Friday, November 23, 2012

Snowflake Twill: One Step Back and Four Steps Ahead

I think there's no point in hiding the fact that I love twill. I love the complexity, the convoluted thread paths and watching them grow as I throw the shuttle.

I hadn't been weaving for too long when I found some old material at a second hand store. It was just a scrap in a basket of old doilies and linen hankies. The pattern was amazing! I bought it for a dollar and later found out it was snowflake twill in off white and beige cotton.... with an orange stripe down one side. I didn't like the orange line but some weaver long ago placed it there and had a good reason to do so.  I was going to photograph the fabric to show you and have been taking my studio and linen cupboard apart to find it but no luck!  ( If I come across the fabric after I hit the publish button I will edit the picture in after.)


Then came a blizzard of snowflakes!! Weavers Magazine issue number 13, 2nd quarter 1991  and before too long issue number 18,  3rd quarter 1992 and then issue number 20, 1st quarter 1993.   Seems I wasn't the only one who liked the pattern work and there was a demand for more! They featured more projects in Weavers issue number 35, Spring 1997 again.  Even the recent fall 2012 Handwoven magazine featured a reprise of snowflake once more. Its like "eye candy"!

Over the years I have woven endless yards of snowflake twill in scarves, shawls and table runners. I have never used it for kitchen towels as that would seem sacrilegious somehow, but there's no reason why it couldn't be done. It would be a lot of work for a towel you wipe dishes with!  It seems to be a draft I turn to time and again. So much so, I can recite the entire treadling by memory... forward and backwards!

Its known as snowflake twill, or Swedish snowflake twill, which is interesting since Guild of Canadian Weavers Masterweaver Jane Evans wrote her thesis on Latvian weaves. It was later published as this (sadly) out of print book:


It seems the Latvians trace it back as one of their traditional patterns. Well, who ever invented this pattern has my eternal thanks!

So what is snowflake twill? Its technically a twill progression. A ever progressing twill run to a mid point and then mirror reversal. This detail (below) shows a typical 8 shaft run that creates the "X" formation:

Notice the zig zag runs below the threading

There is a whole world of  twill progressions out there, so if this inspires you to look further, then great!



 In the best of Weavers "Twill Thrills" they show a lovely heart shaped motif so once you get the concept, its fun to play with and see what you can come up with. (Granted, a computer program makes this much easier and I use Fiberworks-PCW.)

Fair warning! It seems to gently lead you further, deeper into the next weaving world of Network Twills like the rabbit diving into the hole in Alice in Wonderland! (The best guide introductory guide for network twills, and theory on most weave structures,  is Madelyn van der Hoogt's "The Complete Drafting Book for Handweavers")

Then you link the motifs together with either satin threading (note the beautiful cross style pattern created between the X's):



My favourite method is to use a point twill threading in between. Jane Evans had a lovely runner featuring this method in Weavers Magazine issue number 18:


It certainly adds more drama!


Table runner, in fine mercerised cottons, 36 epi.

Smooth yarns really show the pattern nicely and square the pattern better, and I have used various weights up to size 10/2 (or 2/10) cotton but anything larger in grist would have a float problem.  Having said that, I have seen a lap throw in medium sized wool and it looked stunning! The wool has the ability to hold the twill floats in place, particularly if fulled a tad. Its produces a nice balanced pattern if you use the same size yarn as both warp and weft, otherwise the X's become elongated and just look weird. 

I also tend to use soft neutral colours as the pattern can get rather busy visually and even more so with bolder colour. Again, some years ago I used cream silk as warp and black silk as weft and it was snapped up at a sale! The woman buyer had what I would like to call, an "exuberance for fashion and flair." Back in 2005-2006 I was commissioned to weave an all black snowflake twill shawl. It was hard on the eyes but it was stunning! I didn't have a digital camera then unfortunately.

I like to use one matte yarn and one shiny one to get a beautiful play of light on the cloth to reveal the pattern. This way it looks great on a table with the wood :


This is the table runner I gifted my son and daughter in law this past spring.

I personally haven't woven a four shaft version but I did venture into twelve shaft territory for my sister's shawl. ( all details are fully covered in three posts on "Melinda's Shawl" are shown on the sidebar, under "Topic Shopping") I used a fine off white tencel (shiny) and used a silk seaweed blend weft (semi matte). The X's get to be rather large as you can see from this picture. That's a six inch ruler for one repeat:



As you can see this twenty one inch wide shawl has the room for the larger pattern. I could only fit three repeats across the shawl.  I've run my limit on shaft size though, unless I go to really fine yarns like 20/2 cottons and sixteen shafts, otherwise the float lengths will become a problem. Might be fun to try it sometime on the Megado!

So does it always have to be an X?  No... you can get a squared O from the same draft! With the regular threading in place, simply treadle the reverse of the threading: (can you spot the mistake?  :)


Here's another twist on this. The threading and treadling are reversed...... and it produces


.... you get X's! Reverse one direction, either the threading or treadling and the O's are back.

So time to move onto the snowflake scarves on my big loom and a progress report. Its still under way as I had put on warp long enough for three scarves. I had a few set backs.  I was weaving away and had enough done so that I could now see the underside as it advanced almost to the cloth beam.  So roughly twenty five to thirty inches...then I  saw the  white line!


This picture was awkward to get and then Blogger turned it for you, but you can see the line. What caused it? One warp end that didn't get threaded through the eye of the heddle, but just below it. If it had been above the eye then the line would have appeared on top and been caught right away.  The top looked just fine!


There are some threading lines but they tend to coincide with the three ends per dent in my twelve dent reed. I'm not going to tell you how many inches of silk yak blend I cut and pulled out. I wanted to save the warp and not get the fuzzies.  I let it sit for a few days after fixing the warp thread. The warp and I needed a time out.

The warp is bleached camel and silk blend and not overly shiny  and the (now scrapped) silk yak was not all that shiny either. Now I had a chance to change up the weft (notice how I'm looking for the positive here?)  I used a 20/2 silk for the first scarf for a tone on tone. The lines are quite visible but they are not errors.  They are three thread groupings through the reed that coincide with the pattern groupings. Believe me, I double checked!!


The second scarf is currently under way and I'm using a beige silk and camel blend and it has a beautiful golden sheen. Its a finer weft and so the pattern repeats are smaller... and there's a whole lot of weaving to get the inches in!


I also have a scarf warp going on the Louet as well and so took time out to weave a scarf there.  This project needs my close attention as well when treadling ...yes, its another twill. Are you surprised?

Then to close, and because it is 'my' blog....  grandson Ethan, 6 1/2 months old,  and his Mum Lisa...


We can hardly wait to see them all at Christmas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ten Yards: the Long and the Short of it

I don't think that a warp of ten yards is actually very long. I have woven this length and much longer before. For some reason,  this ten yard warp just didn't want to end.  I'm at a loss to understand why as I enjoyed the twill blocks, the colours,  and the Spring loom but it just seemed to go on and on! I guess it was just time for a change...


These have all plum weft.


I have nine towels in total and from the one already in service in my kitchen, they are great!  The colours even suit my kitchen decor and they are generously large (which I really like). Towels that are too small to do much are annoying! These measure up 21 1/2" x 30", with some a bit longer, some a tad bit shorter. They are listed in the Etsy store already.


A mix of small and slightly larger blocks and colours 'plaid style.'

I actually dug through my stash to see what cotton colours I had that worked together and also in enough quantity to be able to wind the warp and enough for the weft as well.  I seem to have lots of cotton in various colours but part single cones. It seems that some mixed colour warps are coming up soon.
Buying more yarn doesn't appear to be the answer (shocking I know!) The 8/2 (or 2/8 if you prefer) cotton came from Brassards en Fil  and is a nice quality and good twist for warp. I used 24 ends per inch and it seemed to weave up nicely balanced with a firm beat.  The drape is lovely and they are very absorbent.

All burnt peach weft...

All sage green weft...we have the twin of this one in our kitchen!

This was a two block weave: Block A is threaded 1,2,3,4 and Block B is threaded 5,6,7,8
Its very easy to treadle and either treadle one or five is the start and you can mix and match them up as you like. I kept to more traditional symmetry, but you can actually go 'free form' and create on the fly... just like Lynnette did in this post.  Now her scarves look thoroughly modern!  Turned twill is very versatile. Remember these?  Same idea but the blocks are put together a bit differently.  When I feel like weaving this twill again in the (near) future, I think I will try three, four shaft blocks on all twelve shafts and see what the possibilities are with that! Hey, I could get four blocks on the Megado.... ah,  I better slow down here and remind myself that I'm bored with this.  :)

Lastly, large blocks with plaid style colour

I had the draft all worked out, right down to the last warp thread and colour order. I  print a copy off and thread following that. When the time came to print off additional copies for my samples, I couldn't find the draft! It was gone...deleted?   I had to work up a smaller, not to original colour alternative:


So as a bonus this time, I have a book recommendation!  If you like to dig deep into weave structures and learn them thoroughly, then you'll enjoy this new issue  "Weft Faced Pattern Weaves ~ Tabby to Taquete" by Nancy Arthur Hoskins: ( I have her Coptic Tapestry Album)



I must admit that I haven't done more than give it a quick look for now but I'm impressed with the book's functionality. Its coil bound and so lays flat. The bulk of images are black and white but when there is colour, its great colour!


I got my copy from Amazon and it tagged along as companion book for one my husband wanted to order. I thought it was a fair trade! This won't be a quick read but more of an in-depth study and it even has a lesson section if you decide to follow along on the loom.  I suspect this book will be popular...


Here's the table of contents so you can see what Nancy covers and believe me, its looks thorough. I'm looking forward to getting into this in more detail.   Maybe put on your Santa Wish List?  Yup, the crazy time is coming!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

More to be Grateful for

Remembrance Day for many people is a day off and some even go shopping. With recent wars in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places where they still do 'peace keeping', there are new veterans with younger faces. I'm encouraged to see a resurgence of young families showing respect and taking their children to a Remembrance Day service. The veterans of World War 2 are becoming fewer and fewer and they need to be heard and thanked.

I wrote a post about my family's contribution to past wars and service in this post.  If your time allows, maybe visit the older post and see the pictures?  My mother's parents served in The Great War, later known as World War 1.  My Grandfather was a trooper in the Royal Marine Artillery and his wife, my Nana worked as a W.R. N. S. (or Wren) at an airship station at Kingsnorth, England.  The link talks about the place during WW2 but it shows the airship field that was in use during WW1. (My grand parents military pictures are shown at the older post.) It wasn't too long after I wrote that Remembrance post that I was contacted by an author in England who was writing the history of the Kingsnorth Airship Station. Ms. Bilbe wrote asking for permission to use the information and pictures and I hope to show you a copy of her book in the near future!

Sadly, earlier this past summer my aunt Diana in England died and there was a service held for her in September.

This was Diana in the late 1950's at Stonehenge

 My brother went to represent the Canadian side of the family at the service but mainly for my father who had lost his sister and friend.


My Dad, Frank, at HMS Bruce (17 years old or so)


and more recently...

My brother returned from England with pictures that had been in my paternal grandmother's photo box. They are quite old and unfortunately have no names recorded. I can clearly see a family resemblance in some of them so they are relatives, most likely on my paternal grandmother's side of the family. One is quite interesting as it clearly is a military grouping:


They are wearing military clothing associated with the Boer War. There were actually two wars fought: the first was 1880- 1881. The second, which I suspect these men attended in South Africa was 1899- 1902.

A second picture:


This one could be Boer War or WW1. They look so young! Note the helmets by their feet. These were common on service in India.

There are other nameless pictures:




(how is that baby being held up??)





This gentleman (above, both pictures)  resembles my brother ....


I think this gentleman (above) may be my great grandfather.


Doesn't he look dapper?



If you are visiting this post from the UK and some of these people look familiar.... please write me!! There is an email address if you click on my profile. We would be thrilled if we could find their names or family connection.  Thank you...

Continuing on with the military theme... My great Aunt Eileen served in World War 2. She is in the top row, second from the right. This was her squadron:



These are my great aunts Bessie (left) and Eileen (right). Bessie came to Canada as a war bride after the war and lived for many years raising a family in Timmins, Ontario. She was the youngest of the sisters and is now in her mid 80's.  Eileen is in her mid 90's and lives on the far side of the world in Australia.

Other family members that also served was my Great Uncle Fred:



 That is my great grandfather on the far left,  my grandfather as a youngster in the middle and great uncle Fred looking dapper in his uniform. The bride I assume is Fred's new wife and sadly I don't know her name (yet!)

Fred (far left) became a "Bobby" or police officer later after the war... here he is with his work mates on the railway police in Northampton:


I'll close with this poem :

Remembrance Day   by A. Lawrence Vaincourt


He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes to his neighbours
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew whereof he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For old Bob has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a Soldier died today.

He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
Tho' a Soldier died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state.
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young.
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Someone who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Soldier,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension - though small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Soldier -
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Soldier,
Who would fight until the end?

He was just a common Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Soldier's part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honour
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:
"OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A SOLDIER DIED TODAY."



{Edit: According to Statistics Canada, we are losing veterans at a rate of 500 per week.
Such sad numbers... }



photo/ painting: Marlene Becker