The graph-paper gene

Happy 2018 peeps.

I keep thinking that it’s almost 2020 which, to a sci-fi fan like myself, seems like we’ve almost reached the date in which most imaginers-of-future-us saw hover boards, robots, rocket packs and colonies on the moon. We might not achieve that by 2020, but I’m sure someday soon they will discover the crucial ‘graph-paper gene’.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about then you probably lack this gene. It predisposes you to using graph-paper for working out ridiculously complicated things that anyone else would just buy instructions for.

My dad has it. Usually it expresses itself in squiggly electrical diagrams that he could probably download from the internet.

My mum has it. Many an hour has she spent working out a design (she’s a lace maker) with painstaking dot and line confections.

I have it. I know I do, because there are no less than 4 types of graph paper in my cupboard. So it wasn’t a surprise when I saw a bit of weaving online recently (a 32 shaft pattern!), decided I wanted to adapt it for my loom and reached for the graph-paper.

Some of you will have totally stopped thinking about graph-paper at this point and are thinking “you can’t do stuff like that on a rigid heddle loom… has she bought a floor loom?”

The answer would be “yes you can (potentially)” and “no she hasn’t”. Of course it won’t be exactly the same pattern on the rigid heddle, but I have hope that it’ll be close enough to capture the wonderful yumminess of what I saw.

Many sheets of graph-paper may go to their doom in the process, but we who have the gene see that as necessary sacrifice.

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.)

A lifetime of potential (drafts)

When I first decided on getting a rigid heddle loom, I was a bit worried that there wouldn’t be many patterns to weave with just two shafts. Then I came across handweaving.net and was pleasantly surprised at the number of two shaft/two treadle patterns that this wonderful free website has.

Scarily and excitingly, there are a bazillion more for 3+ shafts and treadles. You simply couldn’t weave them all in a lifetime I think!

So, if you’re comfortable with reading drafts and you are looking for inspiration, then check it out. The search function isn’t always perfect and some of the thumbnails are a bit teeny, but those are completely irrelevant quibbles in the context of what an amazing resource it is. I also love that you orient the draft to any of the corners so it doesn’t matter if you prefer your treadling order top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top.

One trick I would suggest though is to print the drafts in greyscale to get a full idea of how the pattern will look. It may just be a personal thing, but some of the colour combo’s get in the way of me really seeing the patterns.

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.

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.

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.

Weaving patterns #2 – a different way with weft

One of the very first things I saw online when I started my massive weaving research bender, was “captured weft”. I think I fell in love with it right then!

So what is it? Well, you have weft coming into the shed from both sides and you wrap them around each other, before passing them back out of the shed the way they came. image of interlocked weft threadsThis means you have two weft threads on every pick, and they change colour / texture wherever you choose across the width of the cloth. It usually gives a staggered or jagged contrast line.

There’s a lovely freedom to making your pattern as you go, which appeals to me. I’ve been so busy trying other things there’s only been a teeny test of the technique in my weaving so far. Looking forward to a full scarf!