Saturday, 18 April 2015

Plain Weave Frivolities Acadian Style with Judith

Today was the Plain Weave workshop with Judith Rygiel.  Judith has a doctorate in history and did a major post doc study of Acadian Textiles several years ago.  This led her to studying Cajun textiles in Louisiana which she is still working on.  Today she had us try several traditional techniques based on simple plain weave.  I used my Rigid Heddle loom of course!  I warped it last Sunday with 2/8 cotton in two heddles for a sett of 20epi.

Here are my samples from today:

This is Cordons in Weft.  Pretty simple, you insert shots of a heavier weft as it strikes your fancy.  Often it was done white on white.

Cordons in Weft
 I am a geek, yes I am.  This is my iPad open to the Goodnotes notebook page where I took notes on the next sample:

The sample was "Twisted Weft" where you have two weft shots twisting around one another in the same shed.  It creates very interesting chevron effects, and you can use different weights of weft for different effects.  Nancy did one with a strand of 2/8 and a strand of 8/8 that was really neat.  The iPad means that maybe I'll be able to find my notes when I want them!  It also lets me take a picture and write right on the picture.  Here's the sample by itself (sorry it's rotated, the warp is running left to right):

Next was Boutonne.  For this one, heavier weft shots get picked up between warp threads and twisted into little loops.  Shots of the finer weft hold it in.  There is usually a pattern to the loop placement.  Judith showed us a blanket made in Quebec of wool with inlaid Boutonne in snowflake patterns.

Judith almost didn't include this, until we pleaded and she ran down to Eco Equitable and bought some cotton fabric so we could try it.  We were all very interested in Catalogne (Rags).  The left stripe is Twisted Catalogne - 2 rags twisted together in the shed, middle is alternating rag and 2/8 weft, right is just rag weft.  I like the middle and left ones best:  

Then we tried Cordons in warp and weft.  This meant adding heavier supplementary warp threads to the piece.  Traditionally this is most often white on white, but we decided to play with colours.  The raspberry and blue are 8/8, the 2 heavy natural are 16/8 mop cotton and at the far left is natural 8/8.  I wound the extra yarns on a pick up stick to hang off the back of the loom.  It worked okay for a short sample.  They started out pinned into the green section until the weft held them securely.  The last stripe is weft cordon with boutonne.

The 4 of us had a wonderful time today, thanks to Judith who is a patient and knowledgeable teacher.  I learned more than just plain weave variations.  In the middle of the Catalogne section I ran into some tangled warp threads (I have no idea how I managed that).  Sam came to my aid and was rewarded by the radiant heat of my sudden hot flash.  (Why do I not get hot flashes when it's cold?  Why must they wait until the temperature is just nice then sneak up and try to cook me AND my unsuspecting friends?)  When we had to break two of the threads Judith came and showed me how to repair them by pinning one end of a repair strand into the fabric and carefully tying the other end to the broken thread.

I still have a good bit of warp to work with.  Stay tuned.  I have some neat ideas to try.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Why a Rigid Heddle?

I am so full of ideas and inspiration.  And a good dash of stubborn determination.  The "floor loom weavers" keep shaking their heads and wondering why I am bothering figuring out how to make 3 and 4 and more shaft patterns work on the Rigid Heddle.  I have a few answers:

1.  Because I can.  Which is a very good answer, but doesn't quite reduce the crazy factor in their eyes.

2.  Because not everyone has the money and space for a floor loom or even a table loom.  My Ashford RH 32" fully kitted up with pairs of every size heddle and even a stand costs considerably less than even a 15" 4 harness table loom.  It can hang on a wall when not in use, even in use it takes less than a square yard of floor space.

3.  Because my simpler loom has a lot fewer parts to break or need maintenance.

4.  Because my largest RH loom weighs a lot less and is more portable than even a small table loom.  I have friends who can no longer carry a table loom but they can still manage a smaller RH.  I can carry my 32" RH with 2 fingers, my Cricket 10" fits in a shopping bag and I can lift that with 1 finger.

5.  Because the RH is better at some things than floor or table looms.  If I'm careful, I generally have less than 15" of loom waste; I'm a handspinner, remember, I can't stand loom waste.  The RH works at lower tensions, which makes it easier on some yarns.  And I can weave Summer and Winter tapestries which would require more shafts and many more treadles than any floor loom has.  Pick up sticks are a lot easier to use on my loom because it's easier to reach where they need to go.

6.  Because the RH has required that I begin to really understand the interlacement of threads.  The fell line is right under my nose, I really can't miss what's going on.  And I have to handle the heddles and the sticks in such a way that I am aware which threads are up and which are down.  Trying to figure out how to make things happen on my loom means I am learning a lot more about structure a lot faster than I would if I could simply follow a draft.

Yes, a floor loom would be faster for many of the things I'm contemplating.  But I am not trying to clothe my family nor make a living production weaving.  I am weaving because I enjoy the process.  And I am enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to make it work.  Even when it doesn't quite:

Waffle, on the wrong threading, oops 

The warp is white 2/8 cotton that I threaded in 2 10 dent heddles at 200% to get a sett of 20epi.  It's for Judith Rygiel's "Plain Weave Frivolities, Acadian Style!" workshop I'm taking on Saturday.  It occurred to me that this is the same threading I use for Summer and Winter (at half the density), so I could probably experiment a little beforehand.  I had a draft for a 4 shaft Waffle all figured out on iWeaveit that I was pretty sure would work with just the two heddles and 1 pick up stick.  So I tried it.  And wondered why it wasn't quite working out.  Oh.  Waffle needs a point twill threading; this is a straight draw threading (I am still somewhat astonished that I can say that and both understand it and mean it, only weavers talk like that).  Should maybe not get quite so excited quite so late at night...  Still, it looks really nice, with a really neat horizontal rib effect.  I think I'll do a bit more, just to see what happens when it comes off the loom and gets washed.  I'll keep working on it and let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

My Name is Elizabeth and I'm a Weaver

There, I said it.  I have resisted the appellation for years even though I have had rigid heddle looms for many years, I teach Intro to Rigid Heddle and I've had an inkle loom even longer.  I always saw myself as a capital "K" Knitter and a capital "S" Spinner but a small "w" weaver.  I wove a bit, but I didn't "think in weaving" like I do knitting and spinning.  Somehow, in the last little while that has changed.

It started with this:

Elephant blanket, border almost complete

That would be a blanket in Summer and Winter.  On a Rigid Heddle Loom.  Because I can do tapestry in Summer and Winter with just 2 heddles and a pickup stick. 

I did a bit of it based on an article in the first issue of Prairie Wool Companion (Nov 1981) about 6 years ago.  I made some little "First Aid Kit for Hearts" bags for some kids I was working with

I also made a sampler of many of the possible textures based on the weave structure.  It was supposed to result in an article for WeaveZine, but the on-line magazine ceased publishing before I got it done.

Finally I produced a baby blanket for a friend's first baby:

The Multi-harness weavers collective jaws dropped when I presented this at Show and Tell.  Even their fancy computer controlled 32 harness looms probably don't have enough harnesses to create this. 

And then I let it go for a while.  I didn't produce much, I just taught the intro course.

But then, in January, there was a message from a friend.  Her brand new grandbaby was in hospital and they had run out of suitable Linus blankets for baby boys.  Linus blankets are given to patients at CHEO to brighten rooms and provide comfort.  They had plenty of knitted ones, but they had decided those are not suitable for babies; some babies have caught fingers in the stitches and nearly been injured.  Ann's message was "can't we weave these?"  Of course we can.  So out came the loom and a sense of adventure.  In the process I discovered that the loom might be low tech, but I'm not.  I found a needlework graphing app for my new iPad which set up the graph (StitchSketch).  And I'm using another app to track my place (Knit Companion). 

In the end the elephants blanket might stay with me, as I think it will turn out a bit small, but I have a PILE of other ideas.  So much so that I bought another app.  iWeaveIt is the iPad version of WeaveIt.  It's a drafting program for weaving.  And I really like it, I like figuring out what thread does what.  Which, I think, makes me a Weaver with a capital W. 

Stay tuned.  I have plans.  This loom can do a LOT more than scarves and plain weave and I intend to explore and share.  There will be kits and tutorials.  IF I can keep at it, a tutorial and project kit for Summer and Winter will be ready in time for Twist in late August.