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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.          ]]>

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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]              ]]>