There are quite a lot of uses for a thin metal knitting needle when rigid heddle weaving, I think. From clearing a sticky shed to counting picks and even (I know I shouldn’t) poking my fell line, I’m always glad to have one on-hand.
Of course for those uses it doesn’t have to be metal, but I like a metal needle because it has a certain weight to it. Also, I tend to use it to provide lift-assistance to my string heddles and a metal needle never feels like it’ll snap under tension!
As with most such tools though, I probably find more uses for it simply because it is right there to be used!
So, I’m not much of a planner. Well, not when I’m mucking about learning and having fun!
In weaving terms, this means I sometimes have no idea how I want to finish my web. Maybe I’ll hemstitch, or maybe I’ll get some funky knot-work happening. The thing about this is, if I decide to hemstitch then, well…hemstitching is hell to do off the loom. Or, hell to get neat.
My solution is to use scrap yarn (preferably a sticky one) to cinch together bunches of warp ends, before taking the web off the loom. Using a darning/yarn needle, I create running loops without going below the weft. The loops just wrap tightly around the warp ends.
This keeps the weft in place and the warp ends tidy while you decide what finish you want/need.
It also makes hemstitching off-loom work much better, because you only slide the loop of scrap yarn off a bunch of warp ends right before you stitch them. Gives a surprisingly neat hemstitch.
Depending on how you attach your warp to your back beam/ back warp-stick on a rigid heddle loom, you can find that when you’re close to the end of your warp the warp isn’t all nice and level. Some warp ends are higher/lower than others and this creates a messy gap which can make it hard to get a clean shed.
My approach when this starts to happen is to get a nice long bit of scrap yarn and, just in front of the back warp stick, wrap it around bunches of warp ends. This cinches them together and removes the gap. I find I can squeeze the very last out of the length of my warp this way.
In this example I was grouping quite a few ends at a time, but I often do them in much smaller groups.
Now this is a cheat that I’m sure most weavers do! Still, worth mentioning I think.
When I work a repeating pattern where I might lose track of where I’m up to, I put a marker at the selvedge edge when I start a new repeat. This is usually just a little bit of contrasting thread, but I’ve been tempted to deploy some moveable knitting markers (glorified safety-pins really). By marking the start of a repeat I can always count to/from that marker if I get lost.
I suppose you don’t have to use a moveable marker – you could leave them in if the selvedge is going to be hemmed/sew etc – but I like taking a break at the end of a pattern repeat to move the marker. It gives my concentration a rest and also prompts me to consider a cup of coffee, or whether it’s midnight and I should pack it in and get some sleep!
It is well known to those yarn-ologists who study the secret habits of yarn, that balls of any kind of yarn like to roll. If they can roll off a table and onto a floor so much the better! Since I began weaving I have to say that dressing a loom and winding shuttles just seem to encourage the cheeky blighters.
So, how to tame balls of yarn?
Based on a suggestion by a friend to try capturing them in a plastic bag, I decided to take a cloth bag and one of those coat-hangers with the strap holders, to create a magical hanging enclosure. By putting each of the cloth bag’s handles onto a strap holder, you get an ever open – but not too wide – yarn trap.
It allows for easy hanging on door knobs and chair backs, with relocation as simple as can be. The balls of yarn can’t jump high enough to escape (and I think maybe the dark interior calms them).
There is one downside to this taming method… the balls of yarn are so calm and quiet that you tend to forget they’re in there. Twice balls have gone “missing” in my house only for me to later realise I’d left them in the bag! (Yarn’s revenge, maybe?)
My general approach in life is to find ways to save time and make life easier. Probably because I like doing fussy crafts that are kind of the opposite of time efficient and simple… hmm… But as I’ve been learning to weave I’ve found that a loom is a great taker of cheats/hacks.
I’m sure everyone has their own versions of these and many will be specific to the kind of loom you have. Hopefully though, as I share some of mine for the rigid heddle loom, you might find inspiration to apply to your weaving too!
This is going to be a series of posts (you’ve probably noticed by now that I like doing that!) and I’ll spread them through the other things I’m posting about. Feel free to share your own.
A simple on to start… one of the things that drove me nuts with the rigid heddle loom when I was first weaving, was the way that the front and back “warp sticks” (where you tie your warp on) flopped around when you put the warp on. So I implemented two cheats/hacks to keep them still (well, less floppy anyway!).
First: I use some scrap yarn to stretch the back warp stick toward the heddle and hold it in place. Often I just run the yarn across the front of the rigid heddle to achieve this, i.e. tie one end to the left side of the warp stick, take it around the front of the heddle and then tie it off on the right side of the warp stick.
Second: I use a chock to rest the front warp stick on. Sometimes just one in the centre and sometimes I put one at each end. I find this very useful in keeping my tension even as I tie my warp on. My chocks are usually just bits of wood or small boxes that are the right height.
These two cheats have made dressing the loom that much simpler and obviously you could use either at either end of the loom. This was just what I found worked best for me.