Clasped To My Bleeding Heart

It’s been more than a year since I warped the AKL. Used to be I’d have a project on it nearly all of the time, but after all the prep for the workshop I did January last year I took a break. It wasn’t meant to last this long, but much of my weaving attention and creativity went into the 4-shaft course, which I’m certainly not complaining about!

Even after weaving nearly constantly on the AKL for sixteen years (gosh!), there are still a few methods I haven’t tried. One was clasped warp. It was meant to be the next one I did but every time I tried matching up colours for it nothing quite worked. Part of the problem was coming up with a weft yarn that wouldn’t spoil the look of the two warp yarns.

I had another go at it recently, and as I pawed through sock yarns It was thinking back to the Echo and Jin workshop. We used a finer yarn for the weft so the warp colours dominated. The same approach might work on this scarf.

Most of my sock yarn isn’t solid, and the few solids I have are either not a good match for the multicolour yarns or are but don’t provide good contrast – you need contrast with clasped warp (and weft) for the effect to be visible. I applied the principles of matching patterns in clothing: go for different kinds of pattern. Like stripes and florals, or pin stripe and spots, or random and regular, or fine and large. I had a speckle-dyed grey yarn, and a striped dark red and purple yarn. Perfect.

And for the weft… a solid. By going even thinner I had a wide choice of fine wool yarns to choose from. I chose one that would disappear in the striped yarn, and hopefully only add to the flecked nature of the speckled one.

Warping was easy. Instead of threading a loop through every slot of the heddle then, after the loop is cut, moving one thread into the neighbouring hole, you thread a loop in slots and holes. The second yarn loops through this to the peg. Which means every thread is a double thread, and you weave half basketweave.

I beat very lightly so the weft was well spaced. Which made the weaving quite fast.

A couple of sessions later it was done, and I finished it by twisting the fringe.

Ribs & Shadows

Once the rosepath warp was off the Lotas, it was time to plan a new project. Two, actually, because I’d decided I wouldn’t keep rethreading and sampling blended drafts on the Jane loom, which needed to be free in time for the start of the 8-shaft certificate course. Though that was two months away, I didn’t want to risk that a distraction, back flare up or something else stop me from weaving off the sampler warp.

What to weave? Something not too challenging, I decided. The latest Heddlecraft theme is ribs, which reminded me of one of the sampler I wove of half the first chapter of the Strickler book. Two of the twills formed ribs and a slightly stretchy fabric, which I’ve always wanted to use in a project. Going back to the source, there’s a note with the draft saying that it was used as a kind of knitted rib substitute. I decided to weave a simple ribbed scarf with the rest of the sampler warp, which only required rethreading the loom in a straight twill. Then I chose purple and aqua-blue weft yarns and started playing.

It’s easy to weave and you can see the ribs forming in the plain white section. You can also see my beat has been a bit variable. We had our covid shots a few days before, and my body did not react well.

For the Lotus, not wanting to tackle anything too challenging steered me toward weaving a Venne kit. I’ve woven shadow weave before, but I haven’t woven a kit. This one makes two scarves. I’m planning to do the first in the treadling provided then a variation for the second.

I replicated both drafts in Fiberworks so I could print at a bigger size, and play with shadow weave drafts. Once I’d threaded the shadow weave scarves I found I’m going to have to wait until the faux rib scarf is done to have two free shuttles for it. That’s fine. After all, I can only weave on one loom at a time!

Black Twill Stripe Rag Rug

I had enough warp left over from the twill rag rugs to weave a square t-shirt rag rug.

The variation in the depth of the black wasn’t obvious as I wove it, though I did reject one garment worth of rags because it was quite noticeably grey. This a bonus ‘spontaneity’ that comes from weaving rags from used rather than new cloth.

I like the extra squishiness of the knit fabric, and it was nice to not have to worry about ironing and placing the rag so the back side of the fabric doesn’t show. In fact, not having to fuss led to me trying different approaches on the next rug warp, but I’ll cover that in the next rag rug post.

Problem Solving Inspiration

As I was finishing the blue and aqua twill rugs, I started winding the warp for the two pink and one light blue rosepath ones. It was very tempting to slip in a different project before returning to rugs, but I feared I would get distracted and that project would become two, three, then more.

I’d already wound the warp, too. I’m always reluctant to let an already cut warp sit idle. Knowing my luck it will get all tangled no matter how carefully I store it, or the cross will be in the wrong place for whatever loom it ends up on, or I’ll simply forget what it was meant to be for.

It was much easier to wind, being one colour. Since I knew I didn’t have enough of the grey, I’d bought another cone, which had the added benefit that I could wind with two threads at a time. Still… it wasn’t an exciting warp to look at, being all grey.

What got me excited to use it was working out, while creating the draft in Fiberworks, how to fix a niggly problem I’d had with the threading of the blue and aqua rugs. Well, not really a problem for the resulting rug, but a quirk in the draft that bugged me.

You see, the edges of the rugs I’m making are plain weave, but the rag section has the threads doubled.

When I wove the first three rugs this wasn’t a problem, because the body of the rug was plain weave. I just warped the loom with a straight 8-shaft twill, and used a tie-up that lifted shafts 1+3+5+7 followed by 2+4+6+8 for the edge weft then 1+2+5+6 followed by 3+4+7+8 for the rag weft.

But when weaving twill on the blue and aqua rugs, I found that the weft on the edges would skip over two warps wherever the threads aligned with a twill point in the rag section.

The twill was an extended one in places, so the skips didn’t happen often enough to affect the fabric width of the edges (all basketweave would have woven narrower). The rosepath had far more points, which made it worth trying to find a solution.

I knew that the twill in the rag section was essentially a four shaft pattern – the only reason I used eight shafts was to separate the pairs into singles for plain weave at the edges – so if I considered the problem threads as pairs, what could I do to them to ensure there were no skips?

The answer then came easily: turn the pairs 90 degrees.

I was so chuffed to have worked this out, suddenly I was all fired up to weave the next lot of rag rugs. The following day I had the warp on the back beam and half threaded, but I made myself wait a few days until I did the second half, not wanting to set off my back issues.

Blended Drafts Workshop

During the numerous Zoom sessions of the last year and a bit, the lovely Jeanette at the Guild talked about her venture into blended drafts. Her explanation kind of blew my mind. While the method made sense at the time, my understanding of it seemed to dissolve straight after. Well, it was a trying time for our poor, stressed brains!

When the news came that Jeanette was going to run a workshop I was definitely interested. Yet I hesitated a little out of lack of self confidence. You see, it has occurred to me that nothing I’ve started this year has quite gone to plan. The Wiggle Scarf had wobbles, the warp for the aqua and blue rag rugs was a bit of a nightmare and the Aqua Rug came out short. I felt like my brain just wasn’t up to something as challenging as learning to weave two weave structures on the same threading.

But I signed up anyway, because when was I going to get the opportunity again?

Of course, then I had insomnia the night before, and so I did struggle a bit, especially toward the end of the day. However, overall I was fine thanks to the clarity of Jeanette’s instruction.

On the first Sunday we learned the what, why and how and created our own blended draft by matching one of the overshot patterns Jeanette supplied to a twill in one of a couple of books. I chose a slanting, angular overshot and modified a very simple herringbone twill to suit. We started threading our looms. At home we were to finish threading and weave the two structures.

I also tried making another blended draft, this time crackle and twill, and it seemed to go well. Then I created a draft in Fiberworks and confirmed it was correct. Yay!

On the second Sunday we did a ’round robin’ and tried what Jeanette and the other students had warped their looms for. Jeanette had blended o overshot with Atwater-Bronson lace:

Libby had a mix of overshot and waffleweave:

(pic to come)

I didn’t get to try Rosie’s combination, as we ran out of time. That night I took the crackle draft from my previous at-home blend and mixed it with Spot Bronson.

I still have warp left on the loom so I’m going to rethread for the crackle/spot bronson combo and weave a sampler. Then who knows? Maybe keep blending, rethreading and weaving. Maybe there’s enough warp left to weave a cowl.

Rugged & Blue

There’s something that tickles me about how the actual weaving of rag rugs is so fast. There is SO much preparation, and then BAM! a couple of hours more and the rug exists. (Mostly. There’s still hemming and washing, of course.)

The Aqua Rug turned out shorter than I’d intended. When sewing together the rags I had an older batch of mixed rags already sewn together, a few misc strips, and two newer batches of unsewn strips in the same colourway. Instead of cutting the already sewn strips apart to mix in the new ones, I added only the misc pattern strips, then sewed the two similar colours together. My aim was to use two shuttles to weave alternate rows of old-mixed and new-similar batches.

This made for only slightly more complicated weaving. It also meant I ran out of the old batch before I got to last quarter of the new, and I wound up with a shorter rug than I’d planned. I’m wondering, now, if I should have woven two new-similar rows for every old-mixed one. Too late now. The unused strips went into the box of leftovers.

The Blue Rug was one big batch of evenly mixed pattern, so I could just wind it onto a single shuttle and weave to the very end. Despite this, it really felt like it took much longer. Partly because I was weaving in shorter sessions, and because it wasn’t much shorter than it should be!

Since the Aqua Rug came out shorter than planned, I had a lot of warp left over. I decided to try weaving with t-shirt fabric strips. This came out much nicer than I expected and not needing to fuss with folding in the edges of the strips made it SO much faster. It was only slowed by having to stop and cut up more old garments. The down side is that no matter how you cut up t-shirts or leggings, you’re going to have corners or seams creating lumps. I don’t mind this, but it does make for a more bumpy rug and some people mightn’t like that.

I got to thinking, as I wove, that it might be worth taking the time to sew the flannelette strips. Ironing them with a bias tape maker helps by folding in the edges, but I still have to fiddle a lot to get them to sit right when weaving. So I tried that on the next rug’s strips and found that it’s slower than I hoped and chews through a lot of thread.

I’m at the point, now, where I don’t think I’d take more flannelette rags even if they were free. Though it was nice having a source material that was not ‘used’, the prep is too time-consuming and dark colours aren’t common (light colours not being so good for hiding dust and stains). If the fabric comes in larger pieces it is much faster to cut, and if the colour is near to or as dark on the back the edges don’t have to be folded in so long as it isn’t too prone to fraying.

There’s still enough flannelette for five or six rugs, however, so I’m not even going to be looking for fabric for some time!

From Play Pen to Weaving Tool

At the beginning of last week I looked at all the part-done projects and tasks hanging about and decided to get stuck into completing them. The list included the rag rugs, some gardening tasks, a few sewing jobs and carpentry projects. I thought I’d get it all done in a day… it took a week. But I did succeed in my aim!

The rag rugs will be in another post, and the gardening and sewing jobs were small and menial, so I’ll stick to the carpentry projects. The first one was another box thing to match the one I put my 4-shaft certificate course notes in, ready for when I do the 8-shaft one. It made sense to make it while I could recall what I did on the first one. However, I do wonder if I’ve now jinxed the course, and it won’t go ahead now!

The other project was to turn a giant warping board which was once two sides of a wooden kid’s pen into two normal sized warping boards. I’d picked up the broken play pen from hard rubbish aaaages ago. It once looked like this:

Only two panels survived. I was going to make a clothes drying rack or hang plants off it, but one day I looked at it and thought, “all I’d have to do is cut the dowels a handspan long and I’d have four sides of a warping board”. Of course, Paul did the cutting as he is master of the power saw, and he found some metal brackets to join the corners with and “Ta-Dah!” we had a warping board.

A really huge warping board. Maybe 120 cm square. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo of it. A pic of someone holding it could have been quite comical. I held off oiling it and left it out in the garage because there was nowhere to store it inside and I knew I was going to have to consider whether I really needed a giant warping board or should cut it down.

I decided on the latter and, after some measuring up, confirmed there was enough framework to make two normal sized boards. A bit of sanding, sawing, screwing and oiling later the reconstruction was done. However, what I had then was two warping boards with wobbly pegs. The dowels had shrunk since I’d bought the pen panels.

So I set to carefully painting watered down pva around and into the gaps. This wound up taking a couple of hours, broken up over days as the glue dried and shrank and needed to be topped up, but by the end those pegs weren’t moving anywhere.

Do I need two more warping boards? Nope. But the wood has been repurposed and the boards will eventually find homes.

Twill Be Rugs. Lots of Rugs.

For a few months now I’ve been cutting, matching, sewing together and ironing flannelette rag strips ready to weave more floor rugs. The flannelette scraps from the enormous bag of them I’d bought from the pj-maker last year has all been sorted and cut. The pieces of flannelette I’ve picked up since are mostly cut into strips too. I have to say, cutting big rectangles of fabric into strips is much faster and more accurate than cutting lots of scraps, and if I wasn’t doing this partly as an exercise in making something useful from what would otherwise go into the trash I’d stick to using old fabric.

I reckon I have enough batches of strips for seven or eight rugs, with possible eighth either being made up from the leftovers, or the first of a new batch using more fabric added to the leftovers. The first two rugs I’m going to weave are 1 x 2-2.3 metre wide aqua and blue rugs on the same warp, which will be a twill sequence of blue stripes interspersed with orange, yellow and green stripes. The colourway is bright and cheerful and reminds me of beach towels.

Halfway through measuring the warp I ran out of blue and had to order in more. While waiting for it to arrive I moved on to sewing the strips for the next two rugs: a pink rug and a light blue rug using the same grey warp.

My plan was to weave one pink rug of about 1m x 2.5m, and a smaller light blue rug which would require more fabric. But as I laid the pink strips out I considered the likely owner of the final rug. The most probable recipient would be a child, and it would be a pretty big rug for a child’s bedroom. So I decided to weave two pink rugs instead, at 80cm x 140cm. It turned out I had exactly half the weight of light blue rags to pink ones, so I’ll be making three rugs of the same size and don’t really need to find more fabric for the light blue one. It’s nice when things seem to fall into place like that!

The first batch of pink rags is going to be a graduation.

The second will be all mixed together, as will the light blue. The pattern will be rosepath, based on the project in Tom Knisely’s book. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to order an extra cone of the grey warp along with the blue. Not only will I need more than I have left on the original cone to do the longer warp, but winding with two ends together will make the measuring much faster.

Once the blue warp arrived I finished winding that warp. It took two attempts to get it on the loom. On the first attempt I realised I had counted 22 threads for every blue stripe not at the edges, but was actually 24. So I had to add threads and weigh them at the back of the loom. Whether the weights were on or not, this made lashing on the warp at the front a pain in the posterior.

But it got it done and started weaving… and realised that the draft I had created didn’t, as I’d thought, let me weave plain weave for the hems. I tried weaving basketweave, but it just didn’t compact down as it ought to and would not make a good hem. So I went back to Fiberworks and came up with a draft that mostly fixed the problem. And since this meant I’d have to rethread the loom anyway, I wound the whole warp onto the front beam, tied on the extra threads so I wouldn’t have to hang and weigh them, and wound it back onto the back beam.

After that the threading went perfectly and I was finally able to get weaving.

However, by then my back was hitting a bad phase and I had to stay away from the loom for a few days, which was hard after all the preparation that’s gone before this. I just want to weave!

More Wiggle Scarves Wobbles

Deflected Doubleweave is slow going, due to moving the shuttles from the front to the back to avoid yarns looping around the outside. I’d aimed to weave a vertical or horizontal section every day but wasn’t managing it, so when I stopped to check the length of Wiggle Scarf the First I was surprised to find it was already 144 cm long. I was so surprised, I unwound the front beam so I could double check in case the tape measure had moved or something. Sure enough, it was already long enough for a scarf.

After weaving an edge band, I left a gap for fringe and started the second scarf. For this one I substituted cotton ribbon yarn for the green and blue 10/2 cotton. Weaving went much more quickly after that, as not only did I not have to wrangle two shuttles, but one pick of the ribbon replaced four picks of the cotton.

It was so addictive I had to make myself walk away from the loom lest I weave for hours and stir up my back problem. When I came back to it, however, I ran out of the ribbon yarn much sooner than I’d hoped. I still had 50cm or so of warp left, and the ribbon yarn section was too short to even make a cowl.

I made my own ribbon yarn by sewing some hand painted silk into a tube then running it through the overlocker in a spiral, which wove well but the colours were more intense and made the original ribbon look washed out. I tried weaving with 10/2 cotton in various colours but it didn’t have the same structural charm. To finish the scarf I really needed a fabric weft that wouldn’t distract from the beauty of the ribbon yarn.

I considered and tried a whole lot of other fabrics but none suited. Eventually I found some quilting cotton in a second hand shop that matched the burgundy colour of the wool warp and cut that into strips. It was paler on the back, so I wove a sections with one side up followed by the next with the other side prominent.

Then I took them off the loom and washed them.

Wiggle Scarf the First came up well.

However, it I wasn’t sure what to do with the ends. The wool ends fulled into dreadlocks, but I’d always intended to cut them off and only have cotton fringe. However, the first and last band of wool weft I’d woven didn’t quite felt as much as I’d hoped and I’m not sure if it’s going to hold. I ought to have made them much wider so I could make a hem.

Finishing the ends was probably covered in the workshop, but I don’t recall much. It was around the time my brain was messed up from the migraines sparked by my back issues. It might also have been during the start of the last lesson, which was a point where my attention was distracted.

Wiggle Scarf the Second was initially delightful. The ribbon section came out just as it had in the sampler, and is lovely.

I figure it must have shrunk at a similar rate to the wool, because the section with the cotton strips clearly didn’t, resulting in loops at either side of the fabric.

It was quite harsh to the touch, too. I considered cutting the section off and tossing it, but decided to see what happened if I removed the fabric strips.

It’s actually quite pleasing – a little bit lacy and has a lovely drape. To make it a cowl I would sew the ends together, but I have the same problem with having too little, not-quite-fused-enough fabric there. One of the weavers I follow on Insta makes cowls from short lengths of handwoven fabric joined with sections of cut up knitwear, so maybe I’ll do something like that.

If I can find the right colour and type of fabric, I might add ends to Wiggle Scarf the First, too.

Pin vs Notch

During the Pin Loom Weaving workshop, I had many different sizes and kinds of looms to demonstrate on, and that included the flat, laser-cut looms from Twill Textile Design. At one point I switched from demonstrating on a nail loom to one of the TTD looms, and I found myself remarking aloud how much easier it was to work without nails getting in the way. I was amused to see one of the students pick up her phone and immediately order one.

That got me thinking that I really ought to buy one of the larger ones, so when I got home I did, and it arrived a few weeks later.

It was double the size of the larger of the two looms I already had and the first square I wove confirmed that this translated to the smaller squares too. That gave me the idea to add bigger squares to the Wandering Squares Blanket. I laid out a few pieces and instantly knew this was going to look fabulous.

This project has been my go-to portable project for a few years now, and I’m in no hurry to finish it. There may be a benefit to it taking a long time too. When I put together examples of different ways of joining squares for the workshop I found that using a zig-zag on a sewing machine was actually very effective. I’m thinking of using that method for this blanket.

After all, I have over 100 of the smaller squares, so it would be a LOT of hand sewing to join them all.