Post #3077: Warning, nerdy weaving post ahead.


The feature photo at the top of this blog marks the near-end of the fall canning season: cubed squash (butternut) and applesauce. I have a few more delicata squash that I plan to cube up for pressure canning – and then I am pretty much done that phase and can move onto mustards and other condiments for holiday gift giving. Our move last year + the fires in the interior this year – changed my approach to canning in 2017. Specifically, we did not do one giant purchase in the middle of summer (at rock bottom prices) as we normally do. The canning this year has taken the form of smaller batches, and more variety in the strange condiments department (cherry chutney, lime pickle, rhubarb ketchup). But it’s been easier to manage, truthfully, and I don’t have an overabundance of any one thing for a change.

The squash and apples above, did come from Keremeos – and have been waiting patiently in my larder as I first went to Anacortes, then Ottawa on my return from the cabin. Ottawa was a work trip – full of meetings and dinners and walks in the bright fall by the river.

But Anacortes was all business – an overnight for the sole purpose of picking up my new weaving loom.

As Brian has noted – looms are a little bit like guitars – weavers often own more than one. I’ve wondered why that is with certain objects – one rarely finds a person collecting multiples of sewing machines or breadmakers or lawn mowers – but cameras, guitars, looms, spindles/spinning wheels fall into a category that occupies both utilitarian and aesthetic sides of the being. The loom as tool has many permutations, as does the loom as history and aesthetic object – which makes weaving a pastime that takes up a lot of physical space.

In the stable I currently have a rigid heddle/knitter’s loom (Rigid-B), a 45 inch 4-shaft countermarch (Big-A), and a 22-inch, 4-shaft table loom with treadle conversion (Little-J) – and my most recent acquisition – a 27-inch, 8-shaft Countermarch that I’ve dubbed Middle-C since it sits within the middle of the range of my looms:

(If you are wondering, those letters all correspond to female names: Brigid, Alice, Josephine, and Clara – but it feels antiquated to feminize working objects out loud so I’m going with the gender-neutral versions.)

Middle-C is a Glimakra 8-shaft of Swedish origin and was purchased new through the Eugene Textile Centre – I was fortunate to get a floor model which was brought as far as Anacortes where I picked it up from the shop owner in a parking lot transaction outside of a motel at dusk. I stayed in that same dodgy-motel overnight and then got up first thing in the morning to take the ferry back to Sidney and then drive home. Altogether a long journey – but one that resulted in saving several hundred dollars in shipping, plus I got a discount because it was a floor model.

Pretty much as soon as I got it home, I left for Ottawa so it wasn’t until Friday that Brian and I got down to putting it together. I have to say that the instructions that came with it were relatively easy to understand if you knew about countermarch looms in the first place – but god help someone who didn’t have any knowledge at all! We were fine though because I did know.

For a first warp I decided to put on a  skein of Kauni, a striped yarn from Denmark (so much Scandanavia in this post!) which I bought some time ago at the Loom in Duncan. Because countermarch looms prefer to be warped from back to front, I decided it was time to learn that method of warping – and so I wound my warp chain, and followed every instruction in The Big Book of Weaving until I had got the warp on nice and even – you can see how nicely it sits in the picture above.

Then came time for tying up 8 treadles. On a countermarch loom, every shaft is tied to every treadle via the lamms – so on an 8 shaft loom that is 64 tie ups plus 16 tie-ups from the jacks to the lamms – 80 tie ups total. How much do want to bet that I made a total botch of my first attempt? After three hours working with little texsolv pegs I ended up with shafts that wouldn’t lift at all! So the next day (yesterday) I pulled all the cords off and started over with some knowledge I had acquired the day before in my attempts. And that time – success!

Even better – what seemed confusing and impossible the first time I did it – made so much more sense the second time which bodes well for all future tie ups. I went from 25-minutes per treadle on the first go, to ten minutes per on the second pass – meaning that the average tie-up shouldn’t take more than just over an hour in the future.

And so I wove a couple of different sample wefts yesterday afternoon – a dk-weight yellow which is evident in this photo, and then a thinner charcoal above it.

I prefer the effect of the charcoal – and so after work I’ve got to go in search of enough yarn to complete this weave since I am ready to advance the warp and get started for real. What I can tell so far is that 1) the warp is tensioned exactly right, and 2) this loom is nicer to use than any of my others – it needs only a light touch to operate and is so quiet!

And not to be forgotten – Big-A is getting a small add-on in the form of a live-weight tension system that my Dad is fashioning for me – as I’m unhappy with the brake-band that is currently not really working and I like the idea of using weight to hold back the fabric rather than a brake. This means that to advance the warp for weaving, there isn’t a brake to release, just force needed to turn the beam. This harkens back to the earliest looms in which warps were weighted directly  One thing I’ve noticed about the weaving community is that they are some of the biggest hackers around – a necessity in a craft which requires a significant amount of problem solving (or as I like to say 50% problem-solving and 50% magic).  You would think after hundreds of years of weaving on looms, all questions would be answered – and yet people are hacking up their looms in new and old ways all the time.

Middle-C needs no such hacking, though I do need to build a reed holder and fashion a few other bits and pieces to make the warping process easier. Something about weaving always demands another tool!

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