Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Quest for the Illusive Selvedge

So have you ever had a sore toe and then you seem to hit it on everything? The dog even stands on it?  Well, my sore knee is much like that toe... just begging to be hit.  I rapped it hard against the beam on the loom, cracked it on the coffee table and then the final straw,  I pushed it sideways trying to reach up and turn off a bed side light.   ~*ouch*~  is the only word I can write here in polite company.

So its been well iced, anti inflammatory gel rubbed and generally babied. I even resorted to a cane to help me up out of chair and on stairs. Its paid off and I'm back to my normal cranky knee and stepping on a treadle again didn't seem to bother it today.  yeah!

The side issue from this recent little episode is that there's been no weaving. I've been working on some drafts and playing with the Fiberworks program while I had my leg up. I had planned to get one more blog post in for May but that didn't happen. Then I was wondering what the heck to write about when a friend asked me to share how I get my edges when weaving. I can do that!   So I've been thinking about the things I do, the tools I use to get my selvedges.  Its been a learning curve much like anything else we learn and do in the weaving world!

My dear friend and mentor Margaret gave me some tips and advise when I was still a newbie weaver back in 1997, but the one pearl that stuck with me was to "simply weave a mile". Turns out her weaving teacher had told her that way back when in 1947 when she started weaving. Margaret used to be an occupational therapist before she retired and used weaving to help recovering veterans from World War 2 with their therapy.

"Weave a Mile" sounds funny at first, then silly.....but when you stop to think about it, it makes sense.  When you are new, you fuss over every shot, every pic. By the end of a mile, its about simply getting the job done and the edges just disappear from your overall view. A mile means you have perfected your throw and catch, when to apply the thumb to brake the yarn, how much to angle the yarn so it draws in what it needs before the shed closes. You also develop a good rhythm and synchronize your movements.

Margaret had me sitting properly at the loom and mindful of my posture right from the start of my weaving career. When I got my big Woolhouse loom in July 1998, she was there on the doorstep right away before I ever threw a shuttle to make sure my new bench was the right height and how to use it properly so not to abuse my body.

She also told me that once you have the basics maneuvers under control (more of that mile again), then use whatever tools you have to hand to assist you in a successful project.  Temples (or stretchers) and end delivery shuttles (also known as end feed shuttles).

I requested one for Christmas as it was a bit spendy. Not sure about this new shuttle as I had no experience with one, other than a hearty recommendation from Margaret. Santa brought me a twelve inch Schacht end delivery shuttle and a bag of five red plastic pirns. Winding the pirns took some practice but I managed to get the knack. By the end of my scarf project, I had requested a second one for my birthday in March!  I was sold, sold, sold!  My edges were respectable before and looked great now!

Lay the yarn between the two plates and gently pull down and slide the tail of the yarn into the slot.

Then slide the tail up and over that little post and that's it.

If you are changing yarns and need more or less tension, then you make small adjustments at this point with the allen key that comes with the shuttle. The screw tightens or loosens the compression plates. Make the adjustments small as the little screw could fall out if tightened too much. Happily, that hasn't happened for me and I've used some fine yarns. If there are little loops at the selvedge, then tighten and if there is a bit of draw in, then loosen the plates off.  The nice benefit of this type of compression plate is that you set the tension and then if using the same yarn pirn after pirn, you seldom need to touch it again.

The pirn slides on to the aluminum shaft and after time of lifting and dropping the shaft again, it may need to be raised a bit. An adjustment at this point under the shuttle will raise the pirn shaft.  The pirn needs to be level so the yarn feeding off the tip travels straight through the compression plates. I'd like to add that I have only adjusted the shuttles for this only once each since I got them so its not a step you do very often.

I had eventually bought the larger fifteen inch Schacht shuttles that use the longer black pirns. Perfect for wider projects such as towels, shawls and baby blankets. The black pirns hold so much more weft yarn than regular shuttle bobbins. That means less joins in your work.  Who doesn't like that?

This is the best spot to mention that a tightly wound pirn also means smooth and easy weft being pulled off the tip of the pirn and laid into the pic. If  the weft digs down into the lower layer on the pirn, or is loose and an entire section comes off as a lump, you can guess the result.  I find when this happens you usually have to cut the weft lump and then that yarn is wasted. The answer is to apply tension to the thread as its being wound onto the pirn.  

You can hold the yarn between a small piece of leather, wear a glove or use a tensioner.  I went on a search for a new electric winder a couple of years ago and finally decided on the AVL model. I want to point out that Leclerc has one and so does Schacht and no doubt there are others too. The AVL model had what I was looking for, and was on sale at the time too! So I'm going to focus on the tensioner part as they do sell that part individually. It can be adapted and added to an existing winder set up if you are handy with tools or have a crafty husband.

The yarn goes through the pink ring on the far right, then between the tension plates and through the small pink hole, then through the pigtails. The "U" notch is where you can add a yardage counter if you like.  This whole apparatus slides to and fro in a notch on the stand. 

You control the tension on the plates by tightening the little white nob on the end of the spring. It adjusts for varying grists of yarns

Here you can see that I can't get the point of the scissors down into the yarn on the pirn. Its as hard as can be.  It pulls off the end smoothly and with no drag at all!

Weaving towels, particularly twill towels, sometimes had more draw in than I liked even with the end delivery shuttles. The weft travels over every second, third or even fifth thread and so the warp threads snuggle into their position closer together. Even with good technique and an end feed shuttle, you can still get draw in. Hard to stop it.... but you can reduce it.  Anything over half an inch to an inch is a lot so reduction is a good thing.

Temples or stretchers are in common use in European  weaving. They don't think twice about using them. Its a tool to accomplish their project. I liken it to a woodworker using what ever he has in his shop to make a beautiful wooden work of art. Hand tools, power tools.  Who sees the tools used later when the piece is done and presented?    With a handwoven, there's no indication that says "this was woven with a temple"   :)

It seems there is an idea in some North American weaving circles that using a temples is a crutch. That you should somehow get nice edges or less draw in on your own merit.  I strongly disagree .  Yes, new weavers should learn how to 'weave their mile' but after that, use the tools available. It all still requires proper technique and a good warp, and the temple doesn't replace that.

I stick the teeth into the edge about  two eighths of an inch in from the edge....

The temple sits about a quarter of an inch below the fell or leading edge of the work.

I repeat on the left hand side and then press the parts together and down, sliding the brass ring over to hold them in place. Then I force the wood bits apart and slide in the holding pin.

As you can see, I really spread them! It allows extra weft to be laid into each pic . I also beat on a closed shed. The twill will still draw in as that's the nature of the beast. It will also shrink in width as well. If I want twenty three inch wide towels, I usually plan for twenty five + /- in the reed. It all depends on the warp yarn and sett density. Lots of variables! Some of these details are hard to explain as you simply pick things up along the way and absorb them like osmosis and then simply do what you need, and adjust as you go.  (You are making me really think Martha!)

So see for yourself below.... temples seems to work. This edge result is a combination of end delivery shuttle and a temple. There are no holes from the temple as they disappear. Yes, you may stick yourself on the teeth but only a couple of times and you learn to be careful. Moving it is a pain say some..... I think the results show its worth the effort. I moved this temple every one pattern repeat which is 24 shots for my 12 shaft pattern. Any longer and the draw in starts to show again.

(... I'll share this project details in full another time okay? Its still under way right now...)

Here are some other end delivery shuttles:

Both sizes of the Schacht. The red pirns will fit the larger model but not the reverse.

The mini Bluster Bay end delivery shuttle and the shaped card board pirn it uses. You thread the yarn around the hooks to produce drag on the yarn.  Works nicely but must be rethreaded every pirn change. Here is one threaded at the top of this post. Its also uses the opposite side to the Schacht! Took my head a while to get around that.  :)

This is the mini AVL and its stubby little pirn. It uses compression plates.

This is the large model of the AVL end delivery shuttle. It uses the large black pirns. Its *heavy* in the hand. I would think wide warps and a good heft. You'll have amazing biceps in no time. Watch your feet if you drop it though!

I hear wonderful reports about Crossley end delivery shuttles. The link also show further comparisons of EDS as well as a Crossley model. Not many are around for sale since they went out of business in 2006. Weavers who have them, hang onto them!  I hope to try one some day if I can find one for sale.

So what else do I do to get a good edge? Well, you must have an even, well tensioned warp. No one can weave well on a bad one, although you can weave badly on a good one!  Get comfortable with your warping skills and if you haven't tried the back to front method, then consider switching. I use this method on all my looms.  
Hate beaming warps?  Then get a friend or hubby to help you. The company is always nice and showing someone how you do it actually reinforces your knowledge and ability to do it! I always try to ensure the warp is properly centered on the back beam to avoid it being skewed.  If the warp is to be fourteen inches in the reed, I like to spread the warp to fourteen and a quarter inches on the back beam. That way the warp angles in towards the heddles and reed ever so slightly. It aids in minimizing abrasion of the edge threads. Things just seem to behave better when I do, and I don't seem to be able to give you a very technical explanation I'm afraid.

This is the new warp on the Louet Spring that I finished setting up yesterday. You can see that I threw three shots and beat, then another three.... then wove  for an inch in a high contrast yarn. I'm looking for errors. So far it looks good! There is a floating selvedge on either side and I tied on this time as the yarn (10/2 cotton, 28 epi) has some 'bite' to it... some 'tooth' and so tying overhand knots hold nicely. I'm able to get good tension with yarns  like this. Slippery yarns such as tencel, bamboo and some silks, I will lace on to get better tension and reduce loom waste. (I always make small bouts.) Take a look at the warp again and notice that there is little to no draw in. I'm only using the Schacht end delivery shuttle. No temple.

I don't expect to need a temple for this project, but if it did draw in more than I like, then I would use one. I have slowly added to my Glimakra temple line up and have some for narrow scarves right through to a wide blanket.  They are as important as your shuttle is.

Like Forrest Gump said "like peas and carrots"

Well, if you are still with me at this point, well done! For someone who didn't know what to write, I have surpassed myself!


barbara said...

Good Afternoon Susan,
What a wonderful article on "weave a mile" and then use what tools you deem as necessary. I like that - I also like to read about your end feed shuttles, though I don't think I will change over. Just don't feel like making the investment in new shuttles, bobbins and bobbin winder. So I will stick with the shuttles that I have always used. Though I do appreciate what you are saying, and believe if I started to use the end feed shuttles, I would never go back to the others ....... Perhaps in another life as a weaver I will get into end-feed shuttles. Do you mind if I share this post with the Spinners and Weavers Guild of P.E.I.? I send out notes to them from time-to-time, and I think some of them would find this article very interesting. Hopefully your knee will behave itself. Weaverly yours ..... Barbara

Susan Harvey said...

Hi Barbara,

I really think that if you get a chance to try an end delivery shuttle, you should. Maybe a weaving friend can loan you one to try?
You are never too old to learn something new! You can always go back to your regular shuttles, but richer for the experience...

Yes, please share freely....its why I write these posts. Nice to know someone benefits !
:) Susan

Dorothy Stewart said...

Yes indeed, what a very inspiring educational post !! As you know I am a convert to end feed shuttles and never use anything else. Not so sure about the temples though, I seem to get good results with my two bags of lentils attached to the selvedges with paper clips !! Much easier to move !

I must have woven a mile by now surely ! I remember you telling me that ages ago when I was having a problem with something ! Selvedges never go off my radar though !!

Great post, thanks for sharing your experience so generously.

Anonymous said...

Susan, you out did yourself! Wonderful post and you did make me pause and remember I have two end feed shuttles...somewhere in this studio. I will have to dig them out and try using them again. Last time I tried using them I got frustrated but you have inspired me to try again. Have to agree with Dorothy I don't like temples but do love to use my fishing line "temples" - they work for me. Hope your knee is on the mend. hugs, Martha

Susan Harvey said...

Hi Dorothy, Martha...

I clean forgot that there are other options for the traditional temple.
The clips and weight models are just great too. I tried to set something like that up but the sides of my big loom drop down too low to make it effective. I weave a lot of towels on the big loom and that's where I need the temple the most, so I stuck with the Glimakra ones...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post---I am a very beginning weaver, and am struggling with some wavy selvedges. The advice I was given by my weaving mentor boils down to "weave a mile," and she did tell me that most weavers have to work on their selvedges through their whole career---that is just one of the challenges of weaving. I have been practicing on dishtowels, and they are bright and colorful and will dry a dish even though my edges sometimes look like someone coming off of a three day drunk wove them. (I hope your knee continues to improve.)

Debi said...

Wonderful blog post Susan! I see you have also shared it on Ravelry and it is greatly appreciated. I love, love, love my Schact EFS! I have some other beautiful shuttles and beautiful EFS, but I always go back to my Schact. I need to ask for another for my birthday. I sometimes get that nasty lump of waste on my pirn, I just need to focus and probably wear a glove.

Susan Harvey said...

Wavy edges? sometimes the breast beam holds the warp at a steady spread and as you weave, the draw in happens. You stop and advance the warp and it starts all over again. Try a temple if this is the case...

It also hints of warp tension issues as well. Get a helper who turns the beam while you apply tension while its being wound on.
Most newbie weaving issues come from poor tension. The solution? put lots of short projects on and the practice alone will improve the situation.

Towels are wonderful full sized samples and useful in more ways than one!

Keep up the great work!

Louisa said...

Lovely comprehensive post, Susan! I have my mini AVL and a regular-sized Bluster Bay EFS. They both take the same truncated plastic pirns. Now if only I had a motorised winder. Sadly I haven't woven enough recently to justify another piece of equipment.

I do like my temples too. Most of mine are the metal Toika ones from Finland though I have at least one wooden Leclerc. Though the Toikas are nasty sharp they are narrow so you can see more of the weaving under them. Take a bit of getting used to so you don't scratch yourself or your loom though!

Susan Harvey said...

Thank you Louisa!

I thought about weavers with hand turn winders when I talked about the tensioner. I thought perhaps some of the craftier ones or hubbies could jury rig something with the tensioner parts or something similar.

Having said that, just a glove or piece of leather to run the thread through would help improve the tension on the pirn.

Hilary said...

That's pretty much what I tell students when they whinge about their edges......practice, practice, practice......but weave a mile sounds better!!!!
Love the certainly DID outdo yourself.
And can't wait to hear about that pattern.

Joanna said...

Wow! Thanks a million for this great post!

Elizabeth said...

Susan, thank you SO much for such a helpful, informative, well-written and interesting post!I'm a fairly new weaver, and a quite a few hundred yards short of that mile, so for me those beautiful even selvedges are still elusive.