Friday, September 28, 2007

Neutral Dye Samples: Orange + Blue

Amount woven yesterday: 3.5"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 8.5"

Karren Brito has linked to my recent dyeing posts and has made some very important points. I am posting some of them here, along with my own comments.

Her first statement is very important to anyone who wants to work with dyes, even if in the most haphazard way:

"This is more than red+yellow make orange. It is the difference between mixing a bright tangerine orange and a dull terracotta, both oranges."

She probably wonders about some of my combinations, especially using dye colors like Lanaset Mustard Yellow and Washfast Acid Magenta to get oranges. The logical colors to choose to mix would be Lanaset Sun Yellow and Lanaset Scarlet. And I have made plenty of oranges with just those colors. The Sun Yellow is logical because it is bright and clear. The Scarlet is logical because there is no blue cast. And since I planned to mix the resulting orange with a blue anyway, there was no need to choose a red with a definite blue cast. So I was going against the grain when I used the colors I did to make orange. Well I just wanted to see what would happen! And, since I am curious, I have made an orange with Scarlet and Sun Yellow, though I have yellowed it a little bit more than I did the first orange. I will try using that with blue for neutrals.

For the composition of the dye colors I made for this project, go to this post:

And she discusses the creation of neutrals:

"Neutrals are always a challenge when dyeing. They are basically a very controlled mix of all 3 primaries--yellow, red and blue-- here the blue is combined with the other primaries (yellow+blue=yellow-green, red+blue= red-violet). These colors can change a lot with one drop of dye; a drop of blue can change a color from brown to olive. "

She is so right about the challenge. I can make some guesses before I do the dyeing. And, as my dyeing exprience grows, my guesses become somewhat better. But I never really know until the yarn is out of the dye pot and dry what I am going to get. Some people say to test the color on a white paper towel. This does not work for me. As the yarn sits in the dye pot, what the final color is going to be does become more and more clear. But, as Karren also says, when you finally take it out of the water, the resulting color is still deeper than it will be when dry. When I was truly a beginning dyer, this was always a terrible disappointment. But now I hardly notice it because I think my eye automatically corrects for it when I see the wet yarn.

And what Karren says about a drop of dye changing the color is so on target. What that means, for me at least, is that it is much more difficult to go from the small sample to the larger skein of yarn. I have been using 0.1 per cent solutions on the small samples and that will increase the chnces for accuracy in color over what it would have been if I had used 1 per cent solutions. Karren uses 0.01 per cent solutions which is even more likely to increase accuracy. I will see how my formulas stand up when I turn to 1% solutions for the larger dye lots. Unlike Karren, who is a professional dyer, I do not need absolute accuracy, but I do want to get in the ballpark!

I should probably confess my major reason for not making the 0.01 per cent solutions. The metric system is absolutely marvelous for dyeing. I did not start with that system and it took me some energy to get up the gumption to change, but I did. So far as I am concerned, metric is the only way to go. But sometimes (maybe more than sometimes..........) I get all confused about decimal points. I've gotten used to moving from 1 per cent to 0.1 percent, but I am not used to moving from 1 per cent to 0.01 percent........... I need to say sternly to myself: 'Get over it."

Karren concludes her post with this lovely statement:

"I love these colors, the chromatic neutrals. They are chamaeleon colors, one color beside blue can look like goldish, then beside yellow look mauve. Joseph Albers illustrated this effect in his studies. They are marvelous in multi-colored shibori dyeing since they increase the complexity of the color."

I can add nothing more. She has expressed my feelings far better than I could have.

And here are my orange + blue dye results.
I am learning to use my software to make color corrections, and that is helpful. But these "chameleon colors" (I just love that phrase!), truly resist accurate reproduction!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I Really Ought Not To Be a Dyer

This afternoon I went back to my original formulas in order to figure out some next steps, and I discovered that one of the formulas, that for orange, was incorrect. It was incorrect in the sense that the numbers, which ought to add up to 100%, do not add up to 100%.

I did use a calculator..... I have mentioned in the past my problems with arithmetic............... Perhaps I should give up not only weaving but also dyeing.

If I really really want to, if I really need to, I could figure out how to figure out from those numbers what the actual proportions really were and what the actual DOS really was. But I think I'm moving dangerously close to algebra, and that was a long, long, long time ago! However, if I end up using that color in the final dyeing, I am going to have to figure this out!

Well, I didn't give up weaving, and gosh darn if I am going to give up dyeing!

Throwing the Shuttle

Amount woven yesterday: 3.0"
Amount woven to date: 3 yards + 3"

Dorothy recently brought up a very important point about weaving technique in her blog. She pointed out the need for throwing the shuttle with each hand in the same way and the need for keeping the shuttle away from the body when beating the weft thread in.

When the shuttle is thrown through the warp, it emerges close to the open beater near the shafts. The yarn coming out of that shed and leading to the shuttle is thus at an angle to the fell. When the beater is then brought to the fell, and the hand holding the shuttle remains up close to the shafts, a fair amount of weft is pulled into the warp. Indeed, if you pull the beater slowly and watch the weft coming out of the shuttle, you can see the beater pulling more weft out of the shuttle as it approaches the fell. If you allow your shuttle holding hand to follow the beater and move down towards the fell, much less thread gets pulled into the warp. The end result will be more draw-in. The warp width will shrink.

How steep the angle is between the fell and the shuttle as it is held near the shafts depends on where the fell is. The closer the fell is to the shafts the less steep the angle is and the less thread that will be pulled into the warp. This raises two issues.

First, to have a consistent amount of draw-in, the warp has to be moved forward frequently, probably every 1"-2", Consistent draw-in is very important for consistent beating. Consistent draw-in may not guarantee even beating throughout the cloth, but it will definitely help.

Second, a decision has to be made as to where to maintain the fell. Close to the front beam? Half-way between the front beam and the shafts? Close to the shafts? Some people call that half-way point the "sweet" spot. That is the point where the beater will be closest to perpendicular to the warp. It is probably best to aim for that "sweet" spot. This is not an issue for the floating beater, if I understand the mechanics correctly. The floating beater will always hit the fell at an angle perpendicular to the warp.

I tend to keep the fell close to the front beam. Doing this, allows me to beat in more weft yarn and to beat more closely. As the warp threads on the edges get closer together because of draw-in, it becomes more difficult to beat as closely as I want to because those closely spaced edge threads offer too much resistance. That is the main reason that I often use temple. The temple gets those threads spaced out so that I can pull the beater closer.

Using an end feed shuttle creates a little blip in this issue. In an end feed shuttle the thread does not emerge from the center of the shuttle but from the end. When the shuttle is thrown from right to left, the thread will emerge from the far end of the shuttle because it is on the left side that it comes out of. But when the shuttle is thrown from left to right, the left side is closest to the warp and so will not pull out as far as it does when it is thrown from right to left. This difference may create a small difference in the appearance of each selvedge, at least that is what some weavers say. Oh well, nothing perfect under the sun, as they say.

One of the most important things about Dorothy's discussion, I think, is her focus on the need for self-analysis, the need to watch and analyze what you are doing. And she is good at it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Neutral Dye Samples: Yellow plus Violet

Amount woven yesterday: 3.0"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 36" -- also known as 3 yards!

Here is another dye run of seven combinations, this time of Sabraset Yellow and Violet.

Here is the dye run with Yellow Green and Red Violet.

The differences are much clearer in real life. Yesterday's dye run with the violet results in neutrals which are much browner, much less golden or even reddish. These browns are, in other words, much cooler. The previous dye run's browns are much warmer.

Until I can learn how to get more accurate colors, I am going to have to lean on verbal descriptions as correctives.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Neutral Dye Samples: Yellow Green plus Red Violet

Amount woven yesterday: 2.0"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 33"

At last I am into mixing dye colors to get neutrals. The first dye run, pictured here, consists of a series of combinations of yellow-green and red-violet. At the left, the proportions are 60% RV + 40% YG. At the other extreme, on the right, the proportions are 5% RV + 95% YG. Obviously neither of these produce neutrals, though there is nice toning.

Looking at the colors in real life, the neutrals begin with the second color on the right end: 10% RV + 90% YG. It's really a lovely golden tan. It also shows how strong RV is in comparison to YG: it takes very little RV to create a neutral. The neutrals continue through the 4th sample from the right. The proportions on that sample are: 20% RV + 80% YG. Adding proportionately any more RV moves the results into something that is no longer brown but definitely red.

However, whether that fifth sample would read as a reddish brown or a red would probably depend on the surrounding colors. I may end up using it. I definitely like it!

Monday, September 24, 2007

June Fiber Arts Symposium

I received my Surface Design Newsletter today. In it was a report on a weekend conference coming up in April 2008 near Philadelphia. The opening speaker will be Susan Brandeis. Her talk is called "Living a Creative Life." According to the newsletter, Brandeis will deal with the question of how "we build a creative life and integrate it with demands of job, family and community."

Would I ever like to hear that talk! I am struggling this week with what seems like a tonload of community activities. And I have been feeling so frustrated in trying to figure out how to keep up my usual pace for weaving/dyeing related activities that I have been angry at these other demands on my time. Actually, in the summer, I even got a bit out of sorts with what seemed to be the too frequent long weekend vacation type trips.

Well, of course, I can't keep up the pace that I want to! So I've got to figure out how to stop being angry (and, I must confess, a bit resentful as well) so that I can enjoy both the creative activites I engage in and my "extra-curricular" activities as well.

Unfortunately I cannot attend. But I do hope that Brandeis' talk gets printed up somewhere! For more information on this symposium, which is sponsored both by the Surface Design Association and Studio Quilt Art Associates, go to the conference page at SDA. You must be a member of one of the two sponsoring organizations to attend.

Susan has written, by the way, an interesting article on how to start an maintain a critique group. Go here to read it.

First Dye Samples: Take Two

Amount woven Friday: 6.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 31"

I have finished dyeing the second set of samples of the colors I am going to use for mixing. In the photograph, you can see that in the second set of colors (those at the top of the photo) the colors are more intense than the colors in the first set (those at the bottom of the photo). The yellow-green is the exception. There is a slight intensification of the yellow-green in the second dye group noticeable to the eye, but on the whole it is pretty similar. With the other colors, however, the differences are quite noticeable. In real life these differences are even more obvious.

In the second set I also dyed an additional color: yellow. I decided to do this because I wanted to see what kinds of neutrals would result from combining this with violet. I want to compare them to the neutrals I get when I combine violet with yellow-green. Plans are still quite fluid!

There is a logic for my choice of colors. The logic is based on color choices derived from a square tetrad harmony of blue (the main color), yellow green, orange, and red violet. In my sampling, the blue is a bit on the greenish side and the orange is a bit on the red side. I have also added green and yellow, which are analogous to yellow green (they lie on either side of the yellow green on the color wheel).

Now I am not sure that the colors other than blue will appear in the weaving in their pure form. Their use is to create the neutrals that I will use for the blue to rise up against. Because these other colors are related to the blue in a specific way, the neutrals that result from the various complements should also relate in a pleasing way. We shall see!

The photo incidentally shows part of one of my record-keeping techniques for dyeing. I do have a big ring binder of colors on cards cut to fit in the ring-binder. Each of the large cards holds variations of one particular color.

But when I am dyeing samples for a specific project I use a different record-keeping technique. I make windings on a double layer of inexpensive poster board. I use two layers to give a more rigid piece to wind the yarn around. I glue the two layers together. On the back, I put a piece of double-faced sticky tape so that the yarn that I wind on has something to cling to. None of this is acid free, by the way, with the exception of the tape. I have no intention of keeping these samples forever. I do, however, keep them in a box in a closed cabinet so that light does not get to them to weaken the colors. Also, I punch a hole in the top of each card and connect them with a metal circle grip. Or, if I don't have one of those handy, I use a piece of yarn to join them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More on Resistance

Leigh left an interesting comment to my first post on resistance:

"I move that we classify analysis in a totally different category from creativity. Let's just classify it as "work" and be done with it. I'd also put things like warping the loom in that category, especially heddle threading and treadle tie-up. Then we can just consider these things necessary evils and not obstacles in the creative process. Do I hear a second on this? Show of hands?"

The problem of resistance does not necessarily go away with a reclassification of the problem. Giving the activity that is being resisted another name or label will not necessarily make it easier to do. Besides, "creativity" is also work! Creativity requires the doing of things and the doing of things is work, whether mental or physical. And if there is something a person simply will not or cannot do because he is so resistant to doing it, it doesn't matter whether it is a mental or a physical (or a creative) action. It doesn't matter whether it is a tedious task or a wonderful activity.

In addition, resistance resists the usual efforts of pushing through that work, We may hate threading the loom, or winding a warp, but we can use our will power to push through those feelings and get on with the activity. Resistance, however, is much more subtle, much more powerful, and can make itself felt even with activities we love to do or really want to do.

For me resistance seems to come primarily from a task or activity being too daunting. Organizing one's bedroom, for example. The trick, for me, is to break it up into small parts. But that still will not necessarily overcome the resistance. I have to find a really small place to begin, something that will not take much in the way of either time or energy. Something so easy and short that to do it becomes a no brainer. Sometimes I have had to add another step. I have needed to make a date with myself. For example, after I get dressed on Wednesday morning I will go through my lipsticks.

When I decided to learn how to oil paint many years ago, I had purchased all my supplies and I was very eager to begin. But I didn't. And I didn't. And I didn't. Resistance had reared its ugly head. I read about picking out a tiny beginning task and making a date with yourself and I decided to try that. On a certain day and on a certain time I said I would get out the tubes of paint I would need. Nothing else. I would then be free to go ahead to do something else and just leave those tubes of paint there. The date came and I didn't want to do it, but I did it anyway. Two or three hours later I was still painting..............

In the case of the oil painting, fear probably played into the resistance. But the trick worked. And for a period of time I had to use it whenever I wanted to do another session. Finally I just painted.

In the case of the draft analysis, inexperience and ignorance probably played into that. I knew how to read drafts, but reading them just never really made sense to me. I knew theoretically what was happening, but somehow I could not carry it over to the weaving. I resisted weaving software for a long time because I knew that would short-circuit my ability to understand drafts. I thought that doing them manually would help. What I think I may really have needed to do was to work on my imagination! But the ability to imagine also comes with experience.

Perhaps what has happened is that I am now ready. Before I was not; now I am.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Resistance: Part Two

Amount woven yesterday: 4.0"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 24.5"

Here are the last two sentences from my recent post on resistance:

"...figuring out that first step that might get me going. Maybe I could look at just one block...."

Well, I did just that. I looked at one block and one treadle. I looked in the drawdown to see what happened to one threading unit when I treadled the first treadle. And I looked to see what the tie up was on that treadle so I could see what shafts were up, where the warp would be exposed, and what shafts were down, where the weft would be exposed. I had found the one first baby step that got me going.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Dorothy recently commented:

"I just looked back at your oyster shell.... Please forgive me for being mischievous..., but I notice the shells have interesting texture as well as colour."

Oh yes, Dorothy is being "mischievous" here. She probably has already figured out how my passion for color dominates everything else, including texture! Texture is something that I never even tiptoe near.

But she is right about the implications for texture in that picture. The texture I see is a ridged texture. I am going to make a note of this because I can already see possibilities. Because I am so inexperienced in using texture in my weaving, these possibilities are among the most obvious possible. But the obvious is a good place to begin.

And as well, making notes is not designing or weaving, but it is a place to begin, if only hesitantly, tentatively, warily............

Dorothy, you can be mischievous anytime! Thank you.

First Dye Samples: Results

Amount woven yesterday: 1.0" (well, 1 inch is better than no inches............)
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 24.5"

Here are the pictures of the dyed yarn on my drying rack. It's in the bathroom and the lighting is florescent so the colors don't show right. On the left are the original colors I mixed. They are really a bit more intense than the picture shows. On the right are the yarns I dyed with 50% of one color and 50% of another color. You can't tell anything about these from the picture. One thing that is clear are the tags that I attached to that particular group of skeins. Because I knew the colors would be fairly close, I labeled them so that I could identify them.

These, however, are in incandescent light and the colors show a little bettr. On the top are the original colors. On the bottom are the mixed colors. You can tell even from this picture how much actual color the neutrals have, how far from neutral they really are.

Here is a picture just of the 50%/50% colors, my first experiment in creating neutrals. The picture was taken in incandescent light so the colors show better. You can tell even from this picture how much actual color the neutrals have, how far from neutral they really are.

So dyeing with opposite colors, or with near opposites, in a 50%/50% ration doesn't always work. For one thing, yellow is a very weak color, so if one of the colors is a yellow, or uses a lot of yellow, then, to get a visual 50/50 you really need to use more of the yellow and less of the other color. How much difference depends on the other color. If it is red or has red in it, much less of the red is needed than the yellow because red is very very strong.

Also clear is that the neutrals are in the area of grays, not the brown area. Since I want some neutrals that verge on golden, I am going to do some things with yellow as well.

Normally I dye at 4% DOS (depth of shade). This yields very intense colors, but also can waste dye if not all of it gets absorbed into the yarn. These I dyed at 2% DOS. I am going to repeat this sampling with 4% DOS for the colors are just not intense enough for me.

In any case, I am not only going to redye at 4% DOS, I am also going to approach the combining differently. And, as I said, I am going to add yellow into the mix. I shall continue to post results as I go.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First Dye Samples

Yesterday I started dyeing the samples. Here is a picture of my setup. Note that the coffee pot is a very important element in the setup.........

I use small canning jars to dye my samples in. The individual sample skeins are on a half a gram each. This translates to 5.5 yards of 20/2 silk, that is, if my arithmetic is correct. I make no guarantees for my arithmetic..........

I put the canning jars into a water bath. In this case, two electric skillets hold the water baths. I use hot water and regulate the temperature of the water as I dye. Basically it means taking an hour to get the water bath slowly up to about 185 degrees, and then holding it there for another hour.

The pink towel, by the way, is there because I had just filled the white skillet with hot water to the point of overflowing............

The two stick things you see sticking up from the skillets are thermometers. I don't put the thermometer in the water bath itself but in one of the canning jars. It is the temperature of the water in the canning jars that matters, not the temperature of the water in the skillet.

For me, this is a very efficient setup. One skillet will hold 8 canning jars, the other one 7, so I can dye 15 colors at a time. Until the water gets too hot, I keep a plastic spoon in each jar for stirring. It's constant stirring for the first 20 minutes. After that 20 minutes I start raising the temperature of the water but the stirring then needs to be only occasional. And after awhile the yarns have absorbed so much dye that I can use just one spoon to stir each of the jars.


Amount woven yesterday: 2.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 23.5"

I've been reading about resistance . More specifically I've been reading about resistance in relation to the creative life. The book I've been getting my information from is by Eric Maisel. It is called Creativity for Life. In the chapter on resistance, Maisel defines this as the "remarkably stubborn disinclination to do the work of creating." (page 147)

I have never felt resistance to be particularly a problem for me. When it arises, I am usually able to push through it. There is, however, one thing I have been resisting. I have been resisting it for quite a while now. And right now, at this present moment, the resistance is dreadfully intense because the need to do this particular task is pressing very strongly and unrelentingly.

What is it that I am resisting? I am resisting the task of analyzing crackle drafts. Not just looking at the threading or the treadling. I am talking about analyzing the drafts in order to understand the reasons for the color arrangements I get so that, when I create a draft, I can purposefully create the colors to do what I want to do with them (within the limitations of the crackle structure). This means understanding how treadling, threading, and tieup work together. I simply cannot (will not?) break through this particularly resistance; and that inability is beginning to drive me mad because analysis is precisely what I need to do right now.

Maisel's suggestions do not help, because the resistance he is addressing really involves physical action: getting out the paint brush and painting, sitting at the loom and weaving, opening up the notebook and writing. Often I am resistant to beginning a series of dyeing experiments. I solve that easily. I pick out one, and only one, easy initial task that I can do. Usually that is something like covering the counter surface with oil cloth. Once I do that, I just keep right on! The resistance is broken.

Draft analysis does not involve physical activity. It is a mental process. And I do not know how to break through a purely mental process. I do not know how to break through this because I do not understand enough of what is involved to figure out an initial easy first step. Figuring out that first step that might get me going. Maybe I could look at just one block....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Next Crackle Project

Amount woven Friday: 4.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 21"

Leigh left a comment with this question:

"So are you going to tie on another warp after this, and do as you say with the blue???"

I can give a definite answer to Leigh's first question. No, I am not going to tie on another warp. I will be using a new threading, and the warp will be much narrower, so I will make the warp from scratch.

To the second question I can give no definite answer. The warp will probably be silk, and it will probably be a scarf. What the colors will be or how I will use them I will not be able to figure out until my dyeing experiments are done. The original inspiration for the colors, however, is still the oyster shell photo.

Also, I do not know whether the warp and the weft will be the same weight; nor do I know what the sett will be. Lots of ideas are getting written down, but right now everything is loose, fluid. I want to keep things that way for as long as necessary. This is one of my favorite times in designing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Polychrome 8-shaft Crackle

Amount woven yesterday: 2.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 16.5"

Yesterday I opened my weaving program and sketched in an 8 shaft crackle threading. I used a standard crackle tie up. Then I set up the same kind of treadling I am doing on the current crackle jacket fabric. That is, I used four colors for treadles 1-4, repeated them for treadles 5-8 and then repeated them. I did only one block like this to see if it would work, and it did!

Each drawdown has two parts. On the left side, the warp ends are black. On the right side the warp ends vary in colors. It is the right side I am interested in, but I kept the black warp in for part because it shows more clearly the structure.

Crackle 1 above

Crackle 2 to the right

The threadings for the two are different, by the way.

Crackle 1

Crackle 2

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Critiquing My Work

Amount woven yesterday: 5.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 14"

First, I want to thank Karren for her helpful comment on badly wound pirns:

"...I...rewind badly wound pirns...onto another pirn. No loss of yarn. I usually had to increase the winding tension a bit, a 5 min. fix to an annoying distraction."

Such a simple solution. How could I not have seen it!!! Thank you, Karren. By the way, the reason for increasing the tension on the rewinding is, I assume, to enable the yarn to wind onto the new pirn without the jerking caused by the bad winding.

On an earlier post I quoted Robert Genn as follows:

"Learn to be your own best counsel and private advocate."

And he has also said this in another piece he wrote for his email newsletter:

"Learn to be alone and to be your own best critic."

(To read the entire essay where he made this last statement, go here.)

Sitting at the loom day by day, throwing the shuttle, watching carefully, tends to lead me to be critical of the design I am weaving. Basically, I feel happy about it, but there is something that niggles at me---the blue warp stripes. I had hoped that they would have been less dominant, blurred more than they are by the crossing weft threads. That is one of the reasons I chose a lighter blue for one of the weft threads instead of the more medium blue of the warp. The areas I like the best are when the blues are only 2-4 warp ends wide.

The photo on the left shows the blues as more muted than they really are so it does not seem to present so much the problem I am talking about. In truth, the photo is closer to what I would actually like to see on the loom than what is on the loom!

I wonder if in part what I see in the image is more like what I would see standing at a distance from the cloth. Weaving fabric is very tricky because ultimately it will be seen, and should be readable from, widely varying distances.

However, were I to make this warp again, I would design the layout of the three colors, without the blue, much as I did here. Then I would interpolate bits of blue, sometimes for only one warp end, sometimes for two, and sometimes for three, four or even maybe five. The emphasis, however, always would be on the smaller number.

Winding an odd number of warp ends creates a slight difficulty, as I would have to tie it either onto the board or onto the preceding warp end on one side. I couldn't just wind it up, and then down, and then wind it around the last peg awaiting for its next turn. But heck, there is already so much fiddling and tinkering, why not a bit more?!

One of the things that intrigues me is standing at the side of the loom, a little away from it, and looking at the woven fabric sideways. Standing there I can see a kind of a glittering optical illusion of a pattern. It is interesting, that this is more visible in the picture at the left which is taken from the front of the loom! This must have something to do with the built-in flash.

In any case, what is visible is the underlying structural pattern. It is even more visible in real life when I stand at the side of the loom. This pattern is otherwise pretty well hidden by the interplay of colors. But I think this effect is pretty neat. I wonder if it will be lost completely when I cut up the cloth and sew it into a garment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Plugging Away on Yard Three

Amount woven yesterday: 4.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 8.5"

I had been thinking I was heading for home plate. After all, the total amount I am to weave is 3.1 yards. I looked at my notes. Wrong. 4.2 yards. I am a bit deflated. Weaving fatigue is beginning to hit. My concentration begins to lapse earlier than it did. My body begins to complain earlier than it did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pirn Winding

Amount woven yesterday: 3.5"
Amount woven to date: 2 yards + 4"

Pirns are what are used on end feed shuttles. They differ from bobbins in that they are tapered. Also, instead of winding them back and forth, the weaver winds them a half inch at a time. On the left is what a correctly wound pirn should look like. To see a good illustration of how to wind pirns, go here.

One pirn is has been giving me a devil of a time. It jerks, it catches, it is not at all nice. It is incorrectly wound. Not terribly incorrectly. Just enough to drive me up a wall. I could, of course, just cut the yarn off the pirn and wind it again. But frugality won't let me. Sob.

Below the image of the correctly wound pirn is a close-up of an incorrectly wound pirn. The image is a bit fuzzy. I have taken and taken pictures to try to get one that will show what it looks like. My digital photography skills, which I thought had been improving, are being sorely tested. I have a lot to learn there as well! Anyway, though the picture is a bit fuzzy, I still think you can spot the problem area.

The problem area is right at the base of the black pirn. There is a little sliver of black where you can see through the wound yarn to the pirn itself. This should not be. It means that the yarn right there has loosened up a little bit. And then just above the sliver of black is a place where the yarn seems to recede a bit. At this point the layers are cutting through each other a bit. What then will happen when that shuttle is thrown is that the thread coming off the pirn will catch on the layers that are bad, trying to pull the yarn which has actually slipped underneath. So it catches and the yarn stops unwinding, and it stops unwinding very abruptly! And when this happens, it pulls at the selvedge it is coming from. So, not only do I have to get the yarn winding off again, but I have to reset the yarn at the selvedge. Very frustrating!

To the left is a picture of another pirn that gave me trouble for a little while. This picturet too is fuzzy, but what is visible is the yarn going askew at the point where it is coming off the pirn.

To wind the pirns, I use an electric bobbin winder and put the yarn through an adjustable tensioner to keep it at high tension. My winding skills have much improved, but clearly I have my "moments"! It does take practice to learn how to do it right. But, especially when weaving with fine threads, the effort involved is worth it. The pirns are big and hold a lot of yarn and the help improve selvedges.......when the yarn doesn't catch, that is!

Related Post: Shuttle/Pirn Problem

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ergonomics at the Loom

Amount woven Friday: 4.0"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+36.5", also known as 2 yards + 0.5"

I have arthritis in my left ankle and knee, results of previous breaks at both joints; so looms and treadling techniques are very important to me. My first loom was a counter balance loom. CB looms are the easiest treadling of all looms. Once I learned to activate the backs of my thighs when I pressed down on the treadles I was just fine. My thighs were doing the brunt of the work. My calves, and feet simply followed through with the work that was initiated by my thighs. My knees and ankles, however, did little actual work.

I traded in my CB loom three years ago for an 8-shaft jack loom. It has rear-hinged treadles. I had seriously considered getting a counter-marche loom. On this kind of a loom the rising shafts are tied up (as in a jack loom) and also the lowering shafts are tied up (as in a counter-balance loom). One result is clear sheds, even with seriously unbalanced tie-ups. Another result is easy treadling. The downsides are expense and much more complicated tie-ups.

LeClerc advertised their rear-hinged treadle Nilus II loom with the statement that it is as easy to treadle as a 4-shaft counter-balance loom. It is. But I have had a problem treadling that I didn't have with the CB loom. It seemed that the only way I could treadle it was with the balls of my feet as the source of my power, not my thighs. Part of this was due to the fact that the treadles are narrower than those on my CB loom. But also, if you look at the first picture, there is what appears to be a step on the treadle. For me to get my entire foot on the treadle would mean I would have to get my toes up on that step. Yes, I have big feet............... Not wide, just long.

But there is yet another significant difference. Because the hinging is at the back, the treadles are low--close to the floor--at the back but high up in the front. The second photo shows the treadles as they appear at the rear of the loom. This is just the reverse of the usual way treadles are hinged. It is just the reverse of the way the treadles on my CB loom were hinged. As a result, I have usually been sitting at a fair distance back from the front beam. It just has felt like a comfortable position in terms of the amount my knees needed to bend to reach Indeed, if I didn't sit far away, it felt as though my knees were coming up to my chin!

Friday, however, I decided to move the bench just a bit closer to the loom. This way I didn't have to lean quite as far forward to throw the shuttles and look into the mirrors at the side. As I treadled I realized that on my right foot (the good foot), the heel was going down and I was using my thigh to push down. Most of my foot was on the treadle. And my heel went down lower than my toes when I pushed, stretching my calf. And that is a very good thing. I then worked on imitating that with my left leg. I have once again found comfortable treadling.

For good information on learning how to use a counter-marche loom, check out Leigh's blog.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Floating Selvedges and Multiple Shuttles

Amount woven yesterday: 3.0"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+32.5"

I have been thinking a bit about the selvedge issue I raised earlier in an earlier post. There I explained that the easiest way for me to manage the four shuttles was to start all four on the same side. This results in a slightly different looking selvedge, but it is fine.

One thing I could have done instead was to start all the shuttles on the same side, but alternate the over-under sequence. In other words, shuttle 1 would go over the first floating selvedge and under the last. Shuttle 2 would go under at beginning and over at end. Shuttle 3 would go over at beginning and under at end. And Shuttle 4 would go under at beginning and over at end. On the return trip from the left side to the right side I would have to reverse the sequence. Because shuttle 4 had gone over the last warp, and the last warp is now the first warp, shuttle 1 would have to go under the first floating selvedge and over the last. And the rest would continue to alternate.

Doing this would have been slightly tricky, but it would not have caused the difficulties that starting shuttles from opposite ends would have cause me. Starting shuttles from opposite ends would have given me far too many opportunities for mistakes!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Anger despite Playing with Dyes

Amount woven yesterday: 0.0"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+29.5"

I was so angry with myself. I wove nothing yesterday. I didn't throw a single pass. It's not as if I sat on my butt all day. I spent part of the day mixing dye stock solutions to make the colors that I am going to use for my first set of dye experiments for my next warp.

This morning, when I started weaving today, all the anger left.

Here is a picture of my dyeing "work station"--a part of my kitchen counter. I work only with liquid solutions here, not with dye powders. The making of the stock solutions using the dye powders I do in the garage, with the garage door wide open (and no breeze coming in).

Newspapers are much in evidence. I need them to soak up any spilled dye. But invisible and underneath is a length of oil cloth. This is the same oil cloth my mother used to use on her kitchen table. I buy it by the yard at Hancock Fabrics. I still need the newspapers, however, because the oilcloth does not absorb liquid. I do not want to risk any spilled liquid running onto the floor!

To the right are the stock solutions. These are pure colors made from dye powders. Most are Sabraset dyes, but there is a Washfast Acid magenta. To the right are the six colors I made up yesterday. These are the colors I will use to dye sample pieces of silk. I will use them "pure" first in order to have a record of what the unadulterated colors look like. Then I will mix them in various proportions.

In the glass jar between the two sets of dyes are some of my instruments, pipettes for measuring small amounts of liquid and thermometers for checking the temperature of the dye pots. The white round thing in the front is the bulb I use to draw up the liquid into the pipettes. Then there is masking tape that I use to label the solutions. Rubber gloves.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Fiber Art as Fine Art

Amount woven yesterday: 7.5"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+29.5"

I accidentally found myself at a small fiber show last night. The show consisted of works by a Susan Lenz of Columbia SC. There were two kinds of work in the gallery. One kind consisted of arranging yarns, ribbons, threads across a dissolvable web and then free motion embroidering with her sewing machine over them. The result was something that looked remarkably like weaving. I loved the colors and textures. The pieces were mounted on white mat board. The mat board, in other words, did not cover the edges. The edges, in all their messiness were there for all to see. The messiness was not great, however. It was just enough to reveal the maker's hand. And the whole thing was framed. The fiber pieces themselves, without mat board or frame appeared to be about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

The other kind of piece consisted of very small fabric squares. They appeared to be about one inch square. They were embellished with paints and free motion embroidery. They were then linked to one another with free motion embroidery. I assume the pieces were laid on dissolvable web and then the machine stitching was done. And I call it linking because there was space between each of the individual pieces. As with the previous type, the complete piece was placed on a white mat board and then framed. The size of these works as also about 12 inches wide by 30 inches tall.

Strange, I have been vaguely thinking about small weavings. Weaving with weavettes. Pin weaving. Perhaps I am reacting to weaving all this yardage?

I walked back to my car with renewed energy.

When I Googled Susan's name, I learned, much to my sorrow, that her current interest seems to be primarily altered books, though she is starting to play with quilting. Why this shift? I reflected on what I had seen. Yes, I really liked the stuff. And yes, her stuff made me think about what I was doing. But her stuff was all the same. She was really only repeating the same two ideas over and over again. There was no development. She must have been bored. I certainly would have been. She must have seen no possibilities for exploring in new ways what she was already doing. So she moved on to something different.

To learn more about Susan Lenz, check out her blog.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Managing Multiple Shuttles

Dorothy recently asked how I managed the four shuttles I am weaving with:

"A problem I need to solve, that I realise you must a means of managing, is what to do with the shuttles I put down when using more than one. Where do you rest yours? I find them in the way if I balance them on the cloth, and if I put them on the breast beam all to often they get knocked on the floor."

Weaving a wide warp, such as this current yardage, does not cause a management problem for me. I sit on a wide weaving bench and there is plenty of room to set them at my side. If I did not have a bench, I would put a small TV table on each side of me to hold them.

I also keep them in order. The one I pick up is the one closest to my body. When I put it down on the other side, if it is not the first of the four shuttles, I put it behind (farther away from my body) the previous shuttle. This retains the order. Still, every time I start weaving a new block, I re-check the colors to make sure they are still in correct order.

Weaving a narrow warp (10"-12", for example) does create problems for me. Setting them at my side doesn't work well at all. Setting them there draws too much thread out of the shuttle in relation to the width of the warp. Consequently threads get a bit tangled up and make weaving more awkward. If I am working with only two shuttles I can generally keep them on the loom, on the woven fabric. I'm not sure this is good for the warp, however. Also, I like to weave fairly close to the front beam, so there is not really that much woven fabric to store the shuttles on.

I've tried using the breast beam, and yes, they get knocked to the floor. I finally got a couple of pieces of wood from the hardware store, covered them with carpet padding to keep them from being slick, and attached them to the front beam, one on each side, with C-clamps. Right now, the system is not as good as it could be because the size of the pieces of wood are not really quite right---I just bought scraps that I guessed would work. But it works well enough that it would be worth my while to work out the optimal size and have them cut for me at the hardware store. I haven't done that yet, however.

One caveat about the wood boards: I can't attach them until after the front rods have gone over the front beam and disappeared underneath. But that doesn't take long to happen.

Shut Up and Weave

Amount woven yesterday: 8"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+22"

With apologies to Robert Genn, who titled one of his essays: "Shut Up and Paint." And a good essay it is with much to say to us weavers, as well as to writers and other artists.

The basic thrust of Genn's essay is that telling people what we are doing as we are working on it and telling people our ideas for what we plan to do is not good for our efforts. It is not good for us because in the telling we lose some of the enthusiasm for the doing. The creative energy diminishes.

He even attacks show-and-tell. I mentioned my own suspicions about show-and-tell in an earlier post. Here is my statement from that post:

"I resist show-and-tells. I resist sending my work to shows. I have done both. And I do enjoy the praise and the occasional award. But these have a subtle negative effect on me as well. Sometimes they make me want to go out and do more and better in a terrible rush of energy, almost in a sense of desperation. Sometimes, on the other hand, they just somehow kind of sap my energy. In either case, I have to recover my sense of perspective."

And here is what Robert Genn has to say:

"Even a discussion or show-and-tell that leads to positive enthusiasm and encouragement can take the wind out of your sails. It's almost as if the approval is enough--a work of art on its own."

Then he goes on to discuss the bad effects desire for approval can have on one's work.

So what about this blog? Should I close up shop? Is blogging sapping creative energy that could be used for weaving? No, I do not think so. In fact, as I said once before, blogging seems to intensify my weaving efforts. And it does so, in part, by helping to keep weaving on the front burner, so to speak. Blogging actually energizes me vis-a-vis weaving. The process of articulating as carefully as I can what I am doing and what I am thinking helps me focus.

However, Genn does make some particular points that I shall listen carefully to. He says, for example:

"Never explain to others what you intend to do."

I have done a little of that, and I think I shall really try to avoid doing that. The particular one that comes to mind is the statement of my intention to explore finer setts on future crackle warps. As a matter of fact, what I plan on doing when I have finished weaving the current fabric, is to remove the cloth and resley what is left at a finer sett and see what happens. Here I don't think I'm talking about creative ideas but about a basic technical issue. Although technical and creative issues are inter-related, this is not, I believe, what Genn is talking about. Besides, putting in print my intention to resley the current warp will put more pressure on me actually to do that when the time comes. I do not look forward to doing that. Consequently any kind of pressure I can bring to bear on myself will help! It's kind of like putting pressure on oneself to diet by announcing those intentions to one's friends.

In any case, I regard the blog as a journal in which I talk about what I am doing, not what I intend on doing. And I regard it as a journal for sharing share random thoughts about issues relating to weaving. I am not putting out my work to gather comments. Well, I might possibly make an exception about the picture of the baby blankets; in fact, just to who off once more, here is the link.......

As for future ideas of a "creative" nature, these have another place (on the computer of course!), and I have no intention of sharing them! They are much too tender to risk input of any kind, even positive, from anyone else.

Genn also says:

"Learn to be your own best counsel and private advocate."

This has been hard for me to learn. When we moved from the Atlanta area two years ago I was most unhappy. I was moving from a marvelously supportive weaving guild to an area with virtually no weaving at all. And for awhile I missed the Atlanta guild tremendously. But moving away turned out to be the instigator to my growing up. I have had to learn to trust my ideas, my path, my self-criticisms. In short, I had to find my own way.

He has other things to say as well, but there is one more of his directives I want to note:

"Do not be concerned when you talk to yourself."

Note that he uses the work "when," not "if"..............

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mirrors and Weaving

Amount woven Friday: 5.5"
Amount woven to date: 1 yard+14"

Here is a bit of my mirror setup at the loom. This is the mirror on my right as I sit at the loom. The shed on the loom is closed. You can see, however, the raised warp thread on the right. If you look at the mirror, you can also see it (faintly) in the mirror. That is a floating selvedge. From it, you can get an idea of what I see in the mirror when the shed is open.

I also have a mirror on the left side of the loom. I really need to check on both sides. They also help me make sure my shuttle is really going over and under the appropriate floating selvedges in the way that they ought to.

In addition, on my right side, at my back, I have a floor lamp which focusses on the warp. And on the left side of the loom, I have a small long-necked lamp sitting on the table. The light from this lamp also focusses on the warp. These lamps make all the difference in the world in allowing me to see clearly through the sheds.

The mirrors, by the way, are inexpensive cosmetic mirrors. The ability to tilt them at an angle facilitates getting a good view of the open shed. One side of each mirror magnifies. I do not use that side!