The NESAT is still lingering on for me, not only because I got new ideas and new contacts that I have not yet followed up on completely – it also is still lingering as I need to finish my paper writeup.

I like to give my presentations freestyle, with no written script, and I very much enjoy doing that. It means preparing the presentation so I get all my prompts from the Powerpoint, and doing multiple test runs (but then I guess everybody has to do these). For those test runs, I really like to use the “rehearse timings” function (“Neue Einblendezeiten testen”, for the Germans among you). This gives me a running count of how long I’ve already babbled to myself, and in the overview pane in the program, I can see how long each slide took me to narrate everything I wanted to say. This makes it easy to see if a slide has too much babbling done, and I should probably split it, or lets me see at one quick glance where I might be able to cut something. (Just be aware, if you are planning to try this out, that PP will automatically adjust the settings for the presentation to automatically advance the slides according to the rehearsed timing; make sure you set your presentation to advance manually before you save the final version, or you will be irritated no end as your slides advance without your doing, and probably just a little out of sync with your talk.)

The upside of this? I only have to concentrate on the presentation, and I can speak freely, and if necessary speed up some part or go more into detail in another one. (This, obviously, is mostly the case when it’s a longer presentation in a lecture setting and not at a conference, where the usual 20 minute time slot does not allow for much deviation from the rehearsed durations.) The downside of this, however, is that when it is time to write the presentation up in form of a paper, all the writing still needs to be done – there’s no presentation script to build up from.

So this is what I am currently doing – writing up my paper for the NESAT conference publication. There are clear author guidelines for it, with a very clear hard deadline, and also hard limits on the number of pictures and words – and I’m sort of half-happy and half-sad that both are rather low. It means less writing, but also less space for thoughts and considerations and explanations, and some of my points are rather easier to show with pictures – so I’m wrangling with that.

And while I’m doing that… maybe you would like to see my presentation? I have kind friends who filmed my paper, and with kind permission from the NESAT organisers, I have put this recording on Youtube – so here’s a little bit of the conference for you to enjoy, even if you couldn’t be there in person:


Posted in conferences, writing and publishing | Leave a comment

After a few small hiccups, it has finally worked, and I’m all psyched to announce that now, finally, my whole site is now running under the SSL protocol, as evidenced by the friendly green lock you should be able to see in your browser address bar.

This blog, by the way, was the main cause of the hiccups, and took most of the migration work – everything else was settled with three checkboxes checked, so just a very few mouse clicks. The blog, however, had to have URLs changed, and there was a remaining issue kindly and quickly fixed by support (thank goodness for IT support people, magicians with keyboards). So for now, everything is running, except one of the WordPress plugins is not playing nice with SSL, it seems. So for you now no longer get a fancy lightbox to look at pictures.

While blog reading might not be enough of a security issue to warrant a few hours of work doing the switchover, the shop surely is. As of now, I’ve not offered payment methods that require me to save payment data, or you to submit your data to my server, due to not having SSL. But now, to my great delight, everything will be transmitted safely and securely encrypted… and this also means that eventually, I might be able to implement direct paying possibilities. That’s something for the medium future, though, as credit card options or direct bank transfer needs some good research into options and costs before I can actually consider any of these.

For now, I’m happy that everything seems to run smoothly again – and shall celebrate for a bit. Yay!

Posted in behind the (website) scenes, work-related | Leave a comment

So now the loom model is done, and I’m quite happy with it, and here’s picture proof of how it looks with the natural shed open:


and the artificial shed open:


And did I mention that it is ridiculously easy to make mistakes when setting up a loom? Here’s picture proof of that, too:


It’s not too obvious, but I made a heddling mistake, and there is a double thread in one of the sheds, mucking up the order. You can see that the starting border looks a bit less horrible now that I have tensioned the warp and shoved the side in, though it still has issues on the right-hand side. You can also see that there is a nice crossover of the warp yarns on the left of the fabric, just as it should be, and then there is a different, more obvious crossover of the warp yarns on the right-hand side, after I made that heddling mistake. It was clear to me that there has to be a mistake when I finished heddling, because there were two back layer threads where only one should have been at the end, but I didn’t take the time to find the mistake or re-heddle.

And actually, while it is not entirely flattering for me, and is a little awkward to say “hey look, I messed up here, that is how a weaving fault looks”, I have decided to leave the loom as it is – because yes, it does give an opportunity to tell people “look, setting up a loom is not as easy as you might think, and making mistakes is easier than you’d suspect, and you can see how one single little mishap leaves its mark right through the whole fabric, and things like this can also help conservators and archaeologists identify an individual fabric or find out how things were cut from one fabric”… so it’s a teaching opportunity, and well worth feeling a little awkward for.

Plus it’s not bad to be reminded from time to time to be humble in regard to these old techniques, and that the skills and mastery of our ancestors with these seemingly simple tools were really, really incredible.

Posted in all the gory details, textile techniques and tools | Leave a comment

The next thing that I sort of dreaded: the spacer chain.

For many, many years, I had answered all questions about whether or not I knit with “No, I don’t, that is too modern for me!” and the same is true for crocheting, which is even more modern. So I’m very, very far from being a heroine of the hook – and it’s just that who would have been needed for that next step.

As you have seen on the picture with just the weights on and without the heddles, the threads on the loom tend to lump together. It gets better with the heddles in, but they still run together as they near the weights – something that is made much less obvious by adding a spacer cord to the bottom.

The spacer cord is basically just a chain of chain stitches made around the individual threads of each layer, in order. (Obviously in order.) Making the spacer cord was the job I had most trouble with (see above: Heroine of the Hook, not), and it took me three starts to get it right enough to pass muster.

The first tries were made even harder by using the same thread I had used for the heddles (another cotton thread), which has a tendency to split when handled with a crochet hook. The final chain is made with Gütermann silk, and it does do a nice job at spacing.

You can see the difference this puny little chain makes on the picture:


I had hoped, at the start, I might be able to omit the spacer chain – but this picture shows very, very clearly that it would not have been an option. At all.

So, after a lot of cursing and trying a larger and a smaller crochet hook, and finding that no, sometimes it’s not the tool but the tool wielder who just needs to practice more at that, dangit, and finding again that it is ridiculously easy to make mistakes, I had finally finished chaining all two layers of their 109 ends each.


And with that… the loom is set up completely, and ready to go forth and demonstrate how a warp-weighted loom does work.

Posted in all the gory details, textile techniques and tools | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since we had scale issues, right? So it might be time for the next instance of these. And the shed should be a nice place for them…

I already mentioned that the shed might need to be deeper than proper scaling would mean, as I need to fit my fingers through it. While I do have rather small hands, I found that a shed depth of 6 cm would be nice to handle – a rather deep shed for the small loom.

So my heddle length is also 6 cm… which means that to change the shed, I have 6 cm of way for the two layers to match, and then I need to go as much further as my artificial shed has to be deep. Which, in my case, is 4.5 cm. This means rather long holders for the heddle rod, though – 10.5 cm in length in the model.

For this, the hazelnut bush in the garden had to lose two branches, because the holders that were attached before were too short – the artificial shed only opened about 2 cm or so, and that is definitely too narrow for my fingers.

You can see the difference between the holders on the first image and the second one – the new ones are considerably longer.


So now the heddles are done and in proper length, the shed issues are solved, and the loom is ready for the next step: chaining the spacer cord into the bottom edge…

Posted in all the gory details, textile techniques and tools | 1 Comment

A loom with a front and back layer of threads is nice and fine, but a single shed not a weaving makes, or so. Which means… heddles.

Now in the very first, quickly-thrown-together setup, I had done a very, very bad job at making the heddles. There were only a scant dozen or so of them, if that many, but they all had a different length… which is a seriously bad idea for weaving. Especially since, see scaling issues, heddles with a slight length difference are annoying enough in full-size weaving, but the slight length difference will scale up with making the loom, and with it the shed, smaller.

Shed size, by the way, is another scale problem. If you could just have a miniature weaver or two use the miniature loom for demonstrations, you would have no problem with a shed that is to scale for the small loom. (Actually, it would solve almost all the problems. They could also do the loom setup, and spin the yarn. From miniature sheep wool, with finer fibres… ah, let’s not go there.)

My hands and fingers, though, do not get smaller when I downsize a loom, and I have to pass yarn through the shed for the demo – so it needs to be large enough for this. The shed size of the natural shed is easy to adjust by changing the angle that the loom has against the wall (in my case, that angle is relatively fixed by the angle the side support ends have; they are equipped with rubber soles so the loom doesn’t slip).

With the heddle stick in resting position, my heddle loops now have to be long enough to reach across the depth of the natural shed, and they should all be the same length as well, for good looks (important in a model) and good functionality (just as important).

Since I didn’t trust myself to do this free-hand, I used aids. First of all, I figured out a good length for the heddles (in my case, a tiny bit less than the depth of the natural shed, because the little loom has a very generous one). I then found a suitable stick and a position for that stick on the back of the side supports that, when the heddle yarn is wound around the stick, would result in the proper length.

Heddling was then done bringing the heddle thread through the front layer, around the thread of the back layer, around the gauge stick at the back, back through the front layer (in the same slot between threads, obviously) and around the heddle stick. It took me a good while to figure out how to make the knot consistently, so the left part of the heddle rod looks not as nice as the right part, but ah. I thought about doing it once more, all nicely… and then decided against it.


By the way: it is ridiculously easy to make a heddling mistake. Ridiculously easy. My respect for all those weavers who are setting up looms without any mistake went up a few notches again when I was doing this.

Posted in all the gory details, textile techniques and tools | Leave a comment

Next step for the loom setup was getting the weights… and there’s another thing that does not scale down easily. I had looked for typical weight per thread numbers, but a quick search did not give me any conclusive data, there was no time for more than a really quick search, and so I basically fiddled around a bit with some items and the kitchen scales and then sort of decided on a weight per guesstimate.

Off into the fishing tackle shop, then. I had decided on 20 weights (10 per row) with about 65 g of weight, each tensioning a bundle of 11 threads – this means about 5 g of tension per thread, which, I hoped, would be easily sufficient for the smooth cotton warp.

The friendly man in the tackle shop informed me that there were 64 g weights available. They were not only available, but also in a sufficient quantity, and they were covered in a sort of camouflage paint (thus closing in the lead, much to my appreciation), and had a suitable form and shape – sort of pear-shaped, with two flattened sides. So I happily went out of the shop with my 20 weights. This part of the loom, by the way, is the most expensive part – the little bits of wood that it is made from were all scrap wood.

Back at the loom, it was bundling the threads of the front and back layer into bundles of 11 threads each (the last, obviously, of only 10 threads), tying them and attaching the weights. I chose to do the tying with a slipknot and then tied the weight in with a bit of linen thread.


You can see how it all hangs nicely in bundles, with almost all the weights at the same height. The weights give it a nice tension, and the whole thing is surprisingly heavy when you lift it – the small size of the weights is misleading to the eye.

Next step: Heddles… which was something that I sort of dreaded.

A lot.

Posted in all the gory details, textile techniques and tools | Leave a comment