Friday, June 27, 2014

Weaving in the Dark

Isn't he or she cute? I wish I could give the photographer credit, but in the mean while I'll just say "who ever you are,  thanks for this great picture!" Edit: Ah, now I can!  Picture taken by: Photograph by Karen (jumbokedama on Flickr)  Many thanks to Susan Berger for sending me the info.

I'm not weaving heavy 12 shaft patterns right now and I am not really pursuing any real weave structure in depth. I'm just weaving what appeals to me.  For my next project I let what my Etsy store needs refilling be my guide and I am currently sold out of runners. So runners it is...

So I decided I would like to do the huck lace diamonds again as I found it to be a fun weave,  its also easy on the joints and the pattern is visually very satisfying to weave.

Bruce recently bought me some more of the French 9/2 linen for Mother's Day when we stopped into Knotty by Nature yarns store in Victoria. I had two cones of a lovely inky jet black with a beautiful sheen that only linen has.  So I got busy and wound the warp for three runners.... and then for good measure I have wound two other linen warps in other colours, so be prepared for two or three posts featuring yet more lace diamonds!  No doubt by the time I'm done all of them I will be taking a long break on huck lace  :)

Well,  yarns dyed black have had a harder time of it from all other colours. It takes a longer process with higher percentage dye and then there's the mordants and all the rinsing.  It didn't surprise me that this linen was a bit more 'linty' than the others and I even considered wearing a mask to weave.  I knew the vacuum would have to come out at the end of the project and maybe even mid way!

Bruce helped me beam the warp which did stick a few times but not bad all things considered.  Threading was fine, and then the sleying at 24 epi went okay.  Finally it was laced on and ready to go.  The "two stick start" is nice with linen as it gives a nice firm foundation to beat on at the start.  I got into a nice rhythm and the hem allowance wove up nice and quick and I did ladder hemstitching every four ends.  I use a slippery synthetic cord doubled as my spacer and wove a half inch of plain weave, then hemstitched the top row.   Now I'm ready to weave the lace!   So I wove a full repeat and this is what I saw:

Can you make out the pattern? Nope, neither can I!   So I tried  slipping white paper in behind:

Not much better huh?  You can just make out the basic design shape but not much clarity, leastwise there could be two mistakes right there and you'd never see them!   Oh, crap!   Now what?

It occurred to me that I had my little treadling note stuck to the castle and I would just have to be really clear about my treadling order and literally call out my steps to myself.  The numbers represent the treadles, with number 1 and 8 being the tabby : " 1, 7, 1, 7, 1....8, 6, 8, 6, 8....." etc. The runs are all in logical groups of five ends. It seems if there is going to be an error, its usually where a tabby step gets missed and you must have the tabby change over to seal that group before moving onto the next group of  five ends
It was like flying at night and using only your instruments !    Or sailing in a fog bank using radar  (I used to live on a boat and can tell some interesting stories about boating in the fog)

So that's what I did for a whole runner, then a second in all black linen.  The third runner I ran into a completely different problem. I ran out of black weft!  I decided to stick with linen and used a natural beige 9/2 linen  and feature all black hems. An even beat is essential as variations will show as streaks. It was much easier as I could see the pattern build and grow and by now, a good steady rhythm was achievable.

Notes on linen in this project:

  • I found no difficulties in beaming the warp but I had help beaming to ensure even tension. It makes a real difference.
  • I laced on over hand tying bow knots. Linen can be slippery and this also leads to uneven tension.
  • I used an end delivery shuttle with adjusted tension to give me lovely edges. 
  • I decided not to use a temple as linen seems to weave up sturdy and stiff. Temples help with stretchier yarns such as cottons.  It would have made little difference on this project and only slowed me down. (If it had been a cotton warp with linen weft, I would have used a temple)
  • I wound my pirns *very* tightly using my AVL winder, with a tensioning device. I used a damp clean cloth to hold the tail of the yarn from the cone in my hand as I wound on. This dampness seems to help tame the linen, and reduce the fuzzies.  Its not wet, simply damp. If you do one pirn or bobbin using this method, you must do them all as it will show in the cloth where you didn't.
  • Linen is nifty when it comes to turning hems.... they tend to fold over nicely and press flat well. Basically the whole project is stiff !   The linen becomes softer with laundering and even gets better over time with each further wash and press.
  • Try not to get crease lines in the project where you don't want them...... they can become permanent. Better to roll it up for storage, or place a soft crush of tissue paper at the fold to avoid compression.  **I've seen where one weaver uses the cheap pool noodles cut into appropriate lengths to pin her projects to and then enclose in tissue paper.**
  • Linen must be hemmed as fringes will disintegrate with washing. Its also the perfect fibre for playing with special hemstitching techniques or even leno borders,  and Danish medallions.
  • Last of all... don't be intimidated by linen. If starting new to linen, then use a plied linen (not a singles) and have fun with it! My first linen project was four napkins using 16/2 and table napkins draft from a Handwoven Design Collection issue. I even crocheted a lacy shell edging all around the four napkins and they sold at the guild's Christmas sale.  It was my first time for huck lace too and I wove them on a table loom.

The lace areas all shifted to their final positions with the hand washing.

I got two all black runners 13 inches wide and one is 57 inches long and another is 61 inches.

A neat feature of the solid colour lace is the effect of seeing Celtic knot work like curves when its turned to produce squares over the diamonds. It only works with solid colours though.

This runner comes in at 71 inches over all length, by 13 inches wide. 

The beat appears to be even thankfully!

It has that look of quiet elegance I wanted to achieve.
Oh, by the way... there was not one treadling error in all three runners!

I also spent some of my Etsy earnings and bought myself a new shuttle! Bluster Bay has now moved to use Honex tensioners over the little cup hook system.  So I ordered a black walnut, open bottomed shuttle. It uses the cardboard pirns so you have to learn to build the shape on the winder in small increments.  There is an allen key to make adjustments much like AVL or Schacht shuttles.  I haven't used it yet but soon.... very soon! Isn't it pretty?   :)


Bruce said...

Susan, your weaving is beautiful, but your photography is also awesome as well. I tried to capture the patterns and the deep black colour, but wasn't able to. Once again, congratulations are in order. Hub

Cindie said...

The black is stunning! I don't think these runners will last long in your etsy shop.

Unknown said...

Beautiful weaving, as usual. You can see the photographer credits at

Margaret Bernstein said...

The weaving is lovely ,as always. I have embroidered on 32 ct. black linen fabric, so I understand exactly what you mean by how difficult seeing the structure of it can be. I had to do it the same way you did, entirely by touch.
The bluster bay honex shuttles are wonderful. I had held them at a show in February , and knew I had to own 2 of them. When I finally tracked my train of thought back to the start..... I think that I may have bought an 8 shaft loom so that I could buy those two shuttles. After using the shuttles.... i think I should have bought a 12 shaft :)

Lynnette said...

Susan, these runners are stunning! Black may be difficult to see while you are weaving, but oh, are they ever worth it!
I really enjoyed reading your process part of the blog too.. thanks for that.

Linda said...

I especially love that Bruce offers comments (well-deserved, glowing ones!) and signs off as 'Hub' :). I love these runners……and just when I thought the gorgeous red could not be topped. To have done these in black is a testament to your discipline and exquisite skill. Gorgeous, gorgeous runners, Susan!