Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Getting Back My Groove

I don’t move on easily. I am so linearly-minded that obstacles in my path often hamper my momentum and detract from any progress I might otherwise make. It’s difficult for me to cut my losses, give up on a project, or even step over it temporarily.

Three weaving projects in particular kept stalling me from tying on more enjoyable warps, until I decided to tackle them head-on this year.

The first project is Cynthia’s scarf. I had woven it off the Ashford RH (rigid heddle) loom she gave me, but at the time, didn’t have much experience twisting fringe. I thought of twisting fringe as excruciatingly slow and painful work. I was in a hurry to finish the scarf to give her at our get-together last year (September?) before she would be inaccessible for months while remodeling. At the last moment, I couldn’t make it work. The problem? I trimmed the fringe on one end of the scarf, twisted it, and knotted it. Then I measured the fringe on the other end of the scarf, twisted and knotted a few strands. Then I found that I had used the measurement of the twisted fringe to cut the untwisted side! The two sides with uneven fringe was difficult to face. I didn’t want to cut down the first twisted side, because I felt its length was perfect. When I tried twisted the fringe on the shorter, I couldn’t bear of cutting down the other side to match. That left me in a quandary for six months. Earlier this March, I finally decided to finish twisting the fringe, and leave the longer side as is. I guess I decided that if one side is perfect, it should be left alone. It doesn’t seem right to cut it down to match the imperfect shorter length side; the difference being about two inches. I’ve always thought of this as Cynthia’s scarf, and so now I’m not sure what to do with it. What have I learned from this? The old saying: “Measure twice, cut once.” And, don’t cut when you’re in a hurry. Also, fringe twisting a scarf is exponentially more time-consuming the night before you want to make a gift of it, but not that big of a deal when there is no deadline.

Problem project number two is some Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool that I put onto my Schacht RH loom more than 2 (!) years ago.

I meant to make a shibori scarf out of it, with the intention of entering it into some contest. But, I found the wool rather rough; and, after putting it on the loom, I promptly lost interest in it. The RH loom is Schacht’s non-folding one, mounted on their trestle floor stand. I’ve since acquired their 15″ Flip folding RH loom, but a dearth of table space meant I couldn’t do anything with it until the stand was made available for it. It would be too simple and logical to temporarily remove the non-folding RH loom and put it aside to use the stand, but — remember the linear thinking! With the project dormant so long, and the Flip languishing untouched for a year since I got it, it was time to “fish or cut bait“, or, in my case, “weave or cut warp”. It’s nearly unthinkable for me to cut off a warp, so I got down to the business of weaving it off.

It wasn’t the unpleasant or time-consuming chore I’d envisioned it would be; it just wasn’t a project I felt passionate about. Lesson learned: choose materials and projects that I’ll love and enjoy, not to impress others!

The last weaving obstacle: my three-heddle project on the Ashford Knitters Loom (AKL). This project has been untouched since last summer, and had been warped nearly two years ago. Even with the addition of doupe heddles and sticks (shortcuts so I do not have to mess with the different heddle position and manipulations), I find the weaving fiddly and tedious. Not only that, I wasn’t crazy about the pattern I had chosen, as it made this combination of yarn seemed very old-fashioned and fussy to me. 

When I took math classes as a student, I was taught the “brute force” method of solving problems. There are often elegant and concise ways to solve problems, but the brute force method is akin to getting a hammer and systematically smashing a large obstacle into smaller pieces, bit by bit. An example of this is solving anagrams. Say you have the letters: UVELA. Someone with the gift of decoding anagrams, might, after a bit of consideration, come up with VALUE. However, if you didn’t have any insight, one brute force algorithm you might employ is to note the letters in alphabetical order, and starting with “A”, look through the “A” section of an English dictionary for any matches using all the letters. If no matches occur, then take the next letter in order, and repeat for that letter. Slow, inefficient, and tedious it may be, but guaranteed to work. As Nike would say, “Just Do It”.

So, I did. It took three days of ignoring everything else to complete. The pattern was such that I could not relax while weaving, for any distractions from people, music, television, or my own breathing would make me forget which step I was on. I longed to be at the end of the warp with every pick I wove, but I kept at it. When I got to the last 12″ of warp, I found that I no longer had enough room to continue manipulating the heddles to follow the pattern.

Not wishing to waste any warp, I used only the first heddle up and down, which formed a kind of basketweave tabby. That gave me another 5″ of weaving, but what a difference!

It was enjoyable to weave, and I loved the way it looked! I felt heartsick to have used up so much handspun weft for a pattern that tended to obscure it, when it would shown to such great advantage with a simple plainweave. Well, rats.

I haven’t encountered any commercial yarn that has the same amazing bounce and density that you can find in handspun yarn. I did find that using this yarn for weft, which I had spun woolen and long-draw, created a very stretchy fabric. Interesting.

Plainweave Closeup

At least I learned a few things: Just because you can create four-shaft cloth on a rigid heddle doesn’t mean you should; it might not be fun. (This may have something to do with threading the heddles with the Xenakis technique, which is not intuitive.) Sometimes, less is a lot more, while more can be fussy and unexciting. Next time, I’ll try harder to find the simple, elegant solution, instead of bulldozing (brute forcing) my way through. Anyway, the loom is free again, and so am I!

(Imagine happy dance here.)


29 July 2011 - Posted by | Weaving | ,


  1. Congratulations on finishing your projects! I had a weaving slump too, and after almost a year of not weaving, finished a project and got back into the joy of weaving. I liked reading your post because I am still a beginner weaver. I have a simple RH loom and don’t really know many fancy techniques. Still, I really enjoy doing a simple weave and seeing how different weft and warp yarns blend together to create something new. It’s not always amazing, but it’s usually fun!

    Comment by Delia | 30 July 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Delia, Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad to hear you’ve overcome your weaving slump also – hope you’re weaving up a storm now, especially if it benefits all the great work you do for the Marine Corps families!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 2 August 2011 | Reply

  2. Hi. I enjoy reading your weaving posts. We (my 9 year old) daughter and I have just started dabbling. We have an Ashford Knitter’s Loom and I was fascinated to read your posts on how to really push the loom. We’ve done very simple little scarfs. But it has been fun. Thanks for the posts.

    Comment by Melissa | 7 August 2011 | Reply

    • After my recent tangle with the three heddles, I’ve been so happy to play with plain ol’ plainweave, LOL.

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 7 August 2011 | Reply

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