I recently taught a tutorial class on waffle weave. It was so enjoyable to share this wonderfully versatile weaving technique. However, I thought it might be helpful to everyone to have a pictorial reminder of the cores steps to creating the warp and weft floats on the rigid-heddle that come together to create the waffle texture. These core steps create a 1x1 waffle weave, meaning there is one warp float for every one weft float in a sequence. I call these the core steps because, of course, they can be expanded upon and really made your own! So here it is, with pictures.
1. Put your heddle in the DOWN position. Using a pickup stick (or ruler or paint-stir stick) pick up every other thread behind your heddle. Shown in a marled green color on the picture are two floating selvedges. Floating selvedges should not be included in your thread count or pick-up pattern but are in place to make sure you always catch the selvedge edges. Use them by taking your shuttle over the first floating selvedge and under the second (or under/over) with every pick, keeping your choice consistent, no matter what is happening with the rest of your threads in the heddle. Make sure your pickup stick is laying flat and push it to the back of your loom.
2. Weave one pick with the heddle in the DOWN position.
4. Weave on pick with the heddle in the DOWN position.
6. Put your heddle in the NEUTRAL position. Slide your pickup stick forward so that it is right behind your heddle, then tip it on its side to create a small shed. Weave one pick. This will create your weft float on the topside of your weaving and a warp float on the backside of your weaving. Push your pickup stick to the back of your loom, once again laying flat.
8. Repeats steps 1-7.
This was an article I wrote for Ply Magazine a few years ago. I thought you might enjoy it here. I wasn't sure quite where to put it, but I think it could be seen as something of a physics tutorial as it pertains to spinning- so tutorial it is. It might also help you understand why certain things are included on your spinning wheel and what they do to help you create that beautiful yarn. Let me know what you think!
Have you ever considered that every time you spin, you are harnessing the power of the universe? I’m not overstating it, either. With your feet nice and snug in a warm pair of wooly socks, your fiber in hand, you are capturing awesome power – to turn your fluff into a beautifully twisted singles yarn or your single into a stunning plied yarn. The universe has its rules, and the power you create at your spinning wheel is no different than the power used to propel a steaming locomotive. Sure, the source is different, but power, when it comes down to it, is just the amount of work done over time.
It is, however, fun to peel back the layers. While power is power and the laws of the universe do not seem to care if it is a small wheel turning or a thundering engine, understanding how power is created is important. It can be a bit of a rabbit hole, however, as we start to consider the efficiency of our treadling, the friction on our wheels, the whorls, the drive band systems – you get my point. So, for this particular conversation, we won’t sweat the details and will leave off factors such as friction and ratios, simplifying our system. In fact, imagine I am sitting across from you with a cup of tea, a cafe napkin, and a pen. We will fit all we need on that little napkin and walk away feeling very powerful indeed.
A Simple Machine
We have our spinning wheel. It is a machine. It is, in fact, a simple machine. Maybe you guessed that. Specifically, our beloved spinning wheels are pulleys. This is how all of that power is transmitted from your busy feet up to your fluffy stuff. You have your wheel and your whorl, so really, your spinning wheel is a 2-part pulley, and this is how all the magic happens.
Let’s revisit those sock-clad feet of yours. You move them up and down, pedaling away at your wheel. Why? How does that pedaling motion turn your wheel? If you look closely at the construction of your spinning wheel, you will see what is called a footman going from your pedal up to your fly wheel. If you have 2 pedals, there are 2 footmen. When you press down on your pedal, it pulls the footman down as well, which is connected to an axle running through your wheel. You may also notice that the footman is connected to the axle much like a handcrank, meaning it is a little to the side of the actual axle. This positioning allows the footman (or footmen) to apply a tangential force to the axle which causes the axle to rotate. The rotation of your axle then rotates your wheel and you have taken the first step in the peaceful transfer of power.
I know I said we would ignore friction. I lied. We need friction because that is how the drive band on your wheel works. We will ignore friction as it affects the efficiency of our wheel and embrace it as a means to move our flyer. A drive band runs around the wheel and up over the whorl (it is a whorl for flyer-led wheels and the bobbin for bobbin-led wheels ). Remember when I mentioned our spinning wheels are a 2-pulley system? Your fly wheel is pulley number one and your whorl is pulley number two. The drive band exists to transmit power from the fly wheel that you are turning with your feet (the driving pulley) to the whorl that is connected to the flyer (the driven pulley). With friction, the drive band is able to use the rotating motion of your wheel to grip and rotate the whorl.
Now power has been transmitted twice. The power from your feet treadling has been transferred to your wheel and the power of your wheel has been passed along to your whorl. We arrive at yet another axle that runs through the flyer, which can be seen as yet another wheel. Power is transferred once again, and your whorl’s rotation spins the axle that spins your flyer. Whew, we have finally arrived at your fiber. With your fiber secured to the flyer, it too experiences rotation. Because you hold your fiber source outside the orifice and do not allow it to just flop willy nilly while you treadle, the rotation of the flyer creates an applied torque (or twisting force) on your fiber. If you take this twisting force and multiply it by how fast your flyer is spinning, you will arrive at the power used to impart twist in your fiber.
We have arrived safely at the conclusion of our power trip. I have finished my tea and filled up the cafe napkin and you smile and politely say you use a drop spindle, not a spinning wheel. I blush, embarrassed to have taken so much of our napkin up on a spinning wheel but am relieved I can assure you that drop spindles can join in the fun, too.
The power you create for a drop spindle goes on a much shorter, much simpler trip. In fact, you impart power directly with the flick of your wrist to set the spindle going. The twisting motion you make to get your spindle spinning is actually an applied torque (remember that twist force?), just like what the flyer applies to your fiber on a spinning wheel. Because you secure your fiber to a lead and hold the fiber source, this applied torque is contained in your working fiber as the spindle twirls. You can think of a spindle like a spinning top, where the axis of spin runs perpendicular through the center of your whorl and the only impediment (in a perfect world) to your spindle is the restoring force building up in your fiber wanting to untwist. The construction of your spindle helps keep that applied torque going, though, and you continue to get twist in your yarn beyond that initial flick of your wrist. The type of whorl on your spindle and its location will affect the speed of your spin and thus the amount of power used to twist your fiber, regardless if it is a drop or supported spindle. But without you as the initial source of power, the spindle would never be able to do its work, no matter how much time it was given.
The power you create when you spin goes on a journey out of you all the way to your yarn. All of that glorious twist is from you, and the subsequent creations derived from your yarn are originally powered by you. In a small way, you have passed along part of yourself to add beauty to the world in many forms. So, while the universe does not bend its laws, it allows you, as a spinner, to be powerful. That, my friend, is a very empowering thought, don’t you think?
Step 1: Create a Jig
Naturally, you will want heddles that are all the same size. Whether you are crafting 10 or 1000, they will not serve you well if their length is nearly the same throughout. To ensure consistency in your heddles, you should make a jig. This, as shown on Mirrix's tutorial, can be created with a simple piece of cardboard cut to size. I wanted something a little studier and permanent, so I followed their suggestion to create a jig using two finishing nails and a piece of wood. It is very important you use finishing nails. These nails do not have the large heads like other nails, as they are meant to be nearly invisible in finished projects. However, for us, the lack of top on these nails allows us to tighten our heddles and pull them off the jig with ease. If the nails had heads, our heddles would get all kinds of caught on the jig, rendering the jig itself a little useless.
Whether you use cardboard, a piece of wood, or nails hammered in to the side of your bookcase, you need to accurately measure the distance between your two points to be three and one eighth inches.
Step 2: Measure and Cut Pieces of String
For your heddles, you want to choose a fiber that does not have an excessive amount of elasticity and is strong and relatively thin. I used a 10/2 cotton for my heddles. From this fiber, cut pieces of string that are twelve inches (12") in length. Each piece will be one heddle, so cut the number of heddles you will need...and maybe some extra because you're making them anyway. Typically, you will need a heddle for every warp thread you intend.
Step 3: Tie a Loose Knot
Taking one piece of heddle material at a time, loop it in half around your jig. Secure the two ends together with a loose overhand knot.
Step 4: Tighten the Knot
It is important that you get your knot as close to the edge of your jig (whether a nail or the edge of a cardboard or thin wood piece) as you can. This ensures that your heddles all end up the same size. If you are careless with where your knots land, it will create small differences in your heddles that could lead to tensioning issues with your shedding device and inconsistencies in your shed itself. To create a consistently tight heddle on your jig, take a needle and place it in the circle created by your loose overhand knot. Then, using this needle, pull your knot as all the way to the end of your jig. Once the knot is resting where it should be, hold the needle in place and pull the tails of your knot tight.
Step 5: Trim the Ends
Trim the tails of your heddle so that they are within a quarter inch of your knot. (Long heddle tails could get tangled in your warps, so keep them tidy.) Pull or slide the heddle from the jig. Ta da! You have made a heddle! Repeat the process (Steps 3-5) for all the heddle material cut in Step 2.
Warping with Chenille
1. Wind you chenille into cakes and pull your yarn from the center of the ball. This will add twist to the yarn as you pull, preventing or taming some of the notorious curling or "worming" natural to chenille.
2. If using multiple colors for your warp, try to plan warp threads the same color as your weft for the selvedges. This will hide any unruliness on the edges of your fabric and make for a very smooth appearance along the edge after finishing the cloth.
3. Because you use a center pull from caked yarn to add twist to your warp threads, try to beam your warp by holding the threads with even tension and not combing the threads as you wind on. (Combing the threads refers to running your fingers through the warp threads to keep everything straight and orderly as you beam your warp.) Combing your threads will confound the twist you added and the natural worming of the chenille and you may end up with more tensioning issues for your efforts. Hold tight and even, wind on...no fussing with the threads.
Finishing Chenille Cloth
1. I highly recommend a hemstitch for chenille cloths. If it something that will have a fringe, decide at the beginning of the project if you would like a crimped edge, as that will require you to weave a large header and finish with a large section of scrap yarn.
2. Lightly wet your chenille cloth. A spray bottle can be used here to great effect.
3. Wrap your damp chenille in a plastic and allow it to sit overnight.
4. Remove your chenille cloth from the bag and place it in the dryer. Using high heat, dry your scarf for about ten minutes.
5. Remove from the dryer. If you opted for a crimped fringe, you remove the waste yarn after this step and trim the fringe to the desired length.
This finishing process it remarkable. It takes a stiff fabric and creates a soft, velvety cloth. It should not be skipped nor should you feel discouraged by the texture of your cloth while it is still on the loom!
As promised, this is the next iteration of a multi-post series to help you design your own weaving projects. This post is going to focus on calculating the total amount of weft you will need for a project. This calculation is less direct, in my mind, than the calculation of warp because there are more variables that are dependent on the weaver and less dependent on the equipment used. When we calculated the warp needs, the ends per inch were not determined by us, they were determined by the reed we chose to use. While there is some variability in the total length and width due to take-up and shrinkage, there are reliable calculations to accurately estimate these measurements as percentages of your total on-the-loom warp. While estimations can be made with weft, there is a lot more that is dependent on the weaver's own style. How tightly do you beat? Do you achieve a balanced weave or do you have more/less picks per inch than ends per inch in your weaving? (Picks per inch is how you measure the number of passes the weft makes in a given inch of weaving. A balanced weave would have the same number of picks as ends per inch.) In addition to this variability, you also have to account for the take-up that occurs as your weft passes through your warp threads.
I thought we could get organized by first answering three basic questions about your design project.
Question 1: What is Your Weaving Width?
What is the width in your reed or rigid heddle that your warp threads occupy? You can take a ruler and measure this exactly or calculate it by taking the number of warp ends divided by the dent size. But this is the distance required to get from one selvage to the other of your cloth, a distance your weft thread must traverse.
Question 2: What is Your Take-Up?
This can be difficult to measure because it is a question about a single pass or pick of your weft. The take-up occurs because you weave in three-dimensional space. While you measure the width of your project flat across the reed, the weft thread actually has to make small journeys over and under the warp thread, adding to the distance it must travel. Take-up can differ depending on the weave structure. However, because we are working with estimations, you can assume a 5-10% take up for a plain weave. If you are using a complicated weave structure or a special weft thread, you may want to consult references and other published patterns for the take-up calculations they use.
Question 3: How Long Do You Want Your Finished Cloth?
What is the total length on the loom that you are aiming for? You made this calculation with the warp considerations, so make sure you have aligned your goals on this one. You can also break things down further if you plan on using more than one weft color. You simply need to keep track of how many total inches of each color will be in the entire project and make each weft calculation separately.
Once you have answered these important questions, you can calculate your total weft. Let's break it down into small chunks.
Step 1: Calculate the Amount of Weft Needed for One Inch of Weaving
This equation assumes 10% take-up.
Width of Warp in Reed + (Width of Warp in Reed x .1)= Length of 1 pick or pass of weaving
Length of 1 pick x Number of PPI = Weft length needed for 1 inch of weaving
This is a useful number because it will be the same no matter how many colors you plan to use. It is simply the amount of weft needed for one inch of weaving.
Step 2: Calculate the Amount of Weft Needed for the Whole Project
Weft length needed for 1 inch x Total number of inches in finished cloth= Total amount of weft
You will need to repeat this calculation for each individual color if you are switching weft threads throughout your project. If you are using one color of weft, you're done! Well, almost.
Step 3: Convert To A More Useful Number
Up to this point, we have been dealing in inches. It is not very useful to know that your need 1256 inches of weft thread because that is not typically how yarn is sold...by the inch. It is easy to convert, though.
If you are looking for the total number of feet, simply divide by 12 inches/foot.
If you are looking for the total number of yards, simply divide by 36 inches/yard.
You can also convert to meters by first converting to yards, then multiplying by 0.914 meters/yard.
I hope you found this a useful aid in calculating your weft needs! You now have all the number you need to make some yarn purchases, and who doesn't love that?
It can be really scary to make the leap from pattern to original design- and not because you do not have wonderful ideas bursting forth but more because it is sometimes difficult to know where to begin. One of the biggest stumbling blocks can be the amount of materials to gather. Materials can be very expensive and/or difficult to get. A lot of times they need to be ordered or special trips need to be made to stores outside our normal routines. And what could be worse than getting near the end of a project only to discover your warp is too short! (Trust me, it's awful. It happens and it is awful.) However, with a little planning (and yes, a little math) you can move forward in the creative process with confidence. This post will be part of a multi-post series about planning for a project. This post is going to focus on calculating warp length. To follow this post will be small tutorials on weft length, color choices, sampling and fiber content considerations.
Step 1: What are you weaving? How big would you like it?
Knowing what you are going to weave is really important in deciding the width and length of your project. A scarf is different from a wrap which is different from a curtain which is different from a placemat. How about if you want more than one item on a single warp? There are resources that list the standard sizes for most garments, accessories and kitchen items, or you can decide a custom size that you, the artist would enjoy.
Once you know what you are weaving and what size you would like the finished item to be, you're ready to start writing things down, gathering information and really getting into the planning of your project.
Step 2: Width in the Reed
When you weave, you must make considerations for draw-in and shrinkage. This can change drastically based on your weave structure, fiber choice and finishing techniques. The surest way to know what shrinkage you can expect is to sample. Not only does this help you to decide width in your reed and warp length, but it also gives you crucial information for your weft, which we will discuss in a later post. However, I do understand that sampling on a loom is not always easy or practical, especially if you need to order materials in advance of the project. The good news is you can make some good estimates and achieve a close approximation to your desired final project size. (And make sure to take notes, that way if you ever plan a project with similar structure and materials, you'll have sample information in your previous work.) Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself though; why do we care about shrinkage?
If you want your project to be a certain width, let's say a scarf that is 10 inches across, you need to warp your loom wider than this final measurement so that there is room to shrink when all of the draw-in and finishing is complete. So for that 10-inch scarf you may need to have a 12-inch weaving width, giving two inches for draw-in and shrinkage. Like I said, sampling is the best way to know what kind of shrinkage to expect from your materials. However, you need not try to reinvent the wheel, you can always look at reference materials of similar structures and fiber to see how much shrinkage those projects experienced and model your plans from there. If exact length and width is not critical (but this can be risky) you can assume a percentage. This approximation must consider your weave structure and finishing techniques, as well. If I go this route, I typically assume a 10-20% shrinkage depending on the fiber, structure and finishing. Silk shrinks very little and would be closer to 10% in my calculations but wool typically shrinks a lot and would likely get closer to 20% in my calculations. To use a percentage, whether determined from sampling or close estimation, you would use an equation that looks something like this:
Desired Final Width + (Desired Final Width x Percentage of Expected Shrinkage Converted to Decimal)= Weaving Width In Reed
In real numbers for our example, that might look something like this:
10 inches + (10 inches x 0.2) = 12 inches
So, for the example scarf, I would need to center for a 12-inch weaving width in my reed.
Step 3: Dent Size
The sett of your project is determined by your reed. Sett refers to the number of threads or ends per inch (epi) there are for your cloth. If you are using a 12-dent reed and warp one thread per dent, then you will finish with 12 threads in an inch or, more formally, 12 epi. There are other scenarios that can affect the calculation of your epi, such as if you wish to sley two or more ends in a single dent. There are charts available that give recommended ranges of epi for various warp threads. The most complete I have found is the "Master Yarn Chart" by Handwoven of Long Thread Media. These recommended ranges allow you to plan for what would be an appropriate dent size for your desired thread. Included are ranges for lace, plain and twill weaves and the chart is organized by fiber type. If you wish to weave a denser than average plain weave, you would need to move to a higher than recommended epi count. Likewise, if wish to weave a looser than average plain weave, you would need to move to a smaller epi count than the recommended number.
Once you have your appropriate dent-size chosen and you know how many ends you would like to sley per dent, you can begin to calculate how many threads in total you will need for your project.
Step 4: Put Steps 2 and 3 Together
Now that you know how wide you want your project in the reed and what dent-size you are using, you can calculate how many ends you will need to measure out for your project. This calculation is for both direct and indirect warping methods as it is simply the number of warp threads for your project independent of your warping style. However, when using a direct warping method, it is important to remember that each journey out to your peg contains 2 warp ends just as the journey to and fro on a warping board also contains two warp ends. The equation you will use is as follows:
Ends per inch (epi) x total width= number of warp ends
The ends per inch is determined by your dent size. Remember to double this number if, for example, you are using two threads in every dent. The total width is the how wide you want your final cloth making considerations for shrinkage and draw-in. The number of warp ends will be the total number of ends you will need to measure out for the warp of your project. In my example, the equation would look like this:
12 epi x 12 inches = 144 ends
Step 5: You Know How Many, Now How Long?
Once again you need to account for shrinkage. When you weave on a loom, your warp threads are under a lot of tension. When that tension is released, your cloth will relax and shrink. This shrinkage happens before you apply any kind of finishing to the project, which can cause even more shrinking. The means the shrinkage in the vertical direction is often greater than the horizontal shrinkage we calculated earlier. In addition, you have to make room for the portions of your warp you simply cannot weave on. There are some tricks to minimizing this loom waste, but the fact remains there will be some waste coming off your loom and you need to plan for this. The best way to plan for loom waste is to look at similar projects from looms that are closely related to your own. Rigid heddle looms, tapestry looms and floor looms typically produce different amounts of waste. The range, however, is typically 15-38". When uncertain, always aim high. You do not want to run short on warp after weaving an entire project. Also, if you are planning for a fringe, you need to leave space on your warp for this. Lastly, if you are planning more than one project on your warp, like if you want two kitchen towels or four placemats, you need to plan for any spaces needed between the different cloths. Whew, that's a lot to consider. Luckily they are all numbers that can easily be plugged into an equation such as this:
(Desired Final Length for 1 Project x Total Number of Projects) + Shrinkage + Loom Waste + (Fringe Hem Length x 2 for Each Project) + Space Between Projects = Warp Length
In our example, I was making a scarf. I want this scarf to be 70 inches long with a 5-inch fringe. I will assume 20% shrinkage and 20" of loom waste. I am only making one scarf on this warp. My total warp length would then be:
(70 inches x 1 Project) + (70 inches x .20) + 20 inches + (5 inches x 2 x 1 Project) + 0 inches = 114 inches
Step 6: Put Together Steps 4 and 5
Now that you now the number of warp ends and the length of your warp, you can figure out exactly how much thread you will need to complete your project. This is done by multiplying the number of ends by the total length, since each end needs to be the full length of the warp.
Number of Warp Ends x Total Length of Warp= Total Amount of Warp Needed
So, in our example, the total amount of thread I would need is:
144 ends x 114 inches= 16,416 inches. This is not a super useful number in inches, as most cones and skeins are NOT listed in total inches. However, it is easy to convert to yards by dividing my number by 36 inches because there are 36 inches in a yard.
16,416 inches / (36 inches/yard) = 456 yards
And, to get to meter, which is very useful, you simply divide your total yards by 1.09 yards/meter and round to the nearest meter.
456 yards/ (1.09 yards/meter)= 419 meters
In conclusion, I would need 456 yards (419 meters) of thread to create my desired 144 ends, each 114 inches long for my scarf. With the correct amount of material calculated, I can move forward and order the supplies I need to get warping!
I hope this was helpful. Stay tuned for more project planning tutorials!
So, there are excellent instructions in the manual for the 25" Schacht Tapestry Loom...but for whatever reason, when the loom is on my loom stand, the instructions are backwards because I cannot flip the loom so the heddle bar support is pointing down. Now, I know everyone can simply reverse the instructions like I did, but sometimes it is just easier when someone tells you how to do it. For example, when I am warping my loom while simultaneously helping my kids build legos, read books and not eat bugs, I like to not have to reverse things in my head. There are only so many tasks you can multi on before things go wrong.
Like I mentioned previously, the instruction manual has instructions for when the loom is horizontal and the heddle bar supports are pointing down toward the ground. My instruction are the exact same as these instructions except they are for when the heddle bar supports are pointing upward. This can be accomplished on a loom stand or by simply placing books or blocks under the frame of your loom.
Step 1: Using your loom stand, adjust the level of your loom so that it lays horizontal, heddle bar supports pointing straight up. You should begin standing with the loom oriented so that the bottom bar is closest to your body. Make sure you have the tension bar all the way down (so that you have the most room to tension your warp later).
Step 2: Put your warp bar in place against the rubber wedge. Make sure your warp thread is on a skinny cone or a compact ball so it can fit through all the spaces of the warping process without knocking the warp bar out of place. Tie your warp thread to the warp bar. (The warp bar and rubber stopper are located between the bottom bar and the central bar.)
Step 3: Bring the warp thread toward you, going under the bottom bar. Bring the thread over the topside of the loom toward the tension bar.
Step 4: Take the warp thread over the tension bar, down and under the loom, heading back toward the center bar. Take the warp thread under the center bar and turn the thread on the warp bar, passing once again under the center bar on the way to the tension bar.
Step 5: Once you get back up to your tension bar, you will still be under the loom. Pass the thread over the top of your tension bar and head back toward the bottom bar. You will be on the topside of your loom. Take it all the way to the bottom bar.
Step 6: Pass the thread over the bottom bar and going under your loom, take the thread to the warp bar. Pass the warp thread around your warp bar and head back to the bottom bar, passing the thread from the bottom side to the topside of the bottom bar.
Step 7: You have now completed the whole pattern of warping. You should repeat steps 3-6 until you have the desired number of warp threads on the top side of your loom. To me, the process of warping this tapestry loom is like make a series of M's and W's. Also, you should be able to run your hand (or a piece of paper) under your threads from the top of the loom down to the bottom, passing in front of your warp bar. If you cannot, that means you have crossed a thread and sadly it will need fixing before you can proceed.
One trick to keep yourself on track if you are having a little trouble crossing your threads is to wrap your loom with paper (like packaging paper or wrapping paper). Remove the warp bar prior to wrapping your loom with paper. Then, take your paper around your loom from the tension bar around the bottom bar and back up. Tape the paper together. This will require about 65" of paper length (which matches your warp length). Now you will have to place your warp bar back on your loom- the tricky part being that it now needs to be on the backside of your paper. However, this paper wrap will ensure you are going over or under when needed and will not allow for any crossed threads. Simply remove the paper when your warp is complete by sliding out from under your threads.
I hope this helps a little if your loom is turned around like mine. Really, it just gives an alternative way to warp- it is exactly the same as the recommended method, just with your heddles pointing up.
When working in the round, there are choices. Some pieces are large enough that you can simply use circular needles, spread the stitches around, and get to knitting. However, when the circumference is small, knitting in the round requires a way to move the stitches in closer proximity than what 16" circulars allow. Two of your options for knitting these smaller circumferences are either using double pointed needles or something called the magic loop method. These certainly are not your only two options, but they are both very good ones and most patterns are written to accommodate these two methods. I like both, but I like them for different things. I'll break it down for you here. This is not a tutorial on the how to execute these methods but more on how to choose which is right for you...or perhaps which is right for your project...or maybe just to inspire you to try one that you haven't yet ventured toward. This is purely submitted for your consideration and is based on personal experience and taste. We are all knitters as unique as the yarns and projects we choose, circular knitting is equally dynamic in taste and range.
Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)
With double pointed needles, you use three or more needles to hold your live stitches while using an additional needle to knit. These needles, as the name suggests, are pointed on either end so that you can knit and slide you stitches from one needle to the next with ease. Ideally, you spread your live stitches evenly on your working needles. You can use this method to knit very tiny rounds.
What I Like About DPNs
I feel like the flow of my knitting is a little smoother with DPNs. With this method, you just keep on knitting- there is no stopping to tug on cords- one needle just flows to the next. I especially like DPNs when I'm working with lace weight of fingering weight yarns because my working area is confined to just my needles and I feel I can work with a more delicate touch. There are no lengthy cords sticking out and tugging at my project, which can sometimes feel a bit tangly to me, especially with the lighter weight yarns. I also really like using DPNs when a project has few stitches or a particularly small circumference.
What I Don't Like About DPNs
When using double points, I like to shift where one needle's stitches stop and another needle's start. This is because at the join of the DPNs, the stitch is a little looser as I work. While this usually resolves itself with quality blocking, I don't like the appearance of these loose little seams in my knitting. By shifting the stitches around periodically, this problem can be avoided. However, sometimes it's more convenient to work with a set number of stitches on each needle, depending on the pattern. Also, there are three to four needles with stitches on them...and these needles have double points...and stitches like to fall off needles when you aren't looking. I would say that DPNs are less project bag friendly for this reason. There is not a great way of securing your live stitches from slipping and sliding other than being careful when handling.
The Magic Loop
This method essentially divides your knitting in the round into two rows of knitting by using circular needles with a lengthy cord. Half of your stitches go on the left hand needle to create your "front" row, the other half of your stitches patiently wait their turn on the cord in the "back" row. A long cord is necessary so that you can pull the right hand needle around to knit while still keeping a loop of cord between your front row of knit stitches on the left hand needle and those back row stitches that sit on the cord. When you finish the "front" row, it will have moved from the left to the right needle. You flip the whole operation over so that the front becomes the back, shift the stitches on the right hand needle to the cord and shift the stitches from the cord to the left hand needle. The right needle always stays the right needle and the left needle always stays the left. It really is like magic.
What I Like About Magic Loop
There is a lot to like about the Magic Loop method. First off, you do not need a special set of needles. Especially if you already have some interchangeable circular needles, you probably have what you need to implement this method. You do need a long cord- somewhere in the 32-40" range so you can comfortably maneuver your needles while maintaining your loops. I really like using magic loop on things like sweater sleeves. This is partially because I can usually use whatever circular needles I was knitting with for the body to also do the sleeves. Since you are using circular needles, everything is connected and there is very little risk of stitches falling off or things getting messy in a well-travelled project bag. Also, there are always only two areas where you can get the loose stitch seams I spoke of previously. And as a bonus, though I'm not really that great at it, you can knit two sleeves or socks at a time with the magic loop method, which is not possible with double points. The method is very versatile.
What I Don't Like About Magic Loop
I don't mind the stop and shift of rows from front to back for larger circumferences or heavier weight yarns, but this stopping and pulling slows my flow. So, for smaller projects or more delicate work, I find this stopping to be a little cumbersome. Also, for lighter weight yarns, I find that the cord wants to tug a little more at those loose stitch seams where the front and back rows meet. I know these are small complaints, but it is truthfully why for things such as socks, mittens or the tops of hats I typically stick with double pointed needles.
As with any knitting technique, it is important you find what works for you. Whether seeing double or doing magic (or perhaps a little bit of both) it is always nice to have more than one trick up your sleeve. It is also fun to try new things. As I tell my kids when they refuse to try my latest vegetable concoction- you never know, you might be missing out on your new favorite thing.
I'd love to hear about what method you use. Do you have an arsenal of circular knitting tricks or do you stick to one that is tried and true?
I always get the words mixed up, but I believe there is a modern proverb that goes something like; "Neccesity is the mother of invention." Sounds good even if its not the right phrasing. And I think more to the point is how true the sentiment is. The other day I was warping a rather large project on my PVC loom, and somehow or other, about four of my warp threads ended up being a yard too short. I could hazard a few guesses as to how it happened, but the how it happened at the time was not nearly as important as how in the world I was going to fix it. My first impulse was to just cut my losses and make my warp a yard shorter than planned and cross my fingers I included enough warp waste in my calculations. That seemed very risky, though. Especially since I was planning a lot of weaving on this warp- it would be awful to get to the end and be just short of a complete project.
Then, my husband pulled out his phone and did some internet magic. (He is really good at that.) As a sat, aimlessly staring at the problem, he asked;
"What's a weaver's knot? It looks like it could help." I love that man.
A weaver's knot is pretty much magic! It solved my too-short-warp-thread problem with such ease, it was almost unreal. And the beauty of this particular knot is that you add length to your thread and the knot simply gets tighter under tension. You don't have to worry about it slipping about or coming undone. How awesome is that? And I did complete the beast of a project I was working on, and the knots did their job without fuss. I will say that the one consideration is the reed. You want to be careful as the knots need to pass through your weave if the thread was a tight fit in the reed. I had to manually push a few of them through, which took some time until I got past them. But really, even though it added time to the weaving process, it saved me a ton of time from having a project that did not work out quite right.
Here is how to make this wonderful knot:
1. In the thread that has come up short on you, make a standard slip knot. Do not pull it tight yet. You do not have to leave a long tail, the knot is suppose to be so strong you can clip the tails right off when you're done. I left tails on mine and wove them in because I'm a scaredy cat. In my example, the thread being lengthened is yellow.
2. Thread your new yarn through the loop of the slip knot. Again, you should not have to leave a long tail as you thread the new yarn through the loop. However, you can leave a tail long enough to weave in later if you're nervous (like me). In my example, the new thread being used to extend the yarn length is blue.
3. With the new yarn threaded through the slip knot, pull the slip knot tight by pulling the two yellow thread ends. Once it is secure, pull a little more. You want the slip knot to pull your new thread through the twist of the knot. I have shown both when the slip knot is pulled tight and then once the new thread as pulled through the knot. I have found that the thread makes a satisfying little popping noise when it makes it through the knot. This pull-through is what gives the weaver's knot its power, because as you pull, the knot now only tightens on itself. In my example, you can see the little peak of blue looped through the yellow knot in the completed weaver's knot.
4. The knot is not complete. The yellow portion of the thread is the yarn that needed to be lengthened. The blue portion of the thread is the new extension to your yarn. You will have a tail from the old thread and a tail from the new thread.
Do you ever have those times where you know you're supposed to do something, you know it's supposed to be fairly easy, yet you don't really know what you're supposed to do? Well, oiling the flyer on my spinning wheel was one such thing for me. I knew I was supposed to keep the thing lubricated, but I wasn't really at all sure where to put the oil or how often. I was also confused when I read that I should oil every hour of spinning. Should I deconstruct my flyer just to oil it every hour or was there a way to oil with the bobbin on and the spinning uninterrupted? I did my homework and thought I'd share with you how to oil your flyer and keep your spinning wheel happy.
The first and most important thing for you to do is to read your manual. If you have a modern spinning wheel from a prominent company, there are manuals available online. If your spinning wheel is an antique or perhaps not from a larger manufacturer, proceed with caution and perhaps try and find literature on how to maintain such wheels. For example, I have a Schacht Ladybug wheel. The manual explicitly states that the wheel hub should not be oiled. Had I not read that, I would have naturally assumed the wheel would be one of those places that should be oiled often. I would have been very wrong.
Go ahead and slide your bobbin on over your oiled flyer and assemble your Mother of All as you would any other time you change bobbins. Make sure your hands are clean before you start handling your fluff, though!