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.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Another elevation cloak

I've been asked to do the embroidery for another elevation cloak, this time for someone I know well.  It's a secret so no further details than that until after the fact, but I am planning on doing the order insignia on a morse rather than on the cloak itself, as this is more appropriate for the persona in question and will look less like a football jersey than a lot of the cloaks that are out there.  Plus I think the person will actually wear the blasted thing if we do it this way.

Anyway, the cloak will be wool.  I was thinking I would do the morse in velvet, partly so I can incorporate more of the personal heraldry and also it won't stretch as much.  Plus I won't need to do tons of underside couching to cover something ugly (yay for that!)  The thing I am wondering is how best to transfer a fairly intricate design onto the velvet?  The best suggestion (ok the only reasonable one really) is over at Needle'n'Thread and suggests using a combination prick-n-pounce and paint.  This seems like it would work but also sounds like a huge PITA.  Is there as easier way?  If not, that's what I'll do, it just seems like we would have come up with a magic pen or other transfer device that was simpler than this by now.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shawl for a Queen

My kingdom's spinning guild makes a hand spun shawl for each new queen as a group project.  Sometime this means we do nothing for several reigns, but usually we end up making a shawl at least once a year.  The women who had been doing the weaving got her Laurel last year just before Pennsic when the last shawl was presented, and decided that she didn't feel it was right to continue doing the weaving, and as her first act as a Peer, volun-told me to weave the next one.  Eeep.  This will be presented at an event in February.

Things have been a little nuts for me the last couple of months.  In addition to the usual holiday madness of my little business and going home to visit, I've had the flu since New Years eve and have been dealing with some ongoing health issues that have been making getting anything done increasingly difficult.  My focus is not as good as it once was, I get confused easily, and I am in a lot of pain a lot of the time.  In the last week my neurologist diagnosed me with fibromyalgia.  Not great news, but at least we now have an idea of what the problem is (or really in this case isn't) and how to proceed with managing the symptoms.  Knowing you need to slow down and adjust your expectations from yourself and understanding why are two totally different things and for me at least the why turns out to be a key piece for my coping abilities and peace of mind.

Anyway, the upshot of all of this is it's taken me longer to get started on the shawl project than I had planned.  But I finally got the Perugia towel off my loom, and have started doing the sampling for the shawl on my new table loom!  Yay for awesome Christmas presents that make sampling possible!  It's a 4-shaft 18 inch wide Dundas loom, which they do not make anymore, that we were able to pick up used, even though it had never been used by the previous owner.  The heddles were still tied together.  Warping it was so much easier than warping the floor loom, and weaving on it is fun though it's a bit of an adjustment going from tie-ups to manually controlling each shaft.  I'm using the same diamond twill pattern I used for the towel for the shawl, set at 16 EPI with a commercial warp and the hand spun weft.  We decided to use a high contrast for the warp to give the cloth a shot effect, which I think will look well when it's finished and should have a nice bit of shimmer.  So far I am happy with how the sample is working up.  I plan to weave a bit more and wash it before I warp the big loom, but I should have that done by the end of the weekend and be able to get the warping done this week.  The actual weaving won't take all that long.  With the larger yarns the whole project will go much more quickly than the linen did.

Finished Faux-rugia towel, finally


The faux-Perugia towel is finally, after long last and much swearing, gnashing of teeth, moving of the loom, and tearing of hair, done!  It's off the loom, washed, and I am actually pretty happy with how it turned out.  Yay!  This has been by far the most difficult and possibly overly ambitious weaving project I have done so far, but I have learned a lot.  I can't honestly say the result were quite worth all the agony, but adding in the educational piece and the fact that it's off the loom and I can now get on with my life it's all good.

The original plan had been to weave a length of plain
weave to do some embroidery with on the same warp, but somehow I ended up not having quite enough warp to do it or enough patience, so I have what you see.  The towel was 53 inches long and 29 inches wide before washing, and 50 inches long and 23 inches wide after washing.  This is right in the low to middling range of extant Perugia towels, and in looking at it a very useful size.  I will be able to use this as a small table covering, a large lap napkin (large napkins are really good for covering garments made of expensive, hard to wash fabrics), or for using while serving at table.  It also works nicely as a head covering.  The 40/2 linen was a huge PITA to work with (mostly warping), but the end result is a lovely fabric with a nice hand that drapes well and is thick enough to make a good napkin but still fine enough to look like real fabric and not a rug.  I'm a little sad about not being able to do proper pick-ups but the end result looks more like what you see in the art work actually being used by servants and more middle class people than what has survived in museums, most of which seem to be have been used as part of church vestments.

A couple of critical things I have learned about weaving with linen for next time -
1 - wet/damp linen is much easier to work with.
2 - sizing is your friend!  I used boiled flax seeds.  It's much easier to apply this diluted in a spay bottle than attempting to brush it onto the warp.
3 - For whatever reason my floating warps kept snapping.  I was able to fix this by soaking the warp thread in the sizing then reinforcing it with a thread of fine beading wire.  Fishing line would probably work better but I didn't have any on hand.  Next time I am working with a fine, inflexible warp, I will get some fishing line.
4 - I need a better cushion on my weaving bench.  Ouch.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Warp weighted weaving

Following up on my last post, I've finished setting up the warp weighted loom that has now taken over a not insignificant portion of my living room and have actually successfully woven a whole inch of leg wrap!

Knitting the heddles was by far the trickiest part of the whole business.  Finding clear instructions on how to do this was  not so easy, but I managed to work it out for myself after much google searching and watching YouTube videos on knitting heddles for barn looms (not the same sort of heddle at all but it managed to explain the idea).  I think the biggest thing left out of the instructions (if you can call them that) that I was able to find is that you really need to work with a small shuttle or netting shuttle, not the ball of yarn.  Once I figured this out and got out one of my small table weaving shuttles life was much easier.  Also, it was a lot easier (and I do mean A LOT easier, like I might actually do this again easier) to manage everything once I had the idea to pick up the shed I was trying to tie up with a pick up stick and hold it in the forward position with an extra leese stick I tied to my shed stick.  This arrangement might not be that clear in the picture, but the idea is to hold the threads in front of the stationary warps so you are not trying to knit the heddles through another set of warp threads.  The only problem with this plan is that you have to be extra careful not to twist your warps if you chained them together at the bottom.  I twisted a few of them the first time I knit the heddles and ended up having to un-do the heddles AND un-chain the back warp threads to fix the mess.  Not a big deal as this is a narrow warp but something to keep in mind time.  Knit first, chain second.


Anyway, once that was done (and it went much faster the second time around), the actual weaving has been pretty straight forward.  Beating upwards is a little awkward, but I'm actually having a harder time managing the shuttle stick and the sword beater all at the same time.  I feel like I need an extra hand.  Luckily with this particular yarn I can do most of my beating with the shuttle stick so I'm not having to use the sword much but it's a bit of a juggling act.  Overall the process is not any slower than weaving on a rigged heddle loom.  You can see we had some trouble with the table woven header on this piece, which has created a little unevenness in the warp spacing, but I think that will work itself out as I go and when I wash the finish piece.  Thinking on it, I think I didn't choose a very good yarn to use for the header, it's not quite the right thickness for such a fine warp.

I still can't quite get my head around tying the heddles for complex twills.  I know this can be done, all sort of patterned twills were woven on this type of loom, but with one set of warp threads being stationary I'm not quite sure how you would make something like a diamond twill happen.  This might be another example of walk-before-you-run, which I have never been very good at.  I'll figure it out.