Friday, 26 September 2008

Cloth of many colours

I have completed two samplers on my 15 colour warp, one in plain weave and one a 2/2 diagonal twill. There's enough warp left on the loom to weave another but I'm taking some time to think about what else I want to try out.

We enjoyed a few days of Autumn sunshine last week (wonderful, after a wet, grey Summer!) so one fine afternoon I took my samplers outside where the light was good and took a few photos.

This is a close up of a plain weave section...

...and here's a close-up of twill. The warp yarn on the left of the picture is yellow, and on the right, orange. Orange and pink (top right) is not a combination I would have chosen before weaving this, but it works remarkably well. See how much warmer the colours with pink weft (top) are than those with the light blue (below), and that's inspite of this being a dull, blue-ish pink. The yellow warp lifts the tone of the pink, with orange it is more dull in tone and the right hand side receeds against the yellow. Look again and see how there is (left versus right) light and shadow, near and far.

Here we see the same weft colours with totally different section of warp, something reminiscent of pink Foxgloves (top) or blue Forget-me-not (below)?

The same green warp with colours similar to the above, but different effect, cooler tones.

Selection of greens:


My favourite red/orange/yellows:

Colours of spring moorland, grass, reeds and heather:


The two different samplers examined together, same two yarns warp and weft in diagonal twill and in plain weave.

And also:


Folding the plain weave sampler enables me to show you, left of picture, the blue-jade yarn warp and weft, centre with a white warp and right with navy blue. Don't you think that the blue-jade colour looks paler with white, and blue against the navy? So much of our perception of colour depends on context. (no, the colours didn't run in the wash!)


Same folding as the above, with the yellow green yarn: left, in warp and weft, centre with white weft and right with navy blue. The reed marks are distinct against navy (you see every group of three warp threads from the 3 per dent reed sleying), but not visible at all on the white.

Weaving these samplers has been joyful, and I still have about going on for another 2 metres of warp on the loom, so watch this space!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Notes from weaving my new colour sampler.

Texsolv heddles are slippery things. If you aren't careful they slip easily out of your hand. They slip off bars that your thought you'd just put them on, and they need handling with care to make sure you have them in the correct order on both the shaft bars.

Adding extra heddles on to my loom for the my latest sampler, I found that a cardboard shuttle bobbin just fits the hole in the end of the shaft bar. It seems to be quickest to work by putting the heddles on the top bar, then, with the shuttle bobbin securing them as shown, to loop them on to the lower bar.For the header row on this sampler, I found that using white thread as a strong contrast to my warp colours, three picks in every shed of plain weave, made it very quick to spot where I had crossed threads.

I have learnt that the sooner I check for crossed threads, the easier it is to put right.

The error here, left of centre, was made by two threads crossed between the heddles and the reed.

I undid the larks head knot at the apron rod, pulled the threads out of the woven section, back behind the read to change them around, re-sleyed them correctly in the reed and tied on again. There were three errors like this to correct, and then I could start weaving my pattern. What a joy it was to work with so many colours!



The 12/2 cotton was sleyed 3 ends per dent in a 10 epi reed. This made distinct reed marks as I was weaving.



Later, when the cloth was off the loom these marks were considerably less obvious and in many places they vanished away.

That shuttle is one of my new Schacht 35 cm boat shuttles. This project was an excuse for a couple of new shuttles and a bobbin for every colour of yarn. They were a joy to use. I'm used to my Crossley End feed shuttles, which I love, but they are fiddly to use if you are changing threads all the time. I think I might actually prefer the Schacht shuttle for its lighter weight. They are certainly well balanced and I found them easy to throw and catch.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Close up Colour and Weave

Here at last are the pictures of my colour and weave sampler. I didn't take one of the whole thing, but dimensions are approx 30" wide and a bit over five feet long.

There are 16 different colour repeats across the width - see my earlier post for details - and the same colour repeat patterns are repeated in the treadling, first in plain weave and then in twill. Pattern & treadling sections are separated by a couple of green threads. At the finish I tried a few weft rib patterns and Bedford cord.

I've taken a the photos with the aim of giving you some idea of the diversity of patterns and the usefulness of having a sampler like this for reference.

When you look at it, bear in mind some possibilities for using these patterns again:

they might another time be woven in high or low colour contrast,
more than two colours,
possibly in textured or tweed yarn,
maybe just as a contrast stripe of pattern against plain colour.

And... all the plain weave patterns can be woven with only two shafts. So they could be woven on a simple rigid heddle loom.

Plain weave:
Plain weave:

Plain weave:
Plain weave:
Diagonal twill (4 shafts):

Diagonal twill (4 shafts):
Plain weave at top, Diagonal twill (4 shafts) below:
Plain weave:
Plain weave:
Rib patterns: (using 3-1 and 1-3 twill tie-up)

(Just a note here to add the words "color and weave" for anyone doing a U.S. English search on the subject.)

Friday, 12 September 2008

Colours and thoughts on looms.

Sitting here, looking out of my window in the Derbyshire Peak District today I see dull greens, and lots of grey. There's a few bright colours around the garden, but typically for this summer the dominant colour is mid to deep grey sky and light grey mists.

This latest weaving project is therefore particularly appealing. Here's the yarns again:


I'm setting up to weave a multi-colour sampler to look at how different warp and weft colours interact. Thre are 15 different colours in the warp, and I plan to use a few extra in the weft. The extras are blues, greens, white and navy blue (I don't have black). Using them for weft only means that I won't see the interaction of these extra colours with each other, only with the rainbow of warp colours.

I'm going to weave plain weave in every colour, then twill in every colour, then - not absolutely decided on this but probably a pattern from the Janet Phillip's sample blanket that moves from 3/1 twill to 1/3 twill. I'm a bit tempted by the idea of a textured weave, like waffle, but I'd have to cut off and re-thread the loom to get this.

I have put on 4.5 metres long warp and I'm using 12/2 mercerised cotton. Well, mostly 12/2. I got to the burgandy shade and discovered it seems to be a finer yarn than the others, not sure what it is, so I am compensating for that with extra threads - 40 epi instead of 30 epi. 30 epi is is fairly dense for the plain weave, but a bit loose for the twill. I'll test this out in weaving the first few inches of header, and if I don't like this compromise I'll re-sley between the plain weave and the twill sections.

I spent a week of spare bits of time winding the warp, and then it took 8 hours last Sunday to get the chained warp onto the loom. Here's some pictures from doing this:
This is at the stage of having the apron rod through the end of the warp chains and tied to the cloth apron, and lease sticks in, ready to lift off the floor and onto the loom. I bundled the warp chains into a cloth bag to make it easier to lift everything, see below.
Then I tied the apron rod to the back beam with spare linen warp thread and got out my homemade raddle and clamped that on the back beam. I had a counting thread in each chained warp bundle that separated out bunches of 15 threads to slot into the half inch gaps in the raddle.

And, then I wound the warp onto the back beam:Sorry the next photo is a bit dim, with such feeble daylight on these dull grey days I'm depending on my camera's built in flash and this was just a bit far back from the loom. However, the warp was on the loom at this stage and our tabby cat Phoebe was inspecting it and scent marking the loom just so we all know it belongs to her (?)
This picture gives you a good idea of how my compact Toika Norjaana fits into the available space. Note the sloping ceiling and the box at the right of it which encloses a structural beam. The head room is rather low at the front of the loom, I can sit or stand there but taller people have to be warned about banging their head on the beam or the ceiling.

I have realised that I could get a slightly bigger countermarch loom in here. The space behind the loom to the step in the floor is enough to fit in a larger Toika - such as the lovely Liisa, or a Glimakra Standard. I got quite excited when I realised this recently, as these two larger looms have a space at the back that makes it easier to get in behind the loom for tying up the treadles. I then got to looking at the wonderful Oxaback Cyrus loom, which is featured in an article in the latest Vavmagasinet. It is a superb loom, but needs 2 metres width and I don't have that much space.

I started dreaming of my perfect loom. Eight shafts. Or twelve. Second warp beam. Big and beautiful. I had the notion that the slightly larger looms might hive a good weaving shed more easily. Easier to get access to tie up those treadles. Mmm. I looked around and checked out the prices.

Then I read that someone else thought that one's first loom always seems the best. I realised I love my loom. It's beautiful. It works. I can weave. Also, I can get extra shafts for it (up to twelve) and I could fit a second warp beam., if my resident woodworker drills extra holes in the frame (note if you buy a new Norjaana, do ask for this to be done at the factory. They can do it, it just isn't done as standard). Although it's a bit cramped and uncomfortable to get in at the back of the loom, it doesn't take long to tie up the treadles.

In spite of all those wonderful dreams, I breathed a sigh of relief. I don't have to advertise and sell my dear Toika, I don't have to go through the hassle of seeking out the next loom. I don't have to buy brand new to get what I want (brand new looms depreciate by 50% about as soon as you get them home).

And, as regards getting a better weaving shed on a bigger loom, I have consulted other members of the Weave Tech yahoo group. The Glimakra and the Oxaback (Lilla) looms are 2 1/2 to 3 inches taller. That's not much, I don't see that it will make a substantial difference. Vertical jacks at the top of countermarch looms might be better than horizontal, but lots of people work on looms similar to mine and are entirely happy. I'll keep working with this one, have a go at improving my tie up technique and then look at getting the extras for it.

I am seriously tempted however by the thought of a portable loom - the Louet Jane, (link to Susan's blog "Thrums") a new model based on the popular Kombo model, due out this autumn. (More about the "Jane" from Jane Stafford who recommended the improvements to Louet).

Monday, 8 September 2008

Setting up for colour and weave.

Still no colour and weave blanket photos. If you read my last post, you will know that it is at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire (England) this week in the annual exhibition of the Alsager Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. I'll get it back next Sunday evening (14th) and photos will follow thereafter.

So, as consolation, here's a gallery of photos of getting the colour and weave warp on the loom.

Here's the collection of chained warp sections. You can see one of the tie on labels that I used to distinguish the different sections.
And here are the sections of warp going on to an apron rod, all carefully ordered. The I used the green threads to divide each section and for selvedges.
Next - warp on the back apron rod, lease sticks in and onto the loom.
(Yes, I did get a bit carried away with the photos... I've deleted lots as I don't know why I took them! Only 11 posted here, but maybe this series of pictures will be some use to someone? If not, skip to the end, last photo is of my charming little weaving assistant.)
Weighted warp ready to wind on. This is my current favourite method. The weights are over the front beam and start resting on the floor, then I wind till the reach the beam, take each off and re-tie. I know there are other means of tensioning the warp, but this worked well especially as there were tension problems in this warp caused by having lots of knots tied to change thread colours. The loose threads looked a bit scary at one stage, but I the tension seems to even up at the lease sticks as I wind and it was beautifully even for weaving. Apart from the selvedges getting slack. But that's another story.
The photo above means more to me than you might expect. This is the widest warp I have put on my loom and it took ages. I had a few new problems arise. For the first time I had to move heddles around, I needed extra in the middle and for the first time I needed heddles past the outer lam ties (those ones at each end that the top bar of the shafts hang from). And, at the back of the loom there were 4 shafts I wasn't using. I removed most of the heddles from these so they would not get in the way, but left a small bundle at the end of each shaft. Why did I leave these? Well, as I discovered (oops, slip, bang, crash ....etc all rude words here deleted...) remove the heddles and the bottom shaft bar drops to the floor!!! (Note: this is a countermarch loom.)

I love this reed sleying method, it's so easy and quick that I've given up using my autodenter.
Key equipment are a couple of boxes to rest the reed on and a little plastic Ashford reed hook.
I tied on to the front apron rod with larks head knots. I find this the easiest method to use if I think I might need to adjust any section of the warp. It's very quick to undo, adjust, re-tie.
On this occasion I got the tension beautiful first go, and wove a neat header. However, with so many different colour and weave patterns across the width of the peice, I wove a few more inches before I spotted a few errors. There were three places where I had to correct errors. Here's one of them, just about centre of the picture:

I'm getting quite adept now at the cut off, re-thread and sley and sew ends back in:
With this fixed, I was ready to weave. The colour order for weft followed the same patterns as the warp - see my earlier post giving the thread order. I wove through the list for plain weave (except I skipped a bit - 3 white, 4 blue repeated is so similar to 4 white 3 blue it didn't seem worthwhile) then I started again using diagonal 2-2 twill. I finished up with Bedford cord and a weft rib.

I spent about a week of spare moments getting the warp on the loom, and most of the next week weaving. There were complaints about this, and even protest. Here's little Annie. I wouldn't come and play with her, so she came to join in playing with the loom. She's rather taken with chewing on Texsolv. The treadle ties can take it, but she's destroyed a few heddles! Nothing for it, time to stop weaving and roll acorns down the stairs for Annie to chase!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

So, where is it then?

I hope that's the question on your mind - where is that colour and weave sampler?

Not here, is the answer. I've not got it.

It was off the loom last week, washed, I ironed it Thursday night, but before I'd taken any photos it became an exhibit for the Alsager Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers 2008 exhibition. As did my Janet Phillip's sample blanket and the chenille sampler.

The exhibition runs from 6th to 14th September at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire, England. It's a super place for us to have the exhibition as this is a large working Georgian cotton mill, powered by a huge waterwheel that is turned by water from the River Bollin, and the mill is also a museum dedicated to a history of the cotton industry. This is the National Trust web site about the property, but there's a better write up on Wikipedia.

Here's the tale of how I got separated from my new sampler. I had prepared an exhibit of a box of wool rolags that are all dyed with natural dyes from garden plants and weeds. I picked out a good range of different colours (couldn't get all my samples in one box!). I spent a couple of evenings last week getting it together. So my exhibit was all beautifully organised and labelled, and I put it in the car to take to Alsager after work, and I just took the weave samplers along because I'd promised to show them to one of my weaving friends.

Maybe it's the 5 hours unpaid overtime I'd worked (must fix that, I'm only paid for 11 hours total in that job), or the long drive in heavy Friday p.m. traffic, but my brain was a bit dim by the time I got to Alsager, and when asked "why not put those in the exhibition too" I thought there was some reason to hang on to the colour and weave, but couldn't remember what it was! So, I said yes, why not?

Of course, as soon as I got home I realised I'd not taken photos for my blog! Never mind, I'll have it back in two weeks.

It's worth mentioning that another weaver also had a Janet Phillip's sampler with her which she'd woven in a finer cotton (10/2?), and mercerised instead of plain. I think the colours were pink and slate (blue/grey). It was very pretty, looked rather different but it had worked well. So, anyone who's been worrying about not having the specified yarn, please don't worry anymore, just use what you have.

Meanwhile, if you're in the area, I (and spinning wheel) will be at the exhibition in Styal on Sunday 14th.

And also just now... I'm knitting socks, spinning yarn from wool dyed with nettles, and winding a warp for a colour sampler. (Or should it be called a colour "gamp"? Must look that word up.)