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 Simple Life

William Noel Peregrin Ambrose

William Noel Peregrin Ambrose

We’re just recently back from the hospital with our new baby boy, William. The delivery was a little scary, and then having him with us was so wonderful, that I couldn’t help thinking that I need very little else to be happy. If my basic needs were met (food, shelter, warmth, air, etc), and I had meaningful work and Tracey and William to hang out with, then what other things are there that would be critical to having a good life?

In practice, I think I’m exaggerating somewhat. I have plenty of other hopes, dreams and desires, but dwelling on that thought of us sitting around the fire in a little cabin somewhere, little-house-on-the-prairie style, is a most pleasant image. The key here is simplicity.

Simplicity is something that has been on my mind a lot of late. I believe that it’s an important aspect of living a full and happy life. I haven’t quite figured out how strongly we should consider simplicity, as opposed to other criteria for good living, and I also haven’t quite figured out what simplicity means to me, but I’m convinced that it’s important.

I’ve called this post “The Simple Life”, which is of course one of those phrases that is so common in our language that even Paris Hilton uses it. The simple life has come to mean a return to small farming. Now, I love small farming, but I also think that this term is a gross misnomer. Farming and maintaining a homestead is anything but simple. In some ways, it seems to me that the simplest life I could lead would be to live in a serviced apartment in the middle of the city, to program computers all day, order in all my food, and spend my leisure hours sipping gin and tonic on the balcony. However, at the same time it’s clear to almost all of us that modern life has become too complex, and that as a result we have not necessarily experienced the increase in happiness and satisfaction over previous generations which would seem (on the surface) to be the goal of industrialised society.

It’s fairly obvious that a lot of advances of recent decades have not succeeded in making our lives simpler. When the first car came along, we thought “wow, great, now I can get to work and to the market in a fraction of the time that it takes on my horse”. That was true initially. We got to work faster, but then work got further away. Now, we spend more time commuting than before the car was invented. Plus, we have to labour at our jobs for weeks each year to pay for the privilege of having a car, and pay taxes to cover the government subsidised costs of motoring (road construction, etc). Maybe if we had known this all in the beginning then we would have thought better of the whole thing.

Voluntary Simplicity

Voluntary Simplicity

So perhaps simplicity is about rejecting some of the assumptions which our civilization has made if we find that they make our lives more complex. One famous book in this field is Voluntary Simplicity, by Duane Elgin. This book is actually the result of a survey of people attempting to live a life of voluntary simplicity or frugality. Obviously, what it means to them varies wildly, but it tended to not be far off the images evoked by that phrase, “The Simple Life”. Hard work, frugal living, back to the land.

An alternative viewpoint is provided in Walden, that classic american biographic novel by Henry David Thoreau. Published in 1854, it tells the story of Thoreau’s years living in a cabin which he built by Walden pond, and carefully designing his lifestyle so that his needs were simple enough to meet with the bare minimum of work and obligation. Unlike the respondants to Elgin’s study of voluntary simplicity, Thoreau doesn’t seem at all fond of constant manual labour, in fact it’s his wish to labour far less than those he sees around him on working commercial farms. He eats a very simple diet of bread and rice, vegetables and a bit of dried meat, and he turns down offers such as a door mat, when he considers what it will add to his life in comparison with what effort it might take to maintain. Thereau’s goal then is to remove complexity from his life so that he can spend as much of it as possibly thinking and philosphising, which he believes is a much richer human experience than working hard to achieve small periods of expensive leisure.

Thoreau’s definition of simplicity seems to me to be an accurate one, and his books worth reading, but it’s not the ingredient that I’m looking for in my life. I don’t want to work less, I want to integrate work with my life, rather than keeping it separate as I do when I program computers so that in my spare time I can spend hours at leisure with my family. However, I applaud Thoreau’s thinking in considering each expectation which society places on him and deciding whether it really is making his life better.

A Handmade Life

A Handmade Life

A very pleasing middle ground is found in the book “A Handmade Life” by William Coperthwaite. This is a very close competitor for my “favourite book ever” at the moment (jostling for space with “A Pattern Language” and of course the Lord of the Rings). Coperthwaite’s philosophy attempts to find a balance between Thoreau’s brand of simplicity and also a conscious attempt to consider the beauty of life. To Coperthwaite, beauty takes into account all feelings that something evokes in you. If you have a beautiful object, but know that it’s made by someone labouring in a sweatshop, you’d be hard pressed to find it beautiful. As a homesteader, Coperthwaite is certainly attempting to live a life of voluntary simplicity, but he occasionally surprises with his attempts to cut unnecessary items out of his life to an extent that I hadn’t considered doing myself.

I’m not really sure what all this will mean to me. I think that part of it is a desire to consider how to live a life with less things, and less time spent doing work which serves no purpose other than to maintain some cultural ritual which gives me no benefit, like mowing the lawn when I find tall and wild grasses more beautiful than cut ones. I’d like to keep simplicity in mind as a design criteria for the house that we build at our new homestead. Like Coperthwaite, and unlike Thoreau, I also expect to use beauty as a criteria for my life as well.

For some closing words on this topic, I’ll quote yet another William, William Morris, one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”

Mapping Local Food

Tracey and I have been working on a little project as part of our local Transition Town group for mapping local food. We were at our local Swanson Market a couple of weeks ago with the big map that we’ve been working on.

Getting local food on the map

The map we’ve built is a two-and-a-half meter long terrain model of the area we live in, showing about half of Waitakere. It was built up with layers of fibre board and cardboard, using terrain maps projected from google maps, then traced and cut out. It’s in four parts, with sides to protect the map, which bolt together and sit on a display table.

We could have just used a big paper map on a pin-up board, but the having such a large and impressive looking model is a great conversation starter. When we take it to a market people come up to us and take a look. Then we tell them that we’re putting pins in the map for anyone who grows veggies, even for their own use, or sells local food, makes local food products, or provides garden instruction or tools.

Instead of trying to promote food growing, we’re asking people about what they are already doing. This sort of conversation is much less confronting for people (we aren’t trying to sell anything), and it has real benefits. In one day we collected information for about 40 local growers, and we’ll be visiting the Oratia Farmers Market this Saturday to collect more. Each pin on the map represents a real local resource, and also potentially the start of a conversation about local resilience.

A physical map has lots of benefits compared to some online tool, but it can only be in one place at a time, so we have an online tool as well. When we get home from the market, the information on each “map pin” gets typed up, and appears on this interactive map:


The software that runs this can be used by anyone wanting to run a similar project. Contact me if you’re keen to try it in your area.

A knitting update

I’m a bit slow on the craft blogging part of this blog at the moment but here is a little of what we’ve been up too.

Craig has been sick recently so is making good progress on his first sock knitted using magic loop on my knit-picks needles (purchased through Vintage Purl in NZ).

Since this photo has been taken he’s actually just about finished the leg (the ones I knitted for him were 11″ long, he wants these even longer). He may need to get sick again when he starts on the other foot though 🙂

Now I had decided to start myself a raglan top-down jumper (my first). I got this far:

And decided that it would look horrible as it’s all in garter stitch and I had no idea what I was doing and where the garter stitch would end in the jumper and the stocking stitch start once I joined it in the round. So a did some tinking (that would be knitting backwards) and began all over again in stocking stitch. I also stuffed up the first lot of increases and they looked messy so I’m not too upset about starting again. I’m doing a V-neck and I think I’ll pick up stitches around the neck once I’ve finished and knit on at least a small ribbed border to match the sleeves and waist.

Also, my knit-picks needles came in a horrible clear plastic zip case that was horrible to try to organise in so I went hunting to see if I could do better. A trip to The Warehouse resulted in a binder with a few pockets, ring binder and notebook. I added a display book that clipped into the binder for loose pattern sheets and some zip-lock pockets (from diary organisers) that also clipped into the binder and now everything is nice and neat, accessible and portable.

There is even a mesh zip pocket to put my stitch markers, stitch counter and measuring tape etc and nice business card pockets that fit my ruler, sewing neddles & crochet hooks, a pen holder for my two pairs of bamboo DPNs, a pocket that fits the little plastic pocket I have all the changeable needle tips in (and a larger zipped pocket behind all that for misc bits. The plastic zipp-lock pockets hold all my circular cable lengths nicely.

Leather Wrist band

Craig was able to tear himself away from his computer today and spend time making a leather wrist band (guaranteed to increase your manliness). The entire peace has been hand cut, decoratively sewn and riveted by him and I think it looks great.