Whitespace (and Pen Winners!)

There is no pretty picture this post, alas.  I’ve been busy with several exciting things, and a whole host of boring ones.  None of which are photogenic.

The exciting things are (frustratingly for you and me) top-secret at the moment.  I’m not being coy here, I’d love to tell you about them, but there’s this whole situation with publishing where you work like mad in private and then suddenly “taa-daa!” there’s a finished thing and it’s all shiny and new.

But talking about it beforehand kinda rubs off the new/shiny, and you want the full force of the shiny when it’s finally done, so you keep mum while working on it, although it’s really, really interesting and full of daily triumphs and challenges.  Which is why writers tend to seem quite boring and dull until that brief moment when the shiny thing emerges fully formed as if by magic.

Which is my rambling way of saying: the quieter I gets, the harder I’m likely working.

On to the host of boring things.  (Not my best blog-segue there, perhaps.)

I’ve spent the past two days working hard on getting organized.  I can see whole swaths of desktop now, and my inbox actually has whitespace at the bottom (a tip of the keyboard there to Mimi who recently described that concept to me.)  My current goal is to finish each day with that day’s emails fully taken care of and responded to, as well as 2-3 of my backlog emails until I’m fully caught up.

It’s part of my current push to do less, but do it better.

I’m seeking a balance between work I can achieve and the work I sign up for.  And I’m remembering to leave empty space in my schedule for chaos: the day the kid stays home sick from school, the car breaks, the warp goes hideously awry.  (Hopefully not all on the same day.)

Instead of trying to do it all and being crazy stressed.  I want to do a few things terrifically well with grace and aplomb.

This is part of an ongoing theme in my life.  Less can be better.  Whitespace is good, whether it’s a design, an inbox, a calendar, or a busy mind.


Today’s Non-Sequitor: LED Pen Give-Away, Part II

Thank you everyone who left a comment on the last blog post and was entered the LED pen give-away drawing.  It was so much fun reading all your comments!  I liked the ones that cheered for polyester, and the ones that remained skeptical.  I appreciated the encouraging comments about the site and podcast, an extra bonus for me from this bit of give-away whimsy.  I wish that I’d had 94 pens to give away instead of 5!

To pick the winners, I used random.org to select 5 numbers between 1 and 94 (the number of entries).  The winners are…   Sunny, Roadweaver, D. Ferguson,  A. Weaver (an anonymous entrant), and Aunt Janet.  Congratulations!

I’ve emailed the winners privately for their mailing addresses.  If you didn’t get yours yet, please check your spam folder.  (And everyone, adding editor@weavezine.com to your email address book helps make sure my emails and newsletters get to you.)


P.S.  For those who asked where I bought the LED pens, there are several sites online if you Google around.  The place I used was FlashingBlinkyLights.com (mostly, I confess, because I liked their domain name.) No affiliation, just a happy customer, etc.

My New Favorite Yarn: Polyester?

Dear Polyester,

In the past, I’ve mocked you, ignored your feelings, and said bad things about you behind your back.  I went out of my way to avoid you, and encouraged others to do the same.  When we were together, I felt smothered.  I couldn’t get away from you fast enough.

What can I say?  The past three days have proved me wrong.  You rocked my world like no other fiber.

I feel dirty admitting it, but I can no longer deny your attractions: devoré, disperse dyeing, permanent pleats.

I find myself searching you out, planning things we can do together.  I look forward to our next explorations.



P.S. Please don’t tell silk and wool.


Below are pictures from a devoré workshop I took with Holly Brackmann this past week.  If you want to hear an interview with Holly and my audio essay about the workshop, check out episode 53 of WeaveCast.

This is Holly Brackmann.  Isn’t she adorable?  Every day she wore inspirational clothes.  The bright red shirt is devoré, and the scarf is one of her “bubble” scarves that she makes using the thermoplastic properties of polyester.

Holly Brackmann

Devoré is a technique in which you take a fabric (commercial or handwoven) and then chemically burn out some of the fibers, leaving others behind.  It created areas of translucency that can be simply magical.

First you paint on the devore solution, which can be either clear or tinted with disperse dyes.

Painting on devore solution

Then, while wearing the appropriate safety gear, you use heat to activate the solution and burn out the cellulose fibers.

use appropriate safety gear

If you create a cloth with both cotton and polyester components, you can color the cotton with Procion MX dyes and the polyester with disperse dyes, without any worry that they bleed into each other or interact.

painting with procion MX

The workshop was eye-opening in many ways.  It made me look at polyester and nylon in a whole new way, and taught me that surface design isn’t just something that you throw on at the end.  When selecting (or weaving) cloth to design on, you have to take into account both the fiber content and the structure of the cloth, because both affect the results you’ll get.

Here is a subset of the samples I developed in the workshop.  I played around with transfer printing with disperse dyes (the leaves in the enter and right top), shibori with burn out, burn out designs on poly-cotton T-shirts, and structural burn-out in which the burn out changes the weave structure (red sample at lower left.)

devore samples


Learning new techniques is only half the fun of a workshop, there’s also the joy of hanging out with fiber-folk.

fun fiber folk


I ended up sitting in the back of the room with Mary, Deena, and Tamie.  We elected ourselves as the rowdy “bad girls” table.  There was gum chewing and lots of wise-cracking involved.

gum-chewing bad grrls


Today’s Non-Sequitor: LED Pen Giveaway

I like to think of myself as an original, a free-thinker, not swayed by the opinions of others.  For example, I only recently started knitting Clapotis now, six years after the fad hit and faded.

However…I was reading the Yarn Harlot’s blog the other day and she was talking about keeping a light-up pen near the bed to record those middle-of-the-night inspirations.  She said, “I bet at least one of you just found out right this second that there is such a thing as a light-up pen and now you need them too.”

I just barely finished reading the rest of the post before I was off and Googling “light-up LED pens”

The online store I found had a minimum order of 20.  I get a lot of ideas in the middle of the night, but not enough that I need twenty pens.

LED pen

So I’ve been going around giving away light-up LED pens like crazy.

I’ve been having fun with this.  I even came up with a test: I show an unsuspecting person the pen, then click the LED on.  If the person responds with some variant of “Cool!” I give them the pen.

Now it’s your turn. I’m going to give away 5 pens.  All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is leave a comment on this blog post.

This is a bit of whimsy that I’d love to share with the fiber world. So I’m I’m encouraging you to forward it to your fiber-loving family and friends.  TweetsFacebook postsRavelry mentions, etc. are all welcomed.

You have from now until midnight (PST), October 25th, to leave a comment.

A Visit From the Loom Mechanics

Earlier this week, Doug and Laura Fry visited with me for a couple of days on their way home to British Columbia.  They are, without a doubt, two of the most capable people I’ve met.  (I’ve noticed that the Canadians in general tend to be surprisingly handy.  I have a theory that it’s the harsh winters; weeds out the others.)

No sooner had Doug sat down for a bit of brunch, than he’d discovered one of the legs on my dinette table was wobbly.  (It’s an old maple set from the 1950‘s, previously owned by my Grandmother Mitchell, and has seen hard use in the family.)  Before I could finish apologizing for the table, he’d flipped it over, diagnosed the problem, and was in the process of repairing it with wood clamps and glue, strengthening the rest of the table in the process.

The next day, they descended on my AVL loom like a NASCAR pit crew, tweaking the loom for efficiency and helping me re-build my fly-shuttle array to be more ergonomic.  I wish I’d gotten pictures of that.  There was one moment where they were both working on either end of the loom–it was very picturesque–and I was too darned shy to ask if I could take a photo and blog the moment.  (If I’m going to blog regularly; I should get over that.)

Together we took off the old flyshuttle assembly and installed the new system.  What’s up there now are a temporary cords for me to test-drive and tweak until I’ve got the lengths set right for my particular wingspan.  When I’ve figured that out, I’ll cut cords from braided cord to the right length and be set up.

New Fly Shuttle Assembly

My AVL is an older model, between 20-30 years old; Doug walked around it with me and gave me a laundry list of tweaks to do as homework.  Some are improvements that AVL’s added to their modern looms, some are hacks that Doug and others in the weaving world have developed.  The list covered two pages of notes, and most of them things that either reduce wear or make the loom more easily configurable.

After we got the temporary flyshuttle rig installed, Laura gave me a demo of how to throw with it.  The trick is to launch it with a good snap and then to catch the shuttle at the other end by leaving a bit of slack in the cord that the shuttle hits and breaks against.  If this sounds slow, it isn’t.  Watching Laura work a flyshuttle is an awe-inspiring moment.  She becomes a part of the loom, and the loom goes fast.  I could believe 100 picks a minute–easy.  Heck I could believe more.

I…am not so fast.  But with the new arrangement, I’m getting it.  I’ve been practicing an hour or so a day since they left.  The flyshuttle is beginning to feel right in my hand, and I’ve almost got the catch working.  I put on nine yards of test warp.  I think by the end I’ll have it.

I have a history of letting looms settle into my life before I get comfortable with them.  In the first WeaveCast, I describe the two-year time out I gave my Baby Wolf before I learned to weave.  The AVL Production Dobby Loom is waaay more complicated, and I confess, I’ve been intimidated by its size and all the moving parts.  For example, you have to disassemble the loom part-way to thread the darn thing.  How crazy is that?  But at long last, and with help from a SWAT team of weaving, I think it and I are starting to come to an understanding.

Which is good, because I have this blanket project I need to get done before the end of the year…

Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival: 2010

Last Sunday I went down to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival (OFFF) in Canby, Oregon.  This was the first time I’d ever attended the event and it was on a bit of a whim.  Several people had asked if I’d be there, and then my friend Selah told me about the Spinner’s Triathalon (more about that in a minute), and Kai opined that he’d really love to go to a fiber festival and do some yarn shopping (I think he’d been taken over by yarn-loving space aliens at that moment) and Eric suggested we take the bigger car, because it could hold more fleece (apparently the aliens got him, too.)

With nudging and support like that, how could I not go?  So Selah, Kai, and I hopped into a car and headed down to Canby for the day.

It was a rainy day, but the outdoor vendors were prepared for the wet.

Rainy Day Vendors

I got to meet Hazel of Hazel Rose Looms in person, and see the cute Christmas stocking that she wove for a WeaveZine article.

Hazel of Hazel Rose Looms

After browsing around outside, we headed to the spinning competitions.  The first spinning contest was “strategic spinning” in which each contestant was given a set amount of fiber to spin in a set amount of time.  To win you had to spin every bit of fiber, finishing at exactly the ending time, and produce the longest yarn.

I haven’t been to many sporting events, never once attended a Florida State University football game (much to my father’s dismay), but apparently I did get some vestigial cheerleading gene, because I couldn’t resist standing beside Selah during the strategic spinning and making up supportive little chants like: “Selah, Selah, she’s our gal; if she can’t do it we’ll hire Hal!” and “Spin, spin, spin, spin!”  Selah for her part grinned, turned beet red, and muttered under her breath: “I’ll get you for this Syne, you know that, don’t you?”

Personally, I think she got off easy.  There was a lot of fiber in the room; you know how easy it would have been to whip up fleece pom-poms?

The strategic spinning event went on for a long time, so Kai and I went a-browsing.  He bought a bottle of rocks, and I talked to a couple of vendors about wholesaling copies of Andean Pebble Weave.  And I’m delighted to say the book will soon be available from Village Spinning and Weaving as well as Weaving Works!  (As I write this, the printer is a-humming in the background.)

We ran into some lacemakers a-weaving up bobbin lace.  I am continuing a flirtation with bobbin lace.  I’ve woven a couple of small strips, but don’t yet feel comfortable with the technique.  But I’ve a developed bit of a collection of bobbins, so it’s only a matter of time before the bobbin-lace bug bites hard.  I can feel it circling.

Bobbin lace

Here are Amy and Lucas, who were also competing in the spinning events.  I love that Kai wasn’t the only boy there.  Lucas, age 11, was a wonderful role model.  Composed, confident, and having fun.

Amy and Lucas

During one of the down times Kai, who’d never spun on a drop-spindle before, asked if he could have a go.  With some trepidation I handed over my precious-precious turkish spindle and let him try.  Apparently watching me spin hundreds of yards on the thing had taught him some moves, because he quietly and without any fuss started making thread.  I took pictures: Kai’s first spindling!

Kai's first spindling

After strategic spinning, was the spinner’s triathlon.  In this event, you spin three times: two minutes plain, two minutes with rubber gloves on, and two minutes blindfolded.  I hadn’t brought a wheel (I’m into minimalism at the moment) but joined in with “team spindle” to participate.  My take-away lessons:


1. Wheels are faster than spindles in competition.  Having to stop drafting to wind on is what kills you.  Especially if you’re using a Turkish spindle with the over-two, under-one wind-on.

2. Spinning with gloves: not my fave.

3. Spinning blindfolded is surprisingly easy and cool.  I want to practice more of this so I can got to the point where I can spindle without having to watch my hands.


And the final event, the 50-foot dash.  In this event one spinner treadles and the other drafts (without winding on) until they reach the finish mark.  Selah generously loaned her wheel to me and Kai.  Kai treadled and I drafted.  If you broke your thread (easy to do) you had to run like crazy before it got sucked onto the bobbin and wound on, then start drafting again.  It was wild, wacky fun.  Kai and I had a blast and Selah got a bit of revenge for my impromptu cheerleading.  Below is the video she took of the event.  It starts slow, but the competition heats up near the end.



Kai and I won fabulous prizes.  Yes, more spinning fiber!

Spinning prizes


I purchased a few wee tools from Carolina Homespun.  A new backstrap weaving thingy from Lacis, and a uber-cool stitch counter.

cool stitch counter thingy


I love that’s it’s low tech, looks like a steam punk gear, is anodized a bright color, has a built-in cutter, and a bit of rhinestone bling in the center.


Blue Moon Boucle yarn

Some yarn followed me home from the Blue Moon booth.  These are two yummy boucles: one rayon, the other 100% silk.  There’s some silly nonsense about knitting gauge on the labels, but I’m looking at them and thinking: weaving yarns!  (A tip to new weavers: boucle yarns hide a lot of beat inconsistencies and selvedge foibles.)  I haven’t yet decided whether to use this on a rigid-heddle loom or my Baby Wolf.  I’m still mulling over the possibilities…


I met the Knitmore Girls on the way out of the parking lot. They were, as ever, charming.

Knitmore Girls

And any trip to Oregon is best wrapped up with a dinner at Burgerville!


Bye OFFF!  See you again next year!