Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

This Madness Called Weaving

I was surprised there were no comments on the last picture of one of my earlier posts, “Bobbin Winders For Spinners“.  But, perhaps that is because you don’t know that I pretty much stopped buying books years ago.  I’m extremely careful about buying books, because I have so little space in my house.  I started spinning a year ago, but I own only one spinning book.  However, in the five months since I’ve been weaving, I’ve acquired forty-five weaving books (oh, I just shocked myself!).  That does not include the stack of used “Handwoven” magazines stashed in our linen closet.  Then there are the looms.  I last counted nine “serious” looms 20″ or larger; I refuse to count the smaller “play” looms (like the HD Easy Weaver A and B looms).  I’m extremely thrifty and discriminating about my looms (I walked away from a $400 Schacht Baby Wolf, one-owner, in perfect condition, still without regret — too expensive!), but it seems I have not set the bar high enough.  It makes no sense to me, especially since I can only weave on one at a time.  I just cannot explain, even to myself, what is this madness called weaving, and why it has overtaken me.

I checked, and found there is no “Complete Idiot’s Guide To Weaving”, or “Weaving For Dummies”.  I think I could write a book like that, perhaps titled “A Comprehensive Compendium Of Weaving Don’ts “.

Remember my piano runner/sampler of twills on Gil (24” Rasmussen loom, “Raddle Me This“)?

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It’s woven and off the loom, but it was a slow start that took four tries to finish warping it.

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Beaming onto Gil: The Quadrilogy:

Episode One: Clueless Weaver warps back to front, without a raddle.  When the warps of a 14″ cloth measures 12″ on the back beam, weaver learns the importance of a raddle.

Episode Two: Eager Weaver takes a shortcut in winding the warp.  It is planned that part of the runner should include a  sequence of alternating novelty and cotton yarns for 24 warps.  Instead of winding the warp in proper sequence, weaver winds 12 of each yarn, then attempts to answer the question: “How difficult could it be to cross 24 warps on the raddle?”, with painfully slow consequences.  Includes two very long hours of carefully loading the raddle, re-aligning warp yarns in planned sequence, and putting rubber bands around the raddle tacks.  Don’t miss the award-winning, action-packed scene where weaver pulls up up on the warp, ejecting all rubber bands and warps from the raddle.  (Oh, the horror, the horror!  Replay in slow motion, to experience it again and again!)

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Weaver learns to love the special raddle, through which a dowel may be inserted to lock the warps in place through plague, pestilence, and weaver error, period.

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Episode Three: The older and wiser weaver returns to  beam on at 14″ on the back beam, with a (dowel inserted) raddle, only to realise that 14″ was the finished cloth measurement; warps were actually calculated to measure 16″ on the back beam to allow for 15% shrinkage…

Episode Four: Humbled weaver warps Gil (16″), A Documentary.

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Yes, I suppose I am a glutton for punishment.

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Of course, winding the same warp onto this loom so many times created tension problems while weaving.  Luckily, the tensioning discrepancies were linear over the width of the warp, so I was able to fix it by inserting a wooden dowel to pull the looser warps out at an angle, held in place with different size weights:

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Thank You, Peggy Osterkamp, for your invaluable book (third one) with the section on weaving problems and solutions!

It was very enjoyable, this first experience of weaving with a treadled loom.  I was pleased to discover my Rasmussen loom has two sets of pegs to move the beater assembly on for a little extra mileage:

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Having completely overcome any fear of warping, I’ve already prepared the next three:

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During my four attempts to warp Gil, I sleyed the reed twice. That was the fun part.  You see, I have a Schacht auto-reed hook.

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I was skeptical about these before ordering it.

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There is not much available in the way of reviews (on the internet) on this tool.

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Prior to dressing Gil, I had to sley a metal reed twice before; both times on the Dutch Master Box loom.  That was enough to convince me a better way was needed if weaving and I were not to part company, which is why I broke down and purchased it, sans reviews, for $50 (another sign of madness).  I have no idea why it costs so much.  Ask Schacht.  Perhaps they only sell one a year.

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Here’s my review, in a nutshell:  I love it.  If you don’t love sleying the reed, you need one.  If you require details, please read on.

My auto-reed hook was special-ordered from Schacht.  As far as I can tell, it’s exactly like the one made by AVL.  It works on reeds of size 15 dents or less.  Which means I have no plans to purchase a reed of dpi higher than 15.

The bent tip of the hook is inserted into the reed, in the direction you want to sley it.  In my case, working right to left, the tip points left.

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Push the hook into the reed until a click! is heard.  Load the hook with your threads, pull the threads through the reed, then push the hook back in until another click! is heard.  I find that pushing the hook in, at an angle, in the direction you want the hook to move, works better than pushing the hook straight into the reed.  Repeat until finished.  You don’t need to look down to see if the hook is in the next dent.  The click! sound is the confirmation that the hook has advanced (only one dent).

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I put a small empty box between the reed and front beam, then secured the reed and beater assembly to the front beam with rubber bands.  The purpose of the box was to give some room for my hands to handle the auto-reed hook and threads, plus give just enough tension and resist to operate the hook without having to hold onto the reed.  I don’t have a picture of that here, but I’ll have one in a future post.

The auto-reed hook makes sleying the reed easy, zippity fast, and, most importantly — fun!

How I wish there was a way to auto-finish my weaving!  There’s little pile of projects growing into a mountain on my sewing table that need to be sewn, washed, knotted, whatnot.  I’m sure one morning I’ll wake and it will be “The Day” to finish them off.  Until then, I feel driven to get some handle on the learning curve, the dearth of time, and the need to define a direction with this obsession.

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2 December 2008 - Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. Fresh fruit in oatmeal, or christmas lights in snow… Pretty runner, and it will give you all the more satisfaction knowing it’s birth pangs! I think you’re onto something with your title; new weavers would buy it for the know-how, and old weavers would buy it for the thrills. You’d want to include a DVD in a little pouch in the back for the “extreme weaving” video with the slow-mo shooting rubber bands.

    Are you going to give us a tour of your looms and your weaving library some day?

    Comment by Trapunto | 2 December 2008 | Reply

    • Trapunto, I like both names! I might do a post one day, but it’s more likely that I’ll introduce each loom as I get around to weaving on it.

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 9 December 2008 | Reply

  2. I really enjoyed reading about your trials and tribulations. Its ever so reassuring to find out that weavers struggle sometimes and that its not just me. You have some wonderful equipment including that sleying tool. I don’t think I would dare buy it as its quite expensive,in case it doesn’t work as well for me!!!
    It is also wonderful seeing other weavers in action,I learn so much

    Comment by deborahbee | 3 December 2008 | Reply

    • Deborah, I absolutely love my auto-reed hook. It really saves my eyes, no longer having to look for the next dent or to double-check it’s in the right one. I highly recommend it, even at such a steep price!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 9 December 2008 | Reply

  3. Fortunately it seems to be true of weaving as of many activities in life, that the fourth time you do a thing is much much quicker than the first! My bete noir is tangling rather than tension, but I sure know the feeling. On the alternating threads issue, my top tip is: grab both yarns in one hand and wind them together.

    Comment by Cally | 3 December 2008 | Reply

    • Cally, it never occurred to me to warp the two at once, that’s a wonderful tip!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 9 December 2008 | Reply

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and am absolutely amazed at your persistence! I have the AVL autodenter,by the way, and it can work with 18- and 20-dent reeds.

    Comment by Peg in South Carolina | 4 December 2008 | Reply

    • Peg, thanks for the information — I’m happy I won’t have to limit myself to smaller dent reeds!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 9 December 2008 | Reply

  5. […] paid some dues whilst warping my Rasmussen loom (”This Madness Called Weaving“); shockingly, I didn’t hurt, break, or have to repeat anything; not a single glitch […]

    Pingback by Summertime And The Weavin’ Is Easy « Spinninglizzy’s Weblog | 9 December 2008 | Reply

  6. I can really appreciate your warping woes. I am a new weaver wannabe and at this point I have not been able to warp my loom even after reading the book twice. I so have to say that I will not give up I plan to have it warped by .my birthday in june. Thank you for the encouragement

    Comment by Trudy | 15 April 2010 | Reply

  7. I have been taking classes and still feel like I am lost. Is there an easy way to weave without pulling out all of your hair. Well let’s hope so being that my hair is already short.

    Comment by Rustic Quilter | 31 July 2010 | Reply


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