Monday, 2 January 2017

"You Are Always In My Kitchen"

A friend sent me this to begin my new year with a lovely thought:
You are always in my kitchen.  Had a bunch of people over for dinner tonight so was in kitchen a lot today, and using your towel which made me think of you. Such a lovely little reminder.
I think I'll go and weave more towels now - such inspiration!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Was ... Fun!

We are all looking back today at a very complex year on this planet, but I will keep this to Cariboo Handwoven's year of 2016. The best word I have to describe it was "fun!"

The year began with the final steps in setting up and beginning to use my new Leclerc Colonial 8-harness loom.

It took the prime spot in my studio and the old Colonial moved to the other wall. I like both looms and both locations, and the little contrasts between them are actually quite helpful and refreshing for my body.

I wove a lot of blankets and towels this year and sold most of them from my studio, through Alison in Ottawa, in some local venues, and in three fall craft fairs in BC.

I learned a lot in helping a new weaver start from an immediate fascination with everything in the studio to getting his own 36" floor loom and making some beautiful things. Jon has been fun to weave with and I can't really say I'm teaching him. I'm just showing him some things now and then, and soon he's a step or two ahead of me. Our collaboration has boosted my own weaving and outlook.

I've learned a lot about some weave structures, particularly in combining twills and figuring out how to design the warp (lots of trial and error). And it's become a bit easier for me to show my work at craft fairs and put myself out there.

As well, I learned something for myself when I was recently asked if Cariboo Handwoven is a hobby or a business. Gee, good question. Well, it's much more than a hobby and it's certainly a business. But it's not a business in which I want to compromise the fun part just to grow. I'm producing at close to my maximum level anyway, so growth and increased sales are not really a significant goal. My primary goal is having fun - learning and experimenting while I work (if you can call it work), meeting people and hearing their feedback and stories, and thinking ahead to what's next.

I can't close 2016 without thanking Alison in Ottawa for all she has done again for Cariboo Handwoven and me; Jonathan for all his great questions, ideas and collaboration; and Pat, my husband, for putting up with all my wacky ideas, brief (I hope) episodes of angst, and time away this year. And to all of you with kind comments and heartfelt compliments - thanks to each of you.

May everyone's 2017 be filled with peace, joy, interesting challenges and successful pursuits of their own fun.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Twenty-Two Tony Two-Twill Towels

Towels have been selling well at various craft sales and local outlets, and from both my studio in BC and Alison's house in Ottawa. I wove a lot of towels this summer, as I can never have too many in stock or too much fun in making them, and now I'm really glad I kept pumping them out.

The Station House Gallery asked for more towels last week, so I beamed a warp with Jon on Monday and finished weaving all of them by Friday. Cold winter weather helped make that happen - nice to be weaving away in my cozy, sunny studio.

The lengthwise blue stripes have what I call fuzzy twill lines (threaded 1234 1234 5678 5678), then the reds in the middle have typical clean twill lines (threaded 12345678). I experimented with various diamonds and treadlings, and just had a lot more fun with towels again.

And here are some samples of my latest 22 two-twill cotton towels. All are machine wash and dry, long-lasting, and every one an original!

Please let me know if you're interested in any towels, either ASAP or next year. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

How Long Did It Take to Make That? About 35 Years!

Every now and then I see a big surge in page views for my five-blog series on "How Long Does it Take to Make a Blanket." I'm glad to see this because it shows that some of you out there must be interested in the detailed process. Thanks for reading!

But in the growing spirit among artisans of what it really takes to make anything by hand, I'm going to answer the "How long does it take?" question with the title's response - because that's really how it works. I've actually been weaving for a little over 35 years. It's been very fulfilling and a lot of fun.

The truth is, no weaver - in fact, no artist - starts up and makes something for sale for the given price, just like that. There is a lot of training, whether formal or informal. There are numerous test cases that end up in the - I hate to say it - garbage. And there is all the ongoing learning, too, which takes time and requires building one's knowledge. Add in the cost of materials, keeping a studio running and numerous overhead costs. As well, I need to know from all those years of experience that anything I sell is of the best quality that I can make, and that it will serve the owner well for many, many years.

So please do not point out an item, ask how long it took to weave, and do some quick math in your head that convinces you the artist will make a killing when it sells. You're probably looking at a unique piece that cannot be found anywhere else, and if you're there with the artist you have begun (or continued) a special relationship. Additionally, a well-made piece will last for very long with much enjoyment throughout that time.

And that's all IF it sells.

So that's why it's not just a certain number of hours to make anything, but really - for me - 35 wonderful years.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Hemmed, Not Fringed

If James Bond was looking at Cariboo Handwoven wool blankets, he might request they be hemmed, not fringed. Picture him standing before an array of them, his famous "shaken, not stirred" martini in hand.

Other people have requested hemmed blankets and so I decided to give it a whirl and see how a hemmed wool blanket looks and works.

As with towels and most cotton blankets, I wove a strip in lighter-weight yarn at each end so that when doubled and sewn it roughly equals the thickness of the rest of the blanket and will become part of the total cloth. By hemming, I saved about three hours of fringing time per blanket and then all the careful trimming of each fringe (120 per blanket), so it was certainly worth testing.

Hemmed wool blanket (SH170)

Here are the two blankets. Both are in rich browns and greys and part of the Equestrian Collection.

SH170 | 100% wool | 180 cm x 130 cm (71" x 51") | $250

SH171 | 100% wool | 168 cm x 127 cm (66" x 50") | $250

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Nancy Blanket #1

Nancy is one of the Froese's Icelandic Sheep Farm ewes on Fox Mountain near Williams Lake, British Columbia.  Here she is in her field last summer.

I spun one of Nancy's washed fleeces from Donna Froese ...

... and wove it as weft in a wool blanket ...

SH168 | 100% wool | 175 cm x 144 cm (69" x 56.5") 

The blanket's weave structure is undulating twill and woven with about 50% handspun Icelandic wool in a swirling back and forth pattern. Simple pattern, and yet lots to absorb in the design.

Nancy Blanket #1 is the first of more, I hope, and this one's headed to the Medieval Market in Williams Lake on November 19-20.  Might see you there!

Update: A local resident bought my first Nancy blanket at the Medieval Market and I'm thrilled it's gone to an appreciative home!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Artisans of the North Fair in Prince George

Last week I made the three-hour drive north to Prince George for the Artisans of the North Fair at the University of Northern British Columbia. This was my first time at this juried craft sale, and one of my first tasks was to pick up my box of submitted items on Friday before the office closed.

UNBC is celebrating 25 years and the campus is beautiful. I knew it from its early days when the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds hosted its conference there in 1995, as well as from a few forestry conferences through those years of my career. The campus is a coordinated series of buildings that really fit into its site at the top of the hill west of the city, with their timber beams, rock and glass.

Cariboo Handwoven was in the administration building, which I consider quite stunning.

I set up a large blanket rack on one side and a table covered in cotton blankets and towels on the other side. This worked well for having to bring only one rack and a small table.

Neighbours on both sides of me and across the hallway were great. And I met many interested and interesting people. Thanks to all who stopped in!

Sales were good and I saw many blankets and towels head out as gifts or for personal use. I know of two wool blankets going to Norway and England. In particular, watching people look things over very carefully, blankets stretched out for them to see, no rush to decide - well, that was fun for me, too.

One buyer has already let me know about her blanket from the Energy Series:

My blanket is stunning, I've already had a rest with it. It just makes me feel happy. Thank you for coming to Prince George.

The fall craft fair season is off to a good start for Cariboo Handwoven!