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.