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“)?


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





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!)


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.


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.


Yes, I suppose I am a glutton for punishment.


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:



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:


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


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.


I was skeptical about these before ordering it.


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


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.


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.


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).


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

Raddle Me This

I decided to put a fourteen-inch wide, ten-foot long warp onto Gil, my Rasmussen loom.  It will be a sampler of some basic twills, and used as a runner for the top of my piano.

The warp is some bumpy Portugese cotton from a massive cone, and one of two small coils of viscose/nylon/cotton yarn (thirteen dollars each, and inherited from Roxy).  I’ll use more of the cotton and the last ball of novelty yarn for the weft.  

Available open space in my house is in constant flux.  Since Gil is now situated in the spot I would have preferred to assemble my Bergman warping reel, I had to warp in the Kitchen.  It was a tight fit, and I was backed against the sink the entire time.  I’m getting used to the weighted swing of the reel: using it to my advantage, it makes warping very, very fast.  I used practically no effort, only having to slow the reel to wind on a cross, then let it fall back the other direction.  I wound on 196 (10-foot) ends in less than half an hour.  It will be even faster in the future, since it was a bit ackward having so little room in the kitchen.

I decided to warp back to front.  I enlisted the help of my DH to hold and tension the warp while I wound the warp onto the back beam.  Since I was working with both unskilled and grudging help, it was not a happy experience.  I would need to find a way to warp on my own to preserve our marital bliss.

It was only after the warp was wound on that I thought to measure the width of the warp on the back beam.  My supposedly fourteen-inch warp measured only an average of twelve inches.

A lightbulb came on.  Is this what a raddle is used for?

I immediately posted for help on Ravelry.  While it was created for the knitting community, there are enough weavers (and spinners) on it that I can usually get my questions (newbie ones) answered within an hour, if not minutes.  But I was too impatient to wait for an answer.  When the Weaving Works told me they didn’t have any raddles in stock, I hied myself away to the closest hardware store, and came home with a pound of cable tacks. 

I chose cable tacks because in one of Peggy Osterkamp’s books, she recommended using screws with eye-holes.  The holes are for inserting a dowel to keep the threads down.  I just couldn’t see myself twisting in close to 150 screws, so I went for the cable tacks.  I also didn’t want to use finishing nails because I was worried that having them sticking out might be dangerous to my very active son.

I kicked myself for resisting any notion of a raddle previously.  I have had severe wrist pain in the past, and I guess I was afraid I would be pounding nails for hours without end until my hand fell off.  In reality, the raddle took less than an hour to finish, taking even that long because I had to stop several times to rustle up other pieces of wood for my son to hammer and to persuade him his wood pieces were much, much better to pound than mine.

The raddle was made, and the warp was re-beamed within the hour following.  What a difference it made! I was able to beam on by myself!  My previous experiences with warping involved more praying than skill to get the warp on the loom; this was the first time that I actually felt in control of beaming on properly — in a scientific manner with reproducible results.

The only problem with my raddle is that I wanted to avoid using screws with eye-holes (suggested in Peggy Osterkamps’s book – so you can quickly run a dowel through them), so found some cable tacks to use instead.   Unfortunately, they are very thick – a little less than an eigth of an inch, and I’m worried it may throw off cloth measurements by almost a quarter inch, counting both sides; this may be more of a problem when warping with very fine threads.

Two of my books say the raddle is optional, and another two say it is a necessity.  I didn’t make the connection between the raddle being used for warping back to front, but I definitely knew I didn’t want to use Deborah Chandler’s hybrid method of sleying the reed to use as a raddle, then re-sleying it after threading the heddles.

I plan to make a raddle for my 45″ Bergman loom, but I’ll use finishing nails instead of cable tacks.  Being able to insert a dowel through the cable tacks wasn’t as handy as I thought it would be, and rubber bands work very well to keep the warp in place (although the cable tacks are long enough not to need the bands).  And a raddle with nails stored safely away couldn’t be worse than having spiked wool combs (truly lethal, yikes!) in the house.


The Ravelry community is awesome.  I would love to frequent the knitting forums more, if only I had more time.  As a newbie to spinning (still under a year!) and even more so to weaving, it’s been a wonderful source of help and inspiration.

2 October 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , | 12 Comments