Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Setting up the new loom

Getting the loom home was only the first part of the battle. Then I had to figure out how to set it up. Let's keep in mind that I am totally new at this whole weaving gig and have never actually done any "behind the scenes" work on a loom. This was going to be both an education and an adventure.

The extremely nice woman, Rebecca, from whom I bought the loom had tied it up tight so that it wouldn't get damaged when transported. This had the added benefit of leaving as much of it actually set up as possible. I could get a good look at what went where. 
Ropes for security, Tex-solv for treadle tie-ups
The plastic tabs that keep the Tex-solv in place
The unfortunate downside to all this tying together was that the loom, with all its component parts, was heavy. Way too heavy for me to be able to assist Chris in getting it up the stairs to the studio on the second floor. So I took lots of photos and started disassembling. I ended up with a slew of written notes about what went where and how it was all connected before I had the loom down to a light carcass.

I'm pleased to say it worked (and I learned a LOT about how a loom goes together). It was now quite light and not cumbersome at all. Up the stairs it went! And it was incredibly easy to reassemble. It's logical: breast beam, warp beam, shafts, etc all went where you'd expect them to go. I only wish the tie-up had been as straight-forward.

I'm going to warn you now - this post gets a bit into the weeds on looms, drafts, and tie-ups. If you aren't interested in my rather round-about and mistake-prone journey, scan to the end.

So, the tie-up. Argh. I picked a weaving draft from Rebecca's book (yes! she's published! and she gave me a copy! And no, that's not an affiliate link; I just wanted to share) and started to figure out how to tie the treadles to the lamms. Rebecca used Tex-solv and pegs for her tie-ups but I had a heck of a time with them. The pegs didn't fit well and I couldn't get the button-holes in the Tex-solv to consistent lengths. My treadles were all over the place, some high, some low. Double argh.

Doesn't this look like fun?
The hated pegs
Cooper is bored. I'm frustrated.
After many hours I did finish the tie-up. But when I checked my shed (the space created by the shafts lifting and lowering and where you pass the shuttle through to create the weft), the shafts that were supposed to go up were going down. No! What'd I do??? Well, I used a weaving draft written for an American audience to do the tie-up on a Swedish loom. I didn't realize that drafts for jack looms are written differently than drafts for countermarch looms. Whereas jack loom drafts only need to mark the treadle/shaft combination that moves, I need to tie up all the spaces, both marked and empty (hit and miss). Argh again.

I really didn't want to deal with all the Tex-solv issues again so I decided to do some internet research on Bergman Loom tie-ups. I also got out the paperwork that came with the loom and read it more carefully. This loom was built in 1949 and I have a copy of the original directions. How's that for awesome archiving? I'm the 4th owner of this baby and the folks who came before me did a great job keeping the info together.

In reading through the instructions (such as they were - it's obvious that they assumed you weren't exactly a beginner if you were spending money on a loom back then) I found they used cord (similar to waxed shoe laces) and something called a "snitch knot" to do the tie-ups. Back to the internet I went and found out how to tie a snitch knot and that Glimakra still recommends that method for tie-ups on their countermarch looms. They even have very clear instructions on how to use it. Cool.
Taking it all back apart
I also found that some people use glass beads to anchor the cord on top of the lamms so that the cord goes through evenly rather than wrapping weirdly over one side. I didn't have pretty glass beads but I did have nuts. Score for the hardware win!
Improvisation at its best
The tie-up went much more quickly this time and the correct shafts went up and down.

Upper and lower lamms tied up
Close up of the snitch knots
Okay, so I am now tied up and ready to weave, right? Wrong. Rebecca's book is actually about stash busting but I'm new so I had no stash to raid for the warp. I figured this was an excellent opportunity to start building one so I placed an order for 8/2 cotton in bright colors.

Next up - creating a warping board and improvising a bobbin winder!

Monday, March 18, 2019

I made shoes! Again!

That's right, I had so much fun making the shoes originally that I wanted to try again. And this time they're much more professional looking. Mainly because I had a professional teaching me. I took the Cordwainer Shop shoe course and made these beauties:
It all starts with a pattern. These are the original tin patterns used back in the 1920's by the Cordwainer Shop family. Molly came to the Adirondack Folk School fully equipped with patterns, lots of leather, soles, lasts, and expertise. We picked out our leather, traced the pattern, and got cutting.
Vamp, tongue, and quarters
It's amazing how different the techniques were from my previous shoes. Those were a simple pattern with machine stitching obviously made for soft materials. Add a sole or not. Up to you.

These are real shoes and it shows. The process doesn't use a sewing machine at all. It's all hand-stitched. Or laced. You know.
The quarters and cowhide ling 
Lined and ready to lace
Our hands got a real workout punching all these holes 
Juggling three pieces to lace together quarters, tongue, and vamp
Stitching on the sole
Fitting onto the last
Shoe making art
Proving I made them
Burnishing tools. Used a propane torch to heat them. 
One last down, one to go
Ready for baking
Buffing to a shine

It took us 4 days to make our shoes. And I took everyone's home one night to bake them (I know!). Once the shoe is assembled and put on the last you need to do a slow bake to fit it properly and tighten everything up. I found it interesting that the shoe was actually too tight before baking but fit perfectly after. I would have thought the leather would shrink. But the last is critical to the fit and provides the perfect amount of stretch.

I took great notes and fully intend to make some more shoes. I've already got the leather selected and I've ordered supplies. And even if they're not this specific style, I'll be able to use the techniques I learned to make other shoes. I think sandals and ballet flats are in my future.

Friday, March 15, 2019


We're fortunate enough to have some eagles that reside by the dam near us. It's just a few miles up the road and we look every time we drive past.

This time we got lucky and actually caught some pictures of this one.

It's amazing how huge these birds actually are. We saw another one flying over a field not far from here. Not sure if there is a nest back in the woods or if it was just hunting, but it brought us to a full stop in the car while we watched it fly out of sight. 

We don't see them very often but when we do? It's worth a moment to pause and just marvel. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pottery studio at home

The pottery wheel is all set up at home and we're starting to use it. Of course it becomes obvious as we use it that there are some tweaks that we need to do in order to improve it's functioning. Those will come along though and in the meantime we'll have some fun with it. 

Starting a bowl
Widening the base
And now a cup
The room gets great sunlight and even the evening light is good with the two overhead lights I'd installed back when it was my project room. I wish I could say the same for the new project room upstairs! Definitely need to do some improvements in that area.

Monday, March 11, 2019

I bought a loom!

After my weaving class in January I started looking at various online sites for a loom to purchase. I wanted an 8-shaft floor loom. Preferred a Macomber simply because that's what I'd used in class and I had a sense of familiarity with it. 

It quickly became clear that although there were many, many 4-shaft looms out there on the used market, 8-shaft looms were more rare and much more expensive. I was searching multiple sites, multiple states, and willing to travel. Ultimately I found a woman selling a Bergman countermarch on Facebook Marketplace and we started a conversation on how to get this rather large and cumbersome piece of equipment/furniture from her home in southern Virginia to my place in northern New York. 

Fortunately, we discovered that her son lives in DC and so does our niece. She was willing to meet us! How cool is that??? We loaded up the dog and headed off on adventure.

Half an hour on the road and there was a weird noise under the truck. We pulled into a parking lot and Chris made like super-mechanic and got us going again.

This is not a good sign...
We made good time to DC and had a nice visit with Rachel and Bob (and Huck!).
They remembered each other
After a bit of back and forth as to the best place in downtown DC to make the exchange we ended up in front of the Federal Reserve Building. The reasoning? It's Saturday and would be quiet this time of week. The reality? Only one parking space available on the street. So we blocked the driveway into the Fed. Sure, makes sense to me.

Note the many signs warning not to stand or park...
It was freezing cold and windy but everyone was very good natured. Fortunately that included the DC patrolmen who stopped by to see what we were up to. And do you know - they asked if they could help lift the loom into the truck because it looked heavy? Incredibly friendly. Fortunately we didn't have to take them up on the offer.

I got a mini-demo of how the loom was tied up for transport then Bob and Chris put it up in the truck.

Explaining how it's tied together
They managed just fine
We wrapped it up well and made it home without any incidents.  Then it was time to get it set up!
Long drive home

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sewing slippers

This is another Twig & Tale pattern. I bought several patterns at Christmas so you'll hopefully be seeing more finished work based on those. 

These are slipper boots and come in two options - short like these and tall (knee height). The pattern is quite straight forward and comes with access to videos that help make the steps clear. I hope the vest patterns I purchased are just as well written. 

Although they make suggestions for ways to upcycle materials (sweaters, jeans, etc) they recommended an easy to use fabric option for your first pair. Just to make sure you understand all the steps and don't add fabric-related complexity to the initial learning curve.

For the outers I chose some fleece that I had originally purchased for my Mom during her illness. We didn't get a chance to make anything out of it before she passed away so it came back to me when we were cleaning out the house. The inner fleece layer is leftover from a project that I had made with her while she was sick (a hat and scarf set). So both layers have a bit of special meaning to me. A nice way to start a project I think.
Pieces and parts
It was a fairly quick sew with minimal difficulty. 
I do want to make a padded insert for them. Right now they are just two layers - a wool insole and a leather sole.
I used some cute segmented yarn to crochet ties for the tie-backs and there is just enough give that I can stretch them over my heel when putting them on. This tension helps keep the soft boot in place when walking. The pattern recommended elastic but I like how this looks better.

I wore them like this for a while but ultimately folded that top edge over to create a lower profile. More slipper than boot actually. Very comfortable and I'm really looking forward to making some out of salvaged clothing. I've got some excellent thrifted woven wool jackets that will work perfectly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Pottery Haul

Pottery class is over and we got quite a haul! We completed nearly 50 pieces in those six weeks and are really pleased with how it all turned out. We got teased a bit that we concentrated too much on functional stuff as opposed to art, but I like some function with my form. And since I'm not fond of dusting, anything that's not useful enough to get used regularly doesn't really fit my lifestyle. 

Anyway, here is most of it:

So many things!
Lids that serve as sipping cups (vessels still at studio)
Coffe cups and drink glasses for Chris's band mates
Whiskey dram glasses
Artist paintbrush set
Accidental stacking bowls
That are tiny. Love these things.
Mini pots
Another ring bowl
Chicken bowl for chicken eggs
The vessel
Cup and saucer
Spice or ring bowls
We've still got a few things at the studio that are waiting for bisquing, glazing, and final firing. Most of my pieces were very small - saki cups, whiskey cups, ring bowls, spice bowls, etc. Chris did coffee cups, cereal bowls, toothbrush and soap dishes, and even a fermenting crock (still at the studio). We loved getting back into this and now that the wheel is set up at home we'll be continuing to throw.