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?   :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Its All Golden!

So it seems that I have my hanging basket back and just in the nick of time. Ice cubes squirrelled into the available pockets around the junco nest was just not enough water for the basket... and it really needed a good fertilizing too.  The babies literally stood on the edge and jumped, and they were last seen part hopping, part flying around the other flower beds with frantic parents trying to keep up.  Seems to me, that this scenario can often mirror our experiences with our own children!

While the flower basket enjoyed a good watering and feeding, Bruce announced that we can't park our car inside the carport as swallows have built a nest in there and they are pooping everywhere!  So now our 'new'  car is out in the driveway and the birds have full ownership of the carport.

The compost cone has been emptied and dismantled and moved away. Seems it had become an all you can eat salad bar for rodents!  Not good.... so we have evicted them.  Being here in the trees, we can't feed the birds as it brings in bears and we can't put up humming bird feeders as it attracts ants.
Then  there are the little island deer (which look like baby deer but jump 5-6 feet with no problems) who eat annuals and hedges.  Having said all this, we do love being in a private setting with nature all around.... even if does push into our space from time to time!

In my last post I had my latest warp off  the Louet Spring and stretched out as one long 'runner'.  I serged the raw edges of the scrap yarn filler and put it through the washing machine and dryer. Then I had a long session of hard pressing the yardage with a hot steam iron. (A steam press is on the wish list.... but they are so darn expensive!)

My towels on the loom measured twenty five inches in the reed, With draw in and then laundering that reduced to twenty two inches.  Twills will tighten up and draw in happens, and then there is the shrinkage factor too!   I know that I want large towels and will turn small hems but how long should they be in proportion to the width? What is a good length to allow for small hems on either end and a generous body of cloth?

Is there a formula for determining this?   Why, yes there is!  The Ancient Greeks called it "The Golden Mean"  They believed that this was a philosophy to live by:

The Greeks believed there to be three "ingredients" to beauty: symmetryproportion, and harmony. This triad of principles infused their life. They were very much attuned to beauty as an object of love and as something that was to be imitated and reproduced in their lives, architecture, education (paideia), and politics. They judged life by this mentality.

Proportion is the relationship of the size of two things.
Arithmetic proportion exists when a quantity is changed by adding some amount.
Geometric proportion exists when a quantity is changed by multiplying by some amount.
Phi possesses both qualities.
If you study the Fibonacci series and the Golden Rectangle carefully, you will eventually realize that
phi + 1 = phi * phi.
Consider: suppose that you start with a Golden rectangle having a short side one unit long. Since the long side of a Golden rectangle equals the short side multiplied by phi, the long side of our rectangle is one times phi. or simply phi.
Now suppose that you swing the long side to make a new Golden rectangle. The short side of the new rectangle is, of course, phi units long, and the long side is that times phi, or phi * phi. This describes a Geometric proportion.
But we also know from simple geometry that the new long side equals the sum of the two sides of the original rectangle, or phi + 1. This describes an Arithmetic proportion.
Since these two expressions describe the same thing, they are equivalent, and so
phi + 1 = phi * phi.
(Now that we know this, we can discover the exact value of phi. )
The resulting proportion is both arithmetic and geometric. It is thus perfect proportion

Okay, for some folks this is super fascinating stuff... and for others, their eyes glaze over!   I  failed math in school and  the advent of calculators arrived too late to save my grades. Not that the teachers would have let me use it in class like they do now!  All you need to know is that there is a mathematical formula to achieving a pleasing balance between width and length.   You have to love the internet as now you can simply click on a link and plug in the known number or measurement and get the golden  ratio calculated quickly and painlessly for you!

Save and / or book mark this web site:   Math is Fun: Golden Mean Calculator Web Site

There are many web sites out there that explain the whole formula and philosophy if you want to learn more. There are some links embedded above for you to review.  You can use the formula to plan garden spaces,  reports and photo layouts, interior home design, homes, even cars.... and sizing textiles to perfect proportions. }

You enter in the known number at the web site by changing the orientation from portrait or landscape if necessary and the calculator will provide you with the correct number.  In my case I entered  twenty two inches and the calculator gave me thirty and a half inches for my finished length. Then I had to make a decision on what to allow for hems and cut each towel apart every thirty four inches.     

I measured every thirty four inches and placed a little red cotton loop to mark the cutting line. Fortunately the pattern has built in lines to follow!

I found only one treadling error in all of the 8.6 yards!  As you can see I marked it with a green loop and it coincided right next to a cutting line. It would be buried inside the hem allowance.  A great bit of luck!

I had planned on seven towels, plus some samples and loom waste.  When the cutting was all done I had eight towels!  No samples and very little loom waste.   The warp had been laced on at the front and looped onto the apron rod at the back which as you saw in my last post was woven almost right to the back of the eighth shaft.   I had budgeted twenty inches for loom waste and the verdict is....

Seventeen inches!   I was darn close...

I folded the edges and pressed  and pinned them and they were to be a task to do at night while we watch the television.  Great in theory but with black thread, and all black sections in warp and weft it has become a day time job so I can see what I'm doing!

Eventually, I got a couple sewn and they measure up precisely thirty inches for length by twenty two inches for width!    I got them lightly pressed and ready for their close up's :

I have to make a comment about the colours. They are black, a sage green,  cream beige,  soft peach and something I like to call "burnt pumpkin"  Its not the orange I see on my computer  screen but something much softer and lighter.  Trust me, they all work together nicely.

Meanwhile my next warp on the loom is a bit difficult to weave because I can't see what I'm doing! I'm having to treadle by my notes alone and be extra careful to call out the steps so I don't miss one. I can't see to correct a mistake.... and later after its off loom and washed won't be much help!

Curious?      More next time....    

Friday, June 6, 2014

Eventually You Get There...

If you click on the picture and look carefully, you can just see a bird sitting on the top of the farther wrought iron flower basket supports. That's Daddy Junco on guard duty.  He and his mate have built  a nest in the flower basket.
When ever we use the front door, they sit in the magnolia and chirp away at us in little warning calls.
It makes watering the basket rather awkward! Today the flowers are looking downright wilty and so I waited until they had both gone for food and quickly filled the other part of the basket with ice cubes. They slowly melt and  evenly distribute the water. (Its a method I use to slow water orchids in the house) 

Holding the camera up very high, I quickly snapped this picture. There are at least two babies here and a possible third. Their little feathers are coming in nicely.  With some luck, I can  get these wee  fellas fledged, and save my flower basket!

So, I have been busy treadling away at the towel warp. It's 8.6 yards and I planned 7 towels and some samples. I also decided to weave it as one long continuous piece. I thought I would measure and cut apart later.  So I wove, and wove, and wove... and every night Bruce would ask me how much I had got done that day and I told that I had no idea as I wasn't measuring.  All I had to go on was the size of the roll on the cloth beam (which I nicknamed Chubby)

Here I am at the very end! The gold scrap yarn was the absolute limit of my being able to get a shed and  not have skips.  I want to see how much loom waste this Louet Spring really has.

I had 6-7 inches of warp left in front of the loom......

....but I was right up to the back of the eighth shaft heddles in the back!  I decided to nip the warp ends right at the metal apron bar. The idea is to measure the length at back and then see what I have left at the front for my total.  I'll give those totals in my next post.

The roll got quite full. Very satisfying pulling it all off and having a huge armful of fabric!

So we stretched it out...and it ran the full length of the studio which is twenty six feet long!  So that's 8.6 yards. I think I'm going to sew / serge the ends together and pre wash it before cutting it apart this time.  I will steam press it ahead of cutting and hemming.

I think this is the longest plaid I have ever woven!

The poor loom looks gutted!   Bruce helped me pull the warp off and we both likened it to giving birth!   Its takes time to tighten everthing back up again.  Two hours later, I'm slipping the next new warp into the raddle slots.  I'm going to revisit a recent project a time or two.  Table runners are up next.