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Monday, June 1, 2015

A Member Profile - Susan Harvey

The following is a response from one of our members to submit information for posting to our blog. The profile has been written by Susan Harvey, a long time member of our Guild.  Thank you so much Susan!

I saw my first loom in the summer of 1995, through a window, at the Brighouse Library in Richmond, BC. I could see into and around their bright studio space and they had left the loom right under the window like bait. I went downstairs to the library and found a video tape on “how to beam your loom”. I watched that tape a few times and it was full of names like reeds and castles, lease sticks and heddles. It was a foreign language to me but somehow I knew I had to learn. The difficulty was I had just missed the monthly meeting by two days. I had to wait. Things were further complicated by the fact my husband only a few days later announced his transfer by his employer and we were suddenly moving to the Okanagan Valley. We arrived with our U-Haul truck in the fall and before you knew it the snow was falling and winter settled in.

By spring I was thoroughly bored with myself and recalling that loom in Richmond I went searching to see if there were any guilds in the area. That’s when I found out that that whole region has weaving guilds in every town, a local yarn store or two, and even a loom builder in Armstrong with Woolhouse Tools. I had fallen into weavers heaven!

We lived in various parts of the Okanagan and the Shuswap in the intervening years and I was a member of three guilds and president of one for a time. I met and made many friends and it was very hard to say good bye when we moved back to the coast again and we now live in the Cowichan Valley, on Vancouver Island. I have a large studio space in our home where I have three looms (four if you count my table loom too). A 45 inch, 12 shaft Woolhouse Tools countermarch (currently up for sale), a Louet Spring 90 loom with 12 shafts, and lastly, a Louet 110 Megado with 16 shafts and a compu-dobby. I find that I prefer finer threads, and fibres such as silks, cottons, linen, bamboo and exotic blends and also tencel. I weave scarves, shawls and household linens such as towels, runners and guest towels. These I sell through my Etsy shop Thrums Textiles.

My favourite weave structure is complex twills and I love to see them grow as I throw my shuttle. What is currently on my looms is 2/40 linen for fancy guest towels towels in lace, 2/20 cottons for miniature twill book marks and 2/8 cottons for kitchen towels. I always keep a warp or two pre-wound and ready to load as I like a ‘no naked loom policy’ so something is always ready to go. I’m not a production weaver as I get bored quite easily and have found that I enjoy the design process and once I get it on the loom and a few inches woven, then my mind is ready to move onto the next project. So I weave short limited runs of 2 or 3 scarves or 6 or 7 towels. Where I like to get really creative is with my shawls and play with colour.

I joined the GCW back in 1997 and it helped me to feel connected to other weavers across the country. I was intrigued by the Weaving test program and completed my Basic level the summer of 2003. I hand delivered my box of test samples to Test Administrator (and GCW master weaver) Sandra Fearon in the midst of a forest fire on the edge of the city and she was being evacuated! Such dedication…

Margaret Hahn was the GCW Mentor at the time (and a GCW Master weaver) and also a nearby neighbour. She was there the day my new loom arrived and made sure I was sitting at the right height and being ergonomically correct with my posture. Margaret had been an occupational therapist after World War Two. I was still fairly new to weaving but I can recall watching Margaret take my simple overshot threading and ‘dance’ on the treadles and created a whole new pattern other than the one I was slavishly coping and it hit me that there was so much more to this and I could do it too.

Margaret said some things that really stuck with me over the intervening years: “To get good selvedges, weave a mile.” “There is no wrong way or right way to anything in weaving….try them all and work out what works best for you and your loom” and “Get yourself in front of as many teachers as you can.”

I also had the pleasure of calling guild member Linda Heinrich, author of The Magic of Linen, (GCW master weaver) as friend and teacher also. Through her, I learned the beauty of linen, its properties, and to not be afraid of it. I took her intensive workshop and later I participated in a study group she hosted. She also showed me that if you spent that much time planning and weaving it, then finish it well and be proud of it. Her lovely well finished projects were inspiring and so hemstitching and embellishments entered into my personal weaving too.

A house move later to the Shuswap and I was most fortunate to find another weaving mentor in Gudrun Weisinger ( Masterweaver , Meisterschule fuer das Weberhandwerk, Stuttgart Germany). With her help and friendship I have learned tapestry weaving, Theo Mormon technique, Lace, cloth analysis and how to make the best darn schnitzel ! You simply could not wish to meet a more caring and sharing person. I have been very fortunate in the teachers I have met along my 20 year road of weaving!

My experiences with the Guild of Canadian Weavers is also one that is memorable to me. From my early days as a new member in 1997, to becoming the BC Provincial Representative in 2001. From there I became the GCW president in 2003 and served two terms until 2007 and a final active year and a half as a past president participating in board meetings. I recall the friendships I made across the country, albeit mainly by email but I would also call occasionally as it was a more personal way to be in touch. We were (and still are) all volunteers with busy private lives and all working hard behind the scenes to keep the guild alive, active and relevant to the members. I was very mindful that the Bulletin is the public face of the GCW and we brought back an annual weaving exchange, introduced a colour centrefold, and more stories about actual weaving. Behind the scenes we worked together to develop board meetings by way of emails and and so closed the Guild’s long history of using ‘snail mail’ to conduct business. There was much more done but I feel these were the key points of my tenure as president. I could see the future was to embrace the information highway and have a presence there for the GCW. I’m delighted to see the changes to the web site, Facebook page and I’m sure there is more to come. Now the vast distances between Canadian weavers won’t matter a bit!

After I stepped down, I carried on as a regular member and even applied for and was successful to receive a scholarship (my first one ever) to attend a local workshop that covered “Finn weave, double weave pick up and mock satin damask” with instructor Alison Irwin and later I wrote my article on the workshop for the Bulletin to share with members in appreciation of the opportunity.

I started a (mostly) weaving blog after my ‘retirement’ as past president and began to share my weaving adventures and tips via my blog Thrums since 2008. Part of that journey has to be also
discuss house renovations and new grand children but also my ongoing osteo arthritis and Lupus and joint replacement surgeries. It is possible to have arthritis and still continue to weave! Weavers have good ways to work around problems and this is no different. I have now have two artificial hips and currently waiting for a new knee this summer or fall (and then onto foot surgery in time), but through out it all is my end goal of getting back to my looms. I may have to do something differently, or weave shorter periods but where there is a will there is a way!

If weaving gives you pleasure too, then consider sharing it with a friend or family member. As life speeds up, its important to slow down and touch more textiles than computer screens!
Best regards,
Susan Harvey

To see more of Susan's work, check out the following links. “Thrums” “Thrums Textiles”

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