The long, long warp



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Have you ever seen the 1953 movie, "The Long, Long Trailer" starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz? You haven't? Well, why not? It's a charming story about a newlywed couple driving their way across America towing, you guessed it, a long, long trailer. The anxiety it causes smacks of real life, somehow, and even with the stereotypical roles, I find the movie funny, sweet, and worthy of re-watching.

So, why am I recommending a movie instead of writing about weaving? Because, part of "The Long, Long Trailer" revolves around the problems dealing with a very long and complicated trailer… and somehow I've created a very long and complicated warp. It's bothering me. I mean, it's like nine feet long! And this is on a backstrap loom!

I don't know what got into me. I have this old acrylic Red Heart that I've used for a few small projects, but I'm starting to think it's cursed. Everything I try to make out of it fails, so I can't explain why I kept on warping my 10" Beka 8 dent rigid heddle with this long, long acrylic warp. I just kept on warping! And I didn't even have a project in mind. I just wanted to weave.

So, now I'm stuck. I have a few feet finished with multiple color changes and some really lovely, bumpy edges (yes, that's sarcasm), but due to my newness with weaving and using a rigid heddle, I've found it easier to roll up the entire thing and leave it where it all started, firmly attached to the radiator. Once I unroll it again and start weaving, well, it'll turn into the movie for me… "Always think of the trailer as a train behind you… Forty feet of train!"

Okay, so maybe you need to watch the movie to understand what I've gotten myself into. And if you do watch the movie, think of me during the scene where they slowly and painfully drive their way up a twisting and turning mountain road. We'll see if I make it down the other side in one piece.

Merry Christmas!


The big snowstorm turned into freezing rain, then slush, and now plain o'l rain. It's a slushy Christmas, but it's Christmas nonetheless. The weather kept us indoors, and I finally had time to play with my new 8 dent rigid heddle, my new shuttle, and my backstrap loom.

I don't keep a lot of yarn on hand. I tend to buy it only with a project in mind. I don't have a complete skein of anything (except some old Red Heart and Homespun), so I scrounged some Sugar and Cream cotton and warped the loom. I had just enough for about 30". It was fun and a little frustrating, too. Then, I found some slubby cotton I had tucked into a basket, and used that light green for the weft.

I have trouble with pulling the weft too tight, but other than the occassional bumpy edge, I'm very pleased with this little mat, just right for the snow globe. Using the rigid heddle is great fun, and I'm getting closer toward a balanced weave. Next, I would like to do a longer project with the 10 dent heddle, so when the stores open back up, I'll probably be there scouting out some sport or worsted weight yarn for a scarf.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas + three year blogiversary



Happy blogiversary to me! It's been three years since I first looped yarn around a knitting loom peg and discovered I liked it and wanted to blog about it. There have been lulls in knitting, and I've ventured into other fiber arts, but I still like my little blog and will continue to write about my successes and failures.

Speaking of other fiber arts, I received part of my Christmas present yesterday, all items chosen for backstrap-looming fun and ordered from The Woolery just a few days ago:

~ 8 dent Beka 10" rigid heddle

~ 10 dent Beka 10" rigid heddle

~ Three shuttles: a Kromski (also acts as a beater with its sloped edges), a Beka, and a Beka belt shuttle (with a beater on one edge)

I did make my own rigid heddle out of popsicle sticks (the bottom photo), but after a bit of experimenting, I realize it's meant for weft-faced projects with strong warping thread, like jute. The rough edges will fray any other type of warp. I was using alpaca here and it didn't do very well. My finer Beka heddles can be used for balanced weaving–hopefully! I'm very excited about the shuttles, too, since I've been using a piece of cardboard with my projects so far.

Please note that in the post below, I added Laverne Waddington's new blog on backstrap weaving. Hooray!

Backstrap links, books, etc.

I've been working on a project using my 28" Authentic Knitting Board, so I've put my backstrap experiments on hold. However, that doesn't stop me from thinking about it. Here's a list of some sites and books I've drawn from over the past few weeks. I'll be adding to this as time goes on:



  • Backstrap Weaving / by Barbara Taber and Marilyn Anderson, New York : Watson-Guptill Publications, 1975.
  • Rigid Heddle Weaving / by Karen Swanson, New York : Watson-Guptill Publications, 1975. Note, this book is about using a rigid heddle with a backstrap or tapestry loom.
  • The Weaving, Spinning and Dyeing Book / by Rachel Brown, New York : Knopf : distributed by Random House, 1978.


Adventures in backstrap weaving



I was feeling just a little bit desperate to try weaving. I wanted a loom! And I didn't want to wait. But then reason set in. Why would I need to spend a bunch of money to try weaving? Couldn't it be done in a simple way? Without a lot of fuss? When I posted a question on Ravelry, a kind weaver suggested I try backstrap weaving, so I checked out the book "Backstrap Weaving," by Barbara Taber and Marilyn Anderson. A few hours after I opened the first page of this 1975 classic, I had assembled everything I needed to weave: some dowels, twine, yarn, and a ruler. I was ready! And I was hooked!

The first picture on the left is of the warp. I decided to start by making the first project in the book, a backstrap, but I chose the worst kind of yarn possible–100%, scratchy, sticky wool. I bought it second-hand for $1 and the label said Icelandic wool. It looks nice in the pictures, doesn't it? I flipped over a footstool and did the figure eight warp which I then transferred to the dowels. Everything was going smoothly–I even attached the string heddle, which pulls up one set of the warp thread to create the shed, or the space between the bottom and top warp.

See that big hunk of wood in the third picture? That was my sad attempt to find a beater, or the piece of wood that beats the weft in place. It didn't work because it was too blocky, so I swapped to a ruler, which makes a fine beater.

I felt creative that day so I braided some hemp twine and made the strings that tie the entire backstrap loom into place–or in my case, onto the radiator. After struggling a little bit with the loom flipping over a few times, I braided another "holder." This time two separate braids that hold the sides independently. (It works great, but I still use the first one at times.)




At this point, I realized that using wool was best left to experts. Because the warp is wound rather tightly, each thread rubs against the one next to it, causing little snags. I think mine started felting! So, I reluctantly took the entire project apart before weaving one row and searched for some cotton. I found this crazy green and orange, sport-weight, mercerized cotton at Hobby Lobby. It's Sinfonia Melon. This time around, it was easier to wind the warp to get started, and I wound 50 ends. Since I had actually done a string heddle before, the second time was a breeze, especially since I used a long piece of mercerized cotton. And then came time to try to weave. I was stumped again. It just didn't seem to "work" when I tried to open the sheds. The nearest one, with the string heddle, was easy. It was the back one that confused me. How do you get the bottom strands to come up to the top? Finally, I turned to the Internet and discovered the all-time best article on backstrap weaving EVER! It's called "Backstrap Basics" by Laverne Waddington, published in the September 16, 2009 edition of the online magazine Weavezine. Here's the link:

Not only does Laverne clearly outline how to assemble and use a backstrap loom, she includes videos! When I saw how someone weaves on a little loom like mine, I knew I could do it on my own.

With my new yarn, everything was easier. It's the only advice I can pass along at this early state: use a nice, slick yarn if you can! The weft can be thicker and woolier, but I chose to stick with cotton, again Sinfonia sport weight, this time the color is Olive. After several hours of studying, thinking, attempting, and tearing apart and putting back together, it "only" took me three hours to weave the backstrap, and then another thirty minutes to braid the ends. If you look at my edges, you'll see what is the most difficult part–keeping the selvedges even, but I noticed a lot of improvement as my project neared its end. I've already started my second project which I'll post about soon. 

As for the "What is this?" post from last week–I'll share with you my very basic rigid heddle later on when I use it with the backstrap loom.