My December Design and Planning Process:

Each year, through the month of December, I set up my planning calendar for the new year, to determine what I want to accomplish in the upcoming year, with respect to my weaving and spinning goals.  There are so many ideas and projects floating through my mind, but I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish in one year.  Throughout 2020 I have kept an “Ideas List” on my computer, and when I see something, I find interesting or think of something I might like to do, or something I need to do, I put it on my ideas list.  Now in December, I look at the list and make decisions on which ideas will move onto the 2021 project list.  Do I ever finish everything on my annual schedule?  No, but it gives me a direction and a goal post.  When I fall into an overwhelm situation, I can easily decide what to drop. Or, if an opening appears I can go back to my idea list.

Most of the time I begin with the end in mind.  I ask myself a question – at the end of this what do I want to have in my hand?  And of course, what is this?

Sometimes, the this is a simple one-off: 

  • A friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to make a scarf for her
  • I want to gift tea towels to my family members for Christmas
  • I want to make samples to try out a new technique or a new yarn

Sometime, the this is driven by guild requirements or another weaving event.  These pieces usually have a deadline:

  • Our guild is putting on a display to follow our study of Swedish textiles
  • Our study group is studying double weave
  • Our guild has been asked to participate in a show at the museum
  • To create an item of clothing to enter in the ANWG conference fashion show
  • I want to create pieces to sell at our guild’s annual show and sale
  • I want to create samples for a workshop I will teach
  • I want to weave the samples for each lesson of the JST Online weaving guild

Sometimes the this is more complex, more nebulous, more overreaching and will involve a series of coordinated pieces.  These project series could take several months or years to complete, no rush.

  • I want to create a series of pieces to memorialize the life of my mother and grandmother
  • I want to create textiles to represent music, a song, a story, or a movie that resonates with me
  • I want to create a series of shawls that show the evolution of fashion over the centuries
  • A challenge:  If I could invite three people, living or dead, to a dinner party what would I wear? What would they wear? What would the table settings look like?  What would the upholstery on the chairs look like?  What would I serve?
  • I want to work through one of my weaving books, (For example “Weave Classic Crackle and More” by Susan Wilson) and make pieces to reinforce the learning.

Now, I take out my calendar for 2021 and start filling it in.  First go in the hard deadline dates:  Guild meetings, show dates, birthdays, anniversaries, workshops, and conference dates.  Then I look at each of these dates and decide if I need to have anything finished for these dates.  For instance, until this COVID-19 thing is cleared up, for 2021 there are no conferences or shows scheduled yet.  I do have a friend’s Birthday coming up in April.  I have a 50th wedding anniversary for a couple in August, and a vow renewal event for another couple in August as well.  And family tea towels for Christmas are traditional.  I’m not sure exactly what I am making for each of these events, but I know that I will have to do something.  Working back from these deadline dates, I schedule the project to be completely finished one week before the event.  So, for example, working backwards from completion date, and being generous with the time frame, because, you know, things happen, I would schedule the Christmas tea towels as follows:

  • December 18 – Christmas towels completed
  • December 15 – all towels hemmed
  • December 11 – towels off the loom and ends zig-zagged and wash, dry, press
  • Nov 20 – start weaving towels
  • Nov 13 – dress the loom for tea towels
  • Nov 6 – measure warp for towels
  • Oct 23 – gather or order materials for towels
  • Oct 16 – design/plan warp for towels.

December 2020 towels on the Queen.  I have a strip of led lights attached to the underside of the castle.  These have been held on by masking tape for the last year.  I really need to get them attached more permanently.  In the middle of the castle I have attached a clear file pocket that hold the plan for my current project when I need it.

Each of these dates are marked on my planning calendar. I would create this kind of time line for each project that need to be completed by a certain date.

Next, I schedule in the soft deadline dates.  Some of these are pretty open ended, but I schedule them nonetheless.  They fit around the hard deadline projects, and I can usually work on more than one thing at a time.  Each piece will be in a different part of the process. 

For instance, I am following along with the JST Online Guild projects.  The episodes go live every five weeks, so I would look at my calendar and once I know the date the episodes will go live and the topics, I will decide if I am going to do a particular project.  I look for a three-week period between when, for instance, episode (1) goes live, and episode (2) goes live to dedicate to the project.  I want to fit the project in that three-week window, which is doable, because the pattern and material and sett are given, so it goes on the loom, woven, off and finished within the window.  If my calendar is already occupied for that time frame, or I don’t have the right materials, or the loom is otherwise occupied, then I can defer a project to November/December/ early January.  In any case, I want to complete the episodes for this season before the new season begins.  All of the episode projects are scheduled in my calendar.

Study Groups and Self-Directed Learning:   These projects require time for research and design.  Time is blocked off in the calendar for this, and then the actual project activities as described above are scheduled, once the research and design is completed.

Long-term, overarching, complex, multi piece project.  I pick only one overarching topic to work on throughout the year.  This may mean more than one woven piece, but they will all be related to the chosen topic.  These are the pieces that define me as an artist, where my artistic vision and voice are found, that will develop as part of my legacy.  They take time.  I will block off large chunks of time to develop and define the theme.  To brainstorm.  To incubate.  To research.  To sample.  To design.  To produce.  To reflect.  To revise.  Again, and again.  These projects move as fast or as slow as they must.  But by blocking out time devoted to the theme, it keeps the project moving forward.  

Documentation and Reflection:  I block out one afternoon a week to work on documentation and reflection.  I keep a studio log and file for each project to record hours and materials used.  This helps me determine a price if I choose to sell the item, and gives each piece value.  It also helps me know how long it will take to make a similar item.  After each project all the relevant paperwork and samples are gathered together in the file and stored for future reference.  I also fit in time to sit in silence with myself and reflect on what I am doing, how things are going, what went well, what was challenging, what do I want to change, where do I go from here?

Of course, things will happen throughout the year that can change my plans: the birth of a baby, a new family member, the guild could be invited to participate in a show, a conference opens up, a study group changes topic.  Or, on reflection, a finished piece may propel me on a tangent of deeper exploration.  Or, I could really dislike something enough to abandon a course and cut it off the loom and change direction.  But, going into January, I have a plan and a schedule, I know I can meet deadlines, and keep moving towards my goals.

I have three active looms in my studio.  The Queen is the workhorse, 4 shaft, 48 inches wide, 6 treadles.  The tie-up mainly stays in a plain weave  /  2/2 twill format, and The Queen is used for these straightforward weaves.  Loomella is an 8 shaft Baby Wolf, 26 inches wide, 10 treadles.  Used for 4 or 8-shaft projects that fit in 26 inches. 

December 2020 – Loomella holds an 8 shaft huck diamond pattern for table runners

The third loom is an 8 shaft Ashford table loom, 32 inches wide, on a stand.  The Ashford is used for 8 shaft projects that require more than 10 treadles, or have frequent tie-up changes.  Currently it is naked.

I spend 25 to 30 hours per week in my studio, taking care of all of the planned processes and projects described.

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Aprons in Gingham Check

Here we have a couple of simple half-aprons, with gathered skirts, woven in plain weave.  To accommodate loom width, the apron is woven sideways, with top and bottom on the selvedges.  The warp for the bottom side of the apron is solid charcoal gray, and the remainder of the warp has narrow 4 and 4-thread stripes in charcoal and natural coloured cotton.

Here is an image of the layout and cutting diagram.  This then, fits a loom that is more than 28 inches wide.  For an even narrower loom, this could be woven in 23 inches to accommodate the skirt, and the waistband and ties could be woven lengthwise after the skirt.

Once off the loom, the fabric was turned sideways, and the side hems on the skirt were sewn and pressed.  The waist band was cut to 25 inches long and the checked edge of the apron skirt gathered to fit the waist band.  Then the ties were stitched lengthwise to form a tube, turned right side out and attached to the ends of the waistband with right sides together.  The top of the waist band was folded down to cover all the raw edges, and stitched down, and there it is!

The fun of creating a more “neutral” warp is that any colour can be added in the weft.  The weft is woven in narrow 4 and 4-thread repeats resulting in gingham check for the top of the apron, and creating a bottom border in stripes. For one apron I used a turquoise and white 4 and 4 pick pattern to make the gingham check.  In the second apron I used lilac and charcoal for a more muted gingham.  Below is a close-up of the fabric samples.

These aprons remind me of growing up in the 50s and 60s, and my mother, who always wore an apron in the home as she went about her days.  Food preparation from fresh ingredients always took a little longer, and was always served at the table. The apron came off and was hung on the hook beside the refrigerator as we sat down to dinner.  The television was turned off and the phone went unanswered as we ate the meal and talked of our respective days.  The focus was on good food and family ties.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

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Dye Day

It has been a strange and slow year.  Staying inside.  A lot.  And still, not really doing a lot.  I have been recovering from a rotator cuff injury in my shoulder and that stopped my weaving ability for a while.  I am now about 85% improved and can weave for short sprints of time.  I’m now up to about 45 to 60 minutes a day, with about 20 to 30 minutes a go. 

On the plus side, that gave me time to reflect and plan, and design, and read and learn.  And I now have a lot of ideas and projects waiting patiently in the wings, and a new energy to get going. 

This scarf I started in August and have recently finished.  The Coquitlam Guild spent a glorious sunny afternoon in August in President Rosie’s big back yard enjoying a socially distanced dye day with indigo.  I wound a random mixed silk warp, using up various small bits and pieces, clearing off bobbins.  Some were fine silk threads, some medium, some mixed with cotton or rayon or linen.  I added just two ends of a beautiful silk chenille, and two ends of a silk boucle for texture.  I only had the opportunity for one dip in the indigo, (I was talking with my friends too much) so a paler indigo colour came out, and all of the different yarns took up the dye in different amounts, so it was a fun experiment.  The best part of the day was being able to sit and visit with friends and catch up on what everyone had been working on. 

The warp went on the loom in a simple straight draw twill.  For weft I used my favourite Jane Stafford 2/20 silk in Stormy Teal, with accents in a pinky purple called Starfish.  Sett 20 epi, and woven 20 ppi.

A silky scarf with great memories attached.

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Sweet, Simple Linen

A sweet short warp to use up some of my smaller bits of linen thread.  Enough for one towel and one scarf.  The colours are mirrored from the centre, with Fibonacci sequencing.  The warp is mixed linens, some Euroflax, some 2/16 and the green is a fine singles.    All of the warp, as far as I can tell is line linen.  Simple, straight draw threading.

One towel with a fine singles tow linen as weft.  A little thick and thin in places as tow linen is.  Simple, calming plain weave.  Soft and absorbent tea towel.

One scarf with silk weft.  Straight draw 2/2 twill.  A few random linen stripes along the way.  It has the softness, luster, and drape of the silk, and a little of the crunchiness of the linen.  Rustically beautiful.

Easy, relaxing weaving for a slow summer’s day.


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Collapse Weaving

These two scarves are pretty much straight out of JST Season 3, Episode 6, Collapsing plain weave.  The only changes I made were to add some colour and weave effects to the silk stripes and squares.  There are 30 ends in each silk stripe.  I divided one stripe in half, 15 threads of orange, followed by 15 ends purple.  The next silk stripe I placed five alternating stripes of six threads in orange and purple, and for the third, alternating two ends by two ends.  In some of the weft squares, I mirrored the warp colour sequencing.  I thought this added some interesting colour stories.

The weaving was easy and fast, except for the stopping to change colours.  Fifteen ends per inch, fifteen picks per inch.  I played with the colours and materials, soft and matte vs slick and shiny. Off the loom they came is in quick succession.  Two scarves and a sample, each slightly different.  One in squares, and one in stripes.  I twisted the fringes and admired the colour combinations.

And then I froze.  All of a sudden, I had a fear of washing.

Not totally surprizing considering my last adventure of accidental over-felting that left me in tears.  Not yet to be talked about in polite society.

Three weeks passed.  The scarves mocked me each time I walked past them draped over the chair in my studio.  They called to me like a siren’s song, “wash me, wash me.”

I held my breath.  I washed the sample.  It turned out OK.  But the scarves were bigger, with more chance of messing up.

Two more weeks, and still the scarves taunted me.  “Chicken” they called.

Finally, the stress of leaving something unfinished became greater than the fear of failure.  I washed, agitated and checked carefully until I got just the right amount of fulling.  Washed and air-dried, the scarves are bouncy and light and, most importantly, done.


In case you haven’t guessed, my weaving mantra is “It’s not finished until it’s finished.  Things undone are things not fun!”


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Not Exactly What I Had in Mind

So, as many of you know, I have been trying to keep up with the lessons in Jane Stafford’s Online Guild.  Now that we are in Season 4, my approach is to watch the videos, take notes, and absorb the information presented.  Then I let it sit for a bit and gather its juices while I wait for availability of looms and materials and inspiration.

I understand the value of sampling, however, I have reached a time in my life and in my weaving, where I don’t want to fill another drawer with samples.  I want my samples to be both beautiful and useful, and out where I can see them.  And here I am at Season 4, Episode 3, Small Threadings Gamp.  Heck, I thought, I can make my samples tea-towel size, then I can see them hanging in my kitchen and use them as needed.

I do remember hearing Jane say not to make the samples in too fine a thread, because it is visually harder to see the details of the thread interaction, but I thought, I’ll be ok.  I put on an eight-yard warp of butter coloured 2/8 cotton, with red dividers, and went for it.  I kind of like the fact the details gets lost from far away, but can be filled in and studied as you hold the cloth close, as you might do when drying dishes.

Boy, are they busy!  The first two towels I wove in dark brown for high contrast.   I love the punctuation of the red basket weave hems.


Two turquoise, a nice contrast.  Notice how the red dividers in the warp look so different from the red dividers in the weft, even though they are exactly the same colour.

Two light brown.  I liked this soft contrast, but I didn’t like the extra long floats I can see in the bottom of the second towel.

All different treadlings.  And the last towel I wove with all three weft colours, as well as the yellow from the warp and the red used in the dividers,  all while trying out different border ideas.  Kind of my favourite.

All fun.  All nice.  Just different than the picture in my mind.  And that’s what makes weaving such an interesting journey.


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Overshot on Plaid

Over the last year or so, I have been working through a series of scarves in Overshot and exploring the variations of this weave structure.  In today’s scarves, I have been influenced by the lessons of Jane Stafford and her Online Guild, which introduced me to the concept of using silk weft on a cotton ground, and the concept of overlay.  Another strong influence was Robyn Spady’s workshop “Extreme Warp Makeover” where we explored using many variations of weft and treadling on a classic weave structure.  Both great teachers.

For these two scarves, woven on an overshot treadling, I considered the traditional Overshot structure where a coloured pattern weft is woven over a solid neutral plain weave ground.

For this study, I thought, what would happen if I start with a plaid as my ground cloth.  This one has a blue square in each corner, intersected with a yellow stripe, and two red squares in the centre, bordered by black stripes.  So, red, yellow, blue and black are the colours in play.  The warp is 2/8 cotton, sett at 18 ends per inch.

For tabby weft I chose Bambu 12 in colours similar to the warp.  Bambu 12 is soft and drapey, very light in weight, and about half the gist of the cotton warp.

For pattern weft, I chose 2/20 silk, which is about the same size as the 2/8 cotton, but stands out as the pattern weft because of the way it picks up and reflects the light.  The pattern design is called Orange Peel.

For the first scarf I chose Black Magic, 2/20 Tussah Silk, and dark green Sitka Spruce, 2/20 Bombyx Silk as the pattern colours.  Some of the pattern motifs are woven in just one colour, others in a combination of both.  I wove the pattern “tromp-as-writ”, star-fashion, with the tabby weft following the warp colour order.  Understated elegance.  In the first photo you can clearly see the blue corner squares, the centre red square and the yellow and black accent colours creating the plaid.

For the second scarf, Robyn Spady’s influence came out to play.  I wove the overshot pattern in a “what if, as if”, manner.  What if I switched colours as I went along?  What if I treadled the pattern as if it were summer and winter, or as if it were twill or monk’s belt, as if it were crackle, as if it had extensions, was treadled in rose fashion, or treadled in inverted order?   Skip the plaid squares, alternate sections of blue tabby and sections of red tabby.  Then add in some transitional stripes to separate the motifs.  Woven from bobbins of bright, colourful 2/20 silks leftover from other projects it became a joyful, jubilant song.

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Oranges and Lemons

Here is another project I finished this spring.  Two scarves woven on a hand painted warp in orange and yellow.  Where the two colours overlapped, a beautiful coral emerged.  The warp was painted in a workshop with the lovely Liz Moncrief.

This warp reminded me of a big bowl of oranges and lemons.

As I was weaving this the old nursery rhyme / skipping rope song rang through my head.  It refers to the bells of several churches ringing out:

Oranges and Lemons say the bells of St. Clements

You owe me five farthings said the bells of St. Martins

When will you pay me said the bells of Old Bailey

When I grow rich said the bells of Shoreditch

And so on . . .


As a child, I remember jumping rope to this song, the beat of the skipping rope keeping rhythm.  As children we played with little regard for the history we were learning with our games, and this song has a dark second verse, which if you are interested in, you can look up.

Nevertheless, weaving to me is music, and this is the rhythm of these pieces.

When I made the warp, I added some plain Coral Flame silk to the painted silk warp, and wove the first scarf with the same coral as weft.  Woven in an eight-shaft turned twill.  It shines like a summer day.

Like the song’s second verse, the second scarf is darker.  I used a dark red, Favourite Wine, and punctuated that with Black Magic.  I love how different this scarf looks from the first one.  All materials for warp and weft are 2/20 silk available from Jane Stafford Textiles.


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Point Twill Towels and Runner

Fresh kitchen towels, in earthy, spicy colours.  Pasta sauce simmering on the back of the stove.  Children’s laughter drifting down the stairs.  My ever-present companion Luci.  A good day to be safe at home.

Four towels, freshly finished, in spice-coloured stripes on a simple, point twill, dark brown background.  The stripes move up to a point and down again in increasing widths.  One towel repeats the warp stripes to form a plaid.  The other three towel feature one weft colour throughout, with dark brown hem emphasis.  The colours are much brighter than the pictures shown. – gold, cherry red, tumeric and brown.


.  And finally, a table runner that picks up all the colours, woven in a combination of 9 shots of Rosepath followed by three shots of plain weave.  The middle plain weave shot has four threads held together to add weight and texture.

This is Luci, part lab, part duck tolling retriever, great shedder of hair.

Wishing you and yours a safe and cozy home as well.

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Companion Scarves

I wove these two companion scarves back in February, and I am finally posting the pictures now.  They are both woven of Zephyr 50% Merino wool, 50% silk, and finish with a love soft hand and lustre.

The first, for my Daughter-in-Law-to-be, Fadia, is a mixed twill scarf, called Hydrangea Bouquet, taken from the pages of Next Steps in Weaving.


The second, a primary plaid, using the same colours that are in Fadia’s scarf.  This one is woven in straight twill for my son Mike.

Easy, gentle, weaving, made with love and joy for special people.



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