Friday, 20 December 2019

End of Year Thoughts and Feelings

At this busy time of year, we in the northern hemisphere have been eagerly awaiting the winter solstice today while running around getting ready for Christmas.  For artisans who sell their work, this time of year has the added bonus of craft fairs and restocking their gallery outlets. This makes it all very engaging and fun!

And for those artisans, the last two or so months of the year constitute a good portion of annual sales.  It's true for me and I know for many others.  Once Christmas arrives, we are pretty well sold out in our studios and at our outlets.

My main aim is to make more, not to get rich or try to satisfy detailed custom orders.  I just want to have fun at my looms and see what I can create.  I call it exploration without travel.  Then if people like my work and want to buy it (or receive it as a gift from me or someone else) that really tops it off for me.  Again this year I received so many lovely, heart-warming and inspiring comments about my weaving - people say it's beautiful, it lasts for ages and it's special to the owner, whether it's a blanket, towel or scarf.  Those comments mean the world to me.

But knowing I have 2020 ahead of me to make more is a lovely feeling.  I have a special order of pool towels with samples to first be made and shipped to California.  At the medieval market here in November, a customer gave me a great idea for a new, really innovative product that I am dying to make and see tested and refined.  And I have barely any cotton blankets left and they're on my list, too.

So while I may feel a little overwhelmed at this time of year, I am pumped for 2020.  It's a wonderful feeling inside me and I can't wait.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Thank You, Fort St. James

Fort St. James is almost in the middle of British Columbia, since it's about 70 km north of famous Vanderhoof, the geographic centre of BC. Vanderhoof is an hour's drive west of Prince George, and PG is 250 km north of me. It's a beautiful trip.

I went up last Friday for their craft sale on the weekend. I was fortunate to stay with a very good friend who is not only a superb cook but an excellent companion and helper in my booth. I do love Fort St. James for its indigenous heritage, interesting history with the Hudson's Bay Company, the beautiful site on Stuart Lake, and the great people.

I arrived in the last of Friday's daylight and took a walk along Stuart Lake.

Stuart Lake with Mount Pope off to the right in the low cloud

On Saturday we had a little surprise at breakfast: the power went out. Texts to others confirmed it was a widespread power outage but we decided to head in to the high school and see what was happening. My props were already at my booth so it was just a matter of carrying in bags and baskets. People were setting up in the dark!

However, by about 11:00 am, we knew the outage was expected to last until 6 pm, and were told that the day's event was cancelled. Later, I received an email saying that Sunday's hours were extended from 9-5 to make up for Saturday.

With some welcome light, here's our booth almost ready to go on Sunday:

And then we had a super day with some introductions and re-introductions for me; major interest in Cariboo Handwoven blankets, towels and scarves; and very good sales. Thank you all!

Fort St. James not only has a very good craft fair, but amazing people who are not deterred by their apparently regular power outages. They're ready both logistically and mentally. They carry on and don't grumble, which is a really good example for the rest of us.

Thank you, Fort St. James!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Fall 2019 Craft Fairs

After my second season at the Williams Lake Farmers' Market, I'm looking to fall projects and craft fairs. But first, I want to send huge thanks and and an attagirl each to market manager Jane Bowser, and market promoter extraordinaire, Barb Scharf. Without those two, our market would not be the success it is today. I had a lot of fun setting up each of the six times I had a booth.

Blanket scarves 


Cotton blankets on top, bath towels below

Cariboo Handwoven booth at the Williams Lake Farmers' Market

And I enjoyed seeing friends and visitors, lots of hugs and getting to know my vendor neighbours. I look forward to next year. Thank you all!

Now that we're into fall, with registrations and questions flying around, I want to outline what I'll be up to next.

First up for me is the Fort St. James craft fair at the high school:

I went about three years ago and had a great time, met lots of people and stayed with super friends who are both good cooks. :-)

The following weekend is the heralded Medieval Market in Williams Lake.  I'll be in the gym again, possibly against the back wall.  Lots of buzz is growing here for the Medieval Market!

Poster by Isaac Lauren

And Cariboo Handwoven will be at the Quesnel Christmas Farmers Market at the Quesnel rec centre on Saturday Dec. 7 from 10-3.

If you can't make it to any of these events or you're just not crazy about the crowds (especially at the Medieval Market although Sunday afternoon tends to be quieter) ... you can request a studio visit. We can arrange an appointment time, I'll give you directions, and I'll be organized and set up if you're looking for anything in particular.

Until then, enjoy the bright fall colours, the swirling leaves, the mellow sunlight and the sighs as the days grow shorter and the nights longer.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Handwashed, Hand Carded, Handspun, Handwoven

I've been working with local fleece for quite awhile now and am always on the hunt for something new and interesting. A new relationship and friendship often develops as the producer and I get to know each other over the years. The Cariboo hosts a variety of sheep breeds that produce some very high-quality wool for spinning, such as Icelandic, Shetland, Romney and Texel. And lately I've been finding new producers, including one in the Chilcotin, to the west across the Fraser River.

I've said for years that I'd rather spin with roving that's ready to go rather than mess around with dirty fleeces through the washing and carding phases. But to support local producers, I need to be a little more resourceful and do a little more of the work. And that work is actually proving to be pretty fun and fulfilling.

A local spinner has been linking wool producers with spinners and fibre artists for a mutually beneficial arrangement. Sheep need to be sheared every spring anyway, and she is helping spinners connect with local producers who have some beautiful fibres to work with. Here's how she puts it:
For me it is the tactile feel of the fibre. From the greasy, dirty fleece - you can almost feel the life of the animal - to spinning the fibre and either knitting or weaving the yarns into something you can wear. It is a wonderful journey.
She came over this spring with all her washing bins and equipment, and she showed me how to wash fleece: hot water with Dawn detergent and minimal agitation, followed by two rinses.

Then hang to dry in a flower/herb dryer (a perfect design for wet fleece).

Once the fleece is dry, it is handcarded, spun and often-but-not-always plied for weaving. That's a fair bit of effort but I find it enjoyable.

Here are three blankets I wove this year. I love them all!

253 | 100% wool with about 50% Icelandic handspun from "Dimayo" | Sold

253 Detail

254 | 100% wool with about 50% Icelandic handspun from "Coco"

266 | 100% wool with about 50% handspun from Icelandic sheep in Horsefly, BC

The first and third blankets have beautiful striations of dark and light shades that really add depth and interest to the finished product. These blankets will last for ages and look beautiful through their lifetimes.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Nine Big Cotton Blankets in Advancing Twill

My idea for these blankets was brewing for awhile, so I was happy to receive my order of cotton yarns and dive in. The lengthwise stripes are threaded in diamonds of advancing twill, which creates shadowy and sometimes rather mysterious effects that I really like. These blankets are 100% cotton, hemmed, machine washable and dryable, and lovely to use in the summer.

C343 | 100% cotton | 183 cm x 135 cm (72" x 53") | Sold

C345 | 100% cotton | 188 cm x 133 cm (74" x 52") | Sold

C344 | 100% cotton | 183 cm x 133 cm (72" x 52") | Sold

C346 | 100% cotton | 176 cm x 135 cm (69" x 53") | Sold

C347 | 100% cotton | 190 cm x 135 cm (75" x 53") | Sold

C348 | 100% cotton | 177 cm x 135 cm (69.5" x 53") | Sold

C349 | 100% cotton | 180 cm x 133 cm (71" x 52") | Sold

C350 | 100% cotton | 186 cm x 133 cm (73" x 52") | Sold

C351 | 100% cotton | 169 cm x 133 cm (66.5" x 52") | Sold

Let me know if you're interested in any of these blankets. You can leave a comment below or email me at: cariboojane "at"

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Introducing Big Blue Moma Baskets from Ghana

At the recent (and wonderful) conference of the Association of Northwest Weavers' Guilds in Prince George, I spied an interesting corner of the vendor market piled high with beautiful handwoven baskets from Ghana.

Big Blue Moma display at "Confluences" in Prince George, BC

At the vendor market at any conference, you have to think about your possible purchases and kind of plan it out. So I did and I had a plan - to buy one basket that I really liked. But when I went back on the Saturday morning and talked to owner Karie it turned out she asked me a wild question: "Would you like to be a supplier of Big Blue Moma baskets?" She said she didn't have anyone in my area and she explained the conditions.

So ... I bought twenty baskets! It was really fun to pick them out, thinking of what I like and what I think other people will like. What a dream task.

I brought them home and needed to reshape some of them. This is an under-one-minute job for each of wetting the squashed area and reshaping, then leaving to dry.

And they're ready to go now. Cariboo Handwoven has six styles available in my studio. (Since I didn't make them myself I cannot sell them at craft fairs or the farmers' market.) These are high-quality baskets and I'm proud to add them to my Cariboo Handwoven inventory of blankets, towels and scarves.

Right now I have several colours in each style. All baskets are large but they vary in exact sizes - best to see them for yourself and compare. Here they are:

Round basket | $75

U Shopper | $75

U Shopper with bound edge | $75

Special Shopper | $82

Shoulder Shopper | $85

Pot basket | $89

For the next month, until July 22, all basket prices are reduced by 20%.  (GST and PST will be additional.)

Let me know if you're interested in a studio visit or a meeting in town with a few baskets you might like tossed in my car.

Thank you, Karie - it was great to meet you and do something I NEVER IMAGINED DOING!

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

A Wedding Blanket

A big fan of Cariboo Handwoven bought a wool blanket in January for her son and daughter-in-law for their wedding in late April. She and I met for lunch and had a lovely time, and I delivered the blanket then at the restaurant table.

I remembered the date coming and wished her well before. A few weeks later, I learned that everything went off without a hitch and it was a lovely wedding and wonderful family celebration.

I couldn't help but wonder how the blanket was received - well, this couldn't be nicer to hear:
I wanted to let you know that the blanket was a huge hit - apparently the ones I have here have been secretly coveted (I admit having suspected as much). It will enjoy pride of place in their home for many years to come.  
Thank you for the care and talent you put into your art. 
Best wishes to the new couple!

Friday, 10 May 2019

Six New Wool Blankets

I usually weave wool blankets through the year and I finished my latest batch in March. Now they're all fringed and ready to go; one has even sold already. This batch has a very simple pattern of a wide centre stripe in charcoal flanked in light grey, with wide white edges.

Cariboo Handwoven wool blankets are really my classics. They are beautiful in the home, cozy and warm for reading or watching a movie, and they last for years and years - decades, I would say. At this time of year, people looking for grad and retirement gifts might find one here that could suit their needs.

Here they are, the first two with handspun wool with the sheep's name added:

253 | 100% wool (50% handspun from "Dimayo") | 172 cm x 132 cm (67.5" x 52") | Sold

253 Detail

254 | 100% wool (50% handspun from "Coco") | 178 cm x 135 cm (70" x 53") | Sold

255 | 100% wool | 179 cm x 127 cm (70.5" x 50") | Sold

256 | 100% wool | 180 cm x 125 cm (71" x 49") | Sold

257 | 100% wool | Sold at Handmade in the Cariboo

258 | 100% wool | 200 cm x 123 cm (79" x 48.5") | Sold

Let me know if you're interested in any of these blankets!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

I Just Love It When ...

A recent studio visit by a Cariboo Handwoven blanket owner had a special moment for me. Well, the whole visit was special for me because she and a friend made a day trip to visit my studio, watch how a loom works (they were amazed) and see what I had available for sale. I was really touched that they would take a day to visit me, and I gave them some ideas for things in town to see and do before they headed home.

The blanket owner wanted a second blanket, a cotton one, and requested something in greys with a little yellow. I think that's how she put it. I had something new that might fit her idea. As soon as I pulled it down from the shelf, she knew it was for her. I just happened to have those colours and it was a quick and easy decision for her.

I just love it when someone instantly 'knows' that one of my works is for them.

Here's the blanket she bought:

It's a fringed cotton blanket, just finished a month ago. It's gone to a good home!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Three Days of Weaving in Perugia, Italy: Part 2

To continue from Part 1 (highly recommended to read first for Part 2 to make sense), I arrived at Giuditta Brozzetti on the first day not knowing what Marta's plan was. I had suggested I could assist with a big project that she needed some help with, but she said right away that I could weave on her small four-harness loom from the 1700s. I was quite surprised actually and I really appreciated her trust in me as a weaver. She wanted to see what someone new would do on that loom.

The main feature of the studio is the array of old Jacquard looms. They produce very complex patterns based on punched cards, meaning that each warp thread is controlled individually, like a harness for each one. Unbelievable, I know! The weaver climbs above the loom to change cards. Giuditta Brozzetti's website has examples of the beautiful fabrics woven on the Jacquard looms.

Jacquard loom looking from the back beam

One of many Jacquard looms at Giuditta Brozzetti with the design mechanism above the loom.
On the railing hang various pattern cards used for weaving. Each row in the punched cards
creates a different weft shot for the woven pattern.

Marta had two weavers working for her, a woman from Paris who spoke fluent English after her time in London, and a man from Peru with whom I communicated in gestures and very basic Italian. He liked to call me 'signora' and he was just as much help to me with the bobbin winder and advancing the warp on my loom. Marta joked that she has a multi-national studio. The Jacquard looms are quite noisy, and working beside the two of them made me feel part of the production.

My loom was apparently from 1750 and it's still working well. It's a counter-marche set-up, unlike the jack looms I've always used, and has one treadle for each harness. This required more detailed mental work for this new weaver on it, ahem. The front and back beams were held with a ratchet and pawl system, with no brake on the back beam that modern weavers expect.

I had a lot of fun on this loom and the experience was a big 'wow' to me for the three days. I wove with gorgeous 4/68 cotton from a company in Milan. Marta and her weavers double the weft for pattern stripes to help them stand out. This is a good concept to try in my own studio. A big part of the whole opportunity was using an entirely new colour palette.

But before I could weave, I had to learn the complexities of the bobbin winder. After the main switch to the upper right (not visible in photo) is turned on, the whole machine comes to life through a lengthwise drive band to which individual winders can be engaged. Figuring out this monster took some time, but with help by the two weavers who often saw me struggling, I figured it out.

Winding double cotton onto one bobbin (actually a pirn)

After a little practice on my loom, I wove seven samples that Marta can sew into bags, bracelets or whatever she likes. Here they are:

On my third day, everyone had left for lunch and I planned my last sample to finish in plenty of time to catch the train back to Arezzo. I wanted to savour my last hour in Giudetta Brozzeti. I finished weaving and tidied up, then enjoyed how the afternoon sunlight filled the whole building with beautiful soft light. I walked around to photograph, drink it in, remember. It was all so enchanting for me.

The goodbyes were hard. I could only promise myself I would be back.