Depending on how you attach your warp to your back beam/ back warp-stick on a rigid heddle loom, you can find that when you’re close to the end of your warp the warp isn’t all nice and level. Some warp ends are higher/lower than others and this creates a messy gap which can make it hard to get a clean shed.
My approach when this starts to happen is to get a nice long bit of scrap yarn and, just in front of the back warp stick, wrap it around bunches of warp ends. This cinches them together and removes the gap. I find I can squeeze the very last out of the length of my warp this way.
In this example I was grouping quite a few ends at a time, but I often do them in much smaller groups.
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…
Any 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:
Here, 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!
This is a terrible photo for colour accuracy, but shows the latest of my experiments in tablet weaving. It’s quite narrow (6mm) and the cotton is a bit shiny, so it’s a little hard to photograph well.
In my description of how the twisting of the warp yarn works in tablet/card weaving, I mentioned it created a warp-faced weave. In this sample you can make out just the odd spot of dark weft showing through the purple and teal warp (that’s what the colours are supposed to be!). All the rest of the weft is hidden inside the twists.
This was created by having three holes in each tablet/card threaded with the purple and one teal. During set up I turned each card so that the teal thread was one position further away on each card, as this gives you the > shape as you weave (called chevrons). The teal thread on each card is only visible every four picks/four turns.
The direction of the chevrons was altered by changing the direction I rotated the tablets in, starting by turning them away from me and then turning them toward me. It’s a bit lumpy where I changed direction, so I still haven’t gotten that quite right! Still, I like the result in such pretty thread.
Now I probably started these posts on tablet/card weaving backwards and this should possibly be the first thing I should have covered… but well, I started with the practical set-up stuff first instead!
This post is about the basic concept of tablet weaving, which is that turning the cards causes the warp threads to twist around each other like you’re making cord. By pushing a weft thread in place between turns, the weft is captured and held in place by the twisted warp.
The twisty nature of it is what makes it a different way of weaving. It also means it is largely warp-faced (the weft is hidden by the warp) and dense because of the twists.
The quirk of this style of weaving – at least to this weaver! – is that I think you can grab some cards/tablets and a set of instructions / pattern and just get going. Of course there’s a lot more you can learn about how it all works, but it struck me as being dead simple to get started with!
This experiment came before my hand-towel in fact, but I can’t say it was as successful…
The idea was to weave a continuous piece, but not weave the whole of the warp and change the section of warp used to create off-set rectangles.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fine for a first experiment. It did however throw out some interesting challenges, the first of which was that you would need to graph this to make it really work. Why? Because as you wind forward onto the cloth beam, you lose track of how your “squares” are positioned.
Freeform is great fun, but I think this technique you want a particular mix of balance and asymmetry to make the final piece eye pleasing.
The other challenge was what to do with all those ends? Every “square” has at least some warp ends that need handling and they aren’t always very long. You can see in the picture that many edges look like they’re suffering from some kind of termite problem (well, that’s what it makes me think of!), but that’s the natural result of trying to sew in a looooot of ends.
The ends were also largely responsible for the not-square-ness of many corners. You weave and learn!
Colour is important in weaving, because when you cross warp with weft, you start mixing colours.
The effect isn’t like mixing paint, of course, because you are creating separate dots/lines of warp and weft that sit next to each other, rather than blending. The result of this is more like a picture in a magazine (look closely and you’ll see dots of colour), or pixels on your computer/phone etc.
The main difference between dots and the blending you get with paint, is that the end result is created by the peculiarities of how the eye perceives colour. What do I mean by that? Well, a basic principle is that the closer you are more likely you are to see separate colours and the further away, the more they blend. Obviously that also depends a bit on how big the dots are.
Again, grab a page of a magazine and see how close you have to be to see the dots. Or if you don’t have one handy, here’s an example:
What does that mean for weaving? You should sample! Aside from all the other things sampling tells you, it will allow you to take the cloth off the loom and walk away from it to see what the colours you’ve mixed actually look like. Even more so with fluffy yarns, because the fluff gives a different, more blended, result and the fluffy yarn can dominate.
The good news is that you can count on one hand how many concepts you need to grasp to become a whizz at working with colour, and if you’re still not sure, you know you can sample.
There are a couple of tension related weaving ills. For people with big looms I get a sense that the most common is breaking warp threads, but they also get what I’ve had on the rigid heddle loom; uneven tension.
The first time this happened I had a patch of squishy soft warp threads in the middle. I took that warp off and re-did it and decided the method I’d used for solo-warping really hadn’t worked that time.
One scarf I wove had a weird single squishy thread. I weighted it and it was fine in the weaving, but I have no idea why it was squishy. Poor lonely thread.
My pick-up stick sample had one thread that was too tight, but this only became apparent as I moved the warp forward. It got worse and worse until the final stretch of weaving had a distinct raised line in it. Again, I’m not sure what caused that little guy to be shorter than its friends.
In each case though, there has been trouble right at the start. A struggle to warp different threads on the same beam. Me dropping the whole lot and everything getting a bit tangly.
Though – following on from my bloopers comment about not weaving when tired – the worst warping I did was absolutely because I decided to dress the loom at midnight. Yeah, I know.
My advice, limited as it is on tension, is that if you see a warp problem early the least frustrating thing is actually to cut it off (or unweave) and start over. Maybe the next day. After a good sleep.