Thursday, 17 July 2008

Along the way...

Here are photographs and some of the story of how I got my sample blanket woven. This special blanket was designed by Janet Phillips and the instructions for weaving it are in her new book Designing Woven Fabrics.

This was not only the widest warp I have used so far, but also the most complicated as the ten different weave structures had different numbers of threads and there are two green threads to separate each group. Most of the blanket is woven with 2/6 cotton yarn, but the last section is 2/12. I made myself a list of all the warp sections and ticked them off carefully as they were wound. I used a tie-on tag to name each warp section A - J (as in the book).

Once the sections were wound, I wondered how I was going to get everything on the loom in the right order. I decided to set the groups out on the floor in the correct order to start with, and then thread through the stick I was going to use to tie on to the back apron of the loom. See above. The red cotton ties I used to manage the warp show up clearly in this photo.

So far so good. Now how to get the warp on the loom. Hmm. slowly, I reminded my self, step by step. I pulled out the apron from the back of the loom and laid it on the floor, lined up the stick with the warp on and put the lease rods in the cross.

In order to tie the stick with the warp onto the stick in the apron rod with all equal length linen ties, I placed one on the other and then used a boat shuttle to tie around for consistency. It worked well. The tied loop slides easily off the pointed end of the boat shuttle and the size of the shuttle gave just the size of loop I was looking for.

The next stage where I stopped and scratched my head a bit was looking at the beautifully ordered warp lying behind the loom and wondering how to lift it and turn up and over to get it on the loom. The answer came in the form of one of those handy cotton bags that are sold as alternatives to plastic bags. I grouped the warp threads up in a bag and then it was easy to lift everything up and over onto the loom, before piling the warp on the shafts while I tied on the lease sticks and got the half-inch count groups into my half-inch raddle - see below. (All that green thread in the foreground is one of the selvedges.)
I was happy to be making steady progress.

Soon after I ran in to an unexpected difficulty. With narrow warps I had weighted groups of warp threads at the front of the loom with plastic bottles half full of water. These I have previously hung over the loom bench, winding a bit at a time as they lift from floor to the bench seat.

This time it all went wrong. It wasn't ideal that I was only able to wind a very short proportion of this long warp at one time. It was fatal to the method that the weight of the bottles when they were all off the floor tipped the loom bench over. Aggh!

I tried having the bottles further off from the bench and dragging them along the floor. This resulted in bottles leaking water all over the floor and soggy warp.

By now, I felt it was "one of those days". Gave up, slept on it.

Next day, I thought through the problem carefully. I did not want to have to ask for an assistant. On principle, it's a bad idea. I just want to get on and weave when I want to weave and not have to wait around for someone else. Yes I could ask this time but it was better to solve the problem properly.

So, I needed an alternative weight. How much weight? I put one of the pots of water on my scales and found it was 750g. Now that's a familiar sounding weight. Sounds a bit like the weight of some of my cones of yarn - and there's no particular problems with dragging some of those along the floor.

The also bring a touch of colour to the process! It worked a treat. Soon the warp was on the loom. Here you see how lovely it is looking. My special homemade 2nd raddle sits on the warp beam to give even spacing.

Now here's a new device. You may remember I have previously written of clamping the warp on the back beam to prevent the threads slipping while I thread the heddles and reed. I had found that pressing the warp between a stick and the warp beam was causing it to dig into the beam. I don't want to make thread grooves in the beam. I reasoned that something was needed as a cushion to apply friction (rather than just force). So I fitted a rubber draught excluder strip on my clamp stick.


Something else I tried out was individual nylon yarn ties for tying on thread groups at the front of the loom. There's a technique using shoelaces I seem recommended, and I put this together with a suggestion that nylon cord was good because it lasted well and could be used again and again.

Unfortunately it is also slippery, and unties itself.

So, I went back to my favourite linen warp yarn. It takes time to tie on lots of separate groups, but this is becoming my favourite technique as it is easy to undo an individual group to adjust the tension.

In the photo below I had woven in an inch of bulky chenille weft yarn, stopped and adjusted tension, then woven another half inch. The stick lying across the warp shows it was very close to being even all the way across. I can see just one section, 2nd from left, which is a little slack allowing the weft to beat in further. After re-tying the 3 groups concerned I'm ready to weave.


Irene Adler said...

That's all really interesting, thank you. You've given me lots of good ideas - I shall definitely be using your tip of clamping the warp on to the beam when threading the heddles, as my carefully wound warp always unwinds itself when I do this and that's so annoying.

Anonymous said...

What beautiful, even tension - I'm really impressed with your weighting scheme and it's results. Also intrigued to see that your warp beam goes the opposite way to mine - my warp traces an 'S' from the back beam to the warp beam, whereas yours makes a 'C'. I wonder what difference that makes to the weaving experience?

Anonymous said...

What a smashingly beautiful beaming job! Brava! for systematically tackling that big job, and perservering until it was done, and done right.



Anonymous said...

You've definitely given me a few ideas. Maintaining tension while warping is always a problem, and I'm still figuring out which parts are the loom and which parts are me. Being a very NEW weaver, it's not always obvious.