Some time ago our guild rented the OHS 100” loom for a year and wove a series of coverlets threaded in a pattern taken from Dorothy Burnham’s Keep Me Warm One Night. This beautiful book had been issued in the 1970’s in connection with a ROM exhibition of C19th coverlets from eastern Canada.


This November, the ROM partnered with the U of T Art Department to revisit Burnham’s legacy as weaver, curator and scholar, with an international conference entitled Cloth Cultures.


Four guild members braved the transit system and the weather to attend one day of this event. There were 15 presenters that day. What a wonderful chance to see how cloth and clothing are slowly and carefully investigated and assigned a place in time and space. The range of historic and ethnographic investigation ranged widely from Finish nettle fibre to Nova Scotia’s plant dyes and from Amazon Shilbo textiles to Anishinaabe strap dresses. Truly amazing.

And there was more to see. The lobby of the ROM Eaton Theatre where we revived ourselves with mid session coffee and snacks held a display by the Etobicoke guild’s Burnham study group. That by the way is also the present location of the Henry Eaton statue we saw as children in the downtown store. As a bonus, our seminar admission gave us entrance to the Viking exhibit where we were inspired by some beautiful bronze wire work and jewelry.


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Every two years, The Association of North West Guilds holds a Fibre Conference. This June 28th through July 2nd it was held in Victoria BC. With over 500 participants drawn from 10 western territories, provinces and states, it was a very inspirational event.



Weaving, spinning, dyeing, felting and basketry instructors drawn primarily from western Canada and the US led 22 pre-conference workshops and 78 seminars at the conference itself.  My Colour Confidence workshop with Sarah Jackson gave us a step by step process for working in any colour way.

One of my weekend seminars on Crimp Cloth Primer with Diane Totten, gave me good understanding of how to weave permanently pleated cloth using the shibori and steam method. I also gain valuable knowledge on finishing details in her class.

And there was so much more: 30 guild displays set up in a large arena with at least 40 Vendors, and at another venue, the beautiful work in the Juried and Open Shows.


And Evenings held more! Charllotte Kwon of the Maiwa Foundation was our Friday night keynote speaker.  Saturday night there was a fabulous Fashion Show. Sunday’s finale was a banquet supper.  Profits from the conference go back to the participating guilds for workshops and special projects. Truly a win – win event.

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IMG_1288My long summer at the lake is over for the year.  The cottage loom is empty waiting for next year’s projects.  It was a productive weaving summer.  Two warps finished and a small tapestry.


As I packed up all the yarn I had brought up for this summer, I realized I had acquired a lot more due to my August visit to Loom Lust Yarn Store in Midland.  I managed to fill in the missing colours from my shelves and added a few other colours I never knew I wanted or needed.  On arriving home to the city I dumped everything in my studio and now have the chore to find places and spaces for it all.


Two new warps are wound and planned and ready to go on my Harrisville Loom.  I just have to find the time to work on them.  Why is it that city life fills my days with chores that keep me out of the studio?  Maybe I will hire a cleaning lady!

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Well this project really got me back to weaving.  It was challenging enough to keep my mind off other things and with our Ontario wet spring made the days goes faster.

It was not easy sailing.  I (as always) had loom issues.  Chains got hooked together, unhooked and harnesses unclipped and clipped together causing problems with the number of shafts being lifted.IMG_1093

I stuck with it and after doing a sample square, I finished a nice runner.  (see photo)

On consultation with friends, I decided to change the sett to 24 instead of 28.  Threading it at 28 meant the reed was sleyed  2, 2, 3.  This resulted in areas where two of the same coloured threads appeared on the surface and I did not get the solid blend of colour I liked.   So I cut off the woven warp and resleyed, not once but twice. ( It wasn’t until I sleyed it wider did I notice that I wasn’t getting a true plain weave.  I kept looking for something I had done wrong when I finally realized it was the weave structure itself. )  The polka dots were larger of course but the colour mix better.

Some of my weaver friends thought 20 epi would be better if I wanted to do tea towels, but I think the polka dots would be too large.   That experiment can come another time and may require reducing the size of the dots.

All in all, it was an interesting project.  I think the runner was a nice weight and drape for pillows, runners or upholstery, or maybe a tote bag.

As I am now off to cottage, I think I will try summer and winter polka dots as seen in the 2015 handwoven.  By the Fall I will truly be dotty.

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I have been in a creative/weaving doldrum for months.  On the positive side I did manage to finish off the rag rug warp and do a felted scarf for a guild challenge.  But they were basically mindless tasks. Searching Pinterest and weaving magazines did nothing to spark any interest UNTIL….

Barb forwarded a link to a blog site called IOWA WEAVER.  ( This talented smart lady had delved into the realm of Turned Taquette and produced circles.  Polka dots and circles in a weaving world is a challenge.  A challenge I had considered but not tried.  I read the article and put it aside thinking this was not the time for it.  (The drafts below are from the Iowaweaver blog.)


Then Barb sent another link that showed the draft for the circle design treadled to create squares.  As I hate doing a long warp of the same design I thought this might have possibilities AND what if I could do a runner with both circles and squares?

circles into squares

I then proceeded to wind a warp…not a sample warp but a decently long one that could actually produce something useful – the plan being to sample on the first half yard of it.

Well it has been a long time since I wound a warp and of course I did not weigh the cones of 2/8 cotton to see if there was enough and of course there was not.  As the warp was blue and yellow and I had a selection of both these colours,  I switched the blues and yellows to different ones.  By the time I had finished winding the warp,  I had three shades of yellow and two blues.

Then it dawned on me that I had to line up the yellow exactly to fall into the circle pattern or the colours would be offset.  Before starting to thread the loom, I printed off a colour threading and drawdown and taped it to my loom. That way as I threaded I could ensure exactly where the yellows landed.


The winding on went easily but the threading, oh my!  I forgot how dreadful it was to sit inside the loom peering into the maze of heddles attempting to keep my feet off treadles so that the harnesses stayed level.   As this threading was more complicated than the straight draw I had used for my rag rugs,  I broke down the threading sequence to keep track, also making note of how many of each harnesses were involved in each sequence.  My brain definitely was getting a work out, not to mention the my back and cramped knees.

I may not be using any creative brain cells but my brain is engaged and focused on something so intense nothing else can occupy it.  So while all this is Barb’s fault I must say thanks to her and I must say thanks to the clever Iowa Weaver who actually started all this!

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A recent visit to the Textile Museum of Canada for the Sheila Hicks: Material Voices exhibit was an exciting and colourful foil for our grey Toronto January weather.  The entire third floor of the facility was hung with her monumental bas relief fibre pieces.


Perpetual Migration, 2014 – 2015


Baoli Chords/Cordes Sauvages Pow Wow, 2014 -2015


Predestined Color Wave I and II, 2015


Mandan Shrine 2016


Convergence (Vermala)

The museum provided audio and video background information on individual work, as well as dvd loops on the development of major permanent installations at the Ford Foundation in NYC and MGIC in Milwaukee.  For more go to

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This summer the guild explored the mysteries of dyeing with natural Indigo.  The dye day was indeed wet and wild with a full downpour at times but the process was fascinating and the results amazing.  Indigo is a two stage process involving Preparation of the Dye Bath and the Dyeing itself.  Luckily Heather, one of our members who does beautiful eco printing was familiar with the process.

Preparation of the Dye Bath was done 3 days in advance and involved carefully adding a Stock Solution of indigo to a prepared 5 gallon plastic Vat that could be covered with a tight lid. The tight lid ensures that the dye bath does not oxidize.  The blue of indigo comes from oxidation.  You want this to happen in your cloth or yarn once it’s removed from the vat and exposed to the air.  This oxidation in your fibre ensures colourfastness.  You do not therefore want the dye bath itself to oxidize, because then it can no longer give you a colourfast dye in your fibre.


To make the Stock Solution, indigo powder was combined with some hot water in a plastic jar.  As indigo does not easily dissolve in water we added some marbles, capped the jar and shook for a couple of minutes.  Other chemicals to adjust the ph, aid reduction (deoxidization) and provide a mordent were then added. The stock was left for an hour . We were delighted when it changed from blue to clear yellow indicating that reduction (deoxidation) had occurred.


The Vat was filled with five gallons of hot water, treated with the ph and reduction agents and let to stand for 15 minutes and then the Stock Solution was carefully added.  This we did by inverting the stock jar into the vat while keeping the mouth of the stock jar under the surface of the water in the vat. No splashing here!  That would add oxygen to the mixture.  We then left the  dye bath covered for the 3 days preceding the workshop.  It also remained covered during the dying process.

Dye Day arrived and so did our eco printer and our spinners carrying their scoured yarn.  Scouring in hot water for an hour using Synthrapol for cotton and Orvus Paste soap for silk or wool is important in this process. The full effect of natural dyes can only be realized if any oils or treatments have been removed form your cloth or yarn.

Dyeing is done by carefully introducing your fibre to the Dyebath, leaving it covered for 5 to 15 minutes and carefully removing it allowing for minimal bubbles.  As you rinse and then dry your piece in the air the blue colour magically develops.  For best colourfastness with natural indigo it is recommended to dip, rinse and dry several times for short intervals.  The pictures below show Pat’s hand spun after the first dip and after a later dip.

img_2870  img_2871

At the back of the drying rack in the picture above is the first stage in the creation of Ann’s space dyed yarn. Using a 40 ‘ skein, she has added a resist at intervals by wrapping with plastic and tying with string. Once the yarn was dry she unwrapped these areas and over dyed the whole skien resulting in a double blue effect.  We look forward to seeing the socks for which this yarn is destined.

indigo-drying-2 img_2868


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