I learned about honeycomb when I took a class that included overshot. Mary Black in New Key to Weaving describes it as “one that can be treadled on many overshot drafts.” Thus honeycomb is a treadling method.
As overshot, honeycomb uses one warp, generally threaded in an overshot pattern, and two wefts. In overshot, the heavy thread forms the floats of the block and the lighter thread, usually the same size as the warp, forms the background cloth. But in honeycomb, the body of the block is woven with the same size thread as the warp and a heavier thread outlines the blocks, forming the lattice that resembles a honeycomb from which the weave gets its name.
Because it had been a long time since I had woven honeycomb, I decided that in order to include it in the Pictionary©, I would have to weave a sample – and not use one that was the better part of 40 years old! Plus, I must admit that I find it hard to write about something unless I have woven it recently, or at least more recently that 40 years!
I used the simplest overshot threading which actually is Monk’s Belt, two blocks with no shaft shared. Some consider Monk’s Belts a type of overshot, some a separate structure, but even the splitters would agree that, when woven the traditional way, Monk’s Belt is a supplementary weft weave like overshot.
Below is the drawdown. The warp is orange and the cell weft is a lighter orange to show the intersections better; in the fabric it is the same yarn. The blue weft is the heavier thread.
Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window or in your list of downloaded files)
The draft tells us how to weave honeycomb but is not very illustrative of the look of the fabric that results from the draft.
Compare the drawdown with the fabric below. The warp and cell weft for this sample is 6/2 orange unmercerized cotton and the outline yarn is 3/2 Pacific blue mercerized cotton. Six shots of the 6/2 were used to weave the cells, as shown in the drawdown.
We weave two shots of the heavier blue thread, using the usual tabbies for overshot, 1 & 3 vs. 2 & 4; 6 shots of the thinner orange thread follow; we finish the sequence with two more shots of the blue thread, which are also the beginning of the next sequence.
While one block of Monk’s Belt weaves plain weave, the other forms long warp floats; these long floats pull the blue weft so that it bends around the plain weave block and compresses it – and the long warp floats are shortened. The resulting fabric alternates staggered “honeycomb” cells; in the next sequence, the block that wove plain weave now weaves long floats and the block that had long floats now weaves plain weave.
As shown in the draft and as I have already mentioned, there are 6 shots of thin orange weft per sequence, but that number can be changed. Below is a sample on the same warp that uses 3/2 black mercerized cotton with 8 picks instead of 6. The warp floats are more apparent.
Next, I decided to use the 6/2 orange cotton to outline the cells and a thinner 10/2 mercerized cotton, yellow, for the cells. This was not an original idea, but I can’t remember where I had learned about it. Below is the fabric. The orange warp ends are even more noticeable. The yellow 10/2 cotton covers the orange warp completely making the cells weft-faced.
And finally, I couldn’t resist glitz. Here is the same treadling as the original drawdown and sample, but the blue weft was replaced by a multicolor yarn from my shelf, Ausermann High Collection Holiday, 50 gm = 115 m; 82% viscose, 15% polyamid, 3% polyester.
I can imagine an evening jacket with such a fabric!
When designing with this weave, we need to remember the floats in the back. Where there are warp floats in the front, the weft floats in the back. The photo below shows the back of the 1st fabric; the orange weft floats between two plain weave blocks. An example of a weft float block is shown in the picture circled in light blue. If the floats in the back are too long, solutions could include lining a jacket, using the fabric for a pillow, etc.
There is a lot of room for experimenting with this weave; if you want to explore more, try Stacey Harvey-Brown’s book, Honeycomb Hybrids. Honeycomb for All Tastes for some interesting possibilities.
10/2 Cotton Warp on a Rigid Heddle?
In January I wrote about advice that I offered my student who had used a 10/2 cotton warp on a rigid heddle loom sett at 12 and found that her fabric was stiff and not very drapeable.
After I wrote the blog, I kept on thinking about the problem. What if somebody had realized that the sett of 12 for the 10/2 cotton was too open, after the rigid heddle was warped? What weft could I use for a successful project? I had to try it.
I dressed my rigid heddle for an 8” scarf with 10/2 mercerized cotton from Lunatic Fringe, color blue purple # 5, sett at 12. Then, my question was: what do I have in my stash that may work?
I did look at some wools that I have, but they were all too small. I found some lattice yarn that would work size-wise, but it was too heavy, and also scratchy. Then I found the perfect yarn, single spun think and thin, with the bonus of being variegated in shades of blues and green; it is “Bolero” by Lion Brand Yarn, 100% wool, 3.5 oz is 55 yards, and it wraps at 4 threads per inch, with some variability because of the thick-and-thin nature of the yarn.
Here is the scarf; it weights about 4 oz, a bit more than I like, but it is flexible and drapeable. It would have been even better if I had not beaten it as hard as I did, because the wool fulled in washing; leaving more space between shots would have resulted in a lighter scarf.
A close up of the fabric shows that pairs of warp ends snuggled together, but that did not affect the integrity of the cloth.
I generally hem stitch scarves (and most everything else); even if I plan on twisting fringes, the hem stitch holds the weft in place as I twist. When I use a larger weft, I use the warp to hem stitch, as I did here.
Once off the loom, after the hemstitching, I realized that those warp ends would make spindly fringes, a bad contrast to the lofty weft-dominant scarf. So, I wove back into the fabric all the warp ends, 96 ends on each side. With a glass of bubbly, by the fire on a rainy night, it took no time to do the job.
Here is the untrimmed end of the scarf. Once trimmed, the warp ends don’t show, as can be seen in the previous picture.
I am not sure what I would have done if I didn’t have the Bolero on hand, but solutions to weaving problems always seem to appear. I am sure there are lots of possible wefts for this warp, this just happened to be one that was handy. But the weft needs to be a lofty, fat yarn, preferably beaten lightly to make a good scarf.
Drapable Scarves on the Rigid Heddle
I received an email from a knitting student from a long, long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) asking for some help; she is just starting to weave on a rigid heddle, and she is not happy with her projects. She said that she used 3/2 mercerized cotton for warp and weft on her 12 dent heddle for a scarf and she felt that it was too heavy and not very drapable. She lives in a relatively warm climate, so she had thought a cotton scarf would be perfect for her winters. After she was done, she figured that the 3/2 cotton must have been too thick, so next she used a 10/2 cotton because she knows some weavers who use it for their scarves. She again used her 12 dent heddle. Her results were even worse, she said: she tried to avoid a flimsy, unstable fabric, but the weft packed so much that she ended up with a very stiff fabric. “What went wrong”? she asked, “What should I have done?”
For the first scarf: heavy, dense yarns make heavy, dense fabrics, which are appropriate for some uses. For the second scarf, we match the sett to the yarn, not the other way around. An open warp sett for a thin yarn is how we make weft-faced fabrics, for example heavy and durable rugs, not scarves.
Here are some ideas to answer my students “What should I have done?”
I agree that 3/2 cotton is too heavy for a scarf; I use it successfully to make table runners and place mats. In the way of a comparison, the plain weave scarf my student made, with a finished width of 8” wide and length of 60”, weighs 4.1 oz; a comparable size plain weave scarf woven with 10/2 cotton sett at 20 epi weights 2 oz., sett at 22 epi weighs 2.2 oz. Big difference in weight.
With a rigid heddle, we have to use the sett of the heddle, and 12 is about the upper limit possible because of mechanical reasons. But there are plenty of yarns that can be sett at 12 and give wonderful results. We need yarns that are not heavy or dense: wool, for example, wool and silk blends, or one of the new light weight synthetic yarns.
Here is one of my scarves with sock yarn for warp, 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon, and polyester hair yarn for weft; it weighs less than 3 oz. and it’s fluffy and fun.
Sometimes we are reluctant to use handspun on our shaft looms: we may be afraid that the warp will stretch too much, or that the yarn is not strong enough for the tension needed and it will break; and there is also a lot of loom waste. The rigid heddle is perfect for that handspun: the lesser tension is less likely to cause the warp to stretch or to break, and the loom waste is just enough for fringes on a scarf.
I wove a scarf with my handspun, commercially dyed, 65% superwash merino and 35% silk for warp and weft. The scarf weighs less than 3 oz. and it is warm. This scarf was the topic of the February 2019 blog, but here it is again.
What if I have a thin yarn that I want to use on my rigid heddle? Here is a possible solution:
The warp of this scarf is a ribbon, “Gedifra”, 100% cotton which wraps at 6 wpi; the weft is Jems Luxe Fibers, “Nimbus”, 72% Kid mohair, 28% silk, which wraps at 40 wpi. The close set of 5 epi allows the scarf to show off the variegation of the ribbon; with the thin weft, the scarf is light weight and drapable. The mohair is an added bonus, giving the scarf a halo.
The weft of the scarf below also wraps at 6 wpi; it is hand-dyed silk Sari ribbon by the Wonderland Collection; the warp is 5/2 silk from RedFish Dyeworks; sett at 12, the warp was open enough to show the weft, but the scarf would be heavy and not very flexible if I had used only the ribbon for weft. To avoid that problem, I wove two picks of silk between each pick of ribbon; one pick of silk may have been enough, but I wanted the ribbon to fall on alternate sheds.
The rules for setting a warp are the same whether we weave on a shaft loom or a rigid heddle. I won’t repeat them here, I wrote about them in my July 2019 blog. If you are unsure about what the weight of the project will be, calculate it by using the dimensions of the scarf and the weight per unit length given by the manufacturer, and double it for the weft (make sure to be consistent with units, that is, don’t mix cm with yards).
Keep those scarves light and drapable! Happy Weaving!
A Color and Structure Gamp
I was reading the book Frances L. Goodrich’s Coverlet and Counterpane Drafts by Barbara Miller and Deb Schillo and I was struck by the variations of the counterpanes which they describe in Chapter IV. I thought of counterpanes as square of a structure surrounded by stripes; some, indeed, are, but others are not squared, areas vary in size, and some others are actually called dimity, which usually have stripes of textures, also as a result of changes in structure.
Counterpanes started out, the authors say, as white summer bedcovers, but the drafts were also used for other household items and color later added. Unfortunately the subtlety that counterpanes are actually a combination of structures and not just a bedcover (or a quilt!) seems to have missed the etymologists; contemporary dictionaries and photos of counterpanes pretty much show the use as a synonym of any bedcover.
I was particularly drawn to Sarah Nelson’s Draft # 6 (page 134-135) “Huckeyback and twilled”, which reminds me of a structure gamp. The variation in this sample is both in the threading – left hand and right hand straight twill and huck – and in the treadling, to get blocks of the various combinations.
I promised myself that I would weave a counterpane and a dimity from the book “one of those days”, but I am not sure how I went from that sample to this color-and-structure gamp, I guess my mind meandered…. It is neither a dimity nor a counterpane, but fun nevertheless.
I made the scarf 8” wide, 2” each of #5 red, #5 red purple, #5 purple, and #5 purple blue, 10/2 cotton from the Lunatic Fringe, sett at 24 epi; each color stripe is separated by 2 black 10/2 cotton threads doubled. The #5 designation in the yarns is from the Munsell color system, indicating the midpoint in value for a given hue.
The drawdown below shows the straight draw threading with four treadlings: plain weave, straight twill, crepe, and broken twill. The four colors were used for each treadling, again separated by 2 doubled black threads.
Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)
Here the four sections:
Squares within squares, inspired by the counterpanes.
At the end of the broken twill, I reversed the structures and colors, starting with the broken twill and the purple blue.
And here is the scarf.
Who knows where the next inspiration will come from! But those counterpanes and dimities are calling.
Looking Forward to 2020!
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. I love visiting with family and friends this time of year, the fun parties, and the bubbly tastings, but I must admit that I get frustrated that not much handwork gets done. I keep on reminding myself that there is a reason why traditionally women put up their weaving and spinning for the holidays.
But this leads me to reflect on how much really did get done this past year and even though weaving, spinning, knitting, etc. are slow, and I don’t do it as much as I would like, the work gets completed. In fact, I have a drawer full of finished projects waiting to be photographed… I am not the only one that has gotten behind. But Terry (Dwyer, my husband who photographs all of my pieces) has a good excuse: new camera for Christmas!
Do yourself a favor, take a few minutes and reflect on what handwork you have accomplished in 2019. It’s likely more than you remember. Use a list, a spreadsheet, or a table like the one below, and edit to fit your needs. Fill it; looking back also allows you to think about your direction for the future. Are there techniques you want to try? Are there projects so successful you want to explore the topic more? Are there projects that were not as successful – what could you change them to make them better?
Here is the table filled with my favorite project of the year:
“Onde”, small shawl, 13” by 65”
Straight draw on 40 shafts
Warp: 20/2 silk, variegated greens
To experiment with irregular motifs
I tried this technique before,
“Onde” means waves in Italian; here is the picture of the piece:
When counting, I see that I have finished 20 weaving projects, with 2 more on the looms, 5 knitting projects and 1 on the needles, 2 spinning projects and 1 being plied. I believe that, for me, quantity doesn’t always matter, but quality always does.
For 2020, I have 4 weaving project to complete for the Convergence® seminars and workshop I will be presenting, then I can go back to explore the irregular motifs of “Onde” above.
For spinning, I have joined the Shave ‘em to Save ‘em Initiative from the Livestock Conservancy:
I am plying the last of the Gulf Coast wool; next will be Shetland, 4 oz each. While I doubt that I will spin all the threatened breeds in the allotted time of 3 years, especially since I found out about it late, I still think it’s a worthwhile project to pursue. I plan to knit a blanket using strips or squares in different stitches for each breed, so I will know them apart, and that may take a long time. But saving these breeds is important, so whatever contribution any of us can make is worthwhile.
Now it’s your turn: what will 2020 bring?
Happy New Year!
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