Loom Waste

All loom have loom waste. It’s a thing, and it’s a thing that you just learn to live with. The chunk of warp that just cannot be woven, because of how the loom structure works. Usually it’s behind (or below) the heddles, to wherever your back beam is, or your weights are. Some looms are exceptionally efficient, some looms are /really bad/ for excessive loom waste.

My Fanny (go ahead, giggle. I get it. It’s also the name of a really common Leclerc loom, so get it out of your system now) is about average for loom waste (24″ or so), the warp weighted loom (WWL) that I’m borrowing is pretty excessive (almost 30″ or so). Inkle looms are shockingly efficient for loom waste (which is good, when you only have 60 – 70 inches of warp to begin with, you don’t want to lose half to loom waste!)

Forgive the mess I’m about to make of this photo, but I’ll try and show you what I mean:





I recently asked online for ideas on how best to minimize it on a warp weighted loom, and after most folks failed to read the question and provided excellent, if extraneous, suggestions on what to do with it, there was a couple useful suggestions.

First off, have more slots for the heddle bar to rest in, especially further down, close to the shed bar. Not a solution for this loom, I’m only borrowing it, but good to keep in mind if I ever build a loom!

There’s also the very pragmatic solution of having a longer string upon your weights, such that your precious handspun warp doesn’t need to get all the way to the shed bar, some other string can. That’s the most practical solution for me, on a borrowed loom that I am hardly about to start drilling holes into.



As for what to do with your loom waste? Naalbinding is the classic answer. (I’m pretty sure that the historical weaving internet has a pavlovian response to the words ‘loom waste’ and just yells ‘naalbinding!’ without hearing anything else) Pre-cut lengths of wool, it’s an obvious jump. One can also embroider with them, if you particularly wanted to. I decided to do neither, recently, and instead used them to replace the handles of my basket. Looped back and forth and then wound tightly, the wool works just fine for handles!


Nothing ever really goes to waste, especially not when the process of getting from dirty sheep to spun wool is quite as labour intensive as it is. Use every last bit of it!


Warp Weighted loom progress

Wow, I have not kept the blog up to date on my weaving progress. Whoops! I suspect I kept looking at it and thinking ‘damn, it looks the same as yesterday’ and never realizing I hadn’t shown you any weaving pictures.


Tucked in next to the dining room table.

So when last we left our hapless weaver, I’d managed to get heddles knitted and then whoosh, was off to travels. At Pennsic, I attended a couple of warp weighted loom classes, and judged a couple war point entries about WWL weaving.  That’s a whole different conversation, judging things that you aren’t an expert in. I am a weaver, but a beginner WWL weaver.. Coming soon to a blog near you, commentary on judging in A&S. It’s a huge topic, and one I have a lot of thinky thoughts about, both as an entrant and as a judge. But that’s coming soon, that’s not this blog post.

Chatting with weavers, and watching weavers, and getting excited about weaving on that freshly heddled loom, basically ensured that I wasn’t even unpacked before I was diving in and weaving. My warp was incredibly sticky. It loved to grab onto itself at every moment, and I fought tooth and nail for every single shed in this warp. Every. Single. One. Rrrrriiiiiiip went the warp, every time I asked it for a new shed. And the fuzzies on the floor? I’m surprised I didn’t misplace the cat.


Loom weights, just hanging around.

Now, it was a warp I’d already wound ages ago, so no tablet woven band to start. It’s quite a thick yarn, knitting worsted weight (and fairly worsted spun at that.. yes, same word.. yes two totally different meanings. Fibre arts jargon is mean like that.) My sett (how many threads per inch in the warp) ended up incredibly tight, and as such, my fabric is incredibly warp faced. I also made some threading errors, and decided that I could live with them, so in they stayed. (A couple threading errors could not be lived with, and I repaired those heddles just by cutting them and retying them a tiny bit shorter. Seemed to work just fine.)


Weaving along.

I’d be warned that draw in is a real bear in WWL, and I lost about 2 inches from start to finish. The first bit is absolutely that janky ‘I have no clue what my tension is going to be’ start that happens in all weaving, and I tried really hard to get consistent and stay consistent, so the second half is much better than the first. Ultimately, I ended up with 82″ of cloth, that started out 12″ wide, but for the most of it is just about 10″ wide. Not the most functional size, especially for something that thick, but hey.. it’ll become something. We’ll see what size it settles to after its bath. No weaving is finished until its wet finished, and while I’m a gentle wet finisher (No staking it out to sea for me!), it really does change the fabric to have some swish swish water time. It only got washed this morning, so no glamour shots of it all clean and dry yet.


All done!

I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and super stoked to get something else on the loom. I need to find someone who loves to naalbind (I hates it, precious), who wants all my loom waste. This particular loom leaves quite a bit, and it seems a waste to throw it out. Oh wait.. I don’t throw it out, I use it for other stuff. I’ll show you that next week. (Although seriously, if there’s someone who likes lengths of wool that are basically perfect for naalbinding, talk to me. I would happily pass them off.)

Everything’s a dyestuff!

This is a bit of a pet peeve ranty commentary, so get the popcorn and settle in. (Or tell me I’m a cranky pants, and scroll down to the pictures of pretty yarn.. whatever makes you happy).

Anyhow, I am part of a few dye communities on the internet. I am mostly a lurker, sometimes I add my 2 cents worth, but I’m not what one would call a pillar of the community. I’m confident enough in my own dyework to go off and experiment on my own without much in the way of reassurances from random strangers on the internet. I’ve explored and read enough about the chemistry to have a pretty good idea on what’s going on (enough that I teach a class about the chemistry behind mordants!)

I am going to preface this rant with acknowledgement that experimentation is awesome. I am not anti-‘let’s see what this does!’.. I am wholly and enthusiastically on board with ‘try it and see!’. That being said..

You CAN get colour from damn near anything. Not everything is a good dyestuff. Even those things that you get colour from. Getting colour, even a colour you like, does not make something a good dye. Dye is a specific chemical reaction. Stain is not dye. Stains fade (never fast enough when it’s your favourite shirt.. I know..), they are not a chemical bond between dyestuff and fabric.

Good dyestuff is fairly light fast. Having dyed fabric in light (not even baking in the sunshine.. just not a pitch black box), should not made it fade quickly. Good dyestuff is fairly wash fast. It sticks well, even through washing, or getting wet. Water should not, ideally, break the bond between dye molecule and fabric. If it does, that’s not good dye. Good dyestuff should be fairly colour fast. It should stay the colour you made it, generally speaking.

There’s good reason why you hear about the same dyestuffs over and over, they have a good amount of easily accessible dye molecules in their bits. Madder, Weld, Indigo, Woad, Cochineal, Walnut. There are others. There absolutely are others. There are others that are solid dye plants, with all the fastness you could want, but those are the classics, especially those first three. (A class about dye molecules is at the musing stage, stay tuned!)


So, at Althing, we did just that! Well mostly just that. Orlaith brought awesomeness in the form of an indigo vat (fructose reduced, I’m a convert), and she brought some weld and walnut. I brought a mystery packet from an Indian dye kit, unlabelled beyond ‘mustard yellow’. (The madder was elderly, and didn’t play along. Pro tip kids, madder doesn’t keep well in solution).


This was not an afternoon of careful notes and measuring. This was a few of us bringing pre-mordanted yarn (alum generally) and tossing it into dyepots and hoping for pretty colours. And we got pretty colours. We tossed things into the vat of my mystery powder and decided it was probably annatto. (No proof, but it fits!) We got unexpected colours (Cotton and tannin and alum and annato and indigo.. wow pretty brown… that didn’t stay.. boo..). We got great greens and fun blues. We got a whole collection of yellows. We played and relaxed and chatted and laughed. It was a delight. I’ve not dyed with others in a long time, and I’d forgotten how much less like work a dye day with friends is. It’s just pulling out pretty colours.



I’ve nothing against experimenting with whatever you find to hand, but remember that there’s old standards for a reason, and your experiments aren’t likely to keep as well as you might hope. Go forth, play and delight in your transient colours.


Known World Cooks & Bards

A little lull in posting, because we were off travelling again! This time an epic road trip over to the Barony of Shattered Crystal in the Middle Kingdom, who were hosting Known World Cooks and Bards over Labour Day weekend. (Google says it’s an 11 hr drive, we found it to be closer to 16 hrs with stops and food and border. It’s a good thing we rather love road trips.)


Obligatory hotel room pic. (Thurs night hotel)

Now, I am going to point out that I am not much of a cook and none of a bard. I do cook, yes.. although not much. I research cooking more than I set pot to stove, and given a choice, I’m more likely to be cooking weeds for colour than soup. (I do love to bake, but that’s more feeding a carb addiction than anything.) I also love to sing, but it’s generally in a sing along pack with my songbook in the key of army, although I do some part singing and enjoy it when I do. I play no instruments and write no music. I am no bard. There was a few moments of ‘hunh, I will be the token string person at this event.. it’ll be fine’. And then it was noted to me that /brewers/ fall into purview, and I am certainly one of those, if only a rather beginner one. Problem solved! (And spinning packed, because I am still a string person, let’s not be silly here.)


Vinegar class included mustards. Win!

My class choices can be best categorized as the care and management of micro-organisms. I took classes on yeastie beasties (different kinds, how to capture them), I took classes in encouraging bacteria (yay vinegar!), I took classes in discouraging bacteria (food preservation classes). I chatted with bakers and microbiologists about Wilma (she’s brewing only these days, no more bread from her. Ah well.) We chatted with people about quinces and how to use them in everything. (Class notes can be found here.) I chatted with people about brewing, about life and everything and about nothing much, basking in the afternoon warmth. The mosquitos drove us back to the hotel before bardic really got going each night, which was sad making. I’d hoped to hear more just ambient music during the day, but I think the bards were worried about being too loud, and as a result, weren’t nearly loud enough.


My oreo! Heraldry works!

We chatted with anyone who stopped by. We had a little baronial day camp, and held baronial food court, filled with silly Oreo flavours and fortune cookie scrolls. (Halloween, latte, mint chocolate chip, and the star of this oreo tasting.. Maple Creme). It was, overall, a relaxed weekend of food and good company (for the mosquitos too, apparently!). Ealdormere was where cooks and bards started, and there’s a push to have it come home again, and I’m happily in favour of that. As always when we go travelling, we find so many people that we wish lived closer. The world holds far too much awesome, spread too thinly over it.


HG Kitty at the Michigan Welcome Centre. Almost home!