Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Alpaca Shawl On The Rasmussen Loom

I had an ugly warp on my Rasmussen loom for the longest time. I was keen to to cut off and throw it away as soon as I’d made the decision to do it, but it still took me more than two years to to actually perform the deed.

Undergoing another spate of cleaning up the house and looking for easy things to give away, I thought I would re-gift some alpaca yarn that Syne Mitchell gave me. The warps had already been wound and cut, but there was no cross. The weft was four skeins dyed in slightly different shades of grey.

I didn’t think I wanted to spend the time to tame the warp, so put the yarn aside for several weeks, meaning to pass it along when the moment presented itself. But every time I passed by the yarn sitting on the top of my “to-do” pile, I was struck by the beautiful colours of the warp. It would not be fun to untangle the warp and re-define a cross, but it would be a good lesson to work through, so why shouldn’t I give it a try?

Working in groups of six or eight warps from the bundle at a time, I painstakingly drew out each warp and lay it on my floor to create a new cross. I had no idea what original colour sequence was intended, so all the warps were placed in the random order they were drawn in.

I had to repair several broken warps, but the rest of the project went smoothly. I do have to tune up my Rasmussen’s attachment to the treadle stand before the next project, as the heddle eyes pulled the warps down below the the height at the front and back beams.

The different shades of weft really stood out in the finished shawl. I also had issues with consistent beating, something compounded by the slightly imprecise ratchet and pawl tensioning of the Rasmussen loom, the friction of the cloth going over the front beam while being wound onto the cloth beam, and the elapse of several weeks between each weaving session. I hand-washed and fulled the shawl in hot water, and the resulting cloth is heavy, dense, and very warm.

Woven on Rasmussen 4-shaft loom with direct tie-up treadles
Warp & weft: unknown alpaca yarn, estimated 24 wpi, sett at 10 epi
Pattern: Undulating Twill, Point Draft 2/2 twill from
Anne Dixon’s Handweaver’s Pattern Directory
224 warp ends, each 105″ in length, for total 653 yards
580 yards of weft used
Taken off loom: 19.5″ width x 83″ woven length, plus more for fringe
Final, post-wash and full dimensions: 18-3/8″ x 79-1/4″ + 12″ fringe


27 August 2012 Posted by | Weaving | , , , | 5 Comments

First Flip Projects

I’ve had a Schacht 15″ Flip rigid heddle loom for a while, but didn’t start using it until last winter. Because my dining table has a beveled edge that won’t allow me to lean a rigid heddle loom against, I’ve had to wait until I could put the Flip on a floor stand. Having finally cleared off an uninspiring project claiming my older Schacht (non-folding) RH loom for the better part of two years, I could finally take that loom off the trestle stand and install the Flip in its place. The Flip is built to accept two heddles, and to fold over. However, using it at home, I’ve never had to need to fold it. Perhaps this might be an issue with the larger Flip.

My first project was a way to use up a horde of partially-used novelty yarns  left over from other projects. I decided to use them as warp, and had my first try at direct warping. It was so much trouble, it took me four days to wind and beam the warp on. Some of the novelty threads had bobbles and slubbs that had difficulty advancing though the heddle openings. Others were mohair and similarly hairy yarns that refused to give me a clean shed. Few of the warps were of the same material, so tensioning was a nightmare.

I had to open every shed with a weaving sword, and hand-pick problem warps. I thought my troubles with the slubby, bobbly yarns were over after dressing the loom, but I had forgotten that the warp needed to be advanced while weaving, and the heddle had to be used for beating! I allowed the fiddly-ness of advancing the warp, but I gave up on using the heddle to beat the weft, using a tapestry fork instead. I caught some float errors, but there were more that I didn’t catch. Somehow, the fussy work I had to put in did not bother me, perhaps because I thought the yarns were so beautiful. (Having said that, I won’t attempt something like this again any time soon!) Even after finishing, the two long sides differ by several inches in length. Faults and all, I still like this scarf. I’m looking forward to this winter’s cooler weather to try it out.

After that first project, I wanted to put on an easy warp for quick and mindless weaving. I warped the loom with some skinny alpaca, and used the slubby Colinette Point-Five yarn for weft. The weather had been very cold while I planned this scarf, so I designed the scarf wide as well as long, resulting in a scarf a bit on the heavy side; it reminds me of a table runner! I just wish the Point-Five yarn were as soft as the alpaca. This project was extraordinarily satisfying, in that the finished scarf closely resembles what I imagined during the planning stage, and I encountered absolutely no problems (tension, sett, broken warps, etc.) during weaving. This is the first time that has happened for me!

Having woven heavy and warm, I wanted to weave a summery cotton scarf. I had two colourways of Colinette Wigwam hand-painted cotton tape in Jewel and Raspberry. I thought of how I tend toward the cautious, using the less-liked of things first (and sometimes never getting around to the more pleasing choice), and decided to be a little wild (for me!) and use the jewel-tones first. Poor decision! I squandered the jewels to find out that this yarn shrinks somewhere between 30-to-40 percent, so the jewel scarf turned out too short. I wound the warp in a circular pattern around the warping board, as faux-ikat, to preserve the alignment of the colours as they were painted.

The other mistake I made with this warp was not to take the extra time to untwist and flatten the cotton tape as I wound it. The twists do detract from the looks after finishing, especially on the selvedges.

Weft was 3/2 mercerised perle cotton, black for Jewel, and white for Raspberry. I think the black made Jewel look reptilian, and the white made Raspberry look pink. I also had all sorts of beat inconsistencies, making these scarves very unprofessional-looking. If I had the power of do-over, I would find some dark blue-ish weft for Jewel, and use a dark grey for the Raspberry. I wasn’t happy with the way both of these projects turned out, so they have already been recycled as very expensive dust cloths!

I really love the looks of the solidly-built loom, and look forward to future projects using more than one heddle. I can also see that I might have to devise some sort of trap/tray to add on at some later point.

25 August 2012 Posted by | Weaving | , , , | 4 Comments

Decluttering: The Saga Continues

A week ago Friday morning.

The house was a mess. I was up to my eyeballs in weaving paraphernalia. And my son’s toys. It’s my first free morning in a month, and I’m supposed to be decluttering the house. What did I do? If you thought: “turn on the computer and search ‘loom’ on Craigslist”, Bingo!

There, on the computer screen, read “My Drum Carder for your Loom?”. Someone was interested in trading a brand-new Fricke’s Finest drum carder for a loom. Hmmmmm… trade something very large for something much smaller…? I would be: 1) cleaning up house, 2) making a lot more space available, and 3) letting someone make use of a loom that I had not been able to find time for. Sounded like a grand scheme to me!

I’d been storing this loom for several years. I had the idea that I would move it into the house, and perhaps sell my countermarche Bergman. But, I’m so emotionally attached to my Bergman, I couldn’t make it happen. Added to that, my Bergman folds when not in use, but this loom is like a large, open box.

Anyway, I wasn’t extremely serious about this to begin with. The Craigslister must be getting a dozen different offers from other weaving nuts aficionados like me whose burgeoning loom herd is clamouring for a culling. Plus my loom was in pieces, in storage, and I’d never assembled it before. There would be some work involved in getting it ready, and there was not an uncluttered square foot in the entire house — all that work and not be chosen?

I received a polite reply the same day, expressing interest in seeing the loom. It occurred to me that even if I didn’t trade away this loom, I might like to play with it for a while. Weave a thing or two before putting it away. When I brought this loom home, I knew it had extremely beautiful bones. Solid oak wood, and truly easy on the eyes.

By Friday evening, I decided I would move my car out of the garage and spend the next week setting the loom up there.  I awoke on Saturday, ready to start right away. There were a lot of pieces, but most everything was bulky rather than overly heavy. While taking the pieces out of storage, I found no less than three bags full of raw fleece (2 alpaca, 1 romney!) that I had completely forgotten about. Perhaps this was meant to be.

I was surprised because it didn’t take much time to assemble at all. Also surprised by the incredible workmanship involved in making this loom. This loom was handmade in 1974, and modeled after the Glimakra countermarche. I think it was the first and only of its kind.

The Shaw Island Fleece Company (Shaw Island in the San Juans) didn’t produce any internet hits.

The actual assembly went very quickly, but I spent a lot of time with the loom on Saturday, enjoying its beauty. I finished all the assembly on Saturday, leaving only the friction brake to connect later.

DH came to check on me every now and then while I assembled the loom. He, whose comments are usually something along the lines of : “I’d rather be tortured than do that,” (when he sees me weaving) sang a much different tune.
The first time: “What a beautiful loom!”
My reply: “Isn’t it?”
A bit after that: “Of all your looms, this is the most beautiful!”
I retort: “Gee, thanks, honey.”
And a little later: “It’s obvious that whoever crafted this loom knew a lot about woodworking. All the pieces were made to fit together perfectly. It’s not like today’s stuff where they just hammer and screw things together until they fit.”
I snap: “Uh, OK already, honey.”
And later still: “You know, this wood is not made of your average two-by-four. It’s probably not eco-friendly — it looks like old-growth wood; you probably couldn’t buy this kind of wood today.”
I exclaim: “I can’t take it any longer! Stop it, stop it, stop it! If you keep going on like that, I won’t be able to give up the loom!”
That shut him up. I think he was envisioning the space he’d reclaim when it was gone.

On Sunday morning, I tackled the friction brake. I spent some time unsuccessfully trying to puzzle it out. I was in a quandary. If I figured it out, I had to give up the loom. If I didn’t, I would get to keep it (I envisioned it working with counterbalanced weights…). But that was the sort of detective loom work I liked best, and I couldn’t give up. It didn’t make sense to me that the friction brake would not work. I kept thinking that this loom was lovingly handcrafted, and well cared-for.

As there is a brake pedal in the front of the loom, I just couldn’t believe someone would have spent so much time and energy to craft this loom and not have the brake working.

Finally, just when I had given up on a solution that day, DH came by again to comment on how very beautiful the loom was, and insight flashed into my mind. (A knot needed to be tied above the spring; what elegant engineering is this type of friction brake!) Solved! Rats! I was torn between pride and irritation. And I felt sad, because it meant goodbye to the loom. I was tempted to throw a quick warp on the loom, but finally decided against it. Weaving on it might make the loom impossible to walk away from.

I exchanged frequent e-mails with the Craigslister, Roxi, also a Raveler, who is probably the best choice for the loom if I had had to pick someone. Roxi wanted the loom, and made arrangements to pick up the loom the following Saturday.

During the week, I was overwhelmed with remorse — I really didn’t want to trade the loom. While a drum carder would be nice, it’s not something I really had to have, as I have a huge ready-to-spin fibre stash, and I’ve never had any complaints using hand carders.

I called my clutter buddy, Magda, for help. Magda has been encouraging and helping me to get my house into shape. Even with her busy schedule and a three-hour time difference, Magda made the time to talk me through this situation. I cried to her: “Waaaaaaaaaahhh! It’s special! It’s the only one of its kind, and I’ll probably never see one like it again!” She asked me if there was room for the loom in my house, even in the hypothetical event of everything being completely clutter-free. Unfortunately, the answer was “No”. Magda told me emphatically: “Get rid of the loom!”. It helped quite a bit, and I felt resoundingly comforted and relieved by her straightforward advice.

Yesterday, Roxi sent me picture of the space she cleared for the loom, and I felt even more reassured that I was doing the right thing, and very pleased by the confirmation that she is the right person for the loom. (Read about this trade in Roxi’s words.)

It’s now Saturday evening, and I’ve waved goodbye to the loom being hauled away earlier today:

Hello, new drum carder:

I feel a little shell-shocked, but not devastated. It was a major and difficult step for me. I think of all the times I have been blessed with unique, one-of-a-kind treasures, and I’m happy I can contribute to that flow of blessings and pass on some to others. And I’m very slowly making progress towards that goal of a clutter-free house.

1 October 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Mini Inkle Loom

I’ve been wanting to follow the tutorials in Laverne Waddington’s book, “Andean Pebble Weave” since I brought it home earlier this year.

I could have put a warp onto my Schacht inkle loom, but because my attention span is so short nowadays due to the increasingly numerous homeschooling events and schedule I have to juggle, I wanted a small inkle loom that I could warp quickly and throw into my backpack.

Enter the new-to-me Good Wood mini-inkle loom. This loom measures 12″ long, 3.25″ wide, and 5.25″ high.

My loom came thoughtfully pre-warped with a white cotton warp, which couldn’t hold my interest after a foot of weaving, so I took it off. I put on a warp of crochet thread, but the colours were so pale that I couldn’t see the pebble weave design.

It only took a few inches of weaving for me to decide I didn’t want to spend any more time on this warp, either. Besides, I had warped it incorrectly, and while it still worked, it offended my type-A sensibilities.

Warping it “incorrectly”, one can wind 51″ of warp on the loom, while with “correct” warping, one gets only 49″ of warp length. Perhaps it’s better to do things the wrong way sometimes.

For some reason, I thought I read in Ms. Waddington’s book that carpet warp was to be avoided. I re-read her recommendations again, and could not find a single word decrying it. Carpet warp I have in spades, although of course I chose from the oddments of my collection rather than break into unopened spools. It’s my default weakness — always choosing from leftovers rather than deliberately breaking into the “good” stuff. But with this tiny loom, I’m finding it easy to change my mind about what I dress it with, as anything I take off is miniscule.

(Notice I still have not been able to throw them away yet!

This loom is so small that I had trouble keeping the doupe heddles from falling off the doupe dowels I had been using. A few small barrettes solved the problem, and were less cumbersome besides.

The pattern is so much easier to see with this combination of colours.

The dowels on this mini inkle loom measure only 3/8″ in diametre, so tensioning can be taut but I think one must still have a care not to overtighten the warp. Overall, I’m very pleased with the small footprint, portability, and cuteness factor of this tiny loom.

ETA: In my hurry to post, I had completely forgotten that I meant to comment on Ms. Waddington’s book. I’m only on the first tutorial, but already I love the way the techniques are presented. The steps she has you follow make following ones more intuitive, and the pictures are wonderful. A couple of instances after I had read and followed the steps, I thought “but what happens if…”, only to find that she answered the questions on the next page. I’ve often admired Andean pebble weave as something beautiful but far too complex, but this book dispels that assumption, and this might be the first weaving book I’d work through from cover to cover.

24 September 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , | 5 Comments

Inkle Shuttles

I recently purchased some pre-cut, but unfinished, inkle shuttles made of walnut wood.

The woman I bought them from told me that that it had taken her husband an hour each to hand-sand a beveled edge and finish with tung oil. I hoped that, with the benefit of an orbital sander and a cheapo Dremel-tool knockoff, I would be able to finish my seven shuttles more quickly. Not so! It took me closer to an hour-and-a-half to finish each of them, and I could tell soon after I started that I’m not meant to be a professional woodworker. I wish I had more skill to have done a better rough sanding of the beveled edges, because some of the sanding marks still show on the wood.

It took a lot of extra time, without the benefit of electric tools, with fine- and ultra-fine-grit sandpaper to smooth out some of the rougher sanding marks. I was in a hurry to finish while I still had the momentum to spur me on, but even so, it took intensive work every day of this past three-day Labor Day weekend to finish. Hand-sanding, rubbing with oil, drying, sanding, more oil, more drying, more sanding, oil… it seemed to never end! By the third day, I had only to look at a piece of sandpaper for my fingers to go numb; my hands and arms were so sore!

But sore hands could not stop me from planning a quick inkle project, using Omega nylon thread:

I warped a Schacht inkle loom with its maximum warp, which produced a woven length of approximately 96″, plus 8″ of loom waste. This strap is 1/2″ wide. 

When I checked the prices of inkle shuttles online, I was appalled at how low they were — I would starve before I could make a living doing this!

19 September 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , | 2 Comments

Tri-Loom Weaving

I snagged a set of used Carol Leigh travel tri-looms and stand some time ago, but haven’t used them until recently. They came packed in their very own bag for travel.

The size of a tri-loom comes from the measurement of the hypotenuse (long side), so mine are 2- and 3-foot looms.

I bought Tri Loom Weaving by Barbara Herdman along with the looms. It’s very thorough, packed with instructions on weaving different structures from plainweave to twill and bias, plus lots of information on finishing and binding off techniques. I also found the yardage estimates for the looms very helpful.

The handy stand is of a simple tripod design. I found it very helpful, although both 2- and 3-foot looms are small enough to lay flat on a table for weaving. Any tri-looms larger that these would probably be too cumbersome to use unless hung vertically.

I used a 3-ply, plum-coloured Tahki New New Tweed yarn made of merino, silk and viscose for my first project on the 3-foot loom. The neat thing about using a tri-loom is that you weave as you warp, so when you are finished warping, the weaving is finished as well! The continuous weaving fills in from the outsides to the middle, and as the weaving becomes closer to finishing, the amount of weaving over-and-under to get to the next nail increases. All edges are finished and will not ravel when the triangle is popped off the loom.

With some of the leftover yarn, I crocheted a loop edging along two edges of the scarf. After a vigourous hot washing, the finished measurement of the long side measures 34″, and makes a very petite neckerchief.

After wearing it pinned, it rolled down for a collared effect that I like enough to preserve. It took two evenings to complete.

My next attempt at the tri-loom was with Reynolds Fusion yarn; made of mohair, acrylic, and wool.

I had been dreaming of very lacy mohair shawl, perhaps piecing four smaller triangles together into a larger triangle, all without sewn edges or fringe.

The plaid pattern that emerged is so enchanting!

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the amount of over-and-under weaving increases as the scarf progresses, and the sticky mohair yarn was maddeningly difficult to work with, even at the beginning. I couldn’t progress any further than the pictures you see here, and decided to abandon the project; it’s already off the loom, and even this bit of weaving is so pretty.

1 August 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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 | , | 4 Comments

Chillkat Weaving

I’m so sorry, you haven’t heard from me in quite some time! Life has been full of distractions, and much as I love the blogging world, I’ve barely had enough time to weave, and none to spare for the writing of it.

The Burke Museum on the University of Washington campus had a wonderful textiles exhibit that finished earlier this February. I took a class offered by the Burke, and taught by Evelyn Vanderhoop, an expert in the field of extremely labour-intensive Chillkat weaving.

Evelyn demonstrating techniques:

An massive ichthyosaur fossil looked down upon us in the classroom:

Chillkat is more accurately termed braiding, rather than weaving; and is a technique used to create ceremonial robes and blankets by several Northwest coastal tribes, including the Tlingit (pronounced “Kling-Kit”) and Haida.

Warps are suspended loose from a top frame, without weight or tension, and are created by hand-plying (rolling on the thigh) wool and thin cedar strips. We were given some strips and wool pencil roving to try our hands at rolling warps.

The cedar is painstakingly gathered from live old-growth cedar trees, and permissible only by permit. Any tree larger than what you can put your arms around is large enough, and yellow cedars are preferred, as red cedar is less flexible, and will crack. Less than a quarter of the circumference of a tree is harvested, that the tree may continue to live afterwards. A hatchet is used to strip a layer at the base of the tree, and pulled up to get as long a length as possible. Kept soaked in water until the time of plying, the cedar strips stay flexible enough for the plying with wool to make warps. The dried warps have just enough stiffness and weight to be workable and yet hang without tangling.

Because Chillkat is traditionally for ceremonial cloth, there are rules to observe, such as weaving with washed hands and abstaining from food while weaving. A small blanket can take more than a year to complete. Many pieces I’ve seen use the same four colours: yellow, black, blue, and white. Yellow comes from using wolf moss as dye. Blue is traditionally used for chiefs’ robes, and the dye sources are said to be closely-held secrets.

Evelyn’s WIP (work in progress):


Note that this is very dense, weft-faced fabric. No tools except fingers are used to pack the warps in tightly!

This was Evelyn’s idea for the student projects:

This is what I (and all the other students) managed to complete after several hours of instruction (I can see the weft hasn’t been packed in tightly enough!):

While I enjoyed what I learned of Chillkat weaving, I don’t have the time or patience to devote to this craft, and I’m very happy to leave it to the experts!

Recommended reading for those of you wishing to learn more about Chillkat weaving and techniques: The Raven’s Tail, and The Chillkat Dancing Blanket, both  by Cheryl Samuel.


18 July 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ashford Knitters Loom, Third Time’s The Charm

My triple-heddle project on my 12″, AKL had been untouched for close to a year. I tried to work on it a few times, but stalled each time because I couldn’t remember how to manipulate the heddles properly. Because I dreaded having to re-read the Xenakis text (”The Xenakis Technique For The Construction Of Four Harness Textiles”, by Athanasios David Xenakis) again, the AKL stayed untouched in its carry bag until I put DS into camp last month. Because DS insisted I not leave him “alone” on the premises (even though he never saw me!), I had to bring something to work on for the 3 hours every day he was in camp.

To prepare myself, well before camp week, I gritted my teeth and pulled out the Xenakis text to read. Several times over. Then, I looked closely at the cloth I had started. I was dismayed to find that it resembled, but didn’t reproduce the pattern I was after. Reading Xenakis again, I discovered that I had been manipulating the heddles incorrectly. I unwove the foot-plus-long cloth I had already woven, and started over again.

I would love to say that I learned the proper heddle manipulations and soon set myself weaving merrily along again. That did not happen. The problem was that the heddle lifts and sequences were not intuitive to me. Some lifts required moving the third heddle up or down, then bringing the other heddles toward the fell line to emphasize a separation in threads, then picking up one set of the threads behind the first heddle, etc. That was very complicated! I struggled a bit, then decided to order “Weaving with Three Rigid Heddles”, by Rev. David B. McKinney, from eBay, where it’s sold under his eBay name, Silananda. I have heard that his book is very easy to read.

The book came very quickly, and was indeed very easy to comprehend. Alas, McKinney does not thread his heddles the same way Xenakis does, and so was no help to me on this current project. Xenakis threads his heddles so each heddle eye lifts either one or two “shaft” threads; whereas McKinney threads his heddles so the first heddle lifts “shaft 1” threads, the second heddle lifts “shaft 2” threads, and the last heddle lifts “shaft 3” threads. His threading is simple and intuitive, and makes weaving four-shaft textiles on a RH similar to weaving with a direct tie-up loom. However, because of the difference in threading, with my particular pattern, the Xenakis threading produces a sett of 16.7 epi, while the same pattern with the McKinney threading would be 12.5 epi. The setts would vary depending on the patterns chosen, but in general, the Xenakis threading allows for a tighter sett. When I use three rigid heddles again, I would chose the method of threading based upon the lifts I need to use. Only a few of the Xenakis lifts are complex, but it just happened that my particular choice of patterns required two of them. I wouldn’t automatically rule out using the Xenakis technique again, especially if a closer sett were desirable, but I’d prefer to stay away from the complex lifts.

There was nothing to do except to hunker down and take my medicine stoically. I decided to make things easier for myself by retrieving the doupe heddles I had taken off and use them in place of my two complicated lifts. I threaded two doupe heddle sets and used two doupe sticks to make those two lifts easier. Now my weaving could pick up speed and I could enjoy it again.

On the first day of camp, I brought my AKL loom stand, in pieces, in a Whole Foods grocery bag. Being completely OCD, I had protected all the pieces in bubble wrap, but felt it took too much time to wrap and unwrap. So, that evening, I dug out some scrap polar fleece fabric to sew some protector sleeves:

Then, I re-purposed a folding camp stool bag for toting the stand parts:

Compare the OLD pattern:

to the NEW one:

Perhaps the difference is very subtle, but it’s there, and that makes all the difference to me.

12 August 2010 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Baby Bergman

On a cold and rainy night two winters ago, I responded to a Craigslist ad for some miscellaneous weaving supplies. The gentleman there told me he would give me a good price on an old loom if I took the accompanying bobbin winder.
“What kind of loom is it?” I asked.
“Same as the bobbin winder – HD,” was the reply.
It was late in the evening (the only time that would suit us both), and we were in his dark garage, but when I peered at the outlines of the loom, I didn’t haggle over the price; I didn’t want him to change his mind.
“I’ll take it!”

It wasn’t until I arrived home that I dared to look to look more closely. Yes! I found the mark hidden in the castle box confirming this to be a true Bergman loom made in Poulsbo, Washington; a four-harness, six-treadle, counterbalance loom.

I’m sorry to say that this loom sat outside my front door until only a few months ago, before I finally brought it inside to use. But, now that it’s inside, I’m sorry I waited so long! With its smaller footprint, it is so easy to manipulate and dress.

While the frame of the loom at its widest measures 34″, the actual weaving width is only 21.5″, because of the way the the heddles have been suspended from the harnesses. There’s a mysterious Stucto Tools part attached to the castle. I have no idea what it’s for, and would love to hear from you if you know!

The heddles had been dyed four different colours and used to differentiate the different harnesses.

The same four colours were used to keep track of the toggles used for the tie-up. Note the pony beads used to anchor the cording!

Fortunately, most of the treadles were still tied up, so I was able to examine them and learn that the tie-up for this loom is extremely simple. I did find that my treadles were of different heights from the ground, but I haven’t spent any time to determine how to make any adjustments. A future project.

The previous weaver had left a warp attached in an ingenious way; hot glue had been used to preserve the integrity of the threading through heddles and reed. All I had to do was lash the warp onto the front apron rod, and I was ready to weave!

I wrote out the threading sequence in the heddles, and some research through my books of drafts revealed a Summer and Winter pattern — something I’ve been meaning to try. The warp is that ubiquitous 8/4 cotton carpet warp; for the weft, I found more carpet warp in a co-ordinating light blue, and the heavier cotton weft is some variegated beige Lily Sugar ‘n Cream.

For a temple, I used some cording to attach plastic spring clips to both sides.

That setup pulled the edges of the cloth down from the height of the fell line, so I rigged some more cording from the front to the castle to raise the clips to the proper height.

I didn’t want to unwind the warp to measure it, as I’ve gotten myself into tensioning woes when re-winding to the back beam. I just wove until I came to the end, and found it measured close to five yards! I shall have four towels and several sample pieces from it when finished.

My second project on the Baby Bergman was started within a week of taking a weaving class on Shadow Weave taught by Syne Mitchell. The warp and weft are two skeins of 8/3 Finnish cotton. I was in a hurry to start weaving, so I didn’t stop to take pictures of any part of the setup. I chose what looked to me like a Shadow Weave pattern from “The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory” by Anne Dixon: p. 217, bottom pattern; Syncopated Rosepath Threading.

The camera picks up on any weaving mistakes immediately! The strange thing is, when I looked at the same spot on the cloth without the camera, I still couldn’t see the mistake.

It has been cut off the loom, and the resulting cloth (after a vigourous washing, drying, and ironing) measures 13.75 inches by 1.45 yards. I plan to sew it into a small vest for my son.

My third project for the Baby Bergman is in the works. I’m planning a warp using four colours of 5/2 Astra in Magenta, Ruby Glint, and Deep Turquoise, and Yale Blue. The weft will also be 5/2 Astra, in Black.

Because I recently de-cluttered my kitchen, and could see most of the floor for the first time in over a year, I was able to pull out my Bergman warping reel to wind a 7-yard warp.

I had read about using the Fibonacci sequence in an old Handwoven magazine (sorry, I don’t remember the issue number; I had gotten it long ago from the library), and used the sequence: 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. That adds up to 50, so using 4 colours repeated 5 times, I wound 4 Fibonacci repeats of (3, 5, 8, 13, 21), or 200 ends.

200 ends made up 1 bout; I wound two of them, or 400 ends. With two identical bouts, I have to decide whether to repeat the first design and colour sequence, or mirror it. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

It took me eight hours to wind my first bout, as I was terrified of making a mistake in counting. After that, I made detailed lists with each colour and which ends to wind explicitly marked out, so the second bout went much faster — less than an hour. However, I can tell that the first bout (above, to the left) is wound more neatly than the second.

The pattern I plan to use is also from Anne Dixon’s book, the top pattern on p. 198: Undulating Twill: Straight Draft; 2/2 Twill.

9 August 2010 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments