Posts tagged ‘loom’

The Maker Faire stuff is coming in and this week I got the loom we will be using. It’s an Ashford Knitters Loom, a small folding rigid heddle loom.

It took about 10 minutes to get it out of the box and put together both the loom and the stand. It’s clearly a beginner’s loom, plastic parts keep both weight and cost down. But it’s nicely finished and quite serviceable for small scarves, bags, table runners and so on. It comes with a 7.5 dent reed and you can get several others.

Included with the loom is a warping peg to measure warp by looping your yarn through the reed, around the peg and then the back beam, with both loom and peg clamped to solid objects. This is a simple variant of and old technique, using a warping drum to maintain tension while winding. After you beam the warp, you pull every other end out of the slots in the reed and put them in the holes (like threading back to front.) I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems simple enough.

My first thought was that I’d replace the plastic holding rods to the beams with cords as I wonder if the cable tie like things snapped into the beam might pop out eventually. I’ve had my warp come undone during weaving and it’s a whole lot of no fun. The other thing is how much warp can you actually get on it, and for anything more than the recommended 2 yards I think I’d prefer the old-fashioned way. Of course, I’m not new to this weaving stuff and someone who is just getting started wouldn’t even know to consider it. Which is just as well.

It is nice that it comes with clamps, as there is no way you will get a good warp on any tiny loom without something holding it down while you beam under tension. The warping instructions tell you to have a friend hold the warp while you beam, although if you look online there are directions for doing it on your own (which is most likely in my opinion.) Fortunately for short warps with typical knitting yarn, tension isn’t a huge deal.

This weekend I’ll try putting on a warp and report back on how that goes.

I’m making a model of a warp weighted loom for an upcoming talk. It’s hardly pretty, what with my carpentry skills and all, but it’s functional. This is the loom of classical antiquity and the Viking era. I recall a comment in an archaeology book how at many sites you can’t go more than a few meters without finding a loom weight. (Mine are bags of gravel.) One of the interesting things about vertical looms is that several weavers can work at one wide loom, passing bundles of weft along as they go. This can be found in fragments that have crossed wefts, jumping from shed to shed throughout the fabric.

I have a few more adjustments to make it really usable, my intention is to have it for demos and let people try it out. It’s portable (sorta) and not easily damaged. I can’t weave much because I can’t hold my arms up for more than a few minutes, but I can show people what to do with it.

Here’s a picture of mine. Much more information can be found from my friend Carolyn Priest-Dorman on her Warp-Weight Loom page.

vertical warp weighted loom

I went to Stitches West at the Santa Clara Convention Center this morning to do a spinning demo, and of course since I was then in for free, some shopping.

It’s kinda like MacWorld for yarn. It would be dangerous if I bought knitting yarn, but typically I don’t. There were more vendors with spinning equipment and fiber, which was nice. I of course bought stuff I didn’t intend to. I wasn’t organizing this demo but only showing up to spin for a couple hours. I did teach so I wasn’t a complete slug. But I might have been more focused if I had actually had breakfast. Or lunch.

The demo was not the usual guild thing but for the Spinning and Weaving Association, a trade group of manufacturers and retailers. We were teaching, but not with the box of CD spindles the guild has. I got to play with a Ladybug wheel from Schacht, a beginner wheel less expensive than the Matchless.

It’s a nice little wheel, but I have to say I’m still a Lendrum partisan. The way it was set up was too slow for the kind of yarn I spin and too fast for real beginners. From looking on the website I think it had the medium whorl rather than the slow one but I’m not really sure. I found the scotch tension adjustment a little fussy, with the small plastic knob slipping when I tried to adjust it. Apparently it can also be set up for double drive, which I wouldn’t recommend for a first wheel. (Yes, when it works it’s wonderful. But getting it set Just Right is a bother.)

We had several small rigid heddle looms designed to use typical knitting yarns. They were already warped, I didn’t play with them but they seemed to be typical for the style. They had floor stands, which was nice. I really don’t know the manufacturer, I thought they might be the Knitter’s Loom, but it seems that Ashford is not a member of the association.

There was a small drum carder also, I carded some random layered batts and was spinning huge fluffy woolen yarn. Entirely unlike what I normally do, but suited to the fiber and equipment. Everybody seemed to like it and it got people’s attention.

I then spent about 90 minutes doing a fast tour of the show. I got a new spindle, some hand-dyed silk fiber and a length of Japanese silk fabric. Here’s a summary of the haul:

Hand-painted tussah silk from Fiber Fiend. It’s in blue, gray and purple in a colorway called Blackberry Swirl. Also a Maggie spindle from Carolina Homespun (27g I think the label said, before I lost it.)

dyed silk and spindle

The silk from Japan with a floral design was from John Marshall. No way I can afford any of his own work, but this was a nice piece he found in Japan. He told me how they are turning up now because people aren’t doing much traditional work anymore and you can find them discontinued. Good for shoppers, at least the Americans who are buying wholesale and bringing them back, but bad for the craft. I’m not sure of the exact technique but boy is it nice. It has a large group of flowers on branches on each end and some additional flowers between. I’m guessing it was originally intended for kimono, with the large design.

purple floral silk

The towels are progressing, I’m not sure if I’ll get two more out of this warp before I reach the end. It’s starting to have tension problems, like some ends are slack and I keep catching them with the shuttle. It’s not huge, but enough to be annoying. I’m not sure if it’s something about the yarn or some lousy technique on my part. I had another end break, although fortunately this time it was on the very edge and it happend between towels. So it won’t be a problem at all once I get everything finished. I’m not so thrilled with this 8/2 yarn. It’s ok, it’s not like I’m not going to use it for warp again, but it’s not as strong as I’d like. I’ve used much finer mill ends as warp and didn’t break a single end, so to have this stuff break is a pain.

Now sticking open when I release the treadles, that’s annoying. I’m still having problems with that, sometimes two harnesses are stuck up at once. It’s the lamms, the bar across the bottom the treadles are attached to, that is actually causing the problem. I may have to go at them with the file again. But I’ve solved the skating across the floor problem. The loom was slowly creeping backwards towards the wall, so I got some wood to put between the front and the baseboard. One of these days I’ll properly finish it rather than just wrapping it in a scrap of cloth, but it works.

I went to the local weavers guild meeting yesterday, I already know several members so that was nice. I got a lot of helpful suggestions for online resources for design ideas and weaving design software. I downloaded a demo of one, the only one I could find that ran on OS X. It’s hugely expensive so I can’t afford to buy a copy, but I’ll play with it for a while. I’m sure there’s a temporary way around the time limit for now. All I really need is something that will generate cloth diagrams but it does all this fancy stuff I’ll never use. I don’t have a computer-controlled loom and I don’t expect to have one for a long time. It will generate semi-random patterns from your design, but I quickly noticed that only some of them would actually weave stable fabric. Some had big blocks of no interlacement between warp and weft or huge floats, things that make for no fabric at all, not just poorly-made fabric. So it can do some interesting things and let you play with design ideas, but you still have to know what you are looking at.

I have been up to my eyeballs in loom, quite literally at times as I’ve spent far too long sitting under it messing with stuff. But the first real project on the big loom is now ready to weave. It only took 47 thousand re-dos with the tie-ups to get the pattern correct. Some comments:

I didn’t forget as much as I was afraid I had.
After five years without a floor loom (and longer since any serious project,) some skills are a bit rusty. (Kinda like the loom.) But I know what I’m doing and it mostly went the way I expected. I’m still working out the logistics of dealing with a huge loom. It’s big, my arms are short and this has been something of a problem.

Twelve harnesses have so many more ways to mess up than four.
I managed to thread my pattern without errors, but I spent far, far too much time working out the tie-up. I had a eight harness two block twill to start with and I was extending it to three blocks on twelve. Working out how to connect those four other treadles to get the pattern I wanted was a big pain. I would have saved myself some time if I had written out my design in full first rather than relying on the one in the book plus some scribbled notes. But it only somewhat helped, because when I finally charted out the whole thing, I got it wrong anyway.

I’m going to have to sort out the technical difference between shaft and harness.
I use “harness,” from the people I was around when I learned to weave. But many books and articles use “shaft” and I don’t understand why. Aside from the occasional comment on the difference, the two words appear to be used interchangeably. This never bothered me before, but now I’m reading more in the search for ideas for all those extra harnesses, err, shafts. It’s possible that understanding the difference may help me better design drafts. Or it could just be “one of those things.”

Stupid errors are still just as stupid.
I didn’t have any nice cord to tie up the apron rods, so I used what was lying around. It broke. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it was a pain. Replacing the cord on the other end of the warp is going to be even more of a pain.

Some things I thought would be a problem were.
I had never tried folding a loom with a warp on it. But after bumping my head on the back beam a dozen times trying to fix the tie-up, I folded it up instead. Yes, it works, to a limited extent. My warp tension did recover, but only after some fiddling with it. So as a general rule, I’d say don’t do it in the middle of weaving something you care about. If you must, wait until you are ready to start the next towel.

Some things I thought would be a problem weren’t.
At the moment, I have one boat shuttle with (what appear to me to be) teeny tiny bobbins. But it turns out you can seriously over-fill them and they still fit in the shuttle, so it isn’t so much a problem as I thought. I want something larger for wider fabric, however. It’s hard to hide where you started a new bobbin.

I still can’t remember how to hemstitch without the diagram.
I copied two pages out of the borrowed copy of Learning to Weave. One was the reed substitution table, so I can figure out how to sley 40 epi in a 12 dent reed. The other was the hemstitch diagram.

The quill makes a much better bobbin winder than I expected.
That silly pointy thing I bought for the spinning wheel actually works quite well. It’s nice to have a foot-controlled bobbin winder, this
leaves you with both hands to deal with the yarn. The only problem is getting the bobbin to stay on the shaft. For these particular bobbins, a big hair elastic shoved in there works great.

This project is a bunch of hand towels from the 8/2 mill end cotton. The surprise pack of yarn included many colors I’m less than thrilled about, but most were not outright horrid. That means they are fine for gifts.

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