Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Advancing Twills - A Simple Definition

By Leigh

In my last post I tried to give a simple explanation of the four basic twill categories. As promised, I'll now see how well I can do with a simple explanation of what advancing twills are.

Advancing twills could be categorized as "broken twills," (twills in which some shafts are skipped in the threading). In advancing twills, a number of warp ends are chosen (for example five ends) and are threaded as a section. Each section omits (skips) at least one shaft between it, and the next. (1,2,3,4,5 then 2,3,4,5,6 then 3,4,5,6,7 etc.) The result is that the warp section appear to be advancing (on paper that is.)

I understand things better with pictures, so let me try to explain it with some. Since advancing twills evidently are most suited for more than four shafts, my drawdowns will be for eight shafts.

A drawdown is a pen and paper (or computer if one has weaving software) representation of a weaving. The drawdown below is for an 8-shaft straight twill (each shaft threaded in successive order, 1 through 8). The threading is shown across the top, using numbers to keep track of which shaft is indicated.

Simple 8-shaft twill draft.
The box in the upper right hand corner shows the tie-up. It indicates how the treadles are to be tied to the shafts, so that each treadle lifts whatever shafts are tied to it. In this case, I'm using a pretty standard 8-shaft twill tie-up. The end result will be that my weft will travel under three warp ends, over three, then under one, and over one. (This is known as a 3/3/1/1 tie-up.)

The column going down the right hand side of the page is the treadling order. Starting at the top, I treadle one through eight. Since this is the same as the threading pattern, it is also known as "as drawn in" or "tromp as writ."

The colored-in blue boxes give an idea of how the cloth will look once woven.

This whole thing is called a drawdown because one starts at the top corner (nearest the tie-up) and colors in the squares drawing down from the top.

OK. If I leave the tie-up and treadling the same, but begin to advance the threading, this is what I get:

8-shaft twill draft with advancing threading.
I've taken sections of five warp ends each, and advanced them by skipping (omitting) one shaft between each section. Pretty neat, huh?

So what happens if I change up the treadling?

8-shaft advancing twill draft treadled as drawn in.
This one is treadled as drawn in. You can see that the treadling pattern is the same as the threading pattern.

What if I do a point-type treadling?

8-shaft advancing twill draft treadled straight & reverse.
As you can see, it is treadled one through eight and then reversed.

Of course, I only have a regular size graph paper notebook, so I only get a part of what the weaving will actually look like, but it's enough to really get me excited about this! And that's when I start asking, "what if........"

What would happen if I tried an extended point treadling? What if I did the advancing treadling and reversed each section? How would a rosepath treadling look? What if I used a different number of threads in my warp sections? How would it look if I changed the number of shafts skipped? And what about starting with a point twill threading to advance? Or an extended point threading? Then too, what if I changed the tie-up? Then there are color combinations to try. And different yarns to experiment with. As you can see, the possibilities are endless!

There are some rules to all of this, though at this point I don't have an experiential understanding of what they are. However, Stacey has done an excellent job with the workshop lessons, so that all the information is very handy.

My next step is to choose a yarn and measure a warp. I plan to warp the loom for the advancing draft above, and put on plenty of length to experiment with the treadling.

Related Posts:
Twills - The Basics
First Advancing Twill Samples
Advancing Twills - A Few More Samples
Continuing with Advancing Twill Samples
Advancing Twills - Second Verse

Monday, November 26, 2007

Twills - The Basics

By Leigh

Even if you aren't a weaver, you are familiar with twills. Blue jeans are made from twill fabric. You've probably heard of Herringbone Tweed, which is a twill fabric. My zig zag afghans are all twill weaves. After plain weave, it is probably the most common weave structure there is, and is usually the second structure new weavers learn.

The Online Guild is finishing up it's Advancing Twills workshop this month. I've had a lot of other goings on, but have been able to read through the workshop notes and start on some advancing twill drafts.

I have found that even though I have woven quite a few samplers and projects in twill, I am still usually unable to readily conjure up an image when terms like "extended point" or "rosepath" are tossed about, let alone "advancing twills". I think that this is because usually, I just follow a draft. When I'm done, I love the results, but can't say that I really understand it. I think this has been especially true of twills for me, because there are so many variations and ways to change them.

So before I got on with the advancing twills, I reckoned it would be good to go back and study the basics first. I find that when I attempt to explain something to someone else (in this case, you all!), it forces me to go beyond a superficial or passing grasp of the subject. In order to put it into my own words, I have to begin to understand the concept behind the terms. I'm hoping that this post will help me do that.

Close-up of sampler with straight twill & plain weave.
Twills are easily recognizable because they contain diagonals. Looking closely, the diagonals are like stair steps, with every step having at least one warp thread in common with its neighbours.

The sample on the left is a simple, straight, 2/2 twill. This means that the weft thread travels over two warp threads, then under two.

There are four basic categories of twills: straight, point, extended point, and broken. I'm going to focus on the threading patterns for each of these.

Straight Twills

Straight twill threading draft.

The threading moves in one direction because the shafts are threaded successively; 1 through 4, or 1 through 8, etc. It can go to the left, or the right, as long as it is consistent.

Point Twills

Point twill threading draft.

These reverse directions, ending on the same shaft they start on. It isn't limited to the number of shafts one has, and can extend beyond them like this,

Another point twill threading draft.

as long as the starting and reverse points always occur on the same shafts.


Rosepath threading draft.

is an point twill which is extended one thread more than the number of shafts available. I've included this one because I hear it referred to often, but have never been able to remember the draft when I hear it mentioned.

Extended Point Twills

Extended point twill threading draft.

combine sections of straight twill with point twill. Unlike point twills, in which the direction changes only once before returning to the starting point, extended point twills can change direction more than once.

Broken Twills

Broken twill threading draft.

have a "break" in the threading. In other words, some shafts are omitted. Rather than having a successive threading order, their threading order has skips in it.

There are other types of twill, but these are the basic ones. If I can just get them to stick in my head I'll be happy. Variations on any of these are endless. One can vary the threading, the treadling, the combination of shafts lifted (the tie-up), the type and size of yarns, sett, or the colors used. The number of warp threads the weft goes over and under can be varied. The warp can dominate the pattern, or the weft can.

So there you have it. Oddly, no one book of mine had a straightforward, complete definition for them all(!) Not sure why; perhaps each author simply puts down the most important feature to them. At any rate, here are the sources I used:

Advancing Twill OLG Workshop notes, by Stacey Harvey-Brown, The Loom Room, Staffordshire, UK, 2007

The Complete Book of Drafting for Handweavers by Madelyn van der Hoogt, Unicorn Books and Crafts, Inc., Petluma, CA, 1993

Eight Shafts A Place to Begin by Wanda Jean Shelp and Carolyn Wostenberg, self-published by Wanda J. Shelp, Worland, WY, 1991

The Weaving Book by Helene Bress, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1981

Next I'll try to explain what an advancing twill is. Click here to go on to that.

Related Posts:
Advancing Twills - A Simple Definition
Mystery of the Zig Zag Twills - Lining up color stripes with twill threading
Waffle Weave - Another idea for twill threadings

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to wish all you Americans a Happy Thanksgiving. We have a busy family weekend ahead and I'm having a fun day in the kitchen, making pumpkin and apples pies, and cornbread for stuffing the turkey. The little edible turkeys are a tradition at our house; an idea brought home by my daughter when she was in kindergarten.

The table runner the turkey is sitting on, was woven by me about five years ago or so. It is woven in plain weave from hemp singles (and was that ever a mess to weave with).

It was the first plaid I designed. I use it to decorate every Thanksgiving.

I'll see you all after the weekend!

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shh - These Socks Are A Secret

Secret cuff down bulky house socks.I hadn't planned on giving any socks this year for Christmas. For that matter, I hadn't planned on doing any knitting at all for Christmas. But two things changed my mind.

One was Janet, whose stash reduction knitting has been both interesting as well as inspiring to me (especially her Eccentric Piece). So I've been thinking about all the leftover Red Heart yarn that I have, thinking of weaving with it instead, perhaps some eccentric pieces of my own.

Then the other day I saw this button at Etsy:

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

I was just curious about the selling process there, but that "Buy Handmade" button got me to thinking. Of course, obviously it is doubtful that I would buy anything handmade this Christmas, but I thought that I should certainly "Give Handmade" to everyone on my list.

So I decided to knit these socks. Being knitted of Red Heart worsted weight yarns they will be too bulky to wear with shoes, hence I have dubbed them "House Socks." I've chosen three colors of yarn, using a Fibonacci sequence of 2, 3, and 5 rows, alternating the brown with the blue and green. I'm happy with that, but after sewing in all those ends for my summer socks, I decided to take Bettina's suggestion and carry the yarn up the stripes. I'll let you know how that part goes.

I'm not sure how well acrylic wears for socks, but since the yarn is leftover anyway, it will be a good opportunity to test it for this purpose. At any rate, they are knitting up very quickly, so I should have them done in plenty of time.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:
Gallery Photos: Socks
House Socks - the completed socks
My Fascination With Fibonacci

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Fawn Shetland Sample

This next sample of Shetland fleece, Cathy had labeled "fawn." When I first examined it, I was puzzled at this. If it was fawn, it was a very light one, but it didn't look like the other fawn Shetland samples. In those, the individual fibers themselves were colored.

Clean fawn fleece on the right.
This fawn sample (on the right) appeared white with cream tips, and had black and reddish-brown fibers scattered throughout. These darker fibers were much coarser than the white/cream. I was curious about this coloring, but couldn't find it listed on the Shetland colors and patterns resources I've been using.

2 samples of clean staples from the same fleece.
The staples were from four to six inches in length, with one to four crimps per inch. There was a very nice luster to the fleece.

I had washed this sample along with the last one I posted about (which is the white one on the left in the top photo) and it was fluffy and clean and ready to drumcard. The fleece was open, but full of vegetable matter. I ran it through the drumcarder twice, and then the batts were ready to spin.

The particulars:
* Weight of clean fiber - 4.5 ounces
* Wheel - Kromski Minstrel double drive
* Ratio - 8.5 to 1
* Twist angle - 28ยบ
* Singles - 30 WPI
* 2-ply - 15 WPI
* Weight of yarn - 4.5 ounces
* Yardage - 248.75 yards

The dime shot.
The color of the yarn actually looks more to me like a warm grey than fawn (photo only semi-accurate). Fortunately there won't be a test on this! I'm just happy to be getting a nice variety of Shetland colors for some project in the near future.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sock Knitting Bag

By Leigh

My project over the weekend was to make a new bag to carry my sock knitting.

Materials to make a bag to hold my socks in progress.
You might remember this fabric as from an earlier post. It is leftover from one of my space-dyed warp experiments. The warp was variegated 4-ply cotton yarn. The weft was an 8/2 white cotton. Part of the fabric was used to make a diddy bag for my dad, but I had enough leftover for a bag for myself.
Close up showing how a needle could slip through the fabric.
For my purposes, I wanted a small bag with a squared bottom and handles. Since the handwoven fabric wasn't dense enough to guarantee that I wouldn't loose any double pointed knitting needles, I also decided to line it with a commercial fabric. For the handles, I found a sturdy polyester belting at Hobby Lobby.

Before I could start sewing however, I needed to do something about my sewing machine. The tension knob was not at all responsive, and I was afraid that the machine needed some extensive repair. I did some searching on the Internet first, and found an excellent article on Secrets of Embroidery. From that article, I learned about tension problems and how to fix them. It gave instructions about how to adjust the bobbin tension, though Singer doesn't make this at all easy to do! Fortunately, I achieved an acceptable bobbin tension without too much difficulty. Then I could start sewing on my bag.

Sewing a square bottom.The fabrics were cut into 12 by 24 inch pieces. I sewed the sides up lengthwise. To make the squared bottom, I opened the side seams and sewed them across the bottom of the bag, to forming triangle shaped flaps.

When turned right side out, this forms a nice, square bottom on the bag...

Square bottom from the outside of the bag.I tacked down the handles on the right side of the bag, and then sewed the outer and inner pieces around the top, right sides together. I left a four inch opening to pull it outside out.

Right sides together.
After turning, I slip stitched the opening closed, gave it a quick press, and there you have it.

Related Posts:
What I Took Off My Old Loom - The fabric & a diddy bag.

Friday, November 09, 2007

What I've Learned About Tracking

Actually, I've learned a lot, especially from all the helpful comments on my "Placemats?" post. There were so many positive responses to the textured look that tracking gave to the placemats, that I had to stop and think about this for awhile. Just why was I disappointed with how they can out? Two things have come to mind: preference and expectation.

As Taryl pointed out, much of how we react to things (in this case my placemats), has to do with differences in taste. If truth be told, I would have to say that my personal tastes run toward casual. I like a comfortable, welcoming, country natural look. So in one way, the tracking appealed to me. But as Valerie mentioned, not everyone likes the casual look of such a fabric. The intended recipient of these placemats is pretty much opposite to me in taste. Her preference is for the more formal, classic look. My dismay stemmed from the fact that the end result didn't meet my expectations.

Bspinner commented, "Amazing isn't it how what we put on the loom isn't always what comes off?" As weavers we know this! So why should I be surprised that my weaving sometimes surprises me? The unpredictability is one of the things that keeps weaving interesting to me. I love what Bonnie said, "I think of it as a gift from the yarn." Well put!

On the other hand, I agree with Alison, that it would be nice if we could predict and exploit. Is that possible I wonder? I have an idea in my head that if I can gain enough experience and knowledge about weave structures as well as yarns, then I'll have a greater degree of control in planning my weaving projects and their outcome. Even if this is true, I realize that the element of the unplanned outcome will still be there from time to time.

So what have I learned about tracking?

It only occurs with plain weave and only after the fabric has been agitated in water.

Textil pointed out that the sett is a factor. The more open the sett, the more room the threads have to twist. My sett (16 epi) did result in a somewhat open weave. Even after washing it is not a dense cloth.

A copy of Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth.Peg confirmed that the yarn also has a lot to do with it. In fact, she recommended Peggy Osterkamp's third volume in her "New Guide to Weaving Series", Weaving and Drafting Your Own Cloth.

It just so happens that I recently purchased this book, though I really haven't had a very close look at it yet. As Peg pointed out, on pages 166 to 169, there is an extensive discussion on tracking, including what causes it and how to prevent it. In reading this section, I learned that in order to prevent tracking in this fabric, I should have set it before washing and drying.

The process of setting the fabric is referred to as "crabbing," which uses heat to shrink the yarns by relaxing their inherent twist. Once set, the fabric can be washed without tracking occurring. Peggy's book describes two ways for the handweaver to do this in the home setting: in a washing machine with the hottest water available and without agitation; or with damp pressing cloths and a very hot iron. The idea is that tracking won't occur if the item is never washed in hotter water than was used for crabbing. Commercial cloth is boiled while under tension, something which probably isn't convenient for most of us, though the book does describe how to do this.

For my placemats, the tracking is permanent, though pressing can help temporarily, especially if the fabric is pressed while still damp. Peggy did mention that after subsequent washings the tracking should be less, and indeed, Kim confirmed this with her own experience.

So, how do they actually look with the dishes I wove them for?

Place setting on one of the placemats.
From a distance it isn't noticeable.

Close up showing the tracking is subtle but still visible.
Close up it is still there, though subtle after pressing. Then too, Jacqui reminded me that if the fabric were smooth and slippery, it would be less suitable for placemats.

Still, I'm not sure if these particular placemats are suited to the dishes. However, perhaps I'll just let the recipient decide. I know that she'll appreciate that I handwove them with love. Hopefully, that is the important thing in the end.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


It's been awhile since I've blogged about weaving. This is partly because a lot of other things have popped up, but also because I've had my last weaving project off the loom for awhile and have been wondering what to do about it.

About a month ago, I posted about preparing to weave some placemats (that post here). Weaving went well, but once the fabric was off the loom and machine washed and dried, I discovered that it looked like this:

Close-up showing tracking in weaving yarns.This is plain weave with 8/2 unmercerized, unbleached cotton. The diagonal geometric textured effect was totally unplanned and not exactly what I was looking for. As I puzzled over it and whether or not I liked it, I vaguely recalled that this phenomenon is called "tracking."

Finally I decided to see what pressing would do. This is what it looked like after that....

Pressing didn't completely remove the tracking.As you can see, this did not completely eliminate the effect. I admit that I wondered whether I might have gotten better results if I had put more time and effort into pressing. On the other hand, my plan for this fabric was easy care placemats as a gift. I doubted that the intended recipient would be willing to go to very much trouble to keep them smoothed out.

Still, I puzzled over what had caused it and how to prevent it in the future. At first I figured that it must have something to do with the type of yarn I'd used. So I googled, "weaving tracking" (without the quote marks). From that I found Holly Shaltz's web page, in particular an article entitled "Plying a Balanced Yarn". From this article I learned that tracking is related to unbalanced yarn.

To be honest, I don't know a lot about commercial weaving yarns. I took a closer look at the yarn I'd used .....

Close up of the yarn I used in this project...... and observed some inconsistencies in the twist. I never would have thought to check that out first, but it does confirm the wisdom of that well-worn (if not somewhat dreaded) phrase, "Sample, sample, sample."

So. I will definitely make a sample the next time I use this yarn, which will probably be mixed with other colors and brands of 8/2 unmercerized cottons. As to the placemats? I'm not sure. I reckon I'll move on to Plan B, as soon as I figure out what Plan B is.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal

Related Posts:
What I've Learned About Tracking

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Another Shetland White

OK. So here is the information on that Shetland yarn I was plying when I showed you how I ply from a center-pull ball.

A few locks from a white Shetland fleece sample.This dual coated fleece measured anywhere between three and seven inches. The crimp in some places was nonexistent (as you can tell from the photo on the left), but in some staples it measured four crimps per inch.

Besides being loaded with vegetable matter (VM), the most noticeable characteristic of the raw fleece was that it had a thick, matted looking layer of yellow at the butt ends of the staples. Fortunately, this separated easily, though it was greasy enough that I decided to wash it before removing it all.

Since I had parts of two different fleeces in the bag and the white was dirty enough as to be indistinguishable from the fawn, I decided to wash them together and sort them out afterward. When I discovered that I didn't have enough mesh bags for it all, I also decided to try this method of machine washing.

The result was beautifully clean and fluffy. I could easily separate the two colors and decided to spin the white first. I used my dog comb to comb out the second cuts and much of the VM. (Next time I have a VM laden fleece however, I'm going to try out Laritza's method of dealing with it!)

I only had to run it through my drum carder one time to prepare it for spinning. With that it was delightful to spin (except for still having VM to pick out), very soft and silky to the hand.

My latest Shetland yarn.This photo is not entirely accurate colorwise, but the closest I could manage with my camera (I do miss my scanner!) The singles were 30 wraps per inch, and the 2-ply is 17. Of the 100 grams of processed fleece, I ended up with more than 218 yards of yarn.

Colorwise, how does it compare to my other Shetland whites?

5 Shetland whites.Interestingly, they are all different. Until now I would have thought that white is white is white. Not so! Which makes Shetland all the more intriguing to me. I love this breed.

© 2007 Leigh's Fiber Journal