Returning to the plain weave

Since I started in on the xmas presents at the end of last year, most of what I’ve woven have been fiddly things; 4 shaft patterns, double weave and loops.  Then tablet/card weaving came into the picture and, while not fiddly as such, it has certainly given the brain some exercise!

So, after reacquainting myself with my yarn stash, I decided it was time to do some good old plain weave.

You know, I’d actually forgotten how fast you can weave a scarf? Before I knew it I was at the hemstitching point! It was also very relaxing and my mind happily drifted as I wove.

Must make a note to myself to do a plain weave project in between double weave etc, so I can relax and enjoy the weaving. Not that double weave etc were too stressful, but you have to pay so much attention to what you’re doing. This was like knitting garter stitch (I’m sure you knitters know what I mean)!

The funny thing about this project was that it took me as long to finish as to weave. That was because I added some of that fringe-like, fluffy yarn that was all the rage a few years back for knitters and it took forever to free the fringe-like bits from the web. Still, it looks pretty much how I hoped it would. Now I just need to give it a bath.

And I’m going to predict that the next project will be plain weave too.

Getting started with tablet weaving #4

Like loom weaving, tablet/card weaving has a shed into which you pass the weft. The shed is formed by the gap created between the top two threads and bottom two threads in each card.

diagram showing a tablet and shed

Now here we are looking at the shed from the side and I’m showing just one card for clarity. The weft is passed through the gap in the threads closest to the weaver.

If you’re a loom weaver, you’re probably thinking that this is all fairly familiar and that’s right. The principle is the same.

But what happens when you rotate your tablet/card? Let’s look at that:

diagram showing the shed change in tablet weavingYou can see the threads that make up the top and bottom of the shed change slightly as the holes in the card/tablet are rotated. So in the first image the top of the shed is made up of the threads from the D&A holes. After the tablet is turned, the top of the shed is made up of the threads from the A&B holes.

Playing with yarn and chevrons

This is a terrible photo for colour accuracy, but shows the latest of my experiments in tablet weaving. It’s quite narrow (6mm) and the cotton is a bit shiny, so it’s a little hard to photograph well.

tablet weaving sampleIn my description of how the twisting of the warp yarn works in tablet/card weaving, I mentioned it created a warp-faced weave. In this sample you can make out just the odd spot of dark weft showing through the purple and teal warp (that’s what the colours are supposed to be!). All the rest of the weft is hidden inside the twists.

This was created by having three holes in each tablet/card threaded with the purple and one teal. During set up I turned each card so that the teal thread was one position further away on each card, as this gives you the > shape as you weave (called chevrons). The teal thread on each card is only visible every four picks/four turns.

The direction of the chevrons was altered by changing the direction I rotated the tablets in, starting by turning them away from me and then turning them toward me. It’s a bit lumpy where I changed direction, so I still haven’t gotten that quite right! Still, I like the result in such pretty thread.

Cheats/hacks… taming the rolly-poly yarn

It is well known to those yarn-ologists who study the secret habits of yarn, that balls of any kind of yarn like to roll. If they can roll off a table and onto a floor so much the better! Since I began weaving I have to say that dressing a loom and winding shuttles just seem to encourage the cheeky blighters.

So, how to tame balls of yarn?

Based on a suggestion by a friend to try capturing them in a plastic bag, I decided to take a cloth bag and one of those coat-hangers with the strap holders, to create a magical hanging enclosure. By putting each of the cloth bag’s handles onto a strap holder, you get an ever open – but not too wide – yarn trap.

It allows for easy hanging on door knobs and chair backs, with relocation as simple as can be. The balls of yarn can’t jump high enough to escape (and I think maybe the dark interior calms them).

There is one downside to this taming method… the balls of yarn are so calm and quiet that you tend to forget they’re in there. Twice balls have gone “missing” in my house only for me to later realise I’d left them in the bag! (Yarn’s revenge, maybe?)

What not to do when ironing

The weirdest thing about being a weaver is that I find myself obsessed with the structure of fabrics. Okay, I’ve always stared at people’s clothes for the colour and drape of fabrics, but now I maneuver at the train station to go up the escalator behind certain fabrics so I can stare closely at them without seeming like a perv.

One time this is not a good idea is while ironing. More than once I’ve stopped swishing the iron back and forth over an item of clothing, distracted by the “oooh, I’ve not noticed this fabric before…look at that structure…” Thankfully nothing has burnt yet!

So if you find yourself with a hot iron in your hand, my suggestion is either to stare at the fabric before you put iron to cloth or you stop and put the iron back at rest while you investigate.

an iron

Cheats/hacks… because I’m all about the easy

My general approach in life is to find ways to save time and make life easier. Probably because I like doing fussy crafts that are kind of the opposite of time efficient and simple… hmm… But as I’ve been learning to weave I’ve found that a loom is a great taker of cheats/hacks.

I’m sure everyone has their own versions of these and many will be specific to the kind of loom you have. Hopefully though, as I share some of mine for the rigid heddle loom, you might find inspiration to apply to your weaving too!

This is going to be a series of posts (you’ve probably noticed by now that I like doing that!) and I’ll spread them through the other things I’m posting about. Feel free to share your own.

A simple on to start… one of the things that drove me nuts with the rigid heddle loom when I was first weaving, was the way that the front and back “warp sticks” (where you tie your warp on) flopped around when you put the warp on. So I implemented two cheats/hacks to keep them still (well, less floppy anyway!).

First: I use some scrap yarn to stretch the back warp stick toward the heddle and hold it in place. Often I just run the yarn across the front of the rigid heddle to achieve this, i.e. tie one end to the left side of the warp stick, take it around the front of the heddle and then tie it off on the right side of the warp stick.

Second: I use a chock to rest the front warp stick on. Sometimes just one in the centre and sometimes I put one at each end. I find this very useful in keeping my tension even as I tie my warp on. My chocks are usually just bits of wood or small boxes that are the right height.

These two cheats have made dressing the loom that much simpler and obviously you could use either at either end of the loom. This was just what I found worked best for me.