Friday, 19 December 2008

This weekend I will be mostly...

...figuring out which weft will go into this next warp...and then doing something about it:

As part of the windfall I received from the wonderful weaver's stash, there were a lot of short ends of dyed 60/2 silk, obviously left over from various projects. They were in a veritable rainbow of mostly soft pastelly colours. Weighed, I found there were between 1g and 14 grams on each of the cones.

The shortest cone (0.5g) was 8.5 m. So I thought that they would be great, combined and blended into a multicolour warp. For this first experiment I chose the peach, pink and softer purples above, with the odd strand of darker purple, blue and one of hot pink for emphasis. The result was the warp you see above.

I beamed this at 60 epi, so I've now gone from 8epi to 16epi to 60epi with the sectional beam. I was starting to make plans to wind 60 short lengths of silk onto 60 cones for every one of 10 inch-wide sections when I realised that meant I'd spend all day winding 600 cones, and then winding them on to the beam 60 at a time. Crazy. It was also a recipe for tangles and madness. But I thought, if you can make multiple passes of a warp with a paddle when winding a warp, why shouldn't that work for sectional beaming as well? So when winding the cones for the warp, I wound 10 cones for each section, with 6 threads at a time on each, and I wound enough for 3 sections at a time onto each cone. That cut down the work involved considerably, and also allowed for gradual changes in colour as one colour of silk ran out and was replaced by another. A good way to use up various complentary ends of projects. Next time I use this approach, I may not wind the three ends of each set side-by-side. I'll spread them out, making the spread of colour more random.

There's 6.8 m of warp on the loom, which gives me enough for three scarves.

Next, as this is a seat-of-the-pants project - what threading, and which wefts? I'm going to thread this in a straight threading this afternoon, and the first scarf will be a two-shuttle undulating twill, in the mauve 60/2 skein of silk sitting on the centre of the warp, and the handspun, variegated silk cap, which is in pinks and mauves. I'll probably do a second in a twill pattern with a pale grey 60/2 silk weft, and the third in perhaps a series of paler pinks - we'll see.

If this is a success, I intend repeating the experiment with the pastel blue and green random ends. I also intend pulling out the knitting machine I bought but haven't really found the time to play with, and learn how to use it while making a simple v-neck top in faux mohair.

For some reason, the internet connection at home does not allow me to log in, which means I'm unable to make posts from home. As I've earned some time off, I finish work at lunchtime today and don't even think about work again for a fortnight. That means no posts from me until next year. I'll have almost two full weeks at home to play with my hobbies, barring a few days in Brussels with some family for Xmas (I'm joining an Australian in Brussels for a Danish Christmas, as you do) and a day in London with a friend to see an Annie Leibowitz exhibition. Best of the season, and warm wishes to all.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Daring to weave with handspun

I made some lovely hand-spun and dyed silk cap and merino yarn, years ago. I thought it was pretty, but could never decide what to do with it. I knitted some of it into a babys beanie for a friend, but the rest sat there, waiting for inspiration. I wanted to weave with it, but didn't dare try to use it for a warp and didn't want to make a project using it in the weft.

Over the last few months, the idea of using this in the warp has been germinating. I've seen several examples where people have used handspun in the warp, so I decided to risk it. After all, if I can weave with delicate threads like 10/1 linen, surely plied handspun can't be too much more delicate?

The other thing that's been inspiring me is a discussion Meg initiated on layers. It's been playing in the back of my head. I'm endlessly fascinated by the different ways that cloth can interact, and have been mentally toying more and more with the idea of upping the level of complexity in my weaving.

And so, onto the loom went a warp of the silk and merino handspun. Olive green merino plied with itself on the borders, the same merino plied with the space-dyed silk cap inthe centre.

I didn't really want a twill, and I wanted to play down the barber-stripe effect from the plying, so for the weft, I chose more space-dyed and spun silk cap, in slightly different but complementary colours in similar hue. For the record, I chose the brown-and-green silk cap in the second photo in this post.

The project was starting to call itself "Moss on oak", so I created a draft which suggested the rough texture of bark.

I threaded the heddles in a crackle threading, but wove a twill tie-up and treadling. The end result is a mostly almost-plain-weave fabric, with thin lines of undulating twill which roughen the texture to the eye but soften it to the feel.

I beat lightly to allow the wexture of the facric to be slightly open on the loom, although this was much less evident after fulling. I surprised myself by having only one warp breakage during the weaving, on a particularly thing piece of merino. The slightly slubby nature of the handspun silk, along with the twill lines, is even more suggestive of the northern side of a tree trunk:

The fabric itself is soft and fine yet plush; light yet very warm. The piece is complex enough to find something new every time you look at it. Overall, I think this is the best scarf I've made yet. However as it contains the first silk cap I ever spun, I think it has to become mine!

More dishtowels

While making the warp for the 'Autumn leaves' dishtowel for the festive towel exchange, I naturally beamed enough warp for five towels. These were woven qutie quickly, but it was only a couple of evenings ago that I got around to hemming them.

After making one towel in honeycomb for the FTE, I wove a second towel in honeycomb and then started casting around for other ways I could use a honeycomb threading to make different, interesting towels. Lo, I found an article in the Best of Handweavers' "Fabrics that go bump", showing three different towels on a honeycomb threading. So I tried them out. These are the results:

From top to bottom, star pattern woven in check, honeycomb woven in mostly brown with green and cream stripes at each end, and two towels in a 'circle' structure, woven in sage green. I enjoyed playing with these structures, and particularly like the circle-structure towels. I suspect I'll give one as a gift and keep the other for myself.

Interestingly, I've found a similar experience to that of Connie Rose. For all that I've had fun making these interesting structures, the thing that pleased me the mose about these towels was the hem of plain weave at each end of the star towels. It was so much crisper and more delicate than the more textured structures. I kept coming back to fondle it.

There truly is something inherently satisfying about plain weave, well executed.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

They're here!

I may be the first person lucky enough to have received towels from the Festive towel exchange. These are Huck lace towels made by Sonja of Insanity Looms in a lovely mercerised cotton, and are called "Chantilly Cream" and "Devonshire Cream". Sonja was even kind enough to provide a swatch of the cotton in case I wanted to embroider the centre of one.

Thank you so much Sonja, these are exquisite and they're going to be treasured. I can picture them lining a tea tray, or a basket of freshly baked breads.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Two blankets, one warp

These are the baby blankets made from the thick cotton warp I used, the first time I properly sectionally beamed. The two were woven on the same warp with the same threading, but with different tie-ups and treadlings. To give you a sense of scale, they're hanging over a rocking chair and the blocks are not quite 2" square.

The first was woven in a 5-end huck lace, to give a very large, slightly open, lacy structure, but yet one which remains stable. Here's a close-up of the weave structure.

The second blanket was woven on the same huck lace threading, but with a twill tie-up and straight treadling, giving a block twill structure - just for something different!

I'd had to sample twice, so I was running out of warp for this one before I thought it had reached a decent size - hence the insistence on getting every last possible centimetre out of the warp! Pre-washing, this one is about 1m x 80-ish cm, the huck blanket is a more reasonable 1m x 1.3 m.

Because these were woven at 8epi in 2/2 cotton, they're substantial, chunky blankets. I didn't enjoy working at 8epi at first, because I'm so used to finer thread. I wish I could say that these were fast weaves, but getting the weft in the right place for the slevedges took great care and attention, so I had to concentrate with every pick. I'm pleased with the outcome though. After trying to decide how to finish these, I settled for machine-stitching the loose ends and blanket stitching the hems, because the fabric will be too thick to fold. The huck blanket is done this
way and I'll do the twill blanket tonight. Then it's measuring and wet finishing, and they're done!


I spent the entirety of last week in bed sleeping off a virus, but managed to drag myself out of bed on Saturday to go to the last meeting of the year for the local spinner's group with Ota. One thing I've really missed since moving here is the camaraderie and inspiration of the spinning group I had in Sydney (waves at Celia), so I'm really enjoying the few hours in a village hall with like-minded people. I think they even forgive me for being a weaver and not a knitter.

I managed to spin quite a bit more of the red-brown alpaca I've been spinning for some time (it's almost done now). But the main appeal this past weekend was to see some scarves the group had been been making for some time: each person got some blue-faced leicester wool and spun it, then it was given to someone else to dye, and then to someone else to make into a scarf. The person who spun the wool then got the scarf back. It was truly fascinating to see how the people solved the various problems of dyeing and making a finished garment from something they hadn't designed from scratch, and there were some truly beautiful garments there.

In addition to this delight, P&M Woolcraft had come along to the meeting, bringing a large part of their shop with them. I'd feared that I'd indulge in retail therapy and I did, although largely I restricted myself to items I went along knowing I wanted to buy. I really had to restrain myself when it came to purchasing fibre: I rarely buy top, and when I do it tends to be white so I can dye it the colours I want. I know that blended and pre-dyed top is something I'd enjoy spinning but probably wouldn't find a use for, and yet I really had to stop myself from buying the colours!!! All the pretty colours! My eyes kept following them across the room.

Here, however, is the swag:

Clockwise, from lower left: two more Majacraft bobbins for my Little Gem, because although I already have 4 (o0r 6?), you can never have too many if you spin lots of silk cap. It's sticky enough that it's best stored on the bobbin until ready to use. A cold-water, fibre-reactive dye kit for dyeing cotton, because I've only ever used acid dyes and wanted to try FR, a Glimakra boat shuttle to try because I've wanted a larger boat shuttle for some time, 15 cm quills for the new shuttle and 13 cm quills for my Dryad boat shuttles, 100g of blue-faced Leicester top to try spinning because although I've woven with it and love it I've not spinned it, 50 g of blue, turquoise and burgundy top to satisfy the colour fetish, 100g of bamboo because sometimes it's fun to play, a back-issue of Handowoven which illustrates how to drape a jacket on a dummy form (I want to think about making my own clothing from handwovens), and in the middle, a tiny bit of baby camel and silk top.

The camel and silk top was the most expensive part of my purchase, as I bought half a kilo of it. But it's crying out to be a drapey tunic top, and it's so stunningly soft, luxurious and delicate in colour it had to be had:

I can barely wait to start playing with it.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Nearing the end

You can see in this photo the three sections where the guide yarn jumped off the yarn counter and I gave the beam an extra turn of warp, just to be safe. I'm very fortunate to have made the right decision about whether to give another turn or not, all three times! Better a foot of loom waste on an end or two than to lose a foot of warp...

I finally took those knots all the way to the back of the heddles - there was no physical way I was going to be able to get even so much as another shot out of that warp. But what I did get, from a 4ish-metre warp, was two samples and two baby's blankets, one in a 5-end huck, the other slightly smaller and in a block twill. One of these days I'll have the right light to actually take photos of them.

You can see the next project(s) lining up on the rather-messy work table. I cut this blanket off on Saturday and my loom is currently naked - a highly unusual state of affairs.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Beaming a sectional warp....properly this time.

I've just had a lovely three-day weekend in front of the loom. 11-hour days and a pulled shoulder muscle had taken their toll, and by Thursday of last week my body demanded to not spend time working in front of a computer. No problem. I work on a flexi-time system, and I'm about four days up at the moment, so I took Friday off. Shoulder hates sitting at a computer, but shoulder loves weaving - go figure.

Friday was spent weaving off the last of the dishcloth warp, and then in the afternoon I set myself to beaming on a warp using the sectional beam and the tension box, for the first time. As luck would have it, my next project was a baby blanket I've been commissioned to make by a friend whose sister is due to deliver a little boy in February. The cotton I ordered for it is quite chunky - 12 wpi, the most coarse yarn I've ever woven with.

The first challenge was to get the yarn into a form that I could wind off. I've taken the challenge of beaming sectionally without a spool rack, directly from cones. First the yarn had to be split onto the right number of cones cones. I needed 8epi therefore 8 cones for each section, and I had ordered four cones of each of the two colours for the blanket. Using the cone winder attachment I've developed after seeing Curiousweaver's approach and the yarn counter on the tension box, I wound the correct amount of yarn onto cones. In this case, for each of 17 sections, I needed 4 metres of yarn = 68 metres on each cone. Add 5% for differing tensions. Knowing from experimentation that 8 rotations on the yarn counter on the Glimakra tension box equals a metre, I wound on 560 counts or yarn onto four cones. They weren't pretty because of a few teething errors with the cone winding attachment, but they worked.

I have found that a problem with doing papier-mache with PVA glue in winter is that it takes forever to dry. I made the attachment weeks and weeks ago and the centre is still mushy and a bit glue-like. In addition to that, the PVA has done a poor job of sticking to the plastic sticky tape around the central quill. To fix that, I'm going to try a judicious application of a different glue - something faster-curing and harder, like super glue.

The next step was to rig up something that would allow the yarn to come directly up from the cones. I'm lucky in that I have a large bookcase behind where I sit on the loom bench. I achieved an in-situ cone rack for the grand sum of 88p, with a piece of scrap decking timber, a few small eyelet hooks, and a couple of books to weight the wood down and balance it from the front of the bookcase.

No problems there whatsoever. The cones unwound as they should, none of the yarns tangled, and all went smoothly. I'd call this approach a success and a keeper. I can add more pieces of wood and eyelets along the bookcase as required for finer threads.

Running the yarns through the centre of the loom, I threaded the tension box. I put yarns through the first reed widely spaced to keep them seperate, over under and over the round dowel tension rods, and into the second reed, at 10 epi. I beamed at 10epi despite wanting a set of 8 epi, because 10 epi gave me an even spread in the sections.

I spent ages trying to figure out how to space the threads. The draft for this project was a 5-end huck lace, giving blocks 2 inches wide, with 15 threads per block. It's easy enough to sley because the yarn wanted to sley at 8epi anyway, so each block would be slightly less than 2 inches. But how to divide 15 thread between two sections when beaming? I mulled over this in the back of my head for days before I realised that I didn't have to beam at 8 ends per section in every section. I could alternate sections of 8 ends with sections of 7 ends, to give 15 ends per block. So this is what I did, beaming all of the 8eps blue sections, then all the 7 eps blue sections, and repeating for the yellow. My only defense here is that the long days I've been working lately involve making sure that lots of numbers are in the right place and fitting a pattern, and I clearly need to turn that part of my brain off when I get home!

As each section was wound on to the right length, I'd cut the warp yarns and tape them flat into place. When the time came to thread the heddles, I hung a pair of lease sticks from the castle (one would have been enough but they were tied together), wound the warp beam on a little and then, one by one, untaped the yarn packages from the warp beam, pulled them forward and taped them onto the lease sticks, so that they were reachable from the front of the loom. I didn't make a cross as the tape kept the ends in order. In the photo below, you can see some packets of yarn threaded on the right, and the next packets still taped to the lease sticks on the left. You can also see a dining chair in the background of this photo. To thread the heddles, I remove the beater and breast beam, and sit on a low chair in the loom.

And from the front of the loom, you can see how easy it is to select each end from the tape as threading continues:

Admittedly this is the coarsest yarn I've ever worked with, so threading and sleying were faster than they normally are, but I had the whole warp beamed, threaded, sleyed and laced on at the correct tension in a single evening - perhaps 4-5 hour's work. It used to take me a day and a half.

I'm so pleased I bought the sectional warp beam!

As a final photo, a half-hearted attempt at snow at my house on Sunday. Nothing like Cally's!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Open studios reprised

I've been putting a lot more thought into the Open Studios question, and I've decided to go for it.

There's a seminar to attend in January and I can join then. I'll almost certainly do so, and I'll go for opening for two weekends this coming July. I've been speaking to a couple of local painters I know, who have participated for many years. They say that if you're in a village rather than in town (as I am), visitor numbers are much smaller and don't necessarily translate into sales. Cambridge is a slightly unique place as it is dominated by the bike. Many academics (the main target audience of Open Studios) in Cambridge live in town and don't own vehicles. You don't need one in Cambridge. I fully understand this, as I've been one of them - I haven't owned a car in the three years I've lived here. That does, however, mean that the 9 miles to my house is a long way to cycle.

The people I've spoken to say that the main advantage of Open Studios is the networking and the increased exposure to other exhibition opportunities, and that has to be a bonus.

Weaving plans last weekend experienced another setback, as other jobs presented themselves. It wasn't a total loss, as it meant that my loft got 300mm of insulation (a huge yay as it's predicted to turn cold and snow this weekend), and my storm gutters were cleaned of the moss and many willow leaves they contained. I did manage to weave 2.5 dishtowels (the nuclear family of dishtowels), and will finish that warp tonight or tomorrow. Then it's on to another baby blanket before I can go back to playing with silk.

One advantage of the baby blanket is that I can play with warping the sectional beam using the tension box with not-fine threads.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The almost-instant pincushion

The past year has been very busy for me. In fact, I refer to the just-passed summer as "The summer that work ate". That's remained true of late. Mostly because, on top of having been very busy finishing a finite-term project I'm leading at work, I appear to have had my entire year's worth of social life in the last two weeks - something on every day and night. That's meant that my loom and I have been nothing more than nodding acquaintances in that time.

So, in the absence of any real accomplishment in the last couple of weeks, I thought I'd put up pictures of a little pincushion I threw together a few weeks ago. One of the things that didn't make it out from Australia was my old pincushion, which had been made from the first cross-stitch I'd ever made. So I thought I'd take the same approach. I have a lot of cross-stitch finished items that I've never done anything with, so I took one of those and married it to some of the fabric left-over from the green and beige baby blanket run.

Turned right-side out and stuffed, it's rough, but it's a pincushion. Pins go in and stay in it, what more does it need to be?

For those who don't recognise the significance, the two little cuties are Gumnut babies, of May Gibbs fame. May Gibbs, deciding in the 1930s that most fairy tales had a very European bias, chose to write some based on the Australian bush. All Aussie children know and love the gumnut babies. I smile every time I see them.

Just to completely round out the entirely-hand-made qualifications of this piece, the stuffing is off-cuts from my partner's blanket - another reason to make me smile when using it.

This weekend the loom and I will be back on speaking terms, if it forgives me for the neglect! I plan to finish weaving off the rest of the dishcloths on the warp currently on it, and then may have time to get another warp on. Whether that's for one of five different scarves fermenting in my head or for another baby's blanket I've been commissioned to make depends on whether the cotton for the blanket arrives in time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Some assembly required: attaching a sectional warp beam to the Glimakra Ideal

After getting the collapse scarves off the loom, I could work on upgrading the warp beams. There was nothing wrong with the existing warp beams, but I lusted after both a sectional warp beam and a second back beam, and I was able to indulge myself. It had taken some researching and effort to find a supplier, but I discovered that it is possible to obtain both for a 100cm Glimakra Ideal. I'd gone as far as contacting Glimakra directly to deal with them, but at literally the last minute Fibrecrafts UK came in with a quote cheaper than ordering directly from Glimakra - the difference in paying UK VAT and Swedish VAT.

The sectional warp beam kit consists of a number of pre-drilled wooden planks, and a whole lot of metal dividers to seperate the warp. That, together with a few screws, is it. It doesn't look like a lot for the money you pay, but I had made the decision that I like what Glimakra stand for, and that it was worth paying the money to support them and to keep my loom standard.

The dividers are simply thin metal rods, bent so that they're slightly longer on one side than the other:

These are placed into the slots on the beams long end first then short end sqeezed into the other side, and hammered in. I did this with a scrap of wood and a wooden mallet, to reduce the impact on the dividers. I laid the wood over the dividers already in, to keep them all about the same length. Resist the temptation to only hammer them in a little, you're going to have to hammer them in about 1/3 of their length for them to clear the back beam. I also did this on the carpet of the living room, to reduce the impact on the wooden floors of my studio.

The first few in, an awful lot more to go:

Here's the four wooden dividers, screwed to the warp beam. Normally, if you just buy a sectional warp beam kit, you'd be screwing this to your existing back beam. In my case, I'd also bought a second back beam kit and because the existing back beam is perfectly functional with a cloth apron and I wanted to keep that intact, I chose to screw the sectional warp kit to the new back beam. You can buy sectional warp beams with 1" or 2" divisions. I work a lot with fine threads and wanted increased design opportunities, so I opted to go for 1" divisions.

You'll note in the image above that there are some dividers missing at the right side of the beam. There was a miscount when the dividers were supplied, and I found myself short by 6. I contacted Glimakra and the lovely people there were most apologetic, and had the extra dividers in my mailbox within a few days. The other thing to note in the image above is the holes in the warp beam for the cloth apron. Because the beam is octagonal, there is a right way and a wrong way to attach the sectional planks, if you wish to retain use of those drill holes. The right way is offset from the as you see above. There are no holes drilled in the warp beam for attaching the sectional planks. You could drill them, but because the screws are self-tapping, I found this unneccesary.

Next came disassembly of the loom. Most people won't have to pull it apart too much to get the warp beam out (in fact in theory it's possible to attach the sectional warp planks to the back beam while it's still on the loom), but because I wanted to remove the existing warp beam and replace it with the new one, I had to disassemble the ratchet side of the loom. After removing the old back beam, I could insert the new sectional beam.

All that was then left to do was to replace the back breast beam, handle and chocks. You can certainly see in this picture where the pawl for the ratchet normally sits!

Finally, it was necessary to sit behind the loom and gently rotate the sectional warp beam, marking any dividers that were too tall to clear the back breast beam, and hammer them down to a suitable height. I had been very conservative with my hammering at the earlier stage, wanting to maximise the amount of depth I could roll a warp, which meant that I spent a log time hammering at this stage to get all of the dividers even and to the correct depth.

And it's as simple as that! The honeycomb dishcloths was the first warp I've put on the sectional warp beam, although I did that by hand rather than using the tension box. I found that the back breast beam was slightly too wide for the tension box, so I wound each 1" bout of warp individually on my warping mill and ran each one onto the beam, tensioning by hand over the castle as I went. It worked.

Another time, I'll post about using the tension box and also attaching the second back beam to the loom. Fitting the second back beam to the Ideal is not as simple as the sectional warp beam, because I've discovered that there isn't quite enough real estate for it to bolt on as designed - and there also isn't enough real estate for the second back breast beam and the tension box to all fit on at once either. There will be some retrofitting to be done.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Join the festive towel exchange

Meg has done a stirling job of organising another virtual exhibition, this one combined with a towel exchange. It's just opened, and it's not too late to join in!

The exhibition is opened here.

Have a look at the lovely towels here.

And if you'd like to join in, the details are here!

Collapse scarves

After working on teatowel fabric, the babys blankets and C's blanket for so many months, I wanted to get back to my main interest, fine weaving. I'd dyed some 30/2 silk and silk caps way back here and it had been sitting on an old French reel in the window of my studio for months, taunting me to do something with it. The 30/2 silk, I had space-dyed in three shades of green: an avocado green, a yellow variant of it, and a blue variant of it. At the same time I dyed two silk caps in two shades of sandy yellow-brown, and two more in the same greens as the warp.

I had enough silk for 4 m of warp 14 inches wide at 30epi. I wound up a warp, and bearing in mind that I've had a problem of my warps being narrower on the beam than in the reed, I spread this out in the raddle at 20epi and beamed it on at that rate. Oddly, that gave me a wap spread perfectly on the beam for 30epi. I have no idea why, but it works.

I wanted to try a crammed-and-spaced approach, as described in Sharon Alderman's book, to get a softly waving, almost pleated structure. This is something that works best in 'grabby' fabrics like wool, but I wanted to try it in silk. I had just enough warp for two scarves but no scope for sampling, so the first scarf was going to be the sample - a brave approach when you have so much expensive silk on the loom!

Crammed and spaced is where the warp is not sleyed in the reed evenly, but at a different rate across the warp. There are no hard and fast rules about how to do this, but it's a good idea to have the overall sett roughly eqivalent to a twill sett. In this case, with a recommended overall sett of 30epi (3 ends per dent in a 10-dent reed), I chose a rate that would take me from double sett to nothing at all. I'd threaded the heddles in changing twill arrangements, in blocks of 32 ends each, so I wanted each change of sett to add up to 32 threads. So after doing some calculations I centered the sett around the pattern, and from the centre sleyed 6-5-5-4-3-3-2-2-1-1, with one empty dent between each block. Note that there's only one set of 6 ends per dent because the next block starts with 6epd immediately next to it, and only one dent with 4 epd, to make up the numbers. I did a little bit of jiggery-pokery with the numbers at each side to make sure the last dent was set at 3epd, and laid a doubled floating selvedge beside that.

After so long working in all that heavy cotton and wool, I'd forgotten hownice it is to work with silk. So luxurious, with such a nice hand feel. Below is the warp, sleyed in the reed, laced on and with a header for spacing. You can see the changing rate of sleying.

I wove the first scarf in the spun yellow silk cap, spun until it was overtwisted. This yielded a slightly harsher-feeling fabric than the silk warp on its own. The collapse when it first came off the loom was somewhat alarming and unnatractive, but after a wash and press I've ended up with an interesting, slightly undulating fabric with a lovely contrast between the green, warp-dominated areas and the slightly wonky yellow weft-dominated areas.

For the second scarf I'd thought to use the same overtwisted yellow silk, but I wove a header of green, spun but not overtwisted, silk cap - the same green as the warp - intending that to be just the end of the scarf, with the body of the scarf in the yellow. I hadn't expected the green to have much drama at all, but I was completely unprepared for just how gorgeous a structure the broken twill gave the almost-monochrome (remember there's some slight variegation in both the warp and weft). I immediately unwove the small area of yellow I'd put in, and wove the whole scarf in the green.

Here, hanging over the doorway, is the washed and pressed but not finished yellow and silk scarf, and the unwashed green scarf. From 14" in the reed, the green scarf is 14" off the loom, and the green and yellow is a little under 10" wide after shrinkage.

The feel of the scarves is quite different, solely due to the overspinning of the yellow silk cap, although admittedly the green scarf still has to be washed. The green scarf is significantly softer than the green and yellow (in fact I'm completely unable to resist fondling the green every time I walk past it), but is a flat fabric. The yellow is still soft, although with a the rougher feel of raw silk, but has the most interesting drape to it in the spare warp parts. This is really encouraged me, and I'm planning to explore this technique more, with a wool or cashmere warp and an overspun silk weft.

Finally, a close-up of the green scarf, showing the interest of the weave structure. The slight gaps in the wide warp-dominant areas are due to slippage while winding on around the breast beam, and disappear during washing.

The festive towel exchange

These are my entries for the festive towel exchange. Mine are more neutral than festive, but there you go.

The first is the "Chocolate makes everything better" towel.

This is woven in 8/2 cotton, in brown and beige stripes, from a draft of my own design. It's a thick, sturdy, thirsty towel, designed for drying up the festive meal dishes.

A close-up of the weave structure:

The second towel is called "Autumn leaves". This is a honeycomb dishcloth, woven in stripes of rose-brown, soft olive green and pale beige organic Foxfibre 10/2 cotton. The dominant colour of the towel is the brown, with the green and olive as highlights. The photo below shows the natural colours; the next two are a little yellow because they were taken in artificial light.

This was my first foray into honeycomb. I've been wanting to use the finer Foxfibres in my stash for some time now, and honeycomb seemed the obvious choice. I enjoyed the exploration - I've been developing an interestin 3-D weaving lately!

Monday, 27 October 2008

How to use an autodenter

With my recent spending splurge, I had the opportunity to pick up an autodenter at a discount. I've always been curious about how these worked, so I decided to try it. Wow. What an ingenious piece of equipment. Truly a labour-saving device. The point of an autodenter is that you never need take the denter out of the reed, meaning it becomes much, much harder to miss a dent when sleying the reed. I learned a few things in teaching myself how to use this, so I thought I'd share the tips.

In this example, I'm sleying a 10-dent reed, 2 ends per dent, with 10/2 cotton which is in a straight threading. In addition to this, I always sley in both directions from the centre of the reed. This is for two reasons - the shafts on my loom have threads in the centre which stop the hedlles from moving past them so I have to thread that way, and it also saves me from having to figure out where in the reed to start.

I've found it's best to have the reed as far forward from the heddles as you can get it. You're less likely to get yourself in a tangle if you give yourself plenty of space to work. In addition, I've found that it's best to work with the autodenter in the top half of the reed, while keeping the threads at the bottom of the reed for the same reason.

You can see in the above photo that the autodenter is bent at the top. The autodenter will be composed of a (probably wooden) handle, and three pieces of metal - two are pressed together like a pair of closed tweezers, and they hold the third piece extending beyond them. If you look closely, you'll see that the two lower pieces of metal are slightly curved to one side where they hold the long piece.

Insert the autodenter into the first dent, with the metal flap at the top pointing away from the direction in which you are sleying - in this example, I'm sleying from right to left so the flap is pointing right. If you're still not sure you have the correct orientation, take a look at the lower pieces of metal - the little curve should be in the direction you plan to move, because it's these that will pick up the dents. You can see this clearly in some of the lower photos (particularly the one with my hand in it) if you click to enlarge them.

Untie one group of ends at a time, and carefully seperate them out, laying them on top of the heddles in groups in order that they are to be sleyed through the reed. In this case, I had groups of 8 ends, which were divided into four groups of two ends each:

Select the threads you want to pull through that dent, and wp them around the hook.

Pull the hook part of the autodenter back through the reed. The 'tooth' of the autodenter should pick up the steel seperator, so that the steel of the reed runs through between the right-hand (in this case) and the main hook part of the autodenter. As the reed passes the place where the pain hook part is held, you'll hear a click. You can see, in the photo below, the metal pieces seperating to allow the dent to pass through. (Apologies for the fuzziness of the photo, it's hard to do this one-handed and take photos at the same time).

By this stage, the hook should have come through the reed, bringing the thread with it. The metal flap at the top prevents the autodenter from coming all the way through, unless you twist it to allow it to do so.

With the hand not holding the autodenter, take the thread from the hook and lay it at the bottom of the dent, below the autodenter.

Now slide the autodenter forward. The left-hand tooth should engage the metal divider this time, so that it slides between the left-hand tooth and the central hook piece of the autodenter. You shouldn't need to put too much pressure on it to accomplish this, but you may have to wiggle the autodenter slightly to ensure the dent divider goes through. Then you're in the next dent and can grab the thread as before.

If the autodenter bends like in the image below, you're putting too much pressure on it:

If you put a lot of lateral pressure on the autodenter, you risk opening the lower two metal pieces, and allowing the long, central hook to be pulled out. If this happens, just use a thin metal instrument like a reed hook to prise the lower metal pieces apart and reinsert the central piece.

If, for any reason, you have to stop sleying the reed while using the autodenter, it's simple to balance the autodenter in the top of the dent, as in the top image. If you have to remove the autodenter and start sleying at a later stage, insert he autodenter in the same dent as the previous set of threads, because pulling the autodenter backwards is what moves you on. Double-check that the threads are in the correct dents before moving on.