Shortly after I started weaving back in 1996 I found a big stash of soft Monte Cristo cotton at my local yarn store. I bought some skeins and again in my future visits, I would add another skein or two. I wasn't sure what I would weave with it but had some thoughts of trying my hand at the boutonne technique. Roll the clock ahead to 2014 and I still have a bin with eleven skeins of this soft plushy cotton. (I'm still going to try weaving boutonne style!)
Its been a yarn stash waiting for a project and that day has finally arrived. I'll be the first to say that in the intervening years my yarn selections tended to the finer end of the scale, so this is like 'rope' to me now. Its lovely soft cuddly 'rope' and perfect for a baby blanket. (Henry's Attic sells it to retailers)
Yes, I'm going to be a Nana again in the spring!
I have lots of time and I also don't. I'm looking at a total knee replacement and recovery period sometime this winter and then throw Christmas into the mix and .... well, time is short! I'd rather not be trying to make something that *special* with a recovering knee as I don't know the healing time frame. So I'm starting on it now.
I looked at all my drafts, then my samples .... then I googled Monte Cristo and determined setts. Its thick and fluffy and I was beginning to think that plain weave was all there was to choose from. Then I found a baby blanket project by weaver Sally Orgren that was perfect. Sally is an amazing weaver and its worth checking out her projects at the link. The blanket is a combination of plain weave, five thread huck and window panes. So I changed the colours of the window pane outline and modified the huck lace to add a second style of lace blocks. Its a six shaft, eight treadle draft. Sally also had it set for direct tie up and I changed that too. Then it occurred to me that I would be weaving it on my Louet Spring 90...and it would be the full width!
So first order of business was to wind all the skeins into balls..... and that took some time as you can imagine... I would stand and wind the warp for a bit, then sit and wind a cake on my rest break.
I used a Woolhouse ball winder for making the larger cakes. Doesn't get used much around here so I even had to dust it. I normally use the smaller Royal brand for the finer yarns.
Wound the warp using four full skeins of cotton (plus five ends of a new cake) and got it set up on the loom for beaming. I had pre washed four skeins in advance to help reduce shrinkage. It was like trying to duck marshmallows under water! They also took four full days to dry! The colour brightened up to a soft cream.
Bruce helped me wind on the warp and it took a while for a few reasons. Its thick, its full width, its thick, and its stretchy! Below you can see the bow in the lease sticks. The stretchiness of the cotton made it akward. Do I pull the stretch out now or endlessly deal with it later? I felt like a newbie all over again. I opted for being consistent and we took our time.
Finally we got it all done. It was a slow process with the cotton binding in the raddle. The 8/4 cotton (doubled) was also behaving weirdly too. It was acting slippery. I'd never thought I'd say that about 8/4 cotton!
Before I could thread, I had to tie back all the extra heddles out of the way. I think you'll understand my subtle message when I say I used PINK cotton ties. I don't know anything concrete but its a suggestion!
As you can see from the pictures above and below, I used just about every dent except for these seven! I used a ten dent reed and sleyed one per dent. Lots of wriggle room there.
Normally I like to lace on but somehow that felt like I would be playing with the warp like a bungee jump and I opted to tie on. The 8/4 was tied separately as I didn't want them 'quarrelling'.
I must say that I loved the look of the warp from the back. All straight and orderly. It also shows just how full the loom is! My widest warp on it to date.
I ended my day by winding several pirns and loading up the bench with my tools for the next day's start!
So yesterday I tightened and closed the knots and then laid in 4 shots of scrap 8/2 cotton to bring the groupings closer together. Then I placed two thin warping sticks and then threw four more shots of cotton. As you can see from the close-up below, it really works to get things neatly braced up and ready to go. This cotton is soft and spongy and if you ever needed a "two stick start", its on a project like this!
I wove approximately five inches and then started with the coloured divider. Then weave ten shots of plain weave and then weave block A lace, ten shots of plain weave. Repeat and do block B lace in the centre of the next window. Its hard to see the lace as its cream on cream. Actually, I don't really expect it to behave like my recent lace projects at all and form tight groupings. The Monte Cristo is too fat and fluffy to allow crisp definition. It will be more of a central grouping of texture to break up the plain weave, with a touch of colour. The ends will have beige satin binding to secure the edges.
In the picture above and below there is lace in the centres but the flash brightens the warp too much....
....so I turned the flash off and you can just make out the lace below. As I said, this will be more texture than anything! I started to wonder if I should just treadle plain weave for the entire length but Bruce says it looks better than these pictures show.
So that's where I finished. It will be a slow weave as I'm using a temple against the inevitable draw in, moving it frequently and I'm using a larger 15" Schacht EDS shuttle and having to give it a real good throw to cross the warp. I may switch to a heavier AVL and see if that helps!
There is warp enough for two blankets so this will take awhile! Good thing I started early then huh?