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Longer Warps on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Direct warping a  Rigid Heddle-RH can be tiring walking back and forth across a room for a long warp, not to mention keeping everyone out of the way.  Here's how to use a warping board to reduce the walking.

My warping board is large since I also have a large floor loom.  It is a yard across and has 8 pegs on each side for a very long 14-yard warp.  An RH loom won't hold a warp that long, so you could use a smaller 1/2 yard warping board, these usually have enough pegs to do 6 or 8 yards.

I keep the loom and the warping board to my working edge.  This reduces the amount of reaching I need to do.  I've already had two rotator cuff surgeries, no need to aggravate my shoulders.

For direct warping the RH loom. both need to be clamped to a large table, I used 2 clamps for my warping board since it was so big.

The pegs that I flattened to the table are for making the cross on warp chains.  The crossing of the warp yarns keeps them in order while moving the chain from the warping board to the loom.  The heddle on the RH keeps the yarns in order so no need for crossing the yarns.

Since I'm doing a direct warping I started as always at the back of the loom tying on to the back bar.  Then I pull the loop through the first designated slot on the heddle.  Next, I pull the loop all the way across the table to the warping peg that is centered to the loom, that gives me 64 inches.   Then I crossed the warping board 2 more times for an additional 72 inches, next I went down one peg to turn around adding 4 more inches.  So 64+72+4=140 inches, almost 4 yards.

RH looms are designed to simplify the process.  Often one beam at the front replaces both the cloth and front beams, and at the back one replaces the warp and back beams, like on my Ashford. 

Standard table or floor looms and a few RH have the extra beams that you wind the warp and woven cloth onto.  Here are the front and cloth beams on my large loom.  The front and back beams that the yarn and cloth go over while weaving keep the level of your yarn constant.

On RH with only one beam the yarn starts higher at the back when the warp beam is wrapped, then the front beam gets higher as the cloth gets woven and wound on the front beam.  Check your RH because if it's like mine, one beam at each end, then you have a limit on the recommended amount of warp.  If you wind on too much, the thickness of the warp or the finished cloth reduces the shed size when the heddle is in the up position.

KNEES What happened?

I realize I have been slow to post this summer.  I have been busy with writing for two publications, lots of PT and coming to terms with a new knee.  I'll first post a recent photo of some dyeing I did in August to show that I'm on my way back to full dyeing, spinning, and weaving.

Just last November, Rich and I were hiking in NZ for a lovely three weeks and danced at a cousin's wedding at the end of December.  Earlier in December, I slipped multiple times halfway up the muddy hill in my backyard. By January I .  realized I couldn't do a long draw or move the weaving shuttle to the right, at a visit to my Doctor I learned that I had torn my right rotator cuff and bicep.  I opted for a February surgery so I would be healed enough to teach three days in May at Maryland Sheep and Wool.  In March, my right knee developed a deep ache that wasn't helped by PT.  I wore a heavy brace for preparation and teaching alternating with elevation and an elastic brace.  MDSW was very tiring so I made good use of my screened porch when it was over. 


An MRI late May showed Osteonecrosis of the knee.  This wasn't arthritis, my right femur was dying.  There was no clear answer to why, but this put me in the fast lane for a partial knee replacement at the end of June.  Two surgeries in less than six months were very discouraging and left me wondering what had happened.  Here, I'm using an ice machine to keep my knee cool after surgery.

If I had a typical desk job I might have returned to work.  But, the doctor encouraged me to cancel my fall workshops to give me ample time for full recuperation.  Knowing how often I end up going upstairs and downstairs plus the standing required for preparing, packing, teaching, and unpacking my classes, I reluctantly agreed.  Add to that the travel and the walking once I'm on location and I couldn't see any other choice.  I also wanted to be fair to my events and guilds so they could have ample time to make the changes. 

I remember in 2003, I managed to travel and teach while in a wheelchair with my broken ankle, but I was 15 years younger, and now know how physically exhausting those workshops were, before, during, and after.

You've read this far and I still haven't said how I'm doing.  In many ways I'm making progress, I can drive now.  I'm still doing PT but now we're getting to the hard parts. 
My swollen knee is still painful. Sleeping is more challenging. 

I have been trying to walk in our local park, 3 non-PT days a week.  Rich has been ready to walk with me anytime I'm ready. The last time I walked the whole mile by myself, without holding on.  My area of Maryland is a very hilly place and I happen to live halfway down a very steep road, which I still can't walk up or down so we drive to the park, which is gorgeous with a gentle hill down and up for practice.  Here I am smiling after my first mile.

Also, I can't do stairs like before, my fastest way to go up is like a cat on hands and feet, while backward is the fastest way to go down.  Neither way is good for carrying anything.

I know I have a couple of e-spinning wheels, but I still wanted to work on my original traditional Ashford, my first love.  It has double treadle now, and I can spin for about an hour straight.  My new knee is achy when I sit properly with my legs down.  Standing still quickly gets tiring, Lutheran communion liturgy is about my limit right now.  

My son and his wife hired a nanny for the twins so I could focus on my PT, healing, and writing.  I think the article in NZ Ashford's Wheel about spinning and rigid heddle weaving with crepe and cable handspun will be published first.  Then you'll have to wait a bit for my next PLY article.  I can't say any more at this time but I'm pleased with both.

I have begun to accept teaching contracts for 2019, so I hope to see many of you at an event next year.  Thank you for all your well wishes, thoughts, and prayers.  They were and are always appreciated.  I know many of my students have traveled this journey with new knees and I have a new appreciation for what they have been through.

Just the Flax, please!

I love PLY Magazine for their new perspectives and added dimensions.  PLY showcases multiple points of view and many issues are dedicated to single topics. Beautiful to read and to hold, all most all of the photos are staged and taken by PLY's own photographer, Bernadette Emerson.

In the Spring Flax 2018 issue, I was fortunate to author two articles and an opinion on the Hot Button question. Twist on Flax and Finishing Flax hold several of my tips for working with flax fibers.

Other writers filled in the starting and drafting articles.  Here is what I would add. I'm a firm believer in spinning from long line strick for the finest flax/linen yarns. I help the student recognize how helpful the distaff is.  It becomes your helping hand, your backhand to hold the fibers. This frees your usual backhand to for new tasks. The first task for the back-hand is holding the twist out of the fibers out of while the forward hand dips into the water pot for wet-spinning.  The second task is traffic controller, managing unruly fibers only when needed.

In this video, you will see how my backhand replaces my front hand allowing me to wet my fingers then continue wet spinning my flax. The backhand just holds the twist so it doesn't move further into the fibers until the front hand has time to re-wet.

I always keep my fibers under control and draft the fibers as they move straight down from the distaff.  My favorite style of dressing the distaff is the ponytail.

A distaff can be created many ways, it is a truly utilitarian tool.  Sometimes it was only a peg on the wall near where the spinner sat.  Sometimes there was a hole in the chair seat that held the distaff beside the spinner.  Sometimes it is a stand-alone tall rack like a coat rack.  Many times it is attached to the wheel with a 3 piece arrangement that gives some adjustment to the placement.

Some of my students like drafting from the middle of the fibers and I recommend tieing both ends of the stick to make a loop.  Here you can see how the fork is used to hold the top of the tied fibers.  The loop also works very well if you have a short setup.

Attached fork
Flax loop

A variety of distaffs

Here are a few different stand-alone setups.  That you can try.  The base can be a Christmas tree stand, a dress form stand, a coat rack, or a music stand.  The uprights can be a dowel or even a handle from a broom or "swifer" style cleaning tool. I class I often use a plastic fork taped or rubber banded to the top.

The far right is a lovely oak basket or birdcage distaff made ars ago by Rick Reeves.  If you have someone who can do some woodwork this is a lovely style to try and copy.  Start with a small stool, drill so you can attach a long pole.  The basket is bent reed.

Since I prefer to draft from the end of a ponytail, I use it without the basket.

If you have a Traditional Ashford wheel and your backhand is your right, here are photos of how my holder was shortened so that I could attach it to the wheel upright.

The full setup with a paddle distaff
Shortened clamp 
Clamped to the upright

The original clamp was longer and made to fit on the front leg and hold the distaff to the left of the spinner.