Joining #1

How do you join in new yarn when weaving? Well, there are a couple of different approaches. I thought I’d start by talking about a few options for joining at the edge.

Obviously, if you’re going to cut something from the cloth, or you will sew the selvedge into the seam, then you could just leave tails sticking out – maybe trim them after the cloth is washed.

If you want things neater than that, then you can do a knot. Alternatively you can weave the yarn ends parallel to the selvedge, with a needle. Nice and tidy.

But what about for something like a scarf?

Though leaving the ends hanging out is not the best choice for a scarf, I did do this with the soya yarn, as I figured it’d stay firmly in place as long as I trimmed it after washing. Seems to have worked!

With some yarns, a good weaver’s knot right at the selvedge, is fine for a scarf. I’d sample with each yarn to test the result (including washing), just in case.

Depending on the relative thickness / colour of your warp and weft, needle weaving it up the selvedge can be fairly invisible on a scarfs too.

Of course, these aren’t the only options. More to come in future posts!

Creating sheds with pick up sticks

Last post, I mentioned I was doing a more complicated threading.  This was the “magic step” pattern, which has groups of 2 and 3 consecutive warp threads on one shaft.image of four square gradient pattern called magic step

Because I wanted to focus on the pattern rather than how to get the right epi, I decided to only thread slots and create my sheds with my pick-up sticks!

Despite the fact I over beat it (you can see they’re not exactly squares), it turned out rather well, and the alternating colour pattern made picking up the right threads easy. Also, you use one pick up stick more than the other, so you don’t have to change sticks with each pick.

It was an interesting experiment…

The magic step pattern is a bit big for 8ply yarn (75 ends to get one pattern repeat!) I discovered that the threads bunched a lot due to being paired in slots – I’d probably split the pairs more if I used this method again. It was also difficult not to over beat with this threading.

The thing to keep in mind when working with multiple slot threads is that you need one pick up stick per slot thread. Why? Because each stick lifts one thread.

In fact, I did a fun little yarn-speriment to see what would happen if I used one stick for two slot threads.

So, I warped the reed/heddle with 2 slot threads and 1 hole thread. Then, in a down shed, I put every 2nd slot thread on the stick. I then wove in the usual way, but with an added step; after each down shed I left the reed/heddle where it was, turned the stick on its edge and wove a pick.

This is like weaving with 2.5 shafts (an amusing thought). It isn’t shown to full effect in this picture, but I like the resulting pattern.

image of weaving sample

This is how the slot threads interlace with the weft:

2.5 shaft interlacement

Where am I at?

Many moons ago, my mum (also a yarn craft-er) gave me a nifty little tool called a line maker, for marking where you’re at in a pattern. Intended (I think) for cross-stitch, I realised it was perfect for following where I was at with a weaving draft!Counter1

It consists of a metal board with two magnets. One holds the pattern down (the grey strip to the left of the picture) and the other (which is a little ruler) you use for tracking where you are at.

Trying a complicated threading for the first time, this has been an invaluable helper. Thanks mum!

Patterns #4 – warp and weft floats

So, I’ve been talking about floats over the past few posts, but what textures can creating floats give you?

The answer partly depends on whether you’re creating weft floats, or warp floats, or both. To have a play, I did a skinny little sampler with a couple of techniques (I apologise for the blurry photos):

image of cloth on the loomAt this point I’d done – from the cloth beam – some “3/1 lace” (weft floats), then some windowpanes and some “spot lace” (warp and weft floats).

Weft floats are created the way I outlined in my last post. For warp floats, you insert the pick-up stick the same way to get the desired slot threads, but you then use it in an up-shed and slide it forward to the reed/heddle, keeping it flat.

Then I did windowpane with some supplementary weft (black, to match my black warp), which you can see on the left:

image of two pick up stick textures
The sampler is sideways here (black warp, white weft)

And on the right I was playing with the spot lace idea in regular rows.

The pictures here are all of unwashed cloth. What I found with the first sample I did with a pick-up stick was that the weft floats get tighter and more subtle on washing. That’s at least the case with these bamboo/nylon yarns I’m using.

Keep in mind too that if you create a weft float on the front of your cloth then you’ll have created a warp float on the back and vice versa. This may or may not matter depending on the use of the cloth and the effect you’re after.

Finally, I went a little crazy and created some weft loops!

an image of weft loopsThese aren’t technically floats, but I thought they deserved a mention!

In a future patterns post, I’ll talk about some other pick-up patterns, but these are some of the simplest ones.

Playing with pick-up sticks

Pick-up sticks, or pattern sticks, are a neat way to do patterns using floats or supplementary weft. On rigid heddle looms they’re a way to introduce a whole range of different patterns and textures, including making “lace” and things like waffle weave.

So, what are pick-up sticks in weaving? A flat stick that is wide enough to give you a useable shed, when inserted between warp threads and turned on its edge. Though my first pick-up stick was a spatula! (I was impatient to try the technique.) And many weavers repurpose stick shuttles for this.

Pick up stick
Pick up stick

Generally you put your reed/heddle into a down-shed and then slip the stick under the desired slot threads behind the reed/heddle (e.g. under every third thread). You then alternate weaving normal tabby picks and pattern picks where you put the pick-up stick on its edge to create a shed. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do this, so I won’t go into it too much, but here are a few pics to give you an idea:

image of a pick up stick inserted between threads
Stick inserted under the desired threads behind the reed.
Image of a pickup stick in use
Stick turned on its edge. This should be hard up against the reed to get a good size shed in front.

It is very easy to miss a thread when using pick-up sticks and I found it helped to put a piece of stiff paper – in a contrasting colour – under my slot threads, so I could see them clearly.

Some people actually pick up in front of the reed/heddle (easier to reach), turn the pick-up stick on edge to create a shed and then insert a second pick-up stick into the shed behind the reed/heddle, finally removing the first pick-up stick.

I must say it makes me nostalgic for the more commonly known kind of pick-up stick!

the game of pick up sticks

The joy of floats

In weaving, a float is where a thread skips going “under” (or an “over”) and carries across 2+ threads. They can be weft floats or warp floats and they can appear on either side of the cloth.

image of my third sample on the loom
Me playing with floats in an early sampler

While they are used for patterns and textures, they are also an integral part the two other main weaving structures; satin and twill.

diagram of twill
Twill structure

Satin is largely floats and that’s why it’s so smooth; the floats are only caught down occasionally. While twill is based on short floats that are slightly offset with each repeat, giving it the diagonals it’s famous for (think of denim). In a way, plain weave is the odd structure out for having no floats at all!

While satin and twill are structures, not patterns, a lot of “colour and weave” patterns use floats to give different effects. Here is one of my favourites – pinwheels – where the curvy, spinning effect is created with a few well-placed floats.

pinwheel pattern
Itching to try it!!

Keep in mind that the longer the floats, the less stable the structure of the cloth will be and the more subject to abrasion. Also, the more likely that baby’s fingers/toes and other things can catch on them.

A full bloom

You don’t need to do much reading about weaving before you come across people talking about “fulling”. This is what happens when you agitate woollen cloth in hot water; each strand begins to mesh to the strands around it creating a thicker, warmer, fuzzier fabric.

You control the amount of fulling with different temperatures and techniques. Some people full by hand, others in a washing machine or dryer, but you need to keep an eye on the process, as different yarn will full differently. Some yarns apparently get to a point where the fulling takes off and in no time they go beyond what you hoped for!

Traditional fulling was often done by walking on the cloth (the surname Walker comes from this) and pounding or hammering were also often used. Kind of makes me feel sorry for the cloth.

So what if it’s not wool? Well, other natural fibres don’t technically full, but many will fluff up and are said to “bloom”. Here’s a before ‘n’ after of my soya yarn sampler from the last post:

Look at how that fringe bloomed!

Obviously, some fibres don’t change much at all (particularly synthetics) and “superwash” wool doesn’t behave the same way as other wools because it’s designed for machine washing.

Don’t confuse fulling/blooming with the results that a nice hot, soapy bath will have on any fabric freshly off the loom… all cloth will relax and soften as the water helps the fibres settle around each other and washes away any additional chemicals in the fibre.

Weaving patterns #3 – warp spacing

A common texturing technique, for use on any kind of loom, is to change the spacing of your warp threads. You can run extra threads through the same heddle (crammed warp) or you can skip a few (spaced warp).

I did a small sampler with the soya yarn I mentioned in my previous post and you can see I did both spacing and cramming:
detail of a crammed and spaced warp smple
The crammed warp gives you raised lines which can be subtle or strong depending on the colour/texture of the yarn/s. Spacing the warp – depending on how spaced you go – will give sort of lacy tracks where the weft appears loopier and looser. Again it can be subtle or strong depending on the yarn combinations.

You can see the result better from a distance, so here is that sampler in full:

While this turned out quite a subtle version, you can see toward each edge there are two lines of cramming and the tracks toward the centre are the spaced warp (skipping two threads in each).

I like this warp patterning a lot, because it is straightforward and yet gives a wide range of possible results.

When your weft skips a pick or two

Working with multiple colours in the weft has been a lot of fun, but it does require some thought on how you will carry your “inactive” colour up the selvedge. Well, at least if you’re weaving a complete product, like a scarf, where hairy or loopy selvedges aren’t a good thing.

diagram of wrapping different weft threads around each other
(red is active)

The important thing is to make sure the “active” colour – the one you’re about to put into the shed – wraps around the “inactive” colour. That way it will be pinned to the selvedge and not flop about!

This does get a little trickier when you’re carrying a colour up a few picks of weft, but it’s usually easy to see what you need to do.

Another consideration with two + colours is which side of the web to start them on. If you have the colours come in from opposite sides of the shed initially (and it’s an unvarying alternation of colours) then they kind of leapfrog each other.

And if this is all as clear as mud, I’d recommend doing a small sample, because it’s pretty simple when you see it in action!

When carrying yarn up the selvedge, the key is to be consistent, so you get a nice, neat pattern of colour at the edge.

Something to keep in mind with alternating weft colours/textures is that, if the cloth you’re weaving is for cutting and sewing, then you don’t need to carry them; you can actually just cut the colour off with a tail at the selvedge and re-introduce it on the next pick where it’s needed. Though, I suspect this might waste more yarn than carrying…not sure.

Two months a weaver

So I’m two months into this weaving journey and I have reached a point where I’m thinking about more structured projects. My “I want to try” list is huge!image of scarfs and samples

But that’s the future… the last four weeks have been about – mostly – trying yarns.

It began with a sparkly polyamide as seen in the dashes scarf, which was painfully stretchy to work with, causing all manner of warp issues, but I’m not unhappy with the result. Sadly my hard-to-please skin strongly dislikes that yarn.image of a patterned scarf

The second yarn-speriment was a colourful super fine merino variegspot2detailated. I can almost wear super fine so I decided to mix it with a lot of cotton (2nd spot scarf) and see what that did to wearability; success! There may have been dancing…

I re-warped my first warp disaster (sett too open) on a finer reed and the viscose/cotton yarn made a slinky, silky but not soft scarf (viscose can be kind of “hard”).image detail of red viscose scarf

Then, I took some unplied variegated wool and made this lovey dense scarf (warp is matching 10ply cotton), but it has the worst selvedges I’ve done. Will do a sample at some point to see if it’s the yarn or me! The colour refuses to photograph true – it’s actually a nice pale cherry under all that variegation.detail of cherry pink scarf

So then I wove a sample of some $1 acrylic I had that was, well, the quality you’d expect from $1 yarn. It pilled like the blazes as a warp, but overall wove okay. Really didn’t like how crossing it with itself brought out the ugly complimentary colour.greenvariThen I decided to work with some soya yarn. It is sooo soft and fluffy (see me itch and sneeze as I work it) and the result was pretty cool. It couldn’t survive the abrasion of the reed as a warp, but I figured that’d happen. (You can see it in the group pic, above.)

It puffed up on washing like a nicely fulled wool, so it’s a pity that the wool I used with it was a superwash, designed to do nothing when you wash it. In my defense I thought it said “superfine” not “superwash”!image of scarf with clasped weft

That brings me to the final project; the same soy and superwash, used for a captured/clasped weft scarf. I’m extrememly happy with how it turned out, but I have to say it was a bit exhausting. It takes a lot of energy making yarn placement decisons on every pick!