautiful fabrics you seeing hanging in the studio during the videos. I will add a new post to these threads every month and you’ll see just why I’m always talking about these artisans. They are so inspiring.

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Handweaving in India

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

A few weeks back I received a request for information about the beautiful textiles on the back wall of the studio in the videos. Laurel asked if I could share some information about them…. how they were woven, where I found them, interesting facts about them and about my travels.

Handweaving in India: some of the beautiful handwoven samples on display in the JST Textiles studio

What a great idea… those textiles are hanging on the wall because they provide me with more inspiration than I could use in a lifetime and they are all woven in India.

In 2011 I was invited by Charlotte Kwon of Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver to go to India and assist as a weaving facilitator at a Masterclass she was hosting in a village some hours north of Calcutta. That trip changed my life in more ways than I can say. I have been back to India several times since and have also worked in Ethiopia. I’m actually going back to Ethiopia in March to continue working with some of the very fine weavers at Sabahar and I’ll certainly post about that little adventure.

Going to India confirmed what I have always believed…..that we can weave the most beautiful fabrics on the simplest of looms. If our technique is top notch and we train our hands and eyes we can accomplish great things. If we question our beliefs about right and wrong (or it must be done this way) we come to understand that there are a million ways to approach things and everyone needs to embrace what works for them and that is dependent on the resources we have on hand.

There are 8 million handweavers working in India every single day. Their use of pattern is like a language, it has great cultural meaning and is miles deep. The fabrics created are extremely different between villages, regions and states. This means you could spend a lifetime learning about cloth in India.

I could go on and on but I think I’ll start with the warping process in the first village I was in. I’ll add a new post every other post.

Remember, in rural India weaving is a village affair, imagine walking into a village where 1000’s of weavers are busy at work. I was in heaven.

A simple 2 shaft pit loom. Notice that the beams are all made from giant bamboo. The weavers sit on the ground with their feet in a dugout where the treadles are.

Handweaving Around the World: India

This is a reeled silk warp being prepared. In this village they start by making a gigantic sectionally wound warp and the warping reel will hold warp for many looms. Once it is all on, the weavers bring their thread beams in and wind off enough for their sari or whatever they are weaving.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

The thread beams and harnesses are taken outside when there is bright sunlight to thread them.

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Then the beam and harnesses go back onto the loom where they are sleyed and weaving begins.

What a blast!

Handweaving Around the World: India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

Hope you’ll come back for more.

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Handweaving in India - on the Jane Stafford Textiles Blog

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A Weaver’s Challenge: 30 Tea Towel Designs in 30 Days

A few days before we broke for Christmas one of my dearest friends and longtime JST employee Susan Brown (25 years) called to say she was coming in to show me something.  She told me a wonderful story and Susan has graciously agreed to share some of it with you.  Once again, it reinforces the lessons in the previous few blogs.  I hope you’re inspired by Susan’s story and you give it a try yourself 🙂

 

30 Tea Towel Designs in 30 Days

For the month of October an artist friend of mine, Gail Sibley painted 31 paintings in 31 days. Yes, one per day! I was so inspired but I am not a painter. I decided to draw 30 tea towels in 30 days for November. It turned out to be a very worthwhile endeavour. First I went out and found a lovely little square (don’t you just love square) sketch book and then gathered all my pencil crayons. I loved the discipline of drawing one tea towel a day but must confess there was a night or two when bedtime came and no tea towel had appeared in my sketch book for that day. I am happy to tell you that every night but one, I managed to make it happen.

Having taken Jane’s Colour and Design workshop the previous year, I drew on what she had taught in the class. Often I selected a few colours to start with, sometimes outside my usual pallette and then proceeded to work on the graphics. At times I forced myself to try layouts that did not come from my ‘go to’ designs. That was hard but very rewarding most of the time. While drawing a tea towel, the ‘what if’ question often came up which usually led to the following day’s design. Coming up with a different design each day was not always easy but when it wasn’t, I asked myself ‘what if I just changed one element of a previous design’ and presto, there was a new design.

A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

Drawing 30 tea towels in 30 days was fun, challenging, educational, interesting and (as I said), very worthwhile. There are designs that I don’t like so much, but there are definitely designs that I like and some that I can’t wait to try. Who knows, I may do it again or something like it!

-Susan Brown

A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

Ready to sketch?

The best part of this challenge is that you can start it any time you like! Don’t be afraid to customize it to fit your own preferences – for instance, if you aren’t  ready to commit to 30 days, try sketching 7 Tea Towel Designs in 7 Days. Who knows, you might enjoy it so much, you decide to keep going!

We’d love to see your design ideas, feel free to share them with us in our Ravelry group or on Instagram using the #janestaffordtextiles hashtag.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog to get future posts delivered via email!

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A Weaver's Challenge: 30 tea towels in 30 days

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January 2019 Newsletter

Happy New Year Kids

We were so ‘on it’ with the Christmas newsletter except we had hurricane winds that completely shut down our little island on December 20th… WOW…  what an event. Alas, you are getting that newsletter today. We were without power for seven days and three hours… but I really wasn’t counting 🙂  Then we had a ruptured water line that got fixed on New Year’s Eve, so all in all it wasn’t quite the restful holiday that any of us were hoping for. BUT… we are all well and groovin’ into the New Year.

Grant’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese

(c) Can Stock Photo / Hannamariah

For the past two years my sweetheart, Grant, has been whipping up some pretty delicious lunches for our in-house workshops. We have been promising to share a few for some time… so here goes.

Mohair Blankies

For years I have been wanting to make a mohair blankie with a mohair bouclé warp and weft… and finally… I’ve made two. Oh my goodness I can’t tell you how amazing they are. To hold one of these blankies is to hold a soft curly cloud. Cheryl (our ab-fab dyer) hand dyed the yarn in several soft neutral colours and then I went to town. I warped the way I demonstrate in the Online Guild Season 1 Episode 10 and it was oh so easy… the bouclé is easier to warp than brushed mohair. I used some heavier mohair bouclé as accents to divide the space. We’ve made a limited edition of this very special project…. just six kits of each colour way. Have a peek.

Thank you and best wishes

I just want to take a moment to thank you all for a fabulous year, so from everyone here at JST…… We wish you health, happiness, peace and joy.

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December 2018 Newsletter

Stocking stuffers

We experienced a mini-disaster here on Salt Spring Island. The storm of Thursday Dec 20 brought down numerous trees and power lines. We have no power and the road is blocked; a situation that’s unlikely to change for a number of days, if not weeks.

Grant is taking his chainsaw to Richard Flack Road to try to clear a path to Langs Road. Eben, Jane’s eldest son, reported 47 felled trees on Langs Road, which connects to the main road.

Thankfully we haven’t heard of any fatalities.

Business as normal is not possible.

Fulfillment of any orders placed yesterday and onwards will be delayed by an unknown amount of time.

My apologies. Have a safe holiday period and all the best for the new year.

Blog

Our blog has two number posts since the last newsletter; here they are in case you missed them:

Weaver Spotlight: JST Online Guild Member Linda P.
Design for Weavers: Colour Theory & Practice

If you want to subscribe to the blog, you can do it here:
https://jst.link/blog-signup

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Weaver Spotlight: JST Online Guild Member Linda P.

This month we are going to shine the spotlight on one of our JST Online Guild members…the talented Ms. Linda Pickett from Victoria, B.C. Earlier this year, Linda attended our last workshop and brought along some fabulous show and tell. I was so excited that I begged her to let me share 3 of the pieces with you.

She used all the techniques that were presented in the last 3 blog posts. She figured out what her sett was first, then she divided her space and finally she poured in the colour and threading structure.
These 3 pieces are amazing!
In Linda’s words:
A number of things came together for me this past year.  I think it was partly the online guild, partly that I framed some goals for myself for the year (first time I have done that), partly that I was working with yarns and colours that I like. I was inspired to play, to push things further, to experiment. I have let all this air into my cloth. I experimented with mixing yarns in my cloth that I would never have considered. I am weaving more mindfully (its kinda slow but I am enjoying it), I am doing better at watching the negative space, paying more attention to my technique.  The result is that I wove projects this past year that thrilled me, the most delighted I have been with my weaving since I first threw a shuttle (before I realized that that miraculous cloth closely resembled cardboard). So very exciting. 
 
One of the brilliant things about the online guild is that it is like getting a creative booster shot every month. I certainly didn’t weave everything; I didn’t “keep up” by any means but they always inspire me. Sometimes I almost can’t watch because my brain is too full for more ideas! So fabulous. 
‘Blankie’ is woven using Harrisville Shetland in PW at 8 epi and 8 ppi.  Linda pulled one of the Colour and Weave threadings (DDL) from the guild gamp and used it for the body of the blankie.
 She framed it with a natural zinger line and a solid border.
The drape and hand are spectacular and the colour is beautifully soft.
This next shawl is breathtaking; Linda used many of the techniques we learned in 2018. Her canvas was a mix of 18/2 merino for the warp and 16/2 cotton for weft. Woven perfectly balanced at 18 epi and ppi.
Graphically, she did a division of space in 5, and her outer borders are different widths….there is that asymmetry word again! 🙂
Then she had 2 sections with 4 D, 4 L colour and weave sequence from the gamp in Season 2 episode 4
and the centre section was solid white with a fine over grid of black on it. She put it all together using the ideas from Colour and Design, so naturally I was jumping up and down when she showed me this piece. (You can just imagine!)

Linda took it all tad further with this beautiful fine 40/2 linen scarf where she inserted some Bronson Lace into the graphic.

It is so easy to see how the graphic and the sketching helps you get to the warping board quickly:

She knew her EPI was going to be 24 because we discussed it based on all the sampling we do around here. She figured out how wide and how long, then she drew her graphic…..got her number of warp threads…fiddled around a wee bit making the lace threading fit (based on Season 1 Episodes 5 and 6),
and then she poured in her colours:

That’s the formula that just keeps giving and giving and giving!

We absolutely adore seeing what our guild members are weaving! Did you know that you can share your projects with our Ravelry Group, and also on Instagram using the #JSTOnlineGuild hashtag?

We look forward to another exciting year of weaving in 2019 – click here to learn more about Season 3: Pushing the Boundaries of Plain Weave. We hope you’ll join us!

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Design for Weavers: Colour Theory & Practice

Colour is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment.

Claude Monet

Colour is the child of light, the source of all light on earth.

From “Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments”

My weaving colour choices are an emotional response, a response to some stimulus that has moved me—a flower, a painting, a picture in a magazine. I see something that I love, and then I interpret it in coloured yarns.

Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong; sometimes it looks stunning, sometimes—less stunning. But the great thing is, there’s always more yarn and there’s always another opportunity to try again and make it better.

Talking Colour

Colour is a big subject, and it has a vocabulary all its own. In designing, I work most with three aspects of colour:

  • Hue
  • Value
  • Saturation

Hue

Hue is easy. It’s what we naturally think of when we think of “what colour” something is: red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple.

Another way to think of hue is where the colour sits on the colour wheel:

Value

If you were a painter, you could easily achieve a wide range of colours simply by adding black, white, or grey to your hue. This changes the lightness and darkness of a colour. This changes its value, which is the lightness or darkness of a colour.

If you add white to a colour, you have a tint:

If you add black to a colour, you have a shade:

If you add grey to a colour, you have a tone:

Saturation

A hue at its purest and clearest, as it would appear in the colour wheel, is said to be at its maximum saturation.

As you add grey to a hue, the hue becomes more desaturated—making it less clear and more muted. In the picture below, the outermost ring is the pure hue at its most saturated. As you move in to the centre of the circle, the colour becomes increasingly desaturated.

Using Colour

Weavers can’t mix on a palette like painters do, so it is important to play with combinations that might strike you as unlikely, because you’ll be amazed how some of them work in the cloth.

You will see in the sample work on the online guild that varying colours that have high and low saturation can give you the most amazing, complex colour in your finished piece.—Sort of like having a party with your quiet family, and then the loud crazy cousins come in and it becomes a hootenanny. ☺

I have some favourite moves I like to make when using colour, and I’ll share them with you here.

Gradations

I love gradation work.  This is where you can put all the tints and shades of one colour that you might have in your stash. A gradation builds movement across your weaving from light to dark.

If you then add an overgrid on your gradation, it makes an entirely new graphic:

You can shift through analogous colours, or in and out of one set of colours—for example, dark on the selvedge to light in the middle, or vice versa.

Analogous Colour Harmonies

I use analogous colour harmonies more than anything else in my weaving. They are the colours right next door to each other on the colour wheel.

Analogous colours flow into one another. Gaia uses them all the time: just start looking at flowers!

Some colour systems include four colours from the wheel in a row, others three. Personally, I think you can use as many as you want to create your own personal rainbow. If you are working directionally around the colour wheel you can never go wrong.

Analogous colour harmonies are the perfect place to start if you are unsure about using colour. Then you can add gradations of light and dark.

Complementary Colours

Colours that are right across the colour wheel from each other are called complementary colours, or complements.

Complements for Zingers and Accents

Complements make great zingers and accents.

When deciding how you want your complementary colours to interact, keep in mind that colour plus its complement (in theory, anyway) gives you a muddied look. For example, if you use one colour for your warp and its complement for your weft, the resulting piece can be very muted, possibly more than you expect.

If you want that big contrast, keep blocks of complementary colours larger in both the warp and the weft, so that the eye does not blend them into gray.

Our plaid sample is a great example of this. We have big red squares and big green squares. Where they weave on each other, they look muddy. But because our eye is drawn to the solid square of each colour, we don’t even notice the muddy areas.

Split Complements for Pairing

For a split complement, we first identify the true complement of a colour. Then we select the colours on either side of it to pair with the original colour. For example, the true complement of green is red.

To find the split complement, we look at the colours on either side of red.

If you are looking at one colour family and want to find some nice pairings, split complements always work. They make great zingers, too. Start looking for split complements in nature and you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

Many of the samples in the previous 2 posts use these principles.  Go back and have a look here and here.

So happy to share my approach to colour with you. To explore colour further, I invite you to join the JST Online Guild; our 2018 season focuses on Colour & Design, and you’ll receive immediate access to all published videos when you sign up! Click here to learn more (you’ll also receive our free PDF guide, Project Planning 1010).  Happy Weaving!

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November 2018 Newsletter

Take this opportunity to stock up on all your favourite yarns. This weekend only, all yarns 10% off.

Stocking stuffers

The festive season is just around the corner… if you’re looking for some great stocking stuffers for the weavers in your life we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite products.

Blog

We’ve started a blog last month, here’s the two articles you may have missed this month:

Design for Weavers: Fibonacci & Division of Space
Weaving Architecture: Step 1 of the Design Process

If you want to subscribe to the blog, you can do it here: https://jst.link/blog-signup

Online Guild update

Just wanted to let you know that we’ll be releasing our wee promotional video on December 6 about what’s coming your way in 2019. Pushing the boundaries of plain weave is the workshop we’ll be featuring. If you’ve been wondering about denting, cramming & denting, log cabin, warp-faced, weft-faced, double-weave, collapsed weave and supplementary warps then you won’t want to miss next year. Sign up before December 7 and you’ll get it at the current price of C$75 / year.