Monday, 15 September 2014


This is a long post, so in summary, I injured my hands badly in March, the injury is due to having hypermobile joints (being "double-jointed"), I am making a slow recovery and prioritising YarnMaker over everything else. Hence no blog posts for so long, nothing much doing, and I didn't want to say anything because I didn't know what was wrong with my hands.

In November 2013 I was having difficulty knitting, after a few rows my hands ached. I thought I was out of practice and had lost the dexterity.

In December 2013 after I had woven the tablet band on my Cricket loom my hands were very painful for around 10 days. I thought it was because I hadn't been doing much weaving and had overworked my hands.

I forget how long it was I was struggling to pick up and carry a mug of tea, I think that had started early autumn.

In March 2014 I re-potted a fern that is a houseplant and the rootball was very tight, there were two plants in the pot and I struggled to divide it. Next day I had sprain injuries to my wrists, fingers, and in odd places in the back of my hand. I thought I'd better rest them a bit. They didn't get better. I thought it was related to the computer, so when I went to Wonderwool Wales at the end of April I thought four days away from the computer would help them heal.

The trip to Wales made my hands worse, driving caused pain, carrying bags caused pain, the week after I got back was awful. Eventually I went to the doctors and got referred to a physiotherapist. Six week wait. All this time my hands and wrists hurt so much I could barely use a computer and when I stopped work I couldn't do anything else either. I couldn't even prepare a meal. It was agony pegging out washing. I couldn't lift, carry, do anything much without pain. I managed to rest enough to be able to push them and get another magazine to press.

At around 10 weeks after the injury I got to see a physiotherapist, they morning I was due to drive to Cumbria for Woolfest. She looked at my hands in horror, said she'd never seen such an injury pattern before and sent me for blood tests and xrays to check for Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflamatory conditions. I was scared. I talked to friends who have the condition and tried to be brave as they are. Clearly something was wrong, putting a name to it would not change that only help to get treatment. When I got back from Woolfest, at start of July, I had bloodtests on the Monday, x-rays on the Tuesday and waited a week for results. I had to see a GP to get my results, all were negative. Was that good news? I had an undiganosed problem. The GP asssured me that if the physiotherapist couldn't help there are consultants at hospitals who specialise in hands.

I went back to the physiotherapist: she'd worked it out : "Some of your jonts are hypermobile and you have been over-extending them". She has been superb, taking time to look at how I use my hands and talk things through, questioning my assumptions and habits, making me think and observe my own hands.

I looked up hypermobility on the internet and got a book from the library. It explains so much, "joins the dots" between so many joint problems all through my life, having "grumbly joints", more aches and sprains than other people, being prone to joints that part-dislocate.

The re-education and strength building began. I had been typing with finger joints past the point where they should stop and wrists twisted back. It is not just computer use. I have to look at my hands all the time and change the way I do all kinds of daily tasks. I keep finding more things. I know that I still do things that cause pain because I feel it. Somehow last Friday I sprained my right wrist again and have had to use anti-inflamatories and a wrist brace again.

Last week I got through four different computer mice in the search for one I can use without overextending my fingers and wrist (I'm currently using an HP slimline, waiting for  Penclic D3 to be available).

I know my hands and wrists will get better, but there is a long way to go because I barely used them for 3 months and lost considerable amount of muscle. I didn't know how much muscle there had been in my hands until they were looking withered and feeble. They are starting to look better, "better shape and colour" says the physiotherapist, overextended joints restrict circulation.

I have been through similar troubles with my knees over the past four years, have had lots of physiotherapy, but no-one diagnosed why they were sub-laxating. Eventually I discovered they are fine if I strap the arms of my desk chair to the base, so I can't push back and turn at the same time. Now I know not to expect this to change. I also have difficulty using a sngle-treadle spinning wheel - so far the best method of keeping my knees stable is to have two feet on the treadle. Years ago I learnt I had to sit on level car seats when driving to stop my hip giving way as I walked (sub-laxating) and not sit twisted at a spinning wheel after my right shoulder slipped out of place (that led to months of physiotherapy for posture but no diagnosis of the underlying problem). Now I know why I was always twisting my ancles and falling when I was younger, why I was a "fidgety" child, why many school sports left me with back pain. Probably also why my elbow dislocated when I had a motorbike accident.

I'm looking forward, hoping to "get back to normal". I'm working on the next magazine, it is running late but coming together now, and I'm working out how to get back on track so the next one follows on at a shorter interval.

One day I'll be weaving again, but probably not before 2015.

I don't know how many people will read to the end of this post, it is boring stuff. No fun. Typing it out is for me one of necessary steps towards getting my life back. I am looking forward to the day I can re-read this and the pain is a distant memory.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Henning Band Loom repaired

The history: link back to earlier post about the Henning loom here.

We got the loom repaired but it hasn't been used due to all my time and energy going into setting up and running a business for the past 4 years (YarnMaker).

However, this month Sue Foulkes is running a band weaving workshop for the Yahoo list "Braids and Bands" on behalf of the Braid Society and she got in touch to ask about the Henning loom.

Link here to the Braids and Bands list homepage.

I did hope to make a pdf for the workshop about the loom, but I did not anticipate that shortly after discussing this with Sue one of our cats would be taken poorly with a tail wound and that after nursing her for a week she would have to have most of her tail amputated and then I would be nursing a cat recovering from a serious operation! She's doing very well now, and due to have stitches out on Tuesday, at which point she will also be liberated from the large plastic bucket collar and life should get back to normal.

(Pheobe, and yes that is a handspun, handwoven cat blanket!)

So, to the loom, as it looks today.

It had certainly been used for some part of its life and banging of the beater had shaken it apart at the joints. It had to be taken apart and all the joints re-glued. Then we added buffers (A) for the beater with rubbers (B) to reduce the impact.

The beater was not strong enough, it wiggle from side to side in use, so we re-enforced it with a solid block of wood.

The beater's sides were wider than the base they were supposed to be fitted to, so we spaced them out from the sides of the loom with washers.

And the new cherry wood seat is a considerable improvement on the hard narrow bench!

Down on the floor you can see shafts and heddles, I'm starting to assemble the loom for weaving. More easily done on a table of course.

More on this another day soon, it's lunchtime here and then I have to get back to the "day job" of YarnMaker.

Meanwhile, if you'd like an introduction to band weaving, do join the Yahoo list and have a go! 

The programme for the workshop is:
1) An introduction to weaving methods (starting now).
2) From 22nd March, exploration of three ways of weaving narrow bands to highlight the differences and similarities. 
3) From 8th April, how to design your own patterns

Sue Foulkes has a particular interest in Swedish woven bands and has published a few books and articles in which she shares her research and skills. She also gives talks and runs Guild workshops. You can purchase her books from Blurb (print on demand and very nice quality!) - see here.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Tablet Weaving on the Cricket Loom

Weaving is now going well. It's a simple pattern with all the cards turned together 4 turns one way, then 4 turns back.

I looked in the Ann Sutton tablet weaving book to see how she recommends winding warps. She threaded each card as she made the warp and stood it in a stand, something like a toast rack. This idea comes from Morroco. The toast rack has a pin through the top so cards can not jump out, and later, when weaving it is used as a warp spreader.

I'd had the idea of using a rigid heddle to spread the warp. After turn the idea of toast racks around in my head for a few hours, I realised a rigid heddle could also hold cards, although it doesn't have that useful pin through the top, however I can put a knitting needle  through the centre hole of my cards.

I think this might work, maybe with the rack raised a bit so the cards sit further into it.

There is a continuous warping method that works when all your cards are threaded the same. You thread the pile of cards onto the yarns all at the same time, yarns would on four separate bobbins, and then distribute the cards into the warp as you wind it. You can see this demonstrated in YouTube videos by Linda Hendrickson and by Andrew Kieran. It is interesting to see both videos and compare the working style - Linda seems to have a fully equipped weaving studio, Andrew achieves the same result without any special equipment.

When it comes to equipment, you might have noticed I have bought special cards. You don't need to buy special cards. You can use playing cards, or other cardboard squares, I have a secondhand set made from beer mats. Another idea that came up in a Ravelry UK Weavers discussion is to use plastic squares cut from the side of a plastic milk carton.