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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Playing with pick-up sticks

Pick-up sticks, or pattern sticks, are a neat way to do patterns using floats or supplementary weft. On rigid heddle looms they’re a way to introduce a whole range of different patterns and textures, including making “lace” and things like waffle weave.

So, what are pick-up sticks in weaving? A flat stick that is wide enough to give you a useable shed, when inserted between warp threads and turned on its edge. Though my first pick-up stick was a spatula! (I was impatient to try the technique.) And many weavers repurpose stick shuttles for this.

Pick up stick
Pick up stick

Generally you put your reed/heddle into a down-shed and then slip the stick under the desired slot threads behind the reed/heddle (e.g. under every third thread). You then alternate weaving normal tabby picks and pattern picks where you put the pick-up stick on its edge to create a shed. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do this, so I won’t go into it too much, but here are a few pics to give you an idea:

image of a pick up stick inserted between threads
Stick inserted under the desired threads behind the reed.
Image of a pickup stick in use
Stick turned on its edge. This should be hard up against the reed to get a good size shed in front.

It is very easy to miss a thread when using pick-up sticks and I found it helped to put a piece of stiff paper – in a contrasting colour – under my slot threads, so I could see them clearly.

Some people actually pick up in front of the reed/heddle (easier to reach), turn the pick-up stick on edge to create a shed and then insert a second pick-up stick into the shed behind the reed/heddle, finally removing the first pick-up stick.

I must say it makes me nostalgic for the more commonly known kind of pick-up stick!

the game of pick up sticks

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.

Picking and throwing boats and sticks

Over the last couple of posts I’ve talked a lot about warp. In this post I want to come back to weft and give it some overdue attention.

For a start, how do we get our weft through the shed? Well, you might remember this picture where there is a “shuttle” sitting inside the shed waiting to be used.

rigid heddle loom with a shuttle in the shed

The shuttle is like a bobbin or reel of yarn that you wind yourself and then for each “pick” (row) of weft, you move it through the shed.  So, yes, I was making a pick pun with the title of this post.

There are two basic shuttle types. The one above is a “stick shuttle”. You wind the yarn around it and unwind a enough for a pick or two as needed.

If remembering to unwind a bit of yarn before you put it through the shed, isn’t your thing, then you have the boat shuttle. These have a reel/bobbin inside them and the yarn comes off it as required.

boatshuttle

You’ll notice the boat shuttle is quite compact. This is part of the reason weavers also use the term “throw” for a pick / row of weft. You do actually need to throw it through the shed on a wide piece of fabric.  So, yes, I made pick and throw puns in my heading for this post! 😉

Whichever type of shuttle you choose to use, you may have just one for a project, or you may have two (or more!) if you’re changing directions/yarns/colours in the weft.

By the way, each row of weft can also be called a “shot” of weft. What is it with weavers and having 4 names for everything?!