A Fairy Tale


Introduction:

I’ve been getting spam on Ahrenslooms.com lately. It’s a website I made with my apprentice, Vera Totos to explain how Ahrens looms work. Jim Ahrens was a mentor and his information is the basis for all my teaching and books. I have several looms, all of which he built. He is the “A” in AVL Looms. There is a little history on the website if interested. My tech guy decided that a new look would be good for the site while he was seeing what to do about the spam. He removed the Forum and Comments since no real person ever used it. In fact, one of the recent spams came from Russia he discovered! While he was fiddling with the site he came across the fairy tale and asked me what on earth was that. I replied it’s a story that explains the tension system on all the Ahrens looms and the AVLs as well. I could never understand how the brake worked so he told me this story and now I understand how the springs and ropes work. Now everyone can understand how the system works with confidence.


Once upon a time long, long ago before there were ratchets for looms, ways to tension the warp were very primitive. One day a weaver found a new way to put tension on the warp beam. He put a sturdy stick, like a peg, vertically in his warp
beam, hooked a rope on it, wound it around and around the beam, and hung a big rock on it. With the weight off the floor, he had full warp tension, and he was very pleased with himself.

Fig 176A_149 A
As he wove along and advanced the warp, the rope wound up on the beam and the rock rose higher and higher off
the ground. Pretty soon he had to stop because the rock was up on the warp beam, and he had to unwind the rope
to let it down. Then he wove along until the rock got too high, stopped to unwind some rope and let it down again. This worked fine and he was very, very pleased with himself.
One time when he was unwinding the rope, he pulled out the peg and the rope slipped off the stick into his hand. He was surprised when he held the end of the rope, that he didn’t have to pull hard on it at all to keep the rope from slipping around the beam. In fact, he could hold the loop in the end of the rope with one finger, and the rope around the beam
didn’t slip. The big rock still hung in place putting full tension on the warp!
He had been winding the rope say, 1/2 dozen times around the beam, so he decided to see if he could wind fewer times.
He found with only 3 turns on the beam there was still not much weight needed on the end of the rope. So he hung asmall rock on the end of the rope and began weaving.

Fig 176B_149 B
As he wove along, the big rock rose and the little rock fell until it hit the floor. Then the most amazing surprise came. When the warp threads were lifted to open the shed, the beam rolled forward slightly, raising the big rock and lowering the small rock to the floor. The little rock touching the floor took the tension off that end of the rope for an instant. As soon as it did, the rope slipped a bit on the beam. As soon as the beam slipped, the big rock put tension back on the rope pulling the small rock up off the floor again. The slippage let the warp move forward a few thousandths of an inch—just enough to compensate for the take-up of the warp for the weft! The big rock was off the floor, obviously, while the small rock dangled just above the floor, where it bounced and dangled on and off the floor as he wove along. Now he didn’t have to get up and unwind the rope to let the big rock down! He could weave along continuously, and the big rock would hold the full warp tension. The little rock would let the warp beam slip a bit with each weft and also would let it slip when he advanced the warp. The two rocks remained in these positions all during his weaving. This pleased him very, very, very much. When the shed closed, our weaver realized that the beam rolled backwards to its starting place. The tension on the warp threads never changed even when the warp threads were lifted to open the sheds, because the weight (the big rock) was always the same. This was perfect for fine silk warp threads that couldn’t stand the stress of stretching with the old locked beam systems. He was enormously pleased with himself! Rocks (with one rock ten times heavier than the other) and the weaver’s invention are still used today!

When Jim Ahrens Began Using the Weight-Counter Weight System


He tried the two weights and noticed the two weights jerked when the rope slipped. Then he got the idea to use a small spring in place of the counterweight The spring let the rope slip slowly so there was no jerk or sudden change, just smooth weaving.

Fig 176C_149 C

He came up with the idea on his own, but never claims to have invented it; her said, “I always found someone else had done the things I worked out on my own.” When he needed to make smaller looms, there wasn’t enough room for the big weight so he substituted a heavy spring for the weight “It was no big advance, there was no place for the weight.” he said. It works the same way as the weight and small spring.

Fig 176D_149 D

The heavy spring puts the tension on the warp; the small spring is the counterweight. When the shed opens, the warp beam rolls forward a bit loosening the tension on the other end of the rope at the small spring. The rope slips a little. The heavy spring takes over again, putting the rope back under tension. when the shed closes the warp beam rolls back to its starting point. The slippage is a few thousandths of an inch and the warp stays under constant tension.

As you crank the warp forward you exert more force on the warp than the force of the heavy spring causing the cord to slip. this allows the beam to turn and the warp to unwind.

Jim preferred using the combination of a heavy weight and the small spring because he can beat harder than with just the two springs. But the double springs are a good enough substitute if you don’t beat too hard.

Two Quick Tips

Introduction:
For once I’m up to my neck with things to do so it’s a “quick post” this time. I’ve been wanting to post these for a long time.

There’s an easier way to re-sley the reed than unthreading all the threads that need to be moved at once. Instead, before un-threading anything, insert your sley hook into the new reed position for the incorrectly sleyed thread. Hook the thread to be moved behind the reed and draw it and the sley hook through the dent. In effect, you are “de-sleying” and “re-sleying” in one movement. Once I was making a gift and noticed a skipped dent. I thought it wouldn’t show after washed—well it did and I gave it with apologies. Then I fixed the error and it was a piece of cake and kicked myself for not taking care of it in the first place.

 I call this my wobbly peg illustration. I think it speaks for itself.

Peg Plan Mistake Yields Another Surprise

Introduction:
I started weaving on this 8-yard warp on March 5 my records show. For the last year I’ve been making silk warps with yarns and threads I inherited from a wonderful weaver, Ethel Aotoni from Hawaii who moved into my building a few years ago. They are mostly white because I think she was planning to dye them. That is just fine because I have wanted to do the same. Before the lock down, I wove as many samples as I could to bring home for dyeing. Besides the silks as wefts, I have used the odd yarns that I pulled out now and then that interested me.  Out of the 8 yards, I have only 40” left. I’ve liked so many of the weaves I got, that it will be hard to choose just one to repeat. This is an old problem, hence many samples. It’s really what I like to do best—make something out of nothing and make as many different things as I can on one warp. As I look at the samples, I am getting ideas for more things to try!

I was trying for this pattern but it turned out to show up on the wrong side of the cloth. I didn’t see it until I checked the wrong side because I wasn’t seeing what I was expecting on the top when I was weaving. How did that happen, I wondered. I checked the introduction at the beginning of the book  (8-Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler) to see if I was reading the tie-up drafts wrong. No, I was reading them as I expected as “bubbles rise” meaning the circles indicated lifted shafts. Then I realized I’d transferred the tie up incorrectly to the peg plan. Oh my! Turns out each VERTICAL column in a normal tie up is written as a HORIZONTAL line in a peg plan. Very sobering. I hadn’t used the dobby in awhile and didn’t look again at the instructions because I thought I knew what to do. What a good lesson.

Here is what I saw while I was weaving. Turns out I love the black part woven with a thin black wool boucle yarn. I’ve had the cone for a long time, loving it but not finding a way to use it. I love the mysterious texture. I definitely plan to weave more of this—a lot more! Again, my good fortune with a big mistake!

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 Good Selvedges– One, Two then Three “Throw, Beat THEN Change Your Feet”

Introduction:
This post was also inspired by Linda Doggett who said how important it is to her to beat on an open shed to make good selvedges. I enjoy the connections with other weavers. If you have an absolute favorite tip or process, let me know and perhaps it can go out into the weaving world in a blog post.

I’ve been pretty proud of my selvedges over time using the process Jim Ahrens taught that is the same that industry uses. If industry uses it, it must be pretty good, I thought. This is meant for most weave structures and yarns, but not for weft faced weaving. (eg. Tapestry or Collingwood’s rugs). Jim also said that often for right handers, the left selvedge is better. I think it is because that’s the one where the right hand is catching the shuttle. I never thought to ask him why. Mine are slightly better but both are good. The other thing he said was “the best selvedges come when you don’t pay attention to them.” (that is if you use this technique.) The photo is one of a series of color studies I wove with good line linen.

Step One: Throw the shuttle on the shuttle race or close to the reed. The shuttle race is a big help and the shed is larger, close to the reed. A diagonal should form naturally from the edge of the woven cloth to the shuttle race. The edge of the cloth is close enough so that the diagonal from it to the reed should be enough. This diagonal prevents the cloth from drawing in. (Remember that it’s important to advance the warp often, about every 2-3”.)

Snug up the weft against the outside warp thread, neither pulling that thread in, nor leaving a loop on the outside of it. I like to snug the weft up until it barely moves that outside thread—just grazes it. I don’t touch the selvedges but I press the weft thread onto the shuttle or bobbin and pull on the shuttle to snug the weft into place.

Step Two: Beat while the shed is still open. The illustration shows receiving the shuttle and a hand on the reed, ready to beat. This is crucial since this is where the warp is held out to its full width so that you are getting enough weft into the shed. This keeps the cloth from drawing in too much. (Expect a little bit of draw-in that is natural.)

Step Three: Change the shed as soon as you have beaten in the weft. The illustration shows the weft beaten in and the beater back near the heddles and the shuttle going into the new shed. This is especially important, too, because it is trapping the weft out at that widest point so the cloth cannot draw in. That’s it: “Throw, beat, change your feet”. With practice, it will become automatic but at first, I’ve seen students struggle to change the shed quickly after beating. Often, they want to change the shed after the beater is back at the heddles.

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”.

A Way to Deal With Fringe Other than the Usual Treatments

Update: The masks are coming along. There is a pocket for a filter and a wire is stitched in so it fits over the nose and stays under eyeglasses.

ALERT!! MOTH HOLE TIP: Try using a Fuzz Buster or a soft brush to pick up stray fibers directly from your sweater—it doesn’t take much to patch a tiny moth hole and the color match is perfect.
From Diana Rollo



“The viewer must know that the last weft is secure.”…

Lillian Elliott

Sometimes I like how the fringe emerges from the structure of the woven cloth. Sometimes the warp yarn is so beautiful that I don’t want to twist it and hide its beauty or texture. This was the case with this silk satin piece I wove.

About every inch or so (or what seems needed) I work a warp thread back into the cloth. In this case the warp is so dense, the missing thread didn’t leave a space in the fringe. When it does show I practice a bit to decide what the intervals should be between the missing threads.

I didn’t want a hem at the cut end so I removed a couple of wefts and then used the same treatment. Since the warp threads were so short, I used a hook like a knitting machine needle. This one came from the notions department. (I bet Amazon has such thing, too). I grasped the thread with the hook open.

Then I wove the closed hook into a few wefts of the cloth and grasped the thread and the hook closed as I pulled it through.

How it looks on the right side.

Here is the finished piece—it’s not long 27inches. I’m thinking of mounting something on it, using it as a background.

Here are the tools I had on hand. The needle pillow I wove and its supply of tapestry needles was a big help. Sometimes I combed the fringes with the bigger ones.

I dyed the silk warp and weft yarns and cut up wool cloth into tiny pieces for the inside. Animal fiber inside won’t rust pins and needles I learned long ago in 4H. The hook with the jaw open is nearby. The seam ripper was used in another project.