Thursday, December 31, 2009

Of Faith and Finesse

First the finesse....

I am always looking for new ways to do things that will either allow me to do what's necessary in less time, or cause the least amount of angst whilst doing it.

While whining to a friend this morning about that pesky linen, which was causing me the most grief not in the weaving but in the winding of the bobbins, the proverbial light came on over my head.

My doubling stand is set up so that the two yarns come up out of a two stage bucket and run over an S hook that dangles from a hook in the ceiling.

The linen is just springy and wire-y enough that if I wound too fast, or just because it wanted to be pesky, the linen would leap off the S hook. Sometimes just one, sometimes both, but either way it meant that the yarn broke, or the two threads got out of alignment. In the long run it meant that winding bobbins was becoming a bit of a teeth grinding time for me.

As I was describing the pesky behaviour, I thought how much better it would be if the yarn ran through a ring. No way the yarn could escape! Ah-ha, says I - I do believe that I have a one inch tack ring in my toolbox!

I did have a ring handy so I put it up on the hook....

....a close up so you can see how it looks....and voila! Well behaved - or at least well controlled - linen!

Now for the item of faith...

The other thing related to the tea towels that had been vaguely bothering me was beaming the 2/16 warps. Since I had never been taught how to do this but just kept working at it until I sort of got it figured out I wondered if there wasn't a still simpler and faster way than what I was doing.

On the last warp I thought to myself, why am I strumming and brushing this warp? Didn't I do a good enough job that it should just wind on? So I didn't, and it did, with just one thread that snagged and broke.

This time I thought, okay, let's try this again and see if it was just a fluke, but let's also try something a little bit different. So instead of keeping the lease sticks between the reed and the breast beam I moved them beyond the breast beam to between that and the valet.

There were several improvements noticed. For one thing I had a much longer area that could be wound on before anything needed to be adjusted/moved. The chains stayed much neater. There were very few snags or loose threads until the last two yards (11 meter long warp) at which point I took out the brush and quickly dealt with those.

In the end I figure I halved the beaming time and much less fussing.

Happy new year and lots of fibre finessing to everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Notches and Next

No matter how carefully I wind the bobbins or throw and catch the shuttle the weft will occasionally snarl around the axis in the shuttle and notch the selvedge with too much tension.

When this happens I immediately stop - do not beat! - and re-seat the weft.

I do not tug the selvedge threads sideways to remove the notch but stick my finger into the shed and gently ease the threads open. Once the warp threads have released the weft, I then re-seat the weft, change the shed and continue weaving, vowing to be more attentive - until the next time. :)

This is how the pick in the photo above looks after beating.

The green and purple warp is now finished and cut off the loom. I have two warps to cut and serge, hopefully wet finishing them New Year's Day. Doug is supposed to work so I may as well go up to the annex while my neighbours probably aren't working and press.

The next warp is wound, ready to be rough sleyed and the loom dressed. Another mostly dark warp, I'm trying to use up as much of my 2/16 yarn stash as possible. Some of it is really old - I acquired some of it from an estate sale and the company - Wabasso - hasn't been in business for probably 20 years, so that tells you how old the yarn must be!

And I've pulled colours for the next warp after that. If my student has no preferences, she will get a light beige, grey and medium blue warp to weave on. I'll weave the first half with the pesky linen, and let her weave off the rest with a nice co-operative cotton slub.

Currently reading Bay of Spirits; a love story by Farley Mowat (Canadian literary icon - but one with a sense of humour)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Coping with Wire-y Thread

You can clearly see how spring-y this yarn is - it doesn't want to lie nice and tidy on the bobbins but leaps off at every opportunity.

It's especially difficult when it's being doubled (click on the doubling stand tag to the right) as each end can spring off in different directions.

So the first strategy in dealing with this yarn is to hold it close to the bobbin as it is being wound on. That way the placement of the yarn onto the bobbin can be better controlled. My fingers are no more than 2" away from the bobbin during winding, more usually 1".

Secondly, fill the bobbin only equal to the height of the flanges. There are two reasons for this - a) linen is dense and filling the bobbin any fuller makes the drag on the weft too heavy and b) keeping the yarn filled to a low profile makes it easier to weave. Since it wants to spring off at every opportunity, any higher and the snarls and tangles around the spindle in the shuttle just increase proprotionately. (Ask how I know!)

Third, when inserting the bobbin into the shuttle make sure that both threads are coming off the bobbin equally. It is common for one of the threads to spring off the bobbin 3 turns while the other one springs off 4 or 5 turns. So take the time when inserting the bobbin to make sure they are coming off together.

I think I've just finished towel #4 - or is it 5? Whatever, progress is being made and it's time to think about the next warp. Will I have the patience to do another warp using this yarn as weft? Hmmmmmm...a break using something friendlier may be in order. :^)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

White Dilutes

green/purple/blue towels

close up showing the herringbone border

This warp is a wonderful example of Michelle Whiplinger's mantra about the effect of colour values.

If you substitute 'light value' for white you get the same effect - the intense green/purple/dark blue almost black has been diluted by the natural grey linen weft.

(The complete mantra is "White dilutes, black intensifies, grey muddies")

The cutting line - woven in a slightly darker than medium value blue stands out as a very dark line, showing that dark values intensify too.

With such a deep intensity of colour and a fairly high contrast value weft I wanted a very simple weave structure rather than a 'fancy' one which I felt would overpower the textile.

So for this warp I just threaded straight draw for the green and purple and the dark blue is reverse twill herringbone. In other words, I skipped a shaft when I changed direction:

4,3,2,1 (Straight order)

3,4,1,2 (Reversed order)

There are just four threads in each blue stripe to add an accent to the design. I didn't want equal amounts of the green and purple, but neither did I want unrelieved purple in the centre field. You can just see a very subtle stripe happening in the purple stripes.

The close up photo shows the twill direction and the herringbone border which will decorate one end of the towels.

The little lines are reed marks which likely won't entirely come out in the wet finishing but since they are regular I'm not overly concerned about them. (If you can't be perfect, be consistent!)

Opted to not have plain weave hems. Plain weave and twill take up at different rates and I didn't want hems that flared. Since cotton and linen will behave quite differently in the wet finishing, I didn't want to use cotton for hems, either. A cutting line will be inserted between the towels for ease in cutting and serging once the warp is woven.

I am also having to adapt my shuttle throwing. The weft is so very fine that I'm doubling it using a doubling stand. But being as how it is linen, it tends to wrap around the spindle in the shuttle unless I pull off sufficient weft for each pick, braking the bobbin as I catch the shuttle so that it doesn't cast off any more until I actually pull the weft off the bobbin.

This is the sort of yarn that weavers love to put onto an end feed shuttle but since I don't have any hand end feed shuttles and because I can adapt my shuttle throwing/catching, it's not something that bothers me over much. With 11 meters to weave, I'll soon be doing what's necessary without having to think about it.

And every time it does catch and wrap around the spindle I will remind myself that I am weaving with a fine, wiry linen with special needs and aren't these towels going to be mighty fine once they're done. :^)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah etc.

We are having a very white Christmas with lots of snow sparkling on the trees and ground and just now the sun has finally broken through the high overcast.

Doug and I will be going to my mom's for dinner later today but in the meantime I am looking forward to weaving on the blue/grey tea towel warp. The next warp is so pretty I'm anxious to get it into the loom to see how it looks woven up.

And yes, that is a pirn on my mantel - it's been modified to make a dandy candle snuffer. The hanging behind the tree is 2/8 cotton woven in Bronson Lace pick up. The motif is a butterfly. Hard to see, I know - it looks better hung in a window but I don't have an appropriate window in which to display it so we put it against the brick chimney.

Currently reading The Widow's Revenge by James D. Doss

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Of Dyeing and Warp Winding

Winding three colour warp with cheat sheet

When I'm winding a long or complex stripe sequence I post a cheat sheet above the warping board so that I can keep track of which colour comes next and how many ends of each colour are required.

In this case my counting string will count not merely threads but repeats of the stripe sequence. There will be two warp chains. I will break the warp into two more or less equal numbers of ends so that there will be about 3.5 of the middle stripe repeats in each warp chain. The trick, of course, is to get the warp chains side by side properly, but with this design that won't be difficult.

dyed 2/20 silk

Yesterday was a 'dye day' and I got 40 fifty gram skeins dyed. I'd been having some problems with resist marks from the skein ties and whined about this to someone I respect as a dyer who made her living for many years dyeing silk and would therefore know. She told me to remove all of the X ties and just tie circles of string loosely around the skeins.

Well, I was a bit hesitant but followed her advice and voila, no resist marks. Yes, the skeins did get a little unruly, but not much more so than with X ties.

Which leads me to step onto my soapbox. Many people complain bitterly about fugitive dyes ruining their projects. Often when I ask them how they wet finish they begin by saying something like "I soak the cloth for 24 hours....."

This is an open invitation for any fugitive dye to release and settle elsewhere on the cloth.

I always assume that any dyed yarn has fugitive dye in it and treat it accordingly.

Therefore I never ever soak a web but get it into the water and rinse, rinse, rinse until I am sure there is no fugitive dye lurking to settle elsewhere and ruin my weaving. I use Color Catchers (made by the people who bring you Shout products) when I know for a fact there is fugitive dye in the yarn - and generally any cellulose yarns that have been hand dyed will for sure have fugitive dyes.

I've been told by some dyers that they rinse until there is just 'blush' left which means that there may not be much dye, but there is some left.

I've also found that in acid dyes magenta can have fugitive dye molecules that are difficult to rinse completely out and sometimes cyan can be problematic, too.

So as I say, always assume there will be fugitive dyes and wet finish accordingly.

Just one more good reason to wet finish your handwovens and not gift or sell un-wet finished articles.

And yes, the silk yarn will be on my Art Fire store in the new year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blue Towels

blue/grey towels on loom

close up showing Wall of Troy and straight twill threadings

A few posts ago Sharon commented on weaving being a whole body experience. This is something that new weavers don't understand at first, especially if they have only woven on narrow warps.

The wider the warp you have on the loom, the more you need to use your whole body. Perfecting throwing and catching technique will allow a weaver to weave quite wide warps. How wide depends on the individual's body - how long their arms are for one thing. :)

The motion for throwing the shuttle is such that the weaver needs to shift their body weight onto the right hip when throwing the shuttle from right to left then onto the left hip for when throwing the shuttle from left to right.

The torso pivots around the centre of the body leaning slightly to the right to throw with the right hand, leaning forward slightly as the shuttle traverses from right to left and leaning slightly to the left to catch the shuttle and grab the beater. As the beater comes forward, the body rocks slightly backwards as the feet change position on the treadles.

And so the cycle begins again.

It is a very good idea to learn how to sit up on the hip bones and not rotated back on the coccyx so that this range of motions can happen with the least amount of stress on the body.

It is a good idea to tone the abdominal muscles - the core muscles as they are sometimes called - as having good strong core muscles will help protect the lower back muscles from strain.

Review the video clips (click on the Video Clip tag to the right or the label below) showing weaving to help see what I mean.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wall of Troy

Draft for tea towel warp

One of the twill weaves I like a lot is Wall of Troy. The draft shown here combines a straight twill draw on the edges with Wall of Troy in the centre.

The towels (I'll post a photo tomorrow perhaps) are turning out really nicely. The two colours were threaded with the light grey stripes straight, the blue stripes WofT.

The treadling is only Wall of Troy although I included a run of straight at the beginning and end in the above draft just to show how it looks.

Each time I change treadling I have to learn (or re-learn) the choreography for that weave structure. One of the ways I do that is to count how many picks in a pattern repeat.

My 'standard' tie up is as shown in the draft, with plain weave on either side of the four twill treadles in the middle. Although many people like to 'walk' their treadles, I find keeping them in the standard twill tie up allows me to easily change treadling sequences from warp to warp, sometimes from item to item.

This is a fairly simple treadling sequence with just 10 picks in the repeat.

If we number the treadles left to right 1, 2, 3, 4 the treadling sequence is
Pick 1 - treadle 4
2 - 3
3 - 2
4 - 1
5 - 4
6 - 3
7 - 2
8 - 1
9 - 2
10 - 3

I start with my right foot and the shuttle in my right hand. If I run out of weft or the phone rings, etc., all I have to do is keep the pick number in my head and I know exactly where in the treadling sequence I am.

If I decide to change the weave structure, say to point twill, that is a 6 pick repeat and the count would be:
pick 1 - 4
2 - 3
3 - 2
4 - 1
5 - 2
6 - 3

A straight twill is pretty straight forward and I don't have to count that as where my foot is will tell me where in the repeat I am.

I suppose that having a background in dance I am familiar with learning new choreography, and this is how I have come to think of treadling sequences as steps in a dance.

Currently reading Snake Dreams by James D. Doss

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Efficient Weaver

next two tea towel warps for the Fanny loom

Efficient: Productive of effect; competent, capable
Efficiency: State of quality of being efficient; ratio of useful work done to total energy expended
The Concise Oxford Dictionary

My priorities in terms of weaving are to a) make functional fabrics that will fulfill their function with beauty and grace; b) to make these fabrics as efficiently as possible so that I can make more. Lots more. I have so many ideas that to linger over any one design - especially due to equipment difficulties - is frustrating. (We won't discuss operator error - those are inevitable and irritating in the extreme!)

Once I have decided on a design, I then think about how to bring that fabric into material form (pun most definitely intended!) as quickly as possible.

Let's face it - creating fabric from yarn is labour intensive. Unless you are weaving with pure gold or something like that, the biggest investment in the creation of cloth is the time required to make it.

Weaving is also repetitive by its very nature. Winding a warp, threading it, throwing the shuttle - all are motions that are repeated hundreds if not thousands of times.

That is why, when I have students who want to become more efficient, I tell them that it is a matter of shaving nano seconds off of the movements. Those nano seconds add up to seconds, which add up to minutes, which can literally add up to hours. (Follow Tien Chiu as she weaves her wedding dress and how many thousands of repetitions she will make to create her dress and coat ensemble)

Of course any process must not decrease the quality of the cloth - that is, by definition, not efficient! OTOH, whilst one is learning a new process, there will be mistakes made until the new process is learned. One must balance the future benefits against the slippery slope of the learning curve and be willing to un-learn muscle memory and replace it with the new motions.

It is also a matter of choosing equipment and tools that are efficient. I have rejected looms and shuttles and other tools of the trade because they were simply not efficient. Yes, it only took a few seconds longer to thread the weft through the slot in that particular shuttle, but when I do that particular task dozens of times in a day, those seconds start to add up.

I have rejected shuttles because they did not fit into my hand so that I could hold and throw them efficiently. Shuttles were rejected because - although they were very pretty, made with amazing exotic woods, shaped and polished so that they glowed and felt like satin - their shape caused them to curve as they were thrown such that I could not catch it properly. Again - nano seconds, but when I throw the shuttle hundreds of times a day, I don't care how pretty it is. I do care that it works smoothly and efficiently.

Looms that would make amazingly beautiful furniture that would look 'nice' in a living room were rejected because they didn't work terribly well, meaning that each action of the loom was slower than I need in order to weave at my pace.

I do time studies for several reasons. One of which is to find out how long it takes to do a particular task. Having this information allows me to make the most of the time I have available. If I have 15 minutes, I know that I can't dress a loom in that time, but I do know that I can wind bobbins, or sley a scarf warp, or work on number crunching a stripe sequence for my next warp.

If I have a customer with a tight time frame for an order, I have a good idea if I can squeeze that warp into my schedule and deliver on time, all because I know how long it takes to wind a warp of about that particular size, dress the loom and weave the cloth.

So yes, issues of efficiency are pretty high on my list, but paramount is the goal of making a functional textile that will serve it's function with beauty and grace. Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, I can only hope that others will agree with my choices.

Currently reading The Three Sisters by James D. Doss

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Temple In Use

Thought I'd talk a bit about using the temple.

Mentioned in my previous post that it is essential to use the temple on this warp. The reason is that the take up in the loom is such - especially on wider warps - that a soft spot will develop a few inches in from the selvedge. This soft spot will develop soggy ends that wind up in floats/skips. Not so noticable in something other than plain weave, but very obvious when weaving plain weave, which I am doing here. Also more noticable in yarns with poor recovery from stretch.

And so - the temple is in use.

It can also be important to use a temple if using a very delicate yarn. Any take up at all will cause selvedge ends to break if a temple isn't used.

And lastly, if you want a dense fabric, a temple is also necessary in order to keep the ends spaced far enough to beat the weft picks in to the higher density.

The temple should be sized so that the teeth hold the outside 3-4 ends to their path through the reed. You don't want to size the temple wider than the width in the reed.

I've set the temple so that it hinges with the release bracket at my left hand. I slide the bracket off so that the temple will fold, pick up the right hand side and dig it into the selvedge, then set the left hand side, sliding the bracket back.

While it only takes a moment, it does take that moment. And that's why I'm going to be looking very seriously at the Fireside roller temples and hoping that Doug will be able to fit them to the loom.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Afghan Progress

Sunday I started weaving on the afghans. With this warp it is essential to use a temple. I really wish I had rotary or ring temples when I'm weaving full width, and perhaps after Convergence I will. At least I'm hoping Fireside will be there so I can look at their temples. I hear a number of AVL owners have set their looms up with the Fireside temples, so we'll see.

The first afghan was woven using a fairly dark muted blue.

The second was woven with black as weft. You can mainly see the difference in the red stripe. In the blue weft afghan the red is shifted slightly to the purple end of the scale and the varigated stripes look bluer.

I had a picture of how I mark flaws, but see that I neglected to load it. Since loading a bunch of pictures is a bit of a pain, I'll just describe it.

The warp had some knots in it and I chose to deal with them in the loom by using Kerstin's hint of adding the repair thread before cutting out the original (knotted) end. After weaving so that old and new ends are overlapped for about 1.5 inches I cut out the knot and draped the original end over the back of the warp. When I finish the afghan I tie the original end in again. This way there is no need to repair afterwards. The repair ends hang over the warping valet. I didn't think to take a picture of that but can if anyone is interested.

Unfortunately a couple of the knots didn't subscribe to this plan and naughtily got woven into the cloth. (Bad pun - sorry!)

Anyway, I keep a tapestry needle handy with a contrasting thread in it and when I spot these miscreants sew the thread through the web in an "X". When I'm rolling the cloth off onto the inspection table I can easily spot these flaws and mend them.

After weaving two afghans it was time to cut in the next colour. Sorry about the photo - it was dark and gloomy under the warp and I see now it isn't in very good focus.

After unwinding the new bout and laying it flat on the woven cloth I cut the old warp and laid it onto the web. Carefully selecting the ends in their sequence (hopefully), I tied the new warp to the old. I tried working toward me and away and haven't decided which is more efficient yet. I'll get more practice when the next two afghans are woven.

This looks a bit of a rat's nest but really the threads are all nicely tied together. I used an overhand knot because I really don't want these knots to come undone. Certainly not while I'm easing them through the heddles and reed!

The tension on the second beam was let off so that the warp could roll forward freely and I stuck a stick in the loops because I didn't want any errant ends wrapping around the sectional dividers. In this photo the knots have been eased through the heddles and I'm about to ease them through the reed.

And here we are - all ready to go again. Unfortunately today was a write off for a number of reasons but I did get the afghan warp ready for Wednesday. Tuesday I've got appointments all day and doubt I'll get to the AVL. But it looks good that I can finish weaving on Thursday or Friday and begin fringe twisting, which will take as long as the shuttle throwing.

Currently reading The Stone Butterfly by James D. Doss

....and the winner is.....

There was so much more interest than anticipated that there are actually two winners! I used a random number generator (thanks to Janet D for that tip) so I didn't have to write out all the names and actually put them into a hat. :}

I am about to email the two winners to get their mailing addresses and since it's 12:30 in the am I hope to hear back by the time I get up in the morning so that I can pop them into the mail Monday afternoon.

Congratulations Margreet and Daryl.

And thank you to everyone who sent their best wishes.

(and if you still really want a t-shirt - this one and a couple others are available at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Progress and an Announcement

towel showing hem area between towels and beginning of second

Got one tea towel woven this morning, and started on the second. It's hard to see the pattern, but the light stripes are threaded straight twill draw, the darker stripes point twill. I'm weaving point twill so the towel will have a nice texture with the little diamonds in the mostly dark green areas.

My "Announcement" is that it looks like I've got the Ashford dealership. No official word yet, but I understand the distributor is extremely busy filling back orders of the Joy spinning wheel, and with the holidays coming up I'm sure he's wanting to get all the orders filled before then.

However, I have been added to the email bulk mailing for dealers, so I'm taking that as acceptance of my application.

Since deciding to apply for the dealership Doug and I have talked a lot about what that means, and how this will affect our lives. Doug will be able to officially retire in about two years, and since he's happy to help me doing shows we are looking at expanding retail operations.

Until now I've mostly sold yarn that I either dye myself or get another dyer to do for me (mainly because I don't really like using fibre reactive dyes, and I don't have room here to set up a dye studio. I've been using the guild room because they have a stove and big laundry tubs and that works fine for acid dyeing.) Plus some commercially dyed solids to go with the hand dyed yarns.

If I'm going to become an Ashford dealer - Ashford are mainly famous for their spinning wheels - it makes sense to take on a fibre dealership, too. While Ashford has some fibres, there are other options. So I will be applying to take on another dealership that has fibres and commercially spun yarns which will also make it possible for me to expand my hand dyed yarn offerings.

The bad news in this decision is that adding all of this to my already crammed and cramped home based business is that I need some significant storage space. :( So my determination to reduce my current stash has just kicked into high gear and I will be weaving as much of my current inventory as I possibly can, given I have just 3 months to get ready for my first retail yarn show of the year.

Well, I've been wondering what direction to go with my weaving career - it looks like a path has dropped into my lap. :D

So in celebration of my new pathway and looking at a new year just round the corner I've decided to celebrate with a give-away.

I have a number of tee-shirts with "I (heart) weaving" logo on the front. They are Hanes brand 100% cotton, size XL. They don't shrink much (I have several I use as weaving shirts).

So if you'd like a chance to win a tee-shirt, make a comment to this post and I'll draw a name out of the hat. You've got until Monday as I'll draw a name Monday morning and hope to put the shirt into the mail that afternoon (if you give me your contact info in the form of name at server dot com as part of your comment I'll email you for a mailing address). Hopefully you'll get it in time for Christmas, but if not you should have it to celebrate the new year.

currently reading Shadow Man by James D. Doss

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Taming the Rigid Heddle Loom - Maybe!

rough sleying the rigid heddle reed - just like I do 'ordinary' reeds for floor looms

beaming the same way I do a floor loom - vinyl wallpaper warp packing

threading the heddle - the cross was transferred behind the heddle for threading

weaving commences - notice weft is wound onto the shuttle by figure 8's on the spine - this puts the yarn where the shed is the biggest for ease of passsage

After waiting for several weeks for Doug to find the time to finish the wood and assemble the loom, I decided tonight was the night to get it set up and operating.

Since I don't have a table - or space - sufficient to wind a warp long enough using Ashford's warping peg method, and since I am a weaver with a whole studio full of weaving tools - I wound a warp the usual way on my warping board. It's about 2.5 meters, which should be long enough for a scarf given that I can use the loom waste for the fringes.

The yarn is a thick and thin wool that I dyed a while ago and wrapped to around 6 epi. I only have a 7.5 and a 12.5 heddle so I used the 7.5 with a finer yarn planned for weft. (My mom gave me a bag of old - and I do mean old! - Patton's yarn. Since I'm encouraging her in reducing her stash I told her that of course I could use it! Should make good weft yarn for this scarf. And several others, to boot...)

As well as wind the warp I also had to make final adjustments to the loom so set up took a bit longer than it will in the future.

The Ashford rigid heddle loom comes with these nifty plastic thingees to attach the apron rods to the beams. I knew right away that wouldn't work for me on the back beam so I rooted in my studio to find the spool of TexSolv tie up cord and attached the beam with that. I tried the plastic gizmos on the front but already I can tell they will be exchanged for more tie up cord as soon as this warp comes off.

But one thing I have already learned - the space constraints due to the small size of the loom are going to make threading two heddles so I can weave twills a bit of a nuisance. I'm going to read through Betty Davenport's book and see if she has any suggestions for making this easier.

One thing I do know, reducing the size of my hands isn't an option! :^)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Towels - Again

I got the tea towel warp beamed this afternoon. There were a few Operator Errors involved in this project - already.

For some reason it appears that I can't add. I'd intended this warp to be about 23 inches wide. It's 25.

It shouldn't be that difficult, but there are days when my brain simply can't do sums, it would seem.

The stripe is a very simple Fibonacci sequence. 3,2,1,3,1,5 and mirror. How much more simple can that be? 5 times 5 is - yup - 25. So don't ask me how I got from the intended 23 to 25 without noticing!!!

Anyway, they will be generous sized tea towels. And I'm happy enough with the striped design.

I also had some oopsies during beaming. I never really learned how to use a warping valet (or trapeze, as Kati Meek calls the tool). I only ever saw one in a studio in Sweden, then came home and tried to work out the kinks myself.

Mostly it works well, but when I'm using finer threads I sometimes run into difficulties. I'm sure there must be all sorts of finesse I just haven't figured out yet. I may have to invest in Kati's book and see what subtle things I'm missing. :} Something else to put on my shopping list for Convergence.

Anyway, it took about 90 minutes to beam the 11 meter long warp of 2/16 cotton so all in all, not so bad in spite of the OE's.

Time to go thread for a half hour and see how much I can get done before leaving for the spinning drop in this evening.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ready to Thread

Here is the warp in all it's colourful glory. You can clearly see the gaps where the varigated yarns will go.

In order to transfer the ends of the warp to just behind the heddles, I cover the second beam with some plastic. The 6 bouts of varigated yarns have already been transferred behind the heddles, leaving the rest of the colours taped to the beam, ready to be cut in as soon as the first two afghans are woven.

Since there were only 6 bouts of the varigated, I didn't hang the second stick but transferred the six bouts of varigated to the stick with the main warp. In this photo I've already done the 3 bouts on the far side and am about to do the last three.

The empty stick was removed after the transfer just to get it out of the way.

While I can thread from two sticks, the top one isn't as stable because it's hung from cords so it will make threading somewhat easier (and therefore faster) to consolidate all the bouts on one stick and tape it firmly to the loom behind the heddles.

I'm not sure where today has gotten to - I had great intentions for getting a bunch of stuff done this morning, but seem to have frittered it away on various and sundry distractions. Like reading through the paperwork to apply for an Ashford dealership. :}

I've been saying for years I want to cut back on all the stuff I do, but the opportunity presented itself to take over a dealership so Doug and I talked about it and since he wants to retire in a couple or three years we decided to go this route and see how it works out.

He likes messing with the equipment involved in spinning and weaving, and he's much more comfortable at being a salesperson than I am so we've been looking at doing more shows. Having him come along to share the driving and set up/tear down will take a huge load off of me, doing it all by myself. Adding an Ashford dealership would help expand our offerings. Doug talked with the distributor this morning and now I just need to get the info to him and hope for a favourable result.

In the meantime I did finish weaving the placemat warp and worked out a simple stripe sequence for a tea towel warp. Here are the first 6 inches of the warp wound onto the warping board.

There is a meeting I need to attend tonight so I think rather than start threading the AVL I am going to continue winding the tea towel warp so that I can get it into the loom tomorrow. That way I can do my daily 45-60 minutes of 'therapy' weaving. My bp is still throwing small spikes, although it's been much better for the last week or so. Since exercise still seems to be the most effective way to calm a spike down, there is high incentive for me to keep at least one loom weave-able at all times. :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Beaming the Afghan Warp

Warp beamed on smaller second beam

Main warp being beamed on upper 1 yard beam

With my trusty chart close to hand I started beaming the main warp this morning.

My chart lays out how many sections of each colour: A will have x sections, B y, C z and so on.

I count out the cords for each section grouping them by how many needed for each colour. Then as I'm winding, I check and double check to make sure I've got the correct count for each colour.

You can see the empty sections in the main warp where the varigated wound onto the second beam will be threaded. This yarn is fairly elastic so there should not be any trouble having the colours be slightly out of alignment. I've done this successfully before with 2/8 cotton (warp twist) and there was no sign in the finished cloth that sections were slightly out of sync.

The cords for the empty sections on the main beam have been taped down in their section so that they don't tangle or in any way mess up the warp.

As I finish each pair of afghans I'll stop and cut out the varigated, tie the next colour on to the old warp and pull the new threads through pinning them to the already woven cloth (actually the header or cutting line between each afghan) and resume weaving.

While this is somewhat fiddly to set up in the long run there will be less loom waste than if I dressed the loom three times, and more efficient in terms of time - only setting up the loom once instead of three times. The amount of fiddle time tying on the new colours will be a tiny fraction of the time invested in dressing the loom 58" wide.

Currently reading Witch's Tongue by James D. Doss

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Designing the Afghan Warp

meter/counter set up for winding spools

meter/counter with tensioner

meter/counter with channeled wheel for measuring yarn

Got the stripe sequence for the afghan warp designed and numbers crunched for how much yarn to wind onto the spools.

I'm working with four different coloured stripes, one of which will be a varigated yarn that will get changed out after weaving two afghans. The varigated yarn will be wound onto the second beam, which is a half yard circumference and is positioned below the big (one yard) main beam.

Over the years I've found that it is much easier to beam the small lower beam first rather than after the big beam has been wound, so I'm starting with the varigated yarns.

The counter is a very accurate (and very expensive) meter made for the textile industry. I bought it back in the '80's when I started weaving for a fashion designer, doing humongous warps and weaving many yards of the same fabric. I needed a way to measure how many yards I'd woven so that I didn't weave too little or too much of each fabric. A measuring tape was not efficient, so I asked Doug to source a proper meter for me. We eventually found this and bought it through an industrial supplier. I think it was around $150.00 at the time, but since I was using the meter to bill the fashion designer and she needed to have an accurate measurement of the fabric, it was well worth the cost.

There were several options for measuring wheels, and we bought two of them. One is a textured wheel that is used for measuring fabric on the loom. The one shown here has a channel and is used for measuring yarn.

This particular meter measures feet - in terms of billing the fabric, a foot meter allowed me to bill in units of 1/3 of a yard.

For doing yarn, it was awkward to hold the yarn as it was winding to provide tension so Doug scavanged the tensioner off the second pirn winder to use to tension the yarn from the cone. With the yarn under tension (a yarn under tension is a yarn under control) I can pay attention to winding the spool and watching the numbers flip by on the counter and not worry about what's happening at the cone end of the yarn.

To work out how much yarn to wind onto each spool I first worked out my stripe sequence in units of one inch (my sectional has 1" sections).

Then I counted how many sections for each colour. This number was then multiplied by the number of yards I wanted my warp to be - with a small fudge factor in case of oopsies.

This number was multiplied by 3 (the meter measures in feet, remember) so I then knew how many feet each spool required.

I only have 60 spools, and since I need 20 spools per section, I have just exactly enough spools to wind the varigated yarn. Once that beam is wound, I'll strip whatever is left on the spools in order to do the other three colours required for the warp.

It's a lot of standing around watching numbers flip by, but since I can only get the Bambu 7 on cones and I didn't want to invest in sufficient cones to beam directly from the cones, standing winding is what I'm going to be doing for the next couple of days.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Threading the AVL

back of the loom - apron with roller on floor, reeds stacked behind leaning against loom

Sandpaper beam, cheesegrater beam (for rayon chenille) and beater top stored in corner

loom torn apart ready for threading

Different people have different approaches to threading their looms, especially the AVL. Some people don't take their loom apart at all. Others, like me, rip the front end apart.

I guess I didn't have too much difficulty with the concept of tearing a loom apart because the first loom I ever wove on was a Swedish style counterbalanced loom. And then a two week trip to Finland to study at the Varpapuu Summer Weaving School, where looms were routinely stripped to be threaded, made this concept seem quite normal.

Tearing the front end of the AVL apart became much simpler once I removed the bench. Permanently.

To take the loom apart, I remove the gear from the sandpaper beam that advances the cloth advance system (on the outside of the loom - I have the original style of cloth advance), undo the bolt holding the bracket for the beam and propping the sandpaper beam on my knee (foot braced on the cross beam below) remove the bracket. Then I tip the beam over to the right until it sits on the floor, pick the beam up and prop it in the corner nearby. A person with small hands will probably want to wear gloves, but my hands are big enough to grip it firmly and I never abrade my hands on the sandpaper.

I do wrap a cloth around the cheesegrater beam to hold it - that's a whole other magnitude of abrasion. :^) I also leave the cloth around the cheesegrater to protect the sandpaper beam when I lean it against the cheesegrater stuff.

I'm tall, so crunching over the sandpaper beam in situ just didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. My body is much happier about threading when I sit on my little stool.

I used to remove the beater and drop it down onto the side frame to give myself a little more elbow room, but after Doug installed the air assist that became impossible so I just found a slightly taller stool and I drape myself over the bottom of the beater, leaning against it for support.

A smaller person might find this position impractical, others might not want to remove all the stuff from the loom. Some people find it much simpler to simply raise all the shafts to get them closer to eye level. Some people treadle the threading so that they reduce errors, especially on extremely complex threading systems.

Each person has to find the method that works best for them.

One of the reasons I removed the bench entirely is that I never could get it positioned so that I a) didn't slide off the bench while weaving or b) cut the circulation off in my legs. Eventually I ripped the bench out - it only went part way across so I needed a stool to sley full width, anyway - and now sit perched on a tall bar stool with a heavily padded seat.

A loom that comes apart gives a lot more options in terms of setting it up.

Currently reading White Shell Woman by James D. Doss

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

White Place Mats

I know this picture is dark - I wanted to show the texture of the cloth and the flash just wiped that out.
So this picture shows the end of one mat, the hem with cutting line and the beginning of the next mat.
The set up is identical to the red mats but the warp is one strand of a 4/8 white plus a 2/8 beige cotton set at 10 epi.
The weft is two strands of 4/8 plus one of a fine cotton slub, all in natural white. The hem is one strand of the fine cotton slub.
The weave structure is again broken twill on a straight twill draw, with plain weave hems.
Adding the beige to the warp gives just a hint of colour and helps to highlight the texture of the cloth. While the cloth will flatten after wet finishing, the beige will give some depth to the shadows of the fabric and should - one hopes - give it a little more interest than just an all white warp and weft.
I'm still procrastinating about getting started on the afghans, partly because I will have to do a bunch of math (ick) and then wind spools with - hopefully - the correct amount of yarn on them. I'm going to measure fairly carefully because I don't want a lot of yarn left over on the spools, and neither do I want a lot of waste. :} Bambu 7 is not exactly cheap.
But tomorrow I only have one errand to run, one order of colour gamp kits to fill and after that I should be able to clear the worktable off and get started number crunching if nothing else.
Plus I'd like to work some more on the transcription of Sharon Alderman's interview on WeaveCast. Still 27 minutes to do. :}