Archive for May, 2020

Windhaven Concertina

One of my three new inkle looms arrived the other day, and I’m very happy with it so far!

The Windhaven Concertina is a small loom that fits in my lap for weaving, which is very cool. Used as an inkle loom, it will do a 4 inch wide band that is about 3 feet long, and it can be expanded to a width of 8 inches. It can also be used as a rigid heddle loom, with the front and lower back rods used as take-up rods, or fabric beam and warp beam, which is also very cool, as you can then make much longer bands. If you remove the top rod altogether, you have enough space for tablet weaving, if you use small cards. All in all, a very versatile loom. It’s like a Gilmore Wave, without all the fancy pieces that make the Wave so much more expensive.

The downsides of this loom are very minor, but have to be mentioned to be thorough. If you want to do pickup weaving on this loom, it can be done, but be aware that the working area is very tight. If you like getting your hands in there to manipulate the warp, as I do, it’s difficult, although, as I said, it can be done. A small weaving sword might be a better idea, but that’s something else to get used to. I used to do pickup with a sword, but then stopped in favor of my hands. I may have to go back to the sword with this loom, but I’ve been using my hands as usual. Like I said, the downside is minor.

I did worry about the warping path a little bit…on my other inkle looms, the warp threads didn’t come in contact with other levels of the path, where they do with this loom, but that concern turned out to be unfounded: the warp advances very smoothly. The only thing I have to watch out for is that the tensioner isn’t quite as wide as the other rods, because it has to be able to move back and forth in its track, and that means that on a warp as wide as the rods, you need to make sure that warp threads don’t slide off the sides. It did happen to me once at the beginning, and it was a pain to get them back where they belonged, but once I realized what had happened and why, I learned to just advance carefully, and it hasn’t happened since then.

Because it’s a small loom, the working area is tiny, and you will be advancing a lot more often than with a standard sized inkle. That doesn’t bother me much; one of the biggest pluses for me was the fact that it fits in my lap! Another is the fact that I can toss it into a tote bag and take it anywhere to weave. Gonna be waiting at the doctor’s office for an appointment for an hour or more? You can take your loom and weave, or sit in the car on your break at work and weave. That is beyond awesome to me.

The company is made up of a homesteading mom and her two daughters, one of whom, the master woodworker, is a high-functioning autistic teenager. And while yes, I did like the idea of supporting her work, if she wasn’t good at it, I wouldn’t have ordered more than one loom. This one, I bought used from another weaver, but I already had one loom, the Ukelele, on order, and when they are back to work, I fully intend to order the bigger Accordion as well! The craftsmanship is fantastic, and the looms are among the least expensive I’ve seen as well, making it much easier for aspiring weavers with a limited budget to get started. Windhaven’s ladies are also very accessible, with a group on Facebook that is very active.

So, that’s my review of the Windhaven Concertina. As long as you don’t have unrealistic aims for the loom, you can’t go wrong with buying a Windhaven loom.


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Filling up, with more to spin!

I can’t be the only one who does this: look up at the top of the rabbit hole of fiber obsession and marvel at how deep s/he has fallen.

I started the long fall back in 2011, intending only to learn how to weave. That was it, the sum total of my ambition: learn to do what I’d been wanting to learn since that first potholder loom as a child. But then, I wanted to have communication with other people who shared the interest, and I joined Ravelry, having no idea that it was the entrance to Wonderland. Crocheting and beadwork, which I already knew, and weaving were followed by spinning, then inkle and tablet weaving, then a desire to learn to use a spindle, then loom knitting, and things continued to explode from that point on. If it had to do with yarn or thread, and sounded interesting, I had to at least try it. Most of it stuck, to varying degrees, with definite favorites emerging from the chaos.

When I look around my studio now, I often think that I need to call my homeowner’s insurance and find out if I need additional coverage just for the contents of the studio, because I know, in the case of a disaster, replacing the equipment in there would be all but impossible without insurance. Rich, we most assuredly are not.

I imagine that most hobbyists, particularly those who do not actively sell their wares on a regular basis, wonder the same thing. Yarn, in itself, is not an expensive item, but once you have a stash built up, as most do, to lose it can be costly, especially if we’re not talking about acrylics. And that’s just the yarn stash! Tools are a whole different level of expense! Some, like tongue depressors, are inexpensive. Commercial tatting shuttles and needles don’t cost much. Handmade tools, though, cost a significant bit more, made, as they often are, by those who use, or whose spouses use, their own products. Those people know the pros and cons of those too, and they often reach a level of quality that the mass-produced counterparts simply can’t match. They do the job well enough, sure, but they don’t feel or behave the same way.

Then there are the larger pieces of equipment: the looms, the drum carders, the spinning wheels, the accessories that help us to use our equipment efficiently…all of these things add up. I’ve seen ads from folks giving up their hobby, selling off the contents of their studio, and the costs run into the many thousands of dollars. I used to scoff at those ads, until I started adding up what each individual piece was worth.

The rabbit hole is not a cheap residence. It is, however, worth its weight in gold, in terms of my sanity.

The nice thing about a fiber arts studio is that you generally only have to buy a piece of equipment once, and it will last for many years. And the depreciation rate is negligible, although the cost in terms of space might drive your other half crazier than financial costs!

Hmmm…I’ve just about talked myself into calling the insurance company. My studio is kinda bursting at the seams. It’s taken years to build up, but there’s a lot of stuff in there!

Speaking of tools, you can see from the photo that I’m well on the way to loading the Mayan spinner full of yarn. I had to stop myself earlier. I only spun for about an hour, but it’s entirely too easy to get a rhythm going and forget to give yourself a break. By the time I put it down last night, I’d spun for a couple of hours. I didn’t feel the effects immediately, but I did feel them! So I kept myself to an hour this morning. It actually wasn’t too hard to restrain myself: the central air vents are limited in the studio, and the spinner actually requires a bit more physical work than a drop spindle. I actually found myself getting hot from swinging the spinner around. With the lack of air conditioning, it was not hard to decide to stop for a little while. Besides, I want to spend some time on the looms, too. And on the blanket!


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Enjoying the Mayan spinner!

Not much weaving got done today. Okay, no weaving got done today. Now that I’ve finally figured out the Mayan spinner, I’ve been having fun playing with it. Currently, I’m spinning some more of the sea-green merino that I posted previously. I want to see how much yarn the spinner can carry before moving it to the plying tool. And it’s just fun to spin. I’ve never done park-and-draft spinning before. All of my spindles, whether supported or drop spindles, and my wheel, operate on drafting while spinning. It’s not that they can’t be used for park-and-draft, but you don’t have to spin that way. With the Mayan spinner, it’s a requirement. You spin it for a few rounds, park it between your knees to hold it steady, and you draft your fiber out, then repeat. It’s a slow way to spin, but it has its good points. For one thing, for me, at least, it’s easier to maintain a consistent thickness in the yarn. Not that there haven’t been mistakes in that department, because there have, but fewer than I’ve made before on the wheel or a drop spindle.

I tried a different fiber on it earlier…well, yesterday, now. I have a huge ball of pink sari silk roving that I’d never used before, so I gave it a shot. It didn’t work well. It may be my fault, it may be the silk, but the staple is so short, which I’ve never seen in silk before, and it’s so clumpy, that I couldn’t do anything with it on the Mayan spinner. I’m honestly not sure I can do anything with it at all, but I’ll try it on the wheel and see how that goes.

Short staple of sari silk. Keyboard for scale.

Merino is much easier than the sari silk on this spinner. Can one call it a spindle? Well, whatever term you use, it’s fun. Bryony has already asked for a new spinning lesson, using the Mayan spinner. We’re going to try it. If she manages to get through one lesson without quitting, which is her normal modus operandi, then I’ll consider buying her a spinner of her own, to be kept in the studio. I have to admit that it would be nice to have one child who enjoys fiber-y stuff as much as I do. Of course, I’m pretty sure my own mother said the same thing as she watched me turn my nose up at knitting.

It’s time to give the spinner a break for awhile. I want to do some more weaving!

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Andean plyer (L), Mayan spinner (R)

Two posts in one day!!!

I’ve had this Mayan spinner and Andean plyer for years, and for years, I couldn’t figure out how to use either one, no matter how many videos I watched. So they sat in the drawer, unused, other than to be admired.

Until this morning, when I finally saw a YouTube video that clicked, and I made a bit of yarn using the spinner. It took a few tries, but finally, success! I’m actually quite proud of it! Plying was a different issue: my understanding of the word “plyer” was that it did the actual plying of the yarn, and it most emphatically does not. What it does do is bring the two ends of your spun yarn together so that you can ply it on your chosen spinner, whether it’s your wheel, your spindle, or, in this case, your Mayan spinner, and it does it in such a way that it doesn’t tangle. So I spun the yarn, wrapped it onto the plyer, then plied it on the spinner by spinning it in the opposite direction than I did while spinning the yarn in the first place. Woohoo! Success. I don’t see myself making an entire skein this way — I do have a wheel, after all — but I may try a bit more yarn than I made today!

Two-ply yarn, plied on the Mayan spinner

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As we were sitting in the living room the other day, Bryony asked me a question: if I could do anything, have anything, be anything, what would I do, have, or be?

We had each been doing our own respective things in the same room, which is pretty common. She was engrossed in Minecraft because she’s somehow managed to lose Animal Crossing — again — and I was wrapped up in weaving, vaguely listening to her chatter. It’s not that I don’t listen to her, it’s that she is a child whose tongue starts wagging the second she rolls out of bed, and it literally does not stop until she rolls back into it. I’m not the worst mother in the world, but neither am I the best, and I simply cannot listen actively all the time, or I’d never get anything done. So, vaguely listening, but she insistently repeated the question, and I picked up on it the second time.

My first inclination was to laugh — only a child could ask such a question and think it was simple to answer, but then I realized that it actually was. If money was no object, who and what would her mother be? What dreams would I fulfill if I could do so, just because I wanted to?

It didn’t even take much thought. I’d move the family north, probably to the New England area. I’d build a house. Not a mansion or something ridiculous, just a house. I’ve never felt that a family of four needs a house with thirty bedrooms and sixteen bathrooms, with a home theater built in, complete with reclining leather seats. I don’t want a place so large that maid service is pretty much a requirement. Five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a gourmet kitchen with plenty of storage, living room, dining room, and a weaving studio with lots of windows for natural light attached to the house. Maybe a barn, so we could have some horses. The house would be on a couple of wooded acres, but still have city water, sewer, and gas, because I don’t ever want to deal with a well, septic, or propane ever again. Central air, of course. A pool? No, darling, probably not. Maintaining animals is one thing, maintaining a pool is something else again.

Was that it? Was that all I wanted, just an awesome house to hang out in? She wanted me to take it further. Well, okay, I’d also like to travel to different places and learn different weaving techniques from different cultures.

She grinned at that, completely unsurprised by that answer, and I laughed. My kids know me pretty well. Mama is fairly predictable.

Then came the big question, the one I suspect she really wanted to know: would I still have her, her sister, and their dad? Absolutely!!! That didn’t even need to be asked; I would never give them up! They are my family, and I love them. They go where I go!

She went back to Minecraft after that, curiosity — and maybe insecurity? — satisfied. I, however, was daydreaming about the things I would do if I could.

Clearly, I need to hit the lottery.

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Forever to get started, but going well now!

I warped my inkle with 10/2 cotton on Friday night. This stuff is very, very fine. I’d had no idea. I had forgotten that, like wire gauge in chain maille, the larger the number, the thinner the yarn, and this is the thinnest yarn I’ve ever woven with. As in, one short step above sewing thread. As in, I was worried about whether or not the pattern I had chosen would even manage to fit on the loom, and I need not have worried. Fully warped, only a little over half the peg space was taken up, and it’s by far the largest warp I’ve put on the loom, with 56 warp ends. Had the yarn been thicker, there is no way the loom could have done it. As it is, I didn’t include borders because I thought for sure the warp was too big.

I have always been a fan of smaller over larger when it comes to some art mediums. Smaller usually means more detail. For instance, in beadwork, one can do it with size 6/0 beads, but if you use the (much) smaller 11/0 beads, details are clearer and sharper. Or, for the IT-savvy folks, it’s like smaller pixels.

I had not, however, planned on moving to thread this small so soon. When I placed the orders, the only thing I was thinking about was that it would be thinner than 5/2 cotton. I guess it’s fairer to say that I knew it would be thinner, but not how much so. For whatever reason, it didn’t click in my head that 10, being the double of 5, meant that one thread is at least half the size of the other.

The colors, though, are so vibrant and pretty, that I shoved all my misgivings down the garbage disposal, hit the on switch, and ignored their screaming as they spun down the drain. I had plans.

I kept coming back to this Celtic knotwork pattern that I really, really wanted to try. The pattern chart was different from the charts I’ve been using up till now, so clarification of the new method and number of threads was my first email for help. That done, I sat down to warp the loom. It took me two hours, because I was trying something else too: multiple colors of background warp threads. I wanted a gradient from dark to light in the center, and back to dark. My pattern threads would be another color.

I hmanaged to get that done, and headed out to the living room.

One of the things that drives me bonkers about our house is its darkness. It’s an older, Colonial style home, and they don’t run to a lot of windows. During the day, depending on where I’m sitting, I still need a lamp on. At night, obviously, lights are on, but they aren’t close enough to the sofa to shed good light. My answer was to buy a rechargeable clip on light. It gets the job done. So I curl up on the sofa with my loom and phone with the PDF pattern and prepare to get started.

This is a much more complicated pattern than I have tried before. My previous practice bands, at their most complicated, were made up of small motifs and only 32 warp ends, plus borders. This one, without borders, is a huge jump up in complicated, then you add in the size of the thread –or lack, thereof — and what you end up with is me, cursing myself up one side and down the other, but still determined that dammit, I am going to beat this. And so I did, but it took two solid days, much screaming at the sky, and numerous emails and messages for help. I am so glad that Laverne is so accessible! There is no better help than being able to call on the person who published the pattern in question!

I wove four rows. It didn’t look right at all. I wove several rows more of plain weave, intending to start over further down the warp. Then I messaged Laverne the first time. She told me I started out ok, then went off track by one column and continued in that vein.

I decided not to leave the errors in place, went back and unwove everything back to the beginning — why waste the warp space? And I started again. Wove four rows. Unwove four rows. Wove them again, and unwove them again. And again. And again. And…

Every time I did these four rows, there were threads at regular intervals that were never being pulled into the weaving, and I couldn’t figure out why. I tried weaving them in different ways and only ended up with different threads that weren’t getting caught.

By this point, I was several messages into asking for help, which finally clicked this morning. Holy Toledo, Batman! But I finally have progress moving forward, and am well past those first four rows now, with the pattern forming beautifully…except for one thing.

I wanted the pattern to be subtle again, as in the previous copper and gold practice band, and I made my color choices with that in mind. However, I think I went a little too subtle, with the darker pattern strings being a bit too close in color. In the center of the band, the pattern is easily visible. Toward the outer edges, well, you have to work a little bit harder to see it. Still, all in all, I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going.

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White Wolf yarn delivery, along with a long-awaited book from Amazon.

This is a phrase my mother used to describe me fairly often as a child when I couldn’t sit still, and it usually meant that I was excited about something (or I’d just been spanked for some infraction, and the derriere was too sore to sit still).

This is also a phrase that accurately describes my mindset right now. The yarn order from White Wolf and the Phoenix arrived today, when it wasn’t supposed to appear until Friday. Forty-five ounces of cotton, and two of silk, all slated for an inkle loom. I can hardly wait to use them, but I have two looms currently under warp with works in progress, so I’m trying to curb the impatience that has me wanting to cut those projects off, thus the antsy feeling.

Of course, even without those projects, I’m not ready to start a new one yet anyway. There is a process that must be followed when new yarn enters the studio. A protocol, if you will, especially when that yarn is a brand you’ve never used before, and it takes up a bit of time.

First, a large enough area for all of the yarn must be cleared on the desk. Then the yarn must be spread out on the surface to be admired and daydreamed over. Note must be taken of the color, the sheen, the texture of it all. Colors are then arranged by gradient to make them easier to find (they never stay that way), and then, finally, colors can be chosen according to what is in your mind’s eye to make.

What is in your imagination might even still be pretty nebulous. I’ve never woven a band with a purpose already in mind. Generally, I weave the band, finish it, roll it up neatly, stick a head pin in it to keep it rolled up, and put it away until a purpose presents itself, or one of my children sees it and lays claim to it. That last happens more than you’d believe. Bryony even claims work that has gone horribly wrong in my mind, that I’m about to throw out. She sees beauty in them anyway, because Mama made them. Somewhere in her room, there must be a box or something filled with scraps of tatting or weaving that I gave up on for one reason or another. The only way I can ever get rid of those scraps is to throw them out when she’s nowhere around.

So, I’m antsy without an outlet right now. Well, there’s one: it’s nearly dinnertime, and I need to get started on it. Hubby is off tonight, and he and Aneira have been wrapped up in American Horror Story on Netflix, which i categorically refuse to watch. Aneira loves horror. I hate it. With luck, they’ll sit down to watch that, and I’ll be able to escape to the studio!

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Variegated thread vs. unmitigated black.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been bouncing from project to project because quarantine is playing merry hell with my ability to focus on any one thing for very long. So the other day, I decided to see how a variegated thread would look against a dark one in weaving on my inkle loom.

As I also mentioned previously, I’ve been working through Laverne Waddington‘s band weaving books. I’m still bouncing a bit, but it’s within the same medium, so it doesn’t really count, right? In working through the books, I’ve been doing one repeat of each of the motifs that catch my eye. See? Bouncing within the same medium, but with a purpose. I’m learning something.

I love variegated yarn. Pretty sure that’s yet another thing I’ve mentioned before. I am absolutely powerless against variegated yarn. I can’t quite visualize what I’m going to do with it when I see it, but I do look at it and think, “Ooooooo, pretty!!!” And like a magpie or a crow with shiny things, I have to have it, usually in an amount of at least five skeins, so I can do at least a throw with it. But that’s knitting yarn, and you can find dozens of colorways in variegated knitting yarn. I also have some unmercerized variegated cotton that I can weave with, but haven’t yet figured out how I want to use it, or how I can. (Or even if I want to. I’ve discovered I’m not a huge fan of unmercerized cotton.) With certain patterns, many of them in fact, I don’t feel as though a variegated yarn would work, unless it’s as background to the pattern itself. On the larger looms, I’m still working on the basics, never mind something like overshot or ikat. I’m not there yet. The inkle is a little more forgiving, especially since you’re working on a much smaller scale. Ruining an inkle warp is far from as painful as ruining a floor loom warp.

In this experiment, I picked up some #3 Lizbeth variegated tatting thread, putting it together with what I thought was the same size crochet cotton in black, with unmercerized weaving cotton in blue, for borders, in the same size.

Well, once I was warping the inkle, I quickly realized that what appears to be the same size thread looks very different under tension. The Lizbeth thread is a hair heavier than the other two threads, which are the same size. But since this was an experiment, I decided to continue it. And I love it. Even better yet, Laverne loved it when I posted it in Facebook’s inkle group. How cool is that??!!! It doesn’t get any better than the creator of the pattern you’re working with enjoying something you did with her pattern. That is a happy moment!

The inkle group has turned out to be quite dangerous as well, as nearly any fiber arts forum is, because we are nothing if not great enablers. Many people post their work, and you see a number of bands woven from these vibrant, popping yarns, and if you don’t ask, guaranteed, someone else does: “What yarn are you using?”

And nine times out of ten, if it’s an excessively vibrant yarn, the answer is going to be Lunatic Fringe Yarns Tubular Spectrum. Naturally, this meant I had to go look at the website and, having looked, had to place a small order. And believe you me, keeping myself down to ten mini-cones was hard. I haven’t got them yet, but, buddy, do I ever have plans for them!

Then came the deal from White Wolf and the Phoenix: order so many balls of yarn, get so much off the order. Well, had to do that too. Both these orders are slated for inkle weaving; I didn’t make any purchases big enough for the floor loom or even the big rigid heddle. And I’m giving some serious thought to trying my wools and acrylics on the inkle, too, as well as silk.

I’m keeping myself busy, for sure…I wish I could say I was dedicating a full day to housecleaning, but my soul is not that pure. I haven’t. The best I can say is that with four dogs all blowing their coat at the same time, I’ve been trying to keep the fur level down. And I spend time in the kitchen making meals. I supervise Bryony’s homeschooling journey from a distance, lest we kill each other. I did manage to get rid of three more moving boxes, and I cleaned out the truck, finally. Ye gods, did it need to be cleaned out. It wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, but it was worse than it should have been. It still needs to be vacuumed, but all garbage is gone. So I haven’t been utterly lazy, but I really do need to take a day away from what I want to do in order to accomplish what I should do. Fortunately, now that the girls are older, the worst of the household messes and clutter is confined to their bedrooms, which are their responsibilities, not mine!

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This phrase has been a mantra in our house since we moved a year ago. Having a new normal seems to be our new normal.

We didn’t have a problem when we left Arizona to move to Colorado, probably because the kids were very young, and the adults were actually happy to be leaving the desert behind. Leaving Colorado has proven to be a gaping wound for the entire family. The children were old enough that their friendships had forged deeper connections, and leaving them was harder, no different than it was for their parents. It hurt, the more so because the longer we were in Colorado, the less we wanted to leave, and over the years had come to the conclusion, unconsciously, that this was our place. For me, the only thing Colorado lacked was a beach.

As much as we miss our friends, we miss the scenery just as much. Days like today, we feel it the most. On a warm, sunny day in Colorado, too nice to stay indoors, we would have headed for Black Forest or Foxrun Regional Park. The tall pine forests are just gorgeous to view. We had avoided Black Forest for a couple of years after the forest fire there, because it was painful to see the burned areas, but we had gone back to driving through every chance we got. And though it was a long drive from our house, Foxrun was always worth the drive, with its fountain in the center of the lake, quiet hiking trails, two playgrounds, numerous picnic areas, and places just to lie on a blanket and soak in the environment. The park was huge, well-tended, and rarely unbearably crowded, with trees everywhere you looked. We spent time there in every season, including winter, when the kids would play on the equipment and we adults would hide out in the truck.

It isn’t that the scenery in North Caolina is not beautiful, because it absolutely is. I have yet to really come across an area where I thought it to be ugly. It’s just different.

We knew from the beginning that this move was going to be hard. We just didn’t anticipate how hard it would be.

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