Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Getting Back My Groove

I don’t move on easily. I am so linearly-minded that obstacles in my path often hamper my momentum and detract from any progress I might otherwise make. It’s difficult for me to cut my losses, give up on a project, or even step over it temporarily.

Three weaving projects in particular kept stalling me from tying on more enjoyable warps, until I decided to tackle them head-on this year.

The first project is Cynthia’s scarf. I had woven it off the Ashford RH (rigid heddle) loom she gave me, but at the time, didn’t have much experience twisting fringe. I thought of twisting fringe as excruciatingly slow and painful work. I was in a hurry to finish the scarf to give her at our get-together last year (September?) before she would be inaccessible for months while remodeling. At the last moment, I couldn’t make it work. The problem? I trimmed the fringe on one end of the scarf, twisted it, and knotted it. Then I measured the fringe on the other end of the scarf, twisted and knotted a few strands. Then I found that I had used the measurement of the twisted fringe to cut the untwisted side! The two sides with uneven fringe was difficult to face. I didn’t want to cut down the first twisted side, because I felt its length was perfect. When I tried twisted the fringe on the shorter, I couldn’t bear of cutting down the other side to match. That left me in a quandary for six months. Earlier this March, I finally decided to finish twisting the fringe, and leave the longer side as is. I guess I decided that if one side is perfect, it should be left alone. It doesn’t seem right to cut it down to match the imperfect shorter length side; the difference being about two inches. I’ve always thought of this as Cynthia’s scarf, and so now I’m not sure what to do with it. What have I learned from this? The old saying: “Measure twice, cut once.” And, don’t cut when you’re in a hurry. Also, fringe twisting a scarf is exponentially more time-consuming the night before you want to make a gift of it, but not that big of a deal when there is no deadline.

Problem project number two is some Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool that I put onto my Schacht RH loom more than 2 (!) years ago.

I meant to make a shibori scarf out of it, with the intention of entering it into some contest. But, I found the wool rather rough; and, after putting it on the loom, I promptly lost interest in it. The RH loom is Schacht’s non-folding one, mounted on their trestle floor stand. I’ve since acquired their 15″ Flip folding RH loom, but a dearth of table space meant I couldn’t do anything with it until the stand was made available for it. It would be too simple and logical to temporarily remove the non-folding RH loom and put it aside to use the stand, but — remember the linear thinking! With the project dormant so long, and the Flip languishing untouched for a year since I got it, it was time to “fish or cut bait“, or, in my case, “weave or cut warp”. It’s nearly unthinkable for me to cut off a warp, so I got down to the business of weaving it off.

It wasn’t the unpleasant or time-consuming chore I’d envisioned it would be; it just wasn’t a project I felt passionate about. Lesson learned: choose materials and projects that I’ll love and enjoy, not to impress others!

The last weaving obstacle: my three-heddle project on the Ashford Knitters Loom (AKL). This project has been untouched since last summer, and had been warped nearly two years ago. Even with the addition of doupe heddles and sticks (shortcuts so I do not have to mess with the different heddle position and manipulations), I find the weaving fiddly and tedious. Not only that, I wasn’t crazy about the pattern I had chosen, as it made this combination of yarn seemed very old-fashioned and fussy to me. 

When I took math classes as a student, I was taught the “brute force” method of solving problems. There are often elegant and concise ways to solve problems, but the brute force method is akin to getting a hammer and systematically smashing a large obstacle into smaller pieces, bit by bit. An example of this is solving anagrams. Say you have the letters: UVELA. Someone with the gift of decoding anagrams, might, after a bit of consideration, come up with VALUE. However, if you didn’t have any insight, one brute force algorithm you might employ is to note the letters in alphabetical order, and starting with “A”, look through the “A” section of an English dictionary for any matches using all the letters. If no matches occur, then take the next letter in order, and repeat for that letter. Slow, inefficient, and tedious it may be, but guaranteed to work. As Nike would say, “Just Do It”.

So, I did. It took three days of ignoring everything else to complete. The pattern was such that I could not relax while weaving, for any distractions from people, music, television, or my own breathing would make me forget which step I was on. I longed to be at the end of the warp with every pick I wove, but I kept at it. When I got to the last 12″ of warp, I found that I no longer had enough room to continue manipulating the heddles to follow the pattern.

Not wishing to waste any warp, I used only the first heddle up and down, which formed a kind of basketweave tabby. That gave me another 5″ of weaving, but what a difference!

It was enjoyable to weave, and I loved the way it looked! I felt heartsick to have used up so much handspun weft for a pattern that tended to obscure it, when it would shown to such great advantage with a simple plainweave. Well, rats.

I haven’t encountered any commercial yarn that has the same amazing bounce and density that you can find in handspun yarn. I did find that using this yarn for weft, which I had spun woolen and long-draw, created a very stretchy fabric. Interesting.

Plainweave Closeup

At least I learned a few things: Just because you can create four-shaft cloth on a rigid heddle doesn’t mean you should; it might not be fun. (This may have something to do with threading the heddles with the Xenakis technique, which is not intuitive.) Sometimes, less is a lot more, while more can be fussy and unexciting. Next time, I’ll try harder to find the simple, elegant solution, instead of bulldozing (brute forcing) my way through. Anyway, the loom is free again, and so am I!

(Imagine happy dance here.)


29 July 2011 Posted by | Weaving | , | 4 Comments

Reely Warped

Finally!  My first weaving FO.  The project that came with Hedy is finished.  It would have been finished sooner if not for the time it took me to find appropriate yarn to make the warp repair.

The colour doesn’t match, but the weight does.  It’s surprisingly inconspicuous in the final product.  I’m  happy to report that the wispy bouclé thread that came with this project is finally used up.  The closest match I could find was a chenille yarn.  It’s heftier than the original, and much closer to the same weight as the warp.

What a difference the yarn makes!  Almost all the problems I had with evenness and selvedges disappeared!  (BTW: Thank you, Jane, for great tips about grabbing the beater by the middle, and tying smaller bouts.  They worked wonders for me!)  The bouclé had been such a struggle to work with; I’m so relieved to find out it wasn’t me.  Weaving goes along so much faster than knitting!  I had woven more than a foot with the chenille yarn before it dawned on me to try out some weft floats that didn’t show up when using the bouclé.

Of course, by that time, there were only a few inches left to weave.


And immediately commandeered by my son

to dress Squiggly Pig’s owees.

I was anxious to finish that sash and create my own project.  I started out warping on the warping board that came with Hedy.

I didn’t have any spare wall space to hang it on, and was using it on the floor.  That became old very quickly.  About six ends quickly.   So I had to drag out this bad boy that came with Beauty:

Introducing the Humungo-Warper Frankenreel 2000.  This warping reel is so large and heavy that it can knock out a boxer.  But, I can (just barely) carry in, assemble, and take apart all the parts without any help.  Which is a good thing, because within minutes of seeing me lug this into the house, my menfolk hastily vacated the premises.  Muttering something about shopping.  Lovely.  Leaving me to figure out how to Warp. In. Peace.

I measured several times, and found the circumference of one turn to be 110.75 inches, or 3.076 yards, or 281cm.  I suppose they were aiming for three yards when they created this monster, and the extra 2.75 inches may be a result of humidity.  (It looks very similar to Schacht’s horizontal warping mill, but that one is only two yards in circumference.  If the Schacht can warp eighteen yards, I wonder how much mine can do.)   With the cross bar skewing the weight of the sides, sometimes the reel swung around with such speed it was difficult not to wince — or duck — when the arms were swinging towards me.  The cross bar can be moved to any location convenient to make up the warp length.  In a sense, I don’t have to worry about a brake, because the sides tilt, even when base locking pegs are well seated.  So the reel often hits one or the other side on the base; this slows it down, but doesn’t stop it.  It’s a bother, but I’m learning to live with it by controlling how I swing the reel.  I thought I was missing a second cross bar, but after setting this up, I don’t think so.  A second cross bar wouldn’t eliminate the tilting, since that problem is caused by the base wobbling.  I may still ask a carpenter to make me a second one, because it would be very helpful for shorter warps.  In this case, my shorter warp measured 212 inches, comprising 81 ends.  For three dish towels.  I also had the same problem Trapunto mentions, of uneven tension and lengths of warping threads created when the later threads deviate from the guide thread when wrapping around pegs, changing directions, and adding more thickness to the warp.

Because my design would be symmetrical, I decide to use the information from Tom Knisely’s video, “A Comprehensive Guide to Warping Your Loom from Front to Back”, and make my threads twice as long, doubling the ends when I warped the loom.

Reeling around.

Closeup of the locking jaw tool used on the cross, found at the Home Depot

I didn’t want to tape an apron rod or stick to my loom frame (as Betty Davenport recommends), but thought a suspended apron rod would be very useful when threading the heddles.

Above: Note the wire clips suspending the apron rod in place.

So I made these with the help of some wire-bending tools and copper wire.

Two of my apron rods already had holes drilled.

Warping the loom took forever!  I had so much trouble with crossed and tangled ends, even though my crosses tied at both ends kept beautifully.  Then the problem of uneven lengths created while using the warping reel.  I spent a lot of time combing through the ends to undo tangles and adjust tension.  I’m sure that doubling the ends and cutting them in half exacerbated that issue, which created trouble at times when I had a few ends that were a bit too short for tying a bow on the front apron rods.  Even counting out a little time for meals, bathing and putting my son to bed, I spent a solid fourteen hours warping the loom.  (I turned down every Fourth of July invitation to have time to do this!)  At this rate, I won’t be hawking my wares at the Pike Place Market any time soon.

After the loom was finally warped (about 1AM), how could I sleep without doing some weaving???  This first towel was woven in less than two hours, even including unravelling and re-weaving something like thirty percent of it to get it right.

Approximately 14.5″ x 22″.  Warp at 34 wpi, weft at 18 wpi, 100% cotton.  Using a 10-dent (my only) heddle.  The weave is less dense than I’d like; I completely forgot about making an arc with the weft before beating to obscure more of the warp, so I’ll have to try that next time.  I’ll be weaving more towels like this, as an exercise in creating some of the patterns from Betty Davenport’s rigid heddle pattern book.

In case you are wondering: “Where did she get her fabulous sense of colour from?”  Well, My Dear, thank you very much for asking.  It’s taken years of dedicated study, but I have a degree in “Because I can’t afford to pay retail, I get what I can scrounge together from whatever bargain-priced lots I bought”.

Dear Reader, if you have any ideas about
1) how best to finish an edge without a fringe (fringe on a towel would feel like drying dishes with a placemat!)  and also without much bulk, and
2) creative uses for the loom waste,
I’d love to hear of them!

6 July 2008 Posted by | FOs, Weaving | , | 8 Comments