Loom Lesson #1

Now that I’ve started three projects on three different looms, I have one piece of advice for all of you.

When you get a new loom plan a simple project, something you don’t care about how it turns out, and make it a fast one.

This will allow you to get a feel for the loom, it’s quirks and crazies and what it can (and can’t) handle.

I didn’t. So here how it’s gone:

Project #1: On an old, second hand Leclerc Nilus. First I had to repair the loom. Then I warped it and found out problem number one. Though I had measured the reed and it came out 22 inches and I was at the limits of the reed width…I didn’t realize that the Leclerc Nilus has an interior brake that is high enough to “hit” the apron rod and therefore the apron rod is only around 20″. The REAL loom width. So my draw in is insane. Lesson Learned: Using an advancing twill that was insane to thread and treadle.

Project #2: On my new Ashford Loom. This one not as bad as it’s new and fun and friendly. BUT. It’s new and fun and friendly. I’m getting a feel for it. And I decided to get a feel for it while weaving a waffle weave hand towel. Where (see past posts) I made mistakes on heddle counts and such. It’s been painful as it’s been dragging on forever (decided to make three to four towels at once to justify the number of threads). I now hate those towels.

So I’ve told myself. Moving forward if I ever get on a new or new-old loom again: Small project. Easy to thread. Easy to weave. Get a feel for the loom. And then plan the ambitious project.

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Weaving on an Old Loom – Problem no. 1

I weave once a week at a workshop class. There I don’t use my new Ashford Table Loom (now on the stand), but an old 24″ Leclerc Nilus. I spent the first class with it doing loom repairs.

This is not a bad thing (just like putting together my Ashford was not a bad thing) as it forces you to understand your loom a bit more. I thought I was “good to go” and finally started weaving officially this week (the last class of the session).

Here’s what happened. I was beating and finding that the front brake kept slipping off. I had tried to repair it day one, but the screw has been fixed so many times, it’s damaged the wood frame. So short of moving the holder around, it’s a bit stuck at the moment the way it is.

This meant I had to be delicate. But I was also finding that my fabric was moving forward and loose. I was constantly tightening and shifting things. It took me a while to figure out what was going on.

(I also had a draw-in issue but that’s a lesson learned in using a 24″ loom I’ve never used before and finding the apron rod was actually closer to 22″ so it could get past the brake…so next time I won’t be so free with my width in loom).

Here’s the difference I was seeing in the fabric:

Error in Beating to Loose
Cloth on the Leclerc Nilus with Brake Slippage (Advancing Twill)

The black is the header, but the next section you can see how spread out the pattern is compared to the top section (both sections are the same number of picks). I finally realized that my brake on the back was also slipping. Every time I was beating, the fabric was moving forward as well.

Because my brakes kept slipping on the front and back, it was resulting in a very stretched pattern that was impossible to correct. The more forcefully I beat the fabric, the more it moved.

Solution?

A pair of needle nose pliers and a wrench were found, and the back spring on the back brake was shortened. This tightened it up so it stopped slipping (took off about six spring coils, it didn’t take a lot). Then the front brake was secured with a pipe cleaner (it was on hand).

The result is the new top section of the pattern.

I didn’t go back as I’m using this as fabric for a small purse and I can work around it for what I need. (Although I’m debating that now that I look at it, and may remove it on Saturday when I return to the workshop).

The good news out of this is that this is an advancing twill that had a VERY complicated threading pattern (78 threading pattern repeat). I was very pleased to see that despite my issues with the brake slipping, the threading looks correct. Very happy about that as it was not easy to stay focused while threading and make sure I got it right.

I’ll hopefully take a picture when it’s finished and off the loom so you can see the full effect.

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My Own Shawl Design

I’ve decided to knit a lace shawl for the Fall Shawl Competition at The Recycled Lamb here in Golden, CO. And rather than do a pre-existing design (because that’s too easy), I’ve decided to design my own.

I’ve picked up a gorgeous green silk (Kiku 100% Bombyx) that isn’t done justice here:

Bombyx Silk Yarn
A rather bland picture of what is a very vibrant green silk.

And I’ve put together a pattern that combines some crown prince and a separate lace edging from the Knitted Lace of Estonia book, and some samples from the Brooklyn Museum Sampler.

Then I mapped out endlessly and sat with a calculator as I worked out how my pattern would “work” so that all the elements played nice together. I switched patterns partway through and juggled how I was adding the crown prince pattern due to numbers not matching.

I’ve ended up with a row of the crown prince pattern, then a inner “box” of one of the sampler patterns and an outer “box” of another. I’ll take some notes and write it out as I go so that I can publish it as a PDF on Ravelry in case anyone wants it (assuming it turns out).

I’ll take some pics as I progress. First, I must finish a tunic for my niece in an amazing cotton/linen I picked up at the same time. I’ll post that shortly. It’s a beautiful purple. And I have to rush as it’s her birthday next week.

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First Weaving Project

I recall, vaguely, that the weaving teacher mentioned something about counting heddles. But I’m a rushing in where angels fear to tread sorta person.

Now, after sleying my reed and starting to thread my heddles I had a come-to-jesus moment where I realize that I’ve not just not considered that I’ll run out of heddles, I’ve, on a mammoth-like scale not considered that I’ll run out of heddles.

The Full Insanity. Lots and Lots of Threads in Different Colors and an Odd Threading Pattern
The Full Insanity. Lots and Lots of Threads in Different Colors and an Odd Threading Pattern

Here’s the lay of the land. I just bought an Ashford 8-shaft table loom. It came with 640 heddles. When putting the loom together I (logically) put two bunches of 40 on each shaft.

Then I decided…hey…it’s my second project..I’ll do a waffle weave kitchen towel in two different colors. Why not? (I went from a basic scarf to this insanity). It made perfect sense to me because (as the book helpfully pointed out) switching colors would help me figure out the threading. And there is a lot of threading. 578 ends to be exact. I thought, no problem, I have 640.

Then I realized after threading the heddles for the first five bunches that due to the strange threading pattern (2,1,2,1,2,1,2,1,2,3,4,3) I actually (this is the actual logical part) need 192 heddles on shaft one, 240 on shaft two, 96 on shaft three, and 48 on shaft four.

Now in my class I ran short of heddles. At the beginning of a project. but that was a Scacht loom and removing the metal bars was easy. The Ashford doesn’t seem so easy and I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll need to lay the castle flat, remove the shafts and pull them out to add more heddles. Kind of difficult now that I’ve started.

So the Internet research began. The a-ha moment came when I read a posting someone wrote about having an 8-shaft loom and a 4-shaft project.

I realized to get extra emergency heddles I just needed to use the extra shafts and remember to pull the extra shafts up for the initial shaft. All doable and solves the majority of the problem.

I could now use Shafts 7 & 8 to get Shaft 2 to 240. And I’ll use 5 & 6 to get Shaft 1 to 192. BUT what to do about Shaft 3 which is still short 16?

In my class I used the store loom and when I’d started in the midst of the metal heddles was some string ones. The instructor explained that someone had “run short” or missed some threads and added some in the middle.

The final solution was at hand. It was much easier to make 16 extra heddles out of string and add them in than it was to stop mid project, tear it all back, remove shafts, and re-thread them all.

So I move forward making 16 heddles as I go (mixing them in so they don’t own a section) and adding in the extra shafts to make my waffle weave work.

Loom with Homemade Heddles
Loom with Homemade Heddles (Used Hemp and The Homemade Ones are Brown)

Fingers crossed that the next problem is as easily solved.

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Weaving Nautical

I’m almost done the nautical blanket (started here). The whole project delayed by a move and renovations, but finally I have my knitting room done. A long wait, but worth it as I have a set room and a custom desk with space for all my toys.

I’ve sold the Singer 560 in the move from Canada to US (the thing weighed a ton and I admitted defeat…I never bothered to hook it up).

And it made room for my newest obsession….weaving!

Denver (and Golden) are hotbeds of weaving and I tracked down a class (not hard) with the incredible Pamela Bliss (great teacher) and am hooked. I just got an Ashford 8-shaft, 32″ table loom and am ready to start my first project on my own machine.

In the class I made a scarf and a cover for my knitting machine (pictured below). Now I’m on to some dish towels in a waffle pattern using up some 8/2 cotton and cotton/hemp. I have a lot of 8/2 from previously having the finer gauge knitting machine.

Knitting Machine Cover
Hand-Woven Knitting Machine Cover
Close Up of Cover
Close Up of Cover

I’ll hopefully update this post with some images of the sweaters I made over the previous winter as well, as I made another on the LK150 that turned out quite well and I could post the modified pattern if people are interested. It’s the second time I’ve made that pattern on the machine (in two different types of wool) and it turns out very nicely.

But first…finishing the nautical blanket and waffle dish towels!

 

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KnitPicks Knitting Needle Sets

I cheaped out. I bought a set of the KnitPicks interchangeable needles (these ones) and for a while they became my favorite set. But really only because I was too lazy to get up and go sort through needles to find the pair I needed to change to, with these just pop off the old ones, pop on the new.

I get that.

But I was in the middle of an alpaca sweater (find 2-ply at that) and the needles broke. Snapped off at the connection point. Alpaca snagged. Stitches dropped. Grr moment.

I bought my mother-in-law a set of Denise ones so I hope those hold up better. But not happy with the KnitPicks set (and for that matter the fact that the screw kept coming loose on them and snagging the wool: also not cool).

Back to my Addi Turbos. And sorting.

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Finally finished….and now I’ll start another one?

This is the insanity of it all. I started this massive Karukell Shawl a year ago (if I’m honest with myself, two or three). It’s taken up space in my knitting bag and slurped up one of my two project bags (bought here cause they are so damn amazing) that allow myself for “live” projects.

I’ve “sworn” to finish it through the last two years (see, the truth will out) of vacations and finally pushed through this year with some handy work trips (thank goodness they allow knitting needles on planes again) and some real doggedness (I picked up this gorgeous blue wool blend in a lace weight and some amazing red as well) to START. SOMETHING. NEW.

Yesterday the day arrived. I double-casted off and threw the shawl on the floor to take some pics with the iPad.

Even unblocked, I kinda really like it.

Karukell Shawl Knit By Me

What really amuses me is that after years of torturing myself with this massive lace knitting project that I alternately cursed and revered I am now going to rush out and start another. The Estonian Book of Lace has this massive shawl (Crown Prince I believe) that is perfect for the wool in blue. And I’m thinking there is a smaller shawl in there for the red too….

I just have to pick which color and the pattern. I only hope the thrill of that…carries me through the next three years of knitting it.

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Nautical Blanket on the LK150

Finally back to knitting on the machine, as I (sadly) sold my Singer 560 and Ribber and Yarn Changer this weekend. This allowed me to re-arrange the knitting room and set up a better layout for working on the LK150.

I had to admit to myself that this is the machine I use the most. I’m a quick project machine knitter. The Singer required a more in-depth commitment to the process than I was willing to give on any given day. PLUS (and this is a big one) sewing together those tiny little knitted garments? Not my thing at all.

I knit one sweater on the machine and could never get around to sewing it up. Big #knitfail for me.

Having cleaned up and re-arranged the knitting room, I was able to happily start on the KnitPicks Nautical Blanket.

This is the perfect project for the LK150 as each square is knit separately (I will ignore the sewing part for now) and in intarsia. As I have the Intarsia carriage (smartest thing I bought)…this is ideal.

Square One of the Nautical Blanket on the LK150

 

 

 

 

 

 

I (as a rule) hate intarsia. I love fair isle. No problem there. But I HATE intarsia. But on the LK150 Intarsia is a dream. It’s easy to do and it knits up flawlessly. None of the terrible twists and bulks that I get when I handknit intarsia at all.

See the detail? It works great and it’s effortless. Love intarsia on the LK150. If you don’t have the carriage….you want to get it.

Intarsia close up on the LK150

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finished two squares this weekend, rolled up a few more balls ready to go and am sit to (hopefully) do a square a night. I’ll take the finished squares and start sewing up the ends and sewing them together as I finish each one (hoping this will break up the monotony of the sewing). Looking forward to the completed project.

(NOTE: Not that thrilled with the wool right now. It’s a bit catchy and rough. But good for a blanket. Though I really do wish it was a Superwash. Oh well.)

 

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New Knitting Bag

I have used a plastic bin for my “to go” knitting projects for years. But recent frustrations with “dropping” and “tipping” during transport made me rethink that strategy. A couple weeks ago I thought a canvas bag, sturdy, that stood upright, might do the trick. So I ordered a Lands End canvas bag, in large (I measured my requirements), had it custom embroidered, and anxiously awaited its arrival.

Thankfully, with the handy dandy embroidering no one should be mistaken who it belongs to! :) I then proceeded to fill it with my treasured contents. I actually own classic tupperware that was, I think, supposed to be a pencil case or something.

Whatever its intent, it is now my knitting notions kit.  The bag I purchased needed to fit it. So I measured carefully. It sits neatly on the bottom, with a lulu-lemon bag (why else would I shop there other than to use the bags to fit smaller knitting projects?). The little bag holds my lace shawl I’m knitting, protecting it from the other stuff in the bag. My larger project (in this case the Victorian Throw I’m working on) takes up the rest of the space. Patterns and crochet and dpn kits sit in the interior side pockets with a notebook and more pens.

I particularly enjoy the “supposed” keychain clip…it handily holds my scissors. I never have to dig for those again.

The longer straps make it easy to carry the bag around with me and still grab other stuff, and though sturdy enough to stand upright, it’s also squishy enough that I can tuck it in between other items when travelling (or even place it at my feet).

Anyone looking for a great knitting bag for a reasonable price…consider the Lands End canvas bags. Love it.

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Dale of Norway Baby Outfit

Finally finished the Dale of Norway baby outfit I was making for my new niece. She’s small. As you can see from above. Came in at 5 lbs. Wee.

On the other hand, I decided to make the Dale of Norway outfit for her in a 12 month size. And I knit LOOSE in Dale of Norway. If she keeps going at the rate of growth she experienced in the womb…she’ll fit it when she’s five.

I’ve always knit loose in Dale of Norway. When I made myself a DoN sweater…I ripped it out and restarted it five times until I finally gave up and just kept going. I was getting down to the zero size of needle and the pointlessness of it all was becoming evident. My DoN came out great. Perfect fit. But the baby outfit (knit on 2mm needles) is a bit wider and looser than I’d prefer. BUT, being a baby outfit (and likely to be worn maybe 3 times) I can’t be bothered to do endless rip and repeats. So she’ll wear it when she’s five. That’s fine. It’ll still be cute!

I recently discovered Etsy too and now…when I search for buttons I choose buttons from there. These buttons (zebra pattern that you can’t quite see) were custom made for me by Buttons by Robyn. Here’s a better pic.

They are pretty great! So, I’m happy with the outfit and here’s hoping little (and I stress the little) Olympia (big name for a little baby) wears it with pride!

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