What is a Scroll? A Trilogy of Scrolls?


What is a scroll?
My inspiration is Japanese scrolls. They are narrow “wall hangings” that hang in little niches where art is displayed–usually a flower arrangement. Usually they are long and have a nice background with a piece of art mounted on it. I went to an exhibit in Japan a couple of years ago and the artist’s scrolls were many shapes and sizes–all with a background she chose for the art displayed on it. So that is what I’m calling MY scrolls. I’ve been matching up backgrounds and art. Sometimes parts are made by me –woven and/or dyed or things I’ve brought home from many trips. I’ve been under lock down since March 8 and can’t get to my studio where my looms are. I’ve been enjoying looking at what I have in my apartment and using what I have on hand.

Another background cloth from the striped warp in previous posts.

The background this time is plain weave. The warp threads are DMC 6-strand embroidery cotton. Someone gave me two cartons of cones of the stuff we usually see as little tiny skeins. The colors are wonderful and can be subtle. I took some light ones and some dark ones for the stripes.

Here is a close up of the art. They are shiny silk squares I cut from fabrics I dyed all with black walnuts a year ago or so. I attached them to pieces of cotton fabric (also black walnut dyed) with a museum-quality double stick tape. I love this tape and use it a lot. I got it from a bookbinding supply place in Brooklyn. The name is Talas. They have an extensive catalog and do online orders. I then attached these pieces to a flannel cloth for just the right amount of body for the hanging.

I’m thinking I have a trilogy—not a triptych; but they might hang together.

Here is a close-up of one section. In all the sections I turned the shiny squares 90 degrees so the way the light catches them makes the checkerboard pattern.

The fabric for the squares in this section was an upholstery fabric, I think. One side is silk, the other is cotton. The squares didn’t like to stay flat with time! However, it shows you how I mounted them with tiny bits of the tape in the middle of the tops of the squares.

A Weft-faced Twill: Actually, Weft Predominant Twill

Here is another piece I wove for a background for a scroll. You might recognize the warp from the “Three Faces of Karl” scroll in previous posts. I seemed to be wanting to use up things I’d been hoarding in my studio: this time, the black thin wool boucle. And I wanted to show off the boucle which I love and the rough silk as wefts.

Here is the back side which shows the warp dominating. This was the back when I was weaving and remained so.

Since there is a fat weft and the thin boucle weft, the selvedges naturally go in and out. Thick yarns don’t turn as easily as thin ones at the selvedges, but I didn’t want to lose the idea of the special silk so I let it stick out or turn at the selvedge as it wanted to.

This is a close-up of the warp face side (the back side). The thick weft is very rough being made of the waste part of silk cocoons. It’s called kibiso. It is very lumpy and sort of flat, and a little paper-like. I dyed it with black walnuts a year ago and kept looking at it until I finally decided to try it.

Today I finished the top and bottom and attached the silks I had dyed. So here is the finished scroll.

“Three Faces…” Revisited: Broken Point and Unbalanced Twills

Someone asked me about the weave structure for the background of this piece in the previous post. I realized there is a story behind it. (Just when I think I’ve run out of post ideas, something comes up to get me going again!)

This is what I intended to weave. Since I was going to use the butcher’s twine that I’d been hoarding for years, I wanted to have the weft dominate the warp to show it off. When I think of twills I usually think of balanced twills where the warp and weft show equally. That can be written as 2/2 twill. In the fraction, the top number represents the number of warps lifted and the bottom number, the warps to be lowered. Regularly the treadling would be 12, 23, 34, 41 etc. And to reverse the direction it would be 41, 34, 32, 21 etc.

For the weft to dominate over the warp I need to weave a weft faced twill. That would be a 1/3 twill with 1 shaft up and 3, down. 1,2,3,4, and 4,3,2,1. That would be easy with only one shaft lifted at a time and the weft would show a lot and the warp hardly any. (because only 1 warp would be up for each row). In the piece, I wove 16 rows one direction and 16 rows the other.

Besides that, I wanted the points where the direction of the twill changed to be crisp so special attention needed to be made. Normally one might think to change the direction at the point you would treadle 1,2,3,4,3,2,1. The point is often mush or not sharp with that treadling. What you do is at the point of reversal you jump to a specific treadle and to begin the reverse direction. How do you know what to do? Read on.

You make yourself a “twill circle”.  You make a circle and put on it as many points as there are treadles for one repeat. The photo shows the circle I used for a 4-shaft twill. Wherever you end up and are ready to change directions, you jump to the point directly across the circle. In this instance if I ended with treadle 4, the next treadle should be 2. That would be the first shot for the reversed direction. So wherever my 16th row happened to land, I would always know what treadle to start the reversal with. If I ended on 1, then I would begin with 3. The lower circle shows a circle if I were weaving with 8 shafts. If I ended up on treadle 4 I would jump to treadle 8 and if I landed on treadle 5, I would know to jump to treadle 1.

However, I decided I liked the wrong side better when it was off the loom! The wrong side is the reverse, with the warp dominating as a 3/1 twill. If you look closely at one row you might be able to see 3 warps up between each single weft. Warp face and weft faced twills can be called unbalanced twills as opposed to balanced twill which would be a 2/2 or 4/4 twill, or 5/5 twill etc.

Three Faces of Karl (Karl is the name given to San Francisco’s fog)

I think maybe people would like a break from my linen scroll project. Life has suddenly gotten in my way so I don’t have any pictures ready of the latest and last ones.

This is one of the first scrolls I made at the beginning of the pandemic. I wove the ground fabric just before the lock down.

I used butcher’s twine for the weft. It’s what Lia Cook used long ago in her pressed pieces. I’d been wanting to use it for a long time. When I wet the fringe to straighten it, some of the cloth got wet, too, so it shrank—dah—butcher’s twin is supposed to shrink when it gets wet. So, I spread it out on the counter and wet the whole piece. The selvedges tightened up nicely.

This is the top piece. No fog, the City (San Francisco?) is clear.
The little pieces I wove with the handspun cotton I got in Bhutan. It’s fun to think about where some of the pieces or yarns came from. The warp was that fine silk at 125 ends per inch of long ago. I was determined to weave it off even after I lost a huge number of threads to threading errors and breakage.

Fog is coming in.
The silk threads for the warps are going horizontally. I dipped the pieces into black walnut dye. The wefts are the vertical threads in these pieces with the “selvedges” on the top and bottom.

Fog completely obliterates the City!

Allowing for Loom Waste When Planning a Project

I received a comment today on my website about a tip I’d made about loom waste. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but not clearly, for sure. I hope it was done long ago. I will get my tech guy to delete the tip (when the lockdown is over?). In it I also showed the two-stick heading which is not about loom waste but about headings. It should not have been in that tip at all. Also, the illustrations and text didn’t match up.
A certain amount of your warp cannot be woven into cloth. It’s at each end. You must allow for it when deciding how long to make your warps. I remember a student long ago who wanted to make a baby blanket. We calculated how long the warp should be. Then she made the warp only as long as the finished blanket was going to be. She hadn’t understood why we’d done all the calculations for loom waste. The next week she came to class and reported on her ultrasound. Twins! And her first thought was that she could only make one blanket! I never saw her again!

Front loom waste
The front loom waste is at the beginning of the warp. That is the place where some of the warp is used in tying it onto the cloth beam apron rod. See the illustration. Front loom waste might be anywhere from 6-8 inches to 20 inches long, depending on how thrifty or wasteful you are and on what method you use for tying on (knots or lacing on). Lacing on uses the least amount of warp.

Back loom waste
The loom waste at the back of the loom can be seen in the illustration. It is the amount that cannot be woven because of the warp’s being threaded in the heddles on the shafts. Large looms have more distance between the beater and the back shaft, so they have more distance between the beater and the back shafts, so they naturally have more loom waste than a small loom would. To know how much to allow, see the illustration and measure on your loom the distance represented by the arrow. Pull the warp beam’s apron rod up to the heddles on the shaft furthest back on the loom. Measure from there to a few inches in front of the beater or about one-half the distance between the beater and the breast beam. Add a few more inches here if you warp front-to-back, for tying the knots on the warp beam’s apron rod, say, 4-6 inches more.

How to Wind a Pirn: Final End-Delivery Post

I have a lot of tips and information on end-delivery shuttles and 2 ½ pages with illustrations on winding pirns alone. Here is a brief description with out important details.

The shape you are making is a cylinder with a cone-shaped tip. To secure the weft yarn to the pirn at the beginning, start by wrapping the yarn a few times on itself around the flat part of the pirn, not where you will form the base of the cone shape. Do it before putting it on the winder. The yarn won’t “hold” if you start it on the cone-shaped part.

There are two motions going on at once while winding pirns. One motion is the overall movement from the base of the pirn toward its tip. The second movement is a swinging of the yarn, back and forth for a distance of about an inch to an inch and a half.

Your hand will only guide the thread—it should not put tension on it, because that would burn your fingers. To put tension on the thread while winding the pirns, use a tension box of some kind. By running the weft yarn through the tension box over and under the pegs, sufficient tension can be placed on the weft yarn to pack the pirn firm and tight.

Begin winding at the base—where there is a built-in-cone-shape. Wind on some weft to make a small hump, which immediately begins to establish a cone shape. This initial hump should fill only an inch or so on the shaft of the pirn. Even though the base of your pirn is already shaped like a cone, you’ll want to retain this shape and build it up a bit higher right at the beginning.

Remember to swing the yarn back and forth right from the start. At its base, the diameter of your starting cone of yarn should be just a s big as the diameter of the finished filled pirn. This diameter is determined by the size of the shuttle’s cavity.

Continue winding and swinging the yarn as you guide it, maintaining the cone shape. This cone shape advances along the pirn as it is being wound with the base of the cone always the same size. As you swing the yarn, do not swing it over the high part of the cone as it advances, but keep working the cone shape down the pirn toward the tip.

Don’t wind these pirns in sections as the manuals often suggest. Rather, keep gradually progressing toward the tip. It’s like a stack of dunce caps, or highway cones, on their side.

Here is a finished pirn. The completely filled pirn should be quite firm and end in a cone shape about ½” from the tip. It is OK to fill many pirns at one sitting.

How to Add or Subtract Twist from a Yarn: Look at the Top of the Spool End Delivery Post #4

Almost every yarn has twist (among the few that don’t are flat yarns like ribbon, reed, and metallics). Twist is what makes natural fibers hold together as yarn. It’s what makes the plies of thread hug together in a strong yarn. Even man-made fibers benefit from the twist. This post talks about slightly adding or subtracting twist by which end of a spool you take the yarn off of. These situations aren’t common, but may occur with over-twisted, unbalanced, or single ply yarns.

Three major truths about twist to keep in mind:
1. In general, adding twist makes a harder, stronger yarn.
2. In general, subtracting twist makes a softer, more easily abraded yarn.
3. Twist has two directions: S twist and Z twist.

You can add S or Z twist when you unwind yarn from the end of a spool.
When the yarn, as seen from the end of the spool, moves in a counter-clockwise direction as it unwinds from the spool, S twist is added.

By turning the spool end-for-end, the yarn will move in a clockwise direction as it unwinds, adding Z twist to it.

Repeating the principle: which end of the yarn package the yarn comes off from dictates the direction of the twist put into the yarn—because the yarn is coming off the end.

You can add or subtract twist not only by how you wind a pirn, but also by which end of the spool of yarn you take the yarn off of. Now, every time you wind or unwind yarn, you can slightly add twist, subtract it, or have no effect on it.

How you unwind a ball of yarn determines the amount of twist as well as the direction of twist. If the ball rolls around and the yarn comes off the side, you know that no twist is being added.

If the yarn comes out from the center and off the top of a ball a small amount of twist is added or subtracted depending upon which end of the ball is on top as usual.

If you unwind the ball starting at the outside of the ball, the amount of twist being added (or subtracted) increases as the circumference of the ball gets smaller and smaller. However, if you begin to unwind a ball from the center of the ball where the circumference is small, you’ll be putting in the most twist at the beginning. It will gradually get less and less as the circumference of the inside of the ball gets bigger as it is unwound, because one twist is added for each time the yarn traverses the circumference of the ball, making more twists per inch where the circumference is small—in the center.  If this is a problem (kinks in the yarn) let the balls roll around on the floor as you wind. Then any twist will work itself out before it gets to the winder.

You can always check yourself with a roll of toilet paper so you don’t need to worry if you forget all of this!

How This Weaver Learned to Tell S & Z: End-delivery Shuttle Post #3

For years, I resisted identifying yarns by whether they were S or Z twist. “How could you possibly know whether you’re holding the yarn right-or-wrong-side up, I said to myself. (And I’ve heard others say it, too.) Often, I learn things when I have to teach something and this time it was for collapse weaving with overtwisted yarns. My toilet paper demo was a big help. I can’t remember how I thought it up.

What is S & Z?
Yarns have two directions of twist: S and Z. To see the direction of twist of a yarn, look for diagonal lines.

How to tell the direction.
Hold a length of the yarn taut. Look at it closely. You’ll see that the surface of the yarn spirals (note the diagonal lines). If the diagonal slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter S, then we say it has S twist. If it slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter Z, then we say it has Z twist.  That is why the twists are named as they are. The seine twine in the photo shows S twist.

You can see how the diagonal lines are formed when you look at the toilet paper demonstration again. Which one shows S twist? Which one is the Z? Read on.

What to look for.
Look for the bars in the two letters: S & Z. See that the bar in the S goes on a diagonal like the back slash on the computer keyboard: \. Also see that the bar in the letter Z goes in the same direction as the forward slash: /.

Does it matter if the yarn is upside down?
Here is a gorgeous black cord I brought back from Bhutan (I think). Note where the tassel is in the photo. I see that the diagonal lines are going in the Z direction here. What will happen when I turn it upside down? See the next photo.

Now the tassel shows that I’ve turned the cord upside down, so-to-speak. It’s still Z twist! No change in direction! No matter which way you turn a yarn or look at it, the twist will always look the same!!

Here’s a quick way to check S & Z that always works. (The way I do it.)
Knowing that most yarns are twisted in the S direction, and that the right hand is the dominant hand for most people, swing your right hand across your body. Start the swing with your hand at your side and swing it towards your left shoulder. That is the same diagonal of S twisted yarn! So, if the yarn in question has the same diagonal as you do when you swing your right hand, it’s an S-twist yarn. Swinging your left hand across your body gives you the diagonal for Z twisted yarns. When I’m in a yarn shop, I don’t actually swing my arm—I just swing my hand across my chest—right for S direction and left hand for the Z direction.

End-Delivery Shuttles: Part Two

Why use end-delivery shuttles?

First, speed: the weft yarn never tangles or jerks, so you can throw the shuttle as hard and as fast as you want, and you don’t have to stop weaving to unsnarl a backlashed bobbin.
Second, the selvedges: they are even, not loopy and not indented from wefts being jerked or snagged.
They are more complicated to make, so they are more expensive than boat shuttles, but can be well worth the investment. Short ones are needed for narrow warps and longer ones for wider ones. (The warp width should be more than the length of the shuttle).

What makes them work?
First of all, only the weft thread moves—not the pirn (That’s important because it’s the momentum of the revolving bobbin in a boat shuttle that created problems.)
Second, end-delivery shuttles have a tensioning device that regulates the tension on the thread, so the weft can snug itself up to the selvedge thread perfectly on each shot. The weaver never has to touch the selvedges.

What kinds of yarns don’t work?
Wefts that are flat strips such as ribbon or metallics do not work in end-delivery shuttles because the yarn twist as it comes off the pirns. A boat shuttle must be used or the ribbon will twist and twist. (Just like toilet paper if taken off on an end.) Monofilament also will kink (over twist).
Also, really thick wefts, such as rags and heavy rug yarns, can’t pass through the tensioning device.

As the yarn is unwound from an end-delivery pirn, its twist is changed by a small amount, usually about 1/5th of a turn per inch of yarn because the yarn comes off the end of the pirn. With most yarns the extra twist is not noticeable. This twist change occurs when yarn is taken off the end of any yarn package, even cones. However, cones are wound with the intention of being unwound off the top so there usually is no problem. (The toilet paper demonstration again.) See below to know if there is too much twist.

I always like to take yarns off the ends of spools and cones because they can be taken off fast. Taking the yarn off the side must be done slowly or the yarn will overspin and tangle on the spindle holding the spool. Here is the stand I use to hold my spools and cones when warping or winding bobbins or pirns. It’s important that the thread guides for the spool must be exactly over the center if the dowels that hold the spools or cones. It is meant to be used to double up weft threads when you want to weave with more than one thread together as a single weft. With this doubling technique, the multiple threads will stay together and not separate with some making loops while others remain straight as you weave along. More information and how you can make a similar arrangement at home is in my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth on page 67.

How can you tell if a yarn twists too much? 
You’ll know if you’re adding too much twist if the weft kinks on itself. Conversely, if your weft becomes untwisted and pulls apart, you’ve taken out too much twist. If the yarn is somewhat overtwisted to begin with, adding even that much twist can make it more difficult to handle because of the kinks. You can always add or remove twist by turning the spool or pirn end for end. More on this coming soon.

Pirns and Twist: End Delivery Shuttle No. 1

Here is an illustration of an end-delivery shuttle. I’m having a hard time deciding how to present information about end feed shuttles in short posts. Look for more information coming soon. For now, consider twist which is a big part of knowing about these wonderful shuttles.

Instead of bobbins, pirns are used in the shuttles to hold the weft yarn.
Pirns and Twist: As the yarn is unwound from an end-delivery pirn, its twist is changed by a small amount, because the yarn comes off the end of the pirn. Actually, this twist change occurs when yarn is taken off the end of any pirn, bobbin, spool, or cone. When yarn is taken off the side of a pirn, bobbin, spool, or (not likely), a cone, the twist is unchanged.

I demonstrated this effect to students with a roll of toilet paper. If I pull the paper off the top end of it, everyone could see that the paper comes off twisted. It is easy to see the diagonal lines in the paper to determine the direction of the twist. Then, I turned the roll of toilet paper upside down and pulled off some paper. Of course, it is twisted again, but in the opposite direction from the first example. The last part of the demonstration was to pull the paper off the side of the roll. Voila! No twist!!

You can change the twist by how you put the pirn onto the bobbin winder’s spindle—that is, with the base facing the motor, or away from it. Try both ways and examine which way your winder adds and which way it subtracts twist for a given yarn. Check the twist as you take the yarn off the pirn. Differently wound pirns can create a noticeable difference in the woven cloth. (More about the directions of twist to come.)

When You Want More Bobbins, Make Quills

A quill is simply a tube. It can be made of paper, cardboard, or wood. First, I’ll tell you how to make a paper quill, and then I’ll explain the important things to know about winding them to reduce backlash and prevent the weft from spilling over the ends and tangling. This post is taken from my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth where there is extensive information on shuttles.

I use ordinary binder paper and start by folding it into quarters. The folding lets me cut the paper for 4 quills at once for some small shuttles I have. The length of the quills is important. They should never be so long that they almost fill the shuttle cavity. Make them no more than 2/3 of the length of the cavity, so they will unreel smoothly and not get hung up on the ends of the cavity and jerk the thread. The size of the paper oval at its mid-section is the length the quill will be. Your paper ovals don’t have to be perfectly shaped.

Starting with one of the short ends, begin winding it up on the winder’s spindle, as tight as you can, to start the tube.

Just before the paper is completely wound into a tube, take the end of the weft thread and tuck it into the paper as the last few rounds are made then, continue winding tightly so the yarn holds the quill’s tube shape. For good selvedges and to reduce backlash, the way you shape the weft yarn on the quill is crucial. Read on.

First, don’t make lumps on either end as you may have seen recommended. The lumps cause the quill to spin too fast, and we know sudden changes in speed of the bobbin causes backlash.

Instead, wind the layers flat. Make each layer shorter than the previous one. The first or bottom layer should only extend to within ½” of the ends of the quill to keep the yarn from falling off at the edges.

The final layers will be short and, in the middle, making a cigar or football shape. While winding the layers, crisscross diagonally each successive layer by moving the hand holding the yarn back and forth across the quill. Keep the spirals compact—like a slinky that is very slightly stretched. The secret: wind under very firm tension. Tight quills and bobbins unreel smoothly when they are as full as possible. The criss-crossing helps, too.

Remember never to wind yarn closer to the ends of the quill than ½”. If you do, you can be assured the yarn will slip off the ends and make huge tangles.

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.

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

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

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.

An Afghan Weaver Revisited: Helen Pope

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

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.

Threading Without Mistakes: Three Tricks to Try

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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

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

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!