31 January 2013

Simple Invention

Because I scheduled two weaving classes in January, there has been less knitting and more weaving this month. I've also been trying to clean house, de-clutter, and wrap up unfinished action items from 2012. Remember that February is Knitting Needle Liberation Month in my house, so I've been liberating needles from stalled projects and swatches as well.

One of the weaving classes I took was with Teena Tuenge and covered weaving in color in double weave. It was during this class it became painfully clear that I need two shuttles. I had been weaving with stick shuttles, which aren't bad but are a little slow. As Teena pointed out, an ideal stick shuttle should be the same length as your warp width, so that you are merely pulling one wrap off the shuttle with each pick. Why some clever soul doesn't market an adjustable-width shuttle stick, I don't know. Possibly it is because most weavers quickly move to the bobbin and boat shuttle system. While not as simple as a stick, it does allow you to keep lots and lots of bobbins around and quickly swap-out colors. In a class where you are weaving with many, many colors, bobbins are key. In a project where you are establishing a couple colors and then weaving merrily with those, sticks are fine. In fact, on my Ashford table loom a stick may work better for those long warps, because the low shed means I can stack more weft on a stick than on a bobbin.
I had purchased a Bluster Bay Swedish shuttle from The Woolery when I attended SAFF last October. It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. The wood is smoooooooth. It is a sensual delight every time I touch it (which, of course, is on every pick). But to work double weave I need two shuttles. Well, dang! That would mean having to phone The Woolery and ask if they have one in stock and order it. Sigh! Or as Brer Rabbit would say, "Please don't throw me in that briar patch!" Of course, I ordered one as soon as the class was over. The wood on the one from SAFF is Tasman gum. This new one is curly maple, (the lighter one at the top of the picture, with the red bobbin) and the finish is so fine the wood grain has an almost iridescent quality. Both bobbins glide across a warp like an ice boat on a pond. In addition to their beauty, they are low profile, and thus work well on a loom that throws a low shed. And the ends are pointed enough to move through the shed, but not so pointed as to catch threads and disrupt the pick.

I should add that the lady who answered the phone and helped me was wonderful. The shuttles come in various woods -- I missed out on purchasing a lovely dark red one at SAFF, as I saw it, set it down, circled the vendor market, and discovered it gone when I came back less than half an hour later. The nice lady at the Woolery was able to describe to me what was in stock -- including the iridescent quality of the curly maple, which is what sold me on it sight unseen -- and my order arrived in two days. (Then again, Kentucky is not that far from Georgia.) I will probably look for an excuse to acquire two more of these, ideally in that lovely red and maybe in purple heart wood.

I also ordered more paper bobbins. Many weavers make their own, but at $6 for 10, I figured the price was worth my time and effort. The trick is, I don't own a bobbin winder. And I'm trying to de-clutter. Hmmm. I thought that surely there must be something in my house that could be used to rotate a bobbin so as to wind on yarn. A lot of people use a power drill or electric screwdriver. Alas, my electric screwdriver (a wedding gift) is too old and will no longer hold a charge. (Pity, as it was much used when we first moved into our house. It was indeed a good present.) I did not want to try the power drill, as I thought it would probably rotate out of control too quickly.

And then there is the spinning wheel. This is a machine designed to make something turn in a circle. Aha! The problem was in getting the paper bobbins onto the shaft. On my dear Majacraft Rose, the bobbin shaft is too thick. I was very pleased with myself for inventing a solution.

Behold, a bent piece of 1/16 brass rod! It was unbent in my gaming miniature toolbox. According to the label, 3 pieces for $1.49 at the hardware store. I threaded a bobbin on each end of the rod so I could more easily guess the center, then bent the rod. I took the bobbins off and continued to bend the rod to the shape you see in the photograph. To use, I attach the loop end of the bent rod to the delta orifice on my spinning wheel. I then thread the two plain ends down a bobbin. Since the ends want to spring outward, the rod holds the bobbin nicely without too much slippage. I support the plain end with my right hand, the thread with my left hand, and I make the wheel turn using my feet. Simplicity itself, and yet quite functional!

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