Take a deep breath and move on.

November 11, 2012 12:40 pm | by

It all boiled down to the scissors.  If you haven’t had your morning coffee, you might want to hold off reading further.

…I’ve been saving a little each week over the past year for a special purchase.  I celebrated my 55th two weeks ago, and so it seemed an appropriate time to go ahead and bite the bullet… I ordered “my” loom from Harrisville Designs.  It would be special.  A loom that would hold only projects that “I” really wanted, no pressure, no work related stuff, etc, etc, etc.

It arrived on Tuesday October 30, and I had already warned Jim that it was coming.  I was so excited.  I checked the UPS website at 6am to make sure that it was on the truck for delivery that day.  I watched the windows at the shop all morning, eyes peeled for that big brown truck that would be bringing my new baby home.  I literally jumped and squealed with joy as I saw the truck round the corner and turn into the parking lot.  It’s HERE!  It’s HERE!  I called Jim right away with the announcement.

He was thrilled – uh huh.  You see, he’d been here before (see seventy-six).  …and this time I had asked him for more.  My new baby was a bit bigger – 8 harnesses, 36 inches, and she would be stained (by Jim) a gorgeous red mahogany.  This was to be my birthday present – a labor of love.

And so it began late Tuesday afternoon.  My landlord had graciously allowed us to use the space next door to stain and assemble the loom.  Jim and our son Sean spread tarps over the counters and flooring and began laying out each of the wooden pieces.  They hand rubbed each piece with care.  1st coat.  Wednesday evening, Jim was on his own as he worked through the 2nd coat.

Special.  It has to be spectacular.  The first project on my loom must be memorable.  …and so as Jim worked the loom, I began the quest for a fabulous project to meet my demands.  I decided to weave a blanket, but not just any blanket.  A BIG blanket.  A BIG DOUBLE-WIDTH blanket. A BIG DOUBLE-WIDTH blanket with multiple twill patterns and color blocks.  Ambitious.  You can count on me to take on a project.  I found a cool draft for a smaller color/twill gamp blanket, and I began the process of modifying it to fit my sizing requirement.  I used Weave It to convert it to a double width draft – very cool!  Now for the colors.  Spectacular was my only requirement.  I think I nailed it.  The picture below shows 1/2 of the width – each block would be 6″ square with a different twill pattern.

I’d be using Cascade 220 – 22 skeins of it!  I measured the warp – a full 3 skeins of each color – and set them aside in anticipation of Sunday’s weaving session.  No pressure Jim.

Thursday is Jim’s dreaded paperwork night, so no time for the loom again until Friday.  He worked until he could no longer see the oil finish coat he was applying.  …and then came Saturday – it’s “build” day!

I’m working next door, but popping over every so often to check on the progress.  It’s important that it’s finished on Saturday – there’s football on Sunday!  I really want to weave on Sunday, and Jim knows that if I’m weaving… well it will be a good football day!

8:30pm (12 hours) It’s beautiful!  She’s finished!  Lock the doors, grab a quick burger, and return to load her in the trailer for the ride home.

Sunday morning – it’s Weaving/Football day!  (depends on who you ask).  He’s out the door by 10.  I have my sley hook in hand and I’m heading for the loom.  I’ve decided to track my hours on this project.  I’ve got this cool little phone app that lets you clock in and out.  I think I must be a nut.

I worked steadily all day, stopping only to change out loads in the wash.  It’s a good thing I did that on Sunday because the house hasn’t seen a bit of attention since then.  My blanket had 716 ends to thread – with 6″ patterns before changing. Loads of concentration required, a few mishaps that I found and corrected.  I’m pretty pleased with myself.  Did I mention that the blanket was double width?  This means that I had to thread for both the top and the bottom of the blanket at the same time.  I had selected a 12 dent reed – so I was threading 24 ends per inch in a worsted weight yarn.  NUTS.  I must have been NUTS.  It’s so heavy.  When I wound the warp onto the back beam, the hanging harnesses would pull all the way to the back beam from the pressure on the reed.  Geez.  I really should have selected a larger sett, but my 10 dent reed was otherwise occupied and well, there was going to be NO WAITING to weave on this new loom!

Done.  It took a while, but the warp has been tied on and I have the 1st 6″ color block complete.  The fabric is fabulously dense and totally appropriate for an Alaskan winter evening.  Okay.  Hope we have a cold winter here in Florida.

I dutifully clocked out when Jim arrived home from his wonderful football Sunday – 9 hours 12 minutes recorded on the blanket.

Things are going along smoothly.  I’m weaving each evening for about an hour or so, and giving it about 20 minutes in the morning while Jim is in the shower.  By Wednesday I’m approaching the 1/2 way point.

Thursday night I discover that I’ve made a mistake in my pattern draft.  I’m ready to begin the 2nd half and my shuttle is on the bottom portion of the blanket, but my draft has me treadling for the top half.  I realize that I merely reversed direction, so I had two threads in the same shed.  Thankfully I had my trusty Weave It software to help me remove that thread and redraft the treadling for the 2nd half of the blanket.  I’m off and running.

Disaster is happening without my knowledge.  I’m happily weaving my way through the remainder of the blanket.  Friday morning, Friday evening – 2 hours, 21 minutes.  I’m quite certain that this blanket is coming off the loom on Sunday morning – and we all know that Sunday is FOOTBALL day, so I will need another project.  Yarns selected for towels that I’ll design when I’m done with the blanket.

Saturday evening, I’m pushing myself to get a good bit done so that I need only an hour or two on Sunday morning to finish.  I can actually see the ties on the back of the loom – it’s almost finished!

…and then it begins.

For some reason, I look at the underside.  I think I probably caught the shuttle on a thread in the middle of the shed or something.  At the fold line, I have probably 10 threads that have been missed over the past 20 rows or so.  What the heck happened?  OMG.  As I look further down in my work, it appears that beginning at the block just over the half way point I’ve been missing threads!  OMG!!!

I climb under the loom.  I’m having a little fit – well not a little one.  The Harrisville comes with chains for the treadles, but not enough to hang one over every pedal for every shaft.  You never need one for every shaft and every pedal, but I wanted them there, so when Jim was building the loom we did some add on’s with chain from Lowe’s and clips from Michael’s.  That has been working very well for the 22″ 4 harness at the shop, but my project was just too heavy, and all of the clips had broken, so I was not lifting the harnesses on the bottom of the fabric about 1/2 of the time.  …and my blanket is so big that the fabric roll is hitting the harnesses under the loom!   There’s a full sheep farm in shades of blue/green and purple hanging out under my loom.  The fuzz is incredible – my socks are covered.  There’s even a 1″ tube of roving from yarn abrasion sitting in the shed on the bottom layer of the blanket!

Tears.  Jim doesn’t know what to do to console me.  I’m an old “Fawlty Towers” fan.  If you’ve ever watched John Cleese, you’ll know that he’s a riot.  There is this episode where he’s kicking himself in the backside while simultaneously hitting himself in the head.  It’s a classic, and if I had any kind of physical coordination it would be happening in my living room.

Spectacular.  Gone.

Memorable – yeah, we’ve got that one.

I begin to pull out one of the 6″ blocks.  After 1 hour and 37 minutes, I realize that I hate this blanket.  I am NOT going to take out the next four 6″ blocks.

My friend Joan would tell me to cut it off.

Fully under my own steam and with only a cup of tea that Jim thought might calm my nerves, I proceed to move the good strong Harrisville chains to replace my retrofit ones.  I take a deep breath and decide that I’m going to finish the blanket and leave all those ugly mistakes in there.  This is so totally against my nature – I don’t even know who that person was last night.

…and so this morning I am not-happily weaving along, finishing that blanket that would not be spectacular.  Or even wonderful.  Jim says he’ll be happy to cuddle on the couch with me and the blanket.  You can always count on Jim.

I’m getting close.  I am beginning to think about the new towels that will be next.  I just finished the 2nd to the last 6″ block.  Maybe an hour to go!

Better get another cup of coffee, you’re not going to believe what happened next.

…so I’m reaching for the scissors I have placed in the tool tray on top of the loom.  For what ever reason I have been using the big fabric cutting shears to snip the yarn when I add in a new color.  Enter John Cleese again.

Jim’s football buddies are on the way – he’s nearly singing in the kitchen as he prepares his weekly tailgate feast.

Suddenly, and without warning, I reach for the scissors.  In slow motion, they slip from my hand and fall directly on the “you could bounce a quarter on it” warp.   It didn’t matter that I sucked all the air out of the room holding my breath.  It didn’t matter that I had already been through so much, that I had sucked it up and woven on over a not perfect not spectacular project.

The singing in the kitchen has suddenly stopped.  As if on queue, Jim’s football buddies pull up out front.  He brings me a tube of chapstick – I’ve nearly bitten off my lips by now in concentration, and eases out the door.

It’s over.  They severed 4 warp ends in a row.   I cut 4 new warp threads and tried to place them into the fabric, but the double width just made it impossible.  Everything I did just closed up the top and underside of the blanket as if they were one.

The shears will be replaced with smaller scissors tomorrow.  Little kids safety scissors with rounded tips, and maybe even a plastic safety cover.

Take a deep breath and move on.  The shears have one final job.  Release the brake, pull the reed forward and get that damn thing off the loom.

Thinking back years from now about my first project on my new loom, I will realize that I didn’t hit all my criteria.  Special.  Spectacular.  Memorable.

It’s still special.  The colors are gorgeous.  The first half is truly spectacular.  The second half won’t fall apart.

It will always be memorable.

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  • Beth says:

    Oh, Caroline…..this makes me want to cry with you. I know you will laugh one day, but today is NOT that day.

  • Janet says:

    As a new weaver…..I feel your pain. I have learned a lot about weaving through my mistakes. Tossed two warps after so much frustration…repeating the words..”it’s only yarn, it’s only yarn.”. And, fortunately only a scarf size warp.
    My latest fabric was a 30″ wide 5 yard long chenille warp 16 EPI. Chenelle threads move like worms! Drove me nuts. Walked away 3 nights with a voice saying “put down the scissors and walk away from the loom.” Finally, with the help of my husband, I successfully detangled the warp and dressed the loom. Fabric is gorgeous.
    It is my third fabric. Time to sew a jacket. First garment was a loose sweater. Love it.

    So, here ‘s to mistakes and what we learn from them.
    Enjoy your new loom. See you this winter. ( I now have an 8 shaft table loom to take south with me. Happy Days!)


    • Caroline says:

      Janet, your words are inspiring. Thanks for reminding me today of what I already know, but have difficulty accepting on this day in particular…. I’m not the first to have disasters. This will probably not be my last disaster either!

      Can’t wait to see your projects! I have not yet tackled clothing.

      I’m with you. Cheers to mistakes and what we learn from them. Let them be big enough to be memorable so that we may not make them again! After I vacuum out the sheep farm, I may sit at the loom this afternoon and try something new.

  • Debbie says:

    Laughing …hysterically! I don’t weave but I can surely appreciate the vision of perfection! You tell your story with perfect expression … It is so nice to know that when a beginner looks up to you in such a godly manner that you too have your own memorable mishaps! Just know I still think you are the “master”! Your work is always so beautiful and it awwws me!

    • Caroline says:

      Debbie, thanks for the comment. I’ve been knitting for a very very long time – I make mistakes, big ones! It’s how I continue to learn. I’ve been weaving just a short time – I make mistakes, they all seem big to me though I’m sure to a more experienced weaver, most of them are quite small. It’s a journey complete with roadblocks and speed bumps. If I just remember to slow down a bit in the tricky parts the road will be a little bit smoother!