Weaving colour #1

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:

close up of part of a magazine cover
From a full-on article about colour

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.

More posts to come!

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Tension

What happens when tension goes wrong?

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.

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.

Weaving patterns #3 – warp spacing

A common texturing technique, for use on any kind of loom, is to change the spacing of your warp threads. You can run extra threads through the same heddle (crammed warp) or you can skip a few (spaced warp).

I did a small sampler with the soya yarn I mentioned in my previous post and you can see I did both spacing and cramming:
detail of a crammed and spaced warp smple
The crammed warp gives you raised lines which can be subtle or strong depending on the colour/texture of the yarn/s. Spacing the warp – depending on how spaced you go – will give sort of lacy tracks where the weft appears loopier and looser. Again it can be subtle or strong depending on the yarn combinations.

You can see the result better from a distance, so here is that sampler in full:

While this turned out quite a subtle version, you can see toward each edge there are two lines of cramming and the tracks toward the centre are the spaced warp (skipping two threads in each).

I like this warp patterning a lot, because it is straightforward and yet gives a wide range of possible results.

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.

How to read a draft #2

If you read the last post on reading drafts, hopefully you now have a good idea of how they work, but be prepared to come across a couple of variations!

The most common variation is the lack of the “drawdown” so you see just the threading and treadling guides.

The next variation doesn’t use black boxes. Instead, the threading guide, shows the shaft number and the treadling guide uses slashes.

image of a weaving draft

You’ll also notice in this example, that repeats in the pattern are summarised – the 5x notation – and this is a common way to keep drafts a useable size.

Of course, not all weaving instructions are drafts. For plain weave patterns you will sometimes see instructions like this (from a Schacht pattern):

image of a scarf pattern

Here the number of ends in each colour and the colour order is shown – i.e. a threading guide – but the weft colour instruction is in the text accompanying this.

And for rigid heddle patterns – particularly those that use pick up sticks – you will see patterns written out like a knitting pattern; saying “two over, three under, two over” etc.

So, that’s the essentials of navigating patterns and drafts.

Dressing your loom

There are plenty of sources of information (online and with every new loom) about how to get the warp in place, so I’m not going to do a step-by-step here. Instead I thought it’d be useful to look at the things – four I was struck by – that the instructions don’t always go into.

One: Direct warping, or not

Essentially there are two ways to measure out your warp; wind it onto a warping board, or put it directly onto the back beam (warp beam) of the loom and run it out to a peg.

With a rigid heddle loom it’s easy to direct warp if you have enough space and patience to walk it out to the required length. The advantage of direct warping is it basically removes a step and so saves some time.

The warping board however allows you to warp a long length in a compact space and I suspect it makes it easier to alternate colours (not sure, haven’t used a warping board yet).

Two: Front to back or back to front?

When putting the warp onto the loom you can start by tying it to the back beam or to the front beam. Some people seem pretty passionate about which way works best, but most weaving “gurus” seem to say that you should do what works for you.

Three: The cross and the raddle

The most important thing when getting the warp onto the loom is making sure that you keep your threads in order. When using a warping board, you do this by creating a “cross” where the threads get interlaced so they can’t get out of order.

A raddle, is also used to help keep threads tidy while warping the loom. It is basically a separator, so you can put smaller groups of threads in their right order while you do the steps involved in warping.

Four: What’s with the paper?

If you’ve seen anyone dressing a loom you’ll have seen them feed card/paper in between the layers of warp, but why?

Well, for even tension across all threads, they need to be the same length at any given point in the weaving. If you don’t use paper between the layers of warp, you risk some threads “cutting in” to the layer below, which will mean they’ll be shorter than their fellows.

Still a bit unclear? Think of the layers of warp as a spiral, where as you add layers each layer forms a bigger circle. If a thread falls through to the circle below, then it will take less thread to wrap around that layer of the spiral than the layer it’s supposed to be on.  Thus, it ends up shorter than it’s friends!