This video clip shows how I change a bobbin and start a new thread. It is another clip from CD Weaver. Using the Leclerc shuttle, I flip the empty bobbin up with the index finger of my left hand, slip the full bobbin on, thread it through the hole, snap it into place and continue weaving.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Since I don't want to be fighting with my equipment, I have chosen shuttles that have spindles that stand upright rather than being mounted with a spring that prevents them from moving completely out of the way of the shuttle cavity.
It takes just a flick of my left hand index finger to flip the spindle upright in order to slip the bobbin onto it.
With the bobbin upright, I can easily thread the weft yarn through the opening in the side as there is plenty of clearance and lots of room to see the hole.
A quick snap and the bobbin is seated and ready to go. No fumbling, no working artificially slowly because the equipment gets in the way of doing the job that needs to be done.
Now someone might very well say to me "But Laura, it doesn't take all that long to put a bobbin in a shuttle with a spring loaded spindle." My response is that when you do this task many times in a day, if it takes even 15 or 20 seconds longer those seconds add up to minutes and minutes add up to hours. Lost minutes that mean I don't get paid as much for what I'm doing because my equipment is inefficient.
One reason I can weave quickly and produce as much as I can during the day is because I have targeted equipment and processes that are needlessly inefficient and changed them to things that allow me to work as effectively as I can.
Very early on in my career I realized that while I can make more money, I can never make more time. Buying equipment that allows me to work as efficiently as possible has always seemed to me to be a wise investment.
For more info on how I hold and throw the shuttle, check the video clip label.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Next Towel Design
What this photo doesn't show very well is the darker blue in the middle of the cloth. If you squint, you might just be able to make out the colour shift to the far right and left sides.
When I say 'darker', the blue is pale so it isn't very much darker than the white. Perhaps it will show up better off the loom and after wet finishing.
The good news (?) is that I've found enough fine cotton to do another warp without buying more yarn.
I've been thinking a lot about issues of efficiency lately. It seems that the topic is coming up on the chat groups with more frequency, and people are becoming more interested in working with less fuss and bother.
Personally I don't like struggling with my process, equipment or materials. If something isn't working smoothly, my approach is to try to find out where the problem is and fix it. Sometimes that means modifying equipment, or replacing it with something more efficient. Life is short; time precious. This past year certainly brought that to my attention in a big way. :}
Unfortunately if a new weaver is only ever exposed to one type of equipment they don't know that there is anything else, so they wind up struggling with what is available. :( Even worse, when muscle memory has been formed, changing becomes more difficult than if one learned how to do it with more efficient tools in the first place. Most people simply don't bother to try to change because they don't like the feeling of being less than competant than they are used to.
When a person doesn't know what they don't know, they can only do the best they can. But we can change when something better is shown to us. Sometimes going back to the beginning can wind up being very beneficial.
I can weave very fast. The reason I can do so is that I have found the processes, tools and equipment that work well for me. I have refined my technique over many years until I can do the varioius steps with the least amount of hand movements. My goal is to work smarter, not harder - to accomplish more by doing less. Not all of the techniques I use came easily or quickly, but I could see the potential of saving time by taking the time to learn them. So I wallowed at the deep end of the learning curve until I became proficient.
One of the things that causes grief for most weavers is threading. Our bodies are in a posture that is uncomfortable and the longer it takes to thread, the longer we have to stay crouched in that posture. Even though I was considered fast at the time I took a workshop with Norman Kennedy, who showed us a different way of threading I took the time to learn his method and my threading speed increased significantly. Learning how to sley differently recently made that task faster and easier because instead of large arm movements, I now sley with smaller hand/wrist movements.
Now that my health appears to be stabilized, I am looking forward to being able to weave for many more years. Weaving is labour intensive. Whatever I can do to lessen the time and effort required, I will do. Even if that means wallowing at the deep end of the learning curve, erasing and building new muscle memory all over again. :)
(I show people my 'tricks' in the seminar You Have to be Warped, and on CDWeaver.)
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The Never Ending Linen
I've reached the 1/4 mark on this warp and the fine linen just keeps on going, and going, and going............
This is not going to be the final warp. I'm going to have to do at least one more longish warp to use it up. :(
The problem is I've used up so much of my fine cottons there isn't a whole lot left to choose from. I'm going to have to get really creative, dig deep into the corners in case there are any more cones hiding, or - gasp - order more yarn!
I think I may put something else onto the loom after this warp while I ponder my options, and maybe order something in. My supplier doesn't take too long to ship things, but will they have what I want in stock? And then wait for a week for it to arrive.
At least the linen was a tiny bit more co-operative tonight. Perhaps it's had a chance to absorb some of the humidity out of the air........or maybe it's started to warm up as promised.
Currently reading Princeps' Fury by Jim Butcher
Back to the Loom
Spent the morning winding bobbins for the lace show and share tomorrow but needed a break from that so went down to the loom and wove off a towel.
Unfortunately the cold weather has brought lowered relative humidity, and the linen is being a spoiled brat. :( It's sloughing off the bobbin and wrapping around the spindle on a regular basis so I'm getting a bit frustrated with it. The humidifier is running, but still can't get the humidity over 48% so the linen is pretty dry and snarly.
I really don't like fighting with my yarn (or equipment) but can't fight the conditions any more than I am currently, and since the results are rather nice it's grin and bear it time. :D
The fabric similar to this that I've wet finished turned out really nice so I know this will be nice when it's done, too.
The weather is supposed to warm up beginning tomorrow, so I'm keeping fingers crossed the linen will be better behaved from now on. In the meantime the sun is shining brilliantly so I'm really not complaining............too much. :^) With the warmer weather will come more humidity, yes, but also grey skies and snow/rain. And I'd much rather have the sun and linen that needs to be coaxed a bit.
Besides, this warp should see the end of this extremely fine linen, and that is A Very Good Thing!
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Bobbin Lace Show and Share
I'm using thrums left over from a warp I did months ago with some of the 2/20 mercerized cotton. The main threads are dark blue with green under tones, and some bright emerald green for workers on the fans and running down the centre.
It's turning out well and I'm pleased with it.
Doesn't look like I'll get to the loom today, though. I still have about half an hour left to finish the bookmark and then get 3 pillows ready. I'm just using the pricking for the little bracelet we made at the Show and Share in January again.
I think our lace group is meeting Sunday. I'll be able to start a new project since this bookmark will be done. Not sure what I'll do. We had talked about doing some stars or snowflakes that we can mount in a bangle for a Christmas ornament. Or I may make some more bookmarks. It would be nice to have some to tuck into Christmas cards.
Book Review - The Intentional Spinner
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Book Review - Mortal Coils
When I travel I bring lots of light weight paperbacks with me to read on the plane(s). After a string of them, I was getting to the point where I wanted something a little more 'meaty' when I spotted Eric Nylund's new book Mortal Coils on the shelf of a bookstore in Tampa, Florida.
I'll be perfectly honest - I've met Eric. I've been a guest in his home. I even saw this book as a manuscript - a stack of paper about 8 inches thick. I've read a couple of his other books - edgy SF. I knew this one was a bit of a departure from what he'd done before, although he has written fantasy previously.
My recommendation? Do not walk but run to the store and buy (or order in) this book. Here's my review:
As in many fairy tales, thread plays a significant role in the lives of our hero and heroine in Mortal Coils.
Eric Nylund has crafted a fairy tale for the 21st century. In our world of shades of grey, he supplies a mirror to reflect that reality in the form of an heroic story complete with tasks and temptations. This story is not so much about good versus evil, but power. How one attains it, and uses it. It is also about deciding what is good, and living with the consequences of our choices.
The cast of characters is large but necessary to the story, and very human. References are drawn from a large selection of myths, some I was familiar with, some perhaps completely Eric’s own invention. All the characters are engaging – even the ‘bad’ ones – as they twist and turn, trying to influence our two young heros.
Although the central characters are teenagers and we see them metamorphosing from children to young adults, anyone who remembers being 14 going on 15 will be captivated by this story told with intelligence and wit.
‘ “Greetings, Cousin” Louis said, managing to sound normal, as if this were some chance meeting in the park. “Destroy everything you touch.” 44 …..
44. Traditional Infernal greeting/departure. This phrase has become an often heard parental colloquialism to naughty children. “Must you destroy everything you touch?” Many experts associate this with the now less popular counter response: “The devil made me do it.” ‘
Eric sprinkles footnotes throughout which help explain some of the mythological references such as the one quoted above. He also has an amazing eye for detail. The descriptions of eating chocolate are worth reading the book all by themselves.
Even if you don’t know a teenager, read this book for yourself. Like life, the story ends with enough ambiguity to leave lots of room for a sequel. I hope Eric is writing like mad.
More info at http://www.ericnylund.net/
One of the joys of travelling to teach is meeting so many weavers in person. Some of them I know from the internet chat groups, but many I don't.
I get to stay with one or two and see their work, tour their studios, and sometimes I help 'train' their looms. :D
Susie had bought a well loved AVL home loom, but couldn't figure out the sectional equipment or how to tie it up. So one morning while she went off to her writing class (allowing me to sleep in - heaven!) I wound a warp, dressed her loom and got it set up for a four shaft direct tie up so that she could finally weave on it.
When I got to the beaming part, I couldn't hold the chain and roll it on at the same time, so I looked around the house and garage until I found something I could use for weight - a partially empty paint can worked a treat.
The warp was only 4 yards long so initially I just tied the chain to the handle of the paint can, then found some string, attached the string to the chain with a lark's head, then tied the string to the can so I could wind on the last 18 inches. :)
By the time Susie got home at 1 pm, the loom was all tied up and ready to weave on.
In Columbus, Kathleen had a 16 shaft AVL Production Loom that was giving her fits. Again a well loved loom before she got it. We re-wound the apron so it was wound on the correct direction, ran the cord from the cloth take up back onto the drum at the rear of the loom, and lubricated both the front and back drums loosening them a bit so that they would rotate freely.
I also pointed out that the wooden bracket that held the cloth storage beam at the other end was broken - the wood had split along the grain - and needed to be replaced. A simple job for her wood handy husband to fix.
It feels great to leave behind two friendlier looms.
Road Trip Report
My trip began with a flight to Birmingham, Alabama. I'd never been to the state before, so it was really nice to have a couple of days to sight see a little. We started with a morning seminar "You Have to be Warped" where I showed how I wind a warp, beam it, thread, sley and tie on. After that several people stayed on to finish getting their looms ready for the Colour Gamp workshop on Friday. They then dove right back into loom set up Friday night to get the Mug Rugs and More warps ready for Saturday. A herculean effort! :D
The workshops took place in the annex of a local art gallery so we had lots of interesting things to inspire us, both on the wall and 3D.
From there I flew to Tampa, Fl. Another state I'd not been to before. This time I was officially on holiday! The weather was lovely, as you can see from this photo taken at Tarpon Springs. The couple in front of the bronze statue commemorating the sponge divers are my friends from England, Jacqui and Eric. The other fellow is an incidental tourist! :D
On Friday I flew to Columbus, Oh and returned to winter, alas. :} It may have been cold weather wise, but as in Birmingham, hearts were warm.
Lots of weaving happened in Pat Bullen's weaving studio at the arts centre so that we could do the wet finishing Sunday afternoon. We were very fortunate in that we could use the wet room to do the finishing so we had lots of tables, huge numbers of sinks, a washing machine and a dryer to aide in the process. People brought additional equipment from home - a marble slab and rolling pin, a small flat bed press and so on.
It was so good to see people look at old yarns through new eyes and begin to understand the transformation.
I'd also managed to get the new bamboo yarns woven before I left home and wet finished one of the scarves to show how a limp fibre given lots of twist will develop more backbone. I had also included warp utilizing both yarns so that they could really compare the two before and after.
My copy of Judith Mackenzie McCuin's book The Intentional Spinner was waiting for me in Florida, and I'll be posting a book review shortly.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
It's been a wonderful interlude visiting with my friends and escaping from the cold weather.
Since it was raining today, we went to the mall and did a bit of shopping. Jacqui found a book she had been looking for, and so did I, so there will be lots of good reading on the plane tomorrow and Monday. :)
I'm looking forward to being in Columbus and meeting the weavers there, then going home to weave on the warp I left on the AVL. I'm most especially looking forward to finishing the last of the fine linen so I can move on to some projects that have been simmering and feel like they are ready to materialize. :^)
Currently reading: Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund
Monday, February 16, 2009
However, a treat was waiting for me. Interweave Press had mailed a book to a friend for me. (They had Betty's US address on file for me and sent it there instead of to Canada.) I asked Betty to mail it to my friend Jacqui in Tampa, and late last night I opened it and found a copy of Judith Mackenzie McCuin's latest book 'The Intentional Spinner'.
What a delight! Loads of great information on fibre characteristics, how the yarn is affected by the different ways of preparing the fibre and spinning it, and how it will then affect the textile created from it.
Here is a quote:
Two-ply yarns have a serrated edge that lets them do what they do best; hold their space and keep the thrads apart.
In knitting, when you make the loop to form a stitch, a two-ply yarn moves away from the center of the stitch; a three-ply yarn, on the other hand, folds into the center of the stitch, filling it up.
The information contained in this book is like little nuggets of gold. Each sentence is concise and clear. On page 2 I was looking for a notebook to start writing things down - until I remembered I own the book! I can now pick it up and find out what I need to know without having to dig through a notebook with my scratchy handwriting. And that makes me very happy. :D
The art of constructing cloth is so broad and deep no one person can know it all or keep it all in their heads (unless, perhaps, you are Judith!)
Knowing where to find the information I need about fibres and yarns helps to make appropriate choices when I start to construct a cloth for a particular purpose.
I am not a spinner, and never will be (except for the enjoyment of it). I DO want to be a better weaver, and this book will help me to accomplish that.
Thank you, Thank you, Judith. What a great resource!!!!
Friday, February 13, 2009
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
On the Road Again....
Monday, February 9, 2009
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.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
More Wet Finishing
Visited Puff today and got a bunch of tea towels and other stuff pressed.
It was hard to get a good photo of these very pale tea towels, but I think this photo looks pretty good. It mainly shows the most complex of the treadlings I did using the 1:3:2:2:3:1 tie up. The next batch woven with twill blocks should show up much better.
The quality of the cloth is not as heavy as most commercially made tea towels, but should be a nice towel nevertheless for fine china and crystal. The cloth can also be used as a table runner, or whatever else someone would like to use it for. I try not to label my textiles too firmly as people have bought my towels to make a skirt, tea towels to use as vest fronts, an afghan became a well loved shawl.
The difference before and after finishing is always fun to see and feel. The reed marks did not go away entirely, but that was partly due to the fibre (stiff linen) and the weave structure.
In the end, I'm pleased with this batch of towels. The colours are subtle, the patterning pleasing - to my eye - and the cloth feels crisp and functional.
Currently reading Why Mermaids Sing by C. S. Harris
Friday, February 6, 2009
Variations on a Theme
I revisited one of my earlier drafts, changing the tie up to create twill blocks. The twill blocks give a much bolder pattern so I'll probably finish out the rest of this warp (maybe 8 more yards left?) using treadling variations with blocks.
Today is a better day than the last couple of weeks. I've been having sleep disruption due to hot flashes (power surges?) which interfere with getting a good night's rest. After seeing the doctor yesterday, he has agreed to change my chemical cocktail when I get home because my bp has been bouncing all over the place again. And I'm just plain tired from poor sleep. :(
The good news is that one of the accepted bp medications has the 'side effect' of reducing, if not eliminating entirely, hot flashes. Huzzah! I can live with that side effect!!!! So I'll finish out the Micardis, and switch to Clonidine (sp?) when I get home and hope that this time the side effects will be beneficial instead of detrimental. :} I can hardly wait! :^)
The doctor said that even people who don't have problems with bp will have high bp readings if they are having poor sleep, which I thought was interesting.
Anyway, my bp hasn't been 'bad', but it's been far from good, which it was for a couple of weeks after Christmas. :(
The good news is that I continue to be able to weave like I used to do - no pain, no struggling - so my productivity has been pretty good. I didn't think I'd come close to being able to finish this warp before I left, but it's been going so well I may even finish tomorrow. Sunday for sure.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
She asked for ripples, and ripples is what she got. :)
Sometimes simple is good. I'm rather enamored of this pattern, so I'll be doing more than 2. In fact, I just finished towel #3 and look forward to doing a few more.
I think for my next warp I'm going to revisit a threading I used last fall. It was also fairly simple, but when woven produced some nice vertical wavy lines. I also think it would work 'better' for the waffle experiment I want to try. So if I run out of yarn on this warp I won't be too upset about not doing my waffle sample.
I think there's about 12 yards left, maybe a bit more, and those cones of linen still look rather large! But I'm hoping that I can at least use up two of them. The third will get used up on the next warp. She says, optimistically...
Instead of going to visit Puff and pressing today, I went and visited with a friend. I did some hemming, and we worked out the kinks in a knitted hat she wants to make for her husband.
It was a very pleasant afternoon. :)
Currently reading: Rules, Regs and Rotten Eggs by H. R. F. Keating
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I am now officially over the half way mark on this 40 yard pale blue (mostly) warp. :)
This photo shows 'string of pearls' variations 2 and 3. At the bottom is the treadling with a twill tie up: 1:3:2:2:3:1
The top shows the same treadling with a twill block tie up. The motifs are much more pronounced in the block twill version. One side of this fabric has more blue, the other side more of the white linen.
While I like the block twill variation, I think I'm going to change the treadling yet again and do something much simpler. It ought to give rippling waves across the width of the fabric if I'm visualizing it correctly. :)
That's one of the joys of weaving - coming up with a vision, and then seeing if it actually materializes. (punny, Laura, very punny!)
Monday, February 2, 2009
A couple of days ago I mentioned in a comment (I think) that I had woven a waffle weave towel with purposefully ruffled hems. The puckering doesn't show up very well in this photo - if you look closely at the bands in between the waffle areas, you might just be able to see 'lines'. These lines are where the fabric has pinched up or down to accommodate the greater contraction of the waffle compared to the twill bands.
The towel grew out of some sampling I did (foreground) on a 2/20 merc. cotton warp. The samples to the left were woven with 2/16 unmerc. natural cotton; the samples to the right were woven with bleached white 2/20 merc. cotton.
During wet finishing, the 2/16 weft, which was woven at the same ppi as the 2/20 cotton, developed deeper dimples and felt much more towel-like so using the 2/16 I wove a towel with weft stripes of waffle and twill.
I have found this to be true for many of the fabrics that rely on the torquing of the threads to develop - Bedford cord is another - that the more densely the cloth is woven, the more the 3D aspect of the fabric will develop. Something that feels completely counter-intuitive.
The selvedges are scalloped, the twill areas pucker a la seersucker, and the hems are lightly ruffled, of course. I did not hard press this towel! :D
I have been toying with the idea of weaving a part waffle, part twill towel on the present warp, but I'm still mulling the concept over in the back of my mind as I weave the complex twills with the very fine linen weft. The nearly four pound cones are down to about 1 pound 11 ounces and I'm almost half done the 40 yard warp. Which means that by the end of the warp, I'll still likely have linen left.
My goodness but you do get a lot of play value for fine, fine yarns!!!! :O
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I LOVE Weaving!
It was just about this time last year that I opened a CafePress store with the above design as my first offering.
Rather prophetic given that it was Feb. 27 my younger brother suddenly died of undiagnosed Coronary Artery Disease, setting off a chain reaction of events that saw my diagnosis and treatment, and then Doug's..........
But a year later, I am finally beginning to feel like the 'new woman' that I was promised after the angioplasty. :D The current chemical cocktail seems to be more or less working, I have less pain than I did this time last year, and a lot more energy.
While I will always regret the manner in which this current level of quality of life was given to me, I don't regret that I am still here, still playing with thread and that Doug and I can look forward to many more years together.
I just wish Don was still here, too.................