Sunday, December 13, 2020

Red and Green for Christmas

Wendy's Christmas Star

 December has arrived and our thoughts have turned to family, gift giving and celebrating in the era of Covid 19.  

We missed our guild pot luck that usually marks the end of the years activities and the beginning of a period of delicious indulgence.  We may have saved a few (actually loads of) calories but sharing food with friends is an expression of closeness, and sharing that we sadly missed.

That closeness has been difficult to maintain during this period when physical separation is necessary.  Our executive has done a heroic job of keeping us together as a group with outdoor events, safe studio practices and Zoom meetings. 

Some things about the holiday season never change.  Many of us are still rushing to finish off that last gift.  Oh, we started planning those red and green projects back in October when the seasonal decorations first appeared but then as usual life happened.  This year has brought added pressure because a lot of those presents must travel to loved ones.  That means we can't count on being able to hem, twist fringes or sew in loose ends on Christmas eve.  

What happens if all those red and green tea towels or mitts or decorations don't get finished in time?  Can a red/green colour scheme work off season or do we just have a head start on next December.  Red on its own is very popular particularly with accessories such as scarves, shawls and hats.

Sheila's lace knit shawl

 Likewise, green on its own or as the dominant colour also has its place.  We rarely see a combination of the two colours in full force except during the holiday season.  Is it because those colours have such a strong meaning when combined or is there another reason?    

Rag mats in green & variegated rags

A collection of Christmas towels
 At some point in their career all weavers learn that when red threads cross green they make muddy brown.  That may be why weavers tend to avoid a red/green combination with plain weave but they can be used effectively with other weave structures.

The photo on the right shows a collection of tea towels that were given as presents over a period of years. What a nice memory of past years and proof that hand woven towels last many years.  The towel with rectangular blocks mixes red and green very effectively.

The overshot hot pad is another red/green combination.  Here the red warp threads are strategically place in the center of the design.

Overshot hot pad

Knitters have more freedom to place colour in solid blocks so they are free to take advantage of complementary colour combinations including red and green.  A variegated yarn was used for the green and red scarf but the yarn has been dyed so that areas of solid colour tend to form and the shift from one colour to the other is graded.  The red hat was knitted, felted and blocked to create the shape.  

Wendy's ornament

knit scarf & felted hat

Good luck with those unfinished projects even if they aren't red and green.  Enjoy the spirit of the holiday season even if you aren't able to be together in the flesh.  Keep safe and sane.



Friday, November 27, 2020

Virtual Craft Sales or How to Buy a Tea Towel From Us


Pat's scarf

Like many craft groups the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners will not be holding a pre Christmas sale this year.  For most of our members the guild sales are the only significant outlet for the many lovely items that they produce.  The sales are also a major source of income for the guild.  In past years our sales have been very popular with a loyal group that love quality hand crafted items.  Some come every year to see what their favourite artisan has created.

Recently we have been receiving enquires about the availability of items for sale.  Our members have been working at their craft and they have an abundance of new works, everything from elegant scarves pictured above to practical rag rugs.

Rita's rag rug

We are working on ways to connect potential buyers with those members who would like to sell.  If you follow the work of a specific artisan you can contact us and we will put you in touch with them.

Janet's knitted shawl

We are developing a list of members who specialize in specific items, such as knited shawls, hand towels or table linens.  If you are looking for an item we can refer you to a member who specializes in that item.
Linda's mat & towels

Here's to a safe and satifying shopping experience.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Mug Rugs

Pottery and weaving were the hip decor items back in the 70's and 80's.  Weaving with a home spun look was particularly prized for table linens.  It was a time of both "slow cloth" and "slow crockery".

More recently, the beginners' weaving course took a nostaligic look at the once popular "mug rug".  Most hand made 80's pottery had an unglazed bottom that would scratch a smooth wooden surface.  The little mug rug was the perfect answer as it protected the table surface from both spills and scrapes.    

Mug rugs are a great beginner project.  They make a thick absorbant cloth when made out of 4/8 cotton (or the equivalent) and cotton is the most forgiving yarn.  It has just the right amount of stretch, is strong, doesn't have a lot of hairy bits to grab nearby yarns and it doesn't abraid easily. When you are learning how to make a warp and dress a loom you have enough new knots and tools and terms to cope with so leave the mohair, fine silk, friable rayon and stretchy knitting yarns on the shelf.   
Mug rugs can be woven on a narrow warp which is easier to put on the loom and easier to weave.  You can weave a whole set of them on a short two yard warp. Once the loom is dressed, you can have fun with the colours and yarns in the weft.  You can even try out some of those thrift shop yarns as weft (we all know you can't resist a bargain) or left overs from other projects.
Even an experienced weaver can have a lot of fun creating a set of mug rugs.  It can be a quick no pressure project that uses up small bits and bobs.  For a design inspiration try matching the cloth to a favourite mug.

The photo at the right shows a mug rug in progress while the finished products are shown below

The next weaving workshops will cover (a) how to plan a project and (b) the basics of the weave structure, summer and winter.  Check WORKSHOP SERIES for more details.

In the studio the 60 inch Lecerc loom is being used by one of our members to make wool blankets.  The warp is a mix of autumn colours and reminds me of driving along a tree lined road at this time of year.  Maybe we will get to see the finished product in another blog post.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Guild Activities in the time of Covid 19

October maple tree

The fall foliage is lovely to look at but it comes with cooler temperatures and wetter days which is why we are glad to have access to our studio once more for indoor activities.  The guild executive has developed a set of safety measures that comply with public health recommendations for Covid.  That means we can hold small group events and make use of our equipment but our general meetings will be virtual.  One positive side effect of the pandemic is that we are all learning to use technology such as Face Time and Zoom.  Some of our grandchildren (or great grandchildren) are amazed! 

Workshops are back!  Class sizes are small to allow for social distancing and safety protocols are in place.

  The ever popular Beginner Weaving classes are back with Sandra Schulz.  This 3 part workshop starts on October 22.  It covers the basics of weaving cloth on a harness loom.  Each participant will be provided with a loom.

If you have mastered the beginnings of weaving and want to express your own ideas rather than follow a recipe then the following workshop is just what you need.

Sandra Schulz deflected double weave scarf

 How to Plan a Weaving Project with Sandra Schulz.

This one day session will help you avoid running out of yarn part way through a project or ending up with a blanket the size of a napkin.  It will cover how to select the best yarn and weave structure for the project, what you can do with yarns in your stash and the when and how of mixing yarns.  And finally Sandra will de-mystify yarn shrinkage, warp take up and sett.  Students will design a weaving project from scratch, using a simple, easy to follow approach.  Students will need writing materials and a calculator.  The workshop takes place Saturday November 28 from 10am to 4:30.  Cost, $90 for members and $115 for non-members. 

Summer & Winter

 A Tale of Two Seasons with Linda Wilson

Our second weaving workshop for November will be something you can complete in the comfort of your own home.  A Tale of Two Seasons is a virtual class using e-mail notes and presentations.  It will cover the basics of the weave structure known as summer and winter.  This is a versatile structure for producing colourful patterns.  Both 4 shaft and 8 shaft versions will be covered.  Linda is also planning some group Zoom sessions as part of this learning effort.  Cost, $30 for members, $40 for non-members.  The final date in November hasn't been selected yet.  For more information on this course contact 

In our last post we saw two projects that were in progress.  Wendy was busy dressing a table loom with a black warp of superwash merino wool.  She turned it into a scarf with bands of blue twill accents at either end.   

In the last post we also saw that Jan had just started a knitting project.  Well Jan decided that the yarns and pattern weren't going to work and she wisely abandoned that project.  But she has been busy using up yarns in her stash and has produced not one but 3 scarves.  Two are hand spun wool and alpaca while the third is a mix of yarns.

In other news the spinning and knitting small group get togethers are happening in the studio on Tuesdays (spinning) and Fridays (knitting) from 10am to noon.  Attendance is limited so members wishing to attend are to contact Terry.  If you are not a member and would like to attend any of our sessions then contact us at

The Fun with Four and Exploring More study groups are meeting via Zoom.  

And finally the guild looms are also available for studio projects.  Our 90 inch Leclerc is currently being used to weave warm wool blankets.  One of the smaller looms is warped for cotton "golf" towels, a project that was halted in the early spring.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Not So Close Encounters of a Knitting Kind


enjoying the outdoors 

This summer many people moved their socializing outdoors like the group in the photo.  They discovered some natural beauties, developed a nice tan and even got some exercise while enjoying eachother's company.  

The Qualicum Weavers and Spinners were unable to access our studio for several months but to keep the regular groups in contact we embraced the great outdoors in the form of carports, patios and back yards.  We dyed scarves, had spinning circles, and even held stash sales.

As the weather cools and becomes "moister" we are glad that we now have at least limited access to our studio space.  See the notes under guild events for more details.  Workshops are back!

The knitters pictured here managed to turn a carport into a stage for an interesting "show and tell".  Tracey had been very productive with 3 finished items only one of which is shown here. 

  Knitting in triangles seemed to be a popular theme although the interpretation was quite different.

Some of them were bold stripes using variegated yarns and others were delicate lacey shawls for a more formal look.  Some items were based on commercial yarns and others were made from hand spun wool or wool blends.

Some items were early works in progess.  It looks interesting almost like a scalloped edge.  Maybe we'll see the finished product soon.

The weavers also got into the show and tell.

The towel in the photo is a twill gamp that illustrates different twill treadlings and threadings.

One weaver even managed to warp a table loom proving that with some planning (cooperative weather) and the desire to share you can still enjoy the commaraderie of the guild group while keeping eachother safe.  That black warp could be the start of so many different things.


And finally what more fun than a stash sale!  Looking for that bargain or that elusive yarn that matches something you bought at a previous stash sale.  The items for sale were a generous donation and the proceeds from the sale will help support guild activities.

Outdoor shopping spree

Monday, September 21, 2020

The Tea Towel and Why Weavers Love Them


 Tea towels are one of the first items a novice weaver makes and they continue to be a favourite project for even the most experienced weaver.

 When you weave a tea towel you are producing an artful piece of cloth that has a practical purpose.No need to feel guilty about having fun at the loom.  Instead think of your tea towel effort as a link to those weavers of old who produced their own household linens out of necessity.  Your tea towel project may not be as complex as their historic coverlets.  It may be on a smaller scale than the yards and yards of drapery material people wove in the 70's.  But, like those items it is a household necessity that you made by hand in your own style.

Rita's towels

 Tea towels make useful projects for exploring colour and weave structure.  They are a good size to illustrate an effect.  Their use relatively inexpensive materials and they are more useful than small samples.  If you plan ahead, one long warp can be used to explore different treadling variations as illustrated in the tea towels drying in the sun.  You can also explore how different weft colours will blend with the warp as illustrated below.

Pat's unhemmed tea towels

Sylvia's zigzagstripes

A multitude of tea towel designs can be found on line or you can have the fun and satisfaction of designing your own.  It is relatively easy to work out the threads and yards so you can concentrate on the visual design.  The rectangular shape is perfect for warp or weft stripes.  If you base your colours on those part cones in your stash you can make a practical item and clean out your yarn supply at the same time.  That allows you to claim double brownie points.

You can use many different weave structures or combinations of structures to make a tea towel making them a great project for learning about weave structure.  The photo below shows one of the guild tea towel projects that is designed for beginners in the group.  In this example the design involves two different structures that creates textural stripes.

 Now probably the most important feature of a hand woven tea towel is its ability to disappear from your studio.  They make wonderful gifts.  They are easy to pack in a suitcase or mail to a distant relative.  Wrap a loaf of home made bread in one and you have a thoughtful hostess gift.  Colour coordinate one with your friend's new kitchen and you have a special house warming present.

And best of all, they are the most popular woven item at guild sales.  So, if you are staying close to home these days and wondering what to weave, you can't go wrong with tea towels.  Make a long warp and have fun while learning something new.

tea towels for sale

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Playing with dyes

spring growth on shrub

An interest in dyeing is a natural extension for anyone who works with yarn or fibre.  If you know how to dye you can develop complex colour patterns, match an existing yarn, or create that illusive shade of mauve (green, yellow etc) that captures a natural scene.  

painted warp

Dyeing involves a significant investment in materials, takes time to set up and it can be messy.  On the other hand much of it can be done outdoors in good weather.  Also the costs and work can be shared when it is a group effort.  It is a perfect activity for a guild.  Always looking for a chance to have fun and be creative, the Qualicum Weavers and Spinners have been enjoying small group "dye days".  We tried our hand at Eco-dyeing.

Kathy's eco dyed scarves

  Eco-dyeing, refers to a procedure for using vegetation, leaves, fruit, or flowers in their whole form to dye cloth.  The cloth, silk scarf blanks in this case, must be premordanted with alum and cream of tartar and dryed.  The dye materials are placed on the silk which is then rolled up and tied to hold the dye materails in place.  The prepared bundle is "cooked" in a mixture of salted water with metal objects added to create "rust" marks.  Rusty nails, or old rusted implements (anything that contains iron) will do as well as copper items.  A crock pot is ideal for dyeing one or two scarves.

Unwrapping the silk bundles after curing is a suprise, like a Christmas cracker.  The result is a semi-random pattern with muted colours, and if iron was involved orange/black highlights.  

 While silk scarves are a favourite base for this type of dyeing, Susan decided to test it out on wool.  She used nasturtium flowers and leaves for one and ferns for the second piece.  She plans to use the wool for rug hooking. 

Susan's wool samples

Jackie's silk scarf

Jackie added a pair of old garden clippers to her crock pot to get this mix of peach, browns and grays.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Still Working on That Stash

Maggie's hand spun yarn
Earlier in the year guild members were challenged to make something by the end of June, out of the yarns and fibres from the stash of a former member.  There were many beautiful fibers for spinning and yarns for either knitting or weaving.  Some of the finished products have appeared in previous posts.
If that weren't motivation enough to use up existing supplies, for many of us shopping activities have been curtailed lately and so when the urge to create takes hold we turn to our stash. 

Depending on how close you are to being a horder with years of experience (and therefore boatloads of stuff), you may find the items in your stash present limitations, challenges and questions.  The first being how well are the items labelled and do I really know what that fibre is?  The others include "can those colours or yarns be used together", "how much of that stuff do I have anyway" and the big one "why did I buy that stuff?"  There are tools for answering the how much and what fiber and even colour queries.  It is the "why?" question that will forever be a mystery.  So with all that in mind below are some of the creations our guild members came up with.

Mary's hand spun yarn and twill scarves

   Mary spun this fine yarn from a some lovely natural brown roving that she chose from the stash sale.  It is sitting on a pair of scarves that were woven as a narrow twill gamp.  If you look closely you can see the large diamond patterns.  The scarves were made from yarn that was also purchased from another weaver's stash. 

Marilynn's scarf
Marilynn  used yarns from the stash to create a mixed warp placing a nubbly yarn at intervals across the warp then she wove this bright orange scarf.  She took the plunge and made a light mohair shawl with yet more yarns from the stash. 

mohair shawl

 She sent us some pictures that include a glimpse into her garden with roses and clematis flowers.

Pat used wool yarns from the stash  The natural white and beige yarns were woven as a loose twill scarf with a large diamond pattern.  The twill scarf was then dyed with resists so that the colouring would be uneven.  A subdued diamond pattern is still visible.  She calls it her "grunge" dyed scarf.    

undyed scarf
grunge dyed scarf

While all this stash busting was going on the Exploring More Study Group were busy exploring more possibilities in double weave.  Pat has been working on patterned double weave.  The "yellow brick road" piece is a series of brick shaped "pockets" on a diagonal.  The outline around the "pockets" is created by exchanging the dark threads on the bottom layer with the light threads on the top layer.  The yarns are 2/16 cotton.  
Pat's patterned double weave front & back shown

Sandra has been exploring deflected double weave and having fun with this cut out of a dog.  What an eye catching way to show off a scarf.  If you look closely you can see a bit of the scarf's back side.  In deflected double weave the two faces are very different and both are a surprise when you wash the cloth and the threads slide into place.

Linda has been working on a form of double weave pique.  She had created a thick cloth with insulating properties and a subtle pattern.  Perfect for a tea cozy.

Linda's tea cozy in double weave
We are taking a break from studio work to celebrate CANADA DAY but you'll be hearing from us in July.