How You THROW the Shuttle Effects the Selvedges: Three Rules

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.

Introduction:
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.

How You CHOOSE Your Bobbins Makes for Good Edges

Introduction:
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.

How You Wind Bobbins Prevents Tangles and Makes Good Selvedges:  Three Rules

Introduction:
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.

Wrinkle Releaser: A Miracle

Introduction:
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!

An Afghan Weaver Revisited: Helen Pope

Introduction:
I was lucky to have three mentors in my weaving/art life: Dominic DiMare, Jim Ahrens, and Helen Pope. You remember her afghan in a previous post. This post is to show how she inspired me and so many others. Besides the afghans, she experimented with many textile techniques. She founded the Special Sample Service which was a popular booth at our weaving conferences. She didn’t want little dinky samples; she wanted them 5” x 7” or so—large enough to really get a feeling for the textile. Attached to each sample were the directions and notes from the weaver. At first, she asked famous weavers to submit; but for years it was she herself who contributed the most and local weavers (including me) contributed as well. Oh yes, the highest price for a sample was $2.50. She was adamant about that.

Helen wove these bookmarks well into her 90’s. She got great pleasure from seeing how many designs she could invent with one threading on the loom. All 7 of these pieces were on the same warp. Here is what she wrote in the notes for ribbons she wove with the same idea on 8 shafts when she was 90: “There is no end to the fun you can have. Weaving has always been something I do for pleasure. It does not have to be practical or a great work of art.” (See how she inspired me?)

She mounted the bookmarks in a plexi frame as an art piece.

Here is a lovely art piece she made. It’s about 12” wide.

This is a piece knitted with linen thread.

Color was important to her, even with the samples she submitted every year.

There are purple and green threads in this piece. She had a good color sense.

This is a joke—a sample for a dish cloth woven with steel wool!

“Pink Drip” Every year she had one of her “drips” at the conferences. And pink was her favorite color. She challenged herself to see what 3-dimensional pieces she could get by folding one piece of cloth.

She avoided having her picture taken for years. She sat for this portrait by Ranghild Lanlet when she knew an article about her would be in Handwoven Magazine. Orchids were a passion. There always were some blooming in her house. Her family gave her orchids away at her memorial and I still have mine after 20 years. It blooms just after Christmas.

A Good Reason to Warp Front-to-Back: An Afghan Woven by Helen Pope

Introduction:
One of my mentors, Helen Pope, wove gorgeous afghans while warping “front-to-back”. My students know that I prefer the other way, “back-to-front” but in this case, she is using the better technique. I realized that I would never have thought of designing such a project with my back-to-front mentality. It would be nearly impossible to wind the warp with all the yarn changes going back-to-front. Her afghans proved that even something that isn’t very efficient, can be done and can be lovely—and the effect is worth the effort. (Read at the end for the pattern for knitting her fringes.)

Helen made two very different afghans on each warp and gave them to family members and special friends for over thirty years. (She made mine to go with my sofa at the time.) She had one loom devoted to them. Mohair was always in the warp (and weft, I think.) and she brushed one side to raise the nap.

The weave structure was double weave in three blocks so threading was complicated.

Helen carefully chose and dyed her textured yarns. She often combined more than one thread to make up a warp yarn.

There were many warp threads per dent. She tied each new warp onto the end of old ones so she never had to thread the heddles again.

I saw her beam on a warp one day—there must have been 6 or 8 warp chains! It was a tedious business untangling the yarns while beaming—but was worth the work. Threads in each dye bath were in separate chains. She had baby bathtubs as dye pots.

Helen was very particular about her fringes. In this afghan, she kept the warp threads from each layer separate. Often the fringe color was so changed by the wefts she used that the fringe no longer worked with the woven part. In those cases, she knitted the fringes in appropriate colors and sewed them on to hide the original threads.

From Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book:
“Knitted Fringe: Any yarn can be used. This can be used doubled, trebled, or quadrupled, according to the yarn used and the weight of fringe desired. A cotton fringe is better quadrupled, which necessitates the simultaneous use of four balls of cotton, the four stands being held together and knitted as one.

“Cast -on a number of stitches divisible by three. (Helen cast-on 9 stitches for a 5” fringe with 1” braid. I think her notes on the page meant that she knitted 2 1/6 yards for 5” fringe with 1” braid.)

“With 6 stitches on the needle, cast-off three only, and finish. Unravel the remaining three stitches, unravelling the entire length of the knitted strip, until one side presents a fringe of even loops, while the opposite side has the appearance of a knitted braid. This is then attached to the fabric with an overcast stitch. To straighten the fringe, dampen it, and allow it to hang straight, and dry.” From Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, page 128. 1938. Printed in Great Britain for Hoddder and Stoughton Limited, St. Paul’s House, Warwick Lane, London, E.C.4 by Cox & Wyman Ltd., London, Reading and Fakenbam.

Kaketsugi Mending Revisited: More Information

Introduction:
An hour or two after I put up the last post on mending, I got a phone call from New York. My friend Alice is a retired textile conservator. We were good friends when I lived in the West Village, and I would often hear stories of her anguish over a project she was working on. So I know she’s a perfectionist. She had strong objections. We had several long conversations about particulars I missed.  All I knew was what I’d seen in the YouTube video, “The Magic of Kaketsugi Renovation”. Here is the Video:

Both my previous post and this one refer to this video.  Look at the video to see the technique of kaketsugi closely and what is done on the wrong side. I am only showing what takes place on the face of the fabric.

This post is about Alice’s comments and advice. She made a point of saying how important it is that ideally, the repair cloth be from the same fabric that is being mended. The threads need to match thread-for-thread. She sometimes had to take small bits of threads from a hem or seam in her work. When none were available, she sometimes dyed threads. Good light is essential and magnification. Alice has several pairs of prescription glasses for her work. Other than regular and tapestry needles, one might use a tiny latch hook, or some other tiny hook. Her comments about thread loops were that the thread loop needs to be fairly long, smooth, strong, and fine enough to go through the cloth.

I found many techniques for mending on YouTube. This post is about one method of mending using a patch. A patch shows on the wrong side and needs to be in a situation where there is enough cloth to sacrifice for the patch itself. It can be for larger mends. Re-weaving is often used for small holes. Threads are actually woven in, and the mend doesn’t show on the wrong side. Remember, the end use of the fabric will be a consideration. For example, whether a shawl, or a tablecloth that will be laundered, or an elbow in a sleeve that is being repaired. In other words, consider each individual circumstance when choosing the best method. Here is the video that clearly shows re-weaving:


This photo is of my own practice patch showing the small amount done on the left when I first posted. Notice that the threads in the patch were distorted. That happened when I pulled the repair threads through the cloth too hard. On the right side of the patch you see what I did in an entire Sunday afternoon after my first talk with Alice. And I still didn’t have the technique right.

She pointed out that in the video, when the needle was wiggled, the needle never came to the surface of the cloth. This was a significant observation.  Only fibers on the back of the cloth were caught with the sharp needle. (I had used a blunt tapestry needle.) And, the needle always came out of the cloth at about at the same distance from the patch. Look at the narrow side of my patch to see this. Also, this time my needle went down to the wrong side exactly at the edge of the patch. This looks like a clear improvement from my two previous attempts where I tried to weave the needle in and out of the cloth itself.

There needs to be some slack in the repair thread so it can travel its path. In this photo the thread loop is near the tip of the repair thread.  If the repair thread slips out when pulled into the fabric, then make the loop closer to the patch. Also, notice that your thumb will need to add some tension as you pull the thread loop along its path into the cloth to keep the repair thread from slipping out of its “lasso”. How much slack and how much tension depends on any given situation. It will need a bit of a tug to get the repair thread pulled through the cloth. Check each time that the repair thread came out of the cloth and didn’t slip out of the loop. I checked the video again and I had done just exactly what the video said to do without allowing any slack! Alice explained that each fabric is different and either way would be best for a certain fabric or situation. Again, practice first to see what works for each repair job.

In this photo, the tails of the thread loop go into the cloth first and the loop with the repair thread behind.  (In the video and my previous post, the loop of the thread loop went into the cloth first. And the tails of the loop thread came out last.) The method in the photo here is perhaps a gentler method for delicate fabrics, that is, the tails of the loop thread exit the cloth first, with the loop last. It’s a matter of when the thread loop “lassos” (encircles) the repair thread. You must practice a bit on each project to see which of these techniques works better.

Which way is better— the tails coming out of the cloth first or the loop? With the tails coming out of the fabric before the loop, there are only 4 threads to be pulled through the cloth: 2 from the loop thread plus 2 from the repair thread. With a fine or delicate fabric this might be the better way. (And with your own practice, you might find the other way works better.)  Compare with the next photo.

This photo shows the thread loop exiting the fabric before the tails. Notice that 6 threads must go through the fabric: 4 for the loop thread plus 2 for the repair thread.  For hours I practiced: tails first, loop first until I could see and feel the difference. For the technique in this photo (loop first), it took more of a tug to pull the thread loop and repair thread through the cloth because what had to go through the cloth was thicker.

The reason to use the thread loop is that the repair threads are usually too short to thread through the eye of a needle the normal way. In many mending situations the mending threads can be quite short.

Threading Without Mistakes: Three Tricks to Try

Introduction:
Jim Ahrens is the “A” in AVL Looms. He taught production weaving at Pacific Basin Textiles in Berkeley when I had finished a year there learning to weave. We were shocked by the things he taught us and they are the bones of all my books. I apprenticed with him and two others for a year at the new production studio there. Early on, once I offered to thread a loom and he said, “You don’t make mistakes do you?”  (I thought everyone made mistakes.) Then he proceeded to teach some of his tricks for threading without mistakes. He liked to thread his looms at 125 epi, etc. He got comfortable, turned on the radio, and happily went to work. After being comfortable, here are his three tricks. You can try them or not, they are not required for threading.

Here is how he arranged the lease sticks for threading so it was easy to see the cross that keeps the threads in order. This was new to us students. But it’s how I taught my students and use myself. 125 epi is nothing to me—it’s easy to see the cross and you just go along.

Trick #1: Put some tension on the warp threads so they are taut when they are in the lease sticks making it easier to see which is the next thread. I use a wrench that lives in my apron pocket at all times. Anything of similar weight would work. My wrench weighs 3 ½ ounces. I almost never use it for any other purpose, but I did need it to escape a locked bathroom stall, once, at a workshop where I was teaching.
Put a loop of string on the weight and add a rubber band onto the loop with a lark’s head knot. Then, separate a bundle of cut warp threads about the thickness of a medium-sized carrot and with another lark’s head, tie the rubber band onto the bundle near the end of the warp. The weight hangs straight down from the lease sticks, behind the shafts. When you select a strand to thread next, you pull It out of the weighted bundle.

Trick #2: Get out the next 4 heddles, place them in the order to be threaded, and reach through the shafts with your hand curved like a claw. Grasp the 4 threads needed between your fingers as shown, and then, inserting your hook into the heddles one-by-one, hook the correct thread and pull it through. I think it helps me thread accurately when I use this technique. First, I concentrate on the heddles and get them out. Then, I concentrate on the cross and put the threads between my fingers. Then, I concentrate just on putting the threads through the heddle eyes.

Trick #3: Watch for consistencies (and inconsistencies). For example, you might notice that when you thread the heddles on shaft four, the warp thread is always on the top of the lower lease stick. If that suddenly isn’t the case, look to see if you made a mistake—either in selecting the correct warp thread or the correct heddle.  In the illustration here, the threads on shaft 4 are always over the top lease stick.

Jim always recommended using straight threading hooks.

Using a Kitestick Instead of a Chain

Introduction:
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 case of a large warp made in sections, you would have each section on its own kitestick rather than in several chains.

I’ve used the illustrations and text from my book, Weaving for Beginnerss. The trick is to hold the stick with your left hand, in the middle, where the warps are accumulating.  See Fig. 85. Your left hand should rotate the stick so you can easily wind above and below the lark’s head knot with your right hand. (Fig. 89) The motions are a lot like using a nitty noddy to make a skein.

The warp will be wound on a stick in the same way a kitestick is wound. Use a stick approximately 1 ½” X ½” X 12” or longer. This is not a precise measurement. In a pinch, a ruler or a yard stick will do. It isn’t necessary to wind the stick precisely. The instructions look harder to follow than they really are. Winding on the stick is a lot like using a niddy noddy to wind a skein. Follow the instructions any way you can at first, and master the technique another time. What is important is that the warp is wound up onto a stick so the threads can’t tangle.

Getting started. With the loop at the end of the warp, form a lark’s head knot over the tick. Be sure to include the loops of the first and last warp threads when you begin to form the lark’s head knot. Look carefully where my forefinger and thumb are in Figure 82 To form the lark’s head knot, reach with your finger and thumb through the loop and grasp a portion of the warp coming from the warping board. Make a new loop out of the warp itself by pulling some of the warp through the loop and put the newly formed loop onto the stick. Pull up as big a loop as you need to go on the stick. It’s a little like crocheting. Immediately pull the warp against the lark’s head knot to make it firm.

Begin to wind the kitestick with the warp going off to the left, and the loop of the knot behind the warps as in Figure 84. If the loop of the knot is in front of the warps, turn the stick so that it’s away from you and behind the warps. You’ll be slowly and firmly winding the warp in the direction that tightens the lark’s head knot against the stick. This ensures that the warp won’t come loose on the stick.

Take the warp with your right hand around behind the stick, as in Figure 85.

Then, take the yarn below the knot, and bring it up diagonally in front of the stick. See Figure 86.

Now, take the warp to the front, diagonally downward, toward the bottom of the knot, making the other half of an X. See Figure 87.

With your left hand, rotate the stick a quarter turn to the left, to the next facet of the stick. This direction keeps the warps tight. You’ll be turning your left hand until the palm faces you, as in Figure 88. Remember the trick: Hold the stick in the middle, where the warps are accumulating.

Make and X on the new facet of the stick as in Figures 88 and 89.

After you have completed the X on that facet of the stick, take the warp behind the stick in preparation for turning the stick a quarter turn and beginning a new X on the third facet of the stick. See Figure 90.

Continue this process (Figures 85-90) of making an X on a facet of the stick, turning the stick a quarter turn to the next fact, making an X, and so on. When the entire warp is wound, you can just lay the end of the warp on to of the bundle on the stick or tie it to the bundle if that seems more secure.

Two Crosses?? Speed up your warping process – For those who warp the loom back-to-front

Introduction:
Many of my weaving friends never learned to make 2 crosses on the warping board. Instead, I think that they stopped to make ties and tied off each and every group of threads for the raddle. I taught my beginners to make a cross with groups of threads for the raddle as well as the familiar thread-by-thread cross I think every weaver makes to keep the warp threads in order. It’s easy to do without stopping while winding the warp on the pegs. At one end of the warp you make the thread-by thread cross and at the other end you make a second cross with groups of threads on each side of the pegs. Then loading the raddle is quick and easy and accurate as well. The illustrations are from my book, Weaving for Beginners. And there is more text, of course in the book, as well as many more illustrations of the warping process. Note that there is a comprehensive chapter on warping front-to-back in the book as well. But this post is for the “back-to-fronters” because a raddle is used.

Here is what the cross for the raddle will look like on the pegs on the warping board (or warping reel). The number of threads in each group depends upon the sett (epi) and the size of the spaces in the raddle. For example if the sett is 20 epi and the spaces in the raddle are ½” , then there should be 10 threads in each group.

Here is how it might look like on a warping board. Notice that there are 4 pegs allotted to each cross: the regular thread-by-thread cross and the raddle cross. Then, the true cross is on it’s own 2 pegs and not involved with the ends of the warp or a peg where the warp configuration changes direction.

It’s interesting that a false cross develops beside the raddle cross. It is NOT a cross and disappears later so you cannot use it at all. I told my students happens naturally when groups of threads are put into a cross. In the illustration you can see the false cross between pegs 5 and 6 and that it looks similar to the real cross, except the X is encircled with threads.

I always taught my students to color code the ties for the crosses. This is shown in the illustration for the thread-by-thread cross. Notice that the end peg is tied on each side of the peg just like on the pegs holding the cross. When I checked their work, I always counted the ties at each cross: “1,2,3,4,5,6.” Color coding makes it easy to avoid twists in the warp when putting the lease sticks in. Tying on each side of the pegs makes it very easy to open the warp where the lease sticks go in.  It’s very important to make ties at the end pegs, especially at the raddle cross end.

Here is what the warp would look like when all the ties for the 2 crosses are made. (The extra ties in the illustration represent choke ties.)

Lease sticks are placed in the raddle cross when it is taken off the warping board.

Here’s the set up for loading the raddle easily and efficiently. There is a folded piece of paper on the nails so they don’t snag the warp. Notice the big book on the warp. That is so you can pull against it slightly to make tension on the threads so it is easy to see the groups of threads in the cross. Then you can load the raddle without mistakes.

Notice in the previous photo that the cross on the lease sticks is very close to the stick in the end of the warp. To move the lease sticks you need to move the cross. Here’s how to move the cross: Separate the threads behind the lease stick that is further away from you—since you’ll be moving the cross toward you, away from the raddle. Open a space between the threads as if you were opening the long handles of a pair of hedge clippers: the threads will pivot at the point where they cross. If you gently widen the gap, as if opening the clipper handles wider, you see that the cross moves. Move the cross gently, don’t force it to move. Move it to the position shown in the previous photo.

Sampler or Sample?

Introduction:
Someone commented about my previous post on making a sampler: “Sample or Sampler”. I think most of us know about samplers but the difference between that and sample needs some thinking about. What do I mean by “sample”? I mean trying out your ideas on the ACTUAL WARP before weaving a project. That means making your warp long enough to “sample” as well as weave your project(s). Here are some of my examples I wove long ago.

“African Thoughts” was my sampler when I was a student for the class in Supplementary Warp. I was inspired by a picture of a textile with lots of triangles in a book on African textiles. I made my triangles first then tried many other tie-ups. I think that was my first experience of realizing how different designs could be made with one threading by changes in the tie-up. I ended the sampler similar to the beginning to turn the sampler into a wall hanging.

This box was my project after the  African Thoughts sampler in the supplementary warp class. It is linen, double weave, with the supplementary warp in between the layers. It was all loom controlled. Putting the box together after it was woven took hours. But it gave me a chance to get to handle and get to know the textile.

Here is a sample cut from a sampler in fine silk. This was my first attempt at fine threads. A friend saw it on the loom and offered me the name of a good therapist! I had trouble with the selvedges. The reason is a lesson I really learned. The end delivery shuttle was too long for the narrow warp.

I made several pieces on the fine silk warp. And dealt with the bad selvedges by folding the edges around foam core board. I call this “Cloud Tiles”. I was inspired by an exhibition of tiles I saw in a museum.

Now, this is a real sampler! I wove off a warp I’d made for a class and tried warp face and weft twills on the 4-shafts. I found out later this is called damask. I got the inspiration, then, to make a third level: warp face twill, balanced twill, and weft faced twill. I made little compositions within the sampler thinking about pages in a book. It is still in tack.  I call it my “Clown Sampler” and it has never left my studio.

This color blanket taught me how important to make a SAMPLE on the actual warp of the project. My sampler was narrow (5” wide or so). I used the same sett (epi) for the big warp that was about 36” wide. The wefts didn’t pack down enough for a balanced weave that is required for a color blanket. In other words, the warp dominated over the weft in all the colors. Now I know that for a wider warp I need to open up the sett to accommodate the more friction there is in the reed.

“Red Squares” is another supplementary warp piece. I sampled on the warp first. Then wove this piece. I still like supplementary warp a lot. You don’t have wefts mucking up your ideas.

This little piece I cut from a Lampas sampler. I am remembering that the black yarn was the same boucle I wove in the sampler just before the lockdown. That was my favorite part of the sampler and I plan to use it in the final project with what is left on the loom. Next year??

From an Easy Way to Thread a Needle to The Magic of Kaketsugi Restoration

Everyone may know this technique for threading a needle. Beate Schauble’s comment about my moth-eaten blanket sent me to this fascinating YouTube video: “The Magic of Kaketsugi Restoration”. I wanted to make a post about it so that I could have an excuse to try it. I have a lot of patience but I can’t conceive of the idea that I would even do one tiny patch the Kaketsugi way! I’m still thinking about what I’ll do with the blanket and appreciate all the suggestions people have sent.

Kaketsugi is a method of mending that takes a patch from a hidden part of a garment and pulls threads from the patch into the cloth to be mended. You need the patch to be the same fabric so the threads can match thread-for-thread. I found pieces of a cloth that were dyed and undyed to give contrasting colors with the same thread count for my experiment. I was startled to see how big the patch had to be to give enough for the fringes on all 4 sides. I used a rather fine tapestry (blunt) needle.

The first 3 photos show the method of threading a needle using a loop of thread. This technique is used in Kaketsugi mending.

The thread is inserted in the thread loop.

You pull on the loop and that draws the thread right through the eye of the needle!

For Kaketsugi you thread a needle with a loop. Then isolate the thread you will work into the cloth. Hold the other threads back with the thumb so you can see where to insert the needle.

Weave the needle in and out of the cloth in the place where the thread is to go. Only pick up a thread or 2 on the right side of the cloth so it doesn’t show.

Insert the patch-thread into the loop in the needle.

Pull the needle out of the cloth, pulling the loop and patch-thread through the path the needle took and come out to the surface.

When you pull the needle with the loop thread out of the cloth it pulls the patch-thread along the path like magic. Note at first I wove the needled in and out too coarsely so it shows too much. As I got better you can barely see the path of the repair thread. In the video you can see that the fringes are brought to the wrong side and a patch is ironed over the threads.

Stitched Shibori Part Two – Figuring out how a scarf was made

Introduction:
In a previous post: “Changing My Mind and a Dilemma” I showed a curious sampler and a beautiful black scarf or shawl with stitching patterns. A weaver asked how the patterning was done. I spent a day figuring it out. I pulled out a long roll of stitched shibori paper which was a big help. That needed its own post (Part One). Here is Part Two which builds on the information in Stitched Shibori  Part One.

One of the things I liked about both the sample and the scarf was that the intensity of the stitching pattern went from distinct gradually to blurry. I especially liked that the ends of the scarf were black with hardly any of the stitching pattern showing at all. That told me that the black ends were inside where the resist was the faintest. And the stitched patterns were most distinct in the middle of the scarf. Then the pattern gradually faded and got more and more blurry until at the ends it barely showed. How the strips were accordion folded to make this happen was an issue. Another thing I noticed that the fabric was quite thin. That would make stitching through many layers doable. I took a strip of paper to experiment with the folding steps. I hope it is understandable.

Almost immediately I noticed that the scarf was made in narrow strips sewn together with generous seam allowances showing on the wrong side. Again, this related directly to the design of the sampler. And narrow strips would be easier to work with. The seams were interesting in themselves. There was space between the cloths sewn together yet it looked like regular sewing machine stitching. Was a card or something sewn in with the seam and then removed??

Step One is to get the ends of the strips to be INSIDE so they won’t show the stitch resist or barely hint at it. Fold the strip in half and make the ends together. Then the other folds will be more and more on the outer sides of the bundle to make the stitching pattern less and less blurry–or more distinct depending on how you think of it. I penciled in shading on my paper strip to make sure the ends were inside the bundle.

Step two. Prepare to fold the strip.

Step Three: Make the first fold of the fabric.

Step Four: Continue folding each half of the strip in accordion pleats. You will need to figure out the dimensions of the folds.

Step Five: Fold the last time on separate sides of the bundle as shown.

A close-up of the folds.

Another close-up showing dashes to simulate the stitching for the resist.

Sometimes Hemstitching Isn’t Right, a ‘Design Feature’, and Decisions Made

Introduction:
All I wanted when I began planning this project was a thick and satiny cloth. I was using a silk that I inherited—the yarn was thick and certainly was expensive. And I wanted to use the new-to-me 12 shaft dobby loom for a 12-shaft satin. (11 threads up and one down, so very warp face). The fact that I ran out of the silk so soon didn’t bother me; I just picked up another skein that looked almost as thick and continued warping. Then I forgot about it. That is, until I took it off the loom. Well, that didn’t matter, either I thought, I’ll just cut the ends straight. And that didn’t work either because all the wefts weren’t straight and no straight line could be made

This is a piece of the silk satin cloth that I wove and dyed with black walnuts. I love the feel of the soft silk and the subtle movement of the dye. And I’ve decided that I like the “design feature” that happened when I used two different silk threads for the warp. I tried mounting it on a variety of fabrics until I came to the one in in the photo. I think everything shows off with this background: the uneven cloth, the luxurious silk, and subtle color. Finally, I’m happy with it. The fabric is an irregular ikat cotton shawl from the Philippines.

I hemstitched the ends in a quick and dirty way just to keep the cloth intact. Then when I began really looking at it, I thought the hemstitching was disfiguring. It interrupted the smooth surface. Oh, “hemstitching isn’t always the answer.” I’ll just remove it.

Before removing the hemstitching, I overcast on the back so I wouldn’t lose any weft threads. I wished later that I hadn’t pierced the threads when I did the overcasting. After I removed the hemstitching, I had the tedious job of pushing the warp threads together to close up the gaps between the hemstitched bundles. I had to take out some of the overcast stitches in places where the thread pierced the weft. Then I could slide the warp threads across to fill in the spaces. The spaces didn’t want to fill in so I spritzed and tried to hold them in place by tapping with the iron. It would have been better to remove the hemstitching before washing and dyeing then the warps would be easier to fill in. But, as is said, “What is, is.”

One Tie up for 4-Shaft Weavers: Never Tie Up Your Treadles Again

Introduction:
I began to think more about sampling after suggesting a sampler in my previous post. You can be very free if you don’t have to change the tie-up every time you weave something different—that is, if you are using 4 shafts. And the weaving often is faster and you can “walk the treadles”.  Weaving is more efficient when you can alternate your feet. Try practicing the tie up below with a common twill. Imagine the sequence and move your feet. 12, 23, 34, and 41. Soon you will be dancing. Note that you will be pressing more than one treadle at a time. If you have more treadles, just don’t tie them up at all. One weaver proudly said she then added two more treadles for tabby. That misses the point—the fewer treadles the easier for your feet to find them.

I wove all these variations without re-tying the treadles. And I kept getting new ideas to try. The warp was set up to weave the needle pillows. You can see one in the photo. When you can weave plain weave you can make cloth to dye later. And handwoven plain weave can be attractive.  My warp was handspun cotton I got in Bhutan. You can try an “almost plain weave”. Because you can’t get a true plain weave. Then see what you think.

Here is the special tie-up. And the way to weave tabby is to use two treadles at a time. You press your feet between the treadles to get 1 & 3 and 2 & 4. You can create/invent from there!

Weaver’s Block? Try a color blanket

Introduction:
While I was taking my first classes at Pacific Basin School of Textiles in Berkeley, I took a class at the College of Marin. I wanted to make a color blanket which I thought would be a nice shawl. My teacher, Nancy Soper, picked out the yarns for me. I didn’t appreciate her wisdom at the time but liked what she chose. Instead of taking each color from the Color Wheel like the samplers we usually see, she chose colors that were related. And they ranged in steps from yellow to purple using colors in ½ of the color wheel. She used an interesting array of yarn types to get the right color shades in the warp. The edges were quite uneven given fat and thinner yarns but for a shawl that wasn’t a problem then. Usually all of the colors in the warp are then used as wefts to see how they act when crossed with one another.

Choose colors you like or are likely to use. For example, you might like olive green and use that instead of a harsh pure green or yellow-green. Most color blankets I’ve seen are made with pure colors from the color wheel. Colors that I will never use in real life. A color blanket can be for reference or for a project, such as a scarf, table runner, or actual blanket. Watch out for yellow if you want to make something for its looks. Yellow is so light and that makes it show up much more than other colors. Use less of it than the others and you will be happier with the overall look of the finished project.
Here is a color blanket made for reference. A business in India needed to know how the threads they were going to use blended or not. It was made primarily for reference only. However, some thought went into the organization where the warm and cool colors showed up. Thus, a scarf was made as well. I suggest using colors in your stash that you are likely to use—NOT every color there is, but ones you relate to and like.

In my case, this color blanket was basically made for reference it turns out. Because of this, the color chosen was more important than the type of yarn. Woolen, chenille, worsted, mohair, and novelty yarns were used. These differences resulted in the edges bowing in and out and the cloth being somewhat puckered.

I wove half the blanket/shawl in plain weave. I discovered the colors blended quite well with this structure. The closer the colors are on the color wheel, the more they blend. The edge colors (yellow and purple) are farther apart on the color wheel and don’t blend as well. That’s why I made those warp stripes narrower, especially I used less yellow than the other colors both in the warp and weft.

The twill half was a disaster in my opinion, especially where the light yarns crossed contrasting dark yarns. (I had just learned to draft some twills as you can see.) Compare this with the same yarns crossing in plain weave above. This was an important lesson I learned. Structures with floats don’t blend as well as plain weave where every other thread is woven in.

The shawl was a disappointment as a shawl, but I hated to just throw it out or bury it in a drawer. A good friend suggested I use it on my bed. I look at different sections and don’t worry about the uneven edges or chenille yarns that are worming.

A Little Slide Show of My Samples

Introduction:
I spent the day processing photos of the samples one more time. While being confined, I find it nice to do things I could never find time for, none the less almost repeating something I’d already done in another way. I want to keep practicing my photography skills I learned for the India trip, mainly working more with the program, LightRoom. It’s like Photo Shop. Years ago, my tech guy said I should learn to use it. I retorted, “Do you want to learn to weave?” I’m eating my words and he’s still helping with the posts and everything technical and otherwise. He can use ‘warp’ in a sentence and knows quite a lot just from osmosis. That’s enough for me.


To view slideshow click the first image below then use the right arrow key on your keyboard to advance to the next photo (or swipe on phone or tablet).

When a Tube is not a Double Weave Tube: a Confession, a Correction, and a Mystery Unsolved

Introduction:
I almost always look at any textile with the warp going vertically—it’s just natural. So when I saw the sample in the previous post I did the same. I saw it had two layers; it looked like it had a join in the middle of one of the layers. So I thought it must be double weave and some clever way of joining where the slit would naturally be for a “Kleenex-box-type” tube. When I was questioned about it by an expert weaver, I guessed I’d better look at it again so I could explain it to her. Well, I was very wrong.

I discovered the cloth should be looked at the other with the warps going sideways—horizontally– because there was a selvedge at one end. And this was made from a single layer of a wide piece of silk!

This is what the other side looked like. Remember it from the previous post? I thought it was woven as  a double weave cloth.

A length of fabric about 25” long was folded in half, horizontally. That means the selvedges were on each end resulting in a short, wide piece with the raw edges together to make a seam. This was done first, before any folding and stitching for the resist. This is how the tube was formed. It was NOT a slit cleverly disguised. It was a seam cleverly disguised.

I discovered a lot when I looked at the seam itself. There were about 8 rows of stitching that had been made before the seam was sewn. 4 of the rows would be in the seam allowance to prevent unravelling. The other 4 rows would provide stability on the other side of the seam I suspected. Also, probably some of the wefts were pulled out to make the short fringe at that time. Then the raw edges were put together and the seam sewn. You can see the rows of stitching and the one row of stitching that was actually to join the pieces.

After the seam made and pressed open, the resulting tube was flattened and ironed with 2 hard creases. And you can see the rows of stitching disguising the seam.

A row of stitching through both layers at one point kept the tube together. That stitching I had seen before as a double-weave-stitcher row but indeed it was just 2 rows of regular machine stitching close to one another.

Then, finally the tube was ready for the stitch resist. The mystery remains how the stitching for the resist was done so that on one side the stitches resisted the black dye making light dots but on the light side the stitch marks are black.

A Beautiful, Unusual Silk: Gazar

Introduction:
I’ve been gathering interesting fabrics for a few years when I’m traveling and at home in San Francisco at Britex Fabrics—a fantastic place. I’ve had the idea of dyeing them with easy-to-use natural dyes. Even though my stash was pretty big, I bought quite a lot on my last trip to India. My tech guy had an eye opener when he saw how I shopped: “a meter of this, ½ meter of that, do you have anything really special, etc. etc.” We went to a shop that only had linen that I’d heard had fantastic prices and then to another large shop that had everything including ribbon and trim. By that time, I was thinking of making my scrolls as well as dyeing. (All those fabrics are still in the bag I brought them home in.) This fabric I discovered at a huge fabric store in New York where designers go. I was nosing around the silk area and someone pointed out that this particular silk once creased could never be ironed out. It is quite stiff and has a lovely sheen and complicated twill lines in the structure.

Today was my third attempt at ironing out the creases and gentle folds of my Gazar silk. Even though I asked the clerk not to fold it and put it in its own shopping bag, there were lines that had to be removed. While ironing today I saw how beautiful it was in the light as it draped off the ironing board.

Another look at it falling off the ironing board made me think of gorgeous wedding gown silk.

Here was my view while ironing. I often take the communal ironing board to the window in our 8th floor lounge. Today it was not only for the view, but for the morning light.

Here’s an example of tiny creases I was ironing out. The photo also gives a glimpse of the weave structure. I didn’t think of photographing the more obvious creases and gentle fold lines, but this is an example when I was almost finished.

This was the equipment I used. On my first attempt I only used a dry iron, with low, med and high heat which didn’t do the job. A neighbor down my hall suggested the technique I used last night and again today. Medium heat and a thin press cloth that I spritzed then tapped the iron on the cloth gently—tap, tap, tap over the spots that needed work. Then I ironed the little area I was working on without the cloth. I love my cordless iron. I think a regular cord would just muss up the cloth as I worked along. I kept spritzing, tapping, and ironing all over the “bad” places I’d marked with safety pins.

Now it’s hanging in my hallway with clothes pins on hangers. In the morning I’ll check if there are any more spots to work on.

For fun I’m showing you more of my hall outside my apartment door.

A Weave That Was a Surprise! (Mistake?) (Using a treadling draft for a completely different threading draft.)

Introduction:
I made this post just after we were told to stay at home—over a month ago. I can hardly believe that much time has passed. Actually I have treasured the time locked in at home. I live in a life care place and feel very safe and protected. Meals and mail are delivered to our doors. I go out of my apartment to do my laundry down the hall, mail out books, exercise while reading and walking in my hall, and going for daily walks with my camera outside around our building in our gardens. Inside my apartment, I have been working creatively putting together fabrics to make my scrolls and processing the photographs from my garden strolls. My teaching brain has been activated so I make posts on my blog almost every other night. Culturally, I have been playing many operas streamed daily by the Metropolitan Opera on my laptop. Socially, besides keeping in touch with other residents, Zoom has kept me in good contact with friends outside and with my tech guy.

I love this 8-shaft braided twill (or plaited twill) pattern. I’m embarrassed to admit that I wove a treadling from a pattern when I didn’t realize that I hadn’t threaded the loom for that treadling! I was mystified why my cloth had an obscure texture on the back and not the definite braided twill I thought I was weaving on top.

The pattern for the braided twill I love is #380 in Carol Strickler’s book. I have woven it several times but completely forgot it needed a very special threading. As well as treadling.

Here is the 24-pick treadling draft. Using my dobby loom is a life saver for such a complicated treadling.

Here’s what I got when weaving this 24-shed pattern on an 8-shaft straight threading.
I like the white textured side a lot and am thinking strongly of weaving more of it. I especially like how it takes advantage of the shiny plied silk warp threads—especially after wet finishing with hard pressing (ironing).

DO NOT TRY THIS! Besides the above huge mistake, I pegged the draft wrong as well! I’m glad I made only a sample and looked at it carefully. And finally realized both of my great big mistakes. (And glad I like the result enough to weave more.)

Making Art Out of a Beautiful Silk Taffeta Shawl – That was Much Too Big and Slippery to Wear

Introduction:
I’ve been wildly putting together fabrics the last few days. Seems every time I turn around I get out more fragments and not-so-fragments that I’ve stored away. I find them exciting and then excitedly look around for background fabrics for them. Last night I was getting ready for bed at midnight and I kept getting more and more ideas that it was 1:00 before I turned out the light. For example, I found places on a table mat from Japan for the tiny velvet pieces that I had left. The most exciting idea was to put together a white wool felt pleated cape from China and a handwoven skirt also from China that had woven strips for fringe. I thought to put the fringe at the top of the cape instead of at the bottom where fringe normally is! It will take a good while to get all the pieces made up. I’m also in the throes of writing another Kindle book. The days are not long enough!!

A closeup look at the gorgeous silk taffeta shows fine ikat detail where the borders begin. I bought this “dupatta”in a shop in India years ago. I loved the fabric because of the edges of the borders. I thought it was to be worn over the chest for modesty sake. The internet says they are 2 meters long and can be worn over one shoulder. For years I’ve tried wearing it in a variety of ways. Finally I asked a well-dressed Indian woman what to do and she said, “That isn’t for the body.” What a relief, but a disappointment that I couldn’t have it to feel and look at. I got the inspiration to make it smaller but save the borders for a wall hanging (scroll). I pleated it vertically then horizontally and made small tailor tacks to hold the folds in place. It took a few more iterations to come to what it is now—an official scroll.

Here is a view of the middle section of the wall hanging/scroll. When friends saw me working on it (took a good while over the past week) they thought it was 2 pieces of cloth—not one single fabric.

The bottom. More border. The whole fabric is ikat—warp and weft wise. Looking at the tiny red dashes, I can’t imagine doing the tying for the ikat. Ikat means that the THREADS were tie dyed BEFORE the cloth was woven! Such precision and the care in making the tiny blurry edges of the borders!

Here is the top again and I hope you can see the ruffles that happened when I pleated up the middle section. One neighbor thought the ruffles very elegant and feminine. I think I love the black ruffles as much as the ikat blurry edges. And the center part seems to really set off the very black borders. It is very white with the red dashes.

Here is the result. It started out 98” long plus fringe and 24” wide. Now it is 50” long and 13” wide plus fringe.

Velvet Revisited

Introduction:
I have been looking at fabrics lying on my table and around that I’ve pulled out for possible scrolls. A few are coming together now after “marinating” awhile. Here are the results from my velvet pieces.

The previous version using this lovely little piece of velvet just never looked right. Now, the background is a piece of cotton I dyed with indigo. (I work at it to make my dyed things mottled.) Then, I pulled out the silk also dyed with indigo to check the color. (I often like to leave the wrinkles in just like I like the colors to be mottled.) When I threw it across the piece I knew that was it!

I adored this white velvet I brought back from Italy. It was exceptionally soft. What to do with a piece about 4” x 6”?? I decided to cut it into squares and mount them like a mosaic. I spent a lot of time working with the nap so the border would stand out from the center. Since the nap was so short, the pieces all look pretty much alike. The blue velvet that I cut up for the borders was about 6” x 3”. The nap is different on the top and bottom but doesn’t show up.

While fiddling with this piece, I noticed that the velvet was much lighter in a certain light.

Looking at it from another angle, the velvet turned dark. That’s what I had been working toward in the white and blue piece!

Comments and Connections: Beyond the Two-Stick Heading Post

Introduction: I have been enjoying immensely preparing and sending out the frequent posts during the COVID 19 times. But I enjoy even more the comments and being connected to weavers who have responded.  The pandemic has connected us all—not only in the US but all over the world. That’s a lovely thing. The two comments below followed my previous post “Cutting off Some of the Cloth Before the Warp is Finished (the Two-Stick Heading)”.

“Dear Peggy,
The timing of this post is perfect! I’m a fairly new weaver and just finishing the first of a pair of bedside rugs. I so wanted to take it off the loom but wary of wasting the linen warp. I now have a solution. Many thanks and Happy Easter from isolation on the other side of the pond.”Ruth Morrell, South Devon, England

This comment from Linda Doggett from Dayton, Ohio, caught my attention. I know her name from her frequent posts on Facebook in the Four Shaft Weaving group:
“This wonderful tip has been printed and kept near my loom because I use it so often! I also have a printout of one of the knots from your book taped to the table next to the loom. You are pretty much indispensable, Peggy. 🙂”

Cutting off Some of the Cloth Before the Warp is Finished:  The Two-Stick Heading

Introduction:
While I still could be at my studio, I wove as much as I could so I could dye it while sequestered  at home.   Since I wasn’t able to finish weaving the entire warp and I wanted to cut off what was woven, I used the technique in this post. I’ve written about this “2-stick heading” so much that I wonder if people are getting tired of seeing it. It is such a useful technique I want everyone who weaves to know about it. I learned it from my mentor, Jim Ahrens, who used industry techniques for his production weaving business. What I learned from him is the basis of all my books and the reason I wrote them. His techniques from industry needed to be passed on to future generations of  handweavers.

I almost always use this because I often want to cut off samples before weaving my “projects”. With this method you don’t lose as much of the warp as when you make knots to tie on again to the apron rod. And you retain perfect tension when you start weaving again. Before cutting off some cloth, weave this heading first.
1. What you do is first weave an inch or so of plain weave (or close to plain weave as possible).
2. Weave in two sticks (thinner the better or use rods or dowels).
3. Weave another inch. In the photo I wove a little more than one inch because plain weave wasn’t possible with this weave structure and my warp was slippery.

This close-up shows clearly how the two sticks are woven in.

This shows where you cut off your cloth, LEAVING THE HEADING ON THE LOOM.

The complete heading remains on the loom. Your cloth has been cut off.

Fold the sticks together and tie them to the apron rod. Now you can start weaving again with the perfect tension you had all along!

Here is a close-up of the knots tying the apron rod to the two sticks which have been folded together.

Keeping Track of What is Left of a Warp

Introduction:
The record sheet for this post looks homemade, and it is. And since I can’t get out to my studio these days, I have only my working one to show which is rather messy. (as they usually get). I wish now I’d had a professional one made to go with the many work sheets my book designer made for my beginning weaving book.

I know how much warp is left because I keep track of what I’ve woven as I go along. I use a record sheet I made long ago. I use it for every single warp I make. It works like an old-fashioned check book register in that the last column shows the “balance” of what is left.
As soon as I’ve entered the length of the section I’ve measured on the record sheet, I put a marker thread at one selvedge to show where the measurement ended.  Then later if I need to check for sure, I have all the markers on the selvedge as well as all the entries on the record sheet. I make sure that I ender all headings, or separators and the back loom waste. Also, I usually enter what I have allowed for “take-up”. Usually I use 10% for ordinary cloth weaving, just to be sure.

Record Sheet “Warp Use Record Sheet”.