Dedicated Weaving Shed

Over the past three days we put down plywood, wired, added electrical boxes, insulated, sheeted plastic, and panelled a building that for years has been in the works, namely, a dedicated weaving studio.  Complete with a loft it will be able to accommodate several people in a simple, wooded setting of solitude.  Electricity will be able to be switched between a generator or better yet, 12 volt rechargeable batteries with a solar panel.  The kitchen will be meagre but adequate.  And there is an area for washing up and personal needs.  While not completed, it is now at a point that can be easily heated and worked on over the winter to be fully finished.  Much of the building materials used here are personally made or scrounged in keeping with the self-sufficient nature of weaving itself.

And as of last night…


Rag Cutter

While a Fraser rag cutter looks like a high quality tool, its $500 price tag is a bit ridiculous.  It also looks slow and a bit awkward to use by oneself.

I like the concept of the Saori fabric cutter…

I am going to have to give some thought to making a similar box using heavy Exact-O knife blades to cut 1 1/2″ denim strips,  I think that the basic Saori cutter design is very sound, but will probably require two people to  feed a leg of denim jean material through this correctly.  It would be fast and uniform though.  Give me a few nights to work on this.


A Conversation On Rag Rug Weaving

We are getting ready to set up one of our looms and never having woven rag rugs before we turned to our friend Betsy who is an avid rug weaver.  Here’s what we learned:


What width rag do you use to make your rugs?  We have been saving blue jeans for years and have piles of them.

For denim rugs I usually use strips of 1 1/2″, and for tablemats, and table runners usually 1″. When the material is lighter I use wider strips – usually up to 3″ for light weight sheets – maybe 2″ for flannel. Knits and hard to tear stuff I might do with a rotary cutter on a board, but a lot of the time I just tear the strips.  This is not ideal with dust and lint in mind. When it is nice enough outside I like to do it on the porch and these days inside I have an air filter running inside when I do it.  I tried wearing a mask, but with my glasses it is uncomfortable and gets in the way.  I am just about to do some now in fact while I wait for things to dry out a bit more.

Okay!  That’s great to know…we have never done rag rugs but we are getting to the point of wanting to set up a loom for it so we are reading and watching in the wee hours when I get up…I was thinking that I like the Japanese device and could make one using heavy Exact-o knife blades, and if I did that then I could make them whatever width I wanted.

I have seen something that has a crank to it, somewhere – probably a catalog – I think just pulling fabric pieces through you’d probably get better control. It is nice if the strips are very uniform, unless you want an irregular effect.

I think I answered a question about width already. I usually tear denim strips at 1 1/2″ wide. First I cut/tear the bottom hem off – then I cut the side seams and tear across the bottom of the leg. Then I start with a tear up the side that looks closest to straight – this depends a lot on the “cut ” of the style, but usually the outer seam. I measure in the 1 1/2″ width, making notches with scissors across the bottom, then tear the length of the leg as far as I can. Brian likes to get more by taking the back patch pockets off with a seam ripper, but I just tear- if I can tear through the pocket-fine, if not I just use the shorter piece. It works best with 100% cotton jeans.  If there is too much polyester I usually can’t tear them and just trash those.  If the material is very worn you get to a weak spot and the fabric tears across, at the knee sometimes. Not much you can do about it. If the pieces are less than a foot or so I just discard them. When I finish one pair of jeans, I usually bundle the strips with one strip tied around the rest. When there is variation in the shades I sew the strips in a pattern – one or two from each pair of jeans to even out the variation through the rug -l ighter and darker shades. I just took a look to see if I could find a good video about the sewing of the rags, and didn’t see one.  I sew the strips together on the machine, placing “right sides” together at a 90 degree angle and sew on a diagonal-with a small triangle on the right. With the end of that second strip, you turn it right side up, place the next strip right side down and again sew diagonally leaving a little triangle to the right.  When you have enough to fill a shuttle stop and trim the connecting thread and the little triangles about half an inch from your seam.  Then you have a long continuous strip of denim.  With the diagonal seam it isn’t as bunchy as other methods of joining the strips. With denim , which is sturdier than most other materials, I think this is especially important. If I am gearing up for a big project I might do these up and roll them into balls, but sometimes for variety I tear and sew and weave in rotation to mix up the muscles I am using – sometimes turn on the air filter and leave the area for a bit.


I usually weave rugs at 12 dpi with 4/8 all cotton warp. I have a 15 dpi reed on my heavy duty loom most of the time – sometimes I double thread 2/dent and 2/heddle and every other dent in the reed-usually to mix up the colors with more variety, so that is more like 15 dpi. Not sure if all that will make sense to you.

Just out of curiosity, have you ever considered ripping from opposite ends, every other rip, and stopping short by 1 1/2″ of the end so that it forms a zig-aged continuous strip? You use an air filter…do you find that helpful?

The alternating cut does work with knits and I have used it to do the “T-shirt yarn”, but with tougher denim it would make unevenness that would be unacceptable to me. I don’t like things looking ragged, but some folks do not mind it. When you have the problem of a weak spot due to wear on the pants that would mess it up, also.

Since I started having bouts of allergy-induced asthma I do use the air filter in my work space, because preparing and weaving with rags creates dust, and I also vacuum with a shop-vac more often than I used to. I like to do processing on the porch when it is comfortable, and often use it as an entry-level job for people who are visiting and who want to set and talk. We can get ahead sometimes and have the rags ready to go.



Betsy weaves on a Newcomb loom, made in Davenport, Iowa.


Sewing Aside

Last fall we bought an LSZ-1 from Sailrite.  Before outdoor work really picks up here I sat down this week and sewed 48″ wide panels of treated canvas into a tarp.  It slips over the standing support.


It is gusseted around all points where the rails attach to the boat as well as over where the long tail shaft comes out of the engine.


It fastens along each side to the frame of the boat trailer with 15″ rubber bungee cords.  It is reinforced at the two front corners.  The Ultrafeed LZ-1 by Sailrite performed flawlessly through up to ten layers of heavy canvas.

sisipiskwa tracker

Yarn Cake Winder

Sometimes called a ball winder, it is used to wind yarn into a cake.  A cake of yarn is a roll with two flat sides.  This will hold its shape and remain upright as the yarn is effortlessly removed from the centre of the cake.  This winder came with the last loom that I picked up.  It has a small pigtail wire for a yarn guide.  One of these days I will have to try it out and post a video.


And this is how they work in connection with a swift…


Another Loom Rescue

For no particular reason we had been looking for a 60″ loom.  Then we found one, but it was far away, near a friend’s home.  They agreed to pick it up for us.  We gave them instruction of what to look for.  They phoned from the site when they were there.  They brought it to us this Easter weekend.  But it was not a 60″ loom; it was a 45″ Leclerq Fanny, which we already have.  That was disappointing since we had asked them to measure it to make sure.  Oh well.  It is in pretty rough shape and will need to be stripped and polished, but the heddles and the reeds are in good shape.  One of the reeds is a 5 count reed which will be good for rugs, so it will become a dedicated rug machine, which is fine.  The refurbishing will take place next winter.  The loom will go into a protected shed and the metal will stay inside.  It was a good price.

The Art And Craft Of Hand Weaving – Lili Blumenau

Lili Blumenau attended the Berlin Academy of Fine Arts.  She later studied at the Academy Scandinave in Paris during which time she decided to pursue a career in weaving and textile artisty.  Graduating as the first woman student at the New York School of Textile Technology she went on to gain mill experience and in 1948 she began the weaving workshop at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York.  In 1952 she founded the weaving department at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Design, New York, New York.  From 1944 until 1950 she was curator of textiles at Cooper Union Museum.  In 1955 she authored The Art and Craft of Hand Weaving, Including Fabric Design, which was published by Crown Publishers, New York City.

md135362474I received Lili Blumenau’s book the other day, The Art And Craft Of Hand Weaving, reviewed by Dorothy Day in 1956.  I am far from disappointed.  Structurally, this book is divided into four parts: (1) Evolution, Looms, Weaving Procedure, (2) Fibers, (3) Weaves, and (4) Design.  However, it is not a strictly technical text.  It is much richer.  She writes, [t]he ideal of handwaving today is not simply material.  It is a means of self-realization and fulfillment.  And its purpose today is unique.  Practically, we do not need to weave cloth by hand but the value of weaving is in the work.  The present-day desire to weave is one expression of the search in our time for human qualities.  Rather than focusing on writing simply another book on patterns and techniques (those elements are there), Blumenau encourages creative artisanship based on the raw material, its visual and tactile characteristics.  And she reminds her readers that doing so is not the sole possession of only specialty artists.  Weaving for her entails ‘good work’, engaging, fully human, and life-giving in every respect.


Pioneer Life – Doukhobors


As the Doukhobors moved out to these villages they first erected makeshift shelters, either of poplar poles or turf; sometimes, where there was a hillside, they lived the summer through in a dugout, and there were also a number of tents.  Outdoor ovens were built for baking bread, and the blacksmiths set up their forges and made charcoal out of the available timber.  Like most communities that have traditionally been self-contained, the Doukhobors found little difficulty in going immediately into operation in a strange environment, for they had among them men who knew all the necessary crafts.  Among the first things they obtained through the bonus fund was a quantity of iron bars and leather, and with these they immediately set about making harness, spades, and tires for their wagons.

This self-sufficiency, which was carried into many fields of activity, undoubtedly helped the Doukhobors to survive with very little money during the first years on the prairies.  One of the first gifts of the American Quakers was three hundred spinning-wheels, and with these the Doukhobor women span the woollen and linen thread they later wove on homemade looms into homespun cloth.  Furniture was made out of hand-hewn wood, and utensils, such as spoons, were carved out of the same material.  Some of these crafts continued to be practised for decades…

The Doukhobors, Woodcock and Avakumovic


‘The Relationships Among Grab And Strip Strength Values Before And After Abrasion’ – Constance Crowe Adams

Her grandfather circumnavigated the world seven times as captain of a windjammer based out of Truro, Nova Scotia; there were numerous trans-Atlantic crossings.  Her father grew up on those ships and later became a school teacher and married a school teacher.  She followed in her parent’s footsteps, attended normal school and went to teach on Cape Breton in a one room schoolhouse.  Her uncle invited her to Winnipeg where he would fund her university education.  She studied home economics at the University of Manitoba where she received her Bachelors degree, and taught in a one room school in Queens Valley, east of Winnipeg.  Interested in textiles she was accepted at the University of Minnesota for her Masters, graduating in 1950.  Her research involved standardized testing on the breaking strength of cotton fabrics.  Her name was Constance Crowe Adams.  And she is my mother-in-law.  My wife comes by being both a teacher and interested in textiles honestly.  (One of our children is now a fourth generation Canadian teacher.)  Typed on a typewriter its hard copy is difficult to read as it is .

She was an astounding woman and is still dearly missed…









Original Leclerc Loom Tie-Ups


fullsizeoutput_291bTie-ups are used to connect the lams to the treadles of a loom.  On more modern looms various labour and time saving methods have been devised with which to do this.  But on older looms there is often simply a closed screw eye loop on the lam and another on the treadle.  There is nothing on the internet to show how these were originally installed.  In Oscar Beriau’s book, Home Weaving (both 1939 and 1947 editions) this method is illustrated.  The use of cotton cord is originally used since hardware only interferes with treadle movement; any added hardware installed on an older loom is an upgrade for the sake of convenience and should be removed.