Meeting a Hariss Tweed weaver

Finally on my trip to Scotland I did something weaving related!! On a day visit to Lewis – same island as Harris – I got to watch a weaver at work. Very cool…

Based in Carloway on the west coast Norman, like many Harris Tweed weavers, has a single peddle powered loom which typically takes 600 ends of feather weight yarn and he weaves his cloth at home. He sends the cloth to a mill for finishing and then it’s certified as Harris Tweed from Carloway which his wife makes onto scarfs for their small shop but he mostly sells it as bolts of cloth.

I’ll post a photo later of his loom.

Exploring pooling #1

Yarn pooling is kind of fascinating (this is where you use the colour repeat in a variegated yarn to make a pattern) and some months back I started looking at a few of the vari’s I had to see what their repeats were like. Interestingly, it turned out that all of them have been dyed deliberately to prevent pooling!

So, I might not be setting out to pool anything soon, but I do now have a clearer understanding of the yarns in my stash. Well, and a project brewing at the back of my head.

Long time plait-er, first time edge-er

Having had long hair pretty much my whole life, I’ve done my fair share of plaiting / braiding. So, when it came to exploring different ways of finishing the edges on my weaving, I was pleased to discover how many of the edging techniques are just plaits.

Of course you still have to do something with the ends so, unlike plaiting hair or friendship bands, it isn’t the whole process. Which is why most plaited edges belong to rug weaving. Aside from wanting an edge that will protect the cloth of the rug and help keep it in place, you have a definite ‘wrong side’ for all those ends to sew into!

From my experiments so far, I can see definite uses for some of the edging techniques, but the time investment will also be a part of choosing to apply them.

Shaping on the loom

Due to my long history as a knitter, I’m always checking out what people are doing with their needles. One knitted item that’s been showing up a lot is the “shawlette” and I think they’re a great idea because you can use it as a shawl or as a scarf and – as a knitter – you can do all manner of patterns and stitches!

But I’m not knitting right now. I’m weaving. So could I make a shawlette on the loom? I figured I could.

Here is the unwashed, cotton “proof of concept” shawlette. It certainly proved the the concept worked!

A woven shawlette
I couldn’t resist messing with the colour of the points.

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Cheats/hacks… warp end gap

Depending on how you attach your warp to your back beam/ back warp-stick on a rigid heddle loom, you can find that when you’re close to the end of your warp the warp isn’t all nice and level. Some warp ends are higher/lower than others and this creates a messy gap which can make it hard to get a clean shed.

My approach when this starts to happen is to get a nice long bit of scrap yarn and, just in front of the back warp stick, wrap it around bunches of warp ends. This cinches them together and removes the gap. I find I can squeeze the very last out of the length of my warp this way.

warp ends cinched together with scrap yarnIn this example I was grouping quite a few ends at a time, but I often do them in much smaller groups.

What’s been on the loom…

You may have noticed I’ve talked about not-quite-as-expected projects recently, but I don’t want you to think that I’m having a bad run. It’s not all sad faces and mutant cloth! No, the number of slightly wrong outcomes is partly a reflection of my sheer productivity. I haz been a weaving. A lot.

Here is a selection of the (successful) produce…

A number of finished scarfsIt has been wonderful playing with new yarns and lots of different textures!

Things don’t always come out in the wash

So I’ve been a bit obsessed with the honeycomb weave recently and decided to do a scarf to play with the weave more. The result is very elegant, but it’s not very honeycomb! This was a lesson in over-fulling.

To explain what fulling it a little too far did to the pattern, take a look at these photos…

One:

weaving on the loom
This is the cloth on the loom. Showing it’s spot-lace origins, you can’t see the honeycomb much at all

Two:

the cloth off the loom
Once off the loom the honeycomb pattern sprang to life! Though a lesson was that black probably isn’t the best weft colour for this weave

Three:

the cloth after washing
Notice how most of the warp has vanished in between the rows of lace? That’s not because the photo is blurry – it fulled and made a weft faced cloth!

Now I didn’t full this more than I usually do. The problem here was just that I really didn’t need it to full at all and should have given it a much shorter, cooler bath.

Of course this is why you should take your samples all the way through the process. I’ll admit I hadn’t washed mine! Still, the scarf itself has a great 3D texture and the overall effect is lovely.

Naturally there will be another attempt at this weave in the future. It’s just too cool not to try again!