This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Waffle weave towels and the lesson I learned about warping

Waffle weave fascinates me. So last summer I decided to do a set of hand towels in waffle weave for my bathroom.  My bathroom needed some color, so I picked several colors from my stash of 8/2, made up a pattern that looked fun on WeaveDesign, and calculated how many warps of each color I would need.  

When I calculated the length for a set of four towels, it was so close to the whole spool for some of the colors, I decided to use all of it and make six towels.  That meant a 12 yard warp, not the longest I've done-- but I wasn't taking some circumstances into account that would make this the most challenging warping up I've done (so far). 

Because I was using several warp colors, I decided to warp front to back, and spent the afternoon feeding the warp ends into the reed and the heddles, then tying then in neat little bundles onto the warp beam rod. 

June is normally pretty mild.  But this summer was the wettest, most humid summer Vermont has ever had.  That day began somewhat humid, but it wasn't too bad when I began this project.  But as the day went on, it became warmer and more humid.  As I began warping the loom, the temperature had hit the high 90s and the humidity was in the 90s too.  Though feeling the effects, I didn't think about how the warp might be affected. 

So far, things had gone reasonably well: I had had only two crosses on the loom, easily fixed, and was ready to wind on.  I set up my jugs, using extra to accommodate the smaller multi-colored bundles, tied on the warp bundles and prepared to wind them on.

What I didn't realize yet was that as the afternoon cooled into the 80s, the humidity approached, then exceeded 100%.  I was too busy to look out and see the mist coalescing in the late afternoon air. 

Bad mistake. Retrospect is such a wonderful thing.  I should have stopped there, and chained my warp and waited until a drier day (as the next day proved to be). 

But, oblivious me, I kept going.  As the cotton absorbed the moisture from the air, the strands swelled and began twining on itself and onto each othe, even across bundles! Normally, these fibres are a dream to warp, sliding past each other easily. Not that evening.  The moisture created friction, so that the fibres wouldn't slide past each other  Worse: each color behaved a little differently.  I had clumps of warp twined around each other despite the tension they were under, and refusing to budge.  No, I did NOT take any photos of this part! 

Maddenly frustrated and genetically stubborn, I stuck to it, winding on a few inches at a time, separating more warp, winding that on. As I realized what I'd gotten myself into, I wanted to give up and go to bed, but didn't dare, fearing what JellyBean (who loves string) might do during the night. So I kept going, finally got the jugs to the loom around midnight, and left them. (I figured the tension was high enough that JB couldn't do any damage.)

This should have taken 15-20 minutes max from the point I tied on the jugs. It took me six hours.  Midnight, and I was exhausted.  I learned my lesson: do not warp in high humidity.  Next time, I'm waiting. 

Okay, now to the fun part.  Next day the weather was much drier, and finishing the warp was a breeze (if only I'd waited... all those hours of frustraton!)  All I have to do now is weave.  Because I used so many colors in the warp, I decided to just use natural to weave. Here we go: 

Waffle weave on the loom-- very first towel
This was so fascinating to do!  And simple: it is very easy to keep track of the treadling because the pattern is so obvious.  I figured out how many repeats to make each towel come out the right length and put a thread marker after each six repeats. 

remember you can click on photos to enlarge!
It was intrigueing to see the flat weave, and to realize that once the towels were washed, the flatness would disappear and the towels would become thick and textured.

Stack of finished towels, one showing the two textured sides
...and green edges!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Dornick Project

I decided to do something a little challenging, as a special gift to someone who has done a lot for me.  I asked her if she would like a table runner (YES!), and together we selected a twill pattern that pleased her and would be fun for me. She selected the colors: the warp an 8/2 cotton in camel (a lovely soft warm golden brown), and the weft, an 8/4 cotton in cream.  Finished, the runner would be 16 inches wide and five feet long, hemmed. 

The twill is a "broken" twill called Dornick's (perhaps to honor some long-ago weaver, as this is a very old pattern). A broken twill is one in which the twill lines are offset or "broken" in some way.  Here is the weaving draft I made up for the runner:

click for a larger view

As you can see, the angled lines of color do not meet.  I think this adds visual interest to the pattern.  The colors in the draft are not exact, but give an idea of how the pattern will look when woven, how it is threaded on my 4 shaft loom, and what treadles to push in what order!  It is really easier than it looks. 

Now, a quick review of the steps in making this project.  You'll find the same thing in any book on weaving, but I wanted to share my enjoyment in making this particular project by showing you pictures of it at various stages, thread to finish.  You won't learn how to weave from this, but I hope you will get a sense of my involvement and pleasure. 

The winding on of the warp: 

On the winding board
Warp shanks ready for loom

I divided the number of warp threads by 4, and wound four shanks on my board. The blue thread you see behind the warp is my guide thread.  It shows me where to wind and where to turn so that I don't have to think about it too much.

As I finished each shank, I chained it, and set it aside. You will see in a moment why I made up the warp this way.

Warp chains wound on breast beam

I am winding on front to back, so I wrapped the shanks around the front (breast) beam to hold them in place.  The looped ends are cut, and one by one, I thread them through the reed.  In this case, since the threads are smooth, I will also thread them through the heddles at this point, in the order called for by the threading draft.  I have four shafts, and each of them will be used. (My dream is to have an 8 shaft loom someday).  

Here is a photo of the other side of the shafts, showing the threads hanging in small tied bunches where they have already been threaded.  Others are waiting at the reed to be threaded into the heddles. 

Back of loom as warp is threaded

The next step after all the heddles are threaded is to tie on the bunches to the warp beam.  I somehow failed to get photos of this part!  I think I was anticipating the next part, which is a lot more challenging: winding the warp on all by myself while retaining even tension on all the warp threads.  Fortunately, there are ways....

Warp under tension using secret method
The secret: water-filled jugs!

Warp winding on

And voila, the warp is pulled to the loom evenly, with rulers inserted between layers to keep them separate and maintain an even tension during weaving.  Magic!

When the jugs are close to the loom, the warp can be untied and brought carefully to the breast beam.  Then it is tied in small bunches in front of the reed to hold it in place.  Each bunch is then carefully tied to the front apron rod, making sure to keep the tension even (this usually required retying 2 or 3 times). 

Then the weaving commences. First, some stray material is woven in to spread the warp evenly.  In this case, I used the dreaded blue warp. (Actually, I liked the effect of the darker stripe, and the next time I make a runner or mat using dornick's, I am going to try adding contrasting stripes at the ends.)

Spreading the warp for weaving
And the first few feet of dornick's twill emerges:
The red thread marks the first foot of weaving

And a few days later... voila!  The finished web:

It drapes well, don't you think?
And the finished runner, hand-hemmed and in the home of the recipient, who is very pleased with it.  That makes me happy!

Dornick's twill runner, hand-hemmed.
A close-up of the pattern:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rag rugs and the warp from hell

My very first weaving project, in the fall of 2010, was a real rag rug, as in real rags.  I cleared out a bunch of old clothes from my closet, drawers, and stored boxes, and cut them up into strips. These were things I doubt even the thrift shop would want.  The resulting rug is a little rustic, a little uneven, full of bumps where I cut through seams.  But it was satisfying and fun to weave.  Attractive in a funky sort of way, and comfy, even with the bumps.  It is my bedside rug. 

The loom came warped wtih blue cotton rug warp (courtesy the previous owner), so I used it. That rug warp fought me every step of the way, hanging up and needing constant adjustment. I thought the problem was the way it had been warped (badly) by the previous owner,  Well, that was part of it.  Then when I went to use the same rug warp from spools that also came with the loom for two smaller rugs, I found out it was more than bad warping. It was bad warp.
I  combined the blue rug warp with some 3/2 orange mercerized cotton to create some contrasting stripes. Each rug was to be about 24 by 30 inches when finished plus fringe, making for a little over 3 yards of warp, a pretty short warp.  But the blue was so ... so ... um ... grabby (cheap, short staple cotton) that it tangled every inch of the way, on anything it could: itself, the heddles, the reed, me.  I finally liberally slathered hand lotion on my hands, and ran them down every inch of every warp thread.  It worked.  FINALLY I got the loom warped!  (This is not the ultimate warping horror story, however. That comes later.) 

Working on the first rug
The weaving was easy, and by this time I knew how to keep the selvages even.  The "rags" are commercial fabric factory mill ends, sewn, rolled and cut into rounds of  strips (from 1 to 3 inches in width), then sold by the pound.   I had acquired a box of these, mostly cotton, at the studio sale.  (And now know two sources for these wonderful rags.)  So here are the results, one a gift for one of my daughters and the other a gift for her daughter:

Darcy's rug, for the back door

Keely's rug, for her jungle bedroom

The "barrel" look is due to my camera: the rug selvages are straight, I am proud to say.

Also glad to say that the blue warp from hell has been relegated to utility string, and I now have several spools of well-behaved 8/4 rug warp.  Some of which is about to be warped up for two more rag rugs. 

By the way:  8 is the size of the threads, and 4 is the number of them twisted together, so it refers to the size of the yarn or thread.  Each material (cotton, linen, wool, etc) has its own sizing convention, so part of being a weaver is figuring out how the heck to pick materials that play nice together, and more or less turn out the way you expected them to.   Weaving is sometimes a surprise.