What to do at home over the holiday now that all the looms are down the hill? I decided to have another go at an Online Guild workshop from a couple of years ago. Sue Foulkes has written several articles and a couple of books on band weaving with a backstrap and rigid heddle, and her workshop notes are excellent and easy to follow. I had bought a small, lightweight rigid heddle when I was at Braids in August and was able to improvise the rest out of bits and pieces.
My recent study of bag straps turned out to be particularly pertinent. Not only was the hall table littered with assorted straps detached from holdalls — so that they were in a position to reveal their alter egos as perfect backstraps — but one of the three bar slidey pieces (technical term) I bought when I was constructing the recent messenger bag also makes a great warp tensioner. So laid out on the table from left to right we have:
- clamp attached to the table with the warp attached to the clamp
- one of several choke ties helping to keep the warp in order
- ‘lease sticks’ made from empty bobbins with a string running through to tie them together
- rigid heddle
- ‘warp tensioner’ or three bar slidey thing — the woven band runs under-over-under the three bars and then…
- … round the plastic bobbin and back under-over the first two of the bars. The rest of the woven band is simply draped over the weaver’s leg and pools on the floor (eventually).
- cord threaded through the bobbin has a loop tied in each end
- ‘backstrap’, aka holdall shoulder strap, is clipped to the loops
In action, of course, the warp is stretched out in the opposite direction away from the table and, in theory, the weaver gets to look out of the window when she is not painstakingly picking out the right pattern threads. More often she is looking through the warp at the floor and wishing she had picked out colours which contrasted more strongly with the floorboards!
I reckon I have made pretty good progress, although my selvedges are still atrocious. One modification can be seen below: I added a clip between the bobbin and the three bar slider for extra security. On its own I find the clip tends to pop open, but it’s a useful addition in this configuration. The trickiest part is keeping the tension even when advancing the warp. Because the warp is much more spread out in the heddle than it is in the warp-faced band, the outside ends are following a noticeably longer path than the inside ends. Once it’s set up it is fine, but I have to slacken the warp to advance it and then it is quite hard to get it all re-aligned. Practice, practice.
I’ve also done a bit of holiday knitting-in-front-of-the-telly. I have knitted half a dozen woolly hats to the same basic pattern, but haven’t felt the need to move on because there are so many variations to be tried with colours and yarns. The yarns I had to hand this time were rather fine so I doubled them. The charcoal is simply knitted from both ends of the same ball, but the red is actually a combination of two different colourways — one is more red and the other more orange/brown. They are both singles and give a nice diagonal finish to the sides of the hat. And I love the shading!
Of course, taking a picture of it on my own head proved to be a bit challenging… even with that swivelly option on the iPhone camera…