Posted on Leave a comment

Spring has Sprung at the loom with a view

I think that we can all agree that this Winter has been a PROPER Winter! Even here in the beautiful, balmy Lowveld, the temperature dipped below our comfort levels and saw us wearing jeans and sweaters and sometimes even more. This time last year we were already in an out of the swimming pool multiple times a day, but not so this year. In fact we haven’t even dipped a tentative toe into the water because we know that it is still going to be way too cold!

The welcome arrival of Spring also means that my next workshop at the beautiful Crafter’s Lodge is just around the corner – my first trip for some months – and I am so looking forward to it! Not that my time at home has been wasted mind you. I have been hard at it, finishing up the Block Weave and Profiles section on the Patreon page, closely followed by the Rep Weave and the Ponchonotaponcho for the Rigid Heddle weavers.

My current study is Honeycomb and deflected weft structures, also for the Patreon page. It is a structure that works equally well in both disciplines, and has surprised me by showing me that there are some variations which are quite easy and simple to produce on a Rigid Heddle loom, that require more than my normal eight shafts on a harness loom!

For me it is quite a luxury to just have the opportunity to play and experiment at the loom. The above images were all woven on an eight shaft loom, and this morning, I have spend my time translating them for the Rigid Heddle. With a couple of pick-up sticks and some patience, pretty much anything is possible on a RH, and it never ceases to surprise me how versatile this little loom can be.

Honeycomb is a fascinating weave structure which really does ‘ bend the square’. (It also bent my brain a bit this morning, but that’s beside the point)! It consists of alternating areas of plain weave and floats. In the areas where there are floats, the weft packs down into the space, whereas in the plain weave areas, the weft is allowed to build up. These alternating areas of floats and plain weave are then outlined in a heavy weft thread which automatically follows the ups and downs created by the little cells of plain weave. The result can be quite striking.

Add some colour into the mix and the results can be nothing short of jaw-dropping!

For this piece, I used the Ashford 5/2 Mercerised cotton in a 15 dent heddle. I love the way that the colours ‘pop’ against the Black ground cloth.

My morning was productive , creative and comfortable, sitting at my loom on the deck with my back in the Spring sunshine. It was made even more special by the arrival of a “business” of banded Mongooses – and yes, believe it or not, “business” is the collective noun for Mongooses – and Mongooses is the correct plural! They never fail to bring a smile to my face as they scurry about looking for any tasty little morsel that will feed their frenetic energy levels.

The next two weeks are going to fly by. The idea of teaching a workshop face to face for the first time in some months is definitely something to look forward to, and then there’s always the view from my loom to return to when it’s done. Today is one of those days when I count my blessings and realize just how lucky I am!

Posted on Leave a comment

There’s a ray of sunshine on my loom with a view….

The bumpy start to my current project, has, I have to say, not really settled down – although…. and I say ‘although’ with more than a little trepidation, I feel that I might be beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bigger blocks making a strong impression

The Rep-weave experiment is finally starting to take shape – and, although there are some glaring discrepancies, these are not my main focus as I finally get to grips with the building blocks that go towards making up this remarkable technique.

A few months ago, I watched an interview with Lucienne Coifman, on the Handweavers Guild of America’s ‘Textiles and Tea‘ series. I was fascinated by her work, most of which, she told us is made on a 4 shaft loom (with a lot of pick-up involved…..) her words – not mine. The strength and impact of her designs really made an impression on me, and I think that part of the problem that I have had in getting to grips with my own tiny, little experiment in Rep-Weave is that I really just struggled to get my head around constructing a design that looked cohesive.

My main problem , to begin with and in retrospect, was that fact that I made my blocks too small, and the result was confusing to the eye. I think that this thinking was perhaps the result of the fact that I’m experimenting only on my 40cm table loom. It isn’t really wide enough to provide much scope, given the fact that I am using quite a thick cotton for the warp. If I had used the 5/2 cotton that I had originally planned on using, the possibilities, even on such a narrow warp would have been far greater.

However, as soon as I started to expand the length of the weft blocks the designs took on a greater impression of cohesion. The tiny little turning points in the centre of the first two drafts really seemed to draw the eye in to the design, and acted in the same way as that tiny little ‘pop’ of an unusual colour in an otherwise bland palette.

I think that my favourite design possibility of the three is the one on the right. The other two are still on the loom, and the third is yet to be woven. I hope that I have enough warp left to be able to complete it, as one of the things that I had forgotten about with Rep-Weave, is that the warp take-up is huge! Much greater than the more texturally conventional weave structures.

As usual, when I experiment on this sort of basis, i find that I have way to many ideas for the length of warp! In the light of lessons learnt ( the hard way), if I put up another narrow warp for Rep, I will definitely use a much finer cotton to allow myself more room to play around with. However, if I were to put up a warp on one of the wider looms, I think that the Cotton-On would actually be a good choice as it is of acceptable quality, easily available, and comes in a pretty good colour range

Hopefully I’ll finish off my existing warp this week, in time to photograph it and put up some pics in next weeks’post.

In the meantime – stay safe and stay warm.

Posted on Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I sat at my loom with a view

…. but having said that, I didn’t realize that it had been quite such a long while!

The air of complacency that has prevailed over the past few months, has, as we all know, been shattered as we crash back into lockdown level 4. I had already decided that I was spending the Winter at home this year, and so, I’m not particularly affected by the decision, apart from the fact that my red-wine stash was perilously low even before Squirrel spoke to the nation on Sunday evening.

That aside though, I am loving being at home again for en extended period of time. It is giving me the space to think and to plan and to develop new projects and explore new techniques. Right now, I am working on some Rep-Weave, or Ripsmatta, or Warp-Rep as it is variously known. The warp rep thing is the culmination of our dive into the concept of block weaves and profile drafting that has been keeping us absorbed on the Patreon page: (remember… https://www.patreon.com/weaveatbrooklands is where you’ll find me, or you can just click on the Patreon button on my Home page). Rep weave seemed to be the logical progression after our study and a really fun way to wind things up.

Actually I cheated a little bit, by also including a little bit of a rep derivative for the Rigid Heddle weavers, as we expanded our approach to Log Cabin and ended up weaving a set of Rep based place-mats. Rep weave and log cabin actually ave many similarities – loads of differences too, but plenty of similarities – most notably the threading of the warp. In each pattern block the warp is threaded on two shafts, one colour – call it the main colour on one shaft and the second colour call it the background colour on the second shaft. The weft uses two shuttles, one carrying a thick yarn and one carrying a thin yarn, and the alternation of thick and thin, allows one warp colour to dominate and the other colour then becomes subservient. Weaving two picks, one after the other, of the thin yarn allows the other colour to be brought to the top and become the dominant colour.

It’s all quite logical really – a positive and negative effect on the two sides of the cloth, and a pattern constructed through the use of contrasting colours.

I somehow, fell into the habit of referring to the Rigid Heddle project as either Log-Rep or Rep-Cabin – no prizes for guessing where that name came from and was really pretty pleased with the results.

In all three cases above, I had a very clear idea of what I was hoping for in the end product. My warps were carefully planned, and the colours chosen with care, and yet when I put the warp up, and I saw it in colours I had chosen, they all looked awful – dark and in the case of the seaside colours, even threatening – Rather like an approaching thunderstorm in fact.

It was only when I started to weave that the colours regained some clarity, which was obviously provided by the light colour contrast in almost all the blocks. I have to say, that as I began to weave and the colours clarified, I was hugely relieved, and rather stern with myself for being so silly.

Yesterday I started making the warp for the eight shaft four block Rep-Weave study. I’m not using anything fancy – just good old Elle-Cotton on DK, which happens to suite my purpose right now – and which is easily available, even in our little tiny town. My chosen colours are a dark Teal Green, pale Dusty Pink, a nice clear purple and a bright blue. I also chose a Beige, which I later decided not to use.

Once again the warp looked awful – something like a stagnant pond with a bad case of blue/green algae, when I took it off the warping board, but improved once it was on the loom. Being able to see the definition between the colour blocks really improved the perception.

I started weaving my sample this morning, and there are several issues. Firstly, I need to re-sley the reed. I though I might be able to get away with having two ends per dent for four dents and then one per dent for two dents, but the discrepancy is glaringly obvious now that I have started to weave. The selvedges also, are proving to be ridiculously difficult to control and will need some work.

I chose to use the pink cotton as my thick weft, and now I am wondering whether it might not have been better to use the green, so i plan to sample a little bit with that too, just to see what sort of a difference it makes. The warp is around 4m or a bit longer, so I have plenty of room to experiment, which is the whole object of the exercise, and of course I will keep udating on my progress.

Rep is not a new structure to me, but it is a long time since I have done any, and each time I come back to it, I find myself excited by it all over again. The texture is super, and the possiblilities almost endless. I have the feeling that this might once again be a case of the warp being too short and the ideas too long!

Till the next time.

Posted on Leave a comment

Happy Spring!

Brave little flower sticking it’s head through the parched ground as we hope for a Summer of good rain[/caption] ” Spring has sprung” so the saying goes, but not here in the Lowveld where, for the past week or so, we have had a little bit of Winter instead – our first real taste of Winter this year I might add. We have also – astonishingly, had some rain, 21mm to be exact, which, although I feel I should be pleased that our parched bushveld has had some respite from the ongoing drought, I find rather worrying as it is so unseasonal. Unseasonal should probably be something that I am used to. As a weaver who weaves for the love of it, and hopes to sell most of it, I constantly find that I am weaving against the seasons so to speak. When the Summer temperatures soar into the forties, I am sweating in front of my loom making mohair throws and Merino shawls, and conversely, in Winter I do the light cotton wraps and brightly coloured cotton cushion covers. At the moment – for once – I’m actually doing something which suits the ‘ between seasons’ feeling which comes with the first day of Spring. On my ‘Katie’ loom – the MIGHTY Katie – I have enough warp for two silk scarves. I have in my stash, some ultra fine silk thread which I bought many years ago – in fact, before I left Gauteng, and every once in a while I have a flight of fancy and use some of this magnificent yarn for a special project. [caption id="attachment_857" align="alignleft" width="169"] Silk scarf project beginning to get under way, showing the stripes on a Rosepath threading and some of the Basket Weave detail[/caption]   The design for the scarf is a twill and tabby warp stripe, with just a hint of basket weave, because I liked the subtle textural detail of the basket weave separating the Tabby and the Twill stripes. It is an off-shoot of the warp twill stripe fabric that I made a month or two ago as an experiment in the use of Twill stripes in the warp as opposed to the weft. Thank goodness for the experiment, because without it I would have found myself in all sorts of trouble with the current project. Firstly, when attempting something like this it is important to know  that you cannot have both twill and tabby stripes in the same warp on four shafts. You can have alternating bands of twill and basket weave on four shafts, but in order to have alternating twill and tabby stripes you need at least six shafts – four for the twill and two for the tabby. If you think about it, you will realize that on a straight threading with a 2/2 lift plan you cannot lift every alternate warp thread in the tabby sections – you just can’t – it doesn’t work out, hence the need for the extra two shafts. [caption id="attachment_862" align="alignright" width="169"] First Twill stripe project in Mercerised Cotton[/caption] Secondly, when working on alternating twill and tabby stripes in the warp, the twill and tabby sections must be sett at different densities. The reason for this is the number of binding points in each weave structure. A ‘Binding Point’  occurs at every point at which a weft thread crosses over a warp thread or vice-versa. Thus a Tabby weave has more binding points than any of the twills, and has double the number of binding points than a 2/2 twill. If one sleys the warp at the same density throughout without compensating for this, one will find that the twill sections will automatically beat down more than the tabby sections , resulting in an uneven fell as the tabby builds up at a faster rate than the twill. The difference in sett for the tabby and twill sections of a warp made in this way can be as much as 50%! These two vital pieces of information had been languishing in the archives of my weaver’s brain for so long, that I only remembered them when I started weaving the experiment and realized my mistake. I guess that this happens to all of us, and it takes a potential disaster to remind us of what we’ve forgotten! (Or we can sample……. another pet topic of mine, for another blog!). Without the experience of the experiment I would have been in serious bother with the Silk Scarf, but I’m pleased to be able to report that all is running smoothly – if rather slowly as a result of the ridiculously fine thread that I’m using. I threaded the tabby sections on four shafts and the twill on the other four – just felt nicely balanced to do it this way, and the twill sections are sett at 18 e.p.c, while the tabby sections are sett at only 12 e.p.c – quite a difference. And yes, I am talking ‘ ends per centimeter’ here, not ends per inch. [caption id="attachment_859" align="alignleft" width="182"] Ridiculous, I know! Detail of pattern with measure.[/caption] Sitting at about halfway through the first scarf, I’m questioning my sanity in using thread this fine, but then I remember what it is for, and I put on some music (I’m revisiting some of my favourite, big, schmaltzy piano concerti at the moment), find my rhythm, and off I go. The wind can carry on howling as far as I’m concerned, I’m on a journey into the world of extra fine weaving and enjoying every moment of the ride. The challenge now is to finish it in time for the big day. Meanwhile – ” Happy Spring” and wishes for the blessings of good rainfall this Summer.          ]]>

Posted on Leave a comment

Where to next?

Four and eight shafts = endless possibilities.[/caption] I suddenly find myself in the situation where I have two empty looms sitting looking at me with that ‘ You are neglecting me’ look. In the course of the past week, I have completed the two warps that were on my 80cm eight shaft, and my 40cm four shaft  Ashford table looms. One warp was a  serious exploration of the effect of sett on the finished product, and the other was a bit of a flight of fantasy, and the culmination of some fairly in-depth explorations into the much taken for granted, weaver’s fall back – Twill. Weaving is such a vast field, and there are so many techniques and structures to explore that it is a little like being afloat in a vast sea of possibility. I personally have a tendency to lurch from one project to the next, under the often misguided inspiration of something I have seen on Pinterest,  read about in a weaving related publication, or, quite frankly just dreamed up in my own muddle-headed way. There is so much information ‘ out there’ and so many people doing so many different things, that unless I have some point of focus, I tend not to do very much at all. And yes, I am a bit of a ditherer when it comes to making decisions about what to do next. The whole Twill thing happened in a bit of a random fashion. A friend asked me to make her a wrap some months ago which was absolutely plain – same colour warp and weft and no embellishments whatsoever. Very boring prospect I thought, until I started working on the project, and realized how valuable an opportunity it was to take myself right back to basics, and to concentrate on the quality of the weaving, rather than challenging myself with complicated techniques and trying to be smart by thinking out of the box and doing things that nobody else was doing. [caption id="attachment_696" align="alignleft" width="300"] Who said you can’t weave twill on a rigid heddle loom?[/caption] Logically, it seemed to me that the next step must be to go back to Twill basics – only to discover that there is not much that is basic about Twill. Endlessly versatile, I think that this could quite easily become a life study. Bearing in mind of course that on four shafts there are twelve twill treadling possibilities. That doesn’t sound like much until you start to mix and match and manipulate these treadling possibilities and change the threading and turn the draft, and all this before colour has even become a consideration. At some point in my meandering through the myriad of literature that there is available on this, most beloved and versatile of weave structures, I stumbled upon a document entitled “A Twill For All Seasons” by Paul R. O Connor. Well it would have to be a man that went this far……. ! He worked out that on a straight threading over eight harnesses, using only one of the possible tie-ups for an eight shaft twill, there are 40, 320 treadling possibilities!!!! Then he set about eliminating any possible duplicates and came up with 320 possible treadling variations – so, still pretty impressive, but much easier to come to terms with. I have to admit, that this first paragraph of the introduction really made me sit up and think. Sadly the rest of the document ( yes you can find it for yourself  – Google has a lot to answer for), is as dry as a bone. Also, it seems that his calculations were based on balanced twills. In other words, for four shafts he only explored the possibilities of 2/2 twills and neglected the 1/3 and 3/1 variations – although by this stage I was holding my eyes open with matchsticks, so it could well be that I wasn’t reading quite ‘on the diagonal’ so to speak. [caption id="attachment_727" align="alignright" width="300"] Four shafts, two directions, many colours.[/caption] My own twill explorations, were not not so thorough, but I have (and still am) enjoying myself, and some of the results have been interesting and fascinating and have motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and experiment a little more, bend the so-called rules, and just generally have fun. There is nothing in the rules that says that a good old fashioned twill can’t be turned upside-down, or inside out, or round about for that matter. It is indeed a veritable breeding ground for weaving ideas and technical exploration. In fact, I see many, many more twills -straight , fancy, braided, inverted, undulated, blended, shaded – and now I have run out of adjectives – in my weaving future, and I can’t wait to begin the next lot of samples! Important to add of course, that these examples are all on straight threadings – think of the possibilities when the threadings are altered – a whole different way of looking at life in the Twill lane! [caption id="attachment_729" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Twill stripes with tabby separations. Woven on six shafts[/caption]              ]]>