Friday, July 31, 2015

Struggle and Organization

Getting back to my loom has been a big challenge - I've faced big troubles every step of the way.

Preparing the warp

I decided to have a color gradient with 2 colors in the warp, and it seemed like the easiest way to do that would be to wind bouts in each of the colors, then sley the reed at my kitchen table to get the color order. Wrong! This was a nightmare for oh so many reasons - let's just say I had a tangled mess to deal with (in spite of choke ties, and lease sticks for each color.)

F2B or B2F?

My plan was to thread the loom front to back - threading from the back of the loom using the sleyed threads in order, then beam. At the loom, I realized that my loom doesn't have enough room to thread from the back. (A friend later told me she warps F2B, but does the threading from the front of the loom. Wish I'd thought of that!) My decision was to go ahead and beam, then thread, then resley the reed.

Beaming the warp

I've got a sectional beam, so I figured I could put the sleyed reed in the beater and then tie on 1 inch sections and beam the warp. In theory, that is correct. Being rusty, I made some poor choices. I figured I could beam a little, go to the front of the loom and pull on each section to tension, then beam some more. (In retrospect, I should have found my trapeze and beamed the warp with weights keeping good tension.)  By the time I had the warp fully beamed, I went around to the back and discovered, to my horror, that some sections had looped around pegs.  I decided I'd thread, sley, then pull the full warp forward and rebeam it more carefully.

Threading and Sleying

Thank heavens at least this part went easily. I hung lease sticks behind the castle, and got the threading and sleying done fairly quickly.


Then the fun began. Pulling the warp forward was a mess - I had so many tangles to deal with. (Frequent thought at the time - "Have I ever done this before?!") This time, I opted to add some warp sticks as I beamed, which helped.


But wait, the fun wasn't over. I laced the warp onto the cloth beam and started weaving, only to discover that for some reason, I was losing tension in some sections. So I cut out what had been woven so far, and went ahead and tied onto the cloth apron rod. Better. I was happy to discover that my old laptop with the serial USB adapter talked to the dobby just fine. And I expected everything to go smoothly after that. Yeah right. Murphy was still lurking.

Frequently, the wrong shafts were lifting, and trying to unweave was challenging. Most of the time I just cut out wefts and tried again. I emailed Bob Keates (developer of Fiberworks PCW) and he kindly sent me info on things to check with the dobby knife. I spent one day trying to get the cords for that adjusted correctly. (I bought this loom secondhand from a weaver with much more experience than me - I had assumed it was assembled correctly.) I still kept running into problems, so it finally dawned on me that I had the first Mac version of the software on my old laptop - maybe it would help to update, which I did. Voila - that made a huge difference. Unfortunately, I did that near the end of a very frustrating project.

Other Issues

Summer & Winter Butterflies
I meant it when I said I had trouble EVERY STEP of the way.  I was weaving butterflies (baby blanket) and as I got to the pattern part, I realized that my choice of sett (5/2 16EPI) and weft (5/2) was giving the wrong aspect ration - the butterflies were slightly squashed. Luckily, I found a cone of 3/2 and tried that, which worked fairly well, until I ran out about 3/4 of the way through the blanket.

As I reached the end of the warp, the dobby suddenly stopped working, and I discovered that one of the cords to the dobby knife had frayed and broken. I have no idea why. One of the fly shuttle cords also frayed, and is close to breaking. So those both need to be repaired.

It has been hot and muggy here lately, so to persist with each problem as it arose took a massive amount of willpower, and I'm proud of myself for hanging in there. I suspect that I will NOT be giving this baby blanket to the new mom I was weaving it for - I'll have to do it all over again, but this time, hopefully things will be a whole lot easier.

Hang Totes
On a good note, when I got frustrated and needed to stop for a while, I did some more loom room reorganization. One of the things I did that tickled me was to find a good place to store my favorite tote bags. They are fairly bulky, so they don't store well on shelves or in drawers. I realized that the perfect spot for them would be hanging on the support brace for my worktable, on the back side. (I've got 2 Ikea Alex drawer units on the other side of the brace under the table.  I bought some S hooks on, and I really think this worked out well.

Lessons Learned

There are a number of lessons I learned, and the struggle was painful enough that I'm not likely to forget them soon.
  •  It's probably easier to fuss with color changes when winding the warp, rather than when sleying the reed.
  • While it is possible to beam a regular warp on a sectional beam, it would have been MUCH easier to do what I usually do, which is to beam each 1 inch section at a time.
  • Yeah, I know - don't try to launch into a project right away, especially when you are rusty. Sample, sample, sample. 
The good part? Not long ago, I avoided my loom room like the plague, because it was a cluttered mess that just made me feel guilty. Now - it is beautifully organized and a joy to spend time there. And in spite of all of the troubles, I am hanging in there. I WILL get to a point where weaving is peaceful and easy again, I promise myself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


This post is about CHANGE. GOOD change.

On July 1st, I retired from my job. I've been a programmer since 1975 (including some years when I was out of work after 2001). In a way, working feels like you have a mortgage on your time - in exchange for your time, you get paychecks. Retiring feels like paying off that mortgage.

So what's ahead? Masses of clutter clearing, of course. But mostly I want to finally weave. I'm in the process of getting a warp on my big loom. I've made every stupid mistake you could possibly make (the warp has a color gradient for a baby blanket). My back has complained loudly and frequently, so I take lots of breaks. But I'm persisting. With any luck, there will be a baby blanket ready for the baby shower I'm going to Saturday!

Other good things are happening. Eldy and Sam installed the wall-shelving I had purchased for storing cones on yarn on the wall behind my loom. I have been on a quest for about a year to find a good solution for storing cones. It started last year with a DVD shelf I bought.

DVD Shelf Holding Cones of Silk

I had hoped to use it as a sort of sofa table behind the couch to store DVDs, but when it arrived, it was too big for that. So instead, I put it in my little sanctuary room, and it holds cones of silk - my good stuff!

A shoebag on the back of the door to that room holds skeins.  Some are silk. Some are tencel. All are luscious and shiny!

But best of all, Eldy and Sam installed the shelving I purchased from Ikea in my loom room. This is on the back wall, behind the big loom, and it's perfect! It is the Algot system - I bought a "kit" that had the uprights and four of the shelves with brackets. Yesterday I went to Ikea and bought 2 more shelves. I haven't finished migrating my cotton cones to the shelves yet - you can see I'm about halfway there. But I really like these shelves. They're just over 7 inches deep, which is perfect. And I've got some shelf labels that I bought at Amazon a while back that will be used to label the shelves (3/2 and misc on top, 5/2 cotton on the second shelf, 10/2 cotton in the next 2 shelves. There will be finer stuff on the bottom shelves.)

Ikea Algot Wall Shelving (7 1/8" deep)

This is another big change - most of these cones have lived in bins for the last few years (remember those - that migrated from an outdoor shed, to the closet when I got the loom room?) Let's just say there's a lot of reorganizing going on in the loom room closet, too.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Goldilocks and the Lucet

When I was getting ready for my trip to Florida for my niece's wedding, I wanted to pack something hands-on in my carry-on. I've found that's the best way to stay calm when something unexpected happens while travelling (like some years ago, when I sat on a tarmac in San Antonio for 4 hours.) 
I was thinking of taking my lucet - a wonderful one with straight sides (by Ziggy) that I bought some years ago but have hardly used. Before I pack something, though, I try to get a project started. So I tried a cord with a few strands of some pretty space-dyed silk. The result was dreadful. Then I tried some cheap, thick sugar & cream cotton yarn. Yucko dog-lips - that result was awful, too. So I took some knitting with me. 

Today, I was taking a break from work, and thought I'd try again. Got out some nylon cord. The good thing about that was that it was very easy to see what is going on - and see the braid structure developing. (It would be great for teaching or demos, I think.) But again, the result just wasn't satisfying. I was beginning to think that the tool and process and my aesthetic preferences might just not be compatible. But then I thought maybe I could start by thinking about what didn't work, and then choose the *right* thread.

Thick. Nope - hard to keep even and looks clunky. Loosely-spun. Nope - shreds as you work with it. Multiple strands. Not until I get better at the process.

So I went upstairs and got a cone of turquoise 3/2 cotton. Nice sheen, medium twist, strong. And it is working! I'm pretty happy with the plain, square braid that is unfolding. I'm not sure what I would use a small, very firm braid for (ties on a bag, frogs on a jacket?) but I'm glad I persisted until I got something satisfactory. It helps that the process is a little addictive. This will probably become one of my preferred TV watching techniques.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spinning Corner

I am obviously not very good at blogging - as witnessed by the fact that it has been over 2 years since I last posted. :-)  But I've decided to use this sort of the way I use Pinterest - a way to capture a snapshot of things I will want to be reminded of. The only difference is that what I post should be things *I* have done, not things somebody else has done that catch my eye.

A lot has happened in the last two years. I'm still working full-time. I still sing Alto II in the La Jolla Symphony Chorus, and I'm still a member of San Diego Creative Weavers Guild and Complex Weavers.  We've had some ups and downs with my husband Eldy - he's still on chemo, and will be for the rest of his life, but he's doing really really well, for which I'm thankful.

For a year or two, I was on blood pressure medication, and it turned me into a zombie in the evenings. I hated it!  Awhile ago, I decided to stop taking the meds. (I probably wouldn't have done this if I really did have high BP, but I just have a condition that can make it dangerous if I get it, so the meds were supposed to be preventative. I decided that quality of life trumps quantity. )

So I'm finally starting to emerge from the fog, and feeling like doing creative things again. Even better, I'm currently on track to retire this summer (94 days, according to the countdown app on my phone!) So I've been trying to get my ducks in a row, revive some of my previous passions, and prepare myself for that blissful time when I can spend my days doing whatever I want to do!

This post is about one of my re-organization projects.  On Dawn McFall's blog (,  I drooled over photos of her studio, and was especially enamored of some wooden carts. I emailed her to find out where they came from, got a reply, and ordered one.
Here's my new spinning corner!
You can see my Ikea chair in the foreground, my Lendrum double treadle spinning wheel, and in front of the window, my new cart. To the left of the cart is my to-go spinning basket, to the right is a basket with baggies of sheep breed samples. On the bottom shelf, I've got my Sheep Breeds Swap notebook, a bin with all of my Lendrum fliers, and the Lendrum lazy kate. On the middle shelf is a tensioned lazy kate, and I'll probably add a basket to hold fiber.My ball winder is attached to the top, although I may move that to one of the legs.
In the drawer, I have a few small niddy noddies, a water bowl for linen spinning, several orifice hooks, labelling tags, and an extra driveband. I have since added a little notebook and a pen.

It feels so nice to have all of my spinning stuff nice and tidy in one spot! And since this is in the corner of the family room, I hope that I'll be more likely to sit down and spin frequently. That thought makes me happy.