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.