A too long weaving retrospective of just a couple of years

I came to weaving by destiny? benign coercion? inevitability?

One of the few things that made going to the college that wasn’t even my last choice because it wasn’t even on my list seem like it was going to be okay was that it had a fiber arts program, and though that wasn’t going to be my major, I was excited to have the opportunity for some woolly electives.

But it was killed right before I started, and one day the room full of sad, broken down looms was empty.

Fast forward to nearly a decade ago, I was whining here about starting up weaving – I’d been on the fence a long time – on the one hand, I don’t have the cash and space for it, and to some degree, time; and if I’m going to be honest, I was also holding off to look forward to taking it up in my cronehood – but on the other, it’s really cool to learn new shit and that feeling keeps me going, and I’m knocking on that crone door now.

Enter the first year of the pandemic, and N surprised me speechless with a birthday loom. At first I was overwhelmed – it was still during the toilet paper scarcity and I was scrambling to keep my job, so learning something entirely new (without the option of an in-person class where I learn best) felt a bit much.

But a week or to later, I watched a few videos and dug out a cone of variegated cotton from my stash. (I think I originally got it to knit a hand towel for a kitchen long ago?)

And I really dug it.

But I really hated warping it the first time, and the peg fell off, so there was a first time, and a second time, and maybe another time after that, but once I was weaving it was good. Well not good-good as the edges were frustrating the fuck out of me, but good because what I was doing was actually making cloth.

And I got a legit runner out of it – only a few skipped…stitches? Don’t know the word – threads? And the selvedge? edge-part is a little wonky but decent for a first go.

I started another immediately with what was left with the blue and white and some more white, and started digging it even more.

And then I got distracted.

Which isn’t quite my fatal flaw, but the reason it takes me years, decades, to compete things and why I have too much shit.

The issue was that the loom only came with two shuttles (that word I do know) and they’re long. I needed some shorter ones and more of them because I was dreaming in plaid by that point.

So went on a woodworky detour and made a bunch along with some… packing sticks?

But I didn’t stray too long and was soon able to cover the second dresser with a badly damaged finish that needs to be redone.

(That’s another long-suffering project.)

So then I was finally able to plaid the fuck out. (And I finally had to buy some yarn – yes, very problematic cotton from a soon to be somewhat canceled company. But it was what I could afford and get delivered at the time.)

The plan was to make 4 or so placemat things for the kitchen counters, but the loom room (aka shared home office) was too small to warp that length.

Did I mention I’ve only learned how to direct warp, and everything else seems like sorcery? Yeah, I still need a class.

So I did it on the deck. But the warp was too long at first, which I didn’t realize was a thing until something was weird when I was trying to wind on that last bit – I think that was it? Or at least everything was fine when I did it all over again a foot or two shorter.

And somewhere in a circle of social media hell I saw someone using clamps instead of warping pegs, and warping life has been much better for them – thank you random person.

But even though I got a long cloth, it wasn’t very plaid. So my warp dominated. So what does that mean to fix it, a different sized reed? Thinner weft? Who the fuck knows.

(Plenty do, I’m just not focused enough to find out (and I can’t keep buying reeds).

And after washing/shrinking, it well, shrank, so with hemming, four placemat things were going to be slightly too short, so I ended up with three slightly too long ones.

And yet again I forgot to measure it before washing so I couldn’t calculate the shrinkage – but who am I kidding, I’m not going to calculate anything.

So the next weaving-induced distraction was to make one of those peg-board yarn “walls.” But I don’t have a helluva lot of space to work with, but that’s a good thing because my weaving cotton can’t exceed the space and I’ve been pretty good about using it up as I’ve been able to thrift a bit lately too.

The next weave was a gift – for that first covid xmas when we didn’t gather. The colors went with some of the recipient’s decor, but I always forget we have a red table, even though I know we have a red table, and I’ve had that table since thrifting it in the mid 1990s, but I don’t usually choose red, and I enjoyed weaving with it. The red yarn was the barber pole kind (marled) so I liked the texture-y look it made.

Initially I used grey as the weft before switching to using the red (see more warp dominance!) and I was left with a little scrap.

So I sewed the scrap on to a broken basket handle (my family’s picnic basket from childhood) and vowed to use scraps ASAP so I’m not left with a load of things that aren’t things but could be.

The next weave was also going to be a gift.

I had fun playing with balls.

And thankfully I had several random colors that complement or match several colors of the recipient’s fiestaware.

And I’m still not loving warping and threading, but by this point I was doing it in one go.

And enter another distraction…

I used to do glass lampworking. I enjoyed it, but it was the one and only hobby I broke up with – it was just not wise to do it in my apartment at the time, and it was for the best, though some days I wish I didn’t give my shit away (though it was only a very cheap torch, so it wouldn’t bankrupt me to get another, but I have to leave this one be…) I think.

So anyway, I had a bunch of glass beads left over doing jack shit, so I strung them on some wire and attached them to some little curtain hook thingies to act as weights for flaccid threads. Is that legit? I don’t know, but they help and I’m still often getting at least one floppy thread on an edge…

But I really liked this one and it looked good with our fiestaware too.

At this point, I thought it was time to try a new technique.

I like the look of clasped weft and I’m interested in that whole Saori thing too, but before I committed to a big project, I brought out that toy loom I’m so glad I kept.

I took it on a cabin vacation – the first one we’d had since lockdown, even though we essentially stayed locked down there or in the woods when folks were starting to do dumb shit again and think it was all over…

Anyway, even though I like rainbow yarn, I kinda hated this rainbow yarn (I thought the pink part was a tomatoey red) so the sample/practice turned into 3 (again 3, not 4) coasters I sent off to someone who didn’t acknowledge them so probably wasn’t a fan either….

But then I got the bigger project on the loom and didn’t enjoy it. I don’t remember what the exact problem was – maybe a bit too fiddly for my mind and fingers at the time? But I was disappointed again in the yarn – it didn’t have as much contrast as I thought it would.

But it made a decent piece of cloth, and we’re using it in the dining room (it’s not quite as dark as pictured).

So I figured it was time to do a scarf and in something other than cotton.

I got some subtle gradient sock yarn for super cheap and loved, loved, loved the greens.

And I love when the pooch curls up underneath, or better next to, the loom when I’m working.

But in the end, I don’t love the scarf for a few reasons –

Though I broke down and got a second reed, I probably should have gotten the next size down or rather the next size bigger, so I’m a bit bummed I can’t use it to blow through some of my sock yarn stash.

I fucked up the beginning and didn’t leave enough warp for easily made fringe, then I ran out of yarn and couldn’t waste the warp so finished it out with a foot or so of black. Then the hemmed edges ended up being kinda stiff and don’t move the same as the rest of the scarf which has decent drape despite being a little too tightly woven.

And the subtle gradient had a few very hard changes. Which doesn’t really bother me but would have if I’d paid full price for the yarn (it’s also probably why it ended up at like 80% off).

So I have to force myself a little to wear it, but it’s also a good reminder that I’m still learning.

(I still haven’t figured out what to do with the scrap though, because this time the weft was dominant… go figure).

My next fibery distraction counts as weaving and it took me away from the bigger loom here and there.

Yep, fell down the darning hole.

I’ve always darned & mended socks, but was finding it a bit tedious and I’m eternally irritated that I still can’t do a decent swiss darning/duplicate stitch. So I treated myself to a little speedweave style darning loom from a seller from Ukraine (just before the war) on Etsy.

And now our socks are basically immortal, and I don’t plan on unraveling any for reknitting any time soon.

I’ve been making an effort to kill or finish many long-suffering projects in the last couple of years, so it became time to deal with the thin cotton blanket from N’s old sweaters.

It had been off the needles for a year or two, and I was thinking I was going to restart it holding the yarn doubled so it would go faster, but that was going to somewhat defeat its original purpose of being thin and light. (How and why is this a caption? I still don’t like new WP which is “old” now)

So weaving it instead was the no-brainer option. I’d thrifted a white mixed content, but mostly cotton, sweater with a thin black thread so that made the project more interesting rather than the original black and brown.

I did two panels nearly the width of the loom then sewed them together. It took a few months to weave, but at the time of year I have the least amount of time due to garden demands.

I’m happy with the way it turned out and N seems to like it too – it was a milestone birthday present for him. When I do another (which I hope too maybe this year) I need to make it about 6 inches longer, but yes, I didn’t measure again, so once more I don’t know shrinkage percentage, only I’m pretty sure I warped it the length of the room, so I’ll have to do it elsewhere.

And the most recent weaverly distraction was basketmaking. I got a kit, I made the kit, I obsessed over growing willow and making willow caskets and I had my life figured out.

I only made the one basket.

But I would like to explore it further – would love to do a workshop or something, but again, those are pricey – probably not pricey enough for the instructor’s time and knowledge, but I was getting a little bummed I’ve never been able to go to craft camp.

So last summer I made my own – I had a few days to myself and a few specific goals – do a new thing (the basket), get some shit done but not so much it’s a slog, and have open round-robin sessions of knitting, sewing, spinning, and miniature work (has that made an appearance here…?)

It was good times, albeit a slightly lonely camp experience, but it gave me a new habit of plotting out weaving patterns beforehand – thanks self for keeping 20+ year old grid sketchbook and 30+ year old prismacolor pencils – and put most of my projects back on track for the rest of the year.

The last two weaves of the year were also gifts.

The pale green and orange of this one were chosen by the recipient – at first I thought I’d be bored with just two colors but I spent time figuring out the stripe sequence beforehand and I liked the result. The weft was orange too.

At first it was green and a little dull, and I went a few inches before switching to orange, so I had another scrap in the end. This became a salt & pepper (and wine) rug for our table along with some sickly sweet baby chick fabric edging that matched a little better in the basement light, but I picked it up as a souvenir fat quarter last summer, so it’s probably the only thing that I’ve ever made from things I got in the same year and all new at that.

The final weave of the year (not exactly final because I’ve just started a new scarf with handspun this week) was for the same recipient as the one with red above.

I enjoyed this one again with the marled red and sketched out at least a dozen stripe patterns before settling on this one – note to self that the edges always end up looking less wide than the pattern. This one ended up surprisingly longer than expected, but I didn’t switch up anything after starting, so I didn’t have a false start scrap.

We’ll see how the current scarf turns out – if I’m not happy with it, I might try another? Or else I’ll move on to the other things I’ve been thinking about – another thin cotton blanket from old thrifted sweaters, a beach towel, maybe a ruana kind of thing, and maybe fabric to make bags/pillows – I’d like to do some sort of basic jacket, but I need to know how to make/control for a decent sewing & wearing fabric.

And I’m fantasizing about giant floor looms and coverlets too…



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Knocked another long term publicly declared UFO off the list. The braided rag rug that I started for our old house, picked up and worked on again for our future house, then started to undo in craft defeat a few years ago, is now a functioning rug, albeit a knitted one.

Lessons learned? I still can’t crochet – it bothers my wrists, so I’m okay with not pushing myself to stick with it. Braiding is not tanglely if you move one ball – don’t think I knew that for the first 80 yards or so. I’m open to making another braided and sewn rug one day, but out of wovens, not knits. I’m definitely up to making another knitted rug, but there’s no need to braid beforehand. I’ve since learned how to cut t-shirt yarn more quickly and cleanly, but the all the rough bits of seams and bands and such are fine in a rug and make no waste.

First yards of braiding
When it started to be sewn
Swatching for knitting braid

Details – started with around 120 yards of braid, but ended up making ~60 yards more to finish. Used size US 50 needles. Cast on 33 stitches, ended up with X rows/purl bumps (can’t be arsed to count). I could only knit 2 rows at a time before I had to take a break – a third row made pain that lasted longer than progress was worth. But as long as I stuck to just 2 at a time, I was able to do several 2-row knitting sessions a day, so it was done in a couple-three weekends because of extra braiding time. How many shirts? Eh, don’t feel like counting those either but most of them were on the smaller side though there were also a few XL men’s and maybe a dress. And there’s always at least one strand of black or near black throughout.

The finished project is very thick and squishy – great dog mat and also nice for human ass bones, so I’ll probably keep it in the room I often sit on the floor (until I find the small chair of my vintage dreams). If it is tread on more, I’m thinking it might stretch a little (as would washing it) but since the goal was to finish it rather than make it a specific size for a specific spot, size & shape doesn’t matter too much, though I’m not washing it until it absolutely has to be – it weighs… over ten pounds? At least a couple bags of flour? Other potential places for it would be bedside, under the desk or sewing table, or the basement.

The only publicly declared long-term UFO left is the sweater quilt I started in the ’90s – I’ve got it on my list of shit to do for this year but I still haven’t repaired and embiggened the pieced flannel duvet cover, so I think that’s going to be my priority (along with seeing if there are enough scraps left to make a quilted throw – note to self to thrift a sheet to use as a backing for the pieced top since the fraying of that flannel is never going to stop).

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Wooly vest

I’m up to my tits in wordpress fuckery – hate the new editor, hate the IG pics disappearing, then when trying to replace those my text disappears..??? So I’m kicking myself for using this as my notebook – should have stuck to analog, or should have kept this in a tidy little doc on my own pc.

But figuring it out will be for another day or never.

In the meantime, catching up, I made a Burton Vestigan by Ela Torrente last fall and love it. It took me a loooong time to finish – I’m not a fast knitter and moss stitch slows me down even more. The yarn is Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride bulky in oregano, but I bought the yarn over a decade ago in a seconds batch, so the color might not quite be the same as today. The collar opens up to a wide one and looks good that way too.

I’m thinking about making another, though I’m not eager to do all that moss again, but if I do I need to remember to size up, way up – don’t know if my gauge was messed up or I just prefer a looser fit. (I think I also used 10.5 needles instead of the 10.75 or whatever that in between size is in metric that falls in the middle of US 10.5 and 11). The armholes could be a little wider too, though blocking helped (I think I might have sized them up even more though? I definitely made the pockets larger and sewed fabric ones instead of knitting them, and added more buttons. (Note: top button needs to be high, or maybe don’t make V as deep – it’s okay now, but if it stretches more it will be weird falling further underboob. Overall the pattern was a good one – there may have been some weird stitch counts and/or starting and stopping a row with a knit or purl when it didn’t make sense, but all of that was probably me not paying attention.

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Maybe not so hip anymore? hat

Hat knitting is starting to get jabby elbows at my sock knitting. For the past few years I’ve liked to make a hat during a cabin vacation – usually have it cast on and a few rows knit to make sure all is well before leaving, then knit furiously for a couple of days and be wearing it by the last couple while there. But in the year of no vacations, I snuck one in, and had little to no other travel & waiting room time, so my sock knitting lagged and then took on meaning that it really doesn’t have. And my sock drawer is a little jammed (but my hat storage isn’t much freer) so maybe I should build some new furniture – a nice chest or something instead, but you can’t shove lumber in a bag and go.

I missed the two fall wool festivals this year – partly because of being away (for the local one) and I’m still not cool enough with covid and all the other back-to-school cooler temps germs to go to the big one. So I used my $30 annual festival budget at Green Mountain Spinnery on the way home for some of their Sylvan Spirit tencel & US wool yarn. I had a shawl-ish sort of thing in mind but couldn’t swing a third or fourth skein, but then the pleasant floppiness wanted to plop on my head.

I also did the thing where I selected a color just out of my comfort zone, though I think purples are entirely in my comfort zone now, but this one ended up a little too pale for my mug and I also wanted to add a little more warmth.

And so while staring at a cheery mum on a unseasonably warm autumn day after a grim day back in the cube farm though not back full-time yet though maddeningly setting restart dates and rescinding over and over, I remembered this ball of thrifted mohair from a few years ago. It is this stuff (probably – you can’t always trust that the label matches the yarn when buying used) and the color ranges from fuchsia to orchid-y purple depending on the light (but not the candy red as below).

So the two of them held together worked – deeper color and extra warmth.

Then on to pattern searching – it had to be utterly uncomplicated, autopilot knitting – I had a few oldies, I searched for a few newbies, I couldn’t use rav for more than a few minutes, so I spent a little more time on the web searching and landed on Drops’ Winter Smiles Hat. I nearly abandoned it when the needle size wasn’t what I wanted and didn’t want to recalculate, but thankfully the stitch count for the small/medium size (I usually take a large) matched or was close enough to my trilobite hat which was on needles two sizes up. (That hat has since become a favorite though as a slouch, so the fun trilobite part ends up smurfy or condom-tippy.)

And despite knitting for days, I didn’t get it quite finished – I never remember how slow I am at 1×1 ribbing (or moss stitch as I’m still plodding though a years long vest, or linen stitch which I love/hate/love). But it quickly wrapped up a couple of days later and I’m happily wearing it now. I’m slightly concerned it might stretch out a bit too much eventually but I’d be willing to reknit it.
(Also might add a small and/or lightweight easily removeable pompom…?)


1+ skeins of Sylvan Spirit (and maybe 20-30 yards of the second?) and 1 ball of Aloft (some leftover yarn, but not much, but I don’t think it was a full ball to begin with) so somewhere around 200-220 yards of each held together.

US 6 needles throughout.

Cast on for S/M with the stretchy CO I learned from J that isn’t cabled, but close to it, and I don’t know what it’s called.

Knit as per pattern.

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The mask scraps quilt

Here we are still.

We suck.

I started making masks out of fabric I already had – the largest, ugliest pieces were 3-5 yards of $1/yard cottons that I bought a few years ago on a trip to Maine to use as foundation fabric – inside unseen stuff, for practice with dying/printing/whatever, or quilt backing if I couldn’t afford better later. This fabric became miles of bias tape for mask ties.

The face parts were made from a decent collection of fat quarters and half yards I’d collected over the years to line felted bags (that I used to sell at craft fairs). I chose the patterns that I liked the least or didn’t have something else in mind for them. All of these were the pleated surgical style and I was always left with a piece just a bit too small.

The second round of masks had me sacrificing prints I really liked, figuring they’d make me a little happier to wear, and more likely for recipients to wear. Many of them were souvenir fat quarters that I could remember buying from places I didn’t know when I’d visit again (there’s some Brooklyn, New Hampshire, and my original hometown in there) and with them came happy/sad/apocalyptic feelings, but ultimately it was good to let some go. But I still used the same three or four bias tape ties as before.

For the third round of masks, I treated? myself to some new fabric – most of these are the boldest geometric prints, and the skulls. I took to wearing the skulls exclusively and scared a little kid at one point, but at that point little maskless kids should not have been out in that particular public place, and there were scarier things going on. This was also the time I met my doppelganger in the supermarket muttering profanities under her mask with the same cadence as I was. I began experimenting with different styles and shapes of masks, so my scraps started to become jagged and swooped, and more wasteful.

The fourth round were smaller batches here and there, special requests, or us wanting one or two more of a newer style, better fit. By this point I finally ditched the bias tape and switched to elastic ties and toggles and sewed in little pockets for aluminum nose inserts.

All of the leftover bits were enough to fill out a quilt…

And now all of those masks are mostly unused, since we switched to commercial ones with better protection.

(Which are now starting to pile up and I can’t just feed them to a landfill, so until there’s a good recycling option, I may turn them into a dog mat…)

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See the light

This Singer Fashion Mate 252 has been waiting patiently in a corner of the basement since I thrifted it in 2017. I tested it then and diagnosed a blown motor, and apparently there was also a note on it about it needing a new belt. But I’m guessing that I pressed the pedal before turning on the light…?


Because yeah, the light switch is the on switch…

(None of my sewing machines (serger not included) have power switches – not used to the new-fangled ones.)

After a generous application of oil and some confident but utterly inexpert turning of knobs and dials, it sews again, and fairly well – I might not replace the belt just yet.

Made a few card sleeves intending to make many more, but sewing clear polyester is hard to see and I’m overdue for new specs as well…

Now that I’ve got this ’70s machine up and running it’s probably time I start thinking about starting that ’70s quilt I’ve been chewing on for some time…

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Goodbye ravelry

A baker’s dozen or so of years of organizing projects, adding content, and enjoying virtual worldwide education and socialization ends when the original ravelry website on Internet Explorer is killed March 31st along with the “classic” interface.

The owners refuse to believe that their site is now unusable by many and silence all comments, suggestions, and complaints.

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New Home 532 zig zag sewing machine manual

I got a request for a copy of my New Home 532 sewing machine manual, and since I didn’t see it on Janome’s website of manuals (Janome now owns New Home) I thought I’d share it here since it grinds my teeth when folks sell scans of these. I’m breaking copyright law, so I may have to delete this at some point, but you can download a pdf of the whole manual here:

New Home 532 sewing machine manual

And page by page images follow – scans aren’t the greatest, but I don’t want to wreck my original copy and it takes too much time to make it perfect – just click to embiggen.

I think this is the only manual I have for any of my vintage sewing machines, but I do have a manual or two for machines I don’t (yet?) own, so I may eventually scan those here too if they aren’t available otherwise online.

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Something to show for it

I finished two big knits this year along with a couple of hats, still have some partial socks, just started a vest, and just ripped what should have been the third big knit I wish I was able to wear now.

But I’m wearing the shit out of this beast I finished last spring.

I’d been wanting to use up this odd amount of handspun – very early stuff and a little too unpleasant for next-to-skin wear, but the collar is against skin, and it isn’t too bad, so it could have been a scarf kind of thing after all…

And I have a decent amount of unraveled old sweater yarn that’s been sitting around too long, so it was time to start playing with it all. This ended up being a combo of the roughly 320 yards of handspun, a light grey small and short bulky zip OldNavy wool cardigan I wore the shit out of when I was smaller (~500 yards?), and a medium/dark grey mens thrift store sweater (Gap or the like). I held the medium/dark grey yarn with both of the other yarns and still have some to spare, but used up all of the handspun and old cardigan so the total equivalent to a bulky yarn was less than 1,000-maybe ~800+ yards?

I looked at a few patterns for stitch count reference, but mostly winged it – very simple with no shaping – and with a few rips and restarts. Last winter was unseasonably warm, so I worked on it outside quite a bit too.

The pockets have leftover mask fabric for lining – I think I got this at Brooklyn General – and was thinking about the city while in the early days of the lockdown…

The buttons came out of the stash – I might replace them at some point, but that’s getting less likely…

At first I feared it was stretching out too much, but it’s good – roomy and thick – and the cuffs can fold over now which they didn’t at first – I was worried about running out of yarn and made the sleeves to the minimal acceptable length which didn’t seem as acceptable the first time I wore it.

I’m probably going to make another one soon, though I wish I had a better idea about yarn amounts. Next one can be a little less wide and/or maybe have a little shaping to save yarn but still be boxy, though I’d like a wider collar too…

But I need to finish what I started first, or at least get to the part when I know I can keep going or have to rip.

That’s probably some sort of metaphor for life and all…


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And I forgot to title it

I’m out of the habit of being here, but need to park my project notes and such someplace other than ravelryfuckyouverymuch now…

But time is elusive, my photos are a mess, and blah, blah, blah…

(And I’m hating the ads here, but can I afford to pay to make them go away…?)

But I finally finished something I originally came here for (public shaming/accountability for long-suffering WIPS).

Quilt made from old shirts in a random pattern hung from deck with sunburst

N’s quilt made from his old 1990s button-up shirts.

I decided it would end more quickly as a throw rather than a queen size, but then it ended as a wide twin/not quite wide enough/but long enough full.

(The other long term unfinish shit from 2013 is still unfinished.)

mutt sitting in front of scrappy quilt on deck

I didn’t photograph the quilt after its wash, so it looks a little crappier here than it does now (and it’s decorated with dog hair) but between it and making nearly 200 masks, I’ve got my sewing mojo back.

But not really for clothes, though I cranked out one pair of PJ pants that are too big but comfy and a half-done skirt that was clearly too small.

Knitting and spinning are still happening and a new fiber beast came to take over the house.

blue and white cotton weaving with shuttle

More on that later.

And the garden which got destroyed this year but recovered.

I’m lucky to live in a blue state.

I voted.

I hope you do too unless you support the piece of shit there now.



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