How to replace a right treadle cable on an AVL PDL

I was weaving along on the Birthday Blanket at a good clip when the right treadle cable broke. This was frustrating, but I take it as a sign that I’m now a “real” weaver. Though as soon as I type that, I hear Laura Fry in my head saying, “Not until you fix it, you’re not.” Fair point, imaginary Laura, fair point.

Broken cable

I ordered a new cable from AVL and the following steps show how I replaced it. My loom is an Production Dobby Loom built in 1984. If your PDL was born in another year, these steps might not work for you.

First you need to loosen the set screw on the collar holding the cam shaft in place.Loosen set screw

Then slide the shaft out. (No sniggering, I can hear you!)IMG_3127_2

Next, unscrew the three screws holding the cam on.IMG_3129_2

It is a good idea to take a pencil and mark how the cam lines up before you remove all of the screws. This makes it easy to line up later.IMG_3141_2

Remove the cam.IMG_3142_2

The plug end of the cable is held in place by a ring of metal with a slot in it. The hole in the wood is big enough to put the plug and cable through, the ring with the slot covers part of the hole, effectively making it smaller.IMG_3143_2

It is a good idea at this point to measure your replacement cable and make sure it is the same size as the broken cable. (Ask me how I know…) And yes, I am wearing a leopard-print polartec adult onesie. It’s cold in my house; don’t judge.IMG_3144_2

Using a screwdriver and a hammer, gently tap the metal ring until the slot just barely clears the hole in the wood. Do not pound it all the way out, that would make it harder to put back in place.IMG_3145_2

Now you can slide the plug end of the cable out of the hole.IMG_3148_2

Reverse the previous steps to insert the new cable into the cam and attach the cam back onto the loom.

Take the cable up and OVER the cam.IMG_3153_2

When threading the cable down to the treadle, make sure to go over the wooden pulley. If you fail to do so, the cable will rub on the metal rod the pulley rides on and break again soon.



Attach the loop end of the cable to your treadle.IMG_3152_2

And viola! You’re back to weaving.IMG_3119

Friday: Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival

I had a wonderful time at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival. It’s a new festival, I believe this was it’s fourth year.  It was small and had a great vibe, reminding me quite a bit of the Madrona Winter Retreat in Tacoma.

Friday night, there was a book signing with all the teachers and authors attending the event. I had the pleasure of meeting another Storey author, Lea Redmond.

IMG_2998She wrote Knit the Sky, which is about applying the creative process to knitting. It’s an innovative and lovely approach. In one project you use a scarf as a weather journal, in another you track the growth of a child. My favorite was the moon cowl. Half is white, and the other black, and you adjust how you wear it to match the current phase of the moon. Here I am wearing the cowl in the half-moon position.

IMG_3001Judith MacKenzie, my first weaving teacher was there. It felt full circle to have her there, sharing my journey from non-weaver to author of a newly published weaving book.

IMG_3021Another full-circle moment was re-connecting with Sarah Anderson. Once, traveling back together on an airplane after teaching at the Golden Gate Fiber Institute, she quietly confessed, “I just sold a book to Storey.” I leaned over and whispered back, “Me, too.”

She finished her book first, but I got there in the end.


The fun and irrepressible Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot) decided we needed a selfie, so this happened. I’m impressed she was able to fit us all in there.


She offered to send the photo out to anyone who had Instagram, so five minutes later I had it installed and running on my phone. If you want to follow my feed, I’ve registered as @synemitchell.

In other news, I am back on the writing wagon. Today I wrote for 30 minutes.

Spinning Socks in the Cloud

One of the fun things about working at Google is that you get to work with smart and creative people. The photo below was created with Cloud Spin, a demo project that shows how to use Google Cloud Platform to build services for mobile apps.

The folks running the demo at the GDG conference were bemused when I showed up with my sock and a ball of yarn.

This is my representation of juggling a craft-filled life.


It would have been even more fun if I’d had several unfinished projects to juggle, but I had to work with what I had on hand.

The way the technology works is that you have a set of mobile phones arranged in a half-circle. You jump, and each phone takes a wee bit of video. The app controlling the phones inserts an audio “beep” as a marker when you jump. Then the phones upload the videos to code running in the cloud, which extracts the frame corresponding to the audio marker from each video and compiles it into a single animated GIF.



The team that created this demo did it on a nearly nonexistent budget, in three weeks. I edited the blog posts they wrote about the project. If you’re interested in the technical details and/or building your own version check them out:

Cloud Spin Part 1: 180-degree animations on Google Cloud Platform

Cloud Spin, Part 2: Building mobile apps to orchestrate video recording

Cloud Spin, Part 3: processing video using Google Cloud Platform service

And yes, seeing this photo does make me want to eat better and get more serious about exercising regularly. But you know what, if I wait until I’m thin to do fun things, that might be a long time… and I’d miss out on adventures in the meantime.

P.S. I have totally fallen down on my NaWriDaMo pledge. Epic fail. I blame the wool fumes at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival.

Book release day: Inventive Weaving

For previous book releases, I’ve made a pilgrimage to the local bookseller to take a celebratory picture standing next to the book on the shelves.

With my time almost completely taken up with working at Google and spending time with my family, I’m not sure when I’ll have time to get to a local yarn or book store. So if you see a copy out in the wild, give it a pat for me, will you?

Cover for Inventive Weaving

This book is the culmination of four years of work, research, weaving that went well, weaving that didn’t, fear, day jobs, procrastination, more work, and heroic efforts on the part of my editor.

I hope you like it.

P.S. Got my 30 minutes of novel writing in yesterday and today. By the skin of my teeth today, but done!

Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival

My new book, Inventive Weaving, is scheduled to be published tomorrow, though I know that some folks who attended Rhinebeck or pre-ordered the book on Amazon have already gotten their hands on copies.

This upcoming weekend I’ll be promoting the book at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival, in The Dalles, Oregon. It’s one I’ve never been to and I’m interested to explore it. There are some great teachers there. Friday afternoon, I’m taking the Knit Smart class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Friday, from 4pm-7pm, I’ll be participating in a book signing with all the luminaries teaching at the festival.

Saturday, I’ll demo weaving overshot on a rigid heddle loom from 11:00-11:45, near the registration desk.

Linda Gettman, one of my former students, is teaching rigid-heddle classes at the festival . I’m so proud of her! If I teach someone to weave, and they go on to teach others, does that make me a weaving grandma?

And yes, today’s 30 minutes of novel writing are done!


November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual event where writers pledge to write a novel (40K or more words) in a month. There are websites where you can register and find other enthusiasts, and cheer each other on.

I have never participated in NaNoWriMo, but I’ve always been intrigued. I like the idea of committing to something, and being part of a community of writers. But the idea of writing for speed, at the probable expense of quality, doesn’t work for me.

But this year, I think I’ve found a way to participate. Instead of pledging a word count, I’m pledging 30 minutes a day.

Each day in November, I’m going to carve out 30 minutes and sit my butt in the chair and write. Perhaps it’ll only be two sentences, perhaps a whole chapter. I won’t end up the month with a novel, but I’m hoping to end up with a sustainable habit that can eventually lead to one.

I call it NaWriDaMo, National Write Daily Month.

And yes, I’ve already done 30 minutes today, on something that might, one day, be a novel.

Reviewing Page Proofs for Inventive Weaving

This summer, I spent time in Seattle coffee houses and libraries going through the page proofs of my forthcoming book: Inventive Weaving.

Editing page proofs

This is the step in the publishing process where all of the photos and text are laid out as they will be in the finished book, and the author gets to go through and catch any little errors that have crept into the manuscript.

It’s an exciting time, the first time you see your book in print. I held by breath as I first opened the big envelope from the publisher. The team at Storey did a wonderful job with the layout, coming out with some innovations I’d never seen before, like running swatches of the fabrics along the outside edges of the pages to make the book easier to scan.

Page proofs for Inventive Weaving

The photos of the projects and stacks of fabrics were gorgeous. Seeing the page proofs is the first time you think to yourself: “This book is really going to happen.”

It’s also a lot of work. As the author, you have to go through the book word-by-word and image-by-image, scanning for errors, no matter how small. This is the last chance you’ll have to fix them.

After many long hours of review, I mailed a PDF of my changes to Gwen, my editor. After Storey incorporated my fixes, I took another look. I’ve published books before, I know that no matter how careful you are, no matter how many times you review the copy, some errors will slip through.

But right now, I don’t see them.

What’s up with the WeaveZine website?

WeaveZine LogoIt’s not dead, just pining for the fjords…. WeaveZine was down for about a week recently and I’ve been asked questions about that.

I was moving WeaveZine to a new host, and making some improvements to the site at the same time. There was a snafu with the DNS switch-over and the site was offline for 6-ish days, instead of the planned 48 hours.

Sorry about that. The good news is that the site is back up and stable. It’s easier than ever to navigate, and is more protected from spammers.

I think I even managed all the changes without breaking any links. If that’s not true, tell me which link is broken and I’ll set up a redirect to fix it.

This move makes WeaveZine cheaper to keep online and easy to maintain as an archive site. I made the change so I could keep this content online for the foreseeable future.

I’m proud of what WeaveZine was and of all the work the authors put into the content. Re-reading the articles as part of this update got me inspired to weave all over again.

Happy to keep the archives online for both you and me.

And I’m glad to learn that people are still finding the content useful. That’s really cool to hear four years after the magazine ended publication.

Happy Weaving!


An artisan keyboard

It started when Eric sent me a link in email. The subject line was “another keyboard”. I’ve been looking for a new keyboard ever since my beloved Touchstream LP began dying. It’s 12 years old, so I can’t complain.

Having suffered with RSI in my late 20s, I’ve become a big fan of ergonomics. It’s why I switched to typing Dvorak instead of Qwerty.

At work I’ve been using the Kineses Advantage LF (with the cherry key stem). It’s a lot like the Touchstream in terms of light pressure to activate the keys and putting your hands in a neutral position. I even got a pedal that I can use to press the Shift key. It’s a whify thing, I was thinking about buying one for home, until I saw this…

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 9.57.51 AM

This is the Keyboardio.

It’s beautiful. It’s ergonomic. It was designed by an indie husband and wife team. You can program the light show that plays across the keys (or turn it off). It’s based on Arduino.

It’s open source. They give you the source code and a screwdriver when you purchase one. Which means that instead of going obsolete over time, this keyboard can actually improve. And if you like to tinker with software and hardware, you can improve it yourself.

One of the things I love about handweaving is the beautiful tools, lovingly created by craftsmen or small companies. Beautiful woods, things that feel as lovely to touch as the things you make using them.

Thanks to a couple of peer bonuses from work, it’s mine. Or at least, it will be when they ship in April 2016.


In February of this year, I joined Google as a technical writer for Google Cloud Platform. People who work at Google refer to themselves as Googlers. Newbies are called Nooglers.

And yes, they issue every single one of us our own beanie cap.


When you join Google they send you to orientation. It’s a week long, which is daunting. But what they’re doing there is orienting you to your new job, but also Google culture, which is a bit different than any other company I’ve worked for. 


One thing I enjoy about Google is the sense of whimsy. On the Mountain View campus you can find fun touches, like this giant Android statue, everywhere.


After my interview, I’d dyed my hair in red, yellow, blue, and free (Google colors) for good luck. When I told my friend David this, his grinned at me and then said affectionately, “Dork.” Yep. Guilty.

When I got to the orientation, I worried about being a fish out of water. Tech companies aren’t known for hiring middle-aged women. I imagined myself the oldest person in a sea of twenty-something guys—with odd hair besides.

So I bonded quickly with Laura, who also showed up with rainbow-colored hair. We later had adventures that involved a photo booth, and gleefully sneaking around Google offices looking for a mythical slide you can ride between floors.


See my face? That’s what I look like after I’ve stayed up late the night before, packing, and have only had two hours of sleep. An since we took our employee photos about 30 minutes before this, it’s pretty much what my badge photo looks like: ouch.

Oh, and more good news about orientation. Google hires for diversity. And that includes age diversity in addition to gender and race. They have the perspective that many varied viewpoints make for better decisions. They even have an internal affinity group, Greyglers, for folks of a certain age.

One of the exciting things I saw when I was down in Mountain View was one of Google’s self-driving cars. It’s there, at the front of the stop-light line, with the funny cone on top.


By happy coincidence, my friend Cicilie, that I’d worked with at Amazon, was also attending orientation that same week. In this photo, we’re riding in the top of a double-decker bus to lunch. 


I also found time to ride one of the famous Google bikes. To cut down on shuttles, and because the Mountain View campus is sprawling, Google provides bikes outside the buildings. When you need a bike, you hop on one and pedal it to the next building and leave it out front. There’s no reservation or check-out, just everyone sharing. Very Googley.


As I said, there are many whimsical touches around the campus, and many places to lounge and enjoy a moment. I think the idea is that you work hard and take brain breaks so you stay fresh and happy. Pretty smart if you ask me.


At the orientation, there was a wall-mounted board and boxes of legos that you could play with between classes and during the lunch break. On the last day, I added my contribution.


The last night I went out to teppanyaki with Soma, another Noogler, and her husband, Mike, who is tall and of european descent. An awkward moment ensued when we walked in. Soma is about four feet tall, with an adorable face. They asked if we would need a kid’s menu. Soma said, “What am I supposed to be, your adopted daughter?” Apparently this has happened to them before.

Don’t let the sweet face fool you, folks. That is one lethally smart, 30-something, corporate lawyer sitting beside me. The teppanyaki place is lucky she took it easy on them.


In closing, I’ll leave with this photo, taken in an ice cream shop that specializes in unique and unusual flavors.

I call this: geek’s dilemma.