Friday, September 24, 2021

Rug, Handwoven, Churro

Last year, in the thick of the lockdowns, I bought a used 25" tapestry loom for 25 bucks. Now, this was not an impulse purchase, it was actually the fifth loom I had purchased. However, the others were all small frame looms, some with heddles, some not. Frame looms are just the thing for wall hangings--I had made several of those. I wanted a larger loom and thought the local yarn mill would have a few used looms. After all, they used to be a weaving center and had conducted classes at one time. Happily, they have about three rooms full of used looms. Unhappily, most are huge, as looms should be. That is why I jumped at the chance to buy this one, even though it was missing the dowels that hold the heddles and the warp dowel. No problem--I bought dowels at the hardware store. Then I bought wire covers at the auto parts store to wrap the round bars that cross the loom at top and bottom. These serve as spacers.
With cotton knitting yarn as warp and dk weight cvm wool yarn from the mill and handspun alpaca from a nearby farm as weft, I started a rug. As I wove, struggling with tension and technique, a small wildfire was growing to the south, actually in a canyon between me and the mill. Once the mayor asked anyone who could evacuate to do so, progress on this first rug was halted . I stored it in the closet and left it there until this summer.
When my family came for a visit, I pulled it out to show them how to weave. After they left, there it sat. Rather than being confronted with the sad looking thing, I finished the rug that was on it. It is more of a blanket weight than rug weight, but it covers a spot on my stone entry floor.

That is it on the bottom left, the dark brown and tan one. It sits next to my new one. All the others are rugs that I have purchased.  My goal is to replace this mismatched lineup with a couple of larger rugs or a runner.

Then, with the loom empty, it was time for a trip to the mill. What could be more appropriate than a rug woven with wool from Churro sheep, scoured, carded, spun and dyed at the local mill? As I picked out the yarn, I found a small group of warp yarns, wool from J. S. Clasgens, in one of the cubbyholes. They were all partial spools, probably left over from local weavers. It was not enough to warp their standard size looms, but it was more than enough for my small tapestry loom. I had been wanting to try Clasgens yarn, having read that it was ideal for Chimayo style rugs, but I hesitated to order a full spool from them. Finding this bit at the mill was a relief, relieving me of ordering, paying for shipping and waiting for delivery.

After using the Clasgens, I have turned against it, in spite of the strong recommendation. It sheds tremendously and is very sticky, making packing the weft down around it an arduous task. I have since bought some warp yarn milled by Jagger Yarns. It is smoother and is waxed.

Considering all the improvements to my second rug: wool warp, Churro weft, and a little experience; of course the weaving was quicker and the result better. It did not go smoothly, due to the sticky warp and a probably too close epi (I wanted 4 warp strings per inch, but ended up with 5.3 due to the spacers not stretching out as much as I hoped.), but I finished it in less than a month.

My technique improved as I wove. The end of this rug is tighter and smoother than the beginning. That is encouraging.

It is nearly 23" wide, a couple of inches wider than the first rug I wove, but due to my using a large piece of cardboard at the start, not realizing that it would take up weaving space, it is only 34" long.

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