W Is For… Weaving!

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Weaving is one of the oldest textile arts in the world. The most complicated looms, like the huge one featured in the movie Wanted, are the same in principle to the simple back looms used in the mountains of Peru for centuries.  The idea is you use something to put the warp under tension.  Shown above is my simple Cricket Loom, with the warp threaded and some of the weft worked.

The thing I find interesting about weaving is that it’s more complex, at least to my brain, than knitting.  I have to make peace with winding on the warp, and with the mechanics of the loom itself.  The process of actually weaving, meaning putting the shuttle back and forth, is relatively straightforward.  But, as my weaving teacher Natalie Boyett of the Chicago Weaving School pointed out, half of weaving is winding on the warp.  Accepting that, embracing it, helps one enjoy the process of weaving even more.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What unexpected thing has your crafting taught you?

I Is For… Inkle Weaving

IEver wonder where things like reins for bridles, belts, pet collars, and trim come from?  If they’re not leather, they’re most likely woven (though there are many other ways, for example, spool knitting, but I digress).  The type of loom used can vary, but here’s what I find interesting.

My weaving instructor, Natalie Boyett of the Chicago Weaving School, (and if you’re here in the city, or visiting, and have ever thought about maybe learning to weave, go there.  She’s hands-down one of the best instructors I’ve ever had), showed me that weaving is one of the oldest textile arts.  Here’s a brain-bender –  all looms are fundamentally the same:  they are designed to put tension on the warp (the length-wise threads) so that the craftsperson can put the weft (the cross-wise threads) in between them.  In this way, fabric is created.

So what’s an inkle loom?  It’s a small, usually portable, loom that allows you to wind on a continuous warp, which means it can be really, really long.  The weaving surface isn’t very wide, usually only a few inches, because the idea is to weave narrow fabric.  There’s an example of one here.

What about you, Dear Reader?
What would you want to make if you could wave a magic wand and know how to use an inkle loom?


A to Z Challenge, Day 17: Q Is For Quesquemitl

In my weaving class, I am making a quesquemitl, a type of poncho that is made from a continuous piece of fabric – and, thus, a popular choice for handweavers.  The photo above is from Wikipedia, of a garment on view at the Museo Popular in Mexico: “Large shawl called a quechquemitl by Margarita Roberta Lucas Garcia from Tenango de Doria, Hidalgo as part of a temporary exhibit of crafts from Hidalgo at the Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City.”

I love the yarn that I got to use.  It’s a rayon with many different colors, as you can see from the spool here; however, from a distance it looks blue.

I haven’t yet sewn the piece, which means that will be my next project.  I’m finishing the hand-sewn edge and then will baseball stitch the pieces together.

I don’t know how to baseball stitch yet.

Guess I have my work cut out for me.

What do you want to learn this year?

Weaver’s Journal – The Fringe of Weaving

I’m working on the fringe for the Belii Shawl and wanted to do a laticework effect with the beads.  Since the image I’m using is from a book to which I don’t have the rights, (I almost typed, “writes,”) I drew it for you here by hand:

The top picture is straight fringe; the bottom one is the lattice effect that I wanted to try to achieve.  I used a fringe winder to ply the fringe together.  What that means is, you take the yarns that are the fringe and figure out direction they are spun.  All yarn has a natural direction of spin.  One direction spins it further, creating more energy in the twist; the other direction essentially unspins the yarn (and with looser yarns can cause them to fuzz up).

When you ply fringe, you take two or more of the fringe yarns and twist them further in the direction of their natural twist, and then tie a knot.  When you release the yarns, after they’re knotted, they roll together creating a pretty, and more stable, fringe that will not knot up when you wash it, for example.

What my hope was, was that by taking yarns adjacent to each other and plying them together, I could create a lattice effect like I’ve drawn, above.  What happened was that in plying the second row of fringe, it increased the twist of the fringes above it and when I released the yarns after the second knot, they twisted together, creating a mess and not a pretty, flat lattice.  I’ll show you what I mean, and what I did instead.

This is the second side of fringe; the yarn ends are longer on this side (meaning, the fringe is longer).  The fringe on the right has the first row of plying and beading done; as you can see, the beads are held in the middle of the twist by the energy of the plying.  (They’re not so tightly in there that they cannot move; I suspect when I wash it, for example, I’ll have to push them back into place.)

The tackle box is there to provide weight on the main body of the weaving.  By doing so, the fringe has something to pull against when you ply it.

This is the first row of fringe all done.  The fringe will be trimmed at the end, but I’ll wait until I have the beads in place, (three rows in total).  The finished length will be between six and eight inches.

In this view, you can see both sides of fringe as well as the main body of the shawl.  The loose threads on the body of the shawl will be snipped after its first wash.  I don’t want to wash it until the fringe is done, otherwise the threads will knot with each other and make a mess.

These are the tools I’m using.  Clockwise from top left:  fringe winder tool, gold beads, scissors, COFFEE mug (if you don’t think this is an essential tool at Knoontime Knitting, you haven’t been paying attention), fringe comb, extra yarn, and purple beads.

This is the first attempt at the latticed fringe.  As you can see, the second row of beading just causes the whole thing to twist up on itself.

We tried again, this time with my instructor holding the yarns under tension.  It didn’t help; as soon as we released the tension, they twisted together.  I need a sound-effect, like FOOP!  Foop, they twisted together.

I put the tackle box on the first row of beading and made the second row of plies on the same ply as the first.  On the first row, I plied it 13 times; the second row didn’t need that many because of residual twist; so I used seven twists instead.

Detail of both rows.

Final view showing the whole side.  I’m really curious to see what it looks like when it’s done and washed.  The fabric right now is thick and dense; it’s mercerized (perle) cotton and it softens up after washing; I’m curious what the hand of the shawl will be like once it’s all done.

Sunday Weaver’s Journal: The Belii Shawl

My beloved street-rescue cat Belii died last year after a prolonged battle with kidney failure.  I decided to weave something in his memory, inspired by him and his place in my life.  It feels a little silly to admit that out loud, that my artistic inspiration is my cat, (Am I becoming a Cat Lady?), but we shared a household for 16 years.  If you have pets, you’ll understand.  If you don’t have pets and aren’t a “pet person,” it won’t make sense – and I feel just a little sorry for you.

From the time he was a kitten, Belii was the most affectionate cat I’ve ever known.  His favorite spot was on your chest – whether he knew you well or not.  I used to hand guests a wash cloth to put on their shirt so that he wouldn’t kneed their skin.  That’s the other thing he did all his life – kneed with his claws.  I think it was a holdover from living on the street.  I’ve read that it’s a way for cats to get the milk to come when they’re nursing, and that makes sense.  But he took it one step further – he would actually curl his paw around your finger and hold on.  If he couldn’t sit on you, he’d sit next to you, as in the picture above.

His name, Belii, is the Russian word for “white.”  When he first adopted me, he was white – all white.  I took him in, got him healthy (he had a slew of stuff that the vet needed to take care of; he was the most expensive “free” cat I’ve ever gotten), and fed him.

He turned orange.

As you can see in the photograph above, his ears are the darkest part.  I looked it up; he’s got some Siamese in him and there’s a rare colorway called “peach point” that I’ve decided is Belii.  It sounds cool, doesn’t it?  I have a Peach-Point Siamese.  La-tee-da.  Folks don’t need to know he was homeless in Las Vegas when I found him, eh?

The design challenge is how to represent his colors in fabric.  I suspect this won’t be the first project where I attempt it, since I have some yarn in my stash that I bought with the idea of knitting something.  But for now, my focus is weaving and creating, in cloth, a piece of art inspired by my orange white cat.

Oh, why didn’t I change his name?  The Russian word for “orange” is оранжевый, or oranzhevyy in transliteration.  Not nearly as pretty-sounding to my American ear as Belii.

I love the pattern I made for the kimono and I talk about using that warp to thread the new warp, in a Sunday Weaver’s Journal earlier this year.  I’ve been working on the project and have pictures but not had time, because of our move, to post anything.  Today, I’m here to remedy that.  So, without further ado, here’s some photos:

My pattern is called “Twill Complication,” from A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite P. Davison, page 46 (Marguerite P. Davison, Publisher, Swarthmore, PA, 1994).  I took the treadling pattern and put it in an excel spreadsheet so I could mark off where I am on the pattern.  The wrap is nine feet long in total, so that’s a lot of pattern repeats!

We realized that there were a couple boo-boos in the threading once I started weaving.  In between the time I finished the kimono and started the wrap, one of the assistant instructors thought I was done with the loom and started taking the old warp off.  When she realized I was intending on tying the new warp to it, she re-threaded everything.  We’re not sure if the boo-boo happened then or when I originally threaded it, so her suggestion was to do one entire pattern repeat in a highly-contrasting thread so we could evaluate what to do.

The options:  keep going anyway, even with the mistake, (if it wasn’t too visible); cut the warp thread(s) that could be safely eliminated without changing the design; or take the treading out and start over – which I did not, frankly, want to do.

Here’s an example of the entire repeat.  There were three problem spots, which aren’t greatly visible here, but are visible enough that they would cause a problem in the finished design.

After conferring with Natalie Boyett, we decided to just cut three of the warp threads and let the rest go – primarily because I didn’t want to rethread everything.

I am working on a Glimakra loom from Sweden.  It’s taken a while to get used to, because the shed (the part where you run the shuttle back and forth) is a lot narrower than on American looms.  It does, however, make for much neater edges, which is something I struggle with.

After using the loom for the last almost nine months now, I’m really liking it.  We’ve had some challenges, most notably when the twin holding the heddles in place snapped, but Natalie was able to fix it and it works smoothly now.  The most important part, how the weaving looks, is something I’m really happy with.

Here is a the first repeat of the actual pattern.  I decided to use alternating peach and ivory repeats of the pattern, because I loved how the contrasting yarn looked in the header.

Here is a detail of the pattern.  I love the way it looks beaded.  You can see a comparison with the kimono fabric in the Weaver’s Journal post here.

This is a view of the loom in its entirety except for the castle.  It’s a nice width for me and I love how the fabric is turning out.

Oh, contrary to popular belief, the Russian word for “scarf” isn’t “babushka,” it’s шарф, or “sharf” in transliteration.  A “babushka” is a grandmother.

Stay tuned for more Weaver’s Journals coming soon.

Friday Weaver’s Journal – The End Is Nigh!

I’m at the end!  I’m at the end!  I can’t turn the weaving any more than it is.  I’m so excited!

This is prior to the end, where you can see the dowel rod.  It’s supposed to be straight.  o.O…  It doesn’t appear to have affected the weaving negatively, thank the gods.

This is a shot from farther away, after I’ve moved the dowel off the back beam and then moved farther.

Isn’t this pattern awesome?  I’m so excited.  It looks awesome.  I’m looking forward to using the next colorway to begin the Belii Shawl.

This is the last little bit of the warp.  We’ll cut the fabric off the loom and then tie the new yarn to it and pull it through.
This shot is taken from some distance so you can see the fabric’s sheen.

Here’s the fabric.  I didn’t take it off the beam because I finished just as class ended, and I didn’t want to have to rush.  So, next week, we’ll have the fabric reveal and start sewing. o.O…

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

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Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Remains of the Day

Do you have a day set aside each week for creative endeavors?  Why not start one?  What might you do?

  • Take a class in a new-to-you craft
  • Join a group on Meetup or at a local community center
  • Gather with friends for potluck and craft share
If your mind goes blank, try taking a blank journal page and number down the left from 1 to 5.  List five things you’d like to try but don’t have the time to do.  Write quickly and off the top of your head. Then list five things you used to do, maybe when you were a kid, that were fun.  List five things you’d try if you were more creative.
Now take a look at your list.  Pick one thing and set a date next week with yourself to spend one hour doing that thing.  If it’s to take a class, spend your time researching possible class venues.  If you’re interested in a particular craft, don’t over look the Craftsy website; their prices are reasonable and they have online videos of all sorts of classes available.
If you’re in the Chicago area, come join me tonight at my weekly weaving class at the Chicago Weaving School.  It’s a lot of fun, relaxing, and you don’t have to know anything when you start except how to get yourself to the weaving school – and it’s right on the Irving Park bus line, not far from the Blue Line train, AND there’s parking.  What do you have to lose?

Happy Stashbusting New Year!

Welcome to 2013!  365 days to knit, crochet, weave, or play with your favorite craft; 52 weeks of inspired ideas; 12 months of possibility; 4 seasons filled with opportunities for enjoyment; it’s a brand new year, kids, and we ain’t gettin’ any younger!  So LET’S GET BIZZY!

My theme for this year is Completion.  Here’s my plan of attack:

  • Define the parameters (i.e. what is my stash, exactly?)
  • Define the weaponry (i.e. what tools do I have, and what, if any, are needed?)
  • Easy wins (what’s already started or nearly done?)
  • Planned Campaigns (what’s already planned but not yet executed?)
  • Contingencies (what can we come up with that’s new?)
There’s a lot of play to do this year.  Today I’m finishing the Celebration of Light and Color Shawl (it just needs to be washed and blocked), and working on the diamond wrap.  Weaving class is Thursday and Michael and I are planning our next item for the Wardrobe of 2013.
What about you?  What yearnings have you got buried in your little crafty heart?  Trust that today is the day, and this is the year.  Craft on!

It’s All About the Fabric

I am weaving on a Schact table loom that’s been converted to a floor loom.  It is an eight-harness loom, but I’m only using four of the harnesses.  Unlike my previous project, which I wove on a four harness table loom, this loom uses floor pedals to control the raising and lowering of the heddles.  If you remember, the heddles are what control which warp threads are up or down for each pass of the shuttle; this is what creates the weave structure (like, for example, a houndstooth pattern or herringbone).

For my Quesquemitl, which is a type of shawl and poncho, I am weaving a 2-2 twill:  this means that 2 harnesses are up and 2 harnesses are down for each pass of the shuttle.  Twills are characterized by movement, meaning that the patterns are created by something called a “twill circle.”  This is in contrast to a balanced weave, like plain weave or basketweave.  (If you made potholders as a child, that is plain weave:  an equal amount of threads on the warp and the weft, and an equal weight to both.)

Here are some pictures that will illustrate what I’m talking about.

Here is a view of the fabric.  The bottom two-thirds of the image is the actual fabric, and you can see the diagonal striping leading from the bottom right to the top left.  This is the characteristic of the twill family of weave structures.  Beyond the fabric, at the top of the image, are the warp threads waiting to be woven.  The warp is a darker tonal family than the weft (the warp are the vertical threads, the weft are the horizontal ones); the combination of the two is surprisingly pleasing.

Here is a closeup of the same fabric, showing the apparent ‘movement’ of the fabric.  This fabric is a 2-2 twill, which means two warp threads are up, and two are down, for each pass of the shuttle.  For the weavers among you, I’m using a floating selvage for this project, which is a first for me; I like the edges very much.  They’re a lot cleaner than my last project, where I didn’t use them.

Here is a view of the fabric unwound from the front beam; I included my hand in the shot so you can get perspective on the sizing.  I’m holding this fairly taut; in the next image, you can see more of the drape.

It feels a little bit like denim, but much softer.  It’s a rayon blend and I love it.  As I weave, it creates a lot of fuzz; I hope that isn’t a property of the finished fabric after blocking.

As I mentioned earlier, the heddles are controlled on this loom by foot pedals.  The cool thing is that the foot pedals are variable:  you select which heddles correspond with which pedal.  For my project, you can see there is an A, a B, and 1 through 4.  A and B are set up for plain weave, and the 1 through 4 are set up as a 2-2 twill.  That means that for each pedal, two heddles are controlled – this way, I just have to press 1 through 4 in succession and I have my pattern.

I’ll admit that was very difficult for me to grasp when I first sat down to weave on this loom; my instructor set up the heddles.  The geometry of it just refused to penetrate my brain (I think it’s that old 2-D/3-D problem).  But now that I’ve woven this project on it, and am nearing completion, it makes a lot more sense.

Here is a view of the back beam, for those of you curious to see where the warp goes.  The left foreground shows the warp threads traveling over the back beam and down onto the roller.  The gray paper is there to keep successive rolls of the threads from knotting across each other; each layer is protected by paper (or one could use clear plastic or even newsprint, whatever is handy).

This final image is the boat shuttle, so named because the bobbin of thread sits inside the shuttle on a peg.  This allows the weaver to load multiple bobbins and not have to get up each time the end of the thread is reached.  It’s taken a little bit to get used to how wide this loom is; my last project wasn’t this wide.  But once I got the hang of it, it’s rather fun to whiz back and forth.