Droid food

I like droids (and Star Wars), so when the opportunity to get one for my kitchen arose, I jumped at it. Okay, it’s not really a droid… it’s a droid shaped convection oven, otherwise known as an “air fryer”.

Yes, I’ve joined the air fryer cult.

If you aren’t familiar with this type of kitchen appliance, it’s probably one of the least necessary appliances ever invented! Because it’s an oven and you probably already have one of those. Yep, it doesn’t actually fry anything – it convection bakes/roasts like any fan forced/convection oven. So why buy one…?

Well, they are fast. The super turbo fan forcing of them and the small volume space means things generally cook in about half the time of a normal convection oven. Also, if you have a crappy oven, they’re a lot cheaper than a new oven.

If you do like deep frying things, then they give an okay result just like a convection oven should. Of course, the fact it’s called an air fryer gets people baking/roasting things they’d normally not think to put in an oven! Clever marketing people…

Personally, I like the speed and I like the small size because I’m cooking just for me most of the time. I also like the non-stick basket you put things in, because it cleans so easily – unlike a lot of my non-stick oven trays.

So far, the only thing my droid has failed at is prawn crackers! Pappadams, frozen chips, frozen chicken, frozen fish fillets and lamb chops have all cooked quite well. I’m still to try chips made fresh (actually quite excited about them as I’ve never had much luck in the oven).

An airfryer from kmart
This is my little guy… a budget droid!
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From a loom disaster comes joy…

Some warps are cursed. Seriously. And yes, I had one this past week. Bad yarn choice for the pattern, led to changing to a different pattern that used the same threading and then a tension issue showed up! Sheesh.

So off it came! But I learnt a good lesson on using flecked yarns for patterns and I ended up with a great result on the fresh warp.

teal and black patterned scarf draped over the loom

String heddle options

Something I did on my recent pattern that needed string heddles, was to try a different way of doing making the heddles. Didn’t like it as much as my usual way! I’m sure it could be refined though, so here is a comparison of the two methods…

A: As outlined in my older string heddle post, this involves using a continuous length of yarn/thread and pulling up loops with a hook, or finger tips. The dowel/shuttle/knitting needle – whatever you use as a backbone – is inserted through the loops. Finally, stick down with tape.diagram of method APros – I find this fast to set up, easy to adjust so all the loops are the same height (giving you even lift of warp threads) and your string heddles cannot come undone.

Cons – If you make a mistake you often have to undo all the heddles to that point to fix it and you have to start from scratch for each project.

B: You take a rigid heddle (or put two nails in a bit of wood a “heddle distance” apart) and you wrap your yarn/thread around to measure a loop, then tie the ends together to close the circle. Each loop you make is one heddle. You then squash the loop and put a twist in the middle. Feed one end under the warp thread you need to add to that shaft and slip both ends of the loop over your dowel/shuttle/knitting needle. Finally, stick down with tape.Diagram of method BPros – You can reuse the loops in future and the loops are easy to redo/adjust if you pick up the wrong warp thread.

Cons – I found the loop lengths varied making the lift a bit uneven, the knots occasionally came undone (I also broke one, but that might have been my thread choice) and they pulled sideways more, causing my tape to lift in places. Now that last point doesn’t matter too much, except it seemed to contribute to the knots coming undone.

In my very non-scientific single attempt with B heddles, I also thought it caused more abrasion of the warp threads…so overall, not a success for me. But, I did see a weaver online somewhere using this technique – cannot remember where – so others go okay with it!

Might need to try both methods side by side in a half and half to really test which works best…

Deploy the string heddles!

A have a whole lot of weaving drafts that have the words “wacky threading” in the title. Because that’s how I warn myself that however pretty the pattern is, getting it on the loom will require mental gymnastics and, probably, string heddles.

Case in point: my most recent project. I’ve mentioned it a few posts back, but I thought it was worth a more detailed look at how I do these kind of patterns – ones with varying sized bunches of threads on one shaft – on a rigid heddle loom. Because that’s the thing… on a bigger loom the threading wouldn’t be wacky at all. It’s the “rigid” part of rigid heddle that creates the challenge.

In this pattern I had a warp that essentially had sections of plain weave, basket weave and… whatever you call groups of triple warp ends…on one shaft. Ditto the second shaft.

Option 1 is to use a reed meant for double the yarn size, so the basket weave (two warp ends together) keeps its normal spacing. Means you get a bit of an airy weave in the plain weave (single warp end) areas and crowding in the triple warp end areas, but that might settle out of the cloth when you full it, depending on your yarn. It usually means that your floating selvedge – generally a must with patterns – will be on a wider spacing than is ideal, too.

diagram of option one
blurry diagram of option 1

Option 2 is to ditch the reed and use string heddles and/or a pick up stick. This removes all spacing issues. Though it introduces a bit of a beating issue and your threads may twist/cross as you work. The first of these can be solved by having a reed – using only slots – though this can lead to lines where the heddle creates gaps between warp threads.

diagram of option two
blurry diagram of option 2

I went with option 2 because I was planning on working with wool and so didn’t think the open/crowded spacing would wash out. And I did leave my reed in place for beating.

The trick is to do a few other things to get around the problems a slot-only, string heddle solution introduces…

      • run two rows of plain weave, using scrap yarn and a needle, just in front of the back beam, to keep your threads from twisting (as you wind forward, wriggle these to the back so they don’t squish your shed)
      • whether you use one string heddle or two, use pick up sticks to make your shed every time (i.e. just use the string heddle to insert the stick), as this gives you a bigger, cleaner shed and is easier on your body!
      • whenever you insert a pick up stick, insert a strip of card into the shed at the fell line to check you haven’t missed any threads (if you have, check you haven’t broken a string heddle)
      • use your reed to beat, but have a needle handy to reposition any warp threads that are developing a gap

And, of course, if you’re using one string heddle and one pick up stick, then remember the string heddle needs to sit between the reed and the stick or you won’t be able to push the stick to the back beam and lift your string heddle.

With floating selvedges, remember not to include them in your string heddle/s!

Oh the skein of it all!

OK, I can’t resist a groan-inducing pun, but if you’ve ever found yourself converting skeins to balls, then you know what I mean. Skeins can tangle. They require a 2nd pair of hands (or a chair back / ironing board / door handle) for holding. Plus, winding balls of yarn is… not very mentally engaging.

In all honesty, I kind of like doing it. (It is meditative when you do it on your own and a good excuse for a chat if borrowing hands.) Despite this admission, it’s also fact of life that I suffer from “skein resistance”, where skeins build up in the yarn stash, unused, because I can’t be bothered dealing with them.

So, I finally did something useful with a discount voucher I had lying around and invested in a ball winder.

*Insert emphatic sigh of relief.*

A day of hanging skeins off the ironing board and winding them into tidy balls of yarn-y goodness has removed all skeins!  And it was so simple. If only I’d known earlier (should have listened to my mum… she suggested it ages ago).

Best of all, I can now plan a project using some hand-spun yarn that I picked up at the local agricultural show last year. It’s unique in my stash and I’m excited to see how it weaves. Mind you, I did my wraps, pull test and weighed it etc, only to discover it’s a 10-12 ply, not suitable for warp and I have nearly 600m of it… so it’s going to go a loooong way!

Loomy-goodness

As you may know, I didn’t do much weaving in 2018. It was a low project year. But 2019 is looking not too shabby as we head to the mid-point, with three completed projects and one on the loom… so much fun!

What started out as a plain weave scarf, ended up – due to plain weave fatigue – as an experiment in using up some thrums doing… well… it basically tapestry. Can’t wait to see how it fulls.

Cloth woven by laying in rows of different yarns to make shapes and textures
In a good/bad result – this didn’t use up as much of my thrum stash as I expected!

Then I decided that I should do something with my vari-dent reed… poor thing has been unloved since I bought it. Of course I didn’t use it for different gauge yarn – why would I use something for it’s intended purpose?! – instead I used it to play with spacing. Very pleased with the result!

Yarn threaded into a reed containing mixed heddle sizes
You can see the sections of 30/10 and 20/10 reed – I used the larger size to double up my 8 ply
A section of cloth with different warp spacings from using the vari-dent reed
A quick (and lumpy) photo of the finished cloth

For the first time in 3 years or so, I did twill. Just a 3 shaft, straight treadling, but it was useful to find all the things I’ve forgotten about twill! Pic might come later… accidentally deleted the pic of it on the loom… ahem.

What’s on the loom right now is an optical illusion 2 shaft pattern… soooooo enjoying this. And it meant I got to do string heddles and have all manner of fun with calculations… but, honestly, I’m in it for the way it messes with my eyes!

Cloth on the loom showing a black and white pattern that looks like the cloth undulates
Isn’t this pattern a doozy?

A little holiday and a little cloth

So, I’ve been in Wales for the past few weeks enjoying myself. Unlike my Scotland trip, weaving didn’t really feature. But I did see one quite lovely bit of cloth… in Dublin!

Yes we finished our jaunt with two days in Dublin, and I spent quite some time in the National Museum – Archeology.

Image of the entrance to the museum

They have a great collection of things, including some lovely medieval church robes, but what really caught my eye was a bit of Egyptian cloth. Ancient Egyptian cloth!

I apologise for the not-great pic, but it was dark in that exhibit and you weren’t allowed to use tripods…

A section of black pattern on natural coloured cloth

Isn’t it lovely?

I enjoy looking at such old cloth. It reminds you of how fundamental fibre working has been to the success of human society. And that we have an overwhelming bent toward the decorative!