Monday, September 2, 2013

Testing The Limits

I realized today as I was looking at my spinning wheel and my loom that the projects I am working on had several things in common.  The first, which was most obvious to me, is that they are both taking forever to complete.  The second, going hand in hand with the first, is that I think I have reached my limit with these projects.  And you know, maybe it's apropos that these projects have pushed me to the edge because that's what I intended with these projects.  I didn't intend to test myself, but simply to test the limits of my tools.

With spinning, the project began when I started to wonder just how thin I could spin.  I didn't realize when I started spinning these four ounces just how much time is involved when spinning laceweight yarn.  I got to the halfway point, 2oz., and despite all of you telling me to forge ahead and finish the second half, last night I accepted the fact that I wasn't going to spin the second 2oz.

I had spun the first 2oz. all on one bobbin knowing that when I got to the plying stage, I was going to rewind my singles onto several bobbins which I will continually switch in and out to make a 2-ply yarn.  By switching them around this way, I think it will create a more consistent yarn.  In the process of rewinding my singles, I realized how important this step is because, as it turns out, my idea of "thin" kept getting smaller and smaller as I continued on with this project.

It's not incredibly drastic, but you can certainly tell that the single on the left of that picture is thinner than the one on the right (they're from the end and beginning of the 2oz. respectively).  By rewinding several bobbins, I'm hoping that these inconsistencies will get evened out as much as possible.  But I am glad I decided to stop at 2oz. instead of finishing all of the fiber.  I will still have hundreds and hundreds of yards to work with.

I'm excited to see how this plies up and looks after a good wash.  The silk in this blend (80% mixed BFL/20% silk) makes the singles very lustrous and I'm curious how the colors combine and knit up.  I'll keep you updated.

As for weaving, I'm starting to think it's no coincidence that I'm also halfway through this project and have suddenly lost interest.

This project was intended to test the limits of my loom.  Typically a rigid-heddle loom is used to weave plain weave (one over, one under), but I've always been interested in more complicated weaves that usually require a 4-shaft floor loom.  This particular project was a sample to see if it was possible to weave double weave on a rigid heddle loom.  Double weave consists of two separate layers of plain weave (in this case one layer of green and one of blue.)  If you're familiar with double-knitting, this is the weaving equivalent.  By manipulating the warp threads, you can change which color is on top of the fabric to create patterns that show as their reverse on the other side.

The problem with this technique on a rigid heddle loom is that it requires quite a bit of manipulation for each pick of the weft (a pick is a single shot of the weft thread, from left to right or right to left).  In order to get this kind of weave on my loom, I need to use two rigid heddles and then I have also created two string heddles (which essentially has created a 4-shaft loom, each heddle acting as a separate shaft.)  Then in front of my heddles for each pick I use two or three pick up sticks to further manipulate the warp threads.  Each color also has its own shuttle.

Long story short, this process is incredibly slow and now that I've reached the halfway point, I think it's a good place to stop.  I've answered my question, which was "Can I do double weave on my rigid heddle loom?"and now it's time to move on to something a little less involved (or perhaps just differently involved.  I have ideas for several more weaving projects that are probably just as complicated, only in different ways.)

With that, I'm giving myself permission to wrap things up and move on to new spinning and weaving projects.  I think part of the reason I've been so anxious to finish these projects is that there are so many things I would like to do and I feel a bit restrained or held back by these long-term projects.  Now I can finally try something new (again)!


  1. Wow, that weaving set up breaks my head
    good to know it can be done, though - I have a rigid heddle and am thinking about my next project...

  2. I tried to teach myself how to weave with a second hand Penelope LeClerc rigid heddle loom. I never mastered the set up process. My mind cannot grasp it. I just wanted to get to the weaving part. haha Ended up giving the loom away.

  3. Wow, both those projects are AMAZING!! You are truly gifted. I have tried spinning a few times, luckily it hasn't taken - I have way to many things to work on as is. Also - you need to come to Rhinebeck this year!

  4. I admire your intestinal fortitude to stick with both of those to this point. But dude, you totally need a bulky scarf knit on size 11 needles right now as a palate cleanser.

  5. I'm with Anne. Go for a quick project next!

    I'm totally impressed with your weaving though. I have no idea what anything you said means, but it looks impressive!

  6. Maybe the problem was both the spinning and weaving are in blue/green. I'm looking forward to seeing that lace weight plied and knit into something wonderful.

  7. Back in the 70's I had a big Toika 48" floor loom. Countermarche. I loved it. When we moved 10 years later, I set it up again, but found that I wasn't doing much weaving and so I sold it for a pittance. Now I wish I had kept it. It always 'sang' to me when I worked on it, and it was a beautiful piece of 'sculpture'. I used to do Summer/Winter weaves a lot. They were very fun to do on the countermarche. Hard to set up, but fun to weave. Interesting you could accomplish this on a rigid heddle table loom. Good job.

  8. I think you've come to the right conclusion. Don't let yourself be controlled by your projects, remember that YOU control THEM. (Both are awesome, though :D)

  9. Oh, hon, that weaving project is GORGEOUS! I'm sorry you don't want to finish, but I totally get it. It's not like knitting where you can just put it down and start something else with another set of needles. I just got a RHL Harp too, and I look forward to playing with it in depth over the winter for the exact same reasons!

    The spinning project is also pretty, and I agree. Ply it and move on. The difference in those two singles is actually pretty big (looks almost half as thin to me) so you're right to mix it up and hope to even out. The yarn will be lovely.

  10. Beautiful work. Giving yourself permission to end a project and move on is a great gift. You alone are in charge of your time and your talents.
    Looking forward to your lace project and seeing the millions of yards of gorgeous yarn you produce.

  11. WOW your weaving is without a doubt inspired! Love to have seen the whole project but I do agree IF ITS NOT FUN FORGET ABOUT IT !!! weaving should be fun...!!! Thats just my feeling about it. I know their are some who would try to push you on (simply because of the beauty of the project) but have fun and things even simple stuff is better.

  12. Just to let you know you can achieve doubleweave with pattern pickup using 1 rigid heddle, 1 pickupstick, and 2 knitting needles and and a comb for beating. Optional is 1 normal reed for beating and keeping the upper and lower warp threads in good order, and that requires 1 more knitting needle for transferring across that reed. Instead of knitting needles one may use pickup sticks, of course