JMM: Day Two

This blog post could be subtitled: String Heddles Kick My Butt.

The day started off well.  I settled down to weave on my knotted-pile project.  Of course, before I could begin, I needed to weave a header in plain weave, and to make that easier I needed to tie some string heddles for the loom, so I didn’t have to hand-pick the sheds.

Easy-peasy, right?  I mean, this is basic inkle-loom weaving stuff.  You find a spot on the loom that’s the right size and you tie thread in circles.

The first challenge was finding a thread thin enough for the heddles so that it wouldn’t interfere with the closely sett warp.  I picked up a mill end Judith had brought that I thought was 20/2 cotton.

not your friend

First lesson learned: know your yarn.

The yarn turned out to be a slippery rayon, and no matter what knot I used (square knot, surgeon’s knot, etc.) it slipped right out.  The second issue, it started breaking.  Judith also said something about the yarn probably being reverse-twist and that was also complicating matters.

So back to the drawing board.  We both looked around for a strong 20/2 cotton (all the ones there broke easily) or a 60/2 silk, but couldn’t find either.

Second lesson learned: bring the right supplies

So, there being no way to materialize 60/2 silk out of the air (I did try, mind you, several times) I hopped in my car and spend an hour running home and back to the retreat.

At home I grabbed up some wonderful yarn I got “somewhere” (I get a lot of my yarn from weaver’s garage sales and such like) which is a super-fine nylon string.  I’ve used it for woven shibori, and previous string heddles.  It’s great: slick, strong, and thin.  The cone it was on was unlabeled, and I have no idea where to get more.  If you know of a source, please leave a note in the comments.

So I get back to the retreat, eat a wonderful and healthy lunch.  (Good food I didn’t have to cook and all-day weaving with friends, it just doesn’t get much better than this!)

tie 102 onBolstered by gazpacho and pita pockets, I headed back to the loom and begin tying the 102 string heddles I need for the project.

Third lesson learned: that’s a lot of string heddles

The nylon was slippery, and even with surgeon’s knots kept wanting to come undone, so I had to tie multiple knots, which slowed things down.  Plus I was running out of the nylon, so I was trying to tie the knots with very little waste, which also made things trickier.

It was a bit frustrating, but then I had to laugh at myself.  If I wasn’t up for tying a few knots, then what the heck was I doing warping up this kind of project, anyway?  Because once I start weaving, I’ll have to tie nearly 100 knots in every row!

That bit of perspective got my mind right, and I settled into enjoying the conversation around me and the mindless repetition of tying knots.

Finally, I got all the heddles tied and on the loom.

Then I noticed the twining error I’d made in the warp.  I’d gone up-down-down-up in one place instead of up-down-up-down.


The only fix was to take out the twining and redo it.  Happily, the error was only a few ends from the edge, so that was a snap!

Fourth lesson learned: if you persist with a happy and willing heart, sometimes the weaving gods give you a break.


At one point during today’s retreat, Judith brought out a collection of shuttles to show the various designs and styles.  Included in the mix was one of her personal shuttles that’s she’s woven with for a long time.

How cool is that?!?  You know you’re good when your shuttle tell you so!


I ended the day with the heddles all on, and the twining fixed.  Tomorrow, I’m gonna weave something!

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