By the Sword, Combined

The Handweavers and Spinners Guild organised a visit from a Japanese weaver a few months back that I wasn’t able to get to. One of the tools and methods Mr Tanji demonstrated was a weaving sword. The piece he worked on was still at the guild the next time I made it to a meeting, and the lovely ladies there gave me some quick instructions so I could try it.

I rather liked it, and decided I would make a sword. As they do, the idea percolated in my brain and reformed itself late one night into this:

Not only could I make it two-sided, but make it the shuttle as well. I felt very clever. Then a few weeks later a search for weaving done with variable dent reeds led me to the Majacraft website and this.

Okay, well, yes, someone has already thought of the sword plus shuttle idea. But I took that as proof there was merit in the idea and made mine anyway. Yet to try it – I have packed away the table loom and the floor and knitters looms are occupied. But I will soon!

The Anasthetic-Brain Scarf & Thrum-Fringed Scarf

When I put a project on all my looms before having eye surgery, this was the most complicated one: two point twill scarves using the clasped weft technique to turn thrums into a side fringe. I did one repeat of the first draft before the first surgery, but didn’t go back to it until after the second surgery.

Oh boy, was it frustrating! My short term memory was completely messed up. By the time I’d done a couple of picks I’d forgotten where I was in the draft. I’d do the same two row three times because I kept forgetting I’d already done them, or skip a couple because I thought I had done them when I hadn’t. Sure, there was a lot to keep track of thanks to adding clasped weft, but it hadn’t been that difficult pre-surgery.

After unweaving and reweaving several times over a couple of sessions, I thought I had about four perfect repeats done. But when I looked closely the first and fourth were different to the second and third. At that point I gave up. I decided I was going to continue with the two up/two down basic twill structure and just shift to the left or right as I pleased.

Oh, the relief! And simultaneously, the project was suddenly so much more fun to weave. The fabric I was getting looked great, in a groovy sort of way. I did have to watch out for overly long floats, but the change of approach made it doable and enjoyable.

A few weeks later, when I came close to running out of thrums I decided to consult the draft again. Sure enough, I had no trouble following it. The affect of the anasthetic had worn off.

I finished it and started the second scarf, attempted the draft I had planned for it. The weaving went just fine. This time I didn’t have enough thrums to do a full length scarf, so after every three clasped weft repeats I did two with the non-thrum yarn going all the way across, leaving enough on the side to make a blue section of fringe. It made for a more ‘graphic’ design.

I’m really happy with how they turned both out. However, I went through my accessories recently and I definitely have more than enough for one person (or two, or three…). A few knitted pieces were culled, unravelled, washed and wound into balls to make into something else. I decided I would try selling all the scarves I wove this year in the Guild’s gallery.

I loved making them, and I’d be very happy if they found a happy home.

Swings & Roundabouts

I’ve had a mild case of finishitis lately. The part of me that wants to get current projects done is winning the battle against the one that wants to start something new. So what do I have in progress?

The Handwoven Skirt
Currently stalled because my back has been cranky, and sewing is worse for it than weaving.

The Krokbragd Rug
Stalled because I’m waiting to see if I can buy some more carpet yarn from a weaver.

Clasped Weft Fringe Scarves
What I’ve been spending most of my craft time on. It’s been… interesting. Is there such thing as ‘anaesthetic brain’? Because my short term memory was atrocious after the second eye operation. I was incapable of following the draft, and after a number of sessions in which I unwove almost as much as I wove, I gave up and just started making it up as I went. Thankfully, the result is good. Kinda groovy.

Taupe Jacket
Mainly weaving this one in the evenings, while watching tv. I’m warping up the Knitters Loom with a natural wool and for weft I’m using stripes of natural through to brown coloured yarns. I’m intending it to become a jacket. We’ll see.

Eye Embroidery
It’s been the project I grab when I need something portable. However, I may regret not finishing it before now, if my eyesight remains bad for close work.

Swimmers Clock
I need to get back to this. It wasn’t warm enough to work out in the garage, and now it’s too warm.

Weaving Bits and Pieces
I’m making a weaving sword, or wavy beater, inspired by a recent demonstration by Mr Tanji at the Guild. Which I didn’t get to, but the Weavers Matters gals showed me the ropes at the next meeting and it was a lot of fun. Also, working on the idea for the Vari Dent Reed.

Falling Feathers Scarf

It’s done!

I wasn’t really up to weaving anything that required memory and focus between cataract surgeries, so I didn’t touch this scarf for about a month. A couple of day before my second surgery I finished weaving it, and on the day after I cut it from the loom and tied the fringe.

It’s a bit uneven in places, where I beat harder or softer depending on my mood. I like the pattern and want to weave it again in colours that are more ‘me’. I’d also like to weave the draft I meant to weave originally, too, but both ideas will have to go down the end of a very long list of weaving projects I want to do.

Vari (And a bit Wonky) Dent

Paul and I tend to throw ideas around for possible presents as birthdays and Christmas near. (Well, okay, I do this and then mostly have to nag Paul for ideas for him.) This year one of mine was an Ashford Vari Dent Reed for my Knitters Loom.

While the advertised use is to weave with different thickness of warp at the same time, it wasn’t until I had some other ideas for how it could be used that I decided I wanted the kit. Some of these idea I tried a few weekends ago, with not much success, I admit, but in doing so I stumbled upon something rather cool. Trouble is, to do this other cool thing would require several of the narrower heddles in the same size, and it doesn’t look like you can buy the Vari Dent heddles outside of the full kit. I’d have to buy four kits in order to get the number I want, and that would be a tad expensive – especially for a concept I haven’t confirmed is going to work yet!

Still, I haven’t given up on the idea. There’s got to be another way. Maybe I can make my own heddles somehow…

Perhaps because it was a birthday present idea, I didn’t do my usual research and inspiration seeking beforehand. When I did, I was surprised to find no YouTube videos – not even by Ashford – for the Vari dent reed. A search for ‘vari dent blog’ brought up very little, as did a search in Google Images. I found two projects on the Schacht Spindle Company website for their version. Ravelry brought up four results for ‘vari dent’ and more if I typed ‘variable dent’, which included other brand’s versions. Weavolution produced two projects in Weavolution, both using a Saori loom.

These scant results did at least flag that some weavers had issues with different rates of warp stretch from using different warp yarns, resulting in uneven fabric. This is a potential problem even when using the same weight yarns made by different makers anyway. One weaver cleverly used this tendency to create a ruffle, and it could be used to make seersucker fabric without the need to felt.

I’ll keep thinking and playing and browsing the internet. In the meantime, I’ve warped up the Knitters Loom with a simple natural wool warp and I’m weaving plain sections of natural and taupe yarns, with the idea of producing some fabric I can sew into a garment. No idea what kind of garment yet.

Oh, and I should mention a little issue I had with the Vari Dent, too, in case anyone else has the same problem.

One of the heddles that was already in the frame was a bit wonky at one end, I suspect by being shipped with the heddle in the frame and the frame screwed together too tightly:

Two of the slots were completely closed at the centre point – the tines jammed together – which would have meant any yarn going through them would be quickly worn through. Of course, Paul not being a weaver, he didn’t notice or know it would be a problem, so it wasn’t until I received the gift and asked him to get it replaced that he took the above photo and emailed the seller.

They didn’t reply. After three or four days I decided to risk a little experiment. I boiled some water and quickly dipped the end of the reed in. Sure enough, the plastic softened up. As it cooled I held the tines as close to the correct position as I could. I got this:

Not perfect, but at least there are gaps now.

So I guess my advice is: if you get a faulty vari dent reed and the seller doesn’t respond to a request for a replacement, you could try this. But it would probably mean the seller won’t replace it if the ‘fix’ doesn’t work.

Saori-inspired Spring Sampler Scarf

Some weeks back when I warped up pretty much every loom I own, I put a simple 3ply wool warp on the Knitters Loom and gathered together thrums and yarns in pink, cream, brown and burgundy. I was inspired by Saori weaving, and hoped that a simple project would be within my abilities post-eye surgery.

As it turned out, I had so much fun that I wove a fair bit of the warp before the surgery happened. After the op I didn’t weave for a few days, but I put the loom near by tv-watching armchair and eventually I gave it a go.

I had a thick cream cotton, three strands of very fine grey, burgundy and yellow-brown boucle wound together, and some handspun to play with along with the thrums. I also used the warp yarns – using up the pink with plain weave sections between each bit of ‘play’.

Initially I played with using the thrums and seeing how the different yarns wove up. I also went through most of the weaving methods on a rigid heddle I’d tried before. Clasped weft, basketweave, thick and thin, rya knots, tapestry, danish medallions, leno and Brook’s bouquet had a turn. Then I began to mix the techiniques. I used a pickup stick to weave plain weave with half the warp as a background for Brook’s bouquet. I wove leno as the same time weaving another yarn over and under the leno twists.

I had so much fun! I didn’t think much about what the fabric would be. I figured probably not a scarf, as it would be one-sided and maybe a bit lumpy in places, and not have an overall even appearance. But when I took it off the loom, I was surprised to find it does make a nice scarf. All the different kinds of weaving hang together well, and the textural elements haven’t stiffened it up or made it overly lumpy.

The colours are not what I usually wear, so I’m thinking I might sell or give it away. But I will take lots of photos, because I came up with some combinations of techniques that I’d like to use in other projects. Also, I had a birthday recently and received an Ashford Vari Dent reed, and I have an idea I want to try with it.

But first, I have three other weaving projects wanting my attention. I want to get at least one of them done before I warp up another one. I’m definitely experiencing the ‘fidget’ part of my blog title!

Krokbragd

At the moment, the floor loom is occupied with a Krokbragd rug. Krokbragd is a weft rep technique – rep in weaving is where the yarn going one way along the cloth completely covers the yarn going the other way.

That might be an overly simplified explanation, but it’ll do for this post. I’ve tried warp rep twice before, and hated it. (Though technically inkle weaving is warp rep, and I do enjoy that!) But I like the look of warp rep. Weft rep turns the pattern of crammed threads on its side, which means there are far fewer warp ends to thread and there are no cranky, sticky shed problems, so I’ve been wanting to try a form of it for ages.

I’ve been seeing lots of references to krokbragd lately. There’s even a Ravelry forum weave-along happening at the moment. The last Ashford magazine I saw had an article on doing krokbragd on a rigid heddle loom. Earlier this year I found a pile of carpet yarn in an antiques and second-hand market. A lot of it was moth-eaten, but I bought the least damaged cones anyway. I washed it, wound it into cakes and froze it for a month in the hopes that would take care of any moth larvae. I found some more of the same yarn at the Guild Textile Bazaar this weekend, too.

When I wove denim rag rugs some years ago I wound up with an extra cone of thick cotton rug warp. I put that on the floor loom, wound some of the carpet yarn onto rag shuttles, and got weaving. The first attempt was Not Good. Though the pattern was coming out fine, the selvedges were terrible, even though I was using a temple and ‘bubbling’ the weft. On closer inspection, there were even a few threads that doubled back on themselves, missing the floating selvedge, and where I’d bubbled the weft loops had formed.

I unwove it and started again, this time concentrating instead on making sure the yarn always caught the floating selvedge. The selvedges looked fine. I bubbled the picks again, but each time I pressed them in gently with the beater, checked the selvedge and for loops, and corrected if necessary before closing the shed and beating harder to cram the weft in.

I’m liking how it’s turning out so far. There’s a momentum to it, too. Just as I start to get bored with one combination of colours it’s time to switch to the next. I was worried that, what with three picks to a row of pattern, it would take up my floor loom for ages. I suspect that won’t be a problem. More likely having my attention and time split between so many looms will do that!

Do You See What Eye See?

A few weeks back I had a huge bout of startitis sparked by ideas for using up thrums. Just about every loom in the house wound up with a project on it. I finished the dishcloths then a busy fortnight arrived, with an interstate friend staying over and another friend’s 40th birthday party to organise and host, and suddenly I didn’t have much time for weaving.

It was a fun two weeks. There’ll be a post some time with the sketches I did at the Dior exhibition. September had been really lovely, socially. It zoomed past as a result… and possibly because I was dreading today, the first of my cataract removal surgeries.

So there might also have been a bit of “DO ALL THE THINGS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!” anxiety behind me starting so many projects. The thought also occurred to me that if I had a range of projects warped and ready then something might be doable during the recovery time.

So I have:

A clasped weft using thrums twill scarf on the Ashford 4-shaft loom. (Though I need to dye up a third colour to add to the thrums, because I don’t have enough of them to make a good scarf length.)

Krokbragd on the floor loom. I wove a good ten cm but had to unweave most of it because the selvedges were VERY bad! But I consider those cm a ‘sampler’ I was learning on and expect I’ll do better on the second attempt.

A saori-inspired project on the Knitter’s Loom in which I’m using up more thrums as well as some leftover yarn. I’m doing as many different kinds of weaving I can think of. Clasped weft, rya knots, thick and thin, danish medallions, and brooks bouquet have all made it in there.

The Falling Feathers scarf hasn’t been touched since all this thrum-using inspiration hit, I admit. But I haven’t lost interest. Now that I have more time, and so long as my new eye settles in well, I’ll be back to it again soon.

Thrums Dishcloths

I’ve finished using up two batches of thrums!

One was very thick, the other thin. The thick batch had some longer pieces as well as the remainder of the red and black balls. I wove these on a pin loom, using longer pieces to make a warp, then weaving the shorter pieces through that and tying at both ends. I worked out pretty quickly that it was easier to tie two pieces of thrum together before weaving them through then knotting both together on the other end.

The thin batch of thrums was all short pieces, so I used it as weft in a warp of Bendigo Cotton 4ply on my Knitters Loom. I enjoyed coming up with different patterns for each dishcloth. The last one was entirely random.

I’m amazed at how many dishcloths I got out of the thicker batch. We’re not going to run out of them any time soon. Overall, I made some useful cloths out of waste that could easily have wound up in the trash. I’m rather chuffed at that!

Stash Plotting

The skirt fabric is off the loom, washed and draped over my dress model, waiting to be pinned and shaped into something hopefully wearable. The falling feathers scarf is half woven. The 4 shaft table loom is now on a folding table in the entertainment room with a pile of carpet warp and yarn awaiting transformation into a krokbragd rug.

The Knitters Loom now has a stand!

It’s an embroidery stretcher stand, and all it needed to transform into a loom stand was for Paul to make two flat pieces of metal for the side knobs of the loom to slot into.

But what to put on it, and the floor loom?

On Sunday I was feeling a bit under the weather and didn’t want anything mentally challenging to do. Over the previous week I’d been thinking a lot about saori weaving and how Amanda weaves thrums from previous projects into new pieces. So I dug out my bag of thrums and began considering what I could make with them.

First I separated them into cotton or wool. Most were in bundles according to the project they’d come from. I put all the 8/2 cotton thrums together and decided they would be used at warp ties.

There are three batches of red, white and black cotton from hand towel and tea towel projects. All using different thicknesses of yarn. The 8/2 cotton went into the warp tie bag, which left me with 3ply and 10ply.

I decided to make dishcloths, which I use rather than plastic sponges or ‘chux’ in the kitchen. They can be thrown in the wash and once worn out are biodegradable. I’ll try weaving the 10ply on my pin loom, and I’ll warp up the Knitters loom with some white 4ply cotton for weaving the 3ply thrums. They’ll be fringed on all sides, and I’ll have to either hemstitch or zigzag around them for stability.

Of the wool thrums, I have two batches of purple. One is quite short, but the other is long enough, and there’s enough of it, to become a side fringe on a clasped weft scarf.

My newest batch of thrums comes from the skirt fabric. All black. So when I warp up the purple thrum fringe project I’m going to add enough to do a second one with blue on the non-fringe side.

Looking for yarns to go with the thrums from the plaited twill scarf, I pulled out several cones. The grey and burgundy yarns below are very thin, but put together, with the rust coloured boucle yarn, they’ll be thick enough to weave without the risk of expiring of boredom.

But wait! A peek in the handspun box reminded me of the yarn I spun from the fibre that came with the electric spinner. It has brown in it, so I added that, but then the burgundy looked out of place. Hmm. Options…

By now I’d found uses for most of the thrums and was enjoying mixing and matching stash. I already knew I had a potential combination between the two new white/taupe yarns and the darker taupe-ish ones already in my stash, and the mix was one I’d been having saori-like daydreams about.

The next combo had popped into my head during a bout of insomnia. Pink and green. Watermelon colours. I’ve got lots of the green, so perhaps a shawl.

This new purple matches perfectly with the glitzy one in my stash.

Plans for making clothing have had me thinking about combining the slubby blue cotton with white and making a top, but on a whim I put it with blue and it works much better.

By this point I’d started tidying the stash. The blue alpaca below was from a scarf I frogged, and I’d just stuffed it in a box with yarns of similar thickness. Now I moved it to the ‘yarns other than cotton, wool or acrylic’ box and discovered I had a lovely combo of alpaca 8ply yarn. So soft!

This half-frogged project was meant to be knitted into something new, but this time I looked on it with a weaver’s eyes and realised all those lovely stripes would look fantastic woven into a shawl. (Last night I finished frogging it. A good tv watching task.)

Moving yarns of like fibre content and thickness into the same boxes did leave me with a problem: Bendigo yarn balls don’t fit into the smaller of my boxes. So I set to winding them into cakes… and in the process realised that these two yarns go beautifully together:

I spend most of the day mixing and matching, brainstorming, winding yarn and resorting stash. It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday. It means I have an even longer to-do list of projects I want to tackle right away, though. Some of these might never happen – I’ll change my mind about a combo or find a better use for a yarn – but coming up with ideas is half the fun. The next challenge is to choose weave structures, drafts and looms for them – and decide which one to start next.

The dishcloths are going on the Knitters Loom first. That much, I know!