When your weft skips a pick or two

Working with multiple colours in the weft has been a lot of fun, but it does require some thought on how you will carry your “inactive” colour up the selvedge. Well, at least if you’re weaving a complete product, like a scarf, where hairy or loopy selvedges aren’t a good thing.

diagram of wrapping different weft threads around each other
(red is active)

The important thing is to make sure the “active” colour – the one you’re about to put into the shed – wraps around the “inactive” colour. That way it will be pinned to the selvedge and not flop about!

This does get a little trickier when you’re carrying a colour up a few picks of weft, but it’s usually easy to see what you need to do.

Another consideration with two + colours is which side of the web to start them on. If you have the colours come in from opposite sides of the shed initially (and it’s an unvarying alternation of colours) then they kind of leapfrog each other.

And if this is all as clear as mud, I’d recommend doing a small sample, because it’s pretty simple when you see it in action!

When carrying yarn up the selvedge, the key is to be consistent, so you get a nice, neat pattern of colour at the edge.

Something to keep in mind with alternating weft colours/textures is that, if the cloth you’re weaving is for cutting and sewing, then you don’t need to carry them; you can actually just cut the colour off with a tail at the selvedge and re-introduce it on the next pick where it’s needed. Though, I suspect this might waste more yarn than carrying…not sure.

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Floating selvedges – they float?

After having done a few patterns with alternating weft colours, I am all for the idea of using a floating selvedge. If you’re not familiar with this little trick, then it’s where you have an extra warp thread each side of your warp that isn’t woven in the pattern.

This allows you to always catch the weft, regardless of whether the pattern would take it into the shed without wrapping around a selvedge thread.  (Trust me, it’s really annoying trying to get a neat selvedge when you have the weft sometimes being caught and sometimes not!) So, with the floating selvedge, you enter and exit the same way regardless of direction – i.e. over on the way in and under on the way out (or vice versa).

A few things to note about floating selvedges though… firstly, on a rigid heddle loom you need to pop them in slots so they are never lifted or lowered… secondly, you may need to weight them, because, as you weave, those warp threads won’t be used up at the same rate as their pattern baring friends and will get a bit soggy.

Now, I haven’t tried this yet, but I gather S hooks are good weights to use.

You can also avoid warping them with the rest of the threads by having them hang – weighted – down the back of the loom. To my mind that’s probably more work, but I may be proven wrong!

I’ll let you know how I go when I finally try it.

Draw-in and selvedges

It seems to be a common cry of the new weaver “I get tidy selvedges and a lot of draw-in, or I get messy selvedges and little draw-in!”. Believe me I understand this cry well.

So, what is draw-in? Well, it’s the amount that your weaving narrows on the loom as you create the web (cloth).

What causes it? If the amount of weft thread isn’t enough for the width of the web, as you bring the beater foward it pulls the yarn from both ends of the shed. This tightens it around the selvedge you’ve just wrapped it over, as well as pulling in from the shuttle end.

Why is this bad? It causes the selvedge edge warp threads to bunch together (get closer) and that leaves less room for your weft just at the edges. This often results in a curved “smile” at the fell line. Bad news if you’re weaving a pattern, or anything with colour changes!

Having said that, I had a heap of draw-in on my first few scarfs that I wove and it didn’t really cause me a problem in the finished product. Still, it did mean the finished product was narrower than it had to be.

So how do you avoid draw-in? You leave your weft in the shed at an angle of about 45 degrees. Some people leave a “frown” of weft. Mostly, for me the angle seems to work best.

But the less draw-in I’ve had, the bobblier and wobblier my selvedges have been. Why? Well, if you want a guaranteed neat selvedge, then letting the weft tighten as you beat will certainly do it! It’s just not the best way. Getting tidy selvedges is a lot about just good old practice and – I suspect – practice with different yarns too.

I found that I have a naturally neater selvedge on one edge and I think that’s a) my handedness & b) plied yarns untwist a bit more in one direction. Possibly a bigger issue for weaving with knitting yarns than other kinds of yarn? Not sure.

Something else worth mentioning here is that you will get different amounts of draw-in if you do patterns with weft floats (where the weft skips a few “unders” on the way across the warp). That’s because the fewer interlacements you have, the fewer barriers there are to the weft being drawn-in.

You can see this clearly in this first sample of mine:

My first weaving sample

Notice how it pulls in more at the intensely white bits? Those were points where I played with creating weft floats!