Post 3081: A printing on fabric tutorial

Often when I post projects on instagram or facebook that utilize my photos on fabric – I get asked how I print on fabric. There are half a dozen ways to do this – but this method has always worked for me and I haven’t seen it written up elsewhere – though it’s very similar to the freezer paper method. I don’t love the idea of sending waxed paper through my printer and I find this to be a more stable technique. Likewise, you can purchase printable fabric with stabilizers or backing paper – but that really limits your choice in fabric.

What you will need:

  • an inkjet printer
  • Avery shipping label sheets #8165 – 8.5 x 11
  • Plain cotton fabric you wish to print on
  • A digital image that you want to print

First off – the Avery labels are the largest size shipping labels – one sheet is one label:


Take your shipping labels and fabric over to the ironing board and iron your fabric flat. Once you have done that, unpeel one of the labels and put it, sticky side down on your fabric. Make sure that it is really stuck onto the fabric, the corners in particular. I usually finish off a piece by flipping it over and ironing it lightly (and on the dry/no steam setting) on the fabric side as well.

Next, trim your fabric from around the edges so that your sheet is 8.5 x 11 with no additional material:

I usually do a few sheets at a time. Now what you have is fabric with a stiff paper backing, which your inkjet printer will treat like a heavy stock paper. To print on it, put it fabric side down in the printer and send your image to it. While you can put more than one sheet at a time in the feeder, I don’t – because I don’t want to risk fabric/sticker jams which can happen.

I recommend, before printing – that you make some test prints on paper so that you can see what your image is going to look like on the fabric. If you are using a plain cotton fabric, your image will print identically to what you see on the blank paper.

Once your fabric is printed, peel off the sticker back:

Iron your fabric on the dry setting again – several times to get it nice and hot. This will heat-set the ink which allows the fabric to be washed without losing the print.

And yes, it is that simple.  

Post #3079: Distinctive trees of fall.

Trembling aspen taken near Link Lake in October, 2017. Each of these “trees” is part of a single root mass – comprising a single organism that could take up as many as 100 acres. Each shoot may only live for a short time (50-150 years), but the mass as a whole may live for 80,000 years or more. The sound of the wind in these trees is what makes them most notable – a fluttering of thousands of tiny wings against one another. I often find myself on my knees in the forest loam – the best posture for both awe and photography.

Post #3078: More on learning to weave

I anticipate a lot of weaving in my near future. Not only that, I anticipate a lot more methodical approaches, experiments and fine-tuning of my skills – because I think that I might actually be heading towards a solid base of knowledge at this point. That is after a year of having a loom in operation in my home – the J-Made that I set up last November.

I’ve just taken the first weave off Middle-C and am pleased with the results:

I didn’t really do much math on this project, and so it turned out to be a bit short for a wrap – I mean – it works, but it’s not as long as I had hoped. I have another ball of the striped yarn in reds and oranges and enough charcoal weft to do this project again and so I think I’m going to make the next version narrower and wider to be more of a scarf than a wrap. That will be the next project on Middle-C before I put on ten yards of warp for tea towels.

Using my newfound knowledge of back-to-front warping which I employed for the first time in this most recent project – I am in the process of warping Big-A for twill tea towels in sage green and white. To facilitate the pre-sleying of the reed (so I don’t have to use a raddle) – I made two sets of reed holders on the weekend:

Obviously a very simple thing to make – but a set of these retail for $30 US! I made two sets for $8 Cdn and about 30 minutes of work cutting the pieces and gluing them to the correct width. I am pretty excited about these because propping my reed up between two sets of coffee mugs last time was not optimal – and this solves a lot of problems.

I’m also moving to a live-weight tension braking system on Big-A because the brake-band that the former owners jerry-rigged did not hold during my first weave and I ended up hanging a weighted milk jug off the back of my loom to keep it going. Live weight tension means using weights hung off the back beam to create the friction needed to stop the warp from moving forward. My dad gave me two 4-pound sash weights during a weekend visit so I’ll be tying those on shortly and will take pictures when I do. Big-A is all around a great loom, but the brake problem really needs to be solved.

My goal this week is to get warps on the two main looms and weave off the tea towels that are on Little-J – which are within inches of being done. As I said – lots of weaving in the future – I look forward to sharing photos of all three looms set up at the same time!

Post #3077: Warning, nerdy weaving post ahead.

The feature photo at the top of this blog marks the near-end of the fall canning season: cubed squash (butternut) and applesauce. I have a few more delicata squash that I plan to cube up for pressure canning – and then I am pretty much done that phase and can move onto mustards and other condiments for holiday gift giving. Our move last year + the fires in the interior this year – changed my approach to canning in 2017. Specifically, we did not do one giant purchase in the middle of summer (at rock bottom prices) as we normally do. The canning this year has taken the form of smaller batches, and more variety in the strange condiments department (cherry chutney, lime pickle, rhubarb ketchup). But it’s been easier to manage, truthfully, and I don’t have an overabundance of any one thing for a change.

The squash and apples above, did come from Keremeos – and have been waiting patiently in my larder as I first went to Anacortes, then Ottawa on my return from the cabin. Ottawa was a work trip – full of meetings and dinners and walks in the bright fall by the river.

But Anacortes was all business – an overnight for the sole purpose of picking up my new weaving loom.

As Brian has noted – looms are a little bit like guitars – weavers often own more than one. I’ve wondered why that is with certain objects – one rarely finds a person collecting multiples of sewing machines or breadmakers or lawn mowers – but cameras, guitars, looms, spindles/spinning wheels fall into a category that occupies both utilitarian and aesthetic sides of the being. The loom as tool has many permutations, as does the loom as history and aesthetic object – which makes weaving a pastime that takes up a lot of physical space.

In the stable I currently have a rigid heddle/knitter’s loom (Rigid-B), a 45 inch 4-shaft countermarch (Big-A), and a 22-inch, 4-shaft table loom with treadle conversion (Little-J) – and my most recent acquisition – a 27-inch, 8-shaft Countermarch that I’ve dubbed Middle-C since it sits within the middle of the range of my looms:

(If you are wondering, those letters all correspond to female names: Brigid, Alice, Josephine, and Clara – but it feels antiquated to feminize working objects out loud so I’m going with the gender-neutral versions.)

Middle-C is a Glimakra 8-shaft of Swedish origin and was purchased new through the Eugene Textile Centre – I was fortunate to get a floor model which was brought as far as Anacortes where I picked it up from the shop owner in a parking lot transaction outside of a motel at dusk. I stayed in that same dodgy-motel overnight and then got up first thing in the morning to take the ferry back to Sidney and then drive home. Altogether a long journey – but one that resulted in saving several hundred dollars in shipping, plus I got a discount because it was a floor model.

Pretty much as soon as I got it home, I left for Ottawa so it wasn’t until Friday that Brian and I got down to putting it together. I have to say that the instructions that came with it were relatively easy to understand if you knew about countermarch looms in the first place – but god help someone who didn’t have any knowledge at all! We were fine though because I did know.

For a first warp I decided to put on a  skein of Kauni, a striped yarn from Denmark (so much Scandanavia in this post!) which I bought some time ago at the Loom in Duncan. Because countermarch looms prefer to be warped from back to front, I decided it was time to learn that method of warping – and so I wound my warp chain, and followed every instruction in The Big Book of Weaving until I had got the warp on nice and even – you can see how nicely it sits in the picture above.

Then came time for tying up 8 treadles. On a countermarch loom, every shaft is tied to every treadle via the lamms – so on an 8 shaft loom that is 64 tie ups plus 16 tie-ups from the jacks to the lamms – 80 tie ups total. How much do want to bet that I made a total botch of my first attempt? After three hours working with little texsolv pegs I ended up with shafts that wouldn’t lift at all! So the next day (yesterday) I pulled all the cords off and started over with some knowledge I had acquired the day before in my attempts. And that time – success!

Even better – what seemed confusing and impossible the first time I did it – made so much more sense the second time which bodes well for all future tie ups. I went from 25-minutes per treadle on the first go, to ten minutes per on the second pass – meaning that the average tie-up shouldn’t take more than just over an hour in the future.

And so I wove a couple of different sample wefts yesterday afternoon – a dk-weight yellow which is evident in this photo, and then a thinner charcoal above it.

I prefer the effect of the charcoal – and so after work I’ve got to go in search of enough yarn to complete this weave since I am ready to advance the warp and get started for real. What I can tell so far is that 1) the warp is tensioned exactly right, and 2) this loom is nicer to use than any of my others – it needs only a light touch to operate and is so quiet!

And not to be forgotten – Big-A is getting a small add-on in the form of a live-weight tension system that my Dad is fashioning for me – as I’m unhappy with the brake-band that is currently not really working and I like the idea of using weight to hold back the fabric rather than a brake. This means that to advance the warp for weaving, there isn’t a brake to release, just force needed to turn the beam. This harkens back to the earliest looms in which warps were weighted directly  One thing I’ve noticed about the weaving community is that they are some of the biggest hackers around – a necessity in a craft which requires a significant amount of problem solving (or as I like to say 50% problem-solving and 50% magic).  You would think after hundreds of years of weaving on looms, all questions would be answered – and yet people are hacking up their looms in new and old ways all the time.

Middle-C needs no such hacking, though I do need to build a reed holder and fashion a few other bits and pieces to make the warping process easier. Something about weaving always demands another tool!

Post 3076: And now it is October

I have not had the head space to write here lately – so busy doing, traveling, moving around in the world and sorting things out. And then there’s the fact that I can’t write about a lot of the things I’ve been dealing with at work and in my union life – discreet I must be when it comes to work and the private lives of the people I represent.

Last week we were at the cabin in the interior for a week of amazing fall weather, hiking, hunting, and photography. For our efforts, we came home with 52 pounds of venison, and I also made my way up to Keremeos to load up on winter squash and apples, as well as a case of wine and cider. On our way home, we stopped through Victoria for a dinner with friends, and I was gifted 5 pounds of quince as well to turn into jelly. The quince, apples, and squash are still in the cupboard waiting to be processed – the cutting, grinding, and wrapping of the deer took many hours, and I haven’t quite got my food prep mojo back.

It was an interesting vacation together, as Brian was out all the days hunting, which left me on my own but somehow *not* since we ate our meals and spent the evenings together (plus, he made me coffee and a fire every morning). Although he kept apologizing for being out in the bush so much, I have to admit that I found it freeing to be on my own – and for the first time in years I did some solo hiking in the area.

Always aware of the potential for bears and the cougars – I spent my days poking around old logging roads, uncovering animal trails, and exploring the hills above our cabin – and on one occasion went down to Hedley to hike up the creek (first), and then up a mountain into an old mine camp.*

On one of my trips I recorded 30 minutes of audio which I have yet to transcribe – a kind of hiking essay about wildness, the fallacy of being able to escape civilization or its collapse, and the nature of self-rescue. I’m curious now how that will relay once edited. The recording is an interesting artifact in itself though – as it captures the sound of my feet on the trail, and my breath as I ponder and plod along Osprey Lake.

Brian and I noted how much more pleasurable it is at the cabin in the autumn – particularly this year. We first went to the cabin in July and because it had been a late/wet spring – it was incredibly buggy. Then it warmed up when we were there and the whole province caught fire at once and we got smoked out. In the fall, there are neither bugs nor fires. And the days can still be warm enough for swimming – the day that Brian got the deer it was in the mid-twenties.

I realize now that when Brian and I first met, I was used to taking holidays in September – when the weather is great for hiking and camping, but all the families had gone home. Of course, with a kid in school, I had to shift to a more routine summer holiday schedule – but we’ve both realized that we now have the capacity to shift our holidays fall-ward again since M. has been out of the house for 2 years (!) – and so we probably will angle to spend more time at the cabin in September/October in the future.

I have a boatload of photos from our trip, some of which I will post here – as well as some percolating ideas for posts. We’ll see where that goes. It just seemed time for an update here, and I’m hoping that the next few months will bring a quieter time – with more space for writing. This weekend I am off to Anacortes where I will pick up a new loom as well – so that’s a whole post just waiting to happen!

*When I was younger and single – I hiked alone without letting anyone know where I was going. These days I’m not so stupid. Between radios that we can use anywhere in the area of our cabin (they have amazing range) and a check-in system whereby I message Brian to let him know where I am parked and the direction I am hiking – there was not any time that it was not abundantly clear where I would be.


Post #3075: Big city textile inspirations

My trip to Toronto and New York has involved trips to the Textile Museum of Canada and the Met… Both of which have provided much fodder for inspiring textiles. A few shots I am leaving here for future reference. 

Post 3074: Airport meditations

I am thirty minutes into a 4-hour layover in the Vancouver airport before flying out to Toronto. Long story short, when I checked in this morning, my original flight plan was all screwed up due to a delayed flight – but I was attended to by an Air Canada employee who was really great, and patient with me and booked me on an even better flight than I originally had.

Some things came into focus as a result of that moment – you know how they sometimes do… and since I haven’t sat meditation for the last two days – my airport practice for the next 3 and a half hours is focused on generosity, and I’m using the sound of the occasional cart-bell as a reminder (each time I hear the ding of the airport cart, I stop and take a breath and refocus my intention). 

Thus far I’ve had some really nice interactions as a result.

Post 3073: Sketchy sketching

The smoke on the BC coast cleared this weekend. After two weeks of nicotine-coloured light and a smoke ceiling emanating from the interior fires – we can see blue sky with normal clouds passing over again, and we even had a bit of rain on the weekend which brought some cooler temperatures with it.

And that was all it took for the lethargy I’ve been feeling in this latter half of summer to shrug right off. I’ve heard that the smoke has put everyone into a state of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning – much worse if you are in the interior, but not good wherever the smoke has lingered – and I’m pretty sure that Brian and I have both been feeling that effect. Tired, sore throats, burning eyes, lots of napping – low interest in things.

But as of Friday, both of us were back in our studios working on our projects – he’s just getting ready to go into final mixing on his first solo album – and I divided my time between weaving, sewing, and sketching some new ideas into the textile notebook.

As a teenager hanging out with visually-artistic friends, I was always jealous of the sketchbooks filled with colourful images and  bits and texture and paint. My notebooks were of the word-filled type, with the occasional doodle that I quickly inked over because they weren’t any good –  those being the days of adolescence when I believed that everyone was paying attention to what I did or didn’t do well (oh! the freedom of realizing that almost no one cares about what I do at all).

Though I have filled many notebooks with writing, I have never been the type of person to create a scrapbook or even collect much in the way of ephemera to put in such a thing – though a couple of years ago I started gluing fabric practices into a large bound book I had bought for the purpose. Since 2015, many of my experiments – stitching, painting fabric, weaving – have made their way into this book. Mostly it serves the purpose of a visual reference for things I might like to return to or incorporate into later work – but more recently I find myself putting full-on sketches – in ink and fabric down on these pages.

Besides the fact I’ve had a bit of time and space this week, I think what has been making this type of “idea work” possible for me is that I have just stopped caring about how sketchy the sketches are. As you can see from the photo above, my sketch from this morning is more like scribbles than anything. It’s the idea I had while driving back from dropping Brian at the ferry – and I wanted to make sure I got it down quickly so that I didn’t lose it for later. Besides drafting this out in five minutes, I took another ten to generate two fabric swatches treated with watercolor paint which will get attached to the page when they are dry. From there, I will blow up a photo and create a sketch of the mountain range across from me, I will practice some thread writing, and then I might create a whole textile “sketch” as well. From that textile sketch, I might create a more finished work, or maybe not. One of the sketches I completed a few months ago is now hanging in my house and is commented on by visitors pretty often:


While there is plenty about this piece that I would change, working a sketch through to “finished” taught me a lot about the processes I was using and would like to use in the future.

It seems to me that the sketchier my initial sketches are – the easier it is to get the ideas out somewhere that I can reference them later. Otherwise, I just plain forget, which seems a shame when I don’t have that many good ideas to begin with.

I am hopeful that this recent  increase in putting ideas to paper will result in more original work as life space permits. While I have long realized that I need more chances to get into the studio fresh in the morning for original work – I recently came to the understanding that all the work I do in the evenings – the sewing and weaving and pattern following  – is practice for the times that I am inspired. That time of “rote” making is all skills-development so when I am struck by some new expression, I don’t have to learn all the practical elements to bring it together. I see that now, as more of my ideas are easily transmitted to textile – in the past I had no idea how to make my thoughts tangible even thought I had lots of good ones (which went unsketched!)

A few years ago I came across this passage by Ira Glass which has continually resonated with me. It’s all practice! Really. It’s all getting the ideas out until we find the thing that makes the special thing happen. I’m still finding the special thing – but I know I am much closer now than I was ten years ago:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” ~Ira Glass


Post #3072: The warping of Big-A

So! Eighteen months after purchasing the big, mysterious, countermarch loom (now nicknamed Big-A in contrast to my small loom Little-J) – I have a warp on and am weaving!

I started sleying the reed before I went on holiday at the beginning of July, and then when I got home in the middle of the month I threaded the heddles and wound on. Since then I have been slowly weaving in a basic hopsack pattern in order to learn about my loom and to get the feel of throwing the shuttle before getting too complicated with the treadling.

For this test warp, I used the yarn that came with the loom (the seller threw in a bag of brightly coloured handspun wool with no stretch – perfect for weaving). It’s a chunky yarn, heavier than worsted weight, which I offset with some skeins of Briggs and Little Heritage in black to create some colour separation. The weft is also black B&L as you can see in the photo below. The intended outcome of this is a blanket which will be created by cutting the weave in half and joining it in the middle for about 54 inches of width. I expect that lengthwise it will work out the same to create a square lap blanket. To be honest, I didn’t work the project out in too much detail because just getting a warp on was the goal, and I was improvising with the yarn on hand.

Now that I have this loom in operation – I am starting to assess it. Countermarch looms are known for being quiet – which is definitely the case with this one (jack looms have a clack and rattle to them). These looms are also known for being overwhelming or difficult to tie up – which I didn’t really find at all. Time-consuming yes, but I have read so much about these looms in the last year that when I climbed underneath to tie up the treadles, I had a good sense of what I needed to do. On the “negative” side – the homemade brake is not holding so well – the belt that the former owner rigged it with broke, so I grabbed another old leather belt that I had on hand – but it is not cinching the warp beam tightly enough to hold it. As a quick fix, I filled a milk jug with water to create enough weight to hold the warp beam back. I can live with that for now – but if I keep this loom into the future, I will probably purchase a proper brake band kit for it.

There is no question that 45 inches is probably all the loom I can handle – as I can barely reach from one side of Big-A to the other. I’ve got 27 inches on right now which I can manage with no problem. I expect that my comfortable maximum weaving width is somewhere around 35 inches. And because it requires a minimum of 2 yards (if not 2 and a half) to warp, this is definitely not a loom for small samples.  On the other hand, there is a lot of control in the overhead beater, which makes for a more even and appropriate weave structure overall. We’ll see what it’s like with 8/2 cotton on it – something I plan to do in short order to get a feel for how different weights and fibres weave on this loom. At the moment, I only have a 10-dent reed – so I’ll have to invest in others if I am going to play with different weights in the future. I will also need to purchase some additional heddles at some juncture.

Throughout the restoration and set up of this loom, I have spent a lot of time kicking myself for the purchase of something so complicated as a new weaver. It seemed to me that I spent *so* much money and time setting it up – wouldn’t it have been better had I just bought something new, with less headaches? Maybe. On the other hand, I have learned far more about loom technology than I would have otherwise. As well, this loom will end up costing me less than a fifth of what new one would cost. So far I am into this loom for about $875: $500 for the initial purchase plus $100 to have it moved, $250 in heddles and texsolv cord and $25 for the restoration wax. More heddles and a brake kit will total an additional $400. Rounding up, this loom will cost $1300 when the restoration is fully done (and I didn’t have to spend that $ all at once). A new loom of identical width/type/shaft #s and similar quality starts at $4700 US (almost $6000 cdn plus taxes!) That’s money that I just don’t have.

So yeah. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself now that I have Big-A up and running and am actually making a *thing* on it. I look forward to many more such experiments in the near future.