Breaking in and Breaking out: My New Loom and West Coast Adventure.

With school out I have had more time to craft and boy have I been busy. Firstly, my Emelie cardigan is finished. This was my first time knitting a garment with size 3 needles. It was pretty time consuming but made a fine fabric. The yarn I used  came in 739 yards skeins. The entire body of the cardigan and half of the sleeves (I divided the remaining yarn equally between the two) were knitted with one skein.

A small amount (maybe 200 yards) of the 2nd skein was used to finish the sleeves, button, and neck band. The 2nd skein was slightly more yellow than the first but the color variation did not cause too much of an issue I think, since it is distributed evenly in the sleeves.

I never really figured out how to work the lace pattern correctly. The chart has you do a SSK using a yarnover stitch on the purl side which was fiddly to me. My lace does not look like the sample picture. Oh well, I did it consistently wrong so I guess that makes it a design modification. I lucked out and found clearance button at JoAnns.  They are normally so stinking expensive. This cardigan ended up with 12 frosty green shank buttons.

I acquired a Leclerc Artistat 36″ floor loom back in February but have not warped it up until now. I was just as happy admiring it in my dining room. I had warped a floor before however this was the widest warp I’ve done at 30 inches to-date. The warp is only 4.5 yards long which is the max I can do with my warping board. It is finally being broken in.

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Everything went fairly smooth with the warping although it was quite tedious. I accidently skipped threading 4 reed slots but the heddles were done correctly so I won’t bother to re-sley the reed. I plan to use this first un-mercerized 8/2 cotton warp to play around with my handspun colored- cotton odds and ends and some flax singles I wove a few years ago.

Being summer break and all I decided to take a little getaway. In an internet search I found that the Black Sheep Gathering was happening in Eugene, Oregon. This was the perfect excuse for me to explore the pacific coast. It was so beautiful! I was in love from the plane’s decent into the state. It is so majestic. Those mountains, gah!

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sky view of the plane decent to Oregon

The Black Sheep Gathering was a real treat. I loved the vendors. They were so engaging and talented. This festival did not have many if any commercial vendors which is great. I was shocked to discover there is no sales tax in Oregon. Whattha! so yes, I bought stuff even though I had no room in my carry-on bag for more stuff. I figured I’d get rid of some clothes if I needed to.

I met my spindle craftsman idol Ken Ledbetter  of KCL woods who produces modular spindles. He had beautiful modular Turkish spindles with glass insets. I had to have one. It was cool to be able to choose my own shaft. He uses all kinds of exotic woods. In addition to the spindle I bought a modular spinning bowl. It has a bowl that can be screwed onto a shaft for chair spinning and a mound for table and floor spinning. Brilliant! I love it so much.

I also of course bought some fiber. I found silk roving and bright colored braids that I “needed”.

Another cool textile find was a pleated skirt made in by artisans in Laos Vietnam . It has extremely intricate ikat patterning in indigo woven on a handspun cotton singles warp. The skirt also has cross stitched motifs done in brightly dyed cotton singles. It is a real masterpiece and a humbling reminder of how far I have to go in acquiring this level of skill and expertise.

I honestly have mixed feelings about these sort of purchases. On one hand I know the artisan may have needed the proceeds from the sale. It seems, however that when these items get sold for profit a decline begins. A craft that was once an expression of one’s pride in culture, skill, and love becomes a mere means to an end, a meal ticket. It brings me to the question of whether we are progressing or regressing. Perhaps these artisans will one day be like myself, struggling to regain lost knowledge of our textile traditions sold out for cheapo mass produced clothing.

Fortunately everything kind of smooshed into my suitcase with a little wrestling. I did not need to check my luggage. phew.

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my carry-on jammed with fiber goodness

It was a very refreshing trip. I drove about 250 miles along the pacific coast on the scenic Highway 121. It was so cool to weave through the Redwood forests and see all the rock formations in the Pacific ocean.

There was also a little mountain driving on this trip. I drove up to Enumclaw, Washington. At one point my GPS said I was 4,500ft about sea level! It was an intense drive but the view was well worth the stress. I took a gondola ride up Crystal Mountain and saw Mt. Rainier. It was spectacular beyond words.

In 4 days, I had seen a lot but there is so much more I would like to explore one day. The trip was a nice blend of excitement and relaxation. I even struck up a new spindle project (an old 3-4 oz mystery braid I had in my stash) and the infamous crochet Virus shawl that everyone has made on Ravelry. I am using a gradient Zauberball lace yarn that I bought a few years ago.

My Stash: Am I Busting or Building?

I have been spinning a lot of yarn lately. A lot. Now a sane crafter would be telling herself “Good job, see you may buy a lot of craft supplies  but at least you’re producing”, “Look at all of that yarn you’ve spun, one day soon your  fiber and yarn stash will be reasonable. Nope not me. I just go out and buy more. A lot of what I am spinning lately has been new acquisitions. Only about 3oz (the cotton/bamboo blend, and 1.5oz green merino/silk) was old stash. Womp, womp.

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Newly spun yarn (2- 4oz skeins of Ashland Bay dyed merino top in Baltic and Bermuda colorways, 1.5 oz of merino/silk green top, hand-dyed cotton punis, and brown cotton mixed skein.

I am having a lot of fun though. The latest finished project was 4.6oz  art rolags from Spindipity in the Monet colorway. They are so interesting to spin with all of the color and texture changes. There are 2 more art batts in my stash that I plan to spin up very soon.

I spun 4 ozs of Ashland Bay merino top on my KCL modular drop spindles.  This a bit of a milestone. I have gotten quite efficient.

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fabric strip wrist distaff in use

It was a fairly quick spin especially once I started using a strip of knit fabric as wrist distaff. Having the interchangeable spindle shafts is also nice. I just fill two shafts up and wind a plying ball.

The plant fibers are finally seeing some action now. I whipped out my last bit of recycled blue jean fiber. The tiny sampling was striped with white cotton. In order to make more yardage, I plied it with singles spun from my last bits of carded bamboo. (I did not feel like carding up more).

While I was at it I made a cleanup-skein with bits of left over plant fibers on my bobbins.

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brown, white, and recycled blue jean cotton handspun

My other plant fiber spin was the art rolags that I bought from Buchanan Fibers.

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Dyed cotton/milkweed rolags

They were a blend of dyed cotton, milkweed, and nylon. The singles spun up fine but the headache came when it came time to ply. I forget an important lesson I had learned a while back. NEVER create a plying ball from a center pull ball with cotton singles. The high twist combined with fine singles WILL tangle and make you cry or even worse cause you to lose yardage. This method works well for wool only (maybe not fine mohair singles).

The most efficient way to divide yarn for plying is to weigh out equal amounts of fiber before spinning. Anyhow I did get it to work out but it was unnecessarily stressful and time consuming. The end result was a pretty nice yarn however. We’ll see how it washes up.

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Handspun cotton/milkweed/nylon skein

Alas, I have busted a lot of stash this month however there is more where that came from. I did a little inventory, organization a few days ago. I have 10- 5gallon bins of wool fiber and yarn, a bookcase of plant fibers and yarn, and a bookcase of weaving yarn.

No excuses folk, I know there are no excuses. I’m in pretty deep and loving it.

Spinning and Knitting, plus Scrappy Socks

A few months ago I unearthed a few old UFOs (unfinished objects) that I had stuck into ziplock baggies and forgotten about. They were basically project failures that I didn’t have the heart to unravel at the time. Among them are a couple of wannabe lace shawls, socks, convertible mittens, and alpaca gloves.

The socks were made from a skein of merino/nylon self striping  sock yarn in a ugly colorway.  I’ve quickly found that buying sock yarn for knitting socks is way too expensive for me. Most 100g skeins are in the $20 range which to me is ridiculous for socks. I’d rather turn the fancy yarn into an accessory.

The pattern that the partial sock was knit in was nice. After doing some searching around I figured out that it was a pattern from the Vogue Knitting Ultimate Sock Book called garter stitch heel sock. After adding 4 extra stitches I was able to knit a sock that fit.

I used the rest of the skein with a leftover ball of yellow sock yarn and made another sock using a simple slip stitch pattern and a spiral toe decrease.

The scrappy sock mojo kept going with some yarn I salvaged from a scarf found in the giveaway bin at school. I paired it with some scratchy gray wool that was frogged from the shawl project I wove earlier this year.

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I now have 3 new pairs of hand knit socks. Most of my fancy yarn scraps will probably be used in this way going forward. Using the fabulous stuff for cuffs and knitting the foot portion in tougher, undyed wool.

The spinning wheels have been humming quite a bit lately. The sparkly art rolags were spun up on my supported spindle A Handspun Spring. The resulting yarn was dark and muddy in my opinion. In order to lighten it up I plied it with the white bamboo singles that I had spun on my Ashford Traveler over the winter. The resulting yarn was surprisingly soft and draped despite the large amounts of sparkle Angelina fiber. It was like spinning a Brillo Pad in some sections. After using up all of my bamboo singles the rest of the yarn was chain-plied

The sparkle yarn was knit into a crescent shawl (my first) called As You Wish by Booknits  on Ravelry. I used the chain plied yarn for garter stitch ridges to add some punch to the now muted art-yarn.

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I am still hooked on the sparkle art batt craze. I spun up a 4oz batt called frosty rum drink in a lace weight and plied it on itself. It yielded about 550yards.

Apparently that’s not enough to settle my art batt obsession. I found an Etsy shop called Gargoylelover that sells artbatts in larger quantities (most are in small batts and the seller only has one for sale). I bought 12ozs of a colorway called Starry Night. It was so interesting to spin I finished it in 3 days. I have plans to knit a hoodie with it.

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At the moment I have another sparkle project on the knitting needles. I bought some handpainted sparkle yarn from and Indiana Indie dyers called GoodforEweyarns. It is light fingering lace weight. The plan is to knit my first cardigan on size 3 needles. So far so good. The pattern is called Emelie by Elon Berglund.

A Handspun Spring

I’ve been spinning a lot of mostly wool and manufactured fibers these days. Despite the season change I’m still in the mood to spin. I also made garments from the woven cotton fabrics I wove a few months ago. Finished objects include a shirt from the colored cotton fabric and a skirt from the sari silk w/ dishcloth cotton yarn.101_1842

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Hand woven sari silk and cotton skirt (Very dense fabric!)

101_1841The cotton shirt is my favorite. I was so terrified that the woven fabric would fall apart as soon as I cut it. I basted muslin to the hand woven cloth then cut and sewed them together as one piece as a precaution.

The resulting garments are thicker that they have to be but I feel more confident that they will hold up. Perhaps I will get more brave as I gain more experience. Both projects used all of the fabric. I literally only have a 12 inch square left of each fabric and very little waste.

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The Jacob fleece crochet cardigan that I was making from previously moth attacked handspun is finished. I haven’t worn it yet because the weather has been too warm. It still needs a closure in order to keep it from flopping all over the place. I like the outcome for the most part although the neckline sits low.  It’s more like wearing an accent piece to an outfit rather than a cover-up. I have to consider what shirt I’m wearing under it because it will show making the garment less versatile in my wardrobe.

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Handspun Jacob fleece cardigan (Pattern: Carefree cardigan from Crochet Closet)

 

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I ended up chain-plying the golden merino singles I spun. The result was a nice round, high twist yarn that I think would work up nicely into cables. I was a little worried that I had overspun. When I wound it in a skein it was a scary, curly mess. After soaking it hangs perfectly relaxed. phew.101_1848

 

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golden chain-plied merino yarn after soaking

I also spun up a dump bag of naturally dyed wool (mostly mohair) that I bought from a Hill Creek Fibers booth for $8 a few years ago. I basically sorted out the colors. The fiber had to be hand carded first because a lot of it was nearly irreversibly matted. I ran the pre-carded rolags through my drum carder then spun the yarn into a chain-plied worsted yarn. I have not idea what it will be used for. It was a nice ego boost to make a usable yarn out of the stuff.

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Skein spun from Hill Creek fibers mill ends grab bag

 

 

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I went to two fiber festivals this month. The Fiber Event at Greencastle, IN and The Ann Arbor Fiber fest. I bought quite a bit of stuff. Which is okay I guess since well, we have to support our local fiber shed and I haven’t gone in a few years. I won’t share it all here but I did find some materials that I haven’t worked with before. It’s always great to try something new. Here are a few of my finds:

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Fiber Fest Haul: A few art batts, Targhe wool, dyed merino combed top, hand combed angora, sky blue silk, 50/50 tussah silk / wool fiber, and fish leather

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An adorable hand forged sheep head orifice hook

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A sample of various fish leathers. Apparently it is one of the strongest leather available on the market. Whodathunkit! It has a luxurious drape and is quite affordable. Where has this been all my life?

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Salmon leather Earrings

At the moment I am spinning an art batt from Knit Spin Farm on my Kromski Symphony. It literally has everything in it. I think I will ply it onto itself.

I have two spindle projects going. It’s nice because with all this sunshine I want to be outside. The portability of the spindle trumps my folding spinning wheel. I can take my spindle for a walk. My beloved Kromski Sonata can’t do that.

On my drop spindle I am spinning a green bamboo/merino blend. It came as a silver/green braid combo. After spinning the two colors together I realize I do not like them together. For now I’m just spinning the green. My cop got a little sloppy and the spindle was heavy and less efficient after winding on about 2ozs. Thankfully the spindle I’m using has interchangeable shafts so I haven’t had to stop to wind my singles off. Production is pretty good.

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Drop Spindle with interchangeable shaft eliminates the need to wind-off singles right away

I am finally putting my wooden supported spindle to work. It has been spinning lace weight likea dream. It would be nice to be able to pack a full 2ozs onto it without winding off. The fiber I am spinning is one of those new “everything but the kitchen sink” mini rolags prepared on a blinding board. It is so pretty. I have no idea what this yarn will look like when it is finished. There are literally whole chunks of Angelina and icicle that I’m afraid might make it scratchy like a Brillo pad. I may ply it with some bamboo fiber I have.

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art rolags by Hello Purl in loud mouth colorway

 

I thought for sure I would be sewing and weaving right now but hey, I’m just following my bliss at the moment.

Finished Objects: Wheels spinning, Needles Clicking

I finished up spinning the 16ounces of llama fiber I began working on last month. Love It! It’s a little late in the season to start a project with it so I have decided to store it for later.

I really want to start working on plant fibers now for spring. We’ll see. I still have about 8oz of the golden merino left to spin lace-weight on my Kromski Symphony. Hopefully I can finish it soon. It has been on the wheel forever, like literally years.

I washed up the skeins that were recycled from some ugly knitted projects I made years ago and never wore. The skeins were hung to dry on a drying rack placed in my bathtub. They are now packed away awaiting a second chance at becoming something nice to wear.

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Hand Spun yarn skeins and sweater drying on a rack in the bathtub

I finished my Diminishing Rib Cardigan from Interweave Knits Spring 2009 cover and I like it. I kind of haphazardly spun and chain-plied that roving maybe 8 years ago and packed it away thinking I didn’t like it only to fall in love after it was knit up. I believe it is Ashland Bay merino top in the rose colorway. Sometimes it’s hard to perceive how a yarn will look once it is knitted, crocheted, or woven.

The pattern did not call for a closure however I chose to crochet two pairs of ties on it. I also stabilized the neckline with  2 rows of chains stitches. I am not sure if I did the tubular cast-on correctly but it made the neckline more stretchy than I wanted. This is my first handspun garment. I’m pretty happy with the result.

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Diminishing Rib Cardigan made from handspun merino yarn

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I had not finished spinning my llama roving yet but I wanted to make another winter item. I had  2 skeins of  bulky Noro Kochoran yarn in the color #65 that I bought at a local yarn shop liquidation sale. The yarn was hard on my hands. It was difficult to slide on my needles (Knit Picks nickel plated circulars in size 8). Kochoran has angora bunny in it. It shed a lot as I worked with it however I think that has resolved itself now that it’s knit up. I should have went up to a size 9 as recommended on the yarn label. ouch.  I alternated it with some chain-plied handspun natural white cormo yarn.

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What began as the Welted Cowl published in Vogue knitting  winter 2010 morphed into a pretty nifty poncho as I changed up the amount of ribbed purled bands, completely disregarded gauge, and used up every last bit of the yarn I had. It is super, don’t need a coat, warm.

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Welted Poncho

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Welted Poncho paired with a hanspun angora fichu

Spinning My Wheels

I have been in a crafty frenzy lately. Every since Winter break I have been pulling out all of my fiber stuff that had been hibernating in the basement for years. I have since put my dining table in a closet (heck, I only host people twice a year) so that I can have a workspace in my well lit dining area. Yes..I am back in make-mode.

My spinning wheels are back in motion.

On the Ashford traveler I have some bamboo fiber which I carded up to spin. This is my first time spinning a significant quantity of it. I have found that it is best to open up the fibers, which are quite compressed in raw form, with a drum carder. This makes it easier to card it into a spinnable cloud with 120 point fine hand carders. I do not make punis with the bamboo like I do my cotton. It tends to be sticky and somewhat hard to draft when compressed. I just recently discovered that the uncarded fiber is being sold rather cheaply as a pillow stuffing at JoAnne Fabrics. If I like the finished product I will certainly be getting more.

The Kromski Symphony has some golden merino top on it. I bought about 16oz of this fiber maybe 3 years ago in hopes of making a sweater with it. Perhaps it will finally make its way into a finished product. We’ll see. First things first, gotta get the yarn spun. It should be about 24wpi when I finish plying it. I am not terribly worried about the final yarn weight. I usually just let the fiber do what it wants.

I finished up 4oz of spot dyed merino top on the Kromski Sonata. It had literally been on the bobbin for years. I ended up with about 450yards of 2ply fingering weight yarn in a surprisingly pastel skein. I’m not sure what I will do with it.

I visited Baker Studios in Allegen, Michigan over winter break. I liked the shop owner so much that I decided to buy some locally produced llama roving. I have avoided purchasing a lot of wool since the major moth attack that nearly wiped out my entire stash of handspun yarns back in 2010. The roving is really soft to spin and has a grayish, magenta, purplish, with a little sparkle vibe going. I have 16oz. So far I have 8oz plied and am working on the rest. It takes me about 3hours to spin 4 ounces of singles. Plying takes me about half the time.

With all the spinning and carrying on I was inspired to get my knitting needles clicking again. I have a set of Knit Picks nickel-plated interchangebles.  The project I chose is the Diminishing Rib Cardigan from Interweave Knits Spring 2009.

I actually had 3 sweater quantities of yarn spun up at the time of the moth attack. The one yarn spun from commercial roving was spared by the moths. I believe commercially produced wool is treated with insecticide.

Anyhow, I had  bought about 16oz of Ashland Bay merino top in the rose colorway and spun it up. It has some blues and purples going through it. I didn’t really like it that much at first but now that I have begun to knit with it I think the different colors blended in give it a painterly effect. One of the skins has some dark pink/red splotches on it from when I washed the skins with other yarns during the moth recovery effort. Oh well. We’ll have to see how it works with my skin tone.

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I Navajo, or chain plied this yarn so it’s a 3ply. This was my first yarn plied in this way and it has lots of thick and thin spots and overspun curly pigtails sticking out here and there.  So far so good on the knitting. Please let this thing fit! It is my first hand knit cardigan.101_1763

A Spinners Milestone: Weaving with Handspun Yarn

I have been spinning yarn since 2005. My first experience with the luxury of working with natural fibers was after winning a gift certificate to Evelise’s Yarn Shop at the Berrien County Youth Fair . An Afghan that I had crocheted with acrylic yarn won Reserved Grand Champion.  With the gift certificate I bought my first designer yarn, a black cotton, and a pattern for a beaded crochet handbag. The bag was a success and I was in love.

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My first bag made with fancy commercial cotton yarn. Still sparkling after 16 years.

 

Unfortunately I could not afford to buy more natural yarns. I was over the cheapo acrylic and so I stopped crocheting. At college the following year I gained new hope of acquiring “good” yarn when a professor at my university did a show and tell with spinning equipment. I became fixed on the idea of spinning my own yarn.

Online I ordered a kit that came with a book , Spin It by  Lee Raven and 1oz of roving. The book had instructions on how to make a spindle out of a CD. With a pencil, CD, and the small bit of sliver I became a spinner. Shortly afterwards I learned to knit.

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The book that started it all.

I knitted a lot of lace shawls with my handspun. I love making them but that was all I would do with my yarn.  After a while I had way more yarn than projects I wanted to knit up. I kind of got bored.

For the longest time (12 years!) I was so afraid that my yarn wouldn’t be strong enough to weave with, especially my cotton. It was only safe to crochet with it.

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Crochet shawl made from hanspun cotton dyed with tumeric. The pattern is Moondrop by Lori Carlson published in Interweave crochet Winter 2016

A few years ago I had crocheted a ruffled throw with my natural colored cotton  See it here that I wasn’t all that happy with. I just kept crocheting in a round until I had used up all of the different colors of cotton in my stash. After a while it started to come apart  where I doubled the stitch count. I decided that I had nothing to lose by unraveling the throw to reuse the yarn for weaving.

I warped random colors on my Leclerc Dorothy table loom that I bought in my college days. With a simple plain weave I slowly but surely realized that my worries were unfounded. Without any special treatment I was able to weave an eclectic little scarf. Oh the new possibilities!

This week I met a new milestone. I am now using my handspun to weave!

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Finished handspun, handwoven natural colored cotton scarf. I’m in love!

Not wanting to lose momentum I decided to unravel a shawl I knit from handspun wool. I alternated a painted handspun with a natural gray that proved to be scratchy against my skin. The pattern was just mindless, uninspired blah. I wouldn’t miss it. Finding a darker grey rambouillet yarn in my handspun stash that was nice and soft  I began warping my Dick Blick Art Craft table loom. Sadly the loom sat untouched for 6 years. I found it at a garage sale in Amish country for $125 and thought it was too fine of a machine to pass up.

So far so good. I am looking forward to doing more with my handspun.

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Handspun wool weaving in progress. I am using stick shuttles because they give me more weaving space on a table loom.