Handspun dyed roving explorations on the Zoom Loom

Just about every time I finish sampling dyed roving or top and knit a swatch, I wonder what it would look like woven.

This week I finally gave in to my curiosity. I spun some divine Shetland from Into the Whirled, colorway: Element Number Five into a singles yarn and a 2-ply yarn. Then I knit a swatch and wove swatches on my Zoom Loom. It made my head explode a little with ideas and more questions. I think this bit of swatching has started a new fascination with weaving variegated fiber.

I started with the singles yarn first. The yarn, as a variegated singles, has long color runs, not broken by marling with another ply. I knew what would happen with knitting, but I had no idea what weaving would look like.

2-singles-yarn

I knit a swatch in stockinette and it made wonderful clear stripes, just as I expected. But when I wove the yarn on the Zoom Loom it was something else entirely. First, I was frustrated because the colors didn’t change much in a single square. Truthfully, I almost abandoned the experiment. But instead, I wove two more swatches. I just tossed the Zoom Loom in my bag and carried it around on waiting errands for a couple of days, and poof, the squares were done. The colors didn’t change much in a single square, but they change and flow between squares. When I put the squares in order, I said “uh oh” out loud because I knew that I was standing on the edge of a new rabbit hole.

3-knit-woven-singles

I can see in the woven swatches, looking top to bottom, how the yarn went from light blue (with a single hit of blue-purple), to light blue, purple, dark pink and even some dark orange in the middle, to light blue and purple in the third. I didn’t pay attention while I was winding on the loom or weaving how I was laying down the colors. Next time I would photograph every layer through the winding on and weaving process, so I could better follow what the color is doing. I really want to weave through a whole 4 ounces of singles and make something with my squares that show the progression. Then of course I would add a little bit of knitted fabric too, as a textural and chromatic counterpoint.

I managed to pull myself away from the weaving with singles rabbit hole to knit and weave with 2-ply yarn. I spun the fiber randomly with no planning, so it matches in some spots and marls in others.

With the 2-ply I was surprised to see that the knitting and weaving look similar-ish in their swatches. The weaving is more speckled due to how the cloth is made, but it is a great complement to the knitted cloth, I really like how they look together. My head is dreaming up a pattern or two for this combination.

4-2-ply-woven-and-knit

I find it interesting that the swatches woven on the Zoom Loom don’t stripe because of the combination of layers and longer color runs, even in the two ply, when the colors are much shorter. If I want to play with the striping of handspun, variegated yarn, I’ll have to turn to my Cricket loom. Uh oh.

Still curious about spinning and knitting dyed roving and top?  My new book Yarnitecture: The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want has a lot of tip and ideas to explore.

Ask for Jillian’s new book, Yarnitecture: The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want, published by Storey Publishing (2016), at your favorite fiber supplier. It’s a terrific resource that will bring a new dimension to your yarn spinning

Jillian Moreno is the editor of Knittyspin and is on the editorial board of PLY Magazine. She frequently contributes to Spin-Off and PLY magazines and teaches all over North America. Be warned, she is a morning person and frequently breaks into song before 9 am. You can keep up with her fibery exploits at www.jillianmoreno.com.

yarnitecture

Win a copy of Yarnitecture!

Head over to Instagram between December 15th and 30th, and post a picture of your Schacht wheel or drop spindle and tell us why you want the Yarnitecture Book. Tag your post with #schachtgiveaway to be entered to win a copy. Winner will be announce on Instagram on January 2nd.

Jillian Moreno

From Fiber to Finished Object – Lesson Time

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth:

Finally! The skirt, she is finished.

Since we last talked, I sent my sewn-together skirt from Michigan to Maine to the expert dyeing fingers of Amy King, owner of Spunky Eclectic. We chatted about color and what I would like and, to everyone’s surprise, I chose neither pink nor orange. Instead, it was chocolate brown. I do love chocolate.

I actually sent the skirt just when the six main pieces were assembled, before lining or hemming I was interested in how the fabric would hold up with raw edges and another dip and wring before completing the project. If I saw any changes in the fabric after dyeing, I would know that my finishing would have been incomplete and the fulling should have been longer. I was thrilled, though, that the fabric held together with a minimum of fraying. It also held its shape extremely well, no sagging or stretching. Everything was fine!

So here she is:

 

Dyed and Finished Skirt

This was a great project that was filled with a lot of discoveries, and some things that were harder than I thought they would be.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Making skirts takes a ton of yarn – but it hasn’t stopped me from making more.
  2. Finished handwoven fabric, specifically wool, stands up to some tough processes, like dyeing.
  3. Weaving fine yarns on a rigid heddle loom takes some time.
  4. Rigid heddle fabric is just as beautiful, durable, and drapey as fabric woven on a floor loom.

What I would do differently next time:

  1. I would wind my warp chains with fewer ends in each. (Remember I couldn’t do direct warping because my warp was 6 yards long.)
  2. I would realize that rigid heddle weaving is a bit slower than on a floor loom and be less frustrated with the time it took. (I think in the end it was about twice as long on the rigid heddle if we compare the same yardage.)

Overall, I have been encouraged to continue weaving cloth with fine yarns for clothing, and I have a bunch of new ideas. If you want to follow along with my progress on these new ideas you can check me out on my personal website at bethsmithspinning.com/blog

Jillian:

Today it’s time for the big reveal!

When last we checked in, I had cut and edge-stitched my fabric and did some preliminary hand stitching to hold it all together.

Since then I’ve embroidered more and thought about what my next project will be!

I embroidered some swoopy bits on the edges in chain stitch. I like how the work with the stitching that holds the piece together.

Chain Stitch Swoops

I listened the Woolful podcast interview with Tif Fussell (Dottie Angel) and was inspired to add one of her signature embroidered wooly tattoos to my piece.

wooly tattoo

I still may add more stitching to it. I consider everything I stitch on to be a work in progress pretty much forever. It’s really easy to stitch on hand woven cloth.

But I like how the stitching looks right now, too.

all the stitching

I’ve worn my wrap a lot – it’s cozy and handsfree, adjusting-wise, once I get it on.

Here’s how it looks with the twist in the front and in the back, I like it equally both ways.

 

What I learned from this project:

  • I can cut handwoven fabric and not die; it is as easy as everyone says.
  • Handspun yarn is amazing handwoven; my BFL woven is soft, light, and fluid.
  • I really like rigid heddle weaving and want to do more; it’s so straight-forward and the math is pretty easy.

What I’ll do differently next time:

  • Sample. I threw caution to the wind this time, but next time I’m going to sample. I’ll make sure that I have enough fiber to do at least 2 or 3 samples before diving into the project.
  • Neater edges. The edges really bug me. I’ll probably hem the fabric or use rows of zig zag stitch close together
  • More embroidery, though I’ll probably add more to this one still.

What I’m curious about now:

  • How to sample efficiently, so I get the info I need and don’t spend all of my weaving time or hand dyed fiber on the sampling.
  • Using different- sized and textured yarns in weaving.
  • Color in weaving, particularly using variegated hand-dyed fiber. My stash is overrun with it.
  • Making more of these type of wraps, but maybe something that resembles a jacket too.

I want to say a huge thank you to Schacht for letting Beth and I play on their blog. To Benjamin for being so enthusiastic and dream to work with. To Jane for saying yes to the idea and always being such a champion of creative hand weaving.

And to Beth for never letting me sit with the covers over my head for too long when I was chicken to do something.

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Projects Abound

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth:

The fabric is off the loom; finished and trimmed, but there is still some work to do to make a skirt.

I made a pattern for a six-gore skirt. I chose six gores because I used a 15″-wide loom. I knew the fabric would shrink and estimated that the finished fabric would be about 13 inches wide. This may seem opposite of what may have been the safe way of proceeding: finishing the fabric and then making the pattern. However, since I had made a sample and finished it before, I had enough information to continue weaving my yardage.

I only needed one pattern piece because all six gores would be identical for this skirt. I took that piece, beginning at one end of the fabric, pinned it down and traced it with tailor’s chalk. I traced every gore before cutting just to make sure that everything would fit. Luckily I still had about 12 inches left of excess fabric!

columbia skirt rh cut

Once everything was cut, I went to the sewing machine and sewed each piece together, remembering to leave an adequate opening on one side of the skirt for the zipper.

Columbia skirt sewing

Before I added the zipper I tried the skirt on my own body and then I put it on the dress form and let it sit there overnight. This would allow the fabric to move around if it wanted to.

Next I cut and sewed the lining in the same way I sewed the body of the skirt. I wanted to line it for several reasons. First, most high-quality clothing is lined, and since I had spun, woven, and sewed this myself I am considering it couture! In addition, I decided to not have a waist band for this project. Adding a lining would allow that top edge to be finished.

columbia skirt no lining

And finally comes the zipper and the hem.

columbia skirt zipper

You might think this skirt is finished now but it isn’t. Even though I love to spin and weave with white, I really like color in my wardrobe. The plan is to send this skirt to Amy King, the owner of Spunky Eclectic, in Maine. She will put her expert dyeing hands to work to make this skirt extra special.

I’m not showing you the fully finished skirt yet, so stay tuned for the beautiful modeling of this project.

 

Jillian:

Wow-wee I am almost done!

What I did for this round wasn’t time consuming or even a big deal, if you’re Beth, but it scared the snot out of me. Scissors + handwoven cloth = the heebie-jeebies. I also sewed my cloth with a machine.

I am a big baby when it comes to cutting and sewing handwoven cloth. I don’t even like to trim my fringe.

To make my mobius wrap I have to finish my ends and sew them together somehow. I had a few choices to think about while I finished my edges.

1 sewing

I knew I wasn’t going to get perfectly smooth and even ends without a serger, so I let that little glimmer of perfectionism go right away. I sewed one line of stitches last time on my dying Singer. I got paranoid that that single line of sewing wasn’t going to hold, so I added two more lines of stitching on each side, close to the first line.

2 lines

Yes, I sew really crookedly, which is one of the reasons I don’t quilt or make my own clothes. The other is that I can’t cut a straight line to save my life. You’ll see in a second. I sewed my lines and then I had to trim my cloth close to the stitches: the cutting part. I put my cloth in the brightest light I could find and checked at least three times that it wasn’t doubled over in any spots, then cut.

3 cutting

I cut the fabric on both ends as close to the sewn lines as I could without cutting through them. Success! They are not entirely straight lines, but still success.

4 cut edges

Then came the decorative stitching. I wasn’t worried about this as much, but since I was using my weft yarn, I knew the stitch I chose had to be simple, because the yarn is pretty big. I did some thinking and looking through books and decided that I wanted to use an insertion stitch .

Insertion stitches are used to hold two edges of cloth together, sometimes with a space between them. I tried five different stitches before going back to the plainest one. The yarn was too big for anything fancy, because instead of fancy I was getting clumpy. I used a stitch called Twisted Insertion Stitch by Mary Thomas and Twisted Faggoting Stitch by Elizabeth Glasier Foster in Embroidery and Design in the New Stitchery (1926).

5 books

Again I used a lot of light and a wooden lap desk to separate the layers of cloth.  I twisted my fabric, so it would be a mobius when stitched together and stitched it, pulled it out, stitched it, messed with the spacing and tension, and called it done.

6 stitching done

I think it came out good, but not great. I love the twisted side, but the stitched side needs more.

7 twist

I want more stitching, more embellishing. I’m going back to my embroidery books to make a plan for what to add.

One of the great things about working with variegated yarn is having so many colors to choose from when I use it for embroidery.

8 yarn

This is what I have left and I know I can really add to the wrap with just a bit of stitching here and there. Next time you can see it my embellishing and see me wearing my wrap.

Part Six

Part Eight

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Finishing the Cloth

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth:

This week I took my cloth off the loom and finished it.

I learned something that I knew in my head but had to experience for myself. Weaving on a rigid heddle loom takes a bit of time if you are making a lot of yardage with fine yarn; the floor loom is much faster. Probably 3 times faster. That includes winding, threading, and weaving. This whole weaving took me about 5 weeks total – not including the spinning, which was about a week for the full 4,000 yards. That includes several days where I wove for more than 6 hours in a day. So if you are thinking about doing a project like this, plan on a good 3 months of focus from start to finish. However, the rigid heddle loom is a fine alternative to a floor loom if you don’t have the space or budget for one. My selvedges are pretty even, the tension was good and the fabric turned out beautifully.

After I came to the end – that’s where the warp won’t advance anymore and you can no longer get the shuttle through the shed – I cut the fabric off and took it to the sewing machine so I could zig zag the edges so the threads wouldn’t ravel in the washer.

schacht drying (5)

After the sewing the ends of the fabric, I went back to my comfy chair to sew in any ends that needed to be secured or fix any holes that occurred due to fixing broken threads. Only 3 threads broke throughout the weaving. During weaving, I fixed these with a knot tied to the broken thread and the end of the new yarn wrapped around a t-pin. Broken threads used to terrify me, but I’m getting pretty good at them now. With the fabric off the loom, I used a sharp darning needle and just wove in the ends for about an inch. I let the ends hang there until after the fabric was finished. At this point I trimmed all the threads even with the fabric surface.

schacht drying (2)

Off I went to the (top-loading) washing machine. I filled it with HOT water and a tiny bit of soap. For this type of fabric, I like to use Soak wash because the fabric doesn’t require rinsing–and because its easy. I let the fabric soak for at least 15 minutes and then I turned on the agitation for 5 minutes. I then checked the fabric, making sure that the fabric was cohesive. Everything looked good so I spun it out in the washer. I then placed the fabric in the dryer, this time for 10 minutes.

schacht drying (4)

I removed the still-damp fabric from the dryer and then I used the iron and pressed it under a cloth on the highest setting. This takes out any wrinkles or bends. You don’t want the wrinkles to dry into it or, according to Sara Lamb, you are stuck with them forever.

schacht drying (3)

After pressing, I hung the yardage over a hanger and let it dry the rest of the way.

schacht drying (1)

Next I’m going to chop it all up and make it be a skirt. Keep watching!

Jillian:

I finished my cloth this week. It really shouldn’t have taken as long as it did, but I kept squeezing in other projects. To finish I set myself up in front of the TV and watched selected episodes from the first season of Outlander. I may have dreamed about weaving a tartan. I may have thought about other, less weaverly things too.

I was grateful to have discovered the arcing style of laying in weft early in my practice weaving. Every time I noticed my selvedge edges pulling in, I added more arc to my weft and they smoothed right out.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled my cloth off of the loom…well, right after swinging the cloth over my head and doing a little victory dance… is that I miss a lot of threads when I weave.

1 float

I took a peek into Liz Gipson’s Weaving Made Easy and found an easy fix. Using some matching weft yarn and for a couple of inches in either direction follow the path of the weft thread with the skip, right next to it and work the correct under or over at the mistake spot.

2 needle fix

I did some corrections above and some below the thread with the mistake and it didn’t seem to make a difference which side I did the correction on. I could see the double threads, but it really did help the skipped thread recede.

3 fixing threads 1

Because I’m going to sew the end of my cloth together to make a mobius, I stitched a straight line close to both ends using my sewing machine. I was going to use a zig-zag stitch, but my machine had other ideas and just sewed straight while overheating. It was $20 at a garage sale about six years ago, I’m glad it made it through these last two stitched lines! Maybe Santa will bring me a new sewing machine.

4 stitched line

After stitching my edges, I finished my cloth. That’s a simple sentence but it created such anxiety in my little maker heart. I spun the yarn and wove this cloth, and I was fully aware I could totally screw it up in the finishing. Should I finish it in the sink or in the washing machine? I had an idea that I wanted to finish it in the sink with a hot water soak. I wanted the threads to pull in just a little, for the most drape, and I thought that a machine even on a delicate cycle would do more than that.

I did an experiment first. I took my practice weaving, which I wove using superwash merino yarn, and ran it through the washer on delicate and low dry in the dryer. I am not a huge fan of superwash yarn. I think it feels limp and not quite right, like the life has been stripped out of it. My woven cloth came out fine — not too stiff and really fluffy.

5 sw cloth

The fringe I tied at the ends was another story. Remember the groundhog that lives under my deck? My fringe looked like he had special Outlander-inspired frolicking times with my fringe.

6 fringe sw

Because the yarn was superwash the ends came completely untwisted and frayed. My original idea to do a soft finish to my handspun cloth was cemented.

I soaked my cloth in tap-hot water with a drop of SOAK Wash for 30 minutes. I rolled it in a towel and hung it near my fireplace to dry. Now I can’t quit petting it. It’s drapey and Blue Faced Leicester silky. The warp and weft pulled in just slightly and the yarns plumped. The result is spectacular, better than I had hoped.

7 finished cloth

The play of the color is another thing that worked beyond my plan, which was to throw it at the wall and see what sticks. The two colorways I chose worked really well together. The warp was mostly red with some orange and the weft ran between a sage green, orange and dark blue-green. I really like that I can see the color changes in the weft. I can already feel a bunch of color experiments gathering in my brain.

8 cloth color

The cloth I made also passed my favorite test: the one where I leave it sitting on my dining room table and see how many people touch it and comment. A lot of people touched this one. Even my mostly wool-allergic husband touched it. Other people stroked it, squished it, flung it around their neck, and generally cooed over it.

I can’t wait to put this shawl together. There will be hand stitching and maybe even some embroidery, but that’s for next time!

Part Five

Part Seven

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Dispatches from the Loom

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth:

I’m deep in the weaving of the yardage. Deep. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through, but the fabric is beautiful. Beautiful enough that I am encouraged to continue on. I am in no way saying that everybody will want to weave 6 yards of white fabric. If that sounds like too much for you, please add color. But I have a long and delightful relationship with white.

Fabric on the front beam

I’ve learned a lot, too. 

First, I’ve learned that with a sticky yarn, tighter tension is better. This yarn is sticky because it is woolen spun, so there are lots of little bits that stick out. That means when the sheds are changing, the warp yarns get stuck on each other. Tight tension allows the threads to move past each other more easily.

You might be saying, “But Beth, you talked in the last post about how the threads have lower twist in the singles and the ply! How can you tighten the tension so much?” Well, let me tell you. You can. Think about a piece of paper. You can rip one piece very easily. If, however, you take a stack of 200 pages you can’t rip it. Works the same way with yarn. The tension is distributed over the whole warp width and so even though I can easily break one thread with my hands, I can tighten the tension with no breakage.

Second, I learned the benefit of advancing the warp more often. The main reason for this is that on the rigid heddle loom, one set of threads stays stationary and one is moved up and down. The ones moving up and down are being stretched. As you weave more and more and don’t advance, those threads are getting stretched even more because a shorter length of yarn has to go into the up and down shed. To avoid stretching them excessively I advance every 2 inches or so.

Third, the Schacht Flip is superior to other rigid heddles with the double heddle option. Because the second heddle spot is built in, everything is in the proper position when you change sheds. Because the rear heddle sits a bit higher than the front heddle, everything is in line. With another brand that I used, the open shed isn’t as clean in front of the reed as it is with the Schacht. Any messiness is behind, as you can see from the photo.

Open shed on Flip loom

Of course with this much yardage to weave I need to spend a lot of time doing it. And there can be issues with that since it is less portable than say, knitting a sock. Regardless, I’ve been making it work. In October I had a 2-week trip and it just went along with me. This would not be possible with my floor loom, so a rigid heddle loom, especially one that folds like the Flip is a great for traveling.

Loom in the car

When I’m home, I just make sure I do some weaving every day. It takes me about an hour to weave 6 inches, so I need to keep at it.

One more tip: Make sure to give your yarn a bit of an angle with each throw of the shuttle. The weft yarn will be longer than the warp width when you go to beat it in, but because of the up-and-down movement around each warp thread, you need that extra length.

Diagonal weft

And just so you know…I’m doing an even weave for this fabric. I have 20 ends per inch and so I am matching that with 20 picks per inch. What I’ve decided is that I would want to try this fabric again with the warp sett even closer and see what would happen if I weave a warp faced fabric. I have a tendency to start asking questions during a project that lead to even more experiments. I’ll keep you updated with the results.

 

Jillian:

Finally it’s time to weave! Well, after I get the loom warped.

I’m really glad I did a test weave before I tackled this main project. I learned quite a bit, just getting something on and off the loom without being worried about the outcome.

I wound all of my yarn into cakes before warping, I knew I didn’t want to warp from yarn on a swift. It was too tangly when I tried that with my scarf.

While I wound my yarn I remeasured the wpi on all three yarns and got 9 pretty consistently, a little big for a 8 epi sett.  As I wound, I pondered my wrap-to-be, I really wanted it drapey and I read on a few weaving blogs that for plain weave, your sett should be ½ (ish) of wpi, so I decided to change my sett from 8 epi to 5 epi.

I know, I live on the wild side.

Even Beat

 

I redid my warp and weft math. I knew I had enough, that my yarn totals would be less going with a smaller sett, but I wanted to see it in black and white. My new totals are 163 yards for warp (down from 261) and 140 yards for weft (down from 224). I kept everything else the same: finished size of 12”x 60”, 12” for loom waste, 10% for take up and 10% for draw in; I just changed the sett from 8 to 5.

That my wrap will use less yarn made me happier from a color standpoint. I have three yarns, one primarily red, one primarily orange and one dark purple. Using less yardage overall means I won’t have to dip so heavily into the dark purple yarn that will dampen the rest of the colors.

Three skeins of yarn

I used the direct method of warping, the same as my practice weaving. I did remember to turn my loom the right way this time! I like warping this way; it’s quick and easy. It does take up space, but I took the dining room table hostage for an evening.  Threading 5 epi is fantastically quick and I ended up making my wrap a little wider than I originally planned; I threaded 14” instead of 12”. This is exactly why I need to think in terms of “ish” — I like to change my plans on the go.

warp set up

When I started weaving I remembered what I learned about placement of weft yarn and selvedges. For me, my selvedges stay more even if I place my yarn in an arc rather than a diagonal. I’m not sure why, but the difference in my practice piece was dramatic so I made sure to do it this way.

placing weft

I am really happy that I can cart my Cricket around from room to room; I worked at the dining room table, on my lap and using the stand. I have extra love for weaving on the stand because the height of the loom is close to the height of the orifice on my Matchless, so my favorite spinning chair is perfect to use for weaving too.

Stand height

Ready for my hot tip and my lemonade-from-lemons moment? I realized that weaving 5 weft threads to the inch was trickier than I thought because of the need for more precise spacing and the need to pay attention. However, I cut my index finger to the bone this week in the kitchen (don’t ask, it was monumentally stupid) – an injury that required 7 stitches and a fat band aid. To help myself maintain my weft spacing, I marked 5 evenly spaced lines over an inch on my band aid and used it to check my warp threads. Perfectly lazy/genius, my favorite type of trick!

making lemons into lemonade

Part Four

Part Six

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Spinning to Weave

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth

Now that you’ve seen the sampling I did, how about some detail about the yarn? It’s important to sample your yarns and even make samples of different yarn that you make in order to be sure that it’s going to work. By work, I mean is it making the fabric you want? Does it drape well if drape is what you want? Does it stand up to abrasion if hard wearing is what you want? Is it soft enough if soft is what you want? Sampling is the key. Taking your newly woven fabric all the way to a finished fabric is important because that sample, right as it comes off the loom is not the finished fabric.

Columbia Yarn

 

But I’m getting off the real topic of this post…

For this project I was really interested in whether the yarn would have to be spun in any special way for weaving. So many times I’ve read that it’s important to add extra twist when spinning yarn for warp. But then Sara Lamb came right out and told me that that’s a bunch of hooey. So, who was right: the whole entire internet? Or Sara Lamb, who actually spins for weaving all the time?

So, I decided to spin a low twist woolen yarn. I know! Low twist AND woolen. Let’s look at the yarn.

The plied yarn ended up to be about 18 wraps per inch with about 5 twists per inch. That is very low twist for this particular wool though the yarn is balanced.

Sample yarn from Beth

Check out how the yarn blooms. The photo below is of my sample card that I made at the very beginning of my spinning. It allows me to compare the singles I’m making with the singles on the card to make sure I’m staying pretty consistent over the entire project. I also add plied yarns to the card so that when it is time to ply, I have a sample of fresh yarn plied back on itself. That way I can use the ply twist as a reference.

Sample card for Columbia yarn

The great thing about all of this experimenting was that I found out that Sara Lamb is right. But she already knew that. Once I put this low twist woolen spun (supported long draw) yarn on the loom, it all worked out.

Jillian

When I spin yarn for a particular project I always walk myself through the “Big 5” – the 5 things that affect my finished yarn: fiber, preparation, draft, ply, and finish. Each one of these elements of building a yarn influences how a yarn looks and behaves when it’s finished and used.

Most of my spinning-for-a-project experience comes from knitting, but a lot of that thinking translates well to weaving too. The project I am making is a mobius wrap. I want it to be warm, have some drape, and be woven from a worsted-size yarn.

Here’s how my brain worked through the Big 5 for this:

Woolgatherings fiber

Fiber – I chose wool for warmth and, in particular, BFL for its durability and drape. Plus, it’s an easy quick spin for me.

Preparation – I’m using top because that’s what was available in the colors I liked. I also like how colors look more saturated on top.

Draft – Woolen draft for this project to add air to the top and the BFL, and at a wpi that will finish to a worsted weight 2-ply.

Ply – 2-plied to balance, and maybe a little under. 2-ply is better than a single for durability and to mix up the colors. A little underplied for lightness and drape.  In the photo below, my ply-back sample is on the right and my plied sample is on the left.

Ply back and ply sample

Finish – I whacked my yarns to bring up loft and fuzz and to make them as plump as they wanted to be. The yarn on the top is unfinished and the bottom yarn is soaked in hot water and whacked enough to scare the neighbors.

Before and After finishing the 2-ply yarn

Here are my yarn stats:

Red yarn: 159 yards

Orange yarn: 179 yards

Green yarn: 178 yards

Finished WPI 8-10

485 yards total needed (261 yards warp, 224 yards weft)

I have 516 yards, so I’m good!

Finished yarns

I also want my project to be colorful. That’s a branch of thinking I keep separate from the Big 5, because it’s so big  and varied on its own! For this project I’m using three different variegated tops, all dyed by the same dyer, Woolgatherings. They are variegated but not dyed in any particular repeating pattern, and the three have some color commonality. I do not have a plan for how I’ll use the colors; I’ll figure it out as I warp. Maybe that is a mistake, but I’m pleading blissful ignorance on this first project.

So now on to warping and weaving. All of my calculations are based on a sett of 8 epi, but now I’m considering using 5. I want drape, and I know that the fibers of the BFL will hold nicely even at a sett of 5. Or I could use a sett of 8 and beat it lighter. What will I do? That’s for the next blog post!

Update: I have finished weaving my remembering-to-weave scarf. I can’t bring myself to throw it in the washer yet, but I will. I was so happy with how it all got easier once I quit thinking so hard about it, and quit trying to make rigid heddle weaving like floor loom weaving. Here a quick prefinishing photo:

Woven Scarf sample

Part Three

Part Five

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

The Weaver and the Groundhog

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beth

This week is all about sampling on the loom. I know. It sounds hard, and frankly it’s what kept me from weaving anything more serious than a scarf for years. But, I have had knitting projects that were a disaster because I didn’t knit a swatch. And I tell my students how important it is to sample for the yarn they are spinning–all the way through a finished fabric–to make sure the yarn is going to work for its intended purpose. Heck, I wrote a whole book about sampling! It’s called The Spinner’s Book of Fleece. So, I decided that I would stop being a baby and learn how to sample on a loom.

It is true that when you are sampling for weaving it will take a bit more yarn than a knitted or crocheted swatch. And yes, if you are spinning for weaving, the yarn feels that much more precious. However, I’d rather spin a few extra hundred yards and know that my fabric will work, than spin a thousand yards or more that never see the light of day because the fabric failured.

So, I started with what I know. I know that generally, if you want a balanced plain weave, you take the wraps per inch (wpi) and divide by two to get the ends per inch (epi). My yarn had about 18 wpi, so according to this formula, I would sett it at 9 epi. The thing is, I want to make a skirt, and I had made a few samples a couple of years ago when I started to think about this project. I made three samples at that time. One sample was sett at 10 epi, one at 12 epi and one at 15 epi. None of the samples were right. None of them were woven tightly enough to make a skirt that was going to be stretched and twisted and sat on.

First skirt samples

Since I knew all of that, I decided to sett this sample at 20 epi and see how things worked out. I was worried that the fabric might be too stiff, but I went ahead. I could always make more yarn and try again. So I put a yard of warp on the loom and I made a sample the full 15″ on my Flip Loom. I wanted to be able to see how the fabric would drape, so a large sample was important. (Remember that all of the rules about sett are just guidelines.) It’s sort of like the gauge that is listed on a yarn ball. You can do whatever is best for your project.

Twenty epi on a rigid heddle loom requires two 10-dent heddles and some fancy warping that you can find in The Weaver’s Idea Book by Jane Patrick. It took me a little bit to figure it out but once I had threaded the first inch I was on a roll.

Since I was weaving a plain weave fabric, both heddles were moved to the same position each time I needed to change the shed. (There are some weave structures, like twill, where you move the heddles independently of each other.)

columbia rigid heddle weaving

After I wove the fabric with about the same number of picks per inch as I had ends per inch, I removed the fabric from the loom and zigzagged along the cut edges so the fabric wouldn’t ravel. I finished the fabric according to the finishing instructions in Spin to Weave by Sara Lamb. First, I threw the sample in very hot water in the washing machine and let it soak for 20 minutes. Then, I turned the machine on and let it agitate for 5 minutes. I began checking the sample every minute until the fabric seemed to be sufficiently fulled. I wasn’t going for felted fabric, but I did want the yarns to settle in together. After a full ten minutes of agitation, I was happy with the fabric. I spun the water out in the machine and then threw it in the dryer. I know! It’s wool! But I did it anyway because Sara said so. I left it in there for about 10 minutes. At this point it wasn’t completely dry but it was fluffed up. I then pressed fabric with a press cloth. I know! I put a hot iron on wool. I didn’t move the iron back and forth, rather I would put it down in a spot then lifted it up, and the put it at the next spot. This took away any wrinkles and dried the fabric more. I laid it flat until it was completely dry.

Columbia rigid heddle fabric

At this point I made my decision that I was happy with the fabric and I would stick with 20 epi for the actual skirt weaving.

Since I was happy, it was time to finish spinning the rest of the yarn I would need. We’ll talk about that next time.

Jillian

This week for me was all about remembering how to weave. I’ve spun my warp yarns for my mobius and thought about just jumping in and warping the loom with those, but I had a tickly feeling that my weaving skills were more than a bit rusty.

In the end, I decided to do a dry run with commercial yarn and boy am I glad I did.

I grabbed two skeins of DK superwash merino from Fiberstory that I’ve been hoarding. The darker (Milo) would be used for the warp and the reddish (October), I would use for weft. I’ll do a scarf, I thought, it’ll be quick, I thought. Snort.

Fiberstory yarn

First came the warping of the Cricket. I was too lazy to wind my yarn into a cake so I warped off of a skein winder. It was a lovely fall day and I worked on my back deck. It was breezy, lovely to stand around in, but not so great when the breeze constantly wraps your yarn around the swift, stopping it dead. There was grumbling and words not fit for this blog.

Warping off a swift

I finished warping the loom and wound my yarn around the, back beam, wait, no, I wound it onto the front beam! I warped my loom backwards! Holy cats, I looked at all of the pictures, I even had extra tea, my brain should have been working better! More words were muttered, but I wound my warp through to the back beam and re-tied the loom the right way.

Warped Backwards

If I had been using my handspun for this I would have been sweating buckets. This is my first ever handspun-for-warp project, so I’m feeling a little precious about my warp-to-be yarn.

Handspun warp

I finished threading the loom with no problems and then started weaving. I decided to use the leftover Milo color for thin stripes in the weft between the thicker stripes of October, just to see how the colors played out with a matching and a contrasting variegated yarn. I wove some in the afternoon and some at night while I watched TV. (Quantico, if you must know. Don’t judge.) It went well, at least until I looked at it in the morning.

My loom looked like the groundhog that lives under my deck snuck in and did my weaving. My edges were ragged, both too loose and too tight. I had threads I didn’t catch, so there are floats on top. The saddest part was I was looking right at my weaving while I worked because I was focused on the spacing of the weft threads.

Weaving woes

I went to my books and read about selvedges. When I wove before I always angled my warp threads in a big diagonal, but now I tried putting them in as more of an arc.

I watched both my weft spacing and my selvedges, looking at the bigger weaving picture. I also had that sad talk with myself, “Woman, you are 52 years old, you cannot weave a dark warp with dark weft in a dark room. You need extra light”. Sad, but true.

6 better selvedge

It all smoothed out with light and patience and few tricks from the weaving books. I’m running away this weekend for cabin and movie time with a bunch of other crafty women. I’ll be finishing this scarf up and putting on my precious handspun warp. We’ll see what mischief happens this time. Maybe the groundhog is a better weaver?

 

 

Part Two

Part Four

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Sampling: the Long and Short of it

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth

This week we’re talking about sampling our fiber to get the yarn we want for our project.

When this rigid heddle weaving project came along I decided to make it an extension of the floor loom project – I thought it might be fun to make two skirts out of the same yarn on two different looms and compare the resulting fabrics. I had already started spinning Columbia wool from Imperial Stock Ranch. Since the prepared fiber was roving I was spinning it with a supported long draw. Since I was going to spin a LOT of this yarn, I made a sample card (the usual thing I do when I spin many, many bobbins of a yarn).

On the sample card I write all of the details about making that yarn: spinning wheel used, whorl, drafting method, and any other information that will help me reproduce the yarn over a long period of time. In addition, I wrap some singles around the card so that I can compare from time to time while I’m spinning. I also add plybacks: a 2-ply sample and a 3-ply sample. Although I know I want a 2-ply yarn for this project, I like to add a 3-ply sample in case I ever want to match this 3-ply for a future project. The card becomes part of my record library when I’ve finished the project. The plyback samples give me a starting point when I begin the plying process. I can compare the angle of twist and increase or decrease it depending on what I want the yarn to do.

Sample Card

For this project I’m going to try to match my plyback. I don’t feel that I need to add more twist to the ply to strengthen the yarn for weaving. I’m confident that it’ll hold up for weaving (another goal of this project is to show that most handspun yarn is not as delicate as some people are convinced it is).

I had already spun and plied 3,000 yards of 2-ply yarn, yielding about 18 wraps per inch. Here are my calculations for the warp:

  • Pattern length: 30″ x 6 gores [ed: skirt panels] = 180″
  • Plus 30″ for sampling and loom waste = 210″ or 5.83 yards. I rounded up to 6 yards to be safe.
  • Ends per inch: 20 x 15″ warp width = 300 ends.
  • 300 ends x 6 yards = 1800 yards. (Wow!!)

I’m going to try for a balanced weave, so I’ll need approximately the same amount for weft. I’m going to round up a little to 2000 yards to cover any unforeseen needs. So, for both warp and weft I’ll need 3800 yards for this project, to which I’m going round up a little bit more for a total of 4000 yards. (You do not want to run out of yarn in the middle of weaving!) When determining and rounding up my yardage, I keep in mind that I usually experience about 10% shrinkage when spinning a fine wool.

Columbia Yarn

Columbia is a soft, bouncy wool, which I chose because I wanted a cohesive fabric that would easily come together in the finishing. I also was a little afraid of working with a slippery fiber since this is the first time I am cutting my handspun, handwoven fabric. (I want to be sure, for this first step into a new land, that I’ll be successful, at least in the cutting part.) The fiber has some neps in it and those neps combined with the spinning technique make for a somewhat inconsistent yarn. This inconsistency will also be interesting in the fabric. Will it disappear? Will it make some interesting texture to the fabric? I don’t know. There is a ton to learn from this project, for sure.

I am also reading up on how to warp a two heddles on a rigid heddle loom. I have Jane Patrick’s The Weaver’s Idea Book for expert direction, as well as Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving by Betty Davenport, which has been around forever! In the meantime, I have more spinning ahead of me.

Weaving Resources

 Jillian

I’m still getting ready to weave; I did a bunch of research, picked fiber, and spun a sample yarn.

I love doing research, but I rarely read a book cover-to-cover when working on something new. I pick a topic and read about that one thing, then I hop around until I feel like I have enough bases covered to start and just go. I like my crafts very flexible and ish-y. I will never be a quilter.

I picked two books to help me through this project. One is the recently-revised Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Rigid Heddle Loom By Liz Gipson. Did you know she writes a rigid heddle weaving column for Knitty now? The other is a brand new book by Syne Mitchell from Storey Publishing, Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom: Discover the Full Potential of the Rigid-Heddle Loom, for Beginners and Beyond.  (I was just at Storey doing the photo shoot for my spinning book and I was able to get an early copy.)

Weaving Books

Both books are great for beginners and walked me through the basics of figuring out how much yarn I’ll need for my project. I’ve learned from every fiber craft I’ve ever done that the real answer is, “More.” I do the math I’m supposed to do for yarn amounts then always add more. I figured out that a finished object of 12” wide x 60” long, with an extra 10% slapped on for take up and drawn in, plus 12” for loom waste, gets me a warp and weft of less than 300 yards each. (I said I like ish-y , I mean ish-y). My warp is 261 yards and weft is 224 yards.

After a bit of reading and thinking I decided on a balanced plain weave, with a worsted-ish 2-ply. I’m really intrigued by weaving with singles, but I’ll save that for project number two. I think I want an infinity scarf. I’m not feeling the fiddle and fringe of a regular scarf, plus I really like the stacked looked when an infinity scarf is doubled around my neck.

While I was perusing weaving books, I also looked at three by Jane Patrick: The Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom, Woven Scarves: 26 Inspired Designs for the Rigid Heddle Loom with Stephanie Flynn Sokolov, and Simple Woven Garments: 20+ Projects to Weave & Wear with Sara Goldenberg. These are my aspirational books. Right now it’s about plain weave and just getting the mechanics right.

Jane Patrick's Books

I have the what and the how much, now it’s time for the fiber. I hopped down to my basement stash, the deep stash, and pretty much exploded it. Dumped the bins and bags looking for the fiber that caught my attention. I came up with three braids of BFL top from Woolgatherings.

Woolgatherings Fiber

Pretty aren’t they? These have been marinating in my stash for at least three years. I thought I’d use one for warp and one for weft, but I had to do a little color dance after I spun my sample yarn as the red sample yarn came out fab. My 2-ply is about 10 wpi, perfectly worsted weight, and 672 yards per pound. That would be 168 yards from a 4 oz braid – not enough fiber to use one color for the warp or weft.

Red Yarn

I may try to spin my yarn with a little more loft and maybe a little less ply twist to stretch the fiber for a little more yardage, but I doubt I’ll get all of my warp yardage out of 4 oz. I’ll spin all three colors, thread the loom with the red for warp as far as it goes, and then fill in with the other color that moves me that day. I’ll do the same with the weft, though maybe I’ll use all three colors in the weft. I’m excited to see how the colors play off of each other, really excited.

It might just be the start of a weaving and color rabbit hole and that’s fine with me.

 

Part One

Part Three

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno

Smith and Moreno Take On Weaving

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno live about 30 minutes from each other, and spend a lot of spinning time together, trading ideas and cheering each other on. Recently, the two have found weaving sneaking into their thoughts more and more. “Wouldn’t it be fun,” they said, “to do a project where we spin our yarn and weave it and see what happens?” “Yes!” they said, “that sounds like an awesome plan.” We thought so, too. Through the end of the year, they will post on the Schacht Spindle blog, telling you about their journey weaving with handspun on a rigid heddle loom.

Beth Smith and Jillian Moreno

Beginnings:

Ever since I learned to spin I’ve been a dabbler in weaving. That means I have taken a ton of classes and made a few things but I’ve never gotten to the point where I always have a warped loom in the house. In fact, I own 3 looms and they have all been completely empty and folded up for over a year.

Jillian was a weaver for years. That was before I knew her, but I have heard her tell about it. When we met, she had a Schacht Mighty Wolf (which now resides in Canada), but it was empty and folded up. Maybe I never got serious about weaving because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it. Maybe Jillian walked away for a while because of new and exciting things. Both of our brains, however, seem to be leading us into the weaving world more and more. Neither of us has woven with handspun, really, even though both of us are focused spinners.

What’s funny is that even though we both seem to be moving toward what seems like the same thing, when we talk about what we want to do, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum. So here we are ready to start and we’re going to tell you about our journey. Hopefully at the end we will each have something to show for the work. If not, we will be a lot smarter and we hope that we can pass what we learned along the way to you, too.

Beth:

For the last year or so I’ve been thinking a lot about weaving yardage for clothing. One time I did a few samples on my floor loom and they weren’t exactly right, so I didn’t get much further than that. But the idea for yardage keeps sticking there in my brain. The yarn that I love to spin the most is pretty fine, so it should work, right?

And, why can’t I weave that yardage on a rigid heddle loom? It would be silly not to try.

So, I’m finally going to dive right in and do it.

I’m going to spin the yarn mostly on my Schacht Reeves 30” Saxony. I use the extra small whorl in double drive. I like this wheel a lot because it loves to spin fine yarns and I can do it a bit more quickly because of the large drive wheel. Some of the yarn will undoubtedly be spun on the Matchless because if I’m out of the house, spinning with friends, it’s a lot easier to take along with me.

Beth's Equipment

My rigid heddle loom is a 15 in Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle Loom. I have 2 heddles each in the 8, 10 and 12 dent sizes. I expect to use 2 heddles to weave the fabric I want because even though I don’t want to do any fancy weaves, I can get two times the number of threads per inch if I weave with 2 heddles at the same time.

I also have a vertical warping mill which is a discontinued Schacht product. The horizontal mill is available, though, and it’s great. I just use the vertical one because it’s the one I have. There are easier ways to warp on the rigid heddle loom and you can depend on Jillian to tell you about that but because I am going to be weaving yardage, the warping mill will be a better choice so I don’t have to have lengths of warp snaking all over the house.

So, I’d better get down to spinning because I think I have a lot of yarn to spin.

Jillian:

I’m Jillian Moreno, a spinner and knitter and new to rigid heddle weaving. I used to weave on a floor loom about 20 years ago and have pretty much forgotten everything I knew about weaving. When I’m not at my spinning wheel, I’m lucky to work with Knitty.com, write for PLY and Spin Off, and teach spinning around the country.

I’m crazy about spinning yarn that I will use, building a yarn for a purpose. I mostly work with commercially prepped beautifully dyed fiber.  I really love color and playing with combining colors.

I want to weave with my handspun and to make things that are quick and are more about color and texture than complex weave structure. That’s one reason that I’m excited about rigid heddle weaving: less time threading = time weaving.

Jillian's Matchless

I’ll be using my trusty Matchless, which I bought in the 90’s and recently had tuned up at Schacht.  This wheel and I have been through it all together, from my hesitant first treadles to spinning samples for my upcoming spinning book. With the bottom half of my wheel from the 90’s and the top from a couple of months ago, she’s a beautiful mix of old and new Schacht. To weave I’ll be using a 15” Cricket on a floor stand. I have reeds that are 12, 10, 5 and a variable dent reed, so I have a lot of flexibility with what yarns I can use. I’m not interested in the same way I used to weave; this time around I want to weave with more creative looseness than I felt I had with my floor loom, when I just followed written patterns and drafts.

I want to make things that are simple to show off my handspun yarn, the texture and the colors. Since I’ve never spent time working with handspun or much color in weaving I’ll need to experiment and sample a lot. Good thing that sampling and experimenting are two of my favorite things!  I want to make things that are easy on and easy off the loom, but are wearable. I’m going to weave a quick scarf out of commercial yarn first, just to get the feeling of the loom and weaving into my hands.

Then I want to move on to my handspun and make something a bit bigger that I can wear without fussing with it, like a mobius shawl.

I’m really looking forward to this adventure and sharing it with you!

 

Part Two

Beth Smith

Jillian Moreno