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.