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Sabahar Part 2: The Dyers and Warpers

In my last post you caught a glimpse of the amazing work and skill that goes in to producing the yarns used in the cloth woven at Sabahar. Now it’s time to visit the dyers and the warpers… two more steps necessary to bring these amazing Ethiopian textiles to life.

Last year Kathy was able to construct two new buildings. One was for the dyers and finishers and the other was a beautiful modern shop where all these beautiful textiles are displayed for the appreciative customers of Sabahar.

The dying studio is fabulous. It has big washing spaces outside where the water is treated and recycled for watering the gardens. They have a fancy dye machine that is used for skeins of mill spun 40/2 cotton warp that is used as a base warp for many of the fabrics. All of the handspun cotton and silk are dyed in pots just like we do… but they just do so much of it.

Just taking my skeins for a walk… all scoured and ready to dye…

The new dye and finishing building

Sabahar’s new dye and finishing building, check out the great sinks out front…

They have one large mechanical dye machine… and several smaller dye machines…

All dye water is treated in a simple treatment system and the water is used in the gardens…

Everyday the lines are hung with different colours. These are skeins of handspun cotton and silk

The Warpers

After the yarns are dyed warping is next. I always say that there are a dozen ways to do something, well now I believe there are 13 :)! Before I went to Ethiopia the first time in 2016 I could never have imagined this type of warping. Or that it was possible to make such long warps with such simple equipment and with so many threads used in a single bout. Imagine warping with 30 threads at a time!

Thirty cones of 40:2 cotton

Thirty cones of 40/2 cotton are being used in this warp…

There are several warping stations… all pretty much the same. Nails along rough wood. That’s it!

Once the warp is made it is wound into something that resembles a giant cocoon… rather fitting really as they are surrounded by cocooning silk worms.  It starts just like we start a ball of yarn by hand they just don’t make it round. And the cross is at the end.
The 40/2 cotton is pretty darn fine but the 40/1 cotton is so fine I could barely see it and it is… yes a single strand. This only comes from the mill in skeins. They load up the skeins onto a wagumba which is a giant swift.  Thirty skeins are loaded on, thirty individual ends are found and then the warper carries the wagumba up and down the warping board while he is making his warp.
Another view of the giant swift
A 70 yard warp

This is what a 70 yard warp looks like on it’s way to the loom where it will be transformed into 40 towels.

The metal warping mill

And then they have one trusty metal warping mill which I felt right at home with. Ermias and Aiyelle made a new warp for us to use in the Research and Development Department.

Next blog post

Part three: The Weavers of Sabahar and their brand spanking new R&D dept.

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The Silk Producers, Spinners, Dyers and Weavers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Part 1: of a story about my recent trip to Ethiopia where I worked with the weavers, spinners and dyers of Sabahar in Addis Ababa. I did several posts about this trip on Facebook but I know there are a lot of you out there that don’t hang out on Facebook or other social media and you are important to me too… so here goes.

This story all begins with one amazing woman named Kathy Marshall from Beaver Lodge Alberta. Kathy has lived in Africa since 1994 working in the area of agriculture and development. Kathy’s desire to create a business that specialized and celebrated the rich textile traditions in Ethiopia began in 2004 with one weaver and several spinners working out of her home.

Fast forward 15 years and Sabahar now employs over 200 artisans. Weavers, spinners, dyers, silk farmers and finishers. It is an amazing success story that sits on top of a mountain of determination, dedication and above all, love.

There are so many parts to this story but it really should start with these lovely little critters… eri silk moths. By the way, Saba is the Amharic word for queen and Hari is the Amharic word for silk… a perfect name for Sabahar.

Sabahar is the pioneer of silk production in Ethiopia. Kathy brought her silk cocoons from Assam India where Eri silk originates. The name eri comes from the Assamese word “era”, meaning castor and that is exactly what these caterpillars eat. Ethiopia has an abundant supply of Castor trees which made it a perfect silk match for the country.

It takes five days for the eggs to hatch… they moult four times during their lifespan of approximately 45 days depending upon the temperature… this little guy on the left is almost full grown, the pair on the right are fully grown… when they get to this size and become pale in colour you hold them to your ear, rub their backs and if they sound hollow, they’re ready to spin… two caterpillars are placed in a paper cone, trays of cones sealed up ready to spin… it takes two days to spin and another seven days for the metamorphosis to occur…

A cup of caterpillars

I put two caterpillars in this glass mug and weighed down a piece of paper with my cell phone. It was amazing to watch them spin their cocoon. Their little heads circled round and round while they extruded the silk into the unique shape that Eri silk is spun into. They will fill any shape they are put into… the cocoons that come out of the paper cones are cone shaped. If they are put into a square container, the cocoon will be square… truly amazing.

Spinning

Cotton spinning on drop spindles has a strong tradition in Ethiopia and Eri silk has similarities to cotton. The caterpillar spins a staple silk unlike other silk worms which spin a filament silk, like Bombyx and Tussah. Eri silk cannot be reeled making it the perfect fibre to give to traditional cotton spinners. The cocoons are first boiled and the spinners spin directly from these cocoon masses.  Along with spinning Eri Silk, Sabahar employs dozens of cotton spinners who spin in their homes.  Everyday spun cotton is collected and delivered to Sabahar for sorting and quality control.

Cocoons are boiled and spun directly from these cocoon masses… the silk is spun on wheels, while the cotton is spun on drop spindles… every day deliveries of cotton arrive and are sorted into different grades… the cobs are turned into skeins ready for dyeing.

Spinning outside

Next blog post

The next blog post is about the dyers and the warpers of Sabahar.

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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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July 2018 Newsletter

Remembering Mary Andrews

Last week Alberta and all of Canada lost one of our most treasured weavers. Mary Garnham Andrews passed away at the age of 102 in Banff Alberta. Mary shared her love and vast weaving knowledge with weavers across this country for over five decades and she influenced my weaving path more than any other teacher.

I would not be the teacher I am today if she had not been my weaving master.

It was the Spring of 1981, I was 22 years old and living in Thunder Bay where I was born and raised. I was a ceramics major at Lakehead University and was having a secret love affair with a loom in my mother’s basement. There was a big poster in the ceramics studio advertising summer classes offered at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff Alberta… that was so far away ALBERTA! Multi Harness Techniques!!!!

I thought, why not… two weeks on a big adventure all by myself, driving across the country in my brand new Chevrolet Chevette rocking on to the Doobie Brothers… what could be better than that. And after all, I had woven a set of placemats, an entire Overshot coverlet without alternating tabby picks between pattern picks and a blanket that stood up in the corner all by itself. I was sure I could handle a Multi-Harness loom or anything else that came my way.

I should have realized that summer that I had an angel on my shoulder guiding my every movement because Mary Andrews accepted me into her workshop and my life was forever changed.

Mary was formidable. Her knowledge and her presence demanded respect and I held her in awe. I was very nervous… she was a tad stern and I was… well ‘me’!

She was dressed in a royal blue pant suit with her trademark Bob haircut and that wonderful smile. At that time Mary was many many things… a serious weaver, extremely disciplined, a technical perfectionist, a traditionalist but with intense curiosity about modern things and a superb and demanding teacher.

I was the youngest person in the room, an aspiring hippie and remember… had woven exactly one set of placemats, one overshot coverlet without any tabby and a blanket that could have been used as a sheet of plywood… I might add that each of those projects were the most remarkable weaving I had ever seen up to that point. Within moments I was scared to death.

Mary’s class was formatted so that she lectured in the morning and we wove in the afternoon. I learned so much in the next two weeks… Mary taught me how to do read patterns, how to do draw-downs, how to hemstitch, how to do name drafts in overshot and that overshot had alternating tabbies between pattern picks :A), she taught me how to sit at the loom properly, how to hold a shuttle, how to control my selvedges. She taught me what the numbers mean in 2/8, what cellulose and protein fibres were. She gave us graphs with so much information crammed into them, sett charts, yardage charts, reed charts. She taught me the Fibonacci numerical series and the Golden Mean. In two weeks she crammed everything she could into my little brain and I learned that I could weave anything if I could read a draft.

I made it through all 12 samples alive. I did not understand a great deal of it, but I had a binder full of notes that I continue to learn from to this day.
She taught me the four P’s: with Patience and Practice you Persevere for Perfection. I have quotes she shared with us all through my book, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.

Mary Andrews was a gem, she was the weaving worlds  national treasure, she was a flower of Alberta. Her greatest gift was her ability to share her knowledge which she did with grace and kindness.

Biography

Bom in Montreal Quebec in 1916, Miss Andrews affinity with the “Comfortable Arts” was apparent at an early age. At the age of 23 while working as a senior counsellor at Taylor Statten Camp in Ontario, she was exposed to the craft of handweaving. On her return to Oshawa in 1939 she immediately bought the first of her 11 looms and began a life long study. Through correspondence with Harriet Tidball of the United States, Mary studied textile theory and cloth construction.

In 1943, while in charge of Occupational Therapy at the Royal Edward Laurentian Hospital in Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec, she began a teaching career that spanned more than 50 years.

From 1943-1948, Mary set up the Ontario Government Home Weaving Service, an agency designed to revive handweaving and encourage a cottage industry. Along with two other weaving teachers she taught and developed the project throughout Ontario. During the last year of this programme Mary continued her own studies at the Penland School of Handcrafts in North Carolina, USA.

In 1948 Mary was appointed Assistant Programme Director for the YWCA in Oshawa. She spent the next six years teaching handweaving, leatherwork and metalwork to hundreds of students. It was during these years that Mary first travelled west to study at The Banff School of Fine Arts with two of Canada’ finest weavers, Ethel Henderson and Mary Sandin. It was during these visits that her desire to reside in Alberta was kindled.

Mary  joined the Canadian Red Cross in 1954 and served as a Rehabilitative Therapist in Korea and Japan after the Korean War. After working for 18 months on a Welfare Team she travelled through 13 countries working her way back to Canada in 1958.

On her return to Canada she was appointed Director of Handcrafts at the Grenfell Labrador Medical Mission. She travelled throughout Northern Newfoundland and Labrador teaching handweaving, embroidery and traditional rug hooking to its residents with the intent of developing cottage industries that could subsidize the fishermen’s incomes. She remained in Labrador until September of 1962 when she purchased her home in Banff and realized her dream of living in Alberta.

From 1962-1975, Mary taught at The Banff School of Fine Arts where she developed the programme from a six week summer course to a two year Diploma granting programme. Through her early guidance and insistence that Visiting artists be brought from around the world, the Fibre Department became a widely renowned centre of study for the Textile Arts.

Mary retired from The Banff Centre in 1975 and spent another five years teaching and lecturing all over Western Canada. In 1984 she developed a four year summer weaving programme for Olds College where her students prepared for the Canadian Guild of Weavers, Master’s exams.

One of Mary’s greatest personal achievements was earning her Master Weavers certification from the Guild of Canadian Weavers in 1972 and she later published her Master’s Thesis “The Fundamentals of Weaving” with book three finished in 1994. Throughout this massive three volume endeavour she was assisted by Ruth Hahn who provided all of her IT support.

She also spent a great deal of time serving the community of Banff by working in the Banff Library several mornings a week and donating her weaving for auction to raise funds for community projects. In her late seventies she was still taking courses in English Literature and Philosophy from Athabasca University.

Mary lived in her log home on Squirrel Street until 2013 when she moved into a Seniors Lodge and then on to Continuing Care at Banff-Mineral Springs Hospital. Mary Garnham Andrews passed away July 30th, 2018.

Mary’s recipe for Weavers’ cookies

Mary always served these cookies to her students on the last day of class.  I hope you’ll make a batch, brew a nice cup of tea and think of her while you enjoy.

She used to say… “Weavers sit at their looms all day long. These cookies are full of healthy fibre.”

Note: (4 dozen per recipe)

In a large bowl mix:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp Vanilla

Sift together:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt

add:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts)
  • 1 cup crushed cornflakes
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ¼ cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Mix wet with dry ingredients.
Spoon on to a greased cookie sheet, flatten and bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes (baking paper or butter).

Undulated Twill Tea Towel Kit

We have had so many requests for Sharon Broadley’s striped towel since it first had a starring role in one of JST’s Online Guild episodes, that she has consented to share her pattern!

This towel has a lovely striping sequence moving from charcoal to dark grey to light grey and then to white, all laid on a black background.

This tea towel looks very classy hanging from a stainless steel oven door.

This kit will make 8 beautiful tea towels.

More exclusive, very limited edition silk colours

We’ve been experimenting with dreamy colourways inspired by pistachios, flax and glaciers.

There’s only a handful of sets available, therefore stocks are limited.

New Online Guild sample kits

New Online Guild sample kits are now available:

Online Guild Sample Kit #6 – Muted Colour Gamp
Online Guild Sample Kit #7 – Primaries & Secondaries
Buy all 7 Sample Kits for Season #2

Exclusive, very limited edition silk colours

We’ve restocked last month’s lovely gradient pastel colourways.

Again, there’s only a handful of sets available, therefore stocks are limited.

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April 2017 Newsletter

 

“Absolutely love these video’s! Now I have Jane in my studio anytime I want! I think this was a fabulous idea to create this online Guild, so many helpful tips and learning moments! And as usual, I had big smiles and chuckles as I watched Jane in her unique teaching style!” – Mary, Seattle, WA, USA

 

Why the Online Guild?

Guilds in North America have been the keepers of knowledge. They are the places where you find those out-of-print books that hold such a wealth of information. The old books hold the knowledge, the history and the passion of weavers who have gone before us. It is the idea of a library that inspires me most.

The Online Guild is our library; instead of books we have videos.

When you join the Online Guild your yearly dues help pay for the production of the videos. No matter when you join you will have full access to everything that has been published to date and you membership lasts for a full year. Whenever you join you get access to everything in the library that has ever been created. I plan on creating content for many years and it could take me 40 years to get it all onto the shelves 🙂

Let’s share the journey together. Become part of the JST Online Guild family.

 


The unstoppable Jan Korteweg

Last week I had a surprise visit from my very first weaving teacher. You can blame everything on her. Ha ha. When I was 21 and the idea of being able to create my own cloth to make my own clothes was just taking root it was Jan Korteweg who showed the way for me. Some 39 years later she is still a strong thread in my life and when she popped in to get more yarn I was thrilled. Not only did we have a great visit, she brought along a study she had just completed on stripes. Jan is now in her eighties and is using up her stash of yarns. She works from a source of inspiration as do I. Hers was the painting by Canadian icon Emily Carr, Blue Sky. Jan went through her stash of colours from the photo: cottons, linens, those great yarns used for making towels and a billion other textiles. She pulled her palette together with the aim of using up all her stash of those colours. The result was five warps all exploring stripes. She wove them at 20 epi and approx, 16 ppi, so they are warp-predominant letting the colours warp shine through.

 


The brilliance of Sherella Conley

I first met Sherella Conley in 2009 when she wanted to purchase a new multi-shaft loom. She choose a David 90 from a special edition that Louet had produced in oak. Then she started attending workshops and her brilliance became apparent. Sherella turned 90 last year and her ability to turn out stunning traditional textiles is very apparent in the runners she is weaving for her daughters. Like Jan Korteweg, Sherella is intent on reducing her stash of yarns too. She combined all her yarns that were alike, and that had similar shrinkage rates, and used them for weft on a linen warp. Her pattern is from Marguerite Porter Davidson’s eternal source of inspiration A Handweaver’s Pattern Book.

Sherella used 2/12 Natural Linen sett at 18 epi and her threading was the traditional Rose and Star overshot pattern.

 


High Five Charlotte!

Charlotte came to work in the studio five years ago as my office manager with no intent to become a weaver but, as you know, weaving is contagious. She is now creating her own stunning textiles and selling them on Salt Spring Island.

Charlotte was commissioned to weave a stole as a special gift and she choose her favourite yarn, silk. This piece is a testament to beauty of plain weave. A 2/30 silk in two colours sett at 24 epi and woven at 24 ppi. She designed a beautiful graphic and played with her weft colours. When she was finished the piece she had enough of her warp left over to create a gift bag. The long fringes on one end were the loom loss going through her heddles to the back apron rod. She has hand sewn the leftover fabric into a bag with long fringes on one end. The person receiving this gift is very lucky indeed. High Five Charlotte, I am so grateful you walked into the studio five years ago and became part of our family.

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Silk and Cotton Revolution

Weaving Through India (aka) Inspiration from the Sari – 2 Spots Available

Last Chance to take this workshop with Jane in Vancouver!

 

October 20, 21, 22 & 23

In January of 2011 I travelled to India with the Maiwa Foundation and had the great privilege of observing some of India’s finest weavers. I visited again with Maiwa in early 2014. This workshop has been created based on the extraordinary pieces that I observed and brought back.

Students will need to have solid basic weaving technique and a four or an eight-shaft table loom for the workshop. Warps will be prepared in advance and sent to the students before the workshop. During the workshop students will migrate from loom to loom creating samples of six different exquisite fabrics, all inspired by the beautiful saris we saw on our travels. Students will also receive all their weft materials so that bobbins can be prepared before the workshop.

“India’s tradition of clothing itself with uncut cloth has created a weaver’s paradise. Everywhere I looked I saw magnificent coloured and textured cloths. Often the simplicity of the handloom techniques led to the most sensual and ingenious of fabrics.”

Students will learn about supplementary warps used to create patterned borders over a plain weave structure, stripes, and double weaves. In addition there will be unusual embellishment techniques such as the use of sequined yarns.

We will contrast India’s handloom techniques with the craft-loom approach taken in the west. There will be a slide show: a weaver’s perspective on an incredible tradition.

All of our warps are 2/16 cotton base with a 30/2 silk weft from our Hand Dyed Hot Line.

Good Reason for Trying Organic Cotton

 

Did you know that regular cotton production uses more herbicide and pesticide than any other single crop grown on this planet?  It’s True.  Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides.

These chemicals pollute the air and surface water.

Cotton is grown in many countries where there are no rules to protect the farmers who spray those chemicals.  The spraying often leaves them with severe health issues.

Residual chemicals may irritate consumers’ skin.

The cotton used in these samples was grown in Egypt where there is great momentum in regards to growing Organic Cottons.  It is certified by GOTS, The Global Organic Textile Standard which was developed through collaboration by leading standard setters with the aim to define world-wide recognized requirements that ensure the organic status of textiles.  From harvesting through manufacturing GOTS provides credible assurance to the consumer that the product they are purchasing was manufactured using environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing.

If you feel you can’t afford to make your entire project out of Organic Cotton why not try to use organic cotton for the weft or make every 2nd or 3rd project out of Organic Cotton.

Blending delightful Organic Cotton with exquisite 20/2 Silk (Bombyx or Tussah!)

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I had never thought about blending cotton with silk until I went to India.  Over and over I saw fabulous fabrics made with cotton warps and woven with silk wefts.  I have been working with these blends since my return.  It allows us to take our 2/8 cotton out of the kitchen where we tend to use it just for towelling and more durable cloth.  The other thing I have come to learn is that we can open up our setts to create more drapey fabric and still have incredible durability and stability.  Have you ever tried to weave 2/8 cotton at the most recommended sett of 20 epi  and 20 ppi?   I don’t know about you but it is really hard for me to even come close.  We sett it at 18 and 18 and it is a lovely weaving experience and makes a great absorbent towel.   So….the next step was to take it down to 16 epi and 16 ppi and it was an even better experience and creates an even lovlier simple cloth.   So THEN…we changed the weft to 2/20 silk and oh my goodness….we have an exquisite fabric, with exquisite drape, cooler than 100% silk but with the lustre that only silk can add to a textile.

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Spring Inspiration

Inspiring Weavers
You met these two beautiful, brilliant women over 2 years ago on our blog in September 2008. Jane and Susan have been weaving with Pam and Josie since forever and they always bring their latest projects to show us.

They’ll both turn 91 this year! Every once in a while they arrive at the same time and we all marvel at their continued liveliness. Both are still weaving prolifically. Josie, on the left is wearing her latest turned twill spring scarf (with her sample still attached) in 7 gauge bamboo. Pam, on the right, has been exploring collapse weave using Colcolastic and various reds, pinks and oranges also in 7 gauge bambu. As you can see, both scarves are as lovely as their creators.

Pam’s scarf has 109 threads of 7 gauge bamboo and is threaded to a point twill. The majority of her scarf is woven in plainweave using 7 gauge bambu but every 2 inches she weaves 2 repeats of waffle weave using Colcolastic. When the scarf comes off the loom and is washed, the Colcolastic assisted by the waffle weave structure draws in, collapsing the scarf.

Josie’s scarf as well as a variation woven by Michelle Moore in our wool/silk blend Zephyr are now up on our store site. Check them out! We’ve offered beautiful spring colourways for them, but you can always substitute your own colours!

Stay tuned for more wonderful weaving to come from these two Grande Dames!

We had just finished up this Newsletter when who walks in the door? GP (Granny Pam)! GP was here to show us her latest rendition of a collapsed scarf done in Snow Pea, Apache Blue and Chagall Blue 7 gauge bambu. While she was here, she told me that she had wished she had started weaving earlier in life and I laughed and told her she had said that to me when she was 70 and first learning to weave. She said “Well if I had, I would have been where I’m at now, then!” GP told us she could hardly wait to finish weaving this scarf and get it into the water. She loves weaving at this stage in her life because she doesn’t have to stop and make dinner for anybody, she can do whatever she wants and weave whatever she wants. Her best quote today was “Tell all your 70 year olds to keep weaving!” If you were to say that last statement with a strong Jersey accent (as in Channel Islands) you would get the picture.

Every year in the spring before show season we order tons of books ….
everything we think you might want to see at our shows. At the end of show season we come back to the studio and start to listen to our little books whining. They whisper things like – ‘why does amazon do this to us?’ and we say – ‘there there pet, someone will look at you one day’. So … to help our books out, we are offering a 20% sale hoping that our little books will go to good homes. You can think of them as rescue books if that will help.

 

Retreats at JST

Our first Pushing the Boundaries of Plainweave course is already over. The gals explored cramming and denting, cording, clasped weft, they discovered that warp and weft faced fabrics don’t have to be hard if you don’t want them to be. They looked at supplementary warps, tufted wefts and more! Jane used many of the beautiful fabrics she brought back from India as examples of just how far you can push the boundaries of plainweave. They are phenomenal.
Up Next!
We have another Plainweave workshop at the end of May which is full. Then it’s Twills on Four June 27 – July 1 that has openings for 2 lucky people. Let us know if you’d like to join us for a fascinating exploration of Twills.  We weave a large Twill Gamp, Shadow Weave, Colour and Weave techniques like Pin-Wheel, Boundweave, and combining Twills with other structures like Basketweave.

Jane will be teaching at the Hand Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Conference in Calgary, June 7, 8, 9 & 10. We are not taking a booth this year because Jane’s youngest son Daniel graduates from grade 12 on that weekend.

Check out our Retreat Schedule for openings in our other workshops throughout the year. There are very few spots left, so be sure to let us know if you’re interested.

Helpline
Our Helpline content is growing, but it needs your questions to really grow. You can ask your questions on the Helpline or in a regular old email to Jane. We will however, post all answers on the helpline. Your questions can be anonymous so don’t be shy. Sometimes it takes a few days to answer your questions so please be patient.

Remember, we are always here to help :^)
Maybe someone you know would like to be on our mailing list. Please consider forwarding this newsletter.

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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:
DISCIPLINE
FOCUS
HABIT
PRODUCTIVITY

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.

3 WOMEN IN A SAUNA

THREE WOMEN, TWO YOUNGER, AND ONE SENIOR CITIZEN, WERE SITTING NAKED IN A SAUNA.

SUDDENLY THERE WAS A BEEPING SOUND. THE YOUNG WOMAN PRESSED HER FOREARM AND THE BEEP STOPPED. THE OTHERS LOOKED AT HER QUESTIONINGLY.
‘THAT WAS MY PAGER,’ SHE SAID. I HAVE A MICROCHIP UNDER THE SKIN OF MY ARM.
A FEW MINUTES LATER, A PHONE RANG. THE SECOND YOUNG WOMAN LIFTED HER PALM TO HER EAR. WHEN SHE FINISHED, SHE EXPLAINED, ‘THAT WAS MY MOBILE PHONE. I HAVE A MICROCHIP IN MY HAND.’

THE OLDER WOMAN FELT VERY LOW -TECH. NOT TO BE OUT DONE, SHE DECIDED SHE HAD TO DO SOMETHING JUST AS IMPRESSIVE. SHE STEPPED OUT OF THE SAUNA AND WENT TO THE BATHROOM.

SHE RETURNED WITH A PIECE OF TOILET PAPER HANGING FROM HER REAR END. THE OTHERS RAISED THEIR EYEBROWS AND STARED AT HER.

THE OLDER WOMAN FINALLY SAID; ”WELL, WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT… I’M GETTING A FAX!! “

Have a great week,
Hugs,
Jane

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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…

Hugs,
Jane