Category Archives: Ask Nancy

Ask Nancy is Back!

Ask NancyWe haven’t heard from our resident expert, Nancy Reid in a bit. We’re happy to report that Ask Nancy is back!

Got weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Nancy will answer all of your burning questions with her expert advice. In this edition, we look at how we label our yarn weights; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com 

 

 

 

Question: 

I’m a knitter and a crocheter and I feel like I’m in foreign territory because I’ve never done wraps per inch, and I don’t understand 10/2 etc. Is there a chart that explains the equivalents to say lace yarn, sock yarn, sport weight yarn, etc?

Answer:

In this case, I truly think it will be easier for you to learn the way we do it, rather than me translating; and I will explain why.

 

Going back to the Guild system in Middle-Ages Britain, each of the spinning guilds (flax, wool, silk) developed their own unique measuring system for the grist of their yarns, and those measures have persisted to this day.  So 10/2 cotton (for crochet, for example) does not equate in size to 10/2 wool (for fine knitting) or to 10/2 silk (a yarn usually used for weaving), or to 10/2 linen.  In all these yarns, the 10 is the gauge of the singles (for that fiber) and the /2 refers to the number of plies at that gauge.  These sizes run like wire sizes, in that the smaller the number, the bigger the wire; #10 is dryer wire and #22 is telephone wire, and #10 yarn is skinnier than #5 yarn.

 

So, each of these sizes is very precise; 8/2 cotton is 3360 yards per pound, period.  8/2 wool is 2240 yards/pound, period.  And because wool yarn is fluffier than cotton yarn, the diameters don’t match. either.  BUT: things are precise.  Worsted yarn, the way that the knitters talk about it, is a range of 900-1200 yards per pound; that’s a huge range, and lacks a lot of precision.  And since only the wool (and wool-ish, like wool blends and acrylic) yarns can be compared in the lace-fingering-sport-worsted-bulky system, the yards per pound system is the way that industry talks about them, and that system enables us to talk about all the yarns, made of all the fibers, in a common language.

 

Wraps per inch is a tool that some spinners, knitters, and weavers use to compare yarns; but it too lacks precision, and is just used for rough comparisons and is a starting place for sampling.
The standard knitting sizes are defined in the ranges of their yards per pound, and there is pretty good agreement there, though of course cotton, silk, and linen can’t be looked at with this yardstick.  Luckily, these fibers are not often knitted with, either!

 

Bulky is 600-800 yards per pound
Worsted is 900-1200 yds/#
Sport is 1200-1800 yds/#
Fingering (sock weight) is 1900-2400 yds/#
Lace is 2600+ yds/#

 

These equivalents should enable you to use the weights that we give on our wool (and alpaca) yarns to choose what you want to try to knit with.  For crochet purposes, when using cotton, #10 crochet cotton is 10/2; #5 crochet cotton is 5/2, #3 crochet cotton is 3/2.

 

Advertisements

Ask Nancy: Loom Choices

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

Q:

I have never used a loom before, but I would like to weave a blanket. Any advice on what loom to buy and what I will need to begin?

A:

The Schacht Flip, a rigid heddle loom.

The Schacht Flip, a rigid heddle loom.

Loom choice goes according to a couple of factors; size, capacity, and price being the top 3. First, you can’t weave any wider than the width of your loom, so there’s that. You can (more advanced technique) weave double-width on a loom with at least 4 harnesses, or you can weave in panels and sew them together.

Rigid heddle looms will handle at most about 4 1/2 yards of warp; but again, you can seam panels together. And then there’s cost: floor looms which will handle a full-width blanket without seams are thousands of dollars (seriously, minimum 4K for a wide one; again, seams are a possibility); but a small rigid heddle loom and a capacity to think modularly will bring the price down to $200-$300. And then there’s everything in between…you’ve asked a big question here!

And after those 3 considerations, there is the amount of space you have available….there’s the rabbit hole to fall in! Give us a call at 800-441-9665 and we can discuss this further; it’s a question with a lot of parts to it.

Q:

Louet David Floor Loom

Louet David Floor Loom

I am a new weaver (tapestry and rigid heddle) and I am thinking of moving onto a floor loom with a max. weaving width of 36″. I have been thinking of the Louet David, but the price is somewhat steep, plus it is a jack loom. I want to do both tapestry as well as other fiber art and the occasional rag rug on it, but I am not sure if a jack loom is suited for tapestry weaving.

I already have a couple of upright or frame tapestry looms, one of them being a 22″ Mirrix. The reason I want to go for a floor loom is to weave a wider width and to weave something more than tapestries. I looked at the Mighty Wolf but was told that the tension isn’t great on it. Another reason for wanting to do tapestry on a floor loom is to give my shoulders a break. Any suggestions?

A:

Come on over to the dark side… we have cookies!  Let’s talk first about what looms do what things best.

Tapestry Weaving by Claudia Chase of Mirrix Looms

Tapestry Weaving by Claudia Chase of Mirrix Looms

Tapestry is a very visual and painter-ly thing to do, and having it in front of your face is important; that’s why most tapestry looms are vertical or in an easel rather than horizontal; it’s easier to see what you are doing. This is not to say that you can’t do tapestry in a horizontal plane (a jack loom), but it does add to the degree of difficulty in seeing what you are doing accurately.

A good rug is one that lasts and wears well, and in order to do that, it needs to be woven under pretty high tension and with a very firm beat, and that implies a VERY sturdy loom with a lot of lumber and mass behind it; weaving rugs has destroyed less-sturdy looms. You can certainly weave a rug-shaped object on a less-sturdy loom, but it won’t last and wear well.

So what we have in your 2 stated desires are 2 wildly varying looms, neither one of which is the David, it not being either heavy enough or vertical. There is no inherent reason not to weave rugs on a (heavy) jack loom, and though a countermarche loom is optimal, it’s also very expensive. A heavy counterbalance loom is also a dandy rug loom though, and can be found used very reasonably.  If you only want to do an occasional rug, a lighter weight loom will do it without too much complaint, but it’s not highly recommended. And vertical tapestry looms really are better.

All that having been said, I think you need to look at a large studio space; you have wide-ranging interests!
Let us know if there’s anything else you need; there are less expensive ways to do a lot of things, and the David is one of the more-expensive options.

Serious tapestry weavers use the Gobelin from Leclerc, found here. If we’re dreaming, we might as well dream big! And honestly, there is nothing wrong with the Mighty Wolf unless you are married to the idea of a steady diet of rugs (I own one myself, and I’d never dream of being parted from it). If you can find a used Leclerc counterbalance (and they are out there, for $500-ish) to do your rugs, you can do everything else in your life except big tapestries on the Mighty Wolf, including fine linen towels. But ask around; you’ll find that I am not the only person with opinions!

How to weave seamless stripes, a free printable weaving tip from the Woolery.NEW! Free Printables from The Woolery

In our previous post, we shared a new section dedicated to sharing free projects for the Schacht Zoom loom (click here if you missed it!). Today, we want to introduce another new section where we’ll share even more tips, tricks & project ideas! In our Free Printables section, you will find downloadable PDFs featuring tips, tricks and project ideas for spinners and weavers. As this is new for 2017, we have just a few PDFs to share thus far; rest assured, we will be adding more as the year progresses, so stay tuned!

 

Ask Nancy: On Weaving & Baking

Ask NancyIt’s our final blog post of 2016 and we’re saving the best for last: on today’s post, Nancy sprinkles in a little baking knowledge while answering an interesting question from one of our customers.

Got weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

I’m looking to weave some soft tea towels from cotton yarn that will to wrap home baked loaves of bread – I would like the towels to be soft and also dense enough to keep the bread from getting too terribly stale. I’m not sure if this is possible, but I wondered if someone might be able to recommend a nice yarn that would work?? It might be a long shot, I’m not sure!

Nancy shares sage advice about weaving & baking on this week's post!

A:

One of the properties of cotton that makes it so wonderful for clothing is that it wicks moisture away from the (skin) surface, carrying it up to the outer surface of the cloth where it can evaporate and cool the body. That precise property of wicking moisture away will create staling very rapidly in a loaf of bread. While a cotton cloth is nice to keep steam from condensing on a fresh-baked hot loaf (unlike plastic, which traps the steam on the surface and causes sogginess), that same cotton cloth will facilitate the further transport of moisture quite well, and make a loaf stale up awfully quickly. For best keeping, allow a loaf to air-cool with good circulation until it reaches ambient temperature, then encase it in nice air-tight plastic. I used to bake professionally long ago…

To answer the non-food textile portion of your question, either 8/2 (found here) or 6/2 (found here) unmercerized cotton will produce the cloth you are looking for.  I set the 8/2 at 20 EPI in a plain weave and the 6/2 at 16 EPI in plain weave.

Including a handwoven tea towel with your home-baked bread is a lovely gift, and we’ve found a few free patterns for anyone interested in a last-minute weaving project this holiday season (hint: this would also be a great hostess gift for New Year’s!):

Free pattern from Louet for handwoven tea towels.

Cornucopia Tea Towels from Louet

Free Friendship Towel pattern from Schacht.

Friendship Towels from Schacht

Free Woven Dish Towel from LeClerc.

Dish Towel from LeClerc

Follow us here on Pinterest for more great weaving inspiration!

Ask Nancy: Weaving Q & A

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com orclick here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

I ordered a cotton 8/4 yarn from you. I have warped it and have started weaving. However, a couple of the warp threads have sheared down to 1 strand and are about to break. I have really had a problem warping it tightly & thread breaking. Any solution? I ordered 3 cones of this tread. Am I going to have problems with all of them? Please help!

A:

In normal use, you shouldn’t be able to break 8/4; my strong suspicion is that you have far too much tension on your warp. The only other thing that will break warp threads is abrasion; either on the selvedges from having too much draw-in (not enough weft in the shed) or from having sized the reed to the yarn too snugly.

We are happy give you some more guidance on this on the phone (give us a call toll-free at 1-800-441-9665). The rule for tension in weaving is “just enough for error-free weaving;” if it’s more than that, you’ve cranked it up too tightly.

Q:

Is a rigid heddle available to accommodate bulky yarn? Does a 5-dent heddle have large enough holes for a thick yarn?

A:

If you get any of the Ashford looms, there are 2.5-dent heddles available for them that will handle very bulky yarns. With regards to your question about the 5-dent heddle, that depends upon your definition of “thick”: by standard knitting yarn definitions, “bulky” yarns will fit in a 5-dent heddle, and the yarns that one would need a 2.5-dent heddle for are usually classed as “ultra-bulky.” Hope this helps; knitting yarn definitions are notoriously imprecise. That is the very best that we can do!

Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom

Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom

Q:  

I am looking for a reed that will fit an Ullman loom that is 48-50 inches long.
On this loom, it appears that the reed height is adjustable. So, what would you recommend – carbon or stainless steel? I’d like to start with an all around reed size (maybe a 10 dent is a good start?) and 48″ long. My only weaving experience is on a rigid heddle loom. This loom was found in the crawl space of a recently purchased property in Maine. It appears that everything else is here, just missing the reed. I couldn’t let my friend throw it away, so I’m willing to get her back into shape and weaving!

A:

Reeds are sold by height as well as by length; that length is certainly no problem. Our standard reeds are either 4.75” or 5” tall, depending upon which supplier we choose. Most of the big CM looms will have a good fit with a variety of reed heights, because the top of the reed holder floats and is not fastened. Glimåkra reeds are routinely very short (4” overall height), and Cranbrook reeds are quite tall at 5.5”; we can order any of those as well if you prefer. I don’t think we’ll have any difficulty with fitting the Ullman; it sounds like the 4.75″ height would be best.

Ask Nancy: New Spinner Suggestions

Got weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com orclick here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

 

ashford_joy_2_spinning_wheel_-_single_treadle_-_combo_wbag_3Q:

I am interested in getting a spinning wheel for my wife for Christmas. She wants to learn to spin so it needs to be one that would be easy to use.  Since we go to Florida for three months, I am leaning toward one that folds.  Price is also a consideration.  What wheels do you recommend?

A:

The learning curve in spinning wheels is about the same no matter what wheel one uses; the first couple of hours are just an awkward time, no matter the wheel, and there is a steep learning curve.  As long as the wheel is not too awfully fast, or at least able to be slowed down, they are all about the same experience as far as the ease of learning goes.

For folding wheels in a medium price range, look at the Kromski Sonata, the Ashford Joy, and the Lendrum Original.  Those are the best of the bunch in folding wheels! Let us know if there’s anything else you need!

Q:

I am a new spinner, which spindle would you recommend for angora?

A:

That’s either 2 separate questions or a question with 2 answers!

Angora, because it is so warm, is usually spun very finely, lest you need to move to the Arctic to wear it; and fine spinning needs a very light-weight spindle.

However, fine spinning is not going to be what a neophyte will be spinning, especially not with Angora, which is a slippery and difficult fiber, especially for a beginner.  So I would counsel you to start with at least half-a-pound of wool first, and get through that before you tackle angora; look for something in the 1 to 1 1/2 oz range for that. Hope this helps!

Ask Nancy: Warp, Weft & Tension

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

I’ve been weaving a cotton hand towel (my second project) and noticed that when I change colors in the weft, my weft is (ahem!) “angled.” I have a 15″ Schacht Flip, and I’m wondering how much tension is too much? I don’t want to mess up my loom! To complicate matters, some of my warp threads are looser than others, even though I “yanked and cranked.” I’ve tied the worst offender to a five pound hand weight (a lot more fun than exercising with it), but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be what is causing me trouble. I think the source is actually the ever so slightly off down shed threads in the warp. I have Syne Mitchell’s book Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom (which I highly recommend to my fellow newbie RH weavers), but would love to see a video to help me troubleshoot. Thanks!

inventive_weaving_on_a_little_loom_by_syne_mitchell_5

A:

Well, let’s take it from the top; there are a few things going on here.  First, the angle. This happens most often when a weaver ties on to the front apron rod from left-to-right (or right-to-left, it doesn’t matter) and doesn’t go back and even the tension up. Tying on just straight across like that will always leave the initial side slacker than the final side, and lead to problems.

A better way to do it is to tie one selvedge first, then the other selvedge; then go back and tie up the next-inner bundle on the first side, then the next inner bundle on the other side, and so on; still, you need to go back and even things up after they are all tied. With the flat of your hand, pat gently across the width of the warp to see if the tensions are all even, and make any adjustments needed.

As a final check, throw in 1 shot of weft and beat it gently into place; a warp bundle that has more tension than its buddies will deflect the weft toward you; a warp bundle with less tension will deflect the weft away, toward the heddle; you can make your adjustments visually that way. Remember also to tie your warp bundles in 1/2” increments at the selvedges, and 1” bundles the rest of the way across.  

schacht_flip_rigid_heddle_loom_-_available_in_15_to_30_2

The Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle Loom

Next, let’s address tension, since this seems to be an issue for you overall. The goal is absolutely even and equal tension all the way across, not high tension. Tension and abrasion are the biggest enemies of your warp, and so we work to minimize those, with careful sizing of the warp yarn to the heddle used, and just enough tension for error-free weaving.  

As an example of correct tension, when I need to tie in a repair warp end or fix a “slacker,” I use an old plastic film can with pennies in it for weight; with wool yarns, it can take sometimes 6¢ or 7¢ for a stout yarn; a cotton yarn might want 10¢ or 12¢, but never as much as even a 1 pound weight, much less 5 pounds; that much tension will destroy your loom in fairly short order, as well as being hard on the yarn.  

slots_and_holes_-_3_ways_to_warp_your_rigid_heddle_loom_3When you wind on your warp, you want to keep a steady, even tension on it, but I would never “yank.”  Also, the heddle absolutely must be in the neutral position, with all the yarns following the same distance of travel, both in winding on and in the final knot-tying and tying to the front apron rod. The fact that your slackers are in the bottom layer of the warp leads me to think that you tied on with your warp not all in the same plane; the heddle has to be in neutral.

For a video (because why re-invent the wheel, or loom, as it were?), look at Liz Gipson’s Slots and Holes DVD, which I think it will help a lot.

 

Ask Nancy: Spinning Solutions

Nancy & Barry Schacht in the Woolery Booth at Convergence 2016

Nancy with Barry Schacht in the Woolery Booth at Convergence 2016

Got weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

AshfordKiwi2I am new to spinning and in the market to buy a wheel.  Trying to choose a wheel is challenging as I have been reading and learning what characteristics are important.  

My confusion is with ratios: looking at the Ashford Kiwi 2, it says it has 5.5 and 7.25, which, if I understand this correctly, makes it a slow wheel that is good for spinning coarser wool. I would like to spin a variety of wool, but also alpaca-especially since I was given 2 processed fleece. Will this ratio work for alpaca?  Will I need to adapt the wheel or get additional kits for the Kiwi 2? Are there other wheels I should look at with a broader ratio?

A:

You are correct that the Kiwi 2 is a slow wheel, but there are ways to speed it up; we recommend the Kiwi Hi-Speed Kit, found here. As a beginning spinner, you need to balance the ability to go slowly enough that you can actually learn on it with the scope to take you past the first month and on into the rest of your spinning life; the Kiwi speed kit will certainly help with that.

Slower speeds are not precisely for spinning coarser wools, but rather for fatter yarns. The fiber is immaterial – it’s the diameter of the yarn that is affected by ratio. Skinnier yarns take more twist to keep them together than fat yarns do; given a steady treadling pace and a consistent drafting rate, you’ll need more twist to make a thin, sound yarn, and so will need a faster rate in order to keep making yarn at the same rate.

ladybugAlpaca, because of its warmth, is usually spun finer than wool (otherwise, it’s unbearably hot); so it is spun at a faster speed in order to keep consistent body mechanics, i.e. drafting rate and treadling rate.

There are many wheels with a broader scope than the Kiwi which also have the ability to slow down enough to be able to learn on them; the Lendrum Original is one of those. The Ashford Traditional and Traveller are also nice wheels with a lot of scope, as is the Schacht Ladybug. The Kromski Interlude and Sonata are possibilities, too. In general, the thing to do is to sit and treadle all the wheels that you are thinking about; the one whose action you fall in love with is the one to buy, whether you can spin on it yet or not.

Q: 

I have been spinning for about a year, and I am trying to teach myself supported long draw. The problem is that when I try to get started, the yarn feed onto the bobbin will separate from my leader or it will grab a large amount of fiber, creating large thick spots. What am I doing wrong?

A:

There are a couple of issues here; we’ll address them one at a time. For starters, with your leader, there are two ways to get past that:

  1. Tie a loop into the end of your leader, and if you put the end of your spinning fiber through a loop, it will usually be easier to get started.  
  2. Go ahead and spin worsted for a few inches rather than starting right in with a long draw, or just hold and accumulate a lot more twist before releasing the pinch to allow twist in to the drafted fiber.  

SpinnersToolboxRemember that a supported long draw lets in twist gradually from the hand in front repeatedly releasing the pinch to allow more twist in, and then pinching again so that you still have the ability to draft out your slubs (before too much twist gets added in); it’s a delicate back-and-forth. You may also have a little better control if you don’t run your arm out too far at the beginning, but go out gradually in steps as the twist is added.

Lastly, the key to a uniform yarn is as perfect a prep as possible; you can’t get nice slub-free yarn from a funky prep, and there’s no substitute for a consistent rolag.

In writing this, I realize that long-draw is a tough thing to verbalize; one of those cases where a picture (especially a video!) is worth a great many words. If you get a chance, Judith Mackenzie’s A Spinner’s Toolbox DVD is a good reference.