Weaving Weekend

Since this was going to be our only free weekend between now and the weekend before Christmas, and I wanted to weave tea towels as my mother’s present, I decided that this would be a weaving weekend.

As it turned out, we also ducked out to get some other presents and the gift I bought for my father cost more than I expected and can be a joint parental present, so I won’t be feeling guilty if I don’t get the towels done. This may be a good thing, because I didn’t even get them warped up yesterday.

Why not? Well, first I followed the instructions in my weaving books on finding the right sett by winding the warp yarn around a ruler then dividing by half. I came up with 16epi. The yarn label is in Swedish with a few English words translated, so I could read that it’s graded as 16/2. I figured there’s going to be some sort of logic going on here. I looked up the charts and found there was no 16epi for a 10 dent reed calculation, but there was one for 17epi and I figured that would have to be close enough.

Then I flicked through Handwoven magazine and found some tea towels made with 16/2 cotton. And the instructions say to use a sett of 30epi.

WTF? That’s nearly double what the warp sett calculations came up with!

So I sat there looking from magazine to books and back again (not helped by a thumping headache) wondering where I was going wrong. I came to the conclusion that either:

(1) The weaving books are wrong
(2) Tea towels are normally woven at double the normal epi
(3) There’s a different yarn weight system between the US and Sweden

I’m actually more inclined to believe (3) because, heck, the US always seems to do things differently. Knitting yarns weight terminology differs between Australia and the US, and crochet stitch terms between the US and the rest of the world, so why not weaving yarn weight as well?

I procrastinated by doing lots of sums. First I calculated the warp length (towel length x 2 plus 5% shrinkage plus 10% take-up plus loom waste which came to about 155cm). Then, assuming that the weaving books were right and I’d be working at 17epi, I worked out how many ends I’d need to cut (20.5 inches plus 5% shrinkage plus 10% take-up equals 23 inches so if 1 inch has 17 ends then 23 inches has FREAKING HECK THAT’S THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY ONE LENGTHS OF COTTON I HAVE TO WIND AND CUT!

I took a deep breath and made myself accept I was going to be here all day just winding the warp. That this is all part of weaving something fine. To be honest, I wasn’t that surprised about the number, but it was the prospect of cutting that many ends when I wasn’t even sure the sett was right that started freaking me out.

Were there any more sums I could do to delay the cutting? Did I even have that much cotton? 391 x 1.5 m is 586 m! Those cones of cotton suddenly looked very small. I looked at the label. Next to ‘length’ it says ‘690’. 690 whats? Metres? Yards?

Does anybody know if the Swedes use metric or not?

At this point my headache was reaching Panadeine proportions, so I turned my mind to the other weaving task I wanted to do that weekend: sampling the rag rug cotton. I warped up the rigid heddle (since it produces less loom waste, I can get the same sett as I’ll use on the table loom, and the rugs are only going to be in plain tabby weave) and got weaving.

On the first sample I wove the rag without fiddling, putting a pick of the cotton between each pick of rag. The rag was from an old pair of trousers someone had thrown in with the donated jeans. I’d cut it by spiralling around the legs, but this meant there was a seam every 20 cm or so and in the weave this seam was obvious, like a big, hairy knot.

Next I tried a pick of cotton for every two picks of rag. The cotton isn’t cheap, so by doing this I’d use half as much. But I found I kept forgetting to change the reed position and effectively putting a row of cotton and rag in together. This is probably because of the headache and the brain fuzzing effect of the Panadeine. I also twisted the rag as I went, which took longer. But it made no difference to the seamy bits, and only served to make the rag less even.

Then I went back to one cotton pick per rag pic, but this time I folded the rag in half, right-side out. This was much more time-consuming, but neater. Yet I didn’t like the look of it. I prefer the knotty, hairy seams than this sterile flatness.

I cut the samples from the loom and stapled them to cardboard sheets, making rough notes.

The next step is to sample on the table loom. I suspect I wasn’t beating the rag hard enough. The rigid heddle plastic reeds and my arm strength aren’t enough to compact the rag properly. And I also suspect denim rag will behave differently than this trouser fabric. I don’t have enough cotton in this test batch to do a full rag rug anyway, so I may as well do more sampling.

And the tea towels? I think I need to do more research. I’m not sure Ravelry is such a great resource when it comes to weaving. There’s no Australian weaving group, for starters. And since Ravelry isn’t weaving-inclusive, there are probably lots of weavers who haven’t even heard of it, let lone signed up, but who interact online in other ways. So I searched Yahoo groups this morning and joined the ANZweavespin group.

And it’s time I joined the Victorian HW&S Guild.

5 thoughts on “Weaving Weekend

  1. Wow, weaving is so much more technical than knitting. I could never figure out my little WPI tool for knitting. Have you ever seen a triangular weaving loom? I saw one at a fair and I think my husband could make me one.

  2. Welcome to the anzweavespin group! Please do ask about the 16/2 cotton sett issues there – I’m sure somebody will be able to help!

    My brain is currently a bit muddy, so I can’t think enough to solve your problem for you, but I do know that 16/2 is more of a weight/ply description than a thickness (its very complicated), so a 16/2 cotton won’t be at the same sett as a 16/2 wool.

    Also, sett also depends on weave structure. So, for a yarn that produces for example 30 wraps per inch, you might sett it at 15epi for plain weave, but 18-20epi for twill, and 25-30epi for a warp-faced weave. If you look in your pattern books for a weave structure that is the same/similar to what you’ll be weaving in the same weight cotton yarn, that will give you a better guide.

    I hope the above makes sense and is not too confusing!

  3. Bron is right to say that it depends on the structure you are planning to use, but I think the Handwoven suggestion of 30 epi is a good place to start. I sometimes buy Swedish cotton from Borgs, and if you look at this page of their website you’ll see their 16/2. At 17 epi something like this would be struggling to hold itself together even in a lacy weave. But take heart, you’ll get quicker at making a warp as you get used to it. Welcome to weaving!

  4. Jomamma – yes, I’ve seen those little triangle looms and I reckon you or your husband could knock one up easily.

    Bron and callybooker – thanks so much for the advice. I’m thinking that maybe I was in too much of a rush to launch into something new, and maybe I need to do, yes, yet more sampling!

  5. Oh, I’m not interested in those LITTLE triangular looms, I want one of those 7 foot looms, so I can make shawls and stuff.

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