Archive for July, 2008

Backtrack to Rosepath

The one class sample I haven’t blogged about yet was Rosepath. I really enjoyed doing it. It was just after the unmentionable, and I had a different loom from the Guild which behaved beautifully. I used cottolin for the warp and found that very nice to use, and a whole range of threads and yarns for the pattern weft. Rosepath uses a traditional threading. It has a background of plain weave, with extra pattern wefts added in. Generally there is a “binder” weft of the background plain weave between each pattern weft, which means if you want you can build up blocks of pattern while still having a firm well-structured cloth. The finished, washed sampler is 1.4 metres long (around 55 inches) with 26 different experiments, so I’ve picked out some of my favourite parts to show.
This section was worked from right to left and each stripe used the same pattern with the same number of picks or rows of pattern weft. Going from the right:
1. The basic pattern. Pattern weft is silk/merino yarn (leftover from the Ocean scarf – the lighter of the two yarns). Binder weft is the same cottolin as the warp and general background.

2. Design and pattern weft the same as 1, but binder was a black machine sewing thread.

3. Design and pattern weft the same as 1 and 2, but this time I didn’t use a binder at all. See how the stripe is much thinner and the colour denser, even though it’s exactly the same picks of pattern.

4. I used a doubled thread for the pattern weft and cottolin as the binder. This gave a very similar width to the stripe (compared to sample 1), but denser colour.

5. This was basically the same as 4, but instead of doubling the light Ocean scarf thread I used one thread of light and one of dark. I thought this might give a richer colour.

6. This one used the light merino-silk thread for the pattern weft and the dark merino-silk thread for the binder weft. This is my favourite – it has a lovely sheen and silky feel in person.

The second photo has two sets of experiments. The yellow towards the right is the same pattern, but with the shafts lifted the opposite way. The effect is that what is on the back for one stripe is on the front for the other.

The rest is playing with colour shading. On the right a single pattern weft was used – 4 ply fingering sock weight, 60% merino 20% cashmere 20% nylon from the knittery and handpainted by Daphne (the socks I knitted with this are just about my favourites, lovely to wear).

The three stripes on the left all use a series of solid-coloured yarns. In two the only difference is light or dark in the picks just around the middle.

Finally, from right to left:

1. For the binder I used a cotton thread of similar weight to the cottolin but a colour related to the pattern weft.

2. The pattern weft is a whole bundle of embroidery cottons held together. This didn’t photograph well but has a lovely rich appearance in real life.

3. Don’t do this! I had little bobbins of different embroidery silks, and used them as pattern inlay wefts to get a starry sky effect. A lot of fuss and bother and it would make more sense to weave the base cloth then embroider it later.

4. Weaving “on opposites”. Two shuttles of pattern weft were used. First a pick of pink was woven then I reversed the shafts so that was was up was now down and vice versa and wove a pick of blue. I didn’t use a binder weft at all.

5. The pattern weft is rayon machine embroidery thread, much finer than the cottolin binder. Very pretty.

Overall a lot of fun, and I definitely want to try some of these ideas as highlights in future weaving projects.

Three looms full

Just for a few days I have an embarrassment of weaving riches.

Nearing completion is my colour and weave sample started in weaving class last term. I’m playing around with other colours to finish up the warp. This is on a 16 inch 8 shaft Robinson table loom that I hired from the guild after the unfortunate Monk’s Belt experience. Once the colour and weave is done I’ll return the loom to the guild – I hired it because I was using my own table loom on home projects, but now those will go onto the big loom.
Yesterday I dressed my table loom ready for our next class sampler – a series of finger manipulation techniques – leno, spanish lace, soumak, clasped weft and more. I used grey cottolin for the warp. The loom is a 24 inch 4 shaft Robinson, a bit heavy for carrying to class (which involves stairs) but manageable.
Finally, progress continues slowly on the big loom. I went to a 2/2 twill for a while, working on selvedges and beat. As that improved I noticed that the shafts were lifting erratically – some sticking and repeating, some missed lifting. Geoff and I tried some trouble shooting and decided the major issue was inconsistent tension in the wire cables that run past the control box, with some contribution from weaver inexperience treadling and maybe the carpeted room (Kaz’s floor is wooden). I emailed Kaz for advice and received a gentle comment about her “crisp” treadling. Hmm… “crisp”… let’s try a bit more trouble shooting… yes, that would be 99% user error causing the problem. I found I was resting my right foot on the pedal all the time. Lifting it off cleaning solved the problem. Progress!!!

Short and long stories

The short story is – we have weaving!!! Beat wildly uneven, selvedges amusing, a little altercation with the software regarding forwards and backwards, rather too keen on winding on so the beater couldn’t reach… All irrelevant. It’s weaving!!!

There are two longer stories. The most important one is the one today starts – my weaving history with this loom. I’m am so looking forward to that story – the first bits where I’m hoping to improve fast (since I’m starting at such a low base I think improvement is pretty much guaranteed) and the later part, where I start refining and designing and finding my own weaving voice.

The second long story was putting on the warp. I wound, beamed, threaded, sleyed, tied on… and had no tension. Back to the photos which I had looked at so carefully the other day. Ohhh! the warp winds that way around the beam.

Strange as it may be, I didn’t really mind at all. I actually enjoyed the process of figuring out how to fix it. I was able to recreate the cross pretty much by lifting treadles and lots of ties. Moving the cross back along the warp had me stumped for a while because the wool yarn was getting very sticky and matted. I finally thought to use a … well, I’m not sure what it is, a dog comb? a fleece preparation thingy? … whatever, I was able to comb the warp so the ends separated and played nice and I could move the cross back. I re-beamed, the right way round. As I went I made little improvements to my first methods, weighting the warp, moving and supporting the lease sticks etc. Both times I used the threading method from Sandra’s Loom Blog, which I think is so clever. Everything was a little bit easier second time around.

The weaving itself I’m still finding my way through. You want to see? I’m happy to bring a smile to your day!

Loom progress

sleep + focus + small steps = progress!

It was quite quick in the end. Step 1 was the hardest for me – doing nothing and leaving it alone until I had time and a fresh mind.

Step 2 – A cup of good coffee and a long, careful examination of every photo I had of the loom – some from Kaz, some mine. Foreground and background, I made sure I recognised every part, getting up and checking on the part-built loom when I wasn’t sure. I wanted to be as sure as I could be that this time I would get it right.

Only then did I pick up spanner and screwdriver. It didn’t need a full disassembly after all. The actual work was under an hour, and all the parts were in place.

There was one more hiccough to come. I plugged in and connected the computer but couldn’t get any diagnostics. The software reported the com port open, but all the other menu items were greyed out. A quick email to Kaz solved that – all I had to do was start treadling! In shades and tones of the emperor’s new clothes, I happily treadled a lovely design in air, watching the shafts rise and practising the slightly sharp tap of the foot to help them fall.

The photos show before and after. Yes, the room is very pink. In some lights it feels like sitting inside a strawberry. My workroom was formerly known as the dining room and had a little sitting area at one end. The loom takes up about a quarter of the space and is beautiful, even in pink.

Catching my breath

A few days ago my beautiful new-to-me loom arrived. It’s former life was with Kaz, who created gorgeous textiles on it. Kaz did the most amazing job packing up the loom to make sure it arrived here safely – complete with lots of bubblewrap and foam and corrugated cardboard and numerous labels and photos. I’ve spent the last few evenings slowly piecing the loom together, pestering Kaz with questions and details, and was in the final stages with just a few little bits to finish off. I had the blog post all planned with before and after photos of my work area and was thinking about the first warp. Oops.

I was just taking a final look through Kaz’s photos, wanting a detail of the mount where the beater pivots. Something caught my eye. Something about the cloth beam. There’s the ratchet and pawl and … the handle. The handle that can only fitted as the cloth beam is put in, which is pretty much step one of putting together the loom. The handle which I thought fit the warp beam. The handle which was still sitting on my work table.

The whole thing has to come apart again and be rebuilt from scratch – this time including the cloth beam handle.

I knew I would make mistakes as I learnt to use this machine. I expected setbacks. I know that very soon this will be a funny story, a small blip.

Just at this moment, I’m catching my breath.

Ocean – Out of the Blue

I’m a member of the Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association, known as ATASDA (pronounced a-TAZ-dah, but work on the aussie accent). It’s a great group – but I would say that since currently I’m national president and acting webmaster.

ATASDA has an exhibition coming up in Sydney in a few weeks, Out of the Blue. I wanted to weave something reminiscent of the ocean, the changing colours, the movement of the water. Shadow weave was suggested to me as a possibility. I’d never heard of it, so went hunting on the internet and found on the Pioneer Valley Weavers’ Guild a great article including a draft which had just the look I wanted (see the September 2004 archive). I’m assuming that if people make a wif file available, they are happy to have people use the draft. Of course my next challenge was that I didn’t have weaving software and had never seen a wif before in my life. So I openned it in Notepad and tried to make sense of it. I played in Excel until I had something I understood and liked – and I really don’t know if I was actually able to recreate the original draft or not, but it worked for me.

Yarn is the wool/merino blend again, dyed using Lanaset dyes. 22.5 x 186 cm. I sampled at 15 epi but didn’t like it so went to 16 epi – I was amazed at the difference such a small change can make.

The original idea was to make the scarf as a large sample, then go on to make a wallhanging, being a bit more adventuresome with inclusions of extras in the weaving, maybe some clasped weft to really push the idea of the shifting currents and colours of the ocean… My final bit of playing at the end of the warp was fun, but convinced me that the wallhanging I envisaged wouldn’t work. Clicking on the small thumbnail will show the blocky look the scarf gets when flat, as for hanging. The extra “realism” I was intending, with flecks of foam on the waves (undyed, unspun fragments of silk hankies) just didn’t make sense in that formal structure.

I also need to learn to put time where it will make a difference. I mixed 8 blues/greens/purples for the dark yarn (warp and weft) and a different 8 for the light. Depth and complexity or minor variations invisible to the viewer? It doesn’t matter too much, I like my result and enjoyed the process, plus mission fulfilled – when I first wore the scarf to work a colleague (ex-Navy) took one look and said “Ocean!”.

The sad monk’s tale

It’s only because I have some need to be “complete” that I’m even going here. Attempting monk’s belt was when I found out that weaving isn’t always a pleasure. It’s not the structure or the look (it looks very old-fashioned and limited and fusty to me, but that’s probably my inexperience and lack of imagination). No, it was The Loom.

Not my loom, mind you. Up to this point everything had been woven on my nice second hand Robinson 4 shaft 24 inch wide table loom, purchased from a lovely lady who learnt weaving for a year back in 1982 or so then carefully stored it on top of a cupboard. (pause for breath after that runaway). My loom, always well behaved, was still occupied with the autumn twill when class restarted, so I hired it’s little sister from the guild – a narrower and (I suspect) younger Robinson 4 shaft.

Had it had a hard life? Did I get something backwards while dressing it? Was it just the standard perversity of the inanimate? I could not get good tension. Every time I tried to tighten enough for a semi-decent shed, pawl and ratchet lost connection. I fiddled, Liz fiddled, other class members fiddled. We tightened screws, added washers, tinkered with everything we could find to tinker with. I persevered for a few miserable centimetres then cut off the warp, put the sample in its plastic sleeve with the class notes, and buried it.

Let us never speak of this again.

On the other hand, it did get me thinking about how much difference the equipment makes. I started looking and asking around…

Going solo

Term one finished with the twill sampler and Liz challenged us to design and weave whatever we wanted to over the holiday. I decided to try a twill scarf dyed in autumn colours – possibly fall color to you.

I had some undyed merino/silk yarn from and dyed the warp in five uneven stripes, a mixture of leaf colours with a glimpse of sky. Around this time I went on a week-long spinning course (part of the Orange fibre forum organised by TAFTA). Jenny Hopper was the tutor – hugely experienced and generous with information. So I decided to use some of my new skills by spinning some silk hankies and plying that with the commercial merino/silk yarn. The idea was to get some extra shine and texture in the weft, like leaves fluttering in the sunlight.

The sample was disappointing – I hadn’t got enough depth of colour when dyeing the weft and the silk hankies didn’t have the impact I wanted (another time I’ll try it again, but dye the component parts separately before the spinning and plying.) So I dyed up some of the plain merino/silk and sampled a couple of different twills, wanting something not too orderly and structured.

The scarf is 17 x 175cm including fringe, beautifully soft and warm. 20dpi, broken twill. I’m sure there’s lots that could be improved but I’m really happy just the way it is.


Yesterday’s lesson – long photo shows how very hard I worked, but not so good for celebrating the cloth. So here is some lovely twill texture.

Project 2 – twill sampler

Our second class project was a twill sampler in cotton. Hmm… you may note the artful cropping of the photo. This most definitely falls into the “learning experience” category.

This project introduced floating selvedges and the importance of detail (where to start a pattern) and various ways of writing weaving on paper – british, american, swedish… Liz gave us some lifting plans, then let us loose with a copy of M.P. Davison.

Looking at my sample now I still find it amazing that there are so many possibilities in every aspect of weaving. It’s as if I’d never seen cloth before. Last week I changed seats on the bus home so I could sit behind someone and look closely at their coat (still have no idea how it was done – a houndstooth on a huge scale with different weight yarns).

I really like having the dark stripe on one side of the sampler, displaying lots of textural possibilities.

Possibilities – that word again. I’m sitting at the computer, stroking the cloth I made (!) and smiling at the thought of the world I have to explore.


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July 2008

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