Monday, 17 October 2016

Something new – or maybe very old

When I bought my Toika loom in 2006 in the last year of my weaving certificate course, it was advertised as having a a draw loom attachment.  Sure enough it had 4 levers along the front of the castle and a couple of brackets on either side, just one lever and one bracket shown here.

There were no instructions and despite emailing Toika and looking at various books, magazines and websites I could not find any explanations or anything similar.
  All the draw looms were much more complicated and had provision for many more extra shafts.  I think I had been hoping to find someone who had a similar set up and that they would say that they had one the same and this was the way to make it work. 

A couple of years ago there was an article in VÄV (1/2013) about the reproduction of an old Gotland textile.  The author thought that it would have required 32 shafts but looms like that were not available when it was made.  She worked out that it had been made with a double harness loom with 4 ground shafts in front and 4 pattern shafts behind.  After re-reading the article a few times, I realised that this was the set up I had but didn’t get around to doing anything with it.  Then a weaving friend gave me a small bundle of what looked like tangled strings but on closer inspection turned out to be long eyed and long heddles – just what I needed to turn my loom into a double harness loom but still I didn’t feel ready to try it out. 

A few weeks ago there was discussion of double harness weaving on Facebook and just after that Weavolution started their annual Halloweave challenge where weavers are encouraged to do something different with their weaving during October.   It might be to weave every day, try a new technique or just to try something they have been putting off for far too long.  So I joined the Polo House – the Halloweave house just for weavers who, like Marco Polo, wanted to explore something new and I plunged in.  As I was not really sure how it would all turn out, I made a warp narrow enough to use just the heddles I had and used yarn that could be discarded without too much regret if it all turned into an unworkable tangle.

It turned out to be not nearly as difficult as I had expected.  The setting up was complicated especially for the first time but I expect it will become easier with time and the weaving itself was very straightforward with plenty of opportunity for spontaneous exploration.  I’d liken it to setting up a warp with a very complicated stripe pattern – once that’s done, the weaving is easy.  I’ve written about it in much more detail on Weavolution as louiseinoz here and here.

I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to explore double harness weaving further.  A proper draw loom isn’t even on the horizon at the moment but I know that with the set up I have, there are lots of other things I can do.  At the weekend I found a 4 shaft overshot pattern to use as a profile draft, made a couple of jigs to make more of the special heddles, made the heddles and wound a warp, burgundy 8/2 tencel, as I wanted to try something finer and wider, hence the need for more heddles.

The new warp is already wound on to the loom and half threaded - I wonder how it will turn out?

It must be Spring in Melbourne as I've started weaving in the garage again and for even more proof, here's my clematis in full bloom


Thursday, 29 September 2016

Engage brain before weaving

I’ve had a cold over the past few weeks, not life threatening, only had half a day off work but bad enough that when I got home from work there wasn’t much energy left to do anything creative.

I decided to put a tea towel warp on the 4 shaft loom, how hard could that be?  Found a draft I liked from, via Pinterest, #33677 from G H Oelsner’s A Handbook of Weaves. I have to confess that Pinterest is becoming a bit of an addiction.  I’ve heard of stash acquisition beyond life expectancy but I wonder what draft acquisition beyond life expectancy or draft acquisition beyond loom reality should be called.

The draft had a 20 end repeat – 3 contrast ends sleyed together and 17 straight twill background – but as it was mainly twill and I was using 8/2 unmercerised cotton, 24 ends per repeat and inch seemed like a better idea. I planned the warp for 21 repeats, for a width on the loom of 21 inches.  I promptly warped 21 repeats of, you guessed it, 20 ends.  I knew it would be too narrow so spaced it out to 20 epi which was the next big mistake.  

The weft packed in too much, the twill line was flat and it just wasn’t right.  Fortunately I had enough sense to stop until I was thinking more clearly. 
It was too late to add those extra 4 ends to each repeat so I added a couple of repeats to each side, weighted with bottles of water, and sleyed it to 24 epi.  What a difference.  The weft is packing in properly, it's easy to weave and the twill lines are at 45 degrees.  

When I should be doing other things about the house, I keep going back to do ‘just one more repeat’ and I’ve already got more than enough ideas for the 6 towels that should come from the warp.  The back of the loom is not a pretty sight but the good progress on the front more than compensates.  I guess that this really is a lesson to engage brain before weaving - or planning a project, or warping.

There was good news from the Geelong Scarf Festival this year.  The 4 scarves I entered all sold and I received the hoped for, no parcel and large cheque

rather than a large parcel and no cheque.

I did manage to complete another project.  A few years ago when I had cleaned the rust off an old reed and just wanted to make sure it wouldn't leave any dirt on the next project, I warped up the 4 shaft table loom with dark grey 8 ply knitting yarn and made some double weave tubes.  Even though they were named, somewhat pretentiously, Felted Vessel 1 - 4,

and had great dreadlocks around their tops,they didn't sell and ended up at work as very small winter hats for the window display.  They were on display recently when someone came in because she thought they would work well at her work where she has to cover her hair.  I confessed that they were really too small to be hats but we got talking and I agreed to make another run of them.  It wasn't a difficult project, the hardest things were finding wool that was machine washable and not felting them in the washing machine for too long.  My customer was happy 

and I now have some more felted vessels for the collection

Spring has arrived here and with it a burst of activity in the vegetable garden, I’m hoping to be self sufficient for salads,

and also in the garage cum studio where it’s finally warm enough to work without using the heater.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Comfort Weaving

After completing a major project, like my jacket for Bendigo, I often feel that it’s time for a little comfort weaving.

What's comfort weaving?  I think it's a bit like comfort food - the familiar foods of childhood, craved and/or eaten when life isn't going smoothly - only in weaving it's the simple plain weaves and straight twills from Weaving 101, often done when while watching TV, and when you want a break from more complex weaving

Over the past 3 weeks I’ve managed to make 4 plain weave scarves, 12 herringbone tea towels and a bread cloth
while binge watching Kitchen Cabinet. It's a local TV programme where Annabel Crabb, a political journalist and keen cook goes into politicians' homes, cake or dessert in hand.  The deal is that she brings the second course and the host cooks the main course.  She hopes that in a familiar environment, distracted by cooking - the politicians who are keen foodies like to show off their skills, those who are not,  just pray that no disasters happen - they will open up in ways not seen in formal interviews.  It works, they do open up and seem much more human, even ones who would not normally get my vote.  It all makes good TV for weaving.

The scarves were just simple plain weave using an alpaca weft for 2 and a boucle loopy mohair for the other 2.  I thought the mohair was the sort of yarn that should be brushed, remembered that I had a little brush just right for the job, and even managed to find it. 

A quick brush raised the pile to give a soft and fluffy surface, just the thing for the cold weather we’re having at the moment

The tea towels are from the warp of leftover yarn I wrote about here.  While width of the coloured stripes was dictated by the amount of yarn available, the grey and black stripes helped to bring it all together.  I used a herringbone draft and wefts in the same grey as in the warp,
and a greyish blue, hard to say which worked best, maybe depends on the kitchen colour scheme. It's always good to get to the end and see all the towels on the cloth beam.

I was reading something about kitchen design recently where the author suggested that tea towels are the ‘cushions of the kitchen’ – an inexpensive accent of colour to make the space look more interesting.  I guess there might be something in it

I went to the Hawthorn Craft Market on Sunday and some additions to the stock were needed. 
I managed to make a couple of sales and learned quite a lot about the new credit card reader in the process.  I thought my limited technical skills were the reason it wouldn’t work but found out later that while there was an updated version of Android on the phone it wasn’t compatible with the card reader as its app had not been updated.  It’s all a learning experience but I’m still trying to work out why I didn’t just enter the card details on to the screen as I do at work regularly when someone has a card which can’t be read


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Sheep Show 2016

Here I am, back after a lengthy break, no dramas, it's just that time of the year when everything has to be kept under wraps

I sent 4 scarves to the Geelong scarf festival, but won't know what is happening with them until later in the year unless I make a trip there.  I was very happy with these waves in a hand spun wool variegated yarn and fine wool weft in advancing twill.

and the third version of the snakeskin, this time in coral

No sooner were the scarves on their way to Geelong than it was time to start working on something for the Sheep Show in Bendigo.

I'd seen a Burda jacket with a simple shape so good potential for handwoven fabric, and decided that I wanted to make it in something bold - diversified plain weave seemed to be the best option and I really liked the circles which Iowaweaver wrote about here and in Handwoven.

I started with this wool in two colours and two thicknesses, although not the blue, it just jumped into the bag while I was thinking about other things

and later had to buy 4 more balls of the pink.

Then I warped

And wove - out in the garage where it only gets to about 16ºC, about 60ºF
And wove even though the fine pink was just a little soft for warp and kept breaking

For about 5 metres which was only just enough
And finished up with this 

and this

and this - the fabric at the bottom of the fabric was all that was left over

As usual I also started a second entry and as usual, life intervened and I decided to finish one properly

The sheep show was last weekend, I caught up with friends and looked at all the wonderful Woolcraft entries.  Here are a few which were paraded - sorry I can't identify the makers, but they all looked fantastic

And here's mine on a model, who is just a little taller than I am.  My jacket was awarded second place in the handwoven garment section even though there was a problem with some uneven threads on the collar.  It was a good lesson to start earlier and check both sides of the fabric as the problem was almost invisible on the side with grey spots but quite obvious on the side with pink spots.  I cut off just enough for the large collar pieces before I saw the problem and when I came to cut out the collars there wasn't enough fabric to avoid the problem.  I think it will be fixable once I work out exactly what the problem is, and is only really visible from within an arm's length.

I checked out the traders and managed to come home with just a small addition to the stash and also a new tape measure as mine all have nicks in them from overuse.

I've now retreated back into the warmth of the house and put a simple plain weave project on the 4 shaft loom, a few bright scarves for the next market, and told the loom in the garage that I'll be back in 6 weeks when the weather is warmer


Saturday, 14 May 2016

New toy

No, unfortunately not a new loom, but a new phone. A while ago my phone company announced that they were closing down their oldest network.  I wondered who had a phone that old and then I received a letter from them telling me my phone was that old. So now I have a shiny new phone and thought I would try doing a blog post with it.

I finished the scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival and sent them off in good time, but they are still under wraps for a while. 

I have a very fine - think almost frog hair - warp on the 4 shaft loom. Because it's so slow, it's very easy to find excuses to do anything but work on it, such as playing with the new phone. 

Last weekend I wound a new tea towel warp, thinking it might inspire me to finish the fine warp, progress has not been much faster this week but then I wasn't home much. The warp was mostly left overs. As most cotton weaving yarns are imported, they are expensive here and not to be wasted. In the stash there are the yarns with enough for a serious project, yarns with enough for one or two tea towel wefts and yarns where there is only enough for a random striped warp like this one.

And here is what was left after I wound the warp. There's enough to mend a few mistakes but not much more than that.

One of the outings this week was to the opening of Creation to Collection 2016, an exhibition of handwoven wraps, scarves, bags and garments by Christina Turner, Virginia Harrison and Pat Jones. They are a very talented group and their latest work is inspirational.  If you're in Melbourne, the exhibition is at Steps Gallery, 62 Lygon St Carlton until May 22. Just to prove I was there, here is a picture of my back view,

wearing my jacket from the 2015 Bendigo Sheep Show.  I'm happy with the jacket but think the strap on the bag is far too long

I have of course been playing with the camera on the new phone and thought it did a pretty fair job on tonight's sunset - point and press, with no editing 

I do have a long way to go yet as I gave up with the phone about halfway through this post as I'm much faster typing on the laptop and I still haven't found how to transfer pictures from the phone to the draft blog post.  I'm not sure that emailing them to the laptop is the simplest method but it seems to be working 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Weavers’ Dilemma

Someone came to see me this week wearing a most interesting top – looked almost as though it had been made from an antique coverlet except that it was in black and white. Isn’t that the dilemma, whether to comment or just try to examine it from afar without touching?  Here's a genuine snowball and pinetree coverlet courtesy of US Archives

I couldn’t stop myself from commenting (and feeling it) and explaining where the design originated.  She was a knitter so understood my textile addiction.  It turned out that it was from a US based company and the fabric had been woven in India in a classic pine tree and snowball design.  The fabric was probably all cotton, and was a double weave, completely reversible, and used with the light side for some parts of the tunic and the darker side for the rest.  Great use of a very traditional design, but despite searching on the internet, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find anything remotely like it. 

I’ve been busy working on some scarves for the Geelong Scarf Festival, completed entries have to be there by May 6, so there’s still 3 weeks to go.  My entries will have to stay under wraps for a bit longer however, not everything coming off the loom is for Geelong.  I wanted to try one of the drafts which give a fake snakeskin effect.  There are 2 drafts on, 45548 and 45548 Corrected where someone has decided that there are errors in the first draft.  I just thought the first one was meant to look a bit organic and decided to use it. 

It’s a great draft to weave because the small irregularities in the threading and treadling completely disguise any mistakes.  I know there are no major mistakes and while there may be a few minor skips, it would be almost impossible to find them.
I had a painted tencel warp, mostly dark gray with white bands that I’d dyed it a few years ago but my record keeping left a bit to be desired.  It said quite clearly that there were 240 ends – 10 inches by 24 ends per inch and that it was 6 metres long.  When I started to put it on the loom it fitted very nicely in the small raddle, the one with 10 nails and 9 spaces,

I wound it on and started to thread without thinking too much about it.  About two thirds of the way across I realised that I seemed to be short of ends, sure enough there were not 240 but only 216.  Having been taught to ‘weave in the centre of the loom’ I knew that I needed to re-thread or it would annoy me for the whole length of the warp.  Not only was the width out but after I had woven 3 scarves, each 2 meters long, there was still about a meter of warp left, enough for panels for a couple of bags or something else if inspiration strikes. Maybe the warp stretched but I don’t think so, just more bad record keeping.

I’m very happy with the results, they do look like snake skin and feel right too, not that I know what a snake feels like or have any intention of finding out.  They have been washed, pressed, rolled on the stone bench top and tumbled in the dryer without any heat.

The theme for the Geelong Scarf Festival this year is ‘Myths and Legends” and I felt sure that I could find a connection to a snake goddess somewhere – surely any self respecting culture would have a deity for a creature with a poisonous bite.  As I wove and the fabric started to look very snake like, all I could think of were Jeremy Lloyd’s poems for children from the 1980s and the villain ‘Hissing Sid’.  If you missed these at the time here’s the late Keith Michell with something to brighten your day 

and the reason why these scarves are now called ‘Hissing Sid 1 and 2’.