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I’ve gotten really heavy into weaving over the last few months. My friend Jim even made me a super-groovy new loom that fits on the table and turns string into scarves. I’ve been making towels, scarves, and assorted other flat things like I’m expecting sheep to go bald next week.

What can I say? It’s fun.

I decided to make a Twisty Shawl. I wish I’d invented these; they’re neat. You weave a long flat piece of fabric, hem the ends, make a half twist in the middle, and sew the two ends together at an angle. You end up with a no-slip shawl that hangs down in a point in back and has a criss-cross in front that, um, emphasizes … things.


So anyway, I found a self-striping yarn in a soft wool/acrylic blend. Warping a loom involves lots of measuring, wrapping, walking back and forth, poking yarn ends through tiny holes, and lots of muttering.

Or maybe that’s just how I do it.

Once the loom is warped (and me, too), you raise this ladder-looking thingy called a “heddle,” which separates the warp threads and gives you room (called a shed) to slide the shuttle through. Not the Space Shuttle; it’s the thing that holds your working yarn. Then you drop the heddle and slide the shuttle through from the other direction. This gives your weaving the characteristic over-and-under appearance that everybody recognizes.

This all becomes mere theory if you make the mistake of using really hairy yarn, which I did. See, fiber has its own version of Newton’s Law. “A fuzzy object in contact with another fuzzy object tends to stay locked in a death grip until acted upon by an outside force, usually blunt trauma.”

When a weaver lifts the heddle, half of the strings are supposed to lift. When I lifted my heddle, ALL of the strings not only failed to lift, they snatched the heddle out of my hands and refused to part with it. Since fiber does not respond to reasoning, I resorted to force. I wedged each and every string apart with a pointed stick. I called them filthy names.

I may have threatened them with fire.

At this rate, it was going to take about twelve years to complete one shawl. I turned to my friend Google for help. Ah-hah! Turns out that many other weavers have had the same problem! They used spray starch to tame their stubborn sheds, and assured me that I could do the same.

Groovy. I bought a can of Professional Formula Heavy Starch with Fresh Lavender Scent and spritzed away. The house reeked of fake lavender, but by golly, the fibers gave up their death grip on each other. Everything went beautifully until I cut the finished piece from the loom.

It stood on end for a moment, and then clattered to the floor.

I may need to use a little less starch next time.