Posted by: Steve | November 18, 2009

Observations on Unwinding – Controlling Twist

As spinners, weavers, and knitters we spend a lot of time and energy in winding and unwinding the yarns with which we work.  Take a good look at your tools.  How may involve some sort of winding process?

My current weaving project underway is using a ribbon yarn.  The yarn “begs” to be kept flat, however this has proven to be most challenging.  I began by winding from the skein onto my ball winder to create a more usable yarn package for warping my loom, and to begin weaving.  It wasn’t too far into the ‘direct warp’ process, I realized the trouble I created.


Yes, the meer act of drawing from the center-pull ball I carefully created added twist to the ribbon yarn thwarting my efforts to keep everything flat throughout the weaving process!  I knew this happened, but with “conventional” plied yarns, additional twist is hard to see and readily neglected.  This fact was not in the front of my mind.

With the twist very visible in the ribbon yarn, I decided to record some observations.  Hopefully, these will assist you in managing any unwinding process that adds twist, namely…

Unwinding from a center-pull ball, or off the END of a cone, spool, bobbin, or pirn – Creates Twist

But, we all knew that… didn’t we?  Looking closely as the ribbon was unwound by pulling off the end of bobbin, and I found…

Further testing showed this also applies to pulling the yarn from a center pull ball and observing the direction the yarn unwraps as you pull.

Looking at this issue further, by turning the bobbin end-for-end and pulling the ribbon from what is now the other end, twist is created in the opposite direction – as the unwind direction changes.

Twist is created at the rate of one complete twist per “lap” the yarn takes around the circumference of the spool.  Therefore, with a small diameter spool, the yarn will have to unwind many laps when pulling off one foot of yarn.  Many twists are inserted in this process.  If a spool is bigger around, fewer laps are taken and less twist is inserted.

And, just so all is not lost…

Unwinding from the SIDE of a ball, cone, spool, or bobbin does NOT create twist!

So why might this be important?

How your ball (cone, spool, pirn, etc.) is unwound will…

  • tend to loosen or tighten the plies in a yarn as it’s unwound
  • potentially loosen the twist in a single ply yarn to make it more difficult to use while knitting
  • create unwanted twist – in the example of the ribbon yarn I was trying to keep flat
  • enable you to tighten up a loosely spun yarn

Thankfully, most of the time this inserted twist is negligible and can be ignored.  But when it can’t, understanding how it’s created and can be managed is helpful.  Change the direction of how you are unwinding and see the results!

Bon tricot,

Posted by: Steve | November 15, 2009

Weaving Progress!

The black and white makes this “color and weave” pattern really pop:



Although keeping the ribbon yarn managed is challenging.  My selvedges will be rough and it is nealy impossible to keep weft (or warp) from twisting!  No weaving with ribbon yarn in my future…

First, yes, I’m learning to weave…

Inspired by a “weave along” or WAL at Weavolution I set out to figure out a way to use the popular direct warp technique to setup my Schacht Flip loom.  Someday, I learn to use a warping board, but the direct warp method has worked well so far!   I wanted to weave a scarf, about 70″ long and 8″ wide in the log cabin pattern.   I probably spent way too much time thinking this through, but on a beautiful “Indian Summer” day here in west-central Ohio, yard work gave me plenty of time to work this out in my head.  It paid off in the results:  it worked!  I had 72 ends (9 groups of 8 ends) pulled through my 8-dent heddle in about an hour.  Another 1/2 hour and the ends were redistributed through the heddle per the draft (essentially, alternate colors).

Here’s how I did it – I assume you’ve worked with direct warping a rigid heddle loom, so you’ve setup your warping peg at the required distance from the warp apron rod of your loom – for my project about 100″ :

I began by setting up my warp supply – two balls of Berroco glace –  behind my loom.  Two colors, black & white, were used.  Since I was creating a warp of 72 ends, I started by counting over 36 holes and slots to the right of the center of my heddle.  The idea here is to center the warp on the loom.  The warp supply ends were tied to the rear apron rod at this point.

Working from Right to Left across the heddle, I started …

  1. Pull a loop of  white (i.e. 2 ends)  into the selected slot and around your warp peg.
  2. Pull a loop of black (again, 2 ends) into the hole immediately to the left.
  3. I skipped the next slot and hole
  4. Pulled through another loop of white (2 ends each) throug the next slot
  5. and a loop of black through the hole immediately to the left
    (8 ends have been pulled through at this point, ending the first pattern “column”)
  6. Now, to create the next “log cabin” pattern column, I skipped the next slot and hole, then pulled through a black loop through the next slot.
  7. And a loop of white through the next hole .
  8. Skipped a slot and hole.  And pulled a black loop through a slot and a white loop through the next hole.

Here what it should look like ( | = heddle slot, o = heddle hole):

|  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |
         Ww Bb       Ww Bb       Bb Ww       Bb Ww

      W=white end in final position, w = white end to be moved
      B = black end in final position, b = black end to be moved

 Here’s the start:
Threading started

The paper clip marks the end of the first block of 8 ends as a reminder.  The orange post-it marked the starting slot.  The red line marks the center of the heddle.  You can see the skipped slot/hole combination which will be filled shortly!

Initial threading done:
Initial threading completed (close up)

and here:
Initial threading completed

I wound this warp onto the back beam useing a paper seperator as usual, while tensioning the warp, until about 18″ of warp remained in front of the loom.

Continuing to work from Right to Left, the first move was to take an end from a hole and move it one hole to the left:

|  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |
   W     W  Bb W     W  Bb B     B  Ww B     B  Ww

The second (and final) move working from Right to Left, was to take an end from a slot and move it one slot to the left:

|  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |  o  |
   W  B  W  B  W  B  W  B  B  W  B  W  B  W  B  W

I worked these moves a group at a time completing the redistribution of 8 ends before moving onto the next.

This pattern was repeated across the loom for a total of 72 ends.  The pattern “reverses” every 8 ends –  i.e. two ends of the same color are next to one another at that point.

The warp end re-distribution started:
Warp redistribution started

And finished:
Redistribution of warp completed

The moves from holes worked pretty well with this warp on the Schacht heddle.  Somewhere it seems to me I read that these heddles have larger holes (confirmation please?).

The initial tie-onto the cloth apron rod:
Initial tie on

And a final view prior to tensioning the warp carefully:
All warped!

I’ll post a few photos as the weaving progresses.

Bonne tissage,


Posted by: Steve | July 21, 2009

Foolish Virgins: Knitting Done!

Dateline July 19, 2009, about 10:30pm, EDT.

Bind-off finished.  I’ve knit the last stitch!  Breakout the celebration!

Then my wife asked… what about the back?  Oh yea, only a hundered of ends to weave in!

On the other hand… here’s the final foot or so of the scarf complete with my custom color scheme and pattern changes.  Yes, the Ladies are similar (sisters?) but not the same!

I will be using some duplicate stitch to “freshen” up some of the single-stitch-wide intarsia.  The tension in the single-stitch wide blocks is difficult to control (for me at least).

Posted by: Steve | June 30, 2009

Foolish Virgins: Correction!

For those attempting to knit this pattern, one ball of “Winter Navy” is not enough to complete the scarf.  I’m about 3/4 done – and out of this color!

I’m currently working on the second repeat of the “virgins” however they will be sporting a different wardrobe in my own colors.  Color selection is nearly completed and knitting will commence shortly.

I’ll refresh this blog mid-July with photos.  You may see other photos on Ravelry.  Look for projects under my unimaginative name:  “SteveL”

Posted by: Steve | December 14, 2008

Foolish Virgins: Chart 7 Progress

While Christmas knitting continues to gain most of my attention, further progress has been made on the scarf.  I’m well into the “tumbling blocks” portion of the center of the scarf:


With the full work now looking like:


Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Steve | November 30, 2008

Foolish Virgins: Chart 7 Begun

Interrupted by Christmas projects (and there will be more interruptions) I’m finally back on the intarsia project, making progress into chart 7 over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Chart 7 is the center section, with the remaining scarf mirrored onto the second half.  Here are a few photos.

First overall progress:

And details of the most recent progress:

I’m beginning to think how I will line this work… suggestions?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Posted by: Steve | October 27, 2008

Foolish Virgins: Chart 2 Milestone


Progress is slow… but chart 2 is now complete!  I believe I’ll see this chart again before the project is finished…. but I will NOT duplicate the colors, tweaking the color selections for the second half.  Already my wife is talking about “wall hanging” and thinking about where.  (I was mostly thinking “neck hanging” with the space reserved already around my shoulders!)

I’m concerned about tension.  The photograph – while off angle a bit – shows a narrowing towards the top.  I used some Fair Isle and intarsia techniques toward the top, particularly as the color changes came every few stitches.  I hope some blocking will remedy this tendency!

Bon tricot,


Posted by: Steve | October 21, 2008

Intarsia, Rowan Yarn, and Colored Pencils?

Looking for ways to minimize errors as I knit the Kaffee Fassett “Foolish Virgins” scarf, I wanted to color in the enlarged charts – to provide as many visual clues as possible to the intarsia madness contained therein!

I gathered up samples of the 23 colors of Rowan Scottish Tweed 4-ply yarn used for the project and headed off for the “local” fine arts supply house.  There, I discovered a display of Faber-Castell colored pencils – 120 shades to be exact!  Surely, I could find colors to represent the Rowan yarns? 

Here’s what I came up with…

Rowan Rowan Faber-
# Color Castell #
SH 001 Grey Mist 272
SH 002 Machair 170
SH 003 Skye 140
SH 004 Storm Grey 274
SH 005 Lavender 138
SH 006 Sea Green 155
SH 007 Lewis Grey 234
SH 008 Herring 172
SH 009 Rust 188
SH 010 Brilliant pink 129
SH 011 Sunset 115
SH 012 Wine 193
SH 013 Claret 133
SH 014 Heath 247
SH 015 Apple 264
SH 016 Thistle 141
SH 017 Lobster 192
SH 018 Thatch 268
SH 019 Peat 178
SH 020 Mallard 158
SH 021 Winter Navy 151
SH 022 Celtic mix 159


This table should help anyone “fast start” a similar project.


Posted by: Steve | October 17, 2008

Intarsia, Kaffe Fassett Style

Foolish Virgins?  Or Foolish Me?

Fascinated by the intricate designs of Kaffe Fassett, inspired by the beautiful tapestries I’ve seen while traveling  France, ignited by a yarn shop with all the colors of the Rowan Scottish Tweed 4-ply yarn in stock, and empowered by Lucy Neatby’s latest DVD Intarsia Untangled 1, I began the winter project:  the Foolish Virgins Scarf as found in Kaffe Knits Again.

Yes, this is my first intarsia project.  But Lucy Neatby’s DVD gave me the confidence to dive in. 

So, for the moment, if one can set aside the tangle:

One can begin to see the rewards as the beauty emerges from the needles and the yarn!

This is the progress so far of about 2 weeks of work, an hour or two each day, a total of 45 rows!  However, it also includes preparation:

  • enlarging the pattern charts by copier
  • preparing yarn sample cards so I could…
  • locate a variety of colored pencils at an art store for…
  • coloring the charts (and excellent suggestion by Lucy)
  • test swatching to produce an “inches of yarn per stitch” number for calculating the length of yarn needed for a particular intarsia block (about 0.6″ for me for this yarn and US#3 needles)
  • labeling and bagging the 23 different color yarns to help mitigate the confusion
  • reviewing the Lucy Neatby intarsia DVD several times
  • and otherwise gaining my composure to jump in!

Oh, and I guess I didn’t mention an 11 row frog after a failed attempt to fix a missed color change!

Here’s another look to include the a prepared chart:

I had just completed the first chart here an was getting started on the second!


  • keeping yarns wrapped at color changes to prevent holes
  • weaving in ends as you go
  • tangles and yarn management:  bobbins are worse, butterflies better, short pieces of hanging yarn best
  • while I like the depth of color in the tweedy Rowan yarns, I don’t like the coarse texture – this scarf will have to be lined
  • fixing mistakes — it’s easier not to make them!
  • did I mention tangles?  I’m working with 30 seperate yarns across many of the rows!

More to come…

Good knit,

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