105) Weaving in a Winter Wonderland

We've had more snow than we know what to do with here in Cambridgeshire.  Admittedly, more than a couple of inches tends to bring the entire country grinding (or sliding) to a halt, but this is what my car looked like at 11am on Friday:


What's more, it hasn't all melted away yet, which is truly incredible.

Apart from a few necessary shopping excursions (dog food, salt), and the obligatory walkies (Kita loves the snow, but actually had a nasty fall attempting to corner on ice; Woody's just dippy in all weathers), I've been using the opportunity to dig in at home and make a return to my multi-shaft table loom, via some of the random stash I acquired recently.  In fact, in a burst of wild optimism and enthusiasm on Sunday morning, I asked J, "So, how many scarves d'you think I can weave in a day, then?"  Oh, hubris.

Sunday I spent attempting to get a warp on the darned thing.  I'd forgotten how much more complicated it is than warping a rigid heddle loom, and in my arrogance, didn't refer to The Book until too late.  In addition, after doing all the sums (twice!!) I suddenly realised I was halfway through winding a six yard warp instead of a six foot one, and had to begin again.  When I did refer to the instructions, I started with the wrong set.  Eventually, I got it on the loom, then quit for the day and went for wine and cheese courtesy of Geodyne.

When I got back, I started weaving and realised that the sett was way too loose for the pattern I'd chosen, and it looked like ass.  I tried a couple of different wefts, and it still looked like ass, so I went to bed in a sulk.

Monday, I spent most of the day avoiding the loom and giving it evil stares whilst I wrapped presents, made a desultory attempt at packing and cooked a solstice dinner.  I did decide that the only thing to do was to resley more densely (i.e. bring the warp threads closer together), and actually unwove all my experiments from the night before so as not to waste my precious warp.  Only when I finished unweaving did it occur to me that I should have taken fail-photos for the blog.  To fail is to learn, they say.  Well.

I wove a fair bit, then decided the draft in the book wasn't giving me the pattern advertised. (Umm, it's at the bottom of page 71in the Handweaver's Directory; I liked the pattern well enough, but it didn't have the very cool travelling element that I loved in the sample).  I unwove that, too, and still forgot to take photos.  I figured the correct 'treadling' sequence out, and proceeded for a while:


Cool, huh?  Then I spotted an error made whilst re-sleying:


That loose stripe pretty much down the middle of the frame is where the warp threads were left too far apart.  You can see the wider spacing at the top of the shot, in fact.

Even over a very small area, you can see the difference it makes to the pattern; it loses all crispness, and looks very sloppy.  If the whole warp is too widely spaced, the pattern is almost completely lost.  I went to bed in a sulk.

Today, I cut off what I'd woven so far, fixed the sleying error and started over.  I'd completed a full pattern repeat before noticing that, actually, I was no longer weaving the pattern I'd originally intended:


Spot the difference?  Anyway, I've decided it's still good.  No more unweaving, no more cutting off; I'll keep it this way.  But by now my back was sore, and I had to stop weaving.  So, three days; no scarf.  I'm glad I'm not relying on production weaving for Christmas presents this year.

Speaking of which, I'm leaving the frozen South to travel to the frozen North tomorrow; Internet access may be limited.  So have a wondrous festive season, whatever you celebrate, and I'll be back sometime before the New Year…

104) Solstice Stop Press!!

OK, this is the first 'break' in my alphabet progression – and I'm what, 4 letters from the end?? – but it's worth it.

On this, the last day of the year as the sun measures it, I have confirmation of the fact that I will have a stall at Textiles in Focus in February of the coming year, where I will be trading as Yarnscape, for the first time.

I can't wait.  And I hope the new year brings much joy and new ventures to you, too.

103) Very nearly a Vest!

It's shocking.

I used to reckon I'd churn out about one sweater-sized project per month; ten sweaters a year, with a few other things thrown in.  This has been on the needles for three months, and it doesn't even have sleeves:


OK, it's a bit fiddly, and I have interrupted it for a few diversions, and I didn't used to spin, or weave, but even so.

The weird shape is because this thing is designed to be steeked.  Yes, folks, I'm going to deliberately cut some of the most complex knitting I've done in a long while.  OK, I did this for my Dad's Christmas Sweater a few years back, but I don't feel any less apprehensive this time.  And it somehow doesn't seem fair that, having cast off this garment, I still have so much to do.  Armholes, deep front neckline and back neck must be prepared for steeking.  Then, blocking, cutting, sewing of shoulder seams and the knitting on of armhole and neckline edgings must be performed – so I'm not there yet!  It suddenly seems a long way to go.

I can't believe I'm preparing to cut into three months' worth of work just to avoid learning to do colourwork on purl rows.  Is it really worth it??

103) Unofficial


I suppose this might – or might not – be a good time to admit that I have an 'official' stash and an 'unofficial' one.  Most of my cataloging attempts deal only with the 'official' portion of the stash.


Unofficial stash consists of, well… mostly bits and pieces.  It tends to arrive on cones, or as a free gift with something else.  I might pick it up in a charity shop, thinking "Oh, that'll be cool for…. something".


Unofficial stash tends not to have A Plan.


A Certain Person contributed heavily to my unofficial stash last week when she presented me with a large bag (and I *do* mean a *large* bag) of coned yarns which a friend of hers had salvaged from a skip(!) during a house clearance.  Apparently, the former owner of the yarns had been a keen machine knitter.


Scarlet had extracted the bits which interested her, and passed the rest on to me.

Some of these will definitely become official.  This cone, called 'Zanzibar', is soft, drapey, shimmery and just begging to be woven into a scarf:


Others will go towards practising my own machine knitting, and may possibly become whole projects:


Some are likely to go straight to a charity shop.  And others… will remain Unofficial for a while.


102) Time, tracking and TODO!

I'm a huge fan of lists.  I write them, sort them, organise them (usually using a spreadsheet – I love them, too!), colour-code them, and then, often, ignore them.  I love knowing where I am at a given point in time, but, like so many things, I'm very bad at maintaining the lists I create, so I end up making new lists rather than updating the old.  There must be a balance to strike between a list that is easy to maintain, and one that gives me the information I need, but I haven't found that magic formula yet!

The latest attempt at list-simplicity has been triggered by my recent destash efforts.  I have tried, quite hard, to eliminate anything from my stash that is there because it 'might come in useful', or 'is pretty'.  Things get to stay in my stash if I love them, know what I want to do with them, and look forwards to doing it – no more guilt-stash!

So my latest tracking spreadsheet is project-driven.  Rather than creating a massive inventory of what yarn, fabric, fibre etc. I have, and where, I have created lists of projects I want to carry out, and what I want to use for them.  I've split the list down into dressmaking, quilting, spinning, weaving and knitting lists.  Here's a peek at my dressmaking list:


Things in there are more of an aide memoire for myself, rather than anything that would be of use to anyone else.  I've also made an effort to indicate how committed to each project I am, whether it's for everyday use or SCA, and whether it's a garment that would get most use in the summer or in the winter.  Unsurprisingly, it seems I plan mostly to knit cold weather garments – but buy fabric mostly for warm weather ones! 

I though it would be interesting to estimate just how long it would take to work through my new (reduced! lean! efficient!!) stash.  I normally reckon it takes me a month to finish a sweater-sized
knitting project or a complex shawl, but recently things have been going slower than

that, because I've been working on other things, too. Other projects are normally quicker, particularly dressmaking and spinning ones.  As are small knitting projects.  So let's say I can finish two projects per month.  So, totalling up the waiting projects, we have:

Dressmaking projects:       31
Quilting projects:                7
Mending/alterations:           5
Spinning projects:             19
Knitting projects:              62 (ouch!!)
Weaving projects:             12

Grand total: 136 projects.

One hundred and thirty six.  Good grief.  Even if I finish two projects per month, that's five and a half years' worth of projects stacked up there.  And that's without allowing for the fact that spinning projects turn into weaving projects or knitting projects when they're done.  And, in fact, that weaving projects may themselves turn into sewing projects.  Or that I will not be able to resist buying more materials as time goes by.

I'm going to try and keep up with this list, and work out how many projects I do actually finish per month.  Let's see if I can, at least, stick to the rule that I should finish more projects per month than I accumulate.

101) Silk, Spindles, Swag, and So, how do you make those little diagrams, anyway?

Today was the Christmas Special meeting at Rampton Spinners.  This one's a different beast from our usual meetings; there is a pot-luck lunch, and P&M Woolcraft come to visit.  We generally make it *very* worth their while.  I will admit to a certain restraint this year; I stuck to my budget and bought one book and two tools:


I'm quite excited about the flick-carder.  I've wanted one for ages, and I'm hoping it'll help a whole pile with some of the less processed fibre I have in my, umm, backlog.  The niddy-noddy is slated to become part of my spindling kit, which itself will live in my Rampton challenge bag; it's cute and tiny and my regular one just doesn't fit so well.

Last year, I got precious little spinning done at our Christmas meet, what with the shopping and the scoffing and the socialising, so this year I decided to take a spindle along rather than lug the wheel the whole long way.  I span a lot more than I anticipated:


This is part of my ongoing silk spindling project, which I think I photographed but did not really talk about back in July.  I have a long-standing habit of buying small packets of pretty silk whenever it takes my fancy; 10g here, 15g there.  A small habit, but they add up.  So I've been spindling my way through them at a leisurely pace, and they will all become warp for a luscious silk scarf.  The weft will be plain tussah silk, and may or may not be spindle-spun.  This is my spun silk so far:


It turned out to be a seriously spindlelicious meeting; Sarah aspindlerated several people (some already spinners, some not), and a couple of other people had brought spindles instead of wheels, too.  I'm certain I've never seen that many working spindles at one meeting before.

So, how do you make those krokbragd  pictures?
Ahh, yes, I've had a few people ask about these.  I didn't use any fancy weaving software to make them; I used PowerPoint  NB:  you don't even need PowerPoint to do this!!  You can do it in Word, too, or anything that allows you to draw rectangles and group them together.  Consider OpenOffice for a totally free alternative – it can even read and create Microsoft Office files!  If you don't know what I mean by grouping things in a drawing, you might want to check out the online help for your software.

So.  The fabric is reresented by a grid of rectangles.  Each row consists of three groups of rectangles.  A group represents a throw of the shuttle, and its rectangles indicate the places where the threads show for that throw:


This picture shows six groups spread out as if they haven't been beaten down to cover the warp.  The group at the top of the picture is selected:


The magic of grouping means that if you click on one of the rectangles in a group, it selects the whole group.  And if you change the colour of one of those rectangles, then the other rectangles in the group will also change colour:


So, by playing with the paint-pot/fill tool, you can colour in your grid any way you like, and it should be a 'weavable' krokbragd design.  Cool, huh??

Want to play with this? 
Drop me an email or a comment with your email address in, and I'll email you a copy of 'The Krokbragd Colouring Book'.  I would like to offer it simply for download, but I need to sort out hosting first!  I don't think you can offer downloads from TypePad accounts…


  • This is a PowerPoint presentation, but you can open it in OpenOffice.  I have no idea what the compatibility with Macs is like these days.
  • Be aware that PowerPoint files, like anything that allows macros, can include viruses/malicious content.  I run a virus checker.  So should you.
  • This is effectively an untested tool.  Sample, sample, sample!
  • This system doesn't account for the deflection of the
    yarn caused by being squished.  So these are theoretical patterns, and
    might not weave up to look exactly like they do on the screen (well,
  • Feel free to distribute this, play with it, give it to your friends, show it at your guild.  But please also leave the notice with my name and blog address in place, and if you show it to other people, credit would be nice!

100) Return of the Krokbragd

I haven't actually woven any more krokbragd since my earlier post, but I've been thinking about it a fair bit.  I wanted to explain how this weave actually works, and I've come up with a way of 'virtually' weaving krokbragd that allows me to play with the possible designs quickly, on my computer.  (*ahem* at work *ahem*).

Before I get started, I need to acknowledge Geodyne as the originator of all of this.  Whilst I was working on my Rampton Bag, she was working on her's.  In krokbragd.  Go see it!  And her krokbragd post, too.  When she mentioned it was a three-shaft weave, I knew I could play with it on the RH loom, and a minor obsession was born…

A Krokbragd Summary
I've actually found out relatively little about Krokbragd on the Internet, so here are the facts:

  • Krokbragd is a three-shaft, weft faced weave, and I believe it comes from Norway
  • The threading is a point twill (1-2-3-2), so repeats over 4 threads.
  • According to this website, it is always treadled in a simple sequence, so the order in which the sheds are lifted is 1&2 – 2&3 – 3&1.
  • Because of the way the weft packs down over the warp, it actually
    takes three weft shots before the eye sees a single, finished 'row' in
    the fabric.
  • The weft-faced nature of the fabric, plus the threading pattern, is incredibly well-suited for making patterns.

In krokbragd, three throws of the shuttle interact to produce a single 'row' of colour in the growing fabric.  Or, of course, one throw each of three different shuttles, which is where the fun begins.  Because three colours can be used in each row, and there are two different patterns that the colours can show up in, the design possibilities are immense.

A quick search for krokbragd on Google Images shows, straight away, how very different krokbragd fabrics can look.  It reminds me most of Fair Isle knitting, which uses only two colours per row, and yet can produce such a huge variety of design.  I'd love to include some of those images in my post, but of course – they aren't mine, so it would be rude.  The beauty!!  Please, go look!

The details
So.  I ended my previous krokbragd post with a picture which looked little-to-nothing like the weaving I'd shown at the start of the post:


This picture has different warp colours for each shaft (1-2-3-2), and always the same colour in the weft.  that's not how krokbragd works.  In krokbragd weaving, the warp is completely covered by the weft, and it's the weft that changes colour.  So, if we take the same image as above, then change it round so the warp is all black, and we are alternating colours in the weft:


Then look at the back of it, otherwise produced by raising two shafts and once instead of only one, so 'overs' become 'unders' and so on:


Then make the warp realllly skinny:


Now you can see how, if we beat harder, the weft will pack down on the warp, so that three successive weft picks smush into the gaps left by their predecessors.  Leaving:


Stripey!!  Notice how half the stripes are red.  The other half are split evenly between red and blue.  And you don't have to do anything very complicated to swap that pattern out for this one:


After a few repeats of yellow-blue-red, we throw in one lot of yellow-blue-blue, then switch to red-yellow-blue for a bit.  Then one lot of yellow-blue-blue, and back to the original.  See?

This next pattern shows up all over in krokbragd designs, can you see how it works?


What about this one?


Or this?


And you can get quite delicate with the designs, too:


Essentially, you have a design block four 'pixels' wide.  The colour sequence in the block will always be A-B-C-B, where any or all of the colours may be the same.  The same block will repeat across the whole row, but the colours can change as much as you like between rows.  You can swap weft colours as often as you like to build your design, but note that the 'A' elements will always stack up on each other,
as will the 'B' elements (of which there are twice as many) and the 'C'
elements.  Bearing in mind I've stuck to a total of three colours in my little 'samples' here, I can't even begin to imagine the variety possible with more.

I was going to talk about how I used Microsoft Word to mock up all these patterns, but…  it seems to me this entry is long enough as it is.  Later!

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