Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sixth part of the Viking Weaving Saga!

Getting the loom dressed.

Having contemplated the different outcomes of the plain weave, the checker weave and the twill weave I did decide that for this project using a twill would be appropriate. It was also at this point that I made the final decision to separate the thel and the tog, so the fibres  could be spun separately. The tog (hair) would be spun tightly for the warp and the thel (soft undercoat) could be spun softly for the weft.  
When I have to weave with hand-spun singles I usually work on my 45” LeClerc 4 shaft floor loom equipped with a sectional warping beam. Since I don’t usually set the twist in the yarn before winding the warp, taking advantage of the control one has with a spool rack, a tension box and only having to deal with 1” (2.5cm) of the warp at a time gives me great pleasure. I also need to add that I do use copious amounts of sticky tape to hold all my ends in check, so every thing is still in order when I unwind each warp bunch two turns on each section and bring the ends  up over the back beam and then thread them through the heddles and into the reed ending up with the warp-ends at the front part of the loom - exactly where I want them to be so I can tighten them up to the front apron and get weaving.

I work on one section at a time when I work with singles, never letting go of the ends once the tape used to secure the sequence of the ends has been secured. This helps me keep everything in order and it helps me not loose any twist which is quite crucial when weaving with singles. If the single is too loosely spun the whole warp might unravel and ....  fall apart. (I did try that once with a beautiful mohair single and I just hadn’t thought that project through properly - I was not a happy camper and finished that mohair project prematurely with scissors and breathing exercises)

The pieces as I have mentioned before are destined to hang as covers for storage spaces in one of the viking houses in L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland.
The openings are 65cm (26”) wide and the height from floor to ceiling is 1.75m (70”).
And here I have to say that.... growing up I lived with the metric system, occasionally hearing about ‘tommer’ (inches), but when I moved to Canada and got my first loom all the measurements were in inches and brain converted to inches, at least when I speak loom although in recent years I have been studying more and more scandinavian weaving literature which means that in the not too distant future I should be fluent in both measuring systems again.

 I set the loom up in a width of 42” (105cm), quite a lot wider than the needed 26” (65cm) .
However, I had to take into account any draw-in as I was weaving, shrinkage when washing/fulling and finally the extra draw-in which might occur when the energy of the singles I was weaving with would pull together a bit once the tension on the warp was gone when the two pieces were taken off the loom.

And here is the full width warp seen from the side of the back beam, at this point I was tired, thrilled and very happy to take a nap - setting up a loom is tiring, tedious and utterly inspiring since there is so much time to contemplate the execution of the project ahead. It is a beautiful road to travel.

Next time: Getting all tightened up and ready to roll - oh, weave!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fifth part of the Viking Weaving Saga

Sample weaving.
The sample weaving took place a the early end of the whole thought and weaving process - I was still spinning right from the greasy lock, thel and tog together. The yarn was nice and thin, the way I wanted it to be, not like sewing thread, but I was planning on weaving it at 10-12 ends per inch (5-6 ends pr cm), so it wasn’t exactly heavy weight either.

I have a small Dorothy LeClerc table-loom, four shafts which I threaded up with a 6 inch wide warp, 1 meter long, in order to weave and investigate the texture of the finished cloth. Questions like: How does the cloth feel once it is off the loom and can relax a bit? How much shrinkage would occur once the cloth was off the loom?  and how much shrinkage would happen when initially fulled (washed)? How much extra fulling would be necessary or wanted?? The list went on and on, there are so many delightful points to remember and be aware of when weaving.

Experience #1: Since I had chosen to not wash the skeins of yarn I had spun from the thel and tog before I dressed the loom, I learned a good deal about......... sticky yarn - for although the density in the reed wasn’t really that intense (12 epi/ends per inch) the yarn still had lots of little greasy ‘arms’ sticking out, striving to hold on to each other. This meant that changing the shed for each weaving pick was a bit of a pain.

Experience #2: Having read about an exquisite piece of fabric dating back to the Vikings I was all eager to try to incorporate this weaving technique into this particular piece of cloth. This meant that I had spun some of the yarn with an Z twist and some of the yarn with an S twist. The warp had been made with 6 strands of Z twist and 6 strands of S twist alternating over the 6 inches. In theory when weaving it I would have 6 picks of Z twist yarn and 6 picks of S twist yarn alternating also in the weft. Supposedly the fabric will turn out with a subtle beautiful checkered surface created by the opposing twists.
Experience #3: To start out I did plain weave for several inches to get a feel for what the warp felt like, and it was sticky! Next I kept persevering and did several inches with 6 picks of Z twist alternating with 6 picks of S twist yarns.

I was having a hard time seeing very clear results, the checkers were not exactly super visible and I was feeling discouraged. Also the fabric was very open and looked very much like a web. Much more practice and possibly a much finer yarn and denser set in the warp is necessary to see this technique clearly.

Experience #4: The last thing I decided to experiment with was doing a simple twill.
In a plain weave the thread goes over under one thread all along the shed and on the way back it goes over under the opposite threads.
In a twill the thread goes over/under two threads and so the weft can pack more densely. This also means that the fabric will be heavier and the gauze effect of the plain weave will disappear.
So I finished up the sample piece with some inches of twill  and took the whole sample off the loom, secured the ends with my sewing machine and plopped the piece in the bathroom sink.
And there it sat for a little while until I rinsed it out and dried it up and closely studied the fabric to see which part I liked better and felt more comfortable with.
I ended up choosing the twill which made the fabric denser and smoother looking inspite of the slight unevennesses in the hand-spun yarns.

Take note of the nice float, the lanolin in the yarn keeps it floating nicely until it has been dissolved by the soap used and the heat in the washing water.

Next time: Dressing the floor loom