Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Gentle knitters,
I am moving on.  Knitting has continued to be unfriendly to my hands, so I have to put this beloved pursuit on hold for a while.  I bought a 24" rigid heddle table loom, made by Ashford, a New Zealand-based company, last September, and have been using my knitting yarns to make blankets, shawls, towels, and other two-dimensional woven goods ever since.  

There is a serious learning curve to weaving with a rigid heddle loom, and if you're interested in finding out about how to weave with one, I have some strong suggestions, based on my own failures, frustrations, and discoveries.  Recently a number of LYS, yarn purveyors, and crafts emporia have been promoting the rigid heddle looms made by many manufacturers, although the Schacht Cricket is one of the favorites.  I bought an Ashford that's 24" wide because a Master Weaver recommended the brand and the dimensions to me.  A 24" loom means that you can weave a fabric that's just about that width, or one that's narrower.  This allows you more choices than some of most promoted looms, like the Schacht Cricket, which can't weave anything wider than 10" or 15", depending on which size you purchase.  The wider the loom, the more expensive.  This is true of any loom manufacturer's products.  

I took a three-part workshop on how to use a rigid heddle table loom at a local yarn store. The store was promoting the Schacht looms because they wanted participants to buy one. I'd borrowed a friend's loom, the Harrisville Easy Weaver, supposedly child friendly.  It is a horror.  The workshop instructor couldn't deal with it, and I barely could. Nonetheless, I had a strong intuition that I could find a cooperative loom and would eventually enjoy working with one. I'm glad I persevered.

The Ashford looms are very nice, but if you're interested in buying one, please be aware they are shipped unassembled and the wood needs an application of preservative coating before you can do the assembly. Moreover, the accompanying instructions for using the loom are awful, and the company's videos are just as awful. Imagine someone with a really thick New Zealand accent ("peg" is pronounced "pig") speaking very rapidly against a background of loud guitar music. Well, if you doubt my assessment, have a look for yourself. They're on Youtube and the company's website.

You may be wondering how I managed to move forward in this new endeavor given the obstacles. I'd bought some instruction books that were moderately helpful, but frankly, the best thing I did was plunk down $60 for a Craftsy course on Rigid Heddle Weaving with Deborah Jarchow.  This is by far the best instruction I've come across for reasons that will be apparent if you sign up. Deborah answers questions in real time, you can replay sections of videos as much as you want, and she offers many time-saving, useful, practical, and wonderful ideas that save nerves and energy. I can't say enough good things about her teaching.

So that's where I'm at, my friends. Knitting's on the back burner, but I'm still playing with fiber without tormenting my hands. Do I miss knitting? Of course. Weaving is fascinating and addictive, but it's not portable, even with a table loom. I miss having a bag of knitting I can grab on my way out the door, I miss knitting socks in waiting rooms, on airplanes, while watching our country circling the drain on the nightly TV news. But I still have yarn in my life, which is much better than not having yarn in my life, and I'm learning about the properties of linen, cotton, bamboo, silk, and more esoteric fibers (paper! milk!) as I happily follow this road. One door closes, another opens, as the saying goes.

But Knitting New England, which I began nine years ago, will now enter hibernation. Thank you for reading this for however long you've been a reader of mine. I've enjoyed the writing of it, the connections the blog has made for me, and most of all, imagining you, my ideal readers.

Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.
All the best from me to you!

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