Well, soon, at least…
Instead of typing up the summaries of the talks at the homeschooling conference, I have been obsessing about looms. Yep, as in “weaving fabric” type of stuff, not just the little squares with the pegs around the edges. (“What’s wrong with the plastic thing the kids were using to make blankets for stuffed animals?” asked DH. “Do you really want a list?” I asked. Since that tack failed, he tried, “But don’t you have enough hobbies?”)
There are some remarkable blogs out there about backstrap weaving, complete with drop-dead gorgeous geometric and animal designs. There are tons of weaving sites out there, which is probably where I’ll be spending a lot of time, since the local class for weaving is $115 and a half hour or more’s drive away and I just got warned off the “personalities” in the local weaving guild. *sigh*
Anyone in SE Virginia want to start a G.K. Chesterton/hand weaving/hand spinning club?
In any case, after deciding against a (cheaper) rigid heddle loom, I set my heart on a four-shaft loom, preferably one that can be expanded to 8-shaft. That means you can thread up each shaft so that it lifts different threads in the warp, creating different patterns. Of course, typical me, that meant that the less-expensive looms just got eliminated, and the more versatile looms cost at least three times what the heddle looms do.
Until I found one on Craig’s List. And she accepted my offer (which was $50 under what she was asking, which was already less than half what it would’ve cost new). I am so excited!
The only hitch is that she sent an e-mail to say she has a project on it, so she has to finish the project first. Then I can have it!
So, not having my hands on the new toy just yet, I decided to pull out an old toy: a wooden drop spindle, bought on a whim at the local (and fairly small) heritage arts festival. Unspun wool roving, fiber animals (sheep and alpacas, mostly), looms, beekeeping, herding dog trials… it is a good time, at least in my strange, strange assessment of “good time.” Mead would improve it (and I think it would be totally in character with the feel of the event), but I don’t think that’s going to happen, since it’s held at a city park.
A drop spindle, in its several variations, is basically a straight stick with a hook at one end and a large, somewhat heavy disk. This is how spinning happened for most of history; spinning wheels were not invented until sometime after 1100 (Wikipedia’s article says that there are illustrations of spinning wheels beginning in the 1200’s in Baghdad, China, and Europe, indicating the spread of the idea, at least, if not necessarily its wide-spread use, yet.).
It isn’t exactly a fast way to make yarn, but it has several main advantages:
- the tools couldn’t be much cheaper
- it’s totally portable
A book I read about a remote Andean village described how all of the women, starting as fairly young girls, always carried their spindle and roving (the carded fibers for spinning) with them. Everywhere they walked, they’d be kicking the spindle to keep it spinning, while talking with their friends, and feeding the fibers into the twist. When the yarn gets too long, you unwrap it from the hook, wind it around the spindle, resecure it at the hook, and keep spinning.
I’m sure any child in that town could make better yarn than mine. I’ve seen photos of drop spindle yarn that is incredibly fine and even. The stuff I made has what could euphemistically be called character. But it also came out a bit better than expected, for a first try.
(Thanks and blame goes to Jen at Sarah Winchester of the Fiber Arts, both for buying a new spinning wheel (which got me thinking about the long-desired loom) and for posting links to YouTube videos on spindle spinning. Geez, Jen, first you get me and the DH into wine, then your husband finally gets me to like beer, now this… you are a bad influence, classmate!)