Archive for July, 2006

So I have 2088 heddles. That’s enough to do the full width of the loom at about 18 ends per cm or 46 per inch. I think that will keep me busy for a while. Now I just have to get them all back on.

This afternoon I started back on getting the loom ready and got quite a lot done. All the major pieces are assembled and the next thing is to deal with the heddles. So I’m counting to determine how many I have and how to distribute them on the harnesses. So far, I’ve found that I’m missing one wing nut (for the treadle assembly) and I could use a couple more tie-up cords (to attach the treadles to harnesses and create patterns.) Nothing major. I decided to not put a rug under the loom so I can get the dust mop in there for cleaning. There are rubber pads on the bottom to protect the floor and I’ll likely pull out a small rug or two while warping to catch dropped items. I still have to think about how to protect the wall and floor from over-zealous shuttle throws. At least it’s not right next to a window this time (and the wall directly to one side is bead board, not plaster.)

This loom is about as large as I think I am capable of handling, as I can barely reach across the full weaving width. As it is, I have to fold the back beam in two stages because I can’t reach both ends of the adjustable braces at once. If I ever attach the second back beam, that is going to be a real problem. Related to that is that this thing is very heavy. I had to adjust the position a few times and it’s a big pain to move once it’s all together. Before I got the front beam assembly attached, it was threatening to fall over whenever I unfolded the back beam.

One thing I’m going to have to get used to is the loose front and back beams. My previous loom was securely attached and on this one they are loosely fitted on pegs. It’s nice for working around the loom, but it also means if you grab the beam it’s going to come away in your hand. This very nearly sent the whole back crashing down on several occasions. When it’s fully open and there is a warp on it, it’s not going anywhere of course. But if it’s folded, that could create a major disaster.

In the interest of scientific inquiry, I tried washing some fleece with the “Hand Wash” cycle of my front-loading machine. I tossed in a mesh bag with a handful of throw-away fleece, added extra detergent, set it to hot and let it go. The results were not nearly as bad as I feared, but not something I would do again. What I did get out of it is that I’m ok with putting most handspun finished items in there. I tried to felt a wool scarf this way and it came out no different from when I put it in.

The wool was a little remaining from the mystery fleece, divided into decent-sized locks. It came out with the butt ends felted together and the tips every which way. I can pull it apart into recognizable staples, but not that well. It is, however, quite clean and it wasn’t before. It’s felted enough that it would be annoying to card, you would never get a good yarn from it without first pulling it all apart by hand and brushing out the felted tangles. Plus, there are still sticks and burrs and whatnot, but I hardly expected that to mysteriously dissapear. Since it didn’t come out one huge felted blob, it’s getting tossed in the carding pile with the rest of the junk wool.

I suspect that had I added baking soda (as I must when I try to felt something for real,) it would have come out looking more like a felted blob. That is the more normal result and I’m convinced it’s because of the weird San Francisco city water that makes it hard to felt things. Don’t try this at home, kids.

I keep trying to find entertaining tidbits to dazzle and enlighten, but the truth is I’m not doing anything the least bit exciting on the textile front at the moment. The skein for the county fair is off and the sock is in that row after row of stockinette stitch part. I’ve even spun all the Merino I combed for the bobbins of singles. So what am I doing now? Fiber prep. Sorting, scouring and flicking. I haven’t even gotten back to the pointy dangerous tool bit.

For those of you who were here for the whole COE thing, I realize this is a letdown. First the COE, and then the Learning Exchange and now… fiber prep? Yes, I hate to break it to you but I am one of those types who generally works on a project until it’s done. I may have two or three going, but rarely more. Right now, there is a knitting project, a spinning project and a loom-configuration project, in addition to the ongoing may-take-forever spindle project. I’ve got some ideas for other things, I’ve toyed with a few samples, but I haven’t actually started anything.

Since I finally finished scouring the first lamb fleece from last summer (there are two more to go, remember,) I’m continuing with the spinning of it. I’m basically going to spin three full bobbins of single and make sock yarn, which will be used for legwarmers and wrist warmers and possibly some socks. The Boyfriend has expressed an interest in gloves. Several of these things will come from this first batch. If I need more yarn, well, it was a four pound fleece.

I like to spin a bunch of yarn all at once because I get better yarn. If I do all the singles first, they are more likely to match. And if they don’t, I can still do something about it (like decide I want a six-ply yarn instead.) I also do better if I ply all at once. Now with full bobbins of fine single, that’s going to mean many bobbins of 3-ply yarn. But I can ply a full bobbin in a couple hours at most. I usually do it in one sitting. I count treadles when I ply, so I set aside an afternoon when I have nothing else I have to do and nobody is around. I don’t answer the phone. I even got some extra bobbins so I could do several at a time.

All this is about as far as you can get from the gee-wiz school of spinning, where one is in it for exploring the unending parade of possible fibers, colors and textures. I like to pick something and do it for a while until I feel I really understand it. Add to that my preference for large projects and it can easily take years to finish something. When I finished the COE, the one thing I most wanted to do was make something. After such a long time of doing nothing but samples, I need to produce a finished object just to see that I still can. It didn’t help at all that many of those yarns are things I would never choose to do for myself. “Ok, I did the novelty yarns. Can I go back to fun stuff now?” Bobbin after bobbin of technically precise yarn is the fun stuff.

Along with all the bad chintz and ugly crochet baby blankets, sometimes you find really interesting things at thrift stores. When I have time to kill, I sometimes go just to see what’s there. Several times I’ve found little towels that were obviously woven by hand, with overshot borders and neatly done hemstitching and everything.

Today I found a blanket made of dozens of little woven squares. It was obviously done with one of those little square frame looms, something like a small version of the plastic potholder loom. This one is in purple and green frosted acrylic. Pretty nasty yarn as those things go, but firmly woven and well put together. It was $4. I got it to add to the travel gear, as short of melting the thing there isn’t much that is going to hurt it. And it’s sturdy enough to put up with a fair bit of abuse. As long as it stays dry, acrylic is a fine insulation layer.

I also found a pillowcase made from the exact same obnoxious polyester fleece (lime green with blue flowers) that I made a bathrobe out of some years ago. It took me a while to like this kind of “fleece” but I’ve learned to appreciate warm layers. Just don’t get near it if you are the least bit sweaty or it will feel like you are wearing a plastic bag. (That’s not too far off, really.) I had to get it, just because. From the slightly crunchy texture of one corner, apparently somebody tried to iron it.

Another recent shopping find, not from Goodwill, is a clothes moth trap. I’ve seen a few moths around, at times uncertain of the type but not willing to hold them for questioning. They appear to be coming from outside, as it’s never far from one of our horribly drafty windows. The baited glue trap is basically an early warning system, as it’s not the moths that cause trouble. I put one in the textile closet so I can monitor the situation.

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© 2004-2007 Andrea Longo
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