Saturday, January 26, 2008

And off We go....

Today we're starting on the false damask towels. It's exciting for me as this will be my first weaving since last June. It's been a long time with our selling, packing, moving, then painting, new carpet and then finally unpacking and setting up my loom *twice* Phew.... To make this even better, they are forecasting snow today. Can you imagine? A snow day! Perfect weaving weather if you ask me ( and we have a full fridge, so let the white stuff come! :)
So, the tie up is done and the locking pin is pulled....everything balances. I use some scrap yarn similar in size to the warp to pull the groups together. I throw three shots reasonably close, then beat all three together. Throw three more and repeat. In as little as 6-12 shots of scrap weft, you are ready to weave. The picture also shows just how much loom waste there is at the beginning:

I will weave further until I have enough done to hold the temple (or stretcher as some weavers call it) Mine is a Glimakra and is okay for your usual range of home weaving. If you weave rugs, you will need a stronger temple and they come made of metal to take the heavy load. I have an old metal one made by Toika and it's what I would call 'industrial strength'. So here's the temple slipped into place:

So why use one of these? Its for when you are weaving and the draw in is more than an inch, such as in twills. With excessive draw in you can have abrasion of the edge threads and need to do repair threads or your floating selvedges drop away from fraying.With a temple the draw in is greatly reduced. You will however still have shrinkage after the item is wet finished as the threads pull closer together but the edges are uniform. Some weavers say "it slows me down' . Yup, it does but it all depends on what you want to achieve and what you get used to doing. For me the end result is worth the extra step. I'm not what I would call a fast weaver anyhow. I'm more results orientated. So how often do you move the temple? I move it every inch of weaving to be consistent. Or in this pattern, every two full repeats:

I'd like to talk about the shed for a minute. Some weavers are hesitant to make adjustments to their looms. I have a countermarche loom and they are known for their large weaving shed. One place to make an adjustment is at the top of the beater 'swords'. I shifted the peg to a lower hole:

To here:And this is the size of shed I'm working with: ( I have floating selvedges on if you see a fuzzy black line midway):Now that we have checked for threading errors ( none this time.. yeah! ) We can pull out the lease sticks from the back as they can cause some small interference with weaving and advancement of the warp:

Let's talk about hems and hem stitching now. This is a twill pattern, and the tie up can produce a plain weave, but I won't weave plain weave hems on a twill towel. Why not? With plain weave, the threads alternate over and under every thread which results in a wider, spread section. While with twill, they go over 2-3, and then under 1 and then maybe over 5.... and it all weaves up closer (drawn in) and even closer still (shrinkage) when washed. The difference between the plain weave and twill areas will be greatly magnified and accentuated even more with hemstitching! I use hem stitching on runners and other items that aren't washed as often and even then, I will weave the hem allowance in the primary weave structure. So twill hem allowance, a spacer thread, hemstitch and then weave twill in the main part of the piece. Just find some regular number of ends to use across the cloth and I try to use even numbers such as '4' or '6'. You might like to try trellis hemstitching where the groupings are split in two. Produces a nice effect! We'll discuss finishing techniques in some detail in future entries...

By not stopping to weave special hems, we speed up the time we spend on the towels. All we need to do is simply keep track of things like ornamental borders and the amount woven there so that we can track the inches and reproduce it at the other end of the towel. In this towel, I have woven 10 repeats of the pattern for 4 inches of weaving (this includes the turn back for the hem). I wove a contrasting colour border that measures 1 and 3/4 inches. If my towel's total length is to be 34 inches, I must subtract 5 and 3/4 inches x 2 (for both ends of the towel) from 34 inches. That means the centre of my towel is to be 22 and 3/4 inches or round up to a full 23 inches. When it's all done, I simply throw a few shots of my scrap yarn to show me where one towel ends and another starts.

I have also woven 8 yards continuously of a tartan and then cut apart into towels after it came off the loom. Some tartans don't have convenient places to start and stop! :)

So here's the border and some of the main part of the towel, plus a close-up of the weave structure:

Next time, we'll look at the 'new to me' 60 year old counterbalance loom and what's happening there....thanks for stopping by. Any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a message.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Weaving Connections

Weaving is a rather solitary pursuit. I can't take any distractions when working on a complicated threading or treadling. I can handle the radio or music on in the back ground, but will happily let hubby take the calls or let them go to voice mail over getting lost in my pattern! I'm one of those kind of people who is comfortable with my own company and could work for hours like this (and have). But one of the best parts of weaving is the social aspects that come with belonging to a guild!

I started weaving in 1995 shortly after moving to the Okanagan Valley in south central BC. I joined the local guild in Vernon and while I am primarily self taught, I did take their one day workshops. We moved to Winfield and found myself half way between Kelowna and Vernon. What to do? I joined Kelowna's guild of course and attended both. :) I took the workshops there as well. They were fortunate to have no less than 3 Guild of Canadian Master Weavers as members. (There has only been 30 since 1947!) I took classes from all three, plus people like Karen Selk of Treenway. I was soon roped into becoming VP and handling workshops. Not too bad a job as you get to pick your teachers and you are always in the class! I was even their president for 2 years.

Along the way, I took up spinning, dyeing (my own silk warps), bobbin lace (made my own pillow) and kumihimo. I started collecting beads to use as embellishments and add them to my tencel scarves, shawls and silks. You want to try everything! Through it all, my main focus is weaving.

I decided to start the GCW test program and submitted my first level to the test administrator, Sandy, in a smokey parking lot in downtown Kelowna that fateful day of the firestorm in 2003. That poor woman went home to evacuate her home and as luck would have it, the fire stopped 1 1/2 blocks from their place. Our guild had 5 members who did lose their homes, and even three in one family. I did pass my Basic level and received a nice certificate. I plan to carry onto the next level, intermediate, but life keeps getting in the way! (or is that me in my way??)

I developed severe osteoarthritis and had a hip replacement in 2001. I wasn't able to weave for roughly 18 months while I waited for surgery. But I was weaving again at 3 months post op!!
My only concession to arthritis is the tie-up assist. It's made by Woolhouse Tools and is called a 20+ as it can give you 20 plus more years of weaving. Oh, so true...
{My loom is a Woolhouse Tools Gertrude 45" with 12 shafts and 16 treadles by the way. Her name (yes, I named her) is Emmatrude after my Mother and Grandmother.}

Another move and this time to the Shuswap and a lovely place called Blind Bay. I joined the Shuswap Guild ( and still a member) Great bunch of gals there! They have a blog too:

I joined other groups along the way:
Complex Weavers
Greater Vancouver Weavers and Spinners Guild
The Weavers List on the internet
Can Weave group at Yahoo groups
Can Spin List at Yahoo groups
I have been a member of the Guild of Canadian Weavers since 1997, and was the BC Rep for a year. I became the President in 2003 and just stepped down this past March in 2007.
Great organization for promoting excellence in weaving and features a super library, scholarships, and the test program. I learned by working first hand with weavers across Canada that weavers everywhere are all the same.... they love the process, the yarns and the satisfaction that weaving brings to their lives.

Another move to Powell River, BC and another guild. Powell River Fine Arts called themselves a 'club' and they were composed of potters, artists, quilters and weavers. We were only there 18 months and now reside in Duncan, on south eastern Vancouver Island. Here I joined the local guild and the Tzouhalem Weavers and Spinners are the most active group I have seen in some time. They amaze me!

So many guilds and so many friends across BC and even Canada! I feel very fortunate to have such 'weaving connections'

The road ahead is bright....

Mixed silks: bombyx, muga, silk noil, reeled silk. And after 12 years of weaving, my first scarf for me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Long time Coming

I have been a busy lady getting the last of the refit done on my tie up system. It's finally complete and things are moving ahead nicely. I took a a couple extra days to post as I was working on the new warp and taking pictures to share with you. Some of these will be very basic steps for a veteran weaver, but I'm sure that some of you are fairly new to this whole process. I will skip the 'winding a warp' part this time and record how I do that at another date. Here's the warp on the back beam or sectional beam:


I have suspended the lease sticks from the looms upper frame and pulled the warp forward:

Note my use of green painters tape! It's wonderful to help hold things until you have a spare hand. If left on, it leaves minimal adhesive. Also you can see my wide tooth comb used to unsnarl a tangled bout of warp, my threading hook and the blue plastic reed hook. I avoid metal reed hooks as they can cause burs on the metal bars on your *very* expensive stainless steel reeds and reach out and break a warp thread when you least expect it. Now we thread the heddles, working from the right hand side of the loom to the left. But first, here's the pattern draft so you can follow along. This is an old draft, 'False Damask', I got from a friend and use quite often:
The first picture hows where I have arranged the heddles into the given pattern from my draft. In this case, threading is shafts 6, 7, 8, then 1,2,3,4 and the last group is 1,2,3,4,5. Shafts six and seven are my black ends and the colour is the balance. I'm lucky that this pattern has clear threading groups! It's not always this easy. I always use a slip knot to hold each group as if there is an error such as too many or not enough ends, it's easy to work your way back to find it.

Okay, now it's time to thread or 'sley' the reed. I guess there's an interesting story behind that terminology! I like to spread the warp ends and divide them into the groups needed for the reed, in this case 2 ends per dent of my 10 dent reed as this is a 20 epi project. I take my time at this stage, or any time of the warping process. I'd rather do it right the first time and get on with weaving over corrections! I have nice music on or my fav, CBC radio. I'm becoming a fount of knowledge as I work away. I recommend using a slip knot into each grouping as you sley! It's so darn easy to have someone come along and give the beater a good swing and out they come. That's called a 'do-over' :) Next step is to divide the warp ends into groups. Smaller ones are better and I normally do half inch sections or bouts. Since we are not tying onto the apron bar, we are lacing on, use a small over hand knot to secure the ends of each bout. Comb and tug to make sure that all ends are evenly 'tight' before doing the knot. Lacing on means that we reduce the loom waste of this project and I prefer to use that additional warp (plus some budgeted extra) as a time to 'play' and do some samples. These I share with a group of friends. More on this at another post.

Once the lacing is done, I apply a bit of tension and then start pulling on the lacing to pull out any slack and gently work my way to the left. I have the end taped down on the beam and re-secure as I keep working out the tension until even. Be sure to have the edge threads evenly tensioned as well. They can be a tad slack but you can always tighten by moving the laces. It sounds silly but I like to close my eyes and run my hand over the warp bouts and 'feel' for the soft spots. Eventually you get an experienced hand and find them. Once you are sure that everything is even and good, secure the end and I use some tape for good measure! (love that tape!)

Tie up time....or in this case, to the back of the loom we go. Time to show you how that fancy smancy tie up system works.

The first of these three pictures shows the cords in the peg board all slack and the treadles are on the floor. I choose the centre 8 treadles and pull the cords as per the tie up draft. The second picture shows where I tied up the o's to the upper lamms, and the x's to the lower. Only one tie is needed per row, leave the other one slack. Last picture shows the tie up in place and we're ready to pull the locking pin and start to weave. But that's for next time.... sorry to be a tease!

(I had all my lights on and used a flash, but sorry if some of these shots are a bit dark....)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

All about tie up assists

Sorry about the typos in the last entry. I just found where the spell checker is! I've loaded these pictures today to show you what a tie up assist is. It's what I'm currently working on and no weaving will happen until this puppy is loaded and on the loom. For those of you who don't know about countermarche looms, there are two tie ups done for each square on the weaving draft. One tie pulls some of the threads down and the other tie pulls some threads up. There is even tension in both directions and this makes for a huge shed to throw the shuttle through. I can weave fine lace to heavy rugs and because of the pulley action, the treadling is never hard. With some looms such as jack looms, your leg becomes the fulcrum to push (or jack) the shafts up. This can be a weighty job and for people like me with arthritis and an artificial hip, very painful. The only part of using my countermarche that I disliked was the double tie up but now with this attachment, it will be a cinch! I will sit on a small stool at the back and simply pull the cords and secure the clips.
So the first picture shows the shafts (with the white heddles) and below is the lamms. I have 16 treadles and 12 shafts, so there must be a connection point for each and every combination. In my case that's 384, so there is that many cords to attach. The lamms are hung sequentially, first the upper, then thread the cords through their slot, through to the back and then up into their hole on the peg board at the back. Then hang the lower lamm and repeat ( over and over) till all are on the loom. This is a tedious job but the benefits are HUGE. Any weaver with any loom can tell you that changing a tie up while there is a warp on is tricky and now I can change it in a snap and try something new. The coloured threads wound onto the back beam is my project waiting to be threaded and readied for weaving. But that will be a story for another day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Small Steps

I would like to thank all the well wishers who left comments here or sent to me personally. It's most encouraging. I will be posting pictures of my work / weavings as they are planned, prepared and woven so that you can see the entire process. I like to think of every step along the way as 'weaving'. If you don't work out some compromise with yourself, you tend to think of some of the steps as the nasty things you must do so you can get to the good parts, like throwing the shuttle. That part can be the shortest, depending on how long the warp is! I also hope to show how I do certain things such as my hybrid warping, and things like finishing techniques... even ironing! To share what I have learned... (more on teaching at another time)

So while my loom is being 'serviced' perhaps I can show you some of my other equipment? ( I have managed to get 5 shafts threaded for the tie up assist, but it's tough on the joints. You are crawling under the loom for ages and I must say that it doesn't look good on a mature woman of my age :)

I have posted two pictures here: One is of my table loom which is frequently naked. I primarily use it for workshops and it looks like it will be busy this year with two major classes with Jane Stafford this spring. I love my Woolhouse Tools table loom and tricked it out ( over time) with the stand and one year, Santa bought me the bench. The funny rig on the top is called a 'Which One' for keeping track of where you are in the treadling.

The next picture shows my main loom, which has a name by the way, Emmatrude. The tartan is Mackenzie Seaforth and was for an exchange organised by the Guild of Canadian Weavers (GCW). It's not the tartan, but the tools I want to show you. I use an end feed shuttle and a temple or stretcher for most projects. They are used all the time by European weavers and they don't think twice about it. But for some reason North American weavers consider it a crutch and soldier on without them. Silly, if you ask me! I use what ever tools I need to accomplish the end result.

Think I'll get out the camera tomorow and show you what is going on under my loom...


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My New Shawl

This shawl was threaded in an elaborate M's and W's and then treadled "network' style. It's 10/2 tencel, sett at 36 epi. I used a temple and end feed shuttles. Later I tied diagonal knotting for about eight inches of the twelve inch fringe. I added beads in black and a lovely opalescent violet along the edges. It's fully reversible.

Now, I'm retrofitting my loom with a tie up assist. See all the cords below the loom? I'm setting those up again right now! The first project will kitchen towels in 2/8 cotton, 20 epi in a false damask.