Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

How It All Began

I was never interested in knitting. I have done the scarf thing long ago in junior high, but that was it. I’m not sure the scarf was ever finished.

One day at a playgroup (my son was about 18 months old, circa 2005), another mother was knitting a raglan sweater on circulars. I was so intrigued: the pattern was top down, with no piecework required, and by using circulars, there was no back and forth with the whole heavy sweater on one needle or the other; but most of all, the elegance, the symmetry of the design! I ran out to Michael’s and purchased exactly the same yarn and needles, and started the same pattern that very afternoon. I wish I could say the rest was history, but unfortunately, the next two years were tough going. I was so busy with baby that I couldn’t get any time away for a knitting group, let alone a class. Plus, in general I’m against spending money on classes, since that takes away from my limited fibre or equipment budget, and I like figuring things out on my own. I had so much problem with that pattern! There was a trick of starting the neck by leaving the loop open until later, when you add more stitches for a dropped front so the opening can be pulled over the head, but the directions were so difficult to understand. In fact, I didn’t understand them until nearly two years later, when a friend saw me struggling and gave me a copy of the same pattern, written up by someone else. Light bulb on! Before my revised pattern, I had started the sweater at least five separate times, finishing one that could fit only a teddy bear. (After the new pattern, it still took two tries to get it right, because I changed the yarn and was too impatient to gauge swatch the new yarn.)

Things progressed very quickly after that. I saw another mother at a different playgroup knitting little animals on tiny, tiny needles. I was charmed. And because of her, I purchased both Knitpicks options and harmony needle sets. Then I e-mailed my saga to a good friend of mine who had moved away to Montana. When I saw her start knitting many years ago, I inwardly laughed, thinking the knitting bug would never catch me. Well, she had the last laugh. And she told me that because she missed her knitting group so much, she didn’t knit as much as before, so I would be the beneficiary of many, many boxes of her knitting stash (all natural fibres) and needles. <em>Thousands</em> of dollars worth. Before that, I did not have any yarn besides what I had purchased for that still not completed raglan sweater, although I had already decided that would be the last time I knit acrylic. I went from several skeins of acrylic to an instant serious stash <em>mountain</em>. But the nicest thing about receiving so many boxes of yarn from my friend is that I could get away with surreptitiously adding to it. (To my husband: “That? It’s one of the hundreds that R- sent me!”)

Oh, yes, the stash has grown. Even on my non-existent budget, although I cannot afford to buy anything full price. Fifty dollars for a new “educational” toy for my son? No problem! Five dollars for <em>one</em> skein yarn for myself? Unthinkable! I don’t frequent garage sales, but I happened on one where amazing yarns (all wools, mohair, cashmere) were being sold at ten <em>cents</em> on the dollar! Not only that, it was a serious stash, with every yarn being sold in lots of 10 skeins or more of the same dye lot. I spent eighty dollars, but the woman gave me more, and I left with more than a thousand dollars’ worth of yarn.

My son (he will be four in a week!) has told me: “Mama, when I grow up, I will buy yarn for you.”

So, I finally finished the raglan sweater, then knit a pair a socks over the 2007 Christmas holiday. (The sweater is too big for my son, but luckily, he likes it, and pretends that it is Obi-Wan Kenobi’s costume. He’ll grow into it.) That’s all I’ve knitted to date. Because as much as I love knitting, it’s nothing compared to what I feel about spinning.

Every October, the Seattle Weavers’ Guild holds a sale of items produced by members. I found out about it well over 10 years ago, and having not gone for more than 5 years, decided to last October (2007). I’ve always known that I would one day take up spinning, although I knew nothing of the craft. (This is a recurrent theme in my life!) When I saw one lonely drop spindle left on a table, I knew it was time. That drop spindle came home with me, much to my husband’s future financial woes.

This time, I found a local spinning guild, and with much guilt (at first, anyway), began attending the weekly spin-ins. My drop spindle was a bottom-whorl, and I had soon created my own top-whorl spindle out of a CD. I was so happy with it, I thought I would never need a spinning wheel, so I told the others in my group. I learned to Navajo 3-ply on the drop spindle, doing a Navajo 4-ply (from an article from the Bellwether’s blog) on the drop spindle was beyond me. I knew I had to have a wheel.

2008 February, I purchased my first wheel, an Ashford Traditional. (Raise your hands, all of you who had that as your first wheel!) Prior to that, I had no experience spinning on a wheel. I got it because of good karma. I was being very good: when my husband offered to take Valentines Day off to drive me to the Madrona Fibre Festival being held, I turned him down because I “needed to save money for a spinning wheel”. The following Monday was Presidents’ Day, and I snagged the Traditional deal from CraigsList. It was a brand-new, still in the box wheel (they come unfinished and un-assembled) — that had been stored in the garage for something like twenty years. I brought it home and started the finishing that evening. A few days later, my wheel was assembled, and I was spinning.

I loved that wheel! But because of posture, I felt I needed to find a double-treadle wheel. Also, I wanted a wheel that wasn’t so bulky when I took it along to spinning meets. Then my current fell into my lap in 2008 March. It is a Lendrum DT folding wheel, in the lovely walnut anniversary edition. The woman I purchased it from bought it new in 2001, took a spinning class with it, then never used it again. It had been used for less than 10 hours. The wheel was always stored indoors, on display, so it was in new, perfect condition. Some of the bobbins on the lazy kate were still contained in original wrappers, and the wheel had never even been folded down (the woman didn’t know how). My Lendrum fits perfectly in the tiny nook between my sewing table and the dining table, whereas I was always having to move the Traditional in or out of place. I had thought I would keep both wheels, especially since the Traditional had such a nice wheel weight and momentum, but after a month of no use, I decided that it was time to let the it go to someone who would. Good thing I never named it. (Hmmm, my Lendrum also has no name. I wonder what that means?)

Recently, I began thinking of a loom. I don’t know why. It wasn’t on my “always thought I would” list. Also, I should point out that I have no room for a loom. I barely have room for my portable spinning wheel. However, I try not to let that sort of thinking stop me.

Anyway, I didn’t do much (any) research. I made several half-hearted attempts to acquire a loom. None made it past the inquiry stage, because none of them felt right. A week ago, I began to think I should get a floor loom, with at least 10 treddles and 8 shafts. And then my loom found me.

I went to see the loom this past Friday (Friday the 13th, 2008 June!), and at first all I saw was a pile of dusty, spider-web encrusted old (and in some places splintering) wood. I helped the seller clean off most of the spider-webs, and the loom began emerging. I don’t know what the magic was, but after spending an hour with it piecing it together, (the seller meant to, but never used it herself so she didn’t know how it worked; it had been stored over 30 years in her garage), I got the sense of a very solid and beautifully engineered loom which (by it’s worn appearance) had woven many things and is waiting to weave again. It seemed to me that everything was there, and knowing nothing about looms, my gut instinct was that everything would become intact and functioning, even though it was in pieces. I could feel this was a special loom with character. I had heard about Bergman looms for the first time just earlier this week, since becoming aware of the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard and making plans to visit it soon. As I unfolded the loom, I got a sense of a connection to Margaret Bergman — and I believe this may have been a loom she used to teach on. I would be proud to have a share in that long history. I told the seller I didn’t know why I loved it, but I would be back to pick it up the next day.

Friday night, I e-mailed a spinning friend, who asked me what type of loom it was (jack, counterbalance, or countermarche). Some research found a blog by someone else who recently purchased a Bergman loom, and it was a countermarche. What a relief! If I had a choice, based on what was learning, I would choose countermarche. Am I lucky or what!

I had to worry about how to bring the the loom home. Our truck is so old, it no longer needs emission tests, and it had not been used in more than four years, since before my son was born. (We used it for trucking yard waste to the transfer station, but we’re not very fond of gardening.) When I told my husband we would be picking up a loom, he had doubts, and tried to tell me we might have to rent one instead. Happily, everything has worked out. (It ended up taking the truck AND my car to bring everything home.)

So, my loom, the first loom I’ve looked at, is home. I spent a few hours cleaning it off yesterday, and she told me her name is Beauty. I have to clean up my house and make room for it, so she is waiting patiently to come inside and start weaving.

So for any uninitiated out there, let me tell what Judith MacKenzie, teacher extraordinaire, told me last week: “After you start knitting, it’s a slippery slope downhill from there.” For the others of you already in the know, I’m very happy to be joining your ranks.

Another Day, Another Loom

So, the day before Father’s Day, Beauty came home with us. Today, the day after Father’s Day, my second loom came home.  My husband is confused: “Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Father’s Day when I’m supposed to get the gifts?”  (Me: “I thought Father’s Day is the day when it’s my turn to do the dishes!”)

What am I supposed to do if a fantastic deal, a steal, comes up?  It would cost me more not to buy it! (Another way to think is: if you’re already in a pit, the best thing to do is dig deeper — it might be easier to go through the bottom and come out the other side.)

Introducing: Hedy

Schacht 20-inch Rigid Heddle Loom with Stand

She’s a Schacht 20-inch rigid heddle loom.

The previous owner purchased her new two years ago, used her twice, but found she had pain issues with her hands.  I was happy to get Hedy by herself at the price of a nice meal for two, but I didn’t realise she also came with a stand, and a ton of accessories!  In fact, what I paid would not cover the value of the yarn kits included.  Unfortunately, DH (Dear Husband) found out I was going to purchase this yesterday (before I could sneak it into the house, I mean), and for the safety of all concerned, and especially to protect the innocent, I cannot be more specific. (DH has been reading my blog…)

Hedy opened flat

Warping board and 25-inch heddle

I don’t understand why the second heddle is a 25-inch one, since Hedy is a 20-inch loom.  The 25-inch heddle doesn’t fit in the slot.  Another weaving mystery to solve.

Two unused kits of weaving yarn, a great book, and two videos!

Hedy is in perfect condition — not a single scratch or mark on her, and the neat thing is, she’s already warped so I can begin weaving immediately!

Since I began my fibre journey, I’ve met so many wonderful people, and that has been an unexpected gift that has made the crafting even more satisfying.  The woman (and her husband) I got Hedy from was so inspiring, and I had the chance to see some gorgeous tapestries (Southwest designs) in her house.  They weren’t of her making, but she told me they were the reason she wanted to weave in the first place –and it will be possible to make these things on Hedy!

And now for a bit of trivia.  Hedy is named for Hedy Lamarr, born Hedwig Eva Marie Kriesler.  She was more than merely a pretty actress.  In 1942, she patented some technology related to spectrum wave technology, but the ideas were not used at the time due to the lack of mechanical technology.  Ms. Lamarr died in 1959, but it wasn’t until 1962, after her patent had expired, when the U.S. military made use of her ideas.  Her technology was finally recognised and honoured in 1997.  Hedy Lamarr was a woman far ahead of her time.

6 Comments »

  1. I am eating a quick lunch to calm myself down and return to sleying my reed. Whilst sitting here I have re read (slowely) this post. I love the way you have made incremental moves ending up with Beauty. I understand so well about yarn expenditure. As a machinr knitter 9in my previous life before the weaving bug got me) I accumulated a yarn stash which I am now using up on samples before making the step to yarn opurchase. I also have visited charity shops for bargains. I am looking forward to your first Bergman experiments. I rather envy you on her size my weaving width being only 24″ which is rather small for clothing but not imposssible.

    Comment by deborahbee | 22 October 2008 | Reply

  2. […] https://spinninglizzy.wordpress.com/how-it-all-began/ has an amazing collection of looms, and best of all has a Bergman. Larger than mine and […]

    Pingback by Its been a great year « Swifter than a weavers shuttle my days have passed | 22 December 2008 | Reply

  3. I also had an Ashford Traditional for my first wheel, and I also gave it up because of posture problems – severe problems – I ended up having 3 months physiotherapy, not all because of the wheel but it aggrevated an existing problem I hadn’t known about.

    This is a lovely page, I enjoyed reading your story.

    Comment by Dot | 28 December 2008 | Reply

  4. I am so glad I found your blog today! You sound just like me with the “how do I get this in the house without DH noticing?” lol I was bitten by the wool bug at the beginning of this year and have gone quite far down that slope! 😀 It started with selling off many of my art supplies in my Etsy shop in order to get the money to buy my first spinning wheel, a Kromski Minstrel. I too knew nothing about the art but have wanted to learn for years… then came the Ashford drum carder and of course wool combs, a hackle, a ball winder, a swift, so far 30 whole sheep fleece of various breeds and now… a rectangular frame loom! No, I don’t know a thing about weaving, and had always thought no way would I ever want to do that because of all of the complicated looking pre-weaving work! Then yesterday I stumbled across this rectangular frame loom and I was a goner! lol I just ordered the loom and am now looking for plans so I can make my own stand for the loom (ran out of money with the loom)! So, love your blog, am following and most certainly look forward to a wooly fiber friendship!
    Hugs from your new blogging sister in New Hampshire,
    Beth P

    Comment by Beth P | 5 October 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Beth! I love your enthusiasm! Wow, you really work fast — the 30 sheep fleece sounds amazing. (Where **do** you hide it all?! — Hugs back!)

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 5 October 2013 | Reply

  5. How marvelous to find this blog! It leaves me feeling less eccentric. I was recently blown away by the passion to engage in ‘spinning/weaving’, within weeks acquired a (loan of) two drop spindles, a couple of bags of Merino wool for spinning and with a second-hand 3′ triangular loom on the way. Like others here, I know diddly-squat about the technology, and have been reading voraciously and comparing different looms in the past weeks. I look forward to hearing more as things evolve.

    Comment by Marie | 9 December 2013 | Reply


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