Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Projects for a New Year

Over the holidays I have been busy with family and friends and doing a little traveling. I have a few inches of a new scarf started on the 35 yards of rayon chenille warp for scarves on my 40" AVL folding dobby. I really like the new color I chose, a beautiful blue. Somehow I thought I had enough yarn to finish it, but after checking my inventory twice, I realized I had no more. I have a cone of space-dyed chenille in blue on backorder. I don't think I can wait to get that cone so I guess I will finish the scarf in greens. My daughter reminded me that some people only like a solid color scarf. Yes, I will weave a few of those.

Meanwhile I am making a sample warp  of 2/26's wool for the 60" loom for another project. I am going to try to weave a Civil War horse blanket as a possible commission for more of the same. I must say I have learned quite a bit about the provisioning of clothing and cavalry equipment for the Civil War. The blanket, according to well-documented specifications from the Civil War era, is large, about 80" x 80",  and it was probably made on a mechanized loom. This is wider than my loom amd would have to be woven larger and then washed and slightly fulled. It will be an interesting experiment because I either have to weave the blanket "double-width" (weaver's trick) or in two panels and sew them together. My biggest problem is finding the correct size wool yarn with the correct colors AND as a stock item, no leftovers or "mill ends". My sample yarn is a mill end and when it is gone it is gone. I also think the 2/26's may be too thin or light for a blanket. Even if I can't find the right yarn I am up for the challenge.

Here is a poor photo of a reproduction blanket that I need to copy, well-washed, felted, and full of holes,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where Did That Hour Go?

I have a gadget on my 40" AVL Folding Dobby loom that I rely on a great deal. It is called an "automatic pick advance" and in theory it allows you to weave continuously without advancing the warp manually with the pawl and ratchet. It is an impressive looking piece of equipment that consists of metal gears, ratchets, pawls, a rod that go through the holes in the beater and a giant bicycle chain. One can switch out the gears to different numbers of teeth, move the picker assembly up and down the beater leg, and make a few other changes. This allows you to match the automatic pick advance to your "pick out" or the number of wefts per inch. All this is great if you can get it working but it takes a lot of fiddling, selecting the right gear and selecting the right hole in the beater. The problem is that if the "pick out" is incorrect the wefts will be spaced and not totally beaten into the warp OR the wefts will build up and then the cloth will have to be advanced manually defeating the purpose of the automatic advance. AVL provides a table with various adjustments, different gear sizes, the beater hole position etc. but much depends on how tight the warp is, the type of yarn, and even the weather! The table only provides a starting point. So that's where the hour went. For now it is all good and it is a pleasure to weave when it works correctly.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Each One Different

I am weaving down my 35 yards of warp. I am not thrilled with the tightness of the warp on one side of my loom. I know why it is happening but it really can't be fixed. I can cut off what I have woven and sort of  "reset" the warp by tying on again with the apron.  This is not a lasting fix. The tensioning system on the 40" leaves a lot to be desired. So much for that. At some point you either fix it or deal with it which is a metaphor for life in general. I am pleased with the result.

Six of the Seven Scarves Woven So Far

I have more chenille in different colors arriving in a week or so. I will probably have some warp left. Meanwhile I am preparing a sample for the big loom to see if it is possible to weave a special commission on it. More on that later.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New Chain New Design

I cut bait and pegged a new dobby chain, one that has no plastic cinch straps to confound the dobby roller. All is working smoothly now and I am weaving faster and with a rhythm. This is the aspect of weaving that I love, being able to weave quickly and easily. So after many adjustments and false starts I am now at a point where the warp tension is stable, dobby box happy, and the shuttles are tensioned for the size of chenille I am weaving. These are the things that you learn to do as you keep weaving. Some of these weaving techniques are written down in books and some of them are taught. But experience is really the best teacher and she is strict!  I have a nice mix of white and off-white chenilles. Now I am weaving a "winter white" scarf with bands and stripes. It'll be one of those "works with everything" accessories. The colors will complement every skin tone and the scarf is warm and light enough to be worn how you like.

"Winter Whites"

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Breaking the Rules

Because handweaving takes a long time to set up and get going there are only so many rules you can break. Or rather .... handweaving is a series of endless experiments and it is easy to break rules and never get a repeatable result, or for that matter, anything. Chenille is not an easy yarn to weave with. The best advice is not to create weaving patterns with more than two "floats" , maybe a three float maximum. A float is the number of warp or weft yarns that skip over the neighboring yarn(s). If you want to have a weave pattern that has longer floats you should use a "tie down" weft. That could be weaving a shot of tabby with a different yarn, end over end, between the thicker or more important weft. Done with a finer weft you can still see the pattern and you keep the chenille in control. This requires a 2nd shuttle and greatly slows the weaving speed. The problem with floats and chenille is the dreaded "worming" or looping of the chenille on the surface of the cloth. The "worms" can come out right away after wet-finishing or the "worms" can come out after the cloth is handled or worn. Not good. Chenille "worms" make for unhappy customers and handwoven chenille products can have a bad reputation, but not just from "worms". Unraveling chenille fringe is another pecadillo.

Still I break rules. My current weave pattern has 4 end floats with chenille, no tie-down weft. I completed finished one scarf and went traveling with it and so far it is "worm free". I think this is due to the fact that my warp is made up of the thick and thin rayon and some cotton yarns. The texture and weights of the yarn are controlling the chenille and I am only weaving the one pattern. Sometimes "worms" pop up between weaving pattern changes. So much for my theories and the unrepeatable warp that I have on the loom now.  My rotary temples are working very well. I have lots of chenille in some amazing colors. I weave on.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Temples are Working

Rotary Temples on New Warp

I got rolling last night with the 35 yards of warp on my 40" dobby. I had a few errors in the chain and that I have corrected. The tension arrangement on the smaller loom has always been problematic. The loom is tensioned with an adjustable cord around a disk on the side of the warp beam.  The 40" beams are small in diameter, at least the four that I have. Bigger is better. A large diameter warp beam distributes the warp tension more evenly. Commercial warp beams are enormous but they are also made to hold miles of warp. Adding the rotary temples changes where the "fell line" is, or where the beater strikes the cloth, and this changes many things. The first few inches of the cloth are kind of wonky. I wove enough to get the temples set and going. Now I have to adjust the tension on the warp beam and the workings of the auto-pick advance. I do have awesome selvedges now! The temples are working!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Building the Dobby Chain

My smaller loom, the 40" folding dobby, does not have a Compu-Dobby. It has the original arrangement, the dobby chain. I have dobby chains which are made up of dobby bars that are shaped to go over the dobby box roller. I am fat on dobby bars right now because I must have acquired over 200 that are in excellent condition when I bought the big loom. Some of those bars are organized into chains and labeled. I have the "work book" of the previous weaver and maybe I can figure out what she used those chains for. In addition I have about 100 dobby bars for the smaller loom. When a dobby chain gets so long it drags on the floor, the weight of the chain makes the dobby jam or skip. A lead pipe at the bottom of the chain loop can help but there is a limit. Each pass of the shuttle requires a pegged bar. For complicated weaving sequences a chain might have to be very long. My mentor Lillian Whipple has designs that would require a chain 800 bars long hence the need for a computerized system. I finished pegging the chain, 44 bars with blank bars as a spacer to mark half-way on the pattern and two bars for tabby. You can also easily change the direction of the chain to go in reverse. That can, depending on the weaving sequence, can give you more design possibilities. Significant changes require a different chain.  To build the chain I used a weaving program on my IPad, WeaveIt. It has a convenient module that lets you tap and advance the treadling sequence in my case the dobby bar sequence. I did this while watching the "Red Violin" on Netflix, a movie that does not require any concentration. Today I 'll see how she weaves.

Dobby Chain "Building"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Warping Errors and Loom Doggies

I am not sure I am creating the "Perfect Storm" or not. First off, and I noticed this as I was winding the warp, I missed one thread in my section box. I just never threaded that spool. So instead of having 32 threads in each 2" section of yarn, I have 31. Odd numbers aren't a great idea in weaving although they are a component of some weave structures. NOT FATAL.   Error #2: My draft was designed to use all of my 16 harnesses. When I got to the  smaller loom, it was previously threaded to run on 12, 8 for the pattern, and 4 for the selvedge threads. It would take some time to load enough heddles on all of my harnesses. So I was lazy and picked a different draft. NOT FATAL. Error #3: Then I took a good look at one of the sections. It isn't flat. Hmm, it is an outside section that includes the selvedge threads. NOT FATAl, just super annoying.

The take away? CHECK, CHECK, CHECK your work. It wouldn't hurt to have a check list. Warping is the least performed task when you weave. You will always be less experienced warping unless that is all you do.  Sometimes it is hard to remember all the little things that need to be done. I resolve to write it down.

By the way some weaving errors are FATAL and cannot be recovered from. Warps that don't weave are called,  "Dogs". Having a "Dog on the Loom" is a weaver's agony, a waste of time and materials.  They bark and howl and bite. Solution? Euthanasia. A quick dispatch with the scissors can bring rapid and lasting relief like lancing a boil.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Adding Stuff to My Looms

I have woven a lot of rayon chenille in my life but not "100%" rayon chenille, warp and weft. Honestly rayon chenille is not a warp yarn by the nature of its structure. The yarn is basically flat rayon filaments held together by a fine plied core. Rayon chenille is paradoxically stretchy and then it isn't. It is difficult to measure for warp and get on the warp beam with an even tension. Nonetheless rayon chenille has always been popular as a weaving yarn because it produces a velvet-like texture and it is very lusterous. The AVL loom with its sandpaper beam just can't hold the slickness of the rayon chenille. I have better grade of sandpaper on my little loom. It isn't enough.  I have the bitter memory of a 10 yard 100% rayon chenille warp  FAIL that went to pot after the first yard.

So what to do? I now have AVL's "final solution", about $100.00 of this rubberized beam covering for the big loom. I will see how it works. It seems like it'll work.  In the spirit of solving some long standing weaving problems, I ordered rotary temples from Fireside Looms. I have yet to install them. I was blown away by the careful packaging and the quality of the components. They look like little jewels.

What do rotary temples do? They perfect the selvedges, the edges of the cloth, by tensioning the selvedges and rolling with them. No more old school wooden or metal temples that need to be moved every few inches. I am not a fan of the paperclip and weight method either (weavers will know what I mean).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weaver's Barn Here I Come

I am a member of a very interesting weaving "guild" that is associated with the Antique Gas and Steam Museum in Vista, California.  Within the grounds that the museum occupies, mostly dedicated to old farm equipment, is the Weaver's Barn. I was amazed to find it, over 50 handlooms of all kinds, only a 5 mile drive from my home. It is an awesome place with a wonderful group of weavers who come to weave on the looms, share a lunch, and a brief meeting. I have enough looms at home so I don't weave there. Today I am bringing my spinning wheel. Yes, I do that too! I started with weaving after I bought a spinning wheel as I needed something to do with all the yarn I was producing. The link to the Weaver's Barn is here, http://www.agsem.com/museum-weavers.php. If you'd like to drop by we're there on Thurdays and on Saturday. You can drop in and do you're own unguided tour. We sometimes do guided tours for groups but by arrangement.

Interior of the Weaver's Barn, Vista,  CA.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Still Uploading

Some online advice about Etsy uploads is that you don't do them all at once. This is good because between the photography and all the questions one needs to answer, it is a slow process. Some items are particulary difficult to photograph properly. For some reason my Ipad camera has a problem with accurate blues and greens. God only knows how it will look on somebody else's computer, tablet or phone.

After much color correction, still not perfect
Meanwhile, I am ready to wind on scarves on the 40" loom,

Monday, November 4, 2013

Launching on Etsy

I went "live" on Etsy on the 2nd. The upload process takes a while and I have had to work on my photography. I think it might be a good idea to have my shawls and scarves modeled. I can do it myself but it means getting out the serious camera, tripod, and finding a location with the proper lighting. Shawls are actually a  bit difficult to photograph. They are long and all of it should show. I like to weave in blocks of color so one end the shawl can be quite different. My shop on Etsy is called MMsOOsHandweaving. Apparently no spaces or ampersands are allowed. So be it. Here is the direct link,
I am far from done stocking my store. 

Meanwhile I wound 32 spools of yarn for the warp. It is going on the 40" loom so I can install the pick advance and other stuff on the big loom. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

New Project

A friend of mine has expressed interest in buying some scarves for Xmas presents. I think I am going to put on another warp with the aim of using up some odds and ends. I still have a few pounds of the rayon thick and thin yarn and enough cotton and rayon yarns of the proper size to mix in. I will probably change how the loom is threaded. I might put all of this on the 40" loom. I can make that decision later. These are my warp yarns, the two greens are actually different yarns:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sample Warp Fini!

Last night I couldn't sleep so I got back to my loom at 11:00 and finished the 60" Compu-Dobby warp at about 1:00. That included overlocking the hem. Today I finished the hem and then wet-finished, dried, and ironed my "sample". What did I learn? The Compu-Dobby performs very well. I think the loom treadles too hard and I need to see what is going on there. The harnesses are significantly wider compared to the 40" loom but still .....? I cannot figure out how to raise the harnesses and keep them up (to check the shed behind the heddles) for the life of me with the Compu-Dobby. The pin that keeps the dobby arm depressed doesn't exist anymore on the 60". Such an easy thing to do on my 40".

I used three different weaves on the 2nd and last scarf, tabby, my psychobutdoable crepe-like random weave of my own design, and a cut down version of an "Ikat-inspired" diversified network twill. Thank you Eva Stossel for sending me the draft! When I pressed the scarf the pattern popped out.

2nd Scarf 60" Test Warp

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What a Sample Reveals

I am a believer in full-sized "samples" for lots of reasons. I already know there is quite a difference with the tension and the beater weight between the bigger and the smaller loom. A skinny sample can fool the weaver into thinking that the sett and the pick out are correct or for that matter the yarn is behaving as planned. And of course there are the color interactions between warp and weft. What might have looked good in a skinny sample could look nasty full-sized. Rather I choose to create a "prototype", a fully completed version of what I want to produce in greater quantity - on the LOOM it  will be produced on. Although the purpose of this warp was to experiment with the Compu-Dobby, I did end up with a functional "prototype". What I like: the lighter colors and my random lift plan (in what order the harnesses are raised) and the plain weave, tabby, stripes. What I don't like: the darker colors with the random lift plan, too much of a difference in values between warp and weft.

The prototype is fringeless. I feel this is nicer on a scarf, easier to tuck under a coat. How do I do my hems? I overlock the fisrt weave picks while cutting off the waste yarn. I then slighty pull up on the overlock thread tails on each end and needle weave them back into the overlock. I turn this over, over again and use a straight stitch. I press to lock the stitching into the cloth. Makes a nice secure neat hem.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Got the 10" sample going on the big loom. Compu-Dobby working correctly. The chenille obscures the pattern but I am hoping for "collapse" after wet-finishing. All an experiment. I am still getting used to the tension system on this loom. It is quite different at least compared to the smaller loom. I have the tension set very low. It advances with the sandpaper beam very easily, almost too easily, but yet the warp is plently tight enough. Oh well, if ain't broke don't fix it! The cloth is rolling up on the sandpaper beam. I am not attaching this to the apron. To get the warp threads sticking to the sandpaper beam rolling them around manually is hard to do, scratchy.  I just use a sheet of that rubberized shelf liner by feeding it between the sandpaper beam and the cloth. You you let it roll on. I use this stuff when I leave unwoven yarn for fringes. It keeps the tension consistent until I start another one. In that case I let the shelf liner "roll out". I think AVL people will get that.

Sample on the 60" AVL loom

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Progress and Loom Ergonomics

I got the Compu-Dobby talking to my netbook so now I can take the desktop computer, monitor and keyboard to electronic recycling. It is a little sad but I don't need another computer. The 60" loom has a lot more weight to lift with the harnesses, at least compared to my 40" loom. I remember going to see Jim Ahrens, to see some of the looms he designed.  One of his dobby looms had a rocker or cam close to the two treadles that every dobby has.  The treadles alternated between lifting the harnesses and advancing the dobby chain. Each leg got an equal workout. The purpose of the rocker was to make each treadle equal. It was also faster to weave on. On the AVL loom the left leg does the advancement of the dobby chain and the right does the lifting. On a Compu-Dobby-assisted loom the left leg still has to depress the treadle but it is the right leg the that lifts and swishes the dobby arm across the electric eye, advancing the pattern. After a few hours of the AVL design, especially with a fully loaded loom, your right leg can get really sore. I know because on my smaller loom I got sciatica from weaving 6 hours a day. Now I pay attention and do two important things: I beam my loom properly and I get off the bench every 45 minutes to walk around and to stretch. Bench height, the angle of the bench , and the angle of the foot to the treadles make a big difference. Unfortunately they may not be adjustable. This is why more than one weaver has abandoned the bench and gotten the right sized office chair.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Click Click Click

I plugged in the desktop computer that came with Thing 2. It came with an early version of the Weavepoint software that is sold by AVL the loom manufacturer. Since the Compu-Dobby box would be very expensive to replace I am motivated to keep it happy. The thin foam filter that protects the fan was replaced with a cut-to-size piece of air-conditioning filter. Weaving throws off lots of lint, probably not good for a Compu-Dobby. Oh yes, it needs a decent serge protector. She boots and the solenoids in the box click through their self-check. I fired up the weaving program and loaded a random design I found. At first one of the harnesses was being bad and would raise on a tilt. I checked the springs below, jumping heddle frame wires, and possible loose heddles. No luck until I look up (metaphor for life?) and see I have crossed two cables that run across the castle (top support of the loom). Uncrossed and all is well, peddle, harnesses raise, dobby arm sweeps the electric eye, click, the solenoids tap the dobby keys, and so on, click click click. Yes!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Weigh! Heigh! and Up She Rises

Not sure a sea shanty is required but the big loom is almost ready. I don't name my looms. They aren't pets but I need to distinguish. How about Thing 1 and Thing 2?  There are no more parts left under my bed or in the spare bedroom with the exception of the very large sectional beam. I can lift it but I can't manuever it into position within the loom frame. Maybe I can get a friend to help me. Next step is to test the Compu-Dobby and see how it responds to the weaving program on the desktop computer that came with the loom. It is running under Windows 95. It is frozen in time. At one time I published an international newsletter called the "Computer Textile Exchange". I remember reviewing lots of weaving programs. It is interesting to me that many of the same programs are still out there. Computer-aided weaving design can never take the place of seeing a real weft cross a real warp. The Compu-Dobby will allow me to do more real time sampling on the loom that would otherwise require pegging up a different dobby chain.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Weaving Up to the Heddle Eye: That's All She Wrote.

This is sort of a handweaver's challenge, to weave out every last bit of warp. It actually makes no sense, unless your warp is made of gold (¡ some are ! ), to coax a warp to the screaming end. The tension starts to get flakey as the leader that attaches the warp bundles to the warp beam come up over the rollers. I put in lease sticks. The last few inches are slooooow to weave. In this case it was necessary to finish this shawl, my last one of this 35 yard warp. I wanted to have some warp to do samples. I had nothing left to sample with. Not too much loom waste but it could have been better. This was due to a shorter bout of warp. I remember I taught sectional beaming at Convergence 90'. You'd think I knew what I was doing. For all the weaving I've done certain processes are not done that often.

The last shawl
Up to the heddle eye. No further can I go.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing It All Back Home

All in my car. Dobby box rides shotgun.
What is left of the 60" AVL loom to disassemble.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Not Much Left on This Warp

I am getting done, maybe three more. I will see if my calculations are right.
These need to be fringed and wet-finished. These are not all off them BTW.
Lighter colors, very nice.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Experimenting and the New-to-Me Loom

I still have about twelve yards to weave off my 40" AVL and I have been playing with some color combinations and stripes. For the most part I like what I have done.

And...  the other news is that I have purchased a new-to-me 60" AVL production dobby. It comes with a lot of extras including a 1st generation Compudobby and thankfully the old desktop computer that runs the software. I can use it on my 40" loom or leave it on the monster. The new-to-me loom weighs 450 lbs and has to be almost totally disassembled to get it into my home.
The "small stuff" in the back of my car.
A side view with the Compudobby.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Better Still

You can't really tell how the weft will interact with the warp. Chenille because of its nature (fuzzy, has a nap), and how my loom is set up, generally .... generally overshadows the warp. I like this blue, kind of a medium, what woud you say?, Cadet blue, Delft blue?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ashes of Rose

I like this one better. Last of the "ashes of rose" chenille that I have.
Need a new source of chenille. I used to buy everything from
Robin & Russ in McMinnville, Oregon. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Starting to Weave

Warp on the lower beam
Starting to weave. Navy rayon chenille. So far, so good.

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Live in Such Interesting Times

" Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour. It is sinful to eat American wheat and let my neighbour the grain-dealer starve for want of custom."

"I believe that where there is pure and active love for the poor there is God also. I see God in every thread that I draw on the spinning wheel."  - Quotes from Mahatma Gandhi 

Post from the New York Times,  US Textile Factories Return

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Going down the Internet Rabbit Hole

It is very easy to go off on tangents on the Internet. One thing leads to another and the hours pass. I would like my weaving to support other weavers. I have spent some time in Guatamala and I have a fondness for the women who work daily with their weaving. I thought this was an innovative project, http://apptechdesign.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Sita-Weaving-Wind.jpg.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Next Up

I am almost finished threading this warp, ready to start throwing the shuttle, 35 yards of the rayon thick and thin. I have a rainbow of rayon chenille to use. You never know how it truly will look until it is caught in the web. 


                                                       The finished product are my shawls. 

The Beauty of the Loom

This is a photo of my 40" AVL loom loaded with the previous warp. I put the selvedges and the twill borders on the upper beam. The body of the warp, a rayon thick and thin yarn, is on the bottom beam. I have four beams for this loom: a 1" sectional, a 2" sectional, and two plain beams. I can use them in any configuration. Different weave structures, i.e., twill and tabby, "take up" or weave at different rates. Having more than one beam allows you to tension the beams differently so that the weave that takes up faster doesn't make a boa constrictor on the loom. This is especially important when you weave longer and continuously.