Today we visited the Rubelli weaving mill in Como. The modern mill was awesome beyond words. This picture shows one aisle of huge looms weaving fast and loud. The cords going up to the ceiling are the cords that lift the individual warp threads at lightening (?) speed. One woman “manned” all these at once, watching to see that all were going all right. Occasionally a loom would be stopped and needed tending. The looms in the aisles were faced inwards where the women could tend them. I can’t remember how many looms there were–maybe 30 or 40.
They still use an old technique used early on in power looms to stop the loom by cutting off the power if a thread breaks. This is done by having every warp thread go through a metal thing. If a thread breaks, it goes slack and the thing falls down which breaks the current. It was interesting that the old technique is still in use. An order takes 6 weeks from start to finish with the actual warping and weaving taking 4-5 days.
This picture is of an old hand woven velvet loom. Rubelli mill had 3 or 4 but only one weaver who wove for us. These are wonderful looms and make beautiful velvet cloth.[click photos to enlarge]
Then we went to the Museo Studio Tesuto to the Ratti Foundation to see their huge collection of fabrics. Mr. Ratti collected fabrics and samples from dealers and by buying old mills themselves and their archives. He was interested in them to use for inspiration for designing textiles. At the foundation we were taken back behind the scenes inside to the storage rooms and shown fine examples of old velvet fabrics.
The Foundation is right on Lake Como. The picture here is from their building. There is another Ratti center at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Both very well funded. It was dark with a bit of a moon over the lake when we left in a small bus to take us to our hotel in Milan.
It was a busy day with 3 trains to catch to get to Genoa, Milan, then Como. Another good day.
Today we traveled north along the coast up to south of Genoa to the tiny town of Zoagli where we will see some velvet weaving tomorrow. This first picture is of the town and entrance to the Zoagli Hotel where we are staying, over looking the water. Our train passed the lovely little villages of the Cinque Terre (5 villages) where I will come at the end of the trip.[click photos to enlarge]
Here is the patio off my room and the view of the Mediterranean.
The next two pictures are from Lisio, the school where we visited the other day. Here is a draft we studied in a
heavy-duty drafting lesson for velvets which took a lot of brain power. I loved the little old loom in the last picture because of all the heavy weights dangling off of the back of the loom. Click to get a close up of those weights.
I found my selvedges splayed out and were ugly until I tried the solution in the video. I hope it is helpful. Also, I use special threads for the selvedges.
> view at full screen in HD <
I weight my selvedge threads separately almost always. I learned from Jim Ahrens that you could use stronger threads for the selvedges when you want to weave with fragile warp threads. I’ve shown the knot I use to hold the weights in many workshops and in two of my books, but it is wonderful to have a video so you can see the motions of my hands. You might still need the diagrams in the books, but I think this is a big help. The books are: Weaving for Beginners and Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth. Both have a whole chapter devoted just to selvedges.
The weaving is going along slowly. The fine, fine weft breaks, a warp thread breaks. But the warp is OK and didn’t tangle, thank goodness. There are 491 ends in about 5” width for 96 ends in an inch. The threading photo shows most of the threads treaded through the heddles. It was a 10-hour job. I was careful and there were no threading mistakes! Hooray! The 12-dent reed has 8 ends per dent. Repairing a broken warp thread is a serious issue. It would be impossible if I didn’t have the lease sticks in behind the heddles. They allow me to track where the thread belongs and find the exact heddle required.
I spent my summer untangling 10 yards of fine silk thread. The first photo shows what I had to cut off—about 8” so that is good. The second photo shows the warp on tension and what I had to do. I could not untangle every single thread, but was able to separate the threads into the groups for the raddle. This small raddle has 5 dents per inch. There are 10 threads in each raddle space. So in essence the sett is 15 epi (size of my reed) instead of 96 as I intended! It is a bit narrower at 2 ¾” wide now. The next dilemma was to find large enough threads in my studio for the wefts. When I downsized my studio space and got rid of 500 pounds of yarn, I only saved the fine threads and my linens. The third photo shows my solution for the wefts. I have these old balls that someone made up of rags ready for hooking a rug. The rags are vintage cottons from the 30’s or 40’s and are just the right width and thinness for my warp situation. The colors on the outside of the balls are subtle and faded; it will be interesting to see what they are like inside. There are prints, stripes, solids. I can’t wait to see what comes up. I need to get the loom emptied ASAP so I am looking forward to weaving these strips in the soft colors and soft rags. I might put in some rose canes and horse hair, of course. The warp threads will collapse, so I made some samples and the squiggles look nice with the rags. Off to the studio for an adventure! (All the strips are sewn to each other with a few hand stitches. I feel some wonderful connection to the woman who collected her rags so carefully.)
Here is what I’m dealing with in my studio—how embarrassing it is. I didn’t want to let anyone know about it at first. There are 10 yards of warp and the snarling started as soon as I began beaming. Thankfully I had lots of choke ties so I could work on a section at a time. I’ve worked almost all of the snarls through the 10 yards—just a foot or two left. I’ve spent hours on it. This has never happened before. The cause, I think, is that I wound the threads too tightly onto the warping reel. The fine threads are highly overtwisted and when they were off tension they just kinked unmercifully.
Part Two of the story will be what happens next. It might be a week before I can get back to untangling. I’ve really enjoyed it—the patience is soothing like a meditation for some reason. Does anyone else enjoy undoing a little tangle as much as I do? I haven’t bothered to count up the hours I’ve spent. I began the warp on Memorial Day.
I finished the wavy weft warp this week. Here are photos showing the waves in the cloth. I still have my idea of what to do with the cloth. More when I see if it works or not.
Do you know that I have a chapter on Rigid Heddle weaving in my book, Weaving for Beginners? Someone mentioned it so i thought I’d mention it, too.
I received this comment about the tie up I posted. (Search for tying up your treadles.)
“Thanks for the tie-up, Peggy! What if you have a 6 treadle loom and want to add a tabby tie-up? Is it best to put it in the middle or on the outside treadles, in your opinion?”
Here’s my opinion:
No, no, no!! The extra treadles just get in the way and offer the chance for mistakes. To do tabby put your foot between the treadles and push 1&3 with one foot and 2&4 with the other. Then you can walk the treadles. Which two treadles to not hook up you can decide on depending on how your feet fit the treadles–and what’s comfortable. Getting comfortable helps avoid mistakes. See page 2 in my third book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth.
This way to tie up your treadles is a fantastic gift that Jim Ahrens taught us. You’ll never have to tie up the treadles again on your 4-shaft looms. My looms were built by Jim; this tie-up is the only choice–because it’s so flexible. I love it and pass it along to you as my gift.
One tie up for four shaft looms
In Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, (my book #2) beginning on page 69,
I described a tie-up that never needs to be
changed, for four shaft jack and counterbalance looms. You can get all the combinations possible with four shafts with this system. Your feet can dance over the treadles for many weaves, and if they aren’t dancing, they can work very efficiently. See Figure 6. Another advantage of this system is that you can change to any weave structure you want in a project without changing the ties to the treadles.
Here is the first part of a comment from Katie: “Peggy, I love your work, especially the more transparent pieces with silk threads. I am a Fibers student at Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA and was wondering if you have any advice for a poor student as far as what sort of beginner’s loom or handmade loom to use?”
About a beginner’s loom–anything very cheap is a good start. Then it’s easy to pass it on (sell it) when you know better what you really want. I used to tell my students a good price was $100–but that’s not enough these days–say $200-$300 is what you might have to pay. Check out eBay. So my advice is not to spend a lot of money at first–there are lots and lots of used looms around that people are eager to find good homes for. Almost anything will work–if you don’t like it you can always sell it and get something else. Good, good bargains are out there. Smaller looms are harder to find. If you have space for a bigger one, you might get a really good price.
When people ask me what to charge when selling a loom I give about the same advice–people expect used looms to be cheap. You’ll never get what a new one costs. Be glad to find a good home for it.