Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shawls, shawls, shawls...

Just before leaving on my trip I wound another warp of 2/20 merc. cotton, this time for shawls. I was getting tired of doing mostly blue, so rummaged in my stash and pulled out all the magenta, and some bright greens and wound the yarn onto spools.

Beginning at the outside edges, I wound 30 yards - enough to do about 9 shawls. As the magentas and greens ran out, the blue 2/20 cotton was tied in so that the pink/magenta stripes on the outside gradually became more blue/green. The middle section is a combination of blues and greens of about the same value.

The shawls woven on the previous warp using 2/10 or 2/8 Tencel, and the Bambu 12 turned out really nice, so I'll be using those yarns for weft on this warp, too.

The 2/10 hand painted yarn is nearly used up (hooray!). I just wish the Bambu 12 had more of the really intense darks that are available in the heavier weight, but oh well. I've got lots of 2/8 Tencel to use up, too.

The threading will be twill blocks as last time, but a different progression. The weave structure will be twill blocks for the finer threads, and an advancing twill for the 2/8 Tencel. These combinations made a fabric with a nice drape, but not too loose. The fabric will be 32 epi, 30 ppi.

But first I have to do a warp on the Fanny (4 shaft counter-balanced loom). More about this project another time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Loofah Towels

One of my objectives is to use up some of my generous stash. For much of this year I’ve been weaving tea towels and hand towels, using up some of my 20/2 mercerized cotton for warp, and fine linen, cottolin and other cotton novelties as weft. I also have a great deal of a silk yarn that is fairly “hard” and textured.

A good many years ago I made some towels with 20/2 mercerized cotton and a similar silk novelty and they made great sauna towels, so I dug through my boxes of yarn and found some of the silk that had been dyed in colours that complimented my warp and did some more.

The end result is a towel with a nice hand and a texture similar to a loofah.

While these towels were woven using 16 shafts, the idea can easily be translated to 4.

After weaving the towels were wet finished in hot water wash, cold rinse and given a hard press.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More video

Someone asked for a better view of my hand, holding and propelling the shuttle. This clip also gives a little more info on what Peg mentioned, about not curving the weft by pulling the hand toward the body in order to minimize draw in. Again, this clip is from CDWeaver - Weaving Hints and Tips. (To order, go to my website and email me - link is to the right.)

You can see how I hold the shuttle - the tip slides in between the index finger and the middle finger, leaving the thumb free to brake the bobbin rolling off. Then the thumb pinches down on the shuttle freeing the index finger to transfer to the point of the shuttle in readiness to propel it back across the width of the web.

Using this technique I can shoot the shuttle across a 60" wide web.

My favourite shuttle is the Leclerc boat shuttle as pictured. They fit my hand, have good balance, and the spindle stands up completely so that the bobbin can be changed easily with the minimum of hand movements. (Remember my main focus is on issues of efficiency/ergonomics.)

Recently I had an opportunity to weave with a different style of shuttle. It did not have a "flat" backside, but was rounded. I found that the rounded backside caused the shuttle to skew as it travelled across the width of the web (36" as I recall) so that it was very difficult to catch as I normally do because it wasn't the point of the shuttle coming out of the shed, but the rounded backside. So my recommendation would be to keep shuttles with rounded backs for decoration, and choose a shuttle with a flat back to actually weave with if you want to develop a good rhythm.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

This week I've managed to make a dent in my "finishing" pile. :)

These towels were woven in August. The warp was a solid dark blue (with a sort of green cast to it) of 20/2 mercerized cotton. The weft is cottolin, about an 8/2 size. They were 30 epi and 30 ppi. The weave structure is twill blocks, woven 3:1, 1:3.

Last week I got them into the washer (hot water, cold rinse) and dryer (until damp) and then they got a *hard* press. After hemming they will get one more press to flatten the hems as much as possible before they are tagged, ready for sale.

I have a commercial steam press which makes very short work of the pressing.

Once again, the trasformation is magical. Loom state the web is stiff and hard to the hand. After wet finishing, the fabric drapes and feels much smoother (cottolin is fairly textured). The texture will come back after washing, but I really like how the fabric feels after pressing - especially when I'm trying to sell them..........

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Loom Music........

There is nothing quite like the sound of loom music!

This video clip is approximately 11 M so may take a few minutes to load. The clip is from CD Weaver - Weaving Hints and Tips - and shows how I weave. The view is close enough that you can see how I use my thumb as a "brake" to keep the bobbin from rolling forward and letting off more weft than I want for the next shot.

Weaving efficiently is a combination of many things.

1. A well beamed warp with the threads under good tension - no rogue threads that are too tight, or too slack.

2. A well wound bobbin so that the weft feeds off without catching on "hills" in the yarn package or binding in the shuttle cavity.

3. Holding the shuttle as shown so that you can catch and throw with a seamless motion, pushing it across the width of the web with your index finger. I can easily throw the shuttle across a 60" wide warp this way although I find it tiring so generally use the fly shuttle if I'm weaving more than 34" in width.

While many people use a floating selvedge, I find that they just get in my way, and slow me down, so I never use them.

Ultimately, weaving can be a dance with the opening of the shed, throwing the shuttle and beating all coming one on the heels of the other allowing the weaver to get into the "zen" of the moment and feel at one with his/her equipment. It's an aerobic workout, and at the end you've got fabric to show for it.

How fun is that? :D

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ready to sell....

Here are the first two shawls off the teal warp pictured in my first post.

The warp is 20/2 mercerized cotton at 32 epi with a weft of 8/2 Tencel at 30 ppi. The warp was threaded in twill blocks, but treadled in an advancing twill progression. Later shawls, woven with 10/2 Tencel, were (are being) woven in 3:1-1:3 twill blocks.

The challenge with a visual media such at the internet is that you can't feel the textile. :) The change in the cloth from loom state to finished is purely "magical". The web off the loom was stiff, and bent rather than draped. After wet finishing, the fabric is supple with a lovely sheen enhanced by the hard press.

One of the shawls was woven with a hunter green weft, the other with a dark navy blue. The photos show more green than the teal blue they really are, but oh well. I'm not a photographer!

The shawls are destined for the Puyallup Fair (south of Seattle, WA) and then the Seattle Weavers Guild sale if they don't sell before then.

(I'll be at the Puyallup Fair the last weekend - Friday evening, and most of Sat/Sun in the Artists in Action display - under the grandstand near the Red Gate - Sept. 19-21. I'm also planning on being at the Seattle Weavers Guild sale Oct. 23-25. Please stop and say hello if you are there, too.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


As a production weaver, I am always trying to fine tune the process in order to work as efficiently as possible. Since I don't like straggly fringes, and feel that cellulose fibres need to be protected somehow, I've worked out a method that works well for me in terms of fringe twisting.

Rather than use spacers, I begin weaving by using some sort of "scrap" yarn about the same grist (thickness) as the weft I plan on using. It doens't have to be exactly the same - somewhat larger or smaller works, too.

I begin by weaving about a quarter to half an inch, then roll the warp forward about 5.5 inches. Then, 4 to 8 shots are woven, depending on the weave structure. A contrasting colour works best, because these shots will be removed. I then begin weaving my textile, finishing the other end in the same way - about 4 to 8 shots of the contrasting "fugitive" yarn, roll forward about 5.5 inches, and weave about a quarter to half an inch using the fugitive yarn.

If I'm weaving another item, I weave half an inch, roll forward 5.5 inches and begin the next item with the 4-8 shots of fugitive yarn.

After cutting the textile off the loom, I lay it flat on my work table as shown. A heavy book holds it in place while I cut the fugitive yarns and remove them. In the photo, the weft tail is to the left, and I begin twisting on the right hand side, working from right to left cutting the fugitive ends, twisting, and then cutting and removing the next section of fugitive yarns. Generally I cut about 4 to 6" of the fugitive yarn at a time. The rest of the fugitive will hold everything in place until the twisting is done.

In the photo, you can see that there are four groups that have been twisted, the fringe twister ready to do the next group, and the untwisted ends, held together at the bottom by the fugitive threads (in pink).

After wet finishing, I trim the wispy bits off the ends, which makes the finished end of the fringe look "beaded".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weaving for therapy

After years of weaving for income, for intellectual stimulation and physical activity, weaving has now become part of my therapy.

Exercise is a very important part of my life - always has been - but now I also need to exercise in order to keep my heart as healthy as can be. All the recommendations are for a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day. I'm used to doing 3 to 4 hours of aerobic exercise daily, but the medications I'm on prevent my heart rate from increasing, so I've had to radically change the way I weave.

Instead of weaving for 45 to 60 minutes and taking a break, I now weave for 4-5 minutes, stop to rest and let my heart catch up to my need for oxygen. It is contrary to all the stories I ever told about myself, and it has been hard to accept that I can no longer weave as I used to do.

On the other hand, I can still weave! Not only can I weave, but I now must weave every day - or do some other physical activity, and weaving is sooooo much more enjoyable than spending 30 minutes on a tread mill or exercise bike!!!!

After years of concentrating on issues of efficiency, I find that during those 5 or so minute blocks of weaving, I can actually get quite a bit done. And so I have come to the point of surrendering - of accepting what is - instead of wishing for what cannot be. I still spend about 30-40 minutes at the loom, 2 to 4 times a day, although my productivity is reduced. But that's okay - it's better than not being able to weave at all.

I've also had to learn patience - not something I've ever been very good at!

From time to time I've used a heart motif for various woven textiles. This January I worked on this motif once again, never dreaming how significant the symbol would be.
Using the above draft, I wove tea towels during the days after my brother died. They were therapy of a different sort, because I didn't yet know I also was having problems with genetic Coronary Artery Disease. After the angio, I gave two of the heart towels to my internist, as thanks for believing that I had a problem, and moving swiftly to get it fixed.
The towels were woven from 2/20 mercerized cotton for warp, and a singles 16 red linen for weft, at 36 epi/ppi.