Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

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.

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1 October 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The Bergman Suitcase Loom

Weaving my way through the enchanted Bergman woods, it was by most wondrous luck that I glimpsed the
mythical unicorn.    

This miracle comes courtesy of Warner Lord, who graciously provided the pictures and information for this post.

Presenting… The Bergman Suitcase Loom, patented in 1933!

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Stamped on the loom:
    Poulsboro WN
    Pat. April 18, 1933
    NO. 1904715
    LOOM NO. 117B

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Warner acquired his Bergman suitcase loom in the 1970s from its first owner, and has used it to weave many overshot bureau scarves and table runners.

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It’s a portable, four-shaft, six-treddle counterbalance loom!

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Measurements are 43 1/2″ tall, 24″ wide, and 26″ deep; it’s currently warped with 20/2 cotton.

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The legs and treadles fold up, the heddles supports fold down, and the front and rear cross pieces between the bottom of the legs fit into notches in the front and back to make lovely “suitcase” about 24 x 26 x 10 inches. The  warp and tie-up are never disturbed.

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The other loom is 55″, four-harness rising shed loom and is also folding in that the front and back beams are adjustable as to their distance from the heddles.  When totally collapsed it takes up very little space.   It  was hand built and patterned after a Macomber loom.

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Check out the great weaving room and display of shuttles on the wall!

Many, Many Thanks to you, Warner, for sharing these marvelous sights with us!

27 February 2009 Posted by | Weaving | , , , | 4 Comments

Summertime And The Weavin’ Is Easy

It’s grey and drizzling outside, on the inexorable march to Christmas, but I’m inside enjoying the lazy, golden drawl of summer:

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This is part of some cloth I hope to sew into a carrying case for my spinning wheel.  It’s a bit looser in weave than I’d like (I want a close, hard-wearing cloth), but I’m already all but whacking it with the reed when beating.

Having 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 was encountered in dressing this loom:

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I was wrong in thinking we had reached loom saturation.  With looms crowding all available indoor space, I thought we were safe from any newcomers.  That was not to be the case, as this perfect, two-year old (a mere babe!), 24″ Leclerc Dorothy table loom with eight harnesses and stand insisted on following me home.

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I’ve gotten some bargains in my life, yet this one definitely rates an honourable mention.  With the constant flux and influx of looms in this household, DH’s eyeballs have been in constant spiralling motion.  He has not deigned to ask me how little (or even if) I paid for the last three or four looms, completely robbing me of any joy I might experience in the re-telling of my coups.  (He loves to comment, rolling his eyes, whenever he sees me warping: “I would rather be tortured than do that!  How can it be called a hobby?!”)

This loom came along with four stainless-steel reeds (which will be used interchangeably with my 25″ Rasmussen loom)  and 1,600 metal heddles.  800 of the heddles are inserted-eye heddles and brand-new, never used or even installed.

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The first thing I did was to e-mail Leclerc to ask about the safety issues of using inserted-eye heddles. Robert Leclerc’s book, “Warp And Weave”, mentions that they are made using lead solder around the eyes.  Their response was very quick; the heddles are nickel-plated (although I don’t know if that means they are plated over lead solder, or if the solder is no longer used at all), and should pose no issues.  Then I spent an entire day removing the original heddles and installing the inserted-eyes.  (Moving heddles is not my idea of fun…)  After trying different ways to speed this up, I found that the ol’ “one-at-a-time” was still the fastest, since they needed to be sorted for direction.  The harnesses on my portable (and yet unused) loom (“Hi And Goodbye” or “Bergman Treasures And A Reprieve“) are wooden, but if I can change them to metal, I hope I can retro-fit the heddles removed from the Leclerc loom to replace the hap-hazard string ones.

I feel this loom has a name, but I’m at a loss to divine it.  The name is blocked from me because Leclerc already named it “Dorothy”, so I keep thinking that, or “Dot”, neither a name I feel fits properly, especially since I’m not even sure this loom is a “she”.  Perhaps this loom also feels conflicted.

Some minuses to the Dorothy:

  • It’s a tad noisy; with metal harnesses to push up and drop, there are some swishing and thumping sounds.  But the sounds are muted and not clanging or crashing, and not in the realm of requiring ear protection.  (I added some foam packing in several places to mute the sounds further.)  I can still listen to music while weaving.
  • It takes a little muscle to depress the levers (due to the weight of 800 metal heddles), especially the four on the left-hand side for the fifth through eighth harnesses (those are slightly farther away to reach).  Unfortunately, the table legs sold by Leclerc only come with four treddles for the front harness assembly, so they wouldn’t help with the second set of harnesses.  I found that rubber-banding the harness to keep the unused heddles closer to the levers, and sitting up higher and using more wrist and arm (rather than finger) motion helped with the leverage and reach; perhaps my arms will get toned whilst weaving!  Looms with treddles are preferable, but these levers do slide smoothly and easily.
  • I was only just able to attach the loom to the stand by myself (being too impatient to wait for help).  It’s really best as a two-person job.  The loom installs onto the stand with screws, so it is not a quick thing to detach, and the stand itself does not disassemble quickly.

Some Dorothy plusses:

  • It’s very easy to remove the harnesses and to install heddles.  The metal bars that hold the heddles are made to flex and pop out of the grooved tracks that they slide in.  No tie-ups or cording to fuss with.
  • It has a friction brake, ah, the friction brake!  With my 25″ Rasmussen, I constantly had to get up to go to the back of the loom (on the less accessible, for me, left side of the loom) to release the back beam.  With this loom, the brake mechanism and cloth beam ratchet are operated on the front, right-hand side.  So, advancing the cloth every other inch (to keep the reed hitting the fell line at a ninety-degree angle)  is very easy and fast.  And, even if I need to fiddle with releasing the back beam, it’s on the same (right-hand) side as the front release.
  • While the stand does not collapse quickly, it is  very sturdily made, allows for customising the height of the loom.  The two side tables are very handy assets, and they do attach and detach very easily.  Thoughtfully, Leclerc added very thick rubber grips to the bottom of the stand, so weaving does not rock or move the loom.
  • If I remove the second harness box (harnesses five through eight), the loom folds for portability.  Realistically, unless I take a long weaving workshop, I do not see myself doing that, as it’s a very solidly constructed loom, and heavier than the 25″ Rasmussen.  (Then there is the matter of taking apart and re-assembling the loom stand.)    If I’m to be limited to four harnesses, I’ll stick to my 22″ portable.
  • A very huge plus for us is that in its current location, we can open the drawers to access our silverware without moving the loom (as we had to for the Rasmussen, which has been ousted to the laundry room)!
  • Changing the shed is as simple as depressing the levers for the next set of harnesses; the extra step of releasing the current harnesses is not required.
  • As I use this loom, I am finding that Leclerc added many thoughtful extras to it, including rubber pads to keep the reed assembly quiet as it is returned toward the castle, metal apron rods, a shuttle race, ergonomic dimples to help depress the harness levers, and rounded edges on some parts of the wood frame so they do not chafe against the body.  It’s been a pleasure to discover these subtle and intelligent polishes; weaving on this loom is like experiencing the upgrade to a grand piano from an upright (Rasmussen).

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9 December 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Tale Of Two Looms

It’s official: the Kromski 24″ Harp loom is no longer mine, but has found another home.  And, as promised, here is a pictorial comparison of the Kromski to Hedy, my 20″ Schacht rigid heddle loom.  (Below: left, Schacht; right, Kromski.)

First of all, It’s an “apples-to-oranges” comparison, since the The Kromski is a newer, folding loom, while my Schacht is an older version that does not fold.  For more of an “apples-to-apples” comparison to the Harp, Schacht makes the Flip loom that has many of the newer features.

A summary of the major features the Kromski has that my Schacht does not have: the Harp folds, is more portable, has holes drilled on its underside for pegs so it may serve as a warping board, and accomodates a second heddle after installing a second set of (optional) heddle blocks.  Except for doubling as a warping board, I believe the Flip has all the other features the Harp has.

The Kromski folded:

The folding and locking mechanism:

The Kromski has many ornate details and turnings, whilst the Schacht line is more Shaker styled.

My Schacht 20″ heddle measures 20.75″ (notpictured below.)  I happened to have a heddle for the 25″ Schacht (rigid heddle) loom; it measures exactly 25″ across.  I measured only the plastic part of the heddles, since that would give the most accurate representation of actual weaving width.  However, I found that the Kromski 24″ heddle has a measurement of only 23.25″  (All are 12-dent heddles.)

The heddle of this Kromski is one of their original ones, with more curved, sloping details on the wood top of the heddle.  I understand the newer heddles do not have this shaping.  (A cost-cutting measure, perhaps?)

The Kromski has a much shorter length between cloth (front) beam and heddle than the Schacht.

The Kromski’s length from heddle to back beam is only a little shorter than the comparable length on the Schacht.  I talked to the folks at Schacht and my understanding is that the Flip is very close in measurement to their regular rigid heddle loom of the same size.

ETA: A friend on Ravelry just pointed out to me that the Schacht has a front and rear beam, on top of the vertical frame, that lifts the warp and produces a better shed.  I completely agree with her that this is a major selling point.

I think the Kromski is made of fir or beech, while the Schacht is made of maple.

The stands made for the Kromski rigid heddle looms are unique to each size; this 24″ loom stand will not fit the two other Harp sizes (16″, 32″).  The stand for my 20″ Schacht loom will also accomodate the 25″ size, as well both sizes (20″ & 25″) of the Schacht Flip looms.  The Kromski stand is drilled with holes on the base on on the side to store the warping pegs it comes with.  Kromski literature states that pegs installed on the sides of the stand can be used as a rest for shuttles or to hang extra tools.

The Harp may be quickly released from its floor stand by loosening (but not taking apart) four bolts and then lifting the loom off the stand.  The Schacht requires you to loosen and completely remove four bolts (two of which require a screwdriver) before you can remove the loom from the stand (this is definitely bothersome).  The stand for the Harp wins the quick-release contest hands-down, but this also means the Schacht stand is stronger.  You can tell just by looking at the two stands that the Schacht stand is stronger and much more sturdy.   Both stands will adjust for variable height and angle of loom, but because the Schacht has brace bar is slotted so it can slide (see the picture above), it can allow for many more positions between the extremes of level and almost 45-degree below that, whilst the Kromski only allows fine-tuning of the level position.  To be sure, most rigid heddle weaving is done with the loom at a level position, so I don’t know if using the steeper angles are useful for anything besides possibly tapestry weaving.

Kromski stand and quick-release closeups:

Closeups of bolts that need to be taken out to release the Schacht loom:

Although the Harp weaving width is larger than the Schacht, and can accomodate two heddles for more complex designs; I am partial to my Schacht for her strong, clean lines and maple wood.  Personally, the curlicues of the Harp distract and do not speak to me, which is why I opted not to keep it.  Mostly an emotional preference I cannot explain, but there it is.

2 November 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Weaving On A Budget Of Practically Nothing, And Feeling My Mortality

At a family barbeque two weeks ago, my brother asked me conversationally: “So, is that your latest loom you’re working on?” What could I say, except: “Ummmm… no?”

I’m currently the owner of six looms.  Remember, I started two months ago on Father’s Day.  (Edited to add: I wrote most of this post two weeks ago, but waited until now to publish it since I didn’t have pictures of everything at the time.  As of today, I’m actually the owner of eight looms.  Stay tuned for a post introducing the two latest arrivals…)

I was weaving on my Easy Weaver (size A, small), a rigid heddle loom made by Harrisville Designs. These come pre-warped by the manufacturer, using the ingenious method of attaching velcro on both front and back beams to quickly warp the loom.  Mine was used, and two-thirds of the warp was already woven.  I impatiently finished off the last part (letting my son weave a few picks) so I could tie on a warp I prepared for my first try at tablet (or card) weaving.

Before the BBQ, I quickly tied on that first card-weaving project, “Sample Band A” from Candace Crockett’s “Card Weaving” book.  I started the first picks in the car.  It caught the interest of one of my nephews (a belt), so I’m already received my first commission!

I’m very happy with this sweet little loom.  It does exactly what I wanted it for, weaving in the car.  (The passenger seat, silly.  I can already “weave” when I’m in the driver’s seat!)  It was inexpensive, since it was used and missing one shuttle.  It’s the older model, so there’s no heddle block mounted on the base to interfere with tablets.  And it is perfect for my son to use if he wants.  I had a little difficulty getting the warp tight enough with my tablet weaving, since the apron rods I added on tended to slip and loosen the warp and cloth; I will try drilling holes through the rods (for the cording) to see if that will keep them from turning.  I finished off the belt (it’s horrible, made of jute, with lots of mis-turnings) and beamed on a second during a four-hour road trip to Vancouver, BC.  Alas, I ignored the advice to avoid using jute in a first project, for it proved finicky to handle as well as too rough and bulky for belts; they might be salvaged as luggage straps.

The tablets I used were purchased along with others of varying sizes, tiny shuttles, heddles and a backstrap belt with harness for a few dollars at a garage sale:

Then I snagged this electric bobbin winder for even less:

It was cheap because the motor was Danish and made for 220v electrical; I took it into a repair shop, where I was fortunate to find a used 110v motor to replace the original.

The day after the Easy Weaver arrived in the mail, I was practically gifted this 24″ Kromski Harp, with stand, by someone who ordered it new but never got around to taking it out of the box.

With an decoratively flourished heddle:

I don’t know if I’ll keep the Kromski.  Somehow, I just can’t love it as I do Hedy (Schacht), even though the Kromski has a larger weaving width and can accept two heddles, whereas Hedy is limited to one.    I’ve been dragging my heels on the very last bit of the assembly, tying on the apron strings and rods — some bother about finding a candle to melt some nylon ends together.  The ornate woodworking of the Kromski just doesn’t move me as do the quiet, square lines of the Schacht.  Also, I’ve received a few offers for it already, so I may not have it long.  I will add a later post with pictures to compare these two looms..

Last, I came across this handsome fellow, a 25″ Rasmussen table loom that had been stored for thirty years in perfect condition.

His name is Gil (Hebrew for Joy), he folds for portability,

and he came along with four books, including “Warping All By Yourself” by Cay Garrett, and Marguerite Porter Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”.  I don’t understand why, when I take out the bottom screw that locks the castle upright, the hole it comes out of misses alignment (when folded down) with a third hole to lock it when collapsed.  The difference in alignment is very small, but large enough that I don’t believe the difference is due to any warping.  Plus, it’s the same on both sides.  The hole that doesn’t match up is the one pictured below on the upper left:

I think I tried removing the screw on the upper right (instead of the bottom one), and found it doesn’t work, either.  Or perhaps it didn’t make sense to me, since the castle would have to tilt away from and not lock down the reed, and would not collapse as compactly.  I’ll try calling Montana Looms, the company now manufacturing these.  Gil’s collapsing feature isn’t quick or easy compared to my other table loom (Bergman Treasures And A Reprieve), plus he is bulkier and heavier.  It’s more likely that I’ll end up taking out the booster seat and putting down the back seat of the car rather than collapse this loom again.

In compensation for spending practically zilch on looms, I have been bankrupting myself on books –Peggy Osterkamp’s second and third, and “Mastering Weave Structures” by Sharon Alderman — plus accessories.  I purchased two hundred new metal heddles for Gil (more expensive than the loom), to bring him to five hundred.  And placed an order for a Schacht auto-reed hook (shockingly expensive) that I can’t wait to use.

OK, so the budget wasn’t practically nothing, but only because I kept stopping in at The Weaving Works to badger the nice people about my Lendrum fast flyer (hence the new books and accessories).  I’m learning that even if one buys everything top-drawer, and retail, those expenses would be nothing compared to the time investment involved.  Rather, that even if all the looms, tools, education, and yarn were free, weaving is incredibly expensive, time-wise.  (And if so much time is to be spent doing this, isn’t it a necessity to use the tools one likes best?!)

I think I’ve just made the argument that weaving cannot be be inexpensive, if one values time.

Reading through the used weaving books recently acquired, I’ve found names written inside, and small notes.  Most of the used books are circa 1970’s, with pictures of authors usually in their 30’s or later.  Why are so many weaving texts out of print, where are these people now, are they still weaving, and did they fulfill their dreams?  I muse on these things, and when looking at the authors, realise that many of these women may already have passed.  At least four of my looms are older than I, and with care may probably last longer.  Perhaps it’s silly, but I’m wistful, at the thought that my time to use each of these looms is running out.  There will be some point when I too must pass them on to the next weaver.  How can I possibly weave enough when dressing one loom has taken me more than twenty-four hours?!  My slowness at knitting never bothered me.  I’m not slow at spinning; but I suppose recently I am, since I’m never spinning, but always weaving warping.  I touch these older looms, read these older books, and I see my life dwindling down and I wonder why I am doing this, what am I accomplishing, is this adding meaning to my life, will my family survive this, should I stop before I’m in trouble, and why do I enjoy this?  Because, I truly don’t need another scarf.

9 September 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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 2000; it was 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.

16 June 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , | 6 Comments

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.  Thousands 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 mountain.  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 one 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 cents 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.

Ashford Traditional, my first wheel

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?)

Lendrum DT, my second wheel

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.

Beauty, my Bergman Loom

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.

16 June 2008 Posted by | General, Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments