Archive for November, 2009

Silk chenille sampler

Not an exciting photo today. Generally I find samplers full of possibilities, but  this time I’m just not sure where to go next.

Earlier I mentioned that my first project on the new ashford table loom would be a sampler using silk chenille from Beautiful Silks. The sampler is in 3 sections, sleyed at 10, 15 and 20 ends per inch.

I used 5 different wefts – the mulberry chenille as in the warp, tussah ribbon yarn, fancy spun silk, 20/2 silk and 12 ply silk sewing threads. The 20/2 silk was from Walters Import, the rest from Beautiful Silks. The 10 epi sample was all plain weave, the 15 epi was plain weave in each weft then 2/2 twill in each weft, the 20 epi 2/2 twill each weft.

What did I learn?

With chenille, keeping the yarn under tension is a must. Quoting a research paper I found here, A Study of the Basic Parameters Describing the Structure of Chenille Yarns by Erhan Kenan Çeven and Özcan Özdemir,  “Chenille yarn is a kind of fancy yarn which charms because of its gleam and softness. Chenille yarns are constructed by twisting core yarns together in chenille
yarn machines, where cut pile yarns are inserted at right angles to the core yarn surface to create a surface in which the fibres contained in the pile yarns burst and form a soft pile surface to the yarn.” Follow the link to the paper to see a nice diagram of this. The result is that the yarn is unbalanced – lots of excess twist.

First impact – I couldn’t tie temporary knots in warp and I couldn’t just let them go. The ends would just frizz and tangle crazily. I ended up using metal hair clips around groups of ends for temporary holds.

Second – when I got to the 2/2 twill section I wanted to add a floating selvedge. I put in an extra thread at each side, wound on a plastic bobbin and individually weighted. Dangling behind the loom, the yarn spun and untwisted, giving me spots with 2 empty core yarns and the cut pile drifting to the floor. Here is my improvised fix – a cloth held under the loom’s feet and falling behind the selvedge ends meant that the yarn bobbins couldn’t turn, so the yarn couldn’t untwist.

Third – see photo at right. I now know what people mean by “worms” in chenille. This section is 10epi, 12 ply sewing thread weft. My hem stitching didn’t stablise the end. After a gentle hand wash and press I was disappointed by the feel of the fabric and for some reason thought that throwing it into the tumble dryer would be a good idea. Oops.

On the plus side, I enjoyed using the new loom. Things moved smoothly and held firmly and it was overall very pleasant.

It’s just – I don’t know what to do next with any of it. None of it has the soft, luxurious feel I was hoping for. I’m also daunted by the natural colour. I was planning to dye warps, but I can’t imagine being able to without getting into a horrible tangle.

Any suggestions? I’ve seen various comments and tips on using rayon chenille on the web – maybe I should read through that and look for ideas. (I have a skein of handpainted (not by me) rayon chenille which feels softer and appears to have a less aggressive twist.) Some of the sections are a bit stiff for a scarf, but might be nice for cushions say (if I wanted some cushions). Perhaps my finishing technique needs improvement. Maybe embrace the worms, explore the possibilities for bumps or collapse with the high twist…



Beatrice Jackson


Daylilies - Beatrice Jackson


In my mailbox this week – Daylilies, by Beatrice Jackson.

It’s a cotton & linen mix, handwoven and hand dyed (arashi shibori).

Beatrice has given permission for me to quote an email giving some of her history:

… [trying out so many of the weaves] …reminded me of how I was when I started out in 1983/84. I was weaving in wool and mohair in those days, for NZ conditions. Made a lot of throw rugs, scarves, wraps, even mugrugs in dishcloth cotton!Then I went into weaving fine fabrics for entries in the NZSWWS, (now Creative Fibre), Fashion Parades. One friend was a very fine spinner and dyer, I was the weaver and another was the designer. We had work accepted in several exhibitions and fashion parades, which was very good.

Daylilies - Beatrice Jackson

“Began doing painted warps which I loved doing.

“Shibori came in to NZ at a time when it wasn’t possible for me to get in to so it wasn’t until I moved over here, that I began doing Shibori and it suddenly gave me what I wanted to do, expressing my love of nature and the use of colour.

“I began weaving in cotton, tea towels and hand towels rolled off the loom! I love twill, so many patterns to do. Don’t get to do many now.

“I now weave in cotton, fine silk, alpaca and silk and Tencel. LOVE the fine threads!”

I met Beatrice through ATASDA. You can see another of her pieces here – towards the bottom of the page (a donation to our raffle). That link also leads to galleries of textile art work from ATASDA’s recent Exotica travelling exhibition.

It’s beautiful work – very fine weaving, complex dyeing and clever use of colour (which my camera and photography “skills” struggled with). When I saw Beatrice in Brisbane last September I begged her to sell me a scarf, any scarf – everything I have seen made by her has been exceptional and I trusted her choice.

Great choice!!

(another link showing Beatrice and her work here).


The “tangle waiting to happen” in my post here never eventuated. The cottolin behaved beautifully and my first attempt at tieing on a warp went smoothly – the sort of thing you hope for, but rather a surprise if it actually happens!

The plan was another bellringing huck lace scarf. The last one used two very similar colours for warp and weft (same link) so this time I decided to try for a bit more contrast with a golden-green weft.  Green and gold are Australia’s national colours, so I stuck to the theme and did some research to find “Wattle Surprise Major” – wattle being our national flower, and of course green and gold. I was a bit worried the final result would be a bit too “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi” (I feel enormously proud and lucky to be Australian, but don’t see the need for overt patriotism or saccarine sentimentality).

I love the result, and there’s not a whiff of Oi! or syrup about it.

Having colours with more contrast leads to a much more pronounced difference in colour front and back. Add in the variations of plain weave, spots and full lace and the fabric has a lot of visual interest when worn. (Unfortunately summer has definitely arrived, and the scarf won’t be getting any wear for a while.)

The actual weaving was a real pleasure. I’m still using the “double treadle” workaround, but my footwork continues to improve and I had very few clatters of half-lifted shafts. The key is to lift my foot off the treadle, not let the foot ride up.

Another improvement I’m pleased about was in weave file preparation. I was finding it very fiddley to edit the weave draft in fiberworks. Instead I took the wif file from the Killamarsh scarf, and used an excel spreadsheet and a series of lookups and if statements to generate a new Wattle wif. I don’t think there’s a lot of demand in the world for a “huck lace bellringing method weave draft generator” – but if there is they’ll be beating a path to my door!

History and link



Promise - merino, silk, dyed, felted


Having consolidated my entire weaving history in one post yesterday, I decided to include a little more background about my textile pursuits.   Click the About tab for my brief history.

With the advantage of 18 months of weekly weaving classes with Liz Calnan at the NSW Guild, I’ve been able to cover a lot of ground in two years (yes Meg, 2!). There’s a kind of freedom in being an eternal beginner, but I’m hoping over the next two years to spend time deepening my knowledge and understanding.  A new-to-me blog by Kerstin på Spinnhuset illustrates an accomplished weaver returning to and extending techniques and ideas – a practice I would love to emulate.




Two Years

On 10 November 2007 I wound a warp for the very first time. The next day I finished dressing the loom and wove my first picks. I had a copy of the Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon, access to the internet and all its wonderful resources and a secondhand 4 shaft Robinson table loom. Some never before seen photos of that first sampler:


Two years on I have a growing library of weaving books, a developing stash and 3 looms – the Robinson, an 8 shaft Ashford table loom, and a 24 shaft Noble floor loom. I’ve been fortunate to go to weaving classes with Liz Calnan at the NSW Handweavers and Spinner Guild.
Here’s a look back at my life as a weaver (click on any of the photos to go to one of the original blog posts about it).

(Edited to add: pretend the rest of the text is at the bottom, after the photos. WordPress seems to want to squash it all at the side in a totally unreadable format.)

I don’t know if that (below!) seems a lot or a little for two years of obsession. I suppose I am occasionally forced to give some grudging minutes to family, home, work, washing my hair etc.

So what’s next? In progress I have a warp tied on but not beamed for more huck lace (seen yesterday) and some silk chenille experiments on the Ashford loom. Weaving class at the guild should start up again next year, plus I’m booked into a one-day class on painting/dyeing warps at the Guild Summer School. Next April I’ve got a week-long class with Kay Faulkner at the Orange Textile Fibre Forum.

A fortunate life 🙂

(now the bit that should  be above!!! Remember you can click on any photo to go to that blog entry)


First class project - plain weave scarf


Class twill sampler

Autumn twill scarf

Autumn scarf


Monks belt sampler


Ocean shadow weave scarf


Rosepath class sampler


24 shaft twill sampler


4 shaft colour&weave sampler


lace & finger manipulated sampler

Fancy twill scarf

Fancy twill scarf


4 shaft double weave sample


8 shaft colour & weave


8 shaft twill sampler


Swedish lace sampler

Double weave scarf

Double weave scarf


Overshot sampler


Bellringing in overshot


Undulating twill sampler & scarf


Bellringing in summer & winter


Ringing in huck lace (runner)


collapse weave?


Collapse weave v2


More ringing summer & winter


Diversified plain weave


freestyle scarf


Deflected double weave scarf


Advancing twill bookmarks


Treasure pouch


Felted cards


Freestyle rosepath cards


Freestyle rosepath bag


Huck lace ringing scarf

Killamarsh in huck lace

20091109_killamarsh2I first played with this idea at the beginning of the year (blogged here) – bellringing methods interpreted in huck lace. One of my ringing friends asked me to make scarf as a Christmas gift for his mother, using “Killamarsh Surprise Major” as the pattern.

Johnathon chose two reds from my stash of cottolin, one verging on orange, the other a bit bluer.

20091109_killamarsh1The variation in texture – plain weave, spots and full lace – plus the slightly different colours in warp and weft create a gentle interest through the cloth.

20091109_killamarsh3I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see the movement of the plain weave (representing the treble or highest bell) and lace (the path of a “working” bell).

In the original piece I had trouble with shafts sticking. I had trouble again with the deflected double weave (blogged here), but that was likely largely due to my woeful warping job.  Before starting this project I opened up the loom’s control box and tested all the solenoids – no problems there. I warped carefully and think I got a reasonably even tension. I started weaving the header – and got sticking.

One possibility is that the loom needs adjusting. There’s some uneven tension in the cables that go past the control box and up to lift the shafts. However it’s not clear the best way to adjust that – and I felt a more likely suspect (and certainly a contributing factor) was user error (ie me).

In my very first work on this loom I had similar challenges and improvements in my treadling technique made a huge difference – lifting my feet and treading crisply. I needed to practice and improve my technique and rhythm  – but I didn’t want to ignore mistakes or to continually interrupt myself by unweaving. My solution was not elegant, but it was effective. I added a blank lift between every actual lift of the shafts. So for each pick I pressed the treadle twice – once for the real lift, once a “blank” which shook out any sticky shafts. Every once in a while a shaft would lift or half lift on a “blank” and the movement would unstick things. So the next real lift would be clean.

It worked! I didn’t have to do any unweaving, I don’t think I had any bad real lifts, and I could focus on working smoothly. It’s not a permanent solution and it would be hopelessly inefficient for a production weaver – but it gives me my chance to learn. It was a pleasure to weave instead of a struggle.

20091109_next_huckI’m keen for more, so I decided to try another new thing – tying on a new warp to the old threading. Currently it looks rather scarey and a huge tangle just waiting to happen – time will tell.


More freestyle rosepath

The recent flurry of posts is nearing an end, as I approach my self-imposed deadline and also bring my weaving story right up to date.  This was on the loom a couple of weeks ago, and reached its final form earlier today.

20091108_bag2The card fronts (blogged yesterday) were fun –  I wanted more. This bag is the same idea of cottolin warp threaded in rosepath, all sorts of yarns and torn silks as weft. I deliberately left loose ends and created even more by tying small bits and pieces together, to get lots of texture.

20091108_bag3I used the fabric to make a bag in the  Doni’s Delis style. I decided to go all the way with lining, pockets and zip closure (complete with pull tag of some of the weft yarn, knotted with crown sinnets using instructions from 200 braids to twist, knot, loop or weave by Jacqui Carey. I really like this book – great photos, lots of options and clear instructions). I also tacked together the selvedges in the part that goes over the shoulder, to help the bag sit nicely (the cloth is a bit stiff to drape or bunch well).

20091108_bag4One of the things I like about “allsorts” wefts is the changes in scale using the same liftplan. Another favourite is using clasped weft with the rosepath lift. You can get a really interesting broken line effect.

I tried to use every weft at least 2 or 3 times and also kept to just plain weave and a single rosepath pattern, to get some coherence over the fabric as a whole. However I did try to keep varying the combinations. 20091108_bag5

The colour theme was “autumn” – although for me that encompasses a lot! I couldn’t capture the richness of the colours in these photos.

Freestyle Rosepath Cards

20091107card4In September I stood down after two years as president of ATASDA, resulting in time to weave plus a need for more thankyou cards.

Happily I could combine both in a really fun project. I put on a long, narrow warp in cottolin. I wanted to continue the experimentation of the freestyle scarf, but increase the possibilities by using a rosepath threading (4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 1, 2, 3 repeat). I didn’t use the traditional binder between pattern wefts (for that see my class sampler here). Instead I dug through various drawers and boxes and created a huge, messy, colourful pile of yarns and fabrics – and just went for it.

20091107card3There’s a mixture of plain weave and the simplest rosepath lifting; clasped weft, inclusions; various silk yarns I’ve dyed, plus thrums from past projects; ripped strips of fabric, mostly silk tissue, organza and habutai, but a few satins and synthetics. Basically nothing was safe!

I had a size in mind for the card fronts, hemstitched at beginning and end of each … and just wove. Sometimes I’d think a few changes ahead, sometimes just the whim of the moment.

I ended with 20+ cards – and am finding it a little difficult to part from them 🙂



Off loom weaving

June to September was tricky time-wise for me, and  for a couple of months the looms were empty. However it wasn’t totally without weaving.

20091106_bagThis little treasure pouch is about 9 x 15 cm (say 3.5 x 6 inches). It was made on a piece of cardboard with some notches cut in to hold the warp, using instructions in Kids Weaving by Sarah Swett (on Amazon here). Rather than using a yarn needle to weave in the weft, I wrapped some tape around the end of the yarn to stiffen it and just used my fingers. I took the pouch and a bag of supplies to a family lunch as an activity for my nieces and nephews, but the cousins were having so much fun running around together that we didn’t get to it. Perhaps another day – one in particular I think might enjoy it, though the others might find it a bit slow.

20091106_feltcardsThe second off-loom project was really more felting – but still with a weaving element so I’m counting it! I needed to send some thank you cards. I used some merino wool top that I dyed and carded a year or two back. Each colour fibre was laid out separately and made into sheets of pre-felt (meaning the fibres are lightly tangled/felted so it holds together, but there’s still a lot of shrinkage and toughening up to go). Then I cut up each sheet into strips, and it was like weaving with paper in primary school. Finally I carefully finished felting each woven square – you can see some bits went a bit haywire.

The cards went to thank fibre-y folk  who had donated prizes for an ATASDA raffle. Diane Groenewegen is a very accomplished textile artist (her ATASDA member gallery page is here), and when I visited her studio on an open-day my card was pinned up on display (reflected glory!). Another recipient of my little cards was Beatrice Jackson, also an ATASDA member and a wonderful weaver – Beatrice and some of her work can be seen here. ATASDA is lucky to have members who are not only incredibly gifted in their own work, but also willing to support the group plus encourage relative newbies like me.

Advancing Twill silk bookmarks

“Advancing twills are another name for “skip” twills… they are wonderful design tools for creating large patterns.” (class notes from Liz Calnan).

Earlier this year the weaving class worked on advancing twills. Liz took us through a series of exercises on paper.

20091103_draftLooking at this threading example (right to left), there is a run of 5 threads using shafts 1 to 5, then another run of 5 starting 1 shaft up, 2 to 6, then another run and so on until it repeats. So that’s a 5 end block, left twill, advance 1. We tried varying the number of ends per block, left or right twill, and advance. Some combinations don’t work – a simple example being a 4 end block, advance 4. You’d never use the other 4 shafts. Liz also advised us to choose a combination that works for plain weave for more colour combinations when weaving – warp dominant, weft dominant or mixed.

20091103_tieupNext design choice is tieup. Liz’s tip here is to restrict the length of the float to one less than the number in the run, to avoid huge floats in the weaving. She also suggested we try part of the tieup upturned, giving areas of left hand twill and right hand twill for more interest in the cloth.

Treadling can be as drawn in, or straight or … well, best to try things out and see (preferably on the computer!). Just remember to check regularly for floats on front and back.

I went into more detail in drafts 1 and 2 of this post – both eaten by the technology in different ways (and different levels of user clumsy fingers). So if you want something on expanding the threading and transition ends, leave a comment and I can try again another day.

20091103_bookmarks1Faced with all these design possibilities … I opened a book! The best of Weaver’s Twill Thrills which has Doramay Keasbey’s article frost crystals in twill. I used one repeat of her threading, with just a little sateen threading at the sides. Silk bookmarks in 20/2 silk, the weft various colours I’ve dyed in the past.

I really didn’t enjoy this weave. Liz had kindly lent me a Padget 8 shaft table loom which had recently been refurbished – it and I just didn’t get on.

20091103_bookmarks2Another shot of the bookmarks (sorry about the dull and inaccurate colour) shows the results of problem 1. The cloth beam is varnished and my ties kept slipping when I tried to put any tension on the loom. The bookmark on the right was the first woven. It has an extra repeat and is still very short (and thick and ridged). I cut it off and used some rug grip around the cloth beam which solved the slippage, but still found I was unable to get into a comfortable rhythm. I think partly it was the arrangement of the levers to lift the shafts (not what I was used to), partly I was unhappy with the sett I’d chosen especially at the selvedges, my variable beat, and just lots of other little niggles.


Closeup of bookmark #1, in all its ridge-y glory!

I’d planned a dozen bookmarks as gifts and a couple went quickly, before I took the photos. These ones are “resting” in a folder – I’m not at the stage I could give them away without fussy apologies. I think I could do better. The last few were never woven – life is too short and weaving time too precious to stick with something that just isn’t working. There are lots more possibilities out there!


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November 2009

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