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.