undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
I did end up skipping this year's Stitches West. It was definitely a self-spiting gesture but I feel mostly good about it anyway. After reading the Stitches West Rav group where people talk about their favorite vendors and they are universally the known and popular indy vendors, but not the ones I particularly love, I felt somewhat bad. I know RedFish Dyeworks does not get the attention that Sanguine Gryphon does, and this makes sense if you are only talking to knitters because the RedFish spinning fiber vastly outclasses the yarn/floss they sell. But I am a very lazy knitter and have zero use for laceweight yarn and almost no interest in that monochromatic kettledye kind of yarn. I either want variegated or I want solid, variation in solid color might be attractive if one is a skillful and careful knitter, but in my work it looks like I do not have a clue. 

I am making progress on the Phantom Phonebooth socks (using the Tardis pattern). I have about half the arch increases done. The problem is that this is very boring but whenever I am not paying enough attention I drop stitches. I have about an hour before I get to the heels, and immediately after the heels begins the iconic patterning. That means the project will improve soon. Probably just in time for the warmest weather of the year. Is that not when most people want wool socks?

The interesting part about my dropped stitches is that the method I have for fixing dropped stitches, which is picking up the lowest stitch in the drop column, then the overhead bar yarn, then "casting off" the stitch, and repeating until I have reached the current row--- which works abysmally in knitting group where everyone is doing all-garter-- is perfect for my own needs. I do not need a crochet hook, I never get the stitches twisted, the tension stays pretty even, and I do not end up with purls when I meant to get knits. I am somewhat 3D dyslexic, so this happened a lot when I was first learning to fix dropped stitches. I could rescue something before it became unstable, but it never looked right. Now it looks perfect... as long as I am fixing from the front side of a stockinette section. 

There has been no weaving progress. I am nearly to the point of sending the intended recipient a gift certificate and cutting the warp. If I had any interest in weaving something else, I might actually do it. Rather obviously, weaving is not my thing. I feel okay about getting an excellent deal on a small rigid-heddle loom that I can comfortably store in its box and only taking it out when I have something that calls out to be woven. 

I need to get back to doing more spinning. That is the only one of these fiber crafts that resonates with me so I remember why I love this. I need to remember why I love this so I can finish the gifted blanket without sewing all the negativity I have into it. There will definitely be pictures of this and I will give anonymized credit so you all can see that I did not do this alone. I am definitely ready for the blanket to be completed. 
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
 Progress on the second weaving project:
plaid cloth on loom
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
Tools I have built yesterday and today in order to facilitate the weaving:
On the left is a terrible picture of the new rubber feet on the bottom of my Emilia. They do keep the ratchets from hitting the table when the loom rests flat instead of with the front end hanging off the table.  The second picture is of a hand-beaded sleying hook made from a paper clip. Sleying hooks are what weavers use to thread the heddles. This is a vast improvement over the plastic guitar pick that came with the loom since it actually fits in both the slots and the holes.
 
loom with feet sleying hook 

My new weaving project is warped. I am making a plaid from black and silver and white. 

warped loom
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
 I came up with a method to create warp pieces of yarn that will allow them to be individually tied on in any order. This is extremely common, and the only way to warp a regular (non-rigid heddle) loom. My method involves using my swift with two layers of pegs and a yarn path that owes something to string art. But from a swift with arms about 2 feet long, I was able to come up with a path 100 inches long using only 9 pegs. 

swift warping board with diagram

This will allow me to cut all the warp colors in advance and string them through the heddle in any order. In my first warping attempt there was slack between colors because one was tied on and the other merely wrapped around the bar. Not to mention that the physical demands of direct warping required a lot of up and down and alternated close up detail work with big motions. I found it painful to do for an hour. Using the warping board, and in my case it rotates, only requires me to sit while wrapping. Later when I am sleying the heddle, there will be a lot of detail work in a row, but hopefully the lack of alternation will allow me to find a more comfortable position for my back. 

The other benefit is that this does not stretch all the way across my living room and disturb my husband with me walking in front of the television. 

Longer warps would require more pegs (for diminishing additional lengths while increasing the awkwardness of loading) or longer swift arms. 

(The swift is the walnut version of the Mama Bear from Oregon Woodworker. It took me 2 years to talk myself into buying one and I had a great shopping experience buying at Stitches West 2010. The man who makes them included the extra set of taller pegs. There is a competing swift with sliders, but that would have prevented my using it as a warping board.) 
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
Having put my loom away for almost 2 weeks, I am almost ready to try again. My experience was so horrible the first time, but I think a lot of that has to do with being a beginner and mis-understanding the instructions. I hope that is the case.

I will not need to assemble the loom again, which should prevent the heinous disaster I experienced. People at knitting group laughed when I told the story (since I meant for it to be funny, that is fine) about how I was supposed to melt the ends of the texsolv cord to prevent fraying and thought since I was only doing 4 cords, I might just use a match instead of lighting a candle. I burned my thumb, dropped the match, and set some papers on fire. Luckily I was able to blow the papers out and did not need a fire extinguisher, but you might guess that my opinion of the loom instantly dropped to a bitter negative one. 

Next came the actual using of the texsolv cord. In the assembly instructions, the word "loop" is used at least three different ways. You wrap the cord around the beam to make a "loop" and stick the end through one of the "loops" in the other end of the cord. Next you make a "loop" with the cord to attach the tie-up bar. But that one really meant, "Pinch a fold of the cord in the middle and put this through the hole at the loose end of the cord." So, not only was the explanation vague to the point of incomprehensibility, it says nothing about the extremely tight nature of the texsolv cord. It was so tight that in my imagination I kept hearing the cord scream like an abducted  virgin heroine in an historical romance. Accomplishing that maneuver with a burned thumb was painful. 

Anyway, having warped once and a half times, I should avoid the obvious pitfalls that resulted from instructions that were written "Do A B D E repeat across, oh, by the way, make sure to do C every time too." Anyone who had warped a loom before would know C, wrap around tie-up bar, but I had no idea and had to unwarp a lot of very finicky yarn. 

I had problems with the warping, but the second time it mostly worked. However, layers of warp intermingled during the winding on, so my tension was wonky when I started weaving. (I did not notice during the process and it was only by reading the Ravelry group where someone else had a similar issue with wonky tension that I found the explanation. The instructions actually say that no warp wrapping is needed.) The warping is ridiculously tedious and a complete pain in the entire body. It is honestly horrible. And this is the "direct warping" that makes rigid heddle looms "so much easier" than multi-shaft looms. I warped about 9" and cannot imagine owning a 32" wide loom. Some of the warping and sleying (putting the yarn through the holes of the heddle) problems were because the tools provided with my loom are inefficient and completely pathetic. The "sleying hook" does not fit into the slots of the 10-dent heddle without forcing it. And the sleying hook is under 2 inches long and plastic. It is, actually, a strangely shaped guitar pick. There is no reason why what comes in the box as an "everything you need to get started" should not work together seamlessly. They probably should ship the looms with the 8-dent heddle unless they find another sleying hook that fits better. They actually recommend using dental floss threaders for the 12-dent heddle in the instructions.

The other problem with the winding on is that was when the ratchets started grinding the under-surface because the instructions do not say to set the loom with the front edge hanging off of the table. These instructions give a diagram of a slip knot, but never mention anything about where the clamp that holds the loom stable is supposed to go. The clamp is not even in any of the pictures. I was mostly able to figure out what I should do based on the pictures and the fact that there is only one place to put the clamp (on the underside of the loom's front stabilizer brace.) But if the instructions had mentioned this, there would have been a lot less destruction of the pad I had placed under the loom. I am mostly thankful that I had taken extra precautions. 

So I was extremely angry the whole time I was weaving the first project. Some of that was because the stick shuttle gave me splinters. How difficult would it be to actually sand a flat piece of wood? That is inexcusably bad quality control. 

Now I have little rubber feet from the hardware store to raise the loom up and protect the table from the ratchets if the clamp slips (which it does frequently unless you are willing to damage your table tightening the clamp) and I have come up with a way to indirect warp (where one measures and cuts the warp threads and sleys them afterward instead of during) which will save me from having to lean in to do detail work then immediately stand and walk around the room before hunching back down again. Plus I know better now. I know how to position the loom to use the clamp and avoid table damage. I know how a correctly warped loom should look. I bought some warp separating bamboo mats to help reduce intermingling the warp layers during winding on. 

I hated my loom because I did not have what I really needed to make it work. I lacked in experience. I lacked in understanding the directions. I hurt myself and damaged property during the assembly because of the instructions.

In my opinion, corners were cut in the design choices and those choices affect the versatility of the loom (it is extremely difficult to use this loom on your lap because of the ratchets). If the lumber on the ratchet mounting sides had been wider, then the loom could be folded and stored flat on a tabletop when not in use, but that cannot happen since the ratchet teeth stand proud of the surface in every orientation. The loom does not fold up well at all, the knobs are strained when the loom is folded. The pegs holding the loom in the open configuration (it can be folded while warped) splintered the wood in their holes. The wood feels unfinished, though it might have some sort of clearcoat. It certainly is not professionally varnished for durability and long-lasting service. I feel like what came in the box is insufficient to make the product work correctly. 

Many of these problems have been addressed by fixing the user and aftermarket solutions. But I must heartily recommend against this loom due to the instructions, the ratchet teeth, the poor quality finish, and the lousy included tools. If this loom was $80-100 and marketed as an unfinished loom for experienced weavers, I think it would be fine. Since it is assembled, I will feel no guilt selling the loom should the second project go anything but silkenly smooth, provided I explain to the buyer how the loom should be mounted. I am still considering weaving as a potential hobby, but this is definitely why everyone keeps recommending try-before-you-buy because everyone-is-different. I will see if I can try out other rigid heddle looms in person before buying the next one. 
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
Last night I found the following tutorial (thanks to the Rav RH group) :
http://sasw.blogspot.com/2007/06/recycled-placemat-purse.html
It shows how to make a flat bottomed bag from a flat pouch. 

My "pink zin" woven scarf is 8-9" by 48-49" unwashed. I want to make a functional bag from it.

My sewing skills are inadequate, but I can get assistance. 

undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
 I am not hugely enamored of the finished scarf, first weaving project, pink zin. Mostly because, being woven from corriedale wool yarn, it is hugely unpleasant in terms of skin-touchiness. However, the fabric is relatively sturdy and has a really appealing coloration (it was happenstance, so that is not immodest). I thought it would make an excellent bag. 
woven scarf woven scarf

I was interested in the Doni's Deli Bag, because it makes a bag from one long and narrow strip of fabric. That seems ideal for weaving. But if you actually look at it conceptually, it makes a really wide bag with a really wide strap. I dislike wide bags because I tend toward single-purpose bags. I have a bag that is exactly the size of my writing notebook. I have a handknit purse which is exactly the size of a paperback. My regular handbag is just large enough for keys, phone, and wallet.  

If you are thinking about this the way I am thinking about this*, the obvious solution is to sew the short ends together and to seam up the sides to the depth desired. Some reinforcement is definitely desirable, and if I made release cuts I could make the handle double-thick while making it half the width. 

* Thus the project title will be amended to "Pondering Pinky" from the oft-repeated line from the cartoon Pinky and the Brain, "Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?" 


diagram of bag

I could use some advice on whether I am going to completely destroy the structural integrity of the scarf in forming the bag. I do have interfacing and a lining fabric ready. I can machine sew this to get greater stitch density. 
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
I finished the first weaving. I am disappointed in the resulting fabric if it is considered a scarf, because it is harsh. The scarf is woven from hand dyed Knitpicks "Stroll" warp and handspun 2-ply corriedale dyed by Spunky Eclectic. (project page) The current plan is to make this into a bag. 

These pictures are really mediocre because it is dark and I am too lazy to find a real camera.

woven scarf
  woven scarf woven scarf fringe


Since this was my first project on my Emilia loom, I should probably talk about that, but I think that should be a separate post.
undyedyarnpire: cartoon voodoo doll, looks like knitting needles stuck everywhere (Default)
 My Emilia arrived today. It is much bigger than I expected. I sincerely doubt I would want something larger than this without a dedicated stand. 

The final assembly is a real pain to do. The instructions made very little sense. Luckily they were accompanied by pictures so I found a way to make it look like that. I heartily dislike tex-solv cord. If this is the miraculous wonder material that has saved weavers from a lifetime of struggle and toil, the previous stuff must have been, "Harvest your own varicose veins and use them to tie...." 

Anyway, one must attach the tie-up bars to the beams with tex-solv. Cutting "14-inch" lengths of tex-solv, burning the ends in an open flame (which it does not tell you that you need, I guess this is not a dorm-room friendly assembly!) for each hole in the back and front beams. One wraps the beam with the cord, one pulls an end through the first hole in the other end of the tex-solv cord, one feeds that resulting tail through the hole in the beam. Then one pinches the middle of the loose half of the cord and shoves that loop into a hole at the end of the cord. One quickly inserts the tie-up bar into that loop and snugs the loop up tight. The cord-loop does not go through the hole in the tie-up bar and just sort of hangs out. Repeat for all beam holes. However, tex-solv cord does not like to have things stuffed through or into its virgin holes. Since the beams and tie-up bars are standard, I am really unclear on why I had to do this. It did not save them any room in the carton. 

The entire point of having me attach the tie-up bar seems to be, "Frustrate her as much as possible right up front. Make getting started extremely difficult so she gives up. She has already bought the loom and it is not returnable."

Warping the loom was not fun. I have already failed at it once. The first step is to mark the center of the heddle. Why is this a manual step? It could easily be done at the factory. Then one is supposed to center the size of the warp across the heddle and mark those points with threads. Fine. I do this. I follow the instructions about tying the warp yarn onto the tie-up bar, I follow the instructions about fishing the yarn through with the sleying hook. I pull the warp loop around the warping peg. I "keep doing this". Then I read, "... making sure to wrap the yarn around the tie-up bar after each slot." That is like a recipe that goes through 45 minutes of prep, 30 minutes of waiting, and after final assembly when the cake cannot wait or it won't rise, saying, "Bake in an oven preheated to 350F." Without having mentioned heating the oven up earlier when there was time. So I had to laboriously unwind the warp I had painstakingly fished through a dozen slots. 

Later I changed warp yarns and began again. I did it correctly. I followed the steps to the halfway point and I am now ready to fish from slot to hole.

loom picture

This has been incredibly irritating and I am convinced there must be a better way than this, because this is ridiculous. I cannot quite imagine a better way, but there are books which should arrive at some point and they might help. There are probably YouTube videos as well. 

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January 2015

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