Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

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.

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

Rigid Heddle: Weaving With Three Heddles

I’ve wanted to have a go at creating four-shaft textiles on a rigid-heddle loom ever since I brought home my Schacht rigid heddle more than a year ago.  As my Schacht (not a Flip) only accepts one heddle reed, it wasn’t until I got my 12″ Ashford Knitters Loom (AKL) that I’ve had the capability.

It took something like six readings of the first half of  “The Xenakis Technique For The Construction Of Four Harness Textiles”, by Athanasios David Xenakis, before I felt like I knew how to begin.  The first time I read through Xenakis’ book, I was completely befuddled and nearly abandoned the project.  At the second reading, I wondered if I were mentally deficient.  But, around the time of the fourth — or possibly fifith — reading, I began to understand the technique, which is actually very simple.  A hint: if you are feeling confused by the reading, it’s perfectly OK to skip past some of that and go directly to the description of the threading, if that is all you want.   The book is very comprehensive, and most questions I had were anticipated and answered.  On the subject of number of identical heddle reeds, Xenakis recommends three, although he maintains one could get by with two and a rod with doupe heddles.  But, beyond the assertion that doupe heddles would work, Xenakis does not give any details how to use them.

Because my heddle blocks could only accept two reeds, I had my LWS (local weaving store) special-order me two, in the finest size available, 12.5-dents per inch.  My reasoning was: three reeds may not fold compactly in the loom, I might have trouble with standing the third heddle up/down/at rest, and it would be easy enough to try with the doupe heddles first.

With that in mind, I wrapped some thin crochet cotton around the widest sword I had:

7468WindingDoupeHeddles

Mark one side of the threads as a reminder where to fold the string:

7469MarkSideOfString

Fold the string at the marked points, and make a knot, leaving a loop large enough to fit over a heddle rod.

7475DoupeHeddlesTied

Please refer to Xenakis’ book for how to thread the loom (the time it would take me to write it up is time away from weaving!).  Ashford puts out a pdf file that details how to thread two heddles here, as does Schacht here.  Again, the reason I’ve gone with the techniques in Xenakis’ book is because I wanted to be able to methodically translate, set up, and weave some of the many drafts found in books of four-shaft patterns.

To make things easier on myself, I placed painter’s tape along the tops of the heddles, and marked off measurements; by ticking off the areas I had already threaded, it was easy to keep track of where I was, should be, or needed to go next.  Colour-coding a threading sequence also helped me to keep my place.

A view of the threading from the back with the doupe heddles at the bottom:

7485ThreadingHeddlesNDoupes

As to threading hooks, I used at various stages a regular hook, an ultra-fine spinning wheel orifice hook, and a long 11″ weaving hook.

I chose “Rose Path Project No. 1”, threading #1, treadle sequence IX, by Bertha Frey in Marguerite Porter Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”.  After all bouts were tied and adjusted, I wove a header, using compressed plastic bags for filler.

a

Unfortunately, I could not manipulate the doupe stick with doupes very well; the resulting sheds were not separating cleanly.  Then, I found that difficult as it was to create a shed by pulling up on the doupe stick, I had no easy way to create the reverse shed by pulling down on the doupe stick.  With the addition of two heddles in front to manipulate in tandem, it was too much for me to handle.  Perhaps it would be easier on a different loom than the AKL;   I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used the doupe heddles successfully.

Fortunately, I knew that my LWS had ordered extras of my heddle reeds when I placed my order, so I only needed enough patience to wait for the next morning for the third heddle, rather than the two weeks I had waited for the second.  Three heddles threaded:

The third heddle is a huge improvement over the doupe stick and heddles!  The difference in the cleanness of the shed, and ease of manipulation, is more than worth the price of the third heddle.

Did you note the angle at which the back beam sits up from the table?  That produces a better shed, and it is engineered by design with the addition of an L-shaped brackets (blue, shown below) on each side of the loom:

Because the heddle block only accommodates two heddles, there is nowhere to rest the third heddle.  Left to its own devices, it weighs down on the threads, creating an unwanted shed in “rest” position.  To remedy this, I propped up the third heddle with a foam bar inserted over the cross brace.  It’s nothing fancy, really, just some old white foam computer packing, cut into a strip about an inch thick, and just long enough so it holds itself in place by friction.

With the third heddle resting on it, the threads stay in neutral position.

I keep the foam bar in place at all times, even when the loom is folded with all three heddles sandwiched inside:

I had chosen some of my hand-spun wool for the weft, but when I took a last look before weaving, it needed some livening colour.

I pulled out my Mother MacKenzie Miracle (acid) dye kit, which was in liquid stock solution made before Thanksgiving 2008.

A few splashes of magenta, a heat-set in a crock pot, and the results:

Unfortunately, still boring.  More liveneing needed; another day’s wait to go back to the dyepot to add some chartreuse:

I had chosen my pattern with ease of threading and “treadling” in mind.  As a first project, I did not want to be bogged down with complicated and long treadling sequences, and so, mine has only two sequences, each repeating two tie-downs.  Really, only four positions of heddles to remember, and very easy ones at that.   The cloth in progress:

In the future, I will likely continue to choose patterns with simple treadle sequences, but will also likely try more complicated threadings.  It’s so tempting to finish off this scarf quickly at home, but I’ve purposely held off from doing so; I want to keep the AKL for use on the go, for something fun to do while waiting to pick up my son.    Now both of us are waiting for classes to start up again.

2 January 2010 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , | 21 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

First Weavings, Baby Steps

This morning, I sat down to weave for the first time.   This was really fun for me because I didn’t have to do any warping preparation.  For seasoned weavers out there, this post will be tedious, but if you make it to the end of the post, I welcome any comments to help me improve!

You can definitely tell where the original weaving left off (at the 7″ mark) and I began.  It seemed so easy watching Betty Linn Davenport do it in her RH Loom video, but even following her tips for creating a clean, even selvedge, mine were still messy.   Then there was the matter of getting used to the beater.  The word “beater” is a bit misleading, because I didn’t have to beat at all, and even the gentle “beating” I’ve done is obviously too heavy-handed.  The picture may not be be the best, but the weft yarns definitely slants down on the edge nearest the tape measure.

I decided to re-tie the ends to help improve the weave.

The original tie-up in three bunches.

First bunch has been untied and re-tied.  Second bunch shown untied.  I like Betty Linn Davenport’s way of tying up with a bow; it was a pain undoing the knots used before.

Here are the three original tie-ups separated and re-tied into six.

The new tie-ups helped straighten the left side somewhat; I obviously have other problems to sort out, and I need to practise beating more gently.

What a pleasant start to my day!  I can’t wait to finish this practise piece and start my own project.  I thought I would use Lily Sugar ‘N Cream cotton to weave dishcloths as a first project.

On another note, I actually did some knitting today — first time in three months!  My son was invited to an ice-cream party to celebrate today’s being the last day of public school.  So, with all the children entertaining each other (and the other mothers knowing my eccentricities well by now), I got in some quality knit time.

I started this sock early this year, and this is still the first of the pair.  The pattern is from Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch.  (I purchased it with a 50%-off coupon from Joann’s.)

18 June 2008 Posted by | General, Weaving | , , , , | 7 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