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A Few notes and a Joke

Last week was awesome. On Monday, 7 students participated in a one day seminar called “Honing Your Basic Weaving Skills”. We went over making warps quickly, efficiently and most importantly, VERY WELL. Then we dressed a loom Back to Front and discussed the pro and cons to the many methods of warping looms. Bobbin winding which is often under-rated was demonstrated and good shuttle handling, posture, and shedding sequence was practiced by everyone.

By the end of the day everyone’s selvedges were straigthening out and weaving was much faster and fun and the cloth more even.

On Tuesday, some of the same gals returned and we added some new ones to look at “Project Planning 101”. We went over all the questions you need to ask yourself when designing your projects, starting with…

1. What do you want to make?
2. What do you want to make it out of?

….and then we went from there. Everyone provided a scenario and therefore we learned a great deal answering everyone’s questions. The math is not so daunting when you think about it in a logical sequence.

Wednesday was a wild and wooly affair. We made a 4 yd. brushed mohair warp and had it on the loom by noon and then we beamed another 45″ brushed mohair warp that was 7 1/2 yds. long. That was rolled on by 1 p.m. After lunch we went over winding bobbins so that yarn doesn’t stick and exits the the shuttle easily. Again good posture, shuttle control, shedding sequences were demonstrated and then everyone sat down and wove on the mohair warp. It is amazing how easy it is to manage difficult yarns when you know a few tricks and are willing to adapt your technique a little bit to suit the situation.

We just can’t weave everything one way. Just like cooking, sometimes you have to change ‘this a little’ and ‘that a lot’ for the recipe to work.

Thursday was a very special day. Susan Brown and I led 5 women through a day of self-discovery based on readings from “The Creative Habit”, “The Four Agreements”, “The Path of Least Resistance” and several others books that have meant a great deal to Susan and I. It was a very powerful and personal day with a goal of addressing our creative needs.

Thank you so much to Sasha, Crystal, Sally, Lynne and Susan.

This week we are getting revved up for Cheryl Wiebe’s “In Pursuit of the Rainbow”, dyeing workshop this weekend. Looms are getting squished into corners so dye tables can come out. It should be a very colourful 2 days, even if the sun doesn’t shine.

Well, that’s what we’ve been up to in the last few weeks. The studio is a wonderful place to host these workshops so let us know if you want to learn something specific and we’ll try to rustle up a workshop for you. Actually, more than a workshop. We are trying to create wholesome learning experiences that feed the soul on many levels.

My friend Dawn Russell is always sending me great jokes and I have to leave you with this one. Read it with all the theatre you can muster.


A wife was making a breakfast of fried eggs for her husband.

Suddenly, her husband burst into the kitchen.

‘Careful,’ he said, ‘CAREFUL! Put in some more butter! Oh my GOD!

You’re cooking too many at once. TOO MANY! Turn them! TURN THEM NOW!
We need more butter. Oh my GOD! WHERE are we going to get MORE BUTTER?

They’re going to STICK! Careful . CAREFUL! I said be CAREFUL! You NEVER
listen to me when you’re cooking! Never! Turn them! Hurry up! Are you
CRAZY? Have you LOST your mind? Don’t forget to salt them. You know you
always forget to salt them. Use the salt. USE THE SALT! THE SALT!’

The wife stared at him. ‘What in the world is wrong with you?
You think I don’t know how to fry a couple of eggs?’

The husband calmly replied, ‘I just wanted to show you what it feels like when I’m driving.’

Have a great week,

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On creativity:

This week I thought I would write about my most requested seminar topic. Some of you have heard me drone on and on about this topic, but some of you may not, so I’m writing this for you. It starts with a question I am often asked “How do you get it all done, you seem to do so much!”

I smile, because I don’t get it “all done”. There are a million things I haven’t gotten done but I do seem to keep my nose to the grind stone a keep plodding along. Over the years I have read every self help book known to woman or man. Books like, “Helping Your Child Sleep Through the Night”, “Siblings Without Rivalry”, “How to Deal with your acting up Teenager”, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and I have always planned to write the best seller “You don’t always have to be an Outlaw with your Inlaws” (although I did). Now I’m reading “Understanding Menopause” and “The Silent Passage” only I’m not being too silent about it.

Of all the self help books I’ve read, one of the best is called “The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life” by Twyla Tharp. Found within is a recipe for understanding creativity. I have never really had trouble being creative, my efforts mind you were not always successful, but I always kept going. When I first read “Developing a creative habit” I found out why. It is because I have Discipline which has given me the ability to Focus, they have become a regular Routine and thus have led to Productivity.

These are some of main concepts that Twyla Tharp writes about in her book:

I was raised by a mother who was 41 years older than me (my whole life). She was a woman who had lived through hard times and she was disciplined and had disciplined habits that she drilled into her children. So, the idea of working hard has never been foreign to me. Hard work, seems to be one answer. I have worked hard to be a weaver for 30 years. I did not learn what I know overnight. I have made every mistake known to a weaver. I have made more ugly cloth than you can imagine (it is hidden away). But every mistake and every piece of ugly cloth has given me an opportunity to solve a problem or to weave it again, only better. I have woven things over and over and over and each time the cloth, the design, the hand, the drape, gets better. I have focused on one thing until I get it right and then I move on to a new problem.

The thing about focusing on one thing: be it weaving mohair blankets for 20 years, or weaving 100’s of scarves in just one structure is that you have the opportunity to interpret with colour or a type of yarn over and over again. This way of creating has allowed me to push the lid off the box, so to speak, on many different aspects of weaving. Many weavers have asked me if I ever get tired of weaving mohair blankets and my answer is always “how could I, I have 50 colours of mohair and in my garden a million different sources of inspiring colour, all of which I create with on the same canvas. That canvas never changes but the colours do, A painters canvas may not change but their colours do. At last count I have woven almost 1000 blankets with almost 300 different graphic designs all in plain weave. 1000 blankie’s to keep people warm and bring comfort. I will always weave mohair blankies.

Over the years I have focused on many different weave structures. I think I spent 1 entire year drafting overshot name drafts and weaving them in many different yarn combinations. I have spent several years drafting Bronson Lace starting on 4 shafts, then working on 8 and and then 12 and then 16 etc. and now I sometimes wish I had more than 32.

So my message for the day is Don’t be afraid to weave the same thing over and over. Try to change one element each time and you will learn more than you can imagine. When it is time and you will know, you can move on to another canvas or weave structure and push it until you really understand it. Through repitition we learn so much. Another analogy would be with cooking. When we learn a new recipe, we often have to refer to the cookbook many times. The second time we make that recipe, we proceed with a little more self assurance. The third time we make it we find that we are making subtle changes to the spices and baking times. It is becoming more familiar and more “ours”. After a few more times you have completely re-invented it and you understand it at a whole new level. It works in the weaving world as well. If you need a good self-help book, check out Twyla’s. It was great to have a little more understanding as to why I appear to get so much done.

I’m always looking for a good joke and Susan sent me one this week that had me laughing for days. It is perfect, as I am the third woman in the Sauna.







Have a great week,

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Festival Season is Mad

Spring is sprung and weavers are in their gardens. However, it is also a time for travel and festivals. In my studio on Salt Spring Island I teach Pushing the Boundaries of Plainweave, July 22 to 26 and again on August 5 to 9. Also August we will be at the Gibsons Landing Fibre Festival, vending and teaching Collapsible Fabrics from the 19-23.

This year, I have the privilege to teach at the Maiwa Textile Symposium for the first time. On October 1-4 from 10 to 4 in the Maiwa Net Loft on Granville Island in Vancouver, BC I will be teaching Weaving in the Maiwa Tradition.

I have always been so inspired by the exquisite handwoven fabrics that are produced for Maiwa. They bear witness to the beauty and elegance of plain weave, elegant use of colour, great design, and ingenuity. This workshop has been developed based on loom-controlled techniques used in Maiwa’s handwoven textiles. They are simple structures pushing the boundaries of plain weave in fine yarns. Students will weave eight fabrics over four days.

Students need basic weaving skills and their own table loom. Warps will be prepared in advance and sent to the students before the workshop. During the workshop students will migrate from loom to loom thus gaining access to a wide variety of structures and weaves.

Registration for this starts Monday June 22 at 10 am. Go to for more information

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Best Job in the Whole World

Well I guess the blogs are going to be monthly. Weekly certainly didn’t work, bi-weekly didn’t work, every three weeks didn’t work, so we’ll try monthly. Despite the fact that I don’t have much time to write these blogs I do feel as though I have the best job in the world. Every day I get to share my passion with weavers all over the continent. By chance, two of my favourite weavers were both in the studio at the same time a few weeks ago. They both brought in exquisite projects fresh off the loom woven in 12 gauge bamboo.
The wonderful thing about these two women is that they are both 88 years old, vital, creative and so inspiring. Josie has been weaving for more than 40 years and is one of the founding members of the Salt Spring Island Weavers Guild. Josie is a natural colourist and she is never afraid to try something new. She took home the Grand Rosette at our last Fall Fair.

Josie and her husband Philip are also very accomplished gardeners. A few years back they sold their ocean-front home with remarkable gardens to new owners. You can see their garden featured in Gardens West Vol 22 no. 8 October 2008, page 7. Josie and Philip are referred to throughout the article.

Josie’s scarf was woven in a turned twill pattern at 32 epi, 32 ppi on 8 shafts. Her warp was predominantly soft greens with a crocus weft. Pam’s colours were lime, sky, indigo, crocus and sugar plum woven in a 4 shaft huck lace, sett at 28 epi, 28 ppi. The hand and drape on both of the pieces were perfect.

Pam first learned to weave as an occupational therapist before she retired. When she was in her late 60’s she decided to take her weaving more seriously and began her very disciplined exploration. She is always dropping in to show me what she is working on and is always striving to make her weaving better. So often I hear my students say: “Oh, I wish I had learned to do this earlier!”. Let Pam be your muse because it’s never too late! Each project is a step along your weaving path. Keep moving forward along your path, don’t dwell on what you haven’t done, take positive action by moving forward.

P.S. Pam has a remarkable garden too.

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Sowing seeds for a future generation of weavers…

My last on line journal was about Josie and Pam, both 88 and creating absolutely stunning fabrics. We thought it would be fun to look at the other end of the spectrum.

Three young ladies who have had a chance to try out weaving on 4 shaft looms with good quality yarns in colours of their choice. They are 3, 6 and 12 years old and they have all jumped into the weaving world with a big splash. Children learn so quickly, unlike adults they are undaunted by the process. Given the chance, little fingers stiff at first with indecision are transformed into flying, exuberant and deftly joyous instruments of pure creative expression.
Saraphina is 3. Her mom Rachel weaves and works here. Saraphina is curious, independent and capable. She really really wants to weave.
After wanting to take over her mother’s loom we decided to give her one of her own that we weren’t using anymore. She chose the colours for her first warp. While her mother warped the loom and threaded it, Saraphine sleyed it all by herself. She throws the shuttle with gay abandon, marveling at the process and excelling at beating the weft ‘nice and tight’! Her mama loves to see her creativity nourished.


Amadea is six. She came to the studio with her grandma Arlene and was so interested, I just had to give her a scarf kit of her own. Her face lit up at the possibility of weaving. She dressed the loom with her grandma and look at the wonderful result. A perfect chenille scarf, She is going to “put it under her bed in her Tommy Hilfiger box where no one can find it and if they want to wear it they have to ask first”.
What a gift to give to the next generation – the gift of experience from a cherished person – her grandma! Grandma jokes: “A six year old and her grama, at the same level!”


We have another young weaver on Salt Spring named Zoë and she is 12. She is weaving with a mentor – Jane MacKenzie, and the result is magic. Jane told us a little of the story and here it is. Unfortunately we do not have any photos of Zoë’s weaving yet.

“Zoë and I first began working together a few years ago when her mother asked me if I could help her get started with weaving. Her idea was to weave material to sew a cloak. She was reading a novel and the main character had a blue cloak which she wanted to create.”

We used silk and silk/cashmere, yarns she chose from my studio supply of both Treenway and The Silk Tree yarns. We spent a day dyeing the yarn with real indigo to create a lovely shade of pale blue. She worked with 20/2 yarn at 36 ends per inch and once the loom was set up she wove all the yardage herself. I think it was about 6 meters, which is a lot for a 12 year old but she persevered! She then created a pattern with her mother and they sewed the cloak. It was a beautiful and well done job.

Zoë and I are presently working on another small project of three solid color silk scarves as she is keen to keep working and wants to create gifts for several people. We also have in mind a larger project with a painted warp which we will do when the scarves are complete. She will create the warps in my new studio, Knotty Threads, in Fulford and weave the project at home on her new loom. Zoë is determined and creative and has great parents that seek out others to help facilitate her goals and ambitions.”

Here is a girl who has no restrictions on her creative possibilities and she is producing beautiful fabric and handwovens already – winning at our 2008 Fall Fair and poised to be a great weaver.

These children have all been given a gift – a seed has been sown and hopefully it will continue to grow throughout their lives.

Why don’t you consider planting a garden…


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May 28

Well, everyone thinks I should have a blog. Apparently I am entertaining, inspirational and best of all, funny. Even the guy who is trying to optimize my website says it is a good idea. Last night as I thought about it, I had brilliant ideas that flowed effortlessly as I sipped my wine. Obviously my brain is like a toilet in a public urinal, flushing every 5 minutes, because this morning I can’t think of a darned thing. I plan to keep a pad of paper and a pen inside the liquor cabinet from now on!

I think a weekly blog is something I could manage and that will give me 7 evenings to be witty and informative. I’ll start taking notes tonight.

This week I’d like to tell you about my new DVD – done for Louet North America. You can see the ad on page 18 of the May/June issue of Handwoven or go to It is a 2 disc set that demonstrates warping a Louet Spring loom with a second disc running through all the wonderful attributes of Louet looms. If I may say so, it is pretty darn good.

Talk to you next week.

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My First Blog

At Christmas time we always exchange magazines. My son Eben bought me an Organic Living magazine. On Christmas morning I looked in my stocking and found this magazine that looked kind of interesting, and then I HAD to make the comment: “Hmmm, this is just full of advertising and marketing!” Eben, slightly offended, retorted with: “Well, gee Mom, I’m sorry but I couldn’t find any ‘Old Ladies with String Digests’ “!

And so we make available to you, all you ladies with string – our blog!

Happy Weaving,