Heddles & the Electoral College

Two topics:  About Heddles and, below that, if you are interested in U.S. politics, About the U.S. Electoral College.

About Heddles

I set up my new (one previous owner) floor loom, a Gilmore 8-harness loom (54″ weaving width), and I saw I needed to lot more heddles. What is a heddle?

A floor loom has at least two shafts or harnesses, and on each are numerous heddles.  The harnesscloseupheddles separate the warp threads:  The warp threads (except for selvedge threads, if used), pass through heddles.  The pattern the weaver uses determines which warp threads go through a heddle on specific shafts and where.  Here’s a close up drawing of a harness and its heddles.

If you look at the top row of printing in the picture below, you can see where the harnesses sit on a loom (behind the beater):

harnessheddlesfullpic(Source of both pictures)

There are different kinds of heddles from which a weaver can choose.


While the mainstay of many weaving devotees, many knitters and crocheters find using a small rigid heddle loom the perfect way to give weaving a try.   A rigid heddle loom uses a single shaft (usually).  The warp threads pass alternately through the eyes in the heddles and through the spaces between those heddles.  The heddles don’t move, just the shaft.  When the weaver raises the single shaft, the threads through the eyes go up.  When she lowers the shaft, they are lowered.

ashfordknittersloomCricket_warped_F (2).jpgTwo popular rigid heddle looms are Ashford’s  Knitters Loom.  Another is Schacht’s Cricket loom that I bought for Granddaughter F.  (I wove two projects on it.  Granddaughter F hasn’t touched it!)

heddlestexsolvTexsolv heddles, made from heat-treated polyester, are very popular among many weavers.  Far quieter than metal heddles, they are also very light, though for some jack looms their light weight could cause problems.  (Click here and here for some useful information on Texsolv heddles.)

Wire twist heddles heddleswiretwistleclercare easy to find, though they can be hard on threads.  Weavers have an option on height of the eye.  Wire heddles slide on the heddle bar more easily than Texsolve heddles.

heddleinsertedeyeleclercInserted eye heddles are similar to wire heddles but easier on the threads:  The eyes have been dipped into solder, creating a smoother eye.  Many weavers working with hairy yarns find the yarn is less likely to tangle when going through these eyes.

In 1920 the Steel Heddle Manufacturing Co. could not keep up with orders for its flat steel heddlesWhen I learned to weave in the early 1980s, they were commonly used.  Sadly, however, the company was purchased by a German company which destroyed the Steel Heddle Manufacturing’s dies.  Heddles are no lonheddleflatsteelger made in the U.S. and more difficult to find.

Though not quiet like the Texsolv heddles, they are a good weight for jack looms.  Further, they lay flat into each other, which means weavers are able to pack a lot of these heddles onto the heddle bars – a benefit for weavers who work with densely packed warp threads.

heddlepicture-2So, which type of heddle did I go with?  I found two source with stashes of flat steel heddles and bought several hundred.  Then a weaving friend generously gifted me with a box of Steel Heddle Manufacturing Co. heddles!  (Thanks, SMN!)

As an aside, are you wondering about the origin of the word “heddle?”  According to Merriam-Webster, it is “probably alteration of Middle English helde, from Old English hefeld; akin to Old Norse hafald heddle, Old English hebban to lift.”

About the U.S. Electoral College

The U.S. Electoral College is a conundrum to many people, whether or not they’re Americans.  What is it and why does the U.S. have it?  First, some background.

When the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 17, 1787, it didn’t automatically go into effect.  It first had to be ratified by the states.  It would be 3 years before the 13 states ratified the Constitution and, as this chart illustrates, not all states overwhelmingly supported its ratification.

State Date Votes for Votes against
Delaware December 7, 1787 30 0
Pennsylvania December 12, 1787 46 23
New Jersey December 18, 1787 38 0
Georgia January 2, 1788 26 0
Connecticut January 9, 1788 128 40
Massachusetts February 6, 1788 187 168
Maryland April 28, 1788 63 11
South Carolina May 23, 1788 149 73
New Hampshire June 21, 1788 57 47
Virginia June 25, 1788 89 79
New York July 26, 1788 30 27
North Carolina November 21, 1789 194 77
Rhode Island May 29, 1790 34 32

The debate over whether to ratify the constitution came to a head in Virginia and New York.  It coalesced around two opposing factions: people favoring a republic – that is, a democracy where people were best represented by elites – and those who sought a popular democracy – where all citizens (errr, i.e., free white male property owners) should have a equal voice in governance.

Could or should the “masses” (most of whom were uneducated yeoman) be entrusted with democratic tools?  Opposing the creation of a strong, centralized federal government, the Antifederalists thought they could.  The Federalists thought not and feared the instability of the democracy by the masses.

The Federalists won, in no small part by the arguments of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison crafted in a series of persuasive essays called the Federalist Papers (U.S. Library of Congress), wherein they argued for a strong, centralized republican government with controls on popular democracy.

One control on direct democracy was that U.S. Senators were not popularly elected; they were appointed by the state legislatures.  This changed in 1913 with the 17th Amendment.

Another control on popular democracy was an “intermediate body of electors” as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 68.  Why?

[So] that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”

The result?  The Electoral College was a compromise between electing presidents by a popular vote of citizens and electing the president by a vote of elite representatives (i.e., Congress).

I’ve read Federalist Paper No. 68 many times.  Trump certainly is “not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications” and has displayed – boasted of! – his “[t]alents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity.”  Nonetheless, when the Electoral College met last month, Donald Trump received 304 votes and, though she won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes Hillary Clinton received 227 votes from the Electoral College.

I suggest that in casting votes for Trump, the Electoral College blatantly failed to fulfill its role.  According to the U.S. Library of Congress, there have been 700 attempts to reform or abolish the Electoral College in the last 200 years.  The Electoral College is way past its expiration date.



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Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I have been mulling over closing over this blog and starting one on U.S. politics and public policy (reasons therefor explained in my last post).  I decided not to.  Here’s why.

I follow some very good fiber-related blogs written by people who are religious.  Most (sometimes all) of their posts include something religious.  As a person who is most definitely non-religious, I just skip over those parts.  Other fiber-related posts I follow are written by people who regularly talk about their children or pets.  I’m more interested in reading how they solved a tricky problem in designing a sweater than reading about how cute their child or pet looked in that sweater, so, as I have a lot to read, I skip the those parts too.

So I decided to keep sweatyknitter.com but will include links to U.S. political or policy information that I think may be of interest to those who appreciate political information from an empirical and rational basis.  If a reader isn’t interested, s/he can just skip over that part.  Voila!

First such post:  With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office (source: Moyers & Company’s “Morning Reads,” 1/3/2017).   According to CNN:

“House Republicans voted 119-74 during a closed-door meeting in favor of Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s proposal, which would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those very lawmakers, a move that outraged Democrats and outside ethics organizations. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote on it as part of a larger rules package up for consideration Tuesday.”

What is the Office of Congressional Ethics?  Its website explains:

“Established March 11, 2008, by House Resolution 895, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is the first ever independent body overseeing the ethics of the House of Representatives. The OCE was formed after members of a congressional task force proposed an independent entity in the U.S. House to increase accountability and transparency. The OCE’s mission is to assist the U.S. House in upholding high ethical standards with an eye toward increasing transparency and providing information to the public. The OCE reviews allegations of misconduct against House Members, officers, and staff and, when appropriate, refers investigations to the House Ethics Committee for further review.”

Any U.S. representative supporting such a move should be ashamed – and shamed!  This morning I wrote my U.S. Representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler.  If holding our representatives to high ethical standards is important to you, I urge you write your representative immediately.  (Click here to find your representative.  You’ll be able to email your representative directly from that site.)


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Kakistocracy* on the Horizon

* Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. (Origin:  Greek kakistos: worst, superlative of kakos, bad; kratia: power, rule.)

I started the Sweaty Knitter blog in 2012 and have enjoyed researching and writing fiber arts/crafts posts that I hoped were engaging, informative and educational.  Since the recent U.S. presidential election (November 8), however, I have lost my interest in sustaining a blog on fiber, arts and craft.  Don’t worry; this is my first and last post of a political nature on this blog site.

As a former professor with a doctorate in political science (U.S.), I endeavor to stay current with politics, policy and economics – daily listening to PBS’s Nightly Business Report and NewsHour and reading an array of reputable news sources, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and Mother Jones.  I value the economic and political insights of knowledgeable experts and columnists such as Robert Reich, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, Mark Shields and Noam Chomsky.  (In fact, Chomsky’s “Requiem for the American Dream” and Reich’s “Inequality for All” are two films I believe every American should view.)

On the morning after the election, after only a few hours of fitful sleep I stared at the ceiling stunned that a candidate without political experience, with scant political and/or policy knowledge, openly hateful and discriminatory (not to mention predatory) who mocks the scientific community’s warnings on climate change, will be sworn in as the 45th president of the U.S. next month.

I understand why many people voted for a candidate they saw as having no political baggage or history: They were tired of, among other things, “politics as usual;” of seeing a once attainable (or at least hoped for) standard of living (depending on race, sex and ethnicity, of course), slipping away; of feeling they have no say in political decisions; of politicians making decisions that benefited the wealthy (especially the extremely wealthy) – to the disadvantage of every other socio-economic class.  They didn’t like or trust Hillary Clinton for various political or personal reasons, real or imagined.

What is difficult to fathom, however, is why these people swallowed Donald Trump’s ludicrous campaign promises and tolerated his open hate speech and insults.  How the same people who claimed they didn’t trust Hillary Clinton were willing to trust Donald Trump.  Skipping over his failed business ventures and his status as a complete political neophyte, Donald Trump is unlikely to be their savior if only because he is a vacuous, a filter-free, narcissistic showman.  I assume his supporters expect him to fulfill his campaign promises (including his oft-repeated promise that if elected, Donald Trump would then release his tax returns).  When he doesn’t, what will they do?

I expect this unabashed plutocrat will cause more failures than solutions.

I shudder and my eyes tear every time I think the of the world, with Trump at the helm of the U.S. government and the posse of mean-spirited Republicans currently dominating Congress, my grandchildren could inherit:  Revitalized institutionalized sexism, racism, religious discrimination and nativism; health care affordable only by the wealthy; clean air and water for nobody; corporate giveaways extraordinaire for business; a tax code benefiting a minority of citizens.

This morning I read Charles Blow’s column in today’s The New York TimesHe argued that “resistance isn’t only principled, but essential and even existential.”  Blow captured my feelings with these words:

“We are not in an ordinary postelection period of national unity and rapprochement.  We are facing the potential abrogation of fundamental American ideals.  We stand at the precipice, staring into an abyss that grows darker by the day.”

People who share my concerns face two options:  Either ignore all things political, social and economic and float along hoping things will work out somehow until the embrace of death, OR become more politically, economically and socially aware, involved and active.

The first option is morally and ethically repugnant to me.  As I decide how I can be actively involved for positive change, you will understand if my fiber-related posts to Sweatyknitter.com become sporadic (and no, I won’t post any more posts of a political nature to this blog).

I, of course, am still weaving and knitting, but my thoughts are preoccupied with my grandchildren’s future.

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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?

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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?





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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!


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