Sunday, October 25, 2009

I'd like to Introduce you to Dorothy

This is Dorothy and she lives near Lockerbie, Scotland. Then, here I am way over here on the west coast of how did we meet? Well, the internet of course! I have a Ravelry account under the name 'weever'. Ravelry recently made it possible for weavers to list their projects under the heading of weaving over the previous two catageories of knitting or crochet. We may be a smaller group there but we're now bonafide! (Basically infilitrating knitters from the inside out :)

This past August, I received an email from Dorothy via Ravelry's message mail. It seems she liked the way I finished off my handwovens and she said:

" I am just about to start a 10/2 tencel project, probably a scarf as that seems like a manageable first time fine weaving exercise. My loom is a 4 harness 6 treadle harrisville 36” wide so not nearly as sophisticated as yours. Would you advise me to use a twill pattern with a tighter sett or a plain weave on 24 ?"

Dorothy had also seen the eight shaft snowflake twill runner in my gallery there and was pleasantly surprized to hear that she could weave a snowflake twill on four shafts! I photocopied a draft by BC master weaver Laura Fry from an old Weavers magazine and sent it to Dorothy, along with some samples. We have been exchanging emails since and sharing ideas on weaving. We're also getting to know one another and becoming friends and who knows, maybe one day we'll meet!

Some of Dorothy's questions were about weaving with tencel as she has some special cones and never woven with tencel before. Judging by these photographs she sent me, she's comfortable with it now! It would also seem that I have started something in her home as she's acquiring new tools to finish her handwovens and her dear hubby is helping and recently bought her a new sewing machine! ( now, he's a keeper!) He's also a great photographer....

The shawl looks lovely! Wonderful job Dorothy. Below is a close up of the pattern:

The last picture shows how Dorothy took my fringe twisting tutorial to heart! She bought the foam board and a fringe twister and got busy!
(I'd love to hear from you if you have tried any of the methods decribed here and how it worked for you. My contact info is listed on the right hand side. )

I am so happy to find that what I share here is actually helping people. Most satisfying! I feel like a proud Mother Hen :)
I invited Dorothy to be guest on the blog and so I will give Dorothy the last word here!

Hi there ! My name is Dorothy Stewart and I live in south-west Scotland in a place called Lochmaben, very close to Lockerbie.

I am a self taught weaver of five years, using a 4 shaft Harrisville 36” floor loom. My weaving has been very intermittent and based on wool scarves and shawls interspersed with tea towels ! Very basic stuff and my daughters are now dreading this year’s model of tea towel !!

I have always had a yearning to do something much finer and on a visit to Halcyon Yarn about 3 years ago I bought two cones of 10/2 Tencel, one purple and the other slightly off-white. They have stayed on the shelf until now as I didn’t really know what to do with them.

I found Susan on Ravelry earlier this year and signed up to her blog, which I found fascinating. The pictures of her weaving projects on Ravelry were just amazing and something I longed to be able to do myself. I learnt so much from the tutorials on her Blog.

In August, I plucked up courage and rather cheekily e-mailed Susan to ask for advice. Her response was amazing ! A parcel arrived at home with copies of the Snowflakes and Stars draft for four shaft looms. They had been prepared by Laura Fry and published in Weavers. I was instantly inspired to get started with my Tencel. Susan has provided loads of support by e-mail and over the last few weeks I have managed to complete two Tencel scarves using the quite complex twill draft.

I was able to follow Susan’s detailed instructions for fringe twisting and finishing from her Blog and as a result have two very professional items of which I am very proud.

I will never match Susan’s level of expertise nor the degree of complexity she demonstrates in her amazing weaving projects but I have certainly moved up a level from my rustic woollen scarves and tea towels !!

Susan has been a wonderful mentor and it is amazing to think that many thousands of miles apart we have established such a friendship. The power of technology nowadays is something else. It is so easy to keep in touch and share experiences. I certainly hope to continue to develop, in fact, my next project will be place mats in Bird’s Eye Twill. This was another draft in my ‘surprise parcel’ from Susan !

Suddenly, I am motivated and inspired to do more weaving and my thanks must go to Susan for this change. Knowing, that she is at the end of an e-mail is just wonderful and I feel very honoured indeed to be invited to be a guest on her Blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Dancing Ladies

I thought it was time for a little weaving relief and so hubby and I went for a drive yesterday. We headed north and went to a city call Nanaimo. Although we were shopping, it was a great day as we took time to photograph some fall colours. The trees above are 'sisters' and belong to a long and large family. We have been living in our present home and community for just over 2 years now and are heading into our third winter here. I noticed these special trees two falls ago and they literally come to life this time of year. Have you ever noticed how trees become a solid wall of the same green each spring and summer... but then in the fall, they become individuals as they play out their last gasp. I know that I for one miss the vivid greens of summer during the winter months. I resort to looking at my green ferns out my kitchen window for my green fix until the snow covers them.

There is an avenue of ten trees and another by the large home at the end of the drive. They have whimsical branches that give them the appearance of being whirling dervishes.... or better still, Dancing Ladies. We stopped and took these pictures but didn't get any closer as it is someones private drive, but I'm thinking of asking their permission to shoot them closer. The home has a lovely vista looking due east...over rolling fields ...

This is their view. I sure wish I could convey more adequately how open and rolling this terrain is! Lush and very pastoral. I live a bit north of this road about 1 1/2 kms away. Between the notch of the hills lies a little community called Maple Bay and then an island, then the waters of Georgia Strait. Beyond is Vancouver, or as we call it "The Big Smoke", approximately 22 miles away as the crow flies ( or the ferry sails) We call it our moat.

The hillsides that you see on either side way off in the distance are Mount Maxwell on the left and a large hill to the right and both are on Salt Spring Island.... home to Treenway Silks, Jane Stafford Textile Studio and much, much more.
It's just there, and oh so close! I keep my 'draw bridge' up as I would be beyond broke if I took the leap and went island hopping! (My husband likes it this way too!)

Just south of our town of Duncan, a new public retail weaving studio is being set up and opened soon. The weavers in town are hoping that the owner will offer retail weaving yarns to go along with her weaving classes! Be nice to get a local quick fix when we're caught short. I hope to feature the studio in a future post and introduce you to Leola.
I have something special for my next post... a guest blogger! Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Notice anything different here?

There are no sectional rakes on the back beam. I decided it was time to try something new on Emmatrude.. to up my game! I love the evenly tensioned warps and effective method of beaming them on my Louet Spring 'Lilibet', so I wanted to see if I could transfer those steps to my Swedish style big gal. She doesn't have a built in raddle so I dug out the raddle that came with the loom (and never used!) First up was to wind the warp. It's 2/10 mercerized cotton, sett 28 epi for twill. (I'll discuss the draft later.) The warp is 9.5 yards long and I'm looking for a nice big mess of tea towels from it! As much as I weave towels here, they seem to leave as fast as I make them! There are 650 ends in this warp. This type of warping needs to have an even number of warp ends as I'll be slipping a rod through the uncut loops of the warp. So if its an uneven number, add one more!

There are four colours, black, white, red and grey, wound in a sequence of 16 ends each, repeated 10 times, with a final stripe of black for a matching border of colour either side. The black borders on either side also have an additional 4 ends. The warp at the top left corner is my smooth continual loops, right beside the cross. I 'crocheted' chained the three warp bouts starting at the bottom and stopped within half a yard from the top... and then prepared to marched it over the loom. BUT...

I had to stop and think things through and how to proceed. What will work here? I lashed the raddle to the top of the back beam. I decided to find the centre point of the beam and then centre of the apron rod. This also included the raddle so all parts will be easier to line up when necessary! I left the top wooden rail of the raddle in place for the time being (it lifts off).

Below I have marked the centre of the metal rod with green tape and marker pen and then using seine cord I tie a support one inch away from the main apron rod. See below.

Then I carefully loop the warp bouts onto the metal rod, being careful to get the colour order right! Tied another support cord on the right hand side. Then I noticed that the whole situation was heavy and wanted to flop down. So I used cords to support the weight of the rods and warp in an upright position.

Pictured below is where I had to tie cords onto the wooden rod and bring up over the back beam/ raddle. The warp went over the top of the raddles and across the tops of the shafts and to the front beam. This support tie would only be needed until the rods were wound onto the warp beam and then can be removed. Okay, that's under control... now what about lease sticks? The best spot for those seemed to be the big open space behind the shafts so I tied the lease sticks into place, using the side supports to secure to. Notice that I tape the ends 'just in case'. You only have to have dropped them once! There are also loops through the cross as well, another back up! The lease sticks can slide to and fro on these cords which is neat. When winding on, if the lease sticks meet a tangle, the sticks move, alerting you to a potential problem.

This is how it looked from the front. There is no reed in the beater and there is a wrap around the front beam to hold things steady. Now I remove the cross loops. That sucker is corralled tight!

I used a piece of thin card board over the raddle tines when I took the rail cap off. Took my warp width and divided by two... and found the right far right slot I needed. I simply leaned forward and counted off 28 ends and dropped into the slot. I worked my way across and then replaced the cap rail. Edit: I then lash the entire length of the warp between the metal bar and the wooden apron rod. I lace every one inch or so and tie off. I started to wind on and so far, all is going well! The rods are now on the back beam, so off come the support ties that held them upright. The paper was slipped in and I balanced my time between slowly turning the warp beam and moving to the front to strum the warp to remove tangles and strongly pull out any slack. Then at the back I pull straight down on the paper to remove slack there as well. So, back and forth for the whole 10 yards. No big tangles, no snapped threads. Things are going great!

Now my attention shifts to the front of the loom and I'm getting ready for threading. But looks at the size of the gap between the lease sticks and the back end of my 12 shafts! That's going to be a big lean in to reach them. I tried to thread about 2 inches and then I decided to make some changes. I went back to my old method of hanging the lease sticks using cords from the upper beams of the castle. It worked well for me so no point discarding what was clearly a better technique.

As you can see, it really moves them in tight and makes it easier on the operator! I'm all in favour of that...

So lets shift our attention to the threading. I have a little system I use. I have my sheet with the threading on the knee beam and I work it into logical groupings. In this case the threading is: 1,2,3,4



It's a simple twill and I was inspired to do some towels after seeing a similar threading in an old Weavers magazine. For this threading, I pulled two heddle groups of 1 to 4, then two sets of heddles 5 to 8 . Then I concentrate on the first four heddles .

I reach through with my sley hook and open up the four ends and slip my fingers through the four ends. Trust me this happens a lot faster that it takes me to write this or you to read it :) Then with the free thumb I move from heddle to heddle, using the thumb to brace the heddle as I slip the hook through and pull the end through. The thread being held under tension means it's easier to snag and deal with. Texsolv heddles do eventually loosen up with use on the loom and they are then easier to shift. I use the side of the reed hook to slide them over and then start on the next group. Once all 16 ends of a colour grouping are done, a quick check and then secure with an over hand slip knot... next!

It was hard to hold the hook in place and take the picture!

Okay, threading done, next came sleying the reed. In this case I'm using an 8 dent reed, sleyed '3, 4' for 28 epi. Once done I divided into smaller groups and then tied to the front apron rod on both sides to support the rod and then worked my way across the warp tying on.

Once all are done, then start on the far right bout and snug each group up tight, complete the knot and **quickly** move the next group and smartly race across the warp! When done, using the palm of your hand roll your hand from LEFT side back to the right, easing up as you roll towards the far right. Do this 2 or 3 times and then stop. Walk away and do something else for 20 minutes. When you come back the warp tension will be even. {no matter how fast you move tying from right to left, the right side will feel 'looser' when you are done. You'll want to tweak the warp endlessly! Jane Stafford demonstrated this on the Louet DVD on warping and this WORKS!} An old post of mine that shows this technique on my Louet loom is here. It will show you the process I'm trying to dupicate on the Woolhouse Tools loom.

Then I went to the back of the loom and pulled my tie up cords. Eight treadles and I selected the centre eight for convenience. Almost there! Should be weaving soon...

Wound some pirns and got my shuttles ready....

Then as I walked by the loom I noticed this.... see below.... oh, crap! I seem to have a hitch in my giddy up.... look at the warp line from the back to the front.... *sigh*

I was so focused on getting details right, that I missed this point entirely. The raddle sat on the top of my *second* back beam. THREE inches higher than the normal beam. In my old method, I would slip the lease sticks through the gap. Below, see the extra height on the back of the warp. I have looked at this several times and I can't see where else the raddle could have gone unless I take the entire second warp beam off the loom and I really don't want to have to do that. So I hung my floating selvedges over the upper beam as well. But in the test piece woven with scrap yarn, I had a hard time finding the floaters to move the shuttle over and under. So I moved them lower to the normal back beam. Much better.

So will this warp weave up okay? Do I have 10 yards of 'heaven or hell' ahead of me? I decided to go and weave on my Louet instead .... but that's 'nuther story!

Back soon.... (tee hee)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Those who Silently Serve

I'm sorry to report that I have been under the weather in the past few days coping with a muscle spasm in my neck, which in turn triggered the worst migraine I have ever had the displeasure to experience! I sure wish I knew what I did to set this off so I can make a good point of *not* doing it again! Saturday nights in an emergency room are as crazy as you hear about! Then throw full pandemic H1N1 fancy dress code for all attendees into the mix and you have a big bowl of crazy being served out! So now I'm taking things easy as I recover, but I lost quite a few days to this 'little spasm'. No doubt rounds of Doctor visits, tests and referrals will be under way shortly.

All my plans have undergone a big change and so the next planned post is on hold and I bring to you another post whose time has come. "Benches and other seating arrangements in the studio" They really do silently wait to serve! I came to realize that we have talked about looms, tools, yarns, drafts.... but not the benches that hold our bums up. If you are not seated comfortably, or at the right height, then none of what we do would be a happy experience.

I have owned a lot of different looms over the past 14 years; some came with their mated bench, some not. Some benches you can understand why they 'threw the bench in' as it was only fit to be thrown out! A good bench is to be carefully guarded and kept.

One style that many of you know is the standard Leclerc type bench: solid box with a hinged lid and two storage compartments on either end, and all is sitting up on legs that can't be shortened unless you take a leap of faith and cut from the bottom. Besides being very uncomfortable to sit at for any length of time, they had no adjustment possibilities. The link above also shows their newer rocking style bench. I can't comment one way or the other on this as I haven't seen or tried one myself. All looms and their owners have an uneasy marriage of leg length, loom height and and somehow the two must meet! Ideally your knees should be at a 90 degree angle when you sit with your feet resting on the treadles and your forearms should rest on the breast beam if all is at the right height. Sounds simple enough but it seems to be a difficult thing to accomplish. This excellent article by Laura Fry at Syne Mitchell's Weavine makes for a good read. If you own more than one loom, then you have multiple benches to consider as you very quickly find out that dragging one bench around to all looms simply does not work. ( Not unless all your looms are the same!)

You need to have one bench per loom and adjusted for a good fit for you, as the principal weaver, at each one. So why use a bench? I know of some weavers who use the adjustable steno chair. I have tried it and it's actually quite comfortable. I have one in my studio and it normally sit at the desk for when I do paperwork but it's been frequently pulled into active duty!

Let me show you what else I have in my studio that seems to work for me:

I have two of these little stools that were rescued from a dumpster many years ago. They are perhaps too short for many other normal uses, but in the studio they are perfect! I pull up one and sit behind the big loom and pull my tie up cords, or wind on my warp. I also use it at my winding table where I wind pirns and bobbins. It puts me at just the right height. The second holds up my warping centre. Not a permanent set up as this will be reviewed and made into a more secure situation (soon).

The next chair I use is an old Ashford spinners chair I bought from a friend moving overseas. It has taller legs with no side supports which means it fits over the foot beam of my big loom! I pull up the chair and use it for threading. It means it's a 'one trick pony' but the cuteness factor means it earns a spot in the corner of my studio.

Weavers and spinners are usually asked to attend many outdoor events and its best to bring along their own chairs as you can't count on chairs to be there or be comfortable. Many years ago my husband pronounced that 'there's a garage sale down this street' and turned into a long cul-de-sac. Sure enough, there was a garage sale which was in wind down mode at the end of a long day. They had even taken down their signs at this point but welcomed us in to browse what was left. There in a corner were these two folding wooden chairs ... for $5.00. They conveniently fold flat for storage which is welcome in crowded quarters.

So these are now my spare seats if I have company come to visit me in the studio or I need to bring a chair with me to an event. {Connor has spotted one of the sheep I have stashed around the studio and is waiting for it to fall into reach so he can 'kill' it... it might happen you know.}

Okay, that's all the chairs, now lets look at my benches. For my Louet Jane Loom that is set up on a stand, I use this cute little bench made by Woolhouse Tools. It's a basic design and the box has a hinged lid for storage. Unfortunately it's not adjustible for height and there's no open storage to hand. If I find I need more space to lay tools down, I bring out a folding wooden TV table. ( we also got a set of those for $5 at a yard sale. They are tucked away behind the winding station) I put a soft cushion on the bench and it's good to go.

Now at Emmatrude, my big Woolhouse Tools countermarche, I have a commuter bench that was made in 1998 the same time as my loom. I have a full set of 16 treadles under the loom and I wanted to be able to comfortably reach all of them. So having a bench that glides closer is neat. It especially became important after I had my hip replaced in 2001. It does take some getting used to but once you are adjusted, you'd never go back to a normal stationary bench. One small adjustment I have made to accommodate my sciatica is to elevate the rear legs so the bench tips forward by a small amount. This is to alleviate the pressure on the backs of my thighs where I can occasionally get nerve pain from discs in my lower back. Oh, the joys of being older!

I use these furniture discs where it's runner one side and carpet fibre the other. They are about a quarter of an inch in height and this is all I need to make a huge difference in the time I spend sitting there. The ideal situation is to have an angled bench custom made like Lynnette's. Lucky lady!
The camera makes the legs on my bench look like they are angled inwards but trust me, they are straight. So here's the bench bare, and then with my cushion. Please note the legs and box height. The box is set up quite high as the loom is quite large.

Now, this past July I saw an ad for a loom bench for sale and called right away. I bought a used Woolhouse Tools commuter bench from the Kalamalka Weavers Guild of Vernon, BC. I picked it up from Lynnette's home when we were there in September. I can recall sitting on this bench many years ago weaving projects on the guild loom and it was sold me on the benefits of a sliding bench in the first place. So this old timer has come to stay at my studio. I don't know how old it is but it predates my bench and carries the older logo that builder John Low used.

I cleaned it up well. It had the 'patina' of many years of use and weavers who sat there. Spilt drinks, and marks, and years of hands touching it. Spilt liquids had caused the metal bars to rust and discolour the wood there they sit and the rubber bumpers had gone to hard little rocks. I stripped it down to bare bones and then oiled every part, wiped dry and then reassembled. Now this bench is adjusted for my Louet Spring 'Lilibet' and it making her debut here:

Notice the height adjustment on the legs! This demonstrates why one bench does not fit all your looms. Those rubber bumpers are not the right size but it seems that they aren't making them anymore. I replaced both sets on both benches and wonder what I'll do in another ten years time? You may have several looms and methods for sitting at them, but only one bum! Make sure it's comfortable while it's there. Give a thought to those who silently serve.