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 http://blog.feedspot.com/weaving_blogs/.)



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!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

More Cotton Blankets for Summer

This is the time of year to laze in the shade, enjoy the long days with their early mornings and late evenings, and weave with cotton. After my last batch of eight big cotton blankets, I soon warped the loom for more. They are hemmed, can be machine washed and dried, and are useful in summer - both outdoors and in.

Here are six of the latest cotton blankets:

C303 | 100% cotton | 190 cm x 133 cm (75" x 52") | $170

C304 | 100% cotton | 217 cm x 135 cm (85" x 53") - extra long | $180

C305 | 100% cotton | 193 cm x 138 cm (76" x 54.5") | $170

C306 | 100% cotton | 188 cm x 135 cm (74" x 53") | $170

C307 | 100% cotton | 192 cm x 135 cm (75.5" x 53") | $170

C310 | 100% cotton | 155 cm x 135 cm (61" x 53") | $140

Interested in any?  Just let me know.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A New Georgian Bay Blanket

My latest presentation of new wool blankets omitted the last one which was waiting to be fringed and finished, but it is ready to show now. This one depicts the colours and scents of Georgian Bay, a special place for all my family as well as many Canadians and others.


The blanket's design emulates the blue waters with whitecaps, the grey rock with orange lichen, Georgian Bay's windswept white pines, and the deep blue sky and puffy clouds above.


SH187 | 100% wool | 175 cm x 127 cm (69" x 50") | $350

SH187 Detail | Water and rock in the Georgian Bay blanket design

As with the other six blankets, the blanket's weave structure is lengthwise stripes of plain and advancing twill which give a nice contrast of distinct and wavy lines.

My Georgian Bay blankets and towels have been much-appreciated and admired in the time I've been making them. They remind the user of those special fragrances of the sun-warmed granite and white pines, and many carefree summer days.

Let me know if you're interested in this one.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Shetland Wool Blankets in Browns with Colours

I've lost count of how many Shetland wool blankets I've woven but this latest project is probably somewhere in a batch in the twenties. These are my classic wool blankets and I love designing, weaving and finishing them. This project incorporated wide lengthwise stripes of regular and advancing twills to produce contrasting straight and fuzzy-lined diamonds. After weaving, fringe twisting is a portable activity and two of these blankets accompanied me on some recent local travels.

One blanket of the six below (SH184) was woven with my handspun white wool, making it a little thicker than the others. Any of these blankets would make a really special wedding, grad or retirement gift.

Here they are:

SH183 | 100% wool | 170 cm x 127 cm (67" x 50") | $290

SH184 | 100% wool with approx. 50% handspun | 175 cm x 138 cm (69" x 54") | $375

SH185 | 100% wool | 168 cm x 127 cm (66" x 50") | $290

SH186 | 100% wool | 178 cm x 128 cm (70" x 50.5") | $290

SH188 | 100% wool | 186 cm x 125 cm (73" x 49") | $290

SH189 | 100% wool | 199 cm x 125 cm (77" x 49") | $290

As always ... let me know if you're interested in any of these and would like more information or photos.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

New Cotton Blankets for Summer

Eight new cotton blankets are ready to present. These are all large (except for the last one) and meant for lazy summer afternoons and evenings on the hammock or chaise lounge, through the night as light warmth, or year-round for wrapping up in. I love these blankets and so do many owners from what I often hear.

We have five in our household, and I washed them today and dried them on the line.


Sometimes a guest falls in love with one of my blankets and it leaves to a happy owner. That is a huge compliment. However, I can only let mine go that way, no one else's. ;-)

OK, here are the eight. They are all hemmed, and machine wash and dry. They are cozy and soft and last for years.

C295 | 100% cotton | 196 cm x 137 cm (77" x 54") | $170

C296 | 100% cotton | 183 cm x 137 cm (72" x 54") | Sold

C297 | 100% cotton | 180 cm x 137 cm (71" x 54") | $170

C298 | 100% cotton | 188 cm x 136 cm (74" x 53.5") | $170

C299 | 100% cotton | 182 cm x 137 cm (71.5" x 54") | $170

C300 | 100% cotton | 173 cm x 136 cm (68" x 53.5") | $170

C301 | 100% cotton | 188 cm x 138 cm (74" x 54") | $170

C302 | 100% cotton | 132 cm x 132 cm (52" x 52") | $115

As always, let me know if you're interested in any of these blankets.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Weaving by Trail or Bushwhacking

I've enjoyed different forms of transport over trails and I've also worked in the forest, creating my own path through the woods to take measurements or mark plots. I find a huge mental contrast between following a trail or 'bushwhacking' on my own. Both are nice, but they are just very different. This even applies to weaving.

Taking a trail when I weave means creating a pattern in my mind and then following it to the end of the fabric's length, whether it's a blanket, scarf or towel. I might have a set of colours and weave patterns in mind and then change them as soon as I begin, but it's a trail by the time the design is established, and then I simply follow what I've set for myself. Like this:



In contrast, my artistic blankets and towels are like bushwhacking. I have to create my own path throughout the full length of the fabric. This means having a picture in my mind, such as my Georgian Bay blankets and towels, and needing to loosely plan the proportions of water, rock, trees and sky. Then I must determine what colours to use, how to make possible colour gradations, and how I show wavy water, smooth rock and big sky with the weave patterns I have available.



And - how do I make the current piece a little different from all the others? That's all the bushwhacking part.  It takes more physical and mental energy but it's totally worth it. I just can't do a lot of it.

This concept of trail versus bushwhacking probably has endless other applications - painting or stitching geometric images versus abstract, cooking creatively versus following a recipe (someone else's trail), and much more.

Notice that people may wish you "Happy Trails" but never "Happy Bushwhacking"?




Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Winter's Tale (of Spinning)

The Winter's Tale is the last Shakespeare play I saw, in my very limited experience with (and knowledge of) Shakespeare. I was a groundling in London at the Globe Theatre 12 years ago. That meant standing for the performance down in front of the stage, but it was worth it - and affordable!

My winter's tale of spinning, or part of it, includes two local fleeces. The light grey is the last roving from a Romney flock in Beaver Valley, east of here. It has a lovely lustre and was gorgeous to spin. The dark brown is from the Wenger's sheep on Fox Mountain quite nearby my studio. I loved working with these fibres; I know both producers and the relationship I have with each is part of the very fulfilling experience for me.



Both yarns are two-ply, meaning that I spun two separate yarns and plied them together in the opposite direction to the spun direction of twist. The two strands want to do this anyway. I find two-ply more stable in finished cloth and it's worth all the time. I figure I spent about 40-50 hours to spin and finish each of these two projects.

Local fibres woven into blankets are growing in popularity. The last blanket I sold with local handspun Icelandic wool generated interest from the skeins when a studio visitor spied them. And that's where the blanket went!

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Travel Shawls

My latest project, which I call travel shawls, was designed to serve a need. (Mine!) Often I would think how nice it would be to have a practical and stylish small blanket to:
  • Wrap around my shoulders like a shawl.
  • Sit on as a cushion when folded up.
  • Fill the badly designed void in seat backs on many airplane seats and conference chairs.
  • Use as an extra small blanket on my bed in a chilly hotel room.
  • Wrap around my waist like a sarong to keep my butt and legs warm when I'm fine up top.
  • Use as a lap blanket when seated for chilly legs.

So I designed travel shawls. They're smaller than a full-sized blanket but warmer and a bit heavier than a typical lightweight shawl. They're also designed to be a bit of a travel buddy that can be taken along for all those purposes and look great in the process. They're compact and sturdy, and will stand up well to a lot of use without looking grubby.

I wove all of them in big waves of undulating twill, with a few little interesting variations in some of them. All of them are made of wool, one with a little mohair, and measure approximately 150-155 cm (60"-61") long. Width varies from 69 cm (27") to a maximum of 78 cm (30.5") for the white one.


#1 | Heathery blue for about 3/4s of the cloth | Sold

#1 | Detail of transition from heathery dark mauve at the other end into heathery blue

#2 | Dark brown handspun of either alpaca or very soft wool | This one is quite thick and luxurious.

#3 | Very dark charcoal | Sold

#4 | Soft brown | Sold

#5 | White wool-mohair | Very soft, a bit fuzzy and wider at 78 cm (30.5") | Sold

I have a feeling that travel shawls could be popular. And I think that other needs from mine could arise from other users.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Special Blanket with Handspun Local Icelandic Wool

A repeat studio visitor returned recently to look at a special blanket with handspun local Icelandic wool. She'd seen and liked the skeins of wool I'd spun from a ram named Dimayo, who I blogged about last summer. Dimayo's badgerface colour is one of the Icelandic sheep's official pattern combinations.


The fleece was mostly cream-coloured, supplemented with caramel and black, for a stunning yarn when randomly spun together.

I marvelled at the results as I wove this blanket in an undulating twill pattern. Knowing that my Dimayo yarn supply was a bit low, I wove strong, dark brown borders with wool left over from a ewe in Dimayo's flock, Nancy. Both Icelandic sheep fleeces were produced close by, just over on Fox Mountain near Williams Lake. Here is the blanket in the fringing process.



The finished Dimayo blanket:


The detail and uniqueness of the woven cloth were the most incredible for me:


The new owner of the Dimayo blanket bought it for one of her sons ... but she admitted she might keep it for herself!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Added Adventures in Advancing Twill

A second towel project this year in advancing twill gave me the chance to use similar and new treadlings on a similar threading as my recent project, but in lighter warp colours. I felt like I was on a bit of a roll and I wasn't ready to leave advancing twill quite yet. The lighter colours in the warp generally needed medium to dark colours in the weft to show the pattern.

I beamed on a long warp of close to 20 m in length (23 turns on the back beam). This gave me 26 towels in total, but by the last few I had run out of favourite colours and good ideas. This was a good thing though because it pushed me into trying new patterns, and I discovered some new ideas to pursue later. This is so typical: towards the end of the warp I want to finish it all and start something new, then I feel almost heartbroken to weave the last towel when I was on a fresh surge.

I also learned how the little glitch in the centre section was incorrectly threaded. It's a bit off kilter although I doubt anyone will mind too much - just me. I figured out the error and now I want to do a third project with the correction. That's already beamed onto the loom. :-)

Here are some of the towels with the lighter warp.