Sometimes the first step:
I see something that I love and try to make it into a background. In this case I’m starting with a very special piece woven by my mentor from the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York, Milton Sonday. He needle-wove the entire piece long ago on a large frame he made. It’s plain weave and gauze; woven with singles wool. He gave it to me a few years back and I had no idea how I could use it. I ran into it the other day and thought of a background but it was too big. Then I checked to see how it would be if I folded it in half—success! I loathe to cut things and certainly could never cut this. Since I want everyone to see the 4 selvedges, I put the fold on the bottom and the selvedge-edges on top in plain sight. Now it measures 23 ½” x 36”—a good scroll size. I hang things temporarily (mostly) with clothes pins and often on a hanger. I bought 50 of these black hangers and 2 big packages of clothes pins. I’m on my last 25 hangers. Then it’s easier to see what I’ve got.
Other times the first step:
And sometimes the art comes first. This is a piece I brought back from Japan.
Next is the first ironing:
As with this piece, things have usually been folded for a long time. This piece of weft ikat we got in Japan in the 60’s when I didn’t know a warp from a weft. It’s part of a futon cover. I know that because of all the lint on this side of the cloth from the stuffing or lining that had been inside. Lots of pieces available are pieces from covers like this or from kimonos that have been taken apart and sold in shops or flea markets. I love ironing because it transforms the cloth so dramatically. The wool piece above had lots of fold wrinkles so I steamed it one night with a wet press cloth. Then I let it dry flat overnight. Oh, yes. The motif on the futon cover piece is a bag of money to bring money to the user.
Next is deciding how to hang the background:
I use the piece in the previous post as my example because I haven’t decided yet how to hang the wool gauze piece with it’s two edges of cloth. I have a supply of wood from the lumber yard about 1” wide and ¼” thick that I cut when I want a stick on the top. In this case it showed too much so I wrapped it with some of the background cloth and wrapped some flannel inside that for padding to keep the two layers separated for the moire. I used monofilament instead of the temporary safety pins. I use it a lot for hanging things.
Next is deciding how to attach the art:
In this case I used French knots I made with sewing thread. They show but don’t call attention to themselves. I imagine them as the heads of pins.
Then do all the work!
And a final iron. I hate to see any wrinkle or pucker. I bring the ironing board out into our 8th floor lounge by the window a lot.
I finished this scroll today but I started it weeks ago. It hung in my hallway all this time with its art pinned to it and draped over a rod and hung with clothes pins. Yesterday I got the urge to finish it and solutions presented themselves. More about the process in the next post.
When I hung it originally I saw a wonderful thing: moire! I knew I needed 2 layers to accomplish it so I decided to hang it doubled with the hems at the bottom. Then the layers could hang freely. Moire pronounced mo-ray occurs when 2 layers of plain weave are seen together. Perhaps you’ve seen it when 2 screens are together and in other situations. See the wavy pattern showing up in the hanging? It is ever changing when you move it around with light behind it.
This shows the two layers and some moire can be seen.
The background fabric is a loosely woven linen I bought in Tokyo at a BIG fabric store. I bought it for another idea but the moire pleases me greatly. I wove it once with a fine silk in a tube. I tried it a second time with no luck. Now I think it’s more a function of the amount of space between the layers.
The art is a silk ikat fabric from Oshima, Japan. I probably made a post about it before, It’s where the resist is woven on a loom. Then taken off the loom, dyed, and then woven on another loom. It’s very expensive but we found a shop that sold pieces of the bolts. I like the whimsy here.
A close up of the weave. See how finely detailed the design is and how exactly the warp and weft patterns cross precisely? I love it.
What is a scroll?
My inspiration is Japanese scrolls. They are narrow “wall hangings” that hang in little niches where art is displayed–usually a flower arrangement. Usually they are long and have a nice background with a piece of art mounted on it. I went to an exhibit in Japan a couple of years ago and the artist’s scrolls were many shapes and sizes–all with a background she chose for the art displayed on it. So that is what I’m calling MY scrolls. I’ve been matching up backgrounds and art. Sometimes parts are made by me –woven and/or dyed or things I’ve brought home from many trips. I’ve been under lock down since March 8 and can’t get to my studio where my looms are. I’ve been enjoying looking at what I have in my apartment and using what I have on hand.
Another background cloth from the striped warp in previous posts.
The background this time is plain weave. The warp threads are DMC 6-strand embroidery cotton. Someone gave me two cartons of cones of the stuff we usually see as little tiny skeins. The colors are wonderful and can be subtle. I took some light ones and some dark ones for the stripes.
Here is a close up of the art. They are shiny silk squares I cut from fabrics I dyed all with black walnuts a year ago or so. I attached them to pieces of cotton fabric (also black walnut dyed) with a museum-quality double stick tape. I love this tape and use it a lot. I got it from a bookbinding supply place in Brooklyn. The name is Talas. They have an extensive catalog and do online orders. I then attached these pieces to a flannel cloth for just the right amount of body for the hanging.
I’m thinking I have a trilogy—not a triptych; but they might hang together.
Here is a close-up of one section. In all the sections I turned the shiny squares 90 degrees so the way the light catches them makes the checkerboard pattern.
The fabric for the squares in this section was an upholstery fabric, I think. One side is silk, the other is cotton. The squares didn’t like to stay flat with time! However, it shows you how I mounted them with tiny bits of the tape in the middle of the tops of the squares.
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.
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.
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!
I was determined to get 3 pieces ironed and the bamboo added today. Worked until 9:00. This is the original one all wrinkled. Thanks to all the advice I got about ironing and dampening.
This one my neighbor collaborated with me on the composition. She is just the right person for me.
This is another one. No rolling pin needed today, just hours of ironing. I enjoyed the day completely. A joy to see the linen iron out so flat.
I got several good suggestions about ironing my linen fabric. They all seemed to remind me of things I’d known but not thought about. The main thing is that linen likes water and it should be damp then ironed dry. One recommendation was to take it from the machine and iron it then. I’ve done that with great success—but this time I was worried that the spinning in the machine might put in permanent wrinkles. Read on.
I ironed it at midnight then hung it in the shower overnight. It is beautiful.
One person suggested sprinkling it with water and rolling in a towel overnight to evenly moisten the cloth. That is what I did but did it after lunch and waited until bedtime to iron it.
Around midnight was when I got to the ironing board. The cloth was nicely and evenly damp. One suggestion I received was to roll the cloth with a rolling pin like the way they use a mangle with pressure to iron linens in Scandinavia—Sweden? I used to do that years ago with linen and forgotten completely, however finding a rolling pin was an issue. I looked in the back of my drawers and there was none. So I called our kitchen and was able to borrow a big, heavy one—4 pounds. I ironed a portion on the front, then on the back, then used the rolling pin on the board on the area. It looks beautiful. The cloth is seamed so there are two layers and all worked out fine. Yea! Now I’m rolling ahead again—what a good feeling it is.
A close-up of a portion of the cloth. Next is to hem the ends, put on the swatches and the lovely piece of bamboo I have for the top. Then the first one will be DONE. I’m glad not all of them need such treatment, but I think they will be beautiful hanging together.
This is the first scroll in the linen project and I decided that it was too long given the size of the dyed pieces section.
Here I folded some back at the top and bottom and decided I liked this proportion better. So I was all excited to cut off the extra and have a beautiful finished piece instead of a first draft. I cut off the piece and finished the top and bottom and was all ready for the beautiful ironing part.
I practiced some on the cutoff piece with my wonderful wrinkle releaser and decided to go to the main piece. On the main piece some blotches appeared where the releaser was and they didn’t iron out! Oh dear.
So I decided to spray on my fingers and pat an area that had a wrinkle for a more gentle approach. If you look carefully, you can see my palm and fingers on the cloth! I knew that wouldn’t do but also knew that it would wash out. So I soaked it in a basin of warm water with some Dawn liquid detergent and sloshed it up and down, wrinsed it, and hung it to dry. Beautiful. Now I’m at square one again! I am thinking that I’ll just dampen it with plain water and iron it like the olden days. But I should make some more trials on my practice piece probably first. The issue is that the cloth is double–can I get both the front and back ironed nice. Or, must I take out the seam and start over but be very careful not to manhandle the cloth and get more wrinkles when I redo the seam and finish the ends. Any advice or thoughts are welcome. I’m letting the project marinate for a few days, but a bit sad that the oomph I had last week has died down a bit.
While working on this linen scroll project I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to straighten a piece of fabric. I wonder, does everyone know this? I learned it in my first year of 4-H back in Ohio. Recently I learned that taking two threads together is safer in case one breaks.
Here it’s easy to see how a pulled thread can provide the cutting line to straighten the edge of this fabric.
For the gazar silk scroll I made months ago I needed to cut off a piece from the length of fabric I had on hand. This was a slow, tedious process but necessary.
Here’s how to get a thread started. Pick up a thread or snip a bit into the cloth to pick up one. Another way is seen in the first photo. Find the lowest point in an edge and select the thread at that point.
Then just cut on your line. Sometimes when a thread breaks, I cut up to the point where it broke and pick up the thread there and continue pulling and cutting, pulling and cutting.
You can see that for a twill weave it would be a big help to have a pulled thread to cut along.
I think the reason I’m enjoying this project so much is that I get to enjoy so many textiles close up, over and over and over. The woven linens just speak to me; even the selvedges. I’m afraid my photographs aren’t doing them justice. (I need some encouragement.)
This piece is short and wide. I have been inspired by a show of unique scrolls in Japan a year or so ago. There were a couple that were short and wide like this one that I can’t get out of my mind. I began with cloths that were different sizes and that determined the size I had to work with for each scroll.
The black marks from the safety pins during dying dictated the shape for this one. But when I saw the shape, I knew it was right.
This was my favorite dye outcome—wouldn’t you know, it was the smallest piece I bought. I think it might be silk and it probably was expensive. In all the samples I made with it, it came out darker than all the others. It’s an open weave and looks like linen and I treated it that way, so it stays in the linen collection.
This is another short one. The cloth wasn’t wide enough to double so it and the black one is only one layer of cloth. I matched up each bundle from a dye bath to its background. When all 12 are finished, I may rearrange them and make my final decisions on dimensions. Part of the excitement is that I know this is only the first draft.
Here is the center piece of my first dyed scroll. In previous posts recently I’ve told about dyeing linen fabrics with 3 tannins (myrobalan, Brugueira, and quebracho) before mordanting with alum before dyeing with onion skins or black walnut dye. Sometimes I only used the tannins after-mordanted with alum and no dye. Sometimes I used an iron or copper afterbath. That means with 9 different fabrics I ended up with a lot of swatches too good to just go into a notebook.
I featured the swatches on the background cloths I dyed a week or so ago for my scrolls. Here is the first one. The pieces are only based in place. They came from two dye baths: myrobalan, alum, walnut and myrobalan, alum, onion with iron afterbath. The different fabrics took the dye deliciously different I think.
Here is the whole scroll. The background is dyed with myrobalan, alum, and onion skins. The linen fabrics ironed beautifully but wrinkled when I manhandled it. When I’ve made final decisions, I’ll do a good ironing with my wrinkle releaser and it should be beautiful. As of now, I’m not exactly sure of the dimensions and exact placement. The swatches can be exchanged around, too.
Here’s how I handled the black marks made from the safety pins during dyeing. I folded the pieces anyway I could so the marks wouldn’t be on the right side. The seam could hit anywhere in the back or on a side. You can see the mark on this one on the upper right.
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.
I have a lot of tips and information on end-delivery shuttles and 2 ½ pages with illustrations on winding pirns alone. Here is a brief description with out important details.
The shape you are making is a cylinder with a cone-shaped tip. To secure the weft yarn to the pirn at the beginning, start by wrapping the yarn a few times on itself around the flat part of the pirn, not where you will form the base of the cone shape. Do it before putting it on the winder. The yarn won’t “hold” if you start it on the cone-shaped part.
There are two motions going on at once while winding pirns. One motion is the overall movement from the base of the pirn toward its tip. The second movement is a swinging of the yarn, back and forth for a distance of about an inch to an inch and a half.
Your hand will only guide the thread—it should not put tension on it, because that would burn your fingers. To put tension on the thread while winding the pirns, use a tension box of some kind. By running the weft yarn through the tension box over and under the pegs, sufficient tension can be placed on the weft yarn to pack the pirn firm and tight.
Begin winding at the base—where there is a built-in-cone-shape. Wind on some weft to make a small hump, which immediately begins to establish a cone shape. This initial hump should fill only an inch or so on the shaft of the pirn. Even though the base of your pirn is already shaped like a cone, you’ll want to retain this shape and build it up a bit higher right at the beginning.
Remember to swing the yarn back and forth right from the start. At its base, the diameter of your starting cone of yarn should be just a s big as the diameter of the finished filled pirn. This diameter is determined by the size of the shuttle’s cavity.
Continue winding and swinging the yarn as you guide it, maintaining the cone shape. This cone shape advances along the pirn as it is being wound with the base of the cone always the same size. As you swing the yarn, do not swing it over the high part of the cone as it advances, but keep working the cone shape down the pirn toward the tip.
Don’t wind these pirns in sections as the manuals often suggest. Rather, keep gradually progressing toward the tip. It’s like a stack of dunce caps, or highway cones, on their side.
Here is a finished pirn. The completely filled pirn should be quite firm and end in a cone shape about ½” from the tip. It is OK to fill many pirns at one sitting.
Almost every yarn has twist (among the few that don’t are flat yarns like ribbon, reed, and metallics). Twist is what makes natural fibers hold together as yarn. It’s what makes the plies of thread hug together in a strong yarn. Even man-made fibers benefit from the twist. This post talks about slightly adding or subtracting twist by which end of a spool you take the yarn off of. These situations aren’t common, but may occur with over-twisted, unbalanced, or single ply yarns.
Three major truths about twist to keep in mind:
1. In general, adding twist makes a harder, stronger yarn.
2. In general, subtracting twist makes a softer, more easily abraded yarn.
3. Twist has two directions: S twist and Z twist.
You can add S or Z twist when you unwind yarn from the end of a spool.
When the yarn, as seen from the end of the spool, moves in a counter-clockwise direction as it unwinds from the spool, S twist is added.
By turning the spool end-for-end, the yarn will move in a clockwise direction as it unwinds, adding Z twist to it.
Repeating the principle: which end of the yarn package the yarn comes off from dictates the direction of the twist put into the yarn—because the yarn is coming off the end.
You can add or subtract twist not only by how you wind a pirn, but also by which end of the spool of yarn you take the yarn off of. Now, every time you wind or unwind yarn, you can slightly add twist, subtract it, or have no effect on it.
How you unwind a ball of yarn determines the amount of twist as well as the direction of twist. If the ball rolls around and the yarn comes off the side, you know that no twist is being added.
If the yarn comes out from the center and off the top of a ball a small amount of twist is added or subtracted depending upon which end of the ball is on top as usual.
If you unwind the ball starting at the outside of the ball, the amount of twist being added (or subtracted) increases as the circumference of the ball gets smaller and smaller. However, if you begin to unwind a ball from the center of the ball where the circumference is small, you’ll be putting in the most twist at the beginning. It will gradually get less and less as the circumference of the inside of the ball gets bigger as it is unwound, because one twist is added for each time the yarn traverses the circumference of the ball, making more twists per inch where the circumference is small—in the center. If this is a problem (kinks in the yarn) let the balls roll around on the floor as you wind. Then any twist will work itself out before it gets to the winder.
You can always check yourself with a roll of toilet paper so you don’t need to worry if you forget all of this!
For years, I resisted identifying yarns by whether they were S or Z twist. “How could you possibly know whether you’re holding the yarn right-or-wrong-side up, I said to myself. (And I’ve heard others say it, too.) Often, I learn things when I have to teach something and this time it was for collapse weaving with overtwisted yarns. My toilet paper demo was a big help. I can’t remember how I thought it up.
What is S & Z?
Yarns have two directions of twist: S and Z. To see the direction of twist of a yarn, look for diagonal lines.
How to tell the direction.
Hold a length of the yarn taut. Look at it closely. You’ll see that the surface of the yarn spirals (note the diagonal lines). If the diagonal slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter S, then we say it has S twist. If it slants the same way as the line forming the middle of the letter Z, then we say it has Z twist. That is why the twists are named as they are. The seine twine in the photo shows S twist.
You can see how the diagonal lines are formed when you look at the toilet paper demonstration again. Which one shows S twist? Which one is the Z? Read on.
What to look for.
Look for the bars in the two letters: S & Z. See that the bar in the S goes on a diagonal like the back slash on the computer keyboard: \. Also see that the bar in the letter Z goes in the same direction as the forward slash: /.
Does it matter if the yarn is upside down?
Here is a gorgeous black cord I brought back from Bhutan (I think). Note where the tassel is in the photo. I see that the diagonal lines are going in the Z direction here. What will happen when I turn it upside down? See the next photo.
Now the tassel shows that I’ve turned the cord upside down, so-to-speak. It’s still Z twist! No change in direction! No matter which way you turn a yarn or look at it, the twist will always look the same!!
Here’s a quick way to check S & Z that always works. (The way I do it.)
Knowing that most yarns are twisted in the S direction, and that the right hand is the dominant hand for most people, swing your right hand across your body. Start the swing with your hand at your side and swing it towards your left shoulder. That is the same diagonal of S twisted yarn! So, if the yarn in question has the same diagonal as you do when you swing your right hand, it’s an S-twist yarn. Swinging your left hand across your body gives you the diagonal for Z twisted yarns. When I’m in a yarn shop, I don’t actually swing my arm—I just swing my hand across my chest—right for S direction and left hand for the Z direction.
Why use end-delivery shuttles?
First, speed: the weft yarn never tangles or jerks, so you can throw the shuttle as hard and as fast as you want, and you don’t have to stop weaving to unsnarl a backlashed bobbin.
Second, the selvedges: they are even, not loopy and not indented from wefts being jerked or snagged.
They are more complicated to make, so they are more expensive than boat shuttles, but can be well worth the investment. Short ones are needed for narrow warps and longer ones for wider ones. (The warp width should be more than the length of the shuttle).
What makes them work?
First of all, only the weft thread moves—not the pirn (That’s important because it’s the momentum of the revolving bobbin in a boat shuttle that created problems.)
Second, end-delivery shuttles have a tensioning device that regulates the tension on the thread, so the weft can snug itself up to the selvedge thread perfectly on each shot. The weaver never has to touch the selvedges.
What kinds of yarns don’t work?
Wefts that are flat strips such as ribbon or metallics do not work in end-delivery shuttles because the yarn twist as it comes off the pirns. A boat shuttle must be used or the ribbon will twist and twist. (Just like toilet paper if taken off on an end.) Monofilament also will kink (over twist).
Also, really thick wefts, such as rags and heavy rug yarns, can’t pass through the tensioning device.
As the yarn is unwound from an end-delivery pirn, its twist is changed by a small amount, usually about 1/5th of a turn per inch of yarn because the yarn comes off the end of the pirn. With most yarns the extra twist is not noticeable. This twist change occurs when yarn is taken off the end of any yarn package, even cones. However, cones are wound with the intention of being unwound off the top so there usually is no problem. (The toilet paper demonstration again.) See below to know if there is too much twist.
I always like to take yarns off the ends of spools and cones because they can be taken off fast. Taking the yarn off the side must be done slowly or the yarn will overspin and tangle on the spindle holding the spool. Here is the stand I use to hold my spools and cones when warping or winding bobbins or pirns. It’s important that the thread guides for the spool must be exactly over the center if the dowels that hold the spools or cones. It is meant to be used to double up weft threads when you want to weave with more than one thread together as a single weft. With this doubling technique, the multiple threads will stay together and not separate with some making loops while others remain straight as you weave along. More information and how you can make a similar arrangement at home is in my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth on page 67.
How can you tell if a yarn twists too much?
You’ll know if you’re adding too much twist if the weft kinks on itself. Conversely, if your weft becomes untwisted and pulls apart, you’ve taken out too much twist. If the yarn is somewhat overtwisted to begin with, adding even that much twist can make it more difficult to handle because of the kinks. You can always add or remove twist by turning the spool or pirn end for end. More on this coming soon.
I’ve been getting spam on Ahrenslooms.com lately. It’s a website I made with my apprentice, Vera Totos to explain how Ahrens looms work. Jim Ahrens was a mentor and his information is the basis for all my teaching and books. I have several looms, all of which he built. He is the “A” in AVL Looms. There is a little history on the website if interested. My tech guy decided that a new look would be good for the site while he was seeing what to do about the spam. He removed the Forum and Comments since no real person ever used it. In fact, one of the recent spams came from Russia he discovered! While he was fiddling with the site he came across the fairy tale and asked me what on earth was that. I replied it’s a story that explains the tension system on all the Ahrens looms and the AVLs as well. I could never understand how the brake worked so he told me this story and now I understand how the springs and ropes work. Now everyone can understand how the system works with confidence.
Once upon a time long, long ago before there were ratchets for looms, ways to tension the warp were very primitive. One day a weaver found a new way to put tension on the warp beam. He put a sturdy stick, like a peg, vertically in his warp
beam, hooked a rope on it, wound it around and around the beam, and hung a big rock on it. With the weight off the floor, he had full warp tension, and he was very pleased with himself.
As he wove along and advanced the warp, the rope wound up on the beam and the rock rose higher and higher off
the ground. Pretty soon he had to stop because the rock was up on the warp beam, and he had to unwind the rope
to let it down. Then he wove along until the rock got too high, stopped to unwind some rope and let it down again. This worked fine and he was very, very pleased with himself.
One time when he was unwinding the rope, he pulled out the peg and the rope slipped off the stick into his hand. He was surprised when he held the end of the rope, that he didn’t have to pull hard on it at all to keep the rope from slipping around the beam. In fact, he could hold the loop in the end of the rope with one finger, and the rope around the beam
didn’t slip. The big rock still hung in place putting full tension on the warp!
He had been winding the rope say, 1/2 dozen times around the beam, so he decided to see if he could wind fewer times.
He found with only 3 turns on the beam there was still not much weight needed on the end of the rope. So he hung asmall rock on the end of the rope and began weaving.
As he wove along, the big rock rose and the little rock fell until it hit the floor. Then the most amazing surprise came. When the warp threads were lifted to open the shed, the beam rolled forward slightly, raising the big rock and lowering the small rock to the floor. The little rock touching the floor took the tension off that end of the rope for an instant. As soon as it did, the rope slipped a bit on the beam. As soon as the beam slipped, the big rock put tension back on the rope pulling the small rock up off the floor again. The slippage let the warp move forward a few thousandths of an inch—just enough to compensate for the take-up of the warp for the weft! The big rock was off the floor, obviously, while the small rock dangled just above the floor, where it bounced and dangled on and off the floor as he wove along. Now he didn’t have to get up and unwind the rope to let the big rock down! He could weave along continuously, and the big rock would hold the full warp tension. The little rock would let the warp beam slip a bit with each weft and also would let it slip when he advanced the warp. The two rocks remained in these positions all during his weaving. This pleased him very, very, very much. When the shed closed, our weaver realized that the beam rolled backwards to its starting place. The tension on the warp threads never changed even when the warp threads were lifted to open the sheds, because the weight (the big rock) was always the same. This was perfect for fine silk warp threads that couldn’t stand the stress of stretching with the old locked beam systems. He was enormously pleased with himself! Rocks (with one rock ten times heavier than the other) and the weaver’s invention are still used today!
When Jim Ahrens Began Using the Weight-Counter Weight System
He tried the two weights and noticed the two weights jerked when the rope slipped. Then he got the idea to use a small spring in place of the counterweight The spring let the rope slip slowly so there was no jerk or sudden change, just smooth weaving.
He came up with the idea on his own, but never claims to have invented it; her said, “I always found someone else had done the things I worked out on my own.” When he needed to make smaller looms, there wasn’t enough room for the big weight so he substituted a heavy spring for the weight “It was no big advance, there was no place for the weight.” he said. It works the same way as the weight and small spring.
The heavy spring puts the tension on the warp; the small spring is the counterweight. When the shed opens, the warp beam rolls forward a bit loosening the tension on the other end of the rope at the small spring. The rope slips a little. The heavy spring takes over again, putting the rope back under tension. when the shed closes the warp beam rolls back to its starting point. The slippage is a few thousandths of an inch and the warp stays under constant tension.
As you crank the warp forward you exert more force on the warp than the force of the heavy spring causing the cord to slip. this allows the beam to turn and the warp to unwind.
Jim preferred using the combination of a heavy weight and the small spring because he can beat harder than with just the two springs. But the double springs are a good enough substitute if you don’t beat too hard.
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.)
This is the most I’ve ever dyed all by myself! And I love looking at the pieces all together on the shower rod. (Couldn’t bear to take them down this morning to take a shower.) These are the dyes and the linens I chose from my samples; the first time I ever made anything from sampling. I’m thinking of using them for the backgrounds of scrolls.
I love to see the fabrics after they’ve been ironed. I was up until 2:15 last night ironing them all. I just hung each one up after I finished and I like the arrangement a lot.
The black and grey textured ones I just ironed with a hot iron. The black came from putting the cloth in an after bath of iron.
For the smooth ones I used the wrinkle releaser spray I mentioned in a previous post. I am in love with the cloths and colors I got.
Look what my safety pins did! I guess I will have to sew tags on if I need to keep track. The label is cut from a US Mail plastic mailer or a plastic Amazon mailer.
Is wasn’t bad enough that just where the pins were made marks but where other fabrics’ safety pins hit the good fabrics, they left a few marks here and there. I learned a good lesson. Not sure how I’ll deal with the smudges. Maybe add some of my own? Anyhow, I won’t use safety pins again.
For once I’m up to my neck with things to do so it’s a “quick post” this time. I’ve been wanting to post these for a long time.
There’s an easier way to re-sley the reed than unthreading all the threads that need to be moved at once. Instead, before un-threading anything, insert your sley hook into the new reed position for the incorrectly sleyed thread. Hook the thread to be moved behind the reed and draw it and the sley hook through the dent. In effect, you are “de-sleying” and “re-sleying” in one movement. Once I was making a gift and noticed a skipped dent. I thought it wouldn’t show after washed—well it did and I gave it with apologies. Then I fixed the error and it was a piece of cake and kicked myself for not taking care of it in the first place.
I call this my wobbly peg illustration. I think it speaks for itself.
When there are 21 samples for each dye bath, it takes a lot of organization to figure out what is needed and to make small bundles of the 21 different silk fabrics. Then sort which pots to put them in. Afterwards, I found it important to organize the swatches so I would know what I got. The next step is to choose which ones I want to repeat for large pieces and for small ones. I love the colors and seeing them bundled up. They are much nicer to look at than the swatches.
I like these large samples and am thinking they might become a scroll. I safety-pinned them to a piece I wove not too long ago. These are the same tannins as in the previous post but on silks, rather than linen. From top to bottom: Myrobalan, Brugueira, and Quebracho. All were in an iron bath after dyeing. The first one took all the iron out of my iron bath but I didn’t realize it so the other two didn’t get enough to show much but I liked them the way they were so didn’t redo them in another stranger iron bath.
A closer look at the silks dyed with myrobalan with an iron bath after wards. The swatches show out of the original bath and then afterbaths of iron and copper and a folder dyed with onion skins after the tannin and then with iron and copper after baths. What a job to organize all of this. Each line is one dye bath. Some have fewer because some swatches got loose in the dye pots.
Brugueira is the tannin for this selection. Same processes afterwards as above.
Quebracho is the tannin. Same processes.
Here’s what I was working with. 21 different silk fabrics.
There is a wonderful dye shop in Kyoto that I visit every time I’m in the city. I always brought home dyes and white fabrics for dyeing. These three dyes I’d heard of in a dye class I took at Slow Fiber Studios that was all about tannins in dyeing a summer or two ago with Michel Garcia. But I had no idea more than that. Then last fall “Exploring Tannins for Mordanting and Dyeing” with Catharine Ellis came to Slow Fiber Studios and I knew I needed to take that workshop. We made lovely samples, I took great notes, and Catharine is a wonderful teacher. That was the end of that until now I decided to see about those dyes I brought back from Kyoto since my apartment was in dye mode already with the onion skins from our kitchen. And I had all that fabric I brought home from India. This time I wanted to dye the 9 different linens I got at a shop in Chennai: Linen Club.
Here are the samples of the three tannins as dyes on linen. Boy was dying cellulose a lot more complicated than silk! The Art and Science of Natural Dyes by Catharine Ellis was invaluable. And I’m thrilled with the results. It took 2 hours to scour, 2 hours in the tannin bath, 2 hours in alum mordant bath before the dye bath itself. That was all day Saturday. Each group is from one dye pot with the 9 linen samples. (Sometimes a sample got loose in the pot so there may not be exactly 9 different fabrics.) From the left are the Myrobalan samples, then Bruguiera and Quebracho with alum mordant. The variations are all due to the 9 differences in linen fabrics. That’s what I love to play with.
The book showed lovely grays using an after bath of iron and I love the ones I got. They were in the iron water only a matter of seconds or a minute—I don’t know, I just watched until they got dark. So, these gray fabrics were dyed with the alum mordanted tannins then put into the iron bath which I made long ago.
These fabrics were dyed in yellow onion skins after they were dyed with a tannin and mordanted with alum. Again, from the left it’s Myrobalan, Bruguiera, and Quebracho.
These were dyed in black walnut dye I had from a year ago (the dye that leaked on my fake-wood floor in my kitchen a while ago).
Here’s what the undyed fabrics looked like. (I’ll have to check, one might be silk, but it got the cellulose “business” along with the others.)
Organizing them took some thinking so I could make comparisons and make choices on what dyes/fabrics to repeat. I am determined to use up what I brought home! I stitched them onto file folders and that way I can close the folders and the swatches are safe. I had to get them organized right away before my labels got separated from the swatches. I was up until 2:30 Sunday night, but I had to see what I got! I’m beginning to make plans for a set of scrolls, I think. I’m so excited with the linens!
Over a month ago was when I got my first batch of onion skins from Danny, our Chef and I said maybe I’d start “next week”. Now I’ve been at it for 2 ½ weeks. The apartment is more of a mess than ever with fabrics everywhere, dye samples, and bundles of dyes. I was excited with my results until one day when Yoshiko Wada called and said I must use a mordant with onion skins as a dye. We mordanted in dye classes I took, but I’d never done it at home, only choosing dyes that don’t need mordants (which I thought was the case with onion skins). I did have alum but never used it, so I guessed I’d better try it. A mordant is a metal salt that is used to fix a dye in a fiber. The word comes from the French word mordre, which means “to bite”. Usually it is done before the fiber is dyed, but not always.
Here are two bundles of silks; the stiff ones (undegummed) are on the left and the silky silks on the right. Boy, does silk dye deeply and easily. There were all mordanted in alum. It wasn’t such a bother as I thought.
I put a small batch of unmordanted silk in with the mordanted into my pot of onion skin dye.
This book became my bible. It is so user friendly. It does refer you to another page often, but the organization makes it easy to use. And I took notes for what I needed. I took a class with the author; Catharine Ellis last fall and it was wonderful. I just hadn’t looked into the book until now. I knew that my linens would be the next challenge and really appreciated everything she wrote about dyeing (and mordanting) cellulose fibers as well as silks.
Because I’ve promised myself that I am going to dye the fabrics I brought back from India, I knew I needed samples first to determine which fabrics would do what. It was fun organizing this swatch chart and it took a good bit of time. The 11 degummed silks are in the left 2 columns and the 10 stiff silks (undegummed) in the right two, for a total of 21 different silk fabrics. The unmordanted ones are the left ones in the pairs. Looks like there is very little difference in the colors with the mordanted ones. However, Yoshiko said mordanting made them more color fast. Since mordanting wasn’t so onerous, I guess I can entertain the idea of mordanting a lot more (or not??).
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.