Looming Joy!

Man, what with Covid-19 cases rising… it’s easy for life to feel really heavy right now. It puts such a strain on everyone’s mental health and emotional well-being. It’s so important during stressful times, that we take charge and make sure we have ways to de-stress. Whether that looks like long walks, yoga, meditation, fibre arts or some other activity, it’s up to us each to reach for what will keep us feeling balanced.

My kids’ paternal grandmother was a weaver. Rag rugs were her thing. She had two looms that were usually loaded with projects at all times. She passed away, years ago (within months of my own mother’s passing). Recently, I was entrusted with one of her looms. Her husband built it for her in the 1990’s. It had been in storage and although the structure of it was in good condition, the heddles and the cording that supported the harnesses, treadles and shafts didn’t fare as well.

I was so excited to be able to bring this loom back to life. I had observed my mother-in-law using the looms, but had never used them myself. Weeks before I received it, I began researching. Once we had it all structurally set up, I ordered heddles for it and restrung the rotted out cording.

My sweetheart built me a warping board, which I found leaning up against the loom on a Sunday morning. I felt like a five year old child waking up to shiny things on Christmas morning. By the end of the day I was well into my first project (despite having to work part of the day).

It was wonderful. I felt so much joy measuring the warp, sleying the reed, threading the heddles and anchoring that yarn to the apron rods. Every step felt so satisfying. I filled my bobbins for my shiny new shuttle and began weaving. The joy welled up in me so much that at one point I had to just sit back and weep. Perhaps that sounds melodramatic, but it didn’t feel that way. It just felt wonderful. Since the pandemic began back in early spring, there has been so much emotional and mental stress building up everywhere. I feel like this was an opening of the gates that allowed me to release a big wave of emotion that was stuffed down and out of the way so I could keep on keeping on. I didn’t realize how much I needed that.

Over the next three days, I sat down and wove whenever I had a chance. Ten minutes here, thirty minutes there. By the time I opened the store that Wednesday morning, I had finished the entire warp. I made 3 dish cloths, 3 table runners and 2 scrubby cloths (I used Rico Creative Bubble for those, it’s the yarn you use to make scrubbies for your dishes). When I got a chance throughout the day, I finished up the ends of those items on the sewing machine, serger and ultimately with some twill binding. It was so satisfying. I learned a lot in doing that first warp’s worth of weaving. The most important thing I learned was that I love to weave. It also really impressed upon me how important it is that I make the time to do things that bring me joy, that pull me away from the stress inducing aspects of life.

Since then I’ve completed another warp’s worth of weaving projects and I’m now on my third one. This batch will be placemats. It’s proving to be very satisfying. I have a couple of knitting projects on the go, but they are both pretty complex and require a degree of focus that I just haven’t been able to sustain for the past month. I’m picking away at them and I’ll get them done, little by little. The loom is (for now) taking over the place that I usually fill with a “no-brainer” knitting project. It’s nice to have options.

For me, fibre arts offer a healthy way to release the mental and emotional stress that (daily life, let alone) the pandemic has us all under. Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra of “Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe” is not just about how we are with others, but about how we are to ourselves too. If crochet, or knitting, or embroidery, or felting, or weaving help you to cope with all… well… that stuff… you are in good company. And it’s a bonus is that you end up with something tangible out of the deal when the crafting is done. A hat, a pair of socks, a dishcloth, a sweater, a Christmas ornament… all happy results of a fibre arts hobby. But the best side effect of all is the joy.

And with that in mind, I wish you JOY!

Happy crafting!

Welcome, September

After a fairly wet summer, everything here is still so lush and green you would think it was still the end of June. Yet the beginning of this month saw the children head back to school. Each day as I am forced to acknowledge that September is solidly here I find myself very busy getting ready for the cooler days that are quietly on their way. As the kids go back to school I find myself focusing on scheduling classes and workshops.

The beginning of fall brings with it the anticipation of renewed excitement for knitting, crocheting and other fibre related activities. There is still so much to do outside before winter arrives it can be hard to find the focus to knit in the evenings. But there’s something about the shortening days and the cooler evenings that make me want to curl up in my comfy chair with my knitting. Soon!

New stock is arriving every day and my office is bulging with bags of yarn that have to wait to be put out on display. We’ve been plugging away working on expanding the store. We will be ready to reveal the changes after the Thanksgiving weekend in October. Stay tuned for details on that. I’m so excited! The expansion will allow space for me to comfortably hold classes.

I’ll be offering both daytime and evening class times with longer classes on alternate weekends. The daytime classes will (most likely but not etched in stone) run from 12:30 to 2:00pm so that class will be finished in plenty of time before school is out for the day. That way parents or grandparents who need to pick up youngsters can head out without having to rush. Evening classes will run from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Weekend classes will be announced and determined as they are scheduled in.

So here’s what’s happening. I will offer a knitting course for absolute beginners. I’m talking about folks that have no idea how to hold the yarn and want a human there to guide them as they learn. It will be taught over eight sessions, an hour and a half each. Each class will focus on just one concept and allow time to get really comfortable with it. I remember how clumsy I was when I first learned to knit. I had to be shown each step over and over again before I finally internalized what I needed to do. I will always be grateful to the lovely woman who patiently encouraged me and I want to offer that patient encouragement to others. So if you think that you might fit into this category and you’d like to learn to knit, come into the store and sign up. You’ll have lots of one on one attention to make sure you are feeling comfortable with the new skills you’ll be learning. By the end of the eight classes, you’ll have a solid foundation to build on. This class will be held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings beginning October 22.

I will also offer technique sessions for novice knitters. These will be single sessions of one and a half hours. Each session will focus on one aspect of technique. For instance, methods of casting on; ways you can increase stitches; methods of decreasing; stranded colourwork and so on. If there is a particular technique you’d like me to cover that isn’t on my list, please let me know and I’ll put something together.

Project based knitting classes will include: toques (beanies); mittens; cowls and socks. Some of these will be one day workshops and some will have multiple classes. I’ll be offering the toe-up sock knitting workshop again as well. This is taught over 4 weeks to allow lots of time for homework in between. The goal is to have a pair of socks completed by the end. The mitten class will be a similar set-up.

More than just knitting classes

I’ll also be offering short-classes to cover the basics of other fibre arts skills. Beginning in October, I’ll offer 1-1/2 hour classes on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Once the beginner workshop is completed I’ll offer these in the evenings as well. I am currently still sorting out the “what and when”. Best thing will be to come and talk to me to let me know what you are interested in and get your name on the sign up sheet(s). Which classes move forward will depend on the level of interest shown.

Here are a few of the offerings planned:

Weaving
Interested in weaving? Learn the basics of weaving on your own student table top loom. It’s downright addictive. There are two sizes of looms available. Pre-registration is mandatory for this class, so I can be sure I have enough looms for everyone.

Embroidery
Want to learn some embroidery basics? Come to a short class and learn a few basic stitches and then put them to work embroidering a small motif on your jeans, shirt, tote or jacket.

Felting
Needle Felting with Niina! Learn the basics of making adorable wee felted wool animals using needle felting techniques.

Macrame
Cover the basics of macrame and make a plant hanger for your home.

Punch Embroidery
With enough interest, I’ll set up classes for needle punch embroidery (used also for making rugs), cross stitch, sewing and serging.

Moccasin Making
A local First Nations instructor has approached me about running a moccasin making class in the store. Once enough people have signed up, we will set a date for that. The suede is already here and waiting!

I’m looking forward to offering these many and varied learning opportunities here in the store. I’m excited to pass along these skills that have brought me so much enjoyment over the years.

Happy Learning!

Greetings from Germany

After flight delays, missed connections, rerouting, failed messages and roughly 24 hours in transit, we may have arrived 6 hours later than expected; but we made it to Germany safe and sound.

It was a relief to arrive at my cousin’s house in Schlitz. We celebrated our arrival with some delicious wine from the area. Located about half an hour from Fulda, this gorgeous little town is the home of the biannual Schlitzenlander Trachtenfest. (Link to the website). With a rich textiles history what better place to start our German itinerary. The festival begins tonight (Friday July 12) and concludes on Monday. Obviously, I can’t tell you all about this year’s festival yet since it hasn’t started. But I can tell you about some of the things I found charming and interesting here.

On Saturday I will be checking out the local factory outlet for Driessen Leinen. They specialize in the weaving of fine linen fabrics, bed and kitchen linens and more. It will be difficult to stick to my budget! I absolutely love linen. Driessen also offers a cotton/linen blend. I’m excited to see what they have.

On Wednesday we went to see the Vorderburg Museum. It hosts a collection of items relating to weaving, shoe-making and local history. We went with the intention of hearing the glockenspiel and then touring the museum. We were told that the glockenspiel would play at 3pm. After taking the lift up to the top of the nearby tower and taking in the panoramic view, we visited the neighbouring church and then made our way to the Vorderburg Museum. We waited patiently for almost 20 minutes for the chimes to play a song. Alas, after chiming the hour… nothing. We waited a couple more minutes before heading into the museum. We paid our admission and after a little while we realized we could just barely make out the sound of the glockenspiel. If we had been patient just six or seven minutes more we could have heard it in the courtyard. Oh well. We were told it would play again at 5pm.

The museum is small but packed with interesting items. I was particularly interested in the artifacts directly related to textiles. The looms, spinning wheels, examples of hand crafted folk costumes and linens dating way back gave a sense of how incredibly long people have had a mastery of textiles. There were samplers of traditional redwork embroidery, typical of the region. The samplers were a way for women to perfect their technique before advancing to the embroidery of garments, bed and kitchen linens or decorative projects.

In the shoe making history display, I was delighted to discover a treadle version of the industrial sewing machine I have in my store for doing leather repair. If not for the patina that the passage of time has given it, and lack of a motor, it could have been my very machine! When something works well, why change it?

The folk costume display highlighted the wide variety of skills needed to complete these textile works of art. I was so engrossed by the array of techniques (tatting, cross stitch, smocking, knitting, embroidery, sewing, leatherwork and beading) that I left without taking any photos!

After viewing the last of the museum displays we decided to check out more of the local sights. The market place was bustling with carpenters setting up stages and booths in preparation for the festival. We walked through the park and checked out the music academy. We zigzagged between the medieval half timbered houses and headed back through the cloister garden. Suddenly we realized we could just make out the sounds of the glockenspiel in the distance! Yes, we missed it again! We were so carried away with all the beautiful buildings and surroundings that we had lost track of time.

Thursday morning we got up early to head to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Despite our train out of Fulda being cancelled, and clouds giving way to a steady, desperately needed rain (there had been a heat wave leading up to our arrival), nothing could stop us from having a magical time in the walled medieval city. Exhausted, we were happy for the comfort of the B & B at the end of the day.

Today we will be taking in the sights of Nuremberg… including at least one yarn shop and the museum and home of artist Albrecht Durer. Early Saturday morning we head back to Schlitz to visit Driessen Leinen and take in the Trachtenfest.

Happy summer!