A Wonder Year of Weaving
I am leading a group of adventuresome weavers in a year long quest to learn as many structures as we can. Based loosely on my monograph by that name, which was prepared for a one-day workshop I taught at Convergence in Reno, this iteration takes a whole year; we meet monthly on zoom, I provide some basic information, participants do research and weave, sometimes samples, sometimes pieces, and sometimes life gets in the way, so they skip the month weaving.
During the meeting we go over the material from the past month, we have a show and tell with pictures of the work done and then we prepare for the following month. We record it all and then it is posted on my website by month, along with the all the supplementary material (click here for the link).
We are following the weave structures as described by Irene Emery, The Primary Structures of Fabrics, and during the last four months, we have been studying what Emory calls “simple weaves” – simple not by complexity, but because they have one set of warps and one set of wefts. The weaves are: plain weave, twills, satins and float weaves derived from plain weave, sometimes called rectangular float weaves, which include the lacey weaves (lacey to me because they do not form true lace, the lace makers tell me).
Since we are done with the simple weaves, it seemed like a good time to stop and assess what we learned. In a group this varied, which include people who could be leading it to beginners, it’s good to make sure that we haven’t missed anything from the big picture.
Here are the 8 questions, 2 per month, that I posed to the group. The instructions are to try to answer as many as possible from knowledge, but then to look up what they don’t know, have forgotten or need to check.
How well can you answer these questions?
(Click here for the 9-slide PDF version.)
What is the difference between tabby and plain weave?
How would you adjust the warp sett to weave a weft-faced fabric?
What is the best option for nice selvages on a straight twill woven as a straight draw?
What is the most efficient way to tie-up a 6-treadle, 4 shaft loom for a pointed twill to be woven tromp as writ?
What is the most important difference between twills and satins?
How would you weave plain weave across the width of a 7-shaft satin fabric?
What is the difference between Huck and Huck Lace?
Why is the unique difference between Huck and Bronson? (same as Bronson-Atwater)
Zoom to Satins and False Satins
When the pandemic lock-down took place, I was in the middle of teaching an in-person twill class at the Craft Center. At first, we were on hold, but as the pandemic continued, I was reminded of how much I missed teaching.
Enter zoom: I had read pros and cons of using it and how some things can only be taught in person. Maybe. We finished the twill class with successful projects and we embarked in a lacey weave class for the rest of 2020, again with successful projects. Using e-mails, phone calls and sending photos all helped. Well, we can’t touch the fiber or finished project, that’s true, but that’s also true for books, magazines, and the rest of the internet.
Talks, seminars, an interview, and now a study group on zoom all followed. In some ways it’s magical. I meet with people from all over the country; I have given seminars in the US as well to a wonderful guild in Canada; more seminars are scheduled – all from the comfort of my studio.
And even more important, my learning continues, not only from my own researching to teach and present, but also from students and participants. In the diverse group that comprises our study group, the breadth of knowledge is impressive.
For the study group month on satins and false satins I was reminded that sometimes I have forgotten to tell weavers that we cannot just duplicate the reverse of the tie-up to alternate the treadling between sateen (weft-dominant side) and satin (warp-dominant side). (See May and June 2017 blogs).
Let’s look at a 5-shaft satin:
The 5-shaft satin should have floats over 4 threads. In the drawdown above, at the joints between satin and sateen, the floats are longer, 5 threads.
This problem occurs regardless of the number of shafts used and also for false satins, shown below, where the float length should be 3 threads, but it’s 4 at the joints.
When we have blocks, whether of false satin as shown below, or true satin, the longer floats appear in both directions.
This may not be very obvious in the fabric, but it does break the rule of the satins and false satins, so it is worth to find an alternative.
Recently, I have been showing a way around the floats which is not standard. It is to stagger or offset the second section of the tie-up from the first. Here is an example for the 5-shft satin where the tie-up for the satin is offset from the sateen tie-up by one shaft:
This actually works as the floats in the above example are never more than 4-threads long. However, there is a much better and elegant solution: using the mirror image.
I learned about mirror images from books by Doramay Keasbey, but I had totally forgotten about it until Debbie Cummings came to the rescue! In researching satins, she found this true-and-tried method. It works for satins and false satins, for switching from sateen to satin and for blocks.
Below is the drawdown for the sateen and satin treadling for a 5-shaft satin.
The drawdown for the mirrored false satin for the two treadlings is below:
When weaving false satin blocks, all quadrants of the tie-up are mirrored as shown in the drawdown below:
Once we are comfortable with the concept of satins and false satins, it is actually easier to weave them by threading a straight draw and using the satin rules for the tie-up, mirrored for the sateen and the satin. This is shown in the drawdown below.
I am grateful for the opportunity that Zoom offers to carry on the teaching – and the learning.
Winter 2020: A Glimmer of Hope
Here is the shawl by that name:
With winter come the holidays and with the holidays come parties, travel and family get together, which led to more Covid-19 cases and more deaths. Unless you stay home and miss it all.
In the middle of this depressing season, came a glimmer of hope: vaccines approved for emergency use, which basically means that they are effective, but there is a lot we don’t know about them, they are mRNA vaccines, they work differently than the usual flu vaccines. mRNA vaccines have been in the making for a long time, notably for the SARS-I, but when that epidemic was averted, funding for the vaccine type decreased and thus it took longer for the SARS-II, aka Covid-19 vaccine to come into being.
Colleagues in the health care field were getting vaccinated; they talked about the few side effects, and the relief that they felt having some protection. Just a few months and we, too, could be vaccinated.
That glimmer of hope translated to green threads to me. Green seems to be a common color for hope. I used 2 threads of 10/2 green silk from RedFish Dyepworks. The fabric is plain weave, so in order to have a solid line of green, I needed two threads. Here is a close-up of the fabric:
And white is associated with winter, I guess because of the snow. Even I think of white for winter, although I didn’t see snow until I was 13 and then it was not love at first sight – my first step into the white stuff resulted in my sliding into the snow with a sore bottom. And I have lived in the South for over 40 years where I can count on my one hand, the number of snow storms we have had, most of which were gone overnight. Ironically, while I was weaving this piece, Mississippi had the worst snow storm that I can remember. The city shot down for a week.
The white warp was easy enough; I have a silk from my stash, close to 20/2. The weft I had to think about. I wanted texture, but not hair yarn, for example. I thought of textured handspun, but I only have a couple of bobbins in reds; I would have to spin some, not a good option. I looked through my shelf that holds black and white yarns and there was my answer: white silk bouclé.
I had bought several skeins of silk bouclé dyed for the colors of the Convergence® in Long Beach, CA by RedFish Dyeworks. I loved the yarn feel and look; I wove this shawl with it:
And here is a close-up:
At the Convergence® Marketplace, I wanted to buy more silk bouclé from RedFish in different colors, but they only had 5 skeins of white. I bought those, thinking that I would dye them.
The dyeing never occurred, but the white yarn was perfect for this project. I thought of using it for warp and weft as I had done for the colorful shawl above, but 5 skeins wasn’t enough: each has 150 yards for 100 grams. I used nearly 4 for the weft alone.
I opened up the sett for the 10/2 silk warp to 18 epi to accommodate the larger weft. There are 5 two-threads green silk threads dispersed over the width of the shawl, 22” on the loom; that translates to the green every 4th inch, except at the edge which ends with 3” of white.
The final shawl is 19” by 95”. This is one piece out of the Covid-19 series that I will wear, maybe to concerts for the 2021-22 season.
Stay safe and happy weaving!
Winter 2020: MS Covid Vax Tour
Here is the scarf by that name:
The name started as a joke, but it stuck; it came about because to receive all four shots of the covid vaccination, Terry and I travelled the state of Mississippi:
Greenwood, MS (Northwest) 104 miles
Philadelphia, MS (Northeast) 78 miles
Hattiesburg, MS (Southeast) 96 miles
Natchez, MS (Southwest) 108 miles
When the vaccination was suddenly opened to our age group, way ahead of schedule, the database couldn’t easily handle the 100 fold increase in demand, so we scrambled, it took us 8 hours, but we both got our 1st shots scheduled. Our second shots were easier, but the quest did take us far from home.
At first, I thought it was crazy to have to drive all over the state to get a shot, but once we got in our car for Terry’s first shot, I was actually excited to be out and about. Our few outings in the last year have been near home.
So, we were going places! At some point in our travels I told a friend who asked about our vaccinations that we were doing a covid vax tour of Mississippi. The name stack! As we were driving to our various locations, I was looking for inspiration for a possible piece (the usual scarf) by that name. All those Southern pines make quite a spread of green. But what other color? The mighty muddy Mississippi River? Brown picket fences seen in our travels? The colors weren’t working out.
The pattern was easier to think about: as our grey car zig-zagged around the state, I imagined an undulating twill.
As we arrived in Hattiesburg pulling into the facility, the new Mississippi flag jumped out at me. The MS Covid Vax Tour piece could use those glorious colors: red, gold and blue! I could use stripes in the same proportions as those in the flag.
When I finally sat down to design the piece, I found a picture of the flag, a new flag which was just approved in November 2020.
But now I was in trouble – besides the colors, we have stars. And a magnolia.
But first things first. My scarf would be 8” wide. By measuring a picture of the flag and taking the ratios of the colors, I could decide on my color proportions. Using 20/2 silk sett at 24 epi, I could figure out my ends for each color and tweak them to make them more balanced for a total of 192 ends.
|Warp Ends||Adjusted Ends|
Back to the flag. The description said: “The new flag features a magnolia blossom surrounded by 20 stars, signifying Mississippi's status at the 20th state in the union, and a gold five-point star to reflect Mississippi's indigenous Native American tribes.”
I decided that unless I did an in-lay, I couldn’t include the magnolia. And I could design stars with more than four shafts, but that loom was going to be tied-up for a while.
Then I thought: maybe a bird’s eye twill would give me enough of a hint of stars. I played with the drawdown: the blue would have the bird’s eye twill, the red and yellow the undulating twill. I adjusted the warp ends of the colors to match the pattern and I added a gold stripe in the middle of the blue to represent the Native Americans tribes.
Here is the final drawdown, missing the ending red because of space constraints.
The right and left side of the red and yellow are mirror images of each other. The “stars” on either side of the gold “star” in the middle are in two staggered rows, each 5 motifs, for a total of 20 for each repeat, 20 representing Mississippi as the 20th state in the nation.
I started weaving with a grey cotton, to represent our car, but the bright colors of the flag washed out too much. I found an 8/2 white silk from Henry’s Attic on my shelf, which was perfect: it left the colors bright and made the pattern stand out more, and, given that the scale is rather small, that was good, too.
It was only while I was weaving that it dawned on me that the white was from the magnolia – serendipity? Or was my sub consciousness at work?
Here are closes up of the two sides of the scarf:
We are all vaccinated now and the two weeks have lapsed and we hope to go back to a more “normal” life… whatever that is!
Fall 2020: Fire and Ashes, Water and Mud – Amidst Covid.
Here is the scarf by that name:
As summer gently slipped into fall, we continued our daily and weekly routines to keep body and souls together.
The inside world was good enough, but the outside a disaster. By Labor Day this country had 22% of the world’s deaths, even though our population is only 4%: 183,000, the numbers are both staggering and numbing. And unemployment, failed businesses… and then racist violence.
Just as we thought we couldn’t handle anymore, Mother Nature lashed her anger. Fires out west, tornadoes on the Gulf Coast – heart-wrenching devastation.
I turned to my weaving.
The colors from the reports were vivid. The colors would tell the story.
I found some 5/2 silk that would be appropriate for the rigid heddle, with a sett of 12. Starting with the red fires turning to black ashes on one side, and starting with aqua, turning multi-colors of brown, greenish, blackish, as the water retreated and left mud. The ashes and mud met in the middle. The red seemed to have given away to grey in the virus, but there is red for blood from the violence, too.
I envisioned a slightly warp dominant plain weave, to focus on the colors. So, for weft I thought I had just the perfect yarn: a multicolored black to white silk, with lots of greys. When I found the yarn on my shelf, although I still love it and I have used it in a couple of projects, it was bigger than I had remembered. It was worth the try, anyway.
I made the hem with some of the 5/2 black, thinking that it would work better than the multicolored silk, especially if I decided not to use that silk.
After weaving a few inches, the result was a weft-dominant fabric with irregular stripes of black, grey and white. Not the look I was going for. Back to the drawing board for weft.
On the shelf there was a big cone of an identified grey cotton, unmercerized with a nice sheen, which wraps at 30 epi, probably 8/2. I tried it. It worked perfectly. Large enough to make the fabric stable, but small enough to result in a warp dominant scarf, not adding to the weight and keeping a good drape.
So, I wove away and finally got to the end. I hemmed it with the grey cotton. Time to unroll, only to stop dead on my tracks. I had completely forgotten about the hem with the fat 5/2 black silk at the beginning of the scarf. I tried to convince myself that it would be all right, but I wasn’t convinced enough to take the scarf off the loom. I left it overnight to make a decision.
The next morning, in the bright light of my studio, the original hem looked even worse. I decided I would use the grey cotton and hem the beginning of the scarf before I cut off the black silk hem which I could use as a guide. I sewed the hem and took the scarf off the loom.
As I was about to cut off the original black hem before wet finishing, I noticed that the grey hem from the night before was not straight. Sometimes I caught 2 weft threads, sometimes 3. Now determined that it was going to be right, I cut off the new grey hem, placed a white guide thread up to where the hem should catch and hemmed it again. This time it was successful. I was able to pull out the white guide thread and cut off the black silk hem. Finally ready for wet finishing
I am thinking that this scarf took longer to hem than it did to weave! But it’s done. Here is a close up.
Meanwhile, winter started rolling around…..
Stay safe and happy weaving!
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