Saturday, 16 September 2017

Blanket Spa

Cariboo Handwoven not only produces wool blankets, but I offer free handwashing to blanket owners, whether it's local pick-up and delivery or through shipping. Recently, I found it necessary to do a little rehab work on a well-used blanket. I had the satisfaction of doing some minor repairs that will prolong the blanket's life, appearance and usefulness.

Two local friends, a couple, bought blankets for each other several years ago. I remember well the studio visit and then the Medieval Market visit at my booth a year or two later. Each of them took time to select the perfect blanket for their spouse, and they obviously chose well.

I'd heard that their blankets were two treasures they'd packed for the wildfire evacuation this summer. It really warms my heart to think that their unique blankets were so personally important for their function as well as their connection to home. I recently emailed them about washing their blankets while the September sunshine lasts, and here's what I heard back:

Boy, during the fires, those blankets got dragged around from Gavin Lake to the evac centre in Prince George, Chetwynd, Moberly Lake and Aleza Lake Research Forest and back home finally. They were really nice to have along.
I picked up the blankets on Friday and was gently warned that the Georgian Bay one had seen daily use in years of ownership. Yes, how true, I noticed ... little pulls from cat claws, a huge pull that had been knotted tight, and I later found a missing fringe.

The little pulls I gently eased flat with a darning needle, the huge pull I unknotted carefully with a sharp sewing pin (please don't do that again!) and eased flat, and the missing fringe I fixed:

12 new threads were spliced into the blanket and then twisted as fringe.
The ends at the top were trimmed after washing.

Then both blankets went into a laundry tub of sudsy water, not too hot and not too cool. I let them sit and luxuriate for quite awhile to bask in the suds and ease away all that travel dirt and stress. After several rinses, they had a machine spin on gentle, and then went out on the line to dry by soaking up some moonlight overnight and the next morning's soft sunlight.

Left: Georgian Bay wool blanket showing the layers of water with whitecaps and then rock.
Right: Wool blanket woven in twill blocks with approx. 50% white handspun wool/mohair.

Out in the studio the two blankets each had a good pressing with the iron. Up one side, down the other. Turn over and repeat. I fixed any last little pulls I'd missed and trimmed the top of the new fringe. Then the blankets were placed flat on the floor to cool and rest. This is a blanket spa after all.

I'm returning the blankets today. The Georgian Bay blanket looks vastly softer and fluffier, and the other one in twill blocks also has a rejuvenated look and feel to it.

I learned a few things from all of this and was delighted to take on this little task, especially for friends. And I was lucky to receive a container of home-grown honey in appreciation - thank you back!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Bath Towels

A studio visitor in June came over specifically to talk about bath towels as a wedding gift to a family member. She was looking for two bath towels with hand towels. We joked they would not be matchy-matchy, but just closey-matchy. That means the smaller hand towels would probably have a slightly different warp but I would match up the horizontal weft pattern that I weave to make them look like sets. I've done this before and it looks great.

Seven bath towels in blues are ready for drop-off and viewing tomorrow.

What doesn't have a closey-matchy hand towel woven to make a pair will just go on its own.

Obviously, I've been working quite a bit with blues ... time for more greens, purples, oranges and burgundy.

Yes, it is GOOD to be back in the studio!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Forced Paralysis

I don't want to inundate blog readers with accounts of my Non-Weaving Summer of 2017. So if you're interested in new weaving projects or what I'm doing in the studio, you might want to skip this one. The British Columbia wildfires have changed a lot of summer plans - in fact, for just about everyone, I'm quite sure.

I've been away from my home and studio for over a month now except for two nights when the evacuation order was lifted and I returned home to check on things and pick up a little more that I wanted with me. Since then, I've been living north 250 km in Prince George where the air has been mostly fairly clear, although the fire hazard here is also at Extreme, just as it is in the Cariboo. It will only take some lightening strikes, or - I hate to say it - someone tossing a cigarette butt out their car window or illegally lighting a campfire to create all the chaos I know is happening elsewhere.

How do you describe over a month of staying away from home because either you've been evacuated under legal order, or your area is on evacuation alert and the smoke and risk are so unbearable that you leave anyway? How do you express your thanks to all the incredible individuals, from literally all over the world, who are working really hard for British Columbia's forests and individuals' private property? How do you similarly thank all the many people and businesses who have helped you out in some way? And how do you sit around much longer without going nuts?

This is what I call forced paralysis. One day at a time. Keep your expectations low but do as much as you can. Repeat the next day. Do your best to see this as some sort of opportunity to reflect on your life, help and support others, do things differently. Or something like that, right?

And, does one transition easily out of forced paralysis? Twill be interesting to find out.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Going Back in Time

Taking a break from the major interruption in so many lives - yes, I am still evacuated and unable to be in my studio ... so let me go back in time for a moment.

When you've been pumping out a lot of handwoven blankets and towels for the last few years, I guess it's inevitable to look at something from earlier and think ... "Wow, that's not bad." Or, "Hmmm, I actually did that?" Most of my projects are original patterns designed from scratch because if I want to continue a design into another project with new colours, by the time I get to the actual warp threading I'm on to something new, something I just must try, something (maybe?) better.

Recently I took a big cotton blanket from my studio that has a lengthwise threading error and started using it in the house. I always want to know how my blankets and towels 'work' in daily use, beyond all the really nice comments I receive. I need to know for myself. So this slightly flawed work I took out of the inventory to test and scrutinize in regular use.

I looked at it after awhile and thought - that's not bad. It's just herringbone in alternating colours in the warp. It's so simple and yet so rich and interesting. Hmmm, maybe I should go back to that and see what I can do now?

That's inspiring! Hope I'm back in my studio before long.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Misleading Simplicity of "Evacuate"

My last post was about British Columbia's war on fire but our love and understanding for each other. Thanks for all those pageviews, I loved to see every one. :-)

But when things get really smoky and imminent, you make the voluntary decision to leave before it's mandatory. There's not much I can do to prevent my house from burning, but to get out of the smoke and risk as easily and safely as possible is probably a good idea. My studio essentials were packed last weekend in a handmade grass bag from Ghana - which represented about 1% of all the material there. Here's that special 1%:

Twill Thrills, edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt.
I think I'm almost ready for this, so better take it!

Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland is a classic among artists.
I've read it several times and highlighted all over it.
The View From the Studio Door is not quite as essential, but it's worth taking.

The recent Susan Point show Spindle Whorl at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
This book has a lifetime of inspiration for me.

Carol Strickler's contribution to the weaving community is a new classic.
There's even a Facebook group for weavers to post their projects using drafts from this book.
They give the page and number for the draft to share with other weavers.

As well, I brought:
  • My big hardbound notebook with notes like randomly entered projects, heddle counts on each harness for the two looms, price comparisons for different yarns, some recent thoughts and observations on differences between 3-3-1-1 and 3-2-1-2 treadle tie-ups, various lists and other critical information to help me get back on track later
  • Personal photos of special people in my life
  • Handwoven wall hanging from Peru that Pat brought back from one of his trips
  • Wooden cash box that Pat made - it's perfect for craft fairs and I'm kinda proud of it
  • Chequebook and 2017 files for expenses, vehicle, bank
  • A likely lifetime supply of Cariboo Handwoven labels to sew onto finished items. Even a small box like I have will last a long time (you know how when you order anything printed and for about another $10 you can get another, like, 500 - so why not?)
  • Two skeins of recently finished handspun wool from local fleece ready for handwashing

Then things then got bulky after what I next crammed into my car:

  • Three big bags of local Icelandic roving, the last available from a friend's flock, one bag with me and two stored in the city - I cannot bear to let this stuff go without a struggle
  • A few bags of wool blankets
  • One bag of cotton blankets
  • Armload of 70 or so towels in a big bag
  • Bag of hemmed but unwashed towels
  • Standing rack - currently a great clothes hanger in our Prince George bedroom
  • Short blanket rack - another item made by Pat that I won't let go of easily without a struggle

The interesting thing about evacuating is how personal it is.  After the obvious essentials like some clothing, toiletries, important documents and any medication, each of us makes countless decisions as we roam through our house. (And ruminate in the middle of the night with a promise to add one more small thing in the morning.) I've had an evacuation list ready each summer probably since the fires of 2003, but this one got more serious.

Some people focus on memories, others on having what they need for the future.  I think I'm in the middle. :-)

The actual simplicity of evacuation though is really how little we need when we have each other.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

War on Fire, Love for Each Other

This blog post has little to do with weaving, but of course I will find any opportunity I can.

I live in the midst of a current wildfire inferno, brought on by high forest fuel loads from decades of successful fire suppression and augmented by an incredibly dry late spring and early summer. June is typically pretty rainy where I live, at times exasperatingly so, but we had only a few millimetres of rain this June and none yet in July.

On Friday afternoon, dry lightening hit my area and new fires were being reported too quickly to be recorded at first. The local fire centre at the airport was closed because the forest on the other side of the runway was in flames.

And no one's life has been the same since.

I know it's not really war on fire. Wildfire is natural and we humans have become too successful in putting out almost every one of them, to the point that when exceptional conditions permit, a fire burns exceptionally hot and erratically. We can't do much in response until we have significant rain, even though British Columbia has some of the best personnel, expertise, perseverance and equipment anywhere. And everyone out there is working hard and doing their best now, I know that. Thank you from each of us to each of you.

I've met friends who aren't sure whether to evacuate to a distant, safer community or stay put in maybe higher risk but where they know they belong. One dear friend just lost his home, he was told while quite far away. Everyone wants to help each other out, we need that important job to do. We are all on our best behaviour and our best manners because we care for each other and we're being kind and courteous. And loving.

I've said good-bye to my weaving studio and I hope to say hello again, but we'll see. My best blankets and a heavy armload of towels are as safely stored as I can hope for. Until we know more, take care and stay safe, my friends. Love.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Cariboo Handwoven Makes the Top 100 Weaving Blogs

Imagine my surprise to check email first thing one recent morning and find the amazing news that Cariboo Handwoven's blog was chosen as one of the top 100 weaving blogs by Feedspot. There we are at #63. (Or find the website at

Thank you to Anuj Agarwal, Feedspot founder, and the blog selection panelists. Perusing the list of blogs, I feel honoured to be in such good company.  There's Laura Fry, my neighbour north in Prince George, at #27; Susan Harvey on Vancouver Island - she also does amazing work - at #49; and Dianne Dudfield in New Zealand at #93 - my sister saw her work when traveling in NZ and I've been a big fan of Dianne's since. And there are other good ones that I also subscribe to or check regularly.

The Feedspot list is a goldmine of 99 more weaving blogs that interest me. Thank you for adding me to this esteemed list!