Exploring leno #4: leno in sections

For me, personally, the fun of leno – and much of its design potential – is in not doing whole rows, but instead just using it in sections of the warp. Why?

Well, it gives you curves! I like curves.

So here you can see how the weft curves between the central section of plain weave and the leno on either side

By stacking your plain weave and leno sections you get a nice lacy, curvy look…

An example of a pattern made using leno
This is curvier in real life too!

The other use for leno as a design tool is to use the solid and open areas to form shapes. I haven’t tried this yet, but I have seen some fascinating examples and this is a link to one of the loveliest!

It’s been fun exploring leno and I’m determined to use it more for future projects. The next, and final, post in this series will be a short one about creating your twist…

Exploring leno #2: basic technique

Is it hard to make leno? Not really. You do a normal row of weaving to start the leno, then the twist row in the middle and you finish with a normal row. As long as you have a pick-up stick, your fingers and some wool, it’s pretty straightforward.

Now despite my dislike of whole rows of leno, that’s what we’re about to do! Just because it’s practical when you’re trying it for the first time.

I need an even number of warp threads, because I’m going to twist one thread around another (i.e. each twist uses two threads). Incidentally, this is called 1:1 leno. It’s important that, whichever side you start from, you are raising the edge thread.

After I do a normal row, I’m ready to create my twist. I’ll start with a “closed shed”, i.e. no shafts are raised or lowered here – everything is in neutral. I lift the first pair of warp threads with my pick-up stick, working in front of the heddle:

The first leno step

Then I use my fingers to take the first thread of the pair (thread furthest from the end of the stick), lift it over its friend and drop it off the end of the stick:

Leno steps 2 and 3

You repeat this for every pair of threads, all the way across:

Continuing to work leno across the warp

Then you turn the pick-up stick on its edge to make a shed and pass your shuttle through:

Using the pick up stick to create a shed

Use the edge of the pick-up stick to beat the weft, and then remove it:

Half of the leno

This is half of your leno! To finish, bring your heddle forward to push the twists n the warp threads toward your fell line and then weave a normal row with the heddle up, beating firmly:

The completed leno

Ta dah! That is how you make a row of 1:1 leno. If you want to follow this directly with a second row of leno; you make another twist row and finish with another normal row. How easy is that?

The one tricky thing with leno is the draw-in. The twist row will draw in more than the row above and below it. Sometimes this is used as a design feature of leno, but to avoid it means practicing having the right amount of weft in the shed. For that reason, sampling is a very good idea.

If you decide to use anything other than wool (natural or acrylic) for leno, sampling is also definitely your friend, because smoother fibres will generally give you taller “windows” in your leno than grippy ones like wool.

A final note: If you found twisting your threads a bit awkward, you might want to try another approach to it (to follow in another post) or you can try starting from the other side of the web. Generally, you’ll use your non-dominant hand for holding the stick, but it might work better for you the other way around!

Exploring leno #1

It’s a long time since I tried any “finger manipulated” weaving, but I decided the first warp on the baby loom would be some leno!

So, what is leno? Well, it’s where you create a twist in your warp threads and open the web up. Here is a very bad photo (!) of the principle, showing the twisting of pairs of warp threads:

section of leno in my twill scarf
Very first time I tried leno…

The thing to remember about leno is that you always get two rows of “windows” – one below the row of weft that runs through the twist and one above it:

A small section of leno showing its basic structure
The “basic unit” of leno has two windows…

You can twist individual warp threads (shown in the purple) or groups of them (like in my first attempt), up to whatever number your tension will allow you to twist. And you don’t have to have the same number on each side of the twist either, i.e. you could twist two threads around one thread.

I’ll talk through the technique in other posts, but for me the starting point with leno was looking at how to use the openness it creates. Usually, leno gets used across a whole row, but I find that kind of ugly. The fun, I think, is what happens when you see it used in sections:

An example of a pattern made using leno
This is what I did on baby loom…

Here I alternated areas of leno and plain weave across the width of the warp, and changed where the leno areas were, to make a pattern. Now, I repeated that pattern all the way up the web, but you could free-form if you wanted to. That’s the nice thing about finger manipulated weaves; you aren’t locked into a threading!

Using leno in sections like this, also allows you to create soft shapes rather than a rigid, horizontal line and I like that a lot. Stay tuned for more leno posts and attempts!

From 2.5 to 3

I’ve been in no hurry to put a second heddle on my loom, despite having bought the required kit, but after doing my two and a half shaft yarn-speriment, it seemed a good time to move to three. So, on went the double heddle kit and I chose to try my hand at twill.

Now the thing that I’ve been curious about with twill is it has a different drape to plain weave. In the spirit of research I decided to see how big a difference by doing my twill with the same yarns as my first scarf!

Now, I wasn’t scientific in my approach, so I ended up with more ends per inch than I’d used in the plain weave (and slightly fewer picks per inch), but the result was interesting. Hopefully this image captures that the plain weave is crisper/stiffer:

plain weave versus twill - a side by side comparisonThe twill is on the right and, despite being denser in e.p.i. terms, it is “softer”. The cotton and mohair yarns are the same in both.

Very interesting.

As for weaving with 3 shafts, well, it was easy. The treadling order became a rhythm quickly and I was surprised I didn’t have to concentrate more.

As you’ll know from my bloopers post, I did eventually stuff up the order, but I blame that on having stopped to do some leno (a manually twisted weave):section of leno in my twill scarf

That got me all out of rhythm. Still, it was also an interesting thing to try in a piece of twill.

At some point I’ll tackle a 4 shaft twill, but the next application of my two heddles is definitely double weave!