Monday, 22 February 2010

A handspun, madder-dyed weft.

I could ask you to guess what is pictured below:
For most people this is an unsual sight and unexpected, probably not a fair question.

This is the underside of my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel.

Ever since I got this wheel I was trying to track down and eliminate odd creaks and groans from the wheel. I tightened and replace many screws. In spite of my efforts it was getting more creaky, and becoming very hard to treadle, especially I discovered on un-carpeted floors - a clue here. With a bit of investigation I discovered that every time I pressed the treadle one of the legs moved sideways. I found the leg is fitted in with a screw, and unlike the other three legs it was loose. When I undid the screw I could easily take it out, but I could not get it to fit back in without wobbling as the hole it fitted into was oversized. What you see in the photo is a shim of old Christmas card taking up the spare space. It does the job, no more wobbly leg.

However, there was still a groaning from the treadle. I found that every single screw in the treadle needed an extra half turn. Having sorted this out, I oiled everything and went back to spinning - wow! it's like a different wheel. Tip for anyone with a grumbling & groaning wheel: check all the joints, tighten all the screws, oil all the moving parts.

So, what have I been up to with this spinning wheel? Spinning a weft yarn to weave another scarf on my table loom. After I finished the handspun, handwoven scarf at Christmas I was filled with the joy of weaving and thought "another!". I pulled a pretty multicoloured Noro yarn out of a stash box for weft, prepared the warp, warped the loom, but then I was stuck. I just couldn't find a weft to match it. I tried cotton, I tried wools in different colours, I tried bright colour and I tried neutrals.

It dawned on me that the weeks I spent thinking about colours and weave pattern for the handspun & handwoven scarf I'd just finished were not just idle thinking but very important creative planning and design time.

I stopped to think.

One thought I had was that I have many different fibres to spin and I have dyes and I can create the yarn I want. I looked at some different colours and found I had Shetland wool fibre dyed that I had dyed with madder last summer and the orange-red colour was just what I needed for this warp.

So, weaving had to wait while I spun a new weft yarn.

I had spun all the madder-dyed wool I had, but didn't even have one full bobbin. I know a bobbin holds about 100g of yarn which is the amount I have used in the past for weft in a scarf like this.

Spinning had to wait while I dyed more wool.

I managed a reasonably close match, one ball is slightly more red, the other slightly more orange so I'm weaving alternately with the two yarns in two shuttles.

The pattern I've chosen is my favourite 4-shaft undulating twill, as you can see in the header row bellow. I wove the header in high-contast thick white yarn so I can see what is happening in the warp easily. As the straight edge shows, I needed to adjust the tension on some of the warp. Towards the right of the photo you'll see the white weft yarn doesn't quite reach the straight edge, although it does on either side. Looking at this I know that means I have some tighter weft threads in that area. The weft yarn packs up closer in tight sections so the edge of the weaving dips towards the weaver, whilst in a loose section the warp threads would bulge away.

It's good to be fussy and slow when you start a piece of weaving and correct little errors like this, I have learnt that leaving anything I'm not entirely happy with at this stage is likely to mean that later on the problem has become magnified and I am unhappy with the cloth. When I was a new weaver I rushed the loom set up, but after various different disappointments I learnt that being relaxed about preparing the loom and fussing over little things would save heartache later.

I'm delighted with the colour of my madder weft. Maybe I've spun it a little thick, but we'll have to see how it is when it comes off the loom.

Just to finish up, these are some of the wefts I tried that didn't work! The first was a green knitting cotton, as I like green and orange and though the shiny cotton yarn might be a good contrast with the Noro wool. It was not good.

I also tried neutrals, a grey and a soft brown.

I much prefer the madder-dyed yarn!


Chiara Z said...

I think you're right. The madder dyed yarn looks great--bright and warm. I do also like the green, though it's a completely different look.

Dorothy said...

Maybe I should think again about the green, I suppose a wool yarn might have worked better than the cotton.

Helen said...

I do like the madder yarn very much but I found the grey/blue on the bottom picture the more exciting.

Peg in South Carolina said...

I like the madder but I also very much like the neutral brown (NOT the gray!). I'm glad you have your wheel working correctly and am delighted to see you so delighted with using handspun in your weaving! I have almost, just barely, learned the virtue of taking my time in setting up the tied-on warp for the weaving........

Trapunto said...

What a glorious red! And I like to hear your fix-it tales even when I know nothing about the equipment getting the fix.

Leigh said...

What glorious colors. Love the madder. Excellent idea to alternate the slightly different colored yarns.

Meg said...

Yummy colors in your warp, Dorothy! Very luckous!

Anonymous said...

I think I would choose the madder too - though I also like the green and the pattern you have treadled with it.

Charlotte said...

That yarn is gorgeous! I love the rich colours and the texture of the madder. I know exactly what you mean about not fixing little errors - they magnify and you can't stop noticing them if you don't fix them early on.

Catherine Wakely said...

I like the madder-dyed yarn a lot but I also think that the soft brown is lovely - it lets so much of the beautiful warp colour show through.

Catherine said...

Yum yum yum yum yum :o)
I like the red best, too, the green doesn't blend with the warp.

Thanks for explaining the uneven edge on the white bit -- I had that problem on my first weaving bit, and had no idea why (I actually wondered if the reed was wonky, but couldn't tell, lol)

Is the warp handspun, too? Lovely colour choices.

Karen M said...

Hello Dorothy,

I really like the madder weft fabric. The avacado green fabric reminds me of the seventies but that isn't always a bad thing. I am a new spinner, brand new, and I am trying to find a copy of Mabel Ross' book "Essentials of Yarn Design for Handspinners." I see that you mentioned it in your blog. It is out of print and impossible to find here in the USA where I live. If you ever see any copies or know anyone who has any copies to sell I would really appreciate if you could let me know. I am thinking it is easier to find in the UK where it was published. I am glad to meet spinners. The internet is a wonderful thing.

Karen Morrison

deborahbee said...

Inspirational to me at the moment. I have been dying my handspun madder, its such a vibrant colour. i still havn't tried dying fleece but reading your post that will be my next adventure.

Karen M said...


I found a copy of the book I was interested in. I'll be sure to hop over to your blog now and then to see what you're up to.

Dianne said...

I'm with most commenters, love the red weft. Would like to see the green in a softer fibre like handspun wool, and really enjoy that twill with the blip.
If you are really stuck for a weft you can put a little dye of each colour in the warp into the dye pot. It will be a wierd muddy tone but it usually works making the warp stand out.

Barbara Blundell said...

What absolutely beautiful results They're all gorgeous ! I only have an Ashford Traveller Wheel and it's done yeoman service for twenty years.There is a fair amount of creaking and groaning but I thought it was from my aging knees and ankles. Will have to investigate.

Life Looms Large said...

That's gorgeous!! I'm in awe of people with the patience to dye, then spin, then weave. Some day when I have more self-discipline.....

I definitely have learned in weaving that as soon as I know I've messed something up, I should fix it...because it will only get worse. That's one of the things I didn't like about my recent dyeing adventure. Once I had that dye mixed, I needed to when things weren't going the way I wanted, I didn't have time to research or change things.

It's interesting to see how many people have different reactions to the colors in this example. Color is so personal!


knerd said...

You are my hero!! I know this is an older post but my Ashford traveller has been creaking for weeks. I called the shop I bought it from and they said it needs oil, I oiled, I tightened, I straightened, everything! Eventually I realized the right from leg was loose, I unscrewed it, but found the same problem you had that the hole was just too big, so I stuck an old business card into the join to lessen the slack and wow!!! What a difference!! Thank you so much!! <3 Melissa