Sphynx Plaid Scarf and Miscellaneous Musings

Last night I finished a scarf woven on my rigid heddle loom, using one full cake of Lion Brand Mandala in Sphynx as warp. I cut up the second cake into its component colors to be warp, so I could manipulate the colors into a plaid. I wound each color into a mini cake, and when I was ready to use that color, I cut off a piece from the mini cake. I didn't measure so much as approximate, loosely laying the yarn in a zig zag over the warp several times, proportional-ish to the size of the mini cake, which correlated to the number of warp strands in that color.

I started the scarf in an unconventional way, celebrating the warm weather one day in January by taking my loom outside. One of the trees in our back yard was pressed into service, holding the cardboard tube (originally used to hold upholstery fabric) that I used in lieu of a warping peg. It was a bit silly, and certainly haphazard. I didn't measure, and after running out of warp before the loom was full, I was indecisive about whether to fill it the rest of the way with part of the second cake, or let it go. Also, the sun was going down and with it, the temperature. So I chained it and let it sit. Looking back at the photos, I also put the warp on backwards. At some point I took the heddle and the apron rod off the loom. Then of course had to rethread the warp onto the apron rod before I started weaving - I know I ended up with the loose warp strand on the right, so I must have drawn the warp through the heddle to the other end. I decided to go with the single cake for warp. I weighted the loose warp strand with a small zipper pouch that I have.

I didn't have a loom stand when I started this scarf, but knew that I wanted one, so it was easy to rationalize putting the project on hold for awhile. I bought a secondhand sewing table, which could work, but was large enough that the base has to be disassembled in order to fit in my small car. So that limits its portability. The table is currently in my bedroom, but may be relocated to my storage unit, because I have once again accumulated too much stuff in that room. One day I'll have studio space for my fiber arts projects.

In June, I saw that the maker of my loom would be at a fiber arts festival a few hours away, so I drove up that Saturday. Both to ask him about repair and upgrade options, and in case he had a stand for sale - he had 2, with a show special price, so one of them came home with me. It folds flat, which is great, so the loom and stand don't take up much room in my back seat. But it's at a height that is awkward for the furniture we have in the house - too tall for most of the seats, so when I got back to weaving the scarf I resorted to using a a bar stool, which was too tall, meaning I was bending over the loom whenever I worked on it, not very comfortable. I need to do some measuring, to figure out what height would work for me, then keep an eye out for a stool or folding chair of that height.

I tried a few different weft delivery methods, including one of the boat shuttles I purchased at The Woolery awhile back. Since I don't have a bobbin winder, I was winding the yarn on by hand, which wasn't too bad since I was using shortish lengths. I want to get some more bobbins, so I can wind a bunch of them in advance. I've considered trying to modify my Babe Liten Spindel (which I purchased online from the Woolery several years ago), and recently I saw that someone used an electric spinning wheel as a bobbin winder (of course I don't remember where I saw it, that would be too convenient) - I may try my Electric Eel Mini or Nano for that, I'll have to see if either of their flyers would accommodate the bobbin. Or a piece of dowel rod could fit in the sealed bearings... One of the fun things about the Nano is that people have come up with all sorts of creative hacks for it.

When I came back to this piece a few weeks ago, I tried the stick shuttle that I got with the loom, but it didn't work well with the short weft pieces. I also grabbed one of my Clover weaving sticks and ended up using that for the last half or so of the scarf. The large eye meant I could put loops of weft through multiple times, so I didn't have to pull the entire length of yarn through the warp each time - I'll have to take a picture or video and demonstrate. The technique was explained to me for nalbinding, but makes sense for weaving too.

I don't remember if I followed a particular pattern at first, or just grabbed whichever color I felt like using next. But when I came back to it, I pretty much followed the order of the warp strands (though I mismatched a few times - some of the shades are pretty close to each other). I have some of each color left over, I haven't chosen another project for them yet.

When I got near the end, I accidentally broke the cotton string I was using to tie the apron rod to the warp bar, because the tension was uneven - remember that tree warping technique? Some of the warp strands were longer than others. I replaced two of the strings with cotton rug warp, so I could finish the piece. I plan to buy texsolv cord to replace the apron rod cords on both ends of the loom, and I also want to get texsolv heddles for my 4-harness loom, to replace the plastic ones that came with the loom (and the cotton string ones that a previous owner made).

I didn't remember if I divided the warp into groups of 3 or 4 for the hemstitching at the beginning, so I did groups of 4, with a group of 5 near either end, and one group of 5 sort of in the middle. It turns out the beginning had groups of 3. Then I trimmed the warp ends (it would have been easier with a rotary cutter, but scissors worked okay), and twisted the fringe, mostly 2 strands at a time, but a few were 3 at a time, at the same places as the larger hemstitching groupings. It's not very noticeable unless you know what to look for.

After I machine washed and dried the scarf (with some other handmade accessories), I trimmed the fringe so the ends knotted together were even. I didn't go back and adjust so that all the fringe was exactly the same length, I'm certain there is some variation. I measured the scarf and it is 72" long, plus 10" fringe on each end, and the piece is 15-1/2" wide.

I just laid out the ends on a table at work. The turquoise hemstitching was at the beginning, the brown was the end. I can see some inconsistencies in the weaving, and I need to be more precise in cutting the fringe, but I think I'm improving with each piece. I did fix a few strands after these photos were taken.

I gave the scarf to a neighbor who has always been very kind to my family - she was very surprised and said she loves it!