Revisiting a couple of projects…first, an update on the weaving. After threading the loom (previous post), I decided that the sett (how close the threads are to each other) was too loose. Way too loose. Figured out where I erred in my initial calculations, but now to fix the problem.


First, I needed to wind more warp to thread on the loom. This is a warping board, used to measure consistent lengths of threads and keep them in order. A short warp could be done between a couple of chairs, or pegs clamped to something and just circling between them, but more than a few yards would be more difficult. However, with a warping board, you can just stand in place and zigzag on the pegs.

This particular board holds a max of twelve yards. On this project, my warp is six yards long, so I measured a piece of yarn six yards long and played with zigzagging until I found the right combination of pegs (notice some are skipped) and leave it there as a guide. Then I set my cone of yarn on the floor and and wound 270 more passes. Took a couple of hours.

There’s a critical alternating cross on the top row of pegs that is what is used to keep the threads in order once the warp chain is tied to keep threads from tangling and bunching up. When I spread it back out to thread the loom, I use that to know which thread is next.

Before removing all this from the warping board, with regular yarn, I put in several ties to keep everything tidy and manageable. First, a circular one that goes around the cross to preserve it (important!), a couple of tight ones near the ends, and semi-tight ones every few feet to keep the threads together. As I remove it from the board, I start at the bottom and chain the entire group with my hand like a giant crochet chain. This makes it much shorter to manage and is so common, all these threads ready to be warped are often referred to as a warp chain. At this point, I could also throw it in a box and save it for later.


Here, with Rory’s help of course, I first spent a couple of hours moving over and rethreading the first set of threads. Four more hours, got the new threads sleyed (threaded) in the reed.

Now it’s time to go around to the back of the loom and pull threads through so they’re long enough to thread the heddles at the center of the loom. The heddles are thin metal rods (on my loom) with an eye in the middle that are strung on bars on the harness frames. The harnesses move up and down when I step on the treadles and raise pattern threads. The combination of the threaded heddles, which treadles are attached to which harnesses, and the order of the treadling–all these affect which threads are raised, producing the pattern in the woven fabric.


Hmmm, before I can thread heddles, I have a new problem. My loom has eight harnesses and the last project had the majority of the heddles on the first four (they can be moved around). This project, however, the pattern calls heddles more evenly distributed on all the harnesses, so I have to move them.

On my loom, it has a high castle (that raised center part Rory likes to lay on to “help”). The floor of the castle is removable, then I can unscrew the harnesses from the treadles and lift them out through the castle.

Rory is a bit disturbed to find the floor of the castle missing. Where’s he going to lay to oversee things?!

The heddles are strung on flexible heddle bars that I can bend slightly to get the end loose from the frame and slip heddles on and off.


This is a closeup of the harness and heddles. While I’m moving them around, I’ve found a size 1 metal knitting needle (left) makes a great temporary holder.

Now that all that is fixed, it’s time to thread the heddles. This is where I’m at now.

The other project update is the fiber blending for a specific style of yarn I wanted to spin and also fiber batts I wanted to use for my spinning group holiday gift exchange (today) . Last attempt, I liked the blend, personally, but not for either purpose.

For the spinning group gift, I wanted something softer and in a color palette most people would like.


I wound up using some soft blue, purple and a bit of burgundy wool from my stash. I Love purple and brown together, so I also threw in some scrumptious brown llama. I wanted a bit of silky softness and shine but none of my stash silk roving was the right color (wanted something purplish), so I stopped by my friend Michele’s ( after pottery class Saturday. I found some yummy bamboo (shiny pile in middle of picture) in a nice purple, touch of pink, and copper.

A little bit of quality-time with the drumcarder and we have a couple of very lovely batts (below).


My spinner’s group had their holiday meeting today. The gift exchange is always hilarious. It’s the kind where all the gifts go in the middle and we draw numbers, and when it’s your turn, you can pick from the pile or steal someone else’s. I wound up with 6 ounces of soft brown alpaca roving. I think it will go nice with some black and silver alpaca in my stash for a scarf or something.

Of course, while I was picking fibers to blend from my stash, Alaric found it all very entertaining.


For my other project, a specific yarn (drapey, very soft, highly textured, shades of blue), this pile of bamboo also followed me home from Michele’s. I’m in love with these colors. Great for my project, plus some. Part of it I’ll spin highly textured, and what’s left I’ll probably spin very fine (weft for weaving) which should make the colors blend quite a bit and read as a shimmer.


Good news and bad news

So the good news is that I got my drumcarded batt for the yarn gift spun. Bad news is that, while I rather like it, it’s not quite fitting for the project I was thinking (not as fluffy and bouncy), and not quite as soft. Below is the batt I did on the drumcarder the other day (see previous blog post).


I think the percentage of one of the blends I added had a little too much adult mohair and Romney wool. I like the strength, body, and hairiness, but the percentage of higher micron sized fibers is making it slightly prickly. I had some merino wool, silk and kid mohair, but the balance is a bit off. Didn’t use as much of the merino because the dark color of what I had was muting the overall color.

Also, the majority of the fiber was a longer staple length (length of individual fibers). That makes it trickier to not spin as dense. And density adds to the prickle-factor. This yarn came out with a nice halo, as planned, but dense and not as lofty as I’d hoped. It’ll be great for showing stitch definition, but a light-weight fluffy yarn it’s not.

I do like the electric green kid mohair I added. I’ve found adding a small amount of a slightly uncomfortable color (in thus case a high-value complement of the dominant purple color) gives it a pizazz. Squint your eyes and visualize the blend without the green. Much duller, huh?

On spinning the batt, the first thing I usually do is tear it into fluffy strips.


Then pre-draft or attenuate the strips so they’re thinner and longer. Once a strip is attenuated, I wind it into a loose nest and pile those up, ready to spin.


When I have a bobbin of single-ply I can leave it as is, spin another bobbin or two and ply all that, or just self-ply it back on itself. Or to preserve color shifts and have less blending, can ply making sort of a long crochet chain 3-ply. Or can play with tension and make something highly textured. In designing yarn, there are all sorts of choices.

In this case, I wound a center-pull ball and plied from both ends for a two-ply yarn. Once the spinning and plying is done, then I wind it in a big loop on a tool called a niddy-noddy. It’s the wooden stick in the picture that has the cross pieces on both ends. This is a simple tool that is pretty ancient. I’ve seen a book with a picture of one found in an unearthed Viking ship. Quite a few fiber tools today have changed very little from their ancestors. I like that feeling of connection with ages past. We do it for enjoyment rather than necessity today, but the basic action is the same. Kinda neat.


The idea of making a big loop is a couple of reasons. If the yarn is going to be dyed, it needs to be loose so the dye can penetrate, but contained so it won’t tangle in the water. (I tie loose figure-eights at least a couple of spots always, with each end of the yarn. If submersion dyeing, I’d secure it with more like six ties.) Along those same lines, when I wet-finish, I don’t want it to tangle while I’m swooshing it around in the water and hanging it to dry (see a couple posts ago regarding wet-finishing). Also, it can be twisted into a skein (below) for storage. I like skeins for storage, rather than balls (unless loose), so that it doesn’t put a lot of tension on the yarn and stretch it out.


So, time for Plan B. Next week I’m going to get some dyed alpaca and bamboo, and then use a different spinning technique. That should give the texture, sheen, and drape I’m looking for.

As for this yarn, really like it. I think I’m going to go ahead and spin the other batts since I’ve switched projects, so I’ll have a bit more yardage. I’m not hung up on everything being next-to-skin soft out of fine wool or luxury fibers. There’s a use for everything. What makes a scrumptious scarf makes a crummy hard-wearing sturdy bag.

Hm, speaking of bags, this would probably make really good weft for a woven bag. Would need to spin the warp still. This yarn ain’t it. Remember the deliberately making it hairy? Hairy yarn is grabby and insanity-inducing in a warp. There’s ways to work with a hairy warp if you just want to. I don’t. Not at all. A similar fiber content, prepared and spun differently to be worsted-style or smooth versus woolen-style or fuzzy will work. Hm, will have to dig through the stash. Sounds like a project for next quarter…


And also on the subject of bags, made some clay buttons in class. I was wanting some buttons to use on woven bags that had larger holes (and no rule it has to be 2 or 4-holed). I like the darker mottled green of the bigger on and the subtle beige-pale green of the smaller two. I think they’ll look great with natural or earthy colored wool or the neutral-palette cotton I’m thinking of.