“An excellent experience” for everyone. So we will do it again!

We’ve had time to do our accounting and look through the workshop evaluations and the closing comment “An excellent experience” on one evaluation form seems to neatly sum up the first Cowichan Hand to Hand Fibre Arts Workshops Weekend. From the first session on Saturday morning to the last on Sunday afternoon people say they found the workshops inspiring and enjoyable, which is just as well given that some travelled from as far as Campbell River! The success of this weekend is more proof (if any was needed) that many talented and creative people live and share their skills here on Vancouver Island.

As a result we’re very pleased to say that there will be another Cowichan Hand to Hand Fibre Arts Workshops Weekend from 26–28 April 2019 at the same venue, the Cowichan Exhibition Park. Several attendees asked for full-day workshops (and we’d like to offer a wider range of topics) so we’ve decided the weekend should start early and added Friday. We’re also thinking of offering some evening sessions for people who can’t come during the day. Please let us know in the comments whether that would be useful for you.

We’re hoping to repeat some of the workshops next year (‘Spinning for Beginners’ was so popular this year that we had to add a session!) as well as introduce new topics. Let us know if there’s anything you’d like to see as a workshop – and we hope to see you next April at CowEx. We’ll let you know what we’re planning via the blog, too.

I just wish I had more photos to show you how much fun we had! 


‘Spinning for Beginners’ Update!

The Saturday afternoon ‘Spinning for Beginners’ is now full, with additional people on the waitlist. We are considering offering a second session on Sunday morning; if you’d be interested in this, please email
and let us know.

There are still a few spaces available in some other workshops, so we’ve extended the registration deadline. If you’d like to attend any of them, please register in the next day or so.

Download the registration form for all the workshops here: H2HRegistrationFINAL

Needlepoint lace

Also known as ‘needle lace’, this beautiful lace requires no pillow, bobbins or pins. The technique is thought to have developed from drawn thread work in which buttonhole stitches edge an area of fabric from which warp and/or weft threads are removed. Open areas are then filled with needle-woven designs.


The open corner is filled with a ‘spider’ woven on the embroidery thread base. From Thérèse de Dillmont’s Encyclopedia of Needlework.

The earliest examples of needlepoint lace come from 16th century Venice. Known as Reticella or Punto in Aria – ‘stitches in air’ because it no longer required a fabric – the needle-woven lace now filled shapes defined by threads couched to a parchment base.

Pattern for reticella lace c. 1587.

Freed from the constraints of even-weave fabric, needlepoint lace became increasingly elaborate as knowledge of the technique spread. Point de Venise, Point d’Alençon, Point de France, Kenmare Lace, Brussels Point de Gaze – all these fabulous laces use the fundamental techniques you’ll learn in this class.

Download the registration form here! H2HRegistrationFINAL



Delicious, delectable Silk Tasting Session


Coleen Nimetz holds a Master Spinner Certificate and has been an instructor and technical consultant for the Olds College Master Spinner Programme. Coleen’s love of spinning and dyeing, which she teaches throughout North America, has taken her on interesting adventures. Her work as a labourer on a silk farm in northern Laos led her to develop a passion for silk reeling to produce the fine yarns she uses in her knitted lace shawls and miniature cut pile rugs.


Coleen’s current focus is reeling filament silk from cocoons and working with various types of silk. Her articles on silk and silk reeling have been published in Spin-Off and Ply magazines and her work has appeared in juried shows across Canada and the United States. Coleen has received numerous national and international awards, including the Saskatchewan Craft Council Award for Excellence in Textiles.

Download your registration form: H2HRegistrationFINAL


Weaving magic: tension baskets

Tension Baskets

Tension baskets or tension trays are so called because act of weaving the materials together creates stresses that hold the structure together.  A variety of woody materials lend themselves to this process. These bendable woody fibres could be willow, hedge row material such as osiers and young twigs  and shoots of trees.  The baskets can then be decorated with natural embellishments. In this workshop we will be using hand dyed reed of different sizes to create an easy functional basket. The skills learned here can be transferred to make similar baskets with other materials.

Download your registration form: H2HRegistrationFINAL

Vary the components to make new and beautiful designs.

Maria Curtis has been making baskets for over 20 years.  She enjoys the amazing diversity of materials that can be used in basket making as well as the many  varieties and  types of baskets that can be made.  While she sometimes uses reed fibre, she likes to  weave with a mixture of locally harvested material. She has taught several classes and enjoys the creativity that happens in the workshops.



Inspire your inkle loom creativity!

Inkle looms come in different sizes. At left Alison weaves on a small table top version; to the right (top) is a double-sided inkle loom and (below) a floor model that can also be used as a warping board.]

Learning how to set up your inkle loom will open your eyes to what can be created on these little looms. Unlike its big brother, a multi-shaft floor loom that consumes a lot of space in your studio – and don’t forget all the extras, such as a bench, warping reel, bobbin winder, shuttles and cones of yarn that come with it – most inkle looms are quite happy to sit on a table. There they’re close at hand and easy to use once you know How to Warp an Inkle Loom.

Just imagine what you can weave – camera straps, book marks, shoe laces, small bags, trim for garments, ribbons…! 

Before you can do any of those projects, the first step will be to tie heddles for the loom.  These are the loops that hold half of the warp in place.  Because you’ll be weaving narrow bands with no gaps between the warp threads, it’s important to choose a fine smooth yarn for the heddles.  Once they’re made, you’ll move on to dressing the loom.  In this workshop, we’ll be using a variegated yarn for the warp.  That means we won’t be fussing with cutting and joining different colours in order to create certain patterns in the woven cloth.  What appears instead in your first warp-faced band will be random designs determined by chance:  the spacing of the hues in the yarn and the length of the warp on the loom.   Some of them may inspire future bands where the patterns are deliberately chosen for each piece.

From the time the warp threads are secured in the heddles (left) to the last shots of weft in the hem (right), it’s fun to weave an inkle band with a variegated yarn.

To give you some idea of the variety possible, take a look at the four bands shown here.  Anyone who has seen what I weave on my other looms will not be surprised to learn that the more complex bands in those images are the result of different pick-up techniques, all of them possible on a simple two-shaft inkle loom.

Alison Irwin

Download your registration form: H2HRegistrationFINAL

When more thought is given to the woven design, intricate patterns can be created with careful planning and pick-up.

8 ‘n’ 8 Kumihimo: Diamonds!

A medley of 8 ‘n’ 8 patterns in cotton yarns.


“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend!”
— Jule Styne and Leo Robin, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949)

Were Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe braiders?  While waiting for their turns on stage, did they sit with kumihimo disks in hand braiding silk cords?  If so, the pair would certainly have recognized the value of my Diamond Grid and reached for their crayons, eager to fill in the diamond-shaped spaces on the grid as they created new designs to braid!

You don’t have to be a blonde or know all the words to that classic or even be a singer to sign up for the 8 ‘n’ 8 Kumihimo workshop.  Just come with your coloured pencils and scissors, and I will show you how to set up sixteen threads on a special foam disk for the simple round braid.  We’ll start with the basic spiral and then move on to other patterns, each one a variation of eight light threads and eight dark threads.  Once the threads are in place on the disk, unlike the theatre there are no difficult lines for you to learn.  There are just five words to remember: left up, right down, turn.  Your kumihimo braid will grow longer as those five are repeated, over and over again.

A trio of knotted bracelets.
More 16-strand patterns, many inspired by flowers.

Have I forgotten about those coloured pencils?  Of course not!  We’ll pick them up once you’ve worked a couple of patterns and the left up/right down/turn mantra is now so familiar that your hand does it without any prompts from you.  It is at this stage that I’ll share the secrets of the Diamond Grid, how 16 of the spaces on paper correspond to the sixteen threads on the braiding disk.  The first patterns we’ll draw will be in the same two colours — 8 light and 8 dark — used for the braid on that disk.  Let’s see what happens when we change the layout of the colours within that ‘block’ of 16 diamond-shaped spaces.  Now swap the threads around on the disk to match those spaces and do some braiding: left up/right down/turn.  What new design is emerging in the braid?  Shall we add a third colour?  A fourth?  And what can these braids become?

By the time our three hours together are up, you will know the answers to these questions and more, and understand why, for a braider, “a Diamond Grid is your best friend!”

Alison Irwin

Download your registration form: H2HRegistrationFINAL


These two ‘Round Robin’ necklaces are 24-strand braids.


A braid in variegated yarn becomes a bolo tie.