Having fun with the loom

I’ve had a bit over a week off work and there was a list of errands and chores as long as my arm to keep me busy. But then came the weather. I’m no one’s friend when it’s either humid or over 33C so, as I said in my scarf in a day post, I was hiding and weaving.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d weave quite this much!

Finished scarf on the table
The first hot day weaving project…
A black scarf with a stripe of varying shades of pink and mauve
Having some leftover of the variegated so I decided to use it for a stripe, so here is the second hot day scarf…

I did a yarn audit in the middle of the week, so I have an excuse to buy more yarn… okay, technically it was to refresh my memory of what’s there, but the shopping part of my brain had an eye on whether the yarn store had space to grow (it does… squeeeeeeeee!). The other result of the audit was finding balls of colours that I don’t normally use.

Lemon and white scarf
A pale lemon scarf with white stripes was the result!

I did a subtle pattern of stripes on the lemon scarf and it has turned out beautifully. It also got me thinking about patterns. I haven’t done one for a while…

Black and brown warp on the loom
I love colour-and-weave patterns and I think this two-tone chestnut will look great with the black

So I’ve warped a colour pattern and, for something different, I threaded before winding on the warp (that’s the back beam in the foreground there).

The pattern will slow the weaving down some – not as much as being back at work though!

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Scarf in a day

As it has been a bit hot (40C/140F) the past days, I hid in the aircon with my loom watching movies. Wonderful thing about having a rigid heddle loom… you only need a table and your lap anywhere in the house!

I’d actually measured and wound the warp onto the back beam earlier, but something was niggling at the back of my mind… I’d glimpsed a broken thread somewhere… note to self: don’t listen to extremely interesting podcasts while dressing the loom!

Anyway, I unwound and discovered:

Broken yarn in the heddles of the loom
My phone wouldn’t focus on the yarn… but you get the idea

The yarn gods were smiling though, because I had one more warp end than I needed so I could just pull this end out.

Despite the broken bit, it is gorgeous wool. I’ve not woven a vari that is a ply of multiple colours and then crossed it with itself. But this was the yarn I sampled last year. I’d thought it’d look good with purple – which it did – but against itself it was stunning.

What fascinates me, is the interplay of the colours… the long change of the variegation gives strong warp strips and these don’t blur or get muddied by a weft that’s going through the same changes.

The variegated yarn in the warp showing strong stripes

Here is the scarf, just waiting for a wash, with the stripes still strong:

Finished scarf on the table

The colour twist gives it such a lively surface too. Up close it almost looks busy.

A close up of the unwashed cloth

I’m looking forward to seeing if it changes at all when fulled!

A weaving-lite year!

So 2017 turned into an almost weaving free year. Oh well. It happens. But each time I come back to From This Cloth to check-up on things, I’m happy to see other learner-weavers are finding my posts on how weave-y things work. I hope you find them useful!

Of course this year got eaten up by the Scotland trip and the novel I’m working on, but also – if I’m honest – some fatigue. As I usually do, I went a bit hard at the new passion in my life and found I was ready to pack it away for a couple of months.

A few weeks ago a friend came to stay with me and she asked if I could show her how my loom works.

Now, she’s been on the journey with me since 2015 because video technology has allowed me to show her each new piece that’s come off the loom. So it was nice to be able to oblige. I measured a small warp, put on a few ends and wove a few rows.

Funny thing was that she was shocked by how long the set up takes and yet to me – probably because I know how long a proper bit of weaving takes! – I had to say that it wasn’t something that bothered me. Not for plain weaving anyway. Some of the two heddle threading activities have certainly tested my patience!

Of course, the thing that’s hard to explain is that the ‘preparation’ is part of the weaving. The choice of heddle and the use of colours are a good proportion of what makes a pattern or texture work.

It was nice to go through the steps of dressing the loom and doing an inch of weaving for her. Put me back in touch with all the projects sitting at the back of my mind. Over the weeks since she headed home, I’ve found myself looking at a list of ideas that I keep on my phone and you know what that means.

Bring on 2018!

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?)

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.