Sunday, October 23, 2016

Warp 8: Oh, The Joy

Or not.

I need a backstrap - you know, the wide band that goes around one's hips.  So I set to backstrap-weaving myself a straightforward plainweave band.  Thick cabled cotton for the warp, something that's been in my stash forever.  Four strands of cotton rug warp yarn held together for the weft.

We won't talk about the two-yard-long warp I wound first, shall we?  The winding wasn't the problem, let's just say, but I will say it brightens up a trash can nicely.

On to Warp 8B, one yard long.  OK, I could weave on this, but oh, I did a crappy job.  It's all of 3.5 inches wide, but clearing the sheds was difficult.  Not for the usual reason (fuzzy cotton sticking to itself), but because I don't know how to handle a wider warp.  The heddled shed behaved reasonably well on its stick, but the other shed, the one with just a loop of yarn holding it together - that one didn't work well at all.  Maybe it should be on a stick, too? I need to read more in Laverne's blog and Weavezine article.  In fact, what I really need to do is print out all the useful bits from her blog and put them in a notebook I can have to hand while I'm weaving.  Digital stuff is all well and good, but it's awkward to access when you're attached to a warp.

Anyhow, here it is in all its glory.

It's a little too short for my wide hips, although I followed Laverne's directions for length (she's much more slender). If I finish the ends by braiding or twisting, it won't go around me far enough. I didn't control the turning of the weft at the selvedges very well, so it looks crappy. (Actually, there were two wefts, each with four strands. I threw a pick from each direction for each shed, so there are 8 strands of weft laid in each shed.)

In fact, this turned out so badly I think I'll throw it out, too, and weave myself a proper backstrap on a floor loom, using rep weave.  One of these days, I'll be able to handle a wider warp as a backstrap-weaving project, but not just yet, apparently.

Rather discouraging, really.  Most of a Saturday wasted fighting with this project, and there are so few wide-open Saturdays in my life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Warp #7: Just a little band

I wove a simple, plainweave, backstrap band, all by myself.

It isn't perfect - there are a few warp floats and I missed catching one edge thread in the heddles - but it's a perfectly functional yard-and-a-half of colorful band. I haven't a clue what I'll use it for.

It is nice to be enjoying the process of learning, to laugh at myself when I realize I missed an edge thread, to take pleasure in the inches piling up, to not be frustrated because I've learned new skills often enough now that I know my backstrap bands won't be anywhere near perfect for a long time yet, and that's just fine.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Backstrap with Laverne: Warps #3-6

I was privileged over the last two days to take a beginning backstrap weaving class with Laverne Waddington at the delightful and well-stocked Sheep and Shawl in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.  It was wonderful! My brain is so full, I can't be terribly articulate, but I'll say this:  Take a class from Laverne. Just do it.

Over the two days, we worked on four warps:

From left to right: The first warp was already prepared for us by Laverne. The photo shows both ends of the warp.  This warp was just to get us used to working the loom and to accustom our fingers to the process.  The left-hand side is my first end; the right-hand end is after we turned the warp to the other end.  I improved!

We wound the second warp, the brown and orange one, in class and used it to practice simple, 6-end pickup patterns. The photo shows the back of the band; can you see where I wrapped the warp from side to side?  Oops.

At the end of day one, we practiced making a warp again and too the warp home to work on.  I only got a little ways along, just playing with pickup patterns, but I will finish this off.  I plan to finish all of these warps, just for the practice.

On day 2, we wound a wider warp and learned to make heddles over a stick.  Then we practiced two supplementary weft techniques.  For the first one, the extra weft goes all the way from one side of the band to other.  I did the blue and (incomplete) red motifs that way; you can see how I didn't crowd the white warps closely enough to really hide the colored weft.  The second weft technique just inlays the weft from side to side of the motif, with the turning of the weft forming a narrow line up the sides of the motif. Mine were in copper and just a little wonky.

I am so pleased with everything I learned! I'm going to practice a lot more, just to cement all these techniques in my brain, so expect to see lots of little bands in the months to come.  Someday, I aspire to weave something like this, one of Laverne's many, many samples she brought to show us:

Fantastic, isn't it? I might turn out to be a bag lady after all.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Outside Me

I've been thinking about why I'm often dissatisfied with my weaving projects.  I don't mean dissatisfied with the resulting product, although that's sometimes true, but rather that I'm uninspired or uninterested in what I've made.  It doesn't lead to further work in that vein, or not often, at any rate.

Why is that?  Well, among many contributing factors is this: Often what I weave is driven by something outside of me.  I take a class and I have homework or I want to finish up something started in class.  I want to weave a present for someone, a present designed to fit their preferences, not mine.  I want to use up my capacious stash, rather than buy more.

Now, all of these are perfectly good reasons to weave something, and in fact may push me outside my comfort zone.  But where are the projects I weave because I want to explore something?  They don't come along often, but I think I need to make more time for them, even if it does mean my niece doesn't get a handwoven linen tablecloth as a wedding present.  (She may not even want one, for all I know.)

So, here's a project that I'm making just for me.

Let's call it Warp Number Zero, because it's off the loom, but quite recently.  Handspun wools, blended with silk, mohair, alpaca, Angelina, and who knows what. I forget how many different fibers - perhaps 6 commercial batts, plus 2 yarns that I spun some time ago, plus 4 or 5 batts I blended just for this.  The mixture of yarns and fibers yielded a slight seersuckering, but overall I adore this. Plainweave, warp-faced, weft is commercial 16/2 blue-violet cotton.  Thoroughly machine-washed and mostly dried, then pressed through a damp press cloth and dried flat the rest of the way.  About 15 inches wide in the reed, sett 40 epi, warp was 8 yards long.  Destined for, and inspired by, clearly, a Sara Lamb-type kimono.  I still need to spin and weave a band for the front opening.  That will be warp #3 or 4 or so, depending on when I finish the spinning.

What I like and don't like, so far: This fabric has a lovely hand - light and drapy, yet with substance. I like very much the wash and contrasts of colors across the width, which is not conveyed well by my lousy photography. There is one spot where I'd prefer a better blending effect, but it barely bothers me. I can live with the seersuckering, but I'm already spinning for an all-BFL fabric, which probably won't seersucker as much (but who knows). I like the complexity of colors within even just one of the yarns I spun for this, complexity resulting from hand-painted or hand-carded fiber (and not carded particularly evenly). I am interested in spinning and weaving more complex yarns like these, and I need to learn more about how a particular pattern of painting will spin up.  Ditto for the many different ways to spin a single hand-painted braid.

I'll have more to say about this fabric when it's sewn up and has been worn for a while.  I'm hoping to finish the kimono by New Year's or thereabouts.

Monday, September 26, 2016


There's something about a vacation that makes me think about changing up my life.  I'm old enough now that I've given up on the get more exercise/eat better/go to museums/lose weight/travel more sorts of changes, because changing habits is hard and I'm lazy, but this time I thought it might amuse you to know I'm planning to track my weaving progress over the next 100 warps.

It's all Devin's and Sara's fault. Well, Devin's fault, really, as he has just been able to move the floor loom he bought when he was 13(!) into his new house and, in the resulting fog of weaving fumes, has committed to weaving 100 warps using a certain twill he loves.  All in handspun wool, if I remember correctly.

Now, as should be apparent, I am ever so much more sane than Devin and so I am not committing to weaving 100 warps of any one thing, unless you count "what interests me" as one thing.  I'm firmly into the beginning-intermediate stage of weaving (emphasis on beginning), so I have heaps and heaps of weaving things to learn and try and be seduced by.

If I'm committing to anything right now, it's to learning these two skills:  discipline and patience.  See where I wrote changing habits is hard and I'm lazy up there in the first paragraph?  Yep, I need to work on discipline.  Discipline to stick to a worthwhile project for the months, perhaps a year or two, that it takes to accomplish something I'm satisfied with.  And then, of course, enough patience to have that kind of discipline.

Enough words.  Time for pretty pictures.  Here's warp #1: warp-dominant plainweave in odds and ends of wool around Harrisville Shetland weight, woven off with wicked skinny purple wool (oh, look, I'm too lazy to go look at the cone for the actual size).

Eight yards of warp, about 34 inches wide. Perhaps three yards are woven, so far? I put this on the 4-shaft Purrington late last winter, when my brain was fried by trying to understand everything Laurie Autio is teaching us in Year One of her Explorations in Advanced Weaving class. I needed simplicity. No particular finished project in mind, although it would make a nice jacket or skirt, if it ever gets woven off.

There are other looms with warps on them, but this is enough for now.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Days 121-122

Mindless knitting.  Ordered indigo.  Procrastinated on weaving homework, but realized I have just about a month left to weave 2.8 projects and wash/press/hem/finish all 6.  Oopsie.

I'm also getting a little bored with this format.  I shall think about that.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Day 120

Started Runner #4 and finally got back to spinning the Enchanted Knoll batts.

Oh, and bought a fox, because everyone needs a fox in their yard.