Saturday, August 08, 2015

Loom upgrade

A while ago I bought a loom, after a lot of reading, and thinking and a small amount of playing with a table loom I decided that a floor loom was something I wanted to explore. I read around looms and found there there were five main types,

  1. Jack looms, large table loom technology in that it uses one lever one shaft moves technology.
  2. Counterbalance looms, shafts work in pairs, and balanced in pairs, if one shaft goes up then it's partner needs to go down which is nice and smooth but has limitations as to combinations of shafts the can be moved.
  3. Countermarch looms, where the shafts are hung in balance with weighted lamms, which are more challenging to set up but offer flexibility, these seemed to have sub variations like vertical and horizontal.
  4. Dobby looms - which I never really understood and seemed a step that experienced weavers made.
  5. Jacquard looms - which like dobby looms seemed beyond the beginner.

Beyond those categories there were differences like how many shafts, and how the looms was structured, it's frame, and how many shafts it had. For a newbie on the outside the choices were fascinating - and complicated by the fact I wasn't in the market for a brand new loom so had to select from those on the second hand market. And even more so - those for sale locally, floor looms are large and transporting one far would require an extended budget. I watched looms on TradeMe ( like eBay - but here) and made note of features and prices. Looms being sold generally had little support materials, and were used - sometimes disassembled, and just a pile of lumber with a promise it could be a working loom. Somewhere in amidst all that I found and settled on my Loman loom. It was in great condition, well loved by its weaving owner, and came with introductions via knitting friends, and turns out it even came with transport assistance.

Best of all it was affordable, a fraction of the price of a new loom - which just wasn't going to happen. Like the older spinning wheels I have, the loom was of its time. The heddles were hand tied string, that worked but didn't seem as precise as newer Texsolv heddles. Well, in the last week I committed to replacing the heddles, I ordered 800 new heddles, 200 for each shaft. I was told this was 'a large amount for a loom' in the kind of voice that said - are you sure you want so many. But I thought I might as well set it up for all eventualities. Turns out that it was a wee bit of effort to remove the old heddles and install new ones - not something I'd want to repeat too often. Not difficult just - fiddly.

First I had to remove the shafts from the loom, and then remove the old heddles from the shafts. In the original configuration the shafts were held apart by metal rods - which were locked in place by age and some other force. It took Bear and I a wee bit of time with pliers and gentle persuasion to remove the rods at each end.

I couldn't for the life of me work out how to put the spacing rods back once the new heddles were fitted on the shafts. There just wasn't enough spring in the wood or heddles to allow the top and bottom shaft to spread apart far enough for the rod to slide into place. So I decided to set these aside on the rational that many looms don't have metal spaces and rely on the heddles to support the lower bar of the shaft.

Then I put the shafts back on the loom, which was a two person job. Now the shafts are not stabilized by the end rods and the texsolv is slippery - the arrangement can slither off the shafts with a single mis- tilt.

Then it was and easy job to spread the heddles out and count out what I need either side of the center point. One question I had before this was did weavers cut the heddles or leave them joined - and reading around didn't answer the question. Some did and some didn't. I found having the heddles joined made it easier to separate each one and stop them riding over and under each other. The other benefit is that I can find the center point easily as each shaft has two set of one hundred, the gap between is the exact middle. Once I have the warp threaded, and then sleyed through the reed I still have to tie up the treddles and balance the loom. The next 'improvement' or investment is a new reed - the one with the loom is 8pdi - and I think a dinner one would suit what I want to weave more, and be stainless. I'm still deciding if I do that this warp or sometime in the future. Those two things in place and I will have double the 'cost' of the loom but essentially will have a brand new loom.

Knitting continues - first pair of fingerless rainbow mitts are finished and gifted, they were to small for me, second pair is on the needles, or rather on stitch holders waiting for needles.


This is the fiddly stage, but it's kind of fun and the second time around I understand the detailed instructions that say how to arrange each finger and where the tail of yarn needs to be. The tail is used to graft the joins between fingers closed - so it needs to be where the join is.

Take care - we have a another snow day here, na Stella.











Saturday, August 01, 2015

Fiddly but fun

I finished the second mitt, and this time i recorded how I worked the cuff. Inspired by a comment in a Historic knitting forum about Monmouth hats being worked with a picked up facing worked down and then cast off at the brim - I tried that on the first cuff and liked the result,

I worked the pick up round with and extra needle, it was a bit fiddly-clunky but ok. For every stitch I made sure the yarn passed around the pick up needle - forming a loop that I could later use to knit with.

Here is a short  video showing the process, it might make less sense if you carry the yarn in the right hand - but this worked for me. The goal was to create a stitch with a yarn over over the second needle for every stitch knit. 

After the pick up row I tucked the extra needle inside the mitt and pulled the tips out through the knit fabric. This stopped them from waving around and getting tangled in my working yarn and needles,
When I worked the hem - the pick up round of stitches looked loose, but i knew from the previous mitt that it would settle once the facing side was knit.
Here you can see the picked up stitches on the second circular needle, waiting to be knit once the hem was long enough.

When the outer hem was long enough I went back and knit the inside facing, at first the picked up stitches pulled out and elongated but I didn't worry. I knew from working the previous mitt that the elongation was temporary.

When the inside facing was the same length as the outside hem I transferred the two sets of stitches to one needle. One for one, in turn from the inside and outside needle, some people like to knit stitches off both needles but I find it less fiddly if I transfer them before I knit.

Then I cast off as loosely as I could, I wanted the cuff to stretch. I knit each pair of stitches, one from the outside hem and one from the inside facing as it it was a single stitch, and the purl that formed on the reverse of the work made a nice decorative row behind the cast off chain.

And here they are all done, it was a fun knit and I plan to make a second pair in the larger size - seems I am not a teeny tiny petit person.
Na Stella

Sunday, July 26, 2015


This last week the first of the colour full mitts happened, and the second is underway. I love the construction - first one knits a bunch of digits, various sizes and lengths, with a provisional cast on, the cast off at the finger ends. Then the provisional cast on is unzipped and the fingers slid onto a circular needle and the rest of the mitt worked. It was fiddle. Up satisfyingly fun. I have an irrational dislike of rolling stocking stitch(ss) fabric so ended my mitts with 4/5 rounds of k1p1 rib instead of simply casting off. I actually like the look of soft rolling ss fabric, just not the idea of the bulk and rubbing that could result ... As I said irrational, maybe for the next mitts I will challenge myself to knit the fingers to the end in stocking stitch. Yes there will be another pair.

Knitting the first mitt was exciting until I missread the instructions. After the thumb was attached I gaily went about decreasing away the gusset - and didn't read the full instructions, I just went ahead and decreased as per the bullet pointed decrease instructions. Trouble was the decreases were introduced in stages not all at once like I had worked. So I frogged, and began again. This time I ended up with a wrist that was very very snug - and I noticed instructions to modify the decreases for a wider wrist. So I frogged again and worked the decreases one last time being very careful about recording what I did, that worked. The thumb gusset hand join still looks messy as I have not grafted the gap closed yet. The other interesting point about these mitts is unlike most other mitts the gusset stitches are not decreased away so the thumb gusset reduces to nothing - but instead the hand stitches are reduced. Same effect in terms of fit, but very different look - the thumb section shifts subtly over into the wrist instead of disappearing into a point. I like it. Makes me think of roads and lanes merging.

I've made a start on mitt 2, fingers all done and the thumb is standing by. This one should be much simpler with less frogging. On mitt 1 the cuff is finished with a turned up faced hem. On ravelry recently (or a few months ago or more - it could be that long) a comment about a Monmouth cap (wiki link for those unfamiliar ) suggested that faced hems were not traditionally worked with a purl turn round, but instead the facings were worked down from a pick up round, and the hats were finished with a standard chain bind off - you know the knit one stitch, knit another, pass first knit stitch over second, knit another, repeat till done Part of the argument went along the lines that grafting was unknown or at least not present in any other knitting from that time. For some reason I wanted to try that with this mitt - so I did. I liked it and will document the process in the next post. I think this maybe my new favorite way to hem knitting - and I'm anxious to try it on a hat - a Monmouth cap even.

I like these mitts, they fit snugly, maybe too snug for me, I knit the smaller size and maybe it should have been the larger one. My only comment is the mitts are shaped for a slender hand, and on me I feel I need more room for my thumb pad - but that is not a problem, I plan to test the larger size and that may be all that is needed. Pattern is free - and clever, available here.

Na Stella


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Holidays are

Weird, at some level they are relaxing and fun and a complete break from the demands of work and timelines outside of ones own making. On the other hand holidays are so filled with potential they can be both paralyzingly confuing and filled with too much choice - and filled with a sense of dread that the days will slip away with nothing to show for the time off work, I'm aware of that - and I try not to plan to much, but still the sense making the most of the time persists, I've been on leave for two weeks - and there isn't much to show.

Firstly - or rather lastly in time order, as I finished these a few days ago. These are arm warmers knit, Vörå-Inspired Arm Warmers, Knit for K, aka Otagogirl on ravelry. These were a fast knit, but a slow decision, there were so many lovely things in her queue for her family - and it seemed wrong to knit something not for her. Then inspiration came in the form of her admiring this pattern knit in these colours by Zoomer also on ravelry. I am happy shamelessly copying inspired knitters.

I was also inspired by these lovely mittens, mitaines rainbow, So much so that this morning I decided to do more than just admire - I would divide a skein of blank yarn into smaller skeins and set about dying yarn for the fingers. I set my swift on top of my scales and would off 5 gram balls, the scales kept going to sleep so I ended up just waking it up and weighing the balls directly. Then I turned each small ball into a mini skies using half the ninny noddy.

Then I dyed each one, I kettle dyed, and ran two dye pots for speed, mixing the dye up first, adding a preloaded skeins and then lifting the skein from the dye bath if it colour looked right. My 'natural' tendency is towards blue greys - so I deliberately pushed myself to add in yellow and orange and apricot. There is something nice about having the ingredients to hand - not having to go buy everything.

Right now the skeins are dyed, rinsed, cooled and laid out to dry on an oil column heater, later tonight I will make little cute center pull balls and maybe even begin the fingers. In this pattern the fingers are knit from base to top, using a provisional cast on, and then the provisional cast on is picked up and used to knit down to form the hand of the mitten. The pattern appeals as it is both cute and clever. As for colours - the original is knit with a 'warm' hand and a ' cool' hand, myself I think I wil mix the colours up a little more. It all looks like lots was done - it in reality it was about 90 minutes - maybe two hours counting the skeining. Having no work meant I could devote the morning to dying without worrying that other things wouldn't be done.

This is the grey I plan to use for the body of the mittens, a little darker than the original - it's Ngaire, a club colour from Vintage Purls 2013. I have been saving it for something special - the original pattern was also for mitts - but I always wanted to knit them in something pinker or browner or greener, as the design seems botanical.



My holiday began with a warp, I made a warp for more tea towels, and began to install it on the loom. Then snow and ice hit and the back end of the house became too cold to work in. I enjoy my interests but not enough to freeze in the pursuit of them.





So I abandoned the loom at this stage - and I think I will replace the heddles with texsolv ones before I complete the threading. The thread is a soft spun cottolin - a bit slubby - but ok for practice in warping and weaving, I hope that using texsolv will even up the shed somewhat, and make for a neater shed. For now I think I will cover the warp so it doesn't fade - winter sun is wimpy but can still fade textiles. I find because we don't have a dishwasher we go through tea towels daily, and they get grubby, white tea towels end up stained with the evidence of food and cooking. My hope is red and blue won't show that quite so much and will look cleaner longer.

The dish clothes were made from stashed yarn, four in total - photo shows three as one is in use. My own pattern, blocks of stocking stitch and reverse sticking stitch, five stitches wide by seven stitches tall. This yarn is thicker than I usually use, almost dk - so makes a thick cloth if any more textured pattern is used. The last. Lots I knit in double moss stitch - but I prefer my standard checker board pattern - simple and not too thick, that way they dry faster. Nothing worse than an old wet dish cloth when you want to wipe the table down.


So that was my holiday in review, there was a bit of drawing, and some waiting for repair people to service the stove and fix some electrical wall sockets ... And some to-ing and fro-ing Cubs to their grandad and airports and dental appointments. While there is not much to show - what is there is all good stuff, and I'm all relaxed, which is the important bit.

Na Stella