I feel like I’ve been sitting on this one forever, and I’m excited to finally have it ready to share. 🙂

Two weekends ago, right before Tyg died, I was being suffocated by stress coming at me from many directions. It struck me on Friday evening that what I really needed badly was a retreat – right then and there! Whereas it was totally illogical to run away from home, no matter how badly I wanted that, I realized that since hubby was going to be gone all day Saturday, I COULD do a retreat of sorts – just do it here at home.

First step was to become an activity director. What should I do on my retreat. I decided that I needed to find something that was entirely outside of my current, normal pattern, so it would keep my brain occupied. On the other hand, it needed to be simple enough not to require TOO much brain, because by that point, most of the matter between my ears was largely marshmallow. And, since I was cheating in a way by running away from so many important things I should be doing, I thought it should be something purposeful. Of course, it goes without saying that it had to be something enjoyable. One doesn’t spend a retreat cleaning toilets and balancing bank statements.

It really didn’t take me too much effort to figure out that my retreat project needed to be either spinning or weaving, and since my new triloom had just arrived the previous Monday, and the week before that, I’d bought some gorgeous yarn that wouldn’t leave me alone, the weaving won. It’s tough to feel impossibly guilty weaving a project that will result in a 2011 goal being marked off my list, too. 🙂 After spending a couple hours Friday night pushing ideas around, I came up with a color balance I loved. I love the ease of planning plaids here. I must confess that despite the fact that this was to be the first thing I’d ever woven beyond baskets and my childhood passion of potholders, I’ve spent more than a few hours designing some lovely fabrics on that tartan site. It really helps me see what I have a tough time imagining otherwise.

Saturday, I had a couple of things to do before I could start weaving. All my yarn needed caked, and my loom needed to be set up. My gorgeous loom was built by Gary McFarland of Dewberry Ridge, and I have to say that after several years of shopping, I managed to make a seriously good purchase. I had this ridiculous fantasy list describing my idea of a perfect triloom, and I knew full well that there was no such thing. After all, I’d spent quite a few hours looking at the sites since I’d first heard of them, and I knew what I wanted was impossible:

  1. Adjustable size from small to at least 7′. I don’t want to buy a different loom every time I want a new size, and I hate making decisions like “which size first?”
  2. Must be attractive – nice color, lovely finish, and well built. I love wood… but I don’t love fake wood or poor quality finish. And this had to be built to last. I wanted to buy it once. Period.
  3. Must have a matching stand. I simply have NO wall space around here.
  4. Should be easy to store. This is where the fantasy bit started. I don’t have a place to store a 7′ triloom, even if it was in three pieces. In fact, this was a very large part of why I didn’t already have a triloom.
  5. And after all this, it had to be affordable. Some of the prices I’ve seen on the larger looms made my eyes water. I THOUGHT I’d like this type of project, but having never actually done it, I wasn’t positive. The less I had to spend, the better. Of course, with the previous four items on the list, this was a total laugh!

Or so I thought! But I’m now the owner of a beautifully and brilliantly made triloom and matching stand, which I purchased at a very reasonable price, especially considering the quality and engineering that went into them. This triloom is heavy and solidly built of red oak, and very nicely finished. It breaks down into a stack of pieces that will fit into a duffle bag or suitcase. These pieces fit together in various combinations to make five different size looms – even feet from 3′ to 7′, and when the loom is built, it’s beautiful no matter what the size – no big chunks of lumber jutting off the corners needing red flags on them. Each size looks like a complete, finished loom. The absolute ONLY problems I ran into were both “me.” First, this is a loom built of solid hardwood, so it’s heavy. Wimp here could hardly manage to get the box in the house alone. Second, my weaving spot of choice was our currently (and temporarily) empty foyer. I underestimated just how large a 7′ loom on tripod stand would be, and to build such a thing alone in a room where it barely fit was more than a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, Gary is a design genius, and it went together without either my loom or myself sustaining any injuries. Whew!I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of the weaving, but I will share a tip I figured out quickly, which made the project even easier for me. I marked my pattern across the top beam with Post-It notes so I wouldn’t forget when to change colors. I made a few other important discoveries, too. Installing sufficient lighting in the area greatly reduces one’s resemblance to the Penelope of myth. In fact, it might even triple the rate of progress. 😉 And, since I was using a combination of Himalaya Tibet and Noro Iro yarns, I was dealing with a serious difference in grist. I needed to use the Tibet double stranded to the single strand of Iro. I did survive this exercise, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to other newbie weavers. It definitely increases the number of ways one can err in the work…

I had no idea how much time it would take me to weave a 7′ shawl, and I actually still don’t, to be quite honest. I’d like to hope that the next time will be faster now that I’ve learned the benefits of illumination. I never thought about the fact that the farther the weave advances, the slower the project becomes, and that halfway through the nails is not halfway through the time. If you’re trying to puzzle out the “why,” it’s because each pass increases the number of warp threads, so there is an ever increasing amount of actual weaving until the very last strand is woven. And then there was the business of getting to the end and not having the right number of nails left. This would be related to the lack of illumination mentioned previously, and it involved a lot of repositioning and re-spacing of weave before I was satisfied it was as good as I could make it. And by that point, I was totally in love with the way it looked!Other than very short breaks and not so very much sleep, I worked on the weaving for about 36 hours. My back was killing me, but I didn’t really mind. Tyg had deserted his nest and joined me Saturday, and he spent much of that time with me, purring, napping, and watching the yarn as it draped and danced enticingly. And not only did I have the weaving and Tyg, but I was listening to Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book. By the end of the weekend, I was feeling very sore, but about as mellow as I could be under the otherwise lousy circumstances. It turned out, the biggest part of the project was the fringe. Both of my yarns were singles, which meant leaving them dangling was out of the question. I wanted to use all three colors in the fringe, so although I tried it, the crocheted twisted loop fringe didn’t work. In the end, I had to take the 4 strands of each fringe tassel and twist them in 2 pairs of 2 strands. These were twisted back onto each other and knotted 3.5″ below the lark’s head knot that held them on the shawl, and the tails were trimmed. By the time I finished the fringe, I was able to do a tassel in 2 minutes. Assuming (hah!) that I was as efficient when I started as I was at the end, that would mean fringing would have taken me over 11 hours. We’ll leave it at that… 😉 It DOES look good, but in future projects, I will know to count the cost before I settle on which yarn I’m going to use.The last step remained – wet finishing the shawl. It’s odd, but I was really nervous about this step. I guess in large part, it was because by this point, Tyg was gone and this had become an even more special project, and I just didn’t want to ruin it. I checked with the yahoo triloom group for information about fulling it, and I received quite a large amount of diverse information. I was actually relieved. It meant that there wasn’t any “one right way” to do this part, so that made it tougher to mess it up. 😀

One thing I’d done a few days earlier was swatch the purple yarn and wash it, trying to get an idea about how it might soften and how much it would shrink. I have to say here that despite really liking this piece, it did feel more like burlap than anything else. (I also discovered as I worked on the fringe that my finger was prone to go right through the weave – not good…) This yarn has no bounce, and it’s moderately tightly spun out of wool that is definitely not merino. The swatch didn’t shrink much at all, it softened up a little bit, and much to my surprise, it bled like crazy. I’m SO glad I swatched and washed!

I had to wait for what seemed like forever for the weather to clear. My only good drying space is outdoors, and it was raining yet again… and again… and again… but at last there was a break in the clouds. My final choice of how to finish was more abusive than I’d originally planned, but it worked – thankfully! I filled the washer with hot water and some Unicorn Scour. Then I took a deep breath, which I’m not quite sure how long I held! 😉 In went my beautiful shawl, and I agitated it on the gentle cycle, checking it every 60 seconds for 7 minutes. The last check showed me that the yarn was starting to bond into a cohesive enough fabric that my finger no longer went through the weave, so at that point, I filled the kitchen sink with cold water and dropped it in, hoping to firm it up just a bit more. I guessed correctly for this yarn and this project, and it was absolutely perfect! Whew! 😀 The water in the washer was the color of grape juice. For real! See???I changed the rinse water in the sink to lukewarm and gently rinsed the shawl until the water was running fairly clear. I didn’t want the colors bleeding while it was laying to dry. I’d come to far to want to lose it now! The final rinse was accompanied by a very generous glug of white vinegar and a couple squirts of Unicorn Rinse. Then I spun it long enough to get out the worst of the water and laid it neatly on my blocking mats out in the driveway. I ended up pinning the top edge, so I could hold up the edge of the mat and jiggle most of the fringe into place. A little smoothing of the fabric and finger combing of the fringe, and all that was left was the job of the wind and spring air – and whatever draft I was creating by going out to look at it every 20 minutes… 😉

It was still damp at bedtime. 😦

But it was dry today when I got up, and WOW! Even handling it fulled yesterday didn’t prepare me for seeing it today. I can’t believe the transformation! I wasn’t kidding about the burlap. I honestly thought I’d knit a shawl only I could truly love. It was pretty, and everyone was gushing over it until they touched it. That’s not a problem any longer. Somewhere in the night, my burlap shawl became soft and smooshy and wonderful! It feels like a nice, cozy wool blanket, and tonight at knitting, everyone was stroking it and smiling – and trying to sneak it into their bags behind my back. Me? I’m grinning like the Cheshire Cat, loving the magic I accidentally performed. 😀

So, the detail stuff… First of all, no, the difference in color from the early pix to the last few has nothing to do with the dye loss during washing and fulling. The final photos are the fairer depiction of the actual colors. No matter what tricks I tried, I couldn’t get an accurate rendition of the colors indoors. Think royal purple and medium olive in the Tibet, and burnt orange variegated for the Iro. Full details regarding amounts used and other knitty gritty about the weaving are on my Ravelry project page. And since I’ve already been asked several times, Nechama is a Hebrew girl’s name meaning “consolation; comfort.” Making this shawl has served me well in this regard, easing the last few days of Tyg’s life and my first week without him here. I’m happy to have something so special coming out of these twelve days, and I’m glad for the memory of Tyg supervising my first triloom weaving. I’m sure if he were still here, he’d be looking for a way to usurp it for a nest right now! 🙂 And lastly, yes, I just marked the second item off my 2011 goal list. Yippee!!!


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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Gorgeous work! It really looks lovely!

  2. it. is. beautiful. to say the least. what a work of art that can come from such a perplexing time in your life. strong woman.

  3. Gosh, that is beautiful! I’ve never really wanted to weave using a triangular frame, but you are making me reconsider!!

  4. Beautiful! All that work has paid off. I am a firm believer that quality materials and some careful work make for beautiful things.

    You should not be afraid of washing anything. You can’t RUIN it just by using water. It’s the fussing over it (the rubbing and handling) that is the problem. You did well. Everything always looks so much better when washed. I cringe when I see people showing off something that has not been finished by washing. It could be so much better if they only took that one step.

    You did good!! I hope to see many more weavings from your tri-loom.

  5. Beautiful story-wonderful momento of an excellent pet. I have lusted after a triloom for years and you are waking it up all over again! Nice work.

  6. Like everyone has said, both your shawl and your story of how it was made, including the grief of losing your cherished pet, was so very moving. The shawl is beautiful and is amazing you were able to do this as your first tri-loom project. Inspiring!

  7. Oh, my, that’s lovely, De-De!

  8. It is quite awesome, thanks for giving me inspiration to finish my first project 😉

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