On Weaving

Well, I bought a loom. It was inevitable, really, although the timing was impulsive. As soon as the spinning wheel came out this year, I felt an itch for a loom to go with it. All I want to do is spin aimless mini skeins, but I don’t want a bunch of aimless minis kicking around my house, and I’m an adept enough knitter that knitting a sweater out of lumpy miscellaneous handspun feels like a waste of time.

Looking down on a Schacht Ladybug spinning wheel. The bobbin in the flyer has a small amount of yellow-green plied yarn on it.
One of the aforementioned minis in progress.

I also don’t want to keep yarn around without a plan unless it actively calls to me. I’ve given away a lot of my stash over the past two years, and while I still have more to get rid of, there’s probably one single purge left before I feel settled with my stash relative to what I enjoy making these days. I don’t want to spin yarn without a plan.

I’ve been feeling the call for spinning wheel-loom synchronicity for almost as long as I’ve had the wheel. Something about it seems to make sense to me, though I can’t quite articulate why. Maybe after I weave more I’ll understand why it feels right.

My Loom

I settled on a 15″ Schacht Cricket, a beginner-friendly rigid heddle loom. Ultimately, it was the price point, the medium size, and the fact that I love my Schacht-made Ladybug spinning wheel that won me over. I want to make useful textiles—table runners, place mats, and hand towels—and if I end up outgrowing the loom, I’ll have a better sense of what I want out of the next time when the time comes. Plus, it came unassembled and unfinished, which tickles the painter in me. I gave it a quick once-over with a beeswax/mineral oil blend just to get going, but I might paint it in the future.

Making Sense

Before the loom arrived, I spent a fair amount of time reading up on how to warp it. I read lots of how-tos, and tried to visualize the instructions, I couldn’t quite get there. I could get close, about 0080% understanding, but without the loom in front of me I couldn’t quite parse the instructions.

A rigid heddle loom on a floor stand with a black warp in the center.
My loom. It’s warped wrong here, but I didn’t know it at the time.

As soon as the loom showed up, though, it made sense. How tying on the warp end provides a loop to pull through the heddle. How the heddle loops automatically alternate going over and under the apron bar. How to get the warp through the slots. (I did warp the loom wrongly thrice before finally looking back at the Cricket instruction booklet and understanding the relationship between the apron bar and the back bar, but that’s on me for reading instructions from about four sources at once).

I had a similar feeling of discovery and wonder when I was teaching myself to spin. The tool is moderately complex, but it performs a very simple act—moving fiber in relation to other fiber. The spinning wheel takes fibers and twists them together. The loom takes yarn, holds it at tension, and facilitates moving other yarn over and under the tensioned yarn. These technologies are incredibly efficient, but their functions are beautifully simple. The ability to work with fiber is unspeakably ancient. I feel tied to that history, and I feel it acutely when I’m learning a new skill.

My First Project

A rigid heddle loom with a multi-colored mug rug in progress. At the bottom of the loom are five shuttles with different weft yarns.
Mug Rug #2. There’s a small error, but it’s square—the first one is a little lopsided.

When I bought the loom, I bought a mug rug kit to go with it. I didn’t want to start by just doing some random plain weave; I figured I would get bored of that quickly enough. It’s been going well. My first is absolutely serviceable; my second is better. I have no reason to doubt that the third will be anything other than better still.

It’s also fascinating to use a knitting yarn in a vastly different way. On its own, Valley Yarns Peru is desperately soft and incandescently airy, and yet it’s packed down so densely here that (while it doesn’t become rough or unpleasant) that softness mostly disappears. It feels sturdy and solid and pleasantly smooth, but not at all like what I expected. It’s a gift to be surprised.

Already I’m dreaming of my next project – a table runner. Maybe the plaid pattern from Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom, or maybe the sparse, textural Birch Bark Runner from Gist Yarns. I like that the Birch Bark Runner comes in a kit—as much as I don’t want yarns with no purpose hanging around my house, a lot of the things I’d like to weave require fundamentally different yarn from the knits that excite me. I’m okay with that.

I’m blessed to have the ability to connect with my ancestors through fiber crafts, and I’m blessed that it is a choice for me to do so. I’m so looking forward to seeing how this new skill interacts with all the others.

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