From a Pause to a Transition

When I last wrote we were just over a month into sheltering at home. Well, here we are, still sheltering at home four months later and no doubt the longer haul is yet to come. One transition I am experiencing relates to the kinesthetic knowing that we are in this for the very long haul. I’m not talking about the logical brain sort of knowing; I refer to the inner, cellular knowing. Of course, anything can happen at any moment. But it sure seems like we will be here like this next July, too. I suppose part of this transition is trying to settle into that understanding. Pandemic Permanence.

My dear daughter is very much hoping we are NOT like this next July. Shortly after I last wrote, she hit the “P” button. That would be POSTPONE as in the beautiful wedding she had planned for July 2020. It broke my heart but, of course, had to happen. She and my future son-in-law have been together for over 10 years, so they chose to postpone, hoping to celebrate the existing relationship with friends and family next year, assuming it is safe to do so. Such a beautiful bride she will make! Her setting is trees and while it will be warm, I did weave a shawl to go with my navy mother-of-the-bride dress.

It is 8/2 tencel set at 24 epi and the draft is Strickler 314.5. I have NEVER finished anything so early!

To keep this focused on fiber arts, I’ll write of that sort of transition. But first, remember my post about the textile adventure at the family farm in Sweden? Family Farm in Sweden I posted a picture of the blue shawl I wove for the family matriarch, Margaretha.

Well, it took about two months, but she finally received the shawl. Recently I received a lovely letter (translated by her daughter) and photo.

She was so delighted! And she was pleased to receive my letter and the photos I sent of our adventure at Bjälkerum. She sent a photo of Linnea, the tiny flower of Småland. I have left the letter and photos out in my “fiber room” and I smile each time I see them. No telling when any of us will be able to travel again.

As a weaver, I am experiencing a transition. I decided I am not a rug weaver. No surprise but I did have to test that out. My first rug feels great under my feet and is surprisingly supple, given the linen rug warp, the high tension under which I wove it, and the intensity of the beating I did with each pick.

It turned out alright even though the selvages could be better, and the edges could be more even. Currently, with a non-skid pad under it, rug #1 it is warming Michael’s feet when he gets out of bed.

Since we wanted the room to be balanced, and because I really wanted to weave this particular rug, I am weaving a Krokbragd rug. It was a bit of an event getting the box of yarn from Maine to California. UPS only lost it twice. But the colors are beautiful.

Weaving the rug, however, is an event. This 1973 8/12 Gilmore is a wonderful and very sturdy loom and I’ve outfitted the beater with an angle iron and two steel bars for extra weight.

But Gil likes to dance, and it takes me and Michael both some effort to get Gil back in place after a weaving session. The other day, with a cup of tea on my small table next to the loom, the loom danced enough that the cuppa went flying. Fortunately, my favorite cup did not break. So, the weaving goes on, bit by bit. When this rug is finished, I will list Gil for sale so he can move on to a home that will put him to good use and my Baby Wolf, currently hogging much space in my fiber room, will take Gil’s place in the kitchen nook. I’m not quite half-way finished so this particular loom transition will take a while.

Shortly before beginning to shelter in place (five months ago as I write this), a used Wolf Pup LT (four shafts and six treadles) came up for sale on Ravelry. The loom was located one state away and only a few hours from my youngest kiddo. It was reasonably priced and I had been looking for just this very loom. So, thinking I would make the drive in a month or so, I purchased the loom. The seller was kind enough to store it for me until I, or my youngest kiddo, Archie, could come and get it. Well, then came the lock down.

As a Mothers’ Day gift to me, Archie made the day long round trip to pick up the loom from the seller. Michael and I were both a bit restless but we also had to be very careful. We watched the case rates closely in California, Oregon, and Washington and decided to take a window of opportunity before what we expected would be a surge since so many people were refusing to wear masks and counties were opening up again. We packed plenty of gloves, masks, and disinfectant, all of our own food except dinners, plenty of water, and, of course, my knitting.

We have driven from our home in northern California to Washington many times. We usually give ourselves two days to get to the greater Puget Sound area, or Whidbey if that is where we are headed. This time it was a night in Ashland, Oregon as our first stop. All went well and we remained very careful.

I couldn’t pass through Eugene, Oregon without stopping at the Eugene Textile Center. It was my first time to see Suzie’s new store and it was wonderful! With masks on and no hugs, we saw Suzie and browsed her beautiful, spacious store full of natural light, delighting in seeing so much weaving and spinning equipment and materials. I purchased some hand dyed 20/2 tencel and some linen. A second EFD shuttle came my way as soon after Suzie received it from Schacht.

It was, of course, absolutely wonderful to get to Washington and to see my youngest kiddo! Archie had tested Covid-19 negative shortly before our arrival and we were careful to keep a window open when we gathered. A shared cocktail and dinner rounded out our first evening together. My little Pup was ready to travel and we whisked it off to our hotel room.

The next day, Michael and I enjoyed a trip to the coast while Archie worked. It was a splendid day at the beach!

One more dinner with Archie (all dinners were take-out) and then it was time for Michael and me to head home.

I have no idea when I will see my youngest kiddo again and that hurts my heart. After returning home, I was able to send off to Archie the knitted panel they had requested. Not even a Ravelry person, Archie came across the pattern and brought it to my attention. I chose to knit it in the round, using stranded knitting and steeks, instead of how the designer knit this, so I had two panels and mine is now backed in red fabric and hangs on my front door.

My wolf pack is now complete and my first project on the little Pup is a Baltic band using a Sunna heddle. I’m making a few bookmarks as a warm-up project.

My plan is to use the Pup for band weaving and, whenever we get past this pandemic, to use it to help people learn about weaving. Fortunately, the Pup is very easy to fold up and move around; a very good thing since at the moment there is no specific space for this loom. Another transition is a shift in my thinking and planning for opening my little online shop. It is happening!! It has long been my intention but now my goal is by September. (Ok, it may be October!) To prepare, I have been attempting to create inventory and I now have some labels. Stay tuned as this develops.

I’ve had fun weaving scarves with Tencel recently and plan to weave many more. It is such fun to play with color and pattern. I’m happy to say that I have achieved a structurally sound piece of fabric that is also feather light.

I’ll be transitioning to a new knitting project next. I finished a sweater I had been wanting to knit for over 10 years. I was very fortunate to have enough yarn on hand for the sweater. I purchased 10 balls of this worsted weight wool from what used to be our LYS during an annual sale. The store has been closed about five years, so this has been in my stash a good while. Despite the yardage listed for the pattern and despite obtaining gauge on my swatch, I used far more yarn than predicted. Of course, cables eat yarn, and this is a very heavily cabled sweater, but I used a bit over 2000 yards!! It turns out that I’m pleased with how it fits and, assuming we will once again have cold weather (it is over 100 degrees F on my back deck in the afternoon lately!), this sweater will be just right.

Of course, this is the time of year for constant transitions in the garden. I’m not the best gardener and it does take time away from weaving, knitting, and spinning. But it is wonderful to watch it develop and it’s hard to beat sitting on the deck in the evening with my e-spinner, watching the hummingbirds, flowers, and trees. I can almost see the vegetable, herbs, and fruit grow right before my eyes! And what inspiration to take to the loom!

For now, as the country tears itself apart and the pandemic worsens, I will continue to use weaving, knitting, and spinning as a meditation.

May all beings be happy

May all beings be safe

May all beings everywhere be free








When a Pause is Progress

This is how my three floor looms looked at the beginning of the year. Stark naked. After an intense flurry of holiday gift weaving, it was time for a bit of a break and my annual preventive maintenance on the looms. However, I can’t stand to be without weaving in my head so you can be sure my head was full of drafts, plans, and some actual progress with finishing my samples from my third visit to Madelyn van der Hoogt’s The Weavers’ School on Whidbey Island.

My head was also full of drafting samples to weave for my own further understanding of treadling and tie-up of profile drafts.

A couple of samples have been completed and the class samples are completed. So, it really wasn’t much of a pause. Fine with me!

Another benefit of working on the class samples was remembering my time at weaving school. Every time I go, I learn so much! 

I realized my dream of getting experience on a drawloom and I’m hooked!

Too bad we do not have the real estate for such a loom. Not even a possibility. My next dream is to get a community drawloom. Wouldn’t it be great to have a studio space and a few other folks to share such an investment?! Well, I’m not holding my breath but it sure was meditative and so much fun.

I’m very grateful for my experiences at The Weavers’ School and all that I have learned from Madelyn and Suzie. They are weaving wizards, great teachers, and lots of fun. While I’m posting links, check out Suzie’s Eugene Textile Center, too.

Madelyn van der Hoogt and Sade
Suzie Lyles and Buddy

Meanwhile, the beginning of the year found me spinning and knitting more. DH lovingly gifted me with a Hansen minispinner  for the holidays and I made my way through a couple of skeins. I spun a few mini-skeins to get started, including some very fine merino (bottom)  and Shetland (top) to sample with.

I also managed to finish some Polwarth from    and some BFL from


before embarking on another combospin project, this time in blues.

I’m calling it Blue Note and plan to listen to some jazz while spinning. I’m spinning Blue Note on my beloved Lendrum as I don’t yet have a Woolee Winder for the Hansen.

I finished knitting my first combospin sweater which I themed after the garden throughout the year.  I’m pleased with how it turned out and how the sweater fits. This is especially good news as I have not knit a sweater in a couple of years.

As soon as I finished my Garden Sweater of Many Colors, I cast on for a sweater I’ve been planning to knit for nearly a decade. My current knitting project is St. Brigid by Alice Starmore. The yarn has been in my stash since an annual sale at Meadowfarm Yarn Studio, which has been closed for more than five years, so you know this project has been sitting around for longer than that! I’m now close to completing the back panel of these amazing cables. True, I did not keep my promise of not casting on until other projects came out of hibernation, but at least I only started one project! Of course, with having visited the Stitches West marketplace, I have several skeins sitting out with one big project planned.



My dear daughter moved to brighter and bigger housing in January and said something about needing new towels for her kitchen. Music to the ears of a weaver! My initial visit before she moved clued me in to the theme of the towels: Sky. She has many windows and a great view of land, trees, and sky so I broke out the colors that had been sitting together on my shelf for two years.

After some sketching  (I’m liking the app Paper) and moving tubes of cotton around, I settled on plain weave and stripes to complement her many windows with view of sky. It was fun, taught me a great deal, and I’m sure to repeat the experiment with better results next time. My daughter was pleased, so that’s all that counts for this run of sky towels.

As the world came to a crashing halt due to this horrible pandemic, I had more time on my hands at home and took to weaving scarves and some towels. I may be helpless in so many ways right now but I can weave and so that is what I have been doing. A bit compulsively, I suppose, but I also call it “creating inventory.” Three scarves and four towels came off the Baby Wolf and Mighty Wolf in the last week and two scarves came off the week before. 

It has actually been fun working from stash. For the scarves I used some old knitting yarns that have been in stash for many years thanks to a friend’s major destash about 10 years ago. I also used some yarns that have been in my stash for about one year. I love A Hundred Ravens yarn! It is lusciously soft, and the colorways are beautiful.

The towels gave me an opportunity to use some partial tubes of cotton but, strangely, nothing was entirely used up.  I will admit this has been a detour from my profile draft samples but I will get back to it. It just feels so darn good to sit at a loom and complete something. And the project planning involved takes me out of any fears or dark thoughts that loom on the edge.

So, now I am pausing again. Taking a deep breath, meditating, walking, knitting and spinning and I will pause a day or two before warping the loom again. I have two scarves planned (two very different warps, all stash yarns) and a shawl to make for my daughter’s wedding (which may or may not happen this July, depending on sheltering in place or not). All the necessary yarn is in the house. I have one more color card coming before I decide on the rug yarns for my first rug, to be woven on my 1973 Gilmore loom.  The angle iron and weights are in place now and I have selected a draft. I’m not convinced rug weaving will be my “thing” but I’m certainly going to give it a try. I figure two rugs and then I will decide: be a rug weaver or move Gil along to a loving home. In any event, a slightly used Wolf Pup LT is coming my way from Oregon (via my youngest kiddo in Washington) once we can move about again. Dare I say “safely” move about?

At this moment, the sun is shining, I am most blessed, incredibly grateful, and can only hope a tiny bit of this positivity comes through to you, wherever you are. There is terrible suffering all over the globe and it may come right into this bright sunny room full of fiber and looms, to me, too. At any moment, the very fabric of our lives can be ripped and torn, leaving us nothing. That is something I learned at the tender age of 20, holding lives in my hands while working as an intensive care nurse. I’ve never forgotten the lessons and I also know the existence I so enjoy right now is tenuous on the best of days. But I will have had this moment, this love, this family, this passion, this life. I am grateful. May I knit, spin, and weave that into everything I make.

The Family Farm in Sweden – A Textile Adventure

I’ve said it before, and I will say it many times more. I am a very lucky person! There are many reasons for me to say that but since this is being written for my fiber arts website, I will stick to some of the fiber related reasons for my gratitude and appreciation of what is: I have been warmly welcomed and embraced by my husband’s Swedish relatives who maintain the family farm in Sweden, including textiles and fiber arts equipment, from the late 1800s.

My first trip to the farm was in 2017. My second trip was in August of 2019. In between, five of the cousins came and visited us in California. We are family in the best sense of the word, and it feels wonderful!

This farm has been in my husband Michael’s family since 1850, with the original house being completed in 1853 by Michael’s great-great grandfather.

Michael’s great-great grandparents and a sister and brother-in-law of Michael’s grandfather
Michael’s great grandparents

It is located in Småland and was originally a dairy farm.

Currently, the farm, the house with newer additions (completed about 30 years ago), a cottage, and two barns are owned by seven cousins. The farm now produces pine and fir, which is well managed by the government. It is beautiful and well-loved land, forest, and creek, and it is a lovely part-time home to the family members and their guests, including those of us crossing large bodies of water to get there. To say it is a magical place is not an exaggeration.

When I first arrived at the farm in 2017, I immediately felt at home and was intrigued by the textiles and artifacts of fiber activity. Spinning wheels, a band loom, temples, and other items related to working with fiber can be found in several rooms.

Hand-crafted textiles grace tables, walls, benches, and more. When the family understood my excitement as a spinner and newer weaver, they also became enthusiastic. Soon Annica, who makes everything so beautiful and welcoming, and Margaretha, the elder of the family, took me to the cabinet in the dining room and we were exploring table cloths, hand towels, and wall hangings that ancestors created in years past. They could identify some of the items and who made them, some they knew came from other locations, and some of the textiles were made by family members but no one knows exactly who made them. Recently, Annica found some hand-woven curtains that had been stored for a long time. They now hang in the kitchen windows.

Some of the items now grace my home. I have been gifted a crisp linen hand towel with embroidery that belonged to one of Michael’s grandfather’s sisters, a fine linen finger towel woven by Annica’s mother, Ruth (niece to Michael’s grandfather), and a rep-weave table runner woven by Annica’s mother. I also have a very fine linen table square that came from somewhere else as it would require more shafts than available on the loom at the farm. Since currently no one in the family is weaving, I have gifted them with handwoven towels, table runners, and placemats. It is an honor to know that items I have woven are now in the house at the farm. It was a great feeling to see my handwoven cottolin towels in service when I arrived this year.

During my first visit, in 2017, one of the relatives suggested we visit an art exhibit in the somewhat nearby town of Virserum. The exhibit was on a renovated campus of buildings that formerly were used for making furniture. There were beautiful gardens and several buildings. I could hardly contain myself when we pulled into the parking lot. The first building I saw displayed a large sign that read “Vävstuga.” That is one Swedish word I definitely know! As luck would have it, a woman was just about to leave and one of the relatives, speaking the Swedish I could not speak, engaged her.

Anne-Charlotte, the guild president at the time, was kind enough to stay and show us the weaving studio. How amazing to walk in and see over 30 looms! They recently moved to this location and she showed us all the counterbalance, countermarche, and drawlooms. The guild has two floors, plenty of reeds, yarns, and other materials, as well as a book of obviously old drafts. It was fun to learn to communicate. The cousins did a fantastic job of translating and then eventually Anne-Charlotte and I found some common language in weaving and medicine as she is also a recently retired nurse practitioner and psychotherapist. An amazing and synchronous connection across the globe!

During that first visit in 2017, Annica found skeined weaving threads in a trunk in the house. The best estimate is that they have been there at least 50 years. They had been wrapped in newspaper. She was going to discard them but instead I brought them home. Sadly, the black and the green threads were tangled and disintegrating. I have saved most of the white thread and washed it. I’ve managed to wind a small amount of it into a ball and, using a McMoran balance, it measures as sewing thread. My plan is to ply two strands and weave a small table square of twill blocks. That is IF I can salvage enough to weave something. This will be a project requiring much patience, but I think I am ready for the challenge.

The barns at the farm contain many artifacts from the distant and the less distant past. Michael has spent many hours sorting through things, sometimes finding things from when his grandfather was a boy here. While the cousins have organized many work days that resulted in much cleaning and reorganizing, as well as retrieval and restoration, there is still quite a bit of interesting material in the barns. In 2017 we found parts of the four-shaft counterbalance loom that Michael’s great-great grandfather built in the late 1800s. Not really knowing that we would be able to return to the farm, it was more of a fantasy than a plan, but Michael was imagining restoring the loom, assuming we could find all the pieces.

On our visit to the farm this year we had more time to walk the forests and search the barns. And, amazingly, Michael found all the parts to the loom. I am familiar with Swedish counterbalance looms, but we could not quite figure out how to assemble all the parts and pieces. It just wasn’t fitting together. The warp beam didn’t fit where we thought it should go and neither did the treadles. A few days after putting the loom together as much as we could, Annica picked up Margaretha and brought her over. She came with an old text on weaving and some photos of a workshop on working with flax that she took in the 1970s. She quickly identified our error in putting together the loom. The treadles are hinged in front instead of in back and the warp beam fits in the front with the cloth beam in the back. After a brief group effort with hoisting and lifting, the loom was essentially put together. And Margaretha was delighted to be sitting at it, once again. She is the last living person to have used this loom. Annica intends to learn to weave and use this loom, probably some 140 years after it was built.

As far as we can tell, the loom is made of Swedish Alder, with the exception of the cloth beam, which is a hand-hewn log of fir. Given the lack of available sandpaper when it was built, a draw knife would have been used. It features hand forged metal in the hand cut brake and hand forged metal holding the beater. It is amazing to see the hand cut brake and all the mortise and peg work on this work horse of a loom. The warp beam is of a hexagon shape, done with a draw knife, and the beam features a chiseled crevice. Initially we thought the bench to be broken, with only three legs remaining. However, as Margaretha quickly pointed out, it is a swing bench and is attached on the left side of the loom. Nothing broken about it!Three generations studied the pencil marks on the loom, seemingly related to weaving drafts.Margaretha was so pleased that the grandson of her mother’s brother was able to reassemble the loom.

In a trunk in the house we found reeds and more parts for the loom. There is much work to be done to restore this loom. The cousins plan to repair a barn roof and remodel the kitchen and we live on the other side of the world. So, how and when loom restoration happens is anyone’s guess right now but in my mind’s eye, I can already see Annica weaving on the loom that her mother, her mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother’s-mother once used.

In the meantime, I have woven a shawl for Margaretha. It is Swedish Lace in Swedish wool and I hope it warms her heart during Sweden’s winter this year. Maybe my language skills will have progressed to the point I can converse, just a bit, with her on our next (hoped for) visit.





Getting the Most Out of Your Yarn

I believe I have found a way to extract the most enjoyment out of a yarn purchase. Some years ago, probably at least five years ago, I was on a brief respite from the very hot and dry foothill summer. There is a place my fiber enabling husband and I like to visit on the Mendocino coast.

We always take the cottage with the view of the ocean and we usually manage to spend at least a few hours visiting the town of Mendocino. And, of course, like any good fiber fanatic with an enabling husband, we visited the Mendocino Yarn Shop that used to be in town. I say “used to be” because I just found out that it moved a few miles closer to the cottages where we stay. In fact, I can now walk there from the cottage. Yes, that does sound dangerous. At least until you realize that a sale purchase from at least five years ago is still providing lots of enjoyment. And the garment isn’t even finished yet!

When we first visited the shop, they had four skeins of Araucania Ñuble yarn on sale. It was the last four skeins and one of the tags says it sold for $12. This is a beautiful lace weight 75%/50% extra-fine merino/silk yarn in a tonal aqua color. It spoke to me of water, the ocean that I so miss living near, and it spoke to me of a circular lace shawl. Of course, I could not leave these last four skeins sitting there; they had to come home with me.

As knitters, we often like to start new projects. I am no different, but I am trying to limit how many projects I have going at any one time. I also spend a lot of time spinning and weaving. And there have been several dyeing projects between when I purchased the yarn and when it first went on the needles. So, I used the yarn for decoration in my fiber room. And it sat on the shelf for years while I looked for just the right pattern and started many other projects, finishing most of them.

Finally, the time came. I decided on and purchased the Guinevere Shawl by Anne Podlesak and set it up in KnitCompanion. It was light weight and compact and I took it on our August 2019 trip to Sweden. I even began the project before departure so that I was sure this would be a good travel knit. I used Emily Ocker’s cast-on method to begin the shawl, which is lace knitting in the round. The pattern has four charts and, like most lace knitting, is somewhat difficult to see the overall effect before it is blocked. So, with the beginning worked out prior to departure I was ready, and I knitted on. It was an enjoyable knit, with some tinking, to be sure, but it was pleasant yarn to work with.

Maybe I was too busy seeing other things because by the time I returned from Sweden and was onto the third skein of yarn,

I was starting to see that my lace patterns were not stacking up like they were supposed to. So, after about two months of knitting (I am not a fast knitter and always have multiple projects going), I was going to have to frog this project. All of it. Every last stitch. I had misinterpreted the charts in a pretty major way. Somehow, this one got right past me. But I enjoyed the yarn, knew I liked the pattern (especially when correctly executed) and really wanted to complete the project. So, another Emily Ocker cast on, better understanding of the pattern, and I was, once again, knitting with the yarn that had been decoration for so long.

Well, the project sat on the needles for another two months, at least, while holiday gifts were completed. Four woven scarves, a woven lace table runner, 10 woven mug rugs, a number of woven kitchen towels, two knitted hats, a knitted cowl, and a knitted Christmas stocking later, I was ready to get back to this lace project.

Now this project only competes with my combo-spin sweater (which has also languished on the needles for few months), my weaving and spinning, and other activities of daily living.

I’m on the last chart, all seems to be going well, and all I can say is that I have certainly enjoyed this yarn! For a long time, for many times!

It has been a good investment. I hope to soon be enjoying the finished object. I’ll end with the photo I sent my two adult kids on New Year’s Eve, which I spent quietly knitting at home. Cheers!






Fiber enthusiasts often become tool enthusiasts. It doesn’t happen overnight, however. I had only one pair of knitting needles for decades. I still have them. Susan Bates straight needles in a US size 8. They are pink and were given to me by a neighbor who taught me to knit when I was in grade school. When I returned to knitting in the late 80s and early 90s, I complained about buying two sets of needles for one project. At that point I was buying the least expensive bamboo needles. Budget was always an issue in those days and the cost of needles was something to consider, especially given the cost of yarn, parking, housing, child care …

Fortunately, budgetary constraints are not what they once were, I now know much more about knitting needles, and I recognize the value of good tools. Unfortunately, the tendency to start new knitting projects before finishing old ones has prevailed and led to the acquisition of many knitting needles. Also unfortunately, the concept of a needle exchange program has never appealed to LYS owners. I really think this is something to explore! If there ever is a needle exchange, you will not find my Signature Needle Arts double pointed stiletto needles. The offspring once needing child care are now wonderful adults who gifted me with a range of these double point needles over a couple of years. I’ll not be parting with these fine tools, thank you very much!


I never had much of a relationship with household tools until I owned my own home and was a single parent. Then it became important to have basic tools like a hand-held drill, hammer, screw drivers, nuts and bolts, plyers, level, and measuring tape. I was a bit excited about a stud finder – the kind that finds studs in walls, not dating sites. But such tools were just part of the garage or basement, depending on where I lived, and came out to play only when needed. In the meantime, I acquired a number of fiber arts tools: spinning wheel and all that goes with that, hand cards, drum carder, wool combs, and materials for dyeing. That all seemed fairly manageable and did not require much in the way of fixing, trouble shooting, or any other DIY-type of efforts. The biggest problem with all these tools is the real estate to house them.

When my now husband moved in with me and my kids, he brought along his tools and when we bought a house together, my tools suddenly disappeared. The challenge of finding a screwdriver or plyers did not escape my notice, but he usually was able to offer what I needed. I didn’t think much about it until I had my first loom, a four-shaft counterbalance, and went looking for my level. I realized I had not seen any of my tools in several years and they were nowhere to be found. Not only that, but I couldn’t find any of his tools, either.

DH (Dear Husband in Ravelry speak) is a very busy man and has his own way of organizing his things. By this number of years in our shared home, his organization schema for things in the garage, where tools are kept, was approaching what I call chaos. So, I did what any independent and pragmatic fiber lover would do. I purchased a new set of tools and tool box and pronounced them OFF LIMITS. I keep them in my fiber closet. DH is required to sign a contract before he borrows anything. We joke about it, but he also knows I am dead serious about it. And he never goes to get a tool without asking.


As a weaver, tools took on a new importance to me. Looms sometimes need fixing and adjusting and some maintenance is required. I like to think I take care of my looms. They get preventive maintenance at least once a year and I regularly remove lint build up, check them over between projects, and adjust whatever needs adjusting. Ok, I talk to them, too. Nicely. I appreciate these fine tools.

Of course, along with weaving comes a need for ever more tools, such as bobbin winders, bobbins, shuttles, temples, warping boards and mills, cone holders, warping sticks or paper, reeds, reed holders, reed hooks . . . the list goes on. Recently, I had the opportunity to put my original knitting needles to work on a weaving project. I used them to make a spool rack for winding bobbins with linen. It actually did result in less twist going into the linen as I wound the bobbins.



As a knitter, I have been combining old and new technology for a number of years. Knitting is an ancient art and important means of making clothing. Today we have coated extra sharp circular needles made of materials never dreamed of by the hardworking islanders who knitted Aran sweaters to keep their fishermen warm. And while I’m knitting one of those sweaters today, I’m using technology in the shape of a digital database (Ravelry) and an ingenious app (KnitCompanion). As a beginning backstrap and Baltic band weaver, I’m using the ancient technique of backstrap weaving with my iPad and two apps: PatternGenius to create a chart and KnitCompanion to display that chart and track my progress with the pattern. I couldn’t be happier!



Loom weaving is an age-old art, too. And today weavers are combining new technology with the creation of cloth. One look at the plastic box on the castle of my Mighty Wolf loom and you know this is true because such materials are relatively recent. (Of course, a jack loom is also a recent invention!) This plastic box would be the brain for my Tempo Treadle (TT). I’m surprised more weavers don’t know about this amazing tool! Strong magnets are attached to the bottom of each treadle. Below the treadles is a sensor array that senses the proximity of the magnet when a treadle is pressed. By way of a ribbon of wires connecting the sensor array to the CPU or brain, this sends a signal. The draft, in the form of a Weaving Information File (wif), is copied from a computer with weaving software to a micro SD card that is inserted into the CPU. So, when an incorrect treadle is pressed, as happens often in my many treadling errors, a tone (I have it set to a loud bleep) is emitted, announcing that I’ve pressed the incorrect treadle. For someone who always moved left when the yoga teacher said right, this is a miracle! It is a gift to be immediately informed you are about to make an error that you otherwise may not see for a few inches. If only I could calculate the amount of time, energy, and materials this has saved I could say that TT has paid for itself! TT performs many other functions, but this describes why I most love this little tool.

At Convergence 2018 I had the good fortune to meet one of the makers of TT, Dawne Wimbrow. Barry Duncan is the other maker. Each device is built upon ordering and a 3-D printer is involved. There is definitely software and hardware development involved, each device is built to the specifications of the type of loom being used, and TT is not available for every type of loom. One thing I can say for certain is that Dawne and Barry offer the very best customer service. I can send a question or problem via email on a Sunday evening and have an answer from one or both within minutes. They are thoughtful and helpful, problem solving whatever issues or questions I have had and to date, the issues have always been operator error. Well, there is a learning curve.

It must be said, however, that to use TT, one needs weaving software. And to use weaving software, one needs a reliable computer. More tools. More to learn, more to do, and more assistance provided. I resisted weaving software for the first few years . . . and then I gave in. I am learning as I go but already, I see advantages over pencil and paper. As much as I loved studying Madelyn Van der Hoogt’s Complete Book of Drafting, and I truly did enjoy it, I disagree with those who say that weaving software takes away from learning weave structure. With software I’m not coloring in each square on graph paper, but I can learn plenty about a drawdown and I can also learn how to manipulate a draft and see the results fairly instantaneously. I have miles to go in this department and, in the meantime, I’m having an awfully good time of enjoying my tools.

While I have great appreciation for a number of these tools, there is one tool that is near and dear to my heart. This tool, the single tool that prompted me to write about tools, is likely nearing 100 years old. I use a cloth measuring tape that may have been my grandmother’s. It was definitely my mother’s and I believe it had been her mother’s before. I found it in the round thread and button tin with the darning thread and the sock darning egg that had been my grandmother’s. In fact, that round tin was my grandmother’s, too. Recently I developed a nostalgic appreciation for the tape measure that is so often pinned to the new cloth I am weaving.


The nostalgia is illogical. No family member I know of was a weaver or knitter and such handcrafts were not valued when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t know when my mother would have ever used the tape measure. But it represents a point of connection with a past that was lost.

No one in the family ever discussed all the emigration that took place and I have only recently pieced that together with current day research. My grandparents, all the first generation to be born in this country, died before I was born. My parents are now many decades deceased.

No doubt somewhere in my family tree, on a different continent, someone in my family created some type of cloth, either knitted or woven, and more certainly, someone took needle and thread to cloth. Now I am the individual spinning, knitting, and weaving and taking needle and thread to my woven cloth. Some of that cloth is given to my adult offspring and so it goes forward.

And so, when I look at the old cloth tape measure on my newly woven fabric, I am looking at much more than a simple tape measure. Even if cloth tape measures were more available today (and many of us do wish that), I am looking at so much more. It is something I feel in my heart and it fills me in a lovely way when I weave. I think I can best sum up that heart feeling as gratitude and appreciation. That would be for the past, distant and not so distant, and also very much for the present.




A Meditation in Lace and Cables

A Meditation in Lace and in Complicated Cables

I have often talked about how healing knitting can be. It is therapeutic. In fact, I have a project bag that says, “Cheaper than Therapy.” I’m not sure that is accurate, given the very low therapy reimbursement rates and the very high cost of good yarn, but knitting is good therapy.


Knitting builds community, reinforces efficacy and agency of an individual, distracts one from challenging issues, and there is absolutely NOTHING else in life that you can so easily undo. Think about that. Maybe because I was a single parent with so much riding on my shoulders, maybe because I held people’s lives and minds in my hands in health care for over 40 years, maybe because I was witness to so much suffering in pain in others, that seems like a great thing to me.

Community: Knitting brings together people who otherwise would not spend time with one another or get to know each other. People share with one another, help each other, and, yes, let’s be honest, enable each other. And most often, knitters are very nice people when they sit and knit together. Most often there is comradery, support, and a bond that develops.

Efficacy: There is nothing like completing a project to know that you can accomplish things. (This goes a little sideways when you start more projects than you finish!)

Distraction: Can you really think of anything else when doing complicated lace and intricate cables? Observe, without judgement, what happens when you try knitting complicated lace and cables while you are thinking about other things!

Undo: Wouldn’t it be really grand if we could undo mistakes in life as easily as we can undo mistakes in knitting? Think about that and it makes tinking and frogging that much more appealing. All I have to do after an error is unknit and knit again. A great lesson in impermanence, too.

I enjoy complicated lace and intricate cables. It is challenging, fun to knit, and, depending on the pattern, it can be like getting caught up in a great novel: you can’t wait to see what happens next. For me, complicated lace and intricate cables are even more enjoyable when I apply principles of Mindfulness Meditation practice to a project.

Patience is an important concept in mindfulness and also in complicated knitting. One stitch at a time to create a large shawl. Stay present with each individual stitch as one stays focused on a single breath at a time.

Acceptance is an important concept as well. I have to accept that I am going to tink that 400+ stitch row in order to have a shawl that is knit correctly. And, just because I have tinked that row twice already, I will not be judgmental about my seeming lack of skill. I will be non-judging and patiently knit this correctly and I will enjoy each stitch and each breath. Ahhhh, feel that deep breath! Now, that is good mindfulness practice! And when I approach this row for the third or fourth time, I will approach it with beginner’s mind. Such receptiveness will help me solve whatever problem I was having with those confusing directions and knitting symbols. I will be able to see through the confusion.

There used to be a great deal of trust involved in undertaking a complicated pattern. One had to trust that the designer knew what they were doing and had adequately tested and edited the pattern. This is no longer such an issue, thanks to Ravelry. After a bit of searching and browsing, one can now find all sorts of comments about patterns, designers, and issues that come up in knitting a pattern. Now I have to trust myself to be careful, thorough, and to choose projects wisely. Of course, this initially may seem to contradict the principle of non-striving. If I am striving to complete a project, then I am not really being mindful. Fortunately, I am as much a process knitter as I am a product knitter. If I am enjoying what I am doing, then I can be patient and just enjoy the knitting.

Sometimes the principle of letting go proves difficult in knitting. When you have a certain vision in mind and the finished object does not match that vision, letting go takes on new meaning. Such was my experience recently.

For a few years I have wanted to knit the Pfingstrose shawl by Haley Tsang Sather. This is a beautiful and large shawl based on a Herbert Niebling pattern of the same name. In English, it means Peony. A year and a half before beginning, I purchased yarn for the project at Stitches West. The yarn is Shaska Designs 50/25/15/10 Alpaca/Wool/Silk/Cashmere. It turns out that this lovely yarn has a bit more halo than I wanted for this project, my first opportunity to practice acceptance and letting go. What else would I do with all that yarn? Being a pragmatic individual, I wanted to use what I had purchased. It also turns out that this yarn splits and, because of the halo, is challenging to unknit. More practice opportunities.

I knit with a fantastic app called KnitCompanion (kc) and kc has a version of this pattern that is already set up. This is a wonderful thing because there were 11 different charts and within some of the charts, there were multiple components. For me, the few extra dollars for this version of the pattern is definitely worth the investment when it is available. It saved me many, many hours of set up and correction time. A wonderful opportunity to notice and practice appreciation.

Many individuals have knit this pattern and posted on Ravelry so I did not have to head into this blindly. I picked up lots of hints and tips to make this challenge easier. The designer is readily available through Ravelry and was very responsive to questions. So, with all of this support and a solid practice of Mindfulness, I set off to knit this beautiful shawl.

I don’t recall how many times I restarted but I do know I had to cut off some of the yarn due to overuse. Apparently, I love a good knitting challenge. Sometimes I would get through a chart with few problems but other times I had to backtrack and begin again. I slowly worked my way through about half of the charts and then had to set this project aside while I completed holiday gifts for family and friends. After hibernating for at least three months, I pulled out this project and, amazingly, was able to pick up where I left off. I thank kc for that. The app holds my place exactly.

The process of knit, unknit, knit again continued but it was more like a fun puzzle than any sort of problem. I enjoyed figuring out how to make the stitches look like they were supposed to and watching the shawl grow. It was timely that I was taking a brief break from my usual routines because this was not exactly social knitting; focused concentration was required. The brief break also yielded plenty of time at home so I could sit and knit. I was fortunate to have the time and space.

In the end, the knitting went pretty quickly. Well, relatively speaking. Rows with more than 400 stitches of beads and lace do not go quickly but once I was more monogamous with this project, I was able to complete it sooner than anticipated. Then came the next challenge. The very last row of the entire shawl looked, in my humble opinion, like crap! A picot bind off with too many yarn overs in the proceeding row, combined with yarn with too much halo that would not unknit after binding off ended up looking like boucle yarn in the very last row and that is NOT what I was aiming for. So, I had to let go of my expectations. I had to accept. I had to do a lot of breathing. OK – to be honest there was a bit of cursing, too. In the end I have a beautiful shawl of complicated lace and beads with a not so nice-looking bind off. And, in the end, I enjoyed the challenge of both complicated lace knitting and being mindful about it all. So, I accept my nice shawl with the funky edge.

In between lace sessions and then after completing the shawl, I finished my complicated cable cape.

It began as a challenging knit, providing ample Mindfulness practice opportunities, and ended up a bit boring (no fault of the designer), providing a different kind of practice opportunity: patience and presence.

And I am always better off practicing patience and presence.

Happy knitting and breathing!











Transitions and Following the Thread

Hard work was inculcated. My burning desire to learn piano resulted in being given a typewriter so I could earn a living.

In order to earn a living, I’ve held many job titles over the decades since I was a young teenager. Life brought many transitions and the path has not been a straight line, but I wouldn’t say that it has been a twisted tangle, either. There has been a thread that has moved through all the transitions and me. This thread brings me to the point where I am currently contemplating a new job title.

The most important and the most beloved title I’ve ever held is Mother. This job is in my blood, bones, and breasts. It is the work I have been most passionate about and the largest part of my identity. Job descriptions have varied: new mom, mama, mom, single working mom, motherrrrrr (you know that teenage period), and now Mom Emeritus. The kids are independent adults living elsewhere. I never imagined what it would be like to work myself out of this job, but now I know.

Throughout my adult life I earned a living in health care with a variety of titles, job descriptions and professional licenses. From 20 to 30 years old I worked as a Cardiac Intensive Care RN (bells, whistles, and defibrillators) in the Ozarks, an ICU RN in San Francisco (floating to all the hospitals so none of them owned me), and then as a visiting nurse in San Francisco (fascinating to see so many cross sections of the City in the 80s). One must have passion to work so hard and let me say that there is a great deal of creativity in moment-to-moment problem solving in such environments. I studied hard, learned a lot, worked extremely hard, and I remain grateful for incredible experiences and lessons in living and dying.  I was very young when I learned – up close and personally – that life is short, precious, and subject to termination without notice. I still remember patients I cared for in the 1970s. However, I became frustrated with working conditions, lack of respect, lack of autonomy, and I wanted to do more. So, off to graduate school I went.

I became a Nurse Practitioner (in a variety of settings and roles, some great and some not so great) and then Educator at a major academic graduate program (that was pretty great). Again, I loved the work and the patients. And I was passionate about teaching, creating curricula, mentoring budding clinicians, and the amazing opportunities that came my way and that I created. However, there was never any guarantee about the faculty position, NP roles and issues were changing, and life in San Francisco was simply unaffordable. In the end, a number of factors contributed to knowing that I could not continue doing what I was doing and so after trials, tribulations, and considerable consternation about recreating myself, I was off to graduate school again.

This time around I was a single mom of two wonderful school aged kids and I was working full-time plus to keep us afloat. I loved studying, learning, and absorbing everything I could in my new field. I was passionately engaged in raising my kids and what I was learning. I knew that the first round of graduate education produced less income than I would have earned without the degree but I was hopeful and excited about this second round, working as a psychotherapist, and leaving the urban jungle.

There were a number job titles (Intern, Staff Therapist, Behavioral Health Therapist, Domestic Violence Advocate, Psychotherapist, Behavioral Health NP) and, again, a wide variety of practice locations, roles, and variations on the theme. And, again, as with nursing, some roles worked for me and some roles worked against me. I don’t do well in impossible situations, like watching the county repeatedly fail to intervene to help abused kids or provide desperately needed mental health services, not being paid enough to support a family, and working in hopelessly broken systems. I enjoyed providing depth psychotherapy for clients who wanted to make change in their lives. However, this can be isolating work in a small community and it wasn’t really paying the bills, let alone offering any possibility of not working until my last breath on this earth. I had achieved my dream of private practice psychotherapy and decided against the mountain range of debt it would take to pursue another degree and license in the hopes of better professional opportunities. In the meantime, with the kids fledging from the nest, I had become an avid knitter, a spinner, and was carding and combing fiber and exploring dyeing.

I had been able to find passion and creativity in teaching, which I had been doing since my CCU nursing days. And sometimes there is creativity in psychotherapy. After the University, other than my own private practice, work settings didn’t allow for creative problem solving. There was very little left of me after work so anything I did with fiber and the fiber guild was a very part-time passion. Meanwhile, I was quickly losing any passion for my work in health care and my patience for what was supposed to be a health care system was long gone. Perhaps in nearly 40 years of direct clinical work I had just sat with too much suffering. I was too young to retire, if retirement would ever be a possibility, anyway.

So, I transitioned to one last job title in order to finish a few years in the state system to gain a pittance of a pension. I became a regulator of vocational education. Forget creativity. Forget sanity. Forget humanity because I certainly didn’t see any of that from my glass cage. That job about killed me. Hell of a way to cap off 40 years of licensed work in health care. I utilized every single coping tool and skill I had been using and teaching clients for a couple of decades. Still, that job left lasting scars. What it did for me, though, was illustrate just how very finished I felt with any sort of “professional” role and how important it was to enjoy what I was doing.

I opted out as soon as feasible and “retired.” If you have read the “About” section of my website, you have seen the picture of me under the rainbow. That was taken just a few weeks after retiring.

Now, mind you, I had absolutely no interest in any sort of job title at that point. My goal was to be at home, tending home, hearth, partner, and garden. I found sweeping the deck to be some of the most meaningful and mindful work I had done in a few years. I was happy, I was home, and I was content. And I wanted to learn tapestry weaving. Before undertaking the study of tapestry weaving I decided to play with my four shaft counterbalance loom. I had woven only a few things prior to living away from home Monday through Friday for that last job and thought that I would do just a project or two and then use the loom for tapestry, its intended purpose when purchased.

I’ll skip over the frustration, confusion and trashed warps. I did find Ravelry was a fantastic source of information and support for weavers and I began finding some help with my many questions. And then it happened. I got hooked. Of course, my incredibly enabling spouse really tipped the balance when he insisted I should go to weaving school and get a loom that worked better for me. What happened was that I regained a sense of passion once again: Passion for learning, exploring, creating, and problem solving. And it was joyful! I was playing with color and fiber in a different way than I had with knitting and spinning. Oh, to be sure, I was knitting and spinning and dyeing and could participate in the fiber guild again, but this was different.


Now I just wanted to learn and explore. Be the perennial student, like I had so enjoyed in the past. I will be learning and exploring until my last breath, spirits willing, and this was a whole new field to explore. I will admit to an academic bent in this and that’s fine with me because it is always connected to hands-on at the loom. One thing leads to another and my enabling spouse has really led the charge on this one, and, as our tax attorney suggested, we diversified. Looms have been bought and sold and Tamarack Counseling and Consulting has become Tamarack Fiber Arts. My passion for color and fiber, creating, and problem solving has taken on a life of its own! But with it came the consideration of a new job title.

It has been interesting to set aside certifications, degrees, licenses, and life structured by the time clock of a regular job. This is the first time in my life to have such an opportunity. It has been fascinating to let the day shape itself, to follow my desires to play with color and fiber, and to see what I can create. Productive? Sometimes. Exploring? Definitely! Learning? Every day! Goals? Some, but I’m also learning to be gentle with that. For the first time in a long time, when I consider the “work” I am doing, I am An Si’th. I feel at peace, in harmony. My heart is singing again and it is in tune with the Oran Mor, the great song or vibration that holds the universe together.

No longer in a tangle, I enjoy what I do, I am passionately exploring many facets of weaving and the fiber arts, and, even if in very small ways, I work to create beauty in the world as I continue to learn. I will never run out of inspiration and things to do and study in the world of weaving. I can mindfully explore my way through the day. I once again have a good hold on the thread that runs through my life. And, so, my new job title is: Plays with Pretty String.                   

I’ll leave you with this poem by William Stafford.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among

things that change. But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you can do can stop time’s unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.






Hello. My name is

Hello. My name is Donna. I am a fiberholic, an addict.   

Knitting was my gateway drug. Hallmarks of addiction were quick to be noted by loved ones. I was always thinking about ways to get more yarn or new needles and knitting was taking me away from domestic chores. Then there was knitting while I was supposed to be paying attention as a good soccer mom. Truth be told, I used knitting at work. At least until I was told I couldn’t knit at staff meetings any more. Knitting kept me calm and worked better than duct tape at those long meetings! I kept a hard line about knitting while I was driving – no way! At least that I could think of. I did try to start a needle exchange at our LYS but the store thought it would be bad for business.

I don’t think I would have made the leap to spinning for a long time except for the company I was keeping. My partner is the number one co-dependent enabler. He’s so encouraging! If you want to know how bad it gets, here it is: when he thought he was going to be laid off from one of his jobs he told me to get that new spinning wheel right away before the money was gone! And recently, when I was saying no way to spending money on a Woolee Winder, what does he do?? He hung out with other fiber addicts and listened to how great the WW is and then bought me one!

From spinning it was on to hand cards and then a drum carder and more recently, an even better drum carder. Of course, there’s color blending and dyeing happening, too. So, yes, I was taking the substance in larger and larger amounts, spending lots of time procuring and using fiber and when I was stuck at work (the day job that pays for all this fiber activity), I did have cravings to play with fiber in one way or another. And daydreams of color and texture! I can’t (and don’t want to) get them out of my head. I did manage to fulfill my family and occupational activities, but sometimes not without a degree of resentment. Socially, well, I do best in groups of other fiber lovers. Otherwise, I am more likely to stay home and knit, spin, weave, or plan more projects.

I know that long periods of repetitive motion, as with knitting needles in my hands or bent over my loom, can harm me and put me in danger of physical problems. Does that stop me? No way! So, yes, I have continued to use even though it may make things worse. But I really don’t see using a drum carder as dangerous – usually. So, no alcohol is used while carding, weaving, or knitting. I do engage in one dangerous thing related to fiber: fiber and fiber equipment have filled our house and can be considered a dangerous environment. Stepping on beads, stitch markers, and other miscellaneous things can hurt bare feet and bumping into looms and baskets of yarn in the dark night can be hazardous. Ask my partner how I know this.

Still, I don’t think things got out of control until a few years ago when I really hit the hard stuff: weaving. Oh my! That’s a deep rabbit hole! I really can’t say how all those looms started accumulating! And I must have been in a black out when that 1973 Gilmore came home with me and joined the herd. Its true: I am more likely to neglect household responsibilities now and I just flat out refused more than one day per week on the income producing job because I am so driven to stay home and weave. And when my partner is writing and I’m engaged in fiber arts, well, we need a keeper. Or at least someone to feed us once in a while.

The good news is that I do engage in group therapy. I meet regularly with a weaving study group. Our big book is MdvH’s Complete Book of Drafting. It has more than 12 steps, I will rely on this book for a lifetime, and there is always more to learn from it. I think the group therapy is helping. I no longer search out yarns shops everywhere I go and I can say that I feel satiated for knitting yarns. I stopped acquiring looms and don’t feel any shaft envy at all, even though I only have eight shafts. It is too bad that with three looms having eight shafts each I still can’t weave 24 shaft drafts, but that’s ok. I can accept that.

So, I’m hopeful and grateful. I’m going to be ok. I’m learning and growing as a human being and I know I will always need the support of a fiber guild. In fact, I’ll be off to a meeting shortly . . .

         NOTE: After more than 40 years in health care, with the last 20 in mental health, my current and former clients and patients know that I take addiction and associated struggles very seriously. This is written with great respect for the individuals I’ve worked with and learned from. Many have struggled valiantly to deal with all manner of addictions and I graciously bow to them. It is also written with a wink and a nod to those of us with SBLE (Stash Beyond Life Expectancy) and in honor of those trampled in the crazed stampede at Stitches West. The latter would include my dear fiber enabling spouse who has been run over by wheelchairs, tossed out of lunch chairs, and stepped on mercilessly when we attend the marketplace. And he keeps taking me back.