Monday, October 17, 2011

Wax On / Wax Off or The Big and The Little Of It

It's been a busy time around here. While we've been getting ready for the Austin Celtic Festival, I got a crazy desire to look at Glimakra looms. We've been talking about building a small reproduction loom for demonstrations and the most authentic loom we've seen is the old Swedish loom at the Institute of Texan Cultures. We went to closely examine their loom and then looked at modern Glimakra looms. They're so close! We toyed with the idea of getting a smaller Glimakra, but George is sure he can build one, and I know he can.

See the small Cricket loom on the bench of the Glimakra??
I've always wanted a Glimakra, but the Standard, their workhorse loom, is big.  I mean BIG.  Although how would I know since I'd never seen one??  Something made me browse Craigslist and what should I see but a Glimakra Standard loom for sale. It was 45" wide and supposedly 4-harness, 6-treadle countermarche.  Well, I wanted a countermarche, figuring that it would be more useful than counterbalance.  However, I already have two 4-harness / 6-treadle looms so why this one?  I got in touch with the Glimakra USA representative and found out that Glimakras can be upgraded.  She gave me tips on what to look for in a used loom and information on setting up a Glimakra.

When we went to look at the loom, we found that it was counterbalance, not countermarche, and had been sitting in a garage for years.  But it was in pretty good shape, had tons of accessories, and since I'd found out that Glimkras can be almost infinitely upgraded, we decided to make an offer.  By the end of the day, my birthday present was a pile of lumber in the garage and no place to put it.

Right after getting the Glimakra home, we were up against the annual insanity known as Yarn Crawl - the 4-day event held among 9 area yarn shops. Working Yarn Crawl leaves time for nothing else, but I did manage to do one thing... actually four things. I wove three scarves on a rigid-heddle loom and bought my own Cricket loom.

The Cricket Loom
Why another loom, especially a loom that some consider "toy" looms? Well, it isn't a toy, it's a very well-designed small loom. It's compact enough to take with me, I can warp it in less than an hour and it's a great adjunct to my larger weaving life. I keep it downstairs and weave while I'm enjoying my morning coffee. No sitting at the computer, no working on something else, just sit and weave and sip coffee and look out the windows.  (It's time to feed the birds again!) A great way to start my day!

The Chakra Scarf
The Chakra Scarf
So first off the little loom was this Chakra scarf!  It's made with Noro's Silk Garden Sock in the warp and Mango Moon's Chakra yarn in the weft. The stones and beads in the Chakra yarn are hand-tied by women in Indonesia and Nepal. Mango Moon is a Fair Trade company and sales of their products benefits these women. I wasn't pleased with the scarf on the loom, but I really like it off-loom. The stones and beads in the Chakra give it a weight and drape.  I like to wear it with a black dress or top.  It makes a statement!

There are two more scarves off the loom from the same Silk Garden Sock yarn as the Chakra scarf.  They'll have to be photographed and posted soon.  The scarf on the loom right now is a "let the yarn do the work" scarf. The warp is a handpaint lace yarn - Ella Rae Lace Merino and the weft is Capra, a silk / mohair blend also from Mango Moon.  Mohair doesn't work in the warp as it's almost impossible to get a clean shed, but it's lovely in the weft.

Dyeing My Own

But the next project will be a color project to the nines!  Twelves, actually... This involves a confession. I'm afraid of color. I'm afraid of making a mistake. I don't know what goes with what nor do I know how to add that spark that makes things really glow. But I figure I can learn, so I'm going to learn. I'm starting the learning process by working through Gail Callahan's Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece. Last night's project was dyeing 12 small skeins of sock yarn in 12 colors of the color wheel.  All the dyes were mixed from three stock solutions - red, yellow and blue - made with McCormick's food colors.  Yep, this is a kitchen project.  When all the skeins were in the dyebaths (small Mason jars) and arranged in a wheel, I got a crazy idea. I'd mis-measured and made 40-yard skeins when I intended to make 20-yard skeins. However, 40-yard skeins gives me enough to do a color gamp scarf project on my trusty Cricket.  As soon as the mohair scarf is off the loom, I'll warp on the color gamp project with each shade set off with black yarn.  This should be pretty!
The Finished Skeins

Pinwheel Towels

And yes, I finally finished all six towels of the pinwheel project.  Four will leave for the towel exchange, but two are staying here.  George refuses to use them, but I love them... hanging on the stove handle... not being used...

The Autumn Leaves Shawl
But wait!  I didn't leave the poor Glimakra as a pile of lumber in the garage! Last week was the project of starting to clean out and rearrange the upstairs.  Now that both kids are more or less moved out, it's time to rethink how we use the house. This is their home, too, but it's time that old stuff leaves to make room for the new. So after hauling and moving and giving away and throwing out, there was a spot for the Glimakra in the loft. Wax on / Wax off??  The wood was so dry that every bit had to be conditioned with our favorite Ashford Spinning Wheel wax. If I ever leave the Cricket unwarped for five minutes, it'll get the same treatment.

Setting up a counterbalance loom requires having a project on it. I tried to think of something that wouldn't be too much of a challenge to weave and finally thought of a chenille shawl project kit I've had laying around for years. I hauled it out and warped it onto the Glimakra. At first I was wondering why anyone bothers to put on anything less than 10 yards, but the shawl is fine.  It didn't take but a time or so around the warp beam, but everything got on and tensioned correctly. Then came tying up the loom and setting everything up.  After only a few mistakes the old girl was weaving again.

Which caused the biggest surprise. I like counterbalance looms.  I'm going to leave her that way for a while before I upgrade her.

Leave it as it is.
Never mind the turpentine.
Just leave it as it is.
It's fine.
-- David Wilcox