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.

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.

Weaver’s Block? Try a Sampler: Sample or Sampler?

Introduction:
The answer to the question in the title is answered at the end of the post. I was thinking of a quick and easy project for a post the other day. Besides quick and easy, I thought it also should not be precious. Because when something is precious it takes extra time, planning and fussing and worrying whether it will turn out ok. Or a big investment in time and materials. What came to mind was a beginner’s sampler. If you made one years ago or never before, it can be freeing.  A little bit like a musician doing scales. Practice, information, but not precious. Also, when I think of the sampler I made when I got started there are a lot of structures in it that I never wove again. While weaving it you don’t even need to think much, just do as you are told. With your mind free, I’ll bet ideas come without any effort. I used to tell my students to only show their sampler to people who will understand. It’s really like something a mother would put up on the refrigerator in the minds of most people. However, a sampler can be something such as a scarf or table runner, etc. It could even be black and white or something for a man in your life. Even if you have lots of shafts, a simple 4-shaft sampler can give you basic information for later on.

My students made this sampler. It is the first project in my book for beginners. This one was made by my mentor and friend, Helen Pope. She was well over 85 and a very experienced weaver when she made it.  I suggest using 2 contrasting colors in the warp. They could be high or low contrast.  Even though you aren’t making something precious, please use yarns that you like. Using up ugly yarns is a bad idea; you won’t have pleasure while weaving or when it’s finished. You can use anything you want for your sampler, of course. (And you could even put borders on the edges.) (Pardon the blurry photos—the sampler is at the studio where I cannot get at it. The photos are from the back cover of my beginner book.)

Maybe you didn’t “get” the concept of warp dominance or weft dominance the first go around. There’s a lot to explore with this idea.

You can do a lot with plain weave itself. Contrast, mix, or blend colors. Even the same yarn for both warp and weft can be interesting. And alternating colors 1 row (or two, or three) makes a variety of cloths.

Don’t forget basket weave! It is the perfect weave to go along with twills. With both being “over 2, under 2” the width of the cloth will remain the same. If you used plain weave sections and twill sections, the cloth will be wider in the plain weave areas. That could be disfiguring unless you wanted wider and narrower edges.

Sample or Sampler? It’s important to sample on the same warp as your project. A narrow sample for a wide project won’t give the information you need. You can easily cut off the sample to look at it, feel it, and wash it. Then you know you have the right sett, reed, and peace of mind. If you make a two-stick heading you will use only a short amount of your warp to get the warp back on tension. Click this link for more about the two-stick heading:   https://peggyosterkamp.com/2020/04/cutting-off-some-of-the-cloth-before-the-warp-is-finished-the-two-stick-heading/

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).

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 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”.

Make a Hem That’s Invisible on the Right Side

Introduction:
RE: Filters for masks
3M 2200 best for virus protection


I’d been wondering about the so-called filters that were to go into the masks and finally Bob, my tech guy, did some research and found out that furnace and air conditioner filters could be cut up for inserting in the masks. I couldn’t imagine how that would be, especially when he bought one at the hardware store and brought it to me. So, I checked the web and found just what I needed: the package, how to open it, what to use and what to throw away. Then it showed how to cut out the pieces for the filters to insert. Here is the LINK to that YouTube video.



For the top of this white cotton piece I wanted a finished edge but I wanted the cloth to just stop or end without any sign of how.

In preparation for making the hem, I protected the last weft by pulling warps periodically back into the cloth just like in a previous post. (This prevents the raw edge from unravelling.)

I turned the hem to the wrong side and ironed only on the fold to make a crease there. Note that I didn’t iron the cut edge so as not to make an impression on the right side.

I used this iron-on adhesive rather than sewing the hem down. This type in the red package is meant to iron in place and make a permanent bond. It used to come by the yard but I’ve only seen it in these smaller packages lately. It is available from fabric stores and Amazon. Be sure the package says  Ultrahold” and not “Lite”. It was not in the interfacing area of the fabric store, but in an aisle where applique supplies were located.

This shows the adhesive ironed paper-side up in place inside where the hem is to be. Since you won’t be ironing on the raw edge, place the adhesive near the crease where the hem will be turned to the wrong side.

Peel off the paper in preparation for the final ironing.

Turn the hem under, enclosing the adhesive and iron. Remember to only iron on the fold –not on the edge of the hem to prevent an impression that would show on the right side.

Note that there is a purple package (Lite) that isn’t meant for ironing permanently but requires stitching down. The adhesive just holds a piece in place in preparation for stitching to hold it permanently in place. It comes by the yard or in packages with larger amount than the Ultrahold in the red package.

Finishing, Finishing, Finished!

It’s not finished until it’s finished
a quote from my teachers

When our teachers told us this, it always meant that the woven cloth needed to be washed so the threads would relax and settle into the weave. I do wash or at least wet my fabrics and usually give them a hard press. That means when they are very damp, I iron and iron until they are dry or practically dry. I love this process and I do it as soon as I bring home the cloth if I can. I get to really see what my cloth looks and feels like. And it is always transformed into something much different from the “raw” cloth.

I have realized that a cloth needs to be made into something to be really finished. I am working at getting some of my woven pieces to be art. My basic idea is to make “scrolls” with fragments and background cloths. Sometimes a piece is for a background and sometimes it’s for the “art” to be mounted on the background. They don’t necessarily need to be long and narrow like traditional scrolls. I’m trying to match the background and the “show pieces”. I want the viewer to enjoy the textiles themselves as well as the overall “scroll”. And, I’m enjoying handling the pieces again and remembering how they came about.  [click photos to enlarge]

This scroll sort of came together by itself. The top 2 pieces were lying on my table together like they are here. The background fabric I wove with the idea of dyeing it someday. I liked how they didn’t match up at the edges, too. It is 8” x 26”.

The background cloth is from the warp I designed to make the needle pillows in a previous post. The slubby warp and weft are of handspun singles cotton from Bhutan. The skeins were horribly snarled and I spent a whole afternoon in the hotel trying to unwind one and finally discovered that there was a cross in the skein! I’d never heard of such a thing. Then I saw a woman unwinding a skein using two swifts—one at each end. When I tried this at home, the skein unwound beautifully and perfectly. I spent a lovely afternoon balling the yarn! I unwound one of the skeins and part of the second—the rest is still on the swifts waiting to be wound into a ball. I never thought of it as a warp but wanted to try it. I used some sizing for the first time. It was so easy to make with flax seed and brush on, I don’t know why I’ve always been afraid to use it. I brushed it on the loom—what was unwoven at the end of a weaving session. Then I left it to dry with the shed open.  The dyed pieces are also from that warp. I dyed the various cloths I got from that warp with black walnuts. I really like to see what different cloths I can make from one warp. I like the white one so much that I’m loath to dye it. I think it really shows off the yarns.

Here is a start at a little scroll using the satin and velvet cloths from previous posts.  I hope it works but am not sure. Any thoughts? It’s just pinned in place now.

Help for These Trying Times


I’m amazed at how people are checking on and helping each other as we deal with the Covid-19 virus and stay in our homes.

I spent the day cutting fabrics for making 200 masks for our staff. Thank goodness for a rotary cutter! I can’t tell you how good it felt to be doing something. We have a whole team. It’s amazing how people have all we needed—except for the elastic and filter. We needed to search deeply for elastic—everyone seemed out of stock. I had a spool of wire and good cutters, others had fabric—lots of quilting material. Tonight those with sewing machines are busily sewing them up. Our team leader made miniature samples to go along with the directions.

I’d like to help in another way by offering a free book with the purchase of a book. It’s the same sale I have offered during the holidays.

If you can weave or not now, perhaps reading about it will make for some pleasant time—maybe even inspire you to get to the loom.

Many of you know my book, Weaving for Beginners (as a pdf or in print). However, the other books offer more depth and are like reference books. They have all the illustrations you expect. Order your free books on my website: www.peggyosterkamp.com

Here’s what you might be interested in knowing more in depth about in Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle: how to use a paddle, plan projects, understand sett for different projects as well as different yarns, and make perfect warps.

Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps is only available as a pdf but has lots of information that isn’t readily available to weavers—especially in one place. How to beam perfectly tensioned warps by yourself, use sectional warping, adjust looms, tie on new warps, learn how different types of looms work, and how to adjust them.

Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth has in-depth information on drafting, analyzing fabric, creating your own designs, burn tests, multi shaft weaving, besides efficient weaving motions, information about different types of shuttles, making perfect selvedges and weighting them separately. There is a big chapter on troubleshooting as well.

My DVD is available on Vimeo as well as on a DVD. How to warp the loom from back-to-front is what it shows. It’s just like what’s in all the books.

Marking Where to Cut So You Can Change Your Mind Later

I made this post while I was at my loom last week. I was weaving as much as I could in case I got locked up in my retirement place. Since that has happened I’ve been working on other unfinished weavings. And getting ideas for more posts. More on that progress to come. In the meantime I hope this tip is helpful. I love sending out these posts–it makes me feel connected to the outside world. [click photos to enlarge]
PUT THE MARKER THREAD IN THE SAME SHED AS YOU WEAVE ALONG. This allows you to pull out the thread without destroying the weft sequence if you change your mind about cutting your cloth later. DO NOT USE RED, BLACK, NAVY if you think the color might run.

See that the marker thread is in the same shed as the regular weft. Then you can pull it out later if you change your mind.

A contrasting marker thread is very helpful especially if the pattern isn’t easy to follow a weft for cutting. With some textures, even the change of color of the weft isn’t enough for an accurate cutting line. Remember not to use a color thread that might run if it gets wet in the finishing process.

Measuring Your Progress

Before I give you my “Measuring Your Progress” tips I’d like to follow up on my last post about the Warping Trapeze:
I recommend the wood be 2″ x 2″ rather than 2″ x 4″ as seen in this YouTube video. And I didn’t cut the ends of the boards as seen in the video.  However it shows how it works.

Also I didn’t drill holes but used brackets from the plumbing department at my hardware store and my rod is smaller at 1/2″ diameter. And I used ½” brackets like in the photo below. That way I can easily take the trapeze apart for storage.

Be sure to measure the width of you loom before you buy your rod. A curtain rod might work if the length is okay.



I like to use adding machine tape to measure my progress. Using 3 pins keeps the tape from slipping and sliding so you can be accurate. When you need to move the pin closest to you, “leapfrog” it over the other pins and place it near the edge (fell) of the cloth.

Mark with a fine enough pen so you can see your measurement exactly.

Here is a page from my book Weaving for Beginners showing the tape. Notice it does not get woven in with the cloth. I mark where the hems are to be and any changes as well as where I want the beginning and the end to be.

Making My Own Warping Trapeze

Now that I’m restricted to my apartment in my retirement place because of the corona virus, I have more time on my hands. I think that may be the case for others, and maybe people are at their looms more than ever. So I’m planning to send more frequent posts about weaving. While I was allowed to go out to my studio I wove more than I have in a few years. I was afraid we’d get guaranteed and then I could dye what I wove at home. That is my plan.

Peggy

 

I was so excited to get everything I needed to make my warping trapeze in one afternoon. Everything came from my local hardware/lumber store. My tech guy screwed in the brackets in 5 minutes. Whoever said there was no such thing as a 10-minute job! I got 8 ounce fishing weights from a sporting goods store and 2 bungie cords while getting the lumber (2×2, 6ft long), solid metal rod (1/2” d.), and brackets (from the plumbing department).  My apprentice, Vera, gave me her plans.

The trapeze will be used for beaming—making tightly wound warps for perfect tension. Here-to-fore I’ve used my warping drum (a hassle) or cranking and yanking (works ok but the trapeze will speed up the process with perfection.

Now all I need is a new warp to beam on. That won’t happen until we are allowed to leave our apartments until the virus settles down.

When Teaching is Wonderful!


Here is proud Gao Yu after he was on a 3-month internship with Slow Fiber Studios. He is a textile scholar from China and his personal knowledge of backstrap weaving and weavers paid off. He came several times to my studio to learn how a floor loom works. He asked great questions and understood so much what was happening. After one experiment where he had to lift many shafts, he said, “Now I understand why people weave the cloth wrong side up!” Here he is showing his sample with a supplementary warp he planned and set up on my 10-shaft loom. Then he wanted to know if he could also do supplementary weft. The white wefts show that: both supplementary warps and wefts as well as other treadlings he figured out.

Gao Yu made another warp on my 4-shaft loom. He had seen a textile with a space in the warp which was his inspiration.

Then he tried weaving each side separately. The orange warp thread had been in the center as a supplemantary warp to weave with the unwoven wefts. (I suggested he put in the thread between two heddles–working like a floating selvedge–when he wished for another shaft.)

The final challenge was to make the floor loom work like a back strap loom. I grapped a shirt I had with straps–and voila!

He wanted to use a large tube for the natural shed and only one shaft for the counter shed like in a plain weave backstrap loom. Not perfect but close. My loom was not deep or tall enough to get a good enough counter shed. But more thinking about it he can do when back home in China. (We all were lucky that he got here before the virus outbreak.)

A Hair Comb is a Lifesaver


I discovered a threading error after I’d woven about an inch or so and an ordinary comb helped isolate the mistake in the heddles. [click photos to enlarge]

I discovered the error in only a few of the sheds—2 warp threads were closer together than the rest of the warp.

Then I vaguely saw in the woven part what looked like an error in the reed. It wasn’t the reed, but a mistake in the threading which was obvious when I isolated the area in the heddles with the comb.

I took out all the threads from the error to the edge of the warp. It was helpful to have the woven part still in place.

Here are the first 4 threads in their proper heddles.

Thank goodness for the lease sticks in the cross! I always keep them in behind the heddles in case of an error or broken thread so I can quickly find the correct heddle(s) to make the repair.

I put the threads into the reed as I went along.

Here the 40 ends are re-threaded and re-sleyed in the read, ready to tie on. I’ll take out the previously woven part and tie on the whole warp again. I like to lash on, especially with this slippery and expensive silk warp thread.

More Surprises at the Silk Factory


This gorgeous irridescent sari caught my eye immediately. I brought it home with me and hope to make collages where the light plays on the fabric in different ways. So inspiring! It would be lovely as a garment with gathers but I can’t think of anything I would wear. [click photos to enlarge]

THIS IS A SKEIN HOLDER! I asked about the bamboo pieces with “feet” that were laying on the floor under a loom. Immediately a skein was produced to show the purpose. The threads came off beautifully. I would like to think it could be put up on a table.

If you look closely in the corner of the photo the weaver is winding the thread from the skein on a wicker cage-like tool with a stick for a handle. He is winding very fast and the fine silk thread is coming off like magic.  I wish I could make skeins that well.

This close-up shows a stack of the cards for the Jacquard loom and the “cage thing” that threads are wound on. They could  twirl the cage fast and wind up the thread really fast.

I watched this weaver for a good while while he was separating warp threads so he could move the lease sticks. I thought I was the only one who needed to fiddle to move the sticks sometimes. It’s VERY important to keep the sticks in. The reason is that if a thread breaks you will know exactly where it belongs.

The woman in the sari is weaving along with a fly shuttle that works when she pulls the handle on the cord. (It shoots the shuttle across the warp.) I  visited a factory once in another part of India where all the Jacquard weavers were men because lifting all the threads with their weights took a lot of muscle. I was very surprised to see one woman. The others were men but not beefy types.

Silk Sari Weavers in India


In the town of Thanjavur in southest India we visited Sri Sagunthalai Silks factory. One of their specialities is weaving special borders on the fabric. They developed a technique so the join between the body and the borders was barely detectable by feel. [click photos to enlarge]

There were 5 or 6 Jacquard looms. Here is how the (two) Jacquard mechanisms were set up: one mechanism for the borders (with yellow cords) and the other for the body of the cloth with white cords. Each and every pattern warp thread was weighted separately so each thread could be lifted to make the complicated brocade pattern seen above. Each heddle was attached to its own cord going up to the mechanisms (yellow and white cords). One punch card was made for each row of weaving which the mechanisms operated to make the sheds. This inspired the develpment of computers; you can see why.

This shows the two warps for the body and a border. I think the shafts lifted the ground threads and the Jacquard lifted the separate pattern threads.

Here the woman weaving (wearing a sari) lifted the border threads with its own treadle. I think the Jacuard worked automatically when a shed was made. (You can see some of the weights below the border).

Another treadle worked the shed for the body of the fabic.

Here she was VERY grumpy when the Jacquard mechanism overhead malfunctioned!