fiber crafts


Jack Schmidling Productions, Inc.
18016 Church Road ~ Marengo IL 60152
Phone:815 923 0031


BOYS.JPG - 51.13 K


Our fiber story begins with "The Boys", the ultimate source of fiber.

It took about a week to realize that these lovable guys were never going to be mutton chops so, what to do with them?

For more on The Boys


Everyone knows what a spinning wheel is but the idea of pedaling a machine designed centuries ago just didn't fit my modus oparandi.

So, after a few days of quality time in my shop and junk box, I came up with this beauty.

Not likely to be seen in fairy tales but spinning is hard enough to learn without having to pedal at the same time.


After spinning enough yarn from the fleece, it is threaded in the warp of a loom.

The warp constitutes the vertical threads in a fabric.

This particular setup used a 12.5 DPI heddle which means that there are 400 threads across the 32" loom.

An example of a project made this way can be seen in the antimacassar thrown over the easy chair to the left of the table.

The dining table seemed like a neat place to warp the loom as it is just the right size for a 3 yard warp with all the leaves installed as they usually are anyway. This can create a bit of a conflict if I happen to be in the middle of warping when guests are due.


The major component of a loom is the harness or heddle, the purpose of which is to raise and lower specific threads of the warp to allow the shuttle which contains the weft yarn to pass between. The simplest to use and easiest to learn on is the Rigid Heddle (RH). This is simply a plastic strip with alternate slots and holes through which the warp is threaded.

When the heddle is raised, all the threads in the holes are lifted and the threads in the slots stay where they are. When it is lowered, the threads in the holes pass beneath the ones in the slots.


This view shows the heddle in the up position. The tent-like space created by the heddle is known as the shed. A long stick with yarn wound around it is the shuttle and is passed through the shed in alternate up and down positions.

Woven fabric is wound on the front beam and fresh warp is unwound from the back beam as weaving progresses. The ratchet gears maintain tension while weaving and are released for winding.


This is the end of the project after about 1000 yards of weft yarn was passed back and forth, between the warp threads.

The finished fabric is rolled up on the front beam after every 4" of weaving.


This was the first piece I made. I only used the center 18" of the loom just to learn the process.

Without getting into colors or patterns, one of the interesting things one can do is experiment with different types of yarn. The warp in this one is linen yarn and the weft is wool. This produces a fabric known as linsey-woolsey much used for long-johns in the past. It has a soft feel, very much like cashmere.

The silverware is another project described on my SILVER PAGE.


In this closeup you can see the linen threads running vertically and the horizontal wool threads.

I did this because the linen which I bought to practice on was too fine for the 12 threads per inch of my loom. Even this looked like window screen while I was weaving. The magic comes when the finished fabric is wet finished; the yarn shrinks, fluffs up, fills the spaces and produces a real fabric. Wet finishing is nothing more than soaking or washing in warm, soapy water and tumbling in a clothes dryer.


These high magnification views show the dramatic effect of wet finishing. The left is right off the loom and the right is after machine washing and drying.

This piece is cotton warp and homespun wool for the weft.


This antimacassar is the first full sized piece I made and it was a nightmare.

My objective in all this is a lumberjack type shirt made from wool produced by "The Boys". I can't shear them until Spring so I bought some fleece to learn how to spin with and some woolen yarn to learn more about weaving.

This was made from the purchased yarn and it might as well have been Velcro. It stuck to itself and anything else like it was welded. It was obviously the wrong yarn for the job but I hung in there and finished about 5 feet of it.

This closeup shows that the same wool yarn was used for both the warp and the weft, producing a very regular weave.

Unfortunately, it failed the itch test miserably. I could not wear a shirt made from this material.

So, instead of being the beginning of my shirt, it is consigned to the back of my easy chair.


This piece was a 12" wide test of so-called cotton carpet warp and wool.

I strung the warp with the cotton and wove a few inches of weft with the same cotton, then a few inches with the Velcro wool above and then finished it with wool that I spun with my spinner from fleece from local sources.

After wet finishing, it produced exactly the sort of fabric I want for my shirt using the homespun wool.

This pic is really weird. I obviously took it in front of a mirror but who would guess that the snowmen were on the mirror and nowhere near the fish over the fireplace?

This closeup shows the cotton on the left, purchased woolen yarn in the center and homespun wool on the right.

The piece on the loom at the top of this page is the first piece that will be used for my shirt, using the cotton carpet warp and homespun wool. I purchased a pattern for a shirt that my wife will use to turn my fabric into the shirt. I was clueless about patterns and sewing shirts and was stunned to learn how much material I am going to need to finish this project. The way I see it, I will need about 5 more like the first so this is likely to keep me busy for awhile.


Several weeks of spinning and weaving later, I now have all the fabric I need and am in the process of cutting the pieces.

As it turned out, by increasing the warp length to 3 yards, I only needed two more pieces.

The pattern I am using is Kwik Sew 2000.


After a bit over a month of work and learning, I now have a completed shirt that far exceeds what I had expected. The only break from my original goal was that I didn't wait till Spring to shear The Boys. The man I bought them from gave me a fleece from last year which is about what we will get in Spring.

We did however, clean, card, spin, weave, cut and sew the whole project. The only exception was the purchased cotton rug warp used for the warp.

While Marilyn was rummaging around trying to find 10 buttons all the same, it occured to me that any woodworker worth his salt should be able to make buttons. I turned down a piece of Buckthorn to 5/8" and finished them off to look like buttons.



What's next was supposed to be a short sleeved version of the above shirt.

I wanted a lighter fabric so I used a finer (5/2) cotton in the warp but after weaving the first piece, it still was not light enough for my purposes so I squeezed a vest out of this piece.

I had an old worn out vest that we ripped apart to use as a pattern and it worked out pretty well.

The off-white color is a result of using a camel colored warp and natural homespun wool.


Winter Coat

I have been working on this coat for about 3 months and actually made it 3 times. Taking the advice of people who know, I made the first try in rummage sale fabric from the only man's coat pattern I could find and it was a perfect fit for a very large gorilla.

After futzing with the pattern and learning how to modify it, I made it again and it fit a lot better. After more adjusting, I started spinning and weaving the fabric and started cutting. The outer fabric is woven from brown cotton warp and natural home spun wool. The lining is cotton flannel and slickey stuff for the sleeves and against all advice, interlining made from an old army blanket.

There are a few bugs in the finished coat but one of them is not a lack of warmth.

This whole project lead me into the realm of "tailoring" which I had never given much thought to but now have the utmost respect for. Although little real tailoring was done on this coat, my next project is a hand tailored suit coat. I am working on it now and just making a proper pocket is a major craft in itself. I have made 6 or more of them in scrap fabric and am not even close to getting it right.,

One of the hallmarks of hand tailoring is the so-called hand worked button hole. I spent hours making dummies on scrap fabric and finally got up the nerve to move on the real coat. This one is about the best of the four and although not a ticket to a job as a tailor, they are functional and not too embarrassing. Fortunately, most of the work is hidden behind the buttons.

One of my other hobbies being woodworking, I could not go out and purchase buttons. I made these from an ash tree cut down last year for another project. I wanted to use a center piece so the complete rings would show but didn't notice the pith in the center until I started making the buttons. The pith is very soft and makes a sort of un-invited hole not exactly where I would want it.


Not to be left behind, Marilyn decided to learn how to knit and this hat is her first project.

It's actually my hat, but looks much better on her.

The wool was from a "black sheep" that belongs to the person we bought "The Boys" from. I wanted to work with some black wool before committing to another sheep. As it turns out, black sheep are actually brown. We carded and hand spun the fleece but it was not heavy enough for knitting so she doubled up the yarn and it worked out very well.


This hand tailored jacket is my most ambitious project to date. I have been pretty much obsessed with it for abut 3 months.

It has all the trappings of a classic hand-tailored garment; haircloth, canvas, silk thread throughout, miles and miles of hand stitching, hand worked button holes, real button holes on the sleeves, piped welt pockets and of course, the finest outer fabric money can buy, complements of "The Boys".

Learning how to do all this these days is no small feat. "Tailors" in this country are simply folks who alter existing garments to fit. Schools that teach the craft exist only in Europe. The few books available on the subject are abysmal and I think I have purchased them all.

If it were not for the internet (Thanks Al Gore) I never would have finished this project. I ran into a man named John Waters in Seattle who was taking a correspondence course from a school in London with the intent of setting up his own business. He was extremely helpful in getting me through many of the road blocks I ran into reading the books.

As a point of interest, patterns do not exist for this short of jacket. In fact, there are practically no patterns available at all for men's garments.

The pattern for this jacket was "drafted" from a formula in one of the books. One measures certain body dimensions and applies these to the formula and lays it all out on a large piece of paper. This then becomes a trial pattern which is cut out and stitched together in rummage sale fabric and tested for fit and adjusted as necessary.

Although frustrating to the extreme, it was a very rewarding project and to see the jacket taking shape from a weird pattern derived from a bunch of numbers was most fascinating.


The wool for this coat was spun from the fleece of a black sheep which was combined in the loom with white cotton warp that was purchased.

It is lined with gray rayon and has all the usual details of a hand tailored coat. Taking it one step beyond, I made the buttons from white ash.

I spent about a month on the project off and on.

Marilyn's Blazer

This is the first project made from the wool of our new black Merino sheep, Condi. The yarn was hand spun from a blend of 1/3 Condi and 2/3 Galute, our white Dorset ram.

The fabric was woven with this yarn as the weft and pink cotton as the warp.

The blazer was cut from same draft as my jackets but with some serious lady type modifications. The pockets are piped but she chose not to have flaps on them and no breast pocket. The buttons are hand made sterling silver.

The project took many months as I first made a light weight version from commercial fabric to make sure it would work before committing my hard won fabric.


They said it couldn't be done.

Well, I did it or at least most of it.

Socks are usually made by knitting, either by hand or machine. Fabrics woven on a loom do not have the ability to stretch enough to get the foot in and then tighten up above the ankle. I enjoy weaving our home grown wool but have no interest in or patience for knitting. Marilyn knits but it takes her months to make a pair of socks.

I worked out a method to make the bottom of the sock (which is the most tedious part to knit) from flat woven fabric and attach this to a knitted cuff. The socks in this picture were made using cuffs cut off a pair of commercial socks just to prove that it works.

It seems to work so Marilyn should be able to "whip" out a pair of cuffs in just a matter of... ah, weeks?

The pattern at the top of the picture is not to scale but just to give an idea of what it looks like. It can be cut on the fold if a large enough piece is available or as two pieces and seamed. If cut on the fold, a dart along the top gets rid of the ripple and the single piece pattern has a bit of a downward curve for the same purpose. Either way makes a decent foot and offers flexibility for using up scraps. I made one sock with two different colors and it's really kinky.

The key to making this work is cutting the foot opening on the bias. This provides maximum stretch to get the foot in and out with minimum sized opening.

After the long seams are stitched and pressed open, the are placed right sides together and the toe pressed flat and stitched horizontally.

The cuff is placed inside the opening, right sides together and then stretched to the same size as the opening of the foot. It is pinned in four opposite corners of a square and then slid on to the free arm of the machine and stitched while maintaining some tension to keep it stretched. The free arm is nearly the size of my ankle so it is pretty easy to do.

I got a bit confused on this pair and ended up with the wrong side out on the cuff. To make matters worse, I did it twice. This pair has gone through a number wear and hand wash cycles and is beginning to show some wear in the heal and ball but it is just defuzzing of the wool.

The fabric was a left over scrap from Marilyn's blazer but she was very indignant when I suggested she wear them with it.

What makes this project really fun is that with little investment in time and material, you can do endless experiments with the pattern to make a perfect fit.

Haute couture.... HAND TAILORED SOCKS.

For more on all this see


The Boys (and Girl)