You know how it is, right? You have a grand plan, for a weaving project, you spend time doing calculations, making adjustments, choosing the materials and the colors. In your vision it is all perfect and everything works out like magic.
AND sometimes it really does! The first time I made these log cabin towels (using the colors in the book of Black, unbleached, turquoise and burgundy) I had a warping disaster, chucked the entire mess and started over — Now THAT was a really bad day. This month when I tried it again, using my new Glimakra Standard loom, and all my own color choices, it worked like a dream, there wasn’t a single glitch — not one.
I learned many things at Vavstuga for the 3 times I have been there. One of the most important things I learned is that mistakes happen, find them, fix them and move on to happy weaving. In each of these classes there were
Like my husband (the cook) I always follow the “recipe” the first time through. The most I do is add yardage so that I’ll have a few items left to put into the shop. My warping mill (thank you, thank you Paul) made by a good friend does 3.5 yards and this project called for 5.5 to make 6 towels. I decided to go for 2 complete turns of the mill and 2 extra towels. Just so you know THAT part worked out perfectly — I had 8 towels and some left over for my sample bin.
There were a few winding issues. I like to hold 2 threads, but the warp stripes were 2, or 3 — hmmm. Those threads were held as singles, with lots of ties on the weaver’s cross side. I double knotted them in paranoid frenzy. In my zeal to make sure I had the right number of threads for each stripe, that I had KNOTTED them well when changing, I MISSED that there was ALWAYS a section of 3 unbleached threads when changing colors. I was following the warp order chart carefully, which I had recopied to be larger so I could see it, had a missing section of white around the central stripe of brown.
RATS! I discovered this error after beaming, and before threading, so I had to use the hanging film cans stuffed with quarters solution. I used more quarters than I thought I should to give the right amount of tension — which, I have to say worked out very well. I wound all three missing threads onto the cans, and aside from untangling them periodically, it was pretty hassle-free
Threading seemed to be going well and was easier than expected. I found a “pattern” that I could follow. HOWEVER, I misread the threading instructions and started in on the textured part too soon — 18 threads too soon. The lace section of the towel is surrounded by a plain weave border. I discovered this AFTER I had completed the entire center section — so — ripped it all out and started again. This gave me time to REMEMBER how I should hold the threads while threading. I had forgotten my training! Becky has us hold a larger group of threads wrapped through the fingers of the left hand (with tension) so that it is easier to pick out the thread you want. You also use your left thumb and forefinger to help stuff the thread in the heddle. I was dickering around with putting 2 threads between each finger and working that way — very slow and inefficient. Rethreading was a good opportunity to recall my Vavstuga training.
Sleying was quick — I forgot to double check that I had not missed any dents, because I was kinda on a tight schedule to get the loom dressed and towels woven — never a good excuse. Checking saves time, because fixing TAKES time! Yep, you guessed it, there were a few sleying errors. There was a missed dent on the right side of the work, which I caught while tying on. BUT there was a more subtle error on the left side — 3 in one dent, 2 in one dent and 1 in one dent. It’s supposed to be 2 in every dent. I did not catch this until I was weaving and noticed an area that looked like there was a missing thread.
Once I figured out what was going on:
At this point most of my troubles were over. I was happily weaving away, trying to get my beat just right to make square towels when near the end of the 6th towel, I noticed a little snake in the warp above the fell line. Hmm … that looks like a broken warp thread — RIGHT in the middle of the weaving. It took a quick internet search to refresh my memory, but I put in the temporary warp thread, tied it at the back beam with the rest of the broken thread and moved on — this was the EASIEST and FASTEST fix so far!
I realize now that most of my troubles were preventable (of course!) but there were even clues that I ignored once the error had been made.
The winding error was the easiest to detect while winding — the stripe sequence seemed different before the center section than after — STOP AND LOOK for the reason — because there is one!
The threading error was simple too — I was bundling in groups of 20 — count and see how it matches up with the threading diagram.
Of course the Sleying error was also simple — check check check.
BUT errors are not necessarily bad — I once heard a saying “we fail forward to success” You can learn from errors and they make you better when you do.
I use support spindles. Yes it does take a much greater amount of time to finish a 4 oz skein of yarn using support spindles, but spinning isn’t exactly a race for the finish is it?
I experimented in the early days. I tried Some Neal Brand Tibetan and Russian spindles, Bristlecone Goddess Spindles, and Glasspin Spindles. I finally settled on Woodland Working spindles.
I had to find a spindle that worked with my right arm — many years ago I developed a problem called lateral epicondylitis in my right elbow and I have to be careful not to over work it. I needed a light spindle with a decent sustain, but more importantly lots of twirl.
I had heard about Bristlecone Glindles (a spindle with a hand blown glass whorl) from my friend Talia and wanted to try one out, but they are HARD to come by. So I tried another spindle maker which made Glass whorl spindles as well. I found that they were just too heavy for me. BUT I have to say, those glass whorls are pretty awesome. Since they are glass, there is virtually NO friction, so spin, spin, spin is what they do!
What was I Learning?
Weight IS a factor, but SHAPE also has something to do with the overall spinning experience. I gravitated to lighter spindles, so that when they filled up, they would not become unwieldy.
Then one day, while toodling around on Ravelry, I came across Woodland Woodworking. I asked my friend Talia about them and wondered where I could buy one — Woodland Woodworking is SO popular that Carl (the spindle maker) has a weekly update and turns ON the shop at a specific time — within about 5 minutes — WHOOSH they are all taken! Talia took pity on me and sold me one of her wand style spindles — I was immediately in love.
I started looking for used Woodland Woodworking spindles on Ravelry and bought quite a few (4 bead spindles, 3 or so teacup spindles and a wand spindle) I took careful measurements of these spindles and started working with them.
I try to keep the weight around 20 grams. One or two of my spindles are over 20, but they are what I call a pendulum style wand — the extra weight makes them spin better for a longer period – so as the spindle fills up with yarn, there is very little affect to the quality of spinning. I only have a few spindles that are not wand spindles — They are lighter in weight (under 20 g) and have a low whorl to shaft ratio (1 or less) so they spin pretty much like the wand spindles.
Carl uses Walnut, Maple (mostly) Purpleheart, Cocobolo, Flame Birch, Padauk, Holly, Ebony, Rosewood … and many other woods. He carves, does pyrography, dyes shafts, and even paints small figures/shapes on his spindles. As you can see below, they are something to behold. Most IMPORTANTLY — they all spin well!
What kind of yarn do I make — well — very thin, but not just thin, The yarn has an airy quality, like feathers. There is enough twist to hold everything together, but the fibers are a little more loose, the result is a yarn that is ethereal, light, feathery — just a pleasure to touch and to look at.
It takes around 8 spindles to produce a skein of yarn. I put around 0.5 oz of fiber on each spindle. I could put more, but the extra weight on the spindle affects the twist, so I leave well enough alone and grab another spindle.
Why did I settle on Woodland Woodworking?
There were several reasons. The tools are exceptionally well made and perfectly balanced. I spend a lot of time spinning and balance is the key to a comfortable, issue-free spinning session. These spindles are ALL wood, just wood, no polymer infusion to prevent warping — just the pure wood. The maker chooses good stock and is a true artist. If you EVER have any issue with his spindles, just email him and send them back (if necessary) — Carl will make it right. How cool is that? I love buying from one man shops – in this high tech, commercially controlled world — a single person, making a great product is well worth supporting.
It takes me a couple of weeks — spinning in 1 – 2 hour sessions to complete a skein of yarn. It is a labor of love and it makes a fabulous skein of Lace to Cobweb weight yarn. Sunflower (above) has 1536 yards — my highest to date. I usually have a spindle spinning project running concurrently with other wheel based spinning projects. It’s important to change up what you do with your body, to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
Explore spindle spinning — especially Support Spindles — the lack of gravity on the spinning single will give you a product that will astonish you!
Many know me as Dakota Skipper -- that's my Cowboy alias. I LIKE to write and I like to share. Please enjoy reading about my frolicking fiber adventures!