A whole new world of weaving…

Guess what I got for xmas? Wooden tablets for tablet weaving (also called ‘cards’). I don’t have a picture of me clutching them tightly and grinning like a fool, but that’s a good description of how happy I was!

For those not familiar with this type of weaving, it’s very simple, very portable and very, very old. Generally done using a backstrap (i.e. the warp is tied to a fixed point and to the weaver) and creates bands. The bands have been found in archaeological sites as belts, straps and edgings on garments, but they have about as many uses as you can think of for a narrow band.

I tied my warp onto my loom (took the heddles out) so I could try it with familiar tensioning and here is the first attempt:

narrow blue and black band

This band is about 1.5cm wide and done with 2ply cotton. As you can see I was messing around trying things, including part of a pattern on the right. It’s those type of patterns that are part of the attraction!

You might wonder why I haven’t gone and gotten an inkle loom if I’m interested in making bands, as that’s what they’re for, but I have to admit it’s not the output that interests me; it’s the method. Partly because I like history…there’s one famous Viking archaeological find that actually contained tablets on a warp, so I’m attracted to this fascinating continuity of history in doing tablet weaving.

It’s also a technique that is structurally very different from loom weaving. The result is a warp-faced, dense fabric with a lot of potential for geometric patterns. Mind you, you can weave tabby/plain weave using tablets if you want.

Obviously, I’m going to be weaving and posting a lot more tablet weaving bits and bobs!

Finally! The 2015 Christmas gifts

So, my family has given up on rescheduling xmas, which means I could give everyone their gifts at last and finally blog about them! In truth I kind of did blog about them… remember the hand towel? And those two double weave examples I talked about? Yep, them.

So here they are in all their glory…

action shot of coasters
First the ‘action shot’ to give a sense of size
front side of coasters
Side 1
Coasters2a
Side 2

I actually did two of each and the second ones are a bit squarer and neater and the beat is more even than shown here, but you’ll have to take my word for it because I managed to delete the photos I took of them!!

So, you can see the outcome of the two double weaves. For the log cabin it produced a really nice dotty stripe on the back, as a result of a plain warp with log cabin weft. In the other coaster you can see how the black and grey warp threads have been swapped between layers to create the contrasting square in the middle.

hand towel hangingAnd here is the ‘action shot’ of the hand towel, though I trimmed that fringe back after this was taken.

The towel went into a darkroom/workshop as intended, and is adorning a wall there, but is apparently suffering from “too nice to use” syndrome.  The fate of many a practical woven gift, I think!  Well, it looks nice.

(In fact, rumour has it that one of the coasters is in the same boat, but I’ve been promised it’ll get used…eventually.)

Adding pick-up sticks to double weave

So, in my previous posts on double weave on a rigid heddle loom I’ve talked about having two pick-up sticks in use and that you use one when weaving the lower layer cloth and the other when weaving the upper layer of cloth. What I haven’t detailed is how you get them in position!

It’s pretty simple and is exactly like the first two steps I outlined (with pictures) in setting up string heddles:

  • After you’ve dressed the loom, drop both rigid heddles down so you can clearly see the slot threads
  • Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads you need – in this case the slot threads for your top layer of cloth

That’s your first stick in place.

Then put both rigid heddles in the up position and pull the first pick-up stick toward the heddles. This will make a lower shed (behind the heddles) and you just pop your second pick-up stick into that shed.

Remember the top stick is used when weaving the top layer and the bottom stick is used when weaving the bottom layer. Both sticks are pushed to the back beam when not in use.

Threading double weave

Threading four shafts on your loom for double weave is different from threading a four shaft pattern, because in double weave two shafts weave the top layer of your cloth and two shafts weave the bottom.

The most immediate difference is with e.p.i., as only half the warp ends are used for each layer – i.e. if you threaded your loom at 12 ends per inch you’d have 6 ends per inch in each layer of cloth. In other words you use double the sett you normally would for that yarn.

On a multishaft loom you need to watch how you thread and watch which shafts are raised and which lowered so the two layers of cloth don’t get caught together.

On a rigid heddle loom (I think) sett is simpler for double weave. Why? Well using two rigid heddles to get 4 shafts means you automatically double your sett, so the fact you only use half the e.p.i. on each layer cancels out the initial doubling! In other words, you just use rigid heddles of the size you’d normally use for that yarn.

Using two rigid heddles also means you can clearly see your treadling – one rigid heddle will go up to weave the top layer and the other will go down to weave the bottom layer. The two pick-up sticks, that allow you to move your slot threads, are also easily seen to belong to the upper or lower layers as one is literally on top of the other at the back of the loom.

Threading is probably where the rigid heddle is more brain-bending / eye-straining, but after having done a few double weave threadings now, I’ve got a system that works for me…

Begin with four warp threads in each slot; two each for your upper and your lower layers (see the left hand diagram below). If you warp directly onto the loom, you’ll probably do this first step then, but if you use a warping board, simply see this as stage one of threading.

You then take one of the upper layer threads out and put it through the front hole to the right and take one of the lower layer threads out and put it through the back hole the left (shown on the right below).

diagram showing threading for double weave on an RH loom
Here I’ve got blue threads for my bottom layer of cloth and red for the top layer

As I continue threading, I treat each group of four threads as though they exist in isolation – ignoring all the other threads. In the end, it will look like this:

double weave threading on an RH loomAdd your pick up sticks and you’re ready to go!

The forgotten double weave cushion cover

A few months back I started talking about double weave and used some pictures of the early stages of a cushion cover, but I never followed up with a post about the cushion cover! Well, better late than never.

So, I was aiming to weave a cushion cover for an existing cushion and overall the cover came out well. There were however some stunning problems, which I’ll mention in a Bloopers post. For now I’ll stick to what worked.

The goal was to weave it so it had the same variegated weft running over both sides of the cushion, but the warp would be black on the bottom and purple on the top. This worked really well. It also made threading the double weave easier and I highly recommend different colours for your upper and lower warp as you do your first double weave project.

I wanted to do as little sewing as possible for the cover, so I decided to weave it with three closed edges. How? Like this:

diagram of my cushion cover

To explain… starting at the lefthand edge, I wove a pick of my top layer, carried my weft around the righthand edge to weave a pick of the bottom layer and then did the same in reverse. Carrying the weft between the top and bottom layers on the right, closes that edge. The left remains as two separate selvedge edges.

I closed the bottom and the top, by treating both my rigid heddles as one unit (lifting / lowering them together) for a few picks. This makes a single, dense layer of cloth for just those picks and a perfect seam!

This way when I took the cloth off the loom it only needed finishing of the warp ends, and to be turned inside out, to be ready to use. Though I might have added a little closure for the open edge to keep the cushion in place if things had gone to plan.

CushionCover1
You can see the denser seems at the warp end edges

One thing to note about the way I wove this is that, if I hadn’t woven closed the top and bottom edges, it would have unfolded to give a single piece of cloth, double the width it was on the loom. Half would have been purple and half black with the variegated yarn running the full width.

Weaving colour #2

In this post, we’ll look at the effect of the brightness of your yarn colours. Notice I said brightness? This isn’t about how light/dark a colour is, but how bright/dull it is.

The brightness matters because a bright colour seems to ‘come toward’ you while a dull colour seems to ‘move away’ from you. That means:

  • your eye/brain thinks the brighter colour is physically closer, and this is what makes a colour and weave pattern like log cabin seem 3 dimensional (by the way, not everyone can see these 3D effects – depends on your eyesight)
  • your eye/brain notices the bright colour more, so your eye thinks there’s more of that colour, and it also makes any pattern sections in that colour stand out more

To expand on those points… to maximise the 3D effect of log cabin, you need to use colours with a high difference in brightness – i.e. one very dull and one very bright.

In terms of bright yarns standing out, here’s an example I hope shows that:

4shaftCombined

When you first look at these two samples, you see the brighter teal/aqua first and register the pattern they make. That’s why the two samples look quite different despite both being the same pattern; one has a bright warp and the other a bright weft.

In terms of mixing colours, here’s a small example (not the best pic sorry):

Brightness1Both these samples have exactly the same variegated warp, but the weft on right is much nearer the brightness of the warp, so the colours are less distinct and mix more. The dull black weft (left) causes the warp yarn to really pop and makes its colours seem stronger (might be a little lost in the photo).

Something else to note; while the grey weft is closer in brightness, it is still duller than the warp yarn and so lowers the overall brightness of the sample. If you have a lovely bright yarn and you cross it with a yarn that’s a little duller, you might be disappointed at the overall loss of brightness!

As a final note, value is the term used for brightness in colour theory. So, when people talk about a yarn’s colour having a higher/lower value than another yarn, they’re comparing how bright one yarn is to the other.

Introducing string heddles

Having decided to give that 4 shaft pattern a go, I had to make string heddles to lift my slot threads. What are string heddles? They are a ‘stick’ onto which you attach loops of ‘string’ so that when you lift the stick, you lift a set of threads. Commonly used with rigid heddle looms, but also for some techniques on multi-shaft looms.

Why do you need them on a rigid heddle loom? Because when you have a 4-shaft pattern one pick-up stick sits on top of the threads of the other pick-up stick and prevents you lifting them. (This doesn’t apply to double weave!)

How do you set up string heddles? Here is my (I’m sure not unique) approach…string heddles step 1

  1. Once your loom is dressed, put both rigid heddles in the down position to get your hole threads out of the way. I slip a bit of paper into the ‘shed’ behind the heddles so I can see my slot threads clearly.
  2. Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads for that shaft of the pattern.
  3. Pass your ‘string’ (thread, yarn, string…) under the selected threads – here I used some red yarn.

String heddles steps 4 & 5

4. Use a hook to pull loops of your string between each selected slot thread and this will tell you if you’re string is long enough.

string heddle step 6

5. Slip the loops onto your stick (dowel, knitting needle, shuttle, pick-up stick…) and secure each end of the string to the stick with a tight knot – I’ve used a crochet hook as my stick.

6. Use some tape along the top of the stick to stop the string slipping off and you can also remove the pick-up stick at this point.

Repeat steps for second string heddle – here I’ve used a crochet hook and a shuttle as my ‘sticks’ as I was only weaving a narrow sample.

To get the best shed when you lift a string heddle, it’s good to hold the middle of the stick. Also, have the loops of your string heddles as close to the rigid heddle as possible.

What next?

It’s likely that this will be the most common thing I end up asking myself during the next year of weaving. Not only are there just a huge number of things still to try, but I am also wanting to do variations on some of the things I’ve tried already!

So, what’s tempting me currently?

A four shaft pattern… I’ve had my eye on this draft for ages now:

4shaft draft from handweaving.netBut it may well do my head in!

I’m also tempted to try some leno ideas and some other finger-manipulated weaves, because so far I have only done a little and pretty half-heartedly.

Then, I have an idea for some more crammed-warp pieces.

Plus, the pinwheels are still very appealing to try.

I suspect the leno or the crammed-warp will win simply because my double-weave adventures have given me a strong desire to do something fast and simple.

Six months a weaver (farewell 2015)

Well, it’s been a busy first 6 months of weaving! I’ve made a lot of scarfs, done a few samples and even branched out to things like a hand-towel.

So, here is my half-year as a weaver in pictures… lots of pictures…

Continue reading Six months a weaver (farewell 2015)