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Cambridge Teatowel – update

Quick Update:New teatowel I’ve now woven 3 towels on a first warp, and have put on a second warp and am ploughing through another 6. Each one is different 🙂
My edges haven’t been brilliant and none of my temples will fit this width, so I’m using a suggestion from a couple of weaving friends, of clips and weights. It seems to be helping as the width has recovered a little.

sample with heavy linen yarnAs an interesting aside, I wove off the last bit of the first warp with a very heavy coarse tow linen thread. The fabric is very interesting and looks like it might make a good furnishing fabric, though I’ll need something a little less scratchy than the tow yarn!

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The Cambridge Tea-towel – A detective story

We visited Cambridge relatives last weekend and While Cambridge tea towel I was there I noticed a really good tea-towel, neatly washed and pressed and in use to protect an appointments book from muddy cat prints. (It’s in a nice sunny sitting place).

Hmmm… I thought, that’s an interesting pattern. The yarns looked familiar though – I still have cones of those cottons and linen, in those colours! It must be one of mine. However I have no recollection of weaving it all. I took pictures and have spent the last week going through my notes (nothing there) and my books and magazines …. ditto.


cam1Bother, I’d like to repeat that, so I’ll see if I can figure out the pattern! Looks like there are 2 blocks and it has to be do-able with 8 shafts, since it would have been woven on the old loom, or my table loom.

Both blocks have to weave as 3-1 twill, but not at the same time :-).  When the first is weaving twill the other seems to have 3 threads up for 3 picks, then 1 pick reversed.

Fircamdrafte up the weaving software (Fiberworks Bronze) and start experimenting. Ta-da!!!

Now I just have to work out a sett and weave it.  (I should have put something on the photo to scale, but it’s probably best to go back to the yarns and work it all out again.

A productive morning.


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The start of new things

Shortly after the old loom left, and well before I was prepared for it, someone mentioned that they had my dream replacement loom for sale. After a flurry of activity, we drove to the edge of Scotland in a small hired van, to fetch it home.

It’s’ Louet Spring 90 from the Netherlands with a massive 12 shafts and 14 treadles, rather more than I was going to go for!

The loom satLouet Spring in new workroom in the lounge for a while while we rushed to finish the work room. It needed a lot of paint to cover a 70’s decorating disaster in pink, orange and khaki  rag rolling, and a replacement for the flowered carpet. (Eventually we’ll add some insulation on the outside wall which has suffered from condensation.) After we added the room divider that had come from the front room and moved the loom in, everything looked marvellous.

Then it sat there … for weeks … we still had all the bother of a new house still to sort out!

Finally, I’ve got started! Some tweed with a shetland fine 2 ply for a bag.

Colour samples

Winding the warpRaddling the warpWeavingweaving - closeup





Colour sampling, warp winding, threading, weaving!

This is the easiest loom to setup that I’ve ever used!

Several weeks pass……..
Closeup of weaveThe tweed is woven, not much waste on a short loom (about 450mm). After washing the shrinkage is about what I’d allowed for so I think that I have enough length for the project. The cloth is heavier than I would like, so I will try  a looser set next time or better, see how the the singles weave.

Now I have to cut it up!!

Bag outerIt appears that I’d misread the pattern and I needed to cut 3 pieces of one shape rather than 2. I can work round that. The inside of the flap will be contrasting cotton liner rather than tweed. I’ve also just found that the makeup description suddenly has a page about an inside pocket and the cutting list has no mention of that at all. Hey-ho no inside pocket I fear (I didn’t buy enough lining).

But the bag is taking shape. An external lined pocket is contructed and sewn to the front outer layer. The outer pieces are interfaced and have a fleece wadding layer basted on. The darts to shape the base are made (handsewn since the thickness is too much for the machine!) and finally the outer pieces are sew together and tabs for the strap added.

Next I need to construct the flap, then finally sew together and drop in the lining and make a shoulder strap. 



And it’s DONE – I’m quite impressed.
(All I need now is a new sewing machine.)Finished bag


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End of things, or Gladstone bag part 3

The first Gladstone bag is sort of done. The fabric was marvellous, I’m really pleased with it.

The bag was pretty disastrous. At the first attempt, I slavishly followed the pattern (I should have engaged the brain a little more.) When I made the prototype, I was using a frame from a charity shop reject and adapted an almost right pattern with a very satisfactory result. For the real bag, I’d bought a bag frame and used the pattern that came with it. The frame didn’t fit the channel created by following the accompanying pattern! When I examined the pattern it was one of these laser printed on A4 computer things, with some scaling marks to check at the sides. If I’d bough a pdf of the pattern, I’d have checked them but because it had been sent with the frame, it didn’t occur to me that it would be wrong…. it was nearly 10% too big .(The opposite would have worse I suppose.) The other problem evident from making the thing up was that following the instructions meant the the channel for the bag frame had 3 folds of outside fabric, interfacing AND quilted lining. It was so thick that I couldn’t even run the sewing machine over it without a fight. I’m tempted to name and shame the kit supplier, but for now will just leave this as a warning to everyone to check a printed pattern has been printed with no scaling and if you buy a pdf of a pattern make sure that you don’t print with the “scale to fit” and double check that the measurements shown match the actual size!

I ripped all the seams, adjusted the side seams, made a completely new lining, trimmed back the quilting and tried again, checking the frame fit at each stage.  It’s nearly there now. I need to change the internal pockets a bit, and I may take the handle off (I’ve only done one so far) since they’ve instructed you to sew it on through all the layers – which means that messy stitches in a high contrast red can be seen on the pale green lining – very tacky.

As you can see, I made up 2 lengths of the tweed. The first was heather/ruby and the second was grey/ruby. The pattern is much more subtle on this one but it’s still nice. I have another bag frame to use, but will probably make another style of bag – maybe a messenger bag, with this. contrast (red) colour are showing on the pale green lining inside. I’d prefer them hidden, which means ripping the bottom seam on the lining (sigh….) and stitching through the gap.

Finally – the end of things…… 

We are moving soon, and the loom has gone to a new home, it just wasn’t going to fit! (Sobs!!!)

I am researching more compact looms and have narrowed the field down to 2 but will wait until I have a new (perhaps even heated!) space in front of me to see what I can fit in.


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Fabric for a Gladstone Bag… Part the Second

Followup to the last post on sampling for fabric for a bag …. weaving is underway.

Upcycled Gladstone Bag

Upcycled Gladstone Bag


Meanwhile, over the last few months I have been trying my sewing skills on some upcycled bits( a wool skirt length from a charity shop, a frame and magnetic clasps from wrecking another charity shop bag – 50p in the clearance bin, and some leather for the handles donated by a cousin.)
Probably not colours that I would have chosen, but I’m quite chuffed with the result (though my leather sewing skills and rubbish – the leather trim needs a lot more practice.
I’ve also made a couple of small bags and its amazing how little fabric you need for that.

So now I’m ready to go with the main project. The weave is chosen (an 8-shaft undulating twill) and I’ve warped enough in the heathery shade for 2 bags. Half will be  woven with the grey and the other with the dark red. Here’s the heather warp (195 Moorland) with the grey weft (103 Sholmit) from Jamiesons of Shetland.


Undulating twill weave

Undulating twill weave.



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Fabric for a Gladstone Bag

This is a project that has been lurking with intent for more than a year now, since I fell for the Gladstone Bag in “Carry me” . 

At the beginning of the year, I got all the bag hardware from  U-handbag but an oversight in clicking the purchase forms left me with red handles and the brown/black/white fabric from my yarn stash wasn’t going to work out (Of course I could have got more handles, but where’s the fun in that!). The project sat around for a while longer.

This month I spotted some interesting wool, cones of singles for weaving in lovely tweedy colours from Jamieson’s (Shetland)  and took my red handles to visit a friend who had a Jamieson’s shade card! 3 cones in Sholmit(grey), Ruby and Moorland speedily arrived, weaving drafts were studied and the loom warped up with a bit of each colour for samples.

Unfortunately my brain went on holiday, and I threaded for sample A, with the colour sequence of sample B. Bother … project went on hold for another week or so while I tried to decide the easiest way to fix the mistake.

Last weekend, I pulled out alternate warp threads and rethreaded them to change the colour order. Finally, I took today off work today to recover from  “Amazed by Science” on Sunday at Jodrell, and wove off the first set of samples.

These are various shadow weaves. The warp set was ~15epi ( I have a metric reed so it was really 60ends/10cm) which looked about right for  a plain weave. There are quite a few patterns and colour combinations tested here … some are just too subtle. It looks like the Ruby/Sholmit colour combination is the best here.

This sample is very open, but the yarn it tight spun and oiled, when test washed some of it, it fluffed and filled a fair bit. So the sample needed  good wash to see whether the set was right.
Cue a Runrig CD and a few gaelic tweed waulking  songs while I gave the sample a good thrashing to full it. The piece that started as 14 x 32cm ended up 11.5 x 28cm.

Here we are post-washing. It has potential and is about the right heft for a scarf (but a bit too scratchy for that) but could doing with a bit more solidity for a bag, though I might try it with the interfacing to check.

(Or I could send it back to the wash for another few Runrig tracks.)

SampleB next, I want to try some twills…and here they are:



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An Alpaca Throw

At the end of last year,  a colleague at work kindly offered me some fleece from his 3 alpacas. I said that I’d love to have one … maybe white please, and ended up with a car full. I think he gave me the combined shearings from the last few years! I managed to find a home for some of it with the spinning guild, but this summer I got another 3 fleeces! The garage is getting a bit full of alpaca.

Warped Loom

There are 2 brown alpaca (a Suri and a  Huacaya) and 1 white – which has a fine soft fibre.

In order to reduce the alpaca mountain and repay my colleague for all this fibre, I started work on something woven. The best parts of the brown and white fleeces (about 1/3rd of the total is good quality) was washed and handspun, then warped onto the loom for a blanket.

The piece is about 1m wide by 2m long, with a simple semi-random log-cabin pattern. It is a very simple pattern but effective.


The handspunwarp held up pretty well, though alpaca is notoriously slippery, and a few of the brown warp threads slid apart as I appraoched the end, and needed repairs.

Off the loom, the piece felt a bit hard and unpromising, but it finished very well, soft and fluffy.








… and I’ve just noticed that the chair that i’ve photographed the finished throw on, has an earlier piece woven in this pattern as a cover


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The Biggest Rug Ever!

Last month I opened my garage aka studio in the Cheshire Open Studios Event.

Small Broken Twill Rug

Small Broken Twill Rug


Big Krokbragd Rug at 24"

Big Krokbragd Rug

During the open studio, a visitor asked about a bigger rug, how large a rug could I weave? The loom has a max weaving width of 1.2m, which fortunately is pretty well as wide as my arms will reach with a rug shuttle. With no delay (or with only a few weeks delay to restock on warp and weft yarn) a 4’x6′ is now under way. The scaling up in terms of materials  is quite scary, the amount of warp and weft scale with the area of the rug, so the increase from standard 3’x5′ goes from 15 sq.ft. to 24 sq.ft., ie more than half as much again.
Weaving is now well under way (24″ woven so far) and I’m pleased with the progress of this rug even though it has stretched myself and the loom to the maximum. (I’ve laid in the edge warp threads outside the reed to get the last half inch of width and have brought out 2 long metal bars as tie on rods. I rarely use these, but need them here for both the extra width and strength. Luckily, the new temple that I bought last year will extend to 48″ with ease. The rug is nominally to be 6′ but golden ratio would suggest that 6’6″ will be a more pleasing, I’ll have a think when I get near the end.

Update 16/11/2012 …. 54″ done, target 72″ to 78″ … must do better (had a lot of weekend events getting in the way, but may get it off the loom for finishing this weekend).

It’s DONE, and it’s gorgeous!

Just a final note that occurred to me after the Open Studio Event. A music forum that I follow has been have a discussion of the difference between a violin and a fiddle. One answer was £500.  I have been considering the difference between art and craft (see my previous Art Yarn Blog) and after visiting the Open Studio’s Exhibition in Frodsham, I think that the same definition applies. The difference between Art and Craft is about £500!




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Art Yarn Scarf

What to do with those skeins of “Art Yarn”

After all those workshops and articles, you end up with a collection of small skeins of scrumptious handspun yarn carefully stored away, looking for a project.Batt for spinning

Here’s superfine merino and silk, a single batt from the carder spun with coils or bobbles or boucle, into maybe a 25 metres skein, too nice to do anything with. I’ve sometimes been disappointed with these when knitted up, but they aren’t going to weave on the loom. The lumps won’t go through the reed if they’re wound as a warp, and the effect won’t be what I want if I use them as weft, and I only have 25 metres!



Here’s one solution (the technique is still under development). I mounted a couple of bars top and bottom of my warping mill about  6ft. apart, and wound on a single skein.  To give some stability to the finished scarf, I filled in between the fancy yarn with some toning plain handspun merino.



Warp close upI’m looking for an open weave, which shows off the yarn but has enough stability to hold together,  so every few inches, I twined a few rows in the toning plain yarn.  Doing this by hand means that I can work round the coils.





Washed and trimmedWhen the whole length has been stabilised with areas of twined weft, the scarf comes off the loom. Even at this stage it holds its shape well, and after washing by hand, with a small amount of fulling, the toning plain merino binds the scarf together nicely, leaving the bobbles pinned in place.



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