Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I have finished the Sample Weaving of Doom.  It was...anti-climactic?  I'm not sure.  It might be that the result of the experiment is that one sample is softer than the other, and thus better for next-to-skin wear, but it might also be that this is an aberration due to my inconsistent spinning and not the reason for the weave structure at all.  I'm taking the swatches to activities night tomorrow to see if anyone else can see any difference.  The softer thing sort of makes structural sense, but I did a second sample using a different bit of wool (same breed, different color, thus somewhat different characteristics and not a perfect comparison) and I can barely tell a difference, which just confused matters. 

Anyway, I'm glad to have that done.  I've got to wrap up the writing part of the project and get everything packed up and then I'm done.  Yay!  Except for a small bit of hand-sewing, but that will take maybe an hour or two in the morning.

The problem with being done, or close to it anyway, is that I now have space to get nervous about the actual competition.  I'm still a little worried that my project is not a mighty enough effort for this thing.  It's not shiny or glittery or flashy.  Of course, I'll be judged by people who know about weaving and that sort of thing so presumably they won't be as distracted by glitter or the lack thereof.  And I should get some good feedback in any case, which is all for the good.

Sample with Z warp and S weft:

Sample with Z warp and Z weft (no idea what happened to my selvedge on this one, oh well, I sorted myself out eventually)  The bit at the bottom is done with the same commercial Z spun superwash I use for the actual hood:

Selvedge Theories

While waiting for my yarn-jello to dry* I decided to do some research on the trust Inter-web to see if I could figure out why I have been having problems with floating selvedges on my twill weave.  I firmly believe there must be a Rule, and it must one that can be simply stated.  Seriously, it's a 4-shaft pattern, the variables are the directions from which I throw the shuttle, where in the treadle pattern I start, and which direction I decide the treadle.  How many ways to screw this up are there? (no comments from the math people)

I have found the following two possible Statements of the Rule which I will have to test out. First, from Gilmarka's Weaving FAQ:
"If you are weaving twill and that uncaught selvage thread is part of the design and must be caught, start the shuttle on a different treadle or from the other side. It will usually catch if you start in a different place in the weave. If the first and last threads of the warp are on odd and even shafts, the weft will catch all the selvage threads as needed, but you need to start with the first weft over the threads on the even shafts..."
I'm not sure what they mean but "start with the weft over the threads on the even shafts" since when you weave twill the tie up is always going to have one even and one odd shaft, so 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-1.  Maybe you have to start on 2-3?  This makes sense, but also does not take into account the direction from which I am throwing my shuttle.  Unless it makes no difference.

Second, we have the Alaskan Fiber Arts tips page:
"In weaving a Twill, 2/2 or whatever, on a 4 harness loom, use:
  • Thread left side on an even shaft, 2 or 4.
  • Thread right side on an odd shaft, 1 or 3.
This catches the selvedges on both sides. This is the way it's threaded even if it's out of the pattern sequence. No floaters to fuss with, no wasted thread. For a 8 harness loom, use:
  • Left side ends on an even numbered shaft. (2, 4, 6, 8)
  • Right side ends on an odd numbered shaft (1, 3, 5, 7)
So let's do a little 2/2 twill threading on a four shaft loom here:
1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4
Ok, this is the way it would be if threaded straight across, yes? You're looking at the loom from the front, the 1 is on the left, the 4 is on the right. But this should leave a dropped (not caught) warp thread, most likely the 1 on the left. (Assuming you start throwing the shuttle from the right.)
So to fix it so that doesn't happen, thread like this:
4, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1
The main thing about it is to have that last warp thread out of sequence."
Thinking about this, I *think* it's just possible they are saying the same thing, more or less.  It seems like the Alaskan approach might work better if you are doing a diamond twill or herringbone or some other pattern that changes directions.  I know it's possible to do a straight 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4 threading and get a perfectly neat selvedge with no floats, as I have done it, I just can't figure out how to state the rule for when this will happen and when it won't.

*No, I did not use jello, I used gelatin, it just sounds better to say yarn-jello.  Besides, the left over sizing smelled and looked an awful like like sheep flavored jello once it set up

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Things on the hood front are not going well.
Well, that's not fair to say.  The HOOD is fine.  It's the sample weaving that's giving me grief.  This, from the draft of my documentation:

            "The weaving was set up with a tablet woven starting boarder, as would be used on a warp weighted loom.  Sufficient warp was measured out for all my sample weaving, and wound round the bottom of a bead weaving frame, and the starting boarded sewn to the top beam.  My initial plan was to use the frame to needle-weave my sample pieces, as the samples did not need to be large and this would produce less waste of my handspun warp than threading my larger floor loom.
            The tablet woven starting boarder proved to be quite simple to do, though this is without a doubt a two-person process.  I had help from my Laurel, who has had a great deal of experience with warp weighted looms, so the process was relatively quick and simple.  Ends per inch are easily controlled by a combination of hand control of the tablet weaving and the yarn used to weave boarder.  Getting the right distribution of ends per inch for the warp was quite simple, once we left out using thick knitting yarn and used a finer lace weight knitting yarn (the same yarn I used the sew the finished hood) to weave the starting boarder.  Once we finished weaving, we wound the warp and I was ready to go.
Unfortunately, the bead frame broke when I attempted to retension the warp after I started to weave and noticed that one side was significantly looser than the other.   I removed the warp from the bead frame and tied the starting boarder to my floor looms apron bar, hoping that I could thread the warps through the heddles to speed along my weaving, and tension the warp ends with weights.  At this point, I realized that not sizing the warp yarn was a critical mistake.  The warps began to un-spin themselves as I removed them from the loom and either broke or twisted around each other hopelessly as I attempted to feed them through my heedless.  I gave up on the loom heddles, and tried to simply weight the warp ends and tie up each warp to the heddle shafts with threads, much in the same way a warp weighted loom would be tied up.  I was not able to get a shed when I tredled the loom, I think because the string heddles were attached only at the top at the shaft frame, so I returned to needle weaving.
By this point, my intact warp has been reduced by half and was in pretty poor shape.  Threads had begun breaking and I was having problems with sticking and threads twisting across each other, so I attempting to size the warp with hairspray.  This did help, but the process was so slow and painful I opted to give up, size the rest of the Gotland warp I had left over, and start again using the floor loom.
In the midst of all this, I also discovered that my S-spun Shetland was somewhat underspun and tends to break with very little provocation.  This may prove to be less of an issue with a more stable and less grabby warp, but I will wind them off the bobbin and steam the yarn while I am sizing the warps to set the twist."

And here are some pictures.  First, the tablet woven starting border, becasue it's cool and looks so neat and tidy at this stage:

The hot mess it became:

And finally the hem for the face opening of the hood to prove that I am not actually totally inept.  Not toally.

So now I have spun a bit more Gotland warps and sized them in gelatin.  When that is done, I will warp the floor loom and hopefully things will go smoothly from there.  I have learned that if you are going to weave with handspun singles, for the love of all that's good and right with the world, size the daylights out of the yarn!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The end is nigh!

Well, the end of this hood project anyway!  It's morphed into experiments with the actual Greenland twill, which makes for a more interesting project.

Anyway, the hood itself is done.  Yay!  It turns out the hood I had decided to reproduce (largely because of all the weaving mistakes, it made me feel better) was child-sized, so I've decided to make an actual-sized hood as well out of commercial fabric as a point of size comparison.  That will be easy enough as the whole thing is only 14 1/2 inches high, which just leaves the sample weaving to finish.

I went over to my laurel's house (and boy does it sound strange to say "my laurel" still!) yesterday to get the sample weaving set up and learned how to set up a warp weighted loom, which was lots of fun.  The tablet woven starting band process is remarkably efficient and spaced the my handspun warps perfectly without even thinking about it.  We wound the warp on to a bead loom which I had had floating around for ages and I was brought it home and started needle weaving, only to discover that the warp was wound on unevenly enough to be a major problem.  When I went to fix it, the loom broke.  Gah.  I can fix the loom, but not in time to get the weaving done.  So now I have the whole thing tied onto my floor loom in a sort of modified warp-weighted setup, only the middle section got all messed up when I thought I was being clever by trying to put it through the heddles the make the weaving go faster.   Luckily the piece is wider than I needed and I'm able to work with a half width and still get a workable sample, which is all I need, off the intact section of warp.  I'm working on tying it to the heddle frames with string heddles to get some kind of shed then I can get going with the weaving.  It's been frusterating to say the least, but I think I have a workable plan and this should work.

Next time I'm working with handspun singles, I will find a way to block and size the yarn before I warp.  Serious sizing.  Lots and lots of sizing.  Sticky wool with over-twist is a major PITA.

Edited to add that the string heddles aren't working terribly well, I think because they need to be anchored top AND bottom (duh, but now I know), and because the wool is uber-sticky.  However, I discovered that a pointy stick wroks wonders, as I can weave the pattern and the  turn it to create a nice shed I can pass a small bobbin through so I am on way to the craft store to a bone folder.  The little hole at the end of my stick shuttle/beater combo is getting in the way of the weaving process so the folder should be perfect.  I will not be defeated!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hood progress

Just a quick update on the Hood Of's nearly done!  I'm sewing the hems in today in between bouts of finishing up a doggie sweater commission/donation, then all I have left is to weave the hand spun sample swatches, spiff up the documentation, and put this thing to bed.  I think I just might make it!

So far, the worst thing, other than cutting into the hand woven cloth (cuz there is No More if you screw something up) has been some major problems with fraying.  I think because I ended up using a superwash yarn for the weft it didn't mesh in with the warp well and just wants to work itself loos if you look at it funny.  I can't think of any other reason for it.  I ended up having a hard time with the seam finishing, the originals weren't actually flat-felled, just stitched then closely overcast down over the raw edge, but that wasn't going to work so I had to flat-fell anyway.  Even then there are a few spots on the gussets where I'm a little worried.  Luckily it's not a high stress point so it should be fine.  I think I managed to secure everything pretty well and it should hold up just fine, even if it the seams are a touch bulkier than they should be.  Oh well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Greenland cloth is done!

Not quite sure how this happened but I managed to finish the weaving for my Greenland project yesterday!  Hurray!  There are some mistakes, which I am hoping will be less obvious once I get the hood cut out, but overall it looks pretty good and had a wonderful drape to it.  As compared to the less-packed weft sample, the difference in hand is really quite remarkable.  I sort of think that might be part of the reason for the packed weft - the cloth is both warm and light weight.

I did have some problems with selvage threads breaking on me.  I think this is because of friction on the outermost warp thread coming through the reed and a little too munch tension on the outside warp bundles, as I had only a couple of other problems and those were mostly when I was threading and got a little goofy with the snips, and one warp that got tangled on something and broke under tension.  My tensioning issues all worked themselves out when I washed the cloth, so yay for wool!

Some pictures of the finished product, it's still a little rumpled from the wash but you can get the idea.  You can see where I forgot to weave in a broken warp in the top shot, and the contract between the two different wefts I used in the bottom shot:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One step forward, two back?

This Greenland project is giving me a huge amount of grief.  Aside from the loom breaking when my car was in the shop and the warp giving me untold trouble, I ran into two more problems since my last post.

First, and probably the worst and most demoralizing, I lost an entire days worth of work on my documentation.  It was a concerted day's effort too, I was pretty well done with two full sections when my husband decided that it was time to upgrade my hard drive.  It turns out the old one was failing, but due to the failing and the way it was partitioned, the backups had not worked properly and skipped over a bunch of files, including my documentation.  It ended up reverting to the version I had pre-Sunday edits, which was very rudimentary.  I then spent Monday and part of Tuesday without a computer at all, and will be back to the state soon as I'm getting a new one (which will NOT be partitioned) tonight.

Second, I busted out the ruler and checked my weft thread count on the sample and found that I was getting nothing like the packed weft in the original Greenland cloth with the yarns I was using, so I had to go on a foraging trip to see what I could find that might work better.  Luckily I hit pay-dirt on the first try.  I'm now using a lace-weight merino single and getting 20 to 21 wefts per inch, as opposed to the 14 I was getting before.  Much better!  Even the color of the cloth on the loom is looking better.

So I'm well over a week behind, and feeling discouraged and demoralized, but I guess all I can do is keep pushing forward and do my best.  It's been a learning experience anyway.  I think I need to seriously reevaluate the way I estimate how long a project is going to take.  It's one thing is things go as planned but quite another when Life gets in the way.

Here you can see the fabric in progress with the new weft yarn:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Greenland progress!

For some reason I could not sleep at all this morning, so I got up and finished dressing the floor loom and finally got the first inch or so of weaving done for my Coronation A&S project.  Yay!  Finally!  I'm feeling much MUCH better about that whole thing now.  I talked with one of the other entrants yesterday about the competition, and aside from realizing that I have a very low opinion of the impact my own work makes on people, got a much better idea of what to expect and am less worried about the whole thing.  We are supposed to send the documentation in 2 weeks before the competition so the judges can read it ahead of time, which is great, but as the project won't be done there are some things I won't be able to include.  Little stuff like my conclusions.  We came to the conclusion that this was going to have to be ok, since neither one of us can do anything about that (she's cooking, and you can't really include the recipes until AFTER you have cooked the food) and the missing bits won't be more than a few pages anyway.

Aside from having a rather embarrassing episode of spatial dyslexia last week  when trying to figure out the twist direction of the yarn I'm using (I could not get my head around the idea that the twist direction is the same regardless of which way the thread is running, I'm chalking that up to a low-caffeine moment, though it was useful in the end), I'm now trying to sort out the Truth of Twill.  For some reason, when I start the first inch or so this morning I had a floating warp thread on either end of my cloth that wasn't getting picked up by the weft.  When I revered my treadle direction, everything was fine.  There's some relationship between the direction of threading, treadling, and the direction of the throw that I'm just not connecting in my head.  I understand what needs to be happening, it's just how to make it happen in a pattern that's messing with me.  This is only my second project where any of these things have mattered though, so I suppose it's ok that I don't understand every last thing about weave structure.

Here you can see my progress so far.  It looks ok as far as twill fabric goes, but I'm not 100% happy with how the balance is in comparison to the photographs of the Greenland fabrics.  The weft should be denser, and I just can't get the Shetland to pack any more than you see in these pictures.  I think I'm going to have to dig around a bit and check with the local yarn shops before I weave any further and see if I can't find a somewhat light weight option for the weft, something closer to the pink singles I used on my first twill sample.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hood weaving update

My current weaving project is cloth for a Greenland hood.  I'm using commercially spun yarn, but trying to get as close to the texture of the original cloth as I can get.  As part of the project, I'm also hoping to spin some samples of Gotland and Shetland (two modern breeds that are purportedly similar to the sheep used by the Greenlanders) and weave some samples to see what sort of difference all this twist direction stuff actually makes.  The project needs to be done by April 2, and the documentation has be done by March 20th.

So far it's been slow going.  The yarn got backordered and delayed (see my eariler post) which put me in a cranky mood, so when the warp did show up I was less than interested in getting started.  I finally got started on Monday, got everything measured, and then went to start threading the loom Tuesday after my taking my car in to get a new tire (the potholes around heat eat tires like nobody's business.  Lesson: low profile tires are a Bad Plan, buy a tractor next time) only to discover that one of the shed frames on my loom had broken and needed to be repaired before I could thread the loom.  I got the car back Wednesday morning, went the hardware store, and got the loom fixed just fine but it set me back two more days and I didn't actually start threading until late Wednesday.  As of last night, I was done with sleighing the reed (I warp front to back for now) and had half the heddles threaded.  Hopefully today I will get the rest of the heddles threaded and enlist some help getting the warp wound on to the back beam tonight so I can start weaving Sunday (Saturday is University so nothing will get done).

Almost a week to warp 3 yards of cloth.  How silly is that? 

I had a total spacial brain-fart last night too and couldn't get my head around the idea that Z is always Z, even if folds over on itself as the yarn goes back and forth in the warp (or weft), or if you start from the other end.  I don't feel too bad, my Laurel got confused too and we had to draw lots of pictures with the help of her husband (a knight, Pelican and woodworker) and even draw lines on a straw and fold in and bend it to convince ourselves that we were being dense.  I felt mildly stupid but questioning things is good, and I did come up with a theory and possible explanation for why the whole Z/S thing matters, which is the point of this whole thing anyway.  I suspect that when you have a Z spun warp and S spun weft the finished cloth will have a smoother finish since all the fibers will end up aligned in the same direction.  More on this when I have pictures, for some reason it makes more sense to me with visual aids!