Sunday, August 9, 2009

Making Choices

I'm in a rambling frame of mind with thoughts loosely connected - perhaps I can weave a complete post from them....

The next issue of Handwoven is sliding through mail slots, but I haven't yet received mine. However I have seen the galley proofs, and know that they didn't use all of the photos I sent them, due to space constraints. So I thought I'd share some of them here and talk about them a bit.

The project was a set of placemats and a table runner made from 2/8 warp twist cotton for the warp and a weft that was made up of 5 threads bundled together.

Now I generally much prefer a boat shuttle, but such a thick weft meant that a stick shuttle was the most effective/efficient tool to use.

What many people don't know is how to wind the yarn onto a stick shuttle. It is not wound end for end, but wound in a figure eight around the spine of the shuttle. A good stick shuttle should be bevelled with the spine thicker than the leading edge. Winding the yarns in a figure 8 around the spine give the shuttle a wedge shape and a nearly flat bottom which makes it easier to pass from one selvedge to the other.

The length of shuttle should be slightly longer than the warp is wide so that you literally pass the shuttle through the shed - you don't try to 'throw' a stick shuttle.

In order to wind the yarn onto the stick shuttle, I worked from the tubes. Doug made several stands with different numbers of spikes to set the tubes onto. For this project I used five threads - two of the 2/8 cotton the same as one of the colours in the warp (the warp was made from a brick red and chocolate brown wound together as one) plus three of a cotton slub of a lighter shade of the brick red which was more of a rose colour. I always set tubes so that they wind off counter-clockwise - if you can't be perfect, be consistent.

No, I don't wind off the side of a tube. I find that they run off unevenly creating tension problems, especially when working with more than one tube at a time.

I stand above the group of five winding them as smoothly and evenly as possible, straightening out any large loops, but not paying too much attention to slight unevennesses (if that is a word) as with such a thick bundle, little loops bury themselves in the cloth.

This photo shows cutting the placemats apart after running them through the washing machine. I spread the cloth out on the top of the washing machine and use the slot between the lid and the machine as a cutting guide. After drying the fringes get their final trim where I even all the fringes out.

There has been a flurry of posts on a couple of the chat groups I belong to about whether or not one should use an electric dryer.

Some people are convinced that electric dryers are evil incarnate. Others find hanging things on the line to dry onerous and/or impractical. (I'm sure that my industrial steam press would qualify for evil incarnate as well.) One of the arguements is that using a dryer shortens the life of a textile.

Well, yes, the tumbling action does provide abrasion, but hanging things outside to dry can subject them to UV light which can also shorten the life of a textile and fade colours.

Personally I use the washing machine and dryer rather than line dry. For one thing, I produce sufficient quantities that trying to use the line to dry would be impractical and time consuming.

Since the biggest investment in a hand woven textile is one's time, I'd rather let the dryer do the work than drag a load of placemats or scarves or yardage out to the yard, peg it out and hope that no bird contributed their droppings, no dust and/or pollen settled on the textiles or that the wind didn't rip the things off the line and send them flying. Not to mention drying time - 45 minutes in the dryer as compared to hours(?) on the line....

I use the industrial steam press for the same reason. I could do the same job with a hand iron, but it would take me hours longer, and in the end the hand iron being used for hours and hours would likely use up as much electricity as the steam press for a much shorter period of time.

But it's all about choices. Someone who weaves as an avocation, who doesn't care about investing hundreds of hours in a textile can easily make choices different than mine as a weaver who needs to sell the 'fruits' of her loom.

I've been aware of ecological issues since the late 1960's - I've recycled since long before it was fashionable to do so, buy in bulk to save packaging, refusing plastic and paper bags (unless necessary) buy raw ingredients rather than prepared foods, compost the majority of my food waste, save up paper and yard waste to take to the municipal recycling area. I've used non-phosphate detergents since they first became available in the late 1960's after seeing the soap suds on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

The pounds of yarn waste I produce was first given to art programs and anyone else I could find to take them (until they ran out of space and cried 'enough'!) and now gets saved and passed on to a surface designer who takes what she wants and then both of our scraps get given to the Salvation Army who has a textile recycling program. Even when I put them into the garbage I knew that my threads were biologically degradable and would eventually return to the earth.

I try to plan an efficient route for my errands so that I burn the least amount of gas and tire rubber - again have done this for 20+ years - buying vehicles with good gas mileage but still allow me to move show stuff efficiently. (i.e. a mini-van)

So I get a little vexed when people point fingers at me accussing me of not being aware of the damage caused by appliances such as electric dryers. I *know* the costs, but have to make choices. I choose to live as frugally as I can (partly because one doesn't make a whole lot of money as a weaver in the 21st century), looking at my entire lifestyle for where I can make changes so that I use the least amount of resources, but aware that there are times and places where I simply have to use electricty - to power my computer which runs my loom, the compressor, the lights in my studio, the bobbin and pirn winders, my boom box and yes, electric washer, dryer and steam press.

These are choices that I have thought about and made with full knowledge of the impact they are making. Am I living as small a carbon footprint as I can? Well, I could do more - but it would be at the cost of taking more of my time. And after the past year or so - well, my time is precious to me and I don't want to use up even more of it doing things that I know can be done faster if I use a little electricity.

Like so many other things about the production of textiles - we have to make choices, and those choices depend on so many other issues that it seems to me that no one's choices are any better or worse than anyone else's. Just because I use an electric dryer, etc. doesn't mean that I'm not doing my best in many other areas of my life to be economical and ecological in my lifestyle.

Currently reading Below Zero by C. J. Box - who always has interesting thoughts on the ecology in his series of books featuring Park Ranger Joe Pickett


barbara said...

Leaving as small of a foot print as we can often is a give/take situation, or "making choices". I applaud you for your efforts Laura. It is amazing how much we can contribute to helping Mother Earth if one just thinks about it. I always learn from you blog sight, and my learning today was how to wind a stick shuttle ..... who knew???? Thank you.

Looking forward to seeing your article in Handwoven. Congratulations on another article.
Weaverly yours ......... Barbara

P.S. I just read "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" - very interesting read, could scare the life out of a person. I took from it what I am able to do, without living in a bubble. Just knowing is a great awareness.

Laura said...

Who is the author of Death by Slow Duck? Sounds like something I should read. :)


Laura said...

Oops - Slow Death by Rubber Duck!


barbara said...

Slow Death by Rubber Duck How toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health. By Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie. There is a lot of scientific discussions and I don't have a scientific background, but found the read quite interesting. Probably did not understand everything I could have, but got the "just" of the book and some things to be aware of. Confirmation of a lot of things I already believe.
Weaverly yours ...... Barbara

Laura said...

The Public Library has it in their collection so I've put a reserve in on it. :)



Dorothy said...

Thank you for explaining how to wrap the yarn on a stick shuttle. I just got a little loom that has to be used with stick shuttles, so I needed to know about this.

All of us who think about the environment make choices, we make different decisions depending on our circumstances.

I seem to have upset some people on WeaveTech, I didn't mean to, I really was very surprised that some places don't allow washing lines. Very surprised. Fall of my chair type surprised. Lots of people I know have drying machines to use on rainy days. We don't have one because they are expensive to buy, take up space, and are expensive to run because our electric prices are high (I live in NW England, Great Britain).

Laura said...

North America is a different kettle of fish from the UK. :}