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.

‘Round-to-it Day

Every so often, my to do list accumulates with procrastination-prone items, often quick but easy to put off. Well, so last week I had an official ‘Round-to-it Friday where I spent the day knocking out a good chunk of that list.

A lot were things like making calls, getting gum that someone thoughtfully left on the movie theatre seat (thanks!) out of David’s brand new shirt, taking care of some business items, cleaning out the fridge, etc. A few were procrastinated project-related items.

'Round-to-it Day

This is a bunch of handspun yarn drying and waiting to be skeined up. When I finish spinning yarn, I have a basket I toss it in to await the final step, wet finishing. In most circumstances, I squish the yarn around in warm water to thoroughly wet it, squeeze water out, then hang and let dry. That’s how I finish 90% of my yarn.

The idea is that fibers, especially wool, get stretched out and compacted during the spinning process and getting them wet lets them revert back to their natural state. Like human hair, some is straight and some more textured. You could stretch out and flatten curly hair, but get it wet, what’s going to happen? Yup, curly again. Same with wool. If you look at the bottom edge of the skeins, they all came off the niddy-noddy (tool for making large circle if yarn) the same length. See how some have drawn up quite a bit shorter? The tighter the wool crimp (like wave in hair) the more it’ll do that. The majority of the short ones are Merino. The really short blue-green one towards the right is Tunis breed wool, very sproingy (technical term).

Wet-finishing helps the spun yarn look like its true self. Also, since it can change so much, it’s important to do it now instead of make a project that changes dramatically first time it’s washed. Also during wet-finishing, I’m checking to make sure all the dye is fast and I finish rinsing or setting anything that needs it, in case it wasn’t quite rinsed well enough by whoever dyed it. Again, easy to fix now instead of it bleeding dye later on other threads. Also some fiber content needs different handling. Yarn that I’ve deliberately spun very hairy, blends that include angora, or anything that I want to bring out its texture and create that fuzzy halo, I abuse it a bit by whapping it on a hard surface a few times (the wall) to help it bloom.

Some people weight it, I guess to straighten it more, but I’ve found that the water weight is plenty and I want it to draw up however it’s going to. If it were energized singles (kinking back on itself) I might weight that. And weaving yarn wouldn’t matter since could allow for take during the planning process, but since I often crochet or knit with it or don’t have a specific project in mind yet, I don’t want to worry about the yarn changing a lot in a finished project the first time it gets wet.

A while back, I crocheted my Mom a soft yummoluscious throw. I usually take a pic of finished projects and put the pic and the story or details in a journal, sort of like a scrapbook, my style. Anyway, forgot to and eventually borrowed it back and have the picture now.

'Round-to-it Day

About the project, crocheted out of random skeins I collected over time in a color palette I knew she’d like. I deliberately try to collect a dark, medium, and light value, whatever the palette (mostly analogous here), a slightly uncomfortable color (teensy bits of lime green here) to give it pizzazz, some metallic, some shiny/matte/fuzzy/plain. A dark and a light/medium carrier for thin threads and repeated regularly to tie it all together. Usually, can manage all this with approximately 5-8 different yarns. The more the merrier though. I probably have 15-20 in this. It’s a great project for leftover yarn or falling in love with a cool skein and just getting one. My general rule is try to use some stash, buy it on sale or only pay full price on a couple if they’re fabulous (otherwise this can be expensive if buy all from scratch).

'Round-to-it Day

The yarn size is worsted-bulky or combined to equal that size (used size L hook). I chose the open ripple pattern for three reasons. One, the ripple lets the colors optically blend better. Two, with heavy to bulky weight, the open stitch gives it better drape and flexibility. Three, given how many of the yarns are thick, fuzzy, and all acrylic, it would be hot if more solid.

'Round-to-it Day

Another project I’ve got planned for this fall is a piece of stained glass as a housewarming gift for a friend. I made some final design decisions on some of the elements and plan so can get started on this in the next week or two. This is a thumbnail sketch on its page in my journal where I keep notes on all my projects. Never have to wonder what I did with a slip of paper, it’s all in that book.

I already have the glass. It’s going to be peacock blues and greens with copper patina and frame. I wanted build some personal symbology for her into the design. The design is adapted from a Frank Lloyd Wright tree of life motif. It’s a favorite motif of mine I like to use in different mediums, so my stamp, plus she’ll appreciate it. I altered the leaf design to include groupings of three, a larger block to represent her (blue/green mixed glass) and a smaller blue and a green block to represent her two boys.

Slightly Warped

One of my projects this fall is to do some weaving. Part of this will be for a gift later this fall so I definitely needed to get started on this since I have to do my weaving in little bits at a time.
Of course, the cats find this all very entertaining. Below, Rory is right in the middle of all the action.

Slightly Warped

A couple of weeks ago, I planned out the project and did my calculations. It’s a 22″ wide 8-shaft twill pattern gamp out of 8/2 cotton. Translation: am using a neutral rosy beige somewhat fine cotton warp (lengthwise threads) that is being set up to weave a variety of patterns without changing the threading (time-consuming setup part), just change what my feet on the treadles are doing. By changing the treadling pattern and weft color (across threads on shuttle) I should be able to get several very different looking pieces of cloth out of the same set up.

Slightly Warped

This weekend I measured out all my threads (274 ends x 6 yards each) and prepared the warp chain (way of keeping everything neat and bundled to avoid tangles). I’ve started threading through the reed, one thread per dent (slot). The reed is what is moved back and forth to pack down the weft. I work in small groups of threads at a time since I sometimes only have a few minutes here and there, and even sitting right there, I don’t completely trust one of the cats not to jump up and accidentally pull threads out.

Below, I am half done threading the reed. The warp chain (larger bundle of threads) is wrapped loosely around the breast beam while I’m threading so its hanging weight won’t pull on threads as I’m working.

Slightly Warped

Below is a close-up of the reed and my very specialized tool (old plastic card) I use to thread through the reed. Notice the loose knots behind the reed. This way, even a cat jumping on the wrong thing, I won’t lose my work, just maybe a few minutes at the worst. Later, I’ll undo them when I’m ready for the next step (threading heddles for my pattern).

Slightly Warped