Monday, July 30, 2007

Ski Shuttle & Afghan Progress

I've made excellent weaving progress. Here's why.......

A ski shuttle is a very useful piece of equipment.
A ski shuttle. I've used stick shuttles and boat shuttles, but it wasn't until I started weaving the Project Linus blanket that I thought about getting a ski shuttle.

My longest boat shuttle holds 6 inch bobbins. For a 42 inch project on the loom using a worsted weight knitting yarn for weft, that's about 3 inches or so of weaving. Stick shuttles hold more, but blankets and afghans are too wide to pass them through the shed easily. My brand new 19.5 inch ski shuttle on the other hand, holds enough yarn for about 12 inches worth of weaving. No comparison!

So, with a little bit of snoopervision .....

Catzee discovers a nifty kitty perch.
....... the first Christmas afghan in zig zag twill is finished........

The first zig zag twill afghan completed.
I feel like I'm making good progress.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mystery of the Twill Zig Zags

After I finished my first project on the Glimakra loom, I faced something of a dilemma, i.e. what to weave next. I hadn't yet finished my Summer & Winter weave explorations, including several project ideas based on some of the dishtowels I had done. Also, Peg has been posting about crackle, and I've really been tempted to give this a try. Then too, I had the zig zag mystery to solve. Plus, I thought it might be a good idea to take advantage of the threading and treadle tie-up already on the Glimakra loom. Woven afghans as Christmas presents would certainly take advantage of that plus give me an early start on my Christmas gift giving list.

My first handwoven sampler.Considering all the effort and energy that went into getting the Glimakra ready to weave for that first blanket, tying on won hands down! Since these will be for adults however, I decided to start calling them afghans instead of blankets.

My interest in weaving zig zags started with the very first sampler I wove (detail at left) from Deb Chandler's Learning To Weave. I learned a lot from that first little sampler, which has long since become a well loved cat blanket. For some reason I always liked the little zig zags, and knew that someday I wanted to weave them again. They became the inspiration for the Project Linus blanket. Little did I realize what those mismatched zig zags were about to teach me about twills.

Since I was still puzzling over why those zig zags changed color like they did, I decided to start with a solid color warp and a solid color weft. I chose red and black because I have a particular person in mind as the recipient of this afhgan, and I think these colors will be appreciated.

The fun thing about doing it this way is that the afghan will be reversible. Black zig zags on one side, red ones on the other.

Front & back of a twill afghan.As I wove, I observed the zig zags and how they formed. I paid attention to where they started and where they turned. I followed the warp ends back to the corresponding shafts and finally I realized that my answer to my mystery was in the nature of twills.

Plain weave is a one over one under one pattern. Each thread follows that path. It is the plainest pattern one can weave. Twill goes over (or under) more than one. How many depends upon the type of twill being woven. For example, if the threads to over two and under two, then it is called a 2/2 twill.

Here's what I figured out. The twill pattern I chose from Eight Shafts A Place to Begin, is a 3/1/1/1/1 pattern. This means that the weft travels over three warp ends and then alternately over and under the next four. However, my color stripes were 8 warp threads wide, one for each shaft. This mean that the points of the zig zags however, had to "borrow" extra warp threads from the next color stripe to create the zig zags.

Detail of the blanket's twill zig zags.This would be no problem for solid warps and wefts, but it didn't work with my color stripes.

I immediately set out to figure out what I would have to do to get the effect I wanted. Then I got an email from fellow WeaveTech member, Ruby Leslie. She pointed out that by changing my treadling pivot point, I could achieve the look I was going for. Eureka!

Now of course, my mind is working overtime as I plan several more afghans. Fortunately, I have a very supportive family, who love receiving handcrafted gifts, unsolved puzzles and all. So if my next project turns up with an unexpected surprise, I know the work of my hands will be appreciated anyway.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

2nd Summer Project - Alpaca

Handspun, handknitted, handfulled toy alpaca in alpaca fiber.Socks aren't my only summer project. About a month or two ago, I made a trade with an alpaca breeder. I was given a very generous supply of Alpaca fiber in exchange for some finished items to show their farm visitors. This little guy is the first of those items; a little stuffed alpaca from a Fiber Trends pattern. I had to look around a bit to find this pattern, but finally found it at Mielke's Fiber Arts, LLC. My little alpaca measures 11.5 inches tall and was a lot of fun to make.

Although I've dabbled with raw alpaca before, I decided to do a little research before I started spinning, especially since the final product wasn't for me. In the Spring 1994 issue of Spin-Off Magazine, I found an article by Jane Fournier, which provided all the information I needed.

This is Huacaya alpaca, and the fiber is luxuriously soft and silky. Even though it has some crimp to it (about 4 - 5 per inch) it requires plenty of twist to hold it together.

A sampling of the raw alpaca staples.This fiber is a little too long for handcarding, so I drum carded the fiber. Drum carding is also quicker, which was fine with me. It is a lovely chocolate brown color with sunbleached tips. The tips were sound, as was the rest of the staple. It did contain a lot of VM (vegetable matter), nor was it a spinner's shear, which meant there was a lot of unevenness of length and long second cuts.

The handspun alpaca yarn. The pattern called for a worsted weight to bulky weight yarn. My singles were about 18 wraps per inch. The fiber was slippery to spin, so I started with my largest whorl and treadled slowly. I used the short draw (worsted) technique to better control the evenness of my singles. Once I felt comfortable with the fiber, I switched to a whorl one size smaller.

Plied, the yarn measures 10 wraps per inch. Jane Fournier's article recommended that for knitting, the yarn needs to be balanced, as otherwise it tends to produce a bias in the knitted fabric. Even firmly spun and plied, the yarn has a lovely hand.

I knitted my little alpaca on US10.5 needles. It is all in garter stitch with short row shaping. An opening was left between its back legs, to enable stuffing it later. He was then fulled in the washing machine. Fulling is the term used for felting an item after it has been knitted or woven. It only took five minutes of agitation in a washing machine filled with hot soapy water to get the results I wanted.

I stuffed him with shredded plastic shopping bags to shape him for drying, and later used polyfil for the permanent stuffing. I stitched up his back opening and added some embroidered eyes. He looked cute, but taking a stiff bristle brush to him really gave him some personality. He looks more like the fluffy Huacaya alpaca that he was created from.

Of course, these alpaca projects will put a dent in my Shetland spinning time. And then there's that bag of Merino. And the Polwarth which remains lonely and untouched. *sigh* At least I'll never have an excuse to be bored.

Related Posts:
Alpaca Project #2
Alpaca Tri-loom Teddy Bear Shawl
Last of the Alpaca Projects

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Sock Knitting

I know that I haven't posted about knitting since I set my Rare Breed Sweater aside. Summertime is when I usually knit a pair of socks.

First of a pair of striped toe up socks.
I'm not a fast knitter, so if I knit one pair a year, I'm doing well. These are being knitted from some 50/50 wool/nylon blend yarns that I found in my stash. It is a little finer than most sock yarns, so I am knitting on size US1 double pointed needles. I am using my old standby toe up sock pattern.

I'm not really sure where the yarns came from. I vaguely remember them in a large bag of odd yarns given to me a number of years ago. However, I can tell you that there is some dispute as to their current ownership.

Catzee is not always as sweet as she looks.
Don't let this innocent face fool you. She can put up quite a battle when she makes up her mind to claim something. Click here for details.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

There's Nothing Like A Little More Fleece....

....... to make a spinner's day! And my day was made with two more bags from Cathy (who seems to have a secret life as a fleece magnet.)

Of course, all new fleece must first pass inspection......

2 lovely bags of fleece undergoing inspection.
Rascal is quite a fleece lush, so I really have to keep an eye on him when there's raw fleece around.

What do my two bags contain?

Bag of 3 types of Shetland fleece.
This one is full of more Shetland, (yay!). There is both white and black adult fleece, and some fawn lamb. The black is a different texture than the Shetland samples I have been spinning lately, so I am very curious about it. I'm trying to decide whether or not to dye some of the white. I have an idea to do a knitted vest or something in all natural Shetland colors. However, I already have some white, and color is so much more fun to spin than plain white. Well, we'll see.

Bag of adult and lamb Merino fleece.
This second bag contains raw Merino! I'm quite excited about this as I've never worked with raw Merino before, only commercially processed top. It's hard to tell from the photo, but there is both white adult and fawn lamb in the bag.

Now to go put everything up and out of You-Know-Who's way.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Loom = New Books. Right?

Of course right. I've gotten quite a few excellent suggestions for books to add to my library. Some I've ordered, and others are still on my wish list. Here's what I've gotten so far.

I've already mentioned this book, Tying Up The Countermarch Loom by Joanne Hall. Actually I wish I had gotten it when I first got the loom. It would have been a big help in setting it up for the first time. Even so, it has been invaluable in evaluating and adjusting the shed. That alone has been well worth the purchase price.

Although written for Glimakra looms, this book is helpful for any countermarche loom. Chapters include explanations about both horizontal and vertical countermarches; Texsolv cords, heddles and ties; how to assemble the shafts; how to tie the apron rods, jacks, lamms, and treadles; threading, sleying and tying the warp; and of course, how to evaluate and adjust the shed. In the back of the book is a section on knots; a warp sett chart; a page on metric and English measures and weights; a reed chart; and a glossary. This book can be purchased directly from Glimakra USA, scroll about half way down the page.

Peg recommended this next book to me. It is entitled Eight Shafts: A Place To Begin, by Wanda Jean Shelp and Carolyn Wostenberg. I know this may sound odd, but at this point, I am finding it difficult to think in terms of eight shafts. I think that like a lot of other things, this will come with experience, but to start, I need help. This book is it. Chapter 1 is entitled "A Common Language," and offers explanations of all the basic elements of understanding pattern drafts. It has the best definition of "unit" and "block" that I've read so far. Though most of the material in this chapter was review for me, applying this information to eight shafts has been very helpful.

The rest of the chapters cover specific weave structures with a large selection of drafts for each of them. Included are several chapters on various twills (straight, point, extended point, and twills with breaks), color effects (color-&-weave and shadow weave), crackle, lace (Bronson, huck, and Atwater/Bronson), colonial weaves (twill overshot, even and uneven two tie, and summer & winter), and some miscellaneous weaves (twill blocks and warp faced). Each draft includes the threading, tie-up, and treadling. No drawdowns are included, but photos of the fabrics are offered instead.

I first looked for this book on, but found a better price at Woodland Woolworks. Even though the shipping and handling was higher, it was still a better deal.

The third book is still on order. It is A Weaver's Book of 8-Shaft Patterns by Carol Strickler. Quite a few people recommended this book so I couldn't resist getting it. I ordered this one from Amazon, on July 2nd. Unfortunately it won't be shipped until sometime between now and the middle of August!

This last book isn't new, but in light of the discussion we've been having about different types of looms and how to adjust them, I can't help but mention it.

Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps by Peggy Osterkamp is the second in her New Guide to Weaving Series. What I've been reading lately, is chapter 9, "Adjusting Looms." In it she explains how the three different types of looms work, and then goes into a lengthy discussion on how to evaluate and adjust jack, counterbalance, and countermarche looms. Very helpful! So much so, that I plan to put another warp on my Schacht Mighty Wolf jack loom and see what I can do to get a better shed and reduce some of the problems I've had with it.

Other chapters include, "Beaming on a Plain Beam," "Threading the Loom and Sleying the Reed," "Tying On," "Tying Up the Treadles" (on both counterbalance and countermarche looms), "Weaving", "Sectional Beaming", "The Automatic Warp Tension System," "The Warping Drum," "Combining Sectional and Plain Beaming." "Two or More Warps," "Designing Random Stripes," and "Knots."

This book can be found on, but again, Woodland Woolworks has the better price.

I'd be very interested in more book suggestions on countermarche looms and 8-shaft weaving. What would you recommend as some of your favorites?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: Blanket Done!

By Leigh

Here it is....

View from a distance, Catzee tests the new blanket.
The blanket is complete. After washing it measures 39.5 by 53.5 inches plus 4 inches of fringe at either end. The threading was a straight twill, which meant I simply threaded each shaft in turn, 1 through 8. I treadled from 1 to 8 and back to 1 again, repeating to make the twill zig zags. I used a worsted weight 4-ply knitting yarn sett at 8 ends per inch.

Here is a closer view, so that you can see how the variegated weft yarn turned out.....

A closer look at how the variegated weft interacted with the colored warp stripes.
Basically, the colors matched up on both edges, but in the center of the blanket, each weft pick is a different color, creating a more speckled effect. The strangest thing to me was the way the zig zags turned out. I expected them to be solid colors from left to right and back again. But look at them .....

Detail of the blanket's twill zig zags.
Where the zig meets the zag on the lefthand side, two different warp colors are picked up, so that they are not solid lines of color! This was very puzzling because my threading.....

How the color stripes were threaded..
... changed color with the first shaft. So I had 1 - 8 in orange, 1 - 8 in green, 1 - 8 in brown, repeat. Obviously I did not do a drawdown!

So I've accomplished something and have something to investigate. (For what I discovered, see Mystery of the Twill Zig Zags.)

Although I have to admit that the colors and overall effect of the blanket are not what I would choose for myself, I am not dissatisfied with it as a first project on my Glimakra loom.

Related Posts:
Twills - The Basics
Warping the Glimakra:
.....Adjusting the Loom With Texsolv
.....Winding On the Warp
.....Tying Up the Treadles
.....The 3 Duhs
.....Adjusting the Shed
Mystery of the Twill Zig Zags

Monday, July 16, 2007

Shetland Update - Sass

Washed silver Shetland staples.Although most of my energy and effort have been directed toward learning and weaving on my new countermarche loom, spinning and knitting have been going on too. For spinning progress, I am pleased to report that I am continuing to work on the Shetland samples Cathy sent me.

The lovely silver sample on the left is from Sass. It is absolutely the softest sample so far. It is a lovely light grey with white tips. Length ranges from 3.5 to 4 inches with 7 crimps per inch. As you can see, the tips are wavy at about 4 per inch. The staples in the scan on the left have already been washed. They are sound, open, and very soft. It is a single coated fleece.

As with the other samples, I drumcarded it to blend the color thoroughly. I seem to have misplaced my sample card at the moment, so I don't recall the measurement of the singles, but the 2-ply yarn is 16 wraps per inch (WPI).

Handspun silver Shetland yarn.As I take a close look at the yarn, it seems to me that it is the most inconsistent of all the Shetland samples I've spun so far. However, I have found that knitting will hide most of the imperfections. I use to worry about the slubs and inconsistencies in my yarn, and how they would effect a knitted fabric. While I (as spinner and knitter) always find my eye drawn to them, it was quite an eye opener when I once deliberately spun a slubby yarn for knitting. I was dismayed when most of the slubs pretty much disappeared into the final fabric. I realized that to feature the slubs, I needed to make them more pronounced. The little slubs and in consistencies in this yarn will at best, lend a homey, handspun quality to the final garment, considered quite desirable by some.

As spinners, we work hard to produce beautifully consistent yarns. We admire the consistency of other spinners' yarns and apologize for our beginnerish looking attempts. Oddly, a perfectly consistent yarn is often rejected by the nonspinner as being "too perfect." In the eyes of some, it is that handcrafted quality which make the yarn desirable in the first place. How ironic is that!

Thanks to Mabel Ross, I finally realized that my goal as a spinner all boils down to who is in control; me or the fiber? Am I able to achieve the yarn I want, or does the fiber alone dictate the end result. What an eye opener it was to try and spin a thick slubby yarn after working long and hard toward perfecting a consistent fine yarn. I think some of you would agree with me that it is more difficult to spin a consistent thick yarn than a consistent fine one. And to control the size and placement of slubs is a quite the challenge.

I can't say that I am always in charge. It is the goal I work toward, but each new fiber or breed presents its own set of challenges. And this is what keeps me interested in spinning. Hopefully there will always be something new to learn and experiment with. At least that's what I'm counting on.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Friday, July 13, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: Beginning to Weave

At last, I have started weaving. At times it seemed as though I'd never get to this point, but it finally arrived. After all my hard work on the warping and adjusting, I was very curious as to how the weaving would go.

The yarn I chose for my weft. My project, you may remember, is a child's blanket for Project Linus. Since there was a request for larger blankets for boys, I tried to pick my colors accordingly. The blankets also have to be machine washable, so I chose good old Red Heart yarn.

For some reason, I am always drawn to space dyed type yarns. I don't know why, but the color variations always intrigue me. I eventually chose the one on the right for my weft, because it was the only colorway for which I could find solids to match. Evidently, these yarns are expected to be used by themselves, but I did find orange, brown, and green yarns close enough to use for warp stripes.

Although awkward at this point, weaving is going well. I am learning how hold back the beater as I throw the shuttle. The narrow treadles hang loosely and close together, so it is difficult to keep track of my treadling, even though it is a simple straight pattern. Also I have to learn when to advance the beater as my weaving progresses, and then remember to do it!

First several woven inches on my new loom.
I think it will be awhile before I get any sort of rhythm going, but tension is good, the fell is straight and my selvedges are acceptable.

Ironically, after all my fuss and worry over getting the treadles tied up correctly, (see duh#3) I discover that I am looking at weft faced zig-zags while I weave. They were supposed to be warp faced which are of course, on the bottom! Ah well, if that's the least of my problems, then I won't complain.

I realize that I still have things to learn about this loom and that further adjustments could be made. But I've gotten started and there's no stopping me now.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: Adjusting the Shed

OK. My warp is wound on. I've threaded the heddles and sleyed the reed. I've tied up the treadles, (twice). Now I'm ready to weave! Well, almost. What I need to do next is check the shed and adjust it.

First of all, please excuse my photos of the shed. When I took them, my usual helpers were quite useless ........

Two lazy cats.
So I simply held out the camera, pointed it at the shed, and clicked the shutter while standing at the front of the loom as I depressed the treadles. I managed to get a couple of photos to illustrate what I'm talking about.

To begin the evaluation, I first wove a few inches of plain weave. Then I checked the shed. Here is what it looked like at first:

Example of a poor shed
If you examine the bottom of the shed at the reed on the left, you can see that the warp ends pass through the reed at various heights. Looking down the length of the shed they all appear the same height, but in fact they are are all at different heights for the full 352 ends. No good. The shuttle will catch on some of these and pass under them when it is supposed to go over. That messes up the pattern on the cloth, which would obviously be frustrating. So the threads in the shed need to be adjusted.

I wouldn't have had a clue how to adjust the shed if it hadn't been for Joanne Hall's Tying Up the Countermarch Loom (more on that book in another post.) Here is what I learned about adjusting the shed.

Overhead jacks with locking pins in place.All adjustments on a countermarche loom start at the top. The loom comes equipped with removable locking pins, pictured in the locking position on the left. These lock the jacks in place so that the shafts stay put during adjustments.

Starting at the top, I checked to make sure that the shafts were centered to the loom. On a countemarche loom, the warp should run through the center of the heddle eye. If it doesn't, then the shafts need to be raised or lowered accordingly. The shafts are attacked to the overhead jacks with Texsolv cord and anchor pins. By adjusting the cord on the anchor pins (at the far ends of the jacks), the shafts can be raised or lowered.

I also checked the beater height, to make sure that the shed formed in the middle of the reed. You can see from the above shed photo that it does.

Next I checked to make sure that the lamms were level with one another.

Once I was satisfied that all was well so far, I removed the locking pins and started checking the treadles. To make sure the treadles are tied correctly, I pressed each treadle in turn and examined the shed. I noted which warp ends ran above the rest of the shed and made a list of which shafts these were connected to. I also made a list for the warp ends which ran below the rest of the shed.

It was from these lists that the treadle tie-up is adjusted. I took the treadles one at a time and started with the upper lamms (which lower the shed):

* For shafts with warp threads which were too high and ran above the shed, the treadle ties were shortened.

* For shafts with warp ends which were below the shed, the treadle ties were lengthened.

I repeated this for each treadle in turn. Then I checked the shed again and made further adjustments as needed.

This is what it looked like when I got done:

Example of a good bottom shed.
The top of the shed still needs some adjustment, but the bottom is exactly the way it should be. To adjust the top of the shed, the treadle ties to the lower, lifting lamms are adjusted:

* For shafts with warp threads which were too high and ran above the shed, the treadle ties were lengthened.

* For shafts with warp ends which were below the shed, the treadle ties were shortened.

Note that this is the opposite of what was done with the upper lamms.

What a difference this made with my weaving! I used to have frequent skipped or caught warp threads with my other loom, but there have been very few so far this time. I cannot say that my shed was absolutely perfect for each treadle, but my goal is to improve my shed with each project.

To be honest, this was simply a "monkey see, monkey do" activity. I just followed the directions without understanding why they worked and got the results I needed. At this point I cannot look at the shed and automatically know what needs to be done to fix it and why. That is one of those things that will come with experience. Still, it feels good to be on the right track.

Now on to the weaving .........and at last Blanket Done!

Related posts:
Warping the Glimakra:

Monday, July 09, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: The 3 Duhs

By Leigh

Duh #1 - Putting on too wide a warp

Probably not the best project width to start with.
This is not a tremendously big deal, but I should know better than to try too many new things at once. The new loom should have been enough. I thought I was doing good to refrain from trying a fancy 8 shaft pattern, but I did allow myself to succumb to weaving something I'd never woven before, a blanket.

Duh #2 -Initially winding onto the cloth beam backwards

In this photo, it is wound on correctly. At first however, I had the apron cords going around the other way.

To the mechanically minded this probably would not have been a big deal, but to me it was a major panic. I had everything threaded and tied up and ready to weave. I thought I'd have to re-do it all! Fortunately, my DH looked calmly at the situation and started winding the beam until it unrolled the apron cords. He kept on winding and much to my amazement, it wound itself the correct way. If he hadn't been around it probably would have been a bigger duh because I would have untied the whole thing to correct it. Not something I would have enjoyed especially because of Duh #1.

I think what threw me off was the knee beam. My other loom doesn't have one and I'd never had to deal with one before. I'm assuming it's there to keep the cloth out of the way so that one can get one's knees under the loom.

Duh #3 - Tying up the "wrong" sets of lamms

"Wrong" here is a little relative. It has nothing to do with overall results, but everything to do with which side of the cloth I was going to look at while I was weaving. And this has to do with how the pattern draft is written and which way the shed is formed on the loom: rising or sinking.

My introduction to this entire concept took place shortly after I started to weave in 2000. I decided to weave a table runner using a pattern from Marguerite Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book. I was puzzled after I began weaving. While it looked pretty on the loom, it didn't look like the picture of the pattern I'd chosen. To my surprise, after I finished and cut it off the loom, there was the pattern I wanted, on the bottom! I soon learned that this was because all the drafts in this book are notated for sinking shed looms. My jack loom had a rising shed. That meant that if I wanted to look at the pattern while I was weaving, I needed to tie up the treadles according to the blank spaces in the draft, not the X's.

Usually tie-ups for rising shed looms such as jack looms, use O's to show the treadle tie-up. Sinking sheds such as counterbalance looms, use X's. The two drafts on the left will produce exactly the same woven pattern. While most modern weaving books show the rising shed tie-up, the older A Handweaver's Pattern Books (originally published in 1944 before jack looms came into popular use) uses X's.

But what about a countermarche loom, where part of the shed rises and the other part sinks? For my first treadle tie-up, I followed the instructions on the set-up video, which showed tying up the upper lamms first, and then tying up the bottom ones in the opposite pattern. However the video showed a simple plain weave, whereas I wanted a simple straight twill. What I didn't realize is that the short, upper lamms pull the shafts dow to sink the shed, while the long, lower lamms lift the shed because they are attached to the overhead jacks, which pull the shafts up. (Photos of this stuff on this post.)

Countermarche looms are usually considered rising shed looms for the sake of tying up the treadles. They do differ from jack looms in that every shaft has to be tied, but they can use the same rising shed drafts.

So what exactly did I do "wrong'? I switched which set of lamms I tied to. I tied the upper (sinking) lamms to the O's in the draft which were supposed to be rising. My pattern was upside down. I probably could have let this go and simply pressed on with my weaving. I was having problems with my shed however (more on that next time), so I decided to re-tie the entire treadle tie-up. I've often said that I learn more from my mistakes than from getting it right the first time. Believe me when I say that I won't do that again.

So there you have it. Looking on the bright side I have to say that I'm learning a lot.

Next ....... Adjusting the Shed

Related posts:
New Loom
Why A Countermarche?
Warping the Glimakra:
.....Adjusting the Loom With Texsolv
.....Winding On the Warp
.....Tying Up the Treadles
.....Adjusting the Shed

Friday, July 06, 2007

Shetland Update - Aurora

Raw Shetland lamb staples.Time for a quick Shetland spinning update! This next fleece sample was pretty interesting. It was from a lamb named Aurora. Cathy told me it was a second shearing and she believed that the color had been mislabeled. It almost looked as though it could be fawn, but it turned out that it was just pretty dirty. ( And from reading Kathy L's blog, I do know that Shetland lambs love to play!)

The unwashed fleece (left) had quite a few bands of color to it, from reddish to yellow to dark brown. It's length averaged about 3 to 4 inches, with about 12 crimps per inch. It contained some second cuts and some vegetable matter (VM).

Washed Shetland lamb staples.I gave it an extra washing soak in Dawn dish liquid and three rinses. The various pseudo fawn bands washed out to a lovely creamy white, but the yellow bands remained! You can still see them in the washed sample on the right (though in real life they are darker than in the scan.)

The yellow stains I had encountered before always washed out. These are called "yolk" and are actually lanolin. Since this stain didn't wash out, I wondered if it could be what is known as "canary" stain. So I turned to the stain chart on page 174 of In Sheep's Clothing. This could definitely be canary stain.

A little Internet research turned up lots of information, but I found this article to be the most helpful. I learned that this stain is actually caused by organisms which attack and discolor the fleece. How serious this is in evaluating the fleece for handspinning depends upon whom one talks too. Some seem to think it harmless since the organism is killed with soap and hot water anyway, while others would discard the entire fleece from such animals. Evidently it can be severe enough to weaken the fiber considerably, but in Aurora's sample, this wasn't the case. Since the stain didn't effect the integrity of the staples, I went ahead and processed my sample.

To blend in the stain, I drum carded the entire sample thoroughly. The batts were a wonderfully creamy color, almost like fresh butter, a very pale yellow-tinted white. My only problem was neps, which was a little frustrating. Of course, after I finished drumcarding the entire batch, I went back and looked at my fleece assessment. There I saw that I had highlighted a comment I had written - "! Tips weak, cut off before carding !"

Note to self - always remember to read notes to self.

Aurora's yarnThe spinning however, was wonderfully smooth. The fiber was silky soft and lovely to handle. From my experience with Nikki's fleece, I was able to better compensate for the crimp and elasticity of the fiber. For Aurora's fleece, I ended up with a 2-ply of 16 wraps per inch, which was my target size. That was a relief. Interestingly, it's "shrinkage" differed from the first two samples (Nikki and Korny), as you may recall from this photo. Aurora's is the skein in the middle.

And so my Shetland yarn collection continues to grow. I try to spin, or at least process some fiber sometime during each day. It is a welcome break from the loom wrestling I've been doing lately. But, more on that next time.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: Tying Up the Treadles

By Leigh

So far I've been sailing right along, singing the praises of my Glimakra countermarche, comparing it to my Schacht jack loom, seemingly with the conclusion that there is really no comparison. I've actually found myself enjoying warping and threading, something I never used to do!

Now, however, we get to the treadle tie-up. Here is where a jack loom is far superior when it comes to simplicity and ease of treadle tie-up. And here is where the whole thing becomes zero fun with a CM (countermarche) loom.

Tying up a jack loom is brilliantly easy......

Tying up treadles on a jack loom is simple & easy.
This is a Schacht Mighty Wolf loom, but I'm sure other makes and models are similar. The lamms have sets of tie cords, one for each shaft. The weaver simply selects the shaft cords needed for a particular pattern and slips them into slits on the treadles. Little plastic knobs hold them in place. What could be faster!

But here's what I faced when I sat down under (crawled under actually) the Glimakra....

The dreaded countermarche treadle tie-up.
Short lamms, long lamms, short cords, long cords, rising shed, sinking shed, lots of holes, anchor pegs ....HUH? What in the world have I gotten myself into. Of course, this is what was already on the loom when I got it. So I needed to take it all out and set it up for the straight twill pattern I wanted.

The set-up video made a plain weave tie-up look fairly easy. Each shaft has to be tied to one set of lamms or the other. One set makes the shafts go up, the other, down. Treadle cords are first attached to the lamms in the pattern required, and then tied to the treadles.

I was to tie up the upper lamms first and then do the opposite on the lower ones. Sounds simple enough. However, 8 shafts times 10 treadles equals 80 holes for each set of lamms, so I was worried about getting confused. I finally thought to fill in the holes I didn't want to use with spare anchor pegs .....

Trying to make things easier on myself by filling in the holes.
...... and then put the ties in the empty ones. I did the reverse pattern on the bottom lamms.

Countermarche treadles tied up and ready for weaving.Then it was time to tie up the treadles. Hoo boy. The trick here is to tie the back shafts tighter than the front ones. This has something to do with getting a good shed in the back.

On top of that, I was very awkward with the anchor pegs and Texsolv cord. Plus, I had to put the pegs into the bottom of the treadle, by touch!!!

I confess, I really fretted over this. As capable as I think I am in following written or video directions, there is nothing like personal experience when it comes to doing a thing right.

Finally, with a lot of encouragement from Dorothy, I decided that starting somewhere was better than starting nowhere. So I tied up the treadles as best I could and then called it a night. One can take frustration for only so long.

Next ...... The Three Duhs

Related posts:
Comparing Looms: Jack & Countermarche
Why A Countermarche?
Warping the Glimakra:
.....Adjusting the Loom With Texsolv
.....Winding It On
.....The 3 Duhs
.....Adjusting the Shed
.....Blanket Done!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Warping the Glimakra: Threading

By Leigh

The next step after winding the warp on, was the threading.

For some reason, I found threading the heddles on the Glimakra so much easier and faster than threading them on my Schacht Mighty Wolf.

As you can see below,

Shafts & heddles on the Schacht Mighty Wolf
the shafts on the Mighty Wolf are wooden frames which move up and down in steel tracks, which also hold them in place. The flat steel heddles reside on two metal bars within the shaft frame. For some reason, I always had difficulty keeping track of which heddle was on which shaft. I tried all sorts of tricks to keep this straight in my mind, but in the end, careful checking and rechecking was always the best answer. Because of this, I was more than a little worried that the task would be more difficult with 8 shafts.

Threading Texsolv heddlesHowever, with the Glimakra, I found keeping track of the shafts much, much easier. Perhaps it was because they simply hang freely from overhead and can be moved easily. I could use one hand to keep track of which shaft I was on, and the other to separate out heddles for threading. Granted, the heddles do not slide around as easily as on the Mighty Wolf, but that was only a minor adjustment on my part.

The other thing I found easier, was that because the heddles are flexible, the yarn could be easily poked through the heddle eye without a threading hook. This saved me lots of time because with a threading hook, I was forever dropping the darn thing and having to hunt to see if it had fallen into the jacks or was hiding under the treadles.

Of course, I did choose an easy threading pattern; a simple straight twill. I simply threaded the shafts in order, 1 through 8, repeat.

Peg (who BTW, recently started an excellent new weaving blog, click on her name to check it out) was curious about threading from the lease sticks in the raddle cross. For one who is usually quite camera happy, I didn't take any pix of this!!

You may recall from my last post, that this is a one cross b2f method, using only a raddle cross. After the warp is wound onto the warp beam, the cross remains held by the lease sticks, from which the heddles are threaded. My set up looked like this. All I had to do was to take the shafts off of the countermarche and I was ready to thread.

I first tried leaving the raddle in and simply picked out the raddle groups to thread in order. I found it easier however, to remove the raddle. All the threads are in order on the lease sticks, so by moving them close to the shafts, I could easily pick out the next warp end to be threaded. As I mentioned above, all this went quite quickly and was actually fun!

After the heddles were threaded, I put breast and knee beams back in place, and selected a reed.

Reed holder made of a large heavy PVC pipe.
My loom came with 5, 60 inch reeds and also this very clever home crafted reed holder. For sleying, I set the reed up as it was demonstrated in the Glimakra set-up video........

Sleying the reed.
Sleying the reed was also quick and easy. Warp ends were simply pulled down through the dents with the hook. When I was done, the hanging beater was put back on and the reed inserted.

The last step was tying onto the front apron rod. Usually I like to lash on, but this warp is so wide that I decided to tie it on the way I first learned (also demonstrated on the set-up video.) One tip I learned from the video was not to just tighten the knots, but to actually pull on the warp.

Tying onto the front apron rod by pulling the bouts.
The idea behind this is that simply tightening the knots only serves to stretch the warp, not actually tension it. At any rate, I found this method much easier than I remembered. This washable acrylic knitting yarn is quite stretchy, so I had to pull it up several times. Tension was tested at the cross. Once it felt even, the square knots were completed.

The test of how well I actually did is yet to come. Next .............. the dreaded treadle tie-up!