Category Archives: Advice and Help

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.

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!

PSA: Start Your Gift Crafting Now!

PSA: Start your gift crafting... NOW!

It’s time to start thinking about your holiday gift crafting plans! We know it’s July, the temperature has been pretty consistently in the 90’s here in Kentucky. Just about the last thing we want to think about is the holidays. Trust us though, if you start planning your handmade holiday gifts now, you’ll be a much more sane and happy person come December.

We aren’t saying you need to start knitting Christmas stockings immediately, but now would be an excellent time to sit down and plan what exactly you want to make this holiday season. To help you out we created a Christmas Gift Crafting Worksheet that you can download as a PDF to fill out and help you stay organized. Click here to get your worksheet!

Make a List (and check it twice!)

The planner has a spot for listing all of the gifts that you would make in a perfect world, and then all the gifts that you “must do,” because we know that we’d like to make all the things, but time doesn’t always allow for that.

There is also a spot to list all of the materials you need for each project. You can check off what is already in your stash and what you will need to buy in addition to stash.

Next we suggest listing all the projects you’re going to make and giving a good guesstimate of how long each one will take you. After you do this, go through and assign a goal date to finish each project by.

Then there is a little tracker where you can mark where you start each project and the date you finish by, to see how far of your time estimates were. Also to keep track and make sure you don’t fall behind!

We know you probably aren’t in the holiday mood yet, but give this worksheet a try if you’ve ever felt under the wire for gift crafting. Seeing all of your plans on paper might just motivate you to get a jump start, so on December 24th you can kick your feet up with a nice mug of hot cocoa instead of staying up all night trying to finish that last gift. The act of writing things down helps you remember things, so even if you don’t use and reference the worksheet throughout the rest of the year, it’s still a good exercise.

This has been your friendly PSA, you may go back to your regularly scheduled summer activities of swimming, beach visiting, and ice cream eating now.

Ask Nancy: Weaving Patterns

Ask NancyWe have a very topical Ask Nancy post this month if you’re thinking of participating in our Woolery Weave-Off!


I have just ordered a bunch of the Bluegrass Mills 6/2 Cotton Yarn to make dish towels. Do you know of any patterns using 6/2 weight yarn? The only patterns I have found are for 8/2. I’m not experienced enough to know if I can use an 8/2 pattern with 6/2 yarn. Any help would be appreciated.


The 6/2 yarn works up in a plain weave structure very nicely at 15 or 16 ends per inch (EPI), and in a 2/2 twill at 18 EPI, and a 1/3 twill at 20 EPI.

Patterns in a book like Dixon’s Handweaver’s Pattern Directory or in the Davison book, A Handweaver’s Pattern Book, don’t give you a size of yarn; they just give you a draft, which is usable in any size yarn as long as you use the appropriate sett for that yarn and that structure.  So for instance in plain weave, if you want to start out with 18” in the reed, you would wind a warp that is 18” X 15 EPI, or 270 ends.  If using 16 EPI as your sett, your calculations would be 18” X 16 EPI, or a warp of 288 ends.

If you are weaving any sort of 2/2 twill, you’ll need to consider the number of pattern ends in each motif, and adjust the number of total ends slightly to accommodate whole pattern repeats so you don’t cut a pattern off in the middle at the edge of your towel; that always looks odd!  But any pattern is just a draft, and any draft can be woven in any yarn, as long as you are willing to do the multiplication yourself.

As in anything woven, it’s always wise to make a sample first, and see how it looks and feels, and what your shrinkage rate will be.  Depending upon the weave structure you pick, your shrinkage might go from 10% on the low end (in a plain weave) to 30% on the high end (waffle weave shrinks like crazy).

I hope this helps!

Are You Ready for Spinzilla?

A monster of a spinning week returns this October 2-8, 2017, as spinners throughout the globe come together to see how much yarn they can spin! The Woolery is pleased to sponsor this fun-filled event, and today we want to share a few of our free guides to help you prepare for Spinzilla.

Routine Maintenance Check

You’re about to ask your spinning wheel(s) to do a LOT of work in not a lot of time! Make sure that they are up to the task by performing a little routine maintenance ahead of time. Click here to get our free guide to spinning wheel maintenance to ensure happy spinning in October! 

We also have a handy maintenance kit to make check-ups and repairs fast, easy and painless.

Prep Ahead of Time

Make more time for spinning by prepping fiber ahead of time! You may wish to create easy-spinning batts or predraft roving or top prior to the start of Spinzilla. It’s also wise to employ a little strategy when selecting which fibers you will be spinning, such as the easy-spinning corriedale found in our 2017 Spinzilla Fiber Pack. Our guide to fiber preparations is also good to keep on hand; click here to download a free PDF version of the infographic below!

Yes, You CAN Drop Spindle Your Way Through Spinzilla!

Whether you’re totally new to spinning, or just want to find a way to fit more spinning into Spinzilla week, our free guide to drop spindles will help you choose the best one for the task at hand!

Label it Now, Don’t Forget it Later

Print out plenty of our free handspun yarn labels so that you can label your handspun yarns as you go. It’s so easy to skip this step in the midst of so much spinning, but you will thank yourself later when you don’t have to do lots of sleuthing to determine the yardage or fiber content of that mystery skein!

Create Your Self-Care Routine

Over the years, we’ve heard a few stories of Spinzilla spinners overdoing it and injuring themselves in their pursuit of the Golden Niddy Noddy. Don’t let that happen to you – get our free guide to healthy hands so that you can create a self-care routine that works for you and is easy to follow!

Whether you’ll be spinning on a team or spinning rogue, we wish all of our fans a fun and fibery Spinzilla!

All the best,

Wave, Perri and the entire Woolery team