Friday, December 30, 2011

Looking Forward

January!  Mother Nature is napping.  We are too thanks to the long dark nights and the effects of recent festivities.  This is a time for quiet walks in the woods, rejoycing in the past and looking forward.  It is also a time when we tend to turn inward and do some stock taking which often leads to the conclusion that changes could be beneficial or so we think.
The photo of this spinning wheel reminds me that January is both the end and the beginning of a cycle.  We owe it to the Romans for selecting January 1st as the start of the year.  More ancient cultures used the vernal equinox to mark the change.  On January 1st, we are encouraged to look back and forward at the same time like the two headed god Janus.  We are also encouraged to make resolutions for the coming year.  This tradition is thought to have started with the Babylonians.

Many of us openly or secretly make New Year's resolutions.  Usually they involve improving something, improving our health, our finances, our education or just being a better person.  The vast majority of us are never able to keep our resolutions.
I've given up on resolutions for self improvement because, in most cases they are not much fun or I wouldn't need to make a resolution about it and because I've decided to accept my current state as the finished product.  So, I won't be making a resolution to "stop bringing junk home from the beach".

If you feel the need to keep up the tradition of New Year's resolutions consider one related to your particular fiber art and don't forget that it should involve fun.  The list that comes to mind includes
  • Do that major project you've been dreaming about
  • Master that technique you learned at your last workshop
  • Learn a related skill
  • Work with colours you have never tried
  • Finish something you started in 2011
  • Start a fiber art journal
You get the idea.  But wait!  If you want to beat the odds and keep your resolution then consider the following.  You are more likely to be successful if you make the goal specific and if you share the goal with a friend who will support you in achieving the goal.  Talk to your guild members and study group buddies.  They probably have resolutions of their own and they too would like some company on the journey during 2012.

Oh, and I forgot to say that if you didn't get around to making that resolution on January 1st then you might want to consider using the Babylonian calendar.  That will give you a few more months to work on your resolution.

My resolution involves this yardage and card woven band but I am waiting for the vernal equinox to make a specific goal.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

More On Sale

I would not do justice to our members' talents, if I did not allocate a second posting to more photo's from our recent show and sale.  So, I am starting with this little felted figure who is clinging to the side of the shelf among the rugs, runners and bags.  He is half hidden in the second photo, a surprise for the observant!  Who thought you could play "where's waldo" at a fiber art sale?

I just had to include this photo of a red felted vest because of the season and because it goes along with the Xmas tree and santas in the following picture.  The vest is one of the many items of clothing that were on display at the sale.  If you are wondering about the items on the white shelf then check the close up photo below.  They are baskets made from bull kelp.  What else would you expect if you shop in an area called "Oceanside".

We had a good selection of accessories including felted hats, toques made from handspun yarn and scarves of all styles and colours.

The spinners in the guild showed off their craft in both handspun yarn and in finished items.  And for those shoppers that wanted a little something to set off that special gift we had a variety of small items like the every popular lavender sachets. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Annual Show and Sale November 2011

Our annual show and sale is the highlight of our fall activities.  It involves a huge effort on the part of the entire membership.  Even those that don't put items in the sale pitch in to help make it a success.  It is our major fund raising event as commission from the sale goes towards guild activities and our resource centre. 
The sale is always full of surprises.  It leaves me amazed at the ingenuity of our members.  Every year they come up with something new and unique like these needle felted Santa's.  So, even if you have been to our show in the past you will always find something you haven't seen before.

This year we were blessed with a sunny morning to do our set up at Rotary House in Qualicum Beach.  While the exterior of the building is being dressed with Xmas lights organized chaos is happening inside the building as we rush to get everything in place before the doors open. 
There are totes full of everything from hedgehogs to tea cozies to unload while tables need to be dressed, Xmas trees need to be set up and shelves assembled. 

Our guild members have been very productive this year.  I believe it has something to do with the study groups and educational activites over the past year.  They encourage members to turn their new knowledge into a creative pieces of work.  The "dressing team" have the challenge of taking all those inspired items and organizing them so that they complement each other.  They never know what they have to deal with until the containers are opened.

In spite of all of our planning and worrying we had everything in place when the doors opened at 11:00.
So, after a mad rush, the spinning wheels started to do their magic and calm spread over the hall for a short time.  Then the serious shoppers arrived and we all welcomed them with open arms.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Elegant Threads 2011

Our annual guild show and sale takes place over 3 days from November 25th to 27th.  Most guilds run on a shoe string budget and the proceeds from guild sales are a major source of that shoe string funding.  We hold our sale at a small community facility, Rotary House, in Qualicum Beach.  The photo shows one section of the hall set up for our sale in November of 2010.  You can expect to find a mixture of hand crafted items that have been spun, felted, knitted, braided or woven by our members.
Our members have often discussed the whys and wherefores regarding the guild sale because it takes a lot of energy and time to organize the event.  Few of us have any expectations regarding the proceeds from the sale.  We joke that we don't even  make a minimum wage as an artisan.  There are various recommendations for pricing of handspun yarn or hand woven goods that are based on the cost of raw materials and the time.  Those formulas may work for a well known artisan in a large urban area but they are seldom used at guild sales in small towns like Qualicum Beach.  So, for those of you who love hand crafted items and are looking for a bargain check out the smaller guild sales.  You can find high quality items at very reasonable prices.
The discussions about the sale usually end with us concluding that the sale is an opportunity to showcase our craft and to interact with the public.  We encourage our guests to interact with members by creating a relaxed atmosphere and including demonstrations.  We hope that they will gain an appreciation of these ancient crafts even if they don't make a purchase.  
 The sale also gives members an additional incentive to produce.  You can only give so many birthday scarves or baby blankets and making baby blankets in the hope that some day you will have grandchildren is not a good idea.  Oh, patient friends and relatives will always say "thank you" for yet another tea towel but it is soooooo much better when someone actually buys it.  It is not the money that is important, it is the fact that some one valued the item enough to want to purchase it.
If you are in the Oceanside area the Nov 25 to 27 plan to drop by our show and visit with us.  The hours are Friday November 25th from 11:00 to 6 pm, Saturday November 26th 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday November 27 from 10 am to 3 pm.
The location is Rotary House at the corner of Beach and Fern streets in town centre of Qualicum Beach.  There is plenty of off road parking.  You might consider making a day of it and visiting the Quilters and Artisans that are also holding their events in Qualicum Beach that weekend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Gilmore Loom Follow up

The last post described our new (new to us) Gilmore Loom.  We had put a test warp on the loom and wove a short piece of yardage in plain weave using the same material for the weft.  The yarn was an ancient donation of coarse rug wool in an off white with a slight fleck of orange in it.  The yarn had been passed over for earlier guild projects like a wall flower at a dance.  Too plain and too coarse to excite any interest.  The yardage was pretty blah as well and felt a bit like sandpaper but no real weaver ever threw out a piece of weaving without at least trying to improve it.

So the yardage was stitch and pleated and tie and tie again and finally coiled up and thrown into a dye bath and heated without stirring.  All this in a deliberate attempt to end up with an uneven dye pattern that would disguise the blah yardage.

The result was a trip back to the 60's when tie dye and macrame ruled.

Wet finishing and brushing took off the sandpaper texture and a bit of simple sewing turned our ugly duckling into a decent pillow and a bag that show of the patterns from the dye.

The moral of the story being that even quite nasty looking yarn can have a useful ending with a bit of imagination.  So don't overlook the plain jane yarn especially if you are willing to experiment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our New Loom

We have added a new loom to our guild studio.  Thanks to the generosity of Ann Walker, we have acquired a Gilmore Compact 32 inch jack loom.  Ann decided to set weaving aside to concentrate on her writing and poetry.  We are very grateful that she wanted her loom to go to a group of weavers where it would give pleasure to many and it certainly will.  Some of our weavers are limited to using table looms because they do not have enough space for a larger loom.  They will be able to use this floor loom for larger projects. 
Here is the loom half assembled sitting in my garage.  Bob Allen of Gilmore Looms in Stockton California was very helpful in identifying the loom and providing tips for refurbishing it.  His web site at has some great tips for evaluating older looms and for making repairs.
Our loom has travelled many miles.  It was built in Stockton California in December of 1976 and shipped to it's first stop in Jamacia Plains, Massachusetts.  From there, it emigrated to Nova Scotia and finally it made the cross continent journey to Vancouver Island.  Now it resides at the Via Train Station in Qualicum Beach.  Here it is in a bright alcove in our studio in the process of being dressed with our first warp. 

The final picture shows the yardage that we have just finished weaving on the loom.  I am happy to report this little work horse performed beautifully.  The finished product will show up in a future blog.  It is all pleated up and headed for the dye pot in the near future.

Our next project has already been planned.  We are going to weave a chenille rug.  The warp is ready to go and the chenille that we wove earlier is sitting in a basket ready to become weft.
We plan to use the Gilmore as a teaching loom and for group projects. 
Gilmore looms

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vancouver Island Retreat

Here we are just back from summer holidays and we are busy planning for another vacation. For those of you who do not live on Vancouver Island, I should explain. For the past 25 years the weaving and spinning groups on the island have held a spring retreat. This is an opportunity to rest, renew friendships and share information. Many of the guilds on the island are small and isolated so this event is important for keeping in touch with fellow weavers and spinners. You can only do some much via the internet. The 2012 spring retreat is being organized by the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners. It will take place March 30 to April 1, at the Quality Bayside Inn, in Parksville.
The two photos were taken from the patio of the Bayside Inn. They show the herring fleet in full action. What you may not be able to see in the photos are the masses of seagulls, the eagles and the sea lions that are attracted by the herring spawn. Herring season is late March to early April in our area.

So what has this got to do with creating beautiful yarn!
Nothing, but if you attend the retreat and you are lucky, you just may have a first hand lesson in the cycle of nature as well as learning some really great tips about spinning and weaving like how to avoid this mess.
The retreat will include vendors, a display of works, a fashion show, and mini workshops. Since this is the 25th anniversary of the retreat the organizers are planning a memory board with photos of previous retreats. Dust off those photos if you have them.
For those who are ambitious there will be a bag exchange. Participants are invited to create a bag that they will submit to the exchange in return for a bag created by some one else. The only requirement is that the bag be made by the person who submits it.

See the Island Shuttle publication for more information about the Vancouver Island Guilds Retreat. Alternatively, you might want to plan a similar event for the groups in your neck of the woods. We could all use an inspirational recharge about the time that winter is fading.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fall Fair

The good old fashion fall fair is alive and well on Vancouver Island. This weekend the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners strutted our stuff at the Lighthouse Country Fall Fair. While our tomatoes and squash might not have been prize winners like those in the picture, a number of our members took home ribbons for their work. Hurrah to fall fairs for keeping alive the arts of hand spinning, knitting and weaving.

We also had great fun visiting with the folks who came to our display, eating home made pie and cotton candy and checking out all the other displays. Some of us also enjoyed the entertainment on the stage although the drum group really played havoc with the spinners rythmn and there may be some blips in the yarn as a result

The title of our show was from fleece to fashion and nothing fits that theme better than this pumpkin coloured caplet knitted from fine handspun wool.

The ever popular spinners were kept busy demonstrating how to turn fiber into yarn. They mesmerized little children, many of whom left clutching a precious sample of fleece.
A number of the spinners were working with space dyed rovings

The weavers contributed to the fashion theme with yardage, tops and accessories plus fashions for the home in the form of table linens, pillows, blankets and rugs.
We also introduce some of our visitors to the art of making cloth on the guild loom. Inch by inch the warp on the loom is being turned cloth by novice weavers.

Fiber and yarns are not the only things we weave with. I'll bet there aren't many weavers out there who haven't thought of making something out of roots or shoots or seaweed. Most of us don't get much past the thinking stage especially if the item requires some processing to make it useable. But....some of us do and the result is this display of baskets made from bull kelp.

A few people were brave enough to try to work on their projects although I don't know how you can keep your place while weaving a tapestry as detailed as this one and answer questions at the same time.
It took all day but, a determined group managed to cut miles and miles of hand woven chenille. As one person's hands got tired another one would take over. The chenille will be the weft for a plush rug. The rug will be the door prize at our fall show and sale Nov 25 to 27 th

I am ending this entry with my favourite display table at the fair. I love the colours of these dahlias.