Tangled Skein | First Project

I think I already mentioned that I’m going for a “normal” weave on a simple scarf for my first project. I had bought some yarn from the same place as the loom, knowing it was, bare minimum, suitable yarn, but I’ve discovered some more information, so I have plans to run over to one of the big-box stores tomorrow to pick up different yarn that will be suitable, mostly because I am told it will be soft and, well, I want to have a supply of choices for future work anyway. My next project will likely be a rug for the patio door, or a scarf for one of my daughters who likes to wear them in the house and school during the winter months.

Anyway — here are the two colors I’ll be picking up tomorrow, teal and black.

I haven’t decided which should be the dominant color, but I’m leaning towards the black.

One of the things I am noticing as I look at other’s projects and try to get ideas is that the color combinations are not ones I would choose. Many seem, well, strange choices. I started joking around with some people I know who are used to my sense of humor and mentioned that what someone needed to do was come up with more “manly” colors to set the weaves to. And then call them names like “Cuban Cigars and Jameson” or “Old Leather Wallet”, or some other macho-sounding names and focus on dark colors with a splash of something high-contrast to the colors. Like teal and black. I jokingly added, “Nothing says I am a dangerous and vicious pugilist like a pink angora scarf,” and that I would call it something like “Manly Weaves” or “Three F Couture” (a reference to Hemingway’s three core plots: Fighting, Fucking and Fishing). I was only joking, but as I thought about it, I found the whole absurd notion appealing.

Honestly, though… If I get into this as much as I hope, I may actually try something along those lines. Not that I’m Mr. Manly, but I’m just not seeing many examples of stuff that most men would want to wear or have around them. Maybe I just like dark and sultry color combinations and that makes me an aberration as far as the weaving world is concerned, but I don’t much care for the pastels, mousy colors and full spectrum mayhem I’m seeing. I like muted. And maybe more men like those colors than I think, but I thought pastels died out with Miami Vice.

That doesn’t make other’s wrong in their choices — obviously a lot of people like those combinations. I’m just not one of them. I also realize that I have yet to warp my first bolt, let alone weave it. But, suddenly my head is buzzing with ideas. And, for what it’s worth, I am even more incentivized to keep up with it to explore those ideas.

Tangled Skein

I’m going to document my learning experience with this whole “learning to weave” nonsense I’m getting myself into and post it alongside all of my other tripe.

One thing I’ve learned already (that doesn’t surprise me in the least) is that this is definitely not a craft attractive to men. Or, at least, they are quiet about it and don’t say much at the various normal places people chatter about rigid heddle looms and weaving. The few male weavers saying much at all are, more often than not, working with the big table and floor looms that allow you to do “fun stuff” with color and patterns. I get the appeal of bigger, badder, better, but I’m honestly surprised at just how much of an apparent gender desert this craft has going for it. I think I’ve seen one guy do any commenting on the private Facebork groups I joined.

I’m nervous and excited — What if what I do is a glorious disaster? What if I find it more frustrating than mindful?

I think I’ll take the approach I always take with new things and mock myself so I don’t take myself too seriously when I ultimately fail to accomplish what I want to accomplish. Then — be happily surprised when it mostly works out.

Anyway — I’m gonna tag this documentation of a disaster “Tangled Skein” on the off-chance other people can benefit from my mistakes and discoveries. To repeat a quote I often mention from Gaiman, I’m going to “make glorious mistakes” and see what happens.

Purchase made

Well, I did it. I went ahead and ordered a rigid heddle loom and a couple of spools of 8/4 cotton with the idea that i’d go ahead and make myself a black/grey scarf using simple weaving patterns for a first project.

One of the biggest problems is the mixed messages out there and some of the gatekeeping to keep out the less serious people (I don’t know that it is intentional, but it sure felt like it at times). The yarn type was the main thing that frustrated me: you are most often told that worsted weight yard is ideal for the density of loom I am starting off with (for the record, a 7.5 dent, which means there are 7.5 slots/holes in the heddle per inch; essentially this is a thread-count measure). You’d think, with 8-dent and 7.5 dent heddles out there as the standard “starter” looms, someone would give more detail about the yarn type — but I saw “worsted”, but yarn is more often sold as N/D formula, where N = yarn “gauge” and D = number of yarn pieces in the twist. This is complicated further by N for cotton is not the same diameter as it is for wool or synthetic fibers or silk. I don’t want to set myself up for failure on the first project, so I wanted someone to more directly tell me which, for different fibers, would be best for my dent type.

15-dent heddle reed

Not forthcoming with my google fu.

Plus, there are some disagreements out there as to whether you can use knitting yarn for the warp and the weft. The general agreement is, sure, you are good using it as a weft (the part woven around the warp), but the tension on the warp makes using knitting yarn a bad idea. Until someone else says it is perfectly fine. Even there, however, there is little clarity, because knitting and crocheting use a completely different yarn grading system from the weavers and no one seems to have put out a conversion sheet that tells me which yarn is best from the knitter’s realm if I were to risk using it to warp. What I gathered was that a medium yarn is best for weaving, but probably only as the weft.

I finally found someone who had a project which they said was for 7.5 dent heddles and they recommended beginners use 8/4 cotton (size 8 strands, 4 wound strands in a piece of yarn). I had been barfing at the prices of even budget yarn as I considered the amount I had been seeing I would need for a project, but using this (unless the guesstimate is WAY off, which is possible), I can do the project for two cones of cotton yarn and have some yard to spare (about half on each cone), which seems too good to be true, meaning my scarf will cost something on the order of $10-20 instead of the barf-worthy $40-60. It won’t be as fluffy or fancy, more like a towel I am thinking, but it is supposedly easier to work with for a novice. [Edit: after writing this, I was accepted to a private FB group for RHL and someone wrote about a similar confusion. Almost everyone said that they felt focusing on weaving yarn over other yarns as a “must have” was terribly anal retentive and wrong in their experience. I think I’ll trust the masses over the individual.]

Like I said, the first project is going to be about as basic as they come and, after several scarves, maybe some curtain panels for the bedroom, or a table runner — then I’ll consider making my tartan scarf or a tartan blanket. Until then, I suspect there might be a steep learning curve — less about the techniques and more about the technical aspects.

Clan Tartan — first major milestone project