Der Mann and I left town for a long weekend in Oregon.  In the car I suddenly realized that, not counting obligatory family visits, this was our first vacation in about two years.  (Maybe I shouldn’t count the two-years-ago vacation, since we were location scouting for Der Mann’s last job hunt.  Which means our last vacation was . . . ?)  Anyway, after 8 years of marriage it has finally dawned on us that we are not very good at vacations.  It’s not that we are workaholics or anything like that.  It’s just, we are never quite able to get past the knowledge that even as we are spending mucho $$ on gas, state park yurts, campsites, and hotel rooms; hauling a rice cooker and an ice chest around, we are at the very same time spending $23 a night on perfectly good lodgings with a stove, groceries, and our own bed.  Which stands vacant while we load coins into showers and stop to organize the dirty dishes in the back of our minivan.

This awareness seems to counteract the happy-go-lucky spirit of a vacation, which I’ve been told is a thing many people find relaxing.

This vacation worked out better because we stayed in a cabin on a farm.  A second-career farm couple has opened their 40 acres to visitors.  It’s nestled into a cranny between forested hills off the Alsea Valley, which is about at the halfway point when you cross the Coastal Range from the Willamette Valley to the ocean.  We ended up there because we’d been through the Alsea Valley a few years ago, and thought it was one of the most beautiful places we’d seen.  Here are pictures from a walk we took at the county park just outside the town of Alsea.  There were a lot of spawning salmon.

The owners of Leaping Lamb Farm keep 30 to 40 hair sheep, which they sell for grass-fed lamb.  In the barn there are HUGE bags of wool, left over from the wool sheep they have pretty much phased out.  Apparently they can’t get enough money for the wool to justify hauling it away.  (“Make me an offer!” S told me when she found out I weave.)  There are also all the other animals you’d expect: horses, a burro, chickens, geese, a peacock, dogs and cats.  S takes you around to do the chores if you want to, and is a friendly font of information on all subjects farmy and rural Oregon-y.  Her generosity comes of having learned everything the hard way herself, since she and her husband bought the drippy 125-year-old farm straight out of southwestern suburbia 5 years ago.

The guest cabin was a big, fully finished kit cabin decorated with Pendleton blankets and southwest-style woven rugs.  The floors were wide pine boards.  It was very nice to hang around there.  No itchy bedspreads or pictures you want to turn to the wall.  The best part was the full kitchen.  The only housekeeping stuff we had to bring was food.

I looked at the Pendleton woolen things a lot.  I’ve been on tours of both the mills (Washougal is better), but I didn’t think much about the products.  By gosh, those are some excellent blankets.  I’d like to furnish my linen closet with a few, when I have a linen closet, because I can’t see myself ever weaving anything that wide and fine or felting anything that thickly.  I had the disorienting experience of staring at a Pendleton pillow that I would have once seen as simply a pillow, and thinking, “That’s a broken twill.”  Weaving does things you.

Like, it makes you take a big side trip on the way home, even though that means you’ll face 1 1/2 hours of Portland rush hour traffic.

Meet Woodland Woolworks, a mail order company which also happens to run the ONLY real weaving supply store within a hundred-fifty miles of where I live:

(This is where I’d put a picture of their warehouse, if I hadn’t been rushing inside as soon as we got there, and Der Mann hadn’t been peeling out on the gravel on our way to beat some of the traffic as we left at closing time.)

You’d think there’d be a weaving store in Portland, but nope.  Woodland Woolworks is tucked away by some grain elevators in the middle of a small town called Carlton.  Past Hillsboro, sort of by Newberg.  I was there for the warping reels.  Since they carry almost every kind, I was hoping they would have some on display.  I wanted to get a sense of which were well or poorly constructed, weight, finish, collapability etc.

Unfortunately Woodland Woolworks doesn’t keep any reels on hand, just orders them as needed.  I wasn’t too disappointed because I was soon in a yarn and book frenzy.  The yarn store where we used to live carried a few odds and ends of weaving and spinning stuff, but there is a world of difference between that, and a place with cones lined up on all the walls, and shelves with most of the weaving books I’ve heard of.

The weaving room is one of three retail areas.  You have to walk through their packing room and office to get from one area to another.  Downstairs were knitting yarn, roving, and spindles.  Upstairs there were spinning wheels and accessories as well as weaving stuff.  And out on the enclosed loading dock?  Discounted knitting yarn and second-hand supplies of all sorts!

I was circumspect.  Now I kind of regret it.  If only I’d known about this place when I was looking for a rigid heddle loom or an 8-dent reed!  Der Mann went downtown for coffee while I raced from room to room, figuring out what was where so I could budget my dwindling 2 hours.

I started out with the books.  It is soooo much easier to tell if you want a weaving book or not when you can leaf through it.  You can tell a lot just by the sorts of pictures and drafts a book has, how many, and the amount (and tone) of the text.  I wrote down the titles of the books I’d like to own so I can order them when I’m ready to part with the cash.

That meant yarn came last.  I’d have bought more if I weren’t so rushed.  Woodland Woolworks’ unmercerized 8/2 cotton seemed surprisingly firm and smooth.  8/2 is chunkier than I prefer for kitchen linens, but I think I’ll really like this stuff when it’s woven up.  I had decided the best strategy was to buy a color I wouldn’t have known I liked unless I’d met it in person.  You can’t tell from the picture, but never did a color yell “1967” so loudly (in a good way) as this one.  It’s called “Old Gold,” which is completely inaccurate.  I would call it, “Willow-Bud Green on Acid, As Seen Through Rose-Colored Glasses.”  Or maybe just “Dusty Chartreuse.”

Another cone struck my fancy because it is exactly the color of unbleached linen.  There are a lot of hideous beiges.  You can never tell what you’re going to get with beige.  I think I’ll make some mock two-tone linen towels.

I also bought some lovely line linen.  They have very little Bockens in stock, just two small cubbies, but they did have a blue 16/2 I really liked.

The upshot is, I’ll have to go back.  There were a ton of different cellulose fibers, chinese silk (loved the silk noil, particularly!), and Jaegerspun.  Zephyr is on my wish list, and since it’s pricey I’d much rather not order it blind.  Also, a HUGE selection of UKI mercerized, if I ever go that direction.

But perhaps the best part of my visit was getting to weave on a Glimåkra countermarche.  I have never seen one of these looms outside of pictures. Woodland Woolworks has a 36″ Ideal (which is Glimåkra’s “compact” loom) set up for towels and . . . my goodness.  It was like meeting a movie star on the beach in their sweat pants holding a plastic bag of dog poo.  I tend to sigh over the big Scandinavian looms, especially when my own gives me trouble.  “Ooh, back-hinged treadles.  Ooh, so tall.  Ooh, hanging beater, I faint with longing at the thought of your featherlight touch.”

And yet something was very wrong with this loom!  It opened wonderfully big sheds compared to my Bergman, but I started wondering if they had got the wrong treadle assembly on it, because I got absolutely NO good from those sheds; they were trapped behind the beater!  That is to say, when I pushed the hanging beater back–even when it was hanging from the forward-most notch–it hit the shafts immediately.  There was almost no space between the fell and the beater.  I could barely squeeze the little Schacht shuttle through.  I pushed back he jack box, which slides freely on top of the castle, but that didn’t help because the treadles still pulled the bottoms of the shafts way forward.  Basically, adjusting the position of the jack box just put the shafts on a slant.  I fiddled with where the fell line was, but you need it within about 2″ of the center point of the beater’s arc, or the reed doesn’t hit it squarely.

I couldn’t see any way to adjust this Glimåkra that would give more room for the shuttle.  True, I only spent about 20 minutes with it, but I had been expecting better things.  I was also kind of surprised at the coarse grain and coarse final sanding of the wood.  Without its stage makeup, the Ideal just looked big and rough.

I expect there is a lot difference between the weaving experience on the Glimåkra Ideal, which is designed for compactness, and the Standard.  And of course there is a lot of difference between fiddling with a loom in a weaving store and owning one.  Still, I was able to leave with the pleasant feeling that, “Hey, I have a pretty good loom!  Warts and all, I wouldn’t trade it for a big lunk like that.”  That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like a bigger, better Scandinavian countermarche than the Ideal in addition to the Bergman some far-off day, but for a compact countermarche I doubt I could have done better.  My loom is almost as deep as the Ideal, for all it is so much smaller.

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Mary's Peak, highest point in the Coastal Range

Lessons From My Early Warps

October 14, 2008

Just what I needed this morning: an injection of weaverly enthusiasm from fellow Bergman loom owner Deborah in the UK!  This is her first blog entry since her hip operation in August, and I was blown away to see that she’s already made CLOTH!  It took me right back to the very first piece of CLOTH I made on my very own loom.  Just remembering, I got excited butterflies in my stomach and a peculiar urge to take yarn and dining room chairs outside. . .

Another UK blog I’ve been enjoying is Weave4Fun, which I found through Jane the Shuttle Pilot.  This delightful weaver’s sense of humor and a-typical profile give him a great perspective.  His enthusiasm is infectious, too.

Anyway, both of these blogs, not to mention that of good queen Spinninglizzy, Renaissance woman extraordinaire (who has lovingly spruced up two looms, made a place for her Bergman, and is now preparing to spin her own tie-up cord), has been making me think about where I would be with my weaving right now if I hadn’t started this, you know, thing.  With the words.  On the internet.

It’s solipsistic to write about blogging.  So I’ll put it off and respond to some of the interesting things that have been coming up for Deborah as she weaves her first warp.

Interestingly, Deborah’s Bergman is in about the same age bracket as mine and she mentions a lot of the same things I noticed in my first efforts.  Like Deborah, my loom came with a rusty reed.  I started out using only four of the shafts.  I had to make a lot of adjustments, and I had trouble figuring out exactly how those adjustments were affecting my sheds.  I’d run chasing after one problem, and then another would pop up.  And yes: some treadles were just bugaboos!  No matter how much I tweaked things, it was as if one particular treadle was laboring under a curse of messy-sheddedness.  I now have a little better idea how to improve things, but it’s still a problem.  On my recent scarf warp it was the dreaded treadle 9.  I wonder: does anyone else have an unlucky treadle?

I de-rusted my 15 dent reed by running folded up bits of fine sandpaper through every dent, then polishing off the rust dust with bits of flannel, likewise poked through every dent.  I think there might have been some super-fine steel wool involved as well.  It took a long time but it was effective. That was before I’d heard about using Naval Jelly (a rust-removing cleaner), which is what I am going to try next time it needs it.  Or emery boards.  I really liked using emery boards to clean out the slots on my rigid heddle loom.  You can buy a big package quite cheaply.

Moral: Stainless steel was invented for a reason.

Deborah found Leigh’s excellent information on adjusting countermarche sheds.  I came across those entries myself a few months ago.  I’ve been meaning to go back to them.

http://leighsfiberjournal.blogspot.com/2007/07/warping-glimakra-adjusting-shed.html

You can see from Leigh’s pictures why it is more important to get the bottom threads even.  Since your shuttle rests on the bottom threads as you throw it, it’s more likely that it will slide under a sticking-up bottom thread, than that it will catch down a low-hanging top thread.

The sensible way Leigh fixes her sheds–making a list of which shafts are causing the sticking-up threads, and tightening the cords that run from the lamms controlling those shafts to the treadles–doesn’t work quite so well with a Bergman, because there is so little margin for adjustment on the smaller loom.  I remember seeming to move from over-correction to over-correction.  One buttonhole of Texsolv can be (usually is) too much.  I talked about this at length in an earlier post.  These days I can get my sheds to be tolerable if not perfect.

There’s not much more I can add except: make the most of your lamms.  Especially on a Bergman where they are truncated.  Lamms are levers.  You get more leverage (and the capacity to open larger sheds) the farther out your treadles are tied to them: that is to say, if you are using 8 treadles, leave treadles 1 and 2 idle, and tie up treadles 3-10.  And when you need fewer than 8 treadles?  Books will tell you to weave on the exact middle treadles, but I think you can fudge a little.  You don’t want to twist to reach your leg across the center line of your body, but it’s actually okay–for example–to work just two treadles with your left foot, and four with your right.  The nice thing is you can rearrange your tie-up according to your treadling plan so that you’re not overworking either leg too heinously.

Be aware that the reduced leverage on treadles 1 and 2 can really mess you up if you overuse them.  You’ll be tempted to tie them up for tabby (as I did on my recent scarf warp) because with plain weave the smaller sheds produced by treadles 1 and 2 don’t matter so much.  I’ll never do that again!  My left leg had to work so hard on the tabby that I strained my left SI joint.

This isn’t to say treadles 9 and 10 are the best, because they are the farthest from the hinge.  In my experience, although they make for the least effortful lifting and biggest possible sheds, they’re somewhat more finicky to adjust.

Moral: A treadle on the right is worth two on the left.

Now, this will sound bizarre, but another thing that can improve your sheds is to weave on more shafts.  I don’t know why; I think it is partially a matter of distribution of weight/effort.  But a lot of the fits I had with sheds and balance when I was weaving on four shafts just melted away when I started weaving on six and upwards.  One of those Bergman things?

Moral:  More is more.

“Where’s that treadle?  Why is it so skinny?”  I still glance at my feet for the tough ones until really I get in the swing: then I can tell just from looking at the web whether I’ve opened the right shed, which makes me bold enough to trust my muscle memory.  Based on when she was born I would guess Mrs Bergman had dainty feet that had been crammed into narrow boots most of her life.  Bergman treadles are narrow and close.  I treadle in socks, but I plan on getting some leather ballet slippers to stave off plantar fasciitis.  I’ve heard from a couple of weavers who like Acorn house slippers.

Moral: Do not judge a loom until you have treadled a mile in your moccasins.

Deborah has Ann Dixon’s 4-shaft pattern book, which I hear is very good.  She’d also like to find a good book of eight shaft patterns.  Visit her with your recommendations.  Mine would be the Praktisk Vävbok.  The diagrams are so clear, the Swedish text isn’t really a barrier.  I also own Carol Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.  While it’s more diverse (and has some gems) I’m not fond of it; I find the format awkward and unattractive.  Many of the patterns require more than 10 treadles.  Worse, the texts introducing the weave structures are unnecessarily complicated.  I end up understanding less after reading them.  Sharon Alderman’s Mastering Weave Structures is fantastic, if you’d like to comprehend what you’re weaving and maybe start designing your own drafts for as many shafts as you wish.  Though it’s not intended as a pattern book it has quite a few patterns in it.

Moral: A good eight-shaft pattern book is hard to find.

 

mysterious

mysterious

 

My great granny, born in “ought-three,” was a skilled knitter who kept the whole (large) family in Granny Gloves, mittens, and hats–she liked to use the same few patterns over and over; the gloves were particularly nice.  Everyone loved getting them for birthdays.  The familiar squishy bundle always came tied up in beautiful (not re-used!) wrapping paper by yards of curly ribbon, with a greeting card and a roll of lifesavers taped on top.  She didn’t have the patience for sweaters and things when I knew her, though she did once; I remember being sent out to play in the red wool snow suit she’d made for my mom as a tot, circa 1957.  It takes a lot of knitting to make wool soakers (quiz: does anyone else know what these were?) and snow suits for all your grandchildren.

Unfortunately Great Granny thought acrylic yarn was the greatest invention since whipped topping, whipped topping was the greatest invention since instant coffee, and instant coffee was the greatest invention since sliced bread.  (Actually, she often baked her own bread.  She had a miniature loaf pan, and an early memory is the wonder of visiting her house when she had just been baking and being given my OWN loaf of bread to take home, wrapped up in a bread bag.  Her bread tasted like nothing else.  It’s purpose in life was buttered toast, to be eaten by visitors with ancient green tea in her cozy aqua kitchen.  Great Gran made dense white loaves with a “good crumb” that slightly resembled what they used to sell at grocery store bakeries as English Muffin Bread, before they started adding more dough conditioners and sugar to it.  Sigh.)

You get the picture: all that skill went into mittens that pilled horribly, were cold when wet, and could not survive washing without returning to the piles of matted plastic filament from whence they sprang.  My great granny died while I was in my last year of college, so I was spared seeing her decline.  Also, since I’m six years older than my half-siblings, I have more memories of her when she was energetic enough to bake bread.  She knitted to the end.  She started a new pair of Granny Gloves just before she died.

Her stash had a lot of acrylic yarn but only a few odds and ends of wool, mostly from the first half of the 20th century.  Granny separated out the wool when she cleared Great Granny’s house: there was a little tapestry yarn, a couple of full skeins of sport weight, and maybe a dozen partial skeins of other stuff.  She gave it to me when I got my loom.  Most of it is not very pretty, and not enough to dress my countermarche, but I’d really like to use it.  It’s one of the things I had in mind when I bought the Spear’s.

So, here is my first finished rigid heddle project.  I’m not a fan of pink.  On the loom, I kept noticing that it looked like tire tracks with skid marks:

That is why I call this scarf. . .

 

Road Rage in the Barbie SUV

Road Rage in the Barbie SUV

 

Warp:  98 ends combined of a) anonymous eraser pink wool baby yarn and b) subtly variegated periwinkle synthetic-and-mohair blend I picked out and asked Great Granny to knit into an a ice-cream-cone hat (it’s the cowlick hat seen in the first section of Stitchy McYarnpants’ book; a Gr. Granny standard) when I was about 11.  This is a slippery, INCREDIBLY hairy yarn that I now realize must have tortured her.  The hat was too big because she wasn’t used to knitting anything but acrylic, and wasn’t able adjust the pattern properly for the yarn.  I don’t have the hat anymore.  It itched my ears.  I didn’t realize how much sacrificial love went into it.

Weft: eraser pink baby yarn.

Heddle: 9-10 epi

Weaving Width: 9 3/4″

Finished Width: 8 1/2″

Weaving Length (excluding fringes): 45″

Finished Length (excuding fringes): 43″

Finishing: Hot hand wash with lots of agitation and 10 minute soak.  Air dry.  Brushed the mohair stripes a little.

Fringe:  3″  Four strand round braids secured with guided half-hitches.

Mistakes:  Many, but weave is too open to bother with repairs.  They’d show more than the mistakes do.

Conclusions:  I should put tiered blocks on this loom.  Holding the heddle in the up position at arm’s length puts too much stress on my neck.  When, as here, a heddle has wires with eyelets instead of slats you can use thicker yarns for the heddle size, which is nice; but the wires easily become bent which causes visible tracking(?) in the cloth.  The weaving goes quickly (well it would; I went from weaving 23 ppi to weaving 6 ppi!), but it’s hard to notice your mistakes because you weave at pretty low tension and the widely spaced warp threads confuse your eyes.  Weaving on a floor loom is a lot easier and produces more consistent cloth.  Even so, the ease of slapping a warp on the Spear’s and being able to use up all those nasty little bits of yarn make rigid heddle weaving quite compelling to an impressionable child-of-a-child-of-a-Depression-era-child like me.  I even considered saving the 4 inch thrums of 70-year-old yarn for a minute.  Shame!  Shame!