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: