Monday, 30 November 2009


Last Thursday, I had a much-anticipated operation in which a surgeon cut four holes in my stomach and removed my dying and toxic gallbladder. Suddenly I feel well for the first time in over a year! Now I have two weeks at home to get over the op, which presents me with a problem: with a bonus two weeks at home, I'd normally plan to weave and weave some more, with a goo healthy bit of gardening, bike riding and some glorious cooking thrown in for good measure. But I'm not allowed to do any of that, or anything else which will work my abdominals for a while because I'm literally held together with glue at the moment! So I'm moving around at a granny pace, doing the most mundane of movements s-l-o-w-l-y and carefully.

So what to do? seems I can still spin, and I'm spinning some lovely silk and baby camel roving at the moment. But also:

I can finally fringe all of the woven items waiting for it, which always get put off in favour of more physical endeavours. To that end, I've taken a page from the book of Susan from Thrums, and drawn up a 1-inch grid on some firm packing foam, so I can work on making my fringes more even and proper. I'll start on that this afternoon.

I can never resist a good book, so I've also treated myself to some new (and new-to-me) books bloggers have mentioned, so can kick back on the sofa and enjoy The Primary Structures of Fabrics, Woven Shibori, Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands and a couple of classic old books I've picked up in recent months but haven't had a chance to absorb, Mary E. Snyder's The Crackle Weave and Palmy Weigle's Double Weave. I also have several books on gardening, self sufficiency and permaculture and one on basket weaving to enjoy. This time is also giving me the chance to settle in and enjoy Bonnie Innouye's wonderful Exploring Multishaft Design. But that really makes me want to weave. Which brings me back to this....

Temptation at the loom. It's earning it's nickname 'The Torture Device' at the moment. It sits in its room and taunts me. There's a heavy kokbragd floor rug on it for the front hall at the moment, and the heavy beat required would be too much. I'd thought I might be able to get all six feet of it woven off in the weekend before the operation, but I spent the weekend finishing the heavy work on the allotment and wove all of six inches. I'm itching to get stuck into playing with the colours but I've faithfully promised that I'll wait at least a week before trying to do anything on it.

Maybe in a few days if the weather's nice enough I could use my spare time to see if running some fleeces through the drum carder wouldn't be too much work?

Of course, aside from the reading and drinking lots of herb tea, I haven't actually done any of these things yet!

Friday, 20 November 2009

The making of the krokbragd tote

Krokbragd is a traditional Scandinavian weave, most usually attributed to Swedish and Norwegian weaving traditions. Katherine Larson, in her fabulous book The Woven Coverlets of Norway describes how most Norwegians spent their summers in the field, retiring indoors in the dark days of winter, where the women would spend long winter days by the fire carding, spinning and weaving yarn to produce the yardages of fabric required to produce clothing and bedding for their families and their farm labourers (who were partly paid in clothing). Only if there was enough time and fleece left in the winter after producing these vast quantities of yardage would they attempt to make a bed coverlet. The larger and more advanced the coverlet, the higher the mastery of the mistress of the house. The most valued coverlets tended to be woven in tapestry, but krokbragd was also a popular technique (albeit less valued than tapestry because it's faster and less finicky). Often the bed covers of fishermen were of krokbrad. In Sweden, krokbragd is often used to make floor coverings becasue of its durability, and there is a Finnish variant, Flessberpleg, which is often used for rugs and bed covers as well.

Krokbragd is a weft-faced weave which is effectively double-sided, but with the pattern only on one side. Peter Collingwood describes it well in his book The Techniques of Rug Weaving. It is threaded on three shafts in a 4-thread repeat draw, so 1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2 and so on. Three treadles are tied up: two are a 2/1 twill, with the third being plain weave. Having a pick of plain weave in every third pick not only helps to create the pattern, it also creates a flat fabric rather than one which will want to curl at the edges, which a pure twill draft will create.

The warp should be something fairly chunky and sturdy, but it doesn't matter too much what it is because if krokbragd is woven correctly it won't be seen. For this project I used medium-thickness, high-twist Lancashire cotton (also known as "loom cord") from Texere. I now have a warp for a floor rug on the loom, which is made of medium thickness raw linen thread. You want a very wide sett: I threaded this at 5 epi, one every second dent in a 10-dent reed. You also want to use a *very* heavy beat. I double-beat heavily enough that the loom was 'walking' across the studio floor despite having non-slip feet on.

It's best to tie up so that the pattern side is face-up. This can be done by tying to that pedal one lifts shafts 1 & 2, pedal 2 lifts shafts 2 & 3 and pedal 3 lifts shafts 1 & 3. The pattern is treadled 1-2-3, which allows the thread on the first pick to sit below shafts 1 and 2, but over 3 (so the pattern on the surface will be over every fourth warp thread), the second pick apears over shaft one (so every fourth warp thread again, but this time in between the colours of the first pick), and the third pick will appear over warp threads threaded on shaft 2: so every second warp thread, but this time in between every previous colour pick. This way, three picks are required to fill every 'line' of the pattern, but the warp thread is completely covered. You can see this in the image below: At the bottom of the image, think of red as treadle 1, blue as treadle 2 and green as treadle 3.

(I'd like to point out that you can't actually see the warp in the finished item. This yarn was a bit on the thin side for this project, and I chose to photograph in this particular spot because it shows the interlacing of the warp and weft nicely. The warp was hidden once the yarn was fulled.)

You can weave this with a single solid colour, or choose to create all kinds of patterns according to the order in which you throw shuttles to create colour. Because there are only three options for colour in a single row with krokbragd, it's best not to use more than three shuttles at a time.

The colours I was using for this project weren't entirely traditional (originally dictated by the availability of nartural dyes, but often involved dark red and navy with various earthy colours in between), but were dictated by the results of the spinning challenge we had for our spinning group. I laid these out on my work table to try to get a sense of how they would work together, and in which order the colours should go before I started weaving.

To start a krokbragd project off (and ignoring the orangey colour of the sample header at the base of the image below), choose a colour and designate it 'colour A'. In this case, colour A is dark red. Weave a few lines of this, remembering that each line equals three picks. In this case I think I wove about 30 picks of red, to get a centimetre or so of red. Then choose a second colour, colour B: in this case, purple. The second part of the pattern (three warp thread covered in red, one in purple) is achieved by throwing the shuttles A-B-A as you treadle 1-2-3. The next sequence (three warp threads covered in purple, one in red) is A-B-B. To incorporate the third colour, orange, throw A-C-B. Then B-C-B, and so on. You rapidly get a feel for which order the colours should go in.

When working with multiple shuttles, it helps to have a logical order in your throwing and placing of them. I put the shuttles beside me on the stool, with the last thrown further away from me and the next to be thrown closest to me. This ensures that the selvedge stays as neat as possible, with all of the threads neatly wrapped around each other. It also reduces the chance for picking up the wrong shuttle in the wrong sequence.

You can see in the image above that there has been a bit of draw-in on the selvedge. This was due to sloppiness on my part: the outside bouts of warp seemed to have not quite as much tension as the inner bouts, and I wove this in a hurry without using a temple. It didn't matter so much as the selvedges would be hidden in seams anyway. For the floor rug, where the selvedge will be visible, I'll use a temple.

What I've shown you here is krokbragd in its most simple form. The next step would be to reverse the pattern, to make stars:

There are many other variations and patterns possible with this fun technique. Yarninmypocket has been playing with krokbragd on a rigid heddle loom (quite a skill!), and has been making motifs in a sampler. You can see them here.

To finish the tote, I sewed the two selvedges together, making a mitred corner in the speckled blue section for a square base, turned over and blanket-stitched the top, and added a handle. Simple!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

More of the rabbit

Because he's so lovely. He was definitely a lapful of rabbit!

The owner spends hours every Saturday grooming them, and clips them every three months. She uses the brushings as well as the cut fleece.

Monday, 9 November 2009

The spinning challenge bags

Our spinning group meets every second month, and has an annual spinning challenge. As I joined the group towards the end of last year, this is the first one in which I've taken part. At the beginning of the year, we were given merino rovings in four colours: cyan, magenta, yellow and white. The challenge was to blend the colours, spin them into yarn and make a bag. I started playing with it in April but didn't seriously get into the blending until June, here and here. I don't seem to have ever got around to blogging the spun yarns, so I must get around to doing that. I plan to write a post about krokbragd soon. Today though, I want to show you the wonderful variety that is the result of the challenge:

Most of the ladies in the spinning group are knitters, so naturally knitted bags predominated, although there were some woven bags, mostly on rigid heddles (I think mine was the only multi-shaft-woven bag), some Tunisian crochet, and some wonderfully felted productions as well. I'd love to show all the bags, but here are some highlights (apologies for the slightly blurry photo, these were all taken with my camphone).

This lovely piece was made in domino knit, and then fulled almost to felting to produce what the creator described as "the fibre equivalent of a potters 'vessel'" (ie beautiful to look at but with no apparent use). It was a good 2.5 feet tall, and stunning to see.

The creator of this wonderful knitted little piece said she'd had trouble with getting an even blending on hand carders so decided to make it work for her. I love it, it just makes me smile. The seagull latch was made for her by a friend.

Another piece was a wonderful tapestry turned into a evening-sized bag, which told a wonderful story of a landscape...and then there was yarninmypocket's *glorious* colour gamp messenger bag. The dullness of my camera phone takes the flourescence out of the images and gives an idea of how intricate the colour interactions are in the flesh. I'm especially blown away by the way she's managed to get the stripes to line up along the piece - this is one continuous piece, sewn to make the bag.

And here's my effort. It was the largest bag there and raised a lot of interest because most of the ladies hadn't seen this weave before. I made the blue tweed the base, sewed mitres into the corners and decided not to line it. Because I wasn't lining it I blanket-wove the top hem, adding handles made from the leftover piece of fabric from the blanket of delight, which gives it another touch of specialness to me. This is a very wide and shallow tote, which makes it the right size and length to fit a niddy-noddy (you can just see the tip of a niddy noddy poking out of the top right of the bag), lazy kate, several bobbins, fleece, lunch and perhaps a cone or two in. Yes, it's a spinning tote.

Just to cap off the day, one of the ladies brought one of her anogra rabbits along, spoke about how she raises and cares for them, and brought several items she'd made from angora along. I seem not to have got photos of the beautifully soft spun and knitted items, because I was distracted by the happy fluffy being groomed. Especially with its special little upside-down face.

Waaaaaant!!!!!!! (can't have. no time.)

The ears. The ears!!!!

Monday, 2 November 2009


It's what gets in the way when you plan to do other things. It's been a busy time and work, social life, illness and working on 'the farm' have all kept me well and truly off the loom. My sweetie left me again this past weekend for his season south, and as there's still some time to go before I leave in the new year, I'll have some weaving time again. So this weekend I wove the fabric for the bag for my spinning group challenge, due this coming Saturday. Have a picture!