Thursday, September 26, 2013

Using the Magnetic Awl for Tapestry and Other Threads

Many people have asked about using the magnetic awl that John Moss makes for tapestry weaving. Specifically, how, why and where it can be used so I thought I would talk a bit about it today.

Here is a picture of the awl which has a magnetic end that fits into the round holder at the top. The whole thing is threaded on a sueded leather lacing which can be comfortably worn around your neck and is adjustable.

Before I had this tool I would still use an awl for weaving but I would often put it down on my table and then have to hunt for it when I was ready to use it. I often hang a pair of snips or scissors around my neck for the same reason.

With this tool I simply move it toward the holder and it snaps in place with the magnet.

When I need it, I just reach for it and there it is.

Because I use John's bobbins too it is a very comfortable and easy transition for me and I use the awl point to do all the same jobs I would do with a loaded bobbin in areas where I do not need or want to fill a bobbin.

For example, when working on my tapestry diary the daily shapes are about one inch by two inches and since I often use many different colors and blends winding a bobbin for all these small areas seems wasteful of time and weft.

In this particular shape I am doing many half passes or only one pick of a color and so I am just using fairly short lengths of weft and my awl to place the picks. I can also use the awl to begin and end threads.

the only time I use bobbins in the diary is when I am beginning a border at the start of the year or the month or ending the year.

Sometimes I leave the lengths of weft to the back as I finish a day and am able to borrow them again for another day. That cuts down on the number of starts and finishes I have to do but I still use the awl on this small scale rather than the bobbin.

Even on a larger piece like the Mango Hunters where several bobbins are always in play there are several reasons to switch to my awl during weaving so I wear it whenever I sit down at the loom.

Often I use smaller bobbins for a small area of color. For me the choice of bobbin size is not related to the size of my hands but to the area I want to weave and the thickness of the weft.

Even so I find that bobbins are frequently low on thread and getting hard to use so I unwind the thread from the bobbin and just grab my awl to finish working with the thread. The transition is very seamless because it is right there waiting for me and I can move from areas where bobbins are in play to areas where I use the awl without interruption.

I also find that sometimes if I am not sure of the color or blending in a weft bundle I can pull out a short length to try and use the awl while I am deciding if the choice is what I want.

Here I have tried out two different weft threads using my awl. If I decide I like them I may go ahead and wind a bobbin or bobbins and continue working or if I think I would like to change my mind I can easily pull it out and try something else. Also, if the area is going to be small before the next color change I will just continue with the awl.

I find it a very handy tool for the way I like to work and because it is the same point as my bobbins I find the transition from one tool to the other is very easy.

Lately, it has been hard to find the normal amount of time for weaving and blogging because of the Studio Project but progress is being made.

Here is a picture of the new Fiber Studio building being moved into its new home.

Shortly after its arrival Mack and I decide that we need a patio to connect the house with the studio. So the purchase of patio stones, bricks and navaho stone from the local hardscape ensues.

Here we are at Lowes purchasing some of the materials and enjoying some help getting them loaded up. I wished we could have taken these guys home with us.

Leveling the ground was just plain hard work but I was able to relate the stone placement to working on a very large mosaic ( about 10 feet wide by 32 feet long). Mack and I did it all ourselves. I think it will be very nice but it will probably be my last experience with laying a natural rock patio!

Here is a picture from early this morning. We are spreading the fill out to even up the surface and now it must be swept and rinsed away to reveal the pretty Navaho Stone. Whew!

The studio has electric now but lots of finishing inside still needs to be done with the outlets, fan, air conditioner/heater and the outside lights. That will be accomplished the next time our son Josh comes down from Kansas. He installed some great ceiling fixtures with clean color corrected bulbs in them. The lighting should be fantastic when it is finished and then we can go on to the insulation, floors and walls. The fun part of furnishing the inside and moving in will come along eventually. It is so exciting!

So what I have I been doing at night after a full day of patio building? Well aside from keeping up with the tapestry diary I have been getting some new jewelry projects completed. It is my goal to have all the looms dressed with new projects for the Kid n Ewe Show in November so I have been finishing up former models and putting on new projects.

Here is a leather and bead bracelet I just finished on the Lani Loom with a combination of gemstones, crystals,miyuki and silver beads. I love the way the leather molds so well to the shape and is so comfortable to wear. This has six strands of leather warp.

Here is another view showing the catch side.

Another bracelet done on the Mini Mirrix with the no warp ends kit.

I have also been experimenting with Kumihimo. Since my first little bracelet shown on the last post I have expanded to working on some necklaces. I plan to have some Kumihimo supplies at the next show also. It fits in so well with the materials I already have.

Here is a piece done with size 6 beads on a fiber braid.

Here are size 8 beads on a mixed fiber piece with a peyote stitch pendant and covered catch.

More size 8 beads with a stone pendant.

A fun pendant tassel on a braid of silk cord and ribbon with bead embellishments.

I call this one Blue Lagoon with size 8 seed beads and a gold dipped sand dollar.

Finally, here is the key to the new Fiber Studio complete with its own braided hanger!


  1. Whoa! That is too much excitement for a single blog post. I need to take a nap after reading it. You are having too much fun.

    1. I know what you mean Annie. I feel the same way! It is hard to catch up with such a busy time. I think it may be awhile before I can view this patio project as fun,haha.

  2. The awl looks like a great tool. But I was really amazed by your studio arriving on a truck! How awesome is that? I can't wait to see how the inside turns out.

    1. Thanks Rebecca, some friends gave me the idea for the studio. I had been looking for a commercial space but nothing was working out. After all, I am retired! I'm looking forward to moving in and getting the inside in order too!

  3. Great clear pictures of the bobbin vs. awl in action. I have to admit now that I only weave small t's I almost always use just one bobbin and I use it like you are using the awl....for many of the handy reasons you describe.
    Now I want to come to your studio!

    1. Thanks Ruth. I have to say I just can't wait to hang your "Cowgirl" tapestry in the new studio! Better wait to visit though, right now the inside is pretty rough.