Weaving tea towels on a floor loom

Warning; the following post will not make sense to anyone without a passing knowledge of weaving or a PhD in physics and Quantum mechanics.

Don’t worry though, there are a lot of pictures. I will put a glossary thingy at the end of the post to try to make sense of it all too. If the word is in bold I have tried to explain it in the glossary.

A friend recently gave me an old floor loom she had been storing in her studio; she had been planning to take up weaving when she retired, but discovered a love and talent for painting instead. The old loom looked like it just needed a bit of TLC to be usable, so home it came (thank you Evelyn).

I looked for a makers mark (so I could identify parts for her), but there isn’t one. I can only assume that she is a hand made loom. After a good clean up with soap and water, a polish with my home made furniture polish and a scrub down with kerosene for the metal parts, I discovered that she really needed her cords replaced and the heddles were a bit too rusty for use.

When I had saved up enough to buy some Texsolv cords and 500 wire heddles, I ordered them online (good old Ebay) and waited for what seemed like forever. While I was waiting I developed an interest in weaving tea towels, they seem so pretty and sophisticated when they are hand made (and I may develop an interest in washing up if I had them), so I found the best deal on very thin (8/2) cotton yarn I could find (still very expensive) and bought some.

When the parts for my loom arrived I spent many hours taking her apart, bit by bit and replacing cords, heddles, heddle guides and making sure everything was adjusted just right. In the process of doing this I discovered a lot about my new loom;

She is a four shaft, counterbalance loom; this means that each of the four sets of heddles on their timber frame is lifted by the actions of a roller, meaning that the opposite set of heddles is lowered at the same time. These looms were the first type of floor loom to be developed, they are the loom version of a Ford Falcon; easy to understand, effective and fixable.

The rollers at the top are what lifts and lowers the frames to make an opening (or shed) to put thread through (weft) to make woven cloth.
This is a bad shot of my 8/2 cotton yarn stash.

Once the loom was back together, I put on a warp of 8/2 cotton in a standard twill threading. If you are one of those clever people who can read weaving drafts, see my threading below.

This is a basic twill draft.
This is the basic twill pattern in action

After weaving one tea towel (of a possible 4 from the warp I put on), I discovered that 3 threads were wrapped around their heddles, one thread was broken and some of my heddles were back to front…so…off came the warp (well, the towel was cut from the loom and the warp was left wound on but not in the heddles or reed). I fixed up the heddles and re-threaded the heddles in another pattern, this time a pointed twill draft (I figured I may as well try out something new).

This is the pointed twill threading with two possible patterns by changing the treading pattern.

The plan is to try the bottom treadle pattern on the last tea towel on this warp. I am enjoying the technicality of weaving, and the variety of patterns I can make on a loom with more than two frames. I hope my explaining hasn’t made it seem very complicated, it really isn’t. There are just some amazingly cool words used for weaving and I am in love with the jargon.


Glossary

Maker’s mark– a badge or brand that tells you who made the loom…the brand name. Some common brands are Ashford, Grimalka and Louet.

heddles– The string or metal bits that the thread passes through to make the weaving pattern. They are attached to a frame, my loom has 4 frames with 100 heddles on each frame.

The thin metal vertical things with the thread running through them are heddles.
This is a single heddle

Texsolv cords– These cords are made specifically for looms. They have loops along their length so pegs can be used to hold them together.

This is Texsolv cord with it’s little plastic pegs.

Weaving draft– The pattern or recipe that weavers use to make a specific pattern on the cloth. Or in my case…the pattern a beginning weaver uses as a jumping off point for all sorts of interesting balls-ups and ‘learning experiences’.

The threading means which threads go through which heddles on which frames (a whole heap of ‘whiches’, I know). Tie up is what frames are tied to which peddles, and treadling is the order the peddles are pressed to make the pattern. The draw down is basically a diagram of what the pattern will look like.

And for a change of pace, I am weaving a little scarf with scraps of hand spun wool on my rigid heddle loom.

Just a scrappy scarf
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Goodbye old friend- Spot

Spot in his favorite state…relaxed

We have lived with Spot for nearly 20 years, he is part of our family history. He came to live with us as part of a deal. When we moved from Toowoomba to Tabulam (in the far distant past) we sold all our 240 Volt appliances; one of the people we sold to had a litter of puppies (mongrel terrier crossed with Border collie) and offered to pay a good price for the TV if we took a pup…best trade we ever made.

Spot has been a loyal companion for those 20 years; chasing goanna, but never hurting them, sitting patiently by my side through various crafting adventures, staying in the car while we felled dead trees for fire wood, following at my heels as I walk through the bush. He became such a part of our lives that we thought he would always be there; a permanent fixture.

Last year he began to lose weight and sleep a lot, he also began to forget himself and pee in the house; the vet did an examination and found that he had prostate cancer and doggy dementia. He couldn’t be operated on because of his age and the dementia was untreatable, so we took him home and developed ways to deal with the issues. We never left him alone in the house if we could help it (sometimes this meant leaving someone out of a social event so he would be cared for (I never minded staying home). He was shut in a dog crate at night for the first time in his life because he would get lost at night and become very distressed (his crate was beside my bed so I could hear him if he needed me through the night). We cooked him meals of boiled chicken and rice and fed him 4 times a day when his kidneys and liver began to struggle (much to the disgust of the other dogs). Last week he went back to the vet for his 3 monthly ultrasound and she found that the tumour was now too big for him to be comfortable and that he had had a stroke at some point (which mercifully made it so he felt no pain). I made the hardest decision I have had to make in a long time and made an appointment for the vet to come to our house and end his suffering. Since then we have been keeping him happy and comfortable, just waiting for the inevitable end. Well, yesterday the vet came to give him a gentle passing.

We were all home, except my youngest daughter who doesn’t live here. I held him while the vet gave him an injection and he went quietly to sleep. I cried rivers and the vet had a tear in her eye too (probably in response to my tears). My daughter wrapped him in one of his wool blankets and I carried him out to the hole dug by my partner. We buried him and planted a fig tree over him.

We had to crate him at night eventually because he would get lost in the house and become distressed
He slept a lot in his last months

He is buried next to his companion in life; Busy (one of our previous dogs). They were the best of friends in life and when Busy died a decade ago, at 17 years old, I promised to bury Spot with him when the time came.

The larger fig tree is Busy and the little one in the front is Spot. The hope is that they will eventually grow into one tree.

He has left a huge hole in our lives, it seems he was always with us, always waiting for us to get home from work, always ready to go on an adventure with us. I will miss him more than I can say.

When I think about the relationship between old dogs and their humans I can’t help but think that the relationship lasts longer than some marriages; we spend more time with our dog than with our partner (or is that just me?) and I certainly talked to Spot more than I talk to my partner. There is a deep level of understanding built in that time; he always knew when I needed someone to sit close to me and listen and I always knew when he wanted to go on a walk or play in the yard. He knew what we were thinking a lot of the time too; I remember seeing him sneak off up the road for a little adventure on his own and frowning at him, which caused him to turn right around and come back to the house.

This is just a memorial post, for me more than anyone else, full of photos and memories, to remind me that we shared something very special and that is worth the pain losing him has caused; deep love and connection allow us to feel so much joy, and lead to so much pain when it ends.

It was worth the pain of losing you to know you old friend.

Craft room cleaning challenge part 2

The craft room has filled up again. I know I said I wouldn’t let it, but I did. I didn’t even acquire any more fleeces! The jam up is all things that need to be stored elsewhere or just go to the various places rubbish goes in our house (compost, chook pen, recycling, dump or second hand store). So today is the day for making a start…again.

I have been spinning a little bit in the last few months, but obviously not enough, because I still have bins full of fleece. The fleece is the biggest space-taker in the craft room, I really need a better way to store it. Second place in the space-taker competition is the many bags of rags, old sheets, t-shirts, etc that are jamming up the shelves waiting to become something. Half way through the cleaning out process I decided to make piles of rag rugs with the multiple shopping bags full of fabric scraps left over from sewing projects. I warped up the loom and wove a quick rug for Freida to sleep on (look out for a later post on weaving rag rugs on a loom).

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On the loom

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Finished mat on the floor

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Of course, she chooses to sleep on the pavers instead

 

In an attempt to make some more space I sold my second spinning wheel and moved all the looms, except the one I am using to the shed (where they will be eaten by white ants no doubt). I also packed about 7 boxes of second hand store bound boxes into the car and made a special trip to town to make sure they didn’t end up back in the craft room.

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There is a little bit more space in there now, but I think I had better get making and crafting, especially spinning and weaving.

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Yes, that is all fleece

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So is that

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This is rags waiting to become rugs

 

House update; soil test time

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As part of our house planning adventure we have had to have a soil test done on the house site. This is quite an expensive exercise, but it is essential for council approval. As well as ticking off another box for council, this test will give us information about how reactive our soil is (this just means how much it swells or moves during rain or extra dry conditions) and will help us plan the foundation design. We are hoping for class A soil (which is of course the most stable classification) because this will make our foundation designs simpler and less expensive.

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The soil test guy came out to the humpy a little late (even with Google Maps we can be a bit hard to find) but happy and friendly. He was met by four dogs, a sheep and various screeches from inside, which he took in his stride. I showed him the site and he paced it all out, marking the drilling spots with a neat little orange cone.

The drill rig on his ute was fascinating to watch and he was very professional. He even made some piles of soil at different depths for me to see the difference in soil types.

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He also made mud balls for me to see if we had enough clay for cob mixes.

 

Eventually the test came back, and guess what? We have a P rating. Yes; that is P for problem site. The most expensive rating when it comes to building, because now we will have to have a beefed up foundation. Oh well, on with the plan, slowly but surely.

Swallow’s nest build

We named our property Swallow’s Nest, mainly because I wanted to build my house like swallows do; round and made from earth. I shouldn’t be surprised that a pair of swallows has decided to try building a nest inside the humpy…we did ask for it after all.

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Yes, that is a swallow’s bum

There are many legends about swallows bringing luck to a household; they are a symbol of spring and the rain coming (although here I prefer to rely on the Channel Bill Cuckoos to bring the rain), it is believed that a building where they nest will not burn down and it’s occupants will be protected from disease and harm (I found an interesting book about bird myths of the world, if you want to read about swallows go to page 40 of this book).

Personally, I have always been fascinated by the way they build nests; they carry a cob mix of mud, hair, straw and anything else they can pick up in their beaks and build a tiny cob cottage to raise their young in. They work all day every day on their project and have it finished within a few days. We had them nesting on the verandah of our previous house and I loved to watch them repair the nest every spring and reline it with soft stuff like feathers and dog hair. The babies seemed to hatch so quickly and then to grow even faster. The first flight of each clutch was always an exciting time for the whole household. When we moved from that house, the next occupant knocked down the nest and put up rubber snakes to deter them (he didn’t like the mess they make, and yes, they do make a mess), he eventually killed them because they wouldn’t leave their ancestral home. When I heard this , I cried for days. Over the decade we were at that house the swallows had become family, we knew each one and we loved them all. I imagined that they must have felt betrayed by us for not protecting their home. So when the young couple arrived here this year and wanted to build their house inside the humpy I was ecstatic (although we will be taking steps to reduce the mess).

First we need to put up a shelf to stop bits of cob dropping through to the floor. At the moment we have a bucket under the area where most of the mud is dropping. Then we will have to make sure the nearby furniture and book shelves have cloth covers over them as protection from poop and dropped mud.

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Dropped cob from the construction site.

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The short term fix; a bucket to catch cob mix

When the eggs hatch (after 21 days) one of the parents will fly out with the egg shell and drop it away from the nest. Finding an egg shell is often the first clue that you have babies. For the first week, mum (and dad, to a lesser degree) will bundle up the poop in neat white packages and fly them away from the nest too. After the new babies learn to stick their bum over the edge of the nest is when the most mess is made though; the babies will poop continually and make streaky messy, smelly marks on everything. We are hoping that a shelf under the nest will catch most of this poop and can be occasionally scraped clean (between clutches probably).

If this is going to become a yearly event, and it will if they manage to raise a clutch or two in the nest, we will have to look at arranging the furniture so the whole thing is easier to clean. We are a little worried about the position they have chosen being close to a known antechinus highway, but they will just have to take their chances, unless we can figure out a way to block access (perhaps a privacy screen?).

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I will try to set up my trail camera to take photos of the build and clutch raising as it progresses. It may be difficult once the shelf is in place though. At this early stage of building it is easy for them to decide to go somewhere else, so we are hoping that the shelf building doesn’t frighten them away.

The shelf is up. Now to see if they come back…

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They came back and continue to build their nest. I am busily trying to think of a way to block off access to the nest by the antechinus. No ideas that are workable so far though. I have decided to try setting up the trail camera this afternoon.

Well the trail cam idea did not work out at all; the photos are just too blurry to be useful. My daughter did climb up and take some photos of our new babies though.

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The babies are fine and the antechinus don’t seem to be able to get them. The babies are loud and very sweet at the moment. Let the mess making begin.

House update – figuring out the slope

I do not enjoy maths, I have a lot of trouble holding numbers in my head and I get lost in the operations needed to manipulate them. However, I came close to having to do some maths today in order to figure out what degree of slope the house site has, luckily, I was saved by the internet. Why did I need this measurement? Well… apparently, having the degree of slope of the house site will make our house plans a whole lot more accurate and allow the plans to actually work on our site when we come to building. I just hope we did it right.

First I looked for what measurements I would need. Vague memories of Pythagorean theorem and hypotenuse floated through my brain along with the phrase ‘rise over run’ but with no real understanding of any of it; I didn’t know where to start. Enter the first clue; an explanation of triangle calculations on To-calculate.com.

I visualised a right angle triangle and used the handy little calculator on the site to do the hard work for me. The only measurements I needed were the length from the bottom point of the slope to the top point and the height needed to make a right angle triangle above that. The post at the corner of the chook pen was exactly at the bottom of the slope and a convenient large grey gum tree provided a marker at the top of the slope.

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An ‘on the fly’ sketch of how we did the measurement

With some help from my partner (reluctant, but biddable enough) we strung a chalk line string between the grey gum and the chook pen post (my partner did the vast majority of the work while I provided constructive criticism) and hung a little level thingy off it. The end on the grey gum was weighted to the ground while the end on the post was pushed higher and higher up the post until the level told us it was now forming a right angle with the chook pen post as the short leg (rise).

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After that confusing explanation, I hope the diagram helps you visualise

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The little level thingy

After I had measured from the ground to the pink chalk line on the chook pen post and the distance between the chook pen post and the handy grey gum, I took these measurements in to my trusty computer. I entered the measurements into the calculator on the web site above and it gave me the degree and percentage of slope.

I dutifully (and hopefully) emailed these details off to Curvatecture (our partners in building) and waited to see what else there is to do.

I am also in the process of filling out a fire safety assessment and have the BASIX ready to roll when I get a copy of the plans. The DA is about halfway done and the On Site Sewage Management application is being filled out as we speak. Such a lot of paperwork to build a little mud hut in the bush.

Make your own deodorant

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I have been making my own soap and hand cream for a while now, for many reasons; I like to make stuff, it is much cheaper and I know what is in it. Today I thought I would try making my own deodorant. Deodorant has a lot of chemicals in it and is really not that good for your body, but when you work in a place filled with people it is expected that you at least try to keep your odour to a minimum. I am a particularly sweaty person; I seem to spend all summer in a damp state. A more natural recipe might be the answer to avoiding all the chemicals and still staying semi socially acceptable. There are many recipes for making deodorant pastes out there;

wellness mama

pronounce

thank your body

mommypotamus

and many more.

Since they all share some ingredients in common, I thought I would go with my own version, that is mostly like all the others (of course).

My first deodorant recipe

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup bees wax

1 tablespoon shea butter

1 tablespoon mango butter

1 tablespoon cocoa butter

1 tablespoon activated charcoal

1 tablespoon bentonite clay

2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda

 

 

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Gather the ingredients

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Make sure you have some containers to put the deodorant in

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Put everything in a pot and melt over a LOW heat

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Until it looks like a tar pit

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Pour into containers and pop into the freezer to harden up

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Mine leaked a little

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I forgot to add fragrance to my first batch, and I added it to the container just a little bit too soon and it was still very liquid. It ran out the bottom of the wind-up device onĀ  my container just a little and this made it hard to get winding started when it had hardened.

I am impressed with it’s action, I can go all day without having to reapply. Also the black colour and oils don’t seem to get onto my clothes, which is a big bonus. I will put essential oils in the next batch, but for now…unscented is doing the trick.

Using soap nuts for washing clothes

Recently I started thinking about more ways we can save water, because there doesn’t seem to be any rain on the horizon. One way I came up with is to somehow cut out the rinse cycle in the washing clothes procedure. Thinking about it, I decided that the reason we rinse clothes after washing is to remove soap residue. Following that logic I decided that I needed to find a way to wash without adding laundry gel.

Several options popped up in my Google search;

Laundry eggs using ceramic beads

Soap nuts

Magnetic laundry balls

I decided to go with the soap nuts option, because that was the cheapest (and it is plant based, which I like and understand). I searched online and found a company that sells soap nuts and are based fairly close to me; Biome soap nuts

The soap nuts came in an attractive little calico bag and includes a tiny little calico bag for plonking into the washing machine.

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I read the instructions carefully, popped five nuts into the little bag, threw it into the first load of washing and hoped. There was a very small amount of froth, maybe from the residue left in the clothes. The clothes came out of the spinner looking and smelling clean.

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The soap nuts turned into mush in the bag after seven loads of laundry. So five nuts washed an entire week’s worth of clothes, towels and sheets. I am impressed by the economy of soap nuts.

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I pegged them out and folded them when they were dry (all in the same day!!). The soap nuts do clean the clothes, I saved about 100 litres of precious water and I am satisfied that I now have another dry weather strategy for saving water. I wonder if I could use them to wash dirty fleece?

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The tree responsible for the miracle that is soap nuts is Sapindus Mukorossis; the soap tree. It is an Asian subtropical tree so should be fairly easy to grow at the humpy. I haven’t had any luck finding seeds though. I will continue to search for seeds or a seedling tree to plant here, it would be amazing to be able to pick our laundry and washing up liquid from the garden.

Freida update- she’s home

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After losing Daisy, we have been extra paranoid about everything Freida does; we watch for any signs of sickness at all and worry endlessly about how much she is eating and pooping. Thankfully she puts up with all the fuss with good grace and is growing into a sweet little sheep.

The owner of the herd my daughter was watching agreed to let us keep her (yay!!) and we are over the moon happy about it. She is now home in the humpy and has happily joined the dog pack as a card carrying member of the protect-the-humpy-from-everything brigade (who specialize in distant planes, loud wind, leaves and people who park the car in the wrong place); she helps the dogs bark at anything even vaguely threatening around the place.

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She sleeps in a box at night; an old TV cabinet turned on it’s back. It has blankets and newspaper in it and is fairly close to the stove. Through the day she runs around with the dogs and shares their various beds. The door is always open to the yard so she and the dogs can come and go as they please. She is drinking her bottles and is starting to nibble chaff and grass.

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This is now Freida’s box. This photo is from when Daisy was still with us.

The dogs have accepted her as just another family member, they have had a lot of practice at inter species tolerance. Bandit sees her as just another possible sleeping partner and will cuddle up to her at the drop of a hat (she does put out a lot of heat).

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We love our little Freida, she is a source of constant amusement. While discussing our attachment to lambs in general with my youngest daughter she put forward the theory that we fall in love with them because they are pure joy wrapped in wool. She may be right; they are indeed, joyful little creatures who have no agenda beyond the moment. Whatever the reason, we are besotted with our new baby.