Thursday, 19 November 2009

weaving again

i'm making a scarf for my friend cherie's birthday (which was on monday, better late than never). not having access to a loom was driving me mental, so i borrowed this off Drew the WeaveTech at college.

it's the spit of my old table loom isn't it? except it doesn't have turning wheels at the left-hand side, so the let-off is a bit more difficult, and the ratchet n pauls are wooden, not metal. it might be a little wider as well, and this scarf is a little narrower than usual

yeah i know, another bog-standard 2/2 twill. i must admit after 2 years of making 2/2 twills it is starting to get a little boring, but next semester i get access to dobby looms, so lucky me eh? about time too, i've been getting right impatient doing all this other stuff that isn't weaving. though using a domestic knitting machine is kinda fun, i must admit, i should try making a jumper. don't really have time just now, i'm overloadd with work and i've been ill, having caught the zombie plague on halloween (i dressed up as a zombie because i'm lazy and all you need is black, white and red and a torn t-shirt, at least i didn't go as yet-another-batman-joker) however i then proceeded to get stuck out in edinburgh for 2 hours at night without my coat and a t-shirt full of holes and caught some kind of horrible cold which i still haven't fully recovered from.

heyho, it's always a good reason to take time off work. talking of which i really should quit my job and get a cheaper flat. maybe i could get a rat-infested doss-house full of fleas and dodgy electrics, it'd be just like the old days, except i'd be paying rent this time.

anyway, enough of that. so there it is anyway, another weavemaster table loom, definitely the singer of british table looms, i think they were manufactured in the 40's and 50's, for that whole handicraft revival thing that never really managed to hold on over here. nobody manufactures handlooms in this country anymore. i believe the company that used to make these now sells industrial loom control software, but they might just be using the same name.

* * * WARNING * * *

you can still buy reeds from a place down in england, and a guy on ebay as well, made to your exact specifications as well, reasonable prices i thought. when i get a place to use my floor loom i'm getting a 48" 14dpi reed. hopefully they'll still be in business by then. knowing the way things go in this country, the last of Thatcher's minions will get them in their eternal quest to destroy british manufacturing.

it's crazy ain't it? the Luftwaffe spent years bombing the shit out of our heavy industry trying to destroy our manufacturing base and then Thatcher came along and did their job for them 50 years late and with practically no violence whatsoever. Aaah, there's nothing for maintaining proletarian pride like working in a call-centre is there?

we're gonna be so screwed when peak oil comes around. Well, at least we've still got a decent railway system and some local food production, unlike certain continental superpowers i could mention

anyway, i guess what i'm saying (in my had anyway, it probably isn't too clear here) is that we're going to need to build up a network of decentralised production co-operatives independent of centralised state control is our society is going to survive the end of the oil era without descending into fascist barbarism. it won't happen though, at least not on the kind of scale that'll prevent us from being economically dominated by a certain Asian superpower i could mention (god i'm so subtle)

anyway, go communism! that's the original vision of communism, as in independently federated networks of workers and peasant co-operative using consensus decision making and localised production, not the hideous parody that emerged in the soviet union. whether it's even possible is a good question, maybe we're doomed to be slave to our own creations, forever feeding an inhuman machine we have no control over whose goals are completely at odds with human survival and happiness.

looking on the bright side, global capitalism appears to be completely unsustainable, so i guess the worst that could happen is a thousand year global dark age in a world completely stripped of all easily attainable metals and fossil fuels and littered with the junk and poisons of 300 years of selfish and poorly co-ordinated production.

as George Carlin famously said "the planet wil be fine . . . the PEOPLE are fucked"

so i guess that's something to be cheerful about


ps. see how i did that? used my perfectly harmless weaving blog to rant on and on about peak oil and anarchist communism. see, fascist do this sort of thing as well by appealing to people's natural concerns about the unfair distribution of economic and political power in capitalist society and then turn the whole thing on it's head and just blame it on the muslims and the blacks. the difference between that and what i'm doing is i'm a nice boy and don't want to round up all the muslims, blacks, homosexuals, jews, communists, catholics and so on and put them in camps. all i want to do is live in a nicely organised urban commune growing veg and weaving clever fabric

Thursday, 8 October 2009

i'm in college now :)

have been for 4 weeks

oh, it's terribly overwhelming actually, i haven't been in proper education for years and years and i'm getting so much howework to do.

we have 2 full days of knitting machining on monday and tuesday, which is pretty greuling like, and i spend a lot of time swearing at the machines cos they're awfully finickity things and they drop stitches at the slightest provocation, at least they do for me anyway.

and then on wednesday i've been having to paint, and i can't paint to save my life. never mind. we're onto pattern cutting and sewing now and that's much better.

we don't have weave for another few months yet though, so i've got the lend of a table loom off the weave techinician and gonna make a scarf for my friend's birthday.


anyway, sorry for the extended absence, which reminds me of a joke

man goes to the doctor

man: i've got a problem doctor, it's a bit embarassing to tell truth

doctor: well, there's no need to be embarassed in front of me, anything said here won't leave this room

man: well, it's like this, for the past week or so everytime i've farted it's sounded awfully strange

doctor: well, maybe you could demonstrate for me?

man screws his face up with effort, assumes wrestlers stance

man: eeeeh, urrgh (strain, struggle, etc) . . . HONDA!

doctor: well, that is curious, does this happen everytime you fart?

man: yes, i'm the laughing stock of the office

doctor: has there been any change in your lifestyle or diet recently?

man: well, my wife left me last week and she always did the cooking so i've mainly been living off ready meals and pot noodles, i don't know how to cook for myself

doctor: hmmm, well i have a theory, if you could just drop your trousers so i can examine you?

man: ok then (drops keks)

doctor: hmm (shuffle, peer, probe and so on), well, i think i my have found the issue here, there's an absess on your left buttock, if you put your trousers back on i'll give you a cream that'll clear it up, i think you'll find you'll be farting normally in a matter of days

man: what? (shuffles back into keks) but that's ridiculous, what on earth could an abcess have to do with the sound of my farts?

doctor: well, it's like the old saying goes . .
"Abcess makes the fart go HONDA!"

good eh?

oh come on now, it's not that bad.

really, some people don't know when they're in the precense of a comedic genius


Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Knotted Pile Course at Castlehill

Well, i still don't have my camera lead, and i still don't have internet access at home, but it's been almost a month since i did the course, which was fairly significant and i might as well post something or i'll never get round to it.

unfortunately, no pictures. heyho

but like i say, i taught a Knotted Pile Weaving course at Castlehill Heritage Centre in Castletown, about 2 days before i moved down here to gala. It was a great success i thought. basically, everyone got a square frame with a warp of rug wool already on it, because i figured we could lose two hours putting warps on frames because it's terribly fiddly and takes a while to get right, and anyway it's something that anyone can figure out how to do themselves in their own free time, so i did it myself the night before.

Really, it's quite a simple technique and once people have done a line or two of pile, it becomes quite automatic and folks can start messing about with their patterns and experimenting and stuff. one person had a good idea of the picture she wanted to make already, so she got on with that, most people just chose 4 or 5 colours and made stripes and squares and stuff, there was a bit of good colour blending going on, using various hues of the same colour to make a sort of mottled effect, very nice. one person even figured out that she could have areas without pile on the pile line without having to ask how it was done, which was pretty cool.

there were 7 people in all, and a good time was had by all. at the end of the day i showed them all a wee bit of tablet weaving, and actually managed to show one woman how to warp up during lunch break, which was nice. so, 7 wee mats made and two tablet weaving warps given away.

i enjoyed myself, and i think everyone else did as well. it was fun.

anyway, that's that, no pics, cos i don't have the technology just now. never mind, maybe next week.

also, in other news, after 3 weeks of applying to every damn place within 20 miles of my house i finally have work. it's a relief i can tell you. but i can't relax yet, cos the council are threatening to cut off my goolies cos i haven't yet IMMEDIATELY supplied them with a piece of paper they didn't ask for and which i have never before needed to supply to any council anywhere else in britain.

don't you just love it when you recieve a letter on the 10th that's dated the 5th telling you that you MUST supply them information within 5 days of the date of the letter or they'll do terrible things to your financial well-being? what's even better is that when you take this letter to the office to moan about it they then say "oh, ignore that, it's just a computer generated form". so i'm being bombarded with empty threats by the council mainframe? hooray for beaureacracy!

wow, i think i spelled that right, it looks right anyway.

anyhoodle, it's roasting and i don't start work till saturday, so i'm off to lie about in the park and die of heatstroke

Thursday, 30 July 2009

just so you know

i haven't been posting recently because i left the USB lead for my camera up north in a box within a box. silly of me

i'll get pictures of the workshop as Castlehill up on monday when i get all my tat back down here.

in other news, there's lots of lovely forests down here, and the job market is absolutely dire.


Thursday, 9 July 2009


sorry for the caps

that's me rationalising my tat in my parents' front room, they're away on holiday in Foreign the now.

I just salvaged the wool from an unfinished rug that went wrong half a year ago. hooray!

i'm getting on the train in 5 days, yikes. and doing the workshop in castlehill on saturday, jings, crivens, and so on.

That's the garden there, descending into chaos through a process of entropy whereby all systems gradually collapse when they're not constantly maintained.

i apologise for the sideways pics making your eyes bleed

i include these two pics cos about 30 minutes later (it was dead sunny when i took them) a storm broke over holborn head and it was all thunder and lightning, fork lightning and everything, i've literally never seen anything like it. i was round the corner at my neighbour's house drinking tea and i ran back to get my camera and shut the door and the storm broke over me and i got soaked up to the waist running through sudden puddles.

a house got demolished by the lightning over at scrabster, a few telephone poles got set on fire, and i've been told people actually saw ball lightning in the air near scrabster. i was going to put my bike back in the house, but i was too scared to hold anything metal. least i wasn't my mate, who was walking back from scrabster with a bunch of fishing poles.

it was proper scary, and cool as fuck like.

i like it when nature scares the crap out of us all, so secure in our apparent domination of the globe and all it's forces. being put in your place, and realising we're really no different from all the other animals scurrying about eating and burning stuff up with no thought for our long term survival.

all hail Earth, she'll outlive us, won't hardly break her stride when we've blown ourselves all up cos we think we're gods

hooray for millenarianism! :)


Saturday, 20 June 2009

back to basics

my house is almost empty now.

i have no looms. so i'm weaving on a frame.

you could say i've got piles. knotted piles. sounds painful doesn't it?

i'm practicing on the little frame before i make something on the big frame. i want to make a big square piece out of two length sewn together, for sitting around on the ground on.

i haven't done any weaving for a while and it's nice to do something simple, with equipment that anybody can get hold of. i won't be able to keep a loom in my new house cos it's tiny, so i have to learn how to weave this way. i think one could make quite substantial rugs by sewing strips together. we'll see.


Saturday, 30 May 2009

on the rocks

Two Pile mats finished

The one with the green is going for £50

The one with the lamp thing is going for £30 cos the end-finishing is cruder and i don't know what the design's all about

These have a lovely feel to them, as the base fabric is 100% wool. They're very soft and pliable.

I'll have some larger mats ready for next month. then i'm going to get on with making a few hammocks.

I'm bored of making scarves just now

oh, as it goes, does anyone here have any suggestions/examples of a good way to roll a blog and a shop up together into one package? I don't really have time to learn to do a load of new programming, so it has to be fairly simple. I'm sure i could create paypal, ebay, folksey (what's that american one called, i can't remember) accounts and so on and link to them from one central place, but it seems somewhat inelegant. It makes more sense to try to encourage people to buy in one place rather than having myself scattered over 10 different auctions.

i could be wrong though



i've put a couple of items up on

you can view my shop at

Humble Woven Products

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

not quite alladins lamp

but that's what it makes me think of. the little bit at the top is supposed to be a candle flame or something, but it looks more like a little upside down cross.

it was going to be a boring experiment in circles, but then i got bored. then it was going to be a question mark containing the eye of horus. then i decided i couldn't be bothered thinking that hard. so there you go

this is 5epi, which gives me 2.5 knots per inch. the knots are slightly wider than they are tall. i think if i cram the warp a little bit more, say 8epi, then it might get close to square, which is my goal, so i can plan pictures on a square grid and work from that.

the red stuff is New Fez rug wool from texere. the brown and the white stuff are both berber rug wool from the same company. i'm interested in where it's sourced from (north africa maybe, being berber wool, bit obvious really). it's not the most consistent yarn i've ever used, but i like it nevertheless. it's rug yarn obviously, and apparently not that easy for them to get hold of.

i intend to use the axminster carpet yarn i've got leftover for my next pile project, where i'll probably be trying to get 5-10 knots per inch. i'm working towards finesse. i hope to be able to set any picture to a square grid and weave it without having to think, only referring to the graph. according to collingwood, if done this way, knotted pile can become a technicians task, rather than a full on artistic undertaking.

sourcing wool is once again proving a problem though. i need a healthy quantity of undyed medium weight yarn, but i don't know where to get it.

in other news, my friend showed me his new hammock the other day, and it's just a cotton sheet with a pole and ropes on either end. i could make those. piece of piss.

oh, and there's this. i think i deserve a prize for making those colours co-operate
that's actually a very poor representation of it. i'll take a better pic when it's off the loom and i can get it out of that darkened room it's in

anyway, knotted pile is fun, but do wear a dustmask

Friday, 15 May 2009

Knotted Pile Weaving

Is very time consuming, but i do enjoy it. you get a very satisfying, tactile, squeezy thing.

this all happening in my new decluttered front bedroom which is now a combination loom, art, computer and tea-drinking room.on the left there you may notice a fuzzy thing on a red box. it's not a 2 dimensional caterpillar, but just a wee initial mucking about with the pile thing.

this box isn't perfect for the task given, as you may notice that, apart from the picture being 90 degrees of rotation from true, the sides of the box aren't straight at the bottom. and there's no elegant way around that. i could also use the recycling box from the council, but then i wouldn't have anything to leave my recycling to gather dust and spiders for months on end in. and wouldn't that be awful.

the other thought that this gave me was that if you treated the rectangular plastic box as the basic unit of tat storage when travelling, then you've always got a loom handy, cos you carry all your tat about in it. there's no reason why you couldn't lash a frame around that and call it the top of a backpack.

if one was to use one of the recycling bins that can be found in many counties these days, all over the place, then you could weave a good-sized doormat or portrait-sized hanging, or pillow cover, or anything. you can even sew strips together, like the african way, and make a bigger rug out of many different pieces. there's also no reason that you can't package a warp in such a way that it can be taken off the box while being woven, and anchor it against a tree or a streetlight or some such thing if you're going to be sitting for a few days. then you can use the box to carry water in, for washing up or whatever.

i wonder if i can find a small box i can stuff my tent into


Monday, 27 April 2009

accidental tartan

Well, it's been a little while.

this is only a narrow warp really. have to do sums to figure out how many ends there are.

damn, i've forgotten long multiplication.

16 x 24 = 384 ends

i am a slave to the calculator on my phone. in much the same way i am a slave to my lighter. through intellectual and physical laziness

i'm using some of the stuff i got from those folks down south. i just thought to make stripes of blue and green seperated by fine lines of yellow, and i got this when i wove with even picks-to-ends

pretty chuffed i reckon. this is a good long warp though, and i really have very little of the blue left. maybe not even enough to make one full scarf length in this style. i'm not really sure if i have that much green either to be honest. the only of those colours i have a lot of is the yellow and using yellow as a dominant weft in this fabric would be a bloody awful idea i reckon. i probably have some other yarns that are "close enough" so never mind. this was never going to be a product-line development warp anyway. i'm just making stuff to sell at festivals, it doesn't need to be repeatable.

anyhow, i'll measure the ppi and epi properly when it's off the loom and fulled, but i reckon i might've accidentaly hit the right sett. with unrepeatable yarn i'll never see again. hey ho

Thursday, 23 April 2009

varied sett

i'm having a bit of fun, making samples for curtains. i figure it's nice for the sun to shine through, as these aren't insulation curtains, but decorative curtains.

the sett here is 8, 16 and 32 epi. the weave looks most even in the 16 epi sections, with the 32 epi sections having quite a steep diagonal twill line. the thing is, na dmany of you will no doubt have come across this, that if one gives it a firm beat, it tends to beat the whole weft right down to the fell, causing a waving fell, with the close-sett sections pushing themselves forward. quite a hideous effect in my opinion. so one needs to keep a very light beat, that only press the weft down the fell on the close sett without putting any pressure on the loose-sett sections. it's not easy is it? the changing of beat isn't particularly noticeable in 32 and 16 epi stripes, but in the middle it's very noticeable. with groups of weft threads bunching together, giving quite a variation. i don't think it's an unpleasant effect though, and combining slightly chaotic central sections with a consistent boundary fabric could be nice in the end. it's more interesting to look at. anyhow, i'll finish this square off, cut it off the loom and try a third setting. might get a fourth out of it, but i'm not sure. you can't really tell how this has come out till you hold it up to the window.

Monday, 20 April 2009


before i start . .

i've got internet at home! yay!

i finally bit the bullet and paid BT £122 to connect my line.

anyway, back to the point

this is related to the 100-scarf a week project.

yes! that's right! i have not given up! i am just slow as all funk!

so, yeaah. here's the thing. say each scarf is 1.25 metres long. then if i want to weave 100 scarves at 2 wide i need to make a warp, say 70 metres long. a little bit more maybe to be on the safe side.

as you can see, if i weave at 2 wide, then i can't really reasonably expect to make 100 scarves in a week. cos weaving the count of yarn i like to use at 1 metre an hour is reaonably hard work. and 70 hours reasonably hard work in a week quickly becomes extremely hard hard work.

so i need to weave 3 wide, which would leave me at about 40 metres or so. i need to do more sums. but that's about right. and that's doable. i reckon. but i don't have enough heddles. yet

anyway, that's another story.

the main thrust of this post is how i intend to make a long warp. this is how:


there's no other way really. my house is too little to sectionally warp in, and there's no way i'm spending any more money on warping equipment. so i have to do it outside. the great problem with doing this outside is that it's windy as anything up here and doing anything remotely delicate is a near impossiblity unless you have shelter, of which there is little as trees this far north are the exclusive preserve of toffs and plantation-farmers.

anyway, i live by the sea. which is nice, cos i like to swim. and i was walking on the beach, which is made of rocks, the other week, thinking away about how i was gonna warp outside using the natural environment as my warping frame, when i ran across an unusually shaped hunk of wood. having been so far bereft of inspiration i arbitrarily decided that this was a Sign (despite having been a confirmed Atheist since the age of 14, i am unable to rid myself of superstition) that i should sit about on the rocks and have a think.

And there i saw it: a sea barrier!

see, up here there's sea barriers in bits along the coast, which are basically wire boxes filled with rocks, which are all slabs up here, thing being the way they are. and these ones were arranged in three steps, each almost the height of a man. so i decided to have a look at these, and it occured to me that if i were to jame sticks in between the rocks, they'd stick out at 90 degrees and make a warping frame. and blow me down, there right on a rock right there was a small collection of sticks, of the kind they use to seperate planks at the builder's yard. you know, the kind that's really easy to break and nice and rectangular.

so i jammed them in, and lo and behold, a warping frame! made out of sticks shoved into a storm barrier.

so, just so you know and for my own self-motivation, i'm going to make a 30 metre warp (for experiment sake) 2 scarves wide (that's 900 ends) anbd weave it up and see how it comes out.

if i haven't posted the results within two weeks i whole-heartedly encourage you to pull me up about it, with the aid of capital letters, which as we all know is the internet equivalent of SHOUTING!

thanks for listening


Saturday, 18 April 2009

disruption, tidyness, and JC Rennies

so, i've suffered a great deal of disruption this month, what with fate snatching me away from my cosy bed and taking me to bolton via inverness, lanark and edinburgh. so i haven't actually got very much done in terms of physical productivity or sampling.

i did do a day lesson for joan the other saturday, which was nice, and she's now got the table loom i've been using for the last three years. it's a community loom like i say, so it's there for people to use. and i'm arranging for castletown heritage centre, which is trying to develop itself as a traditional crafts place, to take on my smaller (Dryad) floor loom. i have also arranged for me to be doing a knotted pile weaving class there in july. which isn't that far away, really. and no doubt the idle (with any luck) summer will just speed on by like a fast thing, say a train. or a car on the motorway.

anyway, i have spent the week tidying the house. i spent about half a day doing the dishes and the recycling, another day doing the front room and hallway, and i finally got the loom room sparkling last night, for the first time in months. the thing is i can't make and beam a warp properly when my brain's battered, and my brain's always battered when the house is a mess. which isn't a problem when i want to sit on my arse playing Monkey Island 2 (classic) and drinking beer. but, like i say, i can't do anything complicated while my brain's battered.

so anyhow, i spent the last of last night drinking crap cider and making a new warp. this be an experimental warp. see, my mum wan'ts curtains for the kitchen, and they have to be so wide, and i can't make them so wide with the normal way i'm used to doing, co i only have so many heddles, see, which i have moaned abouit before. so i'm doing this thing where i have bands of 32epi seperating larger spacings of 16 epi. this on a 8 dent reed. so with any luck this should make nice sorta gauzy effect for the sun to shine through. we'll see. the shame is that i can't create a truly checked pattern, because of the way it is, which i can't explain properly, but it makes sense in my head. anyway, this just a sample to see how it goes. and i'm running out of clean clothes cos i don't want to go to the laundrette till i've got some weaving to wash, and at this rate i'll need to do two loads.

ho hum

and i got shade cards from JC Rennies. but silly me i forgot to specify shade cards for weaving yarn (like, singles) so i got a bunch of knitting swatches. still, the colours are the same, so i'm going to go ahead and get some samples of their yarns and make up some sample scarves. i'm not sure if they do cotton, but if they do i might do some tea towels as well.

we'll see.

anyway,l that's that. i'm stranded in reay just now, supervising my brother to make sure he doesn't go on accidental hunger strike while my parents are on holiday, so i have every good reason for doing bugger all


Sunday, 29 March 2009

loom in danger

there is a loom in the lake district that is in danger of being chopped into firewood.

for reasons that are too long-winded to go into on a wee 15-minute net sesh, i find myself in the central belt of scotland about to take a trip to greater manchester and back.

there was a dobby loom in the same location, and i was considering running over to rescue the box and reeds, but somebody has bought the loom as a One.

there's still another loom though, a 4 shaft counterbalance by the look of things, tho was unsure from my phone conversation. but it has a beater bar, with fly shuttle. and i'm starting to think that it might be worth my time doing it on foot, just to rescue the beater bar, shafts, back and cloth beams, pullets, ratchets and all that. i would feel awful taking a saw to a loom to cut off the useful parts, but i guess it's no different from taking the good components form a messed up old car that's gonna be scrapped

i don't want to break it into bits, but if it's that or kindling, i'd rather the expensive bits got saved.


Sunday, 15 March 2009

lovely pink yarn

i'm going to weave it in a 2/2 basket weave twill on the table loom. i can't figure out how to turn the picture round on this computer. i really hsould prepare these posts at home before i go out.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Teaching weaving


I taught my first person to weave on a loom today!

It's the lady who taught me to spin, Anne, and she's got this wee Kromski Rigid Heddle loom, with a stand and all that she got at woolfest.

it's quite a pretty wee loom, very nicely made, and it's got a warping frame built into it with the removable pegs and all that. the ratchet mechanism is not very good though. never mind. anyway, i managed to make a right hipse of the warping demonstration, doing everything back to front and that. but we eventually got a wee warp onto it with some disposable machine-knitting cotton and started getting some checks woven up.

it doesn't seem to work too well with the stand as it goes, i don't think it's that stable. but it's cool, cos you can just lean it against the edge of a table. used to do that with my table loom actually, but it's uncomfortable cos it's heavy.

anyhow, yeah, wow. i am so incredibly bad at explaining things, it's completely unreal. i mean, maybe teaching's something you have to learn perhaps, but i just do not have that gift like. i don't think i could explain eggs to a chicken, even with the use of a slide projector.

never mind, we got there in the end. and she's got a copy of "learning to weave" which, though i've only flicked through it looks like a very very good book to me. though it does do this funny thing of a warping method where it has you threading and sleying before the warp's on the beam and that's never worked for me. it seems to raise a lot of possibilities for buggering the warp right up in the beaming process as well, so never mind that. i know i'd make a hipse of it anyway, my warp handling is pish

oh oh oh, i've just remembered something

oh great, now i can't copy and paste embed tags from youtube. just brilliant. you know, this is absolutely typical, abitrary, computer behaviour. you know the one time my mother came round to my house to have a cup of tea and sit for a bit and do some weaving, i go to put a dvd on the computer and, guess what, it wasn't working. for the first time ever. and after she left i went to put the same dvd on and it was fine. i mean, it's just silly. so why can't i copy and paste the embed tags?

damn damn damn

that's buggered that right up. oh well.

on a lighter note, i'm lying on the couch, and my dog is asleep against my legs. but there's very little space between me and the back of the couch. so her face is on my legs, and her arse is halfway up the couch stickin in the air. it's kinda amusing. she has no decorum


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The 100 scarf project

Hi there.

I know i haven't had much of substance to say recently, but i haven't been idle. Oh no.

You've seen the green and white scarves from a previous post maybe, and perhaps you've also seen in my last post a tri-colour scarf shot on the loom from a curious angle. I was originally going to call that series of scarves "Accidentally Irish" because i didn't realise till the warp was on the raddle that it was basically an irish tri-colour, and thus something you can't wear or sell in certain parts of Northern Ireland or the Central Belt if you're an excessively careful sort like me.

Now, I am developing with this a scarf that can be woven inexpensively. In the first warp i left 5 inches between scarves for twisted fringes. And that's all well and good, and terribly nice, but it took me ages to twist the fringes up for finishing. So i scrapped twisted fringes in the name of efficiency. In the second, Accidentally Irish, warp I decided to leave half an inch between scarves, separating them with a warp stick from the table loom. I then washed the entire warp together, and then cut them apart, as the finishing process (60 degree wash and 30 minute tumble dry in the laundrette with the rest of my washing) binds the fibres together so well that they'll never unravel. This worked very well

This way i got an extra scarf out of the warp. 7 instead of 6. Nice. It takes me the best part of a day to make and beam the warp, although i'm pretty sure i'm doing something wrong in the beaming process, and although i am currently incapable of vocalizing my thoughts on this issue, i think i know what it is, and i think i'll get it nailed next time. It doesn't take much longer to actually weave the warp up.

This is the longest warp i can get out of my warping board when it's put together. Obviously, the next thing is to make a longer warp. Presumably, by taking the warping board apart and nailing each end to the wall at a greater distance from one another. Another method may be sectional warping, but that's just fraught with difficulties.

Now, that's great, and all fairly obvious if the aim is to make very nice scarves with very good selvedges that show off my skill as a weaver. But that's not the aim at all. The aim is to make very nice scarves with nice, reasonable prices that show off my skill as a sensible weaver for a mass market. Thus, the idea is to make wider warps. Each scarf is 400 ends wide. I have 1000 heddles. Therefore i can only make 2 scarf width warps. my loom is wide enough to take a 1200 end warp at least, but i don't have enough heddles. curse. I have been in touch with Lunds of Bingley, and they don't make heddles anymore (it's them that made the frames for my loom, back in the 70's)

Even so, it shouldn't take much longer to warp an 850 end warp than a 400 end warp, and so i can weave twice as many scarves in only a little longer time. So, call that 14 scarves in 3 days, to be generous with time. That's not a bad rate really, as far as i'm concerned. Working on the basis that whatever i make, i'll eventually sell, then spending all this money on wool (at £10 a kilo, each scarf costs £1.10 in wool, with loom wastage taken into account) and all this time on weaving is probably the best investment i could concievably make these days. And i have so far managed to sell almost everything i've made. It just comes in fits and spurts.

Here's the math

3 days work = £150 (i used to work for £25 a day as a labourer, so i'm being generous here)
14 scarves worth of wool = £15 (1 scarf worth of wool is accounted for as loom wastage)
Laundrette fees = £8

Total price of manufacture = £173

Minimum price for each scarf = £12.35

Getting there, getting there. My aim is to develop a range of scarves, and associated working practices, that allow me to sell them for £10-15 to the public and £5 to shops and suchlike.

With a 3-scarf warp of that length i can make 21 scarves in just under 4 days. It's not bad, but it's not good enough.

The aim now is to develop the ability to produce 100 scarves in 6 days. To do this i will need much longer warps. I believe this is possible, at least with the loom i'm using now, which is a very nice loom and makes me happy.

Here is the math

100 scarves of wool = £102
50 hours work @ £6/hr = £300
Total Price of manufacture = £402

minimum price for each scarf = £4.02

I could concievably sell for £3 or less and still make it worth my while. This being based upon that fact that one can live quite comfortably on £80 a week without recourse to benefits.

Mind you, everything that's made has to be sold. And that's something i don't know anything about: selling.

I have no illusions however, and i shall persevere. I will make a living out of this.


Saturday, 28 February 2009

best selvedges ever

i opened the sett on the outside of the latest batch of scarves.

it occured to me while in a state of mild inebriation last week that the reason i was getting smiles at the selvedges of my scarves was because the draw-in was causing the selvedges to have a higher end-count than the body of the fabric, and as we know this causes the fabric to smile, as i observed when i made fabrics with varying setts. so with two ends in each dent in the body i put 1 end in each dent on the outside 2 dents.

and vast improvements, although not, as you can see, to my photography. or my grammar, for that matter.
now i'm in a rush, checking my email in the chippy, but i couldn't get on at the library today or yesterday as they're down. ho hum. i've anyway finsihed the second line of scarves, and am testing out a new finishing technique on monday when the laundrette opens, i'll tell you all about it. if it works out it'll remove all the time i spend twisting ends. lovely

Sunday, 22 February 2009


So, this is the picture from ebay. i bought this shuttle, and i won't tell you how much i paid for it. it's described as "vintage", which i doubt greatly, and has a "diamond wood" mark on the bottom of it as well as the letters "USA", which gives a clue to it's origin. which is funny, because i bought it from someone in lancashire, which was one of the main areas where the textile industry of britain was concentrated, back in Ye Olde Times.

I've looked up Diamond Wood on the internet, and apparently it comes from China and is really rather dense, thus earning it's name. this shuttle however apears to be made of two types of wood, making it a compound shuttle. Genghis Khan conquered half of Eurasia with the compound bow, what can i do with a compound shuttle i wonder?

Now, as you may notice, there is no pin for putting the pirn on, which you'd think would be essential. these things usually pivot on a hinge or something and are fixed in place. not here. no, it jams in at the end, there's a wax mould fitted in the end with the slot for jamming the butt of the pin into. Now, i'll have to make one. hmm, woodworking skills? i don't have many. oh well.

also, i also got a little stainless steel shuttle. after i bid for it, it occurred to me that a stainless steel shuttle might be a little too heavy, but i didn't bother thinking about it too much. anyway, i got it, and it's 3 inches long. it is soo cute. i'm going to hang it on a cord and wear it round my neck like a christian would a cross.

i don't have my camera with me today, so i can't show you.

this is also a good time to point out that i have been buying up used shuttles, mostly end-feed shuttles from old mills. I shall be restoring these and selling them. I have been developing also a line of scarves that i can sell at a reasonable price to the masses. Watch this space. Watch, indeed, for the launch of Humble Woven Products, your solution for reasonably priced handwoven scarves and restored vintage end-feed shuttles.

No, really, I've bought the labels and everything. Exciting eh?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Knotted pile


i always thought knotted pile would be really time-consuming.
and it isn't really at all. i set up a wee test warp on one of my toy looms the other day, and i made a wee thing with strip[es that wasn't that good. so then i made a 40 end warp on my table loom, and got these

aren't they nice. and it works up quite quickly as well. that's just me making diagonal stripes into a couple of wee flags. i think i've found my new Fun Thing. hooray! As it goes, Knotted pile is tied for 1st place with Pick Your Nose, and i'm doing that as well, on an occasional basis, so all is well.

i think i'll make a wider rug on the floor loom next, and see if i can make circles and curves and that. on second thoughts i should try making curves and circles on the little loom first, before i get all ambitious and buy rakes of wool.

on another note, i finished the big warp. made about 33 metres. took about 36 hours, not counting warping. which i didn't count cos it was a farce. i've now got a tent made of fabric in the corner of my front room with my bed and the heater inside it. very cosy.

now if only i had a couple hundred quid spare and a much larger house i could warp directly from cones. that would be so nice.

ho hum


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

I'm in

That's it. I got an unconditional offer today.


[ trumpets, sirens sound, crowds cheer with wild abandon ]

well, that's me all cheered up, despite my sprained neck which has had me in a bad mood all morning.

so now i've got 5 months of college left to find something to do with. I could just go and sign on the dole, but that would inevitably lead to waking up in the evening and not getting any weaving done. it's funny isn't it, that when you have all the time in the world it's impossible to get anything done. I guess if the vehicles already moving it doesn't cost much to do an extra 20 miles at the end of the day, or something.

I have a table frame in the class room that i can use as a frame loom if i want, so i can either make a tapestry, a knotted pile rug or just work on tablet-woven brocade and double-face effects. If i wanted to be really ambitious i could buy the late Mr Collingwood's Ply-Split book, or the one on Sprang (whatever that is) and do a bit of that.

What would you do in my situation? I am leaving a poll on this page. I'm going to stick it on the right hand side so it'll outlive this post

-hb exits to wild applause

ps. the sectional warping is getting easier, now that i've added thread guides. I've also pulled the spool rack more towards the back of the loom, so i can get in behind it to change spools. I got 3 sections done last night, and i expect to finish beaming the warp tonight. If all goes well i shall thread and sley the reed on thursday. I then have to make a warp for friday because i'm going over to Wick High School to show an art teacher how to warp his Weavemaster table loom, which is a bigger version of the one i've got at home. That should be fun, i've never taught loomy before

Monday, 12 January 2009

One big rug, two woolen fabrics and a host of warping issues

So, I said i was going to try out sectional warping didn't i?

Well, we'll get to that.

First though, I'd like to show off my pretty new things i made over the new year break.

First off is the 6'x3' rug i made for my mother, which she has put on the back of the sofa, this is it sitting in front of a dead fire not being singed by flying cinders.

Right, now i'm actually almost furious. That's the third time i've attempted to transfer that rug picture to my mp3 player for upload to blog at college, and the third time i've plugged the thing in to find it mysteriously missing, despite the fact all the other pictures i need are there. It's very aggravating, are the gods of the internet, in their infinite wisdom, preventing me from showing off what is possibly my finest work to date, in case pride comes before a fall? I will prevail, next time, i swear, next time.

Never mind, i have also made two pieces on the big loom, warping problems of which have already been documented somewhat in the comment thread of the last-but-one post, the one before the dogs.

Hope you liked the dogs btw, a bit off topic i know. But i do like dogs, a lot.

So, the first piece was supposed to be a spiral twill, i call it a spiral twill, it's not really a spiral, but it is kinda interesting. it doesn't really work very well with such fine detailed yarn. just too fine detail for the eye to cope with reasonably. works better with chunkier yarn. the warp is alternately blue and grey, as is the weft. the treadling sequence is a 12-up, 12-down pointed twill, as is the threading sequence

As this was less than pleasant to look at, and was also giving me a headache trying to keep track of my place in the treadling sequence, i tried a few other things, notably 2 plain weaves, using wefts in different combinations or something. i should keep better records (correction, i should keep records, period), because i can't remember which is what. i know one of them is 2 and 2, and the other one is just one, but i'd really have to have a good long think about it, and i'm not in the mood

I'm not at all convinced those show up well on the monitor. They don't show up much better to the naked eye i'm afraid. That's one chalked down to experience anyway. never mind.

The next is much nicer. This is obviously just a simple checked tartan pattern. nothing fancy, but it is terribly effective, and i do enjoy doing them, cos you can just clatter away quick as you like without having to think hardly at all. This can be seen firstly draped upon a chair, cos the lighting's good, secondly pleated, because this is me working towards kilt fabric and kilts are pleated, and thirdly i've got a close up which, if we're lucky will show the discrepancy in the twill line. This is cause by a chunky reed. unfortunately, the finest reed i have for the monster loom is 12 dent, and i was weaving this at 30 epi in a 10 dent reed. the dent seperators are quite chunky, which meant the ends were crammed into the dent, effectively causing the warp to be woven at a higher epi than intended, leaving very noticeable reed lines in the loom-state fabric. these warp-ways lines are no longer noticeable, now that's it's been through the wash with my laundry, but the twill line does have a step effect if you look closely.

Still, i continue in my eternal quest for a perfectly consistent 45' angle. i will, as i've said before, prevail

Now, sectional warping.

I said i was going to do this, as i need to clear my cupboards of the oodles of awful and hideous knitter's yarn i've got. getting job lots from charity shops and car boot sales means you end up with a lot of baby pink and baby blue, along with a lot of other hideous greens and creamy whites that would never get used in the normal run of things. luckily, i live in an old-fashioned house with very draughty interior doors, and am currently sleeping, eating and working in the same room to cut down on heating costs. with 3 or 4 months of crap weather left, i thought i might as well make insulation curtains for the doors and windows.

Now, you might have guessed that i am working towards the goal of large-scale fabric production, as opposed to individual small pieces. so, with this in mind, i have begun making a 40 metre warp. I have enough yarn to do this, i am glad to say. I also have a warp wheel (as opposed to a warp beam) with a 2 metre diameter, meaning each warp section recieves 20 revolutions of the wheel before being tied off and taped down

The weaver i bought the loom from had a long shed, and he would arrange his cones in long lines on the floor, below rows of hooks, which ordered the yarn before feeding it into the tensioning box. This is a very sensible way of doing things. i do not have a large shed though, i have a small room, with only enough space for the loom and me in it. So i need a spool rack. I do not have a spool rack. So i made one, out of two cross sticks and a lot of string.

Luckily, i have a lot of cardboard bobbins i inherited from the presious owner.

Now, the spool rack orders the yarn as best as possible to avoid tangle at the mouth of the mini-reed, which is located at the front of the tension box.

That is the tension box. If you thread it up the other, as the set of instruction i found on the internet told me to do, then a primitive spool rack such as this will cause you to have horrific snarls and traffic jams and such when it finally does meet the reed, due to the yarns getting mixed up as they feed over the tensioning bars. trust me, you don't want that. it's enough to make a grown man cry

And this all, eventually, after much pain, heartache, and mistakes which you don't need to repeat, leads onto the warp wheel, pictured above. the warp sections are 4 inches wide each, and are held in place by these metal angle brackets, which are arranged in such a way that there will be enough of them for said porpoise. Sorry, i mean purpose. As these do have sharp edges rather than curved edges as can be found on commercially available sectional beams the warp has to be guided on by hand, with the right hand turning the wheel, and the left occasionally pinching the warp to prevent the outermost threads from finding themselves in enemy territory, on the wrong side of the tracks, as it were. Or, even worse, uncomfortably straddling the middle line, creating a potential tension problem for the future, which is the last thing any of us wants, obviously.
Now, stress and trouble free as this may seem, it was anything but. I shall now proceed to list the many problems i encountered along the way, and the possible solution which, over the course of the coming week, i shall attempt to put in place in hope of alleviating said problems

1. If the thread falls of the side of the bobbin, it can become wrapped around the string holding it, thus getting itself caught, or even pulling a whole bunch of yarn of the bobbin. in this case you need to cut it out with a little knife and discard it, to rewind all that yarn more carefully back onto another bobbin later. This problem can be usually avoided by leaving a good 1/2 inch clearance or so between the end of the bobbin and the edge of the wound yarn. Also, when winding at the ends of the cone, keep your hand going in a left-right motion, never let it remain still, as this causes a tight section to build itself up, sometimes pushing yarn off to the side which will later inevitably tangle itself up and make you weep into your coffee

2. The threads must remain in order as they feed into the tension box. This might seem obvious, but when a bobbin runs out and you tie a new one onto the old thread, it's very easy to accidentally cross it over an adjoining thread. this causes tangle and warp breakages at the reed, and is also a potential source of tragic grief and infinite sorrow.

3. Smashing your skull of the loom. There is no solution for this, aside from being a bit less clumsy and not working past midnight

There is a potential solution for the first two problems. The first one is aggravated by the fact the the threads pull away off to the side of the bobbins in some cases, and the second one os aggravated by the fact that it's really not that easy to get all the threads in the right order all the time. Both these problems can be solved by a thread guide, which is a line of little holes for the thread to go through that keep the yarn coming off the bobbin right in the centre, before getting pulled off to the tension box. I will make one of these out of string, again, and see how it goes. At this point though i can fully recommend buying a spooling rack with a thread guide if you are going to buy a spool rack. It should save a lot of grief.

As you can see i am only three sections into this warp. I have 7 or so to go before i'm finished i'm afraid. This should take all week. When i'm done i'll tell you whether i have the courage to attempt doing this again without investing in some proper warping equipment for this loom.

Cheers now


Thursday, 1 January 2009

happy new year

As i haven't remembered to take the pictures of my new rug what i made for in front of my folks's fireplace, and it's new year, and i haven't posted since christmas, and this whole internet thing is rather addictive when you get into it, here are some pictures of cute dogs. i think to myself, in the following manner:

"if i know my readership, i'm sure they'll like pictures of cute dogs"

well, you didn't ask, but you got anyway

on we go.

This is Blot, the elegant and handsome prince of Doggy-Kind, he is a gentle, acrobatic and not even remotely clumsy animal without even the slightest hint of youthful enthusiasm. He wants a biscuit, and is probably going to get one
This is my little Eris, who i have had for 2 years since she was an ickle-wickle puppy. this is her when she was an ickle puppy, all wrapped up in a shawl on the living room sofa. she's still the only dog in the house that can get away with crawling into bed with my mum. She thinks she's the queen of england. But she's wrong, cause i don't like the queen of england half as much as i like Eris, and would certainly never let her into my bed

This is Old Man Ginger, slowly melting into a puddle in front of the fire. He is now a Grotty Old Sod and makes alarming throat clearing sounds occasionally while yawning. When Eris is on heat he tries to catch her but he's too slow. Luckily, the other two dogs don't know what their equipment is for, so she's safe as houses
Blot and Ginger again. Definitely one of the best photos ever taken, in my opinion
This is little Blot, when he still was little Blot, before he became large, cumbersome and over-enthusiastic Blot that scares children with his friendliness. He has this game he plays on the beach where he runs directly at you until you dodge and then veers away. I think it's a bit like doggy chicken. Eris tries to play it, but she isn't big and cumbersome, so it doesn't work
I'm not sure how this got in here. It's a picture of the first warp I wove on my old backstrap loom, which is now missing presumed dead in a possibly abandoned house in bristol. I wove rugs on that on middle meadow walk and next to the museum during the edinburgh festival. Someone told me a year or so later that the last time they saw me i was selling rugs in the park and i thought they said i was selling drugs and got a little flustered. much hilarity was had by all. as it goes i've been trying for years to figure out how to turn that "(D)rug dealer" pun into a decent joke, of the kind that makes your audience groan and weep as tumble-weed rolls across the high streetm but i just can't get it. shame
And, of course, Eris, again. This time with the tongue hanging out sideways. it's a good look.
And with the seaweed. She likes the seaweed. She also likes rotting fish carcasses. I wish she could in her mind connect "rolling-in-a-rotting-fish-carcass-to-impress-her-doggy-mates" to "getting-hosed-down-and-shampooed-outside-the-garage" and "being-shunned-by-everyone-in-the-house-because-nothing-can-get-rid-of-that-smell"
Well, that's that i guess. Hope you liked the doggies and hope you don't all have awful hangovers. I don't, I'm sober as a judge is supposed to be


Oh my god, i just ran across this video for my all-time number one favourite live band. As far as i'm concerned dancing to Ska is the best thing in the world

Bombskare ruule y'all