Sunday, 17 July 2016

Caring for a Wool-Alpaca Blanket

A local buyer delivered his wool-alpaca blanket to me for hand washing. It was a gift in late 2014 from his wife who had bought it at my Station House Gallery show. I can remember exactly where on the west wall it was hung ... beside its partner blanket that also went to a local home.

Anyone with a wool blanket is welcome to return it to me for hand washing. That's easy if you're local - but a bit more difficult, although possible, if it requires transport. I also provide hand washing instructions for those who wish it, but most people are happy to hand over their blanket to me.

I am ALWAYS curious to see how a blanket has aged with use. My biggest fear in selling my work is that it won't stand up to reasonable use for a long time. Blankets should look well for at least 20 years, and I hope even longer.

So when I first saw this one, I looked to see how the cloth was wearing - any pills? No. How are the fringes, any unravelled? No. Has the blanket stretched out of shape at all? No. Is it aging well and was it good value for the price? Yes, I believe so.

Here it is drying on the line in the Cariboo sunshine.

A210 | Shetland wool and alpaca blanket | Private collection

Hand washing wool blankets tends to plump them up and freshen them nicely. Officially, I have to recommend dry cleaning since it is foolproof, but hand washing is gentler and I think helps extends the blanket's life.

I'll arrange to return it this week. The owner will appreciate my TLC, and I certainly appreciate the opportunity to make my own observations.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Towels, Towels, Towels

It may be a silly title, but it's a big part of my weaving life lately - designing, playing around and weaving towels. Both looms have seen some long warps for towels.

Jon and I have each woven a few towels in waffle squares on the old loom. They're warped at 28" wide to allow for ample take-in from this weave structure. I've woven many blankets, small and large, in waffle weave over the years, and these should work really well as absorbent, quick-drying towels. This is the weave structure I call waffle squares.

On the new loom, I continued with more towels in advancing twill. I finished a commission for two table runners ...

... then wove more towels in a variety of colours and patterns.

Next project, I combined advancing twill and straight twill diamonds in the latest set.

Straight twill goes down the centre with advancing twill on each side.

And my latest project is to combine a towel and small cloth in a set, which has been requested too many times to remember. Good idea!

Towels are fun to design and to weave, and Cariboo Handwoven towels are popular as gifts because they're so unique while working well throughout their long lifetime. Summertime is best for weaving with cottons; I'll surely return to the wool blankets when the weather starts to cool.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Cariboo Forests Through the Seasons

Cariboo Handwoven and my email moniker, cariboojane, stem from the Cariboo region of British Columbia, where I've lived (so far) for 36 years. The Cariboo is more or less centred around Williams Lake, with unofficial boundaries to the north, east, south and west, depending on whose opinion you hear. This area has become a special place in my life because of its landscapes, people, culture - and its forests.

My "Oh Canada!" series began with special blankets for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, BC. I was selected as an artist for the VIP gifting program, and six of my wool blankets left Prince George last winter for different parts of the province and country. This was a huge honour for me, and it inspired me to design and weave blankets that depicted Canada's forests in winter.

"Canada's Forests in Winter" | Oceans at each end with rock, soil and snowy trees |
Special design for the 2015 Canada Winter Games

Last fall, while staring out the plane window flying south from northern BC to Prince George, I had this neat idea to take that design concept to something more local - Cariboo forests through the seasons. I could show the green conifer forests overlayed with spring flowers, summer blossoms, fall colours and winter's snow. Then I would end with the first sign of spring.

I wove this blanket after a little ecological research to check my proposed species and their colours.

Cariboo Forests Through the Seasons | 100% wool | 185 cm x 127 cm (73" x 50") | Private collection

And I knew who deserved it: a hard-working, very dedicated, very effective volunteer in my community who I wanted to personally recognize with a gift. The recipient loves it!

The "Oh Canada!" series will grow and I already have more ideas. That same flight more recently gave me new inspiration for other designs that depict Cariboo forests and ecology.

Friday, 1 July 2016

A Local Source of Icelandic Fleece

I'm celebrating Icelandic wool on Canada Day!

Almost a year ago, I posted a blog about local Icelandic fleece and I was back to see Donna last week. I had spun her Icelandic fleece that had been processed into beautiful roving. I wanted to show her my spun wool and we talked about some upcoming ideas and plans together.

Last year I bought two lots of Icelandic fleece: the first was beige and when spun I wove it into a blanket - which later sold in Ottawa.

SH137 | Shetland wool and handspun Icelandic wool | 175 cm x 138 cm (69" x 54.5") | Sold

Donna told me that the darker wool I'd spun was from Nancy. I still have it ready for a special blanket. Here is Nancy and here is what I spun from her fleece:


Plied wool spun from Nancy's 2015 fleece

Last week I bought two washed fleeces. One is from Coco -

Cocoa and one of her lambs

- and the other is from Dimayo, the herd's ram. Dimayo is a noble character who was seeking shade on the hot day. He's considered a badger colour because he has cream-coloured fleece with strong elements of beiges, golds and even black. This wool will be stunning when spun and woven.


I am so delighted to have a friend with a local product that I want to buy from her, work with and add to my own products. To me, this is the heart of a local economy. Add Donna's small-scale farming practices and this weaver's artistic input - and it's a really exciting partnership.