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The view from my loom has changed a little

…. as the August winds have arrived punctually in the Lowveld and it is too dusty and windy to weave on the patio right now! Having said that, it doesn’t mean that I have been idle – in fact far from it!

The Rep weave is off the eight shaft table loom, and I have to admit to be ridiculously pleased with the result. It really wasn’t my favourite project, which is quite strange because I was really looking forward to it during the planning stages. I think the fact, that I had to change my intentions in terms of material and colour, so radically to begin with put me off somewhat, and then the thickness of the yarn I used turned it into a heavy weave, which matched my mood for most of the time that I was working on it.

The cloth roller was so full, by the time I finished up, that I don’t think I could have managed very many more cm’s, even if I’d wanted to, and when I look at the very substantial roll of weaving sitting on my table, I am a bit startled by the density of what I managed to produce!

Because the weave structure is so heavily textured, the take-up was enormous, and I squeaked to the end of the 4m warp with four placemats of approx 40cm each and one piece slightly longer than the rest, which was my experiment standard. There were 2.5cm of hem for each side of each mat, but even so, the take-up was huge.

Seen from a distance, it is easy to see the patterns, but it was quite difficult to get an idea of the whole while they were still on the loom. Having said that, seen from a distance I can also see quite a few glaring flaws, but since these were meant as an exploration I don’t really have a problem with that – if they had been a really special project, or a piece for an order I would be quite devastated though.

The bottom line really, is that sometimes one needs to just sit and experiment and learn as one goes. Somehow weaving is like that. We would all love our projects to all turn into masterpieces, but just as there are no omelettes without smashing eggs, sometimes we need to be less than happy with our efforts in order to reap the full benefits of the lesson.

Rep Weave, or Ripsmatta, is a technique that I will certainly revisit in the not too distant future, for, much as a struggled with this weave on so many levels, it has embedded myself in a part of my psyche which, like a terrier with a mouse, simply won’t leave it alone, and keeps on going back for another look.

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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.