Weaving patterns #6 – distorting with floats

A while back I spent a week playing with the different patterns that floats can give you, but one I didn’t tackle back then was honeycomb. Partly because this one really needs some extra shafts (you can do it with pick-up sticks, but the pattern changes often) and I was just looking at pick-up sticks.

The beauty of this type of honeycomb is that by alternating the position of weft and warp floats you distort the web/cloth slightly and this creates lines in the plain weave sections. Now I did too narrow a sample to really show it (I was obsessed with using up thrums on this!), but you can see the diagonal lines forming between the weft floats…

small sample of honeycomb weaveAny weaves that use floats to distort the cloth, work best if you use a heavier yarn to highlight the pattern. In honeycomb that means using a heavier weft (which I didn’t do) so that the “cells” have an outlined appearance.

So what other weaves use floats in a similar way? Well, you can also “deflect” or “bend” warp threads to create curves. Called deflected warp it again works best when the warp to be deflected is a heavier yarn:

sample of deflected warpHere, when the floats shrink in the wash the tug the warp in different directions and pull the warp threads into shapes.

That is another thing to note about these woven patterns; they don’t show until you take the cloth off the loom and increase in strength after washing. So don’t panic if they look uninspiring while under tension on the loom!

Too much inspiration

I’ve been in a reading mood recently and that’s included a bit of weaving reading. Over the past year it’s been obvious that reading about weaving is a dangerous pastime, because it induces an immediate desire to try every single technique.

So far I’ve been reasonably good at not letting the extreme excitement distract me from all the things I was already planning to try, but it’s hard. Weaving is an amazingly big and varied craft!

At least I know I’ll never get bored with it.

The in-between yarn

I have some lovely silk that is just begging to be woven, but it has always struck me as being a little bit skinnier than wool of the same ‘size’. So, before launching into this project, I decided I should do the wraps per inch test just to be sure. I discovered it is a 12 wpi yarn and so technically needs a 6 dpi reed.

Well, this is where I had to stop and think, because the 5 would be too open and the 7.5 a little crowded. What to do? I know I could have gone the 7.5 and it wouldn’t have been a bad thing – after all it’s silk! – but I decided I’d try to actually get 6 dpi. How? By taking my 10 dpi reed and threading 6 ends out of every ten!

This worked pretty well with a pattern like so:  ||- -||- -||||- -||- -||

It also gave me a weird sense of achievement (I have conquered yarn!!!!) (*ahem*) which will only increase if the cloth turns out as silky and delicious as I imagine.

Disaster strikes down a scarf

I was in a bit of a weaving slump this past week. A scarf I’d had high hopes for turned into a bit of a disaster, and for the most unexpected reason too. See I had a warp of mixed yarns and was so focused on what I was doing with them that I somehow managed to take my eye off my selvedge tension. Result; one wobbly edge!

The yarn on that side of the scarf didn’t help things, but I can’t blame the warp tension, or the nature of the yarn. Nope. It was me. And I wouldn’t mind quite so much if I could make it a feature of the scarf… sadly not so.

On the positive side, this particular disaster did give me a chance to do some blocking. I haven’t really done any since I knitted with some unfortunate yarn a few years back, so it was good to re-familiarise myself. It significantly reduced the wobble! Just didn’t eliminate it.

Cheats/hacks… count marker

Now this is a cheat that I’m sure most weavers do! Still, worth mentioning I think.

When I work a repeating pattern where I might lose track of where I’m up to, I put a marker at the selvedge edge when I start a new repeat. This is usually just a little bit of contrasting thread, but I’ve been tempted to deploy some moveable knitting markers (glorified safety-pins really). By marking the start of a repeat I can always count to/from that marker if I get lost.

I suppose you don’t have to use a moveable marker – you could leave them in if the selvedge is going to be hemmed/sew etc – but I like taking a break at the end of a pattern repeat to move the marker. It gives my concentration a rest and also prompts me to consider a cup of coffee, or whether it’s midnight and I should pack it in and get some sleep!

How to felt wool

Felting is a remarkably simple process, though it does take time and therefore requires some patience. You also can’t undo it, so once your wool begins to felt you need to keep a close eye on it.

The essentials of felting are that you need something made of wool, some hot water and a way of agitating the piece. Very simple.

Some people put their wool into a pot and boil it, letting the bubbles do the agitation. Others put it in a bucket with the hottest water their hands can take and stir it. For more delicate felting you can apply hot water and then rub it by hand, with or without the addition of exfoliating gloves (or mesh like in the nuno method).

Oh, if you have the right kind of washing machine then you can felt that way too.

The basic formula for felting though is the hotter the water the less agitation required and the faster things move, but if boiling it appeals, remember that dyes can leach out and may not be great to breath! Also, you need to fish the wool out of the pot all soggy and dripping scorching water. If you’re me that probably means burns.

Whatever the method, it takes a while before anything starts to happen (the first sign is that the cloth will get looser). Once it does, the felting can happen quickly. The degree of felting you want will take a little practice to achieve, but the main thing to avoid is taking it too far when it’ll start to fall apart (or so the interwebs tell me).

How do you know when it’s actually felting? It’ll get a bit fluffy on the surface and visually the weave will start to blur. Though that’s just the start.

Really that’s it. Well, you do need to keep in mind that felting will cause the cloth to thicken and the further you take it the stiffer it will get. Of course that thickening also means it shrinks quite significantly (30% + isn’t unusual) and this is proportional to how far you take the process (thicker felt = higher shrinkage).

Not sure how much more felting I’ll do, but I enjoy thinking of it as extreme fulling!

And this week… felting

I should start by admitting that I’m not a huge fan of things made from felt, but when you engage in the washing of wool there’s just a natural segue into a bit of felting.

My first attempt wasn’t a very big piece and for a while I wasn’t even sure it was going to work! The great thing about the felting process though is that if it’s not looking felt-y you can dunk it again and keep working on it. Kind of cool, no?

It was surprisingly fun to do even if I didn’t take it all the way. In fact I could have gone much further so that the weave really blurred, but I was happy just to get it to holding firmly together. Here is the trimmed result (the blue and black section):

image of felted wool

The yarn hoarding instinct

I’ve never met a yarn-crafter who doesn’t have a slightly obsessive relationship with buying yarn. Most of us practice abstinence (i.e. yarn shop avoidance) as the only cure to this problem, to varying degrees of success.

This was something I was discussing recently with a friend who isn’t a yarn-crafter at all and she put it in a way that I thought was kind of lovely. She said that buying lovely yarn was like buying little balls of hope. That hope is that we will achieve happiness through owning/working with the yarn.

I think that’s true. Most yarn-obsessives I know take pleasure in both the actual yarn (colour/texure) and in the ideas for what to make from it. As long as you don’t fall into true hoarder territory where the yarn starts to take over your life, I think that’s probably fine!