OLAD

In Ravelry’s Warped Weavers group there is a subject thread called OLAD – Obsessive Loom Acquisition Disorder.

A few years back I ran into a friend at the guild’s destash bazaar. We were chatting when we came upon a cute 16 shaft table loom going very cheaply but in need of some TLC. I was intrigued but hesitated, as I didn’t (and still don’t) need more looms and my friend was showing interest. When she bought it, I said that if she ever wanted to sell it then let me know as I might be interested.

Some weeks back we were chatting via Messenger or something, and she mentioned wanting to sell the loom as she’d received an Ashford as a gift. So I asked how much she wanted and we settled on a price.

Of course, I couldn’t actually pick it up until now. Still, that didn’t stop me googling 16 shaft drafts. I found that resources are much thinner than for 8 shafts and less. There isn’t a book of 16 shaft patterns, as far as I could see. Of course, I know enough now to design for more shafts in structures like summer and winter, lace and maybe double weave. There are plenty of 16 shaft twills on handweaving.net. And I found echo and iris drafts when I googled.

After I had picked up the loom and set it on my dining table for examination, I was intrigued to find it had four 4-shaft castles joined together. I began considering what I’d need to fix and what I wanted to change, and broke it down into four parts.

The shafts – good design, badly made. Need rebuilding.
The castle – interesting solution, but you can’t really see which lever you’re reaching for and is unnecessarily tall. Wants redesigning.
The frame – front and back are fine, sides are much too short as they were designed with room for only four shafts, and it would be nice if they could fold in for transport. Needs extending and redesigning.
The beater – obviously didn’t come with this loom. Seems to work okay, though. Wants replacing.

After much brainstorming and deliberation, I decided that I had to answer truthfully to one question: How much work is worth doing in order for me to want to use this loom?

And my answer was: too much.

By the time I did all of the above I’d only be reusing the front and back of it. I may as well build a 16-shaft loom from scratch. I already have the most difficult parts to find: two ratchets and pawls, bought at a guild sale a few years back. The rest can be bought online or at the hardware store.

So I will renovate the loom, tackling the parts I decided needed fixing, then sell it.

And then I will build a 16 shaft room from scratch.

Little Puffy Clouds Fabric

Once the Country Rag Rug was off the loom, I started considering what to weave next. Why this can’t be a simple decision, I cannot guess. This time it involved going through my stash spreadsheet and marking everything that I’d bought second hand, or was older than ten years. A blog post by another weaver had got me thinking about old yarn, and the wisdom of “use it or you lose it”.

The first yarn I marked that I had a project I intended to weave it into was the one I chose to use. I didn’t bother weighing up all the other options. I wasn’t in the mood for all that deliberation. Just do it, I told myself.

A bit of yarn matching deliberation did follow, however. The yarn is from a batch I’d bought on ebay of mostly used cones from a mill. It’s a thin blue and white ply, with the white having slubby bits. The wpi was the same as 8/2 cotton, but I decided to wind it with some 16/2 cotton to up the blueness.

This would be an easy plain weave project. The yarn was already complex enough and I didn’t want to lose the effect of the slubby white against the blue, which reminded me of distant clouds. And I felt like weaving something meditative.

I used the same yarn combo for weft. That made it a little bit less zen, as I had to wrangle the inevitable yarn length mismatching on the shuttle and the tension of wondering if the remaining mill ends would last to the end of the warp.

They didn’t, but they lasted long enough to make enough fabric for the top I want to weave. The fabric, off the loom, was quite open and a little hard, but it closed and softened up nicely after a wash and press.

Now I just have to get to the sewing part. I’m in no hurry. Summer is a while off. And I have a naked loom and plenty of weaving projects lined up after reorganising the stash yet again.

Kay and the Universe

Instagram just reminded me that it is a year since Kay died. I’ve never been good at remembering dates, but I knew it was some time in May. I recall having one of the worse bad back days ever, spending the morning semi-conscious in bed waiting for the pain killers to kick in, slowly composing an email to my agent saying I wasn’t sure I’d be able to continue writing as a career, then when I finally managed to get up and download my emails the news arrived.

I recall being seized, afterwards, by the conviction that maybe it was time to head toward being a teacher of weaving instead of a student.

So I signed up for a year long 4-shaft weaving course intending to power on through the 8-shaft one next and get ‘qualified’, such as it is. I got more involved in the guild. I spent months preparing for a rigid heddle workshop for summer school that I hoped I could repeat again throughout this year. I started looking for university textile courses.

And the Covid19 happened.

If I was the sort of person who believed such things, I’d say the universe was steering me away from that grand plan. But then, if I was the sort of person who believed such things, I’d have said Kay’s death and my back issues steered me toward it. Which all confirms to me that the idea that the universe is pushing me anywhere is bullshit. After all, if the universe wanted me to teach weaving it would have ensured Kay hadn’t died so I’d have the chance to absorb all the knowledge she was so enthusiastically and generously sharing.

So what do I want me to do?

Learn – doing the 4-shaft course has reminded me how much fun it is to simply LEARN. It’s been a long time since I felt that.

Teach – I enjoyed the workshop. I enjoy teaching friends. I caught some of Kay’s concern that knowledge was being lost and I want to help preserve it.

Do – I still want to make things. My back issued mean I can’t do it as much as I’d like, and learning and teaching were supposed to fill those gaps.

Adaption and flexibility is how people are surviving these times. So maybe I need to look for different ways to do the above. Go back to teaching myself once the 4 and 8 shaft courses are done. Find ways to teach in person safely, or online. Varying the kinds of making I’m doing to gain more overall output.

When I read through Kay’s blog a year ago, I admired how she had adapted to change. That makes me feel like maybe I can as well. Maybe that’s a lesson she can still teach me, a year since her passing. You just have to find a way.

The Filler Project

I’ve not touched my knitters looms since weaving off the demonstration warp from my summer school workshop. With the rag rug stalled until more fabric arrived, I decided to tackle a rigid heddle project I’d set some yarn aside for back then: a palindrome scarf, where you take a skein of hand-painted yarn and warp the loom with it keeping the colours lined up. I also wanted to try weaving twill on a rigid heddle loom, so why not combine the two?

Lining up the yarn was more challenging than I expected. Direct warping to a single peg made it a bit hard to see if the colours were lining up, so I clamped a warping board to the table so had four pegs to work with. But even that proved difficult (the yarn had very subtle colour changes) so I switched the warping board for a large square nail loom, which allowed me to spread the warp out to one or two threads per nail.

Of course, I was so caught up in problem-solving that I forgot to take photos.

When it came to threading… well, things got even more complicated. It’s one of those strangle little quirks of weaving that twill is one of the simplest weaves on a shafted loom and yet is one of the hardest to achieve on a rigid heddle. And I wanted to weave not just twill, but rosepath.

The instructions I followed were the ones in Inventive Weaving on a Rigid Heddle loom by Syne Mitchell. There are a couple of pages on using three heddles to weave a straight twill sampler scarf, then a couple more on how to convert a weaving draft for a rigid heddle loom. The last page shows an example, which happens to be a point threading and treadling – close enough to rosepath for me.

For the straight twill scarf Syne uses three heddles of the same dpi. I didn’t have three 15dpi heddles to suit the sock yarn I wanted to warp with, but I figured I’d just use two 5dpi ones for the rearmost two heddles than the 15dpi for the foremost as I’d be beating with it.

Well, the first attempt at warping I stuffed up because I misinterpreted the instructions. After the second I discovered the 5dpi heddles didn’t work because they caused the warp yarns to twist around each other. The third time I managed to make another 15 dpi heddle with my vari dent reeds and hoped I could fudge another with a pick up stick… but no, I needed to be able to push those threads down as well as pull them up. So I had to order another reed. Which would take a few weeks as even Ashford didn’t have any of that size in stock and had to make more.

And so I needed a filler project to do while my filler project was on hold. A filler filler project.

The Rug of Waiting

As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of the batches of flannelette had a horsey-plaid-camo-sporty vibe, in greens, blues, greys and browns. I cut them into 2 inch wide strips before realising that I wasn’t going to get many strips out of the flannelette if I made them that wide, and switched to 1 1/2 inch wide strips.

I figured this batch would be my first rug. After working out the size of rug the rags should make using the rough equations I’d come up with based on Tom’s ook, I considered the rug’s design. Do I mix up the strips, or weave bands of each colour? I hung the strips over the front beam of the loom, then tried mixing them up. Nope. Didn’t look anywhere near as good as when they were arranged in groups of the same colour, going from green to brown to grey to blue. But there was quite a jump from green to brown. I had two strips of an khaki camo which would fill that transition nicely, so I googled camo flannelette… and found only one shop in Australia that had any. I ordered some, but the shop was supposed to ring me to get my details and they never did. I also found some nice grey-blue plaid in another shop, and bought two metres of it because it was cheaper that way. I waited for the order to arrive but when it arrived it was not really the same sort of fabric, so I decided I would just weave the rug as it was.

(I did consider contacting the woman I’d bought the flannelette scraps from to ask if she had any more in camo, but I didn’t want to risk ending up with another enormous bag of it! At least not until I knew I wanted to keep making these rugs.)

Black seemed the obvious warp colour, but just black or should I add variation? In Tom’s book there are a couple of projects with staggered stripes of a second colour in the warp. I wanted to try this some time. Well why not this time? But of the colours I had, would any suit? Not really. So I ordered another cone, in grey.

More waiting for an order to arrive. In the meantime, I had been joining strips. In Gerlinde’s class she’d shown us how to overlock them together quickly, and her method certainly was satisfyingly fast.

No shuttle of mine was going to hold the whole rug’s worth of strips, so I did them in batches of the same colour. That also meant I could add a batch of camo or plaid when the fabric arrived. After the joining was done I used a bias binding thingamejig and iron to turn the edges of the strips in. Then I wound them onto rag shuttles.

With the rags ready, and the grey warp yarn having arrived, and the Lotas loom free, it was time to get warping. I got winding, and a niggle started straight away. The yarn was thinner than expected. The project in Tom’s book had a very dense sett – 16epi – compared to what I was used to for rugs. Gerlinde’s recommendation had been 6. I’d reduced that to 12 for this project. I reasoned that I should stick to the instructions, but once I began sleying the reed I knew it just wasn’t right. The warp would cover the rag waaay more than I wanted. So I rethreaded… while watching Eurovision on SBSOnDemand.

So where the warp staggered from black to grey, from 1 grey/1 black, I rethreaded to 2 grey/2 blacks. Then, when I wove, I wove 1/2, 3/4 rather than 1/3, 2/4 so that I had two warp ends together all the way across, effectively halving the sett to 6epi.

I wove a three 15cm header, then got weaving and immediately knew I’d been right. The balance of weft and warp looked great. The warp colour pattern was breaking up the bands of colour enough to unify them but not obscure them. The Lotus was coping with the heavy beating well. The rag was nice to work with. It was all very enjoyable and a relief to FINALLY be weaving.

Then I hit the next snag: I ran out of rag strips two thirds of the way to my intended length.

Well, this was the test rug!

I needed more rag strips. So I considered the colourway so far. Green to brown to grey to blue. Combing through the flannelette rags I hadn’t yet cut up, I found some dark blue with red designs. Perhaps I could transition from blue to red. I looked for flannelette I could buy online. Mostly pastels, a few brights and tie-dye effects, but also plenty of plaids. I ordered a metre each of a dark blue and red tie-dye, and a red plaid.

I’ve cut up the small bundle of rags in blue and red, joined and ironed them. I knew I’d have to wait until the order arrived before I could finish the rug. And the shop I’d ordered from had taken two weeks to deliver last time.

So it was time to start another project. A scarf on the rigid heddle? Or a quick one on the Jane before the next class? Or something else? Sewing? Machine knitting? Jewellery?

Or maybe none of the above, as RSI has flared up in my left wrist. Hmm.

Shadow Weave … Thing

Is done… maybe.

The idea behind this project was to try making a woven fabric version of a knitting pattern I modified for the Bond Sweater Machine a few years back. Here’s the jacket I made then:

It’s essentially a rectangle with cuts in from the two shorter sides. The middle sections are sewn together to make the sleeves, the outer becomes a collar and the body.

But woven fabric doesn’t have the stretch or drape of knit, so I made a calico test version and immediately confirmed that the upper arms/armpit would be too tight. I widened the middle section to compensate. As for drape… there was really no way to know if there would be enough. To test it, I’d have to make a sampler so big I’d have no yarn left for the jacket.

The shadow weave draft is #277 from A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns. I picked it because the treadling is easy to memorise – something I was grateful for because handling six shuttles for the split sections of weaving was more than enough for my brain to wrangle.

Draw in was a bit of a problem, so I used a temple on the middle section (the bit to be the arms, where you really don’t want shrinkage) and on the whole width when I was weaving the part where the sections were joined into one. It certainly wove much faster during the joined part, where it only needed two shuttles!

Once off the loom I tied the fringe and sewed up the arms and tried it on. It fit but… it didn’t look good. The yarn – 8ply Bendigo Cotton – did drape well, but was really too slippery to retain integrity where the seams pulled, creating two big holes at the point where the ends of the slits were sewn together.

I draped it over my dress form and slept on the problem. By the next day I thought I had a solution, but it, too, did not work. Back onto the dress form it went, and I began playing. Eventually I had completely unpicked the stitching and abandoned all possibility of having arms. The arm sections became the fronts and one of the slits was sewn halfway together on both sides, leaving openings for my arms, and it became a sort of vest-ruanna with a scarf-collar. As pictured above.

So not a complete waste of weaving time. My experiment proved that the design wouldn’t translate to woven fabric and yet I still have a garment I like. I may even weave some sleeves for it at a later date. I used up some stash and tried shadow weave for the first time, too.

I think, if I try another loom-shaped garment I will stick to plain weave. While the shadow weave pattern looks good, it did make what was a test garment very slow to weave, and that would have made it more annoying if the design had been completely unusable.

Lace Study

The current subject we’re studying in the Certificate of 4-shaft weaving course is lace. Specifically ‘traditional Bronson’ and Atwater-Bronson lace. Whenever I do one of these projects I search all my books and magazines for articles on the subject, and this time I found a fair bit of conflicting information. Checking with the teacher, I learned that the ‘traditional Bronson’ we were learning was a folk version taught by a German weaver who used to teach the class. I’d found a German version of another lace weave, so I’d already noted that there were some variations outside of what my US and UK sources covered.

I produced the sample for Atwater-Bronson the afternoon of the Zoom session on it. I’d already done most of my notes and research, so I decided to put another warp on the loom and do huck and Swedish lace, and spot Bronson sampler using the same profile draft as what I’d designed for Atwater-Bronson.

Of course, that didn’t work. Each of the lace variations has different restrictions and advantages, preventing me from replicating the profile draft exactly. So I aimed, instead, to tweak that profile draft to take both into account… and then I just got creative. Instead of spending a few hours on all the variations, I wound up spending that on each.

Once I had the new warp on the loom I wove a huck lace sampler:

The next was a Swedish lace:

And the last was spot Bronson:

Spot Bronson isn’t a lace, but since it was the base from which Atwater-Bronson was developed, it seemed a good addition to a study of lace. The light green section at the top is barleycorn.

As part of my notes, I made this small chart of the differences between the techniques:

Whether this is strictly right or not… well, I guess I’ll find out when my notes are assessed by the teacher, or if someone corrects me in the comments. The purpose of all this – of the course – is all about building a resource I can return to later, and I think what I’ve done should satisfy that requirement.

It has been interesting to explore the differences between what, to the untrained eye, are weave structures that don’t look very different. The samplers have had me using Fibreworks more, which I’d been a bit intimidated by. I’ve also done a lot of hemstitching, which I’m hating a little less now that I know it off by heart. It’s also clear there is more to learn about lace, but that’s weaving for you – always more to discover!

Forward, Backward

I have a bad habit of trying to predict the future. Bad, because it can make me anxious and depressed despite the fact that, when it comes to the present and past, I’m more of a glass half full kind of person. I suppose that’s because the past and present can’t change, but the future can so there’s potential for disaster.

There have been a lot of posts on Facebook and Instagram predicting wonderful effects from Covid19 and isolation lockdowns, but I am skeptical. The post-Covid consequences could be bad as well as good. So here are some predictions:

Some people will value their relationships more, some relationships will end.

Some people will continue avoiding hugging and kissing, some will resent it if those close to them don’t.

There’ll be a doubling down on the activities that were restricted, good and bad, once lockdown ends. Gambling, drinking, parties, shopping, eating out, etc. will be indulged in as if to make up for lost time.

Op shops and landfill will be overwhelmed as a result of people cleaning out their shed, wardrobe, whatever, while in iso. Feeling virtuous, those people will go out and buy more stuff.

Helping the economy will be used as an excuse for a whole lot of decisions at both the personal and political levels. Some of those decisions will be bad.

Covid won’t be a big leveller in society, and in fact will only make things worse in places afflicted by poverty and inequality. But it may unite some who did not receive support during the lockdown, like casual workers.

The excess of oil will be used to make more crappy polyester clothes and plastic stuff. The incentive to develop technology to turn plastic back into oil for power will dry up.

It won’t take very long for air and water to become polluted again. People will wonder how the opportunity to fix these things was lost, not realising that they only happened because people were forced to do nothing, not that they were forced to do something. Doing nothing doesn’t lead to lasting change.

Stupid people will continue being stupid. Some dangerously so.

But more people will continue to be kind, having experienced the benefits. Community spirit will have taken root in new places, and grown in others.

Some people will discover that growing your own food is harder than they realised, but some will find they have a new passion. With health benefits.

Ditto for cooking.

There’ll be a boom in fad diets to deal with iso kilos. Maybe even a new “Iso Diet” being flogged by some celebrity or influencer.

People will realise that being fit and cooking healthy meals takes up lot of time. Time that many don’t have. Some will continue exercising and eating well, some won’t and have more sympathy for others who don’t have the time.

Most people will return to working in offices. Many of those people will have realised that working from home doesn’t work for them. Some will realise that it does, and alter their career path to suit.

Ditto for kids and schools.

Video conferencing and online learning will experience a dive in popularity once it’s no longer the only link between people, but will have a significant boost overall because people have realised it’s not as hard as it seemed and has significant benefits – in particular being cheaper and faster than travelling in person.

A billionty plague diaries will have been written, but only a tiny percentage will be even vaguely interesting to read as we all experienced this in an unextraordinary way compared to everyone else – but that won’t matter really, because the main benefit was to the writer.

There will be virus spikes and mini shutdowns and hopefully it’ll evolve into just another flu strain that will ‘only’ kill thousands each year. We’ll look back and recount what we were doing when during the Covid19 shutdown, and sigh at a new generation that doesn’t appreciate how how lucky they are to have old folk around telling their stories yet again.

A New Thing

It’s not like I don’t already have plenty of hobbies to entertain me while in isolation, yet some instinct or unconscious wisdom told me that there’s no better distraction than learning something new but not too complex. What popped into my mind when I considered what would fit the bill was temari.

They are small, so I wouldn’t be wondering where the heck I’d put them later. They’re not an overly big commitment in time, but enough work to keep me distracted for more than five minutes. They use materials I have at hand already. They’re pretty and could be nice gifts. And they don’t, if done in small sessions, bother my hands or back.

Just watch a few YouTube videos, I told myself. Maybe buy a book. Well, it turns out books on temari are rather expensive, and the videos mostly focus on getting started, not what you do once you have your grid marked. The most valuable resource I found was temarikai.com.

Even so, there’s a fair bit of ‘work it out for yourself’ involved. Stare at the picture a lot. Take a deep breath and start stitching. My first ball is a bit wonky, but came out much better than I expected.

My second was partly done during a Zoom meeting of the Sweary Stitchers Craft Group, which turned out to be a good social crafting project. And there were requests for balls, if I continued making them.

It’s not good tv crafting, unless the program only requires the occasional glance. Audio books and podcasts would do nicely. It’s a good portable craft, too, though with the same risk with losing needles as with embroidery, and it’s not really suitable to stitch while in a moving car or train.

I’m glad I set myself the challenge to try something new, and found this little art form. I think there will be more temari in my future.

Strips

I’ve been cutting strips out of the flannelette scraps for weeks now. I started out using a self-sharpening quilter’s cutting square and a rotary cutter, but after a couple of hour-long sessions my hand began to hurt – my right hand from pressing down with the cutter and the left from pressing on the square to hold it still.

Looking at the amount of cutting still to do, I nearly gave up on the whole idea. Instead I delved into the back of the sewing cupboard and found this electric rotary cutter:

I’d used it before, and knew the resulting strips are in no way as neat as those cut with a rotary blade and square, but perfect edges don’t really matter for rag rugs strips. The cutter also has some annoying tendencies, but I eventually worked out how to minimise them.

It’s not faster than doing it by hand, but my hands didn’t complain – and my back didn’t so long as I kept sessions down to half and hour to an hour. After a couple of weeks I had got through over half the scraps and had enough for a large rainbow inspired rug, a ‘brights and whites’ rug, and a smaller mat of earthy colours.

I stopped then, figuring that I ought to work out whether I hated weaving the stuff before spending months cutting it all up. In the meantime, I’d bought $400 worth of rug cotton in six colours plus black.

Purchased a bias binding jigamething from Spotlight.

And consulted this book:

I wanted to get an idea what width of rug I should warp up for. Tom shows the results of a test he did, where he bought a yard of several kinds of fabric and wove it on the same warp, to see how many inches of fabric he got.

This would be a useful rough guide if he’d mentioned what the fabric width had been to begin with.

Flannelette on the Spotlight website is 112 cm wide, so I decided to gamble that it was sold at the same width in the US, too. Based on the guess that his fabric had been 112 x 91 cm. Doing the math, I worked out this was pretty close to 100 x 100cm. I laid out strips until I’d covered that much area of my dining table, then weighed them.

So to know how big a rug could be, I can take the weight of all the strips for it and divide that by the weight of the 100 x 100 cm batch. Then I multiply the width by length of Tom’s sample to get the square meterage of his sample rug. Then I multiply the weight of my batch by the square meterage to get the square meterage of my potential rug.

All I need to do then is divide the square meterage of my rug by the width of the rug I want to make, and I get the length. Or divide the square meterage of my rug by the length I want to get the width.

To be honest, I won’t really know if this will work until I try it. I might be wrong about the width of Tom’s fabric. I might have the math all wrong. But I’ve got the weight of 100 x 100 of flannelette and the weight of the rags for a rug, so after the first rug I can use those numbers to make a more accurate square meterage number to work out the slightly less rough size of future rugs.

But before I get to that point, I need to sew together a LOT of strips, use the bias binding jig to help me iron them into tubes, finish the jacket I’m weaving on the Lotas, and warp the loom.

It’s slow going, but I’m in no rush.