Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

This Madness Called Weaving

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

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

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

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

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Beaming onto Gil: The Quadrilogy:

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, I suppose I am a glutton for punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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I was skeptical about these before ordering it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 December 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , | 11 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