Post #3053: Restoration, self and loom.

Is it ironic that I took a mental health day on mental health awareness day? Because that’s what I did yesterday – I took a day off work to deal with my anxiety, imposter syndrome, and the general antipathy that I am feeling towards both my work and my co-workers at the moment. I won’t go into why I’m feeling stressed about workplace issues – because we’ve all been there and the specifics matter much less than the fact of having to sell our labour to survive in the first place.

Anyhow. I spent my day off as follows: morning meditation, long walk on the beach, studio time, 2-hour yoga class, errands, awesome healthy dinner, and more studio time. Pretty great, eh? Well yes, but the work anxiety plagued me all day and I periodically checked in on my email as a result. Turns out, I am missed when I’m not around and today I have double the number of items to follow up on. Which is why I get paid what I get paid, the buck so often stops with me.

My studio time yesterday was spent mostly on the loom. On Tuesday I was at a furniture restoration place to drop off a chair, and I picked up the miracle product: Howard’s Feed N Wax which is a wipe-on, wipe-off beeswax product that smells like oranges – and I could hardly wait to take it to the wood of my 44-year old loom. I’ve got the breast beam and the castle done and you can see here the difference between the waxed (right) and unwaxed (left) parts:

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Wax on Wax off…..

Even more striking are the shaft bars that I polished and strung with new texsolv heddles (you can see them in the foreground hanging in front of the old bars and string heddles behind):

Texsolv replaces string

Texsolv replaces string!

img_20170125_204421638As I’m working on the loom, I’ve got the distinct impression that it was built sturdily but in its many decades of being moved around (the former owner moved it across the country and back 3 times), it hasn’t been put back together quite right and so there are some places that need tightening, and I might end up putting a screw or two in to straighten things up. This is one of the benefits of cleaning and waxing the whole thing at the outset – it’s giving me a real chance to look at each part carefully. I’m glad it’s taken me over a year to get to this job, for I didn’t know enough when I bought the loom, and would have done a half-assed job of fixing it up had I just brought it home and got started.

In the evening, I started winding another warp, getting about 2/3rds of the way through it (and finishing the colour stripes which are the time consuming part). This is for my hubble-photo inspired  tea towels which will be of a very plain weave – and will be woven on Little-J (my small loom). I have to admit that the more I weave on the small loom, the less I like it – it’s a table loom with treadle conversion and thus very light weight and wobbly – not to mention clacky (loud). I expect that the countermarch, when ready to go, will make a much more satisfying weaving experience – but I’m glad I’ve had the small one to work with in the meantime. I’ve learned a lot in the last few months, and Little-J was a lot less overwhelming to get started with.

I forsee that the Little J will get sold in the future, as I narrow down my needs and options. I now realize that it’s too small for most things I want to do (20 inches), but weaving on the 45-inch countermarch is going to be a bit of a reality check on what width of fabric I really want to make and my talent at shuttle throwing!

This weekend I’ve got to focus on making bags for an event next weekend, so I’m not sure if I’ll get my loom threaded for the tea towels – but I sure hope so – because there’s something nice about always having a weaving project set up and ready to go. Bit by bit, I’ve got myself a weaving studio happening here — not to mention a great beach to take walks on when I need a reality check….. now, if I could only ditch the work thing.

 

Post #3052: Recognizing the countermarch!

I have to confess something here and now:

When I bought my floor loom last February I had no idea what I was buying. I mean, I thought I did, but really I didn’t.

For months now, I have been circling this loom and trying to figure it out. I’ve moved it twice but never gotten it set up to weave on – partly because I want to replace all the cordage, but also because I just wasn’t *getting it*. I thought it was a standard jack loom because that’s all I really knew about, and I reasoned that it looked so different from other looms because it was hand built in Nova Scotia in 1973 (by a draft dodger and his wife) which made it unique. I figured that I had the treadles on upside down which is why they did not hang properly – I thought once I replaced the cords and tied it up, I’d get a warp on no problem and it would all fall into place….

It turns out that all of that was wrong.

Since November when I started weaving again after getting the J-made up and running, I’ve been consumed by weaving websites and discussion forums and books. It was while perusing some forum a couple of weeks ago that I found a picture of what looked almost identical to my loom…… The Glimakra Standard – and it was upon poking around some more that I realized that my loom is not a jack loom at all — but a countermarch!

While jack and countermarch looms have many things in common, they do not operate in the same way when it comes to tying them up. The weaving process is the same, but the set up process is not. No wonder I was confounded!

Now that I know what I have, I’m feeling a lot more confident about getting it up and running over the next few months. It is a beautiful piece of work, this loom – likely made of maple, with hand-forged metal fittings — a good cleaning will bring it right back again, not to mention replacing all the old string heddles and the clothesline cord before even attempting to warp and balance it for weaving on. Countermarch looms are supposed to have easy treadling and be fairly quiet – once you stop swearing while attempting to tie them up that is! So I’m eager to compare it to the little loom I’ve been working on for the last few months.

I’ve taken a bunch of photographs and created a gallery of the details here because one thing I’ve found is that there are not tons of countermarch resources on the Internet, and my pictures might help someone else ID their loom later on.  Bit by bit, I’m going to figure this one out!

Post #3049: Colour theory in weaving

This here (above) is my most recent project on the loom. A wool-silk scarf with multiple twill patterns, threaded at 24 ends per inch. I did not choose the colours or the draft, it is entirely a project straight from a book (Next Steps in Weaving) because I’m still in beginner stage and I wanted to make something using suggested materials to get more of a feel for my loom and the weaving process.

img_20161219_162249932This scarf here (on the left) is my second scarf. It has very subtle shading in the weft that does not show up nearly as well as I had hoped. I gave this to my step-daughter for Christmas because what it lacks in colour-popping beauty, it makes up for in luxurious warmth and softness (sport-weight  merino). It’s got some quirks, but they aren’t noticeable when worn. One of the things I love about making things for M. is that she is always roundly appreciative and I’ve noticed over time that she uses them all (she is what knitters call knit-worthy).

Since I got my little loom up and running last month, I’ve been a bit obsessed with weaving – I don’t think the loom has been without a project on it for more than a day at a time, and each time I am mid-way through one project, I gather the materials for the next. This level of obsessiveness is pretty much a requirement when I learn anything – – I have to engage so thoroughly that nothing else interests me for a period of time.

One thing I’ve really started to understand about weaving is that colour works quite differently than it does in crochet or knitting or even sewing – because the colours don’t just lay beside each other, they work with and through each other. It’s a little like painting in that way – how things blend is more important than how they look side by side, and *value* becomes much more important because the contrast between warp and weft is so important to the overall effect.

Colour theory is something I was never exposed to in my younger life, because I took no visual arts in junior high or high school (it was impressed upon me that I did not have visual or manual dexterity and that I should leave visual art alone – I now realize that I suffered from a lack of patience and self-confidence mostly, and the same dexterity I use for playing the fiddle adapts well to pretty much everything else that requires fine muscle control in the digits).

When I choose fabrics or yarn for a project – it is entirely intuitive and with no actual knowledge about why I might pick one thing over another. This lack of understanding about colour has lead to some disappointing results in my sewing life. Such as this quilt:

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Finally! This quilt has a home!

Which turned out just fine, but was not the effect I was going for when I started it. Because I did not expect the colour to come together as it did – I ditched this quilt top for the better part of a decade before finally finishing it last summer. While all the shades “go together” what I hadn’t factored in was colour values. I had wanted the feature squares to be the dark green ones with the leaves, but because the batik four-patches were so much brighter, they dominated the quilt in a way I did not expect. On the other hand, my colour intuition is pretty good without any book-learning, so most of the things I make turn out alright.

I am now at a place where I would like to do more than alright, and approach colour theory in a more systematic way – though I do not have the time or means to drop out of everything and go to art school (and I missed the boat on Jane Stafford’s weaving workshops for this year). So I’m working with a few things I’ve picked up in the last couple of years to choose new palettes for weaving.

A couple of years ago I took a creative skills workshop where the instructor showed us how to make palettes using nature photographs – picking up the shade, tone, and colour elements by mixing watercolours which could then be applied to another project. I was fairly interested in this process, as I had never thought much about the colour symmetry in nature until doing a few of these exercises and creating a beautiful array of choices for applying any number of ways.

Thinking about that over the holidays, and inspired by some photographs from the Hubble space telescope – I decided to run a few of the more spectacular ones through Color Palette FX which allows you to plug any photograph in and then select five shades to create your palette. From there I grey-scaled them to help determine the value balance among my choices – because, as noted in my above quilt example – value is as important as hue when putting colours side by side!

As an example, this is the photo and palette I have decided to experiment with (with the greyscale for value analysis below):

colortheory

From this palette, I selected 5 shades of 8/2 cotton from which I plan to make plain weave towels – using the lightest value (ivory) as the background) with the darker values striped through the weft. We’ll see how it turns out – I was trying to get away from “typical” tea towel colours – though my finished product will be nowhere as spectacular as the hubble photo that inspired it!

As I have a weaving on the loom at the moment, I won’t be able to warp again for at least a few days (I’m hoping to weave the scarf off this weekend, and set up my dish towels after that) – so until I do, we won’t get to see how my colour play works out – but I promise to share here when I am warped, and again when I am finished. There is nothing I like more than a hand woven dish towel so even if it doesn’t turn out to be the perfect blend of value and hue, there will still be a usable item at the end.

Post 3046: My looming problem (resolved)

Moving away from the topic of zen for a moment (or not, because what is weaving if not a zen practice?) – I have an announcement to make:

I am finally in possession of a working, functionally set-up loom.

Remember awhile back when I wrote about buying a second small-ish loom because the first big one I bought was overwhelming and needed some work? Well, I did get it mostly put together right away after it arrived via courier – even getting the tie-ups partly completed – but then I was stumped. For some reason, the treadling (the foot pedals) were clunky and not snapping into place – and I had a feeling that it had something to do with the elastic cord which had been removed in the transit process – but I could not figure out how the whole thing was supposed to tie together. I wrote to the company asking for the original instructions, which came, sans any mention of the elastic cord. I now realize that the elastic cord only applied to some of their treadling kits, but not all and the instructions I got were fairly generic. Then I went online and looked around to see if that helped – but there are so few of these looms out there (or if they are, they are packed away in people’s garages) that I couldn’t find much, and what I did find didn’t really explain things. So, being really busy this fall, I walked away from it for a few months.

img_20161208_203712819Flash forward to last week when I got the bug to weave again and started thinking about my loom. I had bought replacement elastic cord and some additional heddles (the eyes that the thread or yarn passes through to form the pattern) which were waiting for me to install – and so I found a bit of time here and there over a few days to get to work on it. And what of the elastic cord? Once I got underneath the loom I could see that there were pulleys built in especially to create a track for that cordage which simply holds the lamms to the frame so they snap back in place after the treadle is released (don’t worry if you didn’t understand that sentence, weaving has its own dictionary).

All that to say – I figured it out and got the loom tied up a couple of days ago. Last night, I put together the warping board that I bought back in May – which took all of about 10 minutes – and I proceeded to put a tiny warp on my loom (the warp are the fibres that pass from the front to back of the loom, they are lifted in various combinations using foot pedals or levers to create the weave pattern).

If you look at the picture below, you can see that the warp pattern is off a bit, but no matter – I had two goals in mind when I put this on. First, I wanted to see how the loom was in operation and whether I had configured it all correctly. So far the answer to that is yes – but it needs some adjusting and the heddles that were originally on it are a bit tangled – and I definitely need to get or build a weaving bench that is a bit higher than my kitchen chair to use it comfortably. Second, I wanted to follow the steps of warping a loom without a lot of ends to manage – which went fine – but I do need to mount the warping board on the wall to curtail the back pain that goes with being uncomfortably stooped when winding meters and meters of yarn into a warp.

Once all that was sorted out, I got to weave for a bit before bedtime – the inset photo shows the results – three weave patterns (a plainweave and 2 twills) for the pure purpose of getting my head back into reading a draft and watching the pattern emerge in the fabric. This is my first time using a loom with foot pedals, and I used the Peggy Osterkamp 4-treadle tie up which is amazingly efficient and doesn’t require retying for every pattern. I’ve got a couple meters of warp on, so I plan to weave it off trying out a variety of weave sequences before putting on a wider warp and doing something a bit more planned. I think that might be a scarf, followed up by some fabric to be turned into napkins. We’ll see. But for now I’m going to enjoy the aimless weaving as I get used to this little loom.

I’m feeling so confident at the moment, that I may even get the big loom into action soon too!

(Like how I used your pun Carmen?)

 

Post #3027: One plus one equals two looms

I’m in the process of putting together loom number two, after moving loom number one to the new house and becoming overwhelmed by it (so big! I’ve never worked with a floor loom! needs a new brake tie-up!).

This second loom came to me via Craigslist and courier and was a very good price indeed – a J-made table loom with a treadle conversion (making it a floor loom). With 22-inches of weaving width it is half the size of my first (also, Craigslist purchase) and a totally different tie-up style.

I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself at the moment because the J-Made came in a box and was in several pieces/totally dismantled. So far I’ve managed to put it mostly together and am working now on the tie-ups. My goal is to have it warped this weekend with some practice yarn.

Funny thing though, while putting this together from pieces, I’ve got a much clearer idea of what needs to happen with the larger loom (even though it’s a different type altogether), and am feeling a lot more confident about getting that going as well. I expect that warping the smaller loom will have a similar effect – once I get a warp successfully on, the larger warping process won’t seem so daunting either.

I realize now that I never did get around to writing about the first loom, partly because I never got it set up after I moved it. Stay tuned for more posts about both looms – I’ve gotten re-energized about weaving now that we are moved and my studio is set up. I’ve also get some sewing and knitting projects on the go – really – I’ve got to start posting about this stuff more!

Post #2099: Partying like it’s…..

So my birthday was yesterday, and contrary to the title of this post, I did not party like it was 1999. Instead, Brian and I rode bikes to Granville Island (16 km round trip), ate healthy and awesome lunches at Edible Canada, and then had a nice seafood dinner to cap off the day. Some spinning, weaving and crocheting took place – because it was that kind of day (a really great one!)

I’ve taken the whole week off work – because I really felt like I needed a break on my own, to make things and organize myself around that for a few days. Work has been a real drag lately and I had a lot of banked vacation time – so I figured I would treat myself and take it. Yay!

One of my main goals this week is to the get that loom pictured above from Coquitlam to my home in East Vancouver. That’s my other big news from the weekend — I bought myself a floor loom!

This is an unbranded loom, built in Nova Scotia in 1973 (year of my birth!) by a draft dodger and his wife who were back-to-the-landing and trying to make a go of things in general. The woman I am buying from has had the loom since she was a young woman, and is now downsizing after a lifetime of weaving and some fibre business she ran on the side. In addition to the loom she threw in three garbage bags of merino roving and worsted weight yarns. I’m trying to get rid of the roving (it’s way more than Brian could ever spin in a lifetime) but the yarn I’ll use for practice weaving once I get the loom. I’ve bagged everything in ziplocs for the time being so as not to risk moth infestation… and tucked it all away in the hopes that some fibre artists will take the roving off my hands shortly (I’m giving it away, so that helps I suppose).

I have to admit that I am a bit afraid of this loom – it’s so big and solid! I can’t really imagine getting it set up and weaving on it. On the other hand, I’m ridiculously excited to get going. I’ll probably just set up a very simple sampler first thing (I’ve got *so* much practice yarn) to get accustomed to all the moving parts and the challenge of dressing it – but then I want to make all the things!

I’ll post more pictures once it’s actually in my home and set up – but for now I’ve got some other making to focus on…. and my sewing room is calling.

Post #2096: To purchase a loom and other weaving thoughts

I am in the midst of trying to purchase a weaving loom, and like any large (expensive) purchase – it’s been giving me a bit of a headache the last few days. Nothing dramatic, of course, but lots to ponder and learn!

While I am only a month into learning to weave, I am fairly certain that even as I sweat over the warping process and drive myself crazy with colour theory, this is something I am going to continue doing. Not only that, I am already feeling limited by the small table loom I am working on and eager to sit down at a full floor loom with a full range of project capacity before me. The small loom is great for learning on, and I am quite content making samplers to explore colour and texture at the moment, but there will come a time when I want to make more than a scarf!

There are so many considerations when one is buying a first loom such as:

  • what types of items will I want to weave?
  • how much space do I have for a loom in my home?
  • can I put together a loom that comes in pieces/components?
  • how many shafts, treadles, what weaving width is preferable?
  • am I looking for portability?
  • will the loom fit through the doorway where I want to set it up?

Etc. I want to put the loom in our large upstairs bed and sitting room because it is where we have the most space, and the best light – but that means moving something through a 2 foot wide door or bringing it in pieces and setting it up. Also, some looms are really heavy which is great for keeping things still when weaving, but not great for moving it around.

In addition to all of the above, I’ve found that trying to purchase a loom second hand (my preference at the moment due to cost and ecological considerations) is a bit of a hinky affair since 1) there have been many small, independent loom makers over the last century in North America and it’s hard to find out info about some loom makers, and 2) lots of people selling looms on Craigslist or Kijiji are selling them for someone else (often deceased or in a home) and don’t know what they are selling. Manufacturers like Leclerc have many different models that have been on the Canadian market but they simply stamp their looms Nilus or Leclerc and not with the actual model name – so people will advertise that they have a Nilus when in fact it is a Mira and so forth.

This is no one’s fault – it’s just the way things are – and purchasing anything secondhand is always a bit more legwork on the front end to get the deal. I’m game and I don’t mind writing to people and doing the work to figure things out.

Thus far I’ve decided on a 45 inch 4/shaft floor loom for now – after briefly considering a much smaller loom over the weekend – because I don’t like the idea of being limited right off the bat. If I find that I also want to be able to do some weaving at the cabin or take workshops, I will likely invest in an 8-shaft table loom at some point in the future – and I plan to make myself a little frame loom and a pin loom to play with simple weave structures on as well. But right at the moment I’m obsessed with the idea of a floor loom and so I’ve been looking at the boards everyday for a few weeks. I have an appointment this Sunday to look at a loom made by a Nova Scotia craftsperson in the year I was born (1973) which I feel has good juju attached since I’m going to look just the day before my birthday. It’s in my price range and has a nice look about it so I’ll have to sit down and see how it feels (and make sure it has all the essential parts intact).

In the meantime, I’ve warped my rental loom for a second time (mostly by myself) and I’m ready to start my second weaving sampler with a focus on colour combinations and weaving in different material. I’m starting to understand how to read a pattern draft and I’ve got myself a couple of excellent books that I’m sure I will use for a long time into the future. These are:

The first is a real instructional, with lots of pictures and skill-building lessons. The second is a pattern encyclopedia with over 600 weave patterns for the 4-shaft loom. So far I’ve referenced both of them about a hundred times – I kept the first one open beside me throughout the warping process last night, just in case I couldn’t entirely remember what I was doing.

And just to finish off, here’s a little stash of weaving fibre just waiting for me to finish work today!

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