Works in Progress, or Not

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve finished Rachel’s portrait. Well, mostly. There are some tweaks I want to make, now I’ve had time to examine it critically. I’d be doing them this morning, if I wasn’t in the goopy, vertigo-ey, exhausting phase of a head cold, and not wanting to spread it around.

Jason’s has a session or two to go:

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I’ve started stitching on one of the garments I wanted to embellish. After a few false starts, I settled on purple and mauve flowers with green branches winding between them.

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I started the eye:

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The leno scarf isn’t finished because I’m holding off working on it. I want to show it to the weaving group:

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The Double Trouble baby blankets are going slowly.

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The art necklace… what necklace?

Leno with Two Heddles on a Rigid Heddle

I got to thinking, thanks to the weaving group at the Guild, that it must be possible to weave bead leno on a rigid heddle loom if it has two heddles. After all, it’s possible to weave leno on a table loom so long as you have three shafts, and the extra heddle effectively adds more ‘shafts’ to a rigid heddle loom.

Well, as I learned from an afternoon of experimentation, it’s not that simple.

The first problem is, the heddle on a rigid heddle loom is also the beater. But that can easily be solved by using a lease stick to push each shot into position:

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Or use the shuttle:

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The second problem may be too hard to explain here. All threads on a shaft loom are controlled like the ‘hole’ thread on the heddle, and that effectively means two heddles gives you only two positions. I just couldn’t get bead leno to work, but I did find a way to do doup leno.

The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving contains a project using doup leno using one heddle as a spacer – the warp threaded through slots only. Loops of string tied to a length of dowl behind the heddle are used to get the leno twists. And you can only get leno twists – no tabby.

The method I worked out allows you to have tabby bands between your leno twists, so it’s a slight improvement.

Warping:
1) First, warp the loom with two heddles of the same epi, the rear one with threads in slots and holes, the front with two threads in each slot and none in holes.

2) Place the back heddle in the neutral position and the front on the up position.

3) Then at the front of the front heddle, select the first warp thread that goes through a hole of the rear heddle and bring it underneath its neighbour – a ‘slot’ end – and up again. Tie it to the top of the front heddle with string so that you get a shed just big enough to slip the end of a shuttle into.

4) Continue across until every ‘hole’ thread is tied into position. It should look like this:

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Weaving:
1) Place the front heddle in the neutral position and use the rear heddle to get your weaving started with some tabby. Put the rear heddle in the bottom position and weave a shot. It should look something like this:

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The string loops allow the shed to open to almost its fullest extent.

Now place the back heddle in the up position and weave a shot. It will look like this:

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The string loops will be loose enough to pull under the ‘slot’ threads, allowing the ‘hole’ ones to move into the up position. Again, the loops allow the shed to open to almost it’s fullest extent.

2) For the leno twists, return to the position the heddles were in when you tied on on the string loops, with the front heddle in the up position and the back in the neutral position, and slip the shuttle through the shed. It’ll be a tiny shed, so you’ll have to work the shuttle through close to the string loops.

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The loops should have twisted pairs of threads around each other. The resulting leno shots spaced between tabby should look like this:

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3) Now return to tabby weaving.

I used silk for both warp and weft, and the slipperiness helped the warp threads to slide around each other. Even then, sometimes they didn’t want to go into position. I found two things helped combat this. First I’d run my fingers over the warp threads like they were harp strings. This often flicked them into position. Secondly, to get a good shed for the tabby I’d slip an unused shuttle or warp stick into the gap between the heddles or behind the rear heddle to encourage the shed to open to the fullest.

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The leno twist shed was very small and it was fiddly to get the shuttle through. To make it bigger would be to reduce the tabby sheds. I’d rather fiddle with the occasional leno shot than the more common tabby ones. Doing leno this way is still much faster than manipulating the threads individually by hand, which was the object of the exercise, really.

Craft WIPs

Tapestry Bracelet – Abandoned
I went off the boil with this project. The trouble is, though I’ve sewed in the ends, the flower yarn is slippery enough that they worked their way out again. And it’s was such slow work. This is about five or more hour’s worth. Zzzznore!

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Art Necklace – in hiatus
I was going to fill the frames with little paintings of eyes and ears and mouths, then after I started embroidering I got the itch to stitch something instead. But I couldn’t think of a subject. Lately I’m thinking photos of my ancestors might be better – and much faster.

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Double Trouble Baby Blankets – picking up again
Inspired by a weaving group meeting on multiple projects on one warp at the Guild, I cut a warp for two baby blankets late March. I lost momentum for this project for a little while, but resumed warping a few weeks ago. Last weekend I finally finished and started weaving. I’d really like to give one of the blankets to a friend who had a baby in April.

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Two Heddle Leno Scarf – established
Another project inspired by the weaving group, after a meeting in which we explored bead leno. I got to thinking that bead leno should be possible on the rigid heddle loom if it had two heddles. Well, I didn’t manage to do bead leno, but worked out a way to do doup leno with tabby between.

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Gift Yarn Jacket Modification – current tv project
Adding another band of ribbing to this:

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Eye Embroidery – poised to begin
The skull was a great ongoing brainless portable project that I could pick up while watching tv or work on while travelling. Now that it’s done I’ve got this eye ready to go.

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Frog Cabin

The log cabin scarf is done and I’m really happy with it. As I said in a previous post, the fabric drapes very well for something woven with bulky yarn.

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Weaving thick and thin is interesting and I’d like to try it with other patterns. I wasn’t excited by the colour combo of blue and white, worried they were too contrasty, but they combined much better than I expected.

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I finished it on Sunday, and also cut a new warp for the table loom:

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At the Guild weaving group meeting on Saturday there was a talk about long warps. Inspired by that, I decided to try weaving two double weave baby blankets with one warp, using the three leftover shades of Bendy Cotton 8ply in my stash then black weft on the first blanket and white for the second. They should look quite different to each other.

Mystery Box Challenge – The Autumn Fairy

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I’ve been working on the Mystery Box Challenge project since I picked up the box in mid-January. As soon as I opened the box and inspected the contents…

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… they seemed to suggest to me a kind of rustic fairy doll – or rather, a figurine, since this wouldn’t survive being played with – with feathers for wings and red hair.

The challenge was to use at least 50% of the contents of the box. I thought I could use everything – including the box.

I’ve been working on it nearly every week. It has involved a lot of weaving shapes by sticking pins in foam core, winding yarn between them for warp then sewing in the weft – like with the sleeve here:

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The shawl was my first try at frame weaving. Rather nifty process, actually:

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The copper wire and beads became a crown. The wire was VERY fiddly to weave. I used string heddles:

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The playing card became a book, with the entry form as pages and the silver thread as binding:

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Everything I didn’t use became stuffing, mixed with some felting fleece:

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The box became the chair:

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The tubes the yarn was wound onto were rolled up squares of paper, so I unwound an stuck them over the back of the box, covering the box handle, which I’d taped onto the back to give it rigidity.

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The upholstery was woven directly onto the chair, and the chair painted with acrylic paints:

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I managed to use up all the brown wool. The last item I made was a little mat. Boy, was I sick of weaving this way by the end!:

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The feathers became wings, attached with more copper wire. The smaller feather became a pen:

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The eyes and mouth were stitched out of some of the silk threads.

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However, the face is, well, not brilliant. The wool made for a very rustic fabric, which I think I got away with except in the case of the head. But these were the materials I had, and I was determined not to add anything obviously new – stuffing, tape and paint didn’t add significantly new objects to the figurine.

What is very obviously new is the bird cage I put her in to deter small people who might believe she is a doll to be played with:

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The cage is the only thing that doesn’t quite meet the requirements. There is a size restriction and the cage is a little bigger.

All in all… well, it was a lot of effort and I enjoyed maybe 60-70% of it. But I had to dedicate two afternoons of the weekend before last to finishing her and I was utterly sick of the project by the end. Dolls/figurines weren’t my thing before this and they still aren’t. Still, I was trying something new and I did use all the materials!

If I learned anything (apart from not getting sucked into mystery challenges) is was that frame weaving is something I might want to have a go at. Oh, and not to weave with copper wire.

Thick & Thin

I’ve been wanting to try thick and thin weaving for a while now. It’s where you have both thick and think yarns in the warp and weft. Once before when I wove log cabin someone suggested I try it with thick and thin yarns, so I’m giving that a go.

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The blue yarn is from the frogged sleeves of the Sunrise Circle Jacket and the white is Bendigo Classic 3ply. Being a chunky yarn that’s felted a bit, weaving the blue with itself would have produced a thick, hard fabric perhaps only suitable for a rug or blanket. Except there wasn’t enough of it for that. Weaving it with a thin warp would have helped, but been a bit boring. This combination of yarn and weave structure seems to be resulting in a light enough fabric to work as a scarf.

If it does, I have a weaving option for bulky leftovers in my stash. Hmm…

I Weave You, I Weave You Not

I’ve been trying to decide what to put on the table loom next.

Olive Handspun Shawl
The handspun is the yarn from the frogged Handspun Wrap Vest. I’ve bought some fine, strong wool from a weaving supplies store to use as warp. But I have no ideas for a weave structure beyond simple tabby.

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Hunky Hank Shawl
The colourful yarn will be the warp and the black Bendigo Luxury the weft. I want to try an undulating twill.

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Metallic Border Shawls
I want to weave finer yarns, and when I matched up these metallic threads with Bendigo Classic cones I started to get excited about the possibilities. I’m thinking of a twill forming diamonds, which will show up most strongly in a stripe of the metallic yarn at either end of a shawl.

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Cotton Baby Blankets
I still have a lot of Bendigo Cotton 8ply in my stash, and I’d like to weave more baby blankets out of it. I’m wondering if I could do a long warp and weave two or three in one go.

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Cotton Tea Towels
A few years ago I decided to make tea towels like what I’d seen in Handwoven and ordered some yarn. When I realised how many ends I’d have to wind and thread with the fine yarn, I lost courage. But I’m determined to do this one day.

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But the decision must wait until I finish the Handweavers and Spinner Guild Mystery Box Challenge, as that’s due soon. Here’s a glimpse of some of the weaving I’m doing for that:

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Yes, that’s the copper wire. Fiddly. As. Anything.

The Big Blue

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Yarn: Vintage Hues (discontinued, I believe) and Dale Garn as warp and for the black stripes
Weave structure: doubleweave
EPI: 5
Comments: This is the biggest thing I’ve woven. Using doubleweave allowed me to make it twice the width of the loom – 160cm – and it’s about the same length. Unlike with previous blankets made with this yarn, I decided I wouldn’t bother to try and match the graduation of the yarn from one ball to the next, instead putting stripes of the warp yarn between them. This did mean I had to reject any ball that had a knot and sudden colour change, or the stripes wouldn’t have been an equal width.
Conclusion: I love it! It’s soft and cuddly and I can wrap myself up in it!

I also wove a scarf with the yarn as a sampler:

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The project has been on my to-do list for a few years, and now that it’s done my stash has reduced considerably. Not quite down to my comfortable baseline of 10 kilos, though.

I’ll Have One of Everything

A few years ago I ordered five years worth of Handwoven magazine as digital issues. They came on cds so I still had to wait for them to arrive. I never quite got around to reading them all, so I didn’t rush to buy more. Part of the problem was that the files weren’t all named in the same way, or even in a similar way. I’d try to keep track of what I’d read by reading a year at a time, but with all the issues out of order I kept losing my place.

I finally got around to renaming them recently. Then I noticed that Interweave was having a sale and I could buy another five year’s worth – four and then fill the holes in more recent years – for around $60. So I had even more renaming to do, but it was worth it. Suddenly I was tearing through them, five or ten issues a night.

It’s been interesting see the trends that have come and gone over the last 12-13 years. Chenille. Deflected double weave. “What is a blog?” articles. The inclusion of more rigid heddle projects. The Ashford Knitters Loom (January 2006). Ponchos! More in depth articles. Reader challenges.

When I first started buying the magazine there was so much in it that was beyond me. There’s still so much that’s a mystery. Nearly everything was directed at experienced weavers. Heck, I’m not a newbie any more but I’m a long way from calling myself ‘experienced’.

At the Guild a few weeks back I was asked where I’d learned to weave. I said I was mostly self-taught as there wasn’t much on offer about weaving at the Guild when I began. I learned and was inspired by blogs, videos, weavers forums on Ravelry, a couple of books and Handwoven magazines.

Two friends have asked me for advice or lessons recently, and that’s had me feeling more inspired to weave. I’ve moved the table loom down into the tv room to use on days too hot to be in the workroom – there certainly have been plenty of those lately! – and have a doubleweave blanket in progress.

After the huck scarf and the lessons, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ready to upgrade my table loom to 8 shafts. There’s still a lot I haven’t tried yet with 4-shafts, though. Perhaps I should set myself a list of weave structures to try before I do.

Huckleby Hemp Scarf

Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold’s Hempathy (warp and weft)
Source: My Secret Pal in 2006!
Loom: Ashford Table Loom
Weave structure: Huck lace
Sett: 10 dpi

I’ve woven so many big things on this loom that it’s always a pleasure and surprise to whip through a scarf. My selvedges are a bit uneven but not from pulling in. More the opposite – probably because I’m used to stretchy yarn and allowing for a lot of drawing in with wide projects.

I have quite a backlog of posts waiting to be published. The successive heatwaves and a broken air conditioner are to blame. I’m stuck in the tv room on hot days, so I craft. Which would be great if I wasn’t itching to write and worrying about deadlines. I’m tempted to bring the laptop down, but past experience tells me that I’d stuff my back up so badly I wouldn’t be able to do anything when the weather cooled again.

So I have the table loom set up on a folding table. Weaving is great for thinking. I chew over story ideas. Since finishing the scarf I’ve warped up the loom again, this time with a very different project – a doubleweave blanket using the full width of the loom woven with bulky wool yarn. It’s going to be reduce the size of the yarn stash substantially.