Friday, August 17, 2007

Sleying the Reed

Back from New York City and all the requisite chores done, well most of them, I am now sleying the reed. Actually, I am about three-fourths of the way through. So far I have found only one threading problem. A heddle, with its yarn, on shaft one was crossed over a group of about eight threads. So I put a repair heddle on shaft one in the place it belonged and pulled the thread through it.

Sleying the reed is something I normally find relatively pleasant and easy work. Certainly it goes more quickly than threading, especially when I am sleying three ends per dent, as I am in this case. I am using a 10-dent reed and the epi will will 30.

But this is crackle threaded on eight shafts. And the order of the blocks shifts and changes. And the number of blocks in any given threading changes. As a result, when I reach in to get the yarns I need to sley, I have to work at it because there is no way to know which shafts they are going to be coming from. What is more, finding the right ends for the last three shafts is in itself difficult for me. Perhaps that reflects my lack of experience with an eight shaft loom. The most difficult is when I have neighboring warp ends on shafts one and eight.

So I take a group of threads in my right hand and I separate them out with my left hand into three groups of three ends. While I am doing this I am scrutinizing the yarn to make sure that each group does have exactly 3 threads. At the same time, I am watching the heddles to make sure that there are only 3 heddles in each group. Counting the heddles is a double-check against counting the yarns. I am also watching the heddles to make sure that there are no crossed ends. This is my weak area for I tend to forget to keep watch for this. Consequently it is not unusual for me to find anywhere from one to three crossed ends when I throw those first weft shots. So I am trying to be very careful. I lay each group of 3 over the top of the beater, continuing to examine them to make sure they contain exactly 3 ends.

I must admit that I do sometimes put four or even five groups over the beater. Sometimes that's all it takes to finish off a group of threaded ends. But I still use 3 groups as normative.

Because the yarn is relatively fine (20/2 pearl cotton), I have to take extra care. Normally I would work with four groups at a time and hold each group in a space between my fingers. In this case, however, part of the extra care I am taking is to work with only three groups at a time. Also, to help make sure my heddle hook doesn't play tricks as it picks up the yarn groups to pull through the reed, I have elected to put them neatly and separately over the top of the beater. Then I pull each group through the appropriate reed slot. I try even at this point to keep my eyes on the heddles to make sure there is no yarn crossing from one group to another.

When I have five groups pulled through, I double-check once again. I am looking to see that there are no skipped spaces and well as to make sure that there are exactly three threads in each space. When satisfied, I tie them them together with a slip knot. I then have one-half-inch worth of threads in a group. These are the number of groups I will tie together in a regular knot when I am ready to lace them onto the front rod.

I have new glasses. They are helping the process. When I got them, I had the lenses finished with some kind of glare-free coating. The girl at the shop told me it was much easier for her to watch television with this coating on her glasses. Well, I watch very little television. But it does seem to help quite a bit with all the metal heddles staring me in the face. What she did not tell me, however, is that I had to use a special lens cleaner. So I used my old lens cleaner and didn't have a clue as to why my vision was getting worse and worse. Sure that I was suffering from some terrible visual deterioration, I was ready to call the eye doctor. Meanwhile, in the drug store, I checked the eye glass cleaner, as I was running low. There I saw the special cleaner. Did I mention that I was a bit angry with the girl at the shop?

In any case, sleying is taking a long time, for the warp is close to 40" wide. I know there are people who can sit at their looms and in one sitting get their reeds sleyed. I wish I were one of those. I simply am not. I start making errors if I sit too long. So the first session of the day may last an hour or so. But for the rest of the day, I fit sleying in piecemeal with doing other things. It's not an arduous task. Just time-consuming. And I really really do not want to have to make corrections after I have tied the warp on and am making the first trial shots.

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