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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Power and Art

Edward Scissorhands, eat your heart out. 

I have been spinning for almost 14 years; combing my own wool for at least 7. It wasn’t until last week, though, that I tried using English combs. 

An explanation might be helpful here. Wool combs aren’t anything like hair combs, though the principles are similar. Imagine a handle with sleek, sharp spikes sticking up at a 90 degree angle. Now imagine five rows of said spikes, longer and spikier than anything you’ve ever seen, and those are English combs.

I’d never tried English combs before. I’d always used 2-pitch combs (a pitch is a row of spikes) and thought they were fine. The 2-pitchers always cleaned my wool and left it soft with all the fibers parallel. That’s a good thing. I didn’t know what I was missing. Last week I borrowed a set of English combs from my guild … And loved them so much I immediately rushed out and purchased my own set. 

Now for the unveiling. 


I won’t bore you with the details of how to comb. There are plenty of videos on YouTube. Suffice it to say, these deadly critters turn this

 Into this: 

Those little nests of fiber are a joy to spin. And the work goes a whole lot quicker than with my old 2-pitch combs. 

The combs are wicked scary. Don’t even think of taking English combs on an airplane. The TSA will come to your house and arrest you. St. Kilda, the patron saint of wool combers, was tortured to death with her own combs. If you were an English wool comber, though, and had to make your living combing your way through mounds of fleeces, you would want mega-spikes, too. 

It feels odd to own such lethal items. I’m a nice person. I won’t let my husband own a gun. It probably took me 7 years to even try these things out because they were too incongruous with my self-image as a nice person.

Power isn’t nice. It isn’t hostile, either. Power just is, with no deference and no apologies. Powerful art also makes no apologies.

It’s something to think about. 

Weaving Again

It takes forever to get a loom set up – or at least, that’s what it feels like to me.

I have a new loom now. It’s nothing fancy, just a 15 inch Cricket rigid heddle. Rigid heddle looms are small, portable looms, built for sampling and travel.

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My first warping effort was a disaster. I didn’t take the time to be sure that the warp was even and stayed even. I tried weaving anyway, and figured out that rigid heddle weaving is relaxing and fun – when the warp behaves itself. Because I hadn’t taken the time and care to warp properly, my warp was increasingly mis-behaving.

I bit the bullet and re-warped. Now it’s copacetic.

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Ignore the mess on the dining room table, please!

I’m also finally weaving on my large loom. ¬†First I had to wind the long, long, long warp – the longest warp I’ve ever done. I took care in winding the warp, so it actually went on fairly easily. Then I had to thread the heddles. (I love the obscurity of weaving language. It’s like a secret handshake that only weavers know.) Once the heddles were threaded, the reed had to be sleyed. (Did I mention weavers have a secret language?) Finally, the treadles are connected, and it’s time to weave.

I’m using a new shuttle – a Bluster Bay end feed shuttle. Bluster Bay makes the Porsche of shuttles, and like a Porsche, it took some getting used to.

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This pic shows the yarn coming off the pirn (a/k/a bobbin – well, not really, but close enough). The yarn loops through the hooks. More hooks, more tension. Fewer hooks, less tension. Getting the tension right is critical, and took some getting used to.

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You can see from this picture that the selvedge is uneven in places. Where it shows dark blue (lower right), the tension was too high and the selvedge was scrunched together. Where you can see the white loops, the tension was too loose, and the weft sticks out on the side.

I’m getting the hang of it though!


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The weaving is going quickly. After the pick-up double weave, it’s amazing how quickly this weaving is going.

Happy Easter, everyone.