Looking back at 2021

I realize that the vogue thing to do was to have written this a couple of weeks ago, but 2022 has been a slow and gentle easing into the year. More like the painful creep into too cold lake water for a swim rather than the enthusiastic cannonball of getting it all over with at once and then shivering for 15 minutes. So midway through January, I’m just about ready to consider what, if anything, I managed to accomplish in 2021. (Spoilers: It didn’t feel like much, but there were a few things here and there).

First off, full disclosure time: No. I have not yet finished all 12 samples for my 2020 sampler of embroidery styles. I got stalled at nine, and my brain has just been absolutely rebelling at the notion of those last three. In theory, two of which are my favourites (open work and needle lace). I know I hate lacis (so far), but the other two should be a delight, but I’ve had a pattern on my desk for 4 months for a needle lace piece and not even a hint of enthusiasm, just dread. So I’m accepting that reality and we’ll see when it gets done. That’s okay. Life is heavy right now, I don’t need to be a harsh taskmistress upon myself, so it waits.

I did a lot of SCA teaching in 2021 on zoom. Mostly dye classes, a class on saponification (the chemistry of soap making), round tables and discussions. I acted as moderator and TA and general helper all over the place online and it was good. I should do that again. I’m still mad that I missed the deadline to sign up to teach at University of Atlantia this winter, but that’s besides the point. I taught at least seven times in 2021, and in at least 6 kingdoms, which is not half bad, really. Only possible via online events, I would be hard pressed to get to six kingdoms in a year (our most in our craziest travel year was 5.) I’m expecting 2022 to look much the same, provided there are online events to be had. We shall see.

When I went tallying up my finished objects for 2021, my list got to 20. I’m hoping I forgot at least one, so that I can happily claim 21 FOs in 2021, but it’s not the most complete list. Highlights.. I’m very proud of two different projects where I started with plain white silk and dyed all the colours I needed and then worked the project. One was a knit heraldic pouch for an exchange, and the other was leafy trim for a friend’s laureling outfit. (Yes, even the underdress that no one saw had hand dyed silk trim.) A good mix of modern sewing, medieval sewing, modern embroidery, medieval embroidery and a lot of dye work. I kicked myself into making an effort to try new things. Some of which I enjoyed very much, a few of which that I learned that I don’t like it at all. Both pieces are important information. I expect 2022 to look much the same really.

I’ve plans for 2022, a big dye project, some sewing .. currently a lot of nebulous uncertainty that fits well with the copious amounts of nebulous uncertainty swirling around the world in general. I do hope to share more projects here. Let’s see what the future holds! May it be colourful and gentle.

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.)


We have heddles!

Yes, it’s exciting enough for me to make it a big bold statement. For those wonder what the devil I’m talking about, allow me to give a smidge of background. I’m working on a weaving project on a warp weighted loom. I got the warp tied on, and chained up and tied to weights. So far so good. I declined to add a tablet woven band at the top because it’s just a practice piece, and I am wholly and firmly unconvinced that it’s an always thing. (More research needed, clearly). I’d say ‘fight me!’ about it, but really, just bring references about my wrongness would be sufficient. Proving an ‘always’ is hard at the best of times, and when we’re talking an era with little extant evidence to begin with.. well.. I don’t think I’m out in left field here.


And then it sat.

And it sat. And it stared at me balefully as I worked around it in our main room. (It’s not smack in the way, but it’s rather in the way). And I did other things, and I came up with all sorts of excuses not to work on it. Because I had to put the heddles on next, and I was being a wimp about trying something new. I’m a pretty experienced string person, and paralyzed by the notion of doing something new with string.

After a fairly solid conversation with my own head, and slotting in some downtime to actually recover enough cope for new things (is that just me? New things are too much when everything else is a mess.), I got out the instructions. And lo and behold.. the instructions that were promised to be easy to get the hang of were.. easy to get the hang of!

Let me back up a moment.. heddles. Great word.. weaving is full of great words really, but apparently weavers are incapable of using words that anyone else does. Heddles are the things that pull just some of the warp threads up at any given time. In plain weave (over, under, over, under) you stick heddles on half the threads, such that you can grab that half and pull them up when you need, or push them back when you don’t need. Fancier patterns require you to have just some pulled up, and then just others.. and hey.. if you have 4 different configurations of what threads you have heddled.. that’s a four shaft loom! In warp weighted looms, each configuration is a stick (rod.. dowel in my case) that has strings tied from the rod looped around a warp string. If you want a fancier pattern, you have more heddle rods. I have a very basic pattern (over, under.. it’s called tabby or plain weave.. see? All new words.), so I only need one heddle rod with half my warp threads tied on.


I get it all tied, and I take that lovely picture above and then I pause. And I realize that I have successfully put the heddle rod behind my warp. So the warp can’t move freely in their loops. So I need to take it all out, because I am an idiot.

I did get lots of practice in tying heddles, and it is now heddled up correctly, even if I forgot to get a photo of the current state. On to weaving next! (Post Pennsic at this point)

The Warp Weighted Loom: A book review

While working on my BSP(tm), I went digging for resources on warp weighted looms. A number of posts came up, and when chatting with some out of kingdom weaving friends of mine, this one book got mentioned as being a really great resource. Long story short, I managed to get a hold of a copy via University InterLibrary Loan (Thank you Princeton for buying cool textile books.) to be able to have a wee look see before I ordered from Norway.

The Warp-Weighted Loom I Oppstadveven I Kljásteinavefstaður by Hildur Hákonardóttir, Elizabeth Johnston and Marta Kløve Juuhl 

It’s a hefty book, at about 300 pages, and while I didn’t stick it on the scale, hauling it around in my backpack, I absolutely knew it was there. It has a solid cardboard cover, heavy pages within, and is bound such that it will lie utterly flat and stay open. It is a very pretty book.


The book itself is divided into three sections. The first section is a look at the history of warp weighted looms in three different locations; Iceland, Shetland, and Norway. The second section was a practical ‘how to’ for making and weaving on a warp weighted loom and the third section was a series of articles, essays and reports relevant to warp weighted looms.

The history of the loom was really engaging and interesting. They took a very personal tack on how the loom fit into the culture and society in each place. The inclusion of Shetland is unusual from what I can read, and I really appreciated it. They went as far back as they could find information for, solidly into our early period and discussed the loom in each of those areas up to when it was replaced, often in the 19th century sometime.

The practical section included clear photographs next to each description of what to do next. This section was written in English, Icelandic and Norwegian. There was both how to start with a tablet band and without, and how to thread heddles both for tabby and twill. While I haven’t yet tested the directions myself, reading them over made the experience seem accessible and possible. I look forward to trying them out soon (and a friend swears by those directions to get her heddles knitted on).

The final section was the one I wasn’t expecting. Bits and pieces of this and that.. from the book’s website, you can see the titles of this articles in this section. More history, an article on grave finds. Experimental archeology. Traditional bed covers, finishing cloth in the sea, traditional crafts in modern society. They were fascinating little tidbits. Short, about a magazine article in length, but thoughtful and well written and left me wanting to read more, or experiment.

I got the book via ILL to see if it was worth the money and hassle of importing it from Norway. It’s a small publisher, they sell direct.. there’s no Amazon machine to make international currency and shipping convenient, and I can say that this book has been added to the shortlist of book buying, once I save up my pennies. (Small press textile books are never the cheapie ones, drat it!) I was really impressed and I’m looking forward to adding it to my textile library.

Preparation: The project before the project

I decided to get a little bobbin lace project (or two) together to remind my hands that I did still know how to make lace. (And to confirm that it doesn’t tick off the arm too badly. Mixed results there.) Cotton thread (no sense wasting the linen thread I’d misplaced and then ordered new on effectively a disposable project), try some new to me bobbins (and my two favourite pairs). Cut a failed project off the pillow. Awesome. I have bobbins, thread, pillow and pattern.

And then the preparation starts. This is the bit that actually takes significant time, just the same as in weaving. Measure thread and wind onto bobbins. Take a good guess at the size of pricking you’ll need for the thread you’ve chosen (or be fortunate and have your pattern tell you.). Piece it together, glue it to card (if you didn’t photocopy it straight onto card). NOW pre-prick all of your pin holes. Important for accuracy, and when digging around with a tiny pin under a windmill crossing, you appreciate just having to find the hole, rather than peering to try and decide where a hole should be. This could easily take hours, if not days depending on your project.


Weaving is just the same. Pick your warp and weft, pick a pattern. Measure your warp, tie it off carefully. Sley those heddles, thread that reed with hundreds of threads in a very precise order. Hours if not days of the least ergonomic work in the world. (Make it more ergonomic, your back and sanity will thank you.) Wind onto the back beam, tie it all off, grumble that tension is funky, untie and tie again.

All the while, you are impatient to get to the REAL project! Finally! Actually weaving! Actually making lace!

Except that all that bit before.. it WAS weaving. It WAS lacemaking. It’s as (or more) important than the later steps! I have no magic cure for the impatience. I try and be mindful about enjoying the feel of the thread, of getting to know the pattern. It helps a little. If you find a way to make the prep time more enjoyable, let me know.



I have been bitten by the weaving bug something fierce, which considering quite how many non-weaving things are on the project to-do list is a little distressing. (Some of this might be productive procrastination from the to-do list.)

I had help from a friend getting the warp on, it was a mess (note to self.. learn how to not make a mess of the warp getting it from warping mill to loom.), but we got there.


I snapped threads all over the place (vintage wool singles. It happens), and the first snapped warp thread I thought I was going to cry. I clung to my beginner book instructions and followed each step as if I was doing CPR and a life depended on my skills. (Fortunately, this was not actually the case.)

By the end of the warp, a snapped thread was a brief grumble, and a quick repair and back in business. My tension is a little wonky, and sometimes my beat isn’t even. Some of that will come out in wet finishing, and some of that will live forever as a ‘this is a beginner piece’ memento.

2017-09-20 17.46.46

Now, I have the weaving all done, and the ends woven in. It needs a bath, and hemming, and to be made into leg wraps for my best beloved. It feels good to finish a big challenging project again. Now I need to hurry though the to do list, so I can do more weaving!


Wow, it’s been a long and crappy winter. Nothing dire, but generally a whole lot of nothing on the creative side of life while everything else got sorted out. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of good interesting work happening before that either. Some puttering, playing around, failed projects. All of which adds to base skill (and certainly to one’s humility when you fix yet another project with scissors), but doesn’t make for much in the way of blog posts.


Silk with weld, weld/indigo and indigo

Cue winter finally starting to give clues that it’s easing up. Cue some health issues settling themselves out. (Persistent pain is terrible for one’s creative brain. If you’re a chronic pain person, cut yourself some slack.) Cue the annual panic that comes about a month before Kingdom A&S.


I want this warp done!

But wait! I’m not entering this year! I’m last year’s A&S Champion, and I gave myself a year off. I can kick back and eat bonbons! (And judge ALL THE THINGS). Somehow, however, reading about everyone getting excited and posting their projects in progress reminded me about this final push and there was some conversation with friends about projects. And some acceptance that a big project was dead. (Fix it with scissors! The materials are salvagable, it was a big ‘now you know to never do that to a warp again’ lesson.) And Practicum. A&S focused events can’t HELP but inspire, the creative energy oozes through the whole building.


Brickwork experiment

So the dyepots came out. And the silk I bought in the fall got dug out (Silk! Untouched and ignored for months! A sure sign that winter had won.) A ‘I’d like to try’ embroidery project got started. The Big Scary Embroidery project took a Big Scary Step. I finished a hat that only needed ties, I decided I wanted to DO things again. It was lovely to DO things!


Big Scary Embroidery(tm)

Hello again, Muse. I’ve missed you. Please do stay a while this time. I hear you’ve been off with the bards, I hope you had a lovely time.

Snartemo Sample

I don’t often do samples, but that’s generally what one gets out of classes. I took my first tablet weaving class at FF&F last November, and it happened to be Snartemo. The teacher looked a little gobsmacked that it was my first time tablet weaving (more than just a couple of picks on someone else’s weaving), but to her credit, she didn’t kick me out, just said ‘well, ask if you have questions!’.

2016-03-24 20.13.45

I ended up moving it from the bigger loom to the smaller loom later, and the tension wasn’t great, so I stopped after only four repeats and acknowledged it as a class sample to join others in the box. I rather enjoyed it, although it’s not fast by any stretch. A lot of following along on the chart for every single row. Fussy and fiddly, which unfortunately, tends to be my preference.