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!

Six months a weaver (farewell 2015)

Well, it’s been a busy first 6 months of weaving! I’ve made a lot of scarfs, done a few samples and even branched out to things like a hand-towel.

So, here is my half-year as a weaver in pictures… lots of pictures…

Continue reading Six months a weaver (farewell 2015)

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.

Playing with pick-up sticks

Pick-up sticks, or pattern sticks, are a neat way to do patterns using floats or supplementary weft. On rigid heddle looms they’re a way to introduce a whole range of different patterns and textures, including making “lace” and things like waffle weave.

So, what are pick-up sticks in weaving? A flat stick that is wide enough to give you a useable shed, when inserted between warp threads and turned on its edge. Though my first pick-up stick was a spatula! (I was impatient to try the technique.) And many weavers repurpose stick shuttles for this.

Pick up stick
Pick up stick

Generally you put your reed/heddle into a down-shed and then slip the stick under the desired slot threads behind the reed/heddle (e.g. under every third thread). You then alternate weaving normal tabby picks and pattern picks where you put the pick-up stick on its edge to create a shed. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do this, so I won’t go into it too much, but here are a few pics to give you an idea:

image of a pick up stick inserted between threads
Stick inserted under the desired threads behind the reed.
Image of a pickup stick in use
Stick turned on its edge. This should be hard up against the reed to get a good size shed in front.

It is very easy to miss a thread when using pick-up sticks and I found it helped to put a piece of stiff paper – in a contrasting colour – under my slot threads, so I could see them clearly.

Some people actually pick up in front of the reed/heddle (easier to reach), turn the pick-up stick on edge to create a shed and then insert a second pick-up stick into the shed behind the reed/heddle, finally removing the first pick-up stick.

I must say it makes me nostalgic for the more commonly known kind of pick-up stick!

the game of pick up sticks

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.