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Progress on The Plan

I’m being a bit lazy here, and it shows. This scan doesn’t even hint at the gorgeousness of the latest dyeing colour mix set. The stack of wound balls presentation of dyed yarn is a bit more exciting, but I decided to try a change.

I’m somewhat betwixt and between in my dyeing. I measure things out and keep records, but there’s a fair whack of slapdash and inaccuracy in it. You can see my labelled yarn wrap records, showing a methodical progression through mixes. You may also be able to see the uneven change of colour on the diagonal moving from pure Bordeaux B on the top right down to pure Yellow 4G at the bottom. This could reflect the different properties and strengths of the two dyes. It’s more likely one or more of: I muddled up skeins; I overfilled or underfilled the metric measuring spoons I use to measure out dye stock; a bottle in which I store dyestock dribbled while I was measuring; the dyestock was old and tired; I misread my planning page and measured incorrect amounts…. Whatever, there is also the “issue” that each yarn shows variation, not a single solid colour.

For my purposes it’s Good Enough. I’m learning, having fun, and have a growing collection of beautiful silk yarn to play with. I don’t need to reproduce colours exactly, and I actually prefer the semi-solids which are more lively to my eyes.

This set of colours is the one I want to explore further in weaving. I love each individual one (except the pure yellow, which is a Challenge and Good For Me to learn to use!).

Out of the all the possibilities I’ve been considering, this is the current front runner. It’s alternating stripes of huck lace from Donna Muller’s Handwoven Laces (page 57).

It has areas of plain weave, warp lace and weft lace – so should be effective in exploring colour interactions. The current thought is a warp with 21 stripes – each of the colours in the colour mix triangle (I may redye that pesky bordeaux to yellow section). For weft, I’m thinking of using the same 21 colours, plus a selection from yarns dyed with the same mix proportions but different depth of shade (that is, lighter). I’ve already started dyeing a group at 1% DOS, and plan another at maybe 0.1% DOS.

The end result will be about shawl size, with 21 colours in warp and say 42 in weft giving 800+ colour combinations (with repeats). Multiply by 3 given plain weave, warp and weft areas.  All from 3 base dye colours. Current thought is 25 epi for the 20/2 silk, which fits nicely with a denting scheme for lace and my 10 epi reed (the only one I have for the big loom).

What do you think? Viable? Interesting? Other alternatives I have overlooked???

The next steps are more dyeing, plus a woven sample to check sett etc.


Oatmeal, dice and texture

I had an extra week off work after the workshop with Kay Faulkner, so caught up on some year 2 classwork from Liz Calnan – oatmeal and dice weaves.

Oatmeal weaves have a small overall pattern giving a textured, uniform effect without any stand-out features. It is also called crepe  (not the kind that uses highly twisted yarns). I used the end of my waffle warp, a straight threading on 24 shafts in cottolin, for my samples.

I experimented with lots of different colours for weft, so it looks a bit muddled. I’m also working on ways to keep track of what is on a sampler – so each section has a little hangtag with a printout of the liftplan (which look repeated since they are basically 8 shaft weaves, but I used a 24 shaft threading).

This detail of the first section shows that it is a combination of warp and weft faced twills. 3/1 and 1/3 twills are combined in a grid. There is a “cut” between each of the quarters, horizontally and vertically – warp and weft swap face of the fabric going from one quarter to the next.

Sorry about the dubious quality / colour of some photos – I have a new camera, and yet another learning curve!

Given I had 24 shafts to play with, I tried combining a couple of dice weaves. The purple section just above centre has 3 dice weaves side by side, progressing to the right in each repeat. It creates a general busyness with a subdued diagonal which I find interesting. Below that in a reddish weft is two dice weaves with a fiddled bit between to make them fit.

Towards the bottom in purple weft is a dice weave. In theory it should be a checker board of squares, but I wasn’t paying attention to my beat or picks per inch. In a dice weave there are warp and weft faced blocks of equal size. A similar idea in structure to the oatmeal, but at a different scale.

The dice weaves I tried just didn’t thrill. I don’t know if it was the scale or that I couldn’t get an image of how I might use them, but after a little play around and with an eye on the amount of warp left I moved on.

When working on waffle weave the class had got interested in texture weaves generally. We all spent some time looking through books for examples, and Liz in particular turned up a goldmine in a book by Doramay Keasbey. The photo above has some initial samples – only drafts that I could map to a straight 24 threading.

Arriving at the end of the warp I decided to tie a short warp onto just shafts 1 to 16. After resleying this gave me a lot more possibilities. A bonus was that I moved to simpler wide stripes of blue with the idea that the colour variations could suit texture weaves. Actually, this colour choice was both challenging and exciting. My school’s colours were “blue and blue” – roughly navy and sky blue. I almost never use straight blues. Add in some turquoise or a dash of purple and I’m there, maybe. Just blue – so flat and dull!

I’m so proud of myself 😉 ! The weaving was fun and I really like the results. I think this post has gone on long enough, so I’ll finish with some images (warp running horizontally). This nicely gets around the question of when and how I will use any of oatmeal, dice or texture again. The samplers will join the pile of future possibilities – we’re already on to the next topic in class.

Backed Fabrics

Weekly weaving class with Liz Calnan at the NSW Handweavers and Spinners Guild started up again last week after the summer break. Our first topic is Backed Fabrics.

Nisbet’s definition (Grammar of Textile Design, available here on the
On-Line Digital Archive of Documents on Weaving and Related Topics):

“Backed” fabrics are characterised by an additional series either of warp or weft threads employed for the purpose of increasing their strength, weight, bulk and warmth, or any one of those properties, without affecting their surface appearance”.

It seems traditional industrial use was to use cheaper/coarser/inferior quality threads, hidden on the back of the cloth, in very practical applications such as men’s clothing.

Liz had photos and student samples using the technique to showcase and make the most of some of the fancy and often heavier yarns now available. You can give them the space to shine without sacrificing stability by “stitching” them to a second layer of cloth. It’s a variant of doubleweave, but instead of the two layers of cloth (or blocks in the cloth) changing sides (see my 4 shaft sample here, and 8 shaft scarf here), there is a definite “front” and the two layers are just attached in spots.

I couldn’t make head or tail of the theory, so decided just to give it a go.

Here’s front and back of sample 1. The front layer uses a fancy textured yarn (slubs, glitter, loopy bits, you name it) for warp and weft in a 2/2 twill. It’s set at 4 ends per inch, which would collapse into a nasty tangle left on its own.

The back layer is a fine cotton (no idea of the formal spec – it was on sale at a knitting machine group get-together). It’s in plain weave, 20 ends per inch.

I’ve laid out the draft to try to make the concept behind it clearer. The thin cotton weaves plain weave on shafts 5, 6, 7, 8 – over on the right of the tieup. The fancy yarn weaves twill on top. Where a fancy weft is hidden between two fancy warps floats, a cotton warp is raised to trap it. You can see it in the draft – when 1,2 are lifted for the twill, up comes shaft 7. It’s pretty much invisible from the front, but it’s “enough” to attach the two layers together.

The trouble with this sample is that it isn’t really enough. There aren’t enough attachment points to keep everything firm. It would be nice to have a link on every weft – but either they would not be hidden between two warp floats, or I would need extra shafts (I was working on the 8 shaft Ashford loom).

Sample 2 solved the problem (well, Liz gave us the solution!).

Instead of attaching the layers by raising cotton warps, attach by lowering (ie not raising) fancy yarn warps. The fancy yarns are already on separate shafts for the twill, so I can move them independently (in each repeat of the twill) without needing extra shafts. The sample’s set was slightly different – I actually had only 4 cotton for each fancy on this one (I forgot when recreating the draft), with 20epi for cotton and 5 epi for fancy. I haven’t wet finished this one yet, but it definitely feels much more stable, although still a bit too loose for most uses. The fancy yarn is plied very loosely and could do with even more stitching points.

Sample 3 is exactly the same structure and epi as sample 2. The only difference is the fancy yarn used. This is also a thick and thin slubby affair, but overall thicker and more tightly plied. It is holding together very nicely. The back layer is a bit puckered (also not wet finished), but it’s quite  attractive.

Sample 4 is based on a photo in Doubleweave on 4 to 8 shafts by Ursina Arn-Grischott. This is the same warp, weft and set as sample 2, with a change in threading. Top and bottom layers are both plain weave. As well as stitching points there is an actual exchange of blocks as in normal double weave. The sample is structurally stable, but I think there is too much show-through in the cotton layer, so you don’t get a good impact from the exchanged blocks.

On sample 5 I used doubled cotton threads in warp and weft – a purple and a red held together. Everything else is as in sample 4. The thicker “back” cloth has much more visual punch. I really like this one. It’s very stable, the simple cotton squares and lines provide a good contrast and foil to the fancy yarn. I like both sides (backed fabrics are generally one “public” side). The only question is how to use it – possibly a cushion cover?? It’s not drapey enough for a scarf. BTW I don’t have a proper draft for this. The book didn’t give details (and the photo fabric was different and I don’t think could ever be done on “4 to 8 shafts”! – it had at least 3 blocks of double weave). I constructed this from the photo, input from Liz, some scrawls on a spreadsheet, then some trial and error on the loom).

This is just a scratch on the surface of backed fabrics. I’ll have to come back to it one day, but class has already moved on to the next topic…

Colour assignments 3 & 4

I’m continuing with the colour exercises, but have been thinking more about how these can be interpreted in weaving terms. The plain weave (or perhaps I should see them as blocks) I’m using on the assignments brings a lot of constraints.  Of course there’s surface design after weaving – a few well placed stitches or maybe experiment with patches.

I found a quote from Sharon Alderman, from a Weavezine podcast:

“…painters, if they want a little dot of crimson right there on the canvas, they just put it there. But if I don’t want it to appear in the warp direction and in the weft direction, I have to be ingenious to make it happen.

“And there are things that are different about weaving from others. Now, having said that, colour theory is colour theory no matter what your medium is, but the way that you handle getting the harmonies that you want is different for a weaver.
“The pointillists were trying to duplicate nature by making little dots of colour. Because when they looked at things closely, they saw the colours weren’t flat, that they were made of many, many colours.
“Well, that’s something that weavers can do better than anybody because if you use small threads you can have variety of colours and make a new colour by crossing one with another that is richer and seems to have more depth than what a painter can do.”
There’s another interview with Michael Rohde, which seems in my current state of mind to be all about colour.
I’d been thinking about the possibilities of double weave, then saw this piece by Elisabeth Hill. A few ends of a different colour has such an impact!
Is it wonderful or daunting, the way the world of weaving keep getting bigger?  Some days I just enjoy the wonder of it all, knowing I see and understand just a small part. Other days I focus down on my little corner and say “this is enough for me for now”.

Assignment 3 in David Hornung’s colour – a workshop for artists and designers is prismatic studies. “Prismatic” colours are high saturation, pure hues. I had mixed success.

prismatic, wide range of hue and value

Prismatic, narrow value range (high key)

Prismatic, narrow value range

Failed!! attempt at prismatic low key values

The major problem is the low-key violets. Dull, dull, dull! However not unexpected or unusual – in the book Hornung comments that mixed “pure” violets will always be disappointing. However, he recommends that despite this one should stick to mixing in the first four studies of the course. Ever obedient (hah!) I mixed, but have bought commercial violets and turquoise for the the later studies. The Lanaset dyes I use have particularly gorgeous violet and turquoise, and there’s no point learning about colour with that gaping hole.

Assignment 4 asks for Combined Saturation Studies.

Broad range of saturation, hues and values

On review I could have included something with stronger saturation.

Broad range of saturation and hue, narrow value range

Plus an extra for fun, since I often don’t like the studies I’m producing.

Broad range of saturation, hue and value

Assignment 1
Assignment 2

Runner in rosepath

The first un-Christmas gift is done!

This is a table runner – more a centre-piece since it’s quite short – requested by my mother. Mum liked my autumn bag (blogged here) and asked for something similar. The colour cues are shown in the photo – on the left, a snap of the turkish rug mum picked up on her travels, on the right an offcut of her upholstery fabric.

I think this is the first time I’ve used yarn wrapping to help decide on warp colours and placement. In the end I thought the more formal, symmetrical style better reflected the formal layout of the rug.

This is the warp seen here, lying all smooth and ready to go onto the Robinson loom on New Year’s day. It was finally tied on and ready to start weaving 11 days later. The warp was short – just 1.25 metres since I only needed 62 cm finished length including fringe. I didn’t consciously take short cuts, but I kept finding myself doing stupid things and getting into a mess.  I kept thinking of it as a small warp, but it was 290 ends which is on the high side for me. Anyway, I fumbled through winding it on, then made multiple errors (and, I think, an equal number of corrections) while threading the heddles and sleying the reed.

Another shot, just because I like it!

With this type of weaving not everything is planned before you start – there’s of lot of decision-making on the spot as you see how colours work together. At first I found it really difficult, trying to second-guess what mum would like. One fabric in particular I really liked but she wasn’t keen on – it has orange and turquoise in it and is visible about half way up this shot, so you can tell that in the end I decided the only possibility was to do what looked right to me, and hope mum likes the final result.

Some project details: Warp is cottolin, sett at 18 ends per inch. Threading rosepath (thread 1, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 1 and repeat). Weft – varied, includes torn fabric strips (mostly light silk), some fancy silk yarns, some of mum’s old embroidery yarns, odd and bobs. Woven on Robinson 4 shaft table loom. Lift sequence 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-1, 3-4, 2-3, 1-2, 1-4 and repeat. A few bits of clasped weft. Final size 62×39 cm.

Started 31/12/2009, finally finished 28/1/2010 (it was off the loom much earlier, but the finishing and fringes have been done in work pauses on the next project, which has a deadline I’m going to miss).

The one outstanding thing is mum’s reaction. I’ll see that next week.

Warp painting with Linda Coffill

Last week at the NSW Guild‘s summer school I went to a great two day class with Linda Coffill, dyeing warps. It was excellent – great group of women, sufficient space to spread out our warps, hot outside (nice for drying) and cool inside, and most importantly a knowledgeable and generous teacher.

Linda talked to us about use of colour and flow – colour moving, changing, no harsh boundaries creating jerks and stopping movement. She brought along her enormous collection of Landscape dyes (being one part of Petlins,  Linda was able to bring along shop stock to supplement where necessary).

A great advantage of Landscape dyes in the class setting (and at home for those who choose, of course) is that all the auxiliary chemicals are already mixed in with the dye, so they are ready to use as soon as mixed with water (dyeing protein fibres only, such as wool and silk). Also they come in many, many colours (charts here), so we could concentrate on specific techniques with the warps rather than colour mixing.  (At home I’ll stick with Lanaset dyes – it’s not that hard to add the extra chemicals, and I’m a believer in mixing your own colours).

I’ve dyed yarns before, but never warps. Our first exercise was to wind a warp of 72 ends in 8 ply wool (suggested to keep things fast). Linda showed us how to lay out the warp, folding and positioning to create a balanced gradient on the scarf (ie both ends matching), allowing for loom waste etc. We could then dye a supplementary warp to use as an accent. There wasn’t time for weaving during the class – well, others managed it but not me :). This was one of yesterday’s unfinished items, now completed and very pretty, if I say so myself.

I haven’t tried a supplementary warp before. The main warp was the wool, threaded for plain weave on shafts 1 and 2. I wound that on the back beam sett at 8 ends per inch, then through the heddles and reed leaving space for the supplementary weft – empty heddles on shafts 3 and 4 and matching gaps in the reed. The supplementary warp was tussah ribbon yarn from Beautiful Silks. I wrapped each silk end onto its own plastic bobbin, threaded through the waiting spaces, and weighted them in groups over the back beam with S hooks and washers. Weaving was simpler than I expected – lifting shafts 1 and 2 in turn for the plain weave base, and on each pick adding either shaft 3 or 4.

The colour pattern (using landscape names) was meant to be:
* wool warp starting heath, fading into dusk, fading into granite, then back through dusk into heath at the other end;
* supplementary silk warp starting at granite, fading into heath and back to granite;
* weft dusk throughout (slightly darker than in the warp).

I had some trouble at the beginning working with the very stretchy wool and the not-at-all stretchy silk, so the gradations didn’t quite match up as planned, but unless someone else starts obsessively folding and measuring the scarf noone will know!

The rest of my dyeing from class will need to wait in the weaving queue a while. Experiments 2 and 3 were “crampot dyeing” – the yarn scrunched around in minimal water in a pan and dye colours added to different regions. For the one on the left in the photo I also dyed yarn in a single colour for supplementary warp and weft. I have plans pencilled in for these, subject to change. To save time and do more dyeing in class I didn’t wind warps first, I just dyed whole hanks, so I should have plenty for whatever I end up doing.

The final warp involved a couple of hours of winding and tieing in complex groups. This will be a warp faced scarf, warp in 20/2 silk, weft (at the back in the photo) 60/2 silk. There will be 21 stripes in all, using 4 base colours (coral, pacific and tasman with a little granite) in various combinations. Linda’s examples were beautiful (drat me forgetting the camera both days!), so I have high hopes, but not expectations!

Chenille progress

The story so far:

This post showed my first sampler using silk chenille as a warp, with a variety of wefts, sets and plain and twill weaves.

The next post outlined The Plan – woven shibori, plain weave chenille and monks belt pattern threads that will be used to gather the cloth during dyeing.

Progress to date: the cloth is woven and is in the dyepot as I type, becoming (I hope) a rich chocolate brown.

This project has been something of a lifeline to me the last couple of weeks. I’ve been worrying over things I can’t control, and whenever it all started feeling too much I’d distract myself by reading and speculating about chenille. (One major stress source resolved well during the week, so hopefully balance is returning).

A quick summary from internet research and my own musing, focused in particular on silk chenille yarn. BE WARNED!! Any or all of the following could be wrong, or not appropriate to whatever you are doing. This is my learning-in-progress, with no actual experience or depth of knowledge – as many questions as answers.

Still here?? “Chenille” is from the french for caterpillar – think fuzzy worm. It seems to be used for a few different-but-related things.

Twice-woven rugs – an initial weaving that is cut up between warp ends to produce shaggy long thin pieces that are used as weft in a second weaving. See Something New in Rugs, Atwater, Mary M. Weaver, Vol. 6 No. 4 (October-November 1941) available here.

Layers of fabric stitched and cut in channels to produce a shaggy look. Sample instructions here.

Confusion on the next one. When I was a child I had a “chenille bedspread”. I remember a plain woven fabric with a pattern of rows of tufts coming through the fabric. It wasn’t a separate yarn couched on top. Looking at photos on the web I’m wondering if it was actually candlewicking. Either way, it’s a red herring to my actual interest and final category…

Chenille yarn, showing separated pile and bare core yarns

Chenille yarn – short lengths of pile yarn held between two twisted core yarns. It’s the structure of the yarn which gives the name and the characteristic fuzzy worm appearance – and the troublesome twist. It can be made from all sorts of fibres. Rayon seems far and away the most common in handweaving but there’s also cotton, plus I’ve found references to linen, soy, acrylic, tencel and the one I’m working with, silk.

As well as the fibre content, chenille yarns can vary in length of pile, amount of twist, size of component yarns (core and pile), density of pile and I don’t know what else.

Twist, balance and worms. In spinning fibres are twisted together which provides strength, however the twisted yarn wants to unwind – there is yarn torque.  This is normally resolved by plying two yarns together, neutralising the twist forces and producing a balanced yarn. Try it – get a length of yarn or fibre and twist it tightly in one direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise).  Bring the two ends together, and the middle will want to twist up together.

Mostly we weave with balanced yarns that (we hope) sit nicely where we put them. Some forms of collapse weave deliberately use overtwisted yarns to cause movement and texture when the cloth is wet finished. With chenille the overtwist is used to hold in  the pile. If the overtwisted yarn isn’t held firmly in place little bits of it will want to twist up together. It can cause little “worms” bobbling up in the fabric, which could be regarded as unslightly. Anne Field covers it in her book collapse weave – Creating Three-Dimensional Cloth. With chenille, there’s an additional structural problem – release the twist, release the pile.

We need to keep the chenille and its twist firmly under control. Sett should be closer than you expect – consider the core yarns, not so much the fluffy pile. No long floats. One difficulty is that worms can appear over time – so how can I know piece A is successful before I start on piece B? Maybe carry it around lots and generally abuse it, to simulate a year’s wear in a week or two?

I’ve read in a couple of places that pile direction is significant. I don’t understand that. It seems to me that as we wind the warp it goes up then down, and as we weave the picks they go first left then right. So I guess I’ve missed something.

Cutting fabric has also been mentioned as a problem. Could this be all those new yarn ends, no longer firmly contained? Perhaps something like intense stay stitching would help.

For fringes, firm braiding or twisting with a knot seem the most common. Use of fray check has been suggested – I don’t know if that would cause a distracting hardness. In my current experiment I didn’t want a fringe, so I’ve machine stitched across each end multiple times. I’ll let you know how that goes.

I’ve  read that rayon chenille stretches a lot, especially when wet. Would that be related to the fibre (so not a concern for my silk), or the high twist which stretches out under weight (eg of the water)? I found when tying on to the front beam that the chenille stretched and in one case snapped. Maybe that’s related. I did find a comment on the strength-to-bulk relationship, but no detail.

When working with the warp, since ends were determined to twist and I didn’t have enough hands for everything, things seemed to go better when I made groups of ends twist together in a bulky, gentle way, instead of individual craziness.

Joins. An industrial reference suggests either a core knot (strip back the pile of the ends, tie a double square knot) or a splice (overlap ends and wrap). In my current piece I had an extended overlap and beat especially hard – will see over time how well that holds.

Next step is to finish and evaluate the current experiment, but I’m considering later possibilities:

  • Some combination of the chenille with the ixchel cashmere/merino (used here in my collapse weave scarf). I’m thinking the ixchel (felts/fulls incredibly) would stabilise the chenille and prevent any movement or worms. It could get a bit heavy though if there’s a collapse effect.
  • Surface design anchors – lots of decorative machine stitching, or maybe couching fancy threads or fabric strips. Again the idea would be to restrict movement of the chenille.
  • Diversified plain weave, which would keep the chenille tied down. (Link to my sampler here). It would be interesting to use a cellulose fibre (maybe rayon or cotton) with the silk chenille, then dye the finished cloth. Only the silk would take up the dye (using acid dyes).
  • Worms are mainly a problem in something used. Maybe a wall hanging could exploit them visually.


As I said at the beginning, don’t simply accept what I’ve written – I’m at the beginning of the learning curve. Other places to try:

Su Butler – definitely at the top, top, top end of the learning curve. (I have her book-on-CD on order).
YarnsPlus top ten tips
Weavezine – do a search, but this particular link describes something very similar to what I’m trying (only I read it after I started, so couldn’t incorporate any learning).
Weavolution has a rayon chenille group. (You have to join up first)
Weavetech – I searched back through the archive and found some interesting stuff. (another thing to join)
Information from CIMA – gets kind of technical. I skimmed.

A Study of the Basic Parameters Describing the Structure of Chenille Yarns by Erhan Kenan Çeven and Özcan Özdemir.   Again way technical, but I liked the pictures on the first page! There are lots of other technical papers out there – I tripped over a few CSIRO things – but they’re focused on industrial considerations and hugely over my head.

Comments always welcome – especially for all the bits I’ve got wrong 😉


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March 2020

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