In the Midst of Chaos …

… a lot of fun!

Despite the fact that we are gearing up to move a distance of several hours drive north to our new home, I am busy with fiber-related projects.  I can’t knit as all my knitting supplies are safely packed away.  However, I have been busy with another fiber-related project.  My Schacht Mighty Wolf loom now has company!

gilmoreannieI recently purchased a (previously-owned loom) loom:  8 harness, 14 treadle, with a 54″ weaving width. Can you tell its maker from the picture? 

The original owner was pleased to find a good home for a loom she bought 30 years ago but hadn’t woven on for the last 17 years.  I was thrilled to find a wonderful loom that had been stored somewhere dry and smoke free for all these years at an affordable price.

I haven’t yet woven on the loom – though I gaze at it longingly and lovingly all through the days.  In addition to gearing up for our move, however, I have been cleaning and paste waxing it, checking the action and all the parts, putting in new treadle ties, removing rust from and cleaning the heddle bars, adding hundreds of heddles, installing a few parts for modifications or renovation, etc.  It’s definitely been laborious, but it’s a labor of love.  I am learning so much about this loom in the process.

All this is going on as the living room (now dominated by the new loom) of our rented condominium is filling with packed moving boxes.  Needless to say, we’re sort of wedged in!

movingtruckillbeback2We start moving into our new house soon.  I am sure you will understand that due to the demands of moving I’ll be on a short hiatus from blogging!


Posted in Bulky Lopi, Rug Making, Weaving | 18 Comments

Working With Bumps

alpacabumpsHave you seen the “bumps” of alpaca rug yarn that seem to be popular at fiber fairs and events?  Some are all alpaca, others have cotton or rayon blend cores.  (These cotton-cored alpaca bumps are from Las Flores del Altiplano Alpacas in southern Washington state.) I added several bumps of Las Flores alpaca rug yarn to my stash.

ramsheadbumpsLast month I met Tracylyn Robertson of Ram’s Head Station at Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival; her small basket of rug ramsheadbumps2yarn (cotton-cored Icelandic wool), caught my eye.  Of course I just had to buy some, but she didn’t have enough of the color I wanted.

A few days later I drove out to Ram’s Head Station to buy icelandic_blackrug yarn.  I also got to meet her sheep.  Meet Dot, a particularly friendly Icelandic sheep!

Strolling through the last couple of fiber gatherings I’ve attended, I’ve had the opportunity to see what people are doing with such bumps of yarn.

At the Black Sheep Gathering last June, I watched an alpaca breeder demonstrate how to “hand crochet” a rug using her bumps.  Hmmm … the resulting rug looked okay but given the vast amount of space between the loops, it was not destined to wear well (and certainly provided too many opportunities to get a toe caught in a loop).  I decided to these bumps would be better put to use in tightly packed into a woven rug.

I also visited the booth of a vendor selling alpaca rug yarn along with what might have been the biggest (in diameter) knitting needles I had ever seen.  Her rug yarn and needles flew off her shelf, but my wrists ached just thinking of what it would be like to knit or crochet with that yarn and those needles or an equally large crochet hook!

I was happy to finally stumble across another Black Sheep vendor who was showing rugs he had woven from alpaca bumps.  Hmmmm … definitely not a tight enough pack (I could easily poke my fingers through), and it clearly had not been woven under a tight tension.

At OFFF I browsed through the alpaca-created wares of another breeder.  Oh dear, the woven rug on display (and for sale) was worse (in technical structure), than the similar woven rug I saw at Black Sheep.

I am very pleased with the many bumps of rug yarns I purchased from Las Flores and Ram’s Head.  From perusing what others have made – and how – from similar yarns, I have a good sense what not to do.  The bumps I selected are destined to be woven into tightly packed rugs. 

Have you ever worked with a similar bulky rug yarn?

Posted in Rug Making, Weaving | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Introduced to a “New” Fiber @ OFFF

Last weekend I attended the annual Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (“OFFF”).  It was a lovely event!  My attention was caught by kitchenbroomsa vendor display I’d before never seen:  Squire Brooms of Bay Center, Washington.  The owners, John and Margaret Simurdak, had a beautiful display of handmade Shaker-style brooms.  Like all of the vendors at OFFF, John and Margaret were happy to chat about their craft and demonstrate some of their techniques.


Broom Tying Box

I learned, for instance, that what I’ve always thought as “straw brooms” aren’t made from straw.  They’re made from broom corn.  Surprised, I asked if they were made from actual corn tassels.  No, explained Margaret, they’re made from a  sorghum plant.  I came home with a beautiful kitchen broom and, being me, curious about the sorghum and history of American made brooms.broomcorn

There are over 200 varieties of sorghum.  The sorghum Margaret was referring to is Sorghum vulgare, commonly known as broomcorn.

According to Washington State University Extension, “Broomcorn (Sorghum vulgare) is not actually corn, but is instead related to the sorghums used for grain and syrup (Sorghum bicolor).”  The Sorghum vulgare variety is used for making brooms because, as explained by broomcorn2the University of Wisconsin Extension, “It differs from other sorghums in that it produces heads with fibrous seed branches that may be as much as 36 in. long.”  (Picture from Root Simple, which, by the way, notes that according to the OED,  it should be written as “broom corn” not “broomcorn.”  Oh well, maybe the Americans prefer the later!)

On the website of Lorenzo’s OK Seeds I read that “Benjamin Franklin is recognized as introducing broomcorn to the United States in the early 1700s.  In 1797 farmer Levi Dickenson from Hadley, Massachusetts, used a bundle of broom corn to make an extremely good broom for his wife and word of mouth took over.”  Wikipedia notes that Dickenson soon “invented a machine that would make better brooms, and faster than he could. In 1810, the foot treadle broom machine was invented. This machine played an integral part in the Industrial Revolution.”

I wondered why the plant is called “broomCORN” if it is actually a sorghum plant.  According to Broom Shop, “By about 1810, the sorghum used in brooms, had acquired a new name, Broom Corn, as the British called all seed bearing plants, ‘corn.'”   On this website I also read that the U.S. “broom industry flourished until 1994 when foreign brooms were permitted into the U.S., duty free. The remaining small factories struggle to compete with Mexican-made brooms, while individual broom makers … make a few thousand high quality brooms each year and tell the interesting stories of our history.”

I am happy to own and use a Squire Broom.  Interestingly, Lorenzo’s OK Seeds also notes that broomcorn is “now being used as a fashionable ornamental plant in garden beds and for borders by discriminating landscapers and gardeners. The gently waving, colorful and heavily-laden seed heads will add visually stimulating dimensions to your garden that are difficult to achieve with other plants.”

Well, I know what I’m adding to my new garden!  Has anyone grown this?





Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

UA & Grand Dames of Weaving

In an August with uncharacteristically hot and muggy days (temperatures reached 107°F/41.67°C!), I temporarily turned my back on my knitting.  Instead, I worked on improving my weaving skills.  Of course, even though retired the researcher in me cannot be stilled, so as I poked around on the web for weaving tips and ideas, I was particularly thrilled with historical finds.  One of them is the University of Arizona’s (“UA”) online digital archive.

ThorpeBlogPicTake a peek at “Heavy Mats for Bath or Bedroom” (1958).  It was written by Heather G. Thorpe, the author of The Handweaver’s Workbook (1956) that I recently found at a thrift store.  “Heavy Mats” was published by Lily G. Mills Company of Shelby, North Carolina.  According to blogger The Vintage Traveler,

In the late 1940s Lily Mills [founded in 1903] helped finance the Lily Loom House at Penland [Penland School of Arts & Crafts].  Weavers who attend classes today still work in the Lily Loom House.  In return, weaving instructors at Penland wrote booklets for Lily Mills, such as Practical Weaving Suggestions.

Tidball10ProjAccording to The Vintage Traveler, Lily Mills published Practical Weaving Suggestions  between 1940 and 1971. And the name doesn’t mislead: The projects are indeed practical.  For instance, volume XXI – “10 Projects on a Long Warp” by Harriet Douglas Tidball contains instructions for a warp from which a weaver could make an array of projects.  (I have my eye on the aprons!  One long warp, several varying aprons … birthday and holiday gifts for a year!)

AtwaterCoverPicAGallingerCoverPics I focused on rug weaving through our hot summer, I was pleased to find more rug-related possibilities in Volume XXVI written by Osma Couch Gallinger – 10 “Easy to Weave Rugs” and Volume 1-61 “No-Tabby Weave and Tufted Rugs” by Mary Meigs Atwater.

BarrettApronsCoverBut then my attention was again caught by aprons!  Ruth L. Barrett’s apron patterns are featured in Volume 2-65 of Practical Weaving Suggestions.  As one of the model is wearing pearls, perhaps her apron is a  practical version of the “hostess apron.”

According to various sewing blogs I’ve read, hostess aprons are making a comeback.

ApronsLucyEthelFor those of us of a “certain age” who grew up watching I Love Lucy or Leave It to Beaver, aprons were de rigueur for housewives.  The styles ranged from every day to special occasions.  Here Lucy and Ethel are wearing the everyday apron (sturdy cotton, large pockets, providing a lot of coverage).

ApronLucyFrilly (2)ApronHostessBut we’d also see Lucy in the hostess versions (thin, often diaphanous, frilly, not a lot of coverage).  From this picture of Lucy wearing a hostess apron, it seems as though she decided to do a bit of quick dusting before guests arrived.

But I have digressed!

If you weren’t already familiar with the University of Arizona’s on-line digital weaving archive, I urge you to take some time and explore the site!


Posted in Miscellany | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Rigby Cloth Stripping Machine

Rigby1Rigby2Buried deep in the 33 pounds of 2-inch fulled strips of wool (see my earlier post) was a Rigby Cloth Stripping Machine, Model B.  I had never seen or even heard of this gizmo before, but friends of mine had (and were both amazed at and not a little jealous of the find).  So, of course, I poked around the internet to see what I could learn about the Rigby.

The Rigby Cloth Stripping machines are clamp-on machines that cut strips used for braiding, hooking, and weaving.  It cuts a single strip from 5/8″ to 2″ wide.  The user controls the width by adjusting the cloth guide (the red lever in the bottom right hand of the above left picture).

Built in Bridgton, Maine, the Rigby Cutting Machines have long been beloved by rug braiders, puncher and hookers.  You can find them sold on sites like Etsy with prices ranging depending on both the model and the condition.  (It appears as though this Model B would sell somewhere between $100-200.)





Among the rug making supplies carried by Halcyon Yarns is the Rigby Finger (#7 Finger for the 7/32″ cutter head for the Model H and #8 Finger for the 1/4″ cutter head) and extra heads for the Rigby Model C.

According  to Makanda Moon, the Rigby is still made by J.D. Paulsen Rigby Precision Products.  Here’s its business information.


rigby3-3Currently my Rigby is visiting my Friend E.  Friend E is an avid needlewoman (both needlework and sewing), hooks rugs and spins.  Friend E was very interested in seeing how the Rigby works.  She said it was easy to figure out and easy to use.  After clamping it to a table, Friend E experimented with some pink fulled wool strips and sent me pictures.

As I said in last week’s post, I paid $20 a a thrift shop for 33 pounds of 2-inch fulled wool strips.  What I didn’t share in that post is that the purchase also included the Rigby Cloth Stripping Machine.  Most definitely a find!

Has anyone used this machine and, if so, for what?

Posted in Miscellany, Punch Needle Rug Hooking, Rug Making | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Wool Strips for Rug Weaving

Last weekend I attended Fort UFortUmpqua.jpgmpqua Days in Elkton, Oregon (pic source).  I enjoyed watching the period recreations (e.g., blacksmithing, dyeing, baking in big cast iron pots, etc.).  Not surprisingly, I especially liked the room at the fort used by the Elkton Fiber Group where the members demonstrated an array of fiber-related arts and crafts, including spinning, carding, and weaving.  (For more information about the Elkton Fiber Group, contact ECEC.)


Wooly Worms

Admiring a cotton rag rug in progress on a 200 year old handmade loom brought over many years ago by a Norwegian immigrant to Oregon, the weaver told me she also buys “wooly worms” – selvedge edges of Pendleton’s wool blankets – from Pendleton Woolen Mill to use as rug weft.  The mill store is in Portland so I knew I’d have to pay it a visit.

Two days later, however, I stumbled across a surprisingly good find at a local thrift shop:  two very large bags of strips of variously colored fulled wool wrapped into wheels, each strip about 2in/5cm wide, as well as 2 cones of linen thread (rug warp weight).  As I was on my bike, there was no way I could bring them home, so I paid for bags, cycled home and returned with my car.

Most of the wool strips are plain weave, though there are several tweed and a few textured:

I pulled out my scale and tape measure and did some calculations.  The 2 in/5cm fulled wool strips totaled 33 lbs/720y (14.9k/658m).  Quite a find for $20, wouldn’t you say?

My hunch is that these beautiful items belonged to a maker of braided wool rugs, as also included in one of the bags is a partially completed, beautifully braided and stitched, heart-shaped wool rag rug.  Further, there were more colors and yardage needed for a  unfinished single small wool rag rug, each roll carefully wound tight and fastened closed with a pin.

I’m always amazed by fiber-related surprises I’ve found at thrift shops!  Have you ever been surprised by fiber supplies or related accessories at thrift shops?



Posted in Miscellany, Rug Making, Weaving | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Hope Springs Eternal

As I blogged earlier, I had hoped that 8-year old Granddaughter F and I would be weaving side by side during her visit with us this summer.  Well, as Alexander Pope said, “hope springs eternal in the human breast,” so I guess I’ll keep hoping.

CottonLoopRugWeavingI felt a flicker of hope when Granddaughter F noticed my floor loom warped with colorful weft and walked up to it, dragging her fingers over the material.  When I asked her if she’d like to sit on the bench and try weaving on the rug, I received a very definite (albeit polite) reply:

“No thank you.”

Later that day I steered Granddaughter F to the Cricket.  Before she arrived I had warped the loom and Cricket_warped_F (2)woven a few inches, sure in the knowledge that the smaller sized loom would tempt her to try.  “Would you like to try weaving on the Cricket,” I asked?

“No thank you.”

RugLoops (2)My last ditch attempt to stir up some interest was to let her cut the finished rug off my floor loom.  Granddaughter F brandished my long scissors with not a little excitement and enthusiastically cut the warp.  After she walked on the rug, I pointed to the Cricket again and said it was ready for her to try out if she wanted.

“No thank you.”

Later I twisted and trimmed the fringe threads.   Granddaughter F helped me roll up the woven, fulled and/or felted rugs that to date I have made or purchased for our new house.  The feel of the different types of wool got her attention!  (Hurrah – a SPARK of some fiber-related interest.)

AlpacaSkeinFionaWhen we visited Eugene Textile Center, Granddaughter F feel skeins of various wools.  She could tell the difference between alpaca and sheep’s wool and decided she liked the feel of alpaca wool best.  Pointing to this large skein, a hopeful look in her blue eyes, Granddaughter F asked if I would weave her a pillow out of alpaca.

So, though as of yet she is not interested in weaving herself, Granddaughter F likes to feel wools, can distinguish between alpaca and sheep wool and likes the idea of receiving handwoven gifts.

Progress – well, at least enough to feed the hope eternal in my breast.

Posted in Fibers, Weaving | 12 Comments