Archive for April, 2011

Spontaneity

My last two projects each took ages.

The colour gamp shawl began with dye mix experiments in December. In January I chose a draft, sampled and continued dyeing. Weaving began early February, progressed slowly and finished late that month.

The end result is a great resource, looking at the colour interactions, plus I wear it as a scarf and shawl (slightly less successful since the overall flow of colour was constrained by the colour sampling rather than design aesthetics).

The bellringing in supplementary warp scarf popped into my head in February. There was sampling that month, a few attempts at dyeing in March and onto the loom, then late in March I hit a speed bump which put the project on hiatus while I considered options. Finally in late April the scarf was finished, though even then I used the end of the warp for some more samples.

Now, I enjoyed the process with both projects. I met my objectives, I like and use the results, I’ve had positive feedback from others, I’ve learnt. But it took a long time to realise the original spark of idea, and each time once I’d warped up and sat at the loom each pick was already determined. Which is fine, the act of weaving is very pleasant and I have lots of room to refine skills… just the whole process began to feel a bit ponderous and overplanned.

So in my last week of holiday I decided to see if I could just weave something from conception to completion in under a week.

Monday – day 1: concept and plan. I’m booked in Helen MacRitchie‘s Bag for All Seasons class for ATASDA in June. I already have the hydrangea freestyle rosepath fabric to use and want some co-ordinating fabric to give me some design choices. I recently got the Handwoven 2006-7 CD collection and was very taken with Kate Lange-McKibben’s project “Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall” using 4 block summer and winter on 4 shafts (May/June 2006). So the concept was some relaxed colour play, using cottolin, to co-ordinate with the hydrangea fabric.

I chose colours – groups of pinks, purples, blues and greens. My old notes suggested 20 epi for cottolin summer and winter would give a good weight fabric. A quick sketch decided stripe layout (unit width based on fibonacci sequence) and a pencilled drawdown helped decide lift sequence and allocation of colour groups to blocks. Finally I used Fiberworks PCW, entered the stripe design in profile then used the block substitution tool to get detailed threading and liftplan in 4 block summer and winter, X style. My threading printed out (and annoted with colours due to ink outages!) I was ready to go.

Tuesday – day 2: Warp (almost) on the loom. I tried my AVL warping wheel with multiple colour changes for the first time. Combined with my low-tech spool holders (storage baskets and knitting needles) it made warp winding faster and easier on the back. The 335 thread warp was wound, beamed, threaded and part-sleyed by the end of the day.

Wednesday – day 3: Finished sleying, tied on and started weaving.

Well, no. A few attempted weft colours, pattern and tabby, and I decided it just wasn’t right. Not that some of the colour interaction wasn’t interesting, and I was enjoying the weaving, but the result was too busy and I thought would fight against rather than enhance the main fabric. Perhaps plain weave… after all, with no great investment or master plan it was easy to switch tracks.

Thursday – day 4: Plain weave and a paler weft looked better. I relaxed and wove, a couple of bobbins each of a few different colours. It could be useful to have a few different colourways to mix and match in the bag – and if not, I’m sure the fabric will be handy one way or another. It was fun and I wove every last millimetre I could get from that warp.  Then off the loom, a quick machine zigzag to hold the end, and into the washer and dryer with the rest of the laundry.

Friday – day 5: Pressed, done and dusted. There are some skips and flaws, but given I’ll be cutting it up that’s fine. To my eyes the plain weave areas work nicely with the rosepath – interesting but subordinate.

On the other hand, some of the 4 block summer and winter colour interactions are really interesting and I definitely want to revisit that at some point.

Overall a good outcome – fun, useful cloth, ideas for the future and improved skills. 🙂

Rosepath revisited

A friend recently asked for some info on the “freestyle rosepath” I’ve done. (Hi Fliss!) Which has spurred me on to document some weaving I actually finished back in the summer holidays.

This is intended to become a bag, a gift for someone who suggested “hydrangeas” as a colour reference. I missed Christmas (oops), then thought that maybe the simple shoulder bag style might not work well for the recipient. So the length is still waiting patiently for plan whatever-letter-I’m-up-to (subject of the next post, maybe).

Threading: What I know as “Rosepath”, though there may be other names (or other things with the same name!). This snapshot from fiberworks PCW shows the draft. I think a floating selvedge helps.

Warp: 2/22 cottolin (60% cotton, 40% linen), sett 18 ends per inch. In other projects I’ve used stripes, but this time I wanted to suggest light and shadow flickering in a spring garden so I did a lot of swapping colours in and out.

Weft: This time I used a tabby (that is, a plain weave pick between every pattern pick), a very fine cotton, with the idea of increasing durability slightly. Most other times I’ve done this I haven’t bothered. The bag I made in November 2009 has been used almost daily and while it needs a wash and a few repairs it hasn’t done badly.
Pattern weft: This is where you can go to town. I gather a pile of “stuff” that fits the colour scheme, then pick and choose as the whim takes me. There are yarns – some silk (fancy spun, a thin ribbon yarn, a boucle…), wools, maybe cottolin. If they are fine I tend to wind a few yarns together (I use a stick shuttle for this) so the pattern isn’t too small. Thrums (leftover warp) from other projects are good. I also tear fabric into strips and use that. I like the raw and shaggy look, but I suppose you could cut on the bias if you want. I also deliberately play with which side is showing to get colour variation and texture – for example in the red/pink/white mass about third section down in the photo on the right. The fabric is mostly silk, plus some cotton and probably a couple of synthetics. I have various bits and pieces from old dye experiments, plus bits of old kimonos etc. It just needs to be pliable enough to sit happily. I’ve used habutai, tissue and organza silks. I deliberately tear stripes of different lengths and widths, to keep up the randomisation factor. I also try to repeat things a few times as I’m weaving – you can only see a few centimetres of recent weaving, so I tend to have two piles. I select a piece of cloth from one, tear a strip, throw the remainder into the second pile. When I’ve finished the first pile I start with the second and repeat the process. Or cheat and pick something that catches my fancy out of whichever pile.

To make the strip I use scissors to nick the edge of the fabric and tear almost to the other side. Then I cut a nick on that side and tear back. This gives you a longer strip of fabric weft, with little extra tags of fabric at each turnaround point (which I quite like as extra texture).

Lift plan: I’ve shown the few simple ones that I use in the draft above. Mostly the “as drawn in” bit, but not entirely.

The other major technique I use is clasped weft. Kaz has a brilliant tutorial here.

A couple more photos you can click on for details if you like.

Previous projects using these ideas (clicking the photos takes you to the relevant blog entries:
Bag CardsTable runner Wall hangingDetail

None of this is new or original to me. Among lots of influences two blogs stand out – Susan at Avalanche Looms and Terri at Saori Salt Spring.

Bristol Maximus in Supplementary Warp

This has been a long time coming.

Back in February inspiration struck – could I represent complex bellringing methods using supplementary warp floats?

I did some sampling – the idea held some promise if only I could get the right sett. Advice from Liz and the weaving group was very welcome.

In March I was dyeing yarn, then redyeing!

Next step was warping using my new AVL warping wheel. It went very smoothly, onto the sectional beam for the ground warp and the plain beam for the supplementary. Tension held nice and even throughout weaving 🙂

However the weaving didn’t go well. The first few centimetres looked streaky, obscuring the patterning.

Weeks passed, some pleasant (Forum in Orange), some less so (virus in tummy). Finally I bit the bullet, and on Monday unwove all that had been done and resleyed.

Weaving restarted, all looked well – until I realised I had mucked up the ringing pattern.

Deep breaths.

Unwove.

Wove.

Yes!

There is still some streakiness, but the patterning is clear and readable  (I tested it on the other ringers this morning). The hand and drape of the cloth is good and with finished measurements 184 by 19.5 cm plus fringe it’s a great weight and size to wrap around the neck in Sydney’s autumn.

I was able to include 4 leads of Bristol Maximus – a ringing pattern with 12 bells. The brown ground cloth squares show the path of the treble (highest note) – it follows a path ringing first, then 2nd, then first, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th etc, forming a jagged but regular line going from 1st to 12th and back 4 times. The blue supplementary warp float blocks show the path of one other bell – it could be any of the other 11 bells since they all follow the same Bristol Maximus pattern, just starting at different points (it’s a bit like 4 people singing “row row row your boat” in rounds). If you’re a ringer and the photo doesn’t quite look right, the pattern is mirrored and doesn’t start exactly at a lead end.

After all the palaver it was pleasant to weave. I did some experiments at the end of the warp to see if I could further reduce the streakiness and did manage to get improvements, but only with a lot of fuss lifting and manually clearing sheds that I didn’t actually weave in order to keep the ground and supplementary warps in proper alignment. Given I like the final scarf, the cost/benefit of the extra fussing isn’t worth it. Maybe playing around with reed size and denting would be useful if I revisit this.

Jason Collingwood at the Textile Fibre Forum

Last week was TAFTA’s Forum in Orange and I had a wonderful time. I struggle to describe these weeks (this was my 5th) – a couple of hundred textile fanatics, lots of learning and friendship and craziness – exciting, stimulating, sometimes overwhelming… There’s a lot of exuberance and fun but also the opportunity to really get into your particular subject since you spend Monday to Friday in the one class.

Mine was Three-End Block Weaves with Jason Collingwood. I was so impressed by him, the intense focus and depth of knowledge, every detail considered to produce the best work he can – in his rug weaving, but also in his teaching. He had samples and could demonstrate and explain lots of options, but could also explain the reasons, the choices in pursuit of excellence in his own work, which mean he works almost exclusively with a reduced set of techniques. He doesn’t see it as restricting or constraining, but as working in harmony with the structure/technique. He also takes a very practical non-precious approach to his equipment (loom), modifying it in all sorts of ways to make his work efficient and achieve the best results he can.

I admire this enormously. After considerable reflection I am comfortable that I don’t aspire to it myself. Part of course is that weaving is Jason’s profession, but my hobby. Part is the joy of exploration and discovery (which still counts, no matter how many have discovered it before me – and I agree can be found in deep as well as broad studies). Achieving mastery – perhaps one day I will be ready to make that investment, but quite possibly never.

A brief look at what we did – with the warning that there are no details or how-tos:

Sunday afternoon pre-class get -together: general introductions and background.

Day 1 – Monday

Most of us brought looms already warped and part threaded. In 3 end block weave you have tiedown ends on shafts 1 and 2, then a pattern/background thread on either shaft 3 or 4. Jason’s instructions had us put the pattern/background thread in each block between empty heddles on shafts 3 and 4. That way we could change individual threads/blocks between pattern and background by tieing the individual thread to one of the empty heddles. Fiddly, but do-able.

Going from bottom to top of the photo we have the header; twining (done to space the warp, then each day to divide up the sampler); some solid colour; pattern blocks, counter change and general play.

We spent a lot of time on the details that make a difference – bubbling the warp, managing the selvedge, starting and ending weft, darning in ends, tension, beat…

Day 2:

We worked with “constant lift”, using weft colours to pattern, and “constant colour” where the weft colour order is maintained and the lifts change. We produced vertical and cross stripes, aligned and staggered dots, introduced a third colour (used in my “frame” section). As well as plain background we used different patterning in the two blocks.

I ran out of time and didn’t get a log cabin sample done.

Day 3:

Wednesday was a half day for class. The afternoon was free to take a break, explore town, or (in my case) continue work.

We worked on clasped weft, using very precise techniques and positioning – quite unlike the bits I’ve done in the past such as with “freestyle rosepath” .  The focus was always kept on producing a structurally sound rug.

We were able to use the lifts and patterning we had already learned, combined with the multiple colours. Once again I ran out of time – others in the class tried clasping 3 colours at once. There was also a rather neat “disappearing block” trick.

Day 4:

On Thursday morning we changed structure to 2/1 double faced twill.  I liked the graphic shape and colour combination I got in the blue/red area. The twill line wasn’t reversed, just the positioning of the clasped weft. Again I ran out of time and didn’t try reversing twill lines, let alone having different colours / patterning on front and back of the cloth.

In the afternoon Jason introduced us to shaft switching. Through the week we had been changing blocks to and from pattern and background to suit the various samples. As I mentioned in “day 1”, it was just a matter of tieing the pattern end to one of the empty heddles, either shaft 3 or 4. Flexible, but slow and fiddly.

Now we did an arrangement of ties and knots to make it faster and easier to change each end – shaft switching, although a more primitive form that didn’t require any modifications to the loom. It’s beyond me to explain and a photo of my loom just looks a messy tangle. I found this article by Thelma Bodkin – the “threading detail” shown in the diagram seems to match what we did, but instead of all the fixings we used “boa” knots to select which way (to which heddle/shaft) the warp end was tightened. Naturally I used a bellringing pattern to test it out. That jagged red line is “stedman doubles”, at least in my eyes 🙂 I was changing the pattern end every 4 picks and actually started building some rhythm in the movements.

Day 5:

The final day we looked at raised end pick up. Jason tried to demonstrate on my loom – that thin area just above the blue/orange twining. He pronounced it the worst shed  he’d ever had. Actually close to non-existant. All 8 of us in the class were using table looms, and this was just a step too far for mine.

Jason also presented dovetailing – still on my “to do” list. Instead I tried a rather crazy counterchange pattern (the bit below the green tuft is where I misunderstood the directions and nothing was happening). The arrangement of blocks is actually easier to pick out in the photo – towards the top centre you may even be able to see a lozenge shape where I was combining shaft switching with the crazy counterchange.

We finished off with lots of information about finishing, some ideas for useful loom adjustments and general design considerations.

Non-weaving, but a personal triumph: As a wrap up to the week, Friday night was LA PARTY! Last year I was too tired and sore to go – I crawled into bed at 8pm with the distant sounds of music mocking me. The next week I joined a gym, started overhauling my eating and used LA PARTY as my focus. A year later and 29 kilos down, I got there and was on the dance floor most of the night! A great end to a great week!!

Well, not quite the end. Saturday morning was “open  house”, where classes displayed their work for each other and visitors from town. There was also the “Heathen Bazaar” and final chats with old and new friends.

I still have some warp on the loom, so the next plan is to do some of the samples I missed. Plus I want to try some of the same techniques using lighter materials  – aiming for something in a bag weight first off I think. Then – well, probably something totally different…


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