Thanks! I had so much fun making these, can't wait for the craft center to open for the quarter so I can make more. I made the brown dog up in my head completely and looked at my friend's photo of Mona for the coloring, but put her in a completely made-up pose...hence the cartoon look and strange postures.
Hi! A rigid heddle loom is kinda like a frame loom with moveable end pieces and a rigid heddle for picking up every other warp thread so you don't have to pick them up by hand. It would probably be a little difficult to build a good rigid heddle (though I've seen it done with popsicle sticks) but you could easily make the frame part and use string heddles for the patterning.
Basically you need two end pieces...they can be round dowels or you could use a square beam...with screws sticking out the ends... and two side pieces with holes drilled through the ends for the screws to pass through and then be tightened with wing nuts/washer.
You wind the yet to be woven warp onto the "back" end piece and as you weave, the woven cloth gets wound onto the "front" end piece to give you more room to keep weaving.
Rigid heddle looms that you buy have a bit of extra shaping on the side pieces to give the rigid heddle a place to go "up" or "down" (not describing it well here, I'm sure it's described better other places) and mine has a raised thing with slits lengthwise on the end pieces to put the yarn through and tie it on but you could just tie it around, you'd just have to make sure to get even tension.
If you don't have the rigid heddle and don't want to make/buy one, you can use a dowel and string as simple string heddle type controls.
Have to share these because I'm super excited...my new boss (not an art-related job) happens to collect miniature animals which inspired me to do these little dogs. The black/tan/white one is a portrait of my friend's dog Mona...one of my favorite dogs ever.
Well if you want to copy the Ashford Kiwi, I think we still have the assembly instructions/manuals around somewhere and I can send you one if that would help you to see pieces and how they go together. I could even measure dimensions for you though I don't think I'll have time for that until January. But you could look at the basic design and make up your own dimensions. Google Sketch-up is a great free 3-D design program, very intuitive and easy to use (that's what I'm using for my wheel). The Kiwis are working great and other than the flyer and bobbins the pieces are all fairly simple to make. You could also buy a flyer/bobbins if you don't want to make them.
Here's a pic of a bunch of Kiwi parts pre-assembly:
I'm in the process of making my own spinning wheel so I say jump in and do it if you reallly want to, but in terms of time and money you may not be saving much and you may not have as smooth running a wheel as a purchased one. I've been spinning for a while and have a Kromski Symphony. I've also spun on many other wheels and I feel I'm very familiar with how a wheel works. I designed my own because I wanted a unique wheel that isn't being made (mine's going to be have two flyers and a spindle and can be set up with decelerating or accelerating whorls plus the wheel is made of leaping fish) but I won't know until I'm done if it will work as beautifully as some of the wheels I've tried or whether it will completely suit me. Most of the wheel plans that are available are for traditional/classical wheels so they may not have some of the conveniences and ease of spinning that a "modern" spinning wheel (like Lendrums and Majacraft) has such as ball bearings, foldability etc. I did look into buying plans and making a spinning wheel before I got my wheel, partially cause I'm a do-it-yourselfer, but I'm glad I didn't. If you add up the cost of plans, wood, metal do-dads etc even without your time, it really doesn't save you much over one of the cheaper wheels.
BTW UCDavis is selling off its fleet of Babes from the Craft Center classes for $50 (check out bargainbarn.ucdavis.edu) though I don't think they ship. Babes are ok first wheels though they're not as sturdy as the wood wheels (personally I don't like them, but $50 is pretty cheap although these are used and abused, though fixed and functional). We just got Ashford Kiwis to replace the Babes and I'm really impressed with them. They are $295 unfinished from the Woolery including shipping for example (I didn't check other places; we got them from Carolina Homespun) and they can spin a wide range of yarns and are easy to assemble and finish. The Kiwi was the best deal of the cheaper wheels we tried out in terms of spinning and price. Single treadle Lendrums were also pretty affordable and very smooth.
Spinning is soo much more enjoyable on a good wheel that I think it's worth the cost of buying one when you're starting. If you just want to spin without tiring your arms on a drop spindle, then maybe making an electric wheel would be the way to go...you could buy or make the flyer assembly and adapt a drill or dremel tool to run it...using one of those pedals that speed up or slow down the motor...I've seen instructions somewhere, I can look for them if you're interested. Not as cool looking as a normal wooden wheel, but functional and you're less likely to run into construction problems with treadling action etc.
Sorry this is so long. If you do decide to make your own wheel, I have links to plans or books with plans that I'd be happy to pass along.
What sorts of things do you want to make? Are you looking for ideas for projects (like a vest or skirt etc) or for interesting cloth worth the effort of weaving it? I'm often more inspired by the yarn or fiber I'm planning to use than pictures in books since I like to make things that are my own more than following patterns. The Davenport book projects aren't necessarily things I'd make/wear as is, but there are lots of good techniques in there.
My first project on a rigid heddle loom was a simple scarf. I bought this cool variegated yarn from the LYS at my teacher's suggestion (Crystal palace waikiki) for weft and warped the loom with some black yarn I had sitting around along with some randomly placed stripes of gold carry-along yarn from school and I couldn't wait to weave for the sake of weaving so I got home and got all the yarn entangled warping the loom. (I lost the cross. Don't lose the cross.) That didn't deter me. It took a looong time to wind the warp on the loom, but I stayed up until it was done and I could start weaving. Of course I was so excited I packed the yarn in a lot tighter than I needed to which looked/felt fine except that I ran out of yarn halfway through the scarf and was too cheap and anxious to finish to go buy more, so I used up more of the black yarn and played around with placing it unevenly and beating at angles and all sorts of fun stuff. I still really like the scarf.
Have you made anything on the loom yet? If not, maybe treat yourself to some scrumptious yarn that makes you want to use it and just make a scarf or bag or something so you get started weaving. You'll always be able to use a scarf and once you get started, you'll probably get ideas of other things you can do. The woven fabric you'll make on your loom is not going to be as tightly/finely woven (as in fine threads) as most commercial fabric but you can cut/sew it just like regular fabric, you just have to pick patterns wisely.
there's no reason you can't spin wool on a charkha, but charkhas spin fine yarns best, so you'd want to use fine wool and plan on spinning fairly thin yarns. Shorter staple wools would be easier to use to make drafting easier since charkhas put a lot of twist in quickly. If you're spinning anything other than really fine laceweight, you might have to draft really quickly and you'll run out of room on the spindle pretty fast. But if you do want to spin thicker stuff, you can modify the cigar box charkha to decrease the ratio and slow down the spindle.
The cigar box charkha has a drive wheel (a) that attaches to a small diameter whorl with a drive band. That small diameter whorl(b) is directly attached/underneath the larger whorl(c) which then attaches to the whorl of the spindle(d) with a band. That serves to accelerate the spindle so one turn of your hand turns the spindle a whole bunch of times. You could slow down the spindle by making (b) larger than (c) or if (b)=(c), your ratio would just be the difference between (a) and (d). This is looking horribly complicated and it really isn't, it's just trying to explain with text. Hmmph. Let me know if you want me to draw a picture if this isn't clear.
Basically, if you want to spin wool as is with the charkha, use fine (low micron) short staple wool and plan on spinning fine. Otherwise modify the ratios to make the charkha not so freaking fast and you can spin thicker. You probably could make a bit bigger spindle as well so you wouldn't run out of space so fast. I'm currently spinning yak/silk on my charkha for a lace shawl. It's lovely stuff and a little keeps me happily busy for a loooong time. I've also spun a bunch of alpaca on it. I've spun bamboo and cotton on it as well, but mostly I use animal fibers.
Since it doesn't have lanolin, I just spin alpaca and wash it afterwards. Suri alpaca I prep a little differently than huacaya. It often has a longer staple and is shinier and sleeker and since it's longer, I've had better luck combing suri into roving than carding on handcards into rolags. Often, though, I just take a few locks and open them up (hold the lock firmly from the tip and pull the butt end through a flick or hand card then reverse to hold the butt end and comb through the tip with a card) and position them on my lap so they're all oriented in the same way, then I spin worsted from the tip end. You could also spin from the fold this way. This makes nice strong shiny yarn, though you'll only want to do thin yarns like this; alpaca is too heavy and dense if done thick and worsted.
Hi! I replied to you on the spinners' board but oooh ooh, it's great you got the Kromski Harp...I've been eyeing it since it first came out, but I already have a cheapo rigid heddle I got off ebay.
Rigid heddle looms are awesome! I have two huge floor looms and a decent sized table loom as well, but sometimes the rigid heddle loom is the best for a project. You can do tons with plain weave and hand-manipulated weaves take a little longer but are lots of fun. In my first weaving class, we worked on table looms at school, but our teacher loaned us each rigid heddle looms so we could play around with them at home.
Hands On Rigid Heddle Weaving by Betty Linn Davenport is a great book to learn everything from scratch. It covers all the basics as well as fancier techniques and even has some simple clothes (tops) to inspire you. It has a discussion on type of yarns, color, design, etc...
I use stick shuttles for my rigid heddle loom because they tend to lie flatter and you don't have a shuttle race on a rigid heddle like you do on a harness loom for the boat shuttle to ride on anyways. Also, my rigid heddle loom is 10 epi so I'm not using super thin yarns. For weaving 32" I might use a 24" shuttle over a 16" so it's not so difficult to reach across. Also, since you wind a stick shuttle by hand, if you're weaving wide widths, it'll be faster to wind a longer shuttle than a shorter one.
You can make stick shuttles really easily if money is a concern. You can make them out of thin cuts of nice wood but you can even use the hobby plywood found in most hardware stores and many craft stores. Just be sure to sand smooth the edges. I've even used cardboard in a pinch, but unless it's really strong, it tends to bend with the tension of the yarn (especially if it's a long shuttle). You can make your own pick up sticks too.