Ikea hack

I am very much a beginning weaver and have only wound two warps. But I have already figured out that a warping mill is easier on the back and the arms compared with a warping board.IMG_7728

Here’s a reminder of what a warping board looks like. The thread that will become the warp is measured out by wrapping it around pegs on a frame. Very tiring on the arms especially when the warp is long and wide. With the mill the frame spins and your arms stay still. A mill can be tall and on the floor, or shorter and on a table. All very ergonomic.

At my third weaving class last Sunday, Amber, the brilliant teacher, had an array of ideas for making your own warping board. All very clever and cheap.

But then she showed us her DIY warping mill and I was sold.

Her idea came from a video she had seen where the DIYer had used a lazy susan mechanism between too small side table stacked on top of each other. The top one spun and the thread went round the legs.IMG_8350

Amber improved on this by using an op shop lazy susan, some non slip matting and an upside down stool. Dowel attached with cable ties allowed for the starting and stopping loops and crosses.

Ikea happened to be on my way home in a round about sort of a way. So off I went to find something that would make a bigger frame. I already had the lazy susan in the sewing room – I made a rotating cutting mat quite a while ago.

This is what I brought home, after a quick stop at a large hardware store for dowel and cable ties plus my previous cutting board hack.

The frame is for a wardrobe system and has a hanging rod. Once assembled I realised the rod could attach to the side and would support the cross pegs. I also noted that the base was too wide, so I needed to buy the top shelf as well.

Luckily I had a meeting on Monday evening that was not too far from the other Ikea store.IMG_8369This is what I bought there.

Unfortunately the extra rails while adjustable in length are a bit too long in the narrowest position. A quick pulling apart and I was ready to go.

Except that the bracket has a lug inside and the modified rod did not have a corresponding hole. It was easy to cut off.

The dowel was too thin, so another trip to the hardware to exchange for some with a bigger diameter, but not as many lengths, as now I knew it didn’t have to go right across the frame. I had my extra rods to provide sufficient support just on one side.

So here it is. It is 1 metre high, so I have raised it by putting the lazy susan on a stool I already had.

And this is how it works.

My quick test warp is 4 m long. The dowels are not finally fixed in position as they still need sanding. And I might add some more so I can have a counting cross too. The rod supports easily slide up and down to adjust for a wide range of warp lengths as the height of this mill can accommodate quite a few turns of thread.

And if I flip it onto its feet, it is easy to store, I have a stack of plastic tubs containing too many unfinished projects and it will go over them quite nicely.IMG_8399

Cost: Frame $20, top shelf $15, 3 extra rods $18, dowel $7.45, cable ties $1.98
Total: $62.43  if you need to buy a lazy susan that is $14.99. Pretty good compared to the price of a warping mill. And I can always use it as a standing desk or if I am prepared to sacrifice cable ties and reposition the rods, it would make a good rack for drying dyed threads.

If you like my hack and want to use it, please acknowledge the original idea from  @weavingwooles as well as my adaptation.


First real weaving project

The second part of the Intro to Weaving course is a project of our own choosing. I found a pattern in a magazine for two different bags using the same threading. I wanted something that focused on woven pattern rather than colourful or highly textured fibres.

The warp is a fine mercerised cotton and foolishly I went for a dark brown, making threading the heddles a challenge. But after counting and checking multiple times I got it done. As I had no real idea how the pattern worked or if my thread choices would look ok, I wove a sample of both bag patterns.

This is how it looks after cutting the sample off and wet finishing.

The bottom is for one bag and the red lurex will run vertically. I was unsure of this one when it was on the loom, but now it is looking really good. The top section with the pink and purple is for a clutch purse. Seeing the finished effect I am ditching the heavier beige cotton thread and sticking with just three colours. That way the textural elements in the brown make sense.

The loom is all set to go again. I hope to get quite a bit done before the next class on Sunday.


Here is reason that my progress has been a bit slow. A wound to the belly needed stitching up and now Tomkins is moping around feeling sorry for himself.

Weaving sampler complete

I left my account of the Intro to Weaving Course run by the Handweavers and Spinners Guild with the loom in the boot of my car.

In the two weeks between class 2 and class 3 I finished the sampler. Here you can see it progressing.

The weave patterns are different in each column because the threading is different.

I had plenty of warp thread left so tackled some more challenging patterns with a small project in mind. This extra weaving was just finished before the Sunday class. There I cut the work from the loom – quite an event – and started on my next project, more on that later.

At home I twisted a fringe on the sampler and wet finished both pieces.

The little project is a notebook cover. I left it unlined because it looked good on the inside too.

I have been doing some quilting as well as weaving.

You may recall that in January I visited an exhibition of Helen Maudsley’s recent work at the NGV Ian Potter Gallery. My exercise for Art Quilters made in response to the exhibition is not quite as cryptic as Helen’t works.

I used three different Sun Dye colours, chamomile, kangaroo paw and grape to create the fabric, dyeing pieces two or three times with various resist objects and manipulations. This was then foundation pieced. It is not yet quilted.

In case you can’t guess the title, it is Cutting through red tape.


Under construction

After many many hours of driving I finally made it to the last destination on my two day Wimmera Road Trip. Much of it was spent thinking and learning about the past, so it was a refreshing change to see the future being made. And I received such a friendly welcome with tea and cake to boot.

The place? A very famous garden in Lal Lal, to followers of Weed n Stitch that is.  There was lots to see, so much had grown in the year since I was here last. And lots of new developments too. Vireya documents all this very well but in case you haven’t got the full picture here are one or two.

First one of the beds that can be seen from the living room windows. A lovely shady place to sit and plan the next garden task.

And next a wide view of the compound from one of the high sides. The house nestles between two slight rises that have been left as natural bushland (minus weeds). In between the house and the shed with all the solar panels is the formal walled garden which is slowly taking shape. The infamous pizza oven is front left, still getting final coats at this time, but now, cooking up a storm. The veggie garden and orchard are way across the other side along with all the roses that line the drive. It is quite a magical place.

Thank you Vireya and Graeme for your hospitality. I look forward to seeing further changes on my next visit.

Ararat Lunatic Asylum

Tours are conducted by a volunteer group of this now closed institution given the friendlier name of Aradale. Bookings are made at the Ararat Information Centre and I was just in time for the 2.00 tour on my way back from Natimuk.

You enter at the rear, so the support buildings are seen first. The asylum was established in 1867 along similar lines to those built in Kew and Beechworth. It was self sufficient with farm, market gardens, orchard, vineyard and piggery. Just about anyone who did not conform to social norms could be admitted to an asylum, from people with intellectual disabilities and the insane, to prostitutes, alcoholics, men struck with ‘gold fever’, and the depressed, the abandoned and the aged.

In front of the hospital building is an ancient peppercorn tree.

A rotunda still has its original shingles under the tin roof. The fever ward was designed for lots of fresh air.

This is how it looked in 1896. The administration building is connected to the wards to the left and right by arched walkways over the gates that lead to the many courtyards.

Inside the complex the dormitory wings connect via verandahs. Running beneath these and throughout the buildings are steam pipes that powered and heated everything. Large boiler houses kept it all running. Beneath the lawns are water tanks and the towers are really tanks as well.

Outside the gate the public area had beautiful landscaped gardens. The low wall on this side has a deep brick faced ditch on the other, presenting an unclimbable obstacle to those  inside.

It is a very interesting and challenging place to visit.


Horsham-Noradjuha spur line

I mentioned in my post about Natimuk and Noradjuha that the train went west from Horsham in 1887. This was just a small line, just under 20 miles long,  to enable the wheat harvest to get to Horsham and beyond when the rough roads were impassable.

The first obstacle was the Wimmera River and flood plains. A long trestle bridge was built to cross the river with further spans over the low lying land at Quantong.

Nearby are what I think are the remains of the original road bridge.

The line was expanded west though Natimuk to Goroke in 1894. After much lobbying to keep the Noradjuha spur open, it was extended to Toolando and beyond starting in 1909. These lines were essential to the opening up of the Wimmera to intensive agriculture.

The bridge was deemed unsafe and the lines closed in 1986. I found this photo of an excursion train that ran in 1983 on a blog about the history of the Wimmera.

The bridge was heritage listed in 1998.

An impressive station and associated buildings were constructed at Noradjuha. There was a turntable, station master’s house, engineer’s house and cleaner’s house plus sheds and silos. But they did not stay for long and much of the infrastructure was moved to Goroke.

There is a photo in the Arapiles Historical Society calendar. Unfortunately the building was sold in 1946 and demolished and all that remains are some silos.

And in Society’s collection of items I saw this photo of the Flour Mill by the station at Natimuk, taken around 1910.


Natimuk and Noradjuha

Sometime in the late 1880’s my Great Grandparents and their two sons moved from Balranald on the Murrumbidgee River in NSW to the rapidly growing town of Noradjuha on the Wimmera plains  – by 1891 the population was 182. They stayed until 1896, adding a daughter to the family in the meantime.

Last week I travelled to nearby Natimuk to try and find any trace of them and any clue as to why they would come to this place. A lot of information can be discovered in government records and from digitised newspapers, but there is nothing quite like being in the place.

One clue is that a spur line was built from Horsham, through East Natimuk to Noradjuha in 1887. It was literally the end of the line. Charles Warn quickly made a name for himself, usually as secretary to many committees including the Severance Committee which successfully lobbied for a separation of the West Riding of Wimmera Shire. In 1888 it became the Shire of Arapiles and he the Shire Secretary.

There is not much at Noradjuha now. Somewhere on the left side of this road was the house where Charles Warn and family lived. The name Noradjuha is a local word that describes the wind and it lived up to it. Lots of hairy panic was tumbling along the road as I drove the 10km from Natimuk.

My grandfather went to the school; it is now private property and none of the original buildings remain. The Methodist Church was built in 1882 but reclad in sheet metal when the weatherboards rotted, and then moved to the school site.

At one time the town had a railway station, at least two banks, post office, general store and other stores, hotel, temperance hotel, butcher, saddler, confectioner, mechanics institute, blacksmith and the Arapiles Shire Hall. All supported the cereal growing farms that prospered when the seasons were good. All are now gone.

Back in Natimuk I was able to get a sense of the town in the 1890s thanks to the very active Arapiles Historical Society. Each building or site has a very informative plaque.

The Society does not have a museum but are building a collection in the Court House and Masonic Lodge. I was interested in the lodge building because Charles Warn was present at the laying of the foundation stone, he was the secretary. Unfortunately an extension was later put on the front so the stone is not visible.

As I was passing a member was about to go in and do some research. Gianna kindly looked for material and came up with two artefacts.

There he is on the honour board above the worshipful master’s seat. He was master in 1889. And the actual foundation stone was lying on the floor. I suspect they were masons in name only, not much stone carving skill here.

A calendar of old photos is produced by the Arapiles Historical Society each year and the 2018 edition has this street view of Natimuk in 1910.

It gives me a pretty good idea of what the town was like when my family was there.