Thursday, October 31, 2013

Differential Shrinkage Scarf - Planning

I wove a differential shrinkage scarf 4 years ago and I can still remember the excitement when the yarns in my sample stated to shrink and pull everything into interesting shapes.

In planning this next project I have used  my notes from last time, the good stuff in Handwoven ( articles by Stefanie  Meisel are particularly relevant to this project) and the articles in the "puckers and poufs" section of
The Best of Weavers Fabrics That Go Bump with particular attention to the one by Liz Williamson.

The shrinking yarn of choice in most of the Handwoven articles is Jaggerspun 18/2 Merino. Because of the prohibitive costs of getting yarns posted from the US I was delighted to find that Yarn Barn in Melbourne stocks 2/20NM Merino.  My non shrinking yarn will be Borgs 20/2 Mora which I get from Glenora Weaving & Wool.

I took about a yard of each of these yarns, rolled them into a ball and the massaged them vigorously in hot water and plenty of soap. The Mora resolutely refused to cling to itself but the Merino formed a very satisfactory felted clump. That will do for sampling for the time being.

Based on my last scarf and the articles I shall allow for 25% shrinkage in length and 30% in width.
As for sett, I am going for 2/3rds of the plain weave sett. The warp length works out at 154" and the width will be 18".

The loom is ready, the yarn and warping wheel are waiting so lets get at it! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Counterbalance Loom Modifications

The Brighton Honeycomb scarves are off the loom and waiting to have their fringes twisted and be tidied up and  washed. As I have six scarves at this stage I have bought myself a fringe twister. When the weather sorts itself out (it seems to be either very hot with the air filled with smoke from the bush fires or cold and stormy) I shall set myself up outside for a bit of twisting.

I have come across an Australian source of 20/2 NM  feltable wool and have bought a cone (elephant grey). I already have some non-shrinkable (Mora 20/2) so I am going to weave some differential shrinkage scarves. I can't use my Glimakra as I have a bit of warp left on it after completing the Brighton Honeycomb scarves. I have re-sleyed this for plain weave and plan to do some Monks Belt on it. So I will be using my Counterbalance loom for the shrinking scarves.

Based on how I found it the last time I used this loom I have made a couple of modifications. The loom had two pulleys mounted on a top beam. These pulleys support the two rollers that support the four shafts.

I have replaced the pulleys with a single top roller. I found that the pulleys were to prone to act independently of each other and not return to their original starting point after changing a shed.  In a previous post I quoted Peter Collingwood  "To ensure the shafts rise and fall without tilting, don’t just wrap their support cords around the rollers, but actually fix them to the rollers".  With the single top roller I can attach the cords which I couldn't do with the the metal pulleys.

The other thing that I have done is attach the top roller to the cross beam with turnbuckles so that I can precisely control the height of the harnesses. Texsolv is brilliant but can only be adjusted in half inch increments.  To do this I had to raise the height of the cross bar with a couple of blocks.

It all seems to be working but the final proof of the pudding will be when I get a warp on. I had a good look at the LeClerc CB looms when working all of this out. In my mind this was all going to be done is nicely finished wood but economy and practicality means that I have used a plastic pipe for the new top roller and a couple of yoga bricks to raise the height of the top beam. I will put a few cable ties on to hold it all together. If it works that will be fine but I really should have a look at getting a slightly more elegant solution.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cape Breton Coverlet Patterns

Weaving the Brighton Honeycomb scarves is proceeding nicely; I am now on the third scarf where I am using  a yellow weft. For the second scarf I used the rib treadling and a deep copper coloured weft.

In my previous post I was writing about why I think that my CB loom will be good for overshot. I have also been thinking about what overshot I would like to weave. I was browsing through various drafts and documents when I came across a monograph Cape Breton Coverlet Patterns which I had downloaded ages ago and completely forgotten about. It was written by Lou Tate and is based on the research of Florence Mackley who collected coverlet drafts from the Cape Breton region. These drafts came across with the migrants from the Western Isles in the first half of the 19th Century. 

One of the seductive things about the internet is that one can wander down interesting lines of enquiry to fascinating places so I went via Lou Tate to the Kentucky Weaver and the Little Loomhouse but I managed to put these to one side for future exploration and drag myself back to the Cape Breton coverlets. 

It is a lovely paper with drafts, photograph, background information, ideas and practical information on using the patterns, drafts and drawdowns. The clip below of one of the pages gives the flavour of it.

My initial reaction on first reading was "They are drafts Jim but not as we know them "  but with a bit of application and following the explanations in the monograph and Mary Meigs Atwater's  pages explaining different systems of notation (The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving, Chapter 12) I was able to work them out.

My rendition of the Snowdrop draft from above looks like this.
One thing that I would love to find out is why, as far as I can discern, there is no remnant of coverlet weaving tradition in the western part of Scotland? Twills and tweeds, yes; but no coverlets. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Loom for weaving overshot

Whilst weaving the Brighton Honeycomb scarves my thoughts have been turning to what I should be doing next with my counterbalance loom.  I had decided some time ago that I would try some overshot on it and that in fact overshot would be better woven on the counterbalance than on a dobby loom.

My reasoning is that on a computerised dobby loom it is not that easy to vary what you are weaving from the draft that is being used by the software. This is fine when you know exactly what it is that you want to weave. When weaving overshot there are circumstances where the number of picks woven of a particular lift will depend on how well the pattern is squaring up which in itself is dependent of the grist and compressibility of the weft yarns.

The inestimable Mary Meigs Atwater explains it much better;
"In weaving - if it is intended to produce the pattern "as drawn in"- each block must be woven with the number of weft shots required to make it square. The number of weft shots required varies with the weight of weft-material used, so that it is impossible to write down treadling directions that will be correct for all materials. The weaver must use judgement in the matter." (The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving- Mary Meigs Atwater, Page 116)
When sampling there is also a need for flexibility - if a particular treadling sequence is not to your liking then you want to switch to something else immediately. This flexibility is easy on a treadle loom, not so easy on a dobby loom.

I like reading what Mary Meigs Atwater wrote and I am fascinated by overshot patterns. I know that it sounds a bit silly but I feel that if I use my elderly counterbalance I shall somehow be a little closer to the weavers of the past. It's the "vibes" man.