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!

Weaving patterns #5 – texture

There are quite a lot of ways to add texture to weaving. Ones I’ve already talked about are:

There are also “finger manipulated weaves” which I’ll cover in another post, but I thought here I’d talk about something you see in some patterns almost as a side effect…

a textured 4 shaft weave
This draft creates a raised texture as well as a colour pattern

So here the weft is skipping sections of warp and making a surface texture as well as a colour pattern. This is a favourite draft for me since I tried it! I was so excited to see the texture on the surface (bonus!).

4shaft draft from handweaving.net

In a serendipitous blooper, I put the colours the wrong way around the first time (the first image above). I got lovely chunky sections of raised colour against a flat, black warp, and that gives the cloth a different character.  Some time I’ll do this draft in all one colour just for the subtle texture.

I suspect a few of these broken twill patterns would yield a similar result, so I’m on the lookout for this in drafts now!

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.

Getting started with double weave

What happens after you put a second heddle on a rigid heddle loom? The double weave calls to you!

Double weave is one of the more literally named techniques in that you weave two layers of cloth at the same time. Yes, you read that right – two layers of cloth!an image of a woven shuttle holder

Now, if you’re scratching your head and going “why is that exciting?” then consider this; it means you can double the width of the cloth your loom creates, and it means you can weave tubes or weave open and closed sections (pockets) like in this example of a shuttle holder from the Ashford’s double heddle instructions.

The thing about double weave is that it can sound really complicated when you read the instructions, but it’s not. What I found most useful for getting my head around it was when I saw an image like this:

Image of two open sheds on the loom showing the two layers one above the other

The bottom shed is black and the top shed is purple and I’ve got both of them open so you can see how one sits above the other. When you weave you weave one set of threads at a time.

image of two layer of cloth being woven separately on one threading
The open edge of double-wide cloth

So, if you want to create a double-width fabric you use one shuttle and weave top layer / top layer / bottom layer / bottom layer. the u shape you get when creating double width clothThis means your weft joins the two layers together on just one side.

To weave a tube, you change the order to be top layer / bottom layer / top layer / bottom layer and your weft will join both edges.

You can weave two separate layers of cloth, by using two separate shuttles. To create pockets like in the picture above, you alternate two separate layers of cloth with sections where you treat your two heddles as one, to get a single layer of very dense cloth.

So, how does this magic happen? Each reed/heddle controls one layer of cloth, but you need 4 shafts (equivalent of an up-shed and a down-shed for each layer of the cloth) and that’s the reason for the pick-up sticks in the image of my loom.

You need to move the slot threads with pick-up sticks. This is because you need to get the slot threads for the layer you’re weaving away from the slot threads of the other layer, remembering on an RH loom only the threads in the holes actually move.

Obviously, on a multi-shaft loom you would just thread 4 shafts.

I’d say the only tricky bit of double weave is the threading, because you have to get the right threads in the front and back holes. And it’s easy to make mistakes. You can see here I crossed a bunch of my threads and this will stop you getting a shed.

image of crossed threads between the two reeds/heddles

I realise this post probably does make it sound complicated, but honestly, once you do it you’ll find it’s not really!