Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Examining Tie-Ups

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about time.  I have been spending a lot of time on what I enjoy (spinning, weaving, knitting), but I don’t have much to show for it.  And instead of feeling happy and productive, I actually feel harried and frantic at the moment.

I’m learning that, as a fast-paced person, creating things quickly in order to finish sooner if it’s at the expense of quality costs more in the long run. When I started spinning, I was in a hurry to have something to knit.  So I did spin about a dozen skeins of yarn.  But the more I spin, the more I learn about spinning.  And the more I learn about spinning, the more I want to spin to improve.  The funny thing is, even though I finally have enough handspun, I haven’t knit any of it.  I want to learn to spin the best that I can, which will take the time that it takes.

There was an uneasy equilibrium to the spin/knit/time equation, but bringing home two looms has really jumbled things up.  Weaving is now monopolising my thoughts.  I’m obsessed with learning about the parts of my loom, how to tie it up, how to weave, and what those diagrammes of little square grids mean in weaving pattern books .  Everything else is on hold as I figure out how to pull myself out of the abyss of knowing nothing about weaving to a point where my thoughts may have enough coherence to know where to start.  I know this is temporary state of discomfort, but I usually don’t weather that gracefully, and I know I make my family and household slightly anxious with my stress .

A major contributor to my recent frenzy is my over-crowded house.   Not over-crowded with people, but with things.  I’ve spent two entire days cleaning out my office, with little to show for it.  As I told my husband: “this is amazingly neat for us, but most people wouldn’t see that for the books and boxes piled everywhere.”

I realised two things.  First, that I’m really lucky to have such a great husband.  He rarely stopped me from diving off the deep end into anything I’ve become interested in.  (Until these recent indiscretions, I’ve been mindful of the budget.)  Mostly just asked me to pace myself at times when the budget was tight, but raised eyebrows and skeptical “harumph!”s are usually the worst of it.   That leads to the second thing: I’m finally paying the price of squirreling away more than I can process. There is no room to bring in Beauty.  (For example, I unearthed two sets of bongo drums in my office that have been forgotten for more than two years when I was sure my eighteen-month old showed aptitude as a drummer.)  My beautiful loom, sitting outside, unused.  I think I can clear enough space by the end of summer, if impatience doesn’t kill me first.

I’ve been racking my brains trying to find another place to hide, I mean, put away my spinning stash, and feeling overwhelmed by the situation, when five pounds of raw Rambouillet fleece arrive in the mail.  (Oops!  I ordered this almost a month ago, long before the looms.)

Here’s a closer look.

And this also came in.

I don’t remember seeing where it was recommended, but I thought that for about five dollars (including shipping), it was worth a try.  It’s a little musty smelling, but I hope an outside sunny airing for a few days will take care of that.  It’s a fantastic starter book with lots of very clear pictures. It even came with some previous owner’s notes (a purple-coloured ditto copy!) about dressing the loom, and study questions (with answers!) from Mary Black’s “New Key To Weaving” (Beauty came with that book).  And I just love the connection to the past, continuing the thread.

Thursday, I went to the Weaving Works in Seattle to talk to one of the weavers who works there.  She was a bit taken aback by how little I know about weaving before buying the loom.  She actually did a double-take, but was very gracious in helping me.  She had owned a Bergman loom for over twenty years, but since she sold it over thirty years ago, she helped me more with basics and showed me Joanne Hall’s Glimakra tie-up book.  I couldn’t bring myself to buy it, but I did peruse some of the pages carefully while I was there.  What’s been most helpfull to me in understanding out my tie-up situation has been a series of back-and-forth e-mails from Trapunto.   She’s a few months ahead of me on Bergman loom ownership, and years ahead of me in weaving experience.  I assumed that I’d have to re-connect everything, but I’ve found that four of my shafts are already tied, and I just need to figure out how to connect the treddles.  (What great fortune!)

I didn’t leave the Weaving Works empty-handed.

This is the new 2008 edition, which you can find from Fine Fiber Press.  I’ve read on other blogs that it had been out of print at least twenty years, and some being sold on eBay were going in the hundred-dollar range.

I spent a few hours on Friday trying to find more cording for tie-ups.

It might be a little difficult to see, but the coin is a dime.  The top is an example of the string heddles I have.  They are 9-1/2″ heddles, probably hand-tied. I have a lot of these, and they seem uniformly sized to me.  I though that when the time came, I could probably make some of these up myself, using a board with nails at the appropriate lengths.  The woman at Weaving Works confirmed that, with an additional tip: use headless nails.  But, apparently they also sell Texsolv heddles already at the right length, although I have no idea about the price.  But I wonder if it would make a difference, mixing up two different kinds of heddles.  The middle cord is slightly thicker, and is the cording attached to my jacks in the castle.  The lower cording is the thickest of all — it’s used only on the lamms.  It’s a woven cord, not plied.  Since I don’t have any extra cording to connect the lamms to the treddles, I spent a lot of time trying to find more. Unsuccessfully.  Now I understand Trapunto’s lament on the difficulty of finding a natural cording (for friction and grip when tying knots) that is also thick, dense, and not stretchy.  (She thought linen would be great.)  I thought this cording is like clothestring line, but the only ones I could find (hardware stores) are nylon, slippery, and not the right thickness.  This cording looks almost like round shoestring lace, but thicker.  I’ve never tried a lucet before, but I wonder if this kind of cord can be produced on a lucet. I completely forgot to look for linen to spin while at the Weaving Works, but I can see this might be in a future spinning queue.

More time required to do things right.  Judith MacKenzie remarked to me that time is different when you are creating.  Somehow, it’s impossible to find ten extra minutes to do housework, but we can find an hour to sit down to spin (or weave, or knit…).  We recently watched the movie “Becoming Jane” (my son: “Aw, Man! More Jane Austen!), and during that time, I added another two feet of weaving to Hedy.  It should be rolled up, but I’ve unrolled some of the cloth to show in the following picture.  I have found, (as Leigh commented in the previous post) that when coming back to the weaving after a break (in my case, a few minutes), my beating often changes (also changes while watching more intense scenes), so there are several chunks of uneven weaving.  And my selvedges change as well.  I suppose I should pay more attention to the weaving initially, at least until the basics are understood.  One turquoise warp thread has frayed apart, so this weaving is on hold while I try to find some similar yarn to patch it.  The end of the corrugated paper roll end hanging loose was really bothering me as I unrolled more warp from the back beam, so I started to bring the end up and roll it into the front cloth beam.  I hope that’s OK!  (NB: “Becoming Jane” has a few scenes in it that I do not recommend for young children.  My son was playing boisterously with his superheroes, with his back to the tv screen most of the time; plus we had the volume down low and read subtitles.)

When I started this post, I was feeling so down about my loom ouside/messy inside situation.    But, on proofing this for publication, I’m trying not to laugh. How could you possibly feel my pain when all these wonderful new things come pouring in, and even I no longer feel my pain?!  Have you seen the movie “Persuasion”, with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds?  There’s a scene in it when Anne’s sister Mary, who is an exasperating hypochondriac, earnestly implores Anne: “You must help me convince them how very, very ill I am!”  Well, I’m feeling a lot better now.  My loom will make it indoors somehow.


26 June 2008 - Posted by | General, Weaving | , ,


  1. Liz – have enjoyed your fiber ramblings this morning! Refreshing – much like Zen “beginner’s mind”. I wish you many more wonderful adventures. And you have a lovely lot of Rambouillet wool. We have Ramboullet sheep so here is a tip – let it soak in plenty of HOT water and soap(Dawn dishwashing liquid is good). And don’t “play” with it as it soaks because it felts very easily. There’s so much grease in this wool and you really need to remove it before you spin it or the yarn will get stiff over time.

    Comment by Suzan | 29 June 2008 | Reply

  2. I have never heard of the book you’ve mentioned, so I placed a hold to get it through my library. Thank you for the tips!

    Comment by SpinningLIzzy | 29 June 2008 | Reply

  3. Oh dear, I understand the drive to get going, but I’ve had my loom since fall of 2006! You’re not behind! I am a slow-paced person, but very linear and product oriented. It took me, basically, 3-4 months of steady work (and a very homely shawl) to research, experiment, troubleshoot, and put together the new tie up that got me weaving with relatively few hitches. (And I don’t have any kids!) Plus, when I got the Bergman I had already taken a beginning weaving class that got me nicely familiar with draft-reading and warping a borrowed table loom.

    You are brave and motivated, and I would suggest are moving ahead even when you when you feel like you are standing still. Just by getting exposed to the weaving world, and getting your resources together, you are learning. Research is work too! And Hedy will teach you bushels.

    Outside motivation can bolster inner motivation very usefully. I was determined to be be able to weave confidently on the Bergman by the end of that winter, because I wanted to take a class for 8-shaft loom owners that I knew my weaving teacher was offering in the spring (I did, and it was fabulous.) If there’s any way you can swing it, I would recommend treating yourself to a class at the Weaving Works, as much for the shared excitement and encouragement it will provide as for the know-how.

    That Betty Davenport book looks like a good ‘un, just from the cover. I have only read her into book, Hands On Rigid Heddle Weaving, which didn’t go into depth about pattern weaving.

    Hooray! Your heddles are the right length! My gut feeling would be that you don’t want to mix texsolv and string heddles. It’s very important that the placement and size of the heddle-eye be consistent. The weight of the heddles is an issue too. My homely shawl involved too many, too long, heavy string heddles on too few shafts.

    What about weaving al fresco?

    Comment by Trapunto | 30 June 2008 | Reply

  4. Lizzy —

    I’m so enjoying your blog! I’ve been away on vacation for two weeks, and stumbled across you over at Trapunto’s carport salon.

    First things first: B R E A T H E. You have your entire life to weave, spin, and knit. The process can be so enchanting if you allow it to be so. (Can you tell I’m a process oriented person?) Yes, it is a good idea to have your fiber space organized and semi-serene so that you really do want to go into it and settle in to create. Rather than tackling it all at once, how about making a list of all the things that you feel you’d like to have done, and then just knock two of them off the list each morning before spending time weaving, spinning, etc? Within a week or two you not only will have your fiber space done, but you’ll have some creative work done too — without sacrificing one for the other.

    As for storage – look up up up. How about stringing some net toy-hammocks from the ceiling and using those to drop bags/baskets of rovings and skeins into? That would free up floor space and shelf space. Also, if you’re on a tight budget — go to your local liquor store — ask for a bunch of empty wine bottle boxes that have the carboard dividers in them — then just cover the outsides with pretty paper — put them on their sides and stack them upon one another, and you’ve got great cubby hole shelves to put fibers into. Easy peasey. And hubby won’t go, “Hrrrrumph!” Alternatively, those closet organizer shoe cubby shelves work fabulously too.

    I’m so excited for you! It is such a delight to find a new weaver. Your journey will give us all a chance to reexamine our own.

    Weave on!

    Comment by Jane | 2 July 2008 | Reply

  5. When you wrote this you were having absolutely my problem. What cord and where to find it. I am scared of investing too much cash in my old unused for 50 years 32″ Bergman until i know it works. I read Trapunto avidly and she suggests starting with loomcord as bergmans are not very easy to tie-up with tex-solv When the cord arrived yesterday it was much coarser than expected.It will be OK for lower stuff but the jacj/shaft/lamm combination its too thick. i have gone to my local soft furnishing shop round the corner and bought some thin blind cord. Yes its shiny but hope it will do in this trial tie-up.
    I identify with your approach to time, skill, wanting to get started…and you have small family…at least there is only 2 of us at home but I have never beem a good tidy houswife and muddle and chaos grows round me at a frightening rate.
    Inspired by the fact you actually mahe things I am going back under(after a coffee)

    Comment by Deborah | 30 July 2008 | Reply

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