Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

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

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