Ask Nancy: Special Edition Part 3 – Odds & Ends

The final post of our Special Edition of Ask Nancy is here!

Previous Posts in this Series:

Part 1 – Tension

Part 2 – Abrasion


So to wrap up, we’ll collect all the small bits that didn’t fit neatly into tension and abrasion in this story of the destruction of soft warp yarns, and with luck, we will have put more successful weavers into the world to spread joy wherever they go!

In planning a project (in this instance the nice soft scarf we have been talking about), you have to choose nice soft yarns for the warp as well as the weft; the warp is half the project.  If your warp is bulletproof, a soft weft will shift the average perceived softness somewhat, but the scarf will never be as nice as it could be if you don’t start with a soft warp.  Look for example at any soft commercially woven scarf; look closely, drag out the pick glass and look REALLY closely; that is some fine yarn.  Pull out that old Pendleton plaid shirt in the closet and look at that, too; odds are, the size of that yarn is 2/18 or 2/20 wool.  If you have any of that yarn in your stash, pull it out and do a break-strength test on that.  These fabrics I’m using as examples are all machine-woven; go look up a YouTube video of machine weaving in a mill, and tell me that you can’t weave more carefully and gently than that as a handweaver; it is well within your capabilities to do any of these things.

Let’s go back and talk about handspun yarn for a moment; we did a yarn exchange in our guild some years ago; 16 spinners signed up and spun a pound of yarn that they then wound into little one-ounce balls, and we did a grand swap-around and everyone had the same 16 ounces of varied yarns to work with… now go do something with that, and bring it back to the group.  I warped my loom in stripes, one stripe for each of those ounces.  I had a few misgivings, but I was committed to my concept, and kept on.  Some of the spinners who had signed up were fairly new, and some of the spinners, while not new, were fairly indifferent in terms of skill level; some of that yarn was pretty funky.  No one knew going in that their yarns would be used as warp, and so no one put in extra twist for strength.  I warped up the loom, chose a skinny black commercial yarn out of the stash to unite it all as weft, and wove.  And not a single warp end broke.  Not ONE.  I took it off the loom, wet-finished it, cut it in half and sewed it into a shrug, and it is in use to this day, soft and light and warm as toast.  Handspun, and some funky handspun at that, as warp.  And no breakage.

This brings up how you beat, as well, and the role of the reed in careful weaving and protection of warp yarns.  While the verb is “to beat,” in fact the action is “to nudge,” especially weaving with soft yarns.  If you want a soft scarf, don’t beat it like a rug.  If you need a balanced plain weave, you need the same number of weft picks per inch as there are warp ends; USE RESTRAINT in beating.

While knitters knit with finished yarns (washed, fluffy, and bloomed), weavers work with UNfinished yarns; we want the yarn to stay nice and compact, and so more protected from abrasion in the reed.  We want the fulling to take place in the piece when it comes off the loom, not before.  For this reason, if you have a yearning for Superwash, sample first; the piece will not change as much in wet-finishing, and you may need to adjust some of your variables.

Do you want to use singles yarns?  Singles are certainly more efficient to use; producing them takes just 1/3 of the time and energy as spinning a 2-ply yarn, and 1/4 of the effort of a 3-ply yarn.  And guess what, it still works as warp.  You will need to do something to tame the twist, or you’ll have a snarly mess that will make things impossible; but steam-setting under tension is the way the commercial yarn producers make non-kinky singles behave themselves; you can do that too; and we’ll go into that at another time.  The thing to remember is, singles work fine as warp.  I had a project go to the state fair one year and come home with a blue ribbon that was a handspun singles warp and weft; I didn’t break a thing in weaving it, either.

Never believe what other people tell you when they say something won’t work.  Sample it, and learn the lesson yourself, and see WHY it won’t work, and analyze what it will take to make it work.  Maybe those people are full of it; maybe they are just repeating folklore.  Study, learn your craft, stretch, grow.  I’ll write more; and if you have questions, ask.

Ask Nancy: Special Edition Part 2 – Abrasion

Our favorite weaving teacher, Nancy, has been dropping some important knowledge on Facebook. We are sharing the info here too so that it will be more permanent and searchable.

Previous Posts in this Series:

Part 1 – Tension

Ask Nancy

Last time we talked about tension, but just in what you could expect in a given yarn, and not overall as it pertains to a warp on the loom.  So before we leave that topic… NO BANJOS.  

I love banjo music, let me say that first; but cranking up the tension on your warp to the point where you can play a tune on it is unnecessary, wasteful, hard on the equipment and the warp, and ultimately just tragic.  The amount of tension needed is just enough for error-free weaving, so that when you throw (or pass) the shuttle, there should be no slackers standing up from the bottom layer, nor drooping down from the top layer, to catch an unwary shuttle and cause you to weave a skip.  Just that; you don’t need extreme tension, and on a soft warp, you can’t have it, or things will snap.  You just need even tension.

And so on to abrasion.  The first thing is abrasion in the reed, so you have to size the reed to the yarn.  If you have for example a soft yarn at about 24 WPI (wraps per inch), a logical place to start in determining sett will be 12 EPI (ends per inch).  That makes sense, so let’s start the first trial balloon at 12, which logic will tell us is very convenient for our 12-dent reed.  First though, take a piece of that yarn and run it back & forth through a dent in that reed 30 or 40 times, to simulate the abrasion it will be enduring as you weave.  If it abrades significantly, that’s a poor reed choice.  It might be a great warp sett though, and just exactly what you want; so reach for the 6-dent reed instead, and sley the reed at 2 per dent.  Magic; you have cut the abrasion in half, and have a much better chance of a successful outcome.

The next abrasion hot spot is the selvedges, and many weavers come to grief there because of excessive draw-in.  There will always be some draw in, but if it’s not excessive, it will work.  The next time you are at the loom in front of your project, pull the beater back toward the fell of the cloth slowly, and observe what is happening to the outer couple of warp ends.  There is LOTS of abrasion there, and the selvedge threads are at a terrific angle and stretched, rather than nicely perpendicular as the rest of the warp is; that’s draw-in, and it happens because the distance from the right side of your warp to the left side is, in our hypothetical 10” scarf, 10 inches.  However, the distance that the weft has to travel is considerably more than 10” because of the over and under wave nature of the path.  To counter that, you have to leave sufficient weft in the shed to account for that increased distance.  This is why we “bubble” our weft, or leave a steep angle before beating.  Anything more than about 1/2” of draw-in on each side is excessive, and you need to change some habits, or you will always be plagued by broken selvedges.

And this brings us to the last of the abrasion plague spots, and that is the habit of not stopping to advance the warp frequently.  If you have woven 3 or 4 inches without advancing, bring the beater toward the fell slowly and observe those same selvedge threads; yikes, that is an awful angle, and a lot of stretch and abrasion going on out there.  The closer the fell approaches to the beater, the riskier it is on the poor selvedges; stop and advance your warp every couple of inches, and you will be a better weaver.

Next up, we will have part 3 of our little series, where we clean up miscellaneous odds and ends of putting to rest some of the fallacies wandering around out there that concern warp yarns, and what will, or won’t work; what breaks warp yarns and what preserves them.

The Woolery Has a New Look!

New Woolery Website

It’s here! Our new website is live and ready for shopping! We’re so excited to share this brand new site with you. We have been working hard to make it even easier to shop with us!

Category Navigation Bar

Our new top navigation bar gives you an easy way to jump to all of our different categories. This is a great way to jump right to what you’re looking for if you know exactly where you want to be!

Screen Shot 2019-03-04 at 12.29.37 PM

Once you’re in a bigger category you’ll see smaller subcategories that you can lick on to see more specific products. We think these picture window buttons are a lot easier to navigate than our old website.

Weaving Loom Category

This might be our favorite new feature, you can now filter by Brand or Price! When you’re in a category just use the left navigation bar to set up your filter parameters.

Churro Wool Rug Yarn

It’s now easier than ever to shop for yarn or fiber. You can now see swatches of all of the different colors right on the product page. If click on them the swatch will get larger.

Log In Page

If you had an account on our old website you can use it on the new website! When you go to log in you will be prompted to create a new password, but it is completely okay to make it the same password you had on the old website. If you did not have an account on the old website then you can create a new account.

Ask Nancy: Special Edition Part 1 – Tension

We have a special series of Ask Nancy installments for you! Nancy has been sharing some valuable information on Facebook so we’re sharing it here as well where they will have more permanency and be more searchable to the internet at large.

Ask Nancy

I’m seeing a lot of misinformation out there lately about the suitability of certain yarns, particularly handspun yarns and singles, for use as warp yarns; and I wanted to take the opportunity to address some of these concerns for the benefit of the larger weaving community (mainly neophytes who use Facebook’s Hive Mind as their primary source).

First let me present you with my bona fides; I teach weaving and spinning here at the Woolery in Frankfort, Kentucky, and have for 10 years now. Before that, I taught privately for a number of years. I have attended many conferences and Convergences, and have studied at the feet of some of our brightest lights. I turn out a lot of successful weavers from my classes, and I do know, and do wear, what I am talking about.

So let’s start at the beginning, and address the two biggest causes of warp yarn failures, tension and abrasion; we’ll start with tension.

Take any yarn and subject it to a break-strength test: hold it between your hands and pull until it breaks. Very likely, if it is a commercially spun knitting yarn (let’s pick for example Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport Weight), it will break fairly easily. What’s the real break strength? Tie a small barbell to it, and see what it takes to break it; I’m guessing under 2 pounds (just a ballpark). Please note that I have never done this: I don’t need to and this is just an academic exercise. But the point is, it breaks. Easily. Now, imagine an 10” wide scarf, and a warp sett of 10 EPI, that’s 100 warp threads. And if my warp on my loom is tensioned to about 10 pounds (not unreasonable), then each of those 100 warp ends is only responsible for 1/10 of one pound, just under 2 ounces. Go ahead, tie 2 ounces of weight to that piece of potential warp yarn, and see if it breaks; I’ll wait for you. Hint for those who just want to read: it doesn’t break. Take 100 strands of that yarn and tie weights to it until it breaks; I guarantee that you can’t do it by hand, and it takes a LOT of weight. Is that yarn strong enough to be warp? Yes, it is. The point is, you cannot judge any yarn by breaking one strand between your hands.

For the record, that Brown Sheep yarn is what I use in my beginning 4-shaft weaving classes, and no student has ever broken a single warp end in class. In fact, when it comes time to teach them HOW to repair a broken warp end, I have to cut one with scissors to teach the lesson.

Next up, we will talk about abrasion.

Note: We had some comments on the blog from people trying to sell used equipment. While we encourage the buying/selling of used equipment, our blog is not the place for such transactions. Please use other available resources meant for this purpose such as Ravelry Warped Weavers Marketplace, eBay, or, Craiglist.

Crayon Color Connection

The Woolery's Crayon Color Connection

Color matching yarn over the internet can be difficult. Everyone’s screen is color balanced differently and has different backlighting settings. Not to mention the fact that, even if we were sitting next to each other in the same room, what I describe as “maroon” might be different than what you consider to be “maroon”. Remember the dress that broke the internet?

The dress

Some people saw it as blue with black lace and some people saw it as white with gold lace. Scientists and people of the internet determined that your brain makes certain assumptions about color based off the type of lighting you assume is present. This drawing illustrates this nicely:


What does all of this have to do with yarn? Like I said, color matching yarn over the internet can be extremely difficult. It’s hard to know the exact color of a yarn you’re buying without seeing it in person. We do our best to keep our photos color accurate but with screens, perception, etc, there is still room for confusion!

Bluegrass Mills Color Card

The absolute best way to avoid this is to purchase the color card of a yarn you are buying. That way you have a little sample of the actual yarn that you can carry around with you and look at in different lighting scenarios to make sure it’s the color you want! You can also color compare it with other yarns you have to make sure different colors are going to go well together in a project.

Color cards don’t always work though because maybe the yarn line you need doesn’t have a color card, or maybe you need the yarn faster than ordering a color card and then picking the right color and ordering the yarn separately. You could even just need one cone/skein of a particular yarn, so you don’t want to pay for a whole color card.

Pantone swatch book

Our next best suggestion is to use a Pantone swatch book and call one of our customer service representatives to help you match a yarn to the Pantone color you’ve picked out. Pantone makes sure their colors are printed consistently so this is a pretty surefire way to know we are talking about this same color!

We love Pantone and find it extremely useful around the shop, but we understand that if you’re just trying to color match one yarn or don’t think you’d have a use for the books that they might be cost prohibitive to you. If this is the case, we still have a solution for you to have accurately color matched yarns… crayons!

Crayola crayon yarn matching

Crayons are not cost prohibitive, they’re easily found at most major retailers, and have a wide variety of colors. We have a 152 pack of Crayola crayons in the shop. You can pick up a box of Crayola crayons (it is important that you use Crayola brand so we match!), pick out the color that you are aiming to find yarn to match, and give us a call. We’ll pick out a yarn to match the crayon color you chose and we’ll all be on the same page about exactly what hue you’re going for. This solves concern about having different ideas about “maroon”, screen color balancing, and back lighting. So grab some crayons, give us a call and get the perfect color yarn you’ve been searching for!

Sampling and Sketching

Now that I have all the yarn picked out and ready to go for my tapestry wall hanging that I’m making for my grandmother, it’s time to plan how I’m going to weave that yarn up! Before I just slap the yarn on the loom I want to have a plan. It’s a big project and I don’t want to get going and decide I don’t like how it’s turning out.

Our own Weaver Nancy suggested that I make a sample (or as I called it in my knitter vernacular, swatch) so I could decide what I want my sett to be. So I grabbed a couple small tapestry looms and got to work! I wove one little sample (just about 2×2″) on a Made Kits Small Tapestry Weaving Loom. This is as 6 dent per inch handloom so this sample has 6 ends per inch warp. My second sample was done on a Purl & Loop Minute Weaver, which has 4 dents per inch. This means this second sample has a 4 ends per inch warp. I used the exact same yarns for these samples so I could tell how each of them looked with the different warp spacing. After these were done I pinned them up on my cubicle wall so I could consider them over a week or so and decide which one I liked best.

Tapestry Weaving Sample

As you can see these were just quick and dirty samples, I didn’t worry about securing my warp ends or making them pretty. The one on the left is the 6 ends per inch sample and the one on the right is the 4 ends per inch sample. After looking at these I decided that I liked the 4 ends per inch (the right one in the photo above better). My reasoning is that I’m using a lot of bulky yarn and even roving because I want lots of texture and I felt like the bulky yarn on the left sample got too strangled in the closer warp. With my end per inch determined, it was time to do something that scares both weavers and knitters: sketching!

Hear me out; you don’t have to be an amazing artist for sketching to be beneficial for your projects. Just the act of getting your ideas down on paper is very helpful for planning a project. For my sketch I wanted to determine my color placement, if I wanted to try and do a gradient style or if I wanted to have all of the colors randomly placed all over the place. So I drew up my 3 rectangles to represent my tapestries and did some coloring! I made my sketches on my iPad pro, but you don’t have to have fancy technology to do this, there’s no reason you can’t go to town with some colored pencils, markers, or crayons on your own!

Tapestry Weaving SketchTapestry Weaving Project Gradient Sketch

Based on this I decided to go with the top more random color placement option. I like the gradient a lot but I think it only works because I drew the color changes evenly and I’m not sure I have the right distribution of color in my yarn to make the changes evenly. I am also concerned about running out of a certain color and then having the 3rd tapestry I make look uneven and wrong. I’ll have a lot more options to just play and have fun going with the more random color placement choice.

Since I’ve planned my warp and my weft color placement, it’s time to actually warp up the loom! I’m going to be weaving on the 22″ Mirrix Zach Loom. I chose to use this loom because of it’s nice wide weaving with, and it has the ability for me to choose my sett by switching out the different warp coils. I am using the 8 dent coil and just skipping every other space to achieve 4 ends per inch. I didn’t really measure my warp length and just made it super long because I’m not sure how long I want these to be and I don’t really need to decide right now since I’m using the Mirrix Zach and can advance my warp. My warp yarn is Maysville 8/4 Cotton Rug Warp Yarn in Ivory.

Warped Mirrix Zach Loom

How exciting is it to have that nice fresh, shiny, and new warp all ready to go? My next steps are going to be twining and then actually getting going with weaving. I’m hoping to share some fun texture techniques with you like soumak, rya, bubbles and more, so keep watching this space!

Tapestry Weaving Adventure!

Hi everyone! This is Emily with The Woolery, I write this blog and our email newsletter so you hear from me a bit. I’m working on a personal project I want to detail on our blog.

This past winter break I went up to the Chicago suburbs to visit my family, including my grandma who just moved into a Memory Care Center. She has Alzheimer’s and my grandpa was no longer able to care for her on his own in their home. He lives in an independent living apartment in the same facility so he is still able to visit her everyday without even having to go outside. Her new home is very nice and welcoming but I felt like her bedroom doesn’t have enough personalized decoration. My mom said they aren’t allowed to have items that are hard like picture frames or paintings hanging over her bed because of the concern that they could get knocked off the wall onto the bed. I got the idea to weave up a wall hanging that would go with the colors of her room and be soft and okay to hang over the bed! I’m hoping to get this done in time for it to be her Mother’s Day present.

Grandma's bedspreadGrandma's painting

These pictures are my inspiration for my palette for this project. I want this wall hanging to fit in with my grandma’s existing decor so I’m using colors from her bedspread and a painting (that hangs on a different wall) to pull colors from. My first step was to go through my existing stash and see what I had.

Stash yarn for tapestry weaving project

All of this is yarn that I already owned and came from stash! A lot of it is my own handspun, the cream skeins to the left are actually my very first yarn spun on my Lendrum Original wheel. They are lumpy and not even, but that is going to be perfect texture for this tapestry! The two grey in the middle are also handspun from Romney that bought from The Woolery before I worked here. The grey/green skein to the left of those is also handspun, my first handspun skein spun on a cross-arm (Turkish spindle). The turquoise puffy balls at the top are new balls of Knit Picks Tuff Puff but everything else is scraps/leftovers from other projects. There are even some handspun leftovers. I like the palette this created but I wanted to add more crunchy texture, and felt like I needed a bit more green to match the palette I was going for so I did pick up some more new things from our shop.


I had so much fun running around the shop and putting yarn/fiber next to my existing pile of yarn to see how it added to my palette. The roving is Hand-dyed Blue Faced Leicester from Frabjous Fibers in Fiddleheads. Directly above that moving there are 2 skeins of Rug Yarn from Halcyon in 1480 and 1540. The other two skeins are Cestari Mt. Vernon Collection in Babies Breath and Willow. The cone is Harrisville Shetland Wool Yarn in Jade. I think these were the perfect additions to my stash pile to make the colors exactly what I want them to be.

Project yarn

I think this is a much more balanced palette. It’s also a LOT of yarn/fiber so I’m considering making it a tryptic piece, three thinner wall hangings instead of just one wide one. My next steps are to swatch to determine my ends per inch, sketching to see how I want to lay out the colors, and then warping my loom. I’ll be keeping you updated along the way so be sure to follow this blog or subscribe to our Woolery Newsletter if you want to keep up with my progress.

The Woolery Weave-Off Is Back!


It’s time for our second Woolery Weave-Off to kick off!

We’re having a Weave-Off to celebrate how well our Bluegrass Mills 6/2 Cotton Yarn has been received. Weave a dish towel with Bluegrass Mills to compete for prizes in four separate categories.  Here’s the thing though, you don’t get your towel back, because we’re donating them all to the local women’s shelter (Simon House, here in Frankfort Kentucky), because women in crisis need the special energy that handwoven textiles provide, too!


Woolery Weave-Off Prizes

Grand Prize Winners in each category will get Spectrum Packs of our BGM 6/2 — that’s 21, one-pound cones of yarn in a whole array of colors!

Second and Third Place Winners in each category will get $50 Woolery gift cards


You need to use our Bluegrass Mills 6/2 Cotton Yarn to weave your entry, so we’re offering 25% off the price of this yarn from January 15th – February 15th! 

*Please note offer excludes already discounted clearance colors.

Here’s the fine print – we ask that you read completely before deciding to enter:

The four divisions will be:

1) Beginners; those who have been weaving less than one year. Please use the honor system when determining your beginner status! 

2) Rigid heddle weavers (remember, 6/2 is great in plain weave at 15 or 16 EPI; you can do that on a rigid heddle loom!)

3) Color: here’s the chance to be outrageous; remember, you’ll never need to wear it.  Be bold and inventive, and knock our socks off!

4) Pattern: stretch yourself.  Do you have 4 extra shafts on your loom that have just been looking at you funny?  Use them, be brave and inventive; learn something and get out of your comfort zone!

Entries must be mailed to: 

The Woolery

c/o Katherine

859 East Main Street, Suite 1A

Frankfort, KY 40601

  • The minimum size for each towel is 15” x 24”, washed and hemmed. 
  • The towels must be WASHED and hemmed for consideration.
  • One entry per person – entries must also contain the Woolery Weave Off Entry form, which will be shipped with all orders of Bluegrass Mills Cotton and can be found on the Contest Info Page
  • Contest entries MUST be postmarked by April 15th, 2019, to be considered. Entries postmarked after that time will not be entered in the contest, and will not be returned. 
  • Entrants acknowledge they will not get their submissions back. In the event that we receive too many towels to donate to one place, sister residential shelters/organizations in nearby Lexington and Louisville will receive the ‘spillover’ . 
  • Winner agrees to have her/his towel and name used in photos and on social media platforms. 
  • You MUST use Bluegrass Mills cotton to weave your towel – All non-clearance colors will be 25% off through February 15th! You can only use Bluegrass Mills cotton, do not combine with other yarns.
  • Odds of winning change with number of entries received. 
  • Winners will be notified on or around April 22nd, 2019. Winner has 14 days to claim her/his prize.
  • Lists of winners and runners-up in each category will be available on our blog after May 15th, 2019. 
  • Contest is open to entrants aged 18 years and over.
  • Woolery employees and immediate family members are welcome to participate, but they are not eligible to win.
  • Woolery suppliers are welcome to participate, but they are not eligible to win. 
  • Entrant assumes the cost of shipping the towel.
  • Winner of prize assumes responsibility for all and any taxes/tariffs/duty fees incurred. 
  • No ghost weavers! Towels must be woven by the person entering the contest.
  • Dyeing the yarn is not allowed.
  • Please do not put any fringe on your towels.

Felix The Alpaca

We have a little heartwarming story to get you in the Christmas spirit today. The other day one of our Customer Service Specialists, Kelli, wasn’t having the best day ever. Dani, our Customer Service Manager, wanted to cheer Kelli up. Out of the goodness of her heart and creative spirit, Dani took a few minutes of her own time to needle felt Kelli a little surprise. Dani knew that Kelli has an alpaca named Felix so she took some cream wool and created an alpaca for her.

What she didn’t know was that Felix has little plastic pool that he loves to cool down in during the summer when it’s hot.  There is a little blue bowl that Anna, another Customer Service Specialist, had needle felted earlier that was hanging out under the cash register that would make the perfect pool. So of course, we stuck needle felted Felix in his needle felted pool.
At the end of a long day, we were able to recreate the summertime picture of Felix in his pool using some Weeks Dye Works Wool and the talents of our team. Kelli was sufficiently cheered up so we’re sharing this story and the photos with you to brighten your day as well!

Project Spotlight: Karen’s Pampa Loom Vest

pampaloom-2We’re starting something a little new, a project spotlight series! Every few weeks we’ll check in on the progress of a project and hear how things are going. The project we’ll be following first is Karen’s Pampa Loom vest!

Karen is our Order Fulfillment Specialist here at The Woolery and she is quite the accomplished fiber artist. She attended Berea College for ceramics and is generally a very awesome crafty person!  Karen is currently working with the Pampa Loom VESTO Kit, which is a unique kit that allows you to weave a garment. You get a front piece, back piece and sleeve loom. These looms can be sized to 5 different sizes to get a good fit. Then you just crochet up all the different pieces and you have a completed jacket or vest!


Karen has half of her vest warped up and has started weaving away. After warping the loom Karen highly recommends that you watch the videos that come as part of the kit before warping. She threw caution to the wind and went right for it but after watching the videos she felt like they definitely would have helped her if she had warped after seeing them.

The yarn she is using is her own handspun from a blend of Romney and Welsh.  She even made the blended rolags herself using hand carders, that’s a lot of carding for over 900 yards of 2 ply yarn! We’re super excited to see how this project grows in the upcoming weeks!