Sunday, March 1, 2015

linen project

I have been back from another trip to Peru for a while and the writing bug in me had been a little slack and tired to say the least. However over the past couple of weeks I have been working on something exciting and inspiring.

Standing close to Viktoria, my very big Askov Lervad Loom

In late January (2015) I got a call from Patricia Bishop at Taproot Farms to inquire if I might be interested in weaving up a sample piece with some linen yarn - home grown by hardworking farmers at Taproot Farms in Port Williams and hand spun by fibre explorer/artist Jennifer Green.
Patricia  delivered the little ‘bundle of joy’ and I thought - ooops what have I gotten myself into.

The fact is I had gotten myself into a whole lot of thinking and considering of which way to approach this skein of 156 yards of handspun linen singles.

swift with skein, so 'small' it is hardly visible in the business around it.
I had several ideas as to how to weave up the yarn, on a table loom because it is smaller or a little square peg/nail frame because then I could needle weave it all - then I thought about where my little weaving frames were, and had no success in locating a particular one which was right at the top of the list of my ‘must use’ items. And it wasn’t that the store didn’t carry it, it was that it has disappeared somewhere underneath all my weaving and creating stash.

Through uneasy inner examinations of this possibility and the other possibility I ended up looking at my little swedish GlimĂ„kra loom. An excellent 26” wide loom with hanging beater and, most importantly, soft cotton heddles - as opposed to metal heddles which the other looms had - and then I set about to calculate the possible length of the warp.
warping board with 60 cm of warp
156 yards is very little when you have to dress a loom - the final thought and solution which took me to the starting point was deciding that the warp I would make would be about 8.5” wide and 60 cm long (the reeds I use for my looms are set in inches and so width when I weave is always in inches and length in meters/cm - brains are such funny instruments, they don’t mind whatever you do so long as you do it consistently)
The little skein was placed on my swift (see photo above left) and I wound the yarn onto two spools and then proceeded to build the warp on a warping board. Having first carefully measured which peg to start and where to end to get 60 cm of warp out of the skein. All of the usual precautions had to be taken, like securing the cross in the warp, which keeps the yarn ends in order two by two so the threading process is easier to handle and some good firm choke ties at either end to make sure that there was not a lot of slipping about happening as I was moving the warp from the warping board to the leash sticks at the front of the loom.
scarf warp ready to tie a close knot with the linen warp!
To start with I beamed a scarf warp on the loom which would use the same threading and tie-up and number of threads as the linen pieces -136 ends of yarn to be set at 15epi (ends per inch) this I hoped might leave me with a nice open but solid fabric - taking into account that the linen yarn was a single not necessarily as strong as a two ply yarn - and taking into account that the dents in a 15dpi (dents per inch) reed are pretty narrow I instead opted to use the 8dpi reed but sleyed the yarn two ends pr dent for 16 epi.

half of 136 knots done.
Then it was time to tie the little linen warp to the pre-excisting scarf warp. I had 136 little ends to tie with overhand knots, trying to make the tie lenght of the knot end as close to equally long as possible. Slowly and methodically I went from the right side of the warp to the left, two threads at a time all held in sequence by the leash sticks and the carefully placed choke tie around the cross.
Once the knots were tied I gently pulled each and every one of them towards the back of the loom, through the reed and back through the individual heddles to have the length of the warp stretched out between the back and the front breast beam.

looped bundles of warp with nylon lashing
At this point a soft nylon rope was leashed around the front tie on bar and through little bunches of the warp looms, allowing me to apply even tension across the warp. 
Then the weaving began. The pieces are done in plain weave, that is, over and under one thread repeatedly and with the threading of the heddles that I had chosen it was an easy weave in that I could alternate two treadles and so it was a straight forward part of the process once the weaving got going.

Hemstitched last part, and all those knots showing.
The warp was divided into two pieces, one which would be left ‘raw’ ie not washed or treated in any way, the other piece was destined to be soaked and rinsed and then mangled or ironed. Each piece was hemstitched on the loom to prevent unraveling. Thank you Laura Fry

soaking and doing its wet fibre water dance

The pieces were cut off the loom and one piece was put in water with a bit of detergent to soak  and afterwards the piece soaked in several bowls of clean tepid water.
Finally the wet finished piece was left out on a tea towel overnight to await its final treatment.
I chose to cold mangle the piece as best I could - traditionally in Scandinavia the linen has been cold mangled - that is rolled over either by hand or by machine with a very hard roller which flattens and brightens the fibres in the fabric.

Two pieces from one pod/warp
I don’t have a mangle pr se but I do have a some arm power and I also have a most excellent marble rolling pin and our kitchen table is quite hard. The piece was given a good rolling back and forth on both sides. The untreated piece still has its delicious dark woody colour and is very stiff
The washed and mangled piece is a bit lighter in colour and has a slightly softer hand. After many washes and manglings it will eventually turn quite pliable and soft.