Thursday 31 December 2009

Handwoven scarf, from the wool to finish

(Click on the photo to view at a larger size.)

Having decided red is a good colour for a scarf for my Mother, I went to Wingham wools and bought a collection of dyed merino tops. The rich shade they call "cherry red" became my starting point and reference for selecting the other shades.

I picked out a couple of reds darker than the cherry, then a pink, to balance the pink I chose pale and deep purples, and then the vibrant shocking pink seemed to add a highlight tone to set the others off, and having a touch of bluish tone it seemed to bridge the gap between reds and purples.

I didn't plan this carefully beforehand, I just had fun in the colour shed at Winghams, picking things up, comparing with the other colours and assembling a collection that seemed right.

I took 60g of cherry red, and then smaller amounts of the other colours, splitting each colour in half so each singles yarns would have the same proportions of the colours. For spinning, I pre-drafted two colours at a time, usually but not always cherry red plus one other.

Here's the start of the first bobbin (on a Timbertops spinning wheel).

... and this is what the full bobbin looked like -

Bobbin two went on a different lazy kate for plying, and I used my Ashford Traveller with a new jumbo bobbin and jumbo sliding hook flyer, which took the full length (nearly 200g) of plied yarn.
Looking at the picture above, on the left side of the lazy kate, you can see an odd dangling black thread, untidily tied in s bow. This is fine black elastic which I am using as a brake to prevent bobbin over-run (the situation where the bobbin spins freely unwinding yarn faster than it can be plied). It works. Any lazy kate can have a brake with this simple method. If you look again at the bobbin on the Timbertops built-in lazy kate, you will see I used the same there too.

Part way through plying -

I got the yarn spun, skeined, washed and hung up to dry. This is when I discovered that large skeins off jumbo bobbins take longer to dry! Whilst waiting (it took about 24 hours) I started to think about what to use for weft, and a weave pattern.

Originally I was going to use a different weft, I thought maybe a touch of orange with the cherry, or a deep red and cherry colour. I spun short samples and held them up against the skein, none were quite right. Then I looked at the great 200g skein and thought, well, there's enough yarn there already, and I know that the colours match.

After tea one evening, I sat down with my wool sample blanket and looked at the different patterns it offered. I wanted to be a little more adventurous this time, the scarves I wove early in 2009 used diagonal 2-2 twill and a simple wavy twill, but there are so many possibilities in weaving, what else might work? How about... square E20, 4 by 4 Broken Twill threading and a 2-2 twill and plain weave shaft lift pattern. This would enable the warp to be dominate in stripes, but the colours in the weft to show in between.

To determine the sett, I used this wooden square, wrapped threads around one way then thread a weft through with a needle, trying out plain weave and 2-2 twill.

The sett for the twill was working out at 12 epi, but tight. I decided to weave at 10 epi to get a looser structure that had enough flexibility that it could shrink when wet-finishing and still have a good handle and drape. I must say, I thought this would be o.k., but as I didn't have time to weave and wash a sample I wash a little nervous until the finished scarf came out of the washing water and looked right when it was hung-up to dry.

Just before we get to the scarf, here's the rich colour of the warp as I was setting up the loom.

...and the tiny amount of warp waste after I'd tied tassels both ends of the scarf, no more than 20cm total...

and the scarf!

Tuesday 17 November 2009


My Mike Crompton Band Loom has a new tension block in place and I'm weaving a trial band, this is the new block -
It's longer, and a better fit in the width than the original -

With a warp on the loom and the tension wound up tight, there is minimal sideways twist now,

We are also testing a guide plate on the side of the block, to counteract the tendency it had to tip forwards under tension, if it works this will get replaced with a smarter piece of wood that will extend behind (as well as before) the peg.

I'm also testing out a new bobbin. This is based on a bobbin photographed in the Swedish book I mentioned before,"Weaving Bands" by Liv Trotzig and Astrid Axelsson. You can see a similar bobbin used in this video by skapaegna on YouTube. This prototype is made from a scrap piece of Sycamore wood, using a spoke shave. (We'd like a woodturning lathe, but have no where to put one at the moment!)

I was going down with a cold on Friday when I wound this warp, and although I tried to follow a warping diagram I managed to make it asymmetrical, the main error was that the pale strip on one side is a blue thread and on the other side lavender, I quite like the result.

Here's a couple more links for band weavers, Laverne on her backstrap loom has uses selvedge techniques that are useful for band weavers, see the videos in her Weavezine article, and Ruth McGregor has a video demonstrating much the same method on YouTube.


I've also been enjoying testing out the latest addition to my collection of spinning wheels. This is a trusty, dependable little Ashford Traveller of which I am the third owner. My first spinning wheel, an Ashford Traditional, went to a new owner a couple of years ago, and I have often recalled wistfully how easy it was to use for anything I wanted to spin, how easy to carry and what an honest, simple design.

This wheel is a few years old, but has seen little use and is in beautiful condition. I particularly wanted a single treadle wheel and they are no longer available new from Ashford. I love the way I can carry it about with one hand, and it is the only wheel I have had which fits beautifully in the boot of my small Fiat car - it lies down flat behind the seats and I don't have to dis-assemble it at all, although it needs wrapping up and tucking in snug with a bit of packaging for safe travel. As I found that the Majacraft Suzie Alpaca was no lighter nor easy to carry than the Timbertops wheels, I'm particularly pleased to have a Traveller.

The cotton tape dangling from the tension knob holds the original Ashford threading hook. I think it would look prettier hanging from a new inkle band, maybe orange and red threads to match the rich colouring of the varnished Beech. wood?

Friday 6 November 2009

Inkle weaving news

I did eventually got a warp onto my Mike Crompton inkle loom. It's actually easier and quicker to warp up than the smaller Ashford inkle loom, because it's less fiddly. I can stand next to it and wind the warp as easily as using a warping board. I also found it comfortable to sit at for weaving, and light enough to move from one room to another depending where I want to work.

The photo in my previous post about this loom did not show this hand tray in the loom's frame.

While winding the warp, I found it more convenient to hang my scissors from the front of the loom tray. I think I should weave a band for them to hang from as my next project!

The next photo shows my current favourite band weaving tools. For weaving a narrow band I used a Schacht 10" stick shuttle, and my favourite cake knife as a beater. I know many weavers use the shuttle to beat, but I prefer a separate shuttle. I'm not sure why this works better for me, possibly because I use both hands equally and I know not everyone does, partly because I use the beater to open a sticky shed and this is easier if it doesn't have thread wound around it.

When I came to weave a wider band I found that the cake knife was too small, so I used the cardboard bobbin (a cut down boat shuttle bobbin that I can wind on my mechanical bobbin winder) and used the Schacht shuttle as beater.

After the first warp, I made the small addition to my loom of a drawing pin in the end of the first peg. I can catch the thread behind when I start to wind a warp loop, and as the pin is angled it sits securely and I can pick it up when the loop is complete to tie a knot. I don't use continuous warps because I found that the warp waste is increased when a loop that doesn't pass through the heddles becomes one that does.

This photo shows part of the tension device - a peg set into a block that winds along a nylon screw (you can see the screw on the right of this picture).
The knob for adjusting the tension is under the tray.

I like the fine adjustment that is possible with this device, however, I have woven two bands now and unfortunately found a problem. The block that the tension peg sits in is loose in it's channel and also 1mm narrower at one end than the other. With the high warp tension needed for inkle weaving, the force on the peg pulls the block sideways, so the peg is then at an angle which means the outer threads are looser than those near the frame. When I wove my second band (approx 2" wide) this was more noticeable than on the narrow band, and so for a temporary fix I used a plastic plant label to wedge in the gap (left side of the block), and a rubber band on the end of the peg to stop the warp loops slipping off when I slackened the tension to wind on.

Fortunately we happen to have a suitable piece of mahogony wood that can be used to make a better fitting block for the peg. It will be longer and have guides to keep it straight in the frame, so this loom is in the workshop for now.

Here is the warp plan for the first band off the loom, and the band itself shown below Once again, I was using linen and linen mix yarns from GTM Sales.

I was interested to discover that I get about 20-25 cm loom waste, which is actually the same as on my Ashford loom. This is how close I can get to the heddles at the end of the warp, I estimate that's 10cmmore than if I used continuous warp threads.

To finish the ends of a narrow band I stitched the weft back through the last couple of rows of weaving.

I have found that the ends of the wider band need a bit more attention, such as over stitching the end or tying knots to make tassles in the warp ends.

The band below was one I wove before on the Ashford loom, but as I wanted to weave another band with a similar design, and I hadn't made an acurate warp diagram, I had to go back to it, count the threads and draw the pattern out. I need to be more systematic about my inkle bands and keep good records if I want to repeat things!

Based on that, here's the plan for the second band off the Mike Crompton loom:

I'm really pleased witht he way the pattern worked. The same evening it came off the loom this band went into service as a dressing gown belt.

Having discovered that I really enjoy weaving narrow bands, and with the challenge of my new Henning Loom, I decided it was time I joined The Braid Society. I was able to go along to their A.G.M. in Manchester a couple of weeks ago to attend the afternoon talk and deliver my membership application in person. It's an international society and the list of members has various people whose names I know as experts who have written books.

Their biennial exhibition was on at the same venue as the A.G.M. and I saw some stunning pieces of work, I'm not sure if I am more inspired or challenged by them, but one thing is certain, I need to keep practicing and get my edges neater. I do want to improve my basic band weaving skills before I start using the Henning Band Loom for fancy patterned work.

My Braid Society membership pack arrived in yesterday's post, and I wore my new badge all day long! I'm enjoying reading the newsletter, Strands magazine, and bundle of information about the society and it's members. They have an online discussion list enabling all the international members to participate, so maybe I'll learn some tips for improving my edges.

Yes the floor loom is sitting by neglected, I'm having to do exercises to strengthen my feet and ankles before I warp up again, but weaving a few bands and indulging in weaving books are keeping me amused. I'll tell you about the books another day, there's a small library on the floor around my sofa and I have plenty of thoughts for book reviews.

Thursday 29 October 2009

Janet Phillips' sample blanket - in wool

I have woven Janet Phillips' sample blanket again!

I wondered why I was doing this, I thought of other things I could weave, but there's no getting away from it. The sample blanket in linen was very different from the same in cotton, and the only way to learn about these weave structures in wool and be able to compare the way it behaves to the way the other fibres work, was to wind the warp, thread up and weave. I'm certainly getting good value from Janet's book, Designing Woven Fabrics.

I am delighted that I pushed myself to do this. One of the things that is very different in wool, is that because it shrinks more the weaves with floats get wonderful bobble textures, and the effect in these woollen tweed yarns is like moss and wood. The Shetland wool yarns came from Fairfield Yarns, they are not repeatable as they are mill ends, but both Fairfield Yarns and Uppingham Yarns may have this type of yarn in stock and will send samples. It isn't a soft yarn, but would be great for upholstery or outer clothing such as a jacket or a lined skirt.

It's worth mentioning that I left out the wavy twill threading for the linen and wool samplers, as in the original cotton it was threaded in a different warp yarn half the size of the rest of the warp threads. However, there is still a wavy section in the treadle sequence.

I took a few of these close up photos, to give you an idea of what it's like. Many of the sections not photographed have very subtle classic tweed fabric look, differently lovely but harder to show in a photo.

Now, getting back to technical stuff, I left some bits out of telling you about weaving the linen sample blanket. It was the first time of my using a new method for tensioning the warp whilst winding on. I often see recommendations of Kati Reeder Meek's method for "Warping with a Trapeeze" and other people use different means of stretching the warp out width ways and length ways to get good even tension.

As I have a sloping ceiling, and limited space around the loom, the best way for me to do this seemed to be to get the warp to the front of the loom, and then wrap in around the front beam, and up and over the castle.

Stage one, to the front of the loom.

Then up and over...

View from the back beam (if you look closely you can see the raddle on the top of the back beam)

My lease sticks were in place just before the back beam.

And behind the loom I held all the warp on one hand, and wound on with the other. Actually, I held the warp with my right hand because the beam winder is on my left, but I couldn't photograph this as my camera is only useable one handed with the right hand (o.k., I could have fetched the tripod, but I didn't bother).

Of course when most of the warp was wound on, it wasn't long enough to reach up and over, so I reverted to my old method.

It worked very well, and I had no tension problems at all. Linen is much less difficult to handle than I expected, but then I was mindful of the need to look after it well thoughout the preparation, and I should point out that this Finish Toika loom, with it's solid construction, is ideal for working with a high warp tension - recommended for linen. Also, I wound the warp careful, used lots of warp ties, and wound it on to the loom with care.

Everything I learnt while handling the linen was then applied when I returned to the more familiar woolen warp, including careful use of a temple, edged on 2 cm at a time. This is a great help with the sample blanket particularly because all those different weave structures have different tension. I never wove such neat edges before, and I was able to weave right to the limit of the warp. From the front, I stopped this close to the heddles,

...while at the back the apron rod was up to the shaft cords,

Loom waste was down to 50 cm by the time I'd cut off carefully at the front and tied tassels both ends. Here is the sequence of photos I took to show untying from the front apron rod, carefully removing excess weft before the start of the blanket, and overhand knotting the tassels.

Finished project.

I took all three of the sample blankets along to the Cheshire Guild's Friendship Day, it was a great ice-breaker in a room full of people I'd not met before, when I got these out several weavers, and would-be weavers, introduced themselves and came over to look at and feel the blankets.