Thursday, 27 November 2014

Making a modified frame loom for weaving

For a while now I have wanted a loom wide enough to weave material for clothes making. At last I have saved up enough to buy the materials I need to build one. My first step was to rough (very rough) out a design for the loom; 

I want the weaving width to be about 70 cm. So I bought myself a 70 cm rigid heddle (a frame which lifts the warp threads up and down to facilitate weaving) and designed the rest of the loom around it.

My rough design.
The YouTube clip below inspired my design, but I added a way to wind warp from the back beam to the front beam so I could weave longer pieces.

The rigid heddle replaces both the shed stick and the string heddles used in the clip. To be able to use it I will have to add holders at the side which hold the heddle in either the top, neutral or bottom positions, as you can see in the clip below;

This is the design I eventually came up with.

This is the heddle guide in action.

This is the rigid heddle; the entire loom is built around this piece of equipment.

I measured the frame pieces and made sure the heddle would fit nicely inside it.

Then I cut the frame pieces using this nifty gadget I found in the shed.

Rabbito joined me for the cutting part and offered sage advice like "OOOh, mind your fingers"

Puddle duck looked on suspiciously and made loud quacking noises.

I used these corner bracket thingies to hold the frame together.

The heddle fits perfectly and the frame is strong. Note that the side pieces are positioned inside the top and bottom pieces so that the pressure of the warp will not be only on the brackets.

I then measured the 'legs' to be the height I wanted as per the clip instructions and cut them on the handy gadget.

These two bits are my warp and cloth beams. I will explain them in more detail below.

This diagram might help you understand what I am on about.

The warp and cloth beams on my loom are not attached as they are on a normal rigid heddle loom. Instead they rely on the warp (and some shoe laces) to hold them to the frame. On most looms the beams act as storage for the warp and cloth as well as being a tensioning device (keeping the warp tight enough to weave on). On my loom the two beams will be bolted together (as in the original design clip) to act as a tensioning device and the two bits of PVC pipe will act as the rollers for the warp and cloth. The rollers have an apron rod attached (to anchor the beginning and end of the warp) and holes drilled at intervals around the edges to align with a hole in the beam so pegs (nails in my case) can be used as both a crank handle and pawl so the warp can be moved through the loom while still maintaining warp tension.

The long bolt things pass through the beams and the wing nuts are used to fine tune the tension.

This is the loom with it's first warp. You can see how the tension device works.

A closer look at the beams with their PVC rollers.

This is the beginning of my next project; a woven bag.

Using the rigid heddle is so easy and quick. I love my new loom and I love that I made it myself (with minimal help from my partner). If you are wanting a quick to build, cheap loom this is the design for you. In total this loom cost me $120 to build, including the rigid heddle.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Local insects and animals - Red browed finch

The red browed finch is a fairly common bird in our area. They live in large flocks and spend their time foraging for seed in my chook pens and on the ground around the humpy. Seeing these little flashes of red and olive green flit through the garden or chook pen really cheers up the day for me; they always look so happy. 
In spring, just before they breed, these little finches go through an insect craving stage and spend a lot of time searching out insects from my vegetable garden, which is very useful when insect populations are high. They are often found with the blue fairy wrens in the yard, which is apparently a common association. Although the two species don't seem to talk to each other and wrens are predominantly insect eaters while finches are predominantly seed eaters.
In the ecosystem of the humpy they provide insect control, eat and spread small seeds, provide food for corvids (butcher birds, currawongs, crows and ravens) and generally lift the life and joy about the place. They also provide a warning to everyone when a goanna or snake is about by flying around frantically and making high pitched squeaking sounds until someone comes to investigate.

These photos were taken out of my office window...while I was supposed to be studying.

What kinds of finches do you have at your place?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Weaving a scarf on an old teaching loom - finale

The scarf is finished.In the end I used a hem stitch to secure the warp. It turned out a bit bulkier than I like, next time will be better.
I am extremely happy with the weaving though.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Weaving a scarf on an old teaching loom

My interest (or obsession) in a new craft is often blocked by a lack of funds to buy or build the equipment I need to explore it, but I never let that stop me. My current obsession is weaving. I love the feel of hand woven material and it is such a useful skill. However....looms range from expensive to 'you've got to be kidding me!' so I have as usual sourced some make-it-yourself websites and such. I came across the clip below and decided I love the design so much I have to make one (with a few modifications of course).

The basics of loom design come down to having something to hold the warp taut (the warp is the threads that run up and down the loom) and a system for lifting warp threads in a specific order to pass the weft through (the weft are the threads which run from side to side). After that the designs are all refinements.

In the mean time.....I have an old and broken teaching loom. I have warped it up with recycled fingering weight yarn that I bought from a Lifeline shop, and decided to try my hand at making a scarf (classic beginners project). To add a degree of interest, and because I have no idea what I'm doing, I decided to make the scarf using a Brooks Bouquet stitch pattern (See the clip below).

My pattern is 19 picks (rows) of tabby weave (plain weaving) and one row of Brooks Bouquet stitch and repeat.

I plan to finish the ends using a hem stitch and have a plain (yellow) but elegant (hopefully) scarf to wear to work next winter.

This is my progress so far;

So far, it's been a lot of fun and I can't wait to build my loom. I am saving up for the materials.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Local insects and animals - Feathertail glider

This afternoon, on the way home from work, I was contacted by a local school. They had a tiny little Feathertail glider in a box; apparently she  (it's a girl) had glided down into assembly this morning. When I got home (a half hour bus ride and a 1 km walk later) I opened the box to see what I had. She is a juvenile female (weighing in at just 7 g) and seemed fairly active and bright to me. I put a shallow dish of water in the box and some gum flowers from the trees outside, snapped some quick photos, weighed her and had a look to see what gender she was. Then I popped her back in the box and left her in peace while I rang WIRES. 
The Feathertail glider is the smallest gliding mammal in the world, with an average weight of 12g. They feed on pollen, nectar, insects and seeds. In this area they are fairly common, often being found drowned in dogs water bowls or bought in by cats. 
I think this one was probably heat effected as it was a burning hot day. Heat stress kills a lot of native animals, especially those who live in urban areas (like in the school buildings). This little girl will be handed over to a wildlife carer and hopefully will be released back into her home territory before too long.

Blurry, but I was trying to prevent an escape.

Look at that feathery tail. The curling indicates distress, and who can blame her; a big predator has her.
If you have Feathertail gliders in your area you can put out SHALLOW water containers, plant flowering native shrubs and (most importantly) bring in the dog and cat at night.

Oh, and thank you to the little girl who held the box so carefully for me all the way home (you know who you are).

Monday, 10 November 2014

Local insects and animals - White-winged chough

We frequently have some noisy visitors to the animal pens; white-winged choughs. These funny little birds are often mistaken for crows by people who have never seen them before. They are mostly black with a white spot on their wings which is only visible when flying. They eat insects and seeds; which is why they love our place.
They forage for food on the ground, but always leave a lookout in a tree to watch for predators (which includes me in their eyes). The group we have here is relatively small; only eleven members this year, but they are often seen in flocks of 20 or more. They are social birds and spend long hours feeding and caring for the juveniles in the flock.
I often find a few choughs in a chook pen, eating happily with the chooks. They seem to help keep the fly population down too and watching them chase a stinging fly over the yard provides many laughs.

These two were eating grain this morning when I went to feed the chooks.
A blurry close up
I love having birds visit the humpy.
Have you seen choughs at your place?

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Happy Beltane to all

Once again it is the season of love...
Beltane marks the beginning of summer on our calendar (maybe not yours though) and brings with it a sense of joy and fun. This is the time for the ewes to begin cycling (coming into season) in earnest and they will cycle more and more regularly now until the autumn equinox (Mabon) when I will let Stag the ram out with the girls to make more lambs. Beltane also begins the storm season, with afternoon storms sweeping over regularly, bringing fertility to the land.

This year we had planned to go dance the Maypole (should we call it a November pole in the southern hemisphere?) but I was unfortunately incapacitated by a migraine yesterday. Instead we will do some fertile, life affirming acts here at home today and have a Beltane feast of our own;

I have seedlings to go into the garden; at this time of year we show faith that the coming season will be a good one by blessing crops. To nurture plants through the long summer takes commitment and patience and we begin the process now. Long ago the Celts blessed the fields at Beltane after the planting at Ostara by making love on the ground, but I think I will stick with spilling a little blessed wine.

The Hugelkulture beds have some space for seedlings.

The lambs need a drench; Beltane is primarily a fertility sabbat, but it also is a time of protection, especially for domestic stock. It is the time of year when babies are becoming juveniles in the flock and require a lot of care and protection. Traditionally, the stock are driven between two bonfires at this time to ensure their health for the coming year, I will be drenching the lambs with the same state of mind and intent.

I found a great frame loom plan I could make; fertility is not always about having babies, it is also about letting your creativity flow. I will research my new loom and make notes of what I need to build it as a Beltane gift to myself.

That is my was yours?