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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cotton Towels. Can't You Get Those at Wal-Mart?

For as long as I can remember I have knitted Christmas gifts for everyone in the family.  This year, I'm weaving.  Here are some of my projects and what I've learned from them.

Cotton Dish Towels.  When I first joined our local Fiber Arts Guild, before I learned to weave, I was struck by how many weavers made towels.  Towels?  I had that "can't you buy those at Wal-Mart?" moment, but once I started weaving I was intrigued.  For one thing, though I knit a lot, I rarely use cotton.  Using a new fiber sounded like an interesting adventure.  Second, I got a really good deal on some monster cones of cotton.

The towel on the far left was made with leftovers from a color gamp kit.  I had rainbow cones with a lot of thread left, and nothing to do with them!  I designed this simple twill towel.  It is 10/2 perle cotton set at 30 e.p.i.  When I took it off the loom I was in love.  After I washed and dried it, it became my new favorite.  Here's a close up of the twill.

The next three towels are in a pattern draft called M's and O's from The Handweaver's Pattern Dictionary, p. 129.  I used one threading for all three towels and had planned to use three different treadling sequences, but I liked #2 so well that I never got to #3.  The warp is 8/2 cotton set at 20 epi.  The weft is cotton flake.

What I learned.

1. I had to use a stretcher/temple for these projects in order to keep my fell line straight.  Unlike wool, cotton has very little give.
2. Cotton shrinks.  A lot. Really a lot.  Each towel shrunk at least 4 inches in length and 3+ inches in width.   Shrinking is a bonus too - any loose weave places close up.  What looks like funky bad weaving disappears.
3. All Flake Cotton Is Not Equal.  I got the cones of flake cotton as a bargain basement item from a weaving store.  After washing it was obvious that at least one of the colors was not going to stand up to  years and years of washing and drying.
4. Weaving cotton is noisier.  My big loom is upstairs and the noise I made beating the cotton weft into place (two beats, one on the closed shed, one on the next open shed) drove my poor husband nuts.  I had to weave cotton when he was at work.  Another reason to have two looms - one with a quiet project, the other with cotton.
5. Finally, I LOVED MAKING TOWELS.  While I was doing this project I "won" an Ebay sale - 20 new cones of linen weaving thread for next to nothing.
I hope my relatives and friends like handwoven towels.  I can see a future in this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Weaving With Handspun - Continued Adventures

Here is my second weaving project made entirely with handspun yarn.  It was also my first attempt at overshot weaving.   It is a wool table runner, 13 inches wide and 48 inches long, excluding 4 inches of fringe at each end.  It fits exactly on top of a walnut radiator cabinet in our guest bedroom.  The colors do NOT match the decor, but TOO BAD.

I started with leftovers from previous projects.  The burgundy is a fine Romney single and the multi is a merino single made from a multi-dyed roving.  I had a lot of this and wanted to weave with it, but needed a stronger yarn for warp.

I spun 3.5 ounces of Romney very fine, with a high twist, and plied it at high twist also.  I got 800 yds of 2-ply from 3.5 ounces.

I measured the warp and then sized it with rabbit skin glue.  Eeeew.  Gooey.  I let it dry to a nice, crusty stiff as pipe cleaners hand, then warped the Wolf Pup LT.

I had to decide which yarn I would use for the overshot pattern, and which to use for the background tabby.  You can see what I decided here.  The stripes are the merino multi, in tabby.  The weaving was 14 inches in the reed, 12 ends per inch.  The yarn was fine enough for 15 epi, but I wanted to avoid breakage so I gave it extra room.  That had consequences.

 Using a less-dense sett meant the weft was more easily packed into a weft-faced cloth.  I hardly beat it at all, just pressed it into place, but I ended up with almost no warp showing at all.  This also made the pattern squished down and spread out.  But here is the good part.

NO BROKEN WARPS.  And very little wool fuzz under the loom.  This means that the ends were not being abraded (and weakened) during weaving.  I give myself a point for this.

This will not win any prizes but I learned a lot.  If I were to do it again I would switch the two weft yarns - make the solid color the background tabby and the multi the overshot pattern.  It would be a completely different look, more unified, I think.  I didn't have enough warp yarn for sampling....naughty naughty me.  Had I sampled I would have discovered my preference.

And finally, I STILL have leftover weft yarn, enough for at least a scarf! 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Schacht Ordering Deadlines - Get it by Christmas!

Want it by Christmas?  I need to have your order in by the following dates:

November 11             Last day to order a Matchless
November 18             Last day to order a Ladybug, Floor Loom or Wolf Loom
November 30             Last day to order Accessories and Small Looms

ALL Schacht Looms and spinning wheels (including Matchless) are 10% off retail prices if ordered this month.  Let me know!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Open House on Saturday, Nov. 6th.

If you are in the area on Saturday, stop by for my Fall Fiber Open House!  Wool, wool, WOOL!  Wheels, looms, and a fire in the fireplace.  I'll be open from 1-6 pm.  Email me for directions!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Tiny Adventure in Ikat.

One of the things we used to see along the mountain roads in Guatemala was long lengths of warp threads drying in the sun, held up off the ground on forked sticks.  The warps were cotton and had been tie-dyed and then dyed indigo or black.  In Guatemala this technique is called jaspe.  In the world of weaving it is also called Ikat, which is Japanese.

I decided to try a little ikat at home.  I measured out a couple of yards of silk warp and then tied it up and down. 

Then I dyed it dark green.  When I took off the ties there were little white areas.

Here is how it looked on the loom.

Here is how it looked woven.

There was only one really big surprise here.  I wove the silk at 24 epi and it was so tight the resulting cloth felt like cardboard, or at best, upholstery fabric and was barely shiny at all.  The little white streaks were interesting but I realized I'd have to go back to the drawing board and experiment more with the sett before designing a complete project.

Once again, I am GLAD I made a sample! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gamp and More Gamp - And What I Learned This Time

Last May I bought a weaving kit from Halcyon Yarn but when it arrived I realized it was far too advanced for my skills at that time.  I got it out two weeks ago and decided I was ready.

The kit used 10/2 Perle Cotton at 36 ends per inch in a Huck Lace (also called Huckabuck or Huckaback) pattern.  Once I got the loom warped the weaving was pretty fast.  I finished sewing the hems on the six place mats last night.

Here is what I learned.  I would probably not make placemats from perle cotton again.  It is too soft.  I expect place mats to be a bit stiff and sturdy.  These are soft enough to be napkins.  If I'd known that from the beginning, I would have made napkins instead!  I ended up pressing them with spray starch.

Huck Lace draws in A LOT.  I spent a bit of time trying to iron the placemats into rectangles.  You can see how they flare a bit at the ends where there is an inch of plain weave.  If I made them again I would not add that inch at the ends.

I don't like black edges with colored weft.  It seems to show every tiny flaw.  The pattern called for an inch of tabby on either edge.  If I did them again I would reduce this to half an inch.

With such a dense warp (36 epi) it was IMPOSSIBLE to get an even weft, no matter how hard I muscled the beater.  36 warp ends equaled an inch - half that many weft shots equaled an inch in pattern, and in tabby it was even less, more like 12-14! 

The hems of each place mat were woven using plain sewing thread for weft.  This made a smooth, warp-faced BEAUTIFUL shiny fabric!  The color of the thread hardly showed at all.  In fact, tightly packed 10/2 warp with sewing thread weft would make fantastic striped napkins. They'd have a great sheen, be smooth, and the stripes would be solid.  The spool of thread fit right into a small boat shuttle so it was easy to weave.

I liked the huck lace pattern and will probably make something with all my leftovers.  I will expect it to be soft, cushy, and draw in...a lot!  I will not repeat the elements I didn't like but will do it my OWN way next time. 

As always, I learned a lot!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Spun It, Dyed It, Wove It, Sewed It!

I finished Marty's vest yesterday and he wore it to work today.  It looks fabulous on him!

Sewing with my handspun was a fun challenge.  (Here is a link to my post about spinning and weaving the fabric.)   First I had to CUT OUT THE PIECES.  The first snip felt positively sinful but after that it was fun.  The fabric pattern is the same on front and back and so I was able to fit all the pattern pieces on, one layer at a time, without regard to any of that.  It is a good thing my husband is skinny.  I wove this on an 18" wide loom - any larger and the pieces would not have fit. 

Because the fabric is somewhat coarse I had to handle it as little as possible because it ended to fray at the raw edges.  Fortunately the pattern didn't call for any overturned or hemmed edges - the whole thing was lined.  The fabric would not have been stable enough for an unlined garment - I think it would have stretched out of shape.

I lined the vest with rayon lining.  The welt pockets were also lined with rayon.  I reinforced the buttonholes with a strip of iron-on interfacing on the back side of the fabric and sewed them on the machine.  Mom would have made hand-bound buttonholes, I hope she was not looking down at me from that sewing room in the sky!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How To Buy Hand-Dyed Wool

My first attempts at fiber dyeing were less than stellar.  I had two big problems.  First, I didn't know much about the chemistry of dye/wool/heat/acid.  Second, I wasn't an experienced enough spinner to know a disaster when I saw one.

The piece of roving on the left is some Sweet Grass Targhee combed top that I ruined in an attempt to make painted roving.  HOWEVER, I didn't know it was ruined and spun from it anyway.  My arms literally ached from pre-drafting and spinning was a nightmare.  I chalked it up to being a beginner trying to spin wool that was finer than Romney.  The problem was neither.  The problem was FELTING.

The fiber on the right is also hand-dyed but now I know what I'm doing.  It is as easy to draft as undyed top.  It is soft, fluffy, and has no felting at all.  This is the only kind I sell to other people. 

I have attended a regional fiber festival for the last three years and  have seen yards and yards of FELTED FIBER BRAIDS for sale.  The braids are gorgeous.  The colors are stunning.  But an experienced spinner walks right by.  It is only the poor beginners who get sucked into buying felted roving.

When you are examining a braid of hand-dyed roving/top, CHECK THE ENDS.  They should be fluffy and the fibers should fan out if you give it a shake.  If there are no ends exposed, ask to undo one and take a look at it.  Feel it.  Pull a few fibers.  They should slide right out.

All braided top gets a bit compacted in storage - that isn't a problem.  The ends will tell all.  If the ends are good chances are the rest is good and all it will need to be ready for spinning is a tug or two and a good, hard shake.

If you are buying online be sure that the vendor offers a full refund, no questions asked.  If they dyer is not a very experienced spinner, she may think the roving is perfect but you may think otherwise.  Ask her how long she has been spinning and dyeing and be especially wary of extra fine fibers like merino, which is super hard to dye without felting at least a bit.

Finally, a properly dyed braid of roving should be fat and fluffy and soft.  It should not look or feel like felt!  If it does, walk away!  Or prepare yourself for a serious workout at the spinning wheel.

Friday, September 24, 2010

More Overdyed Gray Wool...

I was so inspired by how the blue yarn turned out that I dug all my blah gray handspun out of the closet and dyed it.  You can see the results in my new blog photo!  Whew!  Now I actually feel like using this yarn.

I'm thinking of a weaving project!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Overdyeing: Blah Wool Gets a Face Lift

Yesterday I skeined off 2000 yds of gray Romney/Mohair two ply yarn and thought, "Blech.  This gray does nothing for me."  The roving was scrumptious - top quality from Peeper Hollow Farm - but the yarn did nothing for me.  I had spent weeks making this yarn and I wasn't about to give up on it.  Dye to the rescue!

I decided on blue so I did color samples from my four favorite colors of blue dye.  Color sampling is easy in the microwave oven.  Here's how I did it.

I took four little bits of gray roving and put them in water plus a drop of dish detergent to soak while I got everything else ready.  Then I found four quart canning jars and put labels on each one - sky blue, brilliant blue, royal blue, navy.  I added one teaspoon of liquid dye, one teaspoon of vinegar, and a cup of water to each jar.  Now I had 4 little dyebaths ready to go.

Each bit of fiber went into its own jar of dye.  I then put all four jars in the microwave oven and brought the dye to a boil - about 4 minutes.  I then set the microwave to half power, and six minutes, and let it cook.  By the time the dinger went off, each dyebath was exhausted and the fiber was dyed.

I fished out the blobs of dyed fiber with a fork (too hot for fingers) and pressed them between thick layers of paper towels to get most of the water out.  This is what I ended up with.  From left to right the colors are, royal blue, sky blue, navy, and brilliant blue.

My favorite was somewhere between the sky blue and royal blue, so I got all my big skeins wetted down and prepared the dyebath.  I had two pounds of fiber.  I put in enough sky blue dye for one pound (that's all I had) and added enough Royal blue for four ounces.  I filled the canner and added the ten skeins of yarn.  My hope was to get a medium denim blue, also known as "Scandinavian Blue".  And this is what I got!  You can see the original gray fiber and yarn sample in contrast to overdyed yarn.

The luster of the Romney and Mohair is very evident in the finished yarn.  It has a depth that dyed white wool could never have, as the darker fibers are still darker in the final yarn. I don't think "blech" when I look at my new yarn - Now I love it.  All the work was worth it.  And the dyepot saved the day, again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Greensleeves Spindles: The Wooden Rainbow

One of the most addicting things about spinning is hand-made drop spindles.  Most of us start out with something kind of clunky and mass-produced.  We wonder why people love spinning.  We make rope.  We drop the dang thing a million times.  Then we start to get the hang of it, and pretty soon we need another spindle!  We don't want another we start looking for The Spindle.

We buy something really special and think we're fixed for a life of spinning.  But no, we need a lace spindle.  And a one ounce.  And a one and a half ounce.  And a Bloodwood...

I've been selling Greensleeves Spindles for just under a year and have been thrilled witht he quality and beauty of these spindles.  Each Greensleeves drop spindle is made by hand by Elizabeth and Bart Daily of Provo, UT.  They are carefully turned, balanced, tested.  When I get a box of spindles it is like Christmas!  I never tell Elizabeth what to make me, other than a size range and how many I am ordering, so it is always the most fabulous surprise.  WOODEN RAINBOW!

Here is the bouquet that came in the mail today.  They are listed at my Etsy store and I expect them to sell out fairly quickly.  I am always tempted to keep a few...

There is only one thing wrong with Greensleeves Spindles.  They sell out almost immediately and then I have to wait WEEKS for the next batch!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gamp Camp: Weaving With Color

I'm working on spinning my second batch of warp for a weaving project.  Just couldn't bring myself to mix commercial yarn with my here we come, rabbit skin glue!  It takes me a while to spin enough yards, so I thought I'd better have something going on the loom at the same time.  Practice makes perfect and I have a LOT of skill-building to do.

I bought a gamp kit from Yarn Barn of Kansas.  What is a gamp?  British slang for an umbrella...oh yeah, and it's a weaving thing too.  Here's the definition. A gamp is a systematic arrangement of warp threadings or warp color sequences in section of equal size, each section being a minimum of two inches and not more than six, and woven as drawn in.  Thank you, Harriet Tidball of Handwoven Magazine!

The warp was supposed to be 36 inches wide in a 12 dent reed, and the stripes were 24 ends wide (2 inches), but my big loom is European, metric, and the reed is just under 36 inches, so I had to pull one end from each of the last four colors.  The reed was FULL!  Warping took me two days.

Weaving only took about four hours.  I had to stop and change the bobbin in the shuttle every 24 picks, which took up a lot of time as well.  There were 18 colors.  If I'd had 18 shuttles, it would have been a lot faster!  But I only have two.

The wool was somewhat stiff and rough but after washing it fluffed up (bloomed) and softened a lot.  I am happy with the outcome, and so is the recipient of the blanket.  Happy Father's Day, Marty!

And then, of course there were leftovers, which I didn't want to throw out, so...they are being transformed into a random-color,  2x2 twill plaid scarf on the Wolf Pup LT.

What I learned:  I was surprised by which color combinations seemed attractive to me and which did not.  For instance, I liked olive green over maroon, and rust over bright green, but didn't like any of the squares that intersected with white.  Black plus color looked good no matter what color, but showed any flaws in weaving.  Gray over any color cut the brightness in half.  I found myself LOVING the green and blue blocks, and feeling somewhat indifferent about the yellow/orange/rust.  It definitely gave me some great ideas for using color in future projects and I will be able to take a look at it whenever I wonder how specific colors will interact in a plain weave cloth.

This was a kit so I couldn't veer much from the plan, but in the future I will probably try to make at least two blankets from the same warp.  It takes a long time to set up - might as well get my money's worth from the process.  Finally, I was amazed at how quickly the actual weaving went.  Whew.  After years and years of knitting, the almost instant gratification makes me dizzy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bartlettyarns - For Sale at my Etsy Store

I am now a Bartlettyarns dealer and have ten cones of this great yarn for sale at my Etsy store.  Cones have 1750 yds (1 pound) of woolen-spun sport weight yarn, great for knitting, weaving, crochet, felting, or any other fiberart project.

This yarn knits at 5-6 sts/inch on size 3-5 needles.  Weaving setts are 10-15.

Here are a few things you can do with this great yarn-on-a-cone: weave, knit, crochet, use as warp only with handspun weft.  Yarn on a cone is great for spinning art yarns - use it as the core and add in fluff, locks, or other fiber.  Spin in the direction of the yarn's ply twist.

Coned yarn hasn't been finished - after weaving or knitting the item should be gently washed in warm water.  It will bloom and soften up a great deal.

Bartlettyarns, Inc is a working museum woolen mill located in Harmony, Maine.  Yarn is made in the same way, with the same equipment used in the early 1800s.  It is woolen-spun from big batts (you can see them on the rolls in the video) and most of the yarns are dyed in the wool, then spun, to create heather blends.  Colors are not all available at all times - they are spun one run at a time as wool becomes available.  All wool comes from US wool growers.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weaving with Handspun: First Big Project

I started this project by spinning a lot of yarn.  Two-ply for the warp (1700 yds of Romney) and single ply for the weft (3200 yds of Romney lamb/alpaca).  I got these numbers from my calculations of what it would take to make 5.5 yds of cloth, 18 inches wide, at a sett of 15 e.p.i. (Ends, or warp threads per inch.)

Next I dyed the yarn and sized it with rabbit skin glue.

Wound the stiff, sized yarn into many balls.

Warped the Schacht Wolf Pup LT loom for sampling.

Samples.  I thought I'd weave the cloth in a houndstooth twill but I didn't like how the sample turned out (top sample).  My weft yarn was a single ply and there were slight variations in thickness - the variations didn't work well in herringbone.  So, I tried other combinations until I found one I liked.  I had to cut off the sample, re-thread the heddles and re-sley the reed and tie the new warp onto the cloth beam. 

Once I was sure of what I wanted I warped the loom and started to weave.  I broke six warp ends during weaving and repaired each one according to the instructions in LEARNING TO WEAVE.  For my next big handspun weaving project I'm going to use commercial yarn in the warp - I spent a lot of time worrying about fraying and breakage.  I also spent a lot of time spraying starch on the warp to make it even stiffer.  I don't know if it helped or not. 

One week later...

Before washing my fabric measured 5.5 yds by 17 inches wide.  It is soft with a nice hand and the perfect weight for a tailored wool vest.  I soaked the fabric in hot water with Woolite, swished it a little, and rinsed.  I laid it out flat to dry and can't wait to cut into it!

Here are my thoughts on my first big weaving project.  I'll do it again, and soon.  I'll use commercial warp next time and I'll double the ends at the edges because those seemed to break the most easily.  I overestimated how much warp yarn I'd need and underestimated on the warp.  I AM GLAD I SAMPLED.  For a diehard non-swatcher, this is big.

I feel like Pioneer Woman!!!  And it all started with a little Cricket Loom...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weaving with Handspun: Sizing the Warp

I'm working my way through Paula Simmon's classic book Spinning and Weaving With Wool and came to the chapter on warp.  (For those of you who don't weave yet, warp is the name of the long, up and down threads.  Weft is the side-to-side thread.)  I'm planning to weave a piece of twill fabric that is 6 yards long and 20 inches wide, and I want to use handspun.  Paula says to size handspun warp with rabbit skin glue.

Sizing is basically putting something starchy or stiff on the yarn so that it is more able to withstand the punishment of being warp - abrasion from heddles and reed, tension from the warp beam.  I bought a package of powdered rabbit skin glue from the art store.

The first thing I did was dye the yarn scarlet - that's the color I wanted - so when I was finished with that I had hot, rinsed, wet yarn.  While the dyepot was simmering I'd sprinkled 6 tablespoons of rabbit skin glue powder on cold water, stirred it in, and let it all sit.  It gelled into a gray/beige goopy, thick mess.

 I took a big bucket and poured in this goop.  To this I added 8 cups of boiling water and stirred the sizing until the goop had completely dissolved.  Next I put the skeins in, one by one, and pushed them down, making sure they were saturated.  (I wore gloves for this.)

I carried the bucket downstairs and spun the yarn out in my washing machine spin cycle, and then removed it.  I immediately ran a small hot water load of rags, with detergent, to wash the glue out of my machine.

It's a gorgeous, breezy day, so I hung the skeins out to dry.  So far they still looked like regular wet yarn!  The yarn is fine so it dried right away.  AND it is SIZED!  It is stiff, as though it were over-starched, but the strands are not very stuck together - it will be easy to wind everything into balls.  There is no weird smell. 

After I take the final cloth off the loom I'll finish it with gentle washing - this will remove all of the rabbit skin glue.  I have that triumphant feeling - followed the directions and everything worked.  The only thing I did differently was to size the yarn in skeins, rather than wait until I had it measured into warp chains.  I don't know if this will make a difference or not.

It looks like the stiff yarn will also be easier to thread through heddles and reed.  YAY!  Now I have to finish spinning the weft yarn and I'll be ready to test my sized warp on my loom.  Sizing was not a big task, was not very messy, and if it makes my handspun easier to weave, I'm all for it.

I wonder if I can buy rabbit skin glue in BULK??

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Confessions of a Notorious Non-Swatcher

I have never been much of a swatch-maker.  If I start knitting something and don't like it, I rip it out.  I don't keep records of my spun yarn.  I don't try to figure out twists per inch - I just decide if I like it or not.

This habit (or non-habit) is not going to serve me very well as a weaver.  Could it be that a reformed attitude is in order?

Although I am getting much faster at warping my loom, it is still time-consuming.  Once the loom is set up, I want to weave.  If after an inch of weaving I decide I don't like what I'm seeing, I am in trouble.  It is no easy task to "rip out" a warp and start over!

So, I am sampling.  Check out these two samples/practice mats.  I used the same three colors in each of the projects.  In the runner I used hot pink for the weft.  In the place mats I used bright turquoise.  What a difference.  (I also made fewer mistakes in the placemats - learning curve!)

For plain weave items I can sample on my Cricket loom (another good reason to have one) but for bigger, more complicated projects I'll have to sample on the big loom.  Can do.  Can do!  I can see that in the long run it is going to be worth it.  I am going to reform.  At least as a weaver!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Greatest Work of Art - Kids!

I had to take a break from fiber to watch my daughter Jody graduate from college.  (That cord around her neck means she graduated Summa Cum Laude.) She is now an official Bachelor...of Music.

Ok, back to weaving!  I am working on a table runner now.  It has mistakes.  It has wavy selvedges.  AND I LOVE IT!  Hope your week is off to a good start!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Learning to Weave: Overcoming the Perfection Barrier

My daughter  Jody will graduate this weekend with a degree in music performance (pipe organ).  She is a talented young woman, and very accomplished, but while I was listening to her senior recital I kept thinking back to the little girl who sat at the piano and cried at least once a week - because she knew how the music was supposed to sound but couldn't yet play it.

When I heard her crying (or pounding the poor old piano in frustration) I would sit beside her on the bench, put my arm around her, and remind her of all the music she had already learned; how she had not been able to play those pieces perfectly the first time; and that with practice it was certain she would learn the new music.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I had to give that pep talk, but it worked.  She didn't give up.  She learned to love the process of learning as much as the accomplishment.

When I tell people that I'm learning to weave I often hear some horror story about warping a loom.  In fact, I have found that it is one of the things that keeps people from this ancient and wonderful craft.  "Oh, but the setup, I've heard it's awful."

One of my Ravelry friends, who is a self-taught weaver, calls this "the Perfection Barrier," and I think that is an apt title for the main reason more people don't weave.  They are afraid of failure and frustration so they don't even try. They know how the music is supposed to sound but they never get around to making it themselves because they are so afraid of the process.

Our fiber guild doesn't meet in the summer so I am on my own.  I got a book, Learning to Weave, and a Schacht's newest loom, the Wolf Pup LT.  When the loom arrived I assembled it myself in just two hours.  I've never touched a floor loom before, but I had studied the book and knew the terms and parts.  Yesterday I warped it for the first time, following the lesson in the book.

I had to retie the warps more than once to fix the mistakes.  I had to color-code the heddles with Sharpie so I knew which shaft I was looking at.  I don't have a bobbin-winder, so I wound the shuttle bobbins on my sewing machine bobbin-winder.  By the time I had the loom ready to go it was late, I was tired, but I couldn't wait.
Here is what I wove before bed.  It is not perfect.  But it is a great beginning!  I'm weaving! 

I refuse to be stopped by the Perfection Barrier.  In fact, I have made a vow to myself - I am going to learn to LOVE warping my loom, and I am going to give myself permission to weave many imperfect things and to embrace the learning process.  Someday I'll be a good weaver.  And maybe I'll even be a great weaver!

Don't let the Perfection Barrier stop you from trying something new.  Get a book, take a class, JUMP IN!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Schacht Ladybug - Special Introductory Price $539

In March I picked up the Schacht dealership for my area.  At first I thought I would just carry looms.  "We would love it if you'd carry the wheels as well," they said.  I said, no thanks, I didn't have room.

Well, I made room because I thought it would be nice to give my customers a choice.  Schacht has a spotless reputation, the wheels are made in America, and hey, I have room in my heart to love more than one kind of spinning wheel. 

I am going to place my first order for Ladybug Spinning Wheels at the end of this month.  I'd like to take this opportunity to offer the wheel for $539 (plus free shipping) to anyone who orders the wheel between now and May 27th, 2010.  Delivery will be at the end of June. 

E-mail me if you'd like to take advantage of this offer.  The Ladybug isn't a new wheel but it is new to my workshop, so we'll call it an introduction.  I'm hoping the size and quality will make it a big seller.  

Here is what the Schacht website says about the Ladybug:

The Ladybug Spinning Wheel is friendly to entry-level spinners, easy to treadle, easy to take with you, and…as cute as a bug! The Ladybug has the characteristic solid Schacht construction and its unique design is both functional and charming. Designed-in carrying handles in the legs and light weight make the Ladybug easy to pick up and transport. An optional attached tensioned Lazy Kate integrates into the front leg and makes it easy to take along, too!

The Ladybug Spinning Wheel uses Scotch tension, and can also be used in double drive mode. The Ladybug comes with medium and fast flyer whorls; the slow and high speed whorls can also be used for a wide range of ratios.

Included with each Schacht Ladybug Spinning Wheel are a poly drive band, threading hook, three bobbins, medium and fast whorls, and double drive band. Each Ladybug Spinning Wheel is unique - somewhere on your wheel is your very own Ladybug pal.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Majacraft Aura: At Last! Photos and a Review

The Aura arrived here in Minnesota on Thursday.  I invited my spinner friend Kerry over to help me assemble the wheel and take photos, so THANKS to Kerry.

First impressions:  The box was much smaller than the boxes that the Rose and Suzy come in.  Here is what I saw when I opened it up, removed the top piece of styrofoam.
I lifted up the wheel and gasped.  It is GORGEOUS, SOLID bamboo, and very heavy.  In my opinion it is the most beautiful of all the drive wheels Majacraft makes.

Next we unpacked the pieces.  The treadles are lovely, and have a curvy new look.

The spinning head has been completely redesigned.  The only thing that looks the same is the shaft.  There are two whorls in place of the one whorl in previous models.  They rotate independently.

The jumbo flyer has the aerodynamic wooden crossbar, jumbo sliding hook, and a unique orifice called a "pigtail".  It is very easy to thread and has options for threading fine or lumpy yarns.  It is quite easy to spin at an angle to the pigtail.

The jumbo bobbins are bamboo!  That was a surprise. 

And of course the signature at the base is very important.


Here are some photos of the wheel after assembly.

And here is a close up of the spinning head with the pulleys and whorls and drive wheel connected by bands.

The white band is not stretchy.  It goes from the front whorls (which rotate at the same speed as the bobbin) to a "holder" pulley (small pulley on the opposite side) and then down to a special, deep groove on the drive wheel.  The green stretchy band goes from the whorl groove to the wheel, as in the other Majacraft wheels.  This whorl is very large and has three grooves.

The tensioning requires a paradigm shift in thinking about how spinning FEELS.  Adjustment of the white band controlls the amount of pull, or tug on the wool during spinning.  The green band adjusts the speed of the takeup, and the difference in size between the first and second bands is how one arrives at the correct tension/pull/takeup for the wool one is spinning.

Here are some answers to common questions about the Aura.  

Q:  Will my other Majacraft bobbins work on the Aura?  
A: No.  The Aura bobbins have holes that fit into pins on the spinning head to keep it in pace with the first (white band) whorls.  I tried to drill holes in one of my lace bobbins in order to make it work - first attempt at mod was not a success, but I haven't given up.  Right now, the only bobbins that are designed for the Aura are the jumbo Aura bobbins.  The wheel comes with three jumbo Aura bobbins.  Additional bobbins cost $45 USD.  BUT these are such large bobbins that having many extra bobbins is not essential.

Q: Will my high-speed head fit on the Aura?  
A.  No.  The spinning head on the Aura is mounted with a bolt that passes through the head. 

Q: How is the tensioning different from other Majacraft wheels?
A: Scotch tension requires tweaking as one spins.  As the bobbin fills the pull and takeup change and tension has to be increased in small increments.  With the Aura tension system, one only has to set it for the type of yarn and GO.  No readjusting.

Q: Is the Aura only for art yarn?
A: No.  The Aura can spin anything, although as it is set up now (huge bobbins, large whorls) it is perfect for art yarn, bulky yarn, or worsted weight soft singles.  I was able to spin laceweight once the bobbin was half full.  More about that later!

Q:  Would this be a good wheel for a new spinner?
A:  YES.  More about that with the review!

Q: What does the Aura cost?  
A:  It is listed at $963 USD.  It is definitely the top of the line now.

Q:  Will Majacraft make other whorls/setups for this wheel?
A:  Yes, but there are not dates on this yet.  Glynis mentioned to me that they will probably make a lace flyer with standard orifice next, but she was thinking out loud, not announcing a fact.  Right now they are busy getting the pre-orders out!

Ok, my review!

Kerry and I spent about four hours spinning, between the two of us.  Kerry spun fine merino top from the fold.  I spun Romney, Romney blend, mohair, merino, CVM from rolags and merino/bamboo.  We spun as fine as we could and I spun fat art yarn.  We took it up to speed and raced it (my job), and we tested how leisurely we could spin (that was Kerry's job).  We also brought over Kerry's son Josh who is 15, and has never been able to get the hang of spinning on the family Rose.  He was able to spin immediately.

It took a while for me to adjust to the new feel of the wheel.  I did a lot of adjusting.  Like I said above, spinning on the Aura requires a change of mindset.  The side knob controls how HARD the wheel pulls against the wool, but NOT how fast it takes up.  Changing the position of the green band up and down the whorls changes how fast the yarn takes up.  I am not used to thinking of tension and takeup as separate functions, so...being middle-aged, it took me a while to stop breaking the yarn.  

Once I got the hang of it I found my sweet spot setting and was able to spin for an hour solid making perfect, even Romney singles that would knit at about DK.  I was AMAZED at how smooth the treadling and tension are.  When I speeded up my treadling I was able to make consistent sockweight, laceweight singles, though this was nearly impossible until the bobbin was half full.  The bobbin is so large that the slightest pull would snap those fine singles.  Once the bobbin was essentially a "fat core" the fine spinning was possible and easy.

Bulky spinning was great too - no overtwisting.  I didn't have to work so fast that I lost control.  I could make slubs, twits, add in fluff, whatever, at a nice, steady pace.  The orifice can handle all manner of blobs with ease.  This wheel will make the art yarn spinners jump up and down but the rest of us have plenty to be happy about too.

The wheel is slow.  It will require gearing up for me to spin lace at the speed I want to go.  I can spin lace, but not fast.  This would be a good wheel for a tense person (that would be me) because the pace is so relaxing.  

I'm just getting used to Aura but I give her a hearty thunbs up.  I know Majacraft is going to expand the wheel in time and it will be THE spinning wheel everyone wants to have because of the versatility.  Right now (May 1, 2010)  it is already PERFECT for 1) spin control 2) soft, even singles 3) bulky, funky, lumpy, happy yarns, 4) learning to spin/draft 5) leisurely spinning of very fine yarns, once there is a bit of a core built up on the bobbin.

Please feel free to comment, to ask questions, or e-mail me for more info. stseraphinaknits at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Schacht Cricket: Stash Reduction Part Two

The Aura is in a box in my workshop.  Just thought I'd let you know :-)

Here is all the stash reduction I have been doing with my Cricket Loom over the past couple of weeks.  I have scarves, coasters, and even made fabric for the Little Hippie Vest.

I was not sure I'd like weaving because compared to my passion, (lace knitting) it seemed very boring.  BUT I was wrong on both counts.  It is a lot of fun - very relaxing.  I can finish a project in a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.  I can use up yarn - it takes much less yarn to weave a scarf than it does to knit one.  And I can carry on a conversation while I work (unlike lace knitting DON'T TALK TO ME I'M COUNTING!!)

Yesterday I got a delivery of looms from Schacht.  I have 6 Cricket Looms, a 15" Flip Loom, and a 20" Flip Loom.  If you're interested in learning to weave and prefer to own the best quality rigid heddle loom available, send me an e-mail or give me a call.  The Crickets are $140, 15" Flip is $235, and the 20" Flip is $255.  All of the looms are portable and easy to assemble.  They're made of beautiful, SOLID maple and the kits include a warping peg, 8 dent reed, heddle hook, shuttles, and instructions for warping and a couple of practice projects.  FREE shipping!  And the Flip looms come with a free gift of yarn and a lovely "how to" book with multiple small projects.  Stash Reduction Rules!!