How the time has passed!

It’s been a really, really long time since we’ve posted anything to this blog. I’m hopping to change that once again as things are getting interesting again in our lives (at least for us) and we are slowly finding more time to do a variety of things.

AVL 16 shaft dobby loomMostly I (Tracey, your most frequent poster) will be doing a few more articles on weaving, including my exploits into the use of my new (old) 16 shaft AVL Dobby loom. This is not a computerised dobby, but a peg system (I’ll talk more about this later) and weaves a width of about 36″ happily (although it’s about 40″ wide full width). I’m really really loving this loom, loving it like I never have loved a loom before (and remember I now have a large Ashford Rigid Heddle and a 4 shaft countermarch). The Rigid heddle is back in use, currently it’s warped up to teach a friend of mine to weave, but I’m starting to get interested in weaving on it myself once again. However, I’m thinking that I might purchase a small folding loom around 12″ wide and leave the larger rigid heddle for friends to learn on.

The other wonderful treat that came along with my gorgeous new loom was the visiting instructor in the form of the equally wonderful Karuna. It has been invaluable to have Karuna come and visit with me on a few mornings, going through how to setup the loom, warp on a “teething” warp as she called it and weaving through half a dozen or so weave structures. I’ll go over this experiment in more detail in a later post too.

In other related exciting news, we are about to embark on a 10 week holiday to the USA, primarily New York and North Carolina. Craig will be attending a bunch of woodworking classes and also going along to the American Woodworkers Conference in Ohio (is it Kentucky?). I will be attending a week long class at the John C Campbell Folk School on 18th century household textiles which I’m really excited about. I could probably spend a good half of the year attending full-time classes at the folk school by the look of their class list. So hopefully this trip will also trigger some other amazing posts full of colour and interest 😉

Until then, happy crafting.

Lets talk yarn

Sometime ago (late 2007), when I first decided to try weaving, I got very excited and jumped online and purchased several cones of yarn. I had no idea about yarn count and so what I thought I was getting was totally different from what I actually got. The end result is that I have lots of cones of yarn that I have no idea what to do with.

The brown on the right has a count of 75/1 (100% lambswool woolen spun)

The natural beige in the middle is 120/2 (I have no idea about any other info any more except that it’s wool)

The blue is 2/18 (lamb/angora/ny/cashmere blend)

Then we have the purple 2/28 (again I’m lost as to what the wool composition is for this one)

Olive green 110/2 (100% Merino worsted)

and finally (not in photo) Black 80/2 (once more that’s all I know of it).

I purchased all those thinking that they would all be “2 ply” yarns (except the brown), all the same thickness etc, just like if I went into the craft shop and bought balls of “4 play” knitting yarn. I had no idea about count and how dramatic an effect on the size of the yarn that would be. These yarns aren’t the strongest either for the most part. I recall thinking that the olive green would be really strong because it’s used in military uniforms, it snaps under the slightest tension of single strands. I think I read somewhere that if a piece of yarn, when stretched makes a “thunk” rather then a “ping” sound, it shouldn’t be used as warp, these go “thunk”.

Now the point of this post is that I really want to use these yarns. I want to justify their purchase and create something with them, I just have no idea what or how. Should I give up trying to use them as warp due to being sort of fragile or should I use double strands? If I used something else for the warp, what would I use?

If any fellow weavers out there have any brilliant ideas, please please please let me know.

Weaving (at last)

I’ve finally finished the baby blanket I started back in November, pics:

As you can see the yarns aren’t exactly the same WPI, the pink is a little fluffier so it stands out more. I was hopping that after “fulling” it might even out a little but it looks exactly the same, which is fine because I still love it.

I ended up cutting it off the loom earlier then I had originally planned as the warp threads were really starting to give up the challenge and it had reached a length I was happy with. Final measurements are 123 cm, not including fringe (stared at 220cm under tension) x 74 cm (started at 81 cm in reed).

I’m pretty pleased with myself actually. This is my first finished item, warped and woven by me on my 4-shaft floor loom. I’ve learnt a few things from this project, such as taking my time is a good thing, don’t ever use yarn like this again as it’s too fragile for warp really. There are a few alterations I’d like to make to my loom, I’d like to add 2 more treadles and I’d like to get rid of the current tensioning system with it’s huge heavy box and lead weights and move to a simpler auto tensioning system. I’d also really, really, really, like to get sectional beam & tension box for future projects.

I’m extremely frustrated though living in NZ as a new weaver, getting my hands on weaving tools, accessories and even yarns is turning into loads of trouble. I so wish I had a good weaving supplies store that I could walk into and finger their yarns and pick up their tools and really be able to get my sensory information before making purchasing decisions. I’d also really like to be able to talk to people in a shop who weave, rather then the few “craft” or “knitting” shops that just happen to sell Ashford weaving items. Anyways, I do have some rug warp arriving (hopefully) soon as well as some sample cards of yarn so that I can get to planning and weaving up a few more items prior to Sprocket arriving (17 weeks to go!)

Steadily harvesting

We’ve been steadily harvesting food from the gardens, mostly tomatoes and zucchini’s but some greens as well, a few more potatoes, a few peas and beans. The first batch of corn has finished up and the second batch is starting to ripen as we speak. We had to buy-in more seedlings as our seed raising efforts came to naught really, we ended up with seedling trays of weeds for the most part. Part of the problem has been that our glass house has simply been too hot for the seeds to germinate, however, Craig’s parents were here last week (more on this later) and discovered that the glass house actually had roof vents. Ian has fixed them so that we can now open and close them at leisure so our next batch of seedlings should be much happier.

We planted some more silverbeet (Heritage Rainbow & NZ favorite), perpetual spinach, sprouting broccoli, cabbage palm (which I’d picked up by mistake meaning to get cauliflower), rocket and leeks. So our winter brassicas are off to a good start, just so long as we can remember to consecutively sew more of them to cover our winter needs.

But now to the craft 🙂

Buffie and I spent a lovely afternoon the other week dyeing some lemon yellow yarn I’d purchased lovely bright colours (pastel’s for Sprocket are a big no-no around these parts).  First we pre-soaked the yarn in cold water with a little soap so that it would absorb the dye more readily.

We used Ashford dyes made up to the instructions and painted them on to the yarn, making sure the dye went right through to the other side.

 Buffie’s rather the creative sort. 

I quite liked the effect of the “bleed” areas and hopped that the yarn would stay with that faded area, it didn’t really work that way though.

In this one there is black and green next to each other, unfortunately the green is REALLY dark and just looks black.

After painting we wrapped the yarn in glad-wrap:

Then we left them out in the hot sun to bake for the rest of the day (this was a little trick I learnt from my friend Rochana, much nicer then all the other boiling and microwave methods I’ve heard of, especially when you can’t use the microwave for food anymore).

After baking I washed out the excess dye and hung the skeins out to dry. It was just amazing to see the yarns spread out and finished like this. Buffie’s spotted one just looked so cool.

Then the final step was to pop the skeins on the swift and wind them back into balls ready to knit. Buffie’s 2 balls (the one on the left was the spots):

And mine:


The resulting dye colours were quite a bit darker then we had imagined and we certainly wouldn’t have called the colours “purple” or “turquoise”. We did discover that the “turquoise” and the “purple” when mixed (noted from bleed areas) make a lovely purple colour. I’m going to dye up another couple of balls with the remainder dye to match my first ball (the one on the right) and knit it into a lovely baby’s hoodie from a pattern called Nikau created by my friend Justin Turner (who makes lovely baby patterns) that you can purchase here at her website.

The Nikau


Nikau pattern

Nikau pattern

So far I’ve knitted most of the back 🙂

Tying up the treadles

So I’ve been playing around with my new 4-shaft countermarch loom this evening. I’ve tied up the shafts, the heddles and the lamms, but I’m stumped on the treadles. The draft that I have looks something like this: 


The “X’s” represent the shafts that will move down when treadled. These are tied to the upper lamms. The “0’s” are tied to the lower lamms and will go up. 

There are 6 columns in the draft, each column represents 1 treadle. There are 4 rows per column, each row represents 1 cord. These cords go through the holes in the treadles and are connected to the lower lambs and the shafts.

The upper lamms are connected directly to the shafts, the lower lamms to the jacks. I have the first “Y” cord from my jacks going down behind the first shaft and behind of the first upper lamm then through the middle hole of the first lower lamm, the second cord behind the second shaft & second upper lamm and so on (when I say first I am looking from the front of the loom). I have three cords hanging from each upper and lower lamm ready to connect to the 6 treadles (the three cords from the upper lamm hangs behind the corresponding lower lamm).

My understanding is that I should only ever have to untie and retie the treadles when changing the pattern, but I could be wrong.

I’ve ordered a bunch of books and a DVD by Peggy Osterkamp, The Magic of Handweaving  by Sigrid Piroch, Learning to weave by Deborah Chandler but it looks like they are going to take a month or more to arrive! I can’t wait that long to try a simple weave!

When I tried to tie up the cords as per the pattern for the first treadle (actually it was the 6th treadle as I started from right to left) I ended up crossing cords and I just wasn’t sure if this was the done thing or am I supposed to rethread all the cords through the lamms so that this doesn’t happen somehow?

The other thing that has me boggled is how tight to do the 4 cords in each treadle. The treadles have to be on an angle, now the front cord would need to be shorter then the back cord. One source I have says that you should (using the texsol cords by the way) have the first cord taught, the second and third cord one “hole” away from taught and the fourth cord 2 holes away from taught, it goes on to list the holes for each cord for up to 12 shaft loom so I’m not even sure that I’ve got that information quite right yet.

The treadles are hinged at the back, so they have to be angled away from you, how high off the ground should they be? I’m guessing it can’t be too steep and angle or otherwise how can you press on the treadles with your feet? The Glimakrausa instructions say that “the distance from the lower lamms to the treadles should be about the same distance between the upper and lower lamms”, distance at which point?


Treadles of Countermarch loom

Treadles of Countermarch loom

This is the photo the original owners took. The lower lamms are on a downward angle (which is wrong according to everything I’ve read so far). They had the cords looped around bamboo sticks pushed through O-ring things screwed into the wood, the had gotten loose so those coloured things are hair ties. I’ve removed the screws and the bamboo and re-drilled the holes so that the cords thread nicely through the holes and can be secured from underneath, much neater if you ask me.
I was hoping that making this post would actually clear up a few things for me and the answers would jump out, they aren’t so if anyone else with a 4-shaft countermarch loom is reading this I hope you can give me some insight please. For now the boys have finished cooking a roast lamb for dinner, then back to scouring Dot & Leigh’s blogs for more tidbits of information.

Mid Winter – July 21

The longest night is almost upon us, and in the spirit of the year we are having a masked dinner here at Earthsong. To this end, we’ve decided to make our own masks.

We went out hunting in chemists and craft stores for plaster of paris, finally found some in the hardware store and have had an awesome two weeks (on Wednesday craft nights, and the odd night in between) crafting our masks. I don’t have any photos of the finished pieces though I’m afraid.


We cut up bandages into strips, covered them with plaster of paris and then set to work layering them onto the faces. We did around three layers I think. Ohh, and we put vaseline over the eyebrows, upper lips and along the hair line to ensure the hair didn’t stick to the plaster.


After the layers were completed we lay down in front of the fire to help the plaster dry.


A few of us thought we would all go as The Endless (from Neil Gamiman’s Sandman comic Endless Nights). Craig was Dream, I was Desire, Buffie was to Delirium, Kain was Destruction, Ines was Death, Robert was Despair and Luka was Destiny. (I’m afraid I had a migraine for most of the day and missed the majority of the actual event on the 21st).

Blowdry He you can see Helen blow drying Kain’s mask to help speed up the process (and some finished pieces in the background).

Buffie sans mask

Kain sans mask

Hehe, this is how we looked after mask removal, lucky it washes off easily.

Ohh, and a very fetching photo of me (the straws were so I could breath while Craig covered up my noes and moth, very uncomfortable I must say.