Friday, June 29, 2007

Crackle Jacket: A Different Path?

4:00 am. I woke up. I woke up with the image of those oyster shells vivid before my eyes. Frequently when I am planning a project, at some point I have a change of heart. Sometimes this happens in the middle of the night. It happened last night.

The startling blue and gold which stood out so brilliantly against the darkish neutrals. The splatterings of black. I started thinking of having an occasional black warp. Maybe I could have it repeat at regular intervals against the irregular size blocks. Or maybe a colored warp that I dyed black in spots. Maybe both.

How would I do this? The solid black threads are no problem. But the colored warp with black spots. Well, I could separate out threads and paint them. Oh dear, we are talking dyeing cotton and using MX dyes. I've used MX dyes but I have never cared for them. They are the devil to wash out and the dissolved dye keeps for only a few days. The acid dyes, on the other hand (which I use on silk) are easy to wash out, assuming that there is even any excess dye to wash out, and the dissolved dye keeps for ever. The last means much less mixing of powders. Both more convenient and less exposure to the danger of breathing in the dye powders.

Ahh, but there are some warm or hot water reactive dyes. I've not used them myself, but I know people swear by them, and so in my head I am thinking of going to the ProChem site and checking that out.

And then I start thinking of what I might do with painted warps if I turned the draft so that the treadling became the threading and the threading the treadling. This raises all sorts of new ideas, especially for warp painting possibilities.

STOP!!!! Enough already. I begin to realize that these shells have inspired a second project, not a change in this project. After all, the intent is an easy-to-wear cotton jacket for spring summer and fall (in South Carolina), casual enough to wear with my khaki's, but just slightly dressy enough to wear with linen skirts and pants. Whew. Back to sleep.

And today I have to make notes of all this so that I don't lose my thoughts from the wee hours of the morning.

By the way, the blanket warp is now fully covering the width of the loom and ready to weave.

I think an unwoven warp is a lovely thing.

What you see at the back of the loom, by the way, is my raddle. I usually always remove the raddle before starting to weave, but leave the lease sticks in. When I was in Santa Fe I learned that the Mexican rug weavers left their raddles in. I asked, why? The response was, why not? Then my friend Leigh tried leaving her raddle in and found she liked weaving that way. So tried it, and removed with fear and trepidation the lease sticks as well. I discovered that I liked that also. And, even though I had removed the lease sticks to help with finding a broken warp thread, I realized that the raddle would still make it quite easy to find them.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Crackle Jacket: First Rumblings

The idea for the crackle jacket I am in the (very slow!) process of designing had its first rumblings in two different places. First, I had the vague idea of weaving some yardage for the next HGA Convergence conference. I didn't have any idea at all for using the final woven yardage. I was just thinking in terms of weaving yardage for the sake of itself.

The theme for the yardage exhibit is Ebb Tide, and I didn't have the foggiest idea how I could weave that idea. So I didn't think too much about what I might do, except that I did want the structure to be crackle.

Then, I participated in an online workshop on using graphics programs to develop weaving designs. This workshop was hosted by an online fiber guild which is part of the British Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. One of the things I learned there was how to pick colors from an image to create a computer palette.So I thought a bit more about the possible Convergence yardage and started hunting the internet for images of pearls and oysters. Not quite exactly the stated theme, but close enough, and at least pearls and oysters were something concrete and they interested me. I found tons of stuff, but here are a few of those that I liked the best.

I finally settled on the image at the top, an image of oysters. I very much liked the colors. I especially liked the rich blue and gold against the rather dark neutrals, and the lacing throughout of what seemed to be almost black. I took that into my graphics program (Paint Shop Pro) and picked out colors. And here are the colors I came up with:

The browns are not as rich as the browns in the image, and there is no black. Somehow I wasn't sure that I could fit that into a weaving and still have it be a coherent whole. But I did rather like what I came up with, the rather muted palette with no striking contrast. Or at least for a start....... even though this is not at all my "style." I weave with vivid or rich colors, not with pales or neutrals. And here is an example of my more typical weaving:

Still, the colors did speak to me. Perhaps I was ready for a change? But not quite yet. I didn't quite know how to work with this muted language, so the yardage idea submerged itself somewhere in the depths of my mind for awhile.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Color: Computer versus Fabric

Sara Lamb mentioned on her blog recently how she sees the woven fabric in her head before she actually starts to weave it. This started me thinking. I don't. And drawdowns on the computer don't help. Oh, I have kind of an idea of what I want to see, but it is fairly open and fluid. I know pretty much the colors I want to use, but how?

With the warp I have no choice but to make some guesses, because that must be done first, and once done, it is there. It cannot be changed. Well, I suppose I could pull some warp ends out and hang on new warp ends in the color you really want, hanging them in the same manner as you would supplementary warps. I've actually thought of doing that. But to do more than a few would get really tiresome. And it would certainly make the weaving process a bit more tiresome. Still, I do think about it, especially when I'm part way through the weaving and might want to change some colors in midstream. But, realistically, or at least for now, I know I have to make a final decision on warp color(s) and their order first and accept that as a given once I start the actual weaving.

So I start the weaving with the treadling I have designed on the computer. I may like it. I may not. But what I see certainly does not reflect what I see on the computer screen. It is not simply a matter of getting the colors the same. It is that colors interact differently with each other on the computer screen from the way they intereact in the real weaving with the actual threads.

And this happens even when I have woven samples. Somehow, when I have the actual final warp on the loom and I start weaving, it looks, well, different. And so I use the first part of the warp, doing some more experimenting, until I find what I want. .Or at least something I can more or less live with.

But the whole point is that "what I want" is not really in my head but is something waiting to be discovered in the weaving process. Indeed, if I am weaving a scarf, once I actually start weaving it, I may continue to make changes as I weave. I may change some colors. I may make some blocks larger. Keeping always in mind that the scarf still must be coherent and have an overall scheme.

I like weaving this way, where I can change things as I go. This is how many people weave tapestry. This is one of the things that appeals to me about tapestry. This is why occasionally I try tapestry, only to discover tapestry is not for me. Tapestry is not about the interaction of warp and weft, at least not typically.

I envy, in a way, Sara's ability to have the fabric in her head. But I am very happy weaving the way I do, seeing what it will become. Perhaps this is why I weave scarves. Weaving yardage, which I also enjoy, perhaps because I like to sew, precludes this kind of experimentation as one goes. Pretty much........ Of course, when I move to cutting out the fabric and discover a flaw which demands some creative rethinking about the pattern one is cutting out................

And here is an example. I had woven just enough yardage to weave this jacket, but when I took the yardage off the loom I discovered there was a serious uncorrectable error in the first 15 inches. As I result, the pattern pieces did not fit. That is, they did not fit until I decided to cut length off the jacket body and off the sleeves, cut on the cross grain bands, which I then attached to the body and the sleeves.

The jacket is woven in 60/2 silk which I dyed with acid dyes, and the weave structure is 4-shaft honeycomb.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Weaving 4-Shaft Crackle

The tie-up is simple. Tie it up as a 2/2 twill. There should also be two treadles tied up for plain weave. Treadle 5 would tie up shafts 1 and 3. Treadle 6 would tie up shafts 2 and 4. I have not included them in the tie up or the treadling because not doing so gives a more accurate look of what the final cloth would look like. This, of course, assumes that the pattern weft is heavier than the warp yarn and that the tabby weft is the same as or smaller than the warp yarn. Assume, however, that in the actual weaving, tabby is actually woven between each pattern shot.

Of course, there is no hard and fast rule that the tabby weft cannot be the same size as the pattern weft, indeed, that it cannot be identical to the pattern weft, in which case we would have a one shuttle weave. But the tabby would show and cause the fabric to look quite different. This is not "bad." Just different. Can be good if it gives the effect you want.

In some of my latest samplings, I have been playing with warp, weft and tabby all being the same weight. Different colors, however, so for me it is still a multiple shuttle weave. More on that another day.

Here is a drawdown of the crackle, still treadled as overshot, but woven "tromp as writ." That simply means that you treadle the same as the threading. Since this particular threading repeats each unit 2 times, I have treadled each unit two times. The interesting thing about this treadling is it clearly shows how closely crackle is related to point twill.

So that is the basics of crackle. For more than 4 shafts, you just carry on with the same concepts.

However, here is a glimpse of one way of weaving a two-color crackle. I haven't included it in the draft, but the warp is black, and the weft shots alternate between the green and dark red. A 3-shuttle weave. To imagine more accurately what the final fabric actually looks like, look at the areas where the are wide bands of one color against narrow strips of the other color. In the final

fabric, these will pretty much smoosh together (very technical term.......) and yield a block which pretty much is only the one color. In the top left corner, for example, the effect will be of an all green block.

Then look at the upper right hand corner. That is clearly plain weave and you know what plain weave looks like. The black, red, and green, will all be fairly equal, though the red and green will dominate a bit (but equally) because the yarns are heavier than the warp yarns.

Then look at the top quarter under the 4,3,4,1 threading. There the red and green will pretty much obscure the warp but create a block which is basically red and green.

There are other ways of treadling and other ways of weaving with two or more colors, but that is for another day. However, for those who are eager right now to learn a lot more, Bonnie Datta has just published her website. On her website are links to two documents she has written. One is how to weave a 4-block crackle sampler. And the other is how to get 24 blocks with crackle threading on 4 shafts. To get that many blocks, she pushes the crackle threading really beyond its limits, but it is a fascinating read.

Here is the link to Bonnie's pages:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Threading 4-Shaft Crackle

4-shaft crackle has 4 units. Some writers call them blocks. They are not, however true blocks because they do not weave independently of each other. Whenever one unit weaves, so does another. For me, this is what makes the structure so fascinating. This combining of units/blocks involves an interplay of colors between warp and weft that is unlike what happens in true block weaves, Summer and Winter, for example.

Watch my language when I talk about crackle. I will frequently lapse into using the word block. Why? Because often, depending on how I weave the crackle, the effect is of blocks. Take a look at the picture I posted on Friday. Doesn't it look like blocks? The weaving program I use has the capability of block substitution. What is one of the structures that I can use? Crackle.

And here are the threading units for 4-shaft crackle. I read the units right-to-left. And right-to-left is how I thread. I usually repeat these units, anywhere from 2 to 15 times. Remember, I frequently weave crackle between 50 and 60 epi. When I move from Unit A to Unit B, I thread the last thread of the preceding unit, but move immediately to the second thread of Unit B, omitting the heddle on shaft 2. However, when I repeat Unit B a second (or third, or fourth..........) time, I include the heddle on shaft 2. Moving from shaft 2 to shaft 3, the same thing. I include the last heddle on shaft 3, but drop the first heddle on shaft 3 in Unit C. Again, if I repeat Unit C, I include that first thread on shaft 3 with each repeat. Moving on to threading unit D, I thread the last heddle of Unit C (shaft 4) but omit the first thread of Unit D (shaft 4). If I repeat Unit D, I always, with each repeat, include that first heddle on shaft 4. And then back again to Unit A.

So, a simple threading with each unit repeated a second time would be what you see at the top of this post.

And, if you were to repeat this sequence, you would omit from Unit A, the heddle on the first shaft (shaft 1), but keeping it with each repeat.

These funny little first and last threads, one of which must be omitted when moving on to threading the next unit, are called incidentals. I don't know why they are called that. But which thread is the so-called incidental? The first on the new unit or the last on the old unit? I don't think it much matters.

The real purpose these incidentals serve, as I found when I started threading units out of order, is keep to the odd-even shaft combination going, not, as it might look at first glance, to prevent the repetition of a heddle (though it does that too). Doing this preserves a true tabby when you throw the tabby wefts.

More later.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Ought Not To Be A Weaver

No, this is not a crackle warp.

Yes, this warp covers only half the width of the loom. And not the center half. Yes, the warp is supposed to cover almost the whole width of the loom. Yes, the number of ends in the raddle spaces is correct. And the warp bout, on the left side but not yet raddled, is supposed to be the left side of the blanket I am getting ready to weave. Yes, there is a big big space between it and the last raddled bout of yarn. And yes, these are the only bouts I made.

I really ought not to be a weaver. Weavers have to work with numbers. Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing are all helpful, basic skills. Did I tell you I still add on my fingers? No, I will not tell you my age.

Back to the warping board.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weaving with Multiple Shuttles

Leigh made this comment on my last post: "Of course,I still think 2 shuttles are a handful, so I'm not sure if I could manage 4! :)"

I know just where she is coming from! I have to admit that it took awhile for me to figure out how to weave with multiple shuttles. Just learning to weave with two shuttles was not easy for me. I would get all confused about which shuttle I was using first and which shuttle I was using second. Then I figured out that if I lay them on the woven fabric, parallel to me, one after the other, that would help. But then I would forget whether I was starting with the shuttle closest to me or closest the the fell. Or I would forget, after throwing a shot of weft, do I place that shuttle behind or in front of the shuttle on the fabric.

And then sometimes there wasn't enough woven fabric to place the shuttles there. So I put them next to me on the bench, perpendicular to the loom. But I would forget whether the leading shuttle was the shuttle closest to me or the shuttle farthest from me. And also, I would forget whether I was placing the shuttle that had just finished weaving next to me body or on the other side of the shuttle sitting next to my body.

Then I found myself weaving very narrow warps, with no room to lay lay the shuttle on the part of the warp that was woven. But if I put the shuttles next to me, so much thread was drawn out that I had a mess after I threw it. At the very least, I would have to set it down after throwing it and take the loose thread and use my hand to pull it taut across the warp. At this rate, weaving can progress very very slowly. Patience.

So I got some small boards, covered them with some spare rug padding that was rough enough to keep the shuttles in place (more or less), and used C clamps to attach them to the front beam, one on each side of the warp. My shuttle rests! That worked pretty well. Except for those times when my arm or elbow would knock a resting shuttle to the floor.

Somehow or another, I finally got the hang of it all, and often find myself weaving with 3 shuttles. That's because I often weave crackle. And usually when I weave crackle I am weaving with 2 pattern wefts and 1 tabby weft.

Oh, yes. And that was something else I had to work out. Usually the tabby weft was the color of one of the pattern wefts in use. But the tabby weft was usually finer than the pattern weft. How on earth to know which is which? I was certainly not going to stare to figure out which is the fine thread. That can drive me nuts. I finally figured that a different style shuttle for the tabby was in order. So, if I wove the pattern wefts with my Bluster Baby end-feed heavy shuttles, I could weave the tabby wefts with either my smaller Schacht end-feed shuttle, or my LeClerc regular shuttle. I was good to go!

There is always something new to figure out in weaving!

And there they are, from left to right: a LeClerc regular shuttle, a Bluster Bay end feed shuttle, and a Schacht end-feed shuttle. I also have a LeClerc end-feed (not pictured), which is really my favorite.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I Learn (a Little) about Crackle

Some five years later, or, in other words, about two years ago, crackle floated back into my head. I was still haunted by that multi-colored tabby-less crackle. But how to get started?

The first thing I learned is that it is not so easy to learn about crackle. I looked through my books. I went through every issue of my weaving magazines: Handwoven, Weaver's (no longer published, sob). Shuttle Spindle and Dyepot, Vav Magazine (now published in English), and The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers (British). Yes, I do subscribe to a lot of weaving magazines.... The main things I learned is that not much has been written about crackle and that crackle did not seem to be a particularly popular weave structure, at least in the contemporary weaving world.

Then I discovered Zielinski's Master Weaver Series. In Volume 8 he talks about contemporary approaches to crackle. But I found that a little beyond me. And then I found Mary Snyder's monograph, The Crackle Weave. And that was way beyond me. Light years beyond me. At least back then.

To be continued. But first, let me share a picture of one of my crackle scarves. This is one of my first crackle samples/scarves.

The warp is 60/2 silk. The pattern weft is 30/2 silk and the tabby weft is 60/2 silk. I dyed the yarns using Lanaset dyes. The threading is a 6 shaft crackle.

The weaving is essentially a 3-shuttle weave. That is, though I am using more than 3 different yarns throughout, at any one time, only 3 shuttles are in play. More about weaving with multiple shuttles next time. At least that is the current plan............

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Why Crackle?

During my second year of weaving, the weaving guild I belonged to put on a workshop called "Old-Fashioned Recipes." The workshop leader was the lady who had introduced me to weaving in a mind-boggling one-weekend whirlwind.

Never having taken a workshop, I was a bit worried. Actually, I was scared stiff. But Elaine (my first teacher) assured me that this was a perfect first workshop for the beginning weaver. And she explained it was about some of the standard old weave structures: overshot, Summer&Winter, huck lace, for example.

The workshop was wonderful. It was a round robin workshop, with each loom threaded for a different structure. And we all got to weave samples on each of the looms.

One of the looms was threaded to crackle and there were two treadlings. One of them was a four-color rotation. Four shuttles. But no tabby. Four shuttles!!! Oh, how hard that was! And how on earth to keep track of them and of the treadling! But when I saw what was happening as I wove, I fell in love. Absolutely in love. And I knew that someday, maybe far away, I would come back to this.

To be continued..................

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Designing a Crackle Jacket: Introduction

After reading Sara Lamb's exhortations to weavers to start blogs, after listening to endless encouragement from Leigh to start one (that's her way of thanking me for encouraging her to start one....ahem......), I finally bit the bullet. I set up my very own blog. Setting it up turned out to be much easier than I expected, though I already have some questions.

But, where to start? I struggled. I wrote an introduction. I hated it.

Finally, I wondered, why not just start in the middle of things? In the middle of what I am doing right now? So that is what I will do.

Oh, and by the way, apart from weaving on a rigid heddle loom for a few years some 35 years ago, I have been an active and learning weaving for about 7 years now. I weave on an 8-shaft loom set up in the breakfast area at the end of the kitchen. The light there is much to wonderful to use that area for a mere breakfast room! So the breakfast room table has been put in the family room, where it serves, you guessed it, as a work table.

More next time when I will ease my way into a discussion of crackle.