THAT Project

This is a project that has been doomed from the start. It should be simple – spin and weave SH9 from the Sutton Hoo ship burial. 45 epi in the warp and 30 ppi in the weft. Then weave a broken lozenge twill fabric.

The first indication this would not go well is the first fleece. After much research, I found shetland fleece which I washed and sent to be pick and carded at the mill. It cam back sticky. The mill used some spray to prevent flyaways and static. Personally, it is hard to get static from a sticky brick of wool. I had to rewash the roving twice to get rid of the adhesive, I mean, spray. The water turned black from all the gunk and it felt nasty after washing. But I was determined to move forward.

I tried to dye it red with madder. I have a very good, reliable, raspberry red recipe from madder that I use regularly. Silly me, I tried that recipe and got a felted, greenish pumpkin color. There were tears. I called my dyeing buddy and after a long discussion and experiments, it appeared that 1) the dye reacted with the remaining anti-static spray and felted the fiber and 2) the madder that came to the US that year was adulterated with brick dust or something, Subsequent dye attempts with fresh madder produced my regular red.

So, I search and find new fleece. 12 pounds and half had to be tossed due to fiber length and pooh. After washing and combing, the yield is about 3.5 pounds. Not nearly enough.

After more failures I am getting down to the wire. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving when I can spin for several days straight. And them the revolving door accident. My hand is caught between the frame the the rotating door. No spinning or weaving for four months.

Due to the time I have and a deadline approaching, I discover I have a great warp yarn in my stash. I put it on my loom, 864 threads, 12 yard warp. I thread the heddles and the reed and tie it on.

The warp sticks to itself. Throwing the shuttle is an agonizing slow process as I have to manually clear each shed. And there is no tension.

Now the tension on this loom has been a struggle since I moved the loom up into the larger studio. Looking at directions online, I discover I have the beam on BACKWARDS. I remove the beam, put it on correctly and put on a new brake system. And of course, the warp has to come off because it is going the wrong direction. Then I look again at the diagrams. And I have it on BACKWARDS since it was on correctly the first time.

I moved the beam back into position, replace the brake again it seems to work. I order new yarn and wind it on the warping wheel. I start winding it onto the loom. And of the 60 threads in the bout, 18 break. The next attempt, 10 break. I wind one thread at a time on the darn thing and finally get minimal breakage.

Now I am threading the heddles. I am up to 500 out of 840 threads. I watch over my shoulder for the next disaster.

It’s ALIVE!!

Finally, after all the work, the Big Kahuna of a loom is ready for business. I have finally put on Tex-Solv heddles after my sweet husband mentioned he enjoyed my sanity and not the insane cursing and muttering in playing with making my own. I do know it can be done. And for that I am grateful… but more for having an understanding spouse! I purchased the heddles from my fellow weaving guild member, Barb Gallagher from Weaver’s Loft in Indiana. They were installed in less than an hour after the package arrived.

What took longer was threading the previous owner’s warp though them and setting up the treadling. One of the challenges was tying up the treadles. For whatever reason, the seven inch tie up cords lead to an uneven and narrow shed. After removing the threaded reed and disassembling the beater, lowering it, reassembling, disassembling again and reassembling, I still had the issue. It seems that the design of the treadles pull the warp unevenly. In order to make the cords pull consistently, I installed small spools in different combinations. Now I have the harnesses moving somewhat evenly.


Now I can weave! I have threaded the loom for a waffle weave which will give me a dimensional fabric. The warp is 16″ wide which I think will give me about 12″ of width after washing. I am not entirely sure what the original owner was going to make with the 16 -20 yards she wound on, but I am thinking there will be a lot of towels for Christmas!

Fabric on the loom