Thursday, August 31, 2006

Towel #3 - Waffle Weave

Today's towel is a 4-shaft waffle weave. The top photo is unwashed and the bottom photo is washed. What a difference! Under tension on the loom the waffle cells don't show up very well but as soon as the tension is released, you get these nice regular waffle cells. Then, when the fabric is washed it really shrinks and you get these more irregular cells. On this towel, the width on the loom was 15 inches and after washing it was 11 inches, or shrinkage of about 25%. When calculating your warp, if you want 11 inches you have to weave 15, so you have to add a whopping 35% to the desired width! It's a nice soft, absorbent towel, though.

This 4-shaft waffle weave is threaded as a point twill (1-2-3-4-3-2-1). The tie-up, though, uses five treadles and is done in such a way that it produces long warp and weft floats that form the outlines of the square cells. The treadling is like a point twill but with five treadles (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1). This towel was done in 8/2 cotton sett at 20 epi - a little looser than you would use for a point twill. The nice thing about this structure is that you can put on a long warp threaded as a point twill and weave some things with point twill then, by changing the tie-up (and possibly setting a little looser) you can then weave some waffle weave on the same warp.

Supposedly, waffle weave also makes a good blanket. I wove the hem area on this with 16/2 cotton, otherwise the tabby hem would have been wider than the waffle weave towel and would have looked ugly. There are three other variations of waffle weave that we did in class - and I'll talk about them in future posts.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Refinishing a Loom

There will be more towels tomorrow but today I've started refinishing an 8-shaft Le Clerc Dorothy table loom. I got this loom at an auction for about 20% of the retail price because it was very dirty and had paint spilled all over it. This is what one of the 4-shaft harness sections looks like after I took it apart, cleaned it and removed the paint from the wood. I now need to put a coat of finish on the wood, put silicone spray on the heddle bars and lifters and then hope I can get it back together again. I thought about replacing the heddles while it's apart but they seem OK if a bit grungy. I think I'll leave these on and weave with them for a trial project and if they don't work well I'll replace the ones on the other 4-shaft harness section that I still need to take apart and clean up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Towel #1 - Satin

Here is the errant towel #1 - a 5-shaft satin weave. This was woven in 10/2 cotton at 40 epi. Notice the checkerboard on one side and stripes on the other.

Satin weaves are derivatives of twills. The threading on this is a straight draw (1-2-3-4-5) and the treadling is the same (1-2-3-4-5). With a twill tie-up you would get diagonal twill lines but the tie-up for satin scrambles the structure so the diagonals get blurred (although you can still see hints of them in the fabric). Because of the way the twill is scrambled, you need at least 5 shafts to weave a true satin. This one was tied (1-3-5-2-4) and, technically, wove sateen (weft floats) on the top surface and satin (warp floats) on the reverse. It's easier to weave sateen on the top surface because you can do it by lifting only one shaft. If you wanted to weave satin on the top layer you'd have to lift four shafts. Whenever you weave one, the other appears on the reverse side.

The checkerboard shows up on the sateen side because it is weft dominant. The reverse only has hints of the weft color, so it produces warpway stripes instead. If this were sett at 50 epi you would see solid colors - the weft wouldn't show through at all.

My previous post could have been called false damask instead of false satin. Damask is a fabric that has satin and sateen on the same face. To do that you need at least two blocks with at least 5 shafts each, or 10 shafts. That piece was woven with 8 shafts and it scrambles a 4-shaft twill that simulates satin but isn't a true satin weave.

There is a lot more to say about these weave structures, but you'll have to get out your books. Sharon Alderman's Mastering Weave Structures is a good source.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Towel 2 - False Satin

OK, I know this is the first towel I'm posting but it's warp #2 in my workbook. It's hard to herd 13 towels and #1 escaped during the transfer from the washer to the dryer and is now on a drying rack downstairs. All 13 are zig-zag-ed and washed and 12 are dry.

This one is called False Satin and is woven on 8 shafts. (See my next post for details of satin weaves). It's a pretty classy pattern done in 16/2 cotton and sett at 40 epi. It has two blocks - one is weft-dominant and the other is warp-dominant. It makes a fairly stiff towel and would make a nice napkin. It would be great as a hand towel in the bathroom - it would have that "don't touch me" look and everyone would come out of the bathroom with wet hands.

Here it is before washing:

and after washing:

There wasn't a dramatic change when it was washed. The fabric tightened up a bit and only shrunk about 10%.

Another towel tomorrow. Now I have to find the energy to hem these things - not my favorite activity.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Thirteen Towels

Sung to the tune of Sixteen Candles ...

I just got back from a four day class by Tom Knisely at The Mannings where we learned 13 different textured weave structures and wove them all into towels. Some of the structures won't really make good towels but others will make excellent towels, and we wove them on from four to eight shafts. We did variations of waffle weave, satin, tricot, crepe, M's & O's and Honeycomb. I especially liked one called 8-shaft textured waffle weave and can't wait to try to weave a nice scarf in tencel or rayon using this structure.

Over the next week or two, I'll post pictures of individual towels. Right now, I need to zig-zag the edges and wash them and then stack them for hemming. Many of these towels will look quite different when they are washed.

These classes are a lot of fun but also hard work so I'm taking a day of R&R today. In the class, we are either listening to a lecture or weaving for 10-11 hours a day and this old body gets pretty beat up by the end of the week. This week we had the added excitement of following the status of Tom's 10-pound dog, who was bitten by a copperhead snake on Monday morning and had to get antivenin and spend three days at the vet. Everyone had a happy reunion on Wednesday night.

More to follow on the towels.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Scarf Done - Towels Next

I should have noted that I would not be blogging for a while. Last week was "insulator week" (more later) and next week I'll be at The Mannings taking a class on textured weave structures.

I did finish the scarf, though, and , except for a bump or two on the selvages where I didn't do such a good job of weaving in the broken threads, it looks pretty good. It is very heavy, though, and very, very scratchy. I couldn't wear it. Maybe it should be a table runner ;-)

While I'm in class next week, I'll try to sneak in some advice about weaving with alpaca.

Just for continuity with my last post: I did mail off my Austin article to a magazine and I abandoned reading The Transit of Venus. Parts of it were beautifully written but long sections were just too opaque for me. She has a hard time writing anything in a straightforward way and it's just too hard to figure out what she's trying to say.

So, the insulators. I collect old glass insulators, like the ones that used to be used on the telegraph and telephone lines. Because of my knowledge of insulators, I got involved with the Smithsonian Institute here in Washington, D.C. I helped catalog their collection of about 1200 insulators (and you thought I was crazy at the beginning of this paragraph, didn't you). Some of the nicer ones are shown here, in a web site that I'm trying to find time to enhance. I've been a "behind the scenes" volunteer at the Smithonian for over six years. Last week, we had some researchers in town who wanted to research some of the insulator-related trade catalogs in the Smithsonian's collection, and I got to work with them, so I was gone most of the week.

I should be back posting after the 25th.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Story Almost Ready

No weaving today but I made the next-to-final pass through my Austin travel article. Over the weekend I will take one more pass through it and on Monday it will be out the door, trying to find someone to love it and publish it. After it is out the door, I'll go on to my Hetch Hetchy article. If you don't know it, Hetch Hetchy is a valley in Yosemite National Park that was dammed to create a reservoir to supply water to San Francisco. It is an icon for environmentalists and is credited with helping create the environmental movement in the early 20th century. John Muir lost his battle to stop the dam from being built but created so much public awareness that about three years later the National Park Service was created. This article is going to take some time to finish and it will be a fairly long piece.

I've just started reading The Transit of Venus, by Shirley Hazzard, for my book club. So far, I like the very beginning of the book (the lead) because it grabs you and makes you want to keep reading. Much of the writing is almost poetic. When it works, it works well, but I think it may be overdone. We'll see how I feel after a hundred pages or so.

Also on the schedule for this weekend is to make all the repairs and tie in loose ends on the alpaca scarf and then wash it to see if I can salvage this monster. Of course, the dog also has to go for walks - he has cabin fever after four days of 100+ degree heat with high humidity. The weekend is supposed to be marginally better, so early morning walks are probably in order.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Alpaca Scarf Off Loom

I'm not sure whether to classify this as "done" or "abandoned." I got to about 56" in length and I felt like I was engineering the scarf rather than weaving it. The selvage threads kept breaking, another interior thread broke and the tension problems were just awful. When I cut it off the loom, neither selvage was on, so I may have to find a way to stick something on those edges to bind the edge and to give me something for the fringe at the corners. That should be fun!

Anyway, here's the whole scarf - off the loom but not finished (fringed and washed). I do have some repair work to do before I do the fringe. I've only really abandoned one project in my weaving career but this one came close. Unless a miracle happens when I wash it, I think this will be a "not for sale" item because it has too may repairs even though they may not be obvious to a non-weaver.

The blogger seems to have shrunk my picture, so see a larger one here.

Charleen asked where my nephew's alpaca farm is. It is near Ithaca, NY.

I'm not sure what will go on the loom next. I normally don't like to have two empty looms in the studio. We just got new windows in the house (nice double-pane, argon-filled windows) just in time for the 100-degree weather and now I'm thinking I need new curtains in the master bathroom. That may be the next project - something nice and easy like Huck or Bronson lace in cotton.

On to the repairs and finishing!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tension Problems

Tension problems? What tension problems? The cones are weighting my floating selvages - the ones that keep breaking - so they're not indicative of any problems, but the two wrenches, the clamp and the multiple wooden slats are correcting for warp that has worked itself loose. If you read my earlier post where I said that this was one of the easiest warps I ever put on the loom, you'll believe in the "reversion to the mean" theory. Since going on the loom, this project has been nothing but problems. I'll be glad when it's off and it WILL be off tomorrow. I'm at the 48-inch mark now and plan to weave about 60 inches but it may be a little shorter - it depends how many more times the selvages break and how many more boards I have to add to keep the fell line straight.

I have more warp on the loom that I will use for sampling but I will cut this off and retie to reestablish even tension.

Writer's Idea Backlog

I did some more weaving last night and hope to have this scarf off the loom tomorrow. I sure am getting a lot of practice darning in the ends of the replacement selvage thread when the original (or its replacement, or its replacement, ...) breaks.

I don't understand writers who don't have good ideas about what to write. I have so many ideas that instead of writer's block I have writer's backlog. I have to admit that I've gone a long time, until recently, without writing. Recently, though, I decided that weaving and writing (in that order) were the most important things to me and that I had to do one or the other, if not both, every day before going to chores, projects, excursions, etc.

So now, I have two stories I'm actively working on. One is about our recent trip to Austin and the other is left over from last year's vacation in Yosemite. On our Austin/San Antonio trip, I came back with at least two more ideas for articles - one of which requires a trip back to San Antonio, but I think I can manage that. I loved San Antonio and would be happy to go back but will probably wait until the weather cools down a bit. I keep a list of article ideas and it now has 64 things on it. If I were writing full time I couldn't keep up with all the ideas I generate.

Now, down to work to finish some of the ones I have in progress so I can at least get something off my list.

More weaving tomorrow.