Loom Identified!

My neck and shoulders are better, but it’s taken two weeks to get to this point. Two weeks away from computers, looms, crafting in front of the tv, driving, etc. Though I admit, in the last half of this week I’ve been doing short bouts of all but tv craft, to test how well I’m healing up.

Keeping away from computers is not easy, especially when you want to look something up. I turned mine on to do a quick search in eBay and stumbled upon the same model of loom that Paul had rescued. This one hadn’t been renovated ever, from the looks of it. So I downloaded the pictures, and there was a close up of a label.

It said “Dyer & Philip Pty Ltd” and an address.

So I googled the maker and found two blogs by women in Melbourne who adopted the same loom a few years ago. They, too, replaced the string heddles with Texsolv. They also replaced the reeds. I don’t want to spend the money on a new reed unless the loom is nice to work on.

Before my back started playing up I had started putting a warp on it. Since the reed can’t be removed, it’s a bit cramped for warping. Bit by bit – about 16 strands a day in two batches – I finished warping it. On Saturday I finally tried weaving.

Within a dozen or so picks the sticks that hold the heddles fell out of their straps. I fixed that by tying the straps on, but I’ll have to come up with something more permanent.

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So far so good. You need a tall chair to work on it if it’s on an ordinary table, as it sits so high above the table surface. I’ve moved it to the top of my drawing board, set in a flat position, so to put it at a comfortable standing height and to free up my craft table.

It has a nice clean shed with the new heddles. I read somewhere that the best looms for warp rep weaving are those that pull all threads up or down, rather than just raising the ones required. Since this loom does work in that way, the next project I’ll try will be rep with 16/2 or 8/2 cotton I think.

Say Cheese

My recent itch to sew led to me popping around to a friends place for some spontaneous stitching recently. I woke up in a grumpy mood that day, but thanks to having some company with which to create and chat by the end I was in a much better state of mind. I even got some sewing-with-cat time:

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However, I wasn’t exactly sewing at my best. I took four possible projects and thought I’d start on an easy one – a men’s shirt into shorts refashion. But when realised I wasn’t going to get enough fabric so I put it aside and started on another – a cheesecloth tunic top.

I knew I didn’t have much fabric. It was a choice between a short top with long sleeves or a longer top with short sleeves. I went for the latter:

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However, I realised too late that the front was also supposed to be cut on the fold. I had to sew a strip down the middle. And in retrospect, I think I should have eliminated the sleeves altogether. And made it a size smaller, as it has turned out rather wide.

But I’m not too fussed, as I mainly wanted to a) use up the material, b) try out Little Jen, my mini sewing machine, c) just sew.

I want to embellish it, and I’m thinking of using some of my inkle. Trouble is, I can’t decide between three of the tapes.

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Any preferences?

No matter which I choose, I’ll have to weave some more, as I want to put it around the sleeve cuffs as well.

Weaving On, Weaving Off

My old neck and shoulders problem raised it’s ugly head after New Year and hasn’t gone away. The Saturday before last I started driving and within five minutes there was an invisible ice pick hammering the side of my head. The following Monday I sat down to work and the same thing happened. Ow.

I took the week off, spending five days avoiding or reducing to a minimum sitting at a desk or a loom, driving a car, evening craft, reading and even pegging clothes on the line. I massaged my neck and shoulders, stretched, applied anti-inflammatories internally and externally, used a heat pack, lay down flat when it got really bad, double checked the ergonomics of my desks and chairs, and had a physio session at the end of the week.

It got a little bit better. Nowhere near as much as I hoped.

The frustrating thing is, my upper back was in good shape through the middle and later part of last year. Possibly thanks to a month’s holiday followed by lots of short regular stints of gardening. But it’s only taken less than two months of daily work on a computer for that to reverse.

It seems like the benefits I get from time away from work last for a shorter time each time.

Before the week off, I was reducing other activities more and more. I did manage to finish warping the table loom by spending ten minutes here and there, threading 72 or so ends every couple of days. I’d just got to the point of weaving when I had to stop completely.

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This project has thrown up all sorts of hitches along the way. I discovered I had nowhere near enough yarn, but Bendigo Woollen Mills were closed for the holidays, so to keep things moving I decided to use two of the sample colours for the weft and the navy for the warp. I wouldn’t have enough navy, but by the time the warping was done more yarn would have arrived. However, Bendy don’t sell 200 gram cones any more, and if I was going to get 500 grams and have so much left over I may as well get black, which I’m more likely to use.

I’m not sure I like the black as much. It doesn’t go as well with the white gold metallic bands I’m adding at each end of the shawl. But I’m sticking with it.

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I also had trouble with the shuttle falling through the warp, no matter how tightly it was cranked. Looking up advice on Weavolution, I figured it was either bad shuttle throwing or imprecise string heddles, or both. I fixed both by tying a piece of wood to the reed to use as a race.

I just got it working when my back started playing up. Hopefully I can get back to it soon.

Books Read in 2016

This is mostly for my records:

Non-Violence Mark Kurlansky
In Brasil Fran Bryson (ms)
The Cardinal’s Blades Pierre Pevel
David and Goliath Malcolm Gladwell
Before They Are Hanged Joe Abercrombie
Last Argument of Kings Joe Abercrombie
Love and Romanpunk Tansy Rayner Roberts
The Book of the Damned Tanith Lee
Days of Blood and Starlight Laini Taylor
Dreams of Gods and Monsters Laini Taylor
Castle of Dark Tanith Lee
The Hare With the Amber Eyes Edmund de Waal
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) Felicia Day
Illuminae Jay Kristoff & Aime Kaufman
Throne of Glass Sarah J. Maas
Arkanae Lynette Noni
Hindsight Melanie Casey

So 17 books. Several kinds of books – fantasy, crime, travel, non-fiction, short story collection. A variety of authors – Aussie, French, UK, and US authors, 6 male/9 female authors. I wish I’d read more, but I struggle to read fiction when I’m writing it. Which is where I’m at right now.

Old Timers

In some felt baskets in the craft room I keep ‘lingerers’ – materials that never became what they were meant to, unfinished projects and items too good to throw away that I’ve not had an idea how to repurpose yet. From time to time I rifle through, consider again what I could make with them, then put them back again if no inspiration strikes.

When I was rifling through them recently I picked out a ball of icord I made ages ago on the EmbellishKnit.

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I’d started crocheting it with my giant wooden hook at some point, and I liked the result and thought it would make a great hat, but I didn’t have enough for one. This time I had the idea to make a headband instead:

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I’m happy with how it turned out. It did hurt my hands a little to crochet it, though, so it’s just as well it was a small project.

A top made of two squares of cheesecloth also caught my eye. I made it back when I hadn’t got over my dislike of sewing with a machine, so it was all hand sewed. There are no pics of the original. It was a bit of a dud, and I don’t think it even made it onto this blog. A bit more hand stitching turned it into a boat neck top. I’m planning to embroider all over the front. Not sure what yet. An idea will come eventually.

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Next I picked out this houndstooth wool fabric I made in 2012.

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I’d never blogged about the finished piece because the I’d intended to sew it into something. But I do like it as a scarf. Later wove a small rectangle of log cabin out of the same yarn, which I was going to make into a clutch, but this time I hit upon the idea of adding pockets to the scarf.

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There’s something very gratifying about finding a use for odd bits and pieces too good to throw away, or an old failed project. There’s a hoarder in me that gets to say ‘I told you it was worth keeping’. Fortunately I also gain satisfaction from the occasional cull, or I really would be drowning in craft materials!

Crazy Loom Lady

Our dining table looked like this until last weekend.

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Paul found the small loom on a hard rubbish pile last week, destined for the tip. He lugged it home on the train. I have warned him that looms are like cats. People hear you’ve adopted strays, or ones that the owners couldn’t look after any more, and suddenly you have a house full of them.

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It has two shafts and is a countermarch loom, operated by pushing or pulling the dowel on the top to raise and lower the shafts. After much googling, I found two similar looms: the Brio and the Peacock. The Brio is Sweedish, made of pale wood and collapsible. The Peacock is from the US, made of darker wood and not collapsible. I found a manual for the Peacock, and there are a few differences between it and the one Paul brought home, but it’s the closest match so that’s what I’m calling it.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free loom. Looking closer, I reckon it was fixed up by someone many years ago as there are holes where bands have been replaced and the project on it had faded quite a bit. It was dusty, and the reed had rusted.

The shed was small, and I had to hold the dowel firmly forward or back to keep it open. Seeking the source of resistance, I eventually concluded that the problem was the string heddles. They were made of a sticky yarn, which created friction against the warp. After removing the project the heddles moved more freely, so I figured all it needed was new Texsolv ones. Nice and slippery.

Which was what the bigger loom needed, too:

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It belongs to my Canberran friend, Donna. It has levers for raising and lowering the shafts, and a nifty back brake release cord that I wish I had on my table loom.

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There’s no sign of a maker’s mark, and I’ve had no luck finding a similar loom on the internet. Anyone know what this mystery loom’s maker is?

Being another ‘free’ loom, the first cost Donna had to bear was an expensive new reed to replace the rusty old one. That was a couple of years ago. I flew up to Canberra help her clean it up and teach her how to warp and weave on it. We removed a whole lot of rusty heddles, which left her with only enough for narrow projects. They’re an odd size, and she’d had no luck finding additional ones. Nothing fit – not even Texsolv heddles. After a bad run in with a shop, she had almost given up, so when she came down to join us for New Year’s Eve I suggested she bring the loom and we’d see about finding a solution.

And we have, as it turns out Paul can drill new threaded holes into metal. I ordered some shorter Texsolv heddles and we changed the frames to fit. And I worked out that the old reed must have been taller, so I raised the new one so the reed doesn’t lean on the warp. It was very satisfying fixing up this loom, as this is a great design.

In the meantime, I’ve been slowly warping up my Ashford table loom for a shawl.

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Once again, I’ve run out of heddles and had to attach a bazillon string ones. Since I was already ordering heddles (from the lovely Glenora Weaving and Wool) I figured I may as well order another 200 for it. And some new bungy cords. So once I’m done with the shawl my loom is getting a bit of renovating, too.

Of course, Donna’s loom will be heading back to her soon. I will try out the Peacock loom out of curiosity because I’ve not used a countermarch loom before, but then I’ll probably find a home for it. Then this can go back to being a three loom household, and my dining table can be used for, you know, eating off, again.

Stash Portrait of 2015

Well, that’s odd. I thought I’d already posted this. Ah, I had it scheduled for 2017! Anyway…

This is all the stash I had a week before Christmas:

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That’s 15 kilos worth. The boxes at the front are shallow – a 200 gram Bendigo skein won’t fit in them. The ones at the back are deep enough for two layers of them if placed flat.

Aside from a weak moment when I encountered another weaver’s stash bust sale, occasionally buying yarn to combine with what I have, I’ve not bought any yarn since 2012. My stash has been gradually and steadily diminishing.

It doesn’t seem that long since the row of stash boxes looked like this:

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The stash in 2011. 17 kilos.

For the first time I’ve included the cones of cotton weaving yarn in my stash photo and calculations. I never used to, but since I rarely knit and only occasionally use a knitting machine they really ought to go in now. I don’t have a lot of it, though. I’ve mostly woven with knitting yarns so far.

Yet now that I’m including the cotton, it feels like the stash has reached the point where it’s finally changing from a knitter’s stash to a weaver’s stash. This four years after I had to give up knitting due to RSI.

Perhaps it’s because of this that the sock yarn feels somewhat out of place now. I tell myself I’ll make more socks on the Passap when I wear out more pairs, but they’re simply not wearing out that fast. I’ve also told myself that it’s okay to weave the sock yarn if a really nice project idea comes along.

What does the future hold for the stash? Well, four of the five boxes I’ve emptied since 2011 are now filled with other kinds of yarn: macrame, craft, perle cotton for inkle weaving and embroidery, and my embroidery supplies. I have one empty shallow box, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for new yarns.

If I do buy new yarns, they’ll most likely be cone yarns for weaving projects. In fact, I’ve just ordered a 500g cone of black 3ply Bendigo Classic for a shawl. I want to attempt some weave structures I’ve not tried before this year, and perhaps some new weaving yarns, too.

Giotto Scarf

Working out what to do with odd balls of yarn in my stash can be either an enjoyable challenge or a source of frustration. Years ago I bought a ball of Colinette Giotto – a hand-dyed cotton tape yarn. After some false starts I combined it with some plain navy tape yarn to knit an off-the-shoulder top.

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I wore it once, and found it a bit scratchy. After removing the body, the band around the shoulders – the bit made from the Giotto – became an infinity scarf.

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I never wore that. So some time in the last year I frogged it. Because I’d cut the band to make it into a scarf, I wound up with lots of long pieces of yarn. I just tied them together and wound it into a ball.

Needing a rigid heddle project recently, I looked at my stash spreadsheet for inspiration, noticed the Giotto and did a quick google for what to weave with tape yarn. I found this blog post.

The Giotto isn’t a railroad yarn, but I could certainly use it as an interesting warp yarn. And the yarn was already cut into scarf-length-ish pieces. What was a little revelation to me was that the weaver used 16/2 cotton as the weft. I have plenty of that, in blue and aqua. So I dove into the stash and the blue turned out to be the nicest match.

So it wouldn’t take forever to weave, I did bands of closely beaten picks followed by spacing them out.

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It still took longer to weave than I expected, but I figured that was because the weft was so fine. Only when I got it off the loom did I realise the scarf was long enough to touch the floor!

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I could cut it in half and make two perfectly reasonable length scarves, but I won’t do that unless I decide not to keep it, as I rather like it as it is.

Pattern Recognition

Since I bought the little Jenome (Lil’ Jen?) I’ve had the itch to sew, not helped by thinking a lot about what to embroider. So I went looking in my box of fabric and refashioning project baskets for inspiration.

Early last year I went through my fabric stash and culled it, mostly removing offcuts of fabric from past projects. Out of what I kept, if I had an idea for what it could become, I put a post-it note on it. So I now looked at the post-it notes and selected two projects that appealed: a white cheesecloth tunic that I’ll embroider, and straight grey denim skirt.

I also did a bit of a ‘mix and match’ with some of the smaller pieces of fabric, and hit on the idea of replicating a skirt I have, which is denim at the back and a cotton print at the front.

After that I went through my refashioning baskets. Plenty of projects waiting there, but I was most attracted to a sarong-into-shorts project and, in complete contrast, some thick pieces of woven, felted wool that I might be able to sew into a vest.

But for all but the shorts, which I have made before , I didn’t have any suitable patterns. The half-denim, half-print skirt is very simple, so I’ll just trace a pattern from it. I wasn’t game to try to invent the vest, straight denim skirt and tunic pattern. Fortunately, a while back I bookmarked a few that I liked and found a pattern for a tunic. I couldn’t find any classic straight denim skirt patterns, but I found a vest one that I could adapt for the woven fabric.

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So I bought and downloaded the tunic and vest patterns, then spent most of a morning printing, taping together and cutting them out. The tunic is going to need some careful cutting, as I don’t have a lot of fabric. This is it with the back and front shortened and full length sleeves. I’m thinking now that I’d rather have short sleeves and a longer body.

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Of course, then I had to dig through my sewing notions. I found everything but a skirt zipper and some bias binding. The first I got in my local habby store, and the second I found today, when I went to grab some calico from the stash and found a great big coil of calico binding, the copious leftovers from a quilt I made a few years back.

So with four projects ready to go, I may just need to put aside a whole weekend for sewing. Or two.

Stitchy Gift

While I was crafting around work in Ballarat last month I listened to a few podcasts. One was the Craft Sanity podcast, and I particularly enjoyed the interview with Rebecca Ringquist. So when I saw her book in a shop I suggested Paul get it for me for Christmas.

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I listened to the interview at a point where I was assessing my own interest in embroidery – and craft in general – and a quick look at the book in the shop told me it was something I needed to read, rather than simply for project inspiration and instruction.

You see, while I don’t necessarily want to produce the style of embroidery Rebecca makes in this book, it’s more a book about an approach to embroidery than making the example projects. It says it’s “a ‘bend-the-rules’ primer”, and that’s what I’m after.

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When I look at what I’ve enjoyed and succeeded in making with embroidery so far, a few common elements emerge. When the projects have been small, they’ve been detailed and precise. When they’ve been larger, they’ve been looser and more about texture and colour than representation.

I feel like I’m wasting my time if I’m not working on something useful. That is, either embellishing a garment or bag, or making jewellery. The few times I’ve made artwork, it’s either been intensely personal (the cats) or I’ve intended to make it into something eventually even if I don’t yet know what. While Rebecca suggests letting go of the notion of the piece having a purpose, I’ve recognised that for me that is a creativity-blocker. I’m the same with colouring books. Only when I turned the pages into greeting cards did I enjoy colouring them.

You see, we have so much artwork already that I freeze in horror at the thought of accumulating more.

Time seems to be an cause of me losing interest, as well. The books I write, the portraits I paint, and the sort of weaving I’m exploring now tend to take a long time, on a scale of months to years. I acknowledged years ago that I need some of the craft I do to provide quick satisfaction. Not necessarily instant, but a scale of days and weeks would be nice. And sometimes I have no energy for thought and planning, and it’s good to be able to pick up something and just stitch.

So I’m looking for embroidery projects that are reasonably fast, that can be done in front of the tv or fit in my handbag for waiting rooms and airport lounges, and that has a use at the end. And aren’t old fashioned or twee.

That pretty much eliminates most designs on the market.

I’m happy to design my own projects, but that does require some thought and planning. However, Rebecca’s approach also appeals because it has a freeform spirit to it. Just take a thing and embellish it. Doodle with stitches. Enjoy texture and colour and accident. I love how she says don’t bother fixing a mistake, just stitch over it. And I love her for saying it’s okay to use knots. Honestly, I’ve been hung up on the whole ‘to knot, or not to knot’ question for ages, because I don’t want to put a whole lot of work into embellishing a garment only to have the ends come loose in the wash. Rebecca even suggests putting the knots on the front of the work. I love that!

So I wrote in my visual diary a list of likes and dislikes:

Likes:
The textural look of kantha and boro
The enhancing of fabric in sashiko and kogin
The simplicity of stitch in tambour and blackwork
The modern look of ‘new’ crewel and the colour in ethnic embroidery
Unconventional materials and scale, as in stitching greeting cards or giant cross stitch.
And, conversely, finer and realistic work if it’s tiny, as in jewellery
Fast projects
Portable projects
Projects with no use
Using no hoop

Dislikes:
Fussy, precise work
Traditional and old fashioned (unless subverted)
Twee
Collage-like overly busy work
Slow projects
Cumbersome projects
Artwork
Worrying about knots

Since then I’ve looked in my wardrobe, gone through my old sketchbook, and peered at my to-do list, considering what I could stitch. I’m looking at long delayed sewing projects with fresh enthusiasm, if they provide opportunity for embellishment. And that’s led to some pattern purchasing, downloading, and printing – and planning a sewing day.

Crafty plans for 2016 are well underway.