I’ve been intrigued about moiré for many years. I ran across some samples and when I picked them up and saw light behind, I immediately saw wonderful moire patterns. Voila! These double weave tubes produced moire if seen backlit but only then. This photo shows that two layers superimposed can or cannot make moire, depending on the set up. I put a card behind a portion of the piece to show how it looked lying on a table and hanging with light behind it.
Here is the same piece as a little hanging. Art!
Another little moire piece I discovered and made into a little hanging.
A third scrap turned into a hanging just by hanging it up.
Here is one of my original pieces where I discovered moire.
Moire sometimes isn’t desirable. This is part of an illustration in my book Weaving for Beginners in the Rigid Heddle chapter. Again, 2 layers superimposed can cause the moire effect. Perhaps you’ve seen in when 2 screens are next to each other.
This photo is from my go-to book for textile definitions. For moire it said, “see Watered”. The definition: “Term used to describe textiles in which a rippled or watered effect is produced by pressing certain ribbed fabrics in such a way as to flatten parts of the ribs and leave the rest in relief. The flattened and unflattened parts reflect the light differently. Synonym: moire”. From Warp & Weft A Dictionary of Textile Terms. Dorothy K. Burnham. Royal Ontario Museum, 1981. Now that I think of it, I think I had some fabrics like that from Uzbekestan, and we went to see the big callerending machine that pressed the ridges.
I got the idea for pads of graph paper when planning my booth for CNCH. I was thinking maybe some weavers might have questions and it would be much easier to work on graph paper that was on a pad like a tablet. I love my padded graph paper now. I took a sheet to my copy place and voila! They made copies and made them into a pad. So much nicer to work on a cushioned surface than on my desk which usually is full of papers. And I can rip off pages as I make variations or keep them together.
While I was at it, I thought if I wanted to help anyone plan a project, working on a padded surface would be nice, too. These are my project worksheets that I always use. They are in my book Weaving for Beginners. Someone asked if I could put them here on the blog so it will be easier to make copies than from the book. I first posted them on my blog 9 years ago in 2013. I posted them again in 2016 after I had 598 subscribers. Now after 2,135 subscribers, I’m posting them again—but this time with the pads idea. There are two sheets but often I just need one of them for a different version. So, I made each sheet on its own pad. You can download both sheets HERE
I use my worksheets to calculate the many things needed when planning a project. When I was starting out, I was always worried that I’d forget a critical calculation. Now I don’t worry about forgetting.
People loved these balls of rags. I do, too. I bought them in an antique shop in New York. I will sell them along with other textiles from my collection in a sale next year. Stay tuned (become a subscriber if you are not already one).
This needle book caught the eyes of many people, too. A weaver had one and I had to make my own. In this previous post, I explained how I wove it. See it HERE
Here is the second needle book I came across. Check out this previous post for a lot of needle books that I have now and love. See it HERE
Hi fellow weavers! I have a beautiful Ahrens loom I would love to donate to an enthusiastic intermediate or above weaver who is mechanically minded and familiar with Ahrens or AVL looms. I live in San Francisco, and you would need to move the loom. There are 25 cement steps to get to the loom. And the loom is heavy.
Send me an email if you are interested. Be sure to tell me why you are the person for this loom. And thanks for helping find a home for my very neglected Ahrens loom.
Introduction: CNCH (Conference of Northern California Handweavers) was last weekend. There was a whole lot of excitement and energy for the exhibits, Tableau (fashion show), classes, and vendors. I had a booth and bonded with the other vendors. Here is who else had booths and enticing things to sell. I didn’t sell anything but visited with a lot of weavers, friends, and enthusiastic new weavers. It was thrilling to meet up with so many who knew of my books, blog, and also my name!
Amazing Yarns is located in Redwood City in the Bay Area. The shop specializes in unusual hand spun and hand painted yarns and classes. They also have hand dyed yarns for knitting, weaving, crocheting and roving and fleece for spinning, dyeing and felting. www.Amazingyarn.com. Phone 650-306-9218
Carpool showed a lot of beautifully dyed yarns and fiber. I asked about the company name: a lot of travels caused it. They can be found on facebook.com/lisamendezmakesthings. Lisa dyes all the yarns! 773-507-8582
Ephemera Creations had beautiful “small batch hand dyed yarn”. They are dyed in Humboldt County, California. The photo of the booth says it all. www.ephemeracreations.com. Instagram & Facebook: @ephemera.creations.
Eugene Textile Center had a large booth that looked just like a store. You name it, they had it: Yarns, books, looms, spinning wheels, tools, and everything a fiber person would like. The store is at 2750 Roosevelt Blvd., Eugene, OR 97402. Phone: 541-688-1565. email@example.com.EugeneTextileCenter.com
Lunatic Fringe Yarns. “Unique Yarns for Unique People!” They are known for Tubular Spectrum yarns in all the colors on the color wheel. Their newest line is “GevolveYarns. They are from the unique collection of Giovanna Imperia. www.lunaticfringeyarns.com. Phone: 800-483-8749
Peggy Osterkamp. I had my booth to visit with old and new weavers, colleagues, and students. The large pieces on the back wall are examples of textiles in my collection which I will be selling in the future. www.PeggyOsterkamp.com. Instagram at PEGGYOSTER and on Facebook.
Junco Sato Pollack is a nationally and internationally known artist. She served as a cultural ambassador for a while, at the same time, her interest was always to find ways to do 3-D surfaces and forms by combining fabric and layered techniques. She has used a variety of techniques in fiber. These include weaving, surface design, sculptural work, heat transfer printing, and paper making. She is Professor Emerita of Georgia State University where she taught in the Textiles Program.
In one very early series of her art were silk hangings woven in damask with printed warps. After the cloth was off the loom, she added silver leaf which was adhered to the woven surface by screen printing adhesive and pressing silver leaf onto the surface. The silver leaf in this hanging has tarnished to dark grey.
This detail shows more of the damask patterning in the cloth itself. The silk damask has screen-printed warp images of ivy. Then she adhered silver leaf leaves on the woven surface. The weave is a 16-shaft damask.
Reed and Sett Junco tells that “Japanese silk hand weaving is mostly plain weave based on tsumugi fabric which is hand-spun weft on plied reeled silk warp. The weft is coarse, but both warp colors and weft colors are interactively visible. (What we call tabby.)
“So, denting is usually double dent, and this is why we have so many fine reed numbers per inch, ie. 45 coarse, 55 medium, 65 fine. Double dented, they become 90 epi, 110, 130 and so on. Thus, achieving well distributed warps and no dent lines, called “shirome” (white looks) of lines.” (What we call reed marks.) The photo is of a bamboo reed of mine I have “ for show,”
Besides being an artist, ambassador, and teacher, she has grown silkworms and reeled out the filaments. The reason for raising silkworms was that she wanted to create 3 dimensional raised patterns on silk fabric. That required the use of sericin-rich silk threads to create the thermo-plastic silk for a 3-D surface. She wove in “shibori binding stitches” while on the loom, and heat set the pleats after the stitched-in threads were gathered up. This process is now called “woven shibori.” By weaving on a jibata loom, it was easy to create an extra harness to weave in shibori stitching threads. Images of her work can be found at JuncoSatoPollack.com.
This is a diagram of how the Japanese traditional jibata loom works. A loop of string attached to the loom’s heddle stick and the weaver’s toe is how warp threads are moved to make the sheds. The backstrap of course lets the weaver lessen and tighten the warp as needed. This helps to make clean sheds with dense warps of fine threads.
Jim Ahrens (a part of AVL as you all know by now) taught us Ashenhurst’s way to calculate sett that industry uses. It’s especially handy when winding such very fine threads on a ruler would be difficult! I use this method and teach it to my students. This worksheet is in my book, Weaving for Beginners, and the information also is in Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle (in the big chapter on sett).
The Ashenhurst formula calls for the square root of the yards per pound. I don’t even have a cheap enough calculator anymore and certainly don’t remember how to find square root. What to do?? I Googled “what is the square root of 30,000.” That was a yardage Molly McLaughlin gave in the previous post. The answer: 173. Then I multiplied 173 by 0.9 (on iPhone calculator) to get 155 for the diameters in an inch. That’s a calculation for the wraps per inch concept. According to Ashenhurt’s Rule you should then divide the diameters by .5 for plain weave or .67 for twill. However, it looks like Molly skipped that step and took 80% of the diameters to come to 124.5 for 120 epi for her 30,000 ypp silk. Previous tips on my website explain the calculation more thoroughly. See them HERE. Here are two Tips: “A Weaving Tool: Ashenhurst’s Rule” and “Good Reasons to Use Ashenhurst’s 80% Figure”.
Introduction: I can’t thank Molly McLaughlin enough for all the information she generously shared. She’s been weaving for over 30 years and has developed her own unique weave structures to weave beautiful, intricate, and exciting art pieces. This post is about her work and the fine silk threads she uses. Master Weaver, Lillian Whipple has been weaving for over 50 years and has all the qualifications as Molly but her comments supported Molly’s so much I chose to include them as comments. Molly is on Instagram: @mollymclaughlinsfiberart. Lillian is on Facebook and it’s a good idea to Google her.
This picture is of Molly’s Oxaback loom. This is what she mainly uses because countermarch looms make very clean sheds easily. You can see it in her crowded studio by looking through her Nilus loom in this phot
Reed and Sett Molly uses a 40 dent reed for different circumstances and doubles up the threads in a dent as required. Double cloth is sett at 360 epi. Single layer cloth is 120 epi. For linen she has used 100 epi but would like it more dense. These setts are for twill based ground cloths. She gets the reeds from the Woolgatherers (woolgatherers.com). They are specially made by a reed maker in Germany.
Silk and Other Threads 120/2 at 120 epi uses 3 ends per dent. There are 30,000 yards per pound 240/2 at 200 epi uses 5 ends per dent 260/2 at 200 epi also at 5 ends per dent. 40 gauge copper she setts at 80 epi Molly also uses a nylon thread sett at 60 epi (for tabby based ground cloths)
Notice that all of the silk threads are 2-ply and they should be of good quality, smooth and not at all fuzzy. Lillian Whipple says, “The thread must be beam-able. If I can’t beam it, I throw it out.”
I wondered how Molly could get a hook into such a fine reed. Her first answer was she cut one out of a plastic clam shell box—with the warning to put some color on one end or “you’ll never find it when it falls to the floor!” Ashford makes a thin one that will work if you put it through the middle of the dents where the wires are more flexible. Lillian Whipple told me that she uses her threading hook, which is thinner, to sley her fine reeds.
Beaming Beaming is done with 1-inch sections on a warping wheel on a plain beam with a 1-inch raddle. Look behind the heddles where you can get a glimpse of the raddle. Molly stressed that beaming is critical. Lillian uses a warping drum.
Heddles Both Molly and Lillian use Texsolv heddles. Molly had no trouble with metal ones up to 120 epi on 8 shafts. She went to Texsolv because they use less space and are much lighter to lift.
“Over time I have worked to reduce the necessary number of shafts. Currently, I prefer to use 4 shafts for a single weave and 10 shafts for double weave. However, I space the shafts on the loom so that there is a space between each shaft, so 4 shafts take up the same amount of space as 8 shafts. This separation of shafts makes it much easier to avoid mistakes in the threading and to fix broken threads. I used to try and spread the warps over as many shafts as possible to reduce friction and heddle density, but I found that less shafts with more space between them made life much easier.”
“Along the lines of keeping things simple, I only weave double cloth if the shifting of layers will make it easier to actualize the cartoon that I have created, generally with a 3D component. Otherwise, I stick to single weave…here is an example of a design that called for double weave.”
“At the moment, everything that I am producing is being created with the intent of going to some large shows this fall and winter, so nothing is currently available for sale. But, I am including a photo of the piece that is currently on the Nilus, because it is pretty.” Molly McLaughlin.
Introduction: A teacher loves to teach. In fact, when I want to procrastinate, I compose a new post. That means questions and comments are welcomed. That also means no question is a bad one! In my blog I hope to teach and give good techniques that will make your weaving a pleasure, not a hassle. If I don’t have a good answer to a question, I’ll ask experts for their advice. That’s where I am now on the issue of fine threads. Several expert weavers have shared their advice and I’m working on how to present it all. I’ve often said, “The teacher learns the most.” And, “It’s the bright people who have the most questions because they can read what I’ve said in different ways.”
One student in a workshop said, “I pray when I’m warping.” I said, “I don’t want you to have to pray. I want to teach you good techniques, then you can be as artistic and creative as you want.”
I learned to weave at Pacific Basin School of Textiles in Berkeley, California in the 70’s. The curriculum was structured and full of the principles of weaving and designing woven textiles. Each term’s class relied on what we’d learned before. I had a year’s sabbatical from teaching in a junior high school in San Francisco. So, I took the full year’s courses (plus some night classes after I went back to the classroom). I spent another year as an apprentice with Jim Ahrens, the “A” in AVL in a production weaving studio at the school. When we moved to Washington, DC someone in the guild there asked me a question. That was the minute my weaving life and teaching life collided.
“THE ONLY THREAD THAT CAN’T TANGLE IS ONE UNDER TENSION.”
Jim Ahrens, the “A” part of AVL.
Tangled threads are a major obstacle to confident weaving. They’re troublesome in themselves and they can cause threads to become uneven, snag, and break. The underlying purpose of many of the methods I teach is to keep threads under tension. And most of the techniques have been used for centuries around the world for efficient, production weaving.
Generally, the chain keeps most warp threads organized enough so that they don’t tangle. However, some yarns (for example, linen) can be quite “jumpy” or springy and tangle easily as can a large number of fine, silky threads. I recommend winding the warp on a kitestick instead of making it into a chain so that the threads are always on tension and thus, can’t tangle. In the case of a large warp made in sections, you would have each section on its own kitestick rather than in several chains.
Introduction: Tal Saarony’s posts have led me down a wonderful “rabbit hole” for information about fine threads. I’m still gathering information from very experienced weavers, so I’ll start with how I’ve dealt with fine silk threads. You can see some of my sheer pieces by checking out my Gallery and the photos for on the headings for the various tabs on my blog. Check out my post from April 9, 2021 “Unwinding Skeins of Very Fine Threads” HERE
When I was planning my “ruffle warp” all I knew was that I wanted the cloth to be sheer. That meant neither the warps nor the wefts could be close together. Here’s what I remember how I determined the sett (epi). When Master Weaver, Lillian Whipple asked a reed maker for a fine reed he said, “I can make one as fine as 75 dents per inch, but you won’t like it. It will be too fragile.” He suggested putting a threading unit in a dent instead. Going on that advice, my first silk threads were threaded at 96 epi with 8 threads per dent in a 12 dent reed. Since I wanted sheer and an open weave, the reed marks weren’t a problem for me. Another thread was finer yet so I sett it at 120 epi with 8 threads per dent in a 15 dent reed. Both Lillian and I used a warping drum when beaming. I think I’ll try a trapeze the next time because it won’t take so much space in my studio. Lillian’s drum is no longer made by AVL and I had mine built. Directions for it are in my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps (newly available in print).
To make it easier to beat, I decided to weave double cloth thinking the two layer’s worth of threads would give more friction in the reed. That meant ½ the epi was in each layer. I don’t know if it helped, but it turned out that the tube made the ruffles. That was a lucky surprise.
Introduction I see I made a post about unwinding skeins of fine threads exactly one year ago today, the day I am making this post. See it HERE.
There were a lot of comments responding to Tal Saarony’s previous two posts. It was mentioned that swifts work better mounted like a Ferris wheel rather than a merry go round. I remember hearing that from my mentor Helen Pope when I encountered my first umbrella swift. However, I probably didn’t remember it all the time.
In Japan fine silk threads were wound on this kind of spool. I bought some when I realized that the circumference is larger than a spool’s and that has made it easier to wind off skeins of fine threads.
It took a special winder for the spools.
Here is the skein holder that goes with the Japanese winder. Note it is positioned like a Ferris wheel, too. Another commenter said that the yarn coming off the skein should come off the bottom. I was told when you can’t find an end to pat the skein from the inside so the end could fall out and show itself.
I bought a cone winder with a skein holder attached from ETSY that came from Hong Kong. I haven’t tried it yet—too many other things to do before I go back to fine threads again.
I bought this skein holder in Bhutan. Simple with straight sides unlike an umbrella swift. I think they all used the same size skeins in a workshop, but it wouldn’t be hard to exchange the bamboo sticks to change the size of the holder.
I bought this treasure years ago and finally sold it to an antique dealer.
This came along with the one above and went to the same dealer so someone else can enjoy it.
The skein winders we had at school and grad school were all of the swift, or umbrella, type. This one is a random picture from Amazon:
I struggled with the umbrella swift as I struggled with all things weaving. There are so many processes, so many tools. I am not technically gifted. When, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I asked my teacher to help with my first mess of a warp, he said he had never seen a warp with so many crossed threads. He had been teaching for many years, so it was quite an accomplishment on my part.
Over the years I only ever used the umbrella swift. I didn’t know there were other types (this is pre-internert). As the years passed, my swift and I developed a mutual aversion made more bitter by co-dependence.
I will explain the reasons I dislike umbrella swifts; just a caveat — I’ve only ever used wooden ones.
1. They can collapse. No matter how much I tighten them, I can never be sure they won’t collapse while I wind or unwind. This by no means happens every time, nor does it happen frequently, but the few times it has happened (during many years) make me distrustful and fearful of them.
2. The wooden ones are never smooth enough for my fine silk yarn. The yarn snags on the wood.
3. They are narrowest at their center and expand in width outwards, so the length of yarn per rotation is not equal and a skein will have within it different lengths of yarn.
4. They don’t rotate smoothly.
The skein winder I use now is this:
I bought it on Etsy. I like it much better than the umbrella, although it too is not perfect. It rotates smoothly and the yarn is generally the same length. But:
1. there are many nuts and screws. The nuts do loosen if not checked regularly. I have had an arm fly off once during an intense session at high speed with an electric bobbin winder (sorry, that sounds vaguely obscene).
2. While the yarn rotation length is in theory the same — the space on the metal yarn holders being flat — I tend to apply too much pressure while winding, and the front of the metal holders gets pushed down a little, making the yarn toward the outer edge shorter than the yarn toward the inside.
3. It is adjustable for different skein sizes, but some skeins will be loose because you can play around with the pre-drilled holes, but obviously the available combinations will not be perfect for every size. I haven’t had a major problem, but it is something to consider.
4. It has a dinky handle to help rotate when winding, but the handle is quite small, more of a peg, really, and it fits loosely into one of the holes, but is not very stable. Sorry, it’s not in the pictures.
Tal lives in Belmont MA, a town adjacent to Cambridge. She graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Hello genteel and/or uncouth followers of Peggy, My name is Tal Saarony and I have been weaving for many years. I belong to the tribe of masochistic weavers who enjoy, while cursing like a sailor, battling with very fine yarn and, on occasion, inlaying patterns with several complicated treadling sequences, e.g., different overshots, into each row of weft. Not for me the simple life. These days I’m more of a plain weave kind of person, a balanced-weave tapestrier (in contrast with the weft-faced kind), but it still takes me hours to weave a full inch of cloth.
I recently asked Peggy a question she thought the rest of you might like to know the answer to, and she generously invited me to share a post with you.
I will add some pictures of my weavings at the end of the post for your perusal.
I recently bought some very fine silk yarn in skein form.
I needed a way to store it so that I would be able to cut pieces off to use for inlay in my weavings. Normally I use bobbins for yarn storage, but I would have had to buy a large number, probably about a hundred, and I was hoping to avoid the expense. I don’t use regular-sized bobbins and shuttles — my shuttles and corresponding bobbins are very small. While, to my thinking, you can never have too many bobbins of any size, it seemed silly to buy a hundred bobbins just for yarn storage.
Here are bobbins and a cardboard spool I have. I normally use the middle bobbin.
I came up with the idea of a bobbin that would have very wide flanges that would allow me to store the yarn on. I thought I invented this ingenious idea and in my mind’s eye was seeing the pots of money it would be bringing in, but apparently such spools have already been invented. Probably two thousand years ago. But I didn’t know this, and enthusiastically made a wonky paper prototype.
Before embarking on mass production, I sent an email to Peggy — whose knowledge and deep understanding of all things weaving is unparalleled — and to another master weaver friend, Bhakti Ziek. Both warned me kindly but firmly of the dangers of collapsing flanges and the ensuing loss of yarn and sanity. Peggy explained it thus: “Big problems if the flanges aren’t VERY strong. They will pop off and make a mess as the spool fills. As a spool fills, more and more pressure is applied to the core of the spool, squeezing it dramatically. That is what can cause the ends to pop off. A lot of pressure is being applied to the flanges, too as more and more thread is wound on.”
Both Peggy and Bhakti alerted me to the existence of cardboard and plastic spools such that I desired. The dreams of pots of money evaporated in an instance. I would have liked the plastic spools, but, alas, finances dictated cardboard. The spools are available at Halcyon Yarn, and also at other yarn and weaving tool stores. I have been sternly warned that the flanges of the cardboard spools have been known to pop off when the spools fill up, with catastrophic results.
I have not had this problem. Although my spools don’t look very full, the yarn is extremely fine and, in my estimation, there are tens of thousands of yards on each of the spools. Some of the skeins took as long as half a day each to wind on an electric winder (admittedly with frequent breakage).
The current spools are reinforced with metal. Check for that when you buy.
And so I invested in 30 spools.
Here is a skein of silk yarn on a skein winder being wound onto a cardboard spool mounted on an electric bobbin winder with which I have a love-hate relationship. Please excuse the tissue that sneaked into the picture. I assure you it is snot-free.
Spools wound with my silk yarn.
The inside diameter of the spools is larger than my Leclerc bobbin winders. I have one electric and 2 manuals (and don’t get me started on how much I dislike them all. Are you listening Nilus Leclerc? Contact me for design tips on how to make your bobbin winders user-friendly, weaver-friendly, human-friendly). The electric one is at least 30 years old and the others older; I skeptically wonder if newer ones are made differently (why improve something inadequate if it has been selling for years). For the electric one, Bamboo skewers — not much thicker than a toothpick, but longer — and insert it along with the spool onto the winder. The skewer will be destroyed with each removal of a spool from the winder, so you will need a packet of them. It takes a bit of trial and error to get just the right length of skewer sticking out toward the body of the winder. Push the spool inward as far as you can but leave about a 1 mm space between the spool and the wooden base.
The skewer method works with manual winders too, but it makes an unholy racket; they’re, annoyingly, noisy enough already. I found that wrapping some masking tape (you will later have to scrub off the sticky residue, so there’s that to consider) around the shaft works better.
The photo shows the end of a skewer peeping out. Note that the spool is pushed almost all the way to the wooden base and pushed a little bit onto the thicker part of the shaft. In the background is the manual winder with masking tape that was shredded when I struggled to pull the spool off.
Peggy expressed concern that you, the reading weaver, might be dazzled by my paper spool and rush to make your very own. Do not! Should you attempt to use such homemade crappy specimen, you are sure to end up ensnarled in a tangle of yarn; tearing at your hair; clawing at your eyes; and muttering incoherently, until your loved ones are forced to ship you off to a suitable facility.
Happy winding, and do heed the warning re homemade spools…
Mosaic Photos These are my most recent weavings. The pink ones are off the loom, but not cleaned up yet. The blue are still on the loom, the last two pictures are the same piece, still in progress. Click the first photo to see it larger and the details then use your arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate.
My last post was about my sampler that came before my overshot wall hanging. In the final piece I corrected the draft for the circle to make it symmetrical. That is, I used the rule about turning blocks. You’ll find it when reading the instructions for drafting overshot.
Here is the circle I began with which was in my sampler.
In the wall hanging I made more circles at the top but with white pattern weft as well as white tabby weft for white on white. An idea to think about.
Here at the bottom of the hanging you can get an idea of the drafts I used from the sampler. For most of the hanging the texture won’t give a clue as to the blocks threaded in the sections.
The draft I used directly from the sampler was in sections 2 and 4. The corrected circle draft was used for the sections 1, 3, and 5.
I made the texture by just treadling the same pattern block over and over. With the tabby wefts as usual. The warp is a smooth rayon and the pattern weft in the textured area is a nubbly yarn. The tabby might have been the same as the warp or some other appropriate smooth yarn.
Here is the finished wall hanging that followed a very ugly sampler.
When I learned about overshot and designing for it, I wanted to try everything in my sampler. So, a different technique/design went into each of the four sections. The outside sections were similar 2-block overshot on 4 shafts.
In the section with the big X, I designed a large circle. The other middle section I designed for the optical blocks you can see further on. My other idea was to graduate the colors of the pattern wefts from dark to light—not thinking about what the yarns themselves looked like!
Here you can see both the 4-block circle and the optical circle. In 2 blocks.
Looking closely I noticed my circle wasn’t symmetrical. I had disregarded the instructions for threading turning blocks. (So that’s what turning blocks are all about!)
Progressing along with various yarns and techniques for overshot threadings, my sampler became more and more ugly.
Near the end I was just wanting to get to the end, so I tried weaving the same block over and over. I made the last section the same as the first hoping it would transform it into something nice—didn’t work!
When thinking about what my final project would be my teacher asked what my favorite part was. This repeated-one-block design was my reply. And that was enough to start me on my final design. More on that the next time.
When I was taking the double weave class at Pacific Basin Textiles in Berkeley, CA in the 70’s I decided on combing several ideas in my final project. I wanted to make a color blanket plus I wanted to try an optical illusion of a triangle laying on top of it. At first it seemed like a great simple idea.
I wanted a black frame which meant its own double weave block. No one said that all the blocks had to be the same size, right? So, one block was the color blanket and the second block was the black borders on the sides. (More on the top below). That meant 8 shafts.
I wanted the fringe to show so the viewer could appreciate how the original colors of the yarn were altered by the weaving.
My loom had 2 more shafts which I used for a separate warp for the triangle. I probably used both shafts when one would do—just because—and it spread out the dense grey yarns more that way. In a sense, that meant 3 warps with wool yarns. I never thought that it might be difficult to open the sheds. But because I had a loom built by Jim Ahrens (AVL) the sheds were not a problem.
I picked up the yarns as needed with pickup sticks for the triangle. Otherwise, they just floated in between the two outer layers.
Here’s the back of the hanging. This way I could see how black crossing all the colors would look. Also, I arranged the colors in a different order from the front side.
For another experiment, I made the border grey so I could see how grey crossing all the colors would be like.
At the top, I had to weave and extra piece to get the black border and I sewed it on. Inside, for a flat rod I used a sturdy flat metal bar.
What I learned. Right away I saw that I didn’t like the way mixtures of colors of strong value differences looked. Much later I learned that colors blended better when they were closer in value. I thought at the time I was seeing lots of samples of color combinations. I never consulted the blanket for that purpose, but I will always remember that I don’t like dark purple and bright yellow as a yarn mixture!
Order “Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps” HERE.
Introduction: The newly printed book has complete information on beaming the warp as expected plus an extensive chapter on sectional beaming. (Along with all the calculations and illustrations you’ll need.) However, there is an unexpected chapter about combining sectional and plain beaming. Here are two ways to think about it.
Strategy I Make a warp as for a plain beam and beam it on a sectional beam.
Measure a 1” or 2” section on the warping board or reel, depending on the size of the sections on your beam. In sectional beaming, many weavers do not make any crosses or choke ties. I always do. Instead of a threading cross, they use tape to keep threads in order.
Just as in plain beaming, you load a raddle or pre-sley a reed to spread out the warp. In this case, the raddle is a short section of a raddle or coarse reed, used in place of the front reed on the tension box. Put the whole section of warp together as one “ribbon” over and under the pegs in the tension box.
Attach your section of the warp to a cord on the sectional beam.
Wind the warp to fill a section of the sectional beam.
Make sure the warp exactly fits in between the pegs so the thread layers can beam on absolutely flat. Angle the tension box or rearrange the threads so that the layers are flat—they can’t build up or slope down at the peg. This is the most important step in the process. If the layers aren’t flat, the threads won’t be the same length or tension.
Strategy II. Make a section on an AVL warping wheel and beam it on a plain beam.
Make the warp, one section at a time on the warping wheel. If your raddle has 1” sections make 1” sections of the warp on warping wheel. (You make the bouts (sections) the same size as the spaces in the raddle.)
The cross-maker is an accessory to the warping wheel and is installed on one of the spokes. It easily makes the threading cross.
Load the raddle. Tie on the raddle’s cap I several places—or if it doesn’t have a cap, loop a string figure-eight fashion, or stretch rubber bands around the teeth of the raddle to keep the threads very securely in place.
Attach the raddle to the loom and wind the warp as usual. This idea came to me from Mary von Tobel from St. Louis, MO. Note: She attaches the raddle onto the loom first and finds it easy then to load the raddle as a section is made.
“If you can talk them out of tying on in front, you will be doing them a big favor.”
Jim Ahrens to Peggy in 1995
Here are the advantages and an excerpt from the chapter.
• You tie only one set of knots. The warps are automatically on tension, and you don’t need to waste time or yarn by tying onto an apron rod.
• Because the warps are always under tension they can’t tangle or break or invite mistakes. (When you pull loose, untensioned threads through the heddles, loops and snags are inevitable.)
• Keeping the threads under tension at all times is the key to pulling the knots through the heddles easily.
• You get a perfectly wound warp on the warp beam without any knots on the apron rod.
• You can accurately spread the warp on the warp beam. When working from the front, you wind the warp onto be beam after the knots are tied, using the reed as a guide to keep the warp spread to the right width. The reed is a long, long way from the warp beam, and as the knots pass through the heddles, the heddles can actually scatter the warps.
• With many looms, you can be much more comfortable tying at the back.
For the first few times at least, you’ll find tying the square knots much easier with a firm support to tie against. A board placed beneath the knot-tying area gives your thumb something to press the ends against while your fingers tie knots. It’s like having someone put their finger on the knot while you tie a bow! Later on, you may be able to tie the knots “in the air” without the support, but I still like to use one.
Position the board beneath the knot-tying area, midway between the back beam and the shafts. If your old warp is short, position the board closer to the shafts and adjust the warps so your knot-tying area is above the board.
Support the board on the side framework of your loom, or on lary sticks, or suspend it from long loops of string tied to the loom’s overhead structure. …
The top of the board should be on the same plane as the warps. It should be sturdy and in no danger of falling, so experiment with C-clamps and string, if you need to, to get a firm work surface.
When I was writing the book, I wanted to explain the tension system on the Ahrens looms I had and on AVL looms. Since Jim Ahrens is the “A” part of AVL and I was consulting with him when writing my book, I had to make sure I made it clear. I could never explain right. Finally, Jim said, “You still don’t understand it, I’ll tell you a story that I think can explain it. The system was used centuries ago; in fact, all the looms in Diderot’s Encyclopedie (1751-17172) show it. It might have been discovered like this story.” Hence “A Fairy Tale” on pages 140, 141 repeated here.
Once upon a time long, long ago before there were ratchets for looms, ways to tension the warp were very primitive. One day a weaver found a new way to put tension on the warp beam. He put a sturdy stick, like a peg, vertically in his warp beam, hooked a rope on it, wound it around and around the beam, and hung a big rock on it. With the weight off the floor, he had full warp tension, and he was very pleased with himself. As he wove along and advanced the warp, the rope wound up on the beam and the rock rose higher and higher off the ground. Prety soon he had to stop because the rock was up on the warp beam, and he had to unwind the rope to let it down. Then he wove along until the rock got too high, stopped to unwind some rope and let it down again. This worked fine and he was very, very pleased with himself.
One time when he was unwinding the rope, he pulled out the peg and the rope slipped off the stick into his hand. He was surprised when he held the end of the rope, that he didn’t have to pull hard on it at all to keep the rope from slipping around the beam. In fact, he could hold the loop in the end of the rope with one finger and the rope around the beam didn’t slip. The big rock still hung in place putting full tension on the warp!
He had been winding the rope, say, ½ dozen times around the beam, so he decided to see if he could wind fewer times. He found with only 3 turns on the beam there was still not much weight needed on the end of the rope. So he hung a small rock on the end of the rope and began weaving.
As he wove along, the big rock rose and the little rock fell until it hit the floor. Then the most amazing surprise came.
When the warp threads were lifted to open the shed, the beam rolled forward slightly, raising the big rock and lowering the small rock to the floor. The little rock touching the floor took the tension off that end of the rope for an instant. As soon as it did, the rope slipped a bit on the beam. As soon as the beam slipped, the big rock put tension back on the rope pulling the small rock up off the floor again. The slippage let the warp move forward a few thousandths of an inch—just enough to compensate for the take-up of the warp for the weft!
The big rock was off the floor, obviously, while the small rock dangled just above the floor, where it bounced and dangled on and off the floor as he wove along.
Not he didn’t have to get up and unwind the rope to let the big rock down! He could weave along continuously, and the big rock would hold the full warp tension. The little rock would let the warp beam slip a bit with each weft and also would let it slip when he advanced the warp. The two rocks remained in these positions all during his weaving. This pleased him very, very, very much.
When the shed closed, our weaver realized that the beam rolled backwards to its starting place. The tension on the warp threads never changed even when the warp threads were lifted to open the sheds, because the wight (the big rock) was always the same. This was perfect for fine silk warp threads that couldn’t stand the stress of stretching with old locked beam systems. He was enormously pleased with himself!
Rocks (with on rock ten time heavier than the other) and the weaver’s invention are still used today! (Peggy’s note: I’ve seen this over and over in my travels.)
When Jim Ahrens began using the wight-counter weight system he tried the two weights and noticed the two weights jerked when the rope slipped. Then he got the idea to use a small spring in place of the counterweight. The spring let the rope slip slowly so there was no jerk or sudden change, just smooth weaving. He came up with the idea on his own, but never claims to have invented it; he said, “I always found someone else had done the things I worked out on my own.”
When he needed to make smaller looms, there wasn’t enough room for the big weight so he substituted a heavy spring for the weight. “It was no big advance, there was no place for the weight,” he said. It works the same way as the weight and small spring. Today some AVL looms use the two-spring system, and some use an arm with a weight and the small spring.
The heavy spring (or weighted arm) puts the tension on the warp; the small spring is the counterweight. When the shed opens, the warp beam rolls forward a bit loosening the tension on the other end of the rope at the small spring. The rope slips a little. The heavy spring takes over again, putting the rope back under tension. When the shed closes the warp beam rolls back to its starting point. The slippage is a few thousandths of an inch, and the warp stays under constant tension.
As you crank the warp forward you exert more force on the warp than the force of the weight or heavy spring, causing the cord to slip. This allows the beam to turn and the warp to unwind.
Jim prefers using the combination of a heavy weight and the small spring because he can beat harder than with just the two springs. But the double springs are a good enough substitute if you don’t beat too hard.
Order your copy of Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps HERE
Introduction: The chapter is comprehensive, but I want to give a glance at what is there. Much more information is required to fully understand how various looms work and are adjusted. This is just a short introduction.
Part 2: Preview of How Looms Work
These looms have shafts that only move up when treadles are pressed. The top of the shed is made by lifting shafts and the bottom of the shed is where the warp threads rest and remain unmoved. Any number of shafts can be lifted: from on to all-but-one, making this loom favorite of American weavers because of this flexibility.
Often, but not always, the mechanism for lifting the shafts is a “jack”—a lever with a pivot in the middle. The levers work like a balance scale in that when one side of the lever (jack) is pulled down by a treadle, the other end goes up and lifts or pushes the shafts upward. Jacks can be under the shafts or above them. Usually there are two jacks for each shaft, one at each end.
A few looms are made so the shafts go down when the treadles are pressed. The weight of the foot on the treadles keeps the bottom of the shed flat. I’ve only seen one sinking shaft loom: it was my first loom, and it was homemade.
When shafts on counterbalance looms are tied to a treadle, the shafts go down when the treadle is pressed and the untreadled shafts automatically go up like a balance scale.
There are rollers, pulley, or short bars called horses that are attached so every shaft has a balancing shaft. The action is like a balance scale in that what goes down with the treadle forces a matching set of shafts to rise. Only the shafts that are to be lowered are attached to the treadles.
The weight of the foot on the treadle keeps the bottom of the shed down and forces the top of the shed to stay up. With gravity working on your side to lower the shafts and with the counterbalance action, the shafts can be very lightweight, and you can weave faster and easier. If the loom is deep enough it can make large, clean sheds with the warp under high tension.
Countermarch systems vary but all of the systems are designed so the shafts are both raised and lowered. The shafts work independently rather than being connected to each other like in counterbalance looms. Between the shafts and the treadles there are two sets of lams, which are levers or bars. The upper set of lams is usually shorter and the lower set of lams, longer.
Most countermarch systems have above each shaft a jack or a pair of jacks (levers with pivots in the middle). When one end of the jack is pulled down, the other end goes up.
The lower set of lams is attached to the jacks overhead, and the upper set of lams is directly attached to the bottoms of the shafts. Think “Long lams lift; short lams sink”
The sheds are made by tying up the treadles so all the shafts that are to be lifted are connected to the lower set of lams, and all the shafts that are to sink are tied to the upper set of lams.
Usually, the lams pivot at the side of the loom (like railroad gates); however, some countermarch systems are designed with lams that are not attached to the side of the loom.
Order your copy of “Warping Your Loom & Tying on New Warps” HERE
Introduction: In this post I share the beginning of the chapter about shed geometry which applies to all types of looms. In future posts, I’ll briefly explain how different looms work. The complete chapter in the book has comprehensive directions on how to adjust jack, counterbalance, and countermarch looms.
Part I: Why to put the most threads on the first shafts.
Before the loom is ready for weaving, it may be necessary to adjust it so the warp, treadles, and lams are in the best position to make good sheds, to make the best quality cloth, and to make your weaving comfortable. If the bottom of the shed isn’t flat, the shuttle will skip threads as it passes through. If the warp isn’t the correct starting position, ridges can appear in the cloth.
Many weavers know counterbalance and countermarch looms need special adjusting, but they don’t know that jack looms can need some adjusting, too. Before you can adjust anything though, you need to understand how things ought to be and why. A little bit of loom geometry also helps in many situations.
Weavers know that when the shed is open to receive the shuttle, some warp threads are up and some down. But it’s also important where the bottom and top of the shed are located, and where the shed itself is open the most. If you visualize the open shed, you know that it is open the widest at the heddle eyes, where the individual warp threads are being held up and down. The size of the shed gets smaller and smaller going away from that point, until it barely opens at all at the fell of the cloth (the last weft woven) and at the back beam. In the illustration you see a shed but there is also an extra cord with a weight at each end going through the center of the shed. I call that a temporary diagnostic string. It can help clarify where the top and bottom of a shed are. For a clearer view see the final illustration in this post.
To help to understand lams, treadles, and sheds, think of a railroad crossing gate. Compare the size of a gate crossing a country lane to the size of a gate crossing a wide boulevard. When the longer gate swings up and down, its far end must travel a great deal more distance than when the short gate swings up. But the gates are alike where they’re attached at the pivot—neither moves much distance at all. When either gate swings up or down, its far end moves a much greater distance than the pivot end. Another way to help visualize the different distances travelled whether you’re close or far from the pivot point is to think of ice skaters making a pinwheel. The ones nearest the center of the circle move very little, while those at the outside have to skate like mad and skate much further to keep up.
I use these images in teaching whenever there is an angle or a pivot on the loom: sheds make angles; treadles, lams, and jacks have pivots. These principles can guide you through setting up and adjusting any kind of loom.
The application of the gate idea explains why in some looms (especially those with many shafts), the shaft that is the farthest away from the fell (the “last” shaft) is designed to raise or lower the threads more than the front shaft that is closest to the fell. See the illustration. This means that all the warps threaded on the back shaft travel more than the other warp threads—taking more effort from you to lift or lower them. For this reason, if some shafts in a weave draft have many more threads than others, put those threads on shafts near the front of the loom, e.g. shafts 1 and 2. This creates less strain on you and the threads. You won’t have to lift the threads so high, and the threads won’t have to move so far.
Some looms raise and/or lower all the shafts the same distance, and the threads lifted by the back shaft aren’t raised higher than the front ones. See the illustration. Notice that the threads on the last shaft are getting lower and lower as they approach the fell of the cloth, and at the position of the beater where you throw the shuttle, the threads on shaft one are lifted higher than those on the back shaft. This is another reason to put the most threads on the first shafts. Notice also that the height of the shed is reduced by the threads from the back shafts. This also might be a feature to keep in mind when buying a multi-shaft loom.
The depth of the loom from the shafts to the back beam allows the shed geometry to work or not. Remember, the pivot or stationary place at the back of the loom is the back beam and the moving end of the railroad gate is at the heddle eyes, where the warp threads go up and down. If there are many shafts, there needs to be enough room for the threads to move the distance required. If the loom is too shallow, it puts too much strain on the warp threads and tends to prevent the shafts from moving.
My point is that some looms simply don’t work very well because their designer didn’t understand loom geometry. For this reason, I don’t recommend building a homemade loom. A lot of effort could be put into a loom that won’t work well.
As promised: an illustration of just the temporary diagnostic string. It is used when adjusting looms.
Almost a year ago I sent my books to a shop in Australia, called the Weaving Room. That’s when Sharon Harris, the owner of the shop, 13,000 km away contacted me because she thought my 2nd book needed to be back in print.
Then a most beautiful thing happened when we two women who don’t know each other, worked together across the world to produce an “amazing book “(her words) that has been out of print for years. The First Edition came out 26 years ago and has been in demand consistently ever since. This is the Fourth Edition.
It has been available only as a pdf for several years until now.
The cost may surprise you, but 26 years after the first books were printed costs have increased as you can imagine. The price will be $55. For those people who bought the original pdf, I offer a 15% discount off the new printed edition. To take advantage, send a message in the comments section with your name, address, and email address. (I have a record of all who ordered the PDF). I’ll email you how to send your payment by PayPal.
The cost of the PDF will remain the same as before: $27.50. I’m thrilled to see it in print again. When I look at the chapters, I see that much of the information is valuable and not in any of the other books at all. Of course, thorough explanations of warping the loom are included. In addition, there are chapters on: Sectional beaming, Tying On New Warps, Adjusting Looms, Two or More Warps, Designing Random Stripes, Knots and more. In a future post I’ll show example pages. I think you’ll see that “having her books at your loom is like having a patient, knowledgeable teacher at your side” as the back cover says.
A couple of years ago my tech guy suggested we make a Kindle booklet on hemstitching since it was the number one inquiry in my weaving tips section on my website. I use it at my loom every time I do hemstitching. The second booklet is on knots—something I thought really would be useful right next to the loom on an iPhone, or other devices.
The slip knot is my absolute favorite knot. I can remember the days when how to tie it was so elusive. It was shown to me over and over but I just didn’t “get” it for a long time. I guess I learned it by trial and error until it became as familiar as my right hand; my hands knew how to tie it. It was a big part of the motivation to include a knots chapter in my book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps. I wanted to SHOW how it was tied so others could learn it. I’ve included it below. (The whole knots chapter is in the Kindle booklet. See below.) Slip knot A slip knot is a temporary knot that secures a single thread or groups of threads. Its reatest asset is that it can be quickly untied with a jerk with one hand. It’s often used to tie groups of warp ends after they have been threaded in the heddles so they won’t slip out. Every weaver should know the slip knot because it is used so often—whenever you want to secure something temporarily. It’s my favorite knot, and it’s the one I almost always automatically tie—just in case I’ll need to undo it.
To make a slip knot: To make the first loop, you can use either the tail or the standing end, whichever seems easier to tie in the situation. In this example I’m using the standing end, but you could just as easily make the loop with the tail and proceed as follows.
Make a loop. (I take the standing end over the back of my left hand or over a few fingers and cross the standing end on top of the tail of the string.) Hold where the hreads cross in a pinch between your thumb and forefinger.
Reach through the loop with the right forefinger and thumb and grasp the standing end and pull it through the loop, so that it makes a loop within the first loop. (If you were to begin the knot with the tail making the first loop, and the tail were being drawn through as the second loop, make sure you pull the tail only part way through, not completely through. If you pulled the tail through, you wouldn’t have the second loop.)
Be sure to tighten the knot until you feel it bite. To do that you pull the loop and the tail in opposite directions.
To release the knot: Just jerk on the end you made the loops with, in this case the standing end. I made this little booklet so you could have it on your iPhone or other devices. Want to know how to tie a weaver’s knot? There are 3 ways shown as well as “how to undo a weaver’s knot. Of course, square and granny knots are included, as is the lark’s head knot, and other knots for weavers. I like it because you can have it at the loom up close when you need it. The cost is $2.99 and you can order from Amazon.
Introduction: Log cabin weave has been mentioned in previous texts: 5/15/2019, 1/27/2021, 1/29/21, and 2/8/2021 and. You can search for them by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper right area of this home page and typing in “log cabin”. Be sure to use the quote marks. Then hit Enter and the posts should show up. You can search for your own ideas in the same manner.
The simplicity of the design of this shawl makes it truly beautiful and very wearable. In a previous post (Dec. 2, 2021) I mentioned a quote I found from Anni Albers: “It’s the middle color that’s important/interesting.” This very large supple shawl is a fine example. Here we see sections of dark, medium, and light values.
The dark areas in the corners stand out. The mixture of black and white form the middle value on the bottom and sides. The light value area is in the middle.
The main part of the shawl is the pattern that weavers call “log cabin”. Its mysterious pattern intrigued me so much that I wove it in my beginning weaving class project. This can be woven on a rigid heddle loom with 2. Go to the post dated 1/27/2021 .
In my book, “Weaving for Beginners” I say: “This is a weave with vertical and horizontal lines appearing in the cloth. It is actually plain weave but looks like an entirely different structure. When the structure is disguised by the colors of the yarns, we call this phenomenon, “color and weave effect.” These weave effects are based on dark and light threads in the warp and/or the weft.”
Here is how the dark and light threads are threaded in the heddles. You can modify this threading to make vertical as well as horizontal lines. Look at the threading closely at the next illustration. Under the letter “A” note that the dark and light yarns are threaded (reading right to left) dark, light, dark, light, etc. Now inspect the threading in the area at “B”. The colors are threaded LIGHT, DARK, LIGHT, DARK, etc. The same principle works for the rigid heddle loom’s 2 shafts.
You will need two shuttles: one shuttle with dark yarn and the other with light. Vertical and horizontal lines will appear as you weave along when you use the appropriate weft color with the appropriate lifted shafts. Read on.
Throw the shuttle with the dark yarn when you lift shafts 1 and 3. Thrown the shuttle with the light yarn when you lift shafts 2 and 4. You should see vertical and horizontal lines appearing. This is shown in the illustration for the top section of weaving.
When you weave the reverse of what you did in the first section: by throwing the light shuttle when shafts 1 and 3 are lifted, and the dark shuttle when shafts 2 and 4 are raised. You will get the opposite result with the vertical lines being where the horizontal lines were and vice versa.
Again, the same principle applies for weaving on a rigid heddle loom. When you throw the dark shuttle on the front shaft, lines will appear. When you throw the dark weft on the back shaft, the vertical and horizontal lines will reverse.
NOTE THIS TIP: Look at the illustration and notice that the horizontal margins of the blocks are more distinct where two dark wefts are shown woven one after the other at the second section change. You can make both the horizontal and vertical margins of the blocks solid colors (outlined) if you make both the warp and the weft changes with the dark threads together. In the threading, have two dark threads together at the edges of the sections to make the vertical margins. Weave two dark wefts together at the section changes for the horizontal margins. If you want the blocks to float, use two light colors as above, instead.
My New Year’s resolution is to work on the data base for my collection of textiles. It’s a pleasure to get things out and look at them again. This is the back of an under kimono. Women liked to wear red under their proper outer kimono. The silk is silky, the hem is padded, and the size is ample. I love it and decided to hang it for a while in my bedroom. The last picture is the most precious one.
Here is the front. Hard to imagine it all being covered up by an outer kimono. It must have made a woman feel good.
Here is a close look at the patterns in the outer fabric.
The lining of this under kimono is extremely special because it was dyed with safflowers. You can tell by the color. It generally is fugitive, meaning it fades in time. The lining is almost tissue thin. A hidden treasure. It must have felt sumptuous to wear.