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…

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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!

String heddle options

Something I did on my recent pattern that needed string heddles, was to try a different way of doing making the heddles. Didn’t like it as much as my usual way! I’m sure it could be refined though, so here is a comparison of the two methods…

A: As outlined in my older string heddle post, this involves using a continuous length of yarn/thread and pulling up loops with a hook, or finger tips. The dowel/shuttle/knitting needle – whatever you use as a backbone – is inserted through the loops. Finally, stick down with tape.diagram of method APros – I find this fast to set up, easy to adjust so all the loops are the same height (giving you even lift of warp threads) and your string heddles cannot come undone.

Cons – If you make a mistake you often have to undo all the heddles to that point to fix it and you have to start from scratch for each project.

B: You take a rigid heddle (or put two nails in a bit of wood a “heddle distance” apart) and you wrap your yarn/thread around to measure a loop, then tie the ends together to close the circle. Each loop you make is one heddle. You then squash the loop and put a twist in the middle. Feed one end under the warp thread you need to add to that shaft and slip both ends of the loop over your dowel/shuttle/knitting needle. Finally, stick down with tape.Diagram of method BPros – You can reuse the loops in future and the loops are easy to redo/adjust if you pick up the wrong warp thread.

Cons – I found the loop lengths varied making the lift a bit uneven, the knots occasionally came undone (I also broke one, but that might have been my thread choice) and they pulled sideways more, causing my tape to lift in places. Now that last point doesn’t matter too much, except it seemed to contribute to the knots coming undone.

In my very non-scientific single attempt with B heddles, I also thought it caused more abrasion of the warp threads…so overall, not a success for me. But, I did see a weaver online somewhere using this technique – cannot remember where – so others go okay with it!

Might need to try both methods side by side in a half and half to really test which works best…

Deploy the string heddles!

A have a whole lot of weaving drafts that have the words “wacky threading” in the title. Because that’s how I warn myself that however pretty the pattern is, getting it on the loom will require mental gymnastics and, probably, string heddles.

Case in point: my most recent project. I’ve mentioned it a few posts back, but I thought it was worth a more detailed look at how I do these kind of patterns – ones with varying sized bunches of threads on one shaft – on a rigid heddle loom. Because that’s the thing… on a bigger loom the threading wouldn’t be wacky at all. It’s the “rigid” part of rigid heddle that creates the challenge.

In this pattern I had a warp that essentially had sections of plain weave, basket weave and… whatever you call groups of triple warp ends…on one shaft. Ditto the second shaft.

Option 1 is to use a reed meant for double the yarn size, so the basket weave (two warp ends together) keeps its normal spacing. Means you get a bit of an airy weave in the plain weave (single warp end) areas and crowding in the triple warp end areas, but that might settle out of the cloth when you full it, depending on your yarn. It usually means that your floating selvedge – generally a must with patterns – will be on a wider spacing than is ideal, too.

diagram of option one
blurry diagram of option 1

Option 2 is to ditch the reed and use string heddles and/or a pick up stick. This removes all spacing issues. Though it introduces a bit of a beating issue and your threads may twist/cross as you work. The first of these can be solved by having a reed – using only slots – though this can lead to lines where the heddle creates gaps between warp threads.

diagram of option two
blurry diagram of option 2

I went with option 2 because I was planning on working with wool and so didn’t think the open/crowded spacing would wash out. And I did leave my reed in place for beating.

The trick is to do a few other things to get around the problems a slot-only, string heddle solution introduces…

      • run two rows of plain weave, using scrap yarn and a needle, just in front of the back beam, to keep your threads from twisting (as you wind forward, wriggle these to the back so they don’t squish your shed)
      • whether you use one string heddle or two, use pick up sticks to make your shed every time (i.e. just use the string heddle to insert the stick), as this gives you a bigger, cleaner shed and is easier on your body!
      • whenever you insert a pick up stick, insert a strip of card into the shed at the fell line to check you haven’t missed any threads (if you have, check you haven’t broken a string heddle)
      • use your reed to beat, but have a needle handy to reposition any warp threads that are developing a gap

And, of course, if you’re using one string heddle and one pick up stick, then remember the string heddle needs to sit between the reed and the stick or you won’t be able to push the stick to the back beam and lift your string heddle.

With floating selvedges, remember not to include them in your string heddle/s!

Lunchbox project: I made dishcloths

I know I said this project mightn’t involve weaving, but you know how it is when you have yarn… in this case a bright and cheerful acrylic vari that was originally used to knit a scarf.

I can’t even remember why that project was a failure, but I pulled the whole lot back and was left with squiggly yarn:

ball of yarn

That was ages back and then I got thinking it’d make nice dishcloths, because it’s chunky (12ply), colourful and acrylic. Now, a lot of people prefer natural fibers for dishcloths but, as this is for the office, I want it to dry quickly and acrylic is good for that!

I had enough warp for 3 so I’m well supplied now. Though you can only see one facing here, this is the whole lot still all one piece, drying on the line:

dishcloth drying on the line
With hemstitching and a few rows of PW each end, I decided to texture the middle of the cloth with a pick-up stick pattern

I wanted more scrubbing power, so I did a 2 ends up, 2 ends down pattern with an offset, divided by 2 picks of PW (image above shows the reverse).

The pattern opened up the web nicely and I think it’ll make for a better cloth for my purposes. It also looks nice with this vari – kind of amps up the chaos of the colours crossing themselves – and I want chaos, because it’ll hide stains, wear etc.

My only worry is they’ll be a bit fluffy, as it is a soft acrylic. I’m going to throw them in the machine a few times before I start using them to “wear them in”.

Dishcloths for work… Tick!

I’ll report back on how they go in use… But that’s the first lunchbox item done!!

Adding pick-up sticks to double weave

So, in my previous posts on double weave on a rigid heddle loom I’ve talked about having two pick-up sticks in use and that you use one when weaving the lower layer cloth and the other when weaving the upper layer of cloth. What I haven’t detailed is how you get them in position!

It’s pretty simple and is exactly like the first two steps I outlined (with pictures) in setting up string heddles:

  • After you’ve dressed the loom, drop both rigid heddles down so you can clearly see the slot threads
  • Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads you need – in this case the slot threads for your top layer of cloth

That’s your first stick in place.

Then put both rigid heddles in the up position and pull the first pick-up stick toward the heddles. This will make a lower shed (behind the heddles) and you just pop your second pick-up stick into that shed.

Remember the top stick is used when weaving the top layer and the bottom stick is used when weaving the bottom layer. Both sticks are pushed to the back beam when not in use.