22 January 2013

Unveiling the New Venture

I mentioned a new venture a little while back … some new equipment I acquired with an eye towards using it as a means of generating some revenue.

Curious what this equipment is? I bet some of you have guessed … it’s not much of a stretch, given my passion for all things fibre.

Allow me to introduce you to Mira, a four shaft counterbalance LeClerc loom. I found her on Kijiji: her previous owner had done some rug weaving a long time ago, but the loom was unused and needed a good scrub down, some new bolts and strings, and a new home. All of that I can provide!

A thorough washing with Murphy’s oil soap got the gunk off and a coat of lemon oil spruced up the wood the rest of the way. The strings in this picture have since been replaced with sturdier ropes (shoe laces, ribbon, and bias tape, actually) – I’ll order the proper strings from LeClerc at some point, but it’s working with what I have, and budgetary constraints are what they are.

The next step was to get it warped and threaded and do some test weaving. (Well, after moving it upstairs – I did the cleaning in the living room on New Year’s Eve, but the loom was up in the fibre loft by just after midnight.) LeClerc has excellent documentation on their website, so I was able to figure out how to get a couple of sample warps put on and some fabric woven … the fabric isn’t really useable for anything, it’s too thick to be used as a scarf or anything else I can think of … maybe a cat scratch pad?

Useable or not, it’s a great way to find out what the loom can do – different treadling patterns, different tie ups … and I am weaving with thrift store yarns so I don’t feel bad about ‘wasting fibre’. I can weave a lot of test fabric for the price of a class … this is weaving home school!

After a couple of skinny test warps, I got a wider warp put on and started weaving ‘for real’. The loom has a sectional warp beam, which means I can wind on the warp for two inches of width at a time. This is awesome, because I really hate dealing with the long chains of warp … I always get it tangled and make a mess. And I lose count when I’m winding. (If you aren’t a weaver, the translation of all this is “sectional warp beams are cool because they are much less hassle than the alternative methods”). (Also, the fact that the loom came with a sectional warp beam should have made it a lot more expensive than it was … the add-on price for the sectional beam alone is almost what I paid for the whole loom!)

There was one minor problem: I don’t have a tension box or a spool rack (translation: “the extra pieces you need to use a sectional warp beam effectively”). I also don’t have the $300 it would cost to acquire a tension box and a proper spool rack, so I looked at a lot of pictures online and pondered. Eventually, with the help of the Reluctant Farmer, we got something rigged up that works reasonably well: the finished contraption involves a picture frame filled with pegboard, some skinny boards with holes drilled in them at intervals, several knitting needles, duct tape bobbins, a very small rigid heddle and a c-clamp. Yeah, it’s pretty redneck, but hey, I can get a warp wound on with minimal hassle and pretty decent tension, and I didn’t have to buy anything!

I beamed a wider warp a few days ago using the new contraption and today I threaded and sleyed the loom (translation: “I did the first part of getting the loom ready a few days ago, and today I did all the fiddly stuff”). Once that was done, things went fast: two tea towels got woven today!

There are several treadling errors and a tie up mistake, but it’s something close to a broken twill, and the end result is, indeed, two functional pieces of fabric. Odd patterning doesn’t affect the ability of cotton cloth to dry dishes, after all.

The next test will be done in wool: probably a saddle blanket sized piece, as I know some horses who will wear a saddle blanket even if it has some mistakes in it, and I need to make a large piece of fabric in order to test how much the wool shrinks during fulling and how thick the finished fabric is. (More translation: fulling is when you take woven or knitted fabric and shrink it on purpose … if you have a wool coat, chances are it’s been fulled.)

I need to test how much the fabric shrinks during fulling because I intend to make this:

It’s a coat modeled on the Hudson’s Bay Blanket coats: fringed at the shoulders (to help shed water and add warmth), buttoned along the front overlap, with a big hood and some coloured stripes on the sleeves and hem.

In fact, I intend to make many of them. And sell them.

The prototype should be ready in a few weeks … once I get the saddle blanket done and tested, I’ll be ready to warp up the loom for the first coat. Once I have the prototype woven, I’ll be able to figure out costs and a retail price.

I’m excited about this. Weaving goes amazingly fast (compared to knitting) and it’s great to feel truly productive.

So, anybody want a coat? :)

1 comment:

  1. That will be beautiful! Even your towels are beautiful, mistakes or not. I can't see them. And thanks for all the translations!


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