Sunday, February 8, 2009

Opinions (boy, have I got 'em!)

Well, here 'tis - hopefully the last warp of my current 'blue' period. :) And period is the operative word, as I'm really hoping this warp will put a period to the fine, fine linens. The very finest of the cottons are in this warp, and I'm left with 9 spools of a blue yarn that is anonymous but appears to be about a 2/20 or 2/18. It's a good colour to use up with some 2/16's pale greens that I have that are slightly on the blue side, and some odd lots of 2/20 turquoise in two shades. But that warp may wait for a while while I pursue some other projects that have been simmering on the back burner waiting for me to deal with the linen. :)

I've been thinking a lot about efficiency this week due to a couple of threads on some of the chat groups I belong to.

Unfortunately, I've come to the conclusion that efficiency is as personal as everything else in weaving - what is working efficiently? It depends.

Working efficiently means choosing tools, processes and materials appropriate for the job at hand. But that job will vary depending on what is being made. A tool or process that is efficient for a rug weaver may be vastly different than for someone who is making fine fabric.

The choice in tools is also going to depend on our own personal abilities, and disabilities.

I have had two whiplash injuries in my life. Therefore I choose my tools and position them based on harming my neck as little as possible. In other words, I cannot - for any length of time - work with my arms stretched out in front of me, or reaching over my head. Therefore, I position my warping board no higher than shoulder height, and work standing quite close to it. I use both hands to seat the yarns on the pegs so that my left hand puts the yarn onto the left hand pegs, and my right hand onto the right hand pegs. I do not torque my body by using only my right hand to guide the threads. This torquing is also bad if you have lower back problems - something I've developed after damaging a muscle in my butt (one of the glutes) several years ago.

Which shuttle you choose will depend partly on how large your hands are. I have large hands so I don't like shuttles with stubby little noses, and only a slight slant to the points.

I don't like some boat shuttles because the spindle is on a spring, preventing me from lifting the spindle upright in order to pop the bobbin on and thread the weft through the guide hole. I don't like awkward movements, and trying to fuss with the bobbin tethered to a spindle that won't co-operate equates with needless frustration and working 'artificially slowly'.

I don't like end feed shuttles with hooks for tensioning instead of pressure plates. For the fine threads I use, I sometimes need to adjust the tension by micro increments, and the hooks just aren't efficient. I don't like hand end feed shuttles because they are too heavy, putting too much stress on my whip lashed neck, and I have always had good selvedges with a boat shuttle. :) I find that using my thumb as a brake on the bobbin allows me to apply just the right amount of tension to seat the weft in the selvedge most of the time, and if I have to unweave, it's much easier to roll the weft back onto the bobbin for a few picks than onto a pirn.

If I'm using the fly shuttle, most often what I'll do if I have to unweave more than one pick is to break the weft off and throw the surplus out rather than try to salvedge it - it will cost me more in labour to wind it back on the pirn or deal with the yarn that has already fed off than the value of the thread that I throw away............

My bobbin winder is electric, but I don't like the double ended ones. Too much fiddling with the ones I've tried in order to get them to operate properly. I'm sure there must be some that work well, but so far I've not found one to my satisfaction. My single ended bobbin winder does everything from spools for sectional beaming, to pirns, ordinary bobbins and paper quills. Something that you can't do on a double ended winder. :)

Then there is the issue of budget constraints. My equipment has to function and function well for lengthy periods of time. I can't afford equipment that breaks down all the time requiring repair, or worse, replacement. I don't mind paying more for something that will operate and give me good cost-recovery making a particular task faster to do, or easier on my body. But I don't want to be repairing or replacing it every year.

Fortunately I have a live-in loom mechanic who is very handy at coming up with solutions that work, and generally finding a source of parts locally so I don't have to wait on a distant supplier to get around to shipping them to me. I don't do this as a hobby - it's my profession - and I can't understand why some suppliers don't get it - I'm sure they would be frosted if their suppliers dilly-dallied sending them their needed parts forcing them into lengthy down time. No weaving, no income, ergo no food, heat, light...............

That's one of the down sides of a piece of equipment that gives you more mechanical advantages - more stuff to break down. :((((( The Leclerc Fanny hardly ever gives me a problem with something breaking, but it doesn't have a computer assisted dobby, auto-cloth advance, or 16 shafts. :)

So my best advice is to watch closely what other weavers do, the equipment they choose and how they do it. And then try different things for yourself. I have learned from many different weavers. Some things work very well for me, others don't. So I keep what works and after a fair trial, leave the rest.

As far as I'm concerned the best tools a weaver can have are an open mind and a willingness to try something different.


Sue said...

It is funny how personal a lot of weaving choices are!

A local weaving friend just bought her first loom, as I was buying my second. And when it came right down to it, I felt like I didn't know what I thought she should do....because I couldn't totally know her strengths, resources, and priorities for the loom.

And a million other aspects of weaving are just as individual!!

It's great that you're so willing to share your opinions and vast knowledge!! Thanks for being so generous to the weaving community!!


Peg in South Carolina said...

A good post in an era when we tend to think we have to have every tool and loom that exists, just because it exists! I agree totally that each weaver has her own path, and she finds it only by observing her own limitations and abilities, by noting what pleases and displeases her, and by being open to new possibilities, either discovered on her own or through listening to and watching others.

Sharon said...

I keep thinking of painters (perhaps because my brother is one?) He doesn't worry about whether his paintings are right or wrong, or whether he does work like somebody else. He takes classes all the time and burns up all his vacation time going on pretentious-sounding "retreats" but when it comes down to it his paintings look like HIS paintings. In fact, he took a class and learned to relax a little and the difference was so big that I almost didn't recognize it as my brother's work!

What I'm trying to get at is that it's ok to listen to what everybody says and try things and be willing to see what happens. It's very odd to me that some weavers have a hard time with that, especially since my brother (who, like most of the people in our family, LIKES TO BE RIGHT) doesn't seem to run into those issues in his painting.

I have noticed that the more I weave, the more I want to know about other techniques, but the less I worry about whether I will get them "right".