A new Piece

Lock of Hair, #1

Here is my latest piece. I found in my family’s “things” a box filled with small pieces of newspapers wrapped around locks of hair. There might be 40 of them. One newspaper I unfolded today is dated 1872. This is my first attempt to honor them without destroying anything–including the old straight pins that a hold each package.

Pockets for Lock of Hair
Name for Lock of Hair

Beautiful Scarf, Unusual Sett

Ellen Miller's Doube Weave Scarf (click to enlarge)

Ellen Miller showed me her gorgeous alpaca double weave scarf. She was disappointed that the sett wasn’t exactly balanced as typical double cloth is. This showed more in the white areas. My sense is that it is beautiful with the more open sett.

Beautiful White Block

You can still see the solid black and white areas. For her warp and weft (both the same) she used less than the 80% figure  (Ashenhurst calculations) and this is one time I think less that 80% turned out beautifully. (The sett is more open when less than the  80% figure is used.) One reason is that the threads were dense in the warp because of the double weave. That made friction in the reed that prevented the wefts from beating down too much as can happen when the sett is more open than the 80% figure.

The Blocks (click to enlarge)

Good Reasons to Use Ashenhurst’s 80% Figure

This is taken from my new book, Weaving for Beginners, on page 280. The information is also found in my Book #1, Winding a Warp and Using a Paddle. See the chapters devoted to sett (epi).
Make your weaving easier: Use the 80% number
(Ashenhurst’s percentage)

In industry, a balanced looking fabric is actually a bit more warp predominant than precisely balanced. It looks balanced at a glance, but upon inspection, you will see that there are more warps per inch than wefts per inch. We handweavers can use this principle, too. I almost always do when I want a generally balanced weave. The way to achieve this look is to take 80% of the maximum sett using the Ashenhurst calculation.
(More on the percentages on pages 280 (Beginner’s Book) and 93 (Book #1).
Why it’s so wonderful to weave with a slightly closer warp sett:
1. The edges of the cloth (selvedges) don’t draw in as much, so the selvedges
don’t break. The extra warps instead of 50-50 hold out the warp width.
2. You don’t have to make sure the weft is put in very loosely. The natural
diagonal the shuttle makes when you throw it through, from the last row of
weaving to the beater, is usually enough slack for the weft’s pathway. (If the
weft is put in without any diagonal, it will pull in the edges of your cloth.)
3. There is less trouble with warp breakage. Fragile warp threads can be used
because there are more of them to pull their weight on the job.
4. There are fewer wefts (picks) per inch so the weaving goes faster.
Now, don’t those reasons sound enticing?
In general, whenever I’m debating between two numbers for a sett, I’ll choose
the denser number for the above reasons. That means, if I were debating
between 6 and 8‑epi, I’d tend to choose the higher number of 8. If I’m weaving
an open shawl, however, I want it more open than the 80% number, for sure.
Of course, my sample will be the ultimate test. Read on for when not to use the
80% number.

That Special Tie Up: Only Use 4 Treadles!

One tie up for all 4 shaft looms

I received this comment about the tie up I posted. (Search for tying up your treadles.)


“Thanks for the tie-up, Peggy! What if you have a 6 treadle loom and want to add a tabby tie-up? Is it best to put it in the middle or on the outside treadles, in your opinion?”

Here’s my opinion:
No, no, no!! The extra treadles just get in the way and offer the chance for mistakes. To do tabby put your foot between the treadles and push 1&3 with one foot and 2&4 with the other. Then you can walk the treadles. Which two treadles to not hook up you can decide on depending on how your feet fit the treadles–and what’s comfortable. Getting comfortable helps avoid mistakes. See page 2 in my third book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth.

Tensioning Linen Warps

This week I put on a linen warp and remembered a trick I learned long ago–and it miraculously worked yet again. Immediately after tying the threads on the apron rod all nicely, the tension on the threads became greatly uneven. There were very, very loose threads scattered all across the warp. They had been all evenly tensioned when I tied the knots but the tension didn’t stay. Here’s the trick. It comes from my Book #2, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, on page 63.

Tensioning Linen Warps

Getting even tension on linen warps is a special situation; linen threads always seem to become uneven as soon as you begin weaving. Don’t re-adjust the tension on the bundles. Instead spray the warp with water from a plant mister and immediately begin weaving the heading. All the threads straighten up and weave perfectly when they’re dampened this way. You should only have to do this once, at the very beginning of the warp, whether you tie surgeon’s knots or lace the bundles.

Try Tying Up Your Treadles This Way

Tie up for 4-shaft Looms

This way to tie up your treadles is a fantastic gift that Jim Ahrens taught us. You’ll never have to tie up the treadles again on your 4-shaft looms. My looms were built by Jim;  this tie-up is the only choice–because it’s so flexible. I love it and pass it along to you as my gift.

One tie up for four shaft looms
In Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, (my book #2) beginning on page 69,
I described a tie-up that never needs to be
changed, for four shaft jack and counterbalance looms. You can get all the combinations possible with four shafts with this system. Your feet can dance over the treadles for many weaves, and if they aren’t dancing, they can work very efficiently. See Figure 6. Another advantage of this system is that you can change to any weave structure you want in a project without changing the ties to the treadles.

Bobbin Types for Boat Shuttles

Fit bobbins to cavities

Certain bobbins fit certain boat shuttles. Look at the cavities in your shuttles to determine which is the right type of bobbin to use. When I was learning to weave I heard about this but didn’t think it was important. Then when I was demonstrating fast weaving with the wrong bobbin I was embarrassed because the weft thread kept jerking. I learned my lesson that day. This is from Weaving for Beginners on page 94. I hope this saves other weavers from frustration!

The cavity in the shuttle where the spindle is mounted has either squared-off corners or oval, rounded corners. You need to fit the bobbin to the cavity in your shuttle or the thread will jerk or jam as you are weaving. Squared-off corners of the cavity are for bobbins with flanges at the ends—similar to those on the ends of spools of sewing thread. See Figure 223a. In a round-cornered cavity, use bobbins with extensions sticking out from the flanges. See Figure 223b. Bobbins with extensions are readily available and can be used in either type of shuttle. You can put a small bead or a sewing machine bobbin on the spindle at each end of the bobbin if your bobbins don’t have extensions, and your shuttle has rounded corners in the cavity. See Figure 223c.

There is more about handling boat shuttles beginning on page 111. Learn to weave without the weft thread jerking and tangling.

Warning!! Don’t forget to tie these ties!

Ties at end peg (click to enlarge)

Many of my students didn’t think it was important to tie the ties at the ends of the warp as well as the ties for the cross. Then they ended up with a problem when they wanted to load the raddle.  The first illustration shows the ties (two ties) that need to be made at the end pegs of the warp on the warping board. Note that tie ties are made on either side of the end peg–the ties are essentially both in the same “hole”. This may be what confuses people. See page 23 in Weaving for Beginners. More about tying two ties at the pegs is on page 23 as well.

No ties were made at the end peg

The second and third illustrations are from page 34. They show the problem when the ties weren’t made and the solution.

Picking up the loops for the end stick

Doubling Stand Mentioned in Handwoven Magazine

Doubling Stand

In the new Handwoven on page 60, there is a tip at the top of the page suggesting using a doubling stand. It is a piece of equipment I couldn’t get along without. You can buy one or rig one yourself.

This is taken from my book #3, “Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth“, page 67. More on doubling stands follows on page 67. How to make your own is at the end of this post.

Have you ever wanted to combine two or more yarns as one weft? Have you discovered it doesn’t work very well because, no matter what you’ve tried, one yarn always loops up so they don’t lie flat together in the shed? The answer is: use a doubling stand to double up weft yarns so they come out of the shuttle together and evenly.

Warning!! Do not double warp yarns because the upper and lower yarns will be of different tensions when they leave the doubling stand. It isn’t a problem with weft yarns.
Doubling stands can be homemade or purchased. Figure 112 shows a commercially
made stand. (Note the optional tension box for winding tight weft packages.)One or

more yarns are put on vertical posts with the yarn guided exactly up from the centers of the posts, just like an ordinary vertical creel. Read more about creels on page 76.

Above these yarns is a single cone or spool of yarn supported by a vertical tube instead of a post. The yarns below are guided up through their respective thread guides and then up through the tube and the center of the extra cone. Then, the lower yarns plus the upper one are taken together up through a guide above the center of the top cone. You can see what happens: The yarn from the upper cone encircles the yarns coming up through its center. This encirclement keeps all the yarns together without any of them looping up during weaving (Figure 113).
To guide the bottom threads up through the cone on top, fashion a long hook from a coat hanger or use a long heddle.

The three keys to keep in mind when setting up a doubling “situation” or  making a homemade stand are:
1. The thread guides for the lower spools must be exactly over the center of the pins
or dowels that hold the spools or cones.
2. There must be enough space between the tops of all the packages and their thread
guides to allow the yarn to whip off the packages freely.
3. The top cone or spool must have a way for the lower yarns to pass up through its center.
A tube to hold the top cone is the hardest thing to find—try hobby shops. You could use a short length of copper tubing with the sharp ends sanded. However, there are many other ways to accomplish the job. I’ve seen one cone underneath an upside-down “milk crate” with another cone sitting on top and the thread from below coming up a hole in the crate and through the top cone. There are many ways
you might make (or rig)a doubling “stand”.

A Quick Way to Start New Wefts

Changing Wefts (click to enlarge)

This comes from Weaving for Beginners on 115. It’s quick and does the job nicely.

How to change wefts
I like to tuck in the old weft about ½” into the next shed, snugging it up against the selvedge and pulling the tail out of the shed to let it
lie on top of the cloth. The shed stays open, ready for the new weft. I leave the new weft’s tail, which is about 1″ long, dangling outside the selvedge and cut it off later. See Figure 272. Other ways to change wefts for other yarns are given on page 131.

A Special Testimonial

“Peggy Osterkamp has done more for getting threads on looms than any other person on the planet.”

At Convergence in Albuquerque last summer, Linda Ligon from Interweave Press stopped by my booth and left this message. I was overwhelmed. She said I could pass it along.
What an honor. My book, Weaving for Beginners, had just come out. The previous three books have more reference material–beyond what the beginner needs to know. These are the ones Linda was familiar with.

It Can’t Get Better Than This!

I got this tonight on Facebook. I’ll have sweet dreams tonight!
“Hi,… Love your books, loaned one to a weaver friend, she has ordered a copy. She showed the book to another weaver in our guild who has also ordered a copy. Looking forward to seeing your new book.”
The new book is Weaving for Beginners which came out almost a year ago. I’m thrilled with the amount of sales so far.

A Good Review for Weaving for Beginners

I got my issue of Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot today. It has a nice review of Weaving for Beginners which came out just about a year ago. Here are two quotes. I hope the post the entire review soon. It starts on page 11 in the magazine.

“The illustrations are helpful and align well with the text. This is important for a reference because there are few things more frustrating when learning something new than trying to understand a technique an author is explaining when the associated illustration or image is on a different page.”

“…this is a serious book for people serious about learning to weave.”

I’m proud of the seriousness. It’s interesting that my working title at the very beginning in 1992 was “The Serious Weaver.”

Advice about a Loom for a Beginner

Here is the first part of a comment from Katie: “Peggy, I love your work, especially the more transparent pieces with silk threads. I am a Fibers student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA and was wondering if you have any advice for a poor student as far as what sort of beginner’s loom or handmade loom to use?”

My reply/advice:
About a beginner’s loom–anything very cheap is a good start. Then it’s easy to pass it on (sell it) when you know better what you really want. I used to tell my students a good price was $100–but that’s not enough these days–say $200-$300 is what you might have to pay. Check out eBay. So my advice is not to spend a lot of money at first–there are lots and lots of used looms around that people are eager to find good homes for. Almost anything will work–if you don’t like it you can always sell it and get something else. Good, good bargains are out there. Smaller looms are harder to find. If you have space for a bigger one, you might get a really good price.

When people ask me what to charge when selling a loom I give about the same advice–people expect used looms to be cheap. You’ll never get what a new one costs. Be glad to find a good home for it.

About My Inspiration

Rulles, fine silk threads (click to enlarge)

More from Katie:  “Also wondering, what is your inspiration for your pieces? I searched around on your blog and found beautiful work but couldn’t find how you had decided to use certain colors or what motivated you to do certain pieces.”

Usually my inspiration comes from what I am trying to accomplish. For the silk pieces (see the gallery) I wanted to see if I could create sheer cloth.  I found the fine, fine silk on spools in my stash. They were easier to use than the silk skeins I had. Then I made several more warps with that silk after accomplishing the sheer that I wanted. I also tried to create moire. Now that the skeins are on spools, I want to work with them.


Often it’s the threads that I want to see what I can do with–or a weave structure. I wove many collapse and supplementary warp pieces, for example.

I like to get started on an experiment and see what inspiration then comes from within. I love it when an idea comes from inside my body. Often ideas start in my head, then the body comes in when I’m least expecting it.

Use a Kitestick

Warp wound on a kitestick (click to enlarge)

I got a question from a weaving in Australia about where to get a kitestick.  She read about it in my new book, Weaving for Beginners, and saw me using it on my DVD, Warping the Loom Back to Front


A Kitestick

Kitestick: Approximately 1 ½” x ½” x 12″ or
This is not a precise measurement. In a pinch,
a ruler or a yard stick will do. See Figure 24d.

Use  a kitestick when you take the warp off the warping board.
From Page 25 in Weaving for Beginners:  Use your 1½”x ½” x 12″ stick, or a ruler or a yardstick. This is the way I prefer to hold the warp at this point. It isn’t necessary to wind the stick precisely. The instructions look harder to follow than they really are. Follow them any way you can at first, and master the technique another time. What’s important is that the warp is wound up onto a stick so the threads can’t tangle.
Another way to take the warp off the warping board is given on
page 34. (This refers to chaining the warp to take it off the warping board.)
Before you begin, look at the points below, and read about the trick
to winding the kitestick at the end of point 5.

A Very Nice Testimonial for the Beginners Book

From a satisfied reader, Laurie Mrvos: “… I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing as a new weaver pretty much in a vacuum, and I have read your books, including this one, (Weaving for Beginners),  carefully and multiple times.  I keep saying, “thank God for Peggy Osterkamp”, because I couldn’t have figured out what I was doing without your books, and the other beginning weaving books I have are not as thorough and well written.  Thank you,  Peggy.  I’m so grateful for the enormous effort and care you have obviously put into your books.  I’m a happy beneficiary of your labors.”

Emails like that really make my day. I appreciate them so much.

Collapse Yarns Source

Collapse piece with fine over-twisted wool and sewing thread

I found my fine and not so fine over-twisted yarns for collapse from this shop in London. It was easy to order. I contacted them and they have several types and S & Z twist yarns as well.  Contact: the handweavers studio & gallery:  info@handweavers.co.uk or try sales@handweavers.co.uk. they have a web site, too.