Fuelling a shuttle

image of the space shuttle in spaceI miss the shuttle. It was such a cool and technologically wonderful part of human endeavour! So I’m using this post about a different sort of shuttle, as an excuse to put up a pic and give it a little love.  🙂

And now to those other shuttles… I use stick shuttles with my rigid heddle loom and, I may have mentioned I work with knitting yarns. This poses the question; how much 8ply can I and should I put on my shuttle?

Well, in answer to the first part of that, I’ve discovered I can get an entire 50g ball of cotton – approx. 106 metres – on my big shuttle (56cm).

image of a stick shuttle

The second part of the question can be answered with another question; how deep is your shed? I could just squeak that shuttle through the shed, so it worked out well.

image of a weaving shed
This is the warp for the second “spot” scarf

Pity I didn’t take a pic of the shuttle in the shed… ah well.

I guess the final consideration for me in loading up my shuttle is that I don’t want too many joins in my scarfs, so I’ve tried to get as much on as possible! Also why I’m using my big shuttle even though I’m weaving much narrower pieces than that.

Of course, I’m also weaving without a pattern here so I don’t ever know how much yarn the scarf will take. My last scarf, I ran out within about 15cms of the end, which was quite amusing.

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Weaving, from start to finish

So how do you get from yarn to a nice piece of cloth? Well…

First, you’re going to choose a pattern and/or some yarn.

Second, you’re going to “dress the loom” (also called “warping the loom” and “loading the loom”) where you prepare the loom for use with the right length of warp, correctly threaded. For many shaft looms, you tie shafts to levers at this point too.

Also, you load your shuttle/s with yarn.

Third, you weave! Following the pattern for which shafts should be up or down when, and which colour weft is used when, beating the weft into place as you go.

Now fifth, you need to “finish”. So, once you’re done creating a length of cloth, you’ll use stitching to prevent the start and finishing edges from fraying and you might twist tassels etc if it’s a scarf.

Sixth, you wash it in a little soap and “hot” water, while agitating it, to get oils and other chemicals out of it and to help the warp and weft relax into each other. Once it’s dry, you might even steam press it, depending on the cloth.

The final stage is to use it for whatever it was intended… sew it into clothes, bags, cushions, towels, curtains, or just throw it around your neck/shoulders and leave the house.

My first attempt (or two)

I jumped right into using my loom the first moment I could. This was after watching some YouTube vids of people using looms, and doing plain weave and making patterns, so I basically just tried to replicate what I remembered them doing. Then I played with some thoughts of my own to see what would happen. Sooooo much fun!

Here are the first few minutes of actual weaving:

Image of weaving on my loom

This turned into this sample…

My first weaving sample

 

And I soon followed it up with this…

image of my second weaving attempt

You can tell I’d discovered some actual patterns by the second attempt, even though I had some warp issues.

I was happy with how both came out. Given I’d just picked random cottons and bamboos from my yarn stash and winged it, I’d expected to hit more problems, but overall it was easy to get going and not too hard to just muck about.

Number 3 is still on the loom, but I was a bit more organised so you can see it is a bit neater:image of my third sample on the loom

Of warp and weft

As someone who sews, I came to weaving already knowing some basics about the structure of cloth. I knew it had selvedges (the neat edges of the cloth) and that the warp runs the length of the cloth, while the weft runs the width of the cloth between the selvedges (by-the-way that’s selvage if your from the USA).

When we talk about warp and weft, we actually mean warp threads and weft threads. You see when you weave you’re doing this:

diagram showing weft running through warp

The warp threads are held in place by the loom while the weft thread travels over and under the warp threads, first in one direction and then in another.

Warp and weft are at the heart of loom weaving, so it’s good to know how they “work”… And that they work the same way whether you are weaving a tapestry, a rag rug, or a fine silk cloth.

Because I always start big (and repent later)

Now, if you read the post on how I chose my loom then you might think I’m a bit nuts. As a friend put it:

You wanted to make scarfs – which you already do – and ended up taking up weaving. In the space of a week.

Yes. Okay, so I might be a bit nuts when it comes to crafts. For example, my second knitting project ever was a long-sleeved, calf length knitted coat. It was so big that I used it as a blanket during the latter stages of knitting it. (But Mr Kaffe Fassett does know how to catch a knitter’s eye – see image above from the book Gorgeous Knits.)

So I can’t deny that I like to jump in, boots’n’all and just try everything. Usually all at once.

Though coat example might lead you to wonder why went from a project like that to knitting scarfs.

Simple answer is, I can’t wear animal fibres near my skin. Acrylics are less of a problem but still a problem, and for a long time cotton was hard to get in any colour not meant for children too young to go “yuk” at it.

Bamboo improved things, but tends to split. Ditto silk + expensive.

So, for some time now, I have bought yummy wools and knitted them for other people. This is still fun, but knitting is slooooowwww and, as years passed, I lost the desire to spend so much time on each project. Thus the looking for a faster way to make scarfs. Which led to the loom.

The other thing you’ll realise if you read the blog (assuming fromthiscloth turns out how I hope) is that, I may have only taken a week to decide to start weaving, but that was a week of overdosing on YouTube videos and sites about looms and weaving.

[Part of deciding to blog was realising I needed to order all the info I’d learnt in such a short time. I learn best through explaining things to others = blogging it.]

In case I’m misleading anyone into thinking I have craft learning superpowers (I’m picturing a knitted cape, are you?) I should mention that, I didn’t come to weaving from a place of 100% ignorance. As a sew-er, I know cloth and, as a seed-bead-er, I know (tiny) looms.

That left a mountain of stuff to learn, but it was a start.

How I chose my loom

So, how did I end up weaving? And how did I choose a loom?

The short answer to both questions is that I saw a review of a “knitter’s loom” and thought I’m a knitter, this must be something I can use.

At the time I was looking for a faster way to knit scarfs and the review suggested this knitter’s loom could do that. It also folded for easy and compact storage in a bag, so it wasn’t going to eat up space in my craft room. I was pretty much sold on it right then!

It wasn’t until I went looking for a price that I realised there were a bunch of other loom types to consider (the knitter’s loom is an Ashford product and they make a few other types too). I paused. I researched. I came back to the Ashford knitter’s loom.

I chose it for the reasons I’d liked it orginally – fast to set up, easy to store away, simple to use and a good size for scarfs – but along the way I learnt about frame looms, table looms, floor looms and many other variations.

So, I was lured in by Ashford’s clever bit of marketing (the knitter’s loom isn’t specially for knitters – it’s just a rigid heddle loom), but it seems like the right choice for me.

A knitters loom by Ashford