Learning, Teaching and Fixing

A few weekends ago I started the four shaft weaving certificate course I signed up for. The first class was both fun and interesting. Though I know most of what was covered I also learned several new things – and got an answer for something that has puzzled me for some time.

Once at home I finished warping my loom and got weaving, finishing most of the exercises and leaving a few for the next class, as requested. I also typed up my notes and sourced articles and books that covered the topic (twills). I’m not entirely sure how to approach these notes. Do I just type up what I copied down from the board in class? Do I add more to that, based on the articles and books I found? Do I comment on what happened when I wove the sample? It’s been decades since I did anything resembling notes for a course, and even then the classes and subjects I studied required very little in the way of written work.

The student next to me was pretty new at weaving, having only done the Introduction to Weaving course prior to this one. I offered to tutor her if she needed it, and she came over yesterday for guidance on warping up her loom. She also brought an old Dyer and Phillips loom she had been given. Paul replaced some missing and rotten pieces of wood and I re-stringed the shaft-to-lever mechanism. It should have been useable at that point, but I found the shafts kept getting caught on each other. A closer look revealed that the shafts weren’t the original ones. They were aluminium rather than steel, and while the design was clever they were 1 1/2 times the thickness with protruding bolts – the source of the problem. So Paul and I brainstormed the problem and he decided to get larger screws, cut a thread into the holes and countersink the screw heads so nothing would protrude.

In the meantime I cleaned and oiled the loom. It had a warp on it that had been separated with newspaper – nowhere near thick enough for the job. We had to remove the shafts to fix them, which meant removing the warp. When I smoothed out the newspaper much amusement was gained. And I didn’t feel bad about cutting up and tossing a dusty, nearly 40-year old warp into the compost!

The Lotas Position

One of the looms Kay had recommended to me was an eight shaft Lotus loom. I was going to try the one in her studio and see if it suited me. They don’t come up for sale very often, however, so when one did a Facebook group I was pretty excited.

Only trouble was, it was in Western Australia.

I almost let it pass by, but I’ve heard about people having looms shipped interstate before and wondered how hard it could be. Looking into it, I quickly worked out that furniture moving companies were the ones to call. They can ship single pieces of furniture whenever there’s some room left over in a truck. I got a few quotes, proposed the idea to the seller, and she kindly agreed to prep the room for transport. I made the arrangements and then had to sit back and wait.

About a week later it was delivered in a very large cardboard box. We unpacked and partly dismantled it so it would fit through the doorways here, all without remembering to take photos. I gave the whole loom a rub down with Danish oil, then reassembled it in the former guest room, now known as the Loom Room.

Now, assuming I have no issues weaving on the Lotas, I have to decide whether I will keep the LeClerc jack loom or sell it.

All I need to do now is buy or make a loom bench. Sitting on a carpentry horse works, but isn’t exactly comfortable.

Sakiori Runner II

After finishing the sakori runner, I had more kimono rag strips left over than I anticipated. So I considered how I could use them up. Placemats? I did the math and found I’d only be able to make four. Another runner? It wouldn’t be as long, and I didn’t have any more of the light blue warp in the centre of the last one. But I knew it would weave up fast, and if my friend didn’t want a third runner, then I could sell it in the Guild shop.

So I wound the warp, dressed the loom and got weaving. I had it woven in two days.

And my friend said “yes, please!” to another runner.

Five Years

That’s how long we have lived in this house. I still love it, though the garden is waaaay more work than I need. I’d be very sad if I had to move out – and Paul would certainly have a lot of trouble downsizing.

I wouldn’t have thought much would change in five years, other than the renovations we’d planned. We’ve both discovered new interests since we moved here. My back has deteriorated and the frozen shoulder I had for the first half of the year (nearly healed) made me realise I need to store my yarn somewhere lower than the top shelves of a wardrobe. And the way we use the house has changed.

When we first inspected it house, the idea of me using the entertainment room as my studio was considered, but it was such a great space for gatherings ite became known as the Party House. Over the last couple of years, however, our main circle of friends has fragmented due to various reasons and I started to find all the partying exhausting. We’ve used the entertainment room less and less and I began considering the studio idea again. The problem is where to put the sofas. And bar. And guests, the rare times we have them.

Last Sunday the solution hit me: I’ve been looking at the wrong room! The guest room also isn’t used much any more. One of the smaller bedrooms, it has a sofa bed for people staying over and a tv with dvd player for the children of visitors. It also stores bed linen and party costumes, and my Passap knitting machine. And the clothes airer.

So I did a mental reshuffle. Where could the sofa bed and chest of drawers go? The entertainment room would work just as well for overnight visitors. Linen? Cull and move to the entertainment room too, and make space for it by culling party supplies we no longer use. Costumes? Cull and move what we keep into our wardrobe. That leaves some shelving that came from my workroom at the last house. The tubs I keep my yarn in were bought to fit it, so that solves the yarn storage accessibility problem.

I ran the idea past Paul. He saw no problems with it. So we got stuck in, culling and moving things. And then, as if making space finally made it happen: I bought a floor loom.

But that’s another story.

Spot Bronson

Well, I was able to cut most of the blue stains off the ends of the napkins before hemming. I have four mostly matching napkins:

One is a bit shorter than the rest. I think I was beating harder at the beginning. When weaving the fifth napkin I accidentally did an extra repeat of the pattern, so that has become a table mat.

The last piece is the first napkin, full of mistakes, which has become a sampler.

Just two weeks to go before I start the four shaft weaving course. I’m looking forward to it!

The Sakiori Runner

Among the fabric my friends donated for the Memories Rug was a kimono that I didn’t end up needing. So, of course, I’ve been wondering what to do with it. I found a kimono-to-vest sakiori project in an issue of Handwoven, and decided to rip up the kimono to make it. But in the weeks since I did, it kept bothering me that I really don’t need another vest. What else could I weave? The idea of a table runner appealed. When the 40 Hour Fun Runner came off the loom and proved a bit short, I decided that I’d make another runner out of the kimono fabric and give it to the same friend.

I used up some 8/2 cotton winding the warp, and when that ran out I added a darker blue to the edges.

The weaving was easy – and so much faster than weft-faced clasped weft. Good for podcast listening. And something happened that hasn’t occurred with my floor loom before. I was able to release the spring holding the tension brake from the front, and crank on the warp, without any threads snapping. I still had to stand up, reach over the loom and press the brake back in place afterwards, but it was so good not having to crank from the side of the loom.

I wondered if the runner was going to be a bit plain, but when I took it off the loom I found it looked great. It was 3 metres long pre-washed.

After washing, I finished the ends by sewing on a strip of the kimono’s collar. It shrank a little, down to about 285cm. I have quite a bit of kimono rag left, so I’m thinking of weaving some placemats to match it. Not exactly, as I ran out of the middle colour. But I have a slightly different blue that will do perfectly well.

Spotty Napkins

When I named these napkins it was just a silly reference to spot bronson, the lace structure I used. But when I washed the fabric, the name gained a new, less fun, meaning.

The colour of the blue threads I’d added to mark where to cut the napkins bled. And not just to the nearby threads, but all over the napkins.

After zig zagging next to the blue threads, I cut the fabric to separate the napkins and bleached them. It wasn’t 100% successful. I also bleached some dishcloths without great results so maybe the bleach has gone off. Maybe I’ll try again with fresh bleach. Or maybe I’ll just hem and added them to the Indigo dyeing pile.

At least this means the Katie Loom is free, ready for the 4 shaft weaving course starting in a month.

The 40 Hour Fun Runner

It’s done!

It’s rather hard to get a good photo of it. This is three photos stitched together:

The division line between the two blues is the horizon as seen from the recipient’s balcony. The grey stripes represent rain squalls coming through.

Though it was a slooooow project, it was perfect weaving between work sessions, and for listening to podcasts. Not too mentally challenging, but getting the clasp to land where I wanted it and the wandering line of the horison stopped it from being boring.

Technically, some problems surfaced after it was washed. The runner should be 3 metres long. It’s 2.65. Since the weft weaves around the warp threads, not distorting them, I didn’t need to stretch the cartoon to compensate for shrinkage. So the shrinkage that did happen must be from the warp shrinking when I washed the runner. That’s 18% shrinkage just from washing, and I didn’t even use warm water. I’m wondering if rug yarn is supposed to shrink, to help tighten up the fabric of rugs, but it has shrunk widthwise even more. From 30cm to 24. That’s 20% lost. I’m nots surprised that it came out narrower, but I am that it shrank that much.

I can live with a shorter, narrower runner. It’s not what my friend asked for, but it’s not far off. The flaw in the runner is that one side seems to have shrunk more than the other, making it a little bit ripply. I’m hoping that will sort itself out through use and further washing and pressing.

This combination of weaving methods was entirely new to me, and if google is any indication it’s pretty rare. Maybe the above issues are why. Still, the finished piece works for the purpose it was made for, so I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

Rigid Heddle Honeycomb Scarf 1

In Syne Mitchell’s book Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom she has a formula for weaving honeycomb on a rigid heddle loom. Intrigued, I warped up the AKL some months ago and wove a scarf.

A wash let the yarn relax into the honeycomb pattern.

From the start, I wondered if it was possible to turn things 90 degrees and have the feature yarn as a supplemental warp. After I finished the first scarf, I immediately started exploring. I warped up the loom with the same yarns. And warped it again. And warped it again. And warped it again. And rethreaded the supplemental warp another time. After all that faffing about, I seem to have a working honeycomb happening.

I learned quite a bit about designing on a rigid-heddle loom. The tricky thing with rigid heddles is that the warp threads you manipulate with pick up sticks have to be in the slots, not holes, of the heddle. The supplemental warp threads sit next to threads that need to manipulatable, so to make both manipulatable I had two choices: spread the warp out by skipping two holes, or putting the supplemental warp threads into the same slots as their neighbours. And then I still had to rig up a separate ‘heddle’ of loops on a dowel for the supplemental warp.

Though the set-up is a little more complicated, the weaving is no more time-consuming and slow than the weft honeycomb – and no wrangling of two shuttles.

Weaving Off

Of all my looms, the one I most urgently need to free up is the Katie Loom. I’d put a six metre warp on there for Kay’s class, intending to sample then weave eight napkins. Well, best laid plans and all that. I wound up doing a metre and a half of sampling and a half metre table runner, so I had four metres of warp left to weave.

I was intending to weave six napkins using the six summer and winter designs I’d come up with, but I had to put it aside while I chased a work deadline. As soon I was free, I printed off those designs and surveyed what I had, and decided three things: I should do something quicker than summer and winter, something all white (so the napkins can be bleached to get inevitable food stains out), and something that made a lighter fabric than the runner.

Lace made sense. I’ve done huck already, Swedish looks a bit complicated, Atwater-Bronson appeals but a Spot Bronson threading looked not too dissimilar to summer and winter. At least, it was made up of blocks of four threads and that might make rethreading the loom simpler. (It didn’t, but it was worth trying.)

I found a project in an old Interweave that, if I only did two rounds of the repeated bit of the pattern, used almost exactly the same number of warp threads I had. I just needed to add a few more, and since I already had eight supplemental threads added to the left side, they could just join those.

Rethreading went fairly well. The biggest hitch was that I ran out of heddles for shaft one and had to make a whole lot of string heddles – and I hate making large numbers of string heddles. I had some issues getting the supplemental threads weighted enough to match the tension of the rest, and there were some miss-threadings, but eventually I was able to get weaving.

I like it, and I think it’ll go fast.

In the meantime, this arrived:

My teaching/photography loom. It seems weird buying another of the same loom, but when I considered what I want to use it for, it made the most sense. I want to get the napkins done and maybe the honeycomb scarf finished before I start anything new, but at least I have the loom I need now.