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!

Waffling About Weaving

In the last few years I’ve developed two weaving ambitions: to try lots of new weave structures and to weave fabric to make clothing from. Recent projects have seen me revert to my usual comfortable habit of using up stash, however. They have been a great excuse to play with twills, but I want to get back to trying new structures and weaving fabric for clothing.

My table loom now has a fabric project on it. I’m weaving three metres of black wool (Bendy Classic 3ply) with grey boucle stripes, which will hopefully become a skirt.

The Katie still has the feathers scarf on it.

All my recent yarn purchases have been with fabric in mind. Recently a weaver on Facebook posted an ad for vintage linen. I got in contact to see if she was amenable to me coming around and looking at it, and anything else she had for sale. We organised a time. When I got there she’d laid everything she wanted to sell out on the table. Well, except the occasional yarn cone I’d take out and find it wasn’t for sale. Maybe she changed her mind, or hadn’t checked that what she had put out was all for sale. It occurred to me that she might be doing it to see if I’d offer more money, so I tried that for a second cone of a yarn she’d already said I could buy one of. She refused firmly, so that clearly wasn’t it! Ah well, people can be hard to read sometimes.

I wasn’t bothered (just a bit nonplussed) and I came home with a half dozen small cones of interesting yarns, two large ones of linen and one enormous one of hemp. The linen is thinner than I’m used to weaving, and the hemp is as fine as sewing cotton, so I will probably double or triple them. The small cones will go with others that have been accumulating in the stash. I’ve got several reds and a white and natural mix.

The day after my yarn purchasing, Amanda at the Weaving Matters meeting gave an inspiring talk about saori. I found myself thinking that there’s a lot about saori that I’m drawn to. It’s colourful, playful, I like how the clothing is designed to be made with minimal cutting or waste, and the looms have many clever features.

Not that I’m going to buy a saori loom. I don’t have room for another loom. I don’t have room for the looms I have already! My Ashford 4-shaft table loom has been sitting folded up in the hallway for many months, unused.

(I’ve been thinking about that loom a lot recently. I advertised it the Facebook group for nearly a year, and though I lowered the price a few times all I got was the occasional enquiry that went nowhere. Trouble is, occasionally an ad for the 8-shaft version goes up from someone who is desperate enough to sell theirs really cheaply, so I don’t think I’ll ever get even a third of what a new version of mine is worth. I may as well keep it as a backup loom.)

Anyway, I can probably do saori-ish weaving on my knitters loom. It might even be simple enough to do while I’m recovering from eye-surgery, so long as I warp up the loom beforehand. Now there’s an idea. Yes, that’s what I’m going to do! I just need to decide whether I’ll use the red yarns, or the white and natural yarns.

Tapestry Bag

Remember when I bought some big batches of canvas tapestry thread on ebay? Well, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It was quite a while ago.

In it was a small collection of Beehive tapestry thread, but it was so old each skein had fulled to itself. It was too far gone to stitch with so I decided to weave it. I cut all the thread into shorter lengths then fused the ends together by wetting with soapy water and rubbing between my palms. This gave me three shuttles worth of weft. I wove this on the Knitters Loom with a firm beat to make a weft-faced cloth.

Once off the loom I found it was a good thickness for a bag, but simply folding it in half made for a rather boring one. I started folding on the bias, and found the result much more appealing. I’ve seen bags folded so that they formed a square with a triangle missing so I tried that, and I had just enough material to do it.

I’m not a fan of bags that don’t close, however, but I couldn’t see how I could easily add a zip to this design. After a lot of thinking the answer came like a bolt of lightening – a bag within the bag!

I found a silver belt in an op shop to make a handle out of, and when I went looking for some leather to make the inner bag from I found some in the same shade of silver, the right thickness and on sale! I bought some matching lining and a zip and got sewing.

It all came together easily until I got to attaching the handle. Where the buckle had been sewn onto the belt the leather was splitting. If I sewed the handles to the bag (and reattached the buckle) the same thing would happen. Rivets would be better. But do you think I could find any at the right size? The fruitless search for suitable rivets has put this project on hold for months. Last week I gave up. I cut the holes for the rivets anyway, then sewed everything with thread.

Perhaps I will stumble on the right sized rivets in future. For now, I have a useable bag.

Which I love!

Plaited Twill Scarf

This was yet another leftovers-using project, this time to use up the orange yarn I dyed for the overshot sampler I did last year. These batches picked up black dye from the pot I had used previously in a failed attempt to dye some stained polyester pants. I couldn’t scrub the residue off the pot, yet it came off on the yarn as a greyish shadow. The pot went into the rubbish afterwards, which was a shame, as it was a good sized dying pot.

Since the shadowing wasn’t uniform, I mixed the orange threads among twice as many in the ‘dusky rose’ colour of in the same yarn. I’ve been liking the dividing stripe effect of the last few scarves I’ve woven, so I added some in ‘raffia’ too. Then I chose ‘almond’, a slightly off-white, for the weft.

It was MUCH easier to warp the loom this time as I wasn’t working with already cut ends and therefore no cross. I could use my warping board to wind and tie everything neatly, with one exception: because I wanted to mix the orange with the pink I wound three threads together – one orange and two pink – and that meant the cross wasn’t of alternate single threads but sets of three. This allowed me to move the orange thread of each trio around when threading so the mix was more random than simply orange-pink-pink and I didn’t get two orange threads next to each other.

Like with the Scarf of Leftover Colours, having eight pedals meant I could arrange the tie up so I could simply move from left to right. Then I got weaving.

Oh my. I may have fallen in love with plaited twill. It’s so pretty!

These are not my usual wearing colours. Either I’m going to have to revise that opinion, find someone dear to me who does wear them, or weave another plaited twill scarf. I’m thinking the latter.

I have other plans for the floor loom’s next project, so that’ll have to wait. On the Katie, I put another leftovers warp on, using up some burgundy warp. I found a draft I liked by entering “weaving drafts” in google images. I started with a blue weft, but didn’t like it, so I tried cream and it’s much better.

However, it wasn’t looking like it was supposed to. I realised I was making several mistakes: I should be working from the bottom to the top, the black squares for the tie up should be for shafts in the down position and not up, and I had missed four picks of the sequence in each repeat.

But I liked what I’d done, so I just made a new draft that looked like the result I had and called it ‘falling feathers’.

The other mistake I made was that, when I measured the warp, I cut sixteen threads for each stripe, when the pattern repeat actually uses 14. So now I have another small pile of leftover warp to use up.

More Loom Tweaks

Having had success modifying the Katie Loom, I turned my attention to the floor loom.

Problem 1: I’m too tall for the loom as it was built, so when my top half was in the right position, my knees were bent at 90 degrees and I couldn’t put my weight on the pedals. Also, my knees pushed up against the apron when I changed pedals.

Problem 2: There was nowhere to put my non-working foot when I was pressing a pedal except on either side of the eight pedals, so I was always straddling them and it made my hips ache. If I sat back far enough to rest my feet on the front ends of the pedals my top half was too far away from the beater to weave comfortably.

Solution: Raise the loom by putting it on planks of wood, and move the pedals to the underside of the supporting beam so they’re further away and I can rest my non-working foot on it.

I got stuck into removing the pedals before I took a photo, so here’s a pic from when I first put the loom together:

Paul and I played around with the position of the pedals until we had one where they were underneath the crossbeam and still had room to move. It meant drilling a new hole in the edge supports, but that was the only permanent modification.

This was MUCH more comfortable, as not only are the pedals now low enough that I can put my weight behind pushing them down, but I can brace my non-working foot on the crossbeam. My knees no longer push against the apron, too.

However, because front of the pedals are now lower than ends when they’re in the down position, they’re also at a greater angle when pressed. The shafts didn’t rise evenly with the chains I was using for the tie-up. I replace them with texsolv (after this pic was taken) as it is more easily adjusted. The up side to the change is the loom is a little quieter to operate now.

This all happened in the middle of weaving another leftover yarn scarf. I chose a plaited twill from an issue of Heddlecraft:

These are not my colours, but I love them. They put me in mind of a spring flower garden, though maybe that’s just because I’m longing for an easing of what seems a very chilly winter.

Katie Loom Fix

During the weaving workshop students from other classes would occasionally ask if they could come in and look at what we were doing. One duo looked at my loom and said “this is a really expensive loom, isn’t it?”. I told her how much it cost and then admitted I would advise against buying it, and explained why.

While I love so much about the Katie Loom, there is one shortcoming that renders it a loom only suitable for sampling or making very small projects. The cloth beam at the front is so close to the front beam, that the accumulating woven fabric around it soon meets the front beam and you have to cut it off to continue. It also begins to restrict how far forward the beater can swing, giving you a decreasing area in which to weave, and a narrowing fell. Depending on the thickness of the yarn you’re using, you could end up only being able to weave a metre of cloth.

It seems like compromises were made in order to keep the loom small and light. I’ve considered how the loom could be better designed many times, and it didn’t seem like much weight and extra depth would be added to it in order to allow a longer warp.

Having discussed ideas with Kay, I decided I was going to ‘fix’ the loom when I got home. I measured the loom and drew up plans, comparing different approaches that would gain more room for the front cloth beam.

Simply replacing the front beam with a dowel is a small change that would make a reasonable difference, and what I’d recommend for other Katie owners. This will make it much harder to put a raddle on the front of the loom but, as Kay had pointed out, a raddle ought to be as close as possible to the beam the warp is being wound upon – which is the back beam no matter whether you warp front to back or back to front. So if you want an improvement to your Katie, a simple change from the flat front beam to a broomstick-size dowel is an easy fix.

However, I wanted to try to make even more space for woven cloth, and that meant moving the cloth beam lower. I’ve considered moving it to new version of the ‘legs’ that swivel down to support the loom, but that would mean cutting the cloth beam shorter which would involve some tricky woodwork. I’ve considered attaching pieces to the underside of the existing arms to hold the cloth beam, but when I realised that was going to be as involved as simply creating new arms entirely I put that side aside.

New arms would add weight and depth to the loom, but I was prepared to live with that for the sake of being able to make a whole scarf on my only eight shaft loom.

First I carefully dismantled the front of the loom. The scariest part was removing the knob and ratchet – they are two pieces but it’s not obvious. The ratchet piece is screwed into the beam, and the outer knob slots tightly into the ratchet. It’s the part most likely to break when taking the loom apart. Don’t try this unless you’re prepared to break it and have to order replacement parts.

I managed to separate it without damaging anything, fortunately. Next I traced an existing arm, then brought out a math-a-mat, french curves and paper and got to work designing arms that would lower the cloth beam without compromising the function of the ratchet and pirns. When I was satisfied with my new design, I copied it onto tracing paper and held it up to the existing arms. To my surprise, they would only add about 2 cm to the depth of the loom.

A trip to Bunnings for some Tasmanian Oak (Ashford Looms are made of Silver Beech and a quick google didn’t show any easily accessible sources in Melbourne), some assistance from Paul with power tools, and a bit of sanding and varnishing later…

My modified Katie weighs only 44 grams more than the original loom. It’s about 2 cm deeper, and still fits in the bag the loom came in.

I’ve yet to test how long a warp I can weave on it, which really depends on the thickness of the yarn used anyway, but I’ve increased the space for the front cloth beam from 53 mm to 78 mm so that’s 25 mm more cloth thickness I can wind on before I run out of space.

I’ll be trying out a longer warp soon, but the first thing I did was retie the sampler warp and weave the last of it, going through variations of summer and winter I learned in the workshop. I got a small length of fabric with pockets big enough to fit my stick shuttles, so it became a little shuttle storer:

I found that I can’t weave close to the front beam, as the beater doesn’t swing that far. That made me think about replacing the sides the beater hangs off so that it has a couple of positions from which to swing… which would be do-able but I think this is enough loom tweaking for now!

Weaving in Ballarat

A few weeks back I headed to Ballarat to attend the FibreArts Winter School @ Ballarat I mentioned a few post back.

It being my first one, I was given a ‘duckling’ card to pin next to my name card to alert others that I might need guidance, but my friend, Jane, had told me almost everything I needed to know. The workshop I did was Kay Faulkner’s ‘Play +1’ weaving class, which was challenging and definitely fulfilled my aim of learning something new.

I picked doubleweave as my main structure and summer and winter as the +1 element, but we went way beyond those two options, including a bit of basketweave, hand-manipulated weave (leno, in my case), replacing warp ends with new colours, adding a supplementary warp or weft, tying on a dowel as an extra shaft at the front or the back. By the end I had quite a few extra ends weighted at the back of my loom.

I finished up with a sampler using many kinds of combinations. As I said to Kay, her class should be more truthfully called ‘Play + Ninety Billionty’.

The other weavers, Di, Jeanette, Jillian, Elizabeth and Michael made up an inspiring group, each trying different main and additional structures.

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There was a lot of mutual cursing at mistakes or loom problems, and excitement at the result of our experimenting.

The Winter School was held at Ballarat Grammar. I took the single residential package, with all meals and access to tutor talks included. The room was comfortable (student rooms vacated for the holidays), the food reasonable (the sticky date pudding was delicious!) and the location was conveniently across the road from a supermarket (and five op shops!). I managed to see all but one talk, and they ranged from interesting to inspiring.

I’d like to attend a School again. There’s a workshop that I’m kinda interested in at each of the three next Schools at Ballarat, but I’m hesitating because I’m not sure how well I’d fit them into my schedule once I start writing again. None are weaving workshops, for which I’d probably book and go regardless. And having tried two new hobbies this year, I don’t really need any more taking up my spare time. At least, not for a while!

Doubleweave Gamp Sampler

I finished this months ago, but because I thought I’d make something out of it I haven’t posted about it.

As I wove it, I considered what to do with it. The fabric would be firm, with no drape. It would be narrow and long. It would be double-sided.

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I zig-zagged the ends after taking it off the loom. Since it was a sampler, I hadn’t bothered weaving in the ends as I went, so I wound up having to sew in 62 of them. Phew!

I could use it as a runner, but it’s a bit small. I could make zippered pouches, but it seems a shame to cut it up. I could make an obi, but I don’t have anything to wear one with. I could make it into a long bag for carrying my portable warping board, but then you won’t see that it’s double-sided.

So I’ve settled for just admiring the pretty colours for now:

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And trusting that the right purpose for it will come along eventually.

Twill Stripes Scarf

Having had success using up the ikat leftovers, I dug out some more unused warp end. These were from a mistake-ridden shawl that was the last item I made on the table loom before I got my floor loom. I had two colours, one of which I still had some yarn on the cone. I dug out more of the same kind of yarn (Bendigo classic 3ply) in colours that might go with the leftovers. And I went looking for project ideas.

I was inspired by the ikat scarf stripes, but this time I wanted to do more than tabby. I thought of the twill stripe project in Next Steps in Weaving, and when I counted up how many ends I had and measured the remaining warp I had almost enough for the stripes. All I had to do was make the central stripe narrower and it would work.

For the narrow stripes between the twill ones and the weft I could have used a lighter salmon pink or a dark blue. I decided on the latter, as I liked the idea of a more subtle low contrast.

Warping was a challenge, since most of the ends were already cut so there was no cross. Once I had tied it on and spread it across a raddle, I wove the lease sticks through chunks of warp to provide some evening and tension. Even then, once the warp was on I had to adjust the tension quite a bit before it was even enough.

When I got weaving, I tied up the middle four pedals to match the draft and started carefully working my way through them in the eight step order to make the pattern. When I’d done a few cm I had it memorised. Only then did I remember that I have eight pedals, and all I needed to do was tie up them up so I can simply work from pedal 1 to 8 over and over.

This is, after all, one of the reasons I bought the loom!

The result of all the fiddling with the warp has been so worth it. I’m loving how it’s coming out. This one may be a keeper.