Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Untangled and Sampled

Too long since I’ve posted. Since the last time, when I was still untangling the mess I made, the yarn has been wound into two warp bouts, beamed onto the back beam and threaded:



The main warp is 20/2 Tencel and I’ve planned a turned M’s & O’s pattern. I’m using a blue 5/2 Tencel as a supplementary warp to put nice borders around the cells that happen when you weave M’s & O’s.You can see the supplementary warp hanging from the castle in the second photo. There are 14 ends of this warp that will be weighted in pairs using 7 pill bottles. I’m pretty sure this warp would have worked just fine if I had warped the supplementary warp on the beam with the main warp but I wanted to be able to change the supplementary warp on the second scarf – maybe to use a green instead of a blue.

I had to sample this warp because I wasn’t sure about the sett. I sett the main warp at 36 epi using 3 ends per dent in a 12 dent reed. Then, I just put the supplementary warp in the same dent as the last three ground warp ends of each interior block. For the first scarf, I chose a beautiful blue 60/2 silk weft. This is what it looked like before and after washing and drying:



It worked great! This is the sett I will use for the scarves. As always with Tencel, it felt stiff coming off the loom. It didn’t take the cells long to form once the sample hit the water – the plain weave cells are surrounded by sections with five-thread floats that collapse when washed and distort the plain weave sections into nice ovals. After washing and drying the hand of the sample is perfect, so I made a good guess. The green in the warp gets overwhelmed by the blue but it still contributes, especially in the float areas. You can also see how nicely the thicker 5/2 warp threads outline the cells.

I did have some problems with the sample, though. I broke two interior threads early in the piece. It’s really unusual for me to break interior threads, so I’m not sure what happened but these broke close to the start of the weaving and no more broke, so I’m hoping it was a startup issue, perhaps with some twisted threads. I also had some issues with the selvedges, especially the left one. This is also unusual for me and I plan to slightly modify the treading for the short plain weave edges that I have on the piece and see if that helps. I also need to look at the treadling to see if I can see what might be making the left edge behave badly. Maybe something funny due to cramming three ends in a dent. We’ll see if I can figure it out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

It Takes Two to Tangle

Over the years that I’ve been weaving I’ve learned there are some items that, when controlled by me, can be dangerous.

The first lesson was with scissors. Actually, I learned that lesson twice (so much for the “You’ll never do that again” theory). The first time, I was weaving napkins with a difficult pattern and, after messing up two napkins, I finally nearly finished a good one when the scissors, which I had placed on the castle, slipped off and landed in the middle of the warp, blades open, and sliced through about the middle third of the warp. The second time was when I had actually finished two scarves, complete with hem stitching on the loom, and decided to cut them apart while they were still on the loom. As I cut through the division between the two scarves, I neatly cut the bottom scarf in half. Both times resulted in my saying many words not in any weaver’s glossary, but scissors don’t live on the castle any more and things don’t get cut apart until they are well clear of the loom.

The next dangerous item was the sewing machine. It’s my wife’s and it hates me. I only ever do two things on it – zig-zagging before hand hemming or hemming with a straight stitch. I’ve come perilously close to ruining nice towels by getting snags due to whatever I did that day to displease the sewing machine. I’ve now learned to trick it by using a scrap piece of fabric when I first sit down at the machine. I let the machine play its sadistic game on that and then adjust things until they run smoothly before giving it one of my woven articles.

Now, apparently, I can’t be trusted with yarn in skeins. I had this beautiful 2000-yard skein of 20/2 Tencel hand-dyed by the wonderful ladies at Just Our Yarn. I couldn’t quite figure out if it needed to go on the swift in one loop or if one of the ties was supposed to be undone and opened up before putting it on the swift. Well, I cut one of the ties before putting the skein on the swift to see if it would unfold. It didn’t, of course, but what it did do was tangle so badly that I was temped to put it in the trash and take a two-week sabbatical from weaving. Thanks to my lovely wife, together we spent over a week, in shifts, winding the yarn onto bobbins and untangling it, sometimes inches at a time, until it was all unwound. There are plenty of knots in the yarn because we sometime just got to places where we gave up and cut somewhere else to start over, but we got it all unwound and I’ll deal with the knots when I wind the warp.

This is what it looked like as we got close to the end:


Note the six bobbins on the table. Finally, here is what we have to warp from:


After eight days working on this project, I should have had scarves, but I only  have seven, painfully won bobbins. You can bet I’ll never again cut a tie before putting the skein of yarn on the swift.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

London Trip

I’m just back from two weeks in England. I don’t like posting in advance that I’m going to be out of town (paranoia?) but now that I’m back I’ll have a few posts about the trip.

First, a huge disappointment. For years, I’ve been looking forward to visiting the textile collection in the Victoria & Albert museum. Here’s a picture of the Mecca of decorative arts with a classic double-decker bus in front:


Imagine our shock when we got there only to find out that all six textile study rooms are closed permanently! We got several different stories about why, but the real reason is that in 2013 they will be opening a new museum just for fashion and textiles. I have no idea why they had to shut down the existing rooms three months before we got there and two years before the new museum opens, but there you go. Info on the new museum is here:

The Clothworkers' Centre for Textiles and Fashion Study and Conservation

There were still plenty of textiles in other parts of the museum and we did spend two half-days there but this was going to be the focus of our trip and we got an apartment within walking distance so we could pop in whenever we wanted. I guess we could have checked before we went but who would have imagined this would happen?

More later.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Two Towels Finished

Here are two of the three towels, washed and hemmed:



All towels have an 8/2 cotton warp. The blue towel has an 8/2 cotton weft and the green towel has a 10/2 perle cotton weft. I used 16/2 cotton for the hem but you can see I’m still getting a flared hem, especially in the green, satin, towel. I guess I'll have to try 20/2 or even 30/2 in the next batch of towels. I think 20/2 might be enough for twills like the blue towel but on something with longer floats like the satin I may need 30/2. I hope I don’t have to resort to sewing thread!

And, finally, I can’t resist posting the picture of this cute guy who I met at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival a few weeks ago:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Weaving Setup

OK, the pictures of the towels are still in the camera! But, in the meantime, here is my setup on the AVL loom:


I have a wonderful sliding bench made by Walt Turpening. I don’t need the sliding bench for this loom but I use it because it is so comfortable. We designed the top part so that it can be used as a threading bench and it is great for that task – just the right height. Nothing can make threading comfortable, but this is the best setup I’ve had.

Then, there’s the Ott-lite over the piece I’m weaving. I have decent overhead light but find the task light helps. I think Ott-lites are overpriced and there are other options available now, but this is what I have and it works well. The other lamp over the castle is used when I’m warping from the back.

Finally, the computer sits on the castle where I can keep an eye on what the dobby is doing. This is an old laptop and its only job is to drive the loom, so it lives here permanently. Mostly, once I get started, I don’t look at the computer much unless I have to reverse to unweave something or when I get near the end of the piece to know when I finish a repeat so I can stop.

Not shown is a little table to the left of the loom where I keep paper and pencil, bobbins and pirns, and other stuff that I want handy. Also to the left is my 8-shaft 46” Schacht floor loom which is also a pleasure to weave on and gets projects that either don’t need the complexity of the AVL or the very few things I weave that need the extra width. I’ve said this before but I do think these two will be my “forever” looms – they’re a perfect pair for the kinds of weaving I do.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Washing and Hemming

Here are the three towels as they came off the loom. The two satin ones have different sides but the blue block twill one looks the same from either side.


I should have left them together until after I washed them but I cut them apart while zig-zagging the hems to make it easier to sew. By cutting them apart before washing, though, my ends look like fuzzy caterpillars:


I have to trim these before turning under to make the hem. This is what it looks like trimmed – still not as nice as it would have been if I waited and cut them after washing:


My pictures of the finished towels are still in the camera – I’ll show them next post.

I managed once again to conquer the dreaded sewing machine. You’ve heard of dogs that are “one-person dogs.” Well, our sewing machine is a one-person dog – it clearly favors my wife. I’ve learned to outsmart it, though, and after I set it up I use a scrap piece of fabric to sew a little before I let it touch one of my woven articles.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Three Towels Done and Off the Loom

Monday is jury day at the gallery and I wanted to put a few towels in this month, so after I wove the third towel on this warp I cut them off the loom. A few threads were getting a little wonky anyway, so this will let me fix the tension on them. Here’s the third towel on the loom:


(Should have trimmed the loose thread before taking the picture). This is similar to the last towel I showed and I actually designed this one first and then thought it was a little too busy so I took out some of the spots. I like the sparser, green one better, but this is ok. Again, this one used 10/2 perle cotton for the weft. Here is the other side as I was cutting it off:


I called this a satin block weave, but it’s I’m not sure that’s a good description. Satin has warp floats and sateen has weft floats. The reverse side of any satin cloth is sateen and when both appear on the same side of the cloth it is called damask. On these last two towels, the side that was up on the loom (the side with the colored spots) has a mostly satin background and the spots are a single, somewhat altered, block of sateen.

Now, my least favorite part of weaving – I need to use the dreaded sewing machine to zig-zag the hem ends, then wash the towels and cut them apart and hand hem them. The sewing machine used to hate me although, over time, we have come to a sort of grudging peace. I don’t mind hemming so much although it is time consuming. The gallery would accept machine-hemmed items but I like them better when they’re done by hand, so I just do it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Now on the Loom

OK, this is do or die for the blog. I’m either going to post at least once a week or finally decide that blogging is not for me.

I got a 40 shaft loom last year and I’m still learning how to design with that much flexibility. I long ago decided that I’m not an artist but a fine craftsperson. If you give me a blank piece of paper and a box of crayons and tell me to draw something, and then come back in two hours I’ll be sitting there with a blank piece of paper and a box of crayons. But I have no problem taking one or more weave structures and making something interesting happen with them. I have no desire for a Jacquard loom because I consider that “art” and wouldn’t know what to do with it, but with 40 shafts I’m just constrained enough that I feel more comfortable designing something.

Well, what’s on the loom now is a long warp of 8/2 unmercerized natural cotton threaded as a 36-shaft straight draw with another two shafts allocated to a half-basket selvage. I put this on so I can play with different designs and get something useful out of them. For the second towel on this warp I decided I’d like to do a block satin design. Well, that sounded easier than it was.

First problem was that satin blocks don’t fit together nicely without producing horrendous floats. Without going into a lot of detail, true satin requires at least 5 shafts and the most basic satin has 4-thread floats. When you put these together you get a lot of 8-thread floats, which are not acceptable in a towel (or most other functional items). So, the first thing I need to do was spend a lot of time enumerating the different blocks of 5-thread satin and inverting them or rotating them to find ways to combine them without getting the big floats. I haven’t done and exhaustive study (but probably will – I’m a mathematician by training) but I did enough to get the floats down to 5 threads.

The next problem was that I had a 36 shaft threading which is not a multiple of the 5-thread satin blocks. I used 35 shafts with the satin and had to figure out what to do with the 36th thread. The easy solutions either brought back longer floats than I wanted or produced an ugly line between pattern repeats. As you’ll see in the photo, my solution was ok but you can still see where the 36th shaft is. So a lesson I’ve already learned but managed to make myself re-learn is to design things where the design repeats are even multiples of the threading.

Anyway, I did two satin block designs and here is the first one I’ve woven:


The weft here is 10/2 perle cotton. This is what it looks like on the computer as I’m weaving:


Monday, January 24, 2011

Warp Planning

I dyed four 2 ounce skeins of 8/2 Tencel a while back and two of them went together pretty well but I didn’t have enough of them to make a long warp without combining them with some commercially-dyed Tencel. This was my box of possibilities – the funny looking cones are the hand-dyed yarn.


I ended up not using the yellow yarn, the silver yarn or the blue/red yarn that is under the silver yarn. I did use all the others. The warp has been wound (8 yards for three scarves) and threaded on the loom. I did a straight draw 32-shaft threading. I’ll show pictures of the warp on the loom in a day or two.

I’ve only designed one of the three drafts that I will use and I haven’t yet decided on the weft colors. It took about two weeks for me to settle on the warp. I’ll try a few weft colors with the one draft I designed and then see what I like. I didn’t put enough warp on the loom to allow for sampling, so I’ll weave a little in the header to test colors but then I’ll have to pull it out before twisting the fringe.