Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
The old pro weaves - notes
I re-reeded the warp at 10 threads per inch instead of 20, and doubled the width of the fabric. These stripes make me a lot happier. Ikat is a technique of dying your warp and weft before you weave to create designs in the finished fabric. It requires superb planning and measuring, beyound my aspirations.
Pepper is keeping track of things that need to be filed.
Jack is being a venerable old cat outside. I always keep him company on his excursions now that his is missing a leg.
Quite a few days ago, Amy asked about when and how I learned to weave. I was doing a graduate study program in Denmark, and the college I was staying at offered a weaving class. I was already an experienced knitter and thought that weaving would be interesting to learn as well. In Scandenavia, weaving is taught as a practical craft, not as an artsy-fartsy form of self-expression. I learned how to make fabric, not how to create wall-hangings and soft-sculptures. It resonated with my frugal soul. I made blankets and a coat. among other things. When I got back to America, I got a job in a yarn store with another weaver who eventually went on to work as a fabric designer at Pendleton Woolen Mills. the job at that particular yarn store was the first job I was ever fired from, but it's an ill wind that blows no good. When my fellow weaver knew of a job opening among the sample weavers at Pendleton, she called me, I interviewed, and so began the best job I ever had. I loved going in to work. Every day I was learning something new. I had wonderful wool to work with and like-minded people around me. I earned a good paycheck at a skilled trade, and had great benefits. Then the powers that be bought a design computer that was supposed to print off pictures of the fabric without the bother and expense of having someone weave them. It was (and still is, I understand) unsatisfactory. But it was purchased and had to be paid for. So the weavers were told that they could become secretaries. I left. I should have stayed till I got fired as an incompetanat secretary. At least I would have gotten unemployment benefits.
What is it about weaving that delights me? The way the mandatory grid structure permits such a huge diversity of variations. You have to have threads going over and under other threads at right angles to one another, or the fabric falls apart. But the enormous variety of weave structures, coupled with the complexity of different colored threads gives you a lifetime of patern exploration. I saw a presentation by one woman who is quite an art weaver, and she said that she has not yet, in fifteen years, explored all the possibilities of plain tabby weave (over one, under one, just like my loom does.) I'll show you one of my favorite tabby pattterns when I set up and weave Dave's gorgeous handspun.
Friday, July 27, 2007
The old pro weaves - chpt 4
You have wound the warp onto the back beam and the end of the warp is within a foot of the reed. Now, unless you are a lot better than I am at compensating and making your movements with machine-like precision, you will find that the warp graduates in length from one side to the other. Cut it all even. (Hey, this technique is fast and easy, not frugal.)
I should note here that this is not "Art" weaving. This is production weaving stuff. Time is more valuable than materials here. If you can't afford to throw away a few yards of your warp, don't do it this way.
Pull up a loop of string from your breast beam, pull a hank of warp threads through it, split them, and tie them on top.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. Pull the warp snug. You will need to untie and tighten the first few knots as you work.
When the warp tension is pretty much even clear across, weave in a few inches of rag strips or heavy yarn. Just like magic, it evens out and looks like you are ready to produce fabric.
I am using a flat shuttle because I sold my bobbin winder and boat shuttles with my favorite loom when I blew out my shoulders. Wind the weft (Fill) on your shuttle. If you are the sort of person who knits tight, and winds balls of yarn that could be used as lethel weapons, wrap your hand clear around your shuttle and wind the yarn over the top of your fingers so you don't wind it on too tightly.
Don't fuss a bunch with the edges. Can you see how the yarn lies on a 45 degree angle inside the warp? That's what you are aiming at. It's better tohave soft loops at the sides than to have fabric that pulls in at the sides.
Here's a few inches of work. The colors are gorgeous, but the stripes just don't make me want to laugh and dance. The fill yarn is too soft to be used for true warp, but I think I'll float a few strands in as supplemental warp. I want a scarf six feet long. I cut five strands of yarn that are seven feet long.
And I thread them through the reed and the heddles along with one of the regular warp threads, pinning them to the fabric in front,
And tieing a weight on them in back to keep them under tension.
OK, that's a little better. I may add in a few more warp stripes today. It will take me several days to weave this up. I'll note changes as they come, and show you the finished works.
In the meantime, allow me to address a few questions. Warrior Knitter asked if you buy the warps already cut to length. Nope. You buy skeins or cones or balls of yarn and measure and cut it as you go along.
Monica PDX asked if it was harder pulling all those knots through metal heddles. Actually, rigid metal heddles are the best for this style of weaving. The knots slide right through. Rigid metal heddles are heavy and noisy, but boy are they sturdy! String heddles like to cling to the yarn and stick to the knots. Wire heddles can give and bend if you are pulling heavy knots through.
As a side note, if anyone is looking at buying a loom, first off, try as many different kinds as possible. You should take at least one beginning floor-loom class just to get an idea of the variety of looms available. I don't know anyone who has ever owned only one loom unless they bought it and never used it. Your weaving supply store will have a bulletin board of people selling used looms which no longer meet their needs. Get someone with experience to look them over with you. I'm sure Craig's list has a slew of looms. Your local paper may occasionally have a loom in the want ads. You don't need to buy a brand new two thousand dollar loom to get started.
Remember, however, that a loom takes more space than knitting or even spinning. And a loom will lead your down different design paths. Having woven that fabric, what are you going to do with it? You think people max out on scarves quickly? Try enchanting them with your hand-woven table runners. People can WEAR sweaters and socks and hats. Can you bear to cut into your fabric and sew a coat from it?
Also, everyone I know wo has ever woven seriously has weaving-related injuries. I blew a disc in my lower back, (a very common problem for people who weave for hours at a time) and later blew out both my shoulders, one after the other. Other friends have had crippling carpal-tunnel problems, and herniated discs in the neck. If you become obsessed with the art, remember that there are risks.
I am quite limited with what I can do with two harnesses. I can not be tempted by designing and producing intricate twills and diapering, summer-winter weaves, two sided weaving, tapestries, . . . . well, weaving can go as many different directions as knitting. (Cables, entrelac, Faire Isle, mosaic, lace, . . . .) It's addictive, babe. Are you sure you want to go there?
Oh, Jejune, Kitties ALWAYS like hot laundry. And it isn't all that summery here right now. I had to wear a cotton sweater when I was outside working on the loom.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The old pro weaves - Chpt 3
So here is your new warp, all tied on and ready to go, with the reed set up properly into the beater. Push the beater forward with one hand, and gently push and lift on the taunt dummy warp behind it to work the knots through the reed.
Here the knots are between the reed and the heddles.
Now go to the back beam, take a handfull of dummy warp, cut it loose from the knot, and pulling with one hand, work the new warp through the heddles with the other hand.
Tie a knot in the dummy warp, and tie it onto the back beam. You should have a lot of loops stapled onto your back beam. You don't? Go get some sstrong cord and a heavy-duty stapler.
Reperat untill all the warp knots have been pulled through and tied on to the back beam. YOu will notice they aren't even. Don't worry.
Now, you will need something to keep the warp trhreads from settling among one another as the warp isrolled onto the back beam. If you are a meticulous typer person, you can take butcher paper, cut it four inches wider than your warp, fold up 1 inch borders twice, and place it under the warp as you go. Or you can use dowells, or lathes or anything relatively rigid that will keep the layers seperate.
I use venetian blind slats.
Keep rolling on the warp and slipping the seperator layer in as you go. When you feel resistance, stop and go comb out the warp at the breaast beam.
When it starts shifting the beater and reed, it will look kind of like this.
Unchain a length of the warp,
take your wide-tooth comb, and smooth those snarls.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
New weavers are often taught to warp under tension. I'm not sure why. It isn't necessary. As long as the tension is even across the width of the warp, it doesn't matter if it's tight or not.
This technique is not good for long warps. The length of this warp will be determined by how many yards you can set up using the loom and maybe a few extra sticks tied to nearby chairs or tied upright to the loom frame itself.
Tomorrow, tying the warp to the breast beam and starting to weave.
Kitties like hot laundry right from the dryer.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
The old pro weaves - chpt.2
This is a ten dent reed. that means there are ten spaces per inch. I am going to weave fabric with 20 threads per inch in the warp, so I will put two threads per space . Measure your reed, figure where the right edge of your warp will start and begin pulling the wrap through the reed. See my crochet hook sticking up on the right side?
Now see where the warp has been pulled through?
Agaiin, tie a slip knot every ten threads to help keep track of where you are and to prevent accidental pull outs. (Like when dear little kittens want to know what you are doing, so they jump onto the warp to watch.)
Tie your dummy warp onto the front beam. I am doing a solid warp, so no need to set up a pattern. I'll show you haw to set a pattern when I tie on the next warp.
Working left to right, pick athread from the first dent of the dummy warp, and tie on your warp thread (Direct from the cone.) Take the end of your warp thread between thumb and forefinger of the left hand, pluck out a thread from your dummy warp with the right hand, put dummy warp and real warp ends together and roll them around your finger to make a knot, just like you make a knot in the end of your sewing thread.
And talking it through is not the same as live action, so stuff will slip between the cracks. There are no dumb questions.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
The old pro weaves. chpt 1
Chapter one: my first and last loom. I bought this loom in Denmark from a nice fellow who made them in his spare time. It's not the biggest loom I've ever owned or the most complicated, or even the sweetest-working loom, but it's small, portable, and does all I need. I sold all the others when I blew out my shoulders. Enlarge the photo and take note of the names of the parts. The breast beam is the part of the loom that is closest to your breast. I just didn't have space for the words up above. The counterbalance beam is a roller that lifts one harness as the other harness is pulled down when you tromp the treadle.
The harnesses hold the heddles. Each heddle will hold one thread of your warp. How many threads? Well, first, decide how wide you want your work to be. (Say 10 inches) then decide how close you want your warp threads to be (say 10 threads to the inch - a good sett for worsted weight yarn) So you will need 100 threads plus 10 % for draw-in or 110 threads. Make sure you have at least 55 heddles on each harness. (If you are weaving with fine thread, you can work with over a thousand heddles on occasion)
The beater will be used when you start weaving For now, let it rest against the breast beam.
You will start by making a dummy warp. Your loom can be used as your warping board. Using waste yarn, make a figure 8 over and over across the breast beam.
Count each figure 8 as four ends. When you have enough ends (Plus a few for a fudge factor) slip the ends of the 8 off the breast beam and tie an overhand knot in the middle.
Fasten the dummy warp to the back beam. (You should have a lot of loops of string on the back beam. Slip-knot the dummy warp onto one of these.)
Cut the ends of the 8. You now have a giant long tassle hanging on the back beam.
Draw a thread through the first heddle on the right on the back harness.
(This is a very simple loom. You won't have any fancy draw to worry about here.)
Draw the next thread through the first heddle on the right on the front harness. Alternating front and back harness, continue drawing threads through the heddles.
Every ten threads, I tie a slip knot to prevent the warp from accidentally being pulled out. Also, every knot is ten threads, so it makes counting easy. And, for my own fudge factor, I skip a set of heddles before I start drawing in more threads. That way. if I make a mistake, I have repair heddles handy. For a two harness loom, this isn't that big a deal. For a twelve harness loom with a complicated draw, it's a Godsend. Get into the habit. It will save hours of re-draw headaches.
Tomorrow - tie on your warp.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Street of Dreams, circa 1909
The side of the house that guests would see as their horse-drawn carriage or their very modern automobile made it's way all the way up the hill. The Pittocks were founders of Society in Portland. He started the state's major newspaper, and she began the Rose Festival.
The entry hall has impressive white marble floors and staircases. I'm so glad I wasn't the girl who had to keep everything scrubbed down. The rooms have gorgeous hardwood parquet floors, and the tower rooms have parquet that is steamed and bent to follow the curve of the walls. Awesome workmanship!
I confess to a shameful fondness for putti - cherubs - little fat winged babies attending and encouraging nymphs and muses and goddesses. These little guys are hanging out in the music room.
The house was built (back in 1907) with a built-in vacuume system. There were two competing phone companies in Portland at the time, and people who were on one system, couldn't call people who were on the other. So the Pittocks had both phone companies install lines into the house. Sleeping porches, a turkish smoking room, a sewing room to die for - all are delightful. But best of all, the master bath has a view of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, a deep porcelain tub, and a shower with pipes that surrounded you at three levels for an all-over needle spray, a large shower head above you (too low for me to get under) and a special pipe down at the floor so you could test the water temperature on your toe before you brought it up to innundate your body - oh, the master bath was a thing of glory!
Today is our thirteenth anniversary. Yesterday, DH took me to Lush and spent a big chunka money on bubblebaths and indulgences for me. The manager recognized us, and gave me an extra giant fizzie ball as a gift. And the sales clerk said, "We had a special yesterday. You got a goodie bag if you spent $X. There's one left. Here you go! So I am just giddy with bubbly bliss. The Green Day bubble bars are my newest rave fave. What an intoxicating, euphoric scent!
Today, I begin to set up the loom. Pictures tomorrow.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
A walk in the park
Our hike was only a mile long, but we climbed 467 vertical feet. MJ and Trish are in great shape and led out with vigor. MJ's mom and I took a moderate pace and were grateful for one another's company. We paused often to admire the maidenhair ferns. And the mushrooms on the fallen logs. We listened to the bird song (when we quit panting) and we enjoyed the soft cool air on our skin.
MJ's mom, who lives in Southern California, had never before met a leopard slug. Toe of my size 9 sneaker is in the picture to give it a sense of scale. At the beach, I have seen slugs bigger than this. And banana slugs, though a mite smaller, are bright yellow. The slug is the state bird of Oregon. Oregonians don't burn in the summer. They rust.
Tomorrow, the Pittock Mansion - Street of Dreams, circa 1907.
Friday, July 20, 2007
FFO (Finally Finished Object)
And with the final assembly, I realized part of the reason it was taking so long. I had a quilt and a half worth of fabric to use up. So I made a laprobe or crib quilt as well. Is this flag-waving patriotic stuff or what? Red, white, blue, stripes, and, if you get really close, teensy stars.