Friday 21 November 2008

Getting a warp onto the loom

Many thanks to Peg for the series of posts she has written this month showing how she prepares her loom for weaving.

The first one she wrote, on 3rd November gave me an idea. Peg uses a table behind her loom. When I first read this it slipped into the back of my mind. When I came to put a warp on my own loom last weekend, and I was thinking through the process, I remembered the table. So much easier than crawling around on the floor as I have done before now. But I don't have a handy little table.

After a bit of thought; loom bench - too low, wallpaper past table - too big, buy a new table - hmm, no; I looked around and saw my ironing board - perfect!
Peg also uses two wooden bars the length of the loom to hold the rod and lease sticks level. This won't work for my loom, but a solid support for the lease sticks is a big advantage, so I came up with this:
That cloth wrapped "table" is a combination of the cloth beam (the one that lifts woven cloth above my knees when I'm weaving) and a large raddle. I wrapped it to stop any thread groups dropping through the raddle gaps.

These new ideas saved lots of time and back ache (thanks for that, Peg!).

Here's the sequence I went through to get my warp on the loom.

First, end of the back apron is on the warp board under the warp, unattached at this stage is the apron rod threaded through the ends of the warp groups.

The warp groups were then spread in the raddle (clamped to the back beam)...
... and a peice of string tied along the top of the raddle pins to retain the warp in the raddle. I passed the warp forwards onto my "table" the other side of the back beam.

Then it was easy to thread the lease sticks thorough the carefully tied thread groups (above).

To tie the apron rod with the warp ends onto the back apron, I used my trusty little Ashford shuttle. This is just right for giving even length ties. See the next two pictures for how the rod at the end of the cloth is bottom of the pile, on top of it I place the rod with the warp, then the shuttle placed on top and a tie made of thick linen warp thread. I use bows because they hold tight but are quick to undo.
Moving to the front of the loom I was able to pick up my warp chains from the "table" and draw them forwards for weighting in front of the front beam while winding-on.
This is a close up of the raddle I was using on the back beam. After the comments on my last post about setting up the loom, I decided to make a new raddle with pins at 1/4 inch.
But I had tied the warp in 1/2 inch groups on the warp board. To begin with I spaced it in every other section, later when there was tension on the warp (with the chains weighted for winding-on) I split the groups into half.
This gave the most beautiful evenly spread warp for winding on.
Now for something different. When I visited my friend at Bolton Art Studios a few weeks ago, I bought (in aid of Studio funds) some odds and ends that had come from Bolton University who are very sadly giving up teaching weaving.

Here are some of the goodies, three old Dryad rigid heddles, a sley hook and a couple of threading hooks:
The little threading hooks are comfortable to hold and easy to use. Definitely an improvement on the 3mm crochet hook I was using before.

When sleying the reed, with it resting in front of the heddles, supported on carboard boxes on the sides of the loom, it occured to me an advantage of working this way is being able to see easily how many threads you have pulled through each reed section...
... and having a clear view back to the heddles to help avoid crossed threads between heddles and reed.
I say help avoid, because I still managed a few crossed threads. (!)

While tying-on the warp to the front apron, I made use of the new posts at the side of my loom (and more linen warp thread).
I used the larks head knots that I prefer but I have noted from Peg's writing that this doesn't work well with slippery silk threads, so when I get to weaving silk I shall try to remember that.
Related posts:

Colours and thoughts on looms
Setting up for colour and weave
Along the way

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Success: 14 treadles on my countermarch loom

My loom now has 14 treadles, all set up and working beautifully, the warp is on and I'll be weaving later tonight.

Here is part one of the story.

The difficulty with adding treadles is that, as Sue commented on my last post, it unbalances the loom unless you add shafts at the same time. The countermarch system doesn't have "balance" in the name, but it is all about good balance. The weight of the treadles is balanced by the weight of the shafts.

This is how the lams on my loom were behaving with 14 treadles in use and 8 shafts (I'm only going to weave on 4, but have some ties on the back shafts to lower lams to help with the balance):

Toika looms should have parallel lams, with equal spaces between treadle - lower lam - upper lam - shaft. The above arrangement was not going to work. So, next stage, down to the kitchen drawer and out with my trusty spring balance (originally bought for use in setting up cam tension on a Ducati motorbike I used to own!).

Going back to school physics lessons, I remember learning about balancing things and diagrams of seesaws with different length arms and different sized weights. I'm not sure I can explain in full, but the further you are from a pivot point the more leverage there is and the less weight is needed to get the arm to balance.

I started by moving the treadle weight closer to the pivot points. There are lots of extra holes in my lams and treadles. I moved treadle 1 to as close as possible to the lam pivot, and I also moved the shafts back relative to the treadles so they were closer to the treadle pivot.

Then to find out how much weight was needed to balance for the four new treadles we had added, we used a peice of string around the top lams and pulled down with the spring balance until the lam was in the level position. In the centre of the top lams, the balance read 7.5 pounds (it doesn't have a metric scale). At the outer end of the top lam it was 5 pounds.

We divided the weight by the number of shafts (8) and made up lead weights from folding lead flashing left from a roofing job. With a couple of holes drilled in the top of each weight they were easily hung under the end of the top lams. Note, for safe handling I shall be making tough cloth covers for the weights.

This shows the new position, see the weights at left hand end of the upper lams:
I've got a warp on now and have been using treadles 13 & 14 for plain weave. The action is beautiful and the shed a good 3 inches.

Now for a different kind of change to the loom. When I bought it, the previous owner had stuck adhesive numbers on the treadles, 1-10. Most of these have peeled off over time, I took off the last few and replaced them with a different labeling that I find easier.
I wrapped green thread around every 3rd treadle, red around every 4th, blue on 5 & 10. I'm better at reading colour and pattern than I am at numbers, I think this will work for me.

Some notes on tying up the treadles, I followed the system used by a friend who has a Toika loom modified to take 16 shafts - she's familiar with lots of shafts and treadles! Her tip was always start with the treadle nearest the lam pivot (the one I think of as number one) and work along. With the treadles not tied up supported (I've got a cardboard box to rest them on) you can see as you go along if one particular tie is putting the lams out of balance. Of course there are times when it is temporarily unbalanced, and you have to make a note of what changed the balance and decide how to counterbalance.

Here's another new tool. With less space under the loom, this time I tied the treadles from the front and was glad of a small homemade cushion:
My old cushion - the phone book - is still in place at the back of the loom in case I have to squeeze in to make changes with the warp on the loom:
One last tweak, the beater was just catching the new uprights on the loom frame when it was swung back, a little foam cushioning does wonders:

This is the warp I put on the loom, it's for another colour sampler:

and bobbins - ready to weave, but that is a story for my next post. Bye for now!

Monday 10 November 2008


It's late, and I'm tired, and I shouldn't be sitting up at the computer... but I wanted to tell you about the new treadles for my loom. I haven't got them yet, but they are promised. It all came out of a discussion after tea this evening about wood and woodworking and the progress of the new staircase, and I mentioned that if I had more treadles I wouldn't have to use the universal tie up for the weaving I'm doing at the moment. With 14 treadles you can tie up properly for plain weave, 2/2 twill, 3-1 and 1-3 twills on 4 shafts.

We had a look at how it will work, I've taken a treadle off the loom for a pattern, and now I am going around with a big grin, and I'm singing happy tunes to myself, and have started winding the next warp. I have every confidence in the household woodworker. He's building a beautiful staircase from sycamore, and a few bits for my loom can be managed out of the extra wood that came (we got most of the bole of a tree, the sawmill like you to take your own off-cuts!).

We'll see how this goes, but if the extra 4 treadles work well I'll think about whether / how we can fit more shafts. I'm not sure if I can have more and still have space and reach to tie up. But, I did have a tip from another Toika owner that the previous owner of her loom got 16 shafts in by making them strong and thin. With a good woodworker around, all sorts of things may be possible. We'll see. Do I need more shafts? Hmm, not really, I'm using 4 just now, but I'm keen to move on to double weave and for that half the shafts are used for each layer, so I might want more than 8.

Time I signed off, good night all. Hope you have good dreams too...

Sunday 9 November 2008

Eye for colour

As you can tell from previous posts about my weaving, I'm interested in learning about the use of colours in weaving.

My colour samplers taught me that some surprising colour combinations worked well together. It also taught me that the same colour combinations in a different weave structure seemed to behave differently.

I decided it was time to read more about how others understand colours and weaving.

One of my Aunts, a gifted painter who studied art in Edinburgh in the 1960s, told me of a famous weaver of the period, Bernat Klein, and a wonderful dress of his design that she had owned.

With a little research I soon learnt more. This link here will take you to a page from Heriot Watt University giving you a brief autobiography and a picture of one of his woven cloths. A brief summary: born 1923 Yugoslavia into a family in the textile trade, got to Scotland via Jerusalem having abandon Jewish religious studies for art and textiles. By 1962, had a weaving company in Galashiels, Scotland, employing 600 people and supplying top fashion houses. It is clear to me that the fabric of what I regarded as the classic Chanel look was Bernat Klein fabric. In fact, I have a couple of jackets in my wardrobe which clearly show the extent of his influence on fabric design.

Learn more by following this link to a Craft Scotland website article about a retrospective exhibition in 2006.

I found a second hand copy of his autobiography, "Eye for Colour", self-published in 1965 and much more than a life story. His life story is given as background to explain the development of his ideas on colour and design. He wants to make points about colour and design that he feels have not been made before, and these are given in the introduction.

[That:] "Colour conventions have always existed but that they change; and that modern painters have strongly influence our way of looking at colour not only in general and in relation to works of art but also in relation to our clothes and furnishings. The designing and the colouring of textiles is no less important than the designing of any other of the objects in daily use.

"Better results in this field could be achieved through a certain broad approach in the aesthetic and technical training of designers.

"People could be greatly helped in the choice and enjoyment of colour and design for their personal use if they thoroughly understood their own colouring and the relation to it of colour in general and were not swayed by any other considerations in their choice of colour."

I greatly enjoyed reading this book which is beautifully in a language that has many features of good narrative poetry - precise word choice; good sentence construction; a rhythm underlying the words as all the best storytellers have; the ability to describe a scene so the reader can imagine it.

There are also some great visual treats: the book ends with some of his paintings and the cloths developed from the paintings.