Welcome to the Forest O' Heddles!

Last we chatted, I had sleyed the reed, which will keep the project at a relatively consistent width. Next up, the whole piece will move into the loom. And before I leave you today, I’ll start threading some heddles! What a line-up!

Everyone? The loom. The loom? Everyone!
Everyone? The loom. The loom? Everyone!
Inserting the reed!
Inserting the reed!

The reed, that is now completely filled with yarn, moves over to the beater bar of the loom and fits right in! The top of the beater bar comes off, making it easy to put the reed into the grooves and then tighten everything up so we don’t have wiggleage. (I’m sure that’s not a word. Probably “wiggling” would have been more accurate. But, I’m taking creative leverage today – Mr. Webster will have to get over it!)

Profile shot of the beater bar.
Profile shot of the beater bar.
Next up, the yarns travel through the heddles!
Next up, the yarns travel through the heddles!

Next up, the yarns all need their own heddle. So, I sit behind the loom (which is really more of a squat so I’m at heddle level) and start threading the yarns from the middle moving out. (p.s. heddles are tall, skinny, metal pieces with an eye in the middle that slide around on the shafts of the loom. And now you are in the know!)

The view from the back of the loom.
The view from the back of the loom.
Making progress!
Making progress!

For whatever reason, I always start in the center and go right first. Is that because I’m right-handed, or we’re in the Northern Hemisphere or something? Could be just me! I would be curious if my left-handed friends instinctively go left first. Hmmm…. the things that make me wonder…

1-2-3-4, over & over again!
1-2-3-4, over & over again!

Because I’ll ultimately be doing a really straightforward pattern with the weaving, I am doing a simple threading. I’m starting with the yarn in the center of the project and threading it through a heddle on shaft 1. The next yarn is threaded through a heddle on shaft 2. The one that follows goes through 3 and after that, 4. Then, repeat many, many times! It’s a very repetitive process, but it is important to stay alert – which is a tricky combo, for sure! Having to redo part of the threading is not the end of the world. But, it’s not fun, either! So, coffee, loud music, complete silence, Red Bull – whatever helps you focus, pull that trick out of the hat for this stage!

Working from the center, out!
Working from the center, out!
Can't see the loom for the heddles! (Or something like that!)
Can’t see the loom for the heddles! (Or something like that!)

For a project this size, it’ll take me 2-3 hours to thread each yarn. If I haven’t mentioned this recently, weaving is not the sort of pastime for those that need instant gratification! It is so much fun! But in no shape or form would you ever call it quick! And so, in true weaver’s fashion, I’ll be back next week to finish up the heddles and start winding on! Talk to you soon…

Run 14 Heddles 8

Reed-y?

You know, thinking up a title for a weekly blog – not so easy! And sometimes, just sometimes, all I can come up with is something sounding ridiculously corny. But, I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you are OK with a little corn and we can all simply carry on, ignoring the crazy title! And here goes! (p.s. I am up for suggestions, if a brilliant title for a weaving blog comes to you in the middle of the night… just saying!)

And here are the players for today's sleying!
And here are the players for today’s sleying!

Today is sley-the-reed day!!!! Best day ever! I love this part of the process. I’m not sure exactly what makes it so appealing. All I can figure is that sitting at a table organizing hundreds of yarns just does it for me! I like to tell folks that to be a weaver, you have to be a little bit crazy… and I would guess my prior statement puts me firmly in that category! And I’m OK with that!

Lease sticks slide in.
Lease sticks slide in.

To sley a reed, you need a reed (rectangular frame with evenly spaced slots that will fit into your loom), lease sticks (a pair of sticks with holes in both ends meant to be a place holder for the cross that delineates the order of the yarns), and a pair of scissors. That is the bare minimum. But, for me, I always include a cup of tea, my project journal to track my time, and either a TV show or a little music to entertain me!

The view from where I'm sitting (aka, the view from my belly button!).
The view from where I’m sitting (aka, the view from my belly button!).

First up, the lease sticks slip through the cross I made on the warping board. I tied everything in strategic spots so I could locate the cross once I was sitting at the table. (Those ties get cut once I start sleying.) So now, the lease sticks are keeping the yarns in order! The reed sits directly in front of me with an edge hanging off the table to make the threading easier. The trick is to avoid knocking the reed over onto the floor. You can always tape it down if it makes you more comfortable!

Each yarn is placed in a dent of the reed.
Each yarn is placed in a dent of the reed.
Lots of little ends in this project!
Lots of little ends in this project!

Because I had a lot of color changes at the warping board, I have a lot of little ends that typically pull right off before the yarn goes into the reed. (I thought this particular pile was very pretty! And sometimes, that’s all you need for a bit of happiness – a pretty pile!)

Just, yum...
Just, yum…
I made it to the other end!
I made it to the other end!

I like to knot the yarns every inch or so just to double check my math. Like most folks, I don’t enjoy the process of undoing and fixing a project. So, I try to put as many checks and balances in place as possible along the way!

Ready to go to the loom!
Ready to go to the loom!

Next up, I’ll reunite the reed and the loom, bringing it all together! It’s going to be good! Talk to you soon…

Run 14 Sleying 8

Don't mind me while I get dressed…

When a weaver is in the process of setting up a loom, it is called “dressing” the loom! And there is your interesting nugget for the day! Now, on with the show!

Winding on the next chunk...
Winding on the next chunk…
Love the background! A sea of tubes of yarn!
Love the background! A sea of tubes of yarn!

To take the yarn off the warping board, I do a twisty thing. (Is all the technical talk making you woozy?) I’m sure there is a more precise description for it. But basically, you start at the bottom of the board, create a loop and pull another loop through it, and then repeat until you reach the top. With one good yank, it will come undone. I think it’s crochet-related – does that sound right? It took me awhile to get the swing of it. But, it is very helpful in this instance!

Twisting it off!
Twisting it off!

Before I take anything off the board, I mark where the cross is located (see below) and I like to add a choke tie at the top. Choke ties are just what they sound like – a piece of yarn tied really, really tightly around a portion of the project. I like putting at least one in place. And if you are nervous about the yarns shifting too much, you can certainly add more! Weavers preference! (Kind of like what you put on your hot dog… mustard and pickles, of course! Or, if the place does Chicago style dogs, adding tomato and celery salt, too! Makes me drool a little thinking about it…)

Tying the cross
Tying the cross

Once all the parts of the project are off the warping board, they all converge at the table – hopefully in order! It looks the colorful chaos. But, there is a method to the madness – promise!

Let's all meet up at the table!
Let’s all meet up at the table!
Yarn soup!
Yarn soup!

It’s a short one today! But, the break in the action seems to make sense! Next up, I’ll be sleying the reed – my favorite! Can you feel the excitement buzzing? Talk to you soon…

Run 14 Sleying 3

Wind me up!

We’ve traveled so far! There was measuring the project at the warping board, sleying the reed at the table, threading the heddles at the loom, and now, we’ll wind the whole project on! But first, I have to do a little tying!

Time to tie!
Time to tie!

The loom has very similar parts at the front and the back – including a rod that is lashed on to each beam. Once each yarn has been assigned to a heddle, I’ll tie the yarn to the rod at the back in bunches of about an inch or two.

Time to begin winding - easy does it!
Time to begin winding – easy does it!

Once the back is tied in place, I’ll move around to the front to get it set up. I opened up the twisted portions of the project and loosely grouped the yarn into sections. This will give me something to tug on. I’ve left the lease sticks in place to help me identify any particularly twisted spots. The goal is to catch them before they butt up against the reed. Ah, those handy lease sticks!

Here's what's happenin' at the front!
Here’s what’s happenin’ at the front!

During the winding process, the goal is to give each section of yarn a tug, straightening each little soldier out so there are no problems! I like to go left to right the first time, and then the opposite direction next. I have found that if you yank on the chunks of yarn the same way each time, you can create discrepancies in the rate that the yarn is wound on. Sounds technical, but it means that at the end of the winding process, one side is noticeably longer than the other! And you want to avoid that as much as possible!

Lots of bundles to yank!
Lots of bundles to yank!

So little by little, I do my tug-and-wind dance! At the back of the loom, I’m slowly feeding in yard sticks to keep the yarns even. (Are you sensing a theme here? Keep the yarns as even as possible. Rinse and repeat…)

Slithering from the front to the back!
Slithering from the front to the back!
We're winding, we're winding...
We’re winding, we’re winding…

Once the project is completely wound on, it’s time to tie the front! You know, now that I think about it, weaving is really a lot of winding and tying.. and threading – oh my! (And who is now envisioning a brunette in blue gingham, a tin man and a scarecrow skipping down a brick road? Just me? I’m not surprised…)

And now, we tie on the front!
And now, we tie on the front!
It's a pretty knot!
It’s a pretty knot!

I have no idea what this type of knot is called. If we have any knot aficionados in the crowd, feel free to chime in! I usually just refer to it as the “fancy” knot! A little tricky to learn, but very helpful when undoing everything at the end! Thank you, fancy knot!

Ready to weave! Yay!
Ready to weave! Yay!

The loom is set! We are all dressed and ready to go! You know what this means – next up, there will be weaving! Woohoo! And the crowd goes wild! Again, could just be me… Talk to you soon!

Run 15 Winding 12

The missing piece…

Hello! The reed has been sleyed (threaded) and is now ready to slide into the loom, bringing all the parts together!

Reed, meet the loom. Loom, reed.
Reed, meet the loom. Loom, reed.

The reed’s job is to keep the project a consistent width. The reed is now tucked into the beater bar, that will move forward and back to keep the density of the fabric consistent while we’re weaving. The beater bar sits in front of the shafts which will move up and down creating a pattern in the fabric. Lastly, in the shafts live a bunch of heddles that hold each yarn, which will move according to the pattern. And that covers the inner workings of a loom! Go forth and impress your friends with your weaving knowledge!

Fits like a glove!
Fits like a glove!

When I’m threading heddles, I like to start in the middle and work my way out. Because I have a 4-shaft loom, I have 4 different options for each yarn. I’ll be doing a stardard 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4 pattern for this project – keeping it nice and simple! So, the first yarn is threaded through a heddle on shaft 1. The next yarn goes through a heddle on shaft 2. Then, 3, and 4 and back to 1! Repeat over and over again until all the yarns are safely tucked into the loom!

View from the back!
View from the back!

(By the way, shaft 1 is closest to the beater bar and shaft 4 is closest to the back. Just for a little clarification, because I know you were dying to ask… I see your hand up over there!)

Bird's eye view of the (4) shafts.
Bird’s eye view of the (4) shafts.

Here is a concept that might make your brain ooze out of your ears. Because I’m starting in the middle and moving to the right, the yarns will go in the order I mentioned before. But after that 1/2 is finished, I need to come back to the middle and move to the left – meaning I need to thread them backwards (4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1)… Yeah, it’s a little disorienting the first few times you do it! But ultimately, I want the pattern to look the same from one end to the other. Thankfully, it feels less weird the more times you do it!

Each yarn has (4) different options!
Each yarn has (4) different options!
It's a close-up. Just because...
It’s a close-up. Just because…

I like to knot the yarns together about every inch. It helps me double and triple check that I haven’t flubbed up somewhere before this! The “flubbing up” does occasionally happen… I know, it’s hard to believe…

And so it goes!
And so it goes!

The heddles are threaded – woohoo! All that’s left is to wind the project onto the loom, and then there will be weaving! Lots and lots of weaving!!! Hang tight for all the fun to come! Talk to you soon…

Run 15 Heddles 13