Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Inkle bands.

I was fascinated by inkle bands after seeing this type of weaving demonstrated by Rowena Hart at an "Ashford Day" hosted by the The Threshing Barn a couple of years ago.

The inkle loom had to wait while I pursued other projects, but I finally bought one last year with money I was given for my birthday. It came as a flat packed kit in a box.

The story of putting it together is a long one... I was disappointed with my first attempt and my boyfriend was horrified that I'd not followed basic woodworking principles and had ended up with not all the pegs in properly and some a bit wonky - and everything stuck tight by fast drying glue. My birthday fun was quite spoiled. To deal with the pain of disappointment and embarassment, I e-mailed Ashford with suggested amendments to their assembly instructions and was astounded to be not only thanked for my suggestions but offered a replacement loom. I must say here I think Ashford are a lovely company, they have some really super products, a complete range of all you need to prepare fibre, dye it, spin and weave, plus instruction books, and have unmatched customer support. It is wonderful that you can buy parts to keep spinning wheels of 25 years or more in good running order, and still get accessories to fit... but I digress.

The first loom I had wove one band on, then I gave it away and it went to a very good home where it is well used. Inkle loom no. 2 took a long time to put together because I had to prove my woodwork skills were some good after all. This time I matched up the pegs to the holes, sanding them carefully for a good fit. I cut a tiny channel in the side of the pegs (using a v-shaped chisel I have for woodblock carving) where they were to go into the holes to allow air to escape from the bottom of the hole as the peg was pushed in. This meant that all the pegs went into the holes beautifully and to the full depth. It was finished with several coats of danish oil, and sanded down in between coats for a really smooth finish. I now have a really beautiful inkle loom.

But I wanted to be an inkle weaver, not a woodworker! I've just got around to weaving a few simple bands now. I took the last few foot of thrums (loom waste) from the last project on my floor loom and decided to put them to good use. This thread is a 12/2 mercerised cotton. It occured to me I didn't need to do anything fancy, as long as I wove the cotton into narrow bands they would be useful for ties for something. I chose a much thicker (dk knitting cotton) thread for weft. I'm rather pleased with the results, although more practice is required to get even weaving with neat edges.

I found the large belt shuttle supplied a bit large and awkward to use as both shuttle and beater, so I changed to using a thick piece of card as shuttle and a lolly stick (popsicle stick?) as a beater. See photo below, how much smaller my bit of card is, I find it much easier to hold:

I used to have a small belt shuttle that I'd bought from Fibrecrafts which was a better size, but this shuttle I gave away with inkle loom no. 1.

I've got a few books about inkle weaving, and there's also some excellent resources on the internet. Here are a some I'd recommend:
Heather's pages on inkle weaving.
Kaz's version of a decorative band and Sara Lamb's original piece

Clearly all kinds of fancy work and pick up patterns are possible. But I'm really happy for now with my plain bands.


Peg in South Carolina said...

Thanks for the post on inkle weaving. This is something else I've been interested in, but no time..... I did save some of your excellent links. And whenever I see Sara's stuff I so much want to try it for myself.
I like your story about putting together the loom. I have never thought about sanding them so carefully, and certainly never would I thought of using a chisel as you did!

Peg in South Carolina said...

Thank you for your long comment on my post on more weaving misadventures. I do hope that you write it up for your own blog. It is very good and I'm sure there are weavers who would find what you have to say helpful.

kaz said...

What an inkle adventure. It's really nice to assemble a loom before you start. As you say there are lots of pick ups and patternings possible with the inkle loom but 'plain' pattern with mixes of colours really look wonderful too.