Is something happening?

It’s been a long time between posts around here. Mostly it’s because it feels like nothing much is really happening for us. I’ve been more unwell then in the past year or so, or at least it feels that way. The looms have been seriously under-utilised, cheese making has been non existent and even knitting has been slow plodding. And yet, things have happened. I have woven a series of beautiful, colourful placemats, I just haven’t cut them apart, sewed them up or wet finished them. I’ve almost finished my first ever attempt at fair isle knitting, a vest that just needs me to finish off one sleeve  edge and I’ve learnt the art of Kumihimo braiding, which is a lovely relaxing activity for making braids.

In recent weeks I’ve also started developing a passion for knitting machines, here is my new electronic Brother machine, a KH-930:

Knitting machine KH930I’m still figuring it all out and will start, today, doing a sort of beginners course from Diananatters. It’s really hard to fight that urge to instantly create a really real item right off. Playing around with a friends machines that I also have on hand, I have managed to produce a couple of beanies and a few infinity scarfs and I must content myself with these items for now and put my desire for a giant shawl with intricate lace patterns aside until I really understand the machine and the processes.

Now for the newer, and most exciting news of all, the thing we have been in limbo about for so long… that’s right, we have building consent! Yes, you may dance and cheer and celebrate with pent up excitement. It has really felt like this was never going to happen, what with various back and forths with council and contractors on certain aspects and then key people going on holidays during the process, delay delay, delay. But finally it is happening and we are set to start everything next week. Now by  everything I mean mess around with the site to poor the slab and setup the frame blah blah blah, but the truth is that we had managed to council to sign off on the traditional timber frame aspect of the build a few weeks ago and so the folks at Timberworks are actually about 2/3rds of the way through building it which is awesome.

By the end of this year, Atamai Village will have I think 8 houses finished. It will be sooo nice to be on THAT side of the hill this time next year. I’m so looking forward to being off the farm and really settling into our property and our life. We seem to put everything on hold living here, plodding along waiting for our ‘real life’ to start. It’s been hard to really do a great deal of work on the property while living on the opposite side of the hill, trying to fit that around my good days, Craig’s work and weekends of overtime and the needs of a four year old. All to be made a great deal easier once we are living on site.

Basically this was just a quick post to remind myself that this blog actually exists and I have things to write about if and when I can just find the time.


Tea Towels

I really didn’t think the 30/2 cotton was getting onto the loom, but it’s there with only a few tension issues (a tension box or an AVL warping wheel would have made this much smoother). I’ve finally had a chance to sit and weave, fiddling around with tension issues, catching threads, making a temple and what-not, I’ve managed to do 1/4 of a tea towel this evening (it’s only taken me about 2 hours!) I really need to weave a tea towel from throwing that first pic to throwing the last in significantly less then that time then that – possible? I hope so.

As you can see from these photo, things are progressing, the pattern is developing (although not quite how I expected from the software rendition), and I’m enjoying using only white and natural.

I have several patterns to tryout so each of these tea towels will be in a different pattern. I also have a bunch of 22/2 cottolin colours I want to try so I’m sure I’ll be mixing up the white and natural with the rust, green, blue and brown. I also have a small quantity of Thai cotton that I’d like to incorporate (but then I might use them in a different warp).

After searching the net for various homemade temple ideas, I have to say that this one I’ve chosen to try is working pretty well, although the better and the bulldog clips do clash if they get too close (I would like them closer then they like to be).

(bulldog clip tied to a 100gm bag of rice)

Learning about 2/30 cotton

It sticks! Well at least raw 2/30 cotton does. As soon as you release the tension from the warping mill it twists up on its self, and I can’t believe that all 640 ends, 4 ends per dent, are actually all now on the loom. However, my sticking issues are still not over! Each time I make a shed, a few threads grip to others and I have to go and release them before I can throw the shuttle 😦

Update – these seem to be getting less sticky the further into the weaving I’m getting and the further from the heddles I am. Although there are still a few that stick every other treadle change. This has also caused 2 threads to be skipped over in an entire 1″ of white strip *grrrr* as per this photo:

Putting the warp onto the loom

I’m about to transfer my 30/2 Ne Cotton warp chains onto the sectional wheel on my dobby loom. Before I do this I thought I’d go over the teething warp tie-on that I did with Karuna first, luckily I took photos to help remind me, so here we go:

Warping onto a sectional warp beam on an AVL 16 shaft dobby loom

Once you’ve created your chains it’s time to take them to the back of your loom

Hook the lease sticks over the raddle to support it and keep both your hands free for tying on to the lead cords.Makes sure you’ve put your lease sticks, one on each side of the cross.

Secure sections by tying a knot in the end of the section and then make a loop with your lead yarn (from the sectional warp beam) and hook it around your knot and pull tight. A great example of this can be found here.

Apply even tension as you wind the sectional warp beam and start rolling it on. This is where a second person comes in really really handy, while one of you turns the sectional warp beam, the other one applies tension to the warp threads and ensures everything stays snag free.

Once most of the yarn has been wound onto the sectional warp beam, tie the two chains into a loose knots leaving enough yarn to thread your heddles and tie on to the front beam

Remove lease sticks from raddle and pass through rollers


Pull towards front of loom and place two extra lease sticks under the lease sticks holding the threading cross to support it at the back of the shafts.

I placed a smidgen on blue-tac under each spare leas stick onto the loom frame, providing supporting so everything held steady and didn’t slip off

Support sticks seen from the front resting on front apron rod

Now it’s time to thread the heddles!

I thread from left to right, dividing the heddles in half, one set on each side of the shaft and then I count out from the left the required number of heddles to be used, in total, for that shaft, then do the same for the other 15 shafts. I then find my first 4 warp ends, note that this is of course where your cross comes in handy because each thread is in order and you can clearly see which is the first thread and the next etc. Put one thread between your fingers and using your threading hook, pull the first thread through the eye of the first heddle and follow in using your threading plan.

I might do a post with more details of threading heddles and tying onto the apron rod at another time, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this is helpful to to others, it’s helped me with my cotton warp.

Regarding my cotton warp, I’ve decided two things – I want an AVL warping wheel! Cotton does not like to sit nicely once it’s been put under tension on the warping mill and then chained off. THe threads relax and twist around each other, the wool did that too but was a hell of a lot easier to separate. And secondly, I need some way to secure my sectional warp beam so that it doesn’t move when I pull the yarn been warped on. If I could do that I could probably warp on by myself.

The new (old) dobby loom

Dobby, (a corruption of “draw boy” refering to the weaver’s helpers who used to control the warp thread by pulling on draw threads), is a type of floor loom that is able to fully utalise all possible sheds ( a 16 shafts dobby loom can utalise 65,534 possible sheds!). “A manual dobby uses a chain of bars or lags each of which has pegs inserted to select the shafts to be moved… Another advantage to a dobby loom is the ability to handle much longer sequences in the pattern. A weaver working on a treadled loom must remember the entire sequence of treadlings that make up the pattern, and must keep track of where they are in the sequence at all times. Getting lost or making a mistake can ruin the cloth being woven. On a manual dobby the sequence that makes up the pattern is represented by the chain of dobby bars. The length of the sequence is limited by the length of the dobby chain. This can easily be several hundred dobby bars, although an average dobby chain will have approximately fifty bars.”

Can you believe that, 65,534 possibilities! It actually starts to make my brain hurt just think about all those possibilities, seriously I’m still getting my head around 4 shaft patterns (oh my!).

Right now I want to get my head around how the dobby beg and chain system works. In a future post I’ll go step by step through the warping up of my “teething” warp and thus the various parts of the dobby loom from sectional warp beam to front apron, tie up and my sampler of various weaving structures (that will be a photo heavy post).

Ok, so dobby pegs and chains. The dobby box is made up of bars linked together with a few chain links, forming a long chain of bars. My loom has wooden bars and metal links and pegs, I’m not sure about other dobby looms though. Each bar has 16 holes, 1 hole for each shaft. A peg in a hole indicates that shaft is to be lifted for that rise of the shed, obviously if there is no peg then the shaft stays put. A single bar for plain weave might look like this (with a x indicating a peg): [xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo]. Incidentally, there are only two treadles for the dobby loom and they turn the gear to move the next bar into position and thus creating the next shed. To continue with a plain weave (or Tabby if your prefer) you would program the next bar to be: [oxoxoxoxoxoxoxox] (the opposite of the first one). The shortest chain you can make is 8, so you would continue to peg all your 8 bars with the alternating pegging:


The AVL manual recommends starting all your projects with this tabby weave for the first inch and or as a header to ensure you’ve got all your threading up error free.

Instead of using a tie-up and treadling plan like you use for other floor looms, with a dobby loom you create a “peg plan”. This is a graph showing the order in which pegs are placed into the dobby bars. Now, lets see if I can explain how to convert a tie-up & treadling plan, into a peg plan! (This is mostly for my own benefit, I could just cut and past the info from the AVL manual, see link below, but I believe I will start to understand the process better myself if I can write it out).

You can see in diagram “A”

that the harnesses are represented down the side of the tie-up, in a peg plan the harnesses are at the top. To convert the tie-up from “A” to the peg plan in “B” simply convert black squares down the left hand side of “A” into pegs going across the top (from right to left) on “B”.

So in “A” you have a black square in harness 2, treadle 1, in your peg plan you would move that square up the top to Harness 2, Dobby bar 1. Continue with 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15. (see chart “C”),

continue to the next treadle and harness sequence (see chart “D”).

Now take a look at chart “E”, see how in dobby bar 30, harness 2 there is no peg? And that continues in a diagonal to form a “V” – compare that to the treadling plan in chart “A” and notice how there is an “x” in the same position, showing when the shed will be formed and thus creating your pattern.

Now, the one last bit that I’m trying to work out is how this all relates to the threading of heddles into shafts. If I was to just see that treadling plan without the words “treadling” I would have assumed it was the threading plan. I would have turned the chart onto it’s side like this:

I would have threaded the first warp thread into the 1st heddle on shaft 1, the second thread into the first heddle on shaft 2 and so on up to shaft 16, I would then thread the 17th warp thread into the second heddle on shaft 15 (so shaft 15 now has 2 threads) and so back down to shaft 1. In this case, shafts 1 and 16 would only have 1 thread each. Somehow this doesn’t seem quite correct to me…

Really useful tips from the manual:

“There are times you will find it helpful to use blank dobby bars to mark your place in your pattern. For instance, if you need to know where the beginning of a pattern is, leave a blank bar just before the dobby bar corresponding to the first shed of the pattern. When you are weaving and come to this blank bar, no harnesses will raise.”

“Keep in mind that the direction the chain moves can be reversed at any time. This feature can save pegging time and dobby chain. One example of its use is with a pattern where the second half is a mirror image of the first half… by reversing the dobby unit, the second half or mirror image is automatically produced. When using this technique, you may want to leave a blank bar as a signal at the point at which the dobby is to be reversed… This feature can also be used where long lengths of tabby are to be woven between pattern borders. Simply peg up part of the tabby and by repeatedly reversing, as much tabby can be woven as necessary. Here again, use blank bars between the tabby part of the chain and the pattern part.”

(Further reading of how this particular loom operates can be found here on the AVL USA website’s manual)

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.

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!)

Baby Blanket

As I’ve mentioned, I’m weaving a baby blanket on the 4-shaft countermarch loom. This is my first project on this loom (aside from the sample I did with the previous owners left over warp). 

Project details:
Technique: Twill with Hounds tooth colour effect
Size: 56 x 112cm
Warp & Weft: Pink Mohair/wool/acrylic blend & Blue Wool/acrylic/viscose blend (2-3 wpcm)
Reed: 30/10 (1 end per dent)
Selvedges: 2-2, 2x each side 
Sett: 4 epcm
Picks: 3 ppcm (picks is a new one for me, it’s the measure of weft threads you throw per cm)
Warp ends: 252 (I think I changed this to 250…)

The basic pattern comes from the concept and design work of Malin Anderson from The Big Book of Weaving by Laila Lundell & Elisabeth Windesjo (pg 74-75). I’ve altered it as needed to suit the yarn I’m using. 

So, I got up to threading my heddles and I became stumped. The pattern says “Selvedges: 2-2, 2 times each side” and I’ve just realised that I’ve only done what lot of 2 for each side, not 2 lots, bugger! Not the end of the world, but it does make me realise why I was having so much trouble trying to figure out what “2-2, 2 times” meant in regards to threading the heddles and sleighing the reed. However, the book still doesn’t mention what time of selvedge this is, I’m going to assume it’s a floating selvedge. This means that the selvedge threads DO NOT go into heddles, they are threaded, 2 together, through the reed only. So if I had warped correctly I would have ended up with 2 threads in the first dent, two threads in the second dent and same again in the last and second last dents of the reed. I could leave it as is, or I could wrap some more thread around the warping board to get the correct length, weight them at the back to get the right tension and have to more floating selvedge threads ready to weave…. hmmm. Tough.

Why use a floating selvedge? Simply because it makes your edges not pull in so much (so I’m told) and makes it look neater. Some reference say to keep the selvedge threads off the back beam and just weight them on the back of the loom (with a washer or fishing sinker etc). I believe there is a similar advantage to using a “temple” in place of selvedge. My thought – as I think out load (or is that out keyboard?) is that I wanted to have a go at using a simple temple, as per this website, so I’ll stick with my 2 end selvedge and use a temple as well 🙂

Crafting Update

Among all the gardening and income earning, there has also been a little crafting or at least crafting prep, going on.


For a few weeks I’ve been designing and warping up my 4-shaft loom to weave a small blanket using all 4 shafts for the design (meep). It’s taken me a while simply to get the warp on and off my warping board in a couple of bouts using methods from Peggy Osterkamps books. I’ve now reached the stage where the warps are spread out on a raddle attached to the back of my loom. I’m hoping that today I might feel up to actually winding the warp onto the loom and start threading the headles *fingers crossed*

(the red, blue & pink bands are hair ties holding the threads into their 1/2″ slots on the raddle. There are 4 threads per slot. 2 lease sticks hold the cross and a 3rd is inserted into the end loops.



Now that the winter rains have passed, Craig has been able to get easy access to the big shed down the back and he’s spent a bit of time recently getting it all set up for hand tool work. I still haven’t gone down in person to see it but it looks fantastic from the photos (makes me jealous, can I kick him out and turn it into a weaving studio do you think *grin*).

His main woodworking project of late has been to build 2 work benches. One for himself and one for the Earthsong shed. I’m not sure if this is the workbench or the metal working bench he and Kain are building so that they can build a wind turbine.


And I think I’ve caught up on just about everything that is going on around here right now.

Ashford Handtowels

So I finished the handtowels from the Ashford book of riggid heddle weaving using the “8/2” weavers cotton from Ashford. I am so disappointed with these it’s not funny. They finished exactly how I thought they would, thick and not at all what I wanted or what was shown in the photos in the book. These feel and look more like a bath matt. 

This is the before washing (finishing) photo of the small towel

And the “finished” photo of the normal sized handtowel.

I was originally so excited to start this project, I was going to make new towels for our household and then more for family and friends. From the day the cotton arrived I thought it was too thick, but hay, what do I know I’ve just started learning all of this, so I continued as per the instructions in the book. Now I don’t know if the book “recipe” is wrong or if the cotton I was sent was wrong, but I’m going to get some 8/2 cotton from another company and see what the difference is. I really really wanted this project to work.

Now, my countermarch sample faired much better. 

So remember, my countermarch loom came with some warp thread still on the back roller. Instead of rewarping from the start I decided to just weave off this yarn. I threaded 1 end per heddle and 2 ends per dent of the reed. I used two treadles that did a simple pattern lifting shafts 1&3 or 2&4. All I wanted to achieve was a feel for throwing the shuttle, beating and changing the shed. After about 30cms of this I picked up some of the roving I had lying around and pulled off strips and wove that in with 3 picks between each strand of roving. The finished result is 3 blocks of plain and 2 blocks of roving strips, it’s quite a nice first time shawl or table runner. The selvedges are horrid for the most part but they do improve a little. For the last tiny piece of warp I changed my weft yarn from white to a small bit of leftover colour changing warp yarn, then a strip of the pink (the warp yarn although colour changing has mostly pink in it and I was able to get several rows of plain pink) and then I found I had some blue yarn that was very close to the warp thread.

If I was to weave this as an item of clothing or bolt of cloth I’d probably do the blue as the main weft just because you see more colour variation using the blue then the pink, but then I also like the idea of the border of multi and pink before the main body of blue.