Sunday 24 August 2008

A couple of new weaving books

I have bought two more weaving books. These are not books that I needed. They do not really add anything to my weave book collection and don't tell me anything I didn't know... but I think most of you know that I am a great bibliophile and can't resist a good book.

That being said, I've made a resolution not to buy any more weaving / spinning / dyeing books this year and instead to start saving up in case I want to extend my loom equipment or buy a new loom next year. I'm already struggling with this resolution, but I know it makes sense. (I shall console myself with a list of the books I'm not buying and a list of new loom equipment - don't ask how much I spent on books since 2008 began, it would be a serious contribution to the cost of a new loom!)

My new books are:

The Big Book of Weaving, by Laila Lundell & Elizabeth Windesjo, published by Collins and Brown, in the UK in 2008
(an English translation of a Swedish book published in 2005). ISBN 978-1-84340-456-9, £16.99.

Weave Structures the Swedish Way - volume 1, by Ulla Getzmann, translated by Becky Ashenden, published by Vav Stuga Press, 2006.
(No ISBN, sold in UK by Fibrecrafts £25.20, in US by Vavstuga.)

The Big Book of Weaving.
(sub-title is Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials.)

This is a beginners book and I wish I'd had this when I started weaving. It is very good on parts of the loom, how to assemble a loom from a box of bits (the loom featured looks like a Glimakra counterbalance) and how to get a warp on your loom. The diagrams are superb, the text concise and precise.

Just a word of warning here - it does not include jack looms - only counterbalance and countermarche systems.

Although I am not working through this book as a beginner, I am fairly confident it has everything a beginner needs to get weaving interesting cloth. It's got yarn choice, project planning, yarn calculations, washing and finishing. There are several attractive and useful projects using a good range of traditional Swedish techniques - including (as well as the more usual blanket, scarf and cushion fabrics) a rya rug, a rep rug, lacy cotton curtains, a paper yarn screen, a bag with beaded panels, and some fancy inlay weaving techniques. These projects are described in full detail making it easy to work out what you need to do to produce each item.

Mmm. I shall definitely take up some of these - there's some very attractive bathroom mats and I fancy a large alpaca shawl.

Now although I say this is the book I wish I'd had when I started weaving, if you're a beginner you might like to use Deborah Chandler's Learning to Weave book. Many, many people have learnt to weave with this book. Many people like it a lot. I learnt to weave with it and I didn't like it at all. I didn't like the way it was written and found it hard to read and understand, learning as I was all on my own at home. I borrowed it from the library and took it back as soon as I could manage without. BUT in fairness I did learn some useful stuff in spite of not liking it and there's no getting away from the fact everyone else seems to like it.

I have often mentioned Peggy Osterkamp before. I wish I'd had her books from the outset too. Superb for tips "how to.." and problem solving.

Weave Structures the Swedish Way - volume 1.

Volume 2 is not translated into English, I asked the publisher when my book arrived as I wondered if I was missing something. Especially as this is an expensive book to buy from Fibrecrafts, at £25.50, and although beautifully bound and produced, it's only a thin book of 35 numbered pages.

If you're a beginner weaver, this book is superb for describing with absolute clarity the different weave structures you need to know about.

But would I advise you to buy it? Not if you haven't already bought Anne Dixon's book The Handweaver's Pattern Book (or Handweaver's Pattern Directory in the US edition). Get Anne Dixon first because her book is superb, it's about so much more than just weave structure, and is much better value for money. Also excellent are Mary Black's Key to Weaving (out of print, but widely available 2nd hand) and Janet Philip's books.

And if you have 8 shafts on your loom you should make sure you have one or both of Eight Shafts a Place to Begin by Wanda Jean Shelp and Carolyn Wostenberg and A Weaver's Book of 8 Shaft's Patterns edited by Carol Strickler. Both these books explain how weave structures work as well as giving examples.

If you are seriously interested in weave structures and not intimidated by heavyweight books, look on the ABEbooks web sites for: William Watson, Advanced Textile Design (first published 1912, several re-prints) and Harry Nisbet, Grammar of Textile Design.(Published 1906, my copy cost me £40).

But wasn't I writing about Weave Structures the Swedish Way? Yes, but beyond saying it covers all the important weaves, is beautifully laid out, easy to read and understand and I'm very pleased to have a copy, there isn't anything to add. Except that there are no photos of cloth inside the book, they are on the cover and an indexed diagram takes you to the page describing the weave. Simple but effective. If it was half the price I'd say this book was a "must have", but at the price I paid it's a luxury.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Colour and Weave

... or Color and Weave for those of you over the Atlantic.

I'm just taking a break from sleying my reed. My latest sampler which is a colour and weave experiment takes nearly the full loom width. It occured to me that it's a good idea going out to maximum width on a sampler before I try it for something special, so that's something extra that I'm getting out of this project.

I wanted to stop and write about what colour and weave is, before I start telling you about the sampler. I kept hearing the phrase "colour and weave" and people saying things about "colour and weave sampler" but I really didn't know what it meant. It didn't seem to come into the books I was reading, and I hadn't seen anything on the internet to help.

Then I picked up a book I'd neglected for months, Ann Sutton's "Color and Weave Design - A Practical Reference Book" and it dawned on me that this book is mostly photographs of a colour and weave sampler. I took that as my starting point. I have followed the same colour pattern she uses.

It goes, in two inch sections:

1 white / 1 blue
1 white / 2 blue
1 white / 3 blue
1 white / 4 blue

2 white / 1 blue
2 white / 2 blue
2 white / 3 blue
2 white / 4 blue

3 white / 1 blue
3 white / 2 blue
3 white / 3 blue
3 white / 4 blue

4 white / 1 blue
4 white / 2 blue
4 white / 3 blue
4 white / 4 blue

I've threaded in a straight 1-2-3-4 pattern. I'm using plain green selvedges and a couple of green threads between each section. My selvedges are "crammed" as per Janet Phillip's sample blanket, from shafts 1-4: alternate threads are doubled in the heddles, 2-1-2-1 on one side and 1-2-1-2 on the other.

I had started preparing this sampler before I got to reading all my other books. I dug into the bookshelf again this week as I was thinking about where to start writing about colour and weave.

A good start is a definition, so here's one from "A Textile Terminology" by Dorothy K. Burnham:

Colour and weave effect - The form or pattern produced by a weave in combination with the order in which two or more colours are used for warp and weft.

And a useful phrase from "Handweaving and Cloth Design" by Marianne Straub:

"When weaving with contrasting colours, the relationship between the weave construction and the warping and picking plan forms the basis from which many strongly patterned cloths can be designed."

Marianne Straub has only a short section on the subject, but interesting, as she shows the same alternate one black and one white thread order with three different threading and treadling patterns producing three very different results.

The new "Handweaver's Pattern Book" by Anne Dixon (a.k.a Handweavers Pattern Directory) doesn't have a separate colour and weave section, as the different possible colour effects are shown for every pattern on every page. Super book!

I was planning to weave my sampler with 16 different thread patterns in two colours across the warp, and then the same 16 colour patterns in the weft in first plain weave and the 2/2 twill. This is what Anne Sutton shows in her book. But now I have discovered another sampler plan in "Designing on the Loom" by Mary Kirby and I'm wondering how far I can adapt my plans to include more patterns. Wish I'd put a longer warp on!

Mary Kirby has 8 different threading sections, using light and dark warp, and 23 different treadling patterns, including chevron, herringbone, hopsack, 1/3 and 3/1 twills, Bedford cord, tabby and twill combined. Maybe I'll have to wind another warp to try this out!

However, by far and away the most comprehensive study of colour and weave, although not a "how to weave your sampler" book, is William Watson's "Textile Design and Colour". This is a classic text book, first published in 1912 (I have a 6th edition copy, from 1954). If you can cope with reading pdf files you maybe able to download a copy from the Online Archive (see my list of web site links) having said this, I can't access the archive today, I do hope this is a temporary internet problem.

William Watson has written a long chapter on colour and weave, which starts simple and gets more and more complex. I can't read right through it yet, it moves beyond my mental grasp for now. But this is good stuff and it is a very well written book.

So, back to where I started again, why weave this sampler?

Ann Sutton says:

"... colour-and-weave effects are some of the most important and accessible in the weaving world. The fashion cloth industry uses them extensively.... "

"Handweavers, concerned with the restrictions on the numbers of shafts (harnesses) available to them for patterning, can make great use of these effects... and can produce thousands of dynamic cloths and colour mixes."

However, she goes on to say:

"Many beginner weavers are set the task of weaving a colour-and-weave sampler at the start of their training. It is tedious work for a beginner, and although it should build up an understanding of the way in which colour order in warp and weft can relate to the weave structure, it is often abandoned, unfinished, in favour of other projects."

Hmm. Give up half way? Not me! So must get back to sleying that reed....

And for those of you who couldn't face such a large project, here's a link to a very pretty and useful colour and weave sample woven by Judy.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

A small cotton chenille sampler

After my twill sample blanket was off the loom, I had a couple more metres of warp to use. I'd been quite generous with allowing extra - the sample blanket is 3m long, loom waste on my Toika Norjanna requires 1.5m and I'd made a warp of 6m just in case anything went badly wrong and so there was plenty to play with.

After a couple of days of thinking about trying different patterns, or a different colour weft, I just picked up the nearest interesting yarn which was a cotton chenille from Traub (via Fibrecarfts, UK stockist of Traub yarns).

It's a white yarn, and my warp for the sample blanket is a natural cotton (nearly white) with a couple of green threads diving the different weave threadings. White on white was not going to show the patterns the same as the blue weft I used before, but I wanted to explore texture, so white was going to be fine.

I wove the first 9 sections of Janet's twill sample again, which include plain weave, 2/2 twill, point twill, 3/1 and 1/3 twill. Then I wove a couple of patterns from later on in her sampler - bedford cord and a weft faced rib.

The result was at least as interesting as expected, and has a lovely soft towel feel. Close up there's some very interesting textures. I thinking now about weaving patterned towels with coloured chenille (or whtie plus coloured bands) on a warp of either the 2/6 cotton (which works very well) or a cotton/linen yarn.

The textures look a little like soft snowfall over fields or the garden, you know that soft bumpy look as it lies over plants, hiding them from view?

It feels so soft, this is the first time I've woven anything soft to touch and I love it.

I'm now winding a warp for a colour and weave sampler, in the same 2/6 natural and royal blue cottons I used for Janet's sample blanket. But I thought you'd like a peak at the colourful yarns I have lined up for the following project, which will be a sampler to look at colour interactions.

The following pictures are for Peg. I think I was astounded to discover how low humidity is where Peg lives as she was to discover how high it is in Derbyshire, England. I just checked our humidity meter, it is 82% at the moment. It has been fairly cool today, only 15.3 degrees centigrade when I went out just before 1 p.m. today. We did get temperatures up in the mid 20s last week, when the sun shone for a few consecutive days, but on the whole this has been a cool, wet summer.

We live on the west side of the southern end of the Pennine chain of hills that run like a spine down the centre of northern England. Much of our weather comes from the west. The prevailling winds blow air from the Atlantic across the Cheshire plain and then the air reaches our hills and is forced to rise (we live at around 700 feet above sea level.) As it rises, the air cools and there is condensation. Similar climates are found in Ireland and Wales, western Scotland, New Zealand and Japan.

Hence this view from my window one morning last week, fairly typical weather:

We were in the clouds that day, so it was misty, and raining as well.

This photo (above) is one I took last October. This was a morning that started hazy, with cloud resting down in the valley (sometimes we are in sunshine, looking down on the cloud). The sun is coming through now and the haze is evaporating, later on it would be a clear, sunny day.

The following pictures are all taken when I was out on walks in summer 2005 in the Peak District National Park (all within about 10 miles of home).

Saturday 2 August 2008

Fixing threading and treadling errors

Where does time go? Over a week since my last post, and I've had these photos saved on blogger, waiting for me to write about them for nearly 4 weeks... there's never enough time for everything I'm trying to do!

More sample blanket pics - or as a review of Janet's book in the latest Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers suggests it will come to be known: "The Phillips Blanket".

So, where am I up to? I'm about to start winding a warp for a colour and weave sampler. I have purchased yarns and made plans for the sampler after that one - which is simply a colour sampler. Should have some fun photos when I get weaving!

Firstly, a threading error, in the middle of the warp, spotted when I was reviewing the first few inches weaving.
It was just right of centre. I contemplated re-threading, but threading for this blanket is complicated and there were 4 other perfectly threaded pattern sections that I would have to re-thread in order to access this one.

Surgery seemed the best option. A more complicated job than I had ever tried before. I cut out the affected threads close to the front apron rod, pulling them back out of the woven cloth.
I took them, one at a time out of the heddles, and made new heddles out of bright red cotton. Why red? so it was easier to see what I was doing when tying them onto the shafts and easier to check everything was in the right place afterwards. Last time I did this task I used white thread and found it difficult to see - here's what I wrote about it, with photos.

And here is a red replacement heddle, on the correct shaft. I found it easiest to tie the knots for the centre first (carefully matching the size of heddle eye so it was about the same as the texsolv heddles), then tie the knot over the top shaft and weight the heddle with a metal bulldog clip - you can just see it in the photo below, before getting under the loom tie tie the bottom ends below the lower shaft.
This job required patience - six new heddles to make and carefully position, working around a warp on the loom. Then, I threaded the warp ends back through and used a needle to stitch them back (at a good tension) into the woven cloth header in the correct position.

Later, as I worked my way through the 50 different treadling patterns, on a few occasions I made treadling errors. In some cases, where I spotted them within a few picks, I simply un-wove and re-wove.

On other occasions I cut my way back through an inch or so of weft threads, cutting just inside the selvedge and pulling the weft out, and then re-wove.

But I also experimented with cutting out odd wrong picks and sewing a new weft through the warp. This picture shows an error I decided to correct that way, it's just about in the centre of the photo:

Stitching like this is a fiddly business and strains the eyes, unless you have very good light and remember to look up and rest your eyes every now and then:

The result was reasonably neat:

However, I decided that unless it is a long way back in the weave it is quicker to cut the wefts out and re-weave them. But, at least I know I can do it if I want to - with this weight of yarn, which is fairly thick (6/2 cotton).

I had some trouble with slack selvedges, I am sure the cause of this was careless, slack, handling of the yarn when I was winding it on the warping board. I wound the green selvedge thread sections the night before I took my old cat to the vet for the last time, and it's clear that I was struggling to concentrate on the job.

By the time I'd woven half the blanket, there was a small amount slack one side, and the other was quite loose. At the back beam of the loom, I jammed a shuttle bobbin under the threads on one side and a piece of wood under the threads on the other. I've used weights for the same task before (which I hang off the threads below the warp beam) but this worked very well and seemed easier.

I enjoyed weaving the sampler blanket - it looked super on the loom, the more I weave, the more I want to weave!