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!