Thursday, 29 January 2009

Undulating away

Who knows what causes a difficult warp to behave. Whether the weaver comes to grip with the combination of tension and beating a warp requires, or whether eventually they get tired of proken threads and swap them out, sometimes persistance pays off.

This warp is the one of random ends of old 60/2 silk that I've been working on for a while. It's given me a lot of trouble with broken warp threads, and also with twists in sets of warp threads from the way I beamed the warp (the idea of winding sets of six threads on a cone and treating them as a single thread for sectional warping clearly needs refining). The fist scarf I wove on this warp had a lot of broken threads which will require mending when I finish it. Even the start of this scarf gave me a lot of trouble with broken warp threads in the first couple of inches - until I realised that all of the breakages were happening in my new substitute ends. I was replacing good silk thread with weak!

I'd really begun wondering whether persisting with this warp was worth it, or whether I should just bite the bullet and cut it off - but the realisation that it was the substitute ends causing the problem now and replacing them all fixed the problem (that was not the case with the first scarf, as it was the weaker beamed ends that were breaking). It's been a long, slow process, done in between work, a couple of very social weekends and yet another cold. Having swapped out all the weak ends, I've now woven several feet of this scarf without any problems. The design is a treadle-controlled undulating twill of my own design, woven on a straight threading.

I had, once I'd finished this warp, planned to tie on another 60/2 silk warp to it to do another series, this time in blues and greens. But there are so many substitute threads hanging from the back of the loom now, that trying to replace those on the beam would be more of a headache than it's worth. So now it's off to the drawing board to see which of many incipient projects I'm going to do next instead - I suspect it's going to be playing with more handspun.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Open studios, again

The seminar for joining this year's Open Studios scheme was yesterday. I didn't go.

I was all set to go, even cancelling a much-looked-forward-to day of spinning the day before, because I was still getting over a cold and needed to have one day of resting and taking it easy. But late on Saturday night, I stopped and reconsidered.

I have a habit of taking too many things on. My philosophy on life has always been "bite off more than you can chew, and then chew like buggery". It's worked for me, and I've acheived a lot of things in relatively short time spans. Taken to the extreme, it had me finishing a Ph.D., working in a research fellowship, undertaking an explosives handling course (then useful for my work), and learning a foreign language, all at the same time. I barely slept for two years and didn't sleep (literally, I only slept every third day, the other two I'd have a 10-minute nap) for the last six months of finishing the Ph.D. Since then, I've had to be more careful about how much I take on. When I do take on too much, my body just collapses in a heap - and towards the end of last year I started working too hard again!

Mr G. and I have already agreed that 2009 is the year of R&R and doing less, yet there's still a lot on. There's a lot of travel planned for this year, once he gets back. There's also, probably, the purchase of a house if the right one presents itself and the resultant renovations/restoration. The veggie garden. Cycling. I've already joined a committee to liase between my village and the local councils. I'm joining the local medical First Responders (first aid). My place of work undergoes a major restructure this year, and that and the project I've been heading will increase my responsibilities. Committing to Open Studios, and all the volunteering that involves, just seems one commitment too far. So it's put off until next year, which gives me more of a chance to move more of my portfolio from my brain to actual cloth.

As it turns out, when I tried to start the van this morning to go to work, a problem it's been having intermittently has turned into something that makes it undesirable to drive, so I wouldn't have been able to drive to the seminar anyway: clearly, it's not meant to be this year!

Monday, 5 January 2009


With 10 days or so to myself over the Christmas break, I'd thought I'd get somewhere around half a dozen or so items woven, if I concentrated on weaving. I was so looking forward to it. Instead I picked up my third bug for December (I've now been constantly sick sonce November the 27th), and accomplished precisely one. One woven item, just off the loom this past weekend and not yet finished.

OK, so a treadle-controlled undulating twill woven with two shuttles in 60/2 silk with regular stops for broken ends isn't going to be a fast weave, but that's slow by anyone's standards. Anyway, here's a preview:

The warp is the random assortment of pinks, purples and peaches in my previous post and the weft is alternating picks of purple solid-dyed 60/2 and a random-dyed, spun silk cap in shades of pinks and purples:

Weaving into the old 60/2 was quite a challenge, as it turned out. Because there was such a random assortment of ends, it turned out that not all of the silks were the same weight, and some there different ages than others. Some of the very old, and probably acid-dyed, silks are quite rotten and broke very very easily. Swapping them out for other ends would have proven difficult if not impossible, because they were usually the feature ends, such as the dark purples you see on the right of the scarf above. They occur in a defined pattern which isn't substitutable, so I just had to be patient and replace ends when they broke. There will be a lot of sewing to get them even in this pattern. Fortunately each one will only be a few picks, because I was very vigilant.

The end result is a softly sheening scarf, with highlights shining out from the warp. I'm looking forward to wet finishing this one and seeing how it turns out, but that will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

It's perhaps appropriate, considering I coughed and spluttered all the way through the weaving of this scarf, that it's intended for the mother of the twins who gave me this latest cold!