Monday 21 January 2008

Weaving plans for 2008

I'm at a decision point again. With my weaving so far, I pick a goal and then work towards it, then I slow up and have to think what I want to do next. So far, I have only woven samples. I've joked about this a bit, with kind friends, because I feel I'm not properly weaving yet and I'm a bit embarrassed when anyone asks what weaving I do. But I don't want to spoil good yarn weaving things I'm not happy with, and there are still several things I want to explore.

So, here where the road ahead seems to split two ways - I could weave some finished goods using what I have learnt, or I could carry on working on samples and getting to know different weave structures. I do badly want to produce something useful now, and I know I could weave a collection of towels or scarves - but I have decided to stick to the weave samples. Why? Largely because I find that I am building a stash of yarns, and the yarns I have amassed are not suitable for the things I think I might weave, and I don't want to buy more yarns at the moment. I have to manage my spending better for a few months, so it makes sense for now to carry on using the mercerised cottons that I bought for samples.

At the same time, I have a large pile of books on weaving that I intend to read! It would be a good idea to read them now - before I buy more books. I will just allow myself one more for now - Peggy Osterkamp's Winding a Warp. I started ringing around UK suppliers to find a copy this morning, but most of them seem to close on Mondays. I always want to start new projects on Mondays, so this is a little frustrating!

I have started to read properly through Madelyn van der Hooght's The Complete Book of Drafting. She gives clear instruction that this book is supposed to be read from start to finish, and not skipped through. I struggled with this yesterday. My eyes wanted to skip about the page. So I went back to the early school reading technique, got a piece of blank paper and covered up the page below the bit I was reading. Simple, but it does work.

The longer term plan is: read all through Madelyn's book and work on the design exercises.

I think there's a couple of weave structures I should look at in particular, overshot, which I didn't like at all when I first saw it and yet has grown in appeal since I realise there are many different ways to use it. I also want to do some crackle weave, partly so I can follow Peg's work with crackle better.

Then, I want to go onto a particular weave structure I've wanted to try since I got my loom - doubleweave. I have an ambition to weave a wool blanket in twill doubleweave (to get the extra width) from handspun yarn. I will have to work on my spinning too if I am to achieve this. I want to use a mix of natural wool colours and dyed yarns together. This is my big ambition - to get the spinning, dyeing and weaving to come together at last.

There, now I've put this down to publish on my blog, I'll have to try and stick with it. - sigh! - ignoring other temptations. But I have to have a bit of a plan if I'm going to make sense of what I'm doing - and eventually get that blanket woven.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Finding, and purchasing, good reference books

Sometime ago, I don't recall when, I identified through references and discussions on the internet that I would find a copy of Sharon Alderman & Kathryn Wertenberger's book Handwoven, Tailormade (pub. Interweave Press, 1982, ISBN 0-934025-08-4) interesting and useful.

I learnt to weave because I learnt to spin, and wanted a use for the yarn. Having got that far, I realised that weaving is about producing cloth, but if you don't learn to make up garments (and don't know someone who will do it for you) the product of your weaving gets limited to flat pieces of cloth for things like mats, rugs, towels. I have a good sewing machine, and have made a couple of garments before from my own design & patterns, so I hope to move on to weaving the cloth and then designing and making up garments from my own cloth.

The only publications I know of in print on the subject of making garments from your handwoven cloth are, if you can find them, some of the Handwoven Design Collection booklets and Dorothy K. Burham's "Cut my Cote", pub. Royal Ontario Museum. I have "Cut my Cote" which is a useful small guide to traditional loom-cloth shaped garments (i.e. minimum cutting up of the cloth). I was looking for more information, to help me get from choosing suitable yarns and designs to the finished garment.

I have eventually got myself a copy (today!) of Handwoven, Tailormade though making use of the abebooks "wants" facility. If you search for a particular book and don't find it, you can "create a want". This sits on your abebooks account, and if a book matching the description you have given turns up, then abebooks sends you an e-mail. I requested this book so many months ago that I had quite forgotten until the e-mail came. I rang up the seller, and discovered she was selling a large collection of books amassed by herself (a spinner/sewer) and husband (a weaver). We had a good chat, sorted out payment, and soon the book was with me. I am very pleased with it. It is full of information, much more text than pictures. It explains how to approach every aspect from the design to the weaving to the garment making. It is chatty and friendly in style, so although the text looks dense and dull at a first glance, when you get reading it is superb.

I'd also like to have Betty Beard's Fashions from the Loom, and Anita Mayer's Clothing From Hands that Weave, and the same seller has these, but I have in my mind a clear idea of what I am prepared to pay for the book including the postage cost, and her prices are much too high for me. I could get them cheaper, if I order from sellers in the U.S. But I can wait for these books. I have to bear in mind that there are other books I'm interested in, and I need buy yarn to keep weaving, and I might want more shuttles and possible loom parts this year. I've been buying books faster than I can read them recently, you may have noticed!

So, it's time to create a couple more "wants" at abebooks - you can specify maximum price - and then sit back and wait.

for the UK:
and the US:

Saturday 12 January 2008

A replacement heddle

This is the last of set the photos I took when I was weaving during my Christmas holidays. When I had got my warp on the loom, and started weaving, after a few inches I thought the pattern looked odd in places. The weave structure was an advancing twill and the threading doesn't use alternate odd and even shafts, so my tabby (plain weave) treadles didn't work. I normally weave a header in plain weave and this makes it easy to spot most errors made in threading and sleying the warp.

This is the first error I spotted: I had used a heddle on the wrong shaft. The texsolv heddles do not undo - I looked really closely because if it had been possible to untie it I could have simple moved the heddle. I contemplated for a while the idea of cutting the warp off and then re-threading. I felt really depressed by that idea. It would take me ages.

Then I remembered reading somewhere, probably first in Osma Gallinger Tod's Manual of Helpful Hints for Handweavers, the solution of making a new heddle and tying it on the correct shaft. I got a couple of lengths of warp cotton and tied two overhand knots for the heddle eye, then tied it on the top shaft. Tying on the bottom shaft I didn't manage so easily. I did this from sitting under the loom and reaching across. Big mistake. I pulled a muscle in my back that stopped me weaving for a couple of days. It didn't help that I managed to tie the heddle to the wrong shaft first go, and used a knot that wasn't easy to undo. I consulted my friends in the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers about this - and received the useful suggestion that on some looms you can use a paperclip around the bottom shaft. Well, my shafts are too wide for that - but the concept in this suggestion, of a loop around the bottom shaft to tie on to is a great idea. A slack loop of knotted thread would work fine - next time. Anyhow, I was rather proud of my achievement in getting this new heddle made and getting rid of the mistake without having to cut the whole warp off, so I took these commemorative pictures.

One new cotton heddle, ready for service!

And, next picture, the single cut thread is knotted to a length of (red) thread for attaching into the woven cloth. I had no problems with this, I didn't know that new heddle was there once I got weaving and the tension of the thread was as good as the rest of the warp.

A second problem: after weaving a few more inches, I had to use the cutting-off and sewing back into the cloth method again when I found I had two other threads in the wrong order.

Once again, this solution worked perfectly.

Friday 11 January 2008

Warping up again

I've been putting a new warp on my loom this afternoon, and thought it's about time I wrote about these photos I took of my previous warp. The first shows my new raddle. I made this with a spare lath bought when I was making loom aprons, with some 30mm (1 1/2") stainless steel panel pins. I marked out 1/2" points and tapped the pins in, so the intervals match the other raddle I use at the front of the loom when winding the warp on, and behind the shafts when threading. This little raddle is to be used clamped onto the back beam for keeping a nice even warp spread as I wind on.

It works a treat! It doesn't seem to make the least difference that I didn't get the pins all perfectly upright - the main thing is they are exactly at the 1/2" point.

The next new thing I tried out is the reed position suggested by Cally for sleying. I had to think about this a bit, the sides of my loom are too far apart and too low to rest the reed on, but there, ready to hand was the box I rest my treadles on when tying them up, and another handy box that my new boots came in.

I've been working on my lashing on technique as well. Thanks to encouraging words from Peg. I was going to give up on this, I was so sure it wasn't going to work for me. Peg's offer of help left me feeling obliged to have another go - and I'm glad now that I did, because I made it work well this time.

I wanted to use a knot that would not skew the thread group sideways. So, instead of the overhand knot I used before, I tied my threads with a slip knot. I did this by starting with the threads wrapped over my finger, and my finger at 90 degrees to the warp. This terminated the warp with a knot that held all the threads at equal tension and provided a flat knot for the lashing cord to wrap around.

The next, small, change that made a big difference was that I wrapped the lashing cord through the thread groups without pulling it up tight until all the groups were lashed. This photo is a bit small, but the warp apron and warp rods are resting on the knee beam of the loom.

I must go now, I need to eat my tea early as I am intending to get to along the Alsager Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers meeting tonight. I'm taking my double treadle Timbertops Leicester and some North Ronaldsay wool with me - more about this anon!

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Warp preparation

Here are a few pictures and notes with a little change I've made to the way I prepare a warp. All credit to Peggy Ostercamp, again.

I think everyone learning to weave should have her books, I'm now looking at getting hold of the one I don't have - the first - on Winding a Warp. It isn't in the stock lists of the UK suppliers I've looked at yet, so I will have to choose between ordering from abroad or a special order with a UK supplier. Sigh. Last time I got a book by special order it took 3 months. I might place an order with Canadian supplier Camilla Valley Farm. I love their web site! They have all sorts of lovely things for weavers and spinners, and the most wonderful booklist for weavers, spinners and knitters with really helpful book reviews. The problem is, if I order from them I know I will end up ordering more than just the one book because they have several titles not usually offered in the UK. I need to think about whether I can afford to do this.

Now, back to the preparation of my warp, which is done on an Ashford warping frame.

What I used to do is to tie four bows in linen warp thread to preserve the cross in the warp for my lease sticks.

What follows bellow is just a simpler method to achieve the same thing, and it worked beautifully.

The linen yarn was threaded through one side of the cross, back through the other and the ends then knitted together, making a continuous loop.

Then one end of the loop is pulled through the other end - less work, and it did the job beautifully! You can pull on the long loop to lift the top thread groups and open up the warp cross to put the lease sticks in.

I was so keen to get the lease sticks in that I nearly forgot the little bows I tie by the last peg on the warping frame.

These help me to ensure that the apron rod goes in exactly the end of the warp. I think it saves time and fuss later to have the end of the warp marked in this way.

This lovely green warp was for my Christmas holidays weaving. I chose the colours of holly leaves and berries - red weft on the green warp. You can see what I was weaving in my eariler post of 6/1/08 about advancing twills.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Advancing Twills

I have been taking part in a workshop on "Advancing Twills" with the Online Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, taught by the Stacey Harvey-Brown. This is the third weaving workshop I have done with the Guild, the previous ones were "Beginner's Lace Weaving" and "Summer and Winter". These are the only weaving classes I have participated in.

The Online Guild uses the "Yahoo Groups" service. This enables communication via private group e-mails and provides file space where members of the group can post up and download computer files and photographs. The instructions for workshops come via e-mail as well as in downloadable pdf or word documents, and posting up photos enables members to show their work.

With many of the workshops I have participated in, I've started off slightly curious and found myself drawn into trying new things as other people discuss the workshop in their e-mails and post up interesting photos. This has led to me learning to spin cotton and silk, use natural dyes from plants around the garden, knit socks, and try out the different weaving structures, as mentioned above.

So, back to the Advancing Twills. I started off using an advancing threading pattern and the same advancing pattern in the treadling, the pattern being (1-2-3-4-5, 2-3-4-5-6, 3-4-5-6-7, 4-5-6-7-8, 5-6-7-8-1, 6-7-8-1-2, 7-8-1-2-3, 8-1-2-3) continuously repeated.

I wove with 12/2 mercerised cotton from William Hall & Co. I tried setting it at 30 epi (3 ends per dent in a 10 dpi reed). I thought this would be good because I'd used 24 epi in this thread for my summer and winter and my lace weaving. However, the patterns didn't work at this sett, the cloth was too soft and the pattern indistinct and a bit lost. So I tightened up to 36 epi, using a 12 dpi reed.

I planned my work in a simple weaving software package called Weave Design this is a useful piece of software, but much more basic than the well known Weavepoint or Fibreworks programmes. A disadvantage is un-helpful when it comes to advancing twills is that it does not, as some of the other programmes do, calculate the longest float length. I found that some of the twill designs that looked great on paper had horrendous long floats on the back when woven! Particularly problematic were some tie-ups I'd used before for plaited twills.

This however, show one of the most successful patterns I wove, which had a mix of plain weave (i.e. over one, under one) and 2-2 twill (over two, under two).

The diagonal pattern and kind of squares occurring along that diagonal were typical of all the patterns I tried with this threading and treadling. I think it would be great for working with different colours where you want them to gradually change from one shade to another, e.g. with yellow-orange-red-dark plum red in the weft against a black or dark brown warp.

Sorry I don't have a picture of the weave design, however the following details would enable you to weave this pattern.

The lifted shafts were,
1st treadle: 1,2,5,6
2nd treadle: 1,4,5,8
3rd treadle: 4,5,7
4th treadle: 2,3,6,8
5th treadle: 1,2,5,7
6th treadle: 1,4,6,8
7th treadle: 3,5,7
8th treadle: 2,4,6

I said before the plaited twills had some long floats when used in this way. Well, here's one that didn't. Something else happened, something very strange....

Can you see some areas of the weave look denser than others? Well those areas that look losely woven, like about half the thread density ARE loosely woven at half the thread density. This wasn't so obvious on the loom, but when the cloth was off the loom and washed it was very obvious.

I had woven my first double weave cloth - entirely by accident!

Those sections that look looser consist of two separate layers in a loose plain weave.

In the excitement I muddle up my drafts and now I don't know what the pattern for this was!!! It was originally a draft for a plaited twill. I'm intending to look at double-weave by myself in the future and I hope that when I do I will be able to work out what pattern this was wove from - and why it happened.

So would I use this pattern again (when I have worked out the draft)? I might do. I think it would work better in a softer yarn, and could be useful for a wool scarf, where the pockets of double weave would make it more efficient at holding warmth around your neck on a cold day.

Moving on from this, I wanted to try some really fancy patterns. After many try-outs that didn't look right, many weary hours at the computer when I finished by switching off without feeling I'd got anywhere and saying, well, maybe tomorrow, I eventually came up with these. But first, I had to go back to "The Best Of Weavers Twill Thrills" to read, re-read and get to understand how they might work. These patterns use a 4 end repeat with point sections. The threading pattern is: the 4 end repeat 1-2-3-4, 2-3-4-5,3-4-5-6,4-5-6-7,5-6-7-8 then 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 and back to 8-7-6-5, 7-6-5-4, 6-5-4-3, 5-4-3-2, 4-3-2-1, and repeat across the warp. The treadling pattern was an image of this (i.e. "tromp as writ").

Here you see the patterns produced by two different treadle tie ups.

These patterns are rather pretty, they'd look good in silk for a waistcoat (U.S. vest), or as upholstery fabrics (though personally I don't like furnishings with small pattern repeats).

And, encouraged by this success I went on to weave more variations of these designs, with different treadling patterns and also with use of two different colour blue threads in the weft.

Just to finish, I'd like to highly recommend the Online Guild, and also the book mentioned above,
The Best of Weavers - Twill Thrills, ed. Madelyn van der Hoogt, pub. XRX Books, 2004, ISBN-10: 189376219X, ISBN-13: 978-1893762190.

Friday 4 January 2008

Pirn winding

I had prepared photos for a post about how I wind my pirns before I received this query from Kim:

"Dorothy, having just received one of these from my dear husband for Christmas, it would be wonderful if you could discuss using an end feed shuttle. Do I wind the pirn differently then I would a bobbin on a boat shuttle? How do I trouble shoot my weaving using the end feed shuttle?"

As a fairly new weaver I'm not the very best source of information, but I'm happy to share what I know - and then advise looking at any of the books listed at the end of this post.

For a description in words: you start need to start winding near the wide end of the pirn. I will cover the first couple of inches with one layer of thread, then I work backwards and forwards to build it up, and gradually move down the pirn, building up the yarn in a wedge shape. You don't want to fill all the space available in the shuttle or the yarn will jam, so your "yarn package" is going to need to fit comfortably within the shuttle.

Aside: I'd like to give you a diagram or a photo about how to fill the pirn with yarn, but I can't do that for the time being. Anyone reading my blog when I started out may remember I discovered I can't load pictures from my home computer. I still have to make a booking when the local library is open so I can use one of their computers to upload pictures.

It's important to wind tight, making a firm "yarn package", so the yarn only only unwinds when it is pulled from the shuttle, and so it pulls out evenly. When you get close to the tip of the pirn it is even more important that the layers are built up firm and even, so there is no danger of the yarn slipping of the end of the pirn(!). I use wooden pirns that came with my shuttles, and have not had problems with the yarn slipping, I don't know if the plastic pirns behave differently?

Although I've used medium to fine weight yarns with my shuttles without problems, they aren't suited to all yarns. Mine will not take thick yarns and I think most fancy yarns would catch in the tensioner - I've got a Schacht boat shuttle and various rug shuttles (the ski type is my favourite) for other types of yarn.

From my recent experience, the tension needs tightening if the yarn pulls out without effort. If you just pick up the shuttle and pull on the yarn, you should feel a resistence and it should slow and stop as you stop pulling. Watch as you weave a header, when it's right you should easily feel in total control of the way the weft lies through the warp.

I always have to remember a little rhyme my Dad taught me when adjusting the screw "right is tight, left is loose" (right being clockwise).

I started winding pirns with a quill spindle attatchment for my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel. When I sold that wheel, I had to come up with a homemade adaptation for my new wheel, a 2nd hand Timbertops Leicester. I used a piece of dowel which I shaped with a knife to make it fit the orifice of the spinning wheel and my pirns (which are of two different sizes). It clips in place with a little spring made from a paper clip, as you can just about see on the right of the first photo.

The second photo shows a pirn in place for winding, and although there is not much yarn wound you can see how I have avoided the very top of the pirn and just started to build up an even yarn package with a bulge at the top tailing off down the pirn. Peggy Ostercamp (see below) advises that a much steeper angle on the yarn is best for good tension.

The third and last photo shows off my beautiful spinning wheel.

What I really like about using the spinning wheel for winding pirns is that I have both hands free, making it easy to guide the thread. It is also very easy to control the speed the pirn is turning, so I feel in good control of the process.

The best books I have found for instructions for using end feed shuttles are:
Peggy Ostercamp, Weaving and Drafting Your Own Cloth (several pages of good information & diagrams) (buy from Peggy direct, or all good weaving suppliers).
Rachel Brown, The Weaving Spinning and Dyeing Book, (available from Fibrecrafts in UK, see below, also Amazon in UK and US).
Allen A Fannin, Handloom Weaving Technology (all editions very useful, the latest is available from in the U.S, Fibrecrafts in the UK).

Tuesday 1 January 2008

My workshop

These pictures didn't come out as clearly as I'd hoped, I think there's just too much too see in each image.

They both show the part of my workshop where I have my handweaving loom. The loom is very compact. It's an eight shaft Toika Norjaana, countermarche with an overslung beater. It is 5' 1" tall (155 cm) (I am 156 cm tall!), 45 3/4" (116 cm) wide, and 4' (122 cm) front to back. This just fits in under the sloping ceiling, leaving a space where I can stand in front of it without banging my head on the roof beam - but I have to warn all my visitors to mind their heads!

Behind the loom you will see my latest purchase of 12/2 cottons from William Hall & Co.*, I haven't found anywhere else to put them yet. On the right of this picture there's a pile of plastic boxes with yarn stashed in them.

I get lovely daylight through the two roof windows, one behind my loom and the other over my work table (right), however, in these photos taken after dark, you can see the beautiful light from a special flourescent tube, chosen for it's wide spectrum light (Polylux XL F58W/835). I have a more "daylight" type flourescent (Polylux F36w/860) over the worktable, which gives a rather bluish light. Both give enough good quality light that I can use them for photography without additional flash.

Here is a side view of the loom, I stood on a chair behind my worktable to get this view. Weaving books are piled up this side of the loom on top of a structural beam. Beyond my loom bench you can see a very useful set of shelves on which I pile all the odds and ends I need to hand, shuttles, pirns, scissors, temples, sample folders, etc., and my reeds and raddle are leaning against the wall.

On the floor behind the loom is a tray of dyed wool waiting to be spun.

This loom was my first loom, and it has proved a very good purchase. I sometimes think it would be useful to have a table loom as well, because they are portable and work differently so you can use them for weave structures my countermarche loom isn't suited too. Then, I also have days when I dream of drawlooms, or more shafts. The truth is - there's no space for even a small second loom and no room for a loom that is any bigger than this one. Other work spaces that you can't see house my two Timbertops Leicester spinning wheels and stash of fibre for spinning, and a writing desk.

I have found out that I could (affordably) get more shafts and treadles for this loom, get a 2nd warp beam for it, and a "shaft switching device" to enable fancy patterned rug weaving. All these have their temptations - but I must weave more (and reduce the yarn stash) before I can justify to myself the spending money on extra weaving equipment.


* William Hall & Co., 177 Stanley Road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheadle, Cheshire, SK8 6RF, England.
0161 437 3295 (no website).
Suppliers of handloom weaving and knitting yarns, plain & fancy, including their own plain and mercerised cottons, also suppliers of yarns from Holma-Helsinglands A.B. and Borgs Vavgarner A.B.

Toika Norjaana loom, bought 2nd hand, but originally supplied by the very helpful Don Porritt, of The Studio, Leathley Road, Menston, West Yorks, LS29 6DP, England (no website), tel: 01943 878329 and 874736, who has supplied me with reeds and other equipment.