Thursday, May 17, 2012

Doublefaced tablet weaving, a start

 I've finally started my first try at doublefaced tablet weaving!  The pattern was adapted from a larger design found in Collingwood and is only 18 cards wide, largely because that's just about how many wood tablet I had when I started this and it seemed like an easily manageable number of cards to deal with.  I'm working with size 8 pearl cotton, again because I had that on hand and it's inexpensive.  Throwing out large amounts of silk when the band goes wrong just makes me cringe, so I've been doing a great deal of my experimenting with cotton.  It's not really period, but it works ok and still produces something I am comfortable using at least at SCA events.

So far I'm finding this technique to be much easier than anticipated.  Manipulating the cards is not terribly difficult, and I'm starting to see where I am at with the pattern just by looking at the band.  The DH pointed out that it's really a bit map, and for whatever reason looking at the whole thing in terms of pixels sort of works for me.  Because each color shift is 2 turns, it's easy to see what you just did and figure out from there what's next.  It's certainly easier than some of the textured bands I've been working on, where I can't tell what I just did most of the time.

The one problem with this particular band is the colors. It turns out that higher contrast yarns are needed for this, otherwise you end up with very subtle patterns (as you can see below).  On skeins it looked like the pink and light green would would out, but the design isn't popping much at all.  Funny enough, the small striped section looks fine, it's only when you get into the doublefaced part that the colors blend together.  This band is destined to become a set of garters, so it won't make much of a difference.  If I were going to use it as trim or a belt I would be more unhappy.

Monday, May 14, 2012

More smocking

Following up on my last post, where I attempted smocking for the first time in preparation for a smocking apron a la The Lutrell Psalter, I managed to do a second swatch with shallower pleats this weekend.  This time I used a piece of cloth 10 inches long and pleated using the pick-up-the-dot method, rather than making cartridge pleats.  Both methods are described very well on the Pleatwork Embroidery website.

My dots were spaced 1/4 of an inch apart, resulting in 1/4 inch deep pleats on the first sample, and 1/8 inch deep pleats on the second.  My final bit of smocked fabric ended up being about 4 inches wide on the second sample, which means that my final apron will need to be only 36 inches wide at the hem, much better than the nearly 60 inches I would need using the cartridge pleats.  I also like the look of the smaller pleats better, even though they are a little harder to wrangle into place.  The large pleats give a more lush look to the piece, particularly in the honeycomb section, but  since I want to smock with more than just honeycomb (which is much stretchier than the other stitches), the top bit of the apron will end up a little tighter than the bottom section of smocking, an effect that will I think look well and control the fullness of the finished apron nicely without adding an absurd amount of bulk to the finished apron.  I may end up doing two aprons, in which case one will probably be plain honeycomb worked with deeper pleats.

I found that the pleats were easier to control if I ran my pleat/gathering lines closer together on the narrower pleats (no more than 1/4 inch apart), whereas I was able to do half as many lines of gathering on the deeper pleats.  I also found that by picking up the dots, I ended up with the dots on the surface of the pleats which created a nice straight line I could use as a guide for my first few lines of stitching.  This helped keep the second sample much neater looking than the first, and I had no need to draw in guide lines on the surface of the cloth.  I will need to make sure that whatever I use to mark the dots will wash out.  I used pencil on the sample, which tends not to come off the fine linen easily.  Somewhere I have some other fabric markers that should work better.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Smocking, attempt 1

Today I hosted a sewing circle for my local SCA group and used the time to work on my first ever smocking sample, in preparation for making a smocked apron similar to those seen in the Lutrell Psalter.  I've created a pin board on Pintrest to gather resources for this project, but you can see from the image to the left a long narrow apron with some kind of pleating at the top.  This particular style of apron seems to have been popular from the mid-14th century all the way through the 16th and to have eventually caught on with the wealthy.  You can see it in a number of portraits and German wood-cuts being worn by women of all social classes.

I was initially inspired to make one of these aprons after seeing the beautiful examples at Medieval Silkwork.  Isis and Machteld always do lovely work and once again managed to inspire me to try something new.  Here is my first-even attempt at smocking, done so I can figure out how much fabric I will need for the final apron.

You can see from the pictures that my first line of stitching got a bit wonky.  For some reason I had a very hard time stitching in a straight line.  I think if I chalk out some guide lines on top of my pleats I will be able to keep things looking a bit neater.  Some of the pleats themselves are not perfectly even either, which probably didn't help.  I cartridge pleated the pleats, and I think if I switch to the pick-up-the-dot method of pleating they may end up being a bit more even and easier to control (and also a little smaller, which I think will be a good thing).  I ended up pleating 29 inches of 3.5oz linen into 7 inches of smocking, which will end up making a very full apron.  I suspect I can eliminate a little fullness by making shallower pleats (I used 1/4 inch graphing paper to make a pleat template).  Since I want the apron to be fairly narrow, this will leave me with a 60 inch wide piece of fabric pleated into 14 inches.  I'll be doing another sample tonight or tomorrow with smaller pleats to see if I can  improve that pleating ratio a bit.

My only other concern with this project is the thread used for the smocking itself.  I used two strands of cotton embroidery floss on the sample, which worked well but could possibly be a little thicker.  I am assuming that silk or linen thread would have been used in period.  Linen thread will work better as it simplifies washing the finished apron (assuming I need to bleach or oxy-clean the apron, silk will not hold up), but the silk would make fuller stitches and cover better.  Finding suitable linen thread is challenging in this area to say the least.  I have some 20/2 weaving thread that might work, so I'll try that with my second sample.

New studio!

I've finally got my sewing studio moved from one end of the house to the other and so far I am really liking the new arrangement.  I have a lot more room to sew in, and the ironing board is right next to the machine and the computer and scanner are in the same corner so it at least feels like I'm working more efficiently.  This is really important for my work projects, less so for the historical ones as I don't use the machine as much.  The space wasn't quite large enough to put the loom into as well, but so far that's working out ok too.  The loom room has been cleaned out of various bits of office stuff and rearranged so I can sit and weave and look out the window.  The natural light in that particular room should be helpful when doing pick-ups and warping.

The cat likes the new room too.  She's been trying out various places to hang out in there.  So far, her favorite is on my chair, but when I am so rude as to require use of the chair myself she's taken to hanging out on my desk, behind the sewing machine.  She even tries to bat at things while I'm working which is not good at all but very entertaining.  I need to go pick up a window perch for her I think.

Friday, May 11, 2012

More tabletweaving!

Finishing the headband/fillet seems to have gotten me motivated to do more tabletweaving.  This is a good thing, as I need to work on getting better at it it and have several A&S50 projects related to tabletweaving.  Plus both the DH and I need some garters.

After I finished the fillet (see my previous post) I warped up some basic pearl cotton and gave the stripped London band (MOL 449) another shot.  I had used this particular band as a pattern for the first tablet weaving I ever did.  It started out a little wonky but by the end it looked pretty good, but the end result was a totally useless strip of band.  The new version was done in green and gold and will become garters for the DH.

Overall I am very pleased with how this turned out.  There are a couple of small problems with the selvedges, and I still don't like the look of my direction changes, but the band is even in width, nice and firm and actually long enough to make two garters without wierd tassels at the end.  Hopefully I can find some nice buckles and belt tips that will fit it.

For my next trick, I'm going to start on doubleface.  I have some simple patterns that aren't too wide, which should give me another set of garters and be a good learning tool.  I'm going to try in cotton first and then move on to the bamboo.  I really need to make a cloth belt for my Viking kit, so hopefully this will move me a step in that direction.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

MOL 142 Redux

I posted awhile back about my first attempt at tabletweaving MOL band 142.  It had not gone well, not because the weaving itself was terribly difficult but because I had chosen to use pearl cotton to make the band. The cotton looked pretty bad and made it difficult to get an even selvedge.

I tried again, this time with bamboo thread, and the results were far far better!  The bamboo behaves a lot like silk but is considerably less expensive so for timid and cheep tablet weavers like myself it's a good alternative when basically practicing new techniques.  If it all goes well you still end up with a lovely band that you can wear or use just like a silk band, but if it does not go so well you are not throwing out a large amount of expensive yarns.

My plan with this particular project was to make a fillet, which is what the original band was used for (this is the one with bits of fake hair attached to it).  The original showed evidence of having had plaques of some kind sewn to it, so I found some flat beads that could be used in place of the plaques and sewed them to the band.  I'm quite pleased with the end result.  Trying it on with my hair down and no veil it looked a little hippie-dippy, and far more Pocahontas-like than I would like, but with my hair done properly and a veil I think it will look quite nice.

Overall I would say this project is a success!  It's really only my second tablet weaving project (the first being the indigo linen garters), which makes me feel a lot better about some of the small problems and imperfections in the band.  One thing I did learn doing this for a second time is that leaving the band alone for too long results in some visible problems with the weaving.  Perhaps this will get better with time, but looking at the band you can tell where I put the project aside for awhile and picked it up again later.  Longer work sessions, placed closer together, resulted in smoother weaving and cleaner selvedges.