Back in January I ordered a "Swatch Maker 3 in 1" loom from Purl & Loop. I know I should sample, but the loom takes a lot of yarn to do that. The little Swatch Maker takes a lot less yarn and I can get a decent sample that will tell me quite a bit in not a lot of time. And it is quite portable. It arrived in Ogdensburg, NY at "My US address" and my friend, Mandy, and I went on a little road trip to pick it up. Ogdensburg is just across the border from Prescott, ON, about 45min from here. Mandy also had parcels waiting for herself so we shared the trip.
Mandy has been weaving a very, very long time. She belongs to the "Complex Weavers" group and mostly weaves on 8 or more shafts. She has come around to my joy in my RH looms and does admit that they have a real place in weaving. She has finally stopped asking when I will try a "real loom" and accepts that I already have more than half a dozen quite real looms, which together take less space than her smallest floor loom *. She is, however, a brilliant travel companion and gladly shares her wealth of weaving knowledge. She thought the little Swatch Maker was a very good purchase and looked forward to seeing it in use. On the way home we talked about projects and yarns and sett (I'm still struggling with that one, hand me a knitting yarn and I can usually guess within one or two sizes what will give the right gauge and feel but I am totally lost with weaving structures and yarns, Mandy says it will come with experience). Somewhere about Kemptville I was firmly resolved to try Tencel next, but that is a different tunnel off this bunny hole I am happily lost in and I will tell you about that another day, or days, or maybe over the next few months, it's a REALLY, REALLY long tunnel and I'm a little nervous and a lot excited about where it might end up...
*(In case somebody is keeping score: 3 RH looms, 1 inkle, 1 Swatch Maker, 1 Brio 2-shaft (designed as a toy, but it really does work! Thing Tall made a lovely long swatch on it when he was about 8), 1 4 shaft Guild Craft and Thackery (an antique, I haven't actually used it yet, should try it this summer and tell you more about it) plus some peg looms, another little toy tapestry loom, an old looper loom... If it makes interlacements, it's a REAL LOOM).
Back to the Swatch Maker: the first thing I realized is that I am not fussed for needle weaving, so this little beast needed some heddles. First try was a bit less than successful, but I googled (I do so love the Google) and found a very good video by Noreen Crone-Findlay on YouTube. I decided to use dpns for the heddle rods, so I needed some end caps, otherwise known as point protectors. Wool-Tyme had notions on sale for February, so off I went. And discovered they were having their annual inventory sale - 20% off everything. Those point protectors ended up costing $164! - $8 for two packages of 4 point protectors, $75 for yarn for a new gansey for Himself and $80 for a totally impulsive purchase of Lang Novena for a woven shawl. I NEVER do that. I always have a plan. I bought 5 skeins in total not really sure how I was going to use it.
I had a think, I pulled yarn off the skein and discovered that each colour was a good 2 yards long and the full repeat was something like 15 yards. Now how was THAT going to work?
The Rigid Heddle Adventure group on FaceBook pointed me to a lovely little online book called "A Twill of Your Own" that shows a wide variety of possibilities with colour and weave effects from a wide variety of twill structures on 2-8 shafts, including a nice section on 3 shaft twills. 3 shaft patterns, now you're talking, my RH loom is MADE for 3 shaft. Unfortunately the book has the pictures turned 90deg for some reason. The warp runs horizontal in the picture, which meant the pattern that most caught my eye wouldn't work the way I saw it. But, it gave me a starting point. I spent some quality time with iWeaveIt and came up with a structure that looked promising. I plotted out a few variations of the striping and then warped the Swatch Maker. I went to Wabi-Sabi and bought some Ashford Tekapo 3-ply in Charcoal Grey for the background warp and the weft. It's a LOT cheaper and it shows off the Novena very nicely.
This is the back. You are supposed to take the yarn all the way across the back of the loom, but that takes more yarn and this did seem to work just fine.
Here is the finished and washed swatch. I ended up choosing a variation on the more widely spaced striping over to the left. The sample tells me that my sett (12epi) makes a nice, drapey cloth, and how much shrinkage to expect.
From there I designed a shawl which is still on the loom. I'll tell you all about it when I get it done.