So…what do you DO with that stuff??

So…what do you DO with that stuff??

Spinners who participate at demonstrations hear this question all the time. After washing, dyeing, carding/combing then spinning the most delicious yarn in the world, we have to do more? Isn’t this enough? Apparently there is an expectation that all our lovely yarn has to be used for something else. For years that wasn’t my problem; that was left to the devices of much more talented weavers, knitters, felters and other fiber artists. This was when we had fiber festivals and gathers of like minded people who could touch yarn and evaluate the grist for their next project. To my great surprise, I can spin a lot of yarn in a year.

During one of the relaxed periods of lock-down I was able to buy a lovely little loom. It was a Leclerc Mira, 27 inch, four harness, sectional beam. This little button came with all the bells and whistles – warping mill, bobbin rack with bobbins, electric bobbin winder, skein winder, shuttles, extra heddles, reeds, counter, the list keeps going and going. I was truly blessed to find this loom. It did come unassembled without instructions. That is a crucial bit of information. User manuals are easily found on-line with very good information. Kudo’s to Leclerc for providing customers throughout the ages all the information they need to maintain and care for these lovely machines.

This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves
This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves

Like most of the world we were in lock-down of one sort or another, but at one point both my son’s were allowed to be in my home as long as I wasn’t, so they took the opportunity to come and set up the little darling for me. Well, that was the intention. The reality ended up with an attempt to sort out the messy meccano set called a loom, define the parts, try to read instructions, etc. that ended with one of them saying “nuts to this, I’m going to start supper and clean the bathroom”. When I got home, supper was on the brew, the loo was clean and one son was struggling with a partially assembled machine. We finished it together. Pear is a shape, and it is not a good one when skittering around under a small loom. Skitter may not be an accurate description either, but you get the idea. I’m too old for this sort of activity.

Cotswold is one of my favourite breeds and I had a lovely selection available for my first try after a long break from weaving. Several decades ago my then sister in law coerced me into taking weaving and spinning at the local college.  I loved it, she did not.  Once coming to this area, I was competent enough to be hired as a production weaver for a local artisan. We used sectional beams for warping and I prefer them to using a reel. The only draw-back for a sectional beam is the need to have individual bobbins for each thread. So if you are weaving at 10 threads per inch you will need 10 bobbins with enough yardage for the length and width of your warp. I really needed to crack out my math skills again. Thankfully, all the Cotswold I had spun, had yardage marked on the skeins, so I was confident that I had enough to use. I was going to make scarves for my sons.

I measured and did math and wound bobbins, redid the math; worried that I hadn’t done the math properly, so redid it and finally took the plunge.

bobbins all wound and ready for the sectional beam

Sectional beam getting ready to go

The weave pattern was a very basic twill.  I just wanted to get back to learning how to do a full loom set-up again.  The bonus would be having something useful to show for it at the end of the process. The idea of purchasing fiber to do this also seemed a little weird since my house was getting full of spun yarn. 

Final warp, all ready for weaving

Taking the plunge and using my own hand spun was a significant eye opening experience. The wool I chose was just too rough for the final product of scarves.  My sons are kind and tell me the scarves are warm and snuggly and all sorts of appropriate compliments, but the material feels a bit like kevlar.  

I am now more aware of producing fiber with an end purpose in mind, not necessarily for me, but for other people as well.  If I design the yarn with intent for an end use, I can explain to someone else what it will be good for.  Some hand spun is not as good for weaving as it is for knitting, and some hand spun should never be used for scarves!

17 thoughts on “So…what do you DO with that stuff??

  1. Those look so yummy. Glad you have your weaving groove back on, enjoyed reading about the process.

  2. That loom looks enormous – when I read the beginning of your post and saw “a lovely little loom” I thought – Oh a 4 shaft table loom. Although I’ve done a little weaving – I used to have a 4 shaft Louet floor loom but later found that the actual weaving bored me – I’ve never heard of a sectional warp beam. No wonder your boys had trouble putting the loom together.
    Your wound warps look lovely, a shame that the scarves don’t feel as good as they look. I suppose you could always nuno felt the scarves onto some alpaca or cashmere fibres so that at least one side of them can be soft against the skin?

    1. That’s lovely! I guess all things are relative right? My other loom, currently in storage is a monster and too big to fit into the renovated space. This is only 27 inch production width with four harnesses, so I consider that small.
      I think the best thing to do with really rugged fabric is acknowledge it’s characteristics and use that somehow, maybe in a cap, a satchel, pieced into a vest or jacket with leather. I’ll need to think some more.

  3. It was interesting to read about your realisation that thought needs to go into the very end product of materials produced.

    Your weaving is beautiful and the colours you put together are gorgeous.

    1. Thank you, I’m spinning more carefully and labelling the work with project ideas included in the storage bag. I still have some weaving skills to figure out, but I’ll get there.

    2. Yes, it was a hard realisation let me tell you, especially after finishing the scarves and finding out how harsh they were. I was so disappointed, but I’ll get there.

  4. I so enjoyed reading this!! I admire you and your sons’ determination to breath life back into this wonderful loom. I love the colours of the scarves, look forward to seeing more creations soon.

    1. Thank you for the kind encouragement, I need to pause before I put the next warp on. I have four ideas going so it will happen soon.

  5. What a wonderful family project this loom turned out to be! It is always useful to figure out in advance what fiber will work best for what project. I bet you could use these as table runners and they would be beautiful on any table. Then it matters much less what they feel like against your skin.

    1. Ruthlane, I know, I should have spent a bit more time thinking before doing, but I was so anxious to get going…I have an idea for one of the scarves if I can get it back. I found a great cross body satchel. If I keep it rugged looking it might work for son numero deux.

  6. They do look lovely. to bad they are not a soft as you would like. I like the table runner idea. Though I think you would need to take the fringe off, but maybe not.

    1. The problem for me is that once I give something I have no claim on it anymore. I really need to ask very nicely for the item to be returned and if the lads say ‘no’ they want to use it for whatever they feel like, I have to accept that. It’s part of giving.

  7. I love that your “little loom” turns out to be a proper beast! Also, that bobbin rack is to die for – as a spinner, I really hate lazy kates where your bobbin stand upright, it’s not comfortable to ply yarn that way for me (too much resistance)…

    If those scarves turned out unfit for purpose, have you considered using them as table runners? They’re so pretty. With all the hand spun you’ve got, you can make more scarves and keep your children’s necks warm 🙂

    1. I love that this 27 inch loom is considered a beast, proper or otherwise. I have plans, airy-fairy plans, but I hope to get the BIG loom out of storage and set up in the garage or spare room. Now that loom really is a beast!

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