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!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Third Set of Travel Shawls

Travel shawls have been hugely successful and I'm thrilled with how much their owners enjoy and appreciate them, as well as all the new interest they've created. I think travel shawls are like a personal, portable blanket for many people and what's not to like about that?

I have a few new ones to show:

#15 | 100% wool | 160 cm x 68 cm (63" x 27") | Private collection

#16 | 100% wool | 156 cm x 69 cm (61.5" x 27") | $150

#17 | Wool and fine wool/mohair | 165 cm x 75 cm (65" x 29.5") | Sold

#18 | Wool and alpaca | 160 cm x 75 cm (63" x 29.5") | $170

#19 | Wool and alpaca | 176 cm x 75 cm (69" x 29.5") | Sold

#20 | 100% wool | 175 cm x 69 cm (69" x 27") | Sold

As always, feel free to contact me if you're interested in more photos or info about any of them.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

36 Threads Per Inch

Two projects of wool travel shawls last year, with a third set just finished and soon ready for presentation, prompted me to weave next with finer yarns. I wanted to make big blanket scarves that wrap warmly around the neck with no possibility of itchiness or scratchiness, and which look elegant and classy in the process.

I weave my towels with 2/8 cotton, but the borders are in 2/16 cotton so that they can be folded back at the hems and be about the same thickness as the rest of the towel. The weight system for cotton means that 2/16 is half the weight of 2/8.  2/16 is slightly thicker than sewing thread, but not by much.

Blanket scarves in silky 2/16 cotton would be super, I thought. I knew it would be a tight sett, meaning many threads per inch. All the charts I checked said 36 threads/inch for 2/16 cotton in a twill weave. I had several cones in navy and purple, so I ordered more to thread alternating navy and purple. The two slightly different shades of purple give the cloth a certain unique depth I hadn't anticipated.

Such fine yarns tend to tangle more easily than my usual 2/8 cotton at 24 threads/inch, and even float in the air with a little static electricity. Beaming the loom with the 36 cones was pretty quick, but even just taking them off the racks, winding each one back up and putting them away took awhile. Then the threading ... at 26 inches wide ... that's a total of 936 threads.

It was worth it though. The blanket scarves turned out great with the alternating lengthwise stripes of straight and advancing twill. Now they'll need some time for fringing.  Here is one sample on the loom, woven with fine silk.

More later on a future blog, or feel free to ask how the fringing is going. :-)

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Big Cotton Blankets in Diamonds and Waves

Cariboo Handwoven cotton blankets have been very popular and they've sold well both in BC and Ottawa. In early January I really wanted to weave more, so I warped up my old loom (which has sufficient heddles on all eight harnesses) with a simple palette of soft colours - cream with pale blue and pale grey for the wide stripes. I found the gentle contrast subtle and calming. I threaded the wide stripes in two twills to create some variety with diamonds and waves.

I aim to weave all my big blankets to have a finished length of six feet (72") or 183 cm, which most of these achieved. These blankets are all 135 cm (53") wide, so the overall size is really generous.

The more I use cotton blankets in my home, the more I love them. They're soft and cozy but never too hot, which wool can be at times. I do love my wool blankets, they're heirlooms to last for decades, and they're the best for really snuggling up. But cotton blankets are more versatile through the seasons, and the machine wash and dry treatment is very easy.

And so here are my latest cotton blankets:

C311 | 100% cotton | 180 cm x 135 cm (71" x 53") | $170

C312 | 100% cotton | "Sage and Sand" | 180 cm x 135 cm (71" x 53") | $170

C313 | 100% cotton | 188 cm x 135 cm (74" x 53") | Available in Ottawa

C314 | 100% cotton | 183 cm x 135 cm (72" x 53") | $170

C315 | 100% cotton | 180 cm x 135 cm (71" x 53") | $170

C316 | 100% cotton | 183 cm x 135 cm (72" x 53") | $170

C317 | 100% cotton | 180 cm x 135 cm (71" x 53") | Available in Ottawa

C318 | 100% cotton | 170 cm x 135 cm (67" x 53") | $170

Monday, 22 January 2018

Less is ... Fine

When I wove this blanket I wanted to place the five beautiful greens and blues consecutively in big diamonds. Normally I would add narrow lines of an accent colour between, as Cariboo Handwoven followers may know by now I like to do.

I had the five shades lined up and they looked beautiful together. In big diamonds of what I call rough and smooth twill on a warp of wide grey stripes, this would look very well for a blanket that would have a certain soft boldness to it with the heathery tones. I just needed to choose an accent colour for narrow lines between the colours.

I had a lighter shade of green ... no, too green.
A lighter shades of blue? ... nope, too blue.
Use the light grey from the warp stripes? ... too grey and bland.
A lighter shade then, say, of a heathery beige? Still too bland.

Oh, I know. If in doubt use white. So I wove the first narrow stripe after the first big diamond in white, actually a beautiful cream.

But that was way too bright and sterile, it just didn't work. I unwove all the white.

My solution? No narrow lines between the five shades of heathery greens and blues. Just let the colours mix together, transition in big diamonds from one shade to the next.

SH200 | 100% wool | 187 cm x 130 cm (73.5" x 51") | $300

Problem solved. Less is fine a lot of the time.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

New Towels for a New Year

Most of Canada saw very cold temperatures at the end of December, and much of the country is still in the deep freeze. I see these cold snaps as an opportunity to avoid any automatic griping about being stuck inside for most of the day - instead, it's carefree studio time.

I ran out of towels again in December after weaving almost 300 this year, every one different, and sold 260 before the Christmas season. So slipping in another towel project seemed like a good idea.

Cold weather asks for warm colours. I used blues, burgundy with dark orange, and greens in the warp, and pretty well everything in the weft for different tests and effects. I have to say that I love every one of these towels!

(Note: All the reds came out in these photos brighter and more intense than they are in reality to the eye.)

If you're interested in any towels (these photos or others), please let me know. Prices remain unchanged in 2018 at $34 each or three for $98.

Have a great 2018!