A Short Post

I’ve always been a multi-crafter more than a specialist in any one technique. Weaving and spinning are rapidly coming to the forefront of my interests, but over the years I’ve also enjoyed metalworking, calligraphy, embroidery, stamp carving, and various mixed media projects.

Blogging, itself, is somewhere between a craft and a hobby. So, it really should have been obvious from the beginning…

… it takes time! I’m working on a more substantial post about my miniatures, but in the meantime, I thought I’d put up a couple of photos of the projects I’ve been talking about on the blog.

No surprises here: just weaving and spinning!

Also in the hobbying realm, I’m deciding how to allocate my craft-and-hobby budget for next month. I’m torn between a small kantele for my music and a miniature inkle loom for my tablet weaving. (You may accurately observe that these are both compact items. Maybe someday I’ll have a dream workshop equipped with a full-sized propane torch, a lathe, a drill press, and similarly delightful implements, but for now, many of my tools and hobbies are miniaturized by practicality. I mean, aside from the enormous floor loom.) I have a large psaltery from Musicmakers and like the idea of augmenting my collection with a more portable instrument, but the inkle loom would probably be more strictly useful. I’m finding backstrap weaving too uncomfortable these days. Thoughts from any weavers out there?

And there was weft

(Or as my father would undoubtedly remark, “and weft wuz“. Hi, Dad!)

It’s been a busy week here with lots of errands and not so much crafting– or writing– time. There are a few projects in the works, but first, some glamour shots of my new spindle.

I was recently given a Spindolyn, which is wonderful, but less portable than I’d hoped. My initial plan was to cart the Spindolyn to and fro as a travel spindle, but even with the case I concocted for it, I’m afraid of damaging the brass quill and throwing off the balance. I decided that the Spindolyn would be happiest staying home, but that still left me with a yen for a portable bottom-whorl spindle.

I saw this charmingly named “Delft” set on Etsy last summer and was immediately won over by its handpainted appeal and matching wristaff (I sense a post on the word “distaff” coming up!), but the listing was taken down soon after and I assumed the set had been sold. When the listing reappeared, I considered it fate and snapped it up.

And just in time for my last spinning class, it arrived!

A friend of mine with much more photographic skill than I has taken some better photos that I hope she’ll let me post over here.

Front: fractal spinning. Back: any-which-way spinning.

In said spinning class, I also happened to learn about the technique of fractal spinning. I decided to give it a try, and spun up a bit of colored roving. The roving didn’t split quite evenly, so the colors don’t match up perfectly, but I’m pleased with the effect. This is also the first finished (albeit tiny) skein that I’ve produced off of the Delft spindle.

So, that’s the spinning. There are also exciting goings-on in the weaving department: I finally found some rug weft!

The weft is actually composed of scraps from a textile factory, and it is working beautifully. For one thing, each strip is very long. Instead of sewing strips together, I’m actually cutting them to fit onto my shuttle. The only challenge so far is that the fabric is somewhat elastic, so I have to be careful not to allow it to stretch when I pull the shuttle through.

One more status update: a while back, I mentioned that I wanted to try some on-loom embroidery. Naturally, this is not an original idea, but it was surprisingly difficult to find information on the topic. After searching the internet without much success, I stumbled across a copy of a book that may prove useful:

I’ll be reading this book and coming up with ideas as long as the rug is taking up the loom.

Talking Craft: Thrums

As a kid, I had a penchant for unusual science fair projects. One year I undertook a detailed investigation of the limbic system. (I’d gotten hold of an illustrated anatomy book and liked the shape of the fornix.) But my favorite was the topic I chose at the age of eleven: etymology, the study of word histories and not of insects. Not that there’s anything wrong with insects, but my delight was in gluing a bunch of Greek and Latin roots to magnets, sticking them to the back of cookie sheets, and encouraging my fellow preteens in the haphazard construction of classical-sounding if ungrammatical neologisms.

A very few years later, I started studying Tolkienian linguistics.* Aside from permanently establishing my nerd credentials, this led me to approach morphological paradigms and grammatical structures in a way that many modern language courses, well, don’t. This interest led more or less directly to my university studies in linguistics. These days the field encompasses rather more than the casual collection of Greek roots**, but I still have considerable affection for good old dictionary-style etymology.

So what does all this have to do with the professed theme of this blog—crafts?

A surprising quantity of terminology from weaving and other ancient handicrafts survives into modern (if specialized) English. I’d like to make exploration of this terminology a regular series on this blog, so let me know if this sparks your interest!

Today’s word is one I mentioned in my last post: thrum. According to the traditional definition, thrums are loom waste: the scraps of warp (yarn) remaining after a piece of cloth has been cut off a loom. Merriam-Webster gives this etymology:

  • Middle English, from Old English –thrum (as in tungethrum ligament of the tongue); akin to Old Saxon thrumi end part of a spear, Old High German drum end part, fragment, Old Norse t-hrömr edge, verge, brim, Greek tramis perineum, term n boundary, end — more at TERM

Observation 1: thrum is a distant cousin of terminal. It is, indeed, the terminal portion of a warp.

Observation 2: Tungethrum is a fantastic word.

Thrums on the loom.

Webster’s also gives the obsolete but interesting definition of “a ragged beggarly lout”. There’s a joke in there somewhere about people who buy weaving equipment.

Anyhow, I get the distinct impression that weavers have been faced with the problem of what to do with thrums for as long as there have been weavers, resulting in such inventions as hooked rugs and thrum-decorated garments like these and these (using unspun roving rather than loom waste). Thrums seem like they ought to be useful, but if anyone has any suggestions for dealing with the heap below, I will be most grateful.

Continuing the blog theme of tangled yarn messes!

*On the off chance that you share this particular hobby, the lack of mutation in the compound of my blog title is out of fondness for the word “tintinnabulate”. I suppose a more probable but less reduplicative Sindarin name would be something along the lines of Tithinniel.

**Which might indeed be more entomological than etymological.

Ply, ply away

An especially fibery day today. Most significantly, the Troublesome Scarf is finished!20120212-222649.jpg

Of course, given the history of this scarf, fate decreed one final challenge. Specifically, a dark smudge that appears at regular intervals down the center line of the cloth. Because my loom is old (dating from perhaps the 60s), my initial suspicion was that I hadn’t adequately cleaned the reed or one of the heddles. However, I think the culprit may have been the hooks connecting the heddle bars to the frames:

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As you can see, these are somewhat corroded. I’ll clean them before my next project goes on the loom, but most of the smudging came out with careful washing. Even with my admittedly pronounced perfectionistic streak, I think the scarf looks fine, and deem it wearable in the workplace.

I also had my second spinning class. I’m finding that taking a class prompts me to do things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise; today I made my first three-ply yarn. Afterwards, I succumbed to the allure of some braids of (to use the technical term) fluff. I am weak, but they are beautiful.

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So, when I got home, I took to the spindle and spun a few yards of two-ply using one of the new techniques I’d just learned.

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Feeling confident, I proceeded to carry on spinning and created…

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…this.

Yech.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other projects brewing. For one, I’ve been itching to try tambour embroidery with cloth that’s still on the loom. I’m still in the early stages of planning this project, and I want to have a back-up plan for the warp in case the idea doesn’t pan out, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

I’ve also got a rug warp wound and ready to be put on the loom. What I don’t have: weft. I’m thinking of tying together all of the thrums and scraps of yarn left from my various other projects, wrapping them on my ski shuttle, and seeing what happens.

Yep, the crafting has definitely taken a textile turn of late. There’s plenty else on the to-do list, though, and maybe one of these years I’ll get to it all.

The days are getting longer

However, since I normally only get to my crafts late in the evening, the sun has yet to shine on many of my projects. Working so late poses some obvious challenges: fatigue is not the ideal state of mind for some of the more technically demanding aspects (also known as “fiddly bits”) of making well-crafted objects. Once in a while, it’s nice to step back from the challenges and work on something repetitive.

Last night I spent my crafting hours, not concocting some interesting new creation, but working on the projects that stack up on the coffee table waiting for me to get to them. I don’t mind. Many of the hobbies I enjoy are based on lots of little steps, rather than a single process repeated; it gives me a delicious sense of productivity when I complete even the tiniest of crafty chores.

These little balls of yarn are ready to be plied in my spinning class this weekend.

Weaving is the perfect example. For the project you see below, it took me approximately forever to get through all of the steps necessary to wind the warp, get it on the loom, weave samples, troubleshoot problems, and begin weaving without disastrous consequences.

Can you spot the problem?

By contrast, I tend to tire quickly of more continuous crafts like knitting. Not only is it relatively slow (at least, my knitting is), I can’t relax until it’s finished and error-free. When I weave, simply seeing the pattern unfold before me is soothing– as is knowing I can cut it out if there’s a mistake. The stress is all in the early stages: once a project is on the loom and everything is working correctly, I can just go and go. In the case of the Troublesome Scarf, even after all of the mistakes I made, all of a sudden everything clicked into place…

…and I was able to weave the rest of the scarf in an evening. Whereupon it made its way to the coffee table and sat waiting for me, along with the spindleful of yarn and a number of other patient projects. When I got home late yesterday, tired and irritable, they caught my eye– so I spent the dark winter evening enjoying the small tasks of winding balls of yarn and twisting fringe.

And when I saw my nearly finished scarf on the table this morning, I took a photo with the first light of the day.

(I should probably have moved the scissors first.)

The Introductory Post

Welcome to my fledgling craft blog! I’ve admired the online galleries and blogs of many different craftspeople and artists, and hope you’ll find something here that interests you as well.

At a certain point in my creative career, about when I began to observe an alarming quantity of my free time disappearing without a trace, I started keeping a to-do list. The following excerpt should be representative:

Blankets 14 epi
Still need to make floor: how to represent dirt? Rushes?
Timber?
Tambour needle
FIX WALLS
S-hooks
Leaves overshot draft—copy out
Wind and WRITE DOWN calcs this time

After months of scrawling these cryptic ideas in various notebooks and on the back of supermarket receipts, I am finding the brevity of the entries and the monstrous proportions of the list to be somewhat at odds. In other words, I can’t remember what half of it means! It seems that a more comprehensive approach to record-keeping is in order.

Enter the blog.

So, what do I make? Here’s a sampling of current projects.

First, a historically inspired, more than historically accurate, attempt at an Anglo-Saxon mead hall in 1/24 scale.

Saxon hall
For this project, I am valuing structural integrity (i.e. plenty-of-gluity) over strict adherence to historical construction techniques. Some people might be able to carve out a functional mortise-and-tenon joint in half-inch scale, but they are more skilled than I.

I am also learning to spin…

spindle

…and to weave!

loom
My beloved loom. Pictured is a half-woven blanket, part of a pair that I made as my first project.

In future posts, I plan to go into more detail about specific projects and techniques. Hope to see you then.

Notes on weaving, historical costuming, and other eccentric pursuits.

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