Meeting a Hariss Tweed weaver

Finally on my trip to Scotland I did something weaving related!! On a day visit to Lewis – same island as Harris – I got to watch a weaver at work. Very cool…

Based in Carloway on the west coast Norman, like many Harris Tweed weavers, has a single peddle powered loom which typically takes 600 ends of feather weight yarn and he weaves his cloth at home. He sends the cloth to a mill for finishing and then it’s certified as Harris Tweed from Carloway which his wife makes onto scarfs for their small shop but he mostly sells it as bolts of cloth.

I’ll post a photo later of his loom.

Should have trusted my yarn-senses

Sometimes you just know a yarn will be trouble. It might be lovely in colour and texture, but there’s that little tug in your yarn-senses telling you it’s no good. Then later you wonder why you didn’t listen to it!  🙂

Of course I do listen to it most of the time and I regret every time I don’t.

In this case it was entirely my fault that I ended up with broken warp threads left, right and centre. And now I have a lot of relatively useless thrums. Sigh.

Well, it was pretty and fluffy and brightly coloured. Note the word ‘fluffy’ in that sentence. That was my downfall, because it abraded in the heddles rather severely.

Afterwards, when I was enjoying a post breakage coffee, my yarn-senses tut-tut-ed at me. I promise I will listen to them in future.

What next?

It’s likely that this will be the most common thing I end up asking myself during the next year of weaving. Not only are there just a huge number of things still to try, but I am also wanting to do variations on some of the things I’ve tried already!

So, what’s tempting me currently?

A four shaft pattern… I’ve had my eye on this draft for ages now:

4shaft draft from handweaving.netBut it may well do my head in!

I’m also tempted to try some leno ideas and some other finger-manipulated weaves, because so far I have only done a little and pretty half-heartedly.

Then, I have an idea for some more crammed-warp pieces.

Plus, the pinwheels are still very appealing to try.

I suspect the leno or the crammed-warp will win simply because my double-weave adventures have given me a strong desire to do something fast and simple.

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.

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.

Fuelling a shuttle

image of the space shuttle in spaceI miss the shuttle. It was such a cool and technologically wonderful part of human endeavour! So I’m using this post about a different sort of shuttle, as an excuse to put up a pic and give it a little love.  🙂

And now to those other shuttles… I use stick shuttles with my rigid heddle loom and, I may have mentioned I work with knitting yarns. This poses the question; how much 8ply can I and should I put on my shuttle?

Well, in answer to the first part of that, I’ve discovered I can get an entire 50g ball of cotton – approx. 106 metres – on my big shuttle (56cm).

image of a stick shuttle

The second part of the question can be answered with another question; how deep is your shed? I could just squeak that shuttle through the shed, so it worked out well.

image of a weaving shed
This is the warp for the second “spot” scarf

Pity I didn’t take a pic of the shuttle in the shed… ah well.

I guess the final consideration for me in loading up my shuttle is that I don’t want too many joins in my scarfs, so I’ve tried to get as much on as possible! Also why I’m using my big shuttle even though I’m weaving much narrower pieces than that.

Of course, I’m also weaving without a pattern here so I don’t ever know how much yarn the scarf will take. My last scarf, I ran out within about 15cms of the end, which was quite amusing.

Weaving patterns #2 – a different way with weft

One of the very first things I saw online when I started my massive weaving research bender, was “captured weft”. I think I fell in love with it right then!

So what is it? Well, you have weft coming into the shed from both sides and you wrap them around each other, before passing them back out of the shed the way they came. image of interlocked weft threadsThis means you have two weft threads on every pick, and they change colour / texture wherever you choose across the width of the cloth. It usually gives a staggered or jagged contrast line.

There’s a lovely freedom to making your pattern as you go, which appeals to me. I’ve been so busy trying other things there’s only been a teeny test of the technique in my weaving so far. Looking forward to a full scarf!