Sunday, 30 December 2007

End feed shuttle tension & selvedges

Having been reminded by Peg of Weavecast, the downloadable podcast from Syne Mitchell, I've just been happily sitting in my rocking chair, knitting the cuff at the end of the first sleeve of the jumper I'm working on, and listening to the latest episode. The only complaint I have about Weavecast, and this is a feeble complaint, is that it gives me more ideas of different things to do... and I already have a head full of ideas! I love Weavecast because it expands my knowledge of weaving and introduces me to other weavers, and it is very good indeed. Syne is just the person to do a broadcast like this on weaving. She has a sense of wonder and inquistiveness that she is able to express in a way that takes you with her. I don't feel like I'm an isolated weaver sitting at home on my own on a cold winter's night, with Weavecast I'm somewhere else, with Syne saying "now here's something to interest you..."

Back to my own weaving.

You may remember that I'm not entirely happy about my selvedges. The good news is... they have just improved no end. Look at the awful untidy mess in this next photo:

This was in a header row at the start of a sample warp. It is so bad, the worst I've woven recently. I could not carry on without fixing it.

I looked carefully. The other selvedge was perfect. How odd. I wove a few more picks, and noticed that the yarn didn't pull tight at the right hand edge, but did at the left where I was applying additional tension with my fingers.

I looked at my shuttle. It's a Crossley end feed shuttle with a Honex tension device - the yarn runs through a clip that is tensioned by using a screw to adjust a spring that presses on the clip. I used a different shuttle for a few rows, no problem. So, it had to be time to adjust the tension. Again, it was because of reading Peggy Ostercamp's books that I was more alert to this as a potential problem than previously. Out with the screwdriver, and this problem was soon fixed.

See - this is so much better!

The cloth you are looking at here is a 5-end repeat advancing twill, treadled in the same pattern as the threading.

Now for anyone not familiar with an end feed shuttle, here, posing with my Schacht boat shuttle (top) are three different Crossley end feed shuttles that I was lucky enough to obtain from Crossley's, of Todmorden, Lancashire, England, before they closed their business down, in 2006 (another family manufacturing business lost with the demise of the British textile industry, although I understood that their last industrial mill customer was in Canada).

The shuttles are beautiful objects, lovely to handle, as well as being good shuttles and a pleasure to use. They were designed for handweaving, therefore do not have metal tips (as fly shuttles do).

Each one is different, and code numbers on two of them indicate that one was made in 1993, the other in 2006, both are also marked AVL. A member of the Weavetech yahoo list who wanted some of these shuttles followed up this clue and discovered that AVL still have a few in stock.

And the next photo shows how the yarn runs through the tensioning device. The adjustments are made with a screw accessed from the side of the shuttle.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Autumn inspiration.

I took these photos in early November, of the autumn colours. They were all taken around our garden, before the first frost. I was looking for interesting combinations of colour and texture. I don't use a sketchbook often, but I have many photos. From the days before I used a digital camera, I have a box of envelopes with labels like "bark", "trees", "leaves", "landscapes".

These photos might be the starting point for future designs, but whether or not they lead on to anything else, I find it useful to have spent the time looking carefully at, and thinking about, colour, texture and form.

My camera is a Canon EOS 350D. It cost more than my weaving loom. But it is a very versatile camera and can take very high quality images - I have done some professional photography in the past, and wanted to have that possibility for the future.

These photos are here for sharing, if you want to make use of them for art or craft design work, please go ahead.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Another tweak to my loom set up..

Again, thanks to Peggy Ostercamp, I'd read about this in her book (p.61, Warping Your Loom & Tying on New Warps) and then I noticed it happening on my loom. See the distorted apron rod, below. This photo of the the warp at the back of the loom was taken as I got to the end of weaving a narrow sample warp.

I expect that this has happened before, and I didn't see because I didn't look.

I think the problems with this are: potential for strain or breaking the rod, and possiblilty of un-even warp tension. Peggy's advice is to reduce the strain by only using ties where the warp is, see below the instant improvement when I had undone the excess ties.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

An improvement, thanks to Peggy Ostercamp.

This is the view I normally have had of my reed while sleying. As you see, the rounded wooden bar that clamps the reed into the beater dominates the view. You can see the heddles on the shafts behind, but not the threads running from the heddles to the reed. To see those, I have to lean over that wooden bar and look behind it. I have to see those threads in the heddles in order to select and count the next group of threads to pull through the next slot in the reed. Once the threads are in the correct slot I hang onto them with one hand until I have another group, then I knot them (with a slip knot) in front of the reed to make them secure.

This work has been rather laborious and hard on my back.

As I told you in my post of 8th December, I have bought two books by Peggy Ostercamp and am learning a great deal from them. The biggest thing I have learnt, that I learn with every page I turn, is to ask more questions. To always think, is there another way to do this? Is there a better way, or is this the best way?

I had not thought before that there might be a better way to work when sleying the reed than the method I have described. Not on the loom that is, I have heard of people sleying the reed before they put the warp on the loom. But Peggy suggested tilting the reed away from you. Well, my reed was in the beater and it doesn't tilt like that, so I just turned the page and read something else. Then I thought, hang on a moment, what about removing that bulky part of the beater that clamps it in place?

When I was next needing to sley a warp in the reed, I undid the wing nuts that hold the top in place and put it to one side. The reed didn't fall out of the beater, it just tips usefully to one side. This is such a time saver, and back saver, that I actually enjoyed what had previously been painful and tedious. I think the pictures below explain why:

With credit,and great thanks, to:
Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps, Peggy Ostercamp, 3rd edition, (self-published) ISBN 0-9637793-5-4. See pp. 55-57

Monday, 17 December 2007

My latest weaving tool

I've been along to the local fishing tackle shop and got some lead weights.

I have been warned in the past that asking for bits and pieces for use in weaving was likely to get odd looks and comments in fishing tackle shops. Well, that must have been an experience other people have had, but it seems it depends on where you live.

I live in a small town, 6,000 inhabitents. It grew out of an industrial village. Most people think of villages as rural. There have been rural settlements here for many centuries. However, it was the industrial age that made these local settlements into a town. We are not far out from Manchester, which was centre of the cotton trade in the UK, and we have a fast following river, therefore water power. As we are in the hills and have high rainfall, works that needed their own water supplies also had the option of reservoirs. This town had a weaving mill and a bleachworks. There must have been a print works as well, as I walk past the Calico Printers Association pond every day (a small reservoir). In other towns around here were many more textiles mills.

So when I walked from the icy cold of a winter's afternoon into the cosy little fishing tackle shop, stopping to take of my gloves and wait while my glasses steamed up and then cleared, and slightly nervously said, when asked, that I don't fish, I'm a weaver, and there's a few things I was looking for that you might have, one of which is weights, the white haired man at the counter beamed and said "oh yes, for weighting your warp threads" and got out a box full of many different weights.

It turned out that he had started his working life, from school, as a "doffer". This job involved working with another young lad at taking the full bobbins of yarn off the cotton spinning machine and replacing them with a fresh empty bobbin. Later, he had gone into calico printing and this is what he did for most of his working life.

We have virtually no textile trade in this part of the country now. The mills closed fast, several every year after Marks & Spencer stopped exclusively stocking British made goods.

My new acquaintance asked if I earned my living as a handweaver, I laughed, shrugged my shoulders and told him that it's difficult for weavers to earn a living, and other things I can do pay better. He smiled, wistfully, and I knew he understood: after a lifetime in textiles, he sells fishing tackle.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Weaving books by Peggy Ostercamp

I've been reading more than weaving for the past week.

During November, I've was learning to design and weave advancing twill patterns. This came about because the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers were running a workshop. I shall tell you more about this in due course, for the meantime, you might like to at Leigh's blog for an explanation of twill weaves and advancing twills.

As I was weaving, there were various little difficulties I came across, some I worked on and resolved, others I don't understand yet. For example, I've been having difficulty getting the lashing on technique for attaching the warp to the front apron to work well. I'm not happy with the way I manage selvedge tension at the moment and want to try different things. I need to learn more about managing / controlling the draw in at the edge of the weave - I find it varies a lot, especially if I leave my weaving, go away and do something else and return to it later. I have learnt to expect it to vary with different weave structures, but I should be able to keep it more constant within a length of the one pattern. I'm learning to be more consistent about how far from the front beam I weave and how many inches of cloth I weave before winding the warp on. Every day, issues like this arise.

Several times I have seen Peggy Ostercamp's books recommended. I'd looked at Peggy's web site before, to see what these books were about. However, I got the wrong idea. I thought from the list of simple topics covered that these were books to tell beginners the basics. Well, that's not entirely wrong. It's just that they are so much more than this, so very much more that they are now I think the most exceedingly useful books I have, and I am constantly picking them up and learning more from every page.

So, what am I learning at the moment? As well as looking up particular issues that I am conscious I need to know more about, I'm making the effort to systematically read these books. I have learnt things I didn't know I needed to learn. This should lead to big improvements in my weaving. One thing I must try is changing my lease sticks for thinner ones. Mine are fairly thin, at 7mm deep. But I had notice before that they separate the threads vertically, and that this makes a difference at the heddles and in the open shed. Peggy says that when she worked with Jim Aherns (of AVL looms - loom designer and weaver) he had her using lease sticks so "thin and light I was afraid they would break". She recommends lease sticks of 1/2" wide and 1/8" thick. These are less than half the size of mine (1/8" equals 3mm). So, before I get on with weaving I am looking for new lease sticks, and reading on, learning more every day.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Creating pleats in the weave.

Weaving fascinates me: the taking of threads and making cloth out of them. I always found there was something magical about knitting, but weaving is still more amazing to me because it is (usually) a faster process and because of the great range of different cloths that can be produced with simple technology.

Most of the cloth woven today uses simplest weave structures. Plain weave, where the individual threads go alternately over and under each other is the simplest technique of all, and the most common used weave structure of all. It's the weave of your cotton sheets and handkerchiefs, of plain shirting and calico fabrics, but also can be used for the silk of dresses and scarves.

What's the next most common? That would be twill of one sort or another. In this weave, a thread goes over or under more two or more threads at a time. To look at, you soon see that where plain weave makes vertical and horizontal lines, twill has diagonal lines. It can make a very dense and hard wearing cloth - twill is the weave of denim jeans - and it can be more flexible than plain weave so it's good for fabrics that need some give, such as suitings (i.e. a jacket needs a bit of give at the elbow) or need to drape well, such as a blanket or shawl.

But although plain weave and simple twills account for over 90% of all woven cloth, there are several other more complex possibilties. Some are based on mixes and variations of plain weave and twill. Others are more distantly related.

This is taking me a bit off track - I was going to explain that my pleats were woven using a twill weave, where the thread goes either over 3 under 1, or under 3 and over 1. But the result is not a normal twill. There are stripes of 3-over, 1-under alternating with stripes of the 3-under, 1-over. This creates alternate tensions in the cloth. When I wove my first sample in an attempt to produce pleats, I used the same thread in warp and weft, and a balanced sett (i.e. same density of threads in warp and weft per inch).

The resulting sample, shown below, is gently undulating. Not really pleated. I like it, it has a softer feel because of the folds, and looks interesting. But I'd seen pictures of cloth with deep folds, and that's what I was aiming for.

(This sample was woven in12/2 mercerised cotton, and the sett was 24 epi.)

So, I got out my reference book "Fabrics that Go Bump", one of the "Best of Weaver's" (magazine) series from XRX Books, edited by Madelyn van der Hoogt, pub. 2002, ISBN 1-893762-11-4, and read it carefully.

Then, I re-threaded the loom. The warp thread density was increased to 36 epi. I looked all around to find a really fine thread to use in the weft. I don't have any really fine weaving yarns, but I do have a lot of pure cotton sewing thread, 50/2, in many different colours that I'd bought for my patchwork sewing. I gave this a try, and it worked. See below, in the foreground, here we have pleats!

And now, to emphasise the difference, my last photo today shows the two samples (woven on the same warp threads at different sett) side by side:

Not the neatest or most proficient weaving, I've a lot of work still to do on basic skills such as beating the weft in evenly and keeping straight selvedges, but I felt a great sense of achievement when my fabric settled in to pleats as I took it off the loom.

Then, I was able to build on this success, as following a message posted to the Online Guild of Weavers, Dyers and Spinners, I was able to share the discovery of how pleats work with another weaver, who tried the technique in her own work and wove a pleated silk scarf. She used two different types of silk in the warp, 30/2 silk with a 12 singles, sett at 24epi, and weft of "an incredibly fine silk" she'd been given and not expected to find a use for (by someone who'd been weaving silk ties).

And so, I thought I'd share this technique with you too, and while I get on with improving my basic skills, maybe you will pick up on this and take it somewhere in your own work?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Inkle bands.

I was fascinated by inkle bands after seeing this type of weaving demonstrated by Rowena Hart at an "Ashford Day" hosted by the The Threshing Barn a couple of years ago.

The inkle loom had to wait while I pursued other projects, but I finally bought one last year with money I was given for my birthday. It came as a flat packed kit in a box.

The story of putting it together is a long one... I was disappointed with my first attempt and my boyfriend was horrified that I'd not followed basic woodworking principles and had ended up with not all the pegs in properly and some a bit wonky - and everything stuck tight by fast drying glue. My birthday fun was quite spoiled. To deal with the pain of disappointment and embarassment, I e-mailed Ashford with suggested amendments to their assembly instructions and was astounded to be not only thanked for my suggestions but offered a replacement loom. I must say here I think Ashford are a lovely company, they have some really super products, a complete range of all you need to prepare fibre, dye it, spin and weave, plus instruction books, and have unmatched customer support. It is wonderful that you can buy parts to keep spinning wheels of 25 years or more in good running order, and still get accessories to fit... but I digress.

The first loom I had wove one band on, then I gave it away and it went to a very good home where it is well used. Inkle loom no. 2 took a long time to put together because I had to prove my woodwork skills were some good after all. This time I matched up the pegs to the holes, sanding them carefully for a good fit. I cut a tiny channel in the side of the pegs (using a v-shaped chisel I have for woodblock carving) where they were to go into the holes to allow air to escape from the bottom of the hole as the peg was pushed in. This meant that all the pegs went into the holes beautifully and to the full depth. It was finished with several coats of danish oil, and sanded down in between coats for a really smooth finish. I now have a really beautiful inkle loom.

But I wanted to be an inkle weaver, not a woodworker! I've just got around to weaving a few simple bands now. I took the last few foot of thrums (loom waste) from the last project on my floor loom and decided to put them to good use. This thread is a 12/2 mercerised cotton. It occured to me I didn't need to do anything fancy, as long as I wove the cotton into narrow bands they would be useful for ties for something. I chose a much thicker (dk knitting cotton) thread for weft. I'm rather pleased with the results, although more practice is required to get even weaving with neat edges.

I found the large belt shuttle supplied a bit large and awkward to use as both shuttle and beater, so I changed to using a thick piece of card as shuttle and a lolly stick (popsicle stick?) as a beater. See photo below, how much smaller my bit of card is, I find it much easier to hold:

I used to have a small belt shuttle that I'd bought from Fibrecrafts which was a better size, but this shuttle I gave away with inkle loom no. 1.

I've got a few books about inkle weaving, and there's also some excellent resources on the internet. Here are a some I'd recommend:
Heather's pages on inkle weaving.
Kaz's version of a decorative band and Sara Lamb's original piece

Clearly all kinds of fancy work and pick up patterns are possible. But I'm really happy for now with my plain bands.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


I hadn't intended to include my sewing interests on the list, but I'm rather pleased with a random designed pan holder I whizzed together one evening recently, and there are actually several important links between my interest in patchwork & quilting and why I took up weaving.

This patchwork project became a priority because all the pan holders I made a few years ago seem to have decided to disintegrate at the same time, and there was a crisis in the kitchen! Besides, I'd promised my boyfriend a pan holder featuring "those spaced out cows" as he calls them (see below, a fabric with cows grazing in amongst giant sunflowers). This pan holder also features a little black cat as special guest star, as my 15 year old black cat, Oscar, is always near by.

To explain about the link between my patchwork and weaving, I discovered patchwork almost by accident when we were out one day and saw a shop and said "lets go and look at that, I've always wanted to do some patchwork". This was how I discovered Ann Esders and her business "Heirs and Graces" (now in Rowsley, Derbyshire) and I left the shop having signed up for classes and several metres of beautiful cloths!

In order to do patchwork, I had to learn to choose colours and patterns to use in combination with each other. I found this very challenging at first. In the classes I was amazed at the different things other people put together and how they worked. In the process of learning to choose fabrics, I learnt not only about colour but also about the qualities of dyes and how things looked different in different lights.

As I did a lot of patchwork sewing by hand, I not only re-learnt forgotton sewing skills, I learnt about how different fabrics feel. Although all the fabric I used was cotton, and plain weave, there was a lot of variation in the quality and feel of different fabrics, some were soft and pliable, others could be quite stiff and difficult to stitch. I was also very taken with plain cotton fabrics that had one colour of warp threads and a different colour of weft, I believe these are called shot cottons. So, this is part of the story of how I came to take an interest in woven structures and to explore colours and dyes.

From handspun merino yarn to stripey socks.

I haven't written much about spinning yet. I was just thinking this the other day, wondering where to start on the subject,and then I looked at the socks I was wearing. See the above photo. Most of the socks I've knitted are in commercial sock yarn, but then the Online Guild had a sock knitting workshop. I wanted to use my own handspun for the workshop, and so spun some wool and knitted the photographed socks as a trial. When it came to the workshop, I'd used all the yarn, so I knitted my toe-up socks in Opal sock yarn instead.

I knitted these socks from the pattern "Simply Splendid" given by Lucy Neatby in her book "Cool Socks Warm Feet". They are a top down knit,using the heel style she calls "common heel" and a "common wedge toe". I think this was about my third pair of socks, and considering that they turned out well and have worn well.

The yarn is spun from dyed merino tops purchased from Wingham Wool Works. I first learnt to spin with tuition from Ruth Gough at Wingham Wools. While I was having my beginner lesson, two other spinners where there learning fancy techniques. When I was thinking about spinning a multi-colour sock yarn, I remembered Ruth had demonstrated spinning wonderful multicolour blends where different coloured wools were blended by spiking handfuls of different coloured merino fibre on a hackle, then pulling the fibre off the hackle through a diz (she used a small washer, but recommended that a button could also be used). The colour choice was based on picking some colours that went together and then one colour that was totally different.

I was thinking about Ruth's advice on colours, and selected for my socks a light blue, a mid-blue, a light blue-green, and a darker blue-green, with a bright pink. As I didn't have a hackle, or combs, I sat with small handfuls of different colours on my knee and kept changing colour, no particular theme or rhythm, just whatever I felt like next. I spun a couple of bobbins of singles yarn like this, and then plied them together. Knitting it was very exciting - I had no idea how the colours would work in the knitted fabric. As it happens, I'm very pleased with the resulting soft stripes. The socks are warm and soft, and they are wearing well, although the yarn has pilled a bit.

As you see, I have spun some more of this yarn, and it's been sitting around for a while now. Maybe it's time for another pair of socks...

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Little treasures

As I'm sure many of you have realised, I love books, and to some extent I collect them (at least, they seem to collect all around me). That's not collect in the sense of investing money, it's collect in the sense of gathering knowledge and building a reference library.

This means that every time I find a really good book, I turn to the back and see if there's a bibliography, and look to see what titles I recognise.

Again and again in the bibligraphies of books on natural dyeing, I saw the words "Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record of Plants and Gardens". There were two different titles:

Natural Plant Dyeing, A Handbook, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record Plants & Gardens Vol. 29, No.2, 1973


Dye Plants and Dyeing - a handbook, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Record Plants & Gardens Vol. 20, No.3, 1964.

Another title that came up from time to time was:

Journal of the Chicago Horticultural Society, Vol. III, no.1, Winter 1976.

To give you an idea of how influential these titles are, at least one of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden titles is cited in all these works (brief book details):
Anne Milner, The Ashford Book of Dyeing,
Jill Goodwin, A Dyer's Manual,
Su Grierson, The Colour Cauldron,
Jean Carmen, Dyemaking with Eucalypts,
Rita Buchanan, A Dyer's Garden,
J N Liles, The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing,
John & Margaret Canon, Dye Plants and Dyeing,
Jenny Balfour Paul, Indigo
Gwen Fereday, Natural Dyes
Dominique Cardon, Le Monde des teintures naturelles.

I'm sure I'll get around to telling you more about some of these other books in due course, however, the particular reason for writing about my little treasures is to highlight their value and say these publications need looking taking care of.

Why do I say this? Because in spite of their value, and in spite of my experience, determination, and tenacity in hunting down copies of second hand books, they were very, very hard to find.

And when I found the first two, they were on the shelf of a second hand book shop I was visitng because of a different title that I'd seen advertised on the internet. These little treasures had not only not been recognised as valuable enough to advertise, they were tucked away on the shelf and priced at a mere £1.50 each. Now, I love a bargain, and I was absolutely delighted not only to find these booklets but also to buy them cheap. My other purchase turned up after a year of so of looking, on the Loom Exchange website, again, inexpensive. But these bargains set alarm bells ringing in my head. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens titles were special reprints, and reprinted several times over. So where have they all gone?

They are volumes, what we in Europe describe as A5 size, stapled (not bound) and as journals, they are slightly more substantial than a magazine. So how many of these volumes have been over looked, discarded as small and worthless, or just got worn out and been thrown away?

It is about time I told you why these publications are of such interest. The Journal of the Chicago Horticultural Society, Vol.III no.1, is a small handbook on growing dye plants and using natural dyes. It is slightly out of date, in that the amount of mordant to volume of fibre used by dyers nowadays is generally rather less than described. Apart from that, and not having colour pictures, it is an excellent instruction book, concise and easy to follow, with much information laid out in easy to read charts and tables.

Both the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens publications are in more magazine type format. They have an introduction followed by a number of different articles relating to the title.

To let them speak for themselves, the introduction of the 1964 volume says "This handbook on natural plant dyes and how to use them has many objectives, not the least of which is to help in the revival of an ancient craft..." that sets the scene for you. With regard to the contributions: "Guest Editor Schetky, her invited authors and members of our Editorial Committee have pooled their ideas, knowledge and resources to bring this hundred-page book into being. Warm responses to inquiries in other countries have given us a feeling of great friendship for people in many parts of the world... Their dyeing formulas, including how-to-do it recipes from 18 different countries, are given here...". The 1974 volume introduction tells us "interest in dyeing with natural plant materials has grown sharply since 1964....letters, literally hundreds of them from the United States and other lands, have prompted this companion edition."

The 14 articles in the first volume include: "Tannins and Dyes from Plant Galls", "Dyes of Ancient Usage", "Family Dyeing in Colonial New England", "Notes on Aztec Dye Plants", "Dye Plants in a Scottish Garden". The 1973 volume has 28 contributions including articles on madder, indigo, pokeweed, eucalypts, "A Practical Approach to the Use of Lichens", "The Sleepy Hollow Restoration Shawls", "Coreopsis for reds on cotton and wool", "Plant Dyeing in new Zealand", "Southwest Navjo Dyes". There is so much here, I can't re-publish it all for you. it is a wealth of information, short articles written by writers who knew their subject well. There is history, chemistry, botany, dyeing technique, different traditions from around the world.

If you have, or ever come across, one of these titles, please look after it.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

A weaving book for your shelves....

With grateful thanks to Cally for her recent recommendation, I want to introduce other weavers to a very useful book.

The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers, by Madelyn van der Hoogt, published by Unicorn Books and Crafts Inc., 1993, ISBN 0-916658-51-1.

As I've said before, it's difficult to know what's in a book without seeing a copy, and although I've known about this book for sometime, the reviews I've seen did not make clear to me what the content was and why it is a very useful book for me. I thought, "(hmm..) I know how to draw and read drafts, I'm familiar with basic weave structures, I think this isn't the most important book for me." I have already a few books that introduce basic weaving skills and a few books that are good on different structures, including pattern books.

Then came Cally's comment: "I worked my way through a number of the exercises and my understanding grew by leaps and bounds" gave me a different angle on this book. I decided to go with instinct and ordered a copy from Fibrecrafts (who were able to tell my by phone that they had a copy in stock).

My reaction when this book arrived was "this is it! the book that fills in lots of gaps in the jigsaw!" I had previously discovered from various internet sources that there were all sorts of weaves and techniques not in the books I owned. Also, that various books on particular topics are out of print and 2nd hand copies not easy to obtain.

I particularly value this book for including within one set of covers: block weaves, profile drafts, lace weaves, understanding damask, tied unit weaves, patterned double weave, lampas, network drafting... etc. It is all the more valuable for being very easy to read and understand (as I'd hope, given the author is well established as a journalist and magazine editor). It does so much more than describe weave structures, it explains them in full, taking you through the design and weaving process.

In the acknowledgements, at the start of the book, the author tells us that it "brings together most of what I've learned about weaving in more than ten years of passionate study". This book hadn't been in my hands long before I realised that the price paid, which had held me back from ordering the book before, was a bargain price for so much of someone else's experience (it works out at £2.10 per year of her study).

There's a recommendation in the introduction that the book should be read from the beginning without skipping bits, this is not my ususal approach and I was happy to see the author is sympathetic to my bad habit, but says "try to alter your habit for this book", and explains why. Out of respect for an author who has been able to assemble so much information, clearly expressed and in careful order, I aim to be a good reader and work through from the start, following Cally's example of working through the exercises. I'm hoping to take part in an Online Guild Workshop on "Advancing Twills" in November, so it will probably be into 2008 before I progress beyond reading, but I'm sure this is a good learning path for me to follow.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Book on South & Central American textiles.

I'm writing about this book because I have it from the library and am reading it most evenings:

Textiles of Central and South America, by Angela Thompson. Published by: The Crowood Press Limited, England, 2006. ISBN 1 86126 826 2, £25.

The author of the book has been traveling the world to collect textiles for 20 years. She's written other books, they all seem to be about embroidery. I particularly like this book for reasons beautifully summed up on the inside cover of the book:

"In writing this book, Angela Thompson has drawn upon her many years of study, meticulous research and passion for the subject to offer the reader a fascinating insight into a people and a tradition that are inextricably linked with the wonder of handwoven cloth."

Mmm. I agree with every word of that. I love to read a book written by someone passionate about their subject that really knows their stuff. It's got lots of super photos and diagrams. The textiles are described in terms of who makes them and where they are made, so you feel you are getting to know the people and their stories and their culture. I like that. I don't think you can consider the tradition without knowing the people.

She starts with a general history chapter. I found this interesting, I studied very little history at school and all i know of central and southern Americas is about the first ships to reach there from Europe and how the natives were killed by the common cold virus. And I remember odd bits from Nancy Drew adventure books, and National Geographic magazines. Well, the bits and pieces fit in with a bigger picture now. It was a good chapter.

The next chapter, Designs and Symbolism, I found a bit boring. I think that's just me - I have a limited interest in the origin of the designs, but I thought it was a thorough and well written chapter. She is a helpful author for someone who doesn't want to read the book from page one to the end in one go - she breaks up what she has to say into reasonably short sections under a heading, so you can pick and choose the bits that most interest you.

I was much more interested in the 3rd chapter, about "Yarns and Fibres", and the next one was "Spinning and Dyeing" and after that "Weaving", "Costume and Accessories"... soon this book was traveling all around our house so that it was always to hand when I got spare time to read.

I've read books by other authors about other textile traditions that don't give you the full picture, the people, history, fibre, spinning, yarn, weaving, making up clothes, decorative finishes etc. I think it can come across as a bit disrespectful to look at the textiles without putting them in context - I like this author's attitude.

If anyone out there was wondering about what I'd like for a present sometime, I hope you've got the idea this book should be on the list!

Favourite bits of this book: illustrations of the animal and bird motifs used, descriptions of different loom types (backstrap, horizontal, upright, floor looms) and the way they are used, descriptions of basic garments made from the woven cloth, an amazing patchwork made of scraps of all sorts of woven cloths (p. 138), a section on "Embroidery as a Political Statement" (yes!), photo and description of the wonderful tradition of free-stitch machine embroidery to decorate bright red bowler hats, as worn by women in the Chivan area of Peru.

Saturday, 20 October 2007


As an isolated,largely self-taught weaver, spinner, and dyer, one of the things I've found difficult is assessing the different pieces of equipment and books on offer. I have only a handful of times been able to meet up in person with other people involved in these crafts, and there aren't any shops close to where I live. Many online retailers give very cursory information about the content of a book, who it's aimed at, etc. and it's difficult to judge whether a particular title is the book you would choose if you could pick it up and look at it. I've had a few disappointments when a book I've bought was not at all what I expected.

There is one outstanding retailer for book reviews, the Canadian business Camilla Valley Farm.

I have found the Online Guild very helpful, I enjoy being able to participate in e-mailed discussions, and having access to resource files where there are book and equipment reviews.

I've also gleaned a lot from doing web searches, from picking up bits and pieces on blogs and web sites. My local county library has a few books of interest in their catalogue and I've found it useful to be able to request books from my local branch, but am also aware that the 80p charge each time may deplete my budget for buying books (it costs more for books that are "out of county", so I don't bother with ordering them).

What I'm working around to saying is that while I'm currently doing less weaving, spinning and dyeing due to having a heavier load of other commitments than heretofor, I am still accumulating books, reading them, and making plans. So, here's a promise of promise of more book reviews in the near future, until my life settles down and I get back to weaving etc.

I'm also still knitting socks, and just bought a pair of red soft leather clogs to wear around the house which show off my handknitted socks beautifully! (And shouldn't every Dorothy have a pair of red shoes?)

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Holiday souvenirs

You may have noticed a gap in posts - I've been on holiday, and then came home to a new job. Craft activities this week have been reduced to thinking of things I've no time to do, and knitting a sock.

I don't get out and about much and rarely take holidays, so I made the most of my week off. A trip to visit friends and relatives in the south of England also fitted in with calling at a couple of art shops, a second hand book shop, and returning home via Uppingham Yarns, in Rutland. I discovered they have more stock gets on their web site, and came home with a little cone of glow-in-the-dark nylon thread(!) as well as a variety of shades of Shetland wool and soft cotton yarns for weaving. They are pleasant and helpful people, and the shop is in a very beautiful old town, so I was glad I had taken the time to get there.

I had a day at home before setting off again, and then I drove northwards to stay with an Aunt in Edinburgh. My Aunt is a fine art painter and we had a lot of interesting discussions about art, form and composition, and the design process, etc.

Other highlights of my trip to Edinburgh were seeing the work of Edinburgh basket and tapestry weaver Anna King in an exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, and calling in at the studio / shop of Joyce Forsyth, a knitwear designer / maker.

Anna King's exhibition astounded me. I had no idea that basket weaving might be used to produce fascinating and beautiful art, until I saw Anna's work. Her baskets incorporated materials you might not expect - such as feathers and nails, and were simply beautiful objects. One particularly attractive piece, shaped rather like a pear, was woven from pine needles. Anna's work has given me a new concept of "basket"!

Her tapestries were also works of simple, harmonious beauty. There were abstract pieces and simple landscapes. I learnt so much from just looking. One thing I learnt is that tapestry can be made with the finest or the coarsest of yarns and anything in between. The skill is in the design, colour and yarn choices and careful working. Having tried tapestry weaving once myself, I found the warp tension difficult (on a fixed wooden frame) and the piece inclined to distort between sections in different yarns. I saw no indication that Anna has such problems! The weaving was immaculate, I was most impressed, and inspired.

I first discovered Joyce Forsyth about 5 years ago, she has a little shop on Candlemaker's Row, close to the famous statue of Greyfriar's Bobby. I have one of her jumpers which I treasure and save for special days. It is, like many of her garments, knitted from Shetland yarn in a Fairisle pattern. This sounds very traditional, but all Joyce's garments are strikingly different, modern and original. My jumper has the most beautiful cuffs, collar and bottom edge, that I can best describe as like corded waves in different colours. Items I saw on sale last week included many with wonderful flounced edgings. The colour choices are superb - there are brightly coloured garments using oranges and reds, or blues, greens, purples, and then there are softly coloured garments in beige & browns or greys. Although her shop is small and her stock is small, I would be surprised if anyone did not find one or two garments in the colours they most like to wear. The prices are higher than chain stores, they are comparable (or cheaper) than production machine knits on sale in other Scottish knitwear shops and the more expensive high street shops, whilst from Joyce you get something far more individual for your money and have the satisfaction of supporting the career of an artist. I took a fancy to a lovely cardigan at £125, I didn't have the money, but will save up to get something another time. Joyce wasn't there herself this time I called in, but I have met her before, working at her knitting machine in a corner of the shop and happy to talk about her work.

...thanks to Janet for suggesting I write about my visit to Joyce Forsyth! (Janet is another fan of Joyce's work).

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


I've cut the first samples, of 8 different weave structures, off my sample warp now. I washed them vigourously in hot water so that the yarns would shrink and the washing/drying help to stablise the fabric. Using my sewing machine, I made lines of plain stitching as basic hems before cutting the length of weaving into separate sections.

Now the samples are stitched onto sheets of cardboard along one edge, leaving the fabric otherwise loose so I can turn it over and see the reverse, and so it can be handled to check the "feel" and stretch of the weave.

Also on each record card are:

  1. a diagram of the loom tie-up, threading, treadling pattern and structure

  2. notes on type of yarn used, and where it came from

  3. a record of the sett (warp ends per inch) and the reed used

  4. pattern source / references

  5. miscellaneous notes about the weave structure or particular sample (anything I think I might find useful to know in the future)

As I organised my records, I was sorry to see how poor and irregular the selvedges are down one side of the first few samples I wove. However, there's some good news here, as I had become of this when I was weaving, and solved the problem.

There are many different problems affecting selvedges. I use "floating" selvedges, which are a couple of extra threads on either side of the cloth which do not form part of the pattern. These are very useful with most weaves.

Something I didn't do this time is to increase the density of warp threads in the last few dents of the reed before the selvedge. I have used this technique before, and found it very helpful to give a nice neat edge. Some of these 8 samples looked like they really should have had that knid of edge - the weaves that were least balanced with longest floats. The worst case was a length of sateen weave, which has long weft floats. The edges of this sample were drawn in and tending to curl up. However, a length of plain weave was absolutely fine. My conclusion is that in the future, when making sample weaves in preparation of a particular project, I will need to test out different arrangements of warp threads at the selvedges to see what is best for a particular weave and yarn.

The particular problem I'd had though with this sample weaving, which I was able to correct, was down to the way I was working with my right hand. I slowed down everything I was doing and looked at each part of the weaving process. I was allowing some extra weft thread across the width of the warp to allow for take up (in the unders and overs of the weft going around the warp) when the weft was beaten in.. I was using a Crossley end feed shuttle, which has a tension device to control the release of the weft yarn. I was pinching the beginning of a weft to prevent it pulling tight it when I pulled the shuttle out of the warp. I was beating evenly.

But, when the shuttle was in my right hand, I was tending to move my right hand back towards my body as I used my left hand to operate the beater. When the shuttle was in my left hand, I didn't do this, I held the shuttle close to the beater. Looking and watching carefully, I could see that certainly was causing a problem! When I moved the shuttle towards my body, the yarn at the selvedge was pulled back, compressing the weave at the right selvedge.

It's just one of those little personal eccentricities, not necessarily something all weavers would do, that goes back to the fact I injured my right arm very badly in an accident five years ago, and have only recently been learning to use it properly, having had many weeks of physiotherapy last year. I still tend to favour the left for physical work, and rest the right arm, all quite unconsciously, and have to learn to identify and then break my bad habits.

This does explain something that puzzled me for ages - I heard sometime last year that it is normal for weavers to form one selvedge better than the other, and that this tended to reflect whether one was right or left handed. As a right handed person, my right selvedge should have been better, it's taken this long to spot why it was worst!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Welcome to my library - some books on natural dyeing.

Today, I took time off, left my pre-occupations and hobbies at home and off I went to a secondhand book fair, partly to meet up with a friend, partly because you just never know what you might find in hunting around the book stalls. I often pick up interesting books on all kinds of subjects, e.g. on previous occasions, windmills, cheesemaking, architecture, Escher.

To my amazement, today I found a book I have been wanting, and I'm delighted with it. For just £3 I picked up a very good copy of "A Dyer's Garden", subtitle "from plant to pot - growing dyes for natural fibres", by Rita Buchanan, Interweave Press, 1995, ISBN 1-883010. I don't know how many copies of this special interest book, published in the U.S., might be in circulation in England, probably not many, so I think it was my lucky day. I already have another book by Rita, "A Weavers Garden", in the Dover republication of 1999, ISBN 0-486-40712-8.

The Weaver's garden book covers dye plants, so I'd not been entirely sure that I needed both books. I have discovered the content of the Dyer's book is quite different, and very useful. So, I have discovered that the Weaver's book is not a re-print, it covers different plants and has a more discursive approach. The Dover edition has few pictures, but is a very interesting read. Lots of background research went into the preparation for this book (and there's long lists of further reading). It covers history and chemistry as well as dye methods. It includes plants for soap, fibre, fragrance (e.g. to deter moths) and make tools. Both books include suggestions of planting schemes for different gardens.

The Dyer's book is smaller, and it's pretty. After chapters on choosing and growing plants, planning a garden, the basics of dyeing and a whole chapter on colours, the second half of the book is all double-page spreads each featuring a different plant. It has a picture of the plant, information about the plant and how to grow it and, on the facing page, dyeing information with a range of colour samples (in photos).

Both books are lovely, very readable.

As you will see from the picture above, I already had a number of books on dyeing. They all have different information and I value them all for different reasons, which I will tell you about in future posts. However, in the meantime you can see my review of a newly published book, Natural Dyes, by Linda Rudkin, pub. A & C Black 2007, The Textiles Handbook Series, ISBN 978-0-7136-7955-7 on the Textile Directory web site.

On weaving and things I've been learning.

I've been having a lovely time looking at waffle weave, also brighton honeycomb, then sateen and a 3-1 / 1-3 striped twill which should collapse into pleats when off the loom. I might have a go at some crepe weaves next. What I'm concentrating on here is different textures.

Earlier this year I spent a few weeks working with Bonnie Innouye's book "Exploring Multishaft Design" (Weavingdance Press, ISBN 0-9678489-0-3) which helped me develop an understanding of the possibilities for twill weaves with 8-shafts. I did a lot of design work using weaving software packages (I tried out a few demos and free packages while I was about it). The software was useful because I could look at weave pattern and change things here and there and see what difference the changes made.

At the moment, I'm happy doing my design notes using pens and graph paper. I've got one pen that's particularly useful, it is meant for calligraphy with a 2mm wide flat nib, and a small stroke nicely fills a 2mm square on the graph paper. I picked up the graph paper and pen because they were to hand, no need to switch on and boot up the computer. I'm very happy at the moment with the pen and paper.

Then it came to me, looking at my diagrams and weave diagrams in the books I've been consulting, that something has happened. Year ago, maybe even six months ago, I didn't understand these diagrams. Now I do. I look at pen strokes and think about overs and unders of yarn in cloth construction. I have some idea of the cloth that the diagram represents. What has happened? It's down to that time I spent playing with Bonnie's book, the software and the loom. I was trying different things, pushing past limits of my understanding, and learning from what happened on the loom. Oh, it's lovely to look back and know I have learnt something!

And another bit of progress yesterday - I was sitting under the loom to re-tie the treadles again, remembering how I discovered it's easier to do with my left arm reaching along between the lamms, and - in one of those sudden moments when a light turns on in your mind - I saw it would be so much quicker if I followed the ties for each lamm when tying up, instead of doing the all ties to each treadle in turn. I re-tied from a Brighton honeycomb pattern to sateen, 8-shafts, 8 treadles used, and lots of changes in just under 12 minutes. Wow! What a journey of exploring and understanding I have travelled - the first time I tied up the treadles on this loom it took 6 hours, over two days (December 2005).

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Treadles again, and a few inches woven.

I was very interested to read in Leigh's blog recently about her experience of tying her treadles on her new countermarche loom for the first time, and making adjustments to balance the shed. Leigh was using Joanne Hall's Tying Up the Countermarch Loom, which I haven't seen. In fact, I was short of information sources when I got my loom, I learnt a bit from the previous owner, and then I just spent ages analysing how everything worked.

I come from a family that includes several engineers and scientists, and have realised recently that "how does it work..." is the first thing that springs to mind when I look at any new machine or device of any kind. It's how I was brought up. The next question being, if it doesn't, how do we fix it? But this is a digression, just to explain my attitude towards looms, and also weave structures.

I've never had the sort of shed Leigh was after on her loom, where all the upper and lower threads are at the same level, although I can get fairly close. I stopped looking for perfection in this respect after someone suggested to me that the important thing was could I pass the shuttle through the warp and weave without problem. But when I saw what Leigh had acheived on her Glimakra, I thought I'd follow the same shed adjustment technique.

It didn't work for me. I ended up adjusting the foremost shafts, and when adjusted they sat lower than the shafts behind, in graduated steps. The loom wasn't balanced anymore, and the shed was no better. So, for now I have reverted to my own technique, which I find good enough. However, if anyone has other suggestions, I be interested to give them a try. (I'm wondering if the texsolv cords on my loom have stretched by different amounts, and if this would make a difference, it had been well used before I bought it.)

The front shafts need to raise or lower less than those behind, as for the same height lifted (or lowered) the thread is shifted more or less relative to the rest of the warp than a thread on a shaft further back. The first shaft lifts at a point about half an inch in front of the second, so threads lifted by these shafts are at a different angle compared to horizontal, etc, and the thread lifted by the 8th shaft is a a significantly different angle. I wish I'd drawn a diagram to show this, hope you can visualise it if you have no loom to play with. This means that the treadle must operate the back shafts before those at the front, and needs to lift the shaft higher for same angle in the warp.

I follow the basic rule that the treadles must be lower at the front. The ties to the back shafts connecting lower lams must have no slack at all, especially at the end nearest the lam hinges. Treadles nearer to the lam hinge have greater leverage (move the shafts more for same distance travelled) and are heavier to operate.

The treadles of the loom hang suspended from the lower lams, and my aim is that the weight should be evenly distributed between the tie cords so they do not alter the balance of the shafts above. It is more difficult to balance the loom if some shafts have more treadles suspended from them than others, and where some shafts hang from only one or two treadles. I have found that the balance is helped by using the two treadles farthest from the lam hinge for plain weave, so every shaft is tied to these two treadles. I've heard said, but needed to make this adjustment yet, that for some patterns it may be necessary to re-arrange the order of treadles compared to the pattern diagram, in order to get a good distribution of ties on the lams.

For the ties to upper lam, I've learnt that no treadle must hang on off just one these ties else it acts to prevent the shaft raising when a different treadle is used. Upper shaft ties need more slack when they are further from the lam hinge. I allow a couple of spare notches in the texsolv cord at the back nearest the lam hinge, increasing to 3 notches on the front of the same treadle, and to three or four on cords of the treadle furthest from the hinge.

I tie-up my treadles by these rules, then check the different treadles are giving reasonable sheds, making small adjustments where necessary. Only small adjustments - large changes set other parts of the system out of balance.

I think that's enough detail for now. Here's a photo showing another of those useful tools that collect around my workshop: a box. Just a nice height to rest the front treadles on while I tie-up. Supported treadles are so, so much easier to tie-up! And I aim to keep them all at about box height when they are tied, although the odd one a bit higher is fine and helps with identifying which treadle is which by feel alone.

The next picture shows where I sit to tie treadles especially since fitting the cloth aprons. I sit inside the loom frame, on the phone book, my legs under the lams and feet resting on the bar across the bottom of the front of the loom. I have to remember to turn my treadle diagram upside down, as it is usually drawn assuming I will be looking at the loom from in front.

I have only just worked out it is easiest to get my hands between the lams and ties if I reach the left arm in between the lams (This is instead of just thrusting my hands toward the point where I want them). I wonder why it took so long to realise this? See next photo. Five lams this side of my arm, the others pushed forwards.

Finally, some weaving. Here's the warp ends tied in small groups (two sets of 8 tied together) at the front apron rod, and then half a dozen rows of contrasting thread have been put through in plain weave, before beating all half dozen together (not after each row as usual) in order to show where the threads are tighter / looser and need adjustment. I thought about tying on larger groups of threads, as the tying and adjusting is tedious. However, small groups keep the warp nicely spread, so it is quicker to get to an even weave when I start putting the weft through.

You can see I've adjusted the warp, tried again, adjusted again, and now the weft threads are at about even tension.

Having got this far - at last - time to start pattern weaving! Here it is:

Monday, 17 September 2007

Back to the loom.

As I was threading the heddles, I found that having the lease sticks unsupported was probably not ideal, the distorted path of the warp was leading to alternate warp looking longer than the others. Things getting out of alignment makes me a bit nervous. I don't like my warp tension to be uneven. I decided to support my lease rods better.

Sometime ago I tried a method that involved resting extra sticks between the shafts and back beam, but this wasn't ideal because the sticks were high at the back beam, so the lease rods weren't quite level and everything could slip out of place too easily.

This week's solution is shown in the photo. Another task for the G clamps! As these are oversize, 4 inch, clamps they easily coped with holding an extra pair of short sticks to support the lease rods.

When I was ready to tie to the front apron rod, I used an extra cotton cord at the outer edges of the apron rod tying it to the back beam. This held the apron rod steady so I could tie the warp threads and at this stage I removed the G clamps and used this string to support the lease rods as well. The reason for holding the apron rod steady like this is that otherwise it depends for support on the warp threads. I would tie the outer edges of the warp first and these would stablise the apron. The first bunches of warp are therefore difficult to tie, and adjustments are difficult, as all the weight of the apron is carried by the knots I'm tying. I've used a temporary extra tie like this a couple of times and found it makes the task much easier. See photo below, arrow points to the cotton cord at the outer edge of the apron.

As the weavers reading this know, there's another stage between threading the warp yarns through the heddles on the shafts and this stage of tying the warp to the front apron. That is the sleying of the reed. The reed hangs in a moving frame to beat weft threads forwards on the warp, with the aim of creating an even weave. For this sampler I'm preparing to weave, I am using a reed with twelve spaces, known as dents, to the inch. I'm threading 2 warp ends through every dent. Or that's the intention - spot the error in this next photo.

It may not be immediately apparent to someone not used to looking at loom set ups just where the error is. I didn't notice it until a while afterwards, in spite of thinking I was looking carefully and checking as I went along. When I realised I'd made a mistake I moved the loom a bit in order to get it in a postion where I have better light, and can see better! The next photo has an arrow to indicate the error, in case you missed it too.

By the time I spotted this I had tied bunches of warp threads to the apron rod. I had to untie and shift every pair of threads one dent sideways until the error was gone.

Something I have been finding as I set up the loom was this warp is that it is very helpful having different coloured threads. It does make it easier to spot if threads are twisted or crossed out of place. I hope you will agree, when I get around to posting the photos of the sampler I'm now weaving, that they look good in the cloth too. I'm enjoying weaving on this warp.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Tea-break from loom set up - and let's talk knitting.

I've been working on my loom setup this morning. The warp is tied on to the apron rod and now the tension in the thread groups needs adjusting. I also need to adjust the treadle ties to get a good shed. I've made a start, but this job is made harder by the new cloth aprons on my loom. These aprons prevent me reaching the lams from the front of the loom once I've got a warp on. Access from the back of the loom involves something that's a bit like gymnastics and a bit like finding the last piece of the jigsaw is slightly too big to fit the gap (!) as I have to swing myself through a gap at the side of the loom frame that's 17 inches high and have a 12 inch deep space to sit between the back of the loom and the lams. I understand that the other Toika looms have more space, but my Norjaana is sold as compact for people lacking space, that suits me, as I'm (fortunately) a compact sized person myself.

Photos of my progress with this weaving project will follow, I've taken a few but have to borrow a computer at the local library to get them posted into this blog (software compatibility problems).

Now, here are photos of something quite different. I'm learning to knit as well. I'm very proud of the jumper you see in this next photo, as this is my second attempt. The first time I had this much jumper knitted, it turned out to be rather misshapen, due to poor (erratic!) tension control. I sadly undid the whole thing and started again. The first time I'd rushed along happily, re-knitting has been slow and patient.

The wool used is Twilleys Freedom Spirit, shade 505.

The pattern is my own design, with assistance from Knitting in the Old Way: Designs and Techniques from Ethnic Sweaters byPriscilla A. Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson, pub. Nomad Press, 2004, ISBN 1-800-462-6420 and, because this book alone wasn't enough to get me to understand pattern design, I have also used a really excellent book I found recommended by The Knitting History Forum, Knitting Your own designs for a perfect fit by Montse Stanley, pub. David and Charles, 1982, ISBN 0-7153-8227-6. This book is out of print, but I found a copy by using abebooks. Montse is very through in explaining choice of style, construction technique and pattern drawing using specially proportioned graph paper. There's a nice chapter too on "amending and altering", as she understands we don't all get everything right everytime! I've been knitting on a Addi circular needle, 3mm size and 60cm long. This is smaller than recommended for the wool, but I needed this size for the correct tension because of holding the yarn in my left hand "continental" style which produces looser stitches.

I've paused this knit project temporarily, while working on the sleeve design. As I'm lost without a bit of knitting to keep my hands busy when I relax at the end of the day, I've started another pair of socks. I'm using an Opal sock yarn and knitting on a set of 5 needles, 2.5mm. In this picture you can see how I've started with a daimond for the sock toe, and have picked up stitches on all four sides to knit the foot section.

I've knitted about a dozen pairs of socks now, since getting started when the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers ran a sock knitting workshop last year. IThe diamond / square toe comes from Lucy Neatby in Cool Socks Warm Feet (Tradewind Knitwear Desings, ISBN 0-9733940-0-05), and I use a "short row" heel technique, described in Lucy's book but I believe this was popularised by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. My feet are UK size 4 ( 37 Eur.) and I find a good fit for me is 56 stitches round (13 on each needle). I start knitting the toe when the foot length is the same as the distance from my toe to heel bone.

Here's one last photo to show a handknitted sock in everyday wear - and one of the boots I wear most days, being a country dweller. A very comfy combination!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Treadle tie-up and threading.

Here's evidence of some progress. I've tied up the treadles of my countermarche loom, a Toika Norjanna, for a waffle pattern on p.46 of The Best of Weavers - Fabrics that go Bump (ed. Madelyn van de Hoogt, pub. XRX 2002, ISBN 1-893762-11-4). There are two related weaves on the same page that I shall also try, as all have the same 8-shaft straight threading.

I have texsolv cords for my loom tie-up, and am posting here a photo of the treadle tie-up. It took me a few months to develop this system, which has saved a great deal of time. The first time I tied up the treadles it took several hours - now I can do it in about 1/2 hour.

The features to note here are, firstly, for every treadle hole that needs tying to a lamm there is a square anchor peg holding the texsolv cord under the treadle, and a square anchor peg is used on top of the lamm to attach the cord.

Second, every texsolv cord is of ample length to thread through the top lam if need be. When I bought this loom, it had a set of short cords and a set of long cords that needed swapping around. Changing to long cords all over means I do not have to reach under the treadles to remove and reattach cords.

It is a feature of the countermarche loom system that every treadle is tied to every shaft - either via the lower lamm which raises the shaft, or via the upper lamm which will lower the shaft.

I'm not going to explain here the different handloom operation systems, but, basically a countermarche loom creates a larger shed for the shuttle by either raising or lowering every shaft - hence every heddle and every warp thread carried by a heddle. Best book on different loom types: Eric Broudy,
The Book of Looms: A History of the Handloom from Ancient Times to the Present, (ISBN: 0289708737). Some learning to weave books are also helpful, and I understand (haven't seen a copy) that Peggy Ostercamp's book Warping Your Loom and Tying on New Warps (web site ) has a good explanation of loom types).

This clever little gadget was, in its former existence, part of a d string on a guitar. In it's current handy loop form it is an excellent tool for threading the texsolv cord through lamms and treadles, as shown below.

The next photo is of the warp threads that I wound on to the loom the other day. Every thread (alternately) runs under or over the two lease rods, crossing over in between the rods. These lease rods are held in position by a couple of very useful large metal rings, they are sold in hardware shops, I think for carrying very large bunches of keys. This is an idea from another weaver, Leigh which she shared in her blog (see here for photo) earlier this year. I find this an excellent method of supporting the lease rods (plus cords tying the rings and rods to the loom frame) as, previously, when I used only linen ties, the sticks would swing around a bit and getting hold of the right thread was therefore harder to do.

The "cross" over in the threads for these lease rods is created at the stage of unreeling the thread from and measuring the appropriate length of yarn out on a warp board.

In this photo you see my hand (having reached over the loom shafts) selecting the first thread to thread through a heddle on a loom shaft. I select every thread carefully like this, having learnt the hard way that getting the threads out of order or twisted at this stage causes problems :( later.

Every single thread that will be part of the weave pattern is pulled through a heddle on a loom shaft. If you're thinking - not every thread then - you're right. Two threads on each edge of the warp are to be used as a "floating selvedge" and do not form part of the pattern weaving.

The next photo shows the first eight heddles threaded, behind (to the right) are further groups of threads sitting in half-inch groups (of 12 threads, I will weave at 24 warp ends per inch (epi)). Running over the shafts, to the right again, are four threads that remain of the first group of twelve. You can't see them, but those lease rods are between the raddle and the back of the loom.

My final picture here shows another careful precaution - each repeat group threaded through the heddles (here eight threads, threaded through heddles on shafts 8 - 1) is tied in a slip knot. I check the group is all in correct order and through the correct heddle, with no twists or crossovers, before I tie that knot.

This system helped me spot an error shortly after taking that photo. I counted the threads in a group and found there were 7, not 8. I looked again and found I had missed out one heddle. It saves a lot of time to put this sort of error right at the earliest possible moment! Yep, that's another lesson I learnt the long way!!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Weaving - the warp on hold.

I'm feeling a bit frustrated, weaving-wise, the sample warp is wound on the back beam and has sat there most of a week. I had other things to do this weekend, my next good chunk of time for making progress will be Thursday morning. The next task is to tie-up treadles, then thread heddles, sley the read, tie the warp to the front apron. Quite a few hours work!

So, in the meantime, here's a photo of the warp "on hold". To stop the threads slipping and tension being lost, I have run a lath along the top of the back beam. Under the lath, to create the friction needed to grasp the threads so they don't slip, there is a thick piece of linen thread. You can see the tail end of the thread emerge from under the lath at the top left of this picture. The lath is held tight with a solid pair of g-clamps. I keep finding more uses for these clamps, they are invaluable weaving tools!


I used the traditional dye Logwood for the first time recently. Historically this dye was very important, especially as a source of navy blue (obtained with potassium bichrome mordant) from 1800 onwards, but I find when I talk to people who aren't dyers that while they have heard of woad, indigo and madder, this and many other natural dyes have slipped out of general knowledge. Jill Goodwin in A Dyers Manual says Logwood, from the south american native tree Haematoxylon campecianum was known in England from the time of Queen Elizabeth I, but its use was prohibited by law until 1661, as dyers needed to learn to how use mordants to make this dye lasting. The chips of logwood sold as dyestuff come from the heartwood of the tree, which is cut down when about 10 years old. Rita Adrosko in Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing and Rita Buchanan in A Dyers Garden both recommend soaking the logwood chips for at least a few days as fermentation that occurs when the logwood is soaked leads to better results. Rita Buchanan says the choice of mordant is important because logwood does not last long when alum or tannins are used, and best results are obtained when using chrome or iron.

I wish I'd read these books before I did this work with logwood, as I've used only alum mordant and also hadn't seen that Jill Goodwin recommends the dyer to stop heating the dyebath when the wool is added for best, clearest colour.

Here are the results of my experiment, the wool my usual superwashed merino, the mordant my usual pre-mordant of 10% alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) and 8% cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate). Progressively lighter shades were obtained from the same dyebath, until I ran out of wool.

The next photo shows how one of those magical dyebath transformations has occured - see how the colour of the dyebath the wool went into, and the first colour shown by the wool in the dyebath, was most definitely orange.