Saturday, December 20, 2008

Back to Tea Towels

I'm back to the AVL and tea towels, weaving with the single 6's cotton.

My initial choice (to the left) seemed to be a bit flimsy to me, so I decided to change the weave structure and ppi. Instead of a fancy twill, I changed to an advancing twill treadling, and increased the ppi from 24 to 28. (the section between the red lines) The intention was to create a thicker fabric that was still supple. The advancing twill structure has fewer interlacements -the weft can pack in tighter without becoming stiff.

After a 3 day hiatus where I wove only on the Fanny, I went back to the AVL and looked at the web again. Even at 28 ppi, I felt the resulting fabric was still going to be a bit on the light side and changed to 30 ppi (to the right) You can see that the white looks more intense to the far right than it does to the far left or between the red lines.

Gearing down to 30 and 32 ppi, it sometimes takes an inch or two to get the ratio right, and you can easily see the section at the beginning where the auto cloth advance was actually advancing two clicks (I have the old gear wheel system) resulting in 15 ppi instead of the intended 30 ppi.

The down side of using more ppi is that it is going to take longer to weave a towel than at 24 ppi. The up side is that I will use up more yarn! :D

The yarn, being a single, shows the inconsistencies involved in spinning more than a 2 ply would, and the fabric has subtle weft wise streaks in it. This should even out to a large degree during wet finishing, which will include a hard press.

Many people do not understand that a hard press is not ironing.

When you iron, you sweep the heated iron back and forth across the cloth. A hard press is when you clamp the iron down tightly in order to compress the threads. This effectively notches the warp and weft together. The surface becomes smooth. Threads that shine become much more reflective and gleam - something that we prize in yarns like silk and linen (or Tencel, mercerized cotton, and so on.)

When I'm wet finishing my goal is to get a cohesive fabric, one where the warp and the weft come together becoming a whole that is greater than the individual parts. When I feel a fabric, I do not want to feel individual threads, I want to feel an integrated cloth.

Right now I am blessed with owning and being able to operate an industrial steam press. This makes the enormous job of hard pressing much more efficient. I used to use an Elna flat bed press - a small home press. Doug and I pressed literally thousands of placemats on it. Pressing yardage could be done, but it was difficult and slow. The industrial press makes short work of pressing yardage as well as smaller items.

I don't know how much longer I will be able to afford to house and operate the press. It's one reason I'm madly weaving up as much of my fine thread stash as I can. I can easily press scarves on the small flat bed press even though it takes me longer, but tea towels and larger items are more fiddly on the small press. :)

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