Day Job

2011 is already starting out as a year of big changes.  The biggest one is that, after 10 years of being a work-at-home mom, I’ve gotten a day job…and not just any day job, but one that matches what I’d described as my “best possible job” when I started looking.

I’d been plinking in resumes since just before the end of 2010, with no appreciable results.  Then after the first of the year, I ended up in two different interview loops, both for essentially the same position at rival companies.  Both extended me offers, and after a bit of negotiating back and forth, I landed at Amazon, where I’ll be a technical writer documenting Amazon Web Services.

(You might have to be a geek to understand why that excites me so.  Essentially, I’ll be getting paid to learn about a revolutionary new web technology that I want to learn anyway.)

My work on WeaveZine as a small-business web entrepreneur was, surprisingly to me, a bonus in interviews.  My guess is they were wading through reams of nearly identical technical writing samples and then hit mine, which included things like “Potholder Looms: Basics and Beyond” and thought “at least this candidate won’t be boring!”

So…instead of ending up in a dead-end, mommy-tracked, job as I’d feared, I’ll be walking into a great position.  It blows me away.  Eric says he never had any doubts, that I always underestimate myself.  I guess he was right!

So that’s great news for me.  What does it mean for the website?

It’s going back to its roots: a site run for fun, not profit.

The primary focus will be shifting to reflect that.  It’ll become my personal blog, with occasional podcast episodes.  I’d like to say that the podcast will come out on a monthly schedule, but since I’ve never done the podcast while working full time, all I can say is that there will be more episodes, done as time allows.

All the great WeaveZine and WeaveCast content that’s currently on the site will continue to be available as a permanent archive, and I’ll do my best to keep the URLs the same when I shift things around.

It may take a while for me to get to this, but I will be moving to a different server host, and re-branding the website so the new personal focus will be clear.

I’ve got some existing sponsorship and ad commitments, as those run out, the site will transition to ad-free and donation-free.

I may still sell the occasional pattern or kit in an online store or on Etsy, just for fun, but not in a “this has to support the server” way.

If you have questions or comments about what’s happening, please leave a comment below.

Many thanks for being the most important part of my website—the folks who enjoy it!


Syne with Pink Hair

Syne Mitchell

Programmer-Writer, Weaver, and Blogger

Beamed On

The warp is wound onto the plain beam of my AVL, and awaiting threading.

beamed on and ready to thread

The warp separator I ended up buying is six bamboo blinds from the hardware store, handily precut to 46-inch widths, 2 yards long.  I use pliers to remove the blind hardware and ta-da!  Perfect warp separator.  Infinitely reusable, works a treat, and you don’t have to figure out if it’s time to insert another stick yet.  (This was a tip gleaned from Laura Fry.)

bamboo blinds

Note: See those pliers?  Those are another hardware store find.  You know how Irwin Quick-Grips revolutionized the bar clamp?  Irwin has done it again for vise grips.  These are the 8-inch vise grips ,they adjust beautifully and stay put while you use them without slipping.  Not cheap, but the first vise grips I’ve ever had that actually work and don’t pinch my hand.  These are now part of my loom tool box.

Evelyn suggested that instead of buying warp separator, I simply wind the warp onto the sectional beam, no warp separator needed.  I appreciate suggestions, and gave it a thought, but decided to go with my original plan because the threads are so heterogenous in size and shape.  Some are slubby handspun and some are skinny, and some are boucles and some are smooth.  Also, the warp is spread pretty loosely in the raddle.  If it was a dense, homogenous warp, with smooth threads, I’d have totally given it a try.  But with this warp I wanted the safety net of knowing that there was no way threads from one layer of warp could sneak down past their fellows into the preceding layer.

It’s entirely possible Evelyn’s trick would have worked, I was after all completely skeptical of the wind-two-warp-threads-together-with-a-finger-between-and-they-won’t-tangle thing when Barbara Miller and Pam Howard told me about it.  And that works.  But like I said, this was too precious a project to risk.

Speaking of mitigating risk.  I have now moved from the we-don’t-need-no-stinking-muslins camp to the muslins-we-loves-them camp.  It took one eye-opening experience with my fiber-buddy Selah.  Remember the chenille and the pattern I had planned for it?    She took one look at the pattern and in the gentle way she has, encouraged me to mock it up in muslin first.  Here’s the muslin.

muslin test

Not my most flattering look.  Even looking past the pale, stiffness of the fabric, I realized immediately that it was a design that would look better on an apple-shaped figure, not an hourglass-shaped gal like me.

For comparison, here’s me in a custom-fit garment that Selah and I and will be teaching at Madrona.

kimono fabric vest

Note: This fabric was woven on a rigid-heddle loom, using the 2-3 yard scraps of yarn left over from winding the blanket warps.  (You send me precious yarn; I make sure none of it goes to waste!)

The take-away: handwoven cloth is worth test-driving a new pattern in muslin.  If I ever forget, I’ll just point myself at this blog post.

And the pattern?  I’ll be taking it and the muslin to Madrona.  Hopefully one of the students will be a good body-match for the design and I can gift them the pattern.

Since I’m responding to questions and comments today, Ruth asked me in email whether I was still maintaining my goal weight.  Thus far, yes.  I’m still wearing size 8 clothes and weighing in a scootch under 145, the goal weight I reached in August.  My friend and weight-loss inspiration, Bonnie, warned me that maintenance is in many ways harder than losing, because you still have to eat right and there are no little payoffs in progress along the way.  Tis true.  It’s something I have to think about at every meal, and likely will for the next 5-10 years, or perhaps even the rest of my life.

When the urge to fall off the wagon and into a pile of crusty bread hits me, however, I think about how much healthier I feel.  How much better a mom I am to Kai now that I can run around and chase him.  How laying off the sugar has largely cleared up my allergies.

The toughest part is when I want to reward myself with a little “good-good” for accomplishing something hard.  Right now, I give myself 5 minutes to spin up some hand-painted merino, or if I’m at the grocery store, some bath salts instead of Mint Milanos.

I’m a work in progress, always.

Waiting in Chains

The title of this post sounds like a bad romance novel, doesn’t it?  It’s not, it’s a reference the birthday blanket project from last year.  Remember that?  Things got kicked off with a wonderful birthday party, I came home that night and finished winding the rest of the threads into warp.  And then…the project sat all chained up and nowhere to go.

waiting in chains

The reasons are many, but primarily they come down to:

1. Fear of failure.  What if I try to weave this blanket, with all its tension irregularities from all the different types of threads and things go hideously pear-shaped?  Will I be tarred and feathered by the weaving community?  Will the folks who sent in handspun curse my name?  What about the fund raiser for Doctors without Borders?  If the blanket sucks, will I be letting down folks who really, really need help??

Tension irregularities
2. Moving house.  My husband asked me not to blog about this last year, but when I asked him again this morning while he was brushing his teeth he mumbled something at me that sounded like “whatever” so I’m running with that.  Last year the terrible housing market brought prices down low enough that Eric and I were able to move out of our “starter house”, which after kid and weaving was bursting at the seams, and into a beautifully odd house that no one else wanted but which suits us right down to the ground.  I gained a wonderful weaving studio, but had to break down the AVL and move it and reassemble it, at the same time I was moving every other thing I own and dealing with a rigorous summer teaching schedule.
3. Fear of AVL.  I don’t know if everyone who brings home a used AVL Production Dobby Loom with auto cloth advance, computerized shafts, auto tensioning, multiple beams, and a fly shuttle gets intimidated by it, but I did.  I’m a geek, I love learning new things…but still, this was a quantum leap of complexity beyond my Baby Wolf.  It took me a while, much encouragement from Laura Fry, and nine yards of chenille, for me to feel at home with this beast.

So the good news is that issues 2 and 3 are conquered.  And while reason 1 still holds sway, I figure that it’s better to fail than never to try.  So… after almost a year of “waiting in chains” the 40th blanket project is now getting dressed on the loom.

I absolutely love how all the colors look together in this.  My husband came by while I was enthusing over it and his expression was less delight and more “dang, that’s a lot of crazy to have all in one blanket” so I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I think it’s marvelous.

crazy sauce colors

I’ll be weaving two 13-yard warps for this project and piecing panels together to make the two blankets.  The first warp is 42-1/2 inches wide in the raddle.

In the old house, I barely had room to squeeze around the AVL in my studio.  In the new house, the loom has more breathing room, and better still (and don’t tell Eric, but this is one of the hidden “features” that made me fall in love with this house) it comes with a built-in warping valet (non weavers would call this a banister and staircase).  It’s perfect for stretching out this warp and giving the tension irregularities more room to even out.

warping valet

I had to stop at this point in the warping because I don’t have warp-separator that’s 45 inches wide.  Today is an errand day, so I’ll stop by the hardware store and pick some up, and hopefully get this beamed on tonight.

The birthday blanket project: waiting in chains…no longer!

Blogging by Proxy

I’m teaching a beginning rigid-heddle class at Weaving Works in Seattle today so I’d originally thought there would be no blog post today.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that it’s possible to blog by proxy!

First of all, Bonnie Tarses of Weaving Spirit posted pictures and a description about a handwoven towel I wove up for her.

Then lo and behold, on the same day, Astrid Bear of Damselfly Yarns posted about a sample scarf that I wove up out of her delicious yarns.

My work here is done!  Thanks guys!


P.S. Also, I’ve had good news from Handwoven about a submission.  Today’s just coming up rainbows and unicorns all over!

Gifts from the Washing Machine

I washed the rayon chenille that I took off my AVL.  As expected, some of it was completely unusable cloth.  Sacrificed to the gods of learning.

But here, completely pettable and respectable is four yards of cloth, 36 inches wide.  I washed it on cold/normal and then dried it with some towels on tumble-dry-low to beat it up a bit and soften the fabric.  (Woven chenille right off the loom feels a lot like cardboard.)

Respectable cloth

I’m thinking about using it in this pattern, Elements Vest 002.

Elements Vest 002

The fabric is substantial, somewhere between heavy shirt and light jacket.  I think the simple lines of the vest will work well with the strong patterning and texture of the fabric.  Right now I’m wrestling with the angels of my better nature to talk myself into making a muslin (as is proper and right) instead of cutting right into my chenille (which is what I’m aching to do.)

One of the things I love to do when weaving is experiment and play around on the loom, since you’ll never know what you’ll get.  The rayon chenille warp, by dint of it being a learning warp was full of adventure.  And even more things showed up after wet finishing.

lots of stuff happened here

This odd sample is an amalgam of things.  From right to left the weave structures and weft were:

Diamond twill pattern in 20/2 worsted green wool
I rather like this fabric.  The wool fulled a bit and made the diamond pattern pucker into a pleasing almost-waffle.  (I expected some deflection because the structure alternated warp-faced with weft-faced twill which in stripes creates pleats and here creates mini-waffles.)  The dark green color faded into the background pleasing and gave just a hint of irridescence against the maroon.  You lose the complete velvet “luxe” feel of the rayon chenille, but the rayon softens the wool in a nice way and the wool makes the rayon fabric warmer.   I could see this as nice fabric for a fall jacket.

Diamond twill pattern in 20/2 yellow merino
The merino also pulled up into waffles, but the softer fiber fuzzed in the wash and obscured the design and the rayon’s velvet touch.  I like it not so very much.  I’m thinking cut up, it might make serviceable coasters.

Plain Weave in 22/2 yellow merino
The merino fuzzed up and created a hazy over the cloth that is just nasty.  But yet I find this cloth oddly compelling.  It makes me think of rustic fabrics, distressed velvets, lichen on rocks.  Can you be both attracted to and repelled by a fabric?

Straight twill in 22/2 yellow merino
The ruching that occurred in this piece is interesting.  When washed, the twill line deflected in an organic way that reminds me of bustles.  It’s like a form of macro-tracking, where entire sections of pattern are deflected, not just individual threads as can happen in an open plain weave.  At first I thought it occurred because of random felting, but look at this piece.

Pretty fabric

Straight twill, mystery weft
I am in love with this fabric.  The crinkled effect reminds me of bark.  It’s soft and slinky.  The weft was a thin red yarn purchased pre-wound on a pirn.  I think it was either fine silk on a pirn I bought from Lunatic Fringe or fine cotton from a closed mill in NC(1).  I just grabbed it for something to weave with at the time, “hey, here’s a pirn with yarn, let’s clear it off.”  Now that I see what it does, I’ll have to unravel a bit of the cloth and research the fiber.  I want to be able to replicate this effect.

UPDATE: I checked and I’m pretty sure the weft is a 140/2 silk.  That and the 24 sett for the 2000 ypp rayon chenille gave me what Su Butler (rayon-chenille expert) tells me is a “collapse effect.”  Big thanks to her for the term, it’s a lot more elegant than “scrunchy horizontal lines thingy.”

(1) I’m unable to resist vintage pirns filled with yarn when I find them in a yarn shop or antique store.  I point and shout, “pirn!” and then go about finding out how much they cost, often having to stop and explain what they are when I do.  I’d probably get better prices if I looked less enthusiastic.

My History in Code

Typing_iStock_000007155263XSmallI first encountered a computer in eighth-grade gifted class.  It was a TRS-80, which immediately was referred to as “Trash-80.”

When it was brought into the room, a number of the boys immediately adhered to the box.  It wasn’t their fault, the nerdions within them were irresistibly attracted to the positive computer-nucleus inside.  They were even happier when the box was opened and they actually got to use the machine.

The teacher decided that since the children were already using the expensive computery-thing the education board had sent him for their betterment, that he should try to teach a class on it.  Furthermore, since this was the modern 1980s, and he was a sensitive, enlightened guy, he should try to teach the girls, too.(1)

I was sitting in the back of class, negligently dreaming up a new doily pattern when the teacher gave the lesson.  For some reason, he decided to start teaching programing with the concept of recursion.  In retrospect, it is possible he didn’t like us much.  The problem was one of goldfish reproduction and how many goldfish one could expect to have after a given number of generations.

I hadn’t found the discussion of programming interesting, but the problem of run-away goldfish sex grabbed my attention.  A few minutes later, putting my doily down, I interrupted an argument between the boys and the teacher in which the boys had just about convinced him that recursion was an infernal device and shouldn’t be taught to young, impressionable minds, with the words: “Why don’t you just do this:”  Then I explained the logic to solve the problem.  The teacher and the boys looked at me astonished.  Not only had I spoken in class, but I’d said complete sentences.  A girl near me almost dropped her crochet hook.  More than that boggled the teacher and the boys, my solution might even be correct.

I was quickly rushed to the nearest computer by a skinny boy named Gerald.  Because even back then we knew that the only way to be sure you had the right answer was to check with a machine. Calculators had taught us that much.  Once we were in front of the screen Gerald panted: “Can you do that again?”  I looked at the white ASCII characters on the black background and said, “I don’t know the code language stuff but I can tell you how it should go.”  I did so, and Gerald translated my logic into variables and for-next loops and made one addition of his own, a variable counter, i++, to keep track of the generations.

And lo and behold, it was correct.  There was even a lesson plan with the right answer to confirm our smugness.  And so my first user interface was a acne-faced kid named Gerald.(2)

After this initial taste of programming success, I decided I wanted to learn computer programming “for reals.”(3)  I knew that computers thought in binary, but I wasn’t able to find a binary programming book.  So I settled for something called Assembly language.  Unfortunately, I had no 8080-assembly compiler handy, so it quickly became an exercise of writing PEEK and POKE code calls on paper to store and recall variable amounts and then checking my work manually.  Even a truly geeky thirteen-year-old girl will find this dull after a while.

At some point, I got clued into this whole Basic language thing. I begged my mom to let me borrow the super-sexy Atari 400 that the school had given her for her Spanish and ESL students.  It could do…wait for it: graphics! We agreed that it could be brought home nights and weekends, as long as I packaged it up next morning to go back and I was willing to solve any computer questions Mom might have…for life.  Mom was no dummy—she probably has her own box of doilies somewhere—and is still earning dividends off this Faustian bargain.

I began to write a computer game.  My dream was to re-create Space Invaders, so I could play as much as like—for free!(4)  I spent many happy hours animating aliens and fired shots around the screen.  The computer had no disk drive or hard drive, and having to type the entire program in from scratch each time slowed development down considerably.  On the other hand, being forced to type in each line over and over was an excellent motivator for designing efficient code.  It became a game in itself: how few lines can this code be (and still be type-able?)

I saved all the money I didn’t spend on video games and bought a Commodore 64.  It cost somewhere in the three digits and was a major investment to my 13-year-old self.  I spent a happy summer writing my own AD&D-character-generation program.  It was essentially a series of fill-in-the-text forms with a random number generator and a print function.  It was my magnum opus.  Gonna revolutionize my life and make it so much easier to recover quickly from unplanned RPG death.

With a whole summer to burn before eighth grade and college(5), I got in this routine: get up around 3pm, fart around for a few hours before settling down to the serious work of coding around 6pm, code all night until 6am while listening to Nick at Night old-time television programs in the background (I Love Lucy, Mr. Ed, My Three Sons), go for an early morning run, shower, sleep.  This was the only time in my life I’ve been able to follow my internal clock completely, and it’s still a warm happy glow of a memory, being in perfect synch with my biorhythms.  I love working at night; I get all my best ideas at 4am.  IMO, it’s a shame the diurnals are running things.

Part 2 of this narrative picks up in college, and it will get written when my subconscious comes across with a way to make UNIX and MUD-related-angst amusing.  Until then we return you to your regularly schedule weaving blog…

(1) In the 1950-70s, gifted girls were largely related to designing intricate crocheted doily patterns.  It is posited by some scholars that while doing so, they discovered the secret to life, the universe, and everything, and encoded it in an elegant hassock-cover which was published in The Elegant Lady’s Guide to House Fripperies, page 42.

(2) Gerald’s name has been changed from the original.  Because seriously, can you recall who you went to eight grade with?  What is interesting here is that I can barely  remember the boy, but burned into my brain forever is the code correction he made to my logic, which probably tells you more about me than I’d want you to know.

(3) No one said “for reals” in the 1980s, slang was much more primitive then.

(4) Remember when playing video games used to cost 25 cents for three lives?  And when limiting “screen time” involved giving a kid a financial-management problem to solve?

(5) Long story, entertaining: involves international travel, educational hijinks, and living the life of a spy, but beyond the scope of this particular narrative.

In the Space of One Warp

If you listened to the first WeaveCast, you’ll know that I didn’t take to weaving immediately.  I bought a used Baby Wolf loom, tried to learn it on my own with limited success, and then put in in the corner for a two-year time out.  Then I took a class, learned how to really use it and then dove head-long into weaving.

I don’t recommend this as a method, but it does seem to be mine.  A couple of years ago, I bought a used AVL loom.  I tried to learn to weave on it, with limited success, and it’s loomed over my weaving studio ever since.  (AVL Production Dobby Looms do not roll into corners, they’re also hard to throw in your car to take to a workshop.)

It took a new locale (with more space to get around the loom), re-building parts of it to be more user-friendly, three trips from Laura Fry (and one from Doug), and one nine-yard test warp, but finally, for the first time, yesterday, I felt like I was in charge of this loom, not the other way around!

The warp started off rough.  With many a problem.  (BTW, if you’re trying to find skips or threading errors in a warp using a screaming yellow weft is a great idea.)

rough warp

I’d threaded it in a hurry late one night and made just about every mistake known to weaver.  It was a slow process to fix them one-by-one.  There were also things wrong with the loom that I had to fix.  Like the turnbuckle that goes to the dobby.  It loosened and fell apart, and in the process of putting it back together…suddenly I had a decent shed!

I’d be the first to admit that I’m not an AVL PDL guru, but I can weave on this thing!  More than that, I can debug it when things go wrong.  I can fix problems in the threading and tension.  I can tweak the fly shuttle cord lengths so it feels right.  I can tell when the shafts have caught on each other (only happened once) and when I forgot to engage the live weight (happened more times than I’d care to admit.)  I didn’t even freak out when I broke the Texsolv fly-shuttle cord.  I just measured out a new length, popped it in place and continued on.

With computer control, a fly shuttle, and automatic cloth advance, driving this loom feels like flying!  The biggest problem I had was that I was weaving so fast I’d run out of weft and not notice it for a pick or two, then I’d have to backtrack, which is not so easy with auto-cloth-advance.  (I need a pirn with a warning siren: weft getting low!)

The other thing I haven’t quite figured is why occasionally I fling the fly shuttle off to the right.  I’m not sure if I need to adjust the elbow-pickers or if it’s something I’m doing wrong, such as moving the beater too soon when I throw from the left or how I throw the fly shuttle.  I paid close attention to myself while weaving and haven’t identified the cause yet.

Some cool things I noticed about the AVL:

  • The loom waste isn’t as bad as I’d feared.  I measured it at 35 inches.  One foot to tie onto the front (I tied on to the apron rod instead of using the sandpaper beam to start) and two feet at the end of the warp.  This surprised me because it’s a big loom.  But I was able to weave right up to the heddles and get a decent shed.

weaving rigup to the heddles

  • You can weave fast!  I loved not having to stop and advance the warp.  The only downside was having to watch the weft like a hawk and make sure you didn’t run out.
  • It’s a great workout.  Driving an AVL is a lot of work, lifting 48-inch-wide shafts is not effortless and the beater is heavy.  I fell into a rhythm and got the same relaxed high that I get during a good workout or long-distance bike ride.
  • No missed shafts.  I may be jinxing myself here, but my Compudobby I wove 8 yards of cloth without a single mis-fired shaft.

The fabric shows clearly my journey to competence.  At the beginning are numerous skips in the fabric, some areas where things got so bad I just advanced the warp to start over.

more bad cloth

Then you can see I’m coming to terms with the warp and the loom.  Things are getting better, mistakes are fewer.

Finally, I picked a pattern to weave(*), Diamonds, one of the sample patterns that comes with Fiberworks PCW, and made usable cloth.

Usable cloth!

It’s not perfect cloth.  But as I tell my students, when you’re learning, your goal is to make a weaver.  Any cloth that happens is a bonus.

Last week I created an AVL weaver.

And I ended  up with about 4 yards of rayon chenille twill as a bonus!  I’m not sure what I’ll make out of it.  I’m currently thinking some sort of garment.  A slinky-soft top or jacket.  I’ll have to see how it wet-finishes up.  It’s 2000 ypp sleyed at 24 epi.

The failed scraps of starts and stops I’m thinking about turning into patchwork projects.  Pincushions and the like.

I can’t wait to get my next warp on the loom.  It’s one that’s waited too long already.

(*) I fully intended to design my own weave draft, but it’s been a crazy week and I had to choose between designing and weaving.  Once I got the loom up-and-running, I couldn’t keep my hands off it long enough to create a WIF.  It’s so much fun to be able to finally use this beast of a loom!

Drilling the AVL

Last night I was up at 2 a.m. drilling holes in my AVL.  I finished the modifications to the fly-shuttle assembly to turn it from a pull-down mechanism to a side-to-side throw.  The pull-down mechanism the loom came with made my shoulder hurt after about a half-hour of weaving, so Laura and Doug Fry (aka the loom mechanics) came and helped me prototype changing it over.  They left me with a shopping list and instructions for building the final version and now…I’ve finished it.  There may be a bit of tweaking to the length of the Texsolv on either side of the handle, but other than that, it’s done.

Modified AVL Loom

There was one bad moment while drilling the maple.  It’s very hard wood, and my drill bit started to smoke.  I’m perched on a 24-inch bench, drilling at the top of my loom, in my PJs and bathrobe at 2 a.m., with the rest of the family asleep.  Smoke is curling up towards the smoke detector.  And I’m thinking: “how much smoke can one generate before it goes off?”  I started blowing and waving to disperse the smoke and slowed down with the drilling and was able to finish without sirens erupting.  Whew!

I inserted a stainless-steel bolt with an loop end into the newly drilled hole and fastened the other end with a washer and locking nut.

the drilled hole


Then I ran Texsolv from the upright, to a central loop that hold the cord up and out of the way of the warp.

central ring

Looking at this now, I realize that I’ve done something a bit whack.  In a traditional fly-shuttle the cord runs through the metal loop.  I don’t need the connector at the bottom.  What the heck was I thinking?

I started to take it apart, then realized that system put together this way has a nice smooth feel. I think I’ll  play with it this way first, then switch it over to the traditional method and see which I like best.

From the loop, the cord spreads out to the handle at the center of the loom, and the flyshuttle box at the side of the loom.

fishing swivel

The black connectors are 140-lb ball-bearing snap swivels from a fishing supply store.  They’re super strong and pivot so no twist builds up as the system works.  They’re also easy to replace should one fail.  Plus it makes it easy to detatch the fly-shuttle cords should you want to hand-throw a shuttle instead.

The white cord is Texsolv, which I like because it’s strong and is easy to adjust in length because it’s got little loops all along its length.  I used those loops and some tricks I learned from assembling rigid heddle looms to attach all the texsolv without having to tie any knots.  It felt like solving one of those rope-and-post puzzles my family gives out at Christmas.  I’m delighted with the results, very strong and clean-looking.

The handle is a simple hickory hammer handle from a hardware store.  The upside to hickory is that it’s dense and strong, the downside is that it’s a bugger to drill into.  I may add some padding to it as some point.  I’m thinking wool felt or leather might be nice.

Why did finishing this project take me so long?  One reason is drilling holes in the beautiful rock maple of my vintage AVL takes a bit of an emotional run-up.  There’s another mod I want to do, to make the front beam easier to take out, but it involves cutting into curly maple, so it may be a while before I build up the gumption to tackle that.

The other change I made was to take out the built-in bench.  One of the things that bugs me about my vintage AVL is that you have to take the loom apart to thread it, so, with Laura’s encouragement…I’m fixing that, tweaking the loom to make it work better for me.  The seat I have in there now is not perfect, the front edge is too sharp and cuts into my legs when I treadle.  What I eventually want is a hand-woven Walt Turpening seat, but  there’s a months-long waiting list for those, and a hefty deposit.  In the meantime, I’ll either live with this as-is, pull out a sander and fix the edge, or find a better 24-inch-high seat to use.

There was one bench upright that I wasn’t able to get out last night.  I ran out of steam around 3 a.m. and decided that since it looked like I might have to take more of the loom apart, and/or flip a 500-pound loom over on its back, it should wait until I’d had a bit of sleep.
bench upright
Today I hope to get a good whack of weaving time in on the fly shuttle, both because I want to flush any bugs out of the new system, and because I need to get the current cloth off the loom so I can get started an important project that’s been waiting in warp chains too long…

A Twinkly Christmas Eve

Twinkly TreeThis is one of my favorite nights of the year.  I love the twinkly lights and the sense of anticipation,

When I was a little girl, I used to sleep in the living room next to the tree the night before Christmas.  I don’t know if the plan was to catch Santa in the act, or to be completely sure I wouldn’t miss any present opening.  I came to love drifting off with the colored lights twinkling nearby.

Right now twinkly lights are playing a part in my crafting as well.  As I reported earlier, I’ve been bitten by the eTextile bug.  After an inspirational Skype chat with eTextile diva Lynne Bruning, I’m even more entranced with combining electronics and fiber and garnered some new ideas.


I had mentioned working on the Knitty Know-it-all bag.  That project’s done.  It works as described and I love it… with two caveats.  (1) There’s a short somewhere inside that makes the pattern advance without a button click on rare occasions.  I need to track that down. (2) The LEDs are super bright and give me a headache after staring at them for a while.  I think I either need dimmer LEDs or a way to reduce the power to them.  I need to see if the Lilypad will let me dim the LEDs with software or if I need to come up with a hardware fix.

Knitty Know-it-all Bag

My favorite thing about this bag (aside from learning about Lilypad and the whole “it works!  It really works!” part) are the cloth flowers I added as an embellishment.  I’m not normally a girly-girl, but I found these at Jo-Ann’s Fabric and the colors matched the bag so well, and the shape echoed the Lilypad, that I succumbed.  The contrast between the burly tech-y electronics and the soft girly flowers makes me smile.

In other eTextile news, I’ve been playing with el wire.  This stuff is uber cool.  Here are some preliminary pics of what I’m working on.

Weaving Light

Knitting Light

All grown up, and I still love playing with twinkly lights!


Yesterday I consigned a dozen yards of handwoven fabric to the wash.

There were some disappointments: the 3/2 cotton pattern threads in the Kubla Khan fabric puffed up and the text became less readable.  I nearly fainted, but my friend Selah stepped in and ironed pressed the heck out of the fabric and said the legibility came back.  It did, but not as much as I’d hoped.  Lesson: sometime wet-finishing samples lie.

But there were also some delightful surprises.  Several fabrics developed tracking.  What do I mean by tracking?  Take a look at the image below.

tracking in fabric

See that wonderfully complex and subtle patterning?  The way the design is organic and non-repeating?  Want the weave draft?

It’s plain weave.

Sometimes when you wash a fabric, you get tracking.  I’m not exactly sure what causes it, but I think it’s that the twist in the warp and weft yarn interact to create random patterns that look like very complex twills.  I love the way the colors and tracking in this fabric create something reminiscent of tree bark.

There’s not enough here to make a jacket, alas.  So, I’m scheming ways to make a garment out of this.  The warp was sock yarn from Creekside fibers, the weft a silk noil from a weaver’s garage sale.  Would a different silk noil work if I bought more yarn from Creekside?  I’m not sure.  Of course, I could always weave something coordinating and subdued and let the tracked fabric be an accent fabric.m

Here’s another, even more dramatic example of tracking.  I was sampling several wefts and the orange produced this lovely effect.

more tracking
Have you experienced tracking in your fabrics?  Is it something you welcome, or do you see it as a flaw in the fabric?

Have you been able to induce tracking in your fabric?  If so, how?  I love the look of tracking, and would like to play with it more.