Monday, 2 July 2018

"It's Exactly What I Want"

One of the spinners at our spin-in two months ago mentioned to me that she really wanted one of my Georgian Bay blankets. She visited my studio in early June and we went over the colours for the rows of water, rock, trees and sky. I wanted to ensure there were no shades that she really didn't want, and that her blanket reflected her own memories of Georgian Bay.

She added some sandy light brown for beach and wanted a touch of light green for deciduous trees and reds for maples in the tree layer. And grey around the cloud edges at the top to show an approaching storm. At the bottom, we agreed that I'd add a little wool/mohair I had left to make the whitecaps stand out a bit - they actually look a little frothy and very authentic.

Here's the finished blanket with, I think, fifteen colours in total.

I always say to anyone who's ordered something that there's no obligation and they have to love it before they buy it. I like to have the item ready for presentation and on display on a special rack for the person's arrival and viewing. After a short silence as she admired it, I heard:

"It's exactly what I want."

Nothing more needed, I was thrilled (and a tad relieved). We had fun looking over the blanket together and talking about it.

Even though we'd chosen colours and discussed the blanket design, I was still winging it a bit and drawing on my own memories. So to hear that this blanket will be enjoyed and appreciated by someone else with special Georgian Bay memories is wonderful for me.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Studio Visits

Studio visits are one of my favourite ways to show off my work. (Craft fairs have become a close second.)  As well, visitors sometimes bring something for me to see that I find interesting and artistically expanding. Most often I will receive a request from a friend or new person about a certain item, or just to see what I do with all this weaving stuff I talk about.

Earlier this week I had a memorable studio visit by a woman from the Arctic doing a short-term work stint in my community. My first question when she arrived was what brought her to Williams Lake, and my second question was how did she hear about me?

She said she'd searched online for weaving stores, so calling me that was a nice start.  She wanted to look at travel shawls and I had them all out for her to see (a huge advantage when there's a visiting plan, as I have out what's requested and the studio is reasonably tidy).  Once she'd seen them, she meandered over to the blankets and I returned to what I'd been doing before she arrived. But almost immediately she started gushing over the Resilience blanket, which I wove last fall and blogged about in December.

She loved the colours, texture and everything about it, and knew it would be far more useful for her than a smaller travel shawl. Then I told her the Resilience story and she loved it even more. It was a very quick and definite selection.

On the way out to her car, she met the Resilience image photographer and told us more about her life in the Arctic. As she drove out the driveway, he and I were already looking at the map.

The Resilience blanket story was really important to her, which is important for me to remember - the story part. It was so gratifying for me to see someone fall in love with my work right in front of me. Business is always secondary when that happens.

Enjoy and stay warm!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Starting Another Long Run

Starting a set of blankets is like starting off for a long run. Once the blankets are ready to weave, there's already been a fair bit of time invested in warping the loom - winding bobbins, beaming the warp, threading, sleying, tieing on and then weaving a header. Oh, and fixing any little threading or sleying errors. :-)

Then we go. Shuttles are lined up, pattern is fresh in my mind, the rhythm begins. Mmmm.

For a long run (going by memory, certainly not by recent experience), usually there's been some prep time to rest, then I plan my route, dress for the weather and I'm off.

It's physical, psychological, even a bit spiritual. A long warp waiting for me is like the open road or a beautiful trail. I just need to remember to pace myself to get myself to the finish line with a smile.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

One - No, Two - of My First Blankets

I visited a friend recently and spied a vintage piece of my work, her well-loved blanket, a housewarming gift from almost thirty years ago. She had it hung perfectly neatly on a blanket stand and it looked great.

This had to be one of the first blankets I wove on my Leclerc Colonial I loom. I bought that loom in Vancouver, used, in 1988 and had it shipped north by a moving company. I was dying to expand my projects from my 36" Artisat loom to a 60" loom and with the extra four harnesses I added to the original four.

This blanket would have been woven pretty soon after setting up the Colonial loom and starting with some small projects. The weave structure is turned twill, which I call twill blocks - the threading alternates between 1234 and 5678 to create blocks, with different weft colours to highlight the differences.

I looked up the blanket in my big binder of vintage projects, and there it was. The project of seven blankets took from Nov. 1989 until the following September. My notes itemized all the problems I faced, the delay while I pondered what best to do, and how long it took me to warp and then weave each blanket. Wow, I am quite a bit wiser and more efficient now, good to know!

Anyway, this blanket looked great, all fringes still tightly twisted and knotted, and the owner loves it.

It washed up well and feels much softer and nicer. I did an overnight soak, lots of gentle washing and rinsing, and hung it up to dry outside in the Cariboo sunshine. I returned it to my friend yesterday and was rewarded with a nice latte and chat together.

Update: Coincidentally, I spied this blanket at my brother's house.  With a much busier household than my friend's place, this blanket has taken a bit of a beating but it's held up well.  I fixed some fringes and enjoyed giving it a little TLC.

The light in this image really shows the slightly bubbling mohair stripes, which didn't pull in as much as the wool woven in the rest of the blanket. It's a nice effect though.

Amazing and very interesting for me to see these two very early blankets within only a week or two.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Ideas for Mother's Day and ...

Mother's Day on Sunday May 13 is a popular event for sending flowers or giving a little gift.  Cariboo Handwoven has some ideas if you're thinking of something unique for your mom - or for the upcoming busy season of graduation, retirements and summer visits.

In Ottawa, Alison has a good selection of cotton hand towels and wool and cotton blankets. One or two hand towels are great on their own or added to a gift basket.

Cotton blankets are perfect for spring and summer in particular, but useful year-round.

C282 | 100% cotton | $170

And wool blankets are classic and also very popular.

SH189 | 100% wool | $290

Contact Alison at: alison "at" if you're interested in anything.

In Williams Lake, British Columbia, the Station House Gallery has towels and some cotton and wool blankets, and Bloom 'N Gifts has towels. The Cariboo Handwoven studio has the best selection of towels, blankets, travel shawls and large lightweight blanket scarves. Jane is available by appointment if you'd like to visit, even just to see how a loom works. 

Please contact Jane in your usual way or: jane "at"

However you spend Mother's Day, hope it's a nice one!

Friday, 20 April 2018

Make More!

When I started Cariboo Handwoven about eight years ago, I did the whole business plan thing, from writing down my vision through all the steps leading to specific tasks. At that time, my vision was "My blankets have a waiting list!" I thought it was a most appropriate vision for how I wanted my work to be in demand and appreciated. Then I'd be sure to keep busy and have fun in the studio.

Over those years though, my vision has changed a little. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. And what I've learned in those years, after all the planning, is what I really want to do.  

Make more. 

Make more! 

Pump out the towels especially, assess them carefully, and do it better the next time. Apply what I learn to the bigger items, like blankets. High production obviously yields more results than picking the details to death and letting that interference result in making much less. Really, without the quantity of work there can be no quality.

I first read about this concept a few years ago in Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Boyle and Ted Orland, which is a super book for anyone who creates.

In it is a story about potters divided into two groups: one to achieve one perfect product and others to produce as much as possible. The potters aiming for perfection produced nothing because they got stuck seeking perfection whereas the other half of the class achieved their goal. 

I've never forgotten this story. I know there's a balance between quality and quantity, but a quantity of zero yields absolutely no quality at all. Or even much potential.

So, on that note, I'll be making more in my weaving studio through the year.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The First 2018 Craft Fairs for Cariboo Handwoven

It's always fun in the winter to look ahead to another year - set goals, expand on ideas, try new things and register for craft fairs. At this point I know I'll be at two good ones this spring and summer.

First up on Saturday April 21 in Williams Lake is Handmade in the Cariboo:

This is its second happening and I was really glad to be accepted.

Next up is the Great Shuswap Pottery Sale in Celista, BC on Shuswap Lake.

The website is really well-designed and quite elegant. Scroll down on the home page if you want to read more about the artisans and see samples of their work.

These craft fairs all take major organizing, and I'm really impressed with how well each of these ones has gone for enquiries and registration. Thank you!