Floating selvedges – they float?

After having done a few patterns with alternating weft colours, I am all for the idea of using a floating selvedge. If you’re not familiar with this little trick, then it’s where you have an extra warp thread each side of your warp that isn’t woven in the pattern.

This allows you to always catch the weft, regardless of whether the pattern would take it into the shed without wrapping around a selvedge thread.  (Trust me, it’s really annoying trying to get a neat selvedge when you have the weft sometimes being caught and sometimes not!) So, with the floating selvedge, you enter and exit the same way regardless of direction – i.e. over on the way in and under on the way out (or vice versa).

A few things to note about floating selvedges though… firstly, on a rigid heddle loom you need to pop them in slots so they are never lifted or lowered… secondly, you may need to weight them, because, as you weave, those warp threads won’t be used up at the same rate as their pattern baring friends and will get a bit soggy.

Now, I haven’t tried this yet, but I gather S hooks are good weights to use.

You can also avoid warping them with the rest of the threads by having them hang – weighted – down the back of the loom. To my mind that’s probably more work, but I may be proven wrong!

I’ll let you know how I go when I finally try it.

Because looms are herd animals

My obsession with weaving – let’s call it what it is! – coincided nicely with the local spinners and weavers having an open day at their association. So I popped in to watch people weave on different looms and to have a go before I went and bought the one I had my eye on.

The woman whose loom I sat at for a while, was answering my question about what is a good size to start with in the rigid heddle looms when she explained that it didn’t really matter because looms are herd animals, so every weaver ends up with more than one! I thought that was hilarious.

Given how many sets of knitting needles I’ve collected in my knitting life, it didn’t surprise me at all to be told it applied to weaving accoutrements too. So far, I’m too entertained by the capacity of my loom to have an eye on anything bigger/smaller/fancier, but I can imagine the day when maybe, just maybe, I’ll upsize to a table loom. Probably not a floor loom – they just seem like too much work!

I may live to laugh at myself over that statement, ey?

Weaving patterns #2 – a different way with weft

One of the very first things I saw online when I started my massive weaving research bender, was “captured weft”. I think I fell in love with it right then!

So what is it? Well, you have weft coming into the shed from both sides and you wrap them around each other, before passing them back out of the shed the way they came. image of interlocked weft threadsThis means you have two weft threads on every pick, and they change colour / texture wherever you choose across the width of the cloth. It usually gives a staggered or jagged contrast line.

There’s a lovely freedom to making your pattern as you go, which appeals to me. I’ve been so busy trying other things there’s only been a teeny test of the technique in my weaving so far. Looking forward to a full scarf!

Draw-in and selvedges

It seems to be a common cry of the new weaver “I get tidy selvedges and a lot of draw-in, or I get messy selvedges and little draw-in!”. Believe me I understand this cry well.

So, what is draw-in? Well, it’s the amount that your weaving narrows on the loom as you create the web (cloth).

What causes it? If the amount of weft thread isn’t enough for the width of the web, as you bring the beater foward it pulls the yarn from both ends of the shed. This tightens it around the selvedge you’ve just wrapped it over, as well as pulling in from the shuttle end.

Why is this bad? It causes the selvedge edge warp threads to bunch together (get closer) and that leaves less room for your weft just at the edges. This often results in a curved “smile” at the fell line. Bad news if you’re weaving a pattern, or anything with colour changes!

Having said that, I had a heap of draw-in on my first few scarfs that I wove and it didn’t really cause me a problem in the finished product. Still, it did mean the finished product was narrower than it had to be.

So how do you avoid draw-in? You leave your weft in the shed at an angle of about 45 degrees. Some people leave a “frown” of weft. Mostly, for me the angle seems to work best.

But the less draw-in I’ve had, the bobblier and wobblier my selvedges have been. Why? Well, if you want a guaranteed neat selvedge, then letting the weft tighten as you beat will certainly do it! It’s just not the best way. Getting tidy selvedges is a lot about just good old practice and – I suspect – practice with different yarns too.

I found that I have a naturally neater selvedge on one edge and I think that’s a) my handedness & b) plied yarns untwist a bit more in one direction. Possibly a bigger issue for weaving with knitting yarns than other kinds of yarn? Not sure.

Something else worth mentioning here is that you will get different amounts of draw-in if you do patterns with weft floats (where the weft skips a few “unders” on the way across the warp). That’s because the fewer interlacements you have, the fewer barriers there are to the weft being drawn-in.

You can see this clearly in this first sample of mine:

My first weaving sample

Notice how it pulls in more at the intensely white bits? Those were points where I played with creating weft floats!

I love blogging communities!

So I got nominated for a Liebster Award liebster-awardby Orange Smoothy Knits. Very cool!

Sadly I don’t have enough fellow craft bloggers to nominate to meet the requirements, but that’s okay. I’m still buzzed to have had From This Cloth’s name put in the virtual hat.

Maybe some time in the future when I’ve accrued a few more weaver/knitter blogger peeps…

Still, I can happily answer the questions, because it’s just fun!

1. What is your dream vacation?

Stay in one of those villas in the Maldives that has a glass bottom so you watch the fish from your lounge room.

2. What is your favorite method of creating (knitting, crocheting, weaving, something else)?

Well, until I began weaving I’d have said knitting. I think weaving may turn out to really be “my craft”.

3. What creative achievement are you most proud of?

Hmm… many moons ago I knitted a long winter coat and I still wear and love it… but I am also a novelist and I think my current novel is my proudest achievement.

4. If you had a superpower, which one would it be?

Super strength… because it’s just so handy!

5. What does a perfect day look like to you?

Cold and sunny with clear blue sky and a few puffy clouds. Me, wearing a snuggly jumper and doing something creative with a cup of coffee and some chocolate on hand.

6. If you could witness any event of the past, present, or future, what would it be?

Assuming we ever do get to this point – I’d love to see the day humans stop going to war.

7. How did you get into the blogging world?

Writers tend to blog so I came to it through that. I have… um… a couple of blogs (should I admit to that?)

8. If money wasn’t an issue, where in the world would you live?

Paris. I love Paris.

9. What is your favorite show and why?

TV show? That’s a hard one. Probably the original Dr Who during the J.Pertwee/T. Baker years.

10. If you could recommend just one place in your country to a tourist, what would it be?

Kakadu National Park.  Amazing.

11. Do you have pets?

I have no pets currently, but there will be puppies at some point! Probably a rescue and then a little pup too. Some variety of small breed so I can get them to the vet in a carrier (no car).

How to read a draft #2

If you read the last post on reading drafts, hopefully you now have a good idea of how they work, but be prepared to come across a couple of variations!

The most common variation is the lack of the “drawdown” so you see just the threading and treadling guides.

The next variation doesn’t use black boxes. Instead, the threading guide, shows the shaft number and the treadling guide uses slashes.

image of a weaving draft

You’ll also notice in this example, that repeats in the pattern are summarised – the 5x notation – and this is a common way to keep drafts a useable size.

Of course, not all weaving instructions are drafts. For plain weave patterns you will sometimes see instructions like this (from a Schacht pattern):

image of a scarf pattern

Here the number of ends in each colour and the colour order is shown – i.e. a threading guide – but the weft colour instruction is in the text accompanying this.

And for rigid heddle patterns – particularly those that use pick up sticks – you will see patterns written out like a knitting pattern; saying “two over, three under, two over” etc.

So, that’s the essentials of navigating patterns and drafts.

Spots and dashes

It’s early days for me to be discovering a favourite pattern, but that might just be what’s happened! First I did it in black and green and now I’ve done it in black and a variegated…

Scarf with green spots on a black ground

image of spot pattern scarf
Not a great pic – I’m awkwardly holding it up in mid air

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I love about this pattern, aside from how easy it is to weave, is that you have so many colour combination possibilities… I’m already planning my next version.

The other pattern I’ve played with recently was a sort of “dots and dashes”:

image of a patterned scarf

detail of sparkly yarn patternOf course I also chose a very hairy, sparkly yarn for my pattern which makes the pattern less clean, but I like the effect overall.

 

I’m loving being able to create so many different patterns with 2 shafts and just different yarn combos. Even though I now have a second heddle kit for my loom, I’m not ready to use it yet!

How to read a draft #1

Weaving drafts can be a bit brain bending at first, because all you see is a graph without any words. Also, because the little coloured boxes in the draft mean different things depending on which part of the draft you’re looking at! Once you get the hang of them though, they are a great tool.

So, let’s start with a draft for some basket weave, and imagine you’re sitting at your loom looking at this cloth; the bottom edge of the diagram is your cloth beam and the top edge is your fell line.

Because it’s basket weave it goes over, over, under, under:

diagram of basket weave

To create this over, over, under, under structure we need two shafts with pairs of threads alternating between shaft 1 and shaft 2:

threading diagram

So this part of the draft is your threading guide, with the black boxes indicating which warp thread goes on which shaft (for a rigid heddle loom, what goes in slots or holes).

How do you know which lever to press to raise, say, shaft 1? This is shown in another set of boxes to the side of the threading guide and is called the tie-up:

diagram of a tie-up

Here a black box indicates which shaft is tied to which lever or treadle. (With rigid heddle looms these are the up-shed and the down-shed.)

Finally, we need to know which lever / treadle to use for each pick of weft, so in the third set of boxes – the treadling order – a black box indicates a lever:

treadling diagram

And this is what the final draft looks like:

weaving draft for basket weave

The big area in the middle is called the draw-down and shows how the threads interlace. This isn’t always included.

Nor are the two sets of coloured boxes along the outer edge that show the colour order for warp (bottom) and weft (side) always shown.

One final note: In this example I’ve shown the threading guide and tie-up at the bottom of the draft, but you often see drafts where this sits at the top. The only difference when a draft is laid out like that, is you read the treadling order from the top to bottom rather than – as here – bottom to top.

In another post I’ll look at other ways that weaving patterns are written.

Actually weaving

So, your loom is set up and you’re ready to go. Now what?

The first thing you do is to open a shed so you can pop some scrap yarn in as weft, and then an alternate shed so you can do another pick of scrap yarn. You will start to see your warp threads even out (they’re usually bunched from being secured at the cloth beam). Note: you can also use paper/ card strips to do this.

Now you’re ready to start your pattern, so you grab your shuttle/s and work out what comes first in the “treadling order” i.e. which shaft/s get lifted first and which weft colour/yarn goes into that shed. If you’re doing a complicated or varying pattern, it’s good to put the instructions somewhere easy to see and where you can easily to mark off progress.

You might leave a nice long tail of weft sticking out on the first pick, if you want to use it to hemstitch the raw edge later, but for each pick of weft, you pass the shuttle through the shed and out the other side, leaving it at an angle (about 45 degrees seems to be recommended). This is so there is enough thread there to get pushed into place when you beat, without pulling at the edge where the weft entered the shed.

You bring your beater forward and push the thread into place.

Then you use the next treadle/lever to be pushed and wrap the weft around the selvedge and pass the weft through the “new” shed in the opposite direction, again leaving an angle of thread. Beat.

Repeat according to the pattern and when the “fell line” (i.e. where you are laying in new weft) gets too close to the reed, or the shed gets too shallow to pass the shuttle through comfortably, wind the bit you’ve woven onto the cloth beam.  That is weaving!

When you use all the warp on the loom, you are generally going to hemstich the raw edge at both the warp beam and the cloth beam ends to stop them fraying.

Finally, you’ll take the cloth off the loom, which I have to say is a very nice feeling.

Dressing your loom

There are plenty of sources of information (online and with every new loom) about how to get the warp in place, so I’m not going to do a step-by-step here. Instead I thought it’d be useful to look at the things – four I was struck by – that the instructions don’t always go into.

One: Direct warping, or not

Essentially there are two ways to measure out your warp; wind it onto a warping board, or put it directly onto the back beam (warp beam) of the loom and run it out to a peg.

With a rigid heddle loom it’s easy to direct warp if you have enough space and patience to walk it out to the required length. The advantage of direct warping is it basically removes a step and so saves some time.

The warping board however allows you to warp a long length in a compact space and I suspect it makes it easier to alternate colours (not sure, haven’t used a warping board yet).

Two: Front to back or back to front?

When putting the warp onto the loom you can start by tying it to the back beam or to the front beam. Some people seem pretty passionate about which way works best, but most weaving “gurus” seem to say that you should do what works for you.

Three: The cross and the raddle

The most important thing when getting the warp onto the loom is making sure that you keep your threads in order. When using a warping board, you do this by creating a “cross” where the threads get interlaced so they can’t get out of order.

A raddle, is also used to help keep threads tidy while warping the loom. It is basically a separator, so you can put smaller groups of threads in their right order while you do the steps involved in warping.

Four: What’s with the paper?

If you’ve seen anyone dressing a loom you’ll have seen them feed card/paper in between the layers of warp, but why?

Well, for even tension across all threads, they need to be the same length at any given point in the weaving. If you don’t use paper between the layers of warp, you risk some threads “cutting in” to the layer below, which will mean they’ll be shorter than their fellows.

Still a bit unclear? Think of the layers of warp as a spiral, where as you add layers each layer forms a bigger circle. If a thread falls through to the circle below, then it will take less thread to wrap around that layer of the spiral than the layer it’s supposed to be on.  Thus, it ends up shorter than it’s friends!