This knot You Need to Learn. It will save time and frustration.
Introduction: There is a wonderful knot to tie the weights to the threads. It’s easy to undo, which is necessary every time you need to let down the weights for more thread. This is the same knot I tie for weighting supplementary warps, described in my second book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, on page 156. Here it is again along with the steps to tie it. The steps sound more complicated than they are, but if you learn it well, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation in your future weaving life because the knot comes undone quickly.
Step 1 Hold the selvedge supply taut by gripping the warp with the finger of the left hand. In this manner, the warp will be taut throughout the procedure.
Step 2 With the right hand, pull a big loop of warp through the loop of the weight using your finger and thumb. The left hand continues holding the warp taut, but now just uses the 2 fingers shown in the illustration.
Step 3 With your left hand, adjust your thumb and first two fingers to pinch the warp to the loop of the weight—the right hand still holds the loop of warp.
Step 4 With the right hand, take the loop in front of the left hand’s pinch and then behind the selvedge threads.
Step 5 Readjust your left thumb and index finger so that they will be able to receive some thread (Step 6). (You are letting go of the weight now, but the fingers of the left hand still hold the threads taut.)
Step 6 Open the pinch in the left hand slightly and accept a small amount from the big loop in the right hand.
Step 7 Pull on the small loop and enlarge it somewhat. Be sure to hold the loop in the right hand, and do not let it be pulled through by the left hand.
Step 8 With both hands pull down (towards the floor) and cinch the knot tight.
Step 9 To undo the knot, simply pull on the loop that was held in the right hand, drop the weight down, and retie.
Regular selvedge threads often get tight. The problem is solved by winding separate selvedge threads. More than anything, you want to keep the selvedge warp threads from tightening up. By weighting them separately from the main warp they can weave and take up without getting tight. It isn’t hard to do, and it ensures good-looking selvedges that weave without problems. It is more efficient to start with them as separate warps, rather than to find out mid-warp that your selvedge threads are breaking because they are too tight, or that they are becoming so close together that the shed can’t open, or that the wefts at edges are beating down too much as seen in the photo. When to weight selvedge threads separately I use separate selvedges for warps that are over 3-5 yards long. I also use them when I begin to weave if I find that the normal warp’s selvedge threads aren’t supporting the wefts as they turn at the edges.
For separate selvedges, I make 2 tiny warps—one for each selvedge—often, with 4 threads for each. I determine the number of threads to use by the number of shafts in use. That is, if there are 4 shafts, I use 4 threads, if there are 8 shafts, I use 8 threads. For more shafts, see my book Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth in the chapter on selvedges. They will not be beamed onto the warp beam with the main warp but will hang over the back beam behind the loom with weights providing the tension on them. These threads are made separately from the warp threads, may be different from the warp threads, and are sleyed closer in the reed. (More follows.) How to measure the threads Because they will take up more than the main warp, measure out the selvedge threads longer, say, 10% longer than the regular warp threads. Measure out 4 threads making only one cross—a thread-by-thread cross at one end. Be sure you separatelymake two of these tiny warps. Tie the crosses as usual and make ties at the beginning and end of the warps and at several places in the middle. It will be hard to make real choke ties because the warps are so tiny. You can wind your little selvedge threads like a little kitestick, on a pencil, bobbin, or small tube, or make a chain. Or use a little piece of cardboard as in the previous post. Put each little selvedge warp in a plastic bag to keep it from twisting and tangling during weaving. What threads to use I double the sett (epi) for the 4 selvedge threads in the outside dents of the reed. However, if the warp threads are too thick to double up, use thinner threads for the selvedge threads. With thinner threads, you can get them closer, and the selvedges look almost machine made. Be sure your threads are plied, smooth, and strong. Threading the selvedges Thread the selvedge threads one per heddle, one on each shaft: 4,3,2,1. Putting the selvedges in the reed You will put in more threads per dent for the selvedge threads. Since the warp will naturally draw in a bit, it is a good idea not to fight it, and to sley the selvedge threads more densely than the body of the warp to keep the threads from breaking. I double the sett (epi) for the 4 selvedge thread in the outside dents of the reed.
If the selvedges build up faster than the rest of the fabric, the threads may be too close together. Threads sleyed too closely may keep the weft from packing in. Also, the selvedges may build up faster than the rest of the cloth if they aren’t weighted enough.
How to weight the threads I have found the “plastic bag and pencil” way to be satisfactory, and the cardboard, too. I use clothes pins to hold the bag and the warp at the knot together, which helps to prevent twisting. The weights I like to use nuts, washers or fishing weights for my selvedges. These “weights” are small enough that I can add or subtract them in small increments to adjust the tension. You can also use plastic bottles filled with the amount of water needed for the weight. As the selvedge threads get woven, the weights and their supply of thread rise up. When they reach the back beam, they need to be let down to just above the floor. A small bag of weights is more convenient than a bottle because it doesn’t have to be let down so often during weaving since it is smaller. How much weight? Six to fourteen ounces of weight are needed. I start with 6 ounces and add or subtract, as necessary. The way to know if you need more or less weight is simple. The fell of the cloth will be straight if the weight is correct as in the photo.
If the fell of the cloth curves up at the edges towards the shafts (making a “smile”,) it means there isn’t enough weight. Sometimes, one selvedge takes more weight than the other does. Do whatever is needed so the fell is straight. It’s better to have the selvedge threads a little too loose than too tight. If too tight, the body of the fabric may pucker into the selvedges. It might not be noticeable until the cloth is washed.
If the fell of the cloth curves down at the edges towards the breast beam (making a “frown”.), it means there is too much weight as shown. When to attach the weights Weights need a loop of some kind so you can attach the selvedge threads. It can be a loop of string or a metal shower curtain hook. How to attach the weights See the next post.
Adjusting the height – If the floating selvedge isn’t high enough in the shed for the shuttle to go under it easily, raise the threads by tying loops of string around them and attaching the loops to the castle of your loom. Raise the loops so the floating selvedge threads float in the middle of the open sheds as in the photo.
Adjusting the tension – Since they don’t interlace with the wefts like the main weave, they are likely to get looser as you weave along. You can hook a weight on each one and let it slide along as the warp is advanced as in the photo. Because they don’t get tighter as a rule, they can be beamed on with the regular warp ends.
If you used separate threads for the floating selvedges, they must be anchored at the back of the loom in some way so there is tension on them for weaving. The next post will talk about how to know how much weight to add.
I love this idea for winding a selvedge thread. I learned it from the participants in a workshop I taught years ago.
Introduction: Every new weaver learns about floating selvedges. In case of any doubts, here’s where the shuttle goes and why it works. Upcoming posts will have more in-depth selvedge “talk”.
What: There will be one extra thread on each side of the warp for the floating selvedges. I sometimes add these two extra threads, and other times I just use the outside threads on the existing warp. (I make new threads if using the two already in the warp will spoil the design at the edge.) Floating selvedges are commonly used when the outside warp thread doesn’t weave into the cloth, or when it isn’t caught often enough because of the structure of the weave. Why: These floating selvedges give a warp thread for the weft to go around on every shed, so there is never a thread left dangling out of the cloth at the edge.
Where: These floating threads move neither up nor down when the sheds are made but stay in the middle of the sheds. If you are using threads from your existing warp and the warp has already been threaded, remove the two outside warp threads from their heddles and replace them in the reed. If you are using separately made threads, take them through the castle but not through any heddles and put them in the outside dents of the reed as shown in the previous photo. Tie them on to the cloth apron rod as usual. (How to tension threads made separately follows in the next post.) When: I never use floating selvedges unless they are needed because it slows down the weaving a bit. Twills that only weave in one direction do not need them. Only twills that change directions need them, such as herringbone. Use a floating selvedge when two shuttles are used so you don’t have to worry about the rotation of the shuttles to catch the outside thread.
How to enter the shed: There is a certain way for the shuttle to enter and exit the sheds to make the wefts always catch the outside warp threads. Here is what I do. Enter the shuttle into the shed over the floating thread and exit the shuttle under it. It’s easy to push the warp end down with the nose of the shuttle when entering the shed.
How to exit the shed: The shuttle naturally leaves the shed at the opposite side going under the floating selvedge. There are many ways you can enter and exit the sheds to make the floaters do their job; you just need to do it the same way all the time. I prefer the method here because it’s easy and works naturally with the way the shuttle enters and exits the sheds. Next: Adjusting and tensioning floating selvedges.
I love getting comments from my Post readers. And I love learning new things. A comment from Jon gave this threading to catch the outside warp thread. With it you don’t have to think and you don’t need a floating selvedge. I might not use it if I thought I would weave other structures besides twills in a piece, but it beats a floating selvedge if you plan a big twill project. Try to figure out how it works just from the threading.
Here is the regular 4-shaft twill tie-up. Can you see how a thread is always caught on each edge with every weft shot? Notice the circles in the tie-up. That’s because it’s showing shafts lifted. Remember that bubbles rise.
Now add the treadling. Can you figure out what the edges will look like from this information?
Here is the complete draft. The edges make a sort of plain weave. Perhaps you could thread more threads for the edges and make a border. Maybe an idea to ponder and worth trying? This is how my mind works—I’d want to do a sample first to see how the two weaves work. Now I’m thinking again…you could thread the edges: 22, 44 and 11, 33 to get a real basket weave on the edges and I think that should surely work with the twill. When I want bands of both twill and plain weave in a cloth, I often use basket weave instead of real plain weave because they both draw in the same. (If you use plain weave bands, they will turn out to be wider than the twill areas.)
If the trick is not observed: This photo shows how the outside thread is skipped if the trick is not observed when weaving twill.
Here is the trick: Always start the twill weaving sequence by entering the shuttle on the even side of the warp. The “even side” refers to the side where the outside thread is threaded in a heddle on an even shaft. For a 4-shaft twill, that would be shaft #4 or shaft #2.
If you didn’t follow the trick: If you are weaving along, and you notice the problem, you won’t want to interrupt the sequence of the twill weave. In this situation, you can cut the weft thread and enter the shuttle on the other side of the warp. In other words, if the shuttle was on the right edge of the warp and normally would be entered from that side, cut the weft and enter it from the left side. This procedure might need to be done a couple of times to get the right sequence and side of the warp to work out.
Of course, you can take the shuttle around the outside warp by hand as you enter the shed. To do this, you’ll take the shuttle around the outside warp thread and place it into the new shed. You can do it every few wefts—just to keep the outside thread woven into the cloth. Another option is to use a floating selvedge. This is the solution I would recommend if the twill changes direction (zig zags).
If your outside selvedge threads begin to splay out as shown, there is too much angle in the diagonal of the weft. You must stop this or the warps will just continue to splay out more and more.
To correct this problem, throw the next weft, and while it is still loose in the shed, tug the previous weft at the selvedge, pulling out the tiny bit of excess weft.
Then, Take up that extra weft in the new shed and beat it in as usual. The tiny bit of slack that is taken out will straighten the warps. When the selvedges are back in place, decrease the angle of the diagonal in your wefts. You should need to make this adjustment only a few times to get the selvedges back in place. If you are throwing the shuttle on the shuttle race as I recommend, the way to decrease the angle is to move the fell of the cloth a little closer to the reed.
One common selvedge flaw is a characteristic ridge or ripple caused by a combination of too much weft in one shot, and too little weft in the following shot. The ridge is produced by changing the shed before the weft is beaten into place. With each shot the problem becomes worse.
Introduction: Some weavers prefer to use packing sticks rather than paper. I prefer paper because the warp beam builds up so much more if sticks are used.
Sectional warp beam If your loom has a sectional warp beam like in the photo, you do not need to use packing paper. It is meant to wind the warp in sections. However, you can use a sectional beam like a plain beam. Read on.
If the sectional beam doesn’t have an apron rod, you’ll have to make one. After that, follow the procedures you do with a plain beam except don’t use packing paper. Attach a smooth narrow stick or dowel (about ½” diameter) to the cords on the sectional beam with lark’s head knots. If there are no cords, make some with strong string, not thick or bulky rope. Cut the cords twice the distance from around the beam to where the shafts are like in the photo. Fold each cord in half and knot the ends. Then, attach them to pegs at about 3-4” intervals to the sectional beam with lark’s head knots. Attach the cords to the apron rod with lark’s head knots. See the end of the post for how to make a lark’s head knot.
Very large warp beam If your warp beam’s circumference is very big, say, around 11” or more as in the photo, you don’t need to use packing paper.
The lark’s head knot This is another of my favorites that I find I use a lot.
Introduction: When I was teaching I used to say the teacher learned the most. I learned something when I got this comment after a post. “I thought it might be useful to add here that paper also has a grain (I think of it as a warp/weft) and will curl and fold parallel with its ‘warp’ more smoothly. So, folding the sides of the warping paper, if it is held sideways, will crinkle the paper.” I use short pieces of packing paper and I wonder if this person uses continuous packing paper. I’ve not noticed any problems when I have folded my papers for years, but it’s only because I never ran into paper that had such strong grain.
Preparing the Packing Paper The principle is this: cut the paper 4” wider than your warp is intended to be and about 2” longer than the circumference of the loom’s warp beam. For longer warps, you will need several sheets prepared—say, about one for every yard of warp length. The edges should be folded so they are double strength at the edges—these doubled areas will extend beyond the warp.
Use heavy paper such as a grocery bag. Cut off the bottom, cut off any handles, and cut along the seam so it lies flat. Fold each of the edges in 1”.
When winding in the packing paper, be careful that warp threads never travel over the paper folded double at the edges. The warp itself only goes over the single-thickness paper with the folded extensions sticking out to strengthen the paper at the edges. You may put in the paper with the folded part on top or underneath—either way of inserting the paper is all right. Make sure no warp falls on the doubled edges. Remember the comment I mentioned in the introduction. “…that paper also has a grain (I think of it as a warp/weft) and will curl and fold parallel with its ‘warp’ more smoothly.”
A Trick so the paper won’t wrinkle Also watch for paper that is crinkling or rolling in at an angle. A simple trick prevents this: Insert the paper so that it can be wound with the warp, then turn the beam a bit until the end of the paper catches in. With your thumb and forefinger, take hold at the center of the opposite end of the paper, as in the photo, right in the middle. Hold it taut there as you wind the paper in with the warp so the paper can’t wrinkle.
When to put in the paper. My teacher said about every yard. I usually put it in more often. I watch the edges of the warp building up. Just before the edge seems not to be sharp like a cliff or rolling in, is when I put in a new piece of paper. In Japan I noticed that they use small pieces of paper, too, but use them continuously.
I don’t recommend continuous packing paper because it is very difficult to get it wound on without wrinkling, and it builds up the warp beam circumference faster than short pieces put in every yard or so. Winding the warp tightly prevents the layers from biting down into one another so continuous packing paper isn’t necessary.
The “Davison” book, is a bible to many weavers. However, when I was teaching I never showed it to my students. That was because I was teaching them how to make their own drafts. And the “Davison book” taught recipes. Tonight I looked at the Table of Contents and saw there are 3 whole chapters devoted to twills. The entire book is for 4 shafts (harnesses).
Here is my own copy, the cover worn out and tucked inside. That tells you how much I, myself, have looked at that book. There are times when I’ve wanted a recipe—and to know something was going to probably turn out. And following a recipe can be fun. There are hundreds of ideas in this book all the drafts are included!
However, all the drafts are meant to be read differently from the way most weavers these days and for a long time learned to read them. It tells you so on page XII, but who reads those pages usually? Her tie-up drafts tell what shafts are to be LOWERED. Even when I was learning in the 70’s we learned to read drafts that in the tie-ups, the little o’s told what shafts were to be LIFTED. The mantra was “bubbles rise”! But in this book, there are little x’s in the tie-up drafts and that those x’s represent shafts lowered. That’s because in the olden days almost all looms were counterbalance looms and you treadled to pull the shafts DOWN. (and that made the other shafts rise!) This photo shows you what to do when a draft has x’s and the instructions are that they are for lowered shafts. You treadle all the shafts that are not indicated. So if the book wants 1 and 2 and down, then you raise 3 and 4 to accomplish the same thing. In the photo I show bubbles wherever there are no x’s. That means you raise those shafts.
This is how I learned to read drafts in the 70’s and taught my students for many years. It’s the same as the Davison book except for the tie-up drafts as I explained above. Each section is read starting at the dark solid lines dividing the quadrants. It means that sometimes, you read right-to-left and sometimes, vice versa. Sometimes, you read from the top down and other times from the bottom up. You can follow the arrows and see that they work outward from the dividing lines. An example is that I read threading drafts and thread right-to-left.
The Strickler book seems to have come out in 1991 and my copy is the 17th printing. That was when I was busy teaching theory so never discovered the book. It relates to the Davison book but all the patterns are for 8 shafts. There are hundreds of wildly interesting patterns. And the drafts are all included. I counted that there are 7 chapters on twills!
I was embarrassed recently when I was teaching some not-beginner weavers some drafting. Someone finally showed me the book and that explained why they were so confused with what I was showing. I love how she says it on page 8: “…the left end of the threading [draft] is the left side of the repeat in the photos, and the bottom of the treadling is the bottom of the repeat. So to weave as shown, read the threading in the same direction as you thread (looking at the front of the loom) and follow the treadling from bottom to top. If you thread in the opposite direction, follow the treadling from top to bottom.” (my underlines) This makes a lot of sense in today’s world. I was ashamed that I didn’t realize this “new” way.
Warning! This is what I wrote at the beginning of my drafting chapter in “Weaving for Beginners”: “Knowing how to read weave drafts and write your own is enormously satisfying and is a tremendously important part of weaving and designing, but it is not the only part to know. What drafts don’t tell is anything about the yarns, colors, ends per inch (epi), the beat or the wefts per inch (ppi), for instance. When you read directions for a project in a book or magazine, you must read every word that is written about the project. All that information is crucial to reproducing what the directions are for…. Also, pay close attention to any photographs or graphics.”
I finished this scroll today but I started it weeks ago. It hung in my hallway all this time with its art pinned to it and draped over a rod and hung with clothes pins. Yesterday I got the urge to finish it and solutions presented themselves. More about the process in the next post.
When I hung it originally I saw a wonderful thing: moire! I knew I needed 2 layers to accomplish it so I decided to hang it doubled with the hems at the bottom. Then the layers could hang freely. Moire pronounced mo-ray occurs when 2 layers of plain weave are seen together. Perhaps you’ve seen it when 2 screens are together and in other situations. See the wavy pattern showing up in the hanging? It is ever changing when you move it around with light behind it.
This shows the two layers and some moire can be seen.
The background fabric is a loosely woven linen I bought in Tokyo at a BIG fabric store. I bought it for another idea but the moire pleases me greatly. I wove it once with a fine silk in a tube. I tried it a second time with no luck. Now I think it’s more a function of the amount of space between the layers.
The art is a silk ikat fabric from Oshima, Japan. I probably made a post about it before, It’s where the resist is woven on a loom. Then taken off the loom, dyed, and then woven on another loom. It’s very expensive but we found a shop that sold pieces of the bolts. I like the whimsy here.
A close up of the weave. See how finely detailed the design is and how exactly the warp and weft patterns cross precisely? I love it.
What is a scroll? My inspiration is Japanese scrolls. They are narrow “wall hangings” that hang in little niches where art is displayed–usually a flower arrangement. Usually they are long and have a nice background with a piece of art mounted on it. I went to an exhibit in Japan a couple of years ago and the artist’s scrolls were many shapes and sizes–all with a background she chose for the art displayed on it. So that is what I’m calling MY scrolls. I’ve been matching up backgrounds and art. Sometimes parts are made by me –woven and/or dyed or things I’ve brought home from many trips. I’ve been under lock down since March 8 and can’t get to my studio where my looms are. I’ve been enjoying looking at what I have in my apartment and using what I have on hand.
Another background cloth from the striped warp in previous posts.
The background this time is plain weave. The warp threads are DMC 6-strand embroidery cotton. Someone gave me two cartons of cones of the stuff we usually see as little tiny skeins. The colors are wonderful and can be subtle. I took some light ones and some dark ones for the stripes.
Here is a close up of the art. They are shiny silk squares I cut from fabrics I dyed all with black walnuts a year ago or so. I attached them to pieces of cotton fabric (also black walnut dyed) with a museum-quality double stick tape. I love this tape and use it a lot. I got it from a bookbinding supply place in Brooklyn. The name is Talas. They have an extensive catalog and do online orders. I then attached these pieces to a flannel cloth for just the right amount of body for the hanging.
I’m thinking I have a trilogy—not a triptych; but they might hang together.
Here is a close-up of one section. In all the sections I turned the shiny squares 90 degrees so the way the light catches them makes the checkerboard pattern.
The fabric for the squares in this section was an upholstery fabric, I think. One side is silk, the other is cotton. The squares didn’t like to stay flat with time! However, it shows you how I mounted them with tiny bits of the tape in the middle of the tops of the squares.
Someone asked me about the weave structure for the background of this piece in the previous post. I realized there is a story behind it. (Just when I think I’ve run out of post ideas, something comes up to get me going again!)
This is what I intended to weave. Since I was going to use the butcher’s twine that I’d been hoarding for years, I wanted to have the weft dominate the warp to show it off. When I think of twills I usually think of balanced twills where the warp and weft show equally. That can be written as 2/2 twill. In the fraction, the top number represents the number of warps lifted and the bottom number, the warps to be lowered. Regularly the treadling would be 12, 23, 34, 41 etc. And to reverse the direction it would be 41, 34, 32, 21 etc.
For the weft to dominate over the warp I need to weave a weft faced twill. That would be a 1/3 twill with 1 shaft up and 3, down. 1,2,3,4, and 4,3,2,1. That would be easy with only one shaft lifted at a time and the weft would show a lot and the warp hardly any. (because only 1 warp would be up for each row). In the piece, I wove 16 rows one direction and 16 rows the other.
Besides that, I wanted the points where the direction of the twill changed to be crisp so special attention needed to be made. Normally one might think to change the direction at the point you would treadle 1,2,3,4,3,2,1. The point is often mush or not sharp with that treadling. What you do is at the point of reversal you jump to a specific treadle and to begin the reverse direction. How do you know what to do? Read on.
You make yourself a “twill circle”. You make a circle and put on it as many points as there are treadles for one repeat. The photo shows the circle I used for a 4-shaft twill. Wherever you end up and are ready to change directions, you jump to the point directly across the circle. In this instance if I ended with treadle 4, the next treadle should be 2. That would be the first shot for the reversed direction. So wherever my 16th row happened to land, I would always know what treadle to start the reversal with. If I ended on 1, then I would begin with 3. The lower circle shows a circle if I were weaving with 8 shafts. If I ended up on treadle 4 I would jump to treadle 8 and if I landed on treadle 5, I would know to jump to treadle 1.
However, I decided I liked the wrong side better when it was off the loom! The wrong side is the reverse, with the warp dominating as a 3/1 twill. If you look closely at one row you might be able to see 3 warps up between each single weft. Warp face and weft faced twills can be called unbalanced twills as opposed to balanced twill which would be a 2/2 or 4/4 twill, or 5/5 twill etc.
While working on this linen scroll project I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to straighten a piece of fabric. I wonder, does everyone know this? I learned it in my first year of 4-H back in Ohio. Recently I learned that taking two threads together is safer in case one breaks.
Here it’s easy to see how a pulled thread can provide the cutting line to straighten the edge of this fabric.
For the gazar silk scroll I made months ago I needed to cut off a piece from the length of fabric I had on hand. This was a slow, tedious process but necessary.
Here’s how to get a thread started. Pick up a thread or snip a bit into the cloth to pick up one. Another way is seen in the first photo. Find the lowest point in an edge and select the thread at that point.
Then just cut on your line. Sometimes when a thread breaks, I cut up to the point where it broke and pick up the thread there and continue pulling and cutting, pulling and cutting.
You can see that for a twill weave it would be a big help to have a pulled thread to cut along.
I have a lot of tips and information on end-delivery shuttles and 2 ½ pages with illustrations on winding pirns alone. Here is a brief description with out important details.
The shape you are making is a cylinder with a cone-shaped tip. To secure the weft yarn to the pirn at the beginning, start by wrapping the yarn a few times on itself around the flat part of the pirn, not where you will form the base of the cone shape. Do it before putting it on the winder. The yarn won’t “hold” if you start it on the cone-shaped part.
There are two motions going on at once while winding pirns. One motion is the overall movement from the base of the pirn toward its tip. The second movement is a swinging of the yarn, back and forth for a distance of about an inch to an inch and a half.
Your hand will only guide the thread—it should not put tension on it, because that would burn your fingers. To put tension on the thread while winding the pirns, use a tension box of some kind. By running the weft yarn through the tension box over and under the pegs, sufficient tension can be placed on the weft yarn to pack the pirn firm and tight.
Begin winding at the base—where there is a built-in-cone-shape. Wind on some weft to make a small hump, which immediately begins to establish a cone shape. This initial hump should fill only an inch or so on the shaft of the pirn. Even though the base of your pirn is already shaped like a cone, you’ll want to retain this shape and build it up a bit higher right at the beginning.
Remember to swing the yarn back and forth right from the start. At its base, the diameter of your starting cone of yarn should be just a s big as the diameter of the finished filled pirn. This diameter is determined by the size of the shuttle’s cavity.
Continue winding and swinging the yarn as you guide it, maintaining the cone shape. This cone shape advances along the pirn as it is being wound with the base of the cone always the same size. As you swing the yarn, do not swing it over the high part of the cone as it advances, but keep working the cone shape down the pirn toward the tip.
Don’t wind these pirns in sections as the manuals often suggest. Rather, keep gradually progressing toward the tip. It’s like a stack of dunce caps, or highway cones, on their side.
Here is a finished pirn. The completely filled pirn should be quite firm and end in a cone shape about ½” from the tip. It is OK to fill many pirns at one sitting.
Almost every yarn has twist (among the few that don’t are flat yarns like ribbon, reed, and metallics). Twist is what makes natural fibers hold together as yarn. It’s what makes the plies of thread hug together in a strong yarn. Even man-made fibers benefit from the twist. This post talks about slightly adding or subtracting twist by which end of a spool you take the yarn off of. These situations aren’t common, but may occur with over-twisted, unbalanced, or single ply yarns. Three major truths about twist to keep in mind:
1. In general, adding twist makes a harder, stronger yarn.
2. In general, subtracting twist makes a softer, more easily abraded yarn.
3. Twist has two directions: S twist and Z twist. You can add S or Z twist when you unwind yarn from the end of a spool.
When the yarn, as seen from the end of the spool, moves in a counter-clockwise direction as it unwinds from the spool, S twist is added.
By turning the spool end-for-end, the yarn will move in a clockwise direction as it unwinds, adding Z twist to it.
Repeating the principle: which end of the yarn package the yarn comes off from dictates the direction of the twist put into the yarn—because the yarn is coming off the end.
You can add or subtract twist not only by how you wind a pirn, but also by which end of the spool of yarn you take the yarn off of. Now, every time you wind or unwind yarn, you can slightly add twist, subtract it, or have no effect on it. How you unwind a ball of yarn determines the amount of twist as well as the direction of twist. If the ball rolls around and the yarn comes off the side, you know that no twist is being added.
If the yarn comes out from the center and off the top of a ball a small amount of twist is added or subtracted depending upon which end of the ball is on top as usual.
If you unwind the ball starting at the outside of the ball, the amount of twist being added (or subtracted) increases as the circumference of the ball gets smaller and smaller. However, if you begin to unwind a ball from the center of the ball where the circumference is small, you’ll be putting in the most twist at the beginning. It will gradually get less and less as the circumference of the inside of the ball gets bigger as it is unwound, because one twist is added for each time the yarn traverses the circumference of the ball, making more twists per inch where the circumference is small—in the center. If this is a problem (kinks in the yarn) let the balls roll around on the floor as you wind. Then any twist will work itself out before it gets to the winder.
You can always check yourself with a roll of toilet paper so you don’t need to worry if you forget all of this!
For years, I resisted identifying yarns by whether they were S or Z twist. “How could you possibly know whether you’re holding the yarn right-or-wrong-side up, I said to myself. (And I’ve heard others say it, too.) Often, I learn things when I have to teach something and this time it was for collapse weaving with overtwisted yarns. My toilet paper demo was a big help. I can’t remember how I thought it up. What is S & Z?
Yarns have two directions of twist: S and Z. To see the direction of twist of a yarn, look for diagonal lines. How to tell the direction.
Hold a length of the yarn taut. Look at it closely. You’ll see that the surface of the yarn spirals (note the diagonal lines). If the diagonal slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter S, then we say it has S twist. If it slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter Z, then we say it has Z twist. That is why the twists are named as they are. The seine twine in the photo shows S twist.
You can see how the diagonal lines are formed when you look at the toilet paper demonstration again. Which one shows S twist? Which one is the Z? Read on. What to look for.
Look for the bars in the two letters: S & Z. See that the bar in the S goes on a diagonal like the back slash on the computer keyboard: \. Also see that the bar in the letter Z goes in the same direction as the forward slash: /. Does it matter if the yarn is upside down?
Here is a gorgeous black cord I brought back from Bhutan (I think). Note where the tassel is in the photo. I see that the diagonal lines are going in the Z direction here. What will happen when I turn it upside down? See the next photo.
Now the tassel shows that I’ve turned the cord upside down, so-to-speak. It’s still Z twist! No change in direction! No matter which way you turn a yarn or look at it, the twist will always look the same!! Here’s a quick way to check S & Z that always works. (The way I do it.)
Knowing that most yarns are twisted in the S direction, and that the right hand is the dominant hand for most people, swing your right hand across your body. Start the swing with your hand at your side and swing it towards your left shoulder. That is the same diagonal of S twisted yarn! So, if the yarn in question has the same diagonal as you do when you swing your right hand, it’s an S-twist yarn. Swinging your left hand across your body gives you the diagonal for Z twisted yarns. When I’m in a yarn shop, I don’t actually swing my arm—I just swing my hand across my chest—right for S direction and left hand for the Z direction.
Why use end-delivery shuttles?
First, speed: the weft yarn never tangles or jerks, so you can throw the shuttle as hard and as fast as you want, and you don’t have to stop weaving to unsnarl a backlashed bobbin.
Second, the selvedges: they are even, not loopy and not indented from wefts being jerked or snagged.
They are more complicated to make, so they are more expensive than boat shuttles, but can be well worth the investment. Short ones are needed for narrow warps and longer ones for wider ones. (The warp width should be more than the length of the shuttle). What makes them work?
First of all, only the weft thread moves—not the pirn (That’s important because it’s the momentum of the revolving bobbin in a boat shuttle that created problems.)
Second, end-delivery shuttles have a tensioning device that regulates the tension on the thread, so the weft can snug itself up to the selvedge thread perfectly on each shot. The weaver never has to touch the selvedges. What kinds of yarns don’t work?
Wefts that are flat strips such as ribbon or metallics do not work in end-delivery shuttles because the yarn twist as it comes off the pirns. A boat shuttle must be used or the ribbon will twist and twist. (Just like toilet paper if taken off on an end.) Monofilament also will kink (over twist).
Also, really thick wefts, such as rags and heavy rug yarns, can’t pass through the tensioning device.
As the yarn is unwound from an end-delivery pirn, its twist is changed by a small amount, usually about 1/5th of a turn per inch of yarn because the yarn comes off the end of the pirn. With most yarns the extra twist is not noticeable. This twist change occurs when yarn is taken off the end of any yarn package, even cones. However, cones are wound with the intention of being unwound off the top so there usually is no problem. (The toilet paper demonstration again.) See below to know if there is too much twist.
I always like to take yarns off the ends of spools and cones because they can be taken off fast. Taking the yarn off the side must be done slowly or the yarn will overspin and tangle on the spindle holding the spool. Here is the stand I use to hold my spools and cones when warping or winding bobbins or pirns. It’s important that the thread guides for the spool must be exactly over the center if the dowels that hold the spools or cones. It is meant to be used to double up weft threads when you want to weave with more than one thread together as a single weft. With this doubling technique, the multiple threads will stay together and not separate with some making loops while others remain straight as you weave along. More information and how you can make a similar arrangement at home is in my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth on page 67. How can you tell if a yarn twists too much?
You’ll know if you’re adding too much twist if the weft kinks on itself. Conversely, if your weft becomes untwisted and pulls apart, you’ve taken out too much twist. If the yarn is somewhat overtwisted to begin with, adding even that much twist can make it more difficult to handle because of the kinks. You can always add or remove twist by turning the spool or pirn end for end. More on this coming soon.
Here is an illustration of an end-delivery shuttle. I’m having a hard time deciding how to present information about end feed shuttles in short posts. Look for more information coming soon. For now, consider twist which is a big part of knowing about these wonderful shuttles.
Instead of bobbins, pirns are used in the shuttles to hold the weft yarn. Pirns and Twist: As the yarn is unwound from an end-delivery pirn, its twist is changed by a small amount, because the yarn comes off the end of the pirn. Actually, this twist change occurs when yarn is taken off the end of any pirn, bobbin, spool, or cone. When yarn is taken off the side of a pirn, bobbin, spool, or (not likely), a cone, the twist is unchanged.
I demonstrated this effect to students with a roll of toilet paper. If I pull the paper off the top end of it, everyone could see that the paper comes off twisted. It is easy to see the diagonal lines in the paper to determine the direction of the twist. Then, I turned the roll of toilet paper upside down and pulled off some paper. Of course, it is twisted again, but in the opposite direction from the first example. The last part of the demonstration was to pull the paper off the side of the roll. Voila! No twist!!
You can change the twist by how you put the pirn onto the bobbin winder’s spindle—that is, with the base facing the motor, or away from it. Try both ways and examine which way your winder adds and which way it subtracts twist for a given yarn. Check the twist as you take the yarn off the pirn. Differently wound pirns can create a noticeable difference in the woven cloth. (More about the directions of twist to come.)
A quill is simply a tube. It can be made of paper, cardboard, or wood. First, I’ll tell you how to make a paper quill, and then I’ll explain the important things to know about winding them to reduce backlash and prevent the weft from spilling over the ends and tangling. This post is taken from my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth where there is extensive information on shuttles.
I use ordinary binder paper and start by folding it into quarters. The folding lets me cut the paper for 4 quills at once for some small shuttles I have. The length of the quills is important. They should never be so long that they almost fill the shuttle cavity. Make them no more than 2/3 of the length of the cavity, so they will unreel smoothly and not get hung up on the ends of the cavity and jerk the thread. The size of the paper oval at its mid-section is the length the quill will be. Your paper ovals don’t have to be perfectly shaped.
Starting with one of the short ends, begin winding it up on the winder’s spindle, as tight as you can, to start the tube.
Just before the paper is completely wound into a tube, take the end of the weft thread and tuck it into the paper as the last few rounds are made then, continue winding tightly so the yarn holds the quill’s tube shape. For good selvedges and to reduce backlash, the way you shape the weft yarn on the quill is crucial. Read on.
First, don’t make lumps on either end as you may have seen recommended. The lumps cause the quill to spin too fast, and we know sudden changes in speed of the bobbin causes backlash.
Instead, wind the layers flat. Make each layer shorter than the previous one. The first or bottom layer should only extend to within ½” of the ends of the quill to keep the yarn from falling off at the edges.
The final layers will be short and, in the middle, making a cigar or football shape. While winding the layers, crisscross diagonally each successive layer by moving the hand holding the yarn back and forth across the quill. Keep the spirals compact—like a slinky that is very slightly stretched. The secret: wind under very firm tension. Tight quills and bobbins unreel smoothly when they are as full as possible. The criss-crossing helps, too.
Remember never to wind yarn closer to the ends of the quill than ½”. If you do, you can be assured the yarn will slip off the ends and make huge tangles.
Rule 1. Throw the shuttle gently. Rule 2. Put tension on the weft as you throw the shuttle. Rule 3. The lighter weight the shuttle is, the better.
Here is more about shuttles and bobbins from Jim Ahrens which can be found in one of my books, Weaving & Drifting Your Own Cloth. As I typed this post from the book, I could hear Jim saying these exact words.
Rule 1. You must throw the shuttle gently so that it is not moving at a good clip when it reaches the other side with the bobbin spinning rapidly. When you use a shuttle with a revolving bobbin, the speed with which you throw the shuttle is very important. Too much speed means the shuttle hits your receiving hand with the bobbin still spinning at a good rate, extra yarn flies off, and you have a mess to untangle. Even if extra yarn doesn’t jump off the bobbin, it may spin back onto the bobbin in the opposite direction—which causes a jerk on the next throw when the bobbin suddenly changes direction back again (backlash). It takes force or energy to get the shuttle and bobbin moving, and they will tend to continue to move and spin (inertia) unless stopped or slowed down in some way.
Too little speed means the shuttle slows to a stop in the middle of the shed. Not an efficient way to weave!
Perfect speed means the shuttle and its bobbin are both slowing to a stop as they exit the shed. To overcome the inertia problem with boat shuttles you must throw the shuttle gently so that it is not moving at a good clip when it reaches the other side with the bobbin spinning rapidly. If you don’t, backlash and overspiinng of the bobbin will occur. Your weaving will be slower than with an end-delivery shuttle, but you can achieve the rhythm you need. Rule 2. Put tension on the weft thread as you throw the shuttle.
Shuttles that are mostly open on the bottom allow you to stop the bobbin with your finger underneath the shuttle to control the weft tension as you receive the shuttle from the shed. If the shuttle is closed on the bottom, read the next paragraph.
If the shuttle is closed on the bottom, your only choice is to tension the weft by touching the bobbin on the top of the shuttle.
The spindle rod should be thin, to keep down friction. However, sometimes you need to slow the bobbin down and increase friction by putting a fuzzy yarn on the spindle inside the bobbin. Rule 3. The lighter weight the shuttle is, the better.
The larger and heavier the shuttle is, the more trouble it will give you: the bobbin jerks more to start and unwinds more when stopping. The heavier the shuttle, the more momentum it has. It takes more force to throw it and more force to top it. Use this principle about lightness wisely. If you have a heavy yarn it will naturally take a larger (and heavier) shuttle.
I’ll always remember this rule because when I was a beginning student at Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts, I remember an advanced student was weaving an impressive, large overshot coverlet. Stephanie was weaving that wide warp with the tiniest shuttle I’d ever seen! She said it was the only one that “worked well”. That was because it was so light and she hadn’t been exposed to any of Jim Ahrens’ teaching at that time.
More of what Jim Ahrens taught and more can be found in two of my books: Weaving for Beginners and Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth.
Matching the bobbin to the shuttle is important. The cavity in the shuttle where the spindle is mounted has either squared-off corners or oval, rounded corners. You need to fit the bobbin to the cavity in your shuttle or the thread will jerk or jam as you are weaving when the bobbin hits the corners. Squared-off corners of the cavity are for bobbins with flanges at the ends—similar to those on the ends of spools sewing thread. This photo shows a shuttle with a squared-off cavity and the bobbin suited for it.
In a round-cornered cavity, use bobbins with extensions sticking out from the flanges. This prevents the bobbin from jamming when it hits the rounded corner during weaving. Bobbins with extensions are readily available and can be used in either type of shuttle.
You can put a small bead or a sewing machine bobbin on the spindle at each end of the bobbin if your bobbins don’t have extensions, and your shuttle has rounded corners in the cavity.
My weaving mentor, Jim Ahrens, taught us a lot about efficient weaving. We called it “production weaving” when we took his first class. After that I was an apprentice for a year and learned a lot more which is what I’ve written in my books (as well as what I learned from my students!). He had a lot to say about shuttles and bobbins. This is the first post on the subject.
Rule 1. Put some tension on the thread as you wind so the bobbin feels firm (but not so much tension that you burn your fingers.) This prevents the outer layer from biting down into lower layers and ruining the whole bobbin making it unusable. Start winding bobbins by winding a turn or two by hand before you begin the main winding. Put the cone of yarn directly below the bobbin on the winder. You could put it in a container such as a kitchen pot or wastebasket to keep it from rolling around.
Rule 2. Wind the weft onto the bobbin back and forth in FLAT LAYERS. This is important and relates to tangles. Some people wind with lumps at the ends of the bobbins but that can be the cause of tangles. That’s because the speed that the bobbin unwinds needs to be consistent—not slow and then fast. When the bobbin is wound in flat layers the speed that it unwinds is even. If there are lumps at the ends of the bobbin those lumps will make the bobbin spin faster at those areas and cause backlash. With backlash extra yarn is unwound creating a snarl on the bobbin. And then the weft jerks and cuts into the selvedge and you have to stop and deal with the tangle as well. More about backlash is in my book Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth and will be in a future post (along with how to throw the shuttle).
Rule 3. Put the bobbin into the cavity of the shuttle with the thread coming off the bottom of the bobbin. Having the thread come off in this way is extremely important so that the weft comes off the bobbin smoothly during weaving.
When I visited my sisters in Ohio a year ago, I helped finish a couple of quilts. I did the ironing; none of the precise stuff. At the very end of the process I was given the job of ironing out any hard wrinkles found on the fabrics from when they were originally on the bolt. It was easy with the special spray they had just for that purpose. Now, a year later, I called to find out what that magic spray was.
This is one of my “scrolls”. Linen background with a felted piece I made in a workshop at Slow Fiber Studios.
This is what the linen looked like when I began working on the piece. I knew I could iron it flat if I dampened it thoroughly and ironed and ironed it dry. And then was careful not to wrinkle it while handling it to put on the felt piece.
Remember this lovely gazar silk in a previous post that took days to iron flat? After that post a friend who among other things has a dry cleaner license emailed me. And she said that dry cleaners use a “wrinkle releaser”. That made sense to me when I thought of them preserving wedding gowns after the wedding when the gown would come in terribly wrinkled.
I looked for wrinkle releasers on the web and found there were so many I really was confused. Besides none of them said they worked on silk particularly. I got the brilliant idea of calling my sister and finding out what her magic potion was. This is what she uses—and has for a long time, even ironing her husband’s shirts. It’s a spray starch. It works wonders by making ironing easy and fast. Use a fine spray and test it on the fabric before ironing the whole piece to see how it works. If you get too much on, it will wash out. My sister suggested using it on the wrong side but I found with a fine spray I could work on the right side. You spray and smooth it into the cloth, then iron and quickly it irons flat. It did wonders on that gazar silk—removing all the wrinkles and making it easy to handle without wrinkling it more.
Here’s how smooth and lovely the grey linen became. I bought a gallon of it!