Saturday, October 20, 2018

Salvaging Your Selvages: Beating on an Open Shed

I want to call this a "Midway Through the Month Mini-Post," because I typically write a blog post every month and this is the second one I've written in just a few days. But I have an important point to make....

Beating on an open shed: Let's discuss.

All my weaving life, until just a few months ago, I would beat the weft on a closed shed. It just seemed more snug and secure and that was the way I was taught.

Some background: Weaving is ambidextrous, right? Both hands throw the shuttle, both hands beat the beater. But people are not ambidextrous, typically. So, because I'm right-handed, my right selvages were never truly even, while my left selvages usually looked better. And the opposite holds true: Left-handed weavers usually do better on the right selvage, because for this they're catching the shuttle with their left hand and pulling the weft across nice and even and tidy.

(You might ask why, but think about it: For the right selvage, you throw the shuttle with your right hand and then catch the shuttle with your left hand, which tends to draw in on the right selvage.)

I tried a lot of different remedies, including holding the selvage in a pincer grasp as I closed the shed. Yes, that's right. It worked pretty well but it took a lot more time and effort. And then one day, when I was teaching a workshop, we got into a discussion about beating on an open or a closed shed. The weaver I was talking with insisted that she always beat on an open shed -- that this was the right way to do things.

So I tried it on my next warp. I have to admit it did not come naturally after 20 years of doing things the other way. But I kept trying. And then I took a look at my selvages. Lo and behold...

Take a look at the right-hand selvage (or selvedge) in the photo at the beginning of this post. The warp is 20/2 cotton, which calls for precision when it comes to the selvages. They look pretty good, right?

I'm not writing this to brag about my selvages; the point is to advocate for beating on an open shed. It stands to reason, when you think about it: An open shed allows the weft yarns to wiggle about more and snuggle into place as the beater places them against the fell line. I think of it sort of like the "bubbling" that tapestry weavers do before they beat the weft in. And I swear that, when I beat this way, I can even see the weft wind off the bobbin after I've thrown the shuttle, as the beater moves toward the fell line. (I tried to capture this in a video but it requires some really close camera work.)

Another advantage to beating on an open shed, which also stands to reason when you figure you're pulling less on your selvages: There is less draw-in of the fabric, which puts less stress on the yarns at the selvage. Here's a photo of how minimal the draw-in is on my warp:

Too much draw in is just plain tough on the fabric. Weaving is more about gentleness, in my view -- unless you're a rug weaver!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Collapse Fabrics with Deflected Double Weave

One side of the fabric

The other side

While it may not look like it, the above sample is Deflected Double Weave. Because it's woven on just 4 shafts, it's a very simple two-block pattern -- but it's Deflected Double Weave nonetheless, woven as a collapse fabric.

Here's the drawdown.

It looks pretty simple, eh? The warp is 20/2 cotton in stripes of purple and teal, sett at 36 epi. The weft is 20/2 cotton in a deep purple alternating with a fine wool/stainless steel yarn in fuchsia. This yarn is what creates the collapse effect: See the weft floats across the second block in the warp? At 75% wool and 25% stainless steel, these weft floats will relax and collapse when washed with hot water and soap, because the wool fulls while the stainless makes it crinkle. You can actually take this fabric and flatten it out or you can scrunch it up to get the crumpled effect you see in the photos. 

Here's what it looks like on the loom. -- gauzy, flat, and simple.

I used another yarn for the second weft in another sample: silk crepe from Habu Textiles. It's about 33,000 yards per pound, so fine that you can hardly see it!

It's very tough to wind this gossamer thread on a pirn (I always use an end-feed-delivery shuttle for fine and overtwisted yarns). It breaks so easily, as you can imagine. I actually used a doubling stand to help me, where I place the large bobbin that holds the silk crepe at the bottom of the stand and feed the yarn up through the tube that's used for doubling. It keeps the yarn nice and straight, which helps as I wind it onto the pirn.

So in this case I've substituted the silk crepe for the fuchsia-colored wool/stainless. The silk crepe floats and draws the warp ends in dramatically, making neat pleats!

One side of the fabric

The other side

Here's what it looked like before washing, in loom state:

To me, this fabric presents a real problem, because the sample is only about 7" wide! On the loom, it's 24.44" wide. -- that's more than 70% shrinkage, width-wise. So I like the first sample better, because it's about 12 to 14" wide after washing, which seems like a better width for a scarf. (That's what I want this fabric to become.)

Votes, opinions? I welcome you to voice your choice before I start weaving!

But before I end this post, I wanted to add a couple more photos. If you read my blog regularly, you may remember last month's post, showing a baby wrap I just finished for our new grandson, Owen. This month I finished knitting a sweater for him, using Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket, knitted on #5 knitting needles with Kauni Effektgarn in space-dyed rainbow colors. I love the autumn colors and the vegetable buttons, especially since my daughter and son-in-law love vegetable gardening.

That's all for this month! Thanks for reading.

What's on the Loom?

More accurately, what's going on the loom? At this writing, I'm in the process of winding on a painted warp for a Jin design on 28 ...