Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Perugia Style Turban

Last year at Ymir (a Viking themed SCA event held in North Carolina every February) I displayed my Perugia style towel for the first time.  One of my fellow spinners was so excited about it that she commissioned me to weave her a similar turban for her Italian kit.  What with one thing and another, it took a full year to get the sucker done but I did and was able to deliver it to her at Ymir.

The basic idea was to produce something along the lines of the turban shown in The Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano, 1423.  There are a couple of other similar paintings with simpler color work on the cloth but this one looks the most like a typical "Perugia" design to me.  As I found when weaving the original towel, the complex pickup pattern is a bit beyond my looms capabilities, especially when working with 40/2 linen at a fine set, so I opted to create a simplified pattern based on Rose Path twill.

The finished turban is 22 inches wide and about 80 inches long.  I've found that for me and other anatomically large-headed folks this works well for a nice turban wrap.  If you want to do something similar for yourself, I would suggest starting with the circumference of your head as the width and experimenting with the length you will need for the wrap style you want in purchased linen before you commit to a warp width and length.  Linen ain't cheep and everything about warping with fine linen is a huge pain.

Aside from measuring the warp, which was doubly miserable as I warped two projects at once (more on that later, I wove two head wraps on the same warp so make the best use of my time dressing the loom) the weaving was not too bad.  I need a warping mill.  6 1/2 yard lengths on a warping board suck and most of what I want to work on right now are long lengths of cloth for clothing.   I used boiled flax seed dressing, diluted and sprayed on with a spray bottle, and tried to keep the level of humidity around the loom as high as I could.  This helped with getting a clean shed and maintaining even tension, though was difficult as I did the bulk of the weaving in the dead of winter when the highest temperature we had was in the low 20s.  A humidifier might have helped.

I also started out the project with fishing line running along with my floating warp.  This made adding a bit of tension to those threads to keep them from getting lost in the selvages much easier and prevented them from abrading too much and breaking.  I still quite a few extra weights attached to the back of my loom (it looked like a Christmas tree back there) but overall it worked out very nicely.

Angel wings (brackets that hold the lease sticks in place and at a fixed width) were a HUGE help.  It was much easier to find broken ends and I was able to warp by myself with very little trouble.  Not only was I able to maintain the cross in the warp, but it helped to even out tension and spread the warp out properly behind the lease sticks.

The only major problems I still need to work out are some weird tension issues that developed when I got to the second project on the warp.  I started having a lot of breakage and tangling that I didn't run into on the turban.  I suspect I need to wind onto the back beam with help when working with linen.  Some of the problems might have been fixed had I used a warping mill.  I don't have any plans to weave linen in the near future, by the time I get around to it again I will hopefully have a mill.  

The turban came out beautifully in the end and my client was very happy with it.  I was a little sad to see it go, but I know it's gone to a good home and will be worn with pride and love.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Kira's Shawl and some leg wraps

My second Queens Shawl weaving project was to be presented to HRM Kira at Pennsic last year.  The weft was hand spun by members of the spinning guild, and I wove the finished piece in a herringbone variant using Brown Sheep's Nature Spun sport at the warp.

Overall I am very pleased with how the finished shawl turned out.  It could have been a little longer and maybe a touch wider, but that's pretty knit-picky.  There were some interesting variations in the hand spun weft skeins that I tried to spread out through the shawl to create subtle textural stripes.  I think this worked out pretty well, there are no wide runs of any one skein so the finished cloth is fairly consistent and even.  It's also quite soft and warm.  Working with the thicker yarn this time around did produce a heavier shawl but it still has a nice drape.

I love the way the white and purple combined together.  By itself the purple was really bright.  When woven together with the white. it toned down quite a bit, resulting in some nice depth of color and just enough shimmer to stand out when HRM wears it.

I also wove some leg wraps for my early period/iron age kit.  The original plan had been to do this on my warp weighted loom, however I discovered that the alpaca/wool blend I was using as warp was far to stretchy to stand up to this week.  Also the very narrow strips were difficult to stabilize on the loom so I moved the project over to my table loom.

Just for future reference, I do NOT recommend moving warp from one loom to another mid-project.  I got it to work out but it was sloppiest warping job I have ever seen.  I think I set this as something around 36 EPI, maybe a little looser, but I was working with a lace weight warp so it's fairly tight.  The west is Nature Spun fingering, which I love and gives a very nice pack at a surprising rage of sets.

The finished wraps feel amazing!  They are soft, light, warm, and the cloth has a beautiful hand.  It would make a lovely garment.  They took forever to weave, each wrap is 15 feet long, but the end result was worth the effort.  I'm looking forward to doing more cloth in fine wools, it's such a joy to work with and the results are worth the extra effort to warp up all of the threads.

Friday, March 13, 2015

So many changes!

Oz, the newest rescue.  He like to "help"
 with the handsewing.
The last year has been a wild ride, and I'm happy to say it's finally settling down.   I've moved into a new place that is mostly wonderful, I have a new little doggie, and I'm doing ok by myself for the most part.

Somehow in the midst of the chaos that was 2014 I managed to finish some projects, go to Pennsic, and two weeks ago was elevated to the Order of the Laurel at Ymir.  For those not in the SCA, this is a Big Deal.  It's the highest form of recognition an artisan can get in the Society.  I'm still kind of stunned that this happened, but it's slowly settling in and I'm getting really excited about working on my next projects without quite so much worry about documentation, display, and competing with them.  For me, it's a license to go deep into a thing without having to worry about tying it back to whatever my main art is and to explore new things.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Finished Queen's Shawl

Hurray for a finished  project!  I've been running through my list of Things To Do and getting a bit freaked out this week or so (ok, more than a bit freaked out, more like I look at the list and run away and hide) so it's super nice to have a Very Big Thing Indeed crossed off.  And with time to spare even!  I decided to buckle down this weekend and marathon watched Season 3 of Downton Abbey and the Olympics while I got it done.

I think warping the shawl took longer than actually weaving.  The weave is the same diamond twill used for the Preugia towel, set at 16 EPI.  There are a total of 524 warp ends.  This seemed like a paltry number of warps after the 1200+ I had to deal with for the linen towel, but still it took more than half the season of DA to thread them all.  Once that was done the weaving went very smoothly.  It was a lot of fun to see how the colors in the hand spun changed, and how the different skeins of hand spun varied since each spinner dealt with the color variation a little bit differently.  I am mostly pleased with my selvages, there are some places that are better than others but I think I have an idea of how to improve that next time.  I just need to figure out where to get fishing line.  Twisting the fringe took awhile but it's nice and mindless and I got a nifty little fringe twister from an etsy seller that made the processes a bit easier.  It's not hard to do this by hand but after awhile it's murder on the fingers and the tool helps with that.  Plus the twists are much more even where I used the tool.

The fabric was finished with a cold water and Eucalan soak to preserve the sheen of the hand spun wool.  HRM will need to hand wash or dryclean this going forward but I think she can manage that.  The sample I wove was lightly fulled and it looked ok but lost a lot of the beautiful shine that the mohair in the hand spun gave the piece, so I went with a simpler finishing.  If she does accidentally full it a bit it won't damage it any, the thing is pretty big and she's not a tall woman so it will still look nice on her.

Overall this was a really fun project.  Not being 100% sure what sort of yarn I was going to get from the spinners was both fun and stressful, but I really enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the project.  Now that I have a better idea of what to expect and how to plan, I am looking forward to doing this again in the future.  I've already got some ideas for future project percolating away in the back of my head!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Queens Shawl, full sized!

As much as I loathed worked on the linen for the faux-rugia towel, I think it improved my weaving by leaps and bounds.  Nightmare projects tend to do that, which always makes me grateful for them after the fact.  In looking at how my first Queens Shawl project is coming along, things are going much more smoothly, my selvages are looking much better (not perfect, but better), they are more symmetrical, and I am finding it easier to following the treadling order and see where I am when I walk away from the loom.  Plus I'm not finding as many funky floats.  So yay for getting better!  I'm not mistake-free yet, but I will not be in any way ashamed to present this to Important People.

The hand spun yarn is subtly variegated with purples and blues and a tiny bit of teal blue, all peacock colors to pull in the personal heraldry of our queen.  That color variation didn't show up well in the photos, but in person it adds a very pretty shimmer to the shot fabric.  Not a period shimmer, but a pretty one.  It will look really pretty out in the sun when we present the finished shawl (assuming of course that we have sun on the day, one can only hope!)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Pounce win!

Just a note to declare victory over the pounce!  After much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair (and paper) I have won!  I can't post pictures yet, but I was able to transfer the Pelican design for the morse onto velvet beautifully with pounce and then paint over it perfectly.  Yay!

It turns out that my problem all along has been the paper I was using to make the transfer.  Silly me, I was using regular printer paper.  Somewhere (and I can't remember where) I read that I should be using vellum.  I don't have any vellum so I printed the design onto card stock, and what do you know the whole thing magically worked!  Happy day!  My paint is now drying and I will able to frame up the cloth this afternoon and finally get started on this thing.  I am very excited.

Monday, February 3, 2014

First attempt at overshot

How I am loving my little table loom!  Warping still takes forever, but it's so much easier to set up a short (ish) length of something to play around with for napkins of towels to try something out.

I've decided to finally give overshot a try as the technique is similar to what I suspect was used to weave Perugia towels, the main difference being that overshot is done on a ground of tabby whereas Perugia towels are done on ground of some sort of diamond twill.  To weave the Perugia designs (or at least the geometric ones) efficiently, you can set up a series of secondary heddles using what's called ophamta weaving.  I wasn't able to do this when I did my towel as I have small eyes on my heddles, and the secondary tie ups need extended eye heddles on the main shafts to work.  What we see in the Perugia towels are bands of patterns woven over a tabby ground separated by diamond twills.  Overshot basically works the same way, but with fewer shafts.  The pattern weave is threaded into usually 4 shafts and woven on a tabby ground.  Working with 2 shuttles, you then weave the pattern using a contrasting color that floats over the tabby.  The patterns used are different, as are the fibers, but the basic principals are not at all dissimilar.

Anyway, overshot is far easier than I thought it would be!  And fun!  I'm not 100% happy with how this first pattern section turned out, I think a heaver pattern thread would look better, but for a first attempt it's much better than I thought it would be.  The ground is 10/2 pearl cotton set at 24 epi.  Nothing fancy but it will make a nice, functional towel that people will be will to use.  The blue is cottolin.   I have enough warp to do 3 good sized towels, and I plan to do all 3 with different fibers for the bands.  One will be a heaver linen, and one will be cotton.  I can do at least 2 different patterns with the threading I have as well, so that should add some additional interest to the weaving.