Maryland State Fair Winner!

I mentioned I was planning to enter a scarf into the Maryland State Fair. Well, I did and won third place! I’m excited because I had only been weaving for two months when I made that scarf and dropped it off. The first place winner had a much more elaborate entry. I thought I had entered under “new adult weaver with less than one year experience” but the prize was under the “first time fair entrant” category instead. That might be why the first place winner was so fancy!

Oddly, they don’t notify you when you win or even give you discounted passes to go to the Fair. The prizes are just the ribbons and a $6 check. My husband had a vacation day so we went when it opened to avoid the crowds. It was fun seeing it on display and seeing that I won!

The Maryland State Fair is weirdly small for a state that has a lot of farm land. It’s basically one small Home Arts building, some cows, goats, sheep and pigs and that’s it. We went to the Kentucky Fair a few years ago and had chickens, rabbits, pigeons, lots of exhibits and a huge home arts section. Ours is more like a county fair and expensive—$10 to park and $10 entry per person.

Anyway! It was nice to win! I don’t know if I might enter again because both the fair and the contest are so anticlimactic but I might. It’s a fun thing to be able to say I did.

Temperature Blanket

My husband bought me a Zoom Loom (4×4 inch pin loom) for my birthday. I think I got the hang of it on the beach yesterday and of course, ended up at Michael’s on my way home to buy yarn to make a Temperature Blanket with it.

I had seen people crocheting or knitting these blankets—the idea is that you stitch one row every day reflecting the temperature—but not weaving. With good reason—I don’t have a frame loom big enough for 365 rows nor do I want to tie one up for that long. It would work on a rigid heddle but again, it would be tying up the loom for a whole year. But why not a pin loom? I’ve made quilts before so piecing together little 4×4 squares sounds reasonable.

I’m going to have the first block be my birthday (August 19th) because I don’t want to wait until January and it was less than two weeks ago so it will be easy to catch up.

I love color so I decided to have yarn for every five degrees which I think will be more my style than bigger groupings. I saw a woman on Tiktok that did like 30° ranges! Why? Half her blanket was the same. I think having shorter ranges will end up using about the same amount of yarn.

I used the slightly annoying and tedious Temperature Blanket tool (I suggest you add all the extra rows you need before inputting any data) to look up the highs and lows of each day from August 19, 2020 to August 19, 2021 to get an idea of what amount of yarn to get. A 4×4 pin loom uses a little under 8 yards but I rounded it up to 10 to account for mistakes and any variations.

I ended up with 3 skeins of yarn for the most popular temperature ranges, 2 for some ranges that were right on the edge (some ranges had about 25 days in them and that was the upper end of what I could get from one 280 yard skein) and just one for the very highest and some of the lowest temperatures. For some of the ranges I did get a coordinating variegated yarn just for fun. The yardage on those were only 183 so I had to get extra of one just to be safe.

I’m using Impeccable acrylic yarn (I think it’s Michael’s brand) because I wanted something easily washed, easy to find and didn’t have the dye lot issues natural yarns would have. It is advertised as a blanket yarn so it should be fine. With a coupon it ended up being under $3/skein for most of the yarns. The variegated was the same price for about 3/4 as much. I saw some people who used it with pin looms to make baby blankets so hopefully it will be fine.

I don’t have a huge table inside that ready accessible so I took all the yarn outside and figured out the order.

Of course there will be some intermingling but I wanted to make sure the colors that would most likely be together looked okay together. I went with what color felt like the temperature to me without fixating on “blue for cold, red for warm”. I wish I had some green in there but I didn’t end up liking any of them when I was at the store. I wanted to stick to one brand for continuity.

I did get some orange, yellow and a bright variegated I didn’t end up loving with the the other colors so I’ll have to find another use for them.

I used post-it notes and pinned them to each color. I then wound the most commonly used colors for right now into cakes and refastened the post-its to the cakes.

I used the site Time and Date to see what the high (and low) was each day. I’m only using the high. I saw some people using the high and low twisted together or using the average but using the high felt right. That’s the temperature I notice most often since it happens during the day when I’m awake! I am tracking the lows just in case I needed it for some reason.

I have a note book set up to track the temperature and I created a little reference board of all the yarn for a quick reference.

I’m not sure how I am going to stitch them together yet so I’m leaving long tails.

Project 6: Purple Plaid Scarf

My second attempt at making something quick for the State Fair. The deadline is soon so a scarf seemed like the logical choice.

I had problems with the warp on the Cricket creeping off the warping sticks last project so I was extra careful when warping the colors on. The warping were made especially for the Cricket 15 inch by a super nice and fast shipping woodworker on Etsy but I think they are just a tad short. My Kromski ones are almost exactly the same length as the back beam so it’s different. It’s fine but now I know, I will be more careful. The second back beam still puzzles me since the Kromski works just fine without it. It just seems cumbersome to me. This time I used rubber bands to help keep the heddle and warp stick steady and that seemed to help too.

For this one I used cones of Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun wool in Magenta, Amethyst and Alpine violet. I did alternating stripes of 8 wraps around the warping peg (so 16 ends) twice yielding six wide vertical stripes. Doing multiple colors in the warp looks impressive but is so easy! I used a little clicker counter from Clover to keep track. It really amazes me how much of weaving is just tying a knot (to switch colors in your warp or tucking an end into the next row (to change weft colors).

After all that careful warping on, I tripped carrying the loom to where I was actually going to weave and the heddle flew out so I had to loop the yarn through both the slot and the hole rather than just the hole (why isn’t it called the eye, like on a needle?) which was a pain. But it seemed to work just fine.

Then I wove the weft in passes (rows) of 18 for Magenta, Amethyst and 8 in Magenta to make plaid.

No major problems with this at all! It was tedious counting the rows even with a counter and I wonder if I should have put the medium colored strip in the middle of the wider light one but I think it looks great as-is. There were times when the weaving looked like it was at an angle and I don’t know how that happened but the pattern on the finished product is straight. I guess it was winding unevenly?

I hand washed it with hand soap in the sink and let it to dry on a towel on our picnic table.

It was almost 100° so it dried really quickly.

I cut off all the spots where I joined the yarn. I’m really happy with how it turned out! I’m wondering if I should iron it because it is a little wrinkled.

Getting Started: Handy Supplies

When I started weaving I didn’t realized how many little extras you needed beyond the loom and some yarn. I guess this will be a running list but so far I’ve found I needed:

  • Kraft paper or warping sticks slightly smaller than the size of your loom’s weaving length. Easy to find online from Amazon, Etsy stores or the Woolery. I used this 30 inch craft paper for my 32 inch Kromski Warp Forte but vastly prefer the Kromski warping sticks.
  • Weights for weighing down broken warps. I made one using a small plastic cube and some coins but Ashford sells some that are weights attached to a hook that look promising.
  • T-pins. Easy to find on Amazon or any craft or sewing store. Used to secure a new warp after a breakage in the fabric.
  • Extra shuttles the size of your loom. Makes using multiple weft colors easier. If you have a large loom, smaller ones for smaller projects are ideal.
  • A stand for any loom over around 24 inches.
  • Something to weight down your loom/stand when indirect warping. A bag of yarn and some small Kettlebells worked but you need something or it wants to move.
  • A table wider than your loom with a “lip” large enough to clamp your loom to if you don’t have a stand. A surprising number of our tables do not meet this requirement.
  • A second small table or even a chair to attach the peg to for indirect warping. It needs to have a wide enough edge that you can clamp a peg onto it. Tables without much of a “lip” do not work.
  • Cones of yarn. Not 100% necessary but they do generally work out cheaper than buying even the same yarn in smaller quantities. You Warping takes a lot of yarn. I’ve had good luck finding them on clearance and even at our local SCRAP, a thrift store for craft supplies that’s in several cities. You can use pretty much any yarn for weft but warps need strong yarn which often means pricier wool, cotton and linen.
  • Knitting or other counter. I use a very basic one from Clover. It’s great for keeping track of how much of each color you are using in your warp or weft.
  • Thick rubber bands to connect your heddle to where you are trying the yarn on when indirect warping. I use these.

Project 5: Placemat/Tablerunner

I saw that the Maryland State Fair has a “weaving less than one year” category and thought it might be fun to enter. The deadline is soon so I decided it would be good weave something small and quick on the Cricket to enter so I started this.

I taught my husband how to indirect warp for this one so he could help out in the future if I needed him to. I think he got the hang of it. It is pretty easy!

I had ordered warp sticks and they came in the day before I used them. I’m not sure how it happened but as I wove, some of the yarn inched off the side and was directly on the bar and became very tangled.

I was so upset because I had been doing a very careful job minding my salvages and rows and I couldn’t see anyway to salvage it. I had to cut it off so instead of a wide scarf/narrow wrap, I ended up with a large placemat or tablerunner. I figure I can use it in backgrounds of my food photographs but I’m not going to enter it a contest!

I used Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun wool as the warp and some Red Heart Unforgettable in Candied for the weft I had from my mom’s stash she gave me after she got sick. I actually bought some more in case I didn’t have enough so I am drowning it in now! It really worked well as the weft and has a nice shimmer. Maybe I’ll try again some day?

I still want to enter the contest so I’ll have to try something else and be more careful. There was a gap of a few minutes between warping on and cranking and yanking so maybe that was it? I did have some trouble using the warping sticks with the Cricket, it has two back warp bars and a rod rather than the one back bar like my Kromski and that also threw me off. I’m not sure why exactly it has two? It made it trickier to use both the paper and the warping sticks—the loom is small and there isn’t a lot of space for your hands if you are warping close to the edge.

Project 4: Purple Variegated Scarf

I found a 16 inch Cricket loom with a second heddle (and Kraft paper!) on Facebook Marketplace (the only reason to stay on Facebook besides crafting groups) for a reasonable price in a town not far out of the city.

I went for it and actually picked up a drop spindle and wool kit the same day, also from Marketplace, nearby. Why not? I still think getting the bigger loom first was the right move but it was a good deal and I was curious.

Everything warped on smoothly and easily, having the clamps attaching the loom on a heavy coffee table really helped, the stand is great on my Harp but the loom and stand is very light and they want to move. For this I was able to use the same second table I did with the Kromski for indirect warping but they both stayed put without having to heavily weigh them down. I’m tempted to try clamping the Kromski to the coffee table to warp but then I’d have to reattach it to the stand fully warped which sounds awful.

I did run into one problem—after I pulled the yarn through the heddle holes and went to tie it off, some pieces were very short. I’m not sure how this happened. The table with the warping peg never moved and it wound on very evenly as far as I could tell but there were a few strands that were 3-4 inches shorter. I had to cut them all to even it out. Luckily I wasn’t too concerned about it being the correct length. There was no “surprise” when I finished of extra or tangled yarn so it is puzzling how this happened.

I used Brown Sheep worsted weight Nature Spun in Amethyst I bought on clearance from the Woolery by the cone for the warp. For the weft I used a ball of random yarn I think I bought in person at Michaels. I had wound it to use in frame loom projects so I didn’t keep track of what it was. I ended up needing a tiny bit more yarn to finish it and didn’t have more and couldn’t find it in my Yarn.com or Hobbii orders from a few months ago. I did have some purple variegated yarn of a similar weight and texture so I used that for the last few inches. I really don’t think you can tell.

It weaved up very easily and quickly. I did use the Kraft paper but I ordered some short warp sticks for next time. They really are easier when working alone.

Project 3: Rainbow Shawl

I learned from my last project that the Lion Brand Mandala yarn (this it it in Gnome) is slightly stretching and really pulled the rod you wrap the yarn around toward the heddle on one side. The Kromski came with a “warp helper” to hold it in place but it’s only on one side.

I asked on the rigid heddle group on Facebook and they suggested rubber bands. I had seen this on this post but I didn’t have the issue with the cotton yarn on my first project so I didn’t focus on it. It really was helpful!

This time I made a subtle raised stripe by going through the same slot multiple times and only pulling one strand through the eye (or whatever that is called). It was very easy and I liked the effect. I used most of one cake for the weft and most of a second for the warp.

I did run into trouble with this one when a warp snapped toward the end. It appeared to have a knot in it that unraveled. I think I did notice it when warping but I wasn’t thinking it would make that much of a difference. I was wrong! I think the tension and constant going over it when beating down my rows was too much .

Something I’ve noticed in the rigid heddle and general weaving community is the assumption you have so many other random times hanging about. Giant-sized Kraft paper springs to mind. Virtually no instructions said you needed something between the yarn or why but you do need something.

In this case, when I googled what to do when a warp string breaks, I kept coming across the suggestion to put fishing weights in a old film canister. What?? It’s not the 1990s and I live in a city. I’m not keeping random fishing weights around. I ended up weighing the warp down with a Sugarfina plastic box from candy and coins. It worked fine but I am tempted just to buy the ones I see Ashford selling. Basically you weave in a new piece of warp and then hang it from the back and weight it down so it stays in place.

The directions I found have you anchoring it with T-pins which I also didn’t have on hand and had to order. I think I might write a post about the extras I’ve needed so far. I haven’t even done that much weaving!

The knotted together rope on the apron of the loom from last time’s accident was fine, just a little lumpy in that part for the beginning. Not a huge deal but I’d like to replace it soon, I might ride out to that yarn store that carried some weaving items and see if they carry it.

Project 2: Yellow and Blue Shawl

I ran into a little bit of trouble with this one. I used Lion Brand Mandela (cake) yarn in I think Yeti but it was very yellow and blue heavy and light on the tan/white colors. I used most of one cake for the warp and most of a second for the weft on my 32 inch Kromski. It’s about 28 inches wide and just under 60 inches long.

One warp snapped very close (about 2-inches in) to the side in the beginning after I had woven about 4 inches. I ended up just cutting off the warp on that side up and continuing to weave. I ended up with a slightly narrower shawl than expected. Which was fine! I was really just practicing. It had a small square hanging off the side but I was able to just pull it off with some careful snips and unraveling. I was nervous but it pulled right off and you can’t tell.

I accidentally snipped the apron string while cutting the warps. I tied a knot in it and it seems fine, just a little bumpy in the beginning. I will replace it next time I order from the Woolery because they sell the cord by the foot. A whole cone is quite expensive.

I think it still came out very nicely though! I picked yarn I liked but didn’t love so it’s not quite “my colors” but it would look great with a blue dress.

First Project: Table Runner

I was very nervous about my first project. I did the direct warping (I watched this video over and over again) and I guess a modified “crank and yank” method and it worked really well. It seemed pretty intuive to me to pull the yarn to straighten it out.

I didn’t have trouble with tension. I did have some issued with the sharpness of the heddle hook piercing the yarn a bit. I found a place out in the county that has a limited weaving section and bought the Ashford tool there. It’s nylon plastic so it was a little smoother than the metal hook and loop Kromski provided, although it does seem a little flimsier.

I wish I had realized that I needed kraft paper or warp sticks or something to warp on with when I ordered my loom. I was excited to get started but had to wait a couple days. I did get some kraft paper from Amazon I can use again for steamed crabs but I didn’t find it easy to work with when warping on alone. It kept wanting to fold or crinkle.

I ordered warp sticks from the Woolery and liked them a lot. They are the perfect size and thickness and sturdy enough I could slide them in between the layers myself with one hand.

I used about 3 1/2 balls (total) of cheap old Lily Sugar ‘n Cream cotton yarn from Michaels for the warp and the weft. The warp is one whole ball in green and then about a third of another in blue. For weft I used a little over a ball of variegated yarn that had had the same blue and green in it so it self striped.

My edges are a little raggedy in places but I washed it a second time (hand washed with plain old liquid soap) and it evened out more (picture below is of it drying after the first wash). You can see a glimpse of it in the background of this recipe on my food blog. It’s very sturdy and nice looking!

And here it is all clean and dry draped on a chair.

Getting Started: Loom & Stand Assembly

As you know from my last post I got a Kromski Harp Forte Rigid Heddle Loom (and stand and overpriced bag) that does not need to be finished. Other looms by other brands nine times out of ten are bizarrely sold unfinished so make sure you do that before you do anything else. I can only imagine how grimy highly handled wood beams get if they are left unfinished. You do need a Phillips head screwdriver to assemble the loom. We set up on the floor because we don’t have a table big enough to lay all the pieces out on.

I was mostly thrilled with the unboxing and set up of my loom. It came in a fairly narrow long box. The loom is pretty light weight so I was able to manage that (and the larger box with extra heddles, the stand and the overpriced bag) by myself. Jammed in the box with the parts was a bunch of Polish Lidl ads which was interesting to look at and a thrifty eco friendly way to keep things from shifting during it’s long journey from Poland to Kentucky and then to Baltimore.

The loom box was marked “Kromski Harp” not “Harp Forte” which is the “newer” version (from what I can tell, the Forte came out a few years ago) which gave me a brief moment of panic but the gears were metal and not plastic which is the difference between the “Harp” and the “Harp Forte”.

The directions also note that it came with the double heddle block vs the single heddle block which until very recently were standard. Double heddle blocks hold two heddles and allow for more complex weaving and sold separately are about $40 so that was a nice surprise.

The directions were mostly clear–I would lay out all the parts to make sure they are there and ready to go–some of the screws look very similar at first glance. While the cover of the directions mentioned the heddle block upgrade it did not mention any changes of where to attach it, which seemed important. There are two notches it could go in and we just had to guess what made the most sense. I’m not sure why they didn’t redo the instructions to make it more clear.

The rope part to attach the wooden dowels you need is a little odd but apparently a streamlined version than their older instructions which involved you cutting the rope and burning the ends with a candle. You don’t have to do this any more, it is one continuous thin rope. I used what came with it but I’ve heard of people upgrading to Texsolv Loom Cord which is something to keep in mind for the future.

It took us a little over an hour to put the loom together. Hopefully we did not mix up the back and front with the directions warned was a “fatal error”. The wooden parts were lightly marked. One person probably could assemble it alone but it was nice to have a second pair of hands to help hold things still.

The loom comes with warping pegs (the bottom of the loom can double as a warping board to prepare your yarn for indirect warping) and clamps to do direct warping but absolutely no instructions on how to warp your loom or any ideas of what other materials you might need to get started (namely kraft paper or warping sticks) or first project ideas. None at all.

The directions for the stand were stapled backwards which was confusing at first. It comes with a hex key/Allen wrench/Allen key for assembly. The screws are very similar in size and appearance and we had to make a last minute switch out. The stand screws into your loom so you need to have that assembled first. I do wonder if you can put a third heddle in the loom with the frame attached. It doesn’t mention it on the loom or stand instructions but in looking at it (and conformed by a review on the Woolery site by Lianna F) it doesn’t appear to allow it. This is a little strange because if you have the 32 inch loom you basically need a stand and there are three heddle patterns out there.

The stand instructions were not great. Do able but the pictures were not very detailed especially when contrasted with the better instructions for the loom.

Our pughuahua was very interested but no help.