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.
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!)
Bolstered 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!