Saturday, August 23, 2014

I'm weaving ! And my feet are part of the process.

Well, ok, I've been weaving before, but this time I am weaving on a floor loom so my feet get to join in, and the process feels more fluid than using the table loom. You would not believe how difficult it was to come up with the word fluid, I tried proper, real, professional, and active - and none of those words were the right one. I wanted to convey how weaving on the floor loom was not at stop-start a process as weaving on the table loom, the simple action of using feet to change the shed instead of hands means that hands only have to do two things, beat and throw the shuttle.

But the table loom is good, there is a place for portable and small looms. I've enrolled in a two day workshop next month that loos at four shaft weaving on a table loom. No way I could lug a floor loom to a workshop. the second body of weaving is off the table loom now, hemstitched and cut up into cloths. It's a pointed twill weave from the same book I mention below.

I ended up with edges that I'm more pleased with than the ones I started with, about two thirds of the way along the 1.5m warp a slim boat shuttle arrived from Bluster bay.

The boat shuttle made weaving more fun, instead of having to unwind end over end a length of weft long enough to cross the warp - I could just slide the boat shuttle from one side to the other. Truely there are tools that do make working more pleasant, and this is one of them.

There was of course drama with the shuttle, the weft is wound on small card tubes, and I thought I could use my majacraft spinning wheel to wind the weft thread on. Turns out the majacraft spindle is way to thick for the cardboard tubes - and I didn't have a hand or power drill that could be sacrificed as a electric diy winder. I did wind one using a hand drill, one by hand, and one using a dremmel - all of which worked but not in a way that encouraged doing it that way again. So I splurged and spend all my pocket money on a swedish bobbin winder with a thin tapered shaft. I read up on winders first, and there seem to be those who use electric - often a diy repurposed drill or sewing machine motor, and those who wind using a manual winder. Of the manual winders I found enough who said they had worn out a winder - or two - and eventually bought a swedish one. The reports from those people were along the lines that it was good, easy to use, and durable - so durable that they should have bought that kind in the beginning. So I decided to follow their advice - it was expensive - but when it arrived I recognized it was a lovely mechanical peice of equipment.

Here is the full spectrum of selvedges, from the very wobbly first inches (underneath and to the left) to the edges woven with the boat shuttle. Much smoother and straighter. I guess if I can improve this much over 1.5m then over the next 20 or 50 m of weaving my selvedges with be even better, just like a new knitter gets better at making even stitches.

I used black in the warp but avoided using black in the weft for most of the weaving, only adding a little at the end. I wish I had added black earlier - it made the pattern pop.

And here is the all hand all feet weaving, I chose a draft from a library book, The Handweavers Pattern Directory, over 600 patterns for four-shaft looms by Anne Dixon. The draft is on page 67 and is filed under the chapter on Point Drafts, but isn't given a name. When weaving I am sitting sort on the upper right corner of the image, but the effect of the pattern is more clearly seen from the side.

The first bit of weaving was odd (closest to th upper right corner), even me as a non weaver could see that what I was weaving didn't look like the pattern in the book. I checked my tie up on th treddles and found I had done something completely odd. I retied the first and third treddle and surprise, the pattern I wanted appeared. A little part of me was rather pleased I had identified that there was a problem and that I was able to fix it.

The test weave is a scarf for Bear, warped with some pale grey vintage Purls sock yarn left over from a cardign. The warp is going to be made up of wide stripes of a variety of dark grey, blue, green left over yarns, also vintage Purls sock. My hope is that this won't look too much like a left overs project. I have large quantities of some yarns, one is a mint unused skein, and plan to alternate that with the yarns I have less of. That should look at least planned more than a weird accident. The scarf is a test weave of my skills, a learning peice, I know the loom can do this, so the test is can I get the loom to do this.

One of the things people say about countermarch looms is that you can get a nice clear shed. This is the shed - technical term for the opening through the weft made by lifting and lowering shafts - after a wee bit of tweaking. There are I some stray threads, some that sit higher or lower than the others. If I was to push the beater back a little, the shed would look even more open.

The loom has what I think are its original string heddles, colour coded by shaft. The are hundreds on the loom and hundreds more in a bag that look never used. I've adjusted the shafts as much as I can for now, and with the Venetian blind cord I can in theory adjust each shaft a millimeter up or down - but this is as level as I can get the heddles. The theory is the warp should pass through the center of the heddles - but I can't do that as the eye of each heddle is not quite perfectly lined up with the eyes of all other heddles on the same shaft - let alone with the eyes of all the heddles on the other three shafts. That may not matter, for this warp the shuttle glides from one side to the other without problem - so the shed is as good as it needs to be. What I need to do is weave and assess the issue with different weave set ups rather than rushing in to update and spend money.

One of the nicest surprises about this loom, other than it came with boat shuttles, Venetian blind slats ( to use as warp packing), and lots of other useful bits - is how quiet it is. The table loom has metal heddles in metal frames (shafts), and the are lifted with springs,and then when released fall with gravity down to their resting position - the arrangement is called a jack loom. The metal shafts and metal heddles are essential to provide weight to hold the warp threads down below the beam height. The metal shafts need to fit loosely inside their guides, and the metal heddles need to slide loosely along the shaft bars. Simple enough - and in theory a very simillar operation to this countermarch loom. The main difference is in the countermarch the shafts are light, wooden, and are either pulled into place up or down with the counter balanced bits, and returned the same way - a smooth controlled move not a sudden gravity driven drop of a whole bunch of loosely attached metal bits.

In fact the only noise is when I depress a treddle too far and it hits the floor, a soft clunk, easy fixed by getting a feel for how far to depress the treddle or maybe putting a mat under them. The other noise is me moving the shuttle towards the shed and clunking it against the beater ... And I hope the more I weave the more coordiated I become and the less I do that.

And yes, there has been knitting, the secret project is a secret, the cardigan has more of a sleeve than before and I might even be excited about wearing it.

Na Stella



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Walden said...

Your weaving looks lovely!

Rachelle said...

Weaving is such fun! I love my boat shuttles too; I've got a few now and my Ashford is my favourite at the moment. I think I'll have to try a point pattern too, started my current piece with a twill as it's for placemats for the kids so plain is best. Next will be a scarf from VP's yarn.
Btw, string heddles are also what I have, no spares, those I have to make myself and I also have problems with strays which the shuttle picks up if I'm not paying attention.

Primary Games Anywho said...

Weaving is easy after you get used to it. Work with for a few months then you'll be weaving away!