Tried and True: Wool Skeins into Balls

I am adding about thirty more skeins to my yarn supply to get the colors I need for a new tapestry. At this rate, maybe I will have every single color of Borgs 6/2 Tuna and 6/1 Fårö wool on my shelves some day. That’s wishful thinking… But I do have what I need for now to make the butterflies for this special pictorial tapestry.

Preparing to weave a new pictorial tapestry.
Beautiful colors of wool skeins of yarn.

All these new skeins of yarn need to be wound into balls using my Swedish umbrella swift and a ball winder. In the past, I have used a manual ball winder. That means a lot of handle turning, but eventually all the yarn is wound into balls.

Swedish umbrella swift and an electric ball winder.
Skein of yarn is opened and placed on the umbrella swift.

This time is different. I found a new time-saving and arm-saving tool. It’s an electric ball winder, made by Fiber Artist Supply Company. I put the skein on the swift, cut the ties, secure the loose end of yarn to the ball winder, and then turn it on, gradually increasing the speed. In less than two minutes, I have another beautiful ball of yarn to use for making tapestry butterflies.

My new electric ball winder.
End of yarn is secured on the post of the ball winder.
Electric ball winder. Time-saver and arm-saver!
Dial on the winder allows me to gradually increase the speed. When I see that the skein is unwinding properly, I turn the dial to full speed.
Yarn swift is turning swiftly!
Maybe this is why it’s called a yarn “swift.” Previous pictorial tapestry, Siblings, is seen on the wall.
Electric ball winder. Time-saver and arm-saver!
One minute, fifty-four seconds later, and we have a ball of yarn.
New ball of yarn from the electric ball winder.
I will wrap the label on this ball of yarn and it will join the yarn collection for this tapestry.
Getting ready to start a new pictorial tapestry!
Linen warp is ready for beaming. Wool weft yarn is being sorted and organized for making butterflies.

May your tools give you more time for weaving.

Making it easier,
Karen

6 Comments

  • Beth says:

    Nice looking ball winder! Love that it has a yardage counter.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, The LED number on the ball winder has to do with the speed, not the yardage. Even without a yardage counter, though, it’s very handy for what I need.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,

    I forgot how beautiful the siblings tapestry is.

    You are a very prolific textile artist. Would you share what method/system you use to store and protect your works when not in use?

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Good morning, Nannette, Thank you for your sweet sentiments.
      I may not be the right person to ask about storing textiles. I try not to store things. If I have handwoven items that I’m not able to use, I try to give them away. If I weave a pictorial tapestry, I find a place to hang it where it can be seen.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    I can’t wait to see what subject you have chosen for this tapestry. My personal favorite is your lizard. This one looks quite large.
    Considering how many skeins of yarn you needed to wind into balls, an automatic winder was definitely a wise purchase. I purchased an electric bobbin/pirn winder several months ago and have not regretted the expense.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, Don’t let the number of skeins fool you. This tapestry will be smaller than the others I’ve done, but I needed some nuance in the colors. I will have a lot of yarn left when I’m done, but that’s no problem. It just sets me up in a better position for the next tapestry. 🙂

      Karen

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Tried and True: Organized Reeds

My weaving history includes very fine threads all the way to heavy-duty rug warps. As a result, I have acquired a wide selection of reeds over time. All five of my looms have beaters that will accommodate any length or height of reed. When I plan a project, one of the first things I consider is whether I have the size reed that is needed. To keep my reeds organized, I need two things. One, a simple method to manage the reeds I have, tracking the reeds as they go in and out of use. Two, a place to store all the reeds, arranged in order by dents per cm and dents per inch.

Reed Organization

  • Reed Inventory

I keep a list in my Notes app on my phone with the sizes and lengths of reeds that I have. If a reed is in use, I note which loom. If a reed will be needed for a planned project, I also note that. As soon as I remove a reed from the beater at the end of a project, I put the reed away and update my Reed Inventory list.

Simple system for tracking reeds in and out of use.
Sample Reed Inventory note. When I am planning, I look at the note on my phone to see what reeds I have that are available. “Next” reserves the reed for the loom that needs it next.
  • Reed Holder

Steve created a storage solution for my reeds. The holder goes along the back wall of my drawloom studio for about six feet. Here are the details, using nominal board sizes. The reeds sit on a 1” x 6” board at the base, which is supported against the wall by a 1” x 4” board. The base, with a 1” x 2” lip, sits about 12” off the ground. The reed dividers are 3/8” x 5 3/4” dowels that are sunk into a 1” x 3” board that is attached to the wall, which sets the dowels about 27” above the base.

DIY Reed Holder behind my drawloom.
Reed holder is fastened to the wall behind the drawloom. (Notice that the drawloom rag rug warp has come over the back beam…)
Organized reeds!
The dowels are placed at a height that will hold even my shortest reeds.
Reed holder stores weaving loom reeds. DIY
Reeds are in order by dent size. Metric reeds are separate from those with dents per inch.

If you would like a PDF copy of Steve’s diagram that shows all the dimensions, click HERE to send me an email request.

May you have a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

Yours,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Geri Rickard says:

    That handy husband of yours! What a nice solution, and I like the pegboard with hanging lams, etc. very nice,

  • Marianne says:

    Thanks for sharing! Weaving requires so much paraphernalia so i am always curious how other weavers organize their studios. Thank you you for inviting us into yours!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marianne, Yes, paraphernalia is a good description of all the tools and supplies needed for weaving. Learning ways to organize things seems to be a requirement for weaving.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Betsy says:

    Ha! In the first picture of the storage rack, I thought it was attached to the wall at an angle, with the shortest reeds on the right. Nice optical illusion. And very nice storage solution.

  • Elisabeth says:

    Very neat idea! I agree, it’s so helpful to have a good system for storing tools and accessories. Thank you for sharing!
    Elisabeth

    • Karen says:

      Hi Elisabeth, It’s much more relaxing to have everything in its place. And it saves money because I’m not buying duplicates of things I already have, but couldn’t find.

      Thanks!
      Karen

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Tools Day: Cartoon Trials

Making a cartoon for a lizard tapestry this size is quite a process. First, I enlarge the photograph. Then, I trace the outlines of the details onto a sheet of clear acetate. Next, to make the cartoon, I trace the bold Sharpie lines of the acetate image onto interfacing material meant for pattern making. But next time, it will be different.

Tracing photograph to make a tapestry cartoon.

Tracing outlines from the enlarged photograph onto the sheet of acetate. Photo image on the iPad helps clarify which distinctive lines to draw.

Making a tapestry cartoon.

White poster board under the acetate makes the Sharpie lines visible. The interfacing material lays on top of the acetate so I can trace the lines to make my cartoon.

I don’t plan to use this interfacing material again for a cartoon. It is not stiff enough. As the tapestry progresses it becomes more and more difficult to keep the cartoon from puckering and creasing in places. A better option would have been stiffer buckram, like I used for my transparencies. (See – Quiet Friday: Painting with Yarn and Animated Images.) But I am not able to find buckram in sufficient width.

Unwanted creases in the tapestry cartoon.

Interfacing material is susceptible to puckers and creases. Unevenness in the cartoon can result in a distorted woven image on the tapestry.

After I finished weaving the lizard portion of the tapestry, I decided to experiment. I removed the interfacing cartoon and switched to the acetate sheet instead. There’s no puckering with this one! It is much easier to line up the cartoon with the weaving. It has drawbacks, though. Noisy! When I beat in the weft it makes thunderstorm sound effects. (Not so great for our temporary apartment life.) It’s also harder to see the cartoon lines. And the magnets I use to hold the cartoon slip out of place too easily.

Using a sheet of acetate for a tapestry cartoon.

Slat holds the cartoon up to the warp. To beat the weft, I move the slat out of the way of the beater, just under the fell line. The sheet of plastic would be a good prop for making sounds effects for a film about a thunderstorm.

Next time... White paper, like the gorgeous tapestry cartoon I have seen in Joanne Hall’s studio. That’s what I’ll use. Next time

Joanne Hall and her tapestry cartoon!

Joanne Hall in her Montana studio. This is the cartoon she made for her impressive Bluebonnets tapestry that hangs on display in a Dallas hospital.

May you learn from your experiments.

All the best,
Karen

2 Comments

  • Good morning Karen,

    My interest is always drawn to how things work. Tapestry is not an easy medium to work in. But, oh… Such beautiful results.

    Could the widths of the buckram be spliced together?

    May you continue to find new paths to explore.

    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, Yes, in hindsight I could have used the buckram crossways, and continued the pattern across the separate pieces. The other advantage I see with the paper is the ability to color the design, and work from that. I’d like to try that.

      Karen

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Tools Day: Band Loom Warping Board

It is almost effortless to make a short warp for the band loom. All you need is a peg at the beginning and a peg at the end. You can use a spoke of the warp beam wheel, for instance, at one end, and the leg of an upside-down stool at the other. I normally use my warping reel, though, for even a simple warp, because the reel is so handy. However, I don’t have my warping reel here at the apartment, so I am turning my band loom into a handy warping board for this band loom project.

Using the Glimakra band loom as a warping board.

Using the Glimåkra band loom to measure a narrow cottolin warp.

How to Use the Band Loom as a Warping Board

Tools and supplies:

  • Glimåkra band loom
  • Thread for weaving a narrow band
  • Basket and/or spool holder(s)
  • Scissors

How to use the band loom as a warping board.

Starting at one peg and ending at another. The band loom becomes a simple tool for winding a short warp.

For a warp of approximately two meters:

  • Put the warp thread on the floor below—quills in a basket, and/or thread tubes on spool holders.
  • Using two or more ends, tie the ends together with an overhand knot. (I used three ends together for this warp.)
  • Bring the warp ends up around the warp beam and over the back beam.
  • Loop the knot on the starting peg.
  • Draw the ends from the starting peg to the ending peg, around the band loom, following this path:
  1. Starting peg–upper heddle peg nearest back beam
  2. Lower heddle peg nearest back beam
  3. Back beam
  4. Warp beam
  5. Cloth beam
  6. Front beam
  7. Lower heddle peg nearest front beam
  8. Ending peg–upper heddle peg nearest front beam
  • Follow the winding path in reverse order back to the starting peg.
  • Continue winding until you have reached the desired number of ends.
  • Cut the ends and tie off at the starting peg or the ending peg.
  • Tie one or two choke ties, if needed. (I didn’t need them for this short warp.)
  • Carefully remove the warp and dress the band loom as usual. (For a tutorial on dressing the band loom, click here: Quiet Friday: Band Loom Warping and Weaving.)
  • Weave to your heart’s content.

Weaving hanging tabs for towels on my Glimakra band loom.

One meter of woven band is cut off. The remaining band warp is tied back on. Weaving can resume at any time.

Preparing to sew handwoven ribbons onto handwoven towels for hanging.

Ends secured, and cut in 10.5 cm lengths, the tabs are ready to be sewn onto the double weave towels.

May you find tools you didn’t know you had.

Happy band weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

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Tools Day: Click Test

It is not easy to see sleying errors in this fine-dent reed. I unknowingly quadrupled the ends in four of the dents, instead of the specified two ends per dent. When I check as I go, I find the errors while they are still easy to fix.

How to check and double-check for sleying errors:

  • Tie ends into threading groups, using a loose slip knot. (I do this before threading the heddles.)
  • Sley one threading group. (I sley right to left.)
  • Visually check the sleyed group of ends for skipped dents and crowded dents.
  • Do a Click Test. Use the hook end of the reed hook to count the dents by running the hook along the reed…click, click, click… Make sure the number of clicks matches the number of dents needed for that group of ends.
    —This is how I caught my errors. When the dents came up short in the Click Test, I knew I had some crowded dents that I had failed to catch in the visual check.
  • Move ends and re-sley as needed.
  • Sley each remaining group of ends, checking as you go, visually and with the reed-hook Click Test.

Reed is sleyed. Dressing the loom for double-weave towels.

Two ends per dent in this 70/10 metric (equivalent to an 18-dent imperial) reed.

May your errors be few and fixable.

Happy sleying,
Karen

10 Comments

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Great tips! I warp F2B, sley the reed left to right and the heddles right to left.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, No matter what warping method we use, it’s good to find any denting errors as soon as possible. After the weaving begins it’s much more of a hassle to correct, isn’t it?

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Ouch. Better at the click than 10 rows into the weaving.

    Thank you for the lesson to correct.

    Nannette

  • Lise Loader says:

    Hello Karen,

    I have been following your work for many months, love your teaching and can’t wait for your next project.

    Unfortunately I don’t get the clicking of a hook to check if skip or crowded reed. Is there a video or some kind of demo for me to learn from. I have some mistakes when I’m dressing the loom and it is frustrating when the skip or the crowing is right of the middle of the reed, if you know what I mean.

    Lise

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lise, That will be a good subject for a short video. Thanks for the suggestion. I can do that next time I dress the loom.

      I do know what you mean about finding a denting error — and it always seems to fall right in the middle of the reed!

      What I mean by the “click test” is this – I know that if I have 40 ends in a threading group, and there are 2 ends per dent, that there should be 20 dents with threads in them when I finish sleying that group of threads. I am counting the dents with the tip of the reed hook (it’s hard for me to count the dents without something touching the actual spaces, and my finger is too large for that with this fine-dent reed). As I move the reed hook along the reed, it makes a sound (“click”) at each dent. I listen for 20 “clicks” to check that I have those 40 threads in 20 dents.

      I’m always looking for ways to check my work as I go so that when I get to the weaving part it’s smooth sailing! But even so, a few mistakes still manage to slip through sometimes. That’s weaving! But thankfully, mistakes are fixable!

      I hope that makes sense.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Good morning, Karen.

    I am also not sure what you mean by clicking the reed in terms of how that will show a mistake. Perhaps a short video in future when you need to sley again?

    I like the colors in the warp that you are using! Is the yarn a variable one? Or did you mix colors thread by thread? And what are you making? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, I’ll make a short video about the “click test” next time I dress the loom. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Read my answer to Lise, and see if it makes sense to you.

      The warp colors alternate. Since I wind with 2 threads at a time, I’m able to wind the 2 colors at the same time and then thread them alternately in the heddles.
      I am making hand towels for my daughter. This is double weave with twelve shafts. (My first attempt at weaving with twelve shafts.)

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    I love how you are always challenging yourself and growing as a weaver. I can’t wait to see the progress on these towels. After reading your response to Lise, I understand the click test perfectly. I am going to adopt this practice also.

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify for us.

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