Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Scarf Kit Sample

We sample all the kits we offer on our Etsy site and we have received requests for a scarf kit.  I began work on this new kit with a project plan and measured the yarn for the warp, threaded my Schacht FLIP rigid heddle loom with the warp and started weaving with a measured amount of weft.  The scarf was quick to weave, I used variegated washable sock yarn for the weft and cotton for the warp.  I finished the weaving today and will tie the fringe and wet finish it tonight.

Looks like a new kit is on its way to our Etsy shop along with several new table runner/towel/placemat kits.  Last step is to write the instructions which we include with every kit.

I am pleased with the scarf and will take better photos when it's done.  We have purchased several different colorways in the sock yarn and will offer the new scarf kit in each.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Time Out

Attended a Christmas gathering yesterday dressed in purple instead of our typical ugly Christmas sweaters.  I took the opportunity to wear the brand new cashmere sweater that was a gift from my lovely, talented, great shopper daughter-in-law and son.  Yes, she comes first because she found the sweater and knew I would love it.  A special thank you to them.

Back in the studio work continues on the new kit.  We wanted to add a scarf kit to our popular towel/placemat/table runner kits we feature in our Etsy shop.  I am weaving as fast as possible to complete the sample and am concerned about my weft picks per inch.  I believe I am going to run out before I complete weaving the 78" needed for a finished size of 66".  I calculated the weft based on 10 picks per inch (ppi) and I keep measuring as I weave.  I'm going to double check my calculations on my project sheet before I return to weaving.  I am also going to measure my ppi again and see where I am.

New photos of the sample to follow soon.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Three looms A Day

 Here are the new napkins for our family in process on the Toika.  This  loom and this project are very special to me.  The Toika Eeva is the first floor  loom I have purchased brand new.  It's a long story and one I enjoy telling.

In July 2014 we went on a car trip to New England to visit Cape Cod, friends in Dartmouth, Massachusetts and to stop at the Marketplace at Convergence in Providence, RI.

A couple words about Convergence.  Every 2 years, Handweavers Guild of American (HGA) organizes a large conference for weavers, spinners and dyers.  It used to be THE place to go if you did any of those crafts.  Nowadays, most people seem to be attending classes closer to home and enjoy seeing the newest yarns, spinning wheels, drop spindles, etc. at shows like Maryland Sheep & Wool, Estes Park Wool Market and New York Sheep & Wool (often called Rhinebeck).  My personal favorite is Maryland Sheep & Wool but that may be because I live in Maryland and have for close to 30 years.

So, in 2014 we were in New England at the same time as Convergence and decided to go to the Marketplace so I could try the various computer assisted countermarch looms that interested me.  I started weaving on a Schacht Baby Wolf jack type loom.  A couple of years later, I bought a used countermarch/counterbalance 8 shaft Glimakra Standard because I experienced back and leg pain when weaving on the Baby Wolf.  I continue to weave on the Glimakra  and I enjoy it but there are some days my body can't deal with using treadles at all.  I knew the time for something easier, like a computer assisted loom which lifts the shafts for you, had arrived.  I wanted to stick with a countermarch loom because I love the shed size and how quiet they are to operate.

There were only 3 looms that interested me, Leclerc Weaverbird, Louet Megado and Toika Eeva.  I had always heard the Toika was the Cadillac of computer assisted looms and, supposedly, the most expensive.  I knew I wanted 16 shafts and I wanted at least 48" weaving width so I could weave wide rugs. We arrived at the Marketplace for opening and I expected them to be prepared.  Leclerc was the first booth we found but they were not ready for customers yet.  I watched as the company owner worked on a sampler he had on the loom.  I was concerned about how noisy the shafts were as they rose and lowered to create the shed for the shuttle.  Although it was a countermarch, the loom controls were metal and seemed quite loud.

Next stop was to visit Louet.  They were busy threading the loom and completing the set up of the computer which worked to raise and lower shafts.  They suggested we return in 15-20 minutes and they would be ready.  I stood and watched as they worked on the loom and became discouraged as I watched one person after another approach the company president and request information about the part they had ordered.  I learned that there was a 2-3 month delay in orders and many were turned away without news of when they could expect their part.  It seemed like a bad sign.

On to Toika.  The loom was set up and ready for me to try weaving on it.  I was introduced to the various features of the loom and invited to sit down and weave.  It was everything I had hoped for.  It was quiet, it was easy to operate and understand.  I learned that if I ordered a new loom, the Elkins (US dealers for Toika is WEBS in Northampton, Mass.) would come to my home and set up the computer box that sat on the top of the loom and give me an introductory lesson for using the loom.  In addition, the software needed to operate the loom was included in the price.  It was  the Cadillac others had dubbed it and the price was less than other looms I was considering.

I wanted to decide then and there but thought the wisest thing to do was to think about it.  I stopped at Louet and the loom was ready for a test drive.  There was still a part missing, I don't remember what, but it effected my decision since even the owner was unable to get the parts from the main company in Holland.  In addition, it required a lot of leg strength to raise and lower the shafts.  That was the one thing I was looking to avoid!  We also stopped at Leclerc and I wove for a few minutes on that loom. Although it was easy to operate, it was not as quiet as the Toika and the clinking and clanging of the wires as they lifted and lowered the shafts was very annoying.  Plus, there was no one to help with setup.  You receive over 40 boxes of loom pieces and you are responsible for assembly.  Not ideal.

I gave it a night but truth be told I knew as we left the Marketplace that my mind was made up.  The Toika was everything I wanted and needed and I called Barbara Elkins the next morning and ordered the loom.  It was a great choice.  I love my loom a year later!

Art Elkins preparing to install the computer

Toika Eeva ready for computer installation

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kits and samplers

Our newest kit was just added to our Lotsaknots Etsy Shop.  It's a beautiful combination of silver, green, gray and beige stripes with a matching silver weft.  We wind the warp and chain it off the warping mill.  There is a thread-by-thread cross all ready for the lease sticks.  It can be  beamed either front-to-back or back-to -front on your choice of loom.  Whether you have a rigid heddle, 4 shaft or 8 shaft loom does not matter.  This warp works well on any variety of looms.  We have sold dozens of these kits and received very good reviews.

Now back to the studio.  The coin toss went to the Glimakra today and I spent some time getting familiar with the twill sampler.  It's been a while since I wove twill and it has taken some time to find my bearings at the treadles.  It's not a difficult design but it takes some concentration.  I will post the draft another day and leave you with a photo of the sampler.

Twill sampler from Graver book

Smmpler close-up

Friday, December 18, 2015

Weaving going strong

Scarf kit sample on the rh loom

All 3 looms are up and running and I am faced with a daily dilemma of where to begin.  The project on the Glimakra is a sample which may become a table runner if I wasn't neglecting it, totally.  I received the new Patty Graver book, Next Steps in Weaving, as a gift a few months ago and decided to weave the projects in order.  I have been studying weave structure this year and it isn't sinking in very well.  I studied Sharon Alderman from cover to cover and I did all the exercises in Madelyn wander Hoogt's Complete Book of Drafting.  I believed I understood what I was reading and studying and I find I don't really "get it".  I look at a piece of fabric and I am stumped as to the weave structure.  I know all fabric is either woven or knit.  Beyond that, I find myself guessing and getting it right part of the time.

Logic tells me I need to study it more.  I need to weave more and I need to find a way to drum it into my head further.  The Graver book lays it out really well so I am going to weave all the samples and work to understand why certain structures look the way the do.  I need to get back to weaving the sample on the Glimakra but the Toika is so much fun.  Plus, I am weaving napkins for our family on the Tooika and they look great.

Now, where did I put that 3-sided coin???

FLIP rigid heddle loom with scarf sample in progress

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A momentary diversion

I had planned to write about weaving.  Truth be told, I have always wanted to write a food blog.  I know, there are thousands of online food blogs.  And some win awards and big prizes.  One food blog I have followed for over a year is Orangette.  I was curious about the name and I enjoy her writing.  Turns out, the author, Mollie Wizenberg, won the James Beard Award in 2015 for Best Individual Food Blog.  Who knew?

Okay, back to the food blog.  My life, as a person with Type 1 ( juvenile, insulin dependent) diabetes for the past 55 years, is focused on food.  That's not the full picture.  The 3 essential pillars of diabetes care are food, exercise and insulin.  So, my life is centered on all three.  It is a balancing of all three elements and food is the most complex.  People with Type 1 diabetes are dependent on insulin.  The amount of insulin you take in a day is based on your food intake and your level of physical activity.  If you overeat, you need to exercise or take more insulin.  Somehow food always seems to be at the center of things and calculating the amount of insulin needed is not as straight forward as you might think.

For instance, if you eat a slice of toast for breakfast, you figure out how many carbohydrate grams are in that slice of toast and take enough insulin to help your body digest the toast.  But, if you put peanut butter on the toast it can slow your digestion of the toast and the insulin is working while your stomach is still working on the toast.  The insulin, most of which is fast acting, is available to digest the toast but the toast is napping because the high fat content in the peanut butter has slowed things down.  In a worst case scenario, the insulin causes your blood sugar to drop too low too fast and you experience low blood sugar which requires you take fast acting sugar to restore your blood sugar to normal.  Then, a couple of hours later, the toast and the fast acting sugar arrive on the scene and the insulin is long gone so your blood sugar goes too high.  Very complex and all because you wanted a dab of peanut butter on your toast!

I could spend weeks explaining all the exceptions and issues that arise in my efforts to balance my food, insulin and exercise as I try to maintain my blood sugar in a "normal" range.  I could spend several more weeks talking about the history of insulin delivery, home blood sugar monitoring and balancing the 3 basic pillars of Type 1 diabetes.  Then, I could spend several more weeks talking about the goal of all this careful control and the devastation of diabetes complications.  I guess it wouldn't really be a food blog but a diabetes blog which would turn into a diary of my daily struggles.

That's when I stop myself from discussing food and especially food and its effect on my life.  I spend a lot of time balancing my blood sugars and writing about it doesn't seem at all interesting or fun.  Now, reading Orangette and learning about food and its preparation from someone else's perspective which I enjoy.

I'll return to posting pictures and writing about weaving tomorrow.  It's much more fun and easier to explain.  And, I'll have this blog post to remind me why I don't write a food blog. Plus, I enjoy reading Orangette and looking at recipes on several other food sites.

I'll leave you with a photo of the band I took off my backstrap loom a few days ago and I'll talk about the 2nd band I worked on using my backstrap.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Something New

Close up of project on 16s Toika
Napkins being woven on 16s Toika

I am trying something new.
Both looms currently have projects on them and I am going to write a blog post daily about the things I know best.  After weaving for more than a decade, I have learned many lessons.

1.  Keep records.  I have used several different project planning sheets, some found online and other from classes I have taken.  As a result, I have created my own personal planning sheet to include the calculation that are important for my planning process.  I start every project, even samples, by recording my project plan.  It includes all the information about the warp, weft and finished project.  I calculate my warp length and the total yards of warp yarn required to weave the project.  In addition, I calculate my ppi (picks per inch) and the total yards of weft yarn required to complete the project.  If I am uncertain about how much yarn I have in the color I plan to use, I will weigh it and calculate the yards on the cone.

2. Sample.  Include at least 18-36" of warp yarn for a sample when calculating the length of your warp.  Make certain you include enough warp to take the sample off the loom when it is complete and tie the warp back on the front apron rod.  My first samples neglected to include at least 6-8" for retying after removing the sample and I almost ran short when weaving my final project.

3.  Be willing to make changes in your sett and ppi based on the results from your sample.  In fact, be willing to change your weft yarn altogether.  Your sample should include weaving with several different colors to be certain you have chosen the one you like best.  If you change the sett of your warp, you will need to resley your reed.  If you choose a different size weft yarn, recalculate your total needs on your project planning sheet and check to be certain you have enough yarn.

When it comes to project planning, the most important single lesson I have learned is to be open minded.  You may have conceived of your completed project one way and your experimentation on the loom may take you in a different direction.  Make sure you leave enough warp length to sample each idea and be willing to try different things when you sample.  It will lead to the best possible result.

I could bore you with several stories of how I started with one idea, ran out of yarn or found a different way to do it when sampling and those things led to a different result.  Your sample is a time to have fun and try crazy things.  Don't dismiss anything, try it all.  Save your samples and file them with your completed project plan and a snip of the finished project if you can.

I'll write more about the pictures at the top tomorrow.  The planning was fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's gone Home to Oregon

Home to Oregon baby wrap

Done and gone home to Oregon.  This was a lovely wrap to work with.  I enjoyed looking at the colors and imagining the landscape they represent.  The blessing threads (center markers) were less of a challenge than I expected.  They are supplemental weft thread, inserted at the center point to enable the baby wrap wearer to feel for and easily identify the middle of the wrap.
blessing threads (middle of wrap)

The final wrap is 6.2 meters long.  The longest wrap I have ever woven!  The measurements were taken twice following washing the wrap in lukewarm water, spinning the water out in the washer (on low) and letting it dry on the clothesline.  We ironed it carefully on both sides and corrected 2 small treading errors.  Then, off it went to it's home in Oregon.

It's difficult to see the true colors considering every monitor is different.  Our client commented that the colors were more intense and much more pleasing in person.  We did our best to match her poem, Anniversary Poem: Home to Oregon.  A first for us and our client.

The next several projects include a set of shadow weave napkins for our household.  They had an auspicious start when I discovered a 100 thread error in the sample.  I had to untie the sample from the apron rod and one-by-one remove and rethread each end.  A tedious and time consuming job.  Now complete, the napkins are moving along quickly on my brand new 16 shaft Toika Eeva computer assisted loom.  My first "real" project on my new loom.  It's fun and more challenging than I expected.

In addition, I am working on a new weaving kit to sell in our Etsy shop.  It's a scarf kit constructed of 5/2 cotton warp and sock yarn weft.  We currently offer a kit with a pre-wound warp that can be used on a rigid heddle loom or a floor loom.  The scarf loom will be different yarn and will include a pre-wound warp and sufficient weft for a machine washable, longish scarf with fringe.  All kits include printed, detailed instructions and come with a year of email support.

As Garrison Keillor is known to say, "Be well, do good work and keep in touch".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Wrap Whizzes off the Loom

I have filmed several of our completed wraps as I remove them from the loom.  I've enjoyed watching the fabric come off the cloth beam and seeing it piled up on the floor in front of the loom.  This time is a bit different.  I admit, I've never worked this quickly in my life OR I may have pushed the wrong button when I filmed myself removing the baby wrap from the loom.  Once it's off there are no "do-overs".  Before I began filming, I spent 15 minutes testing the camera and making certain I positioned it correctly on my new tripod.  Then, I pressed the wrong button or something when I set it to record.  Actually, I think it's more fun this way.

Let's go back to the beginning.  This wrap, which we have titled Home to Oregon, was designed from a poem written by our client.  You can read the poem here.  She explained more about the poem in her blog post.  

The center of the wrap is marked with blessing threads that represent the flight of the mallard ducks over a pond.  The color yarn was chosen to represent that vibrant turquoise that appears on the mallard's head.  You can scroll down on this page and see a nice color photo.  

The wrap is almost done.  Janet is taking a close look at every thread to check for any minor treading errors.  Once these are repaired, the wrap will be hand washed, hemmed and mailed to our client.  I will be sad to see it go.  This one is a beauty.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Weaving, traveling and having fun

I was very surprised to see it's been 2 months since I last posted a blog note.  I keep writing posts in my head that never make it to the computer.

We have a beauty on the loom currently.  I just finished designing the blessing threads and will have a picture of them on our Facebook page next week.  The wrap was designed by Janet from a poem written by our client.  The poem, Home to Oregon, can be found here.  Here is a photo of the wrap on the loom.

The colors are a delight to work on and the weft is a beautiful 2/18 Merino wool which flies off the shuttle.  I am looking forward to placing the blessing threads.  We refer to the wrap as Home to Oregon since it is based on the poem of the same name.

Twilight is a beautiful all cotton wrap that is available in our Etsy shop here.  

The stunning blues and purples of this wrap are difficult to see on the computer.  We have a few good pics in our Etsy shop.  

In addition, we have towel/table runner/ market bag kits that have pre-wound warps and weft yarn on bobbins ready to weave.  We have received great reviews for our kits and will begin offering scarf kits in the near future.

That's all the news from the studio for now.  I'll be back soon.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Next wrap- Under Construction

Heart in Uganda warp on the back beam

We have a new adventure in the wrap that is currently on the loom.  Janet designed the wrap, with our client, based on a poem written by the client.  The poem is titled "Home to Oregon" and it recounts the author's experience of returning to the Oregon coast after living in Uganda.  You can read the poem here:  http://goo.gl/rAR2X5

While working on threading the wrap, I spent a couple of hours knitting a baby gift for friends. I think the result rates a very high "awww" factor:

And, as hostess gifts for family I recently visited out west, I knit and felted a few bowls.  These were perfect car knitting because it didn't require close attention. 

The pattern for the bowls was created by Cat Bordhi and appears in her 2nd book, A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting.  There are all sorts of fascinating things to knit in this book. The bowls were well received by all including Mom, my nephew and my older brother.  Lots of family out west.

 I cannot resist one more family photo from my trip to California.  While visiting my aunt, I suggested my brother take a photo of her with me and I could, in return, snap one of the two of them.  My Aunt, however, had a much better suggestion.  "How about a selfie with all 3 of us".  Thanks for everything Aunt Arline, especially your cool idea.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mother's Day on my mind

I just came across this photo a customer posted on our Facebook page.  It's the Tropical Breezes wrap we finished a couple of months ago.  I began thinking about the sister wrap, Tropical Delights, which is available in our Etsy shop.  It's a perfect wrap for this time of year and makes a great Mother's Day gift (hint, hint).

Here are a few pics.
Hand embroidered middle marker

Everyone who sees it comments on the colors
and how supple and strong it is.  This is a brand
new wrap, never owned and it can be yours!

The details are:
Wrap measures 29" x 3.5 meters (Size 4)
Price is $340 (free shipping to lower 48 if you mention this blog post)
100% cotton
Machine wash and dry
Holds child 8 to 35 lbs.
Designed and hand woven by the Lotsaknots Team, Janet and Claudia

We also have a lovely turquoise, blue and purple wrap called Winter Twilight available in our Etsy shop.    It's brand new, never owned and would make a lovely Mother's Day gift.
Here are a few pics.

Razzmataz the sister wrap
It's difficult to see the colors of some wraps no matter what monitor you use.  The picture that shows the colors best the photo of Razzmatz, the sister wrap to Winter Twilight.
Here are some details from the Etsy page:
Measures 27" x 4.2 meters (Size 5)
100% cotton
Machine wash and dry
Holds child 8 to 35 lbs.
Price is $425 (free shipping to lower 48 if you mention this blog post)
Designed and hand woven by the Lotsaknots Team, Janet and Claudia
Choose your own hand embroidered middle marker!
The ends and the rails are hemmed.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Weaving is Over

Gramma's Garden
The weaving is complete for the two baby wraps of Gramma's Garden.  The top half of the photo above shows the wrap with the purple wool/tencel weft and the bottom is the red wool/tencel weft.  This was the first time I have used wool/tencel in a baby wrap and it feels lovely.  The wraps are soft and have a beautiful drape even before wet finishing.

Each wrap will now be thoroughly examined for small skips and weaving errors which will be corrected by hand.  The ends will be hemmed and the wraps be hand washed. I wrote about the finishing process a.  few weeks ago.  I posted about my experiments in finishing the samples for these wraps.  The best result was hand wash, air dry and iron with a hot steam iron.  I am planning on hand washing each wrap separately in lukecool water in the bathtub and hanging it to air dry.

It feels good to have the weaving done.
I've included a short video of the wraps being cut off the loom followed by some more pictures of the removal process.  I love seeing the large pile of fabric when the wraps come off the loom.  You can see the twill section that is our trademark hem.  It only appears on the inside of the wrap and it;s a small touch we add to all our wraps.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Time Does Not Pass Slowly

Gramma's Garden

Currently on the loom is Gramma's Garden,    I love the way plain weave allows the warp colors to shine.  The red/orange weft brings an unexpected warmth to the whole warp.

This custom baby wrap represents many firsts for us.  Until now, Janet has designed every wrap we have made from a photo and/or working closely with our clients to develop the design.  She creates a mock up by wrapping the various colors of yarn on a 1" wide piece of cardboard.  She then winds the warp based on the mock up and any changes the client may have requested.  Here are a couple of mock ups and final wraps.


Dark Shadows


Mock up for Gramma's Garden

The design for Gramma's Garden was created by our client.
In addition, she chose a wool/tencel blend yarn for the weft.  This is a departure from our usual all cotton baby wraps and has been welcome change.

The mock is the beginning and the finished wrap is the end.  There are many hours of work in between.  Janet winds the warps which are usually 12-14 yards long and over 800 threads.  She divides the warp into 3-4 bouts or sections and winds each separately.  From there, we wind the warp onto the loom and I thread it, sley the reed and weave a sample using various colors of weft for the client to choose the color they prefer.  This sample is removed from the loom, measured and wet finished.

In the case of Gramma's Garden, I wove a small sample, removed it from the loom as usual and measured it carefully.  I divided it into 4 separate pieces and wet finished each piece differently.  Two pieces were machine washed, one in cold water and the other in warm.  Both were then dried on the low setting in our dryer.  They had the greatest percentage of shrinkage but it was not a huge amount.
Next, I hand washed two samples, one in cold and the other in warm and air dried both.  I expected the hand dried sample that was washed in warm water to also shrink a great deal and it did not.  This experiment indicates how I need to wet finish the wrap when the weaving is complete.

Once the samples are dried, tested and measured, the weaving begins.  When the weaving is done and the wraps are removed from the loom we inspect them for skipped threads, small flaws, etc.  Every thread, warp and weft, is carefully inspected and any small flaws (mostly skipped threads) are repaired.

The final steps are the hem the wraps and wet finish them either in the washer or by hand.  We iron every wrap, inspect it again for any skips, repair the skips we missed earlier, iron again and the wrap is DONE!

Yes, it's a long process and we never tire of doing it.
Thanks for your support, thanks for reading this far into the post and have a great day!

Claudia and Janet
The Lotsaknots Team
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Our Easy Shop (we have 2 wraps for sale)
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