Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
After spending about 4 hours in the guild room dyeing yarn and threading/sleying the guild loom for a group project (Bronson Lace place mats/table runners) I really didn't feel like weaving when I got home.
Since I was also beginning to feel the pressure of all the finishing that needs to be done, I decided to sit in front of the tv and do some of the hand hemming that had accumulated.
One of the things I've been doing is helping a 10 year old boy by the name of Asaph learn how to weave. He'd done a little bit with his mom, but life has been a little too interesting of late so she asked if I could give him a hand.
We started with a 5 yard warp in July. I wound it for him out of my stash of 4/8 cotton. He said he liked blues, purples, greens and grey, so I wound a randomly striped warp wide enough for place mats and table runner.
He finished weaving it a while ago, and I made it to their house and cut it off the loom on Monday.
While there we planned his next project - more place mats for Christmas gifts. The look of dismay on his face was a wonder to behold when I told him that the first thing we had to do was some math!
We worked through the calculations to see how long and wide the warp was to be, then used the Fibonacci sequence to design an asymmetric stripe. He started winding the warp. By lunch time he was nearly done, so I took over and finished it off, then beamed and threaded it while he ate his lunch and did some chores.
Tonight I finished hemming the red linen/cotton towels I wove in October, and started hemming Asaph's place mats. For a 3rd or 4th project, he did pretty well. And now he has a deadline - get the current warp done in time to give the place mats as a Christmas gift - weaving may go a little faster? :D Nothing like a deadline!!!!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
One of the ways I earned my income as a production weaver was to weave yardage for a fashion designer. Since I billed per yard woven, I needed a fast and accurate way to measure the fabric, both on and off the loom.
I found a meter - a very expensive one, I might add - built for the textile industry which is accurate in the way that the cheap small ones aren't. Since I was going to rely on the meter for my invoicing, accuracy was of the highest priority.
The meter could be purchased with various measuring wheels so I bought two - one with a textured circumference (as shown above) for measuring fabric, the second with a channel for measuring yarn (for when I'm filling spools for beaming sectionally, etc.)
This meter has been well used and was well worth the price - for me. It's probably overkill for most.
Doug made a wooden gizmo to use for attaching it to the bottom of the loom between the cloth storage roller and the front directional roller. It sits just inside (about an inch) of the selvedge, and counts in feet, rather than yards or inches.
Once done weaving, I would transfer the cloth to my inspection table (also built by Doug - what can I say - he's a keeper!) where I would measure for billing purposes, then inspect and repair the cloth before shipping.
I still use the table for inspection and repair although I no longer weave for the fashion designer. It's just so much easier to stand at the table which was built for me and Doug to do this job than anywhere else. (Doug used to be my studio assistant.)
This method of measuring was much more efficient than any other. Since I was weaving anywhere from 3 to 50 yards (or more) of any particular fabric, using a measuring tape or string or any other method was not going to work particularly well. All I have to do is figure out how much length I need in feet, and then check the meter from time to time to see how close I'm getting to the finish line.
Speaking of finishing lines, I figure I need about 20 feet of this 20" wide fabric to do the samples for Seattle Weavers Guild. They send out between 350 and 360 newsletters, so it's a pretty big job for everyone involved. OTOH, they are still sending out actual samples most of the time, and that's something that not every guild is doing anymore.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
After the weekly errand run with my mom I came home and finished threading the warp and sleyed it at 24 epi (with the doubled ends counting as 'one').
This is the very beginning of the weaving. I keep left over weft on bobbins to use for headers, cut lines, testing colours and so on, so I began with the natural singles 20. It was difficult to see the pattern to check for oopsies so I switched to the red singles 20. Thankfully there were no threading or sleying errors, so I was able to begin weaving.
While threading, I continued to mull over my plan of using the white singles for weft, and after comparing it to the singles 20 noting that the white was much finer than the singles 20 (in spite of being labelled singles 12, both on the cone and the invoice) decided that I had to double it. Especially for the floral motif. So I dragged out my trusty doubling stand.
The resulting fabric is open and not suitable for towels, but the length of the floats would rule out use as towel fabric anyway. It would, however, make really nice fabric for a window covering. It's light enough and open enough that it would not block out the light entirely, but would provide sufficient privacy.
Once again I'm weaving this fabric up-side-down in terms of which side will be used for the face. No real reason except that I used the draft as given, which was probably written for a counter balanced or countra marche loom.
The draft is taken from the monograph done by Pat Hilts for Ars Textrina. She translated two old German weaving books of patterns. Many of the patterns are similar to Irene Woods monograph The Fanciest Twills, another book I often peruse for ideas. A third resource is Olesner's book.
Yes, I could draft these patterns from scratch, but when I have a concept of what I want, I will sometimes flip through these old books until I see something close to what I want. Sometimes I find precisely what I want, in which case I give a nod to the resource, thanking them for not having to spend a couple of hours at the computer clicking the mouse. :)
Sometimes I take their draft as a starting point and adapt it to my vision. In this instance, I was just looking for something to weave for the Seattle Guild newsletter, and somehow weaving flowers in deary November seemed very appealing.
PS - while winding a bobbin, the cone on the top of the doubling stand had a break in the thread and I lost the end. The yarn is so fine it's difficult to see, and finding the broken end proved fruitless. Inspiration struck, and I grabbed the lint roller, rolling it around the cone in the direction the yarn was winding off the cone. It only took a swipe 1/4 of the way around the cone for the broken end to be caught on the sticky roller, saving minutes - possibly quite a few minutes - not to mention the frustration. :D
They allow the option of adding puzzles to your blog, so thought I'd give it a try. Not sure how successful this is, but as an experiment..........
Enjoy if you like puzzles, too.
Boat & Sheep Jigsaw Puzzle
Sunday, November 23, 2008
After thinking about my next warp while weaving the last of the red, turning possibilities over and around, much like a jigsaw puzzle with too many pieces - I tossed all my plans out when I walked into my storage area and spotted the 4 cones of 2/40's mercerized cotton I'd purchased from Lunatic Fringe, lo these many years ago. :}
There is still a lot of bleached white 2/20's cotton left, so after mulling over what might be the best approach to using up the 2/40's (a fairly 'fragile' yarn), in the end I decided to pair each of the 2/40's with a 2/20's white.
My best guestimate for set is 24 epi with the very fine singles white linen planned for weft on this warp, but until I start weaving I won't know for sure. So I may wind up with some rather narrow (for me) towels if I have to re-sley to a higher epi. Oh well. People tell me my towels are on the generous side, so a smaller size is probably going to be fine.
It's not visible in the picture, but I have a lamp (anglepoint in England, not sure what they are called in NA - swing arm?) that I attach to the loom at the back. Doug mounted a small square block of wood with a hole drilled into it onto the back of the loom that the light fits into. There are two more blocks on the front of the loom for additional supplemental lights for threading.
My studio is in the basement and at this time of year light can be rather dim so the extra light really helps, especially with such fine yarns.
My spool rack is from Leclerc and allows me to work from spools/tubes from the side, or take the yarn off the top of the tubes/cones. Doug modified it with an additional rail along the very top so I can beam from 60 packages of yarn (from the side) or 50 packages (from the top).
For this warp I'm working with 40 packages. I'll wind 25 sections (one inch sections) but sley at a working set of 24 and see how it looks.
There's a rather sweet draft I found for a small floral motif. The threading is just point twill over 16 shafts. Part of this warp will be samples for the Seattle Weavers Guild newsletter for next year so I thought I'd do that for the samples and then play with twills for the towels. The guild samples are just 3 inches, so I wanted a repeat that would fit into that size. I think the small floral will look quite nice in this pastel fabric.
Friday, November 21, 2008
So, here are the towels woven with red linen after wet finishing. And the second red warp is done, too, hooray!
One of the challenges this year has been to get my blood pressure under control. After my brother died, my bp soared through the stratosphere, and in addition to bp meds I was put on Lipitor to reduce cholesterol. My bp bounced around like a yo-yo, and my doctor tried just about everything under the sun and nothing seemed to work. On the contrary, as the summer progressed, I got sicker and sicker. For 6 weeks in July and August, I could not weave. At all.
Finally I realized that it was the Lipator causing problems, and although my doctor can't confirm that I was having an allergic reaction on top of a severe adverse reaction, I'm pretty convinced that that was what was happening.
Since my cholesterol wasn't high to begin with, we did blood work the end of September to find out if the Lipitor had been working. It was. My cholesterol level was now low instead of high normal, and he agreed I could stop taking the Lipitor.
Once the drug had cleared out of my system, I found that I could weave for 30 to 40 minutes with little discomfort (i.e. no muscle pain) with short (5-15 second) breaks. A sip of water, raising the weight on the cloth storage system, changing the bobbin - just that little break in weaving rhythm and I could carry on.
One of the other drugs I was taking was Metoprolol, which is a beta-blocker. Beta-blockers are given to cardiac patients to prevent their heart rate from speeding up, and they often work to reduce blood pressure. As I wove for longer periods of time I found that my heart could not keep up with my weaving speed, and I wanted to get off of that drug.
The doctor agreed that I could begin to wean myself off the Metoprolol after I had a severe reaction to the combination of a new bp medication called Norvasc, and the Metoprolol. As the beta-blocker dose gradually reduced, I found myself with more energy and on Sunday I took the last partial tablet.
Warned that my heart rate could now speed up, I started wearing my heart rate monitor all day, not just while I was weaving. On Monday, my heart rate was high as forewarned, and recalling that I'd seen a cd called Theraputic Drumming at the local independant book store, I swung by on my errand run to town and bought it.
After listening to the cd, my heart rate dropped significantly, and I was able to continue weaving with my heart rate at between 95-105 for about 30 mintues, after which it began to climb to 110. (It had been between 115 and 130 earlier in the day - higher than the 110 that had been recommended to me by the cardiac nurse as the upper limit for cardiac patients.)
For the rest of Monday and throughout Tuesday, my heart rate stayed at that level, but on Wed. and Thurs. it started climbing again. Unfortunately I spent all day, both days, roaring about with appointments and commitments such that there was no time to lay down and listen to the cd. This morning my pulse continued between 120 and 130 while weaving, so I made time to lay down and listen to the cd again.
The good news is that my heart rate came down nicely and I was able to finish weaving the red warp after dinner.
The other good news is that the current combination of drugs seems to be slowly working to bring my blood pressure down. It's not happening as quickly as I'd like, but patience has never been a character trait I could claim. :^) The other good news is that since I'm no longer taking the beta-blocker, there is one more drug that is a possibility should the numbers remain higher than the doctor would like to see them.
This year has been - well - challenging. However, now that I'm feeling so much better and able to weave for 40 to 45 minutes at a time, several times a day, I have to admit that not only am I feeling better than I was this past summer, I'm probably feeling better than I was before all of this happened. My energy is finally returning, and so is my brain. I'm even managing to sleep most of the night, nearly every night.
Amazing what getting sufficient oxygen will do!!!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Am steadily working my way through the red/blue warp. It is now officially more than half woven. :) This is a shawl woven with 2/10 black Tencel in twill blocks. The ribbon you see pinned to the cloth is one of several I have in various lengths. Rather than use a tape measure, I bought some hemming tape in different colours, cut them to various standard lengths, and pin them to whatever I'm weaving to measure the length I want. For shorter lengths, I'll program the actual number of picks but for longer lengths, like shawls or scarves, it's just as easy to measure with a cloth tape.
Some looms, like the Leclerc Fanny (and almost every Louet loom I've woven on) are very quiet. With the Fanny all you really hear is the slight clatter of the metal heddles as the shed is changed, and the low whump of the beater as it strikes the fell. Not even that if the weft is being placed, rather than beaten.
Other looms, like my AVL, are extremely noisy - unless you weave v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-ly. Since I'm trying to earn money by weaving, I don't have the luxury of weaving slowly/quietly.
When I got my AVL in 1984, I realized that it was much noisier than any loom I'd woven on before, partly due to the sharp clatter of the plastic pickers on the fly shuttle, partly due to the larger sized everything - more shafts, bigger beater and so on.
At the time, Doug was working for an industrial supply house, with a particular interest in safety equipment. He brought home a set of ear muffs, specifically for high impact hearing protection.
Eventually I got headphones so I could listen to books on tape or music, but always rated for high impact hearing protection.
During a recent discussion on a chat group I belong to about wearing hearing protection, one weaver commented that after weaving on her AVL for 20 years - without ever thinking about hearing protection or wearing it - she now has 50% hearing loss.
While we all have to make choices, and ultimately it really does depend on how much you weave, if you have a large AVL at least thinking about hearing protection would be a good idea. Especially if you are a young weaver with many years of weaving ahead of you.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I keep a block of Post-It notes by the loom. They come in handy to scratch myself notes, but they also make a dandy 45 degree angle gauge when folded on the angle. The sticky part keeps it from unfolding, which is nice, too.
Hopefully this photo is clear enough that the angle of the twill can be seen. It's steeper than 45 degrees, but that's okay. I'm much happier with the drape of the cloth (or as it will be after wet finishing) with 32 epi and 30 ppi than if I'd done it 'perfectly' at 32 picks. This is definitely a case where consistency makes more 'perfect'. :^)
The lighter picks at the bottom are the fugitive ends which will be cut away as I fringe twist. Bobbins left over from other projects are generally used for these picks. They only have to be similar in grist, not identical, and of a contrasting colour.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Spent much of the morning today getting some things pressed. I have an industrial steam press which makes short work of the pressing, but since I like to make it worthwhile to fire up the boiler I usually do a large batch of pressing all at once.
Today I did four of the shawls woven recently, some scarves that had been hanging around waiting for the next pressing day, and the red tea towels woven with the red linen as weft. Now I've got a stack of hand hemming to do in the evenings....
And whoo-hoo! The red cotton - other than a few dribs and drabs on bobbins - is used up. The rest won't go to waste as there is plenty to do lace with.
The two shawls pictured are from two different warps, woven in September and October. The one on the left has Bambu 12 as weft, the other has 2/8 Tencel weft. There is still a big stack of them left to fringe twist, but I wanted to get some of them done in time for a sale on Nov. 23rd.
Today I started weaving shawls on the last red warp. Well, actually I started last night, but after thinking about it overnight, decided that I wasn't going to be best pleased with 32 picks per inch and decided to roll the 6" I had woven last night forward and start again at 30 picks per inch. It doesn't look much different, but there will be a difference in the hand of the cloth.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I suppose that if I hadn't included the blue in my first red warp, I'd have been able to use up all of the 2/18 red cotton in one warp, but I did so I had lots of red left over. Since stash reduction is one of my primary goals right now, and I'd decided I really wanted to use up something, I did another red/blue warp, but this time put stripes on either edge instead of one in the middle.
The bad news is that even after winding a 40 yard warp, there was still over half a pound of red cotton left - too much to throw away, too little to do another warp on the big loom. So, even though I'd thought to only weave shawls on this warp, I'm weaving more tea towels, using up the last of the red cotton as weft!
One of the things I like to do is weave curves into my fabric. Weaving is mostly about perpendicular crossings of the thread, with deflections of those threads generally pretty minimal. Some weave structures depend on deflections - waffle weave, lace weaves, deflected warps and/or wefts, etc. But you can also get curves as pattern. The weave structure in this photo is actually twill blocks, but woven so that curves are created.
Sandra Rude plays with this sort of patterning a lot although she takes a different approach - a link to her website is in my links list. Her water series and fire series are especially appealing to me.
The tubes you can see at the bottom of the picture are hoses for the air assist on my loom. Several years ago I added air assist for the fly shuttle, which I haven't used in ages because recently I've been weaving fairly narrow warps where the fly shuttle doesn't work particularly well. I figured I might as well finance air for the treadle at the same time. I'm really glad now I did, even though I can't weave as quickly with the air assist treadle as I could without it because I realized that my right knee had been giving me problems. I have also developed arthritis in my right foot comparable to the sort of arthritis long distance runners develop (although they usually get it in both feet) so the air assist in the treadle has really allowed me to keep weaving.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
After publishing Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens, people started asking when I would be producing a video.
I was highly reluctant to do this for several reasons. First, I had done just enough video camera work to know exactly how difficult it is to get good video.
Secondly, I knew that in order to get good video, it cost a whole lot of money - money I simply didn't have after researching, writing and self-publishing Magic, filled as it was with before and after wet finishing samples of fabric (originally 20 projects, now 22 - for a total of 44 actual fabric samples).
Third, unlike a book where you can open it to any page to review whatever part of it you like, you have to fast forward and back and forth in a video to see the bit you want.
As time went by, digital technology developed to the point where I realized that I could combine the best of both books and videos by doing a book on cd with copious full colour photos and video clips - or an ebook as I see they are now called. :)
I began with dressing the loom showing how I wind a warp, rough sley a reed and beam from back to front. The second section included hints and tips - how to hold and throw a shuttle, hemstitching, dealing with more than one shuttle, winding bobbins and pirns and so on.
This past winter it became clear to me that I was having health issues without being able to define what those issues were. All I knew was that it was imperative that I do the third section on wet finishing and at the same time, I had my web master archive the majority of the writing that I've done over my career onto the cd along with the original sections and the new one on wet finishing. Frankly, I didn't think I'd be around very much longer, and that my website - well, if I wasn't here, my website wouldn't be either..........
So CD Weaver III contains the information I consider essential for a new weaver. I am very fast after years of earning my income, always looking for the most efficient, most ergonomic way to do the various tasks. When I find a new way to do something that will require less effort, I take the time to learn. Most recently I changed the way I hold my hook to sley. It took about 6 warps to cotton on to the new method, but I use it all the time now. The change was small, but I do the same job with tiny hand movements instead of using my whole arm.
This change allows me to work with less effort over all and was well worth taking the time to learn.
I am puzzled when I show weavers how I do things and get the response that it's too much trouble to learn something new. But I also have to remember that people are weaving these days, not to earn an income, but for rest and relaxation. And the learning curve can be steep and slippery and not very comfortable, especially if you are trying to unlearn something and do it a new way.
So for those people who are interested in becoming more efficient, CD Weaver is available. My methods won't work for everyone - there are differences in physical size and ability that make no one method the perfect one for everyone.
Until American Thanksgiving, anyone who orders Magic in the Water; wet finishing handwovens will receive CDWeaver III for free. I've had my webmaster post a new video on the CDWeaver page on my website. This one shows how to significantly full a mohair loop scarf, which I later show being brushed to raise a nap in the It Isn't Finished (until it's wet finished) section. The clips are available for free download, and for both PC and Mac users.
The photo above was done for It Isn't Finished (until it's wet finished) and shows the mohair scarf that I fulled in the video clip. It also shows two teasels. The one on the right is a proper Fuller's Teasel. The other is the one that is most commonly found growing in ditches and that people think is a Fuller's Teasel.
To go with the new CD Weaver, I also produced sample sets of the fabric I wet finished, including the above scarf. These are available for sale while they last. They also serve to upgrade Magic in the Water with 5 additional samples. Info on my website. Click on Store, then CD Weaver or Magic in the Water. Email me to order.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
One of the advantages of weaving the fabric up side down is that when it rolls onto the cloth storage roller, the right side is up.
Once in a while a warp will turn out just as nicely as one hopes it will. I am very pleased with this warp and these towels. I hope the shawls will turn out as well. :}
The good news is that we have tweaked my medications and I am now able to weave for about 45 minutes at a time (with minor rest breaks) so I am able to weave one whole towel at a sitting. While my diastolic blood pressure remains too high we changed meds a few days ago, and I'm hoping that it will soon kick in and bring things under control. The paperwork says it may take up to two weeks to become effective, so I'm not fussing too much about the high number - yet...
People often ask about pricing. I don't use a pricing formula such as 3 times the material costs. As mentioned in my previous post, the largest expenditure in the creation of textiles by hand is the labour. Very early on, I realized that if I used the "times the materials" formula, I'd soon starve.
Pricing is a complex process, like weaving itself. If one is to truly earn their income by weaving, over head costs cannot be ignored. Nor can the cost of marketing. If you don't double the cost of producing a piece, you are effectively retailing at your wholesale price.
If you rent a booth at a craft fair, or sell on consignment, those expenses come out of the retail price.
My towels are on the large side. This particular towel is about 22" in the reed, and being woven about 34" long including hems. The retail price for these towels will be $36.00. Towels with less linen content of about the same size (i.e. cottolin weft) are priced at $32.00. Towels made from 100% cotton are priced at $28.00.
How did I arrive at those numbers? Partly by looking at the prices of smaller towels, partly by pricing expensive towels of similar quality, partly by deciding that I wanted that much for them to reflect the size and quality. My towels are hand hemmed, not because I object to machine sewing per se, but because I'd rather sit and hem as a tv watching job than drag out my sewing machine.
A friend described such handwork as "creative fidgeting". I can't just sit and watch tv. I like to have such creative fidgeting jobs to hand - hemming, knitting, bobbin lace, fringe twisting. If I really don't feel like "working", I enjoy jigsaw puzzles. :)
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Managed to find some time late last night to work out a threading etc., for the red warp, fine tuned it and started threading this morning. Got it finished before I left for the demo and just now finished sleying the reed. I hope to start weaving yet tonight, but I'll see how tired I am after I tie up and get the loom's computer programmed.
The diagram shows one pattern repeat and part of the border. The design is repeated 3 times in the centre of the warp and bracketed by 5 and a bit repeats of a point twill progression.
The towels will be woven as drawn in, which is as shown, but for the shawls I'll probably play around with tie ups and treadlings to get variations.
The tie up has one block weaving 3:1 twill (3 shafts raised, one down) while the other blocks are weaving 1:3 twill. With 16 shafts, the fewer shafts raised (on a rising shed loom), the less physical effort is required. While this is no longer a consideration for me - my loom has air assist - I figure what's good for the weaver is also good for the loom and continue to choose to lift the fewest number of shafts where ever possible. Even if this means weaving the fabric up side down. The towels will be presented with the the most amount of warp showing as the right side, but I'll be weaving it with the back side towards me.
Since I've earned my living at weaving for over 30 years, one principle has become very clear. The largest expenditure in terms of creating textiles to sell is not the cost of the materials, but my labour. So when ever I design a project I always look for ways to work with less physical effort and the least amount of time.
To this end I've worked diligently to find methods that streamline the process as much as possible. I've also learned that extra time spent in preparation generally cuts down on effort - and frustration. I might spend extra time winding a warp, for instance, knowing that taking greater care in this step of the process will make the actual weaving time a lot more pleasant, if not actually faster. :)