Cheats/hacks… taming the rolly-poly yarn

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?)

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Cheats/hacks… because I’m all about the easy

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.

Exercises in doubleweave

Something I’ve played with recently is more doubleweave. Having done tubes and a two colour cushion cover, I decided to try doubleweave:

  • with different patterns on the top and bottom layers
  • where the top and bottom layers are swapped over for part of the weaving

The patterned piece has log-cabin on the top layer and a stripe on the bottom. This led to me trying a few new things, including threading front-to-back.

Crossing is kind of a feature of threading log-cabin on a rigid heddle loom if you direct warp, and doing that with another set of threads for the other layer of my double weave seemed like it would make a big mess. So I figured if I threaded the loom front-to-back and then wound onto the back-beam, I’d have lovely flat threads. It actually worked well.

First up, I direct warped like normal and then put some Ikea bag clips to work to hold the threads ‘in order’.

direct warping the RH loomThen I cut the threads from the back-beam and pulled all the threads clear of the rigid heddle (I only had one in place when I warped, for simplicity). I then added the second rigid heddle and threaded them. Finally, I tied onto the back-beam and then wound the warp on, under tension, removing my clips as I went. Then I tied onto the front-beam like normal.

So, it was a bit sort of backwards, but it did exactly what I wanted. Nice flat threads!

The idea for the second doubleweave piece is that you begin by weaving two layers, each with a different coloured warp and then ‘swap’ the warps part way through. How does this work?

In this little diagram, the bit on the left shows how doubleweave works; i.e. there are two separate sheds and in this case the top and bottom layers are different colours. This means you see just one colour on top while you weave, as shown by the lines to the right.  When you bring the lower warp up to the top, you then see the other colour, as shown by the blue in the middle of the last part of the diagram.

This is damn hard work on an RH loom because you have to manually pick out the warp to bring it to the top for half the picks. For the top layer that’s just a bit time consuming, but for the bottom layer it’s kind of mind-bending!

I’ll pop some photos up of this soon.

Floating selvedges – they float?

After having done a few patterns with alternating weft colours, I am all for the idea of using a floating selvedge. If you’re not familiar with this little trick, then it’s where you have an extra warp thread each side of your warp that isn’t woven in the pattern.

This allows you to always catch the weft, regardless of whether the pattern would take it into the shed without wrapping around a selvedge thread.  (Trust me, it’s really annoying trying to get a neat selvedge when you have the weft sometimes being caught and sometimes not!) So, with the floating selvedge, you enter and exit the same way regardless of direction – i.e. over on the way in and under on the way out (or vice versa).

A few things to note about floating selvedges though… firstly, on a rigid heddle loom you need to pop them in slots so they are never lifted or lowered… secondly, you may need to weight them, because, as you weave, those warp threads won’t be used up at the same rate as their pattern baring friends and will get a bit soggy.

Now, I haven’t tried this yet, but I gather S hooks are good weights to use.

You can also avoid warping them with the rest of the threads by having them hang – weighted – down the back of the loom. To my mind that’s probably more work, but I may be proven wrong!

I’ll let you know how I go when I finally try it.

Dressing your loom

There are plenty of sources of information (online and with every new loom) about how to get the warp in place, so I’m not going to do a step-by-step here. Instead I thought it’d be useful to look at the things – four I was struck by – that the instructions don’t always go into.

One: Direct warping, or not

Essentially there are two ways to measure out your warp; wind it onto a warping board, or put it directly onto the back beam (warp beam) of the loom and run it out to a peg.

With a rigid heddle loom it’s easy to direct warp if you have enough space and patience to walk it out to the required length. The advantage of direct warping is it basically removes a step and so saves some time.

The warping board however allows you to warp a long length in a compact space and I suspect it makes it easier to alternate colours (not sure, haven’t used a warping board yet).

Two: Front to back or back to front?

When putting the warp onto the loom you can start by tying it to the back beam or to the front beam. Some people seem pretty passionate about which way works best, but most weaving “gurus” seem to say that you should do what works for you.

Three: The cross and the raddle

The most important thing when getting the warp onto the loom is making sure that you keep your threads in order. When using a warping board, you do this by creating a “cross” where the threads get interlaced so they can’t get out of order.

A raddle, is also used to help keep threads tidy while warping the loom. It is basically a separator, so you can put smaller groups of threads in their right order while you do the steps involved in warping.

Four: What’s with the paper?

If you’ve seen anyone dressing a loom you’ll have seen them feed card/paper in between the layers of warp, but why?

Well, for even tension across all threads, they need to be the same length at any given point in the weaving. If you don’t use paper between the layers of warp, you risk some threads “cutting in” to the layer below, which will mean they’ll be shorter than their fellows.

Still a bit unclear? Think of the layers of warp as a spiral, where as you add layers each layer forms a bigger circle. If a thread falls through to the circle below, then it will take less thread to wrap around that layer of the spiral than the layer it’s supposed to be on.  Thus, it ends up shorter than it’s friends!