Finally Warping!

I reached out to a woman who I had messaged with before when I was researching the grant I was trying for before the Sheep and Wool fiasco. I asked if anyone in her guild (not the greater Baltimore one, it’s north of the city) would be willing to help me get started and she offered to meet me at a library to help!

I quickly tried out my warping reel and chained up some yarn and then I packed my Wolf Pup in my Matrix and met her there this morning! So nice of her and I finally got the loom warped up. It makes so much more sense to see someone do it live and in person. Videos just don’t always work for me, a lot of people aren’t good teachers or videographers. I wanted to warp front to back which seems less popular but that’s what she preferred too. I feel like she did it a little differently than I saw in the DVD from Red Stone Glen, it was pretty similar to what I did with my rigid heddle. Maybe because we just warped one color?

Her daughter recommended a nearby ice cream place so I even got a salted caramel chocolate milkshake and some ube ice cream to go! Great morning all around.

It wasn’t hard to transport the Pup! A little tricky getting back up my front steps alone but not horrible. Now it’s all warped and ready to go!

I only have an 8 dent reed for the Pup so I used some Plymouth Yarn Galway Worsted. I think it will make a nice scarf. Now I need other Wolf Pup project ideas!

A Baby-sized Baby Wolf Update!

My new Schacht Baby Wolf did finally arrive! It has taken me forever to actually set it up because when it arrived it came direct from the factory and smelled like raw lumber.

Lumber is a major migraine trigger for me and I really couldn’t get close enough to it to fully even unbox it. The only room it fits in is the living room so that has been challenging.

Someone told me that got wood smell out of a new dresser by filling the drawers with coffee beans. That’s not really an option with the loom so I instead filled a cotton produce bag with beans and hung it from the top beam. The smell started to go away pretty quickly but it took over a month to be faint enough I could actually handle it.

I never dreamed it would be so stinky! Even unfinished IKEA furniture doesn’t smell this strongly. I guess since it shipped here straight from the warehouse it never aired out?

The directions were pretty easy to follow. I do wish they were a little more detailed and gave some more reasoning behind what you are doing. One end of the heddles were red and greasy so I assumed that meant they went on top but I don’t know. They were on tiny thin threads and one set wasn’t connected so that was a little tedious to thread on. There does seem to be a tiny difference between the “front” and “back” of each heddle but all the directions was to slide them on the bar. The video they direct you to is 10 years old and the heddles are not packaged the same. The video for the apron rod they tell you to watch is for the Cricket rigid heddle. How hard is it to update the videos or film 5 minutes on one of the Wolf looms? I just wanted to make sure it didn’t matter which way you looped them on.

One of the fold knobs arrived really loose and fell off. In the directions they just tell you to be careful with them or the whole loom will collapse. Not how to reattach them. Let’s just say it involved using a key to hook the hole the screw was supposed to go in and some mild panic to hold it all together.

I think it comes with an extra apron rod? I have three. The packing slip included rubber o-rings but there weren’t any in the box and I never found instructions that included them so I’m going to assume they weren’t actually needed. They said discard some from the jack pins so maybe they were supposed to replace them if you wanted to secure it again for transport? Or something? I don’t see anywhere on the loom they’d go.

I’m excited to finally get weaving! It really has been a more stressful and drawn out process than I’d expect. It does still smell a little bit it’s manageable.

Weaving Woes

One thing I’ve noticed about weaving is how few really complete resources there are out there. I’m working on one myself as I get started on this adventure but I thought I’d share some observations.

Even lists or blog posts that are headlined “what do you need to get weaving?” are bizarrely incomplete. Why is this? Why don’t stores that sell weaving equipment have a handy list posted? They would sell more items. I ended up buying from a few different stores but would have happy to have bought it all at once and been done with it. Weaving is a very expensive hobby and if you are already going all in and buying a new loom, maybe make it easy so when it arrives, the person 100% knows that they have everything to get started.

Every step of the way in my weaving journey when I’ve thought I was ready something else popped up.

I ordered a Baby Wolf back in mid-November and was told it would arrive in early December. That got pushed to almost the new year and then again to the end of January. Totally understandable.

I went to the Red Stone Glen sale the day after Thanksgiving to get some yarn and supplies because I was expecting the Baby Wolf to arrive any day. While there I ended up buying an used older model Wolf Pup at an extreme discount because I figured the smaller size would be good for hauling in my car for lessons or events or to share with a friend or my husband. I had hoped for a used reel (the real reason I drove the hour and half there) but they didn’t have any used, just new.

I told them I was new to weaving and had ordered a Baby Wolf and wanted to get a reel after seeing someone use one instead of a warping board, a shuttle, some bobbins for the shuttle, yarn and a beginning weaving DVD. Did anyone suggest I get a bobbin winder? No! Did any list of what to get a new weaver include one? No! Did I realize I needed one when I went to wind the yarn onto my new bobbin? Yes! They aren’t cheap! But I would have bought one right then.

I did ask if the Wolf Pup needed anything that wasn’t with it and they very nicely did throw in a reed for it. But why not suggest something else a beginning weaver might not know about?

I was hoping to get my Baby Wolf and we had put up our Christmas tree where the looms would go so I basically unloaded the Wolf Pup and put it out of the way. When I was told the Baby Wolf wasn’t going to arrive until almost February, I pulled out the Wolf Pup and rewatched the DVD. In the DVD they used apron rods to warp the loom that I realized I didn’t have but normally come standard with the pup. I ordered them online.

I decided to wind some bobbins for my new shuttle and realized that…I really need a bobbin winder! Unlike my rigid heddle shuttles, I can’t really do it by hand very well. So I had to place another order from the only place I could find them in stock, an Etsy shop that makes their own. Waiting for that now. But I only realized I needed one after googling “winding bobbin for weaving tips”.

I decided to put together the reel and chain some yarn while I waited. Then I ran into the same problem I had when I was shopping for rigid heddle looms—the reel was unfinished. Now this is a $300+ reel. Why can’t it be finished? It was sold to me in person, in a generic box sight unseen so I didn’t know until I opened it up.

I live in a city and it’s winter. I can’t be using mineral spirits in my bedroom. I’m just going to put it together now and finish it in the spring. Fingers crossed that’s fine. The directions for the reel are a little vague and again, seem to assume some sort of familiarity with using a reel or assembling one. It required a lot of sanding! Someone at a weaving store could really make some extra cash if they would offer to assemble and sand all these things before they they sell them. Or for online stores to offer it as an extra service (and shipping) fee. Or you know, the companies that make them could sell them finished like every other piece of furniture I own.

I get that many people get into weaving because they have family or friends who weave. But I can’t be the only person who is doing this basically on their own or who doesn’t have a woodshop in their backyard.

I don’t think it’s gatekeeping exactly but even the “beginning” instructions and guides really expect you to be pretty familiar with what to do or have other resources. Meanwhile I can’t get the Greater Baltimore Weavers Guild to respond to my basic, polite emails.

I found this to be true even in “easier” weaving circles like the pin loom. It is assumed you know and are proficient in other yarn crafts like crochet in patterns or in videos they don’t show all the steps, just the first few and expect you to extrapolate from there. I don’t see the point in posting these patterns and videos if you aren’t going to do a good, complete job of explaining things. Luckily my husband is willing to watch the videos and try along with me which is a big help. But uploading a video on YouTube where you are blocking the loom half the time or speed up after step one is helping no one but those who already know what they are doing.

Should I have to have a woodshop or 20 year old film canisters to use as weights in order to get started weaving? I say no.

These sorts of impediments are why it is going to be difficult to continue to attract new and urban weavers.

Temperature Blanket Update #2: Joining

After the angst of my last post, I decided not to do a decorative crochet join with the squares. I practiced it a lot and got the hang of it but it was so long and tedious. If I was making a small blanket or wall hanging, I’d go for it but it was driving me bananas and that is not the purpose of this project!

I really wanted a project with a small, manageable daily goal. Making a square and then crocheting it perfectly into another square every day did not seem manageable.

I agonized over how else to join the squares and went with something both easy and secure. It does create a ridge on the wrong side but techniques that simply stitched them together so they laid flat did not seem strong enough for what will be a pretty heavy blanket and left gaps.

Wrong side
Right side

I set up my lounge chair on a sunny day and stitched them all together- right sides together, stitched through both loops using the tails I had left on and then pulling the yarn through the seam to secure. It only took me a couple of hours to get caught up from when it started on August 19th.

I’m doing 14 across and if my math is correct, this will leave me with a rectangular blanket and one extra square I could embroider the dates on.

I’m adding the square on to the last day’s square every day and then joining the strips once they reach two weeks. Much more manageable! I’m almost at six weeks now.

Getting Started in Rigid Heddle Weaving: 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.

First Rigid Heddle 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 in Rigid Heddle Weaving: 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.

Getting Started in Rigid Heddle Weaving: Picking A Loom

I ended up with a small amount of money from my mom’s estate as a gift from my dad. She was a crafter so I thought she would appreciate me taking some of it to start a new hobby.

I was all into rigid heddle weaving research. I requested books from the library, started researching looms, joined Facebook groups despite loathing Facebook. I was ready!

Then I realized that there were no places near Baltimore City where I live that really have any supplies for any sort of weaving at all, much less rigid heddle weaving. Oddly, there is a yarn store across town that has giant floor looms for rent in a studio but they don’t have any smaller weaving items at all. I actually found that store to be very cliquish and didn’t really want to buy from them but I would have if they had anything!

If not locally, where do I buy my loom and supplies?

I soon realized that the yarn store I wandered into on a deserted main street about 5 years ago on a trip to Kentucky after visiting a small candy factory where I bought a rug hooking kit that took me until this spring to actually make, is a big name in loom shopping and weaving. Who knew? So I decided to order from the Woolery. They were so nice when we visited I figured they could get all my money.

But what loom do I buy? I soon found out that there isn’t as much information about looms and weaving as you would think. Many, many, possibly most websites and forums seem to assume that you already know how to weave and what you are doing when you are picking out a loom. Real comparisons were rare.

I quickly realized that the big names in Rigid Heddle Looms were my old friend Schacht, Ashford and Kromski. Schacht is US based but Ashford is based in New Zealand and Kromski in Poland. The availability of each seems roughly the same. I did notice that the stores that carried a small amount of rigid heddle items in my start did only carry the Schacht and the Ashford but I’m not sure if that is true nationally.

Schacht has a loom called “Cricket” that apparently was aimed at children initially but adults took to it as well. It seems like most of the focus at least at first in rigid heddle looms was for play or for sampling weaves that you would then make on your more complicated multishaft tabletop or floor looms. Then people started enjoying it for what it was and focusing on the rigid heddle loom for actual projects and becoming primarily rigid heddle loom weavers vs floor or tabletop weavers who dabbled in the rigid heddle. I got this impression from the plethora of “you know what, I actually like it” and slightly and oddly apologetic message board, website and blog posts about the RHL and the fact that there are very few books explicitly on weaving rigid heddle looms.

While doing this pieced together ragtag research I realized that most if not all of the Schacht and Ashford looms are sold unfinished. No thank you. When I get something I’m spending hundreds of dollars on I do not want to have to wax or stain it myself. This might not be true of you but I’m just not doing it. I know this about myself. It would be a real barrier to ever getting that thing out of the box and doing anything with it. It took years for me to do that rug hooking kit because I didn’t know what I was doing and I was worried it didn’t have enough yarn if I messed up.

Kromski it is! I did a cursory check to make sure the company hasn’t been mired in some sort of scandal and it came up clean. It also came with the most accessories of the looms as far as I could tell. The back doubles as a warping board to help you measure and prepare your yarn, a peg to help warp, shuttles to hold your yarn and a pick-up-stick to create designs as well as the basic heddle. The newest Kromski Harp Forte also came (unexpectedly!) with a double heddle block which allows you to use two heddles for more intricate designs and which used to be something you’d have to buy separately. I also liked that the Kromski was all metal and wood–no plastic cranks or pieces like Schacht and Ashford.

Now what size loom to do I get? Again, I found virtually no good, concrete aimed at complete novice weavers information.

Since the width is set, you can’t make anything wider than your loom without having to make it twice and stitching it together somehow. So a lot of scarves, narrow wraps, table runners and towels for your smaller 16 or 20 inch looms. The 8 inch is obviously even more limiting. Larger looms can make anything the smaller looms can but can also make wider items like blankets, wide wraps and even ponchos, wider fabric to cut to make bags, pillow cases, curtains etc. The loom mechanics are basically the same in both, the larger ones are just bigger. I couldn’t find a consensus on what was better for beginners and why. I had to rely heavily on the very good and detailed reviews people left on the looms on the Woolery site (I bet they are so good because so many people are in the same position I am of not being about find anything out online or in books and having to wing it). They were mostly pretty evenly divided between people who love the near lap capabilities of the smaller 16 inch looms and those who deeply wished they had bought a larger loom because they love it so much and don’t want to be stuck making scarves forever. A lot of the negative comments about the larger looms was how wide it was to weave on. I think, in my early 40s, I am on the younger side of weavers I’ve come across and the weight/mechanics of reaching 16 inches on either side of me isn’t an issue the way it might be for someone with more limited mobility.

All of the looms are fairly expensive and it is a huge leap of faith to pick one out, sight unseen and then be stuck with your choice. I ended up getting the 32 inch Kromski Harp Forte in Walnut. The walnut was in stock, a tiny bit more than a light wood version that seemed more common but beautiful. It really looks like a piece of furniture and a real piece of equipment. It was more expensive than getting a smaller loom but when you are already spending a few hundred dollars, the difference of about $50 wasn’t enough to sway me to go smaller. My thought was that if I ever wanted to make anything bigger (which I thought I’d might) I’d need the larger loom but I could also make anything of any smaller width I’d want on it. It does fold in half (even if you have a project on it) so while it is set up it takes up a fair amount of room but can be stored easily. Another plus is that if I want a smaller loom in the future, the outlay for that will be less than it would be to upgrade to a larger loom

The downside of the 24 or 32 inch loom is that you really need a huge table or stand to use it. I did get the stand and the too expensive storage bag which you can clip the stand to for storage and travel. Normally I think I would resist getting the bag but it does seem handy and as I said, I am buying this with money from my mom’s estate so I really felt like I could get whatever would make my experience a little more pleasant. I also bought the matching walnut heddles in the other available sizes in a moment of madness and thinking that I have a lot of yarn in various sizes that the heddle it came with can’t handle as you vary your heddle size to reflect the thickness of the yarn you are using–thick yarn–small number heddle.

What they don’t tell you– When you go to warp (string up) your loom before you can make anything you need flat craft paper or warping sticks to keep your yarn from getting bunched up on the back of your loom. I did not know this! No video I watched about picking a loom or supplies you need mentioned this and I watched dozens. You need plain craft paper about the width of your loom or wooden sticks (also the width of your loom) to get started. I don’t know about you but I don’t have rolls of random craft paper in my house or flat paper bags I can cut up just on hand. I couldn’t find it at Staples, Joann Fabrics or Michaels and we already know my local yarn stores don’t have much of anything. Order the paper or the sticks. I had to order some paper on Amazon (I can use the leftovers for steamed crabs) and then when I read that it is easier to warp alone using the sticks, I ordered two sets of them (not cheap!) from the Woolery. I have watched a video of someone using mini blinds as sticks but that sounds like a pain too. Do yourself a favor and order this when you get your loom so you’re not waiting to get started like I am.