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?


Peg in South Carolina said...

You just keep moving on at an incredible rate of speed! I wonder if I could do crackle pleats..........(grin!)

Helen said...

I have just read your most interesting blog on natural dye books and realised that I have Dye Plants and Dyeing - a handbook 1977 I pulled it out of the shelves and sat down to read it. I found I had written some notes to myself on goldenrod and iron boiled giving green and read it with great interest. It was almost as if it was new becasue I had fogotten about it. So thank you for opening my eyes! bw Helen

Tricia said...

Hi Dorothy,

I don't know what rock I have been under but just noticed that you had a blog listed after your name in the online group. Anyway there is a new scarf book out there called "Knitting New Scarves" by Lynne Barr. One is a scarf with knitted pleats. Very intriguing concept and coincidental that I should see it in two different places so close together.
Cheers, Tricia