Friday, February 29, 2008


When I am using multiple shuttles, I usually lay them in order at my side on my weaving bench.


But today, picking them up at my right with my right hand started to bother my right shoulder. I was reaching back and so my shoulder was pulling back and then, when picking up the shuttle, I was putting weight on that pulled-back shoulder. This is the shoulder/arm that is healing from the damaging effects of years of carrying a (very heavy) purse on my right shoulder, and from a mild case of tendinitis from overuse of the mouse. The whole system on my right side is now almost healed. I certainly don't want jeopardize the final healing.


What could I do? I don't have room to arrange three shuttles on the woven web. But I do have room to arrange two.


I decided to put the third shuttle on the front beam alongside the web. The problem with that is the possibility (inevitability?) of knocking the resting shuttle off as I threw the other shuttles. But the solution worked. I never knocked the shuttle off once. I was, however, very careful. Perhaps this is not the ideal solution if one is weaving lickety-split.

The light-colored shuttle directly in front is a Schacht end-feed shuttle. The other two, dark brown, shuttles are Bluster Bay end feed shuttles. The Schacht is smaller and lighter. The Schacht would probably be easier on my shoulder right now. But it does not hold nearly as much yarn as the Bluster Bay. But I could probably arrange the placement of the fell so that I could get three of of the Schacht shuttles on the web. But I really like the Bluster Bay shuttles.


I did devise another solution a while back. I got two small boards and covered them with rug padding for the shuttles to stick to. And I attached them to the front beam on either side of me with C-clamps.

I could have gotten these out and clamped them on. But I had so little left to weave, and I'm not using four shuttles, and I am lazy........

Related Posts:
The Joy of Multiple Shuttles
The Perils of Multiple Shuttles
Managing Multiple Shuttles
Weaving with Multiple Shuttles


For any who could not find the treadling errors with the aqua binder yarn, here is a blowup with arrows pointing them out.

Since the error repeats across the entire width of the web, you can also look to the right of the arrows and see them.

If you have trouble seeing them on this page, just click on the image and a magnified version should appear on your screen.

Related Post: Treadling Mistakes

Thursday, February 28, 2008


This is the last of my "Tromp as Writ" Summer and Winter treadlings using 10/2 pearl cotton for pattern weft.

The blue at the bottom of the photo is from the last post on this subject. The color rendition, unlike that in the previous post, is not too bad here. What is probably fairly invisible are the mistakes in the third treadled block. But, if you click on the picture, a more detailed picture should show up which will make it easier to find the error.

One of the binder threads I used was 20/2 cotton aqua. I alternated that with a gold binder. One time I forgot what I was doing and found myself throwing three aqua binders instead of alternating the gold and aqua. Since this is only a sample, I let it go and continued weaving the correct sequences. After a bit, I looked back and rather liked this mistake.

So I decided to repeat it. You can find the mistake in two more treadled blocks. Conclusion? for right now I am calling them "mistakes" with quotation marks around the word. I have decided that this particular "mistake" has definite merit as a design possibility.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dyeing Silk

Renee wondered what kind of dye I was using. For silk I use Sabraset/Lanaset dyes from ProChem. I have dyed silk with fiber reactive dyes. They yield nice results but not the brilliance that the Sabraset/Lanaset dyes do.

Once the initial 20 minutes of continually dipping the fiber in and out of the dye pot (10 minutes with the chemical additives, then 10 minutes with the dye solution poured in), is done, there is very little stirring or moving that needs to be done. Some, yes. But most of the color by that point has been absorbed. But not all. The darkened parts were clearly scorched areas. I laughed to myself when I realized that, for I thought about when I have done the very same thing to food.

Related Post:
Immersion Dyeing Issues

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Immersion Dyeing Issue

A problem I occasionally have had in immersion dyeing is the darkening of small parts of the skeins. In the case of deep colors, parts of the skeins might appear almost blackened. This discoloration, strangely enough, didn't have any negative effect on the weaving. Still, it was an issue I wanted to solve.


The solution began when I thought about the pots I use. They are stainless steel. Aluminum would have an adverse effect on the colors. But they are cheap stainless steel pots. This means that the pots, including the bottoms, are very thin.


Also my stove is gas. The bottoms of the pots get very hot, and because they are so thin, the inside of the bottoms get very hot as well. And after the initial period of dipping the skeins in and out of the dye liquid, I pretty much didn't move the skeins at all. For two hours. The parts of the skeins on the bottom actually burned! Just like food.


I had read once that using marbles would solve the problem. I am sure they would. But I had none and didn't really know where to buy them.


So, when it was time to dye these red silk yarns for the warp, I decided that I just had to stop being lazy and move those skeins about a bit every once in a while. The first hour (after than initial period of continually raising and lowering the skeins) is not hard because I have to stay very close to those dyepots. During that first hour I am trying very slowly to raise the temperature from 120 degrees to 180-190 degrees at the rate of 1 degree per minute. This requires constant checking and occasionally manipulation of the heat. So I added to that, occasional rearrangement of the skeins.

The second hour I am much freer to go do other things because by then I have a handle on where the burner has to be to maintain the 180-190 degrees. So I set the timer for 15 minutes and every 15 minutes I returned and (also checking the temperature) re-arranged the skeins.

The result, I am happy to say, is that there didn't seem to be any scorched parts on the skein.

Monday, February 25, 2008


The cone on the left is one of the cones from my first red dye lot.

The cone on the right is from the second red dye lot. I think they are just pleasingly enough different to use for the warp. And this despite my tremendous goof in dyeing the first dye lot.

But doesn't the cone on the left look just a little strange? The bottom quarter of the cone is built up only a little bit. Most of the yarn went onto the top three-quarters of the cone. Huh?

This strange event happened with all three cones of that dye lot.


When I started winding the second dye lot I started paying a little bit closer attention to what was happening. And then I saw the problem. I had been angling the yarn up from the Goko down to the cone winder. As soon as I straightened out the angle, all went well.

You might also notice that loose circle of yarn at the bottom of the cone on the left side. That bit of yarn didn't quite get caught where it was to go. As soon as I saw what had happened I wound back a little bit to see if I could straighten it up. But it happened too far back to make it worth while. I am hoping it will not turn into too much of an annoyance when I wind the warp on the warping board.

Related Post: Skeins to Cones

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weaver Agnes Hauptli

In one of her blog posts today, Meg Nakagawa linked to New Zealand weaver Agnes Hauptli. Go here to see her web page. Here you will find a brief bio. On this page as well is a link to her gallery. When I saw her gallery all I could say was "wow"!

I wanted to see if I could learn more about her. What I did find was an earlier website of hers. Here is a website which shows her weaving from 2001 to 2005. What a transformation has taken place since then! What a lot of work must have taken place to cause such amazing growth.


Looking carefully at the photo of this skein on the Goko shows some loose threads wandering around. If you look really carefully you can even see one at the top left-side of the skein just wandering over the nicely grouped yarns.

The threads are not loose in the sense of being free. I can follow them around the skein and they are nicely included in each of the tied groups. What has happened is that they have become longer than the rest of the skein.

When I arrange the threads on the Goko, getting them all aligned, I can see that there is a lot of slight looseness in general, that the skein is not wound exactly evenly.


It's not unlike what happens when you beam a warp. Normally when I come to the end after beaming, I find that the warp ends, which all had supposedly been even, are now a bit uneven. This happens because I do not wind each end on the warping board with the same exact tension. Fortunately I come close. (Un?)fortunately I am human.


This does not normally create a problem for me in the weaving. And these loose ends on the Goko did not create any real problems in winding the cone. What happens is that every once in awhile, a yarn will have caught onto another yarn. They will have become just too friendly! One or both of these yarns are a bit looser than the rest. Usually just winding separates them. If they have formed a really close friendship, I have to take my hands and pull them apart.


This sort of thing had always happened to me frequently and regularly. So frequently and so regularly that I always dreaded winding the dyed skeins onto cones. Clearly the tyeing off into very small groups of 100 ends has done the trick.

When I warp fine silk, I make very small bouts, 60-90 ends each when I am warping at about 60 epi. The small bouts there also solved the issue of yarns that became too friendly as I beamed on.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


The third skein I wound onto the cone, well, it was not perfect............ I put the skein on the Goko. I arranged the groups so that they were in the right order. And there it was--a loose end.

My first thought was that the tie I had used to join the two ends of the skein had broken and so left the ends floating free. But when I followed that loose end partly around the skein, this turned out not to be the case.

Apparently the yarn got cut somehow. When I skeined it for dyeing, there was no problem. How could it have gotten cut? Perhaps this is one of those mysteries that will never be solved.


More to the point: what to do? There didn't seem much I could do except bravely to sally forth and wind the cone.

Quite frankly, I was anticipating something of a mess with lots and lots of knots having to be made. In actuality the winding actually went quite well. I simply had to stop three or four times when the yarn ended prematurely. Then I had to find the end on the skein to tie it to.

One time I actually had to cut the yarn myself as it had somehow gotten caught in the skein to the point that I could not release it. So I ended up with three or four knots. This is not really horrible. I have purchased cones of yarns with knots. No cone or skein of yarn is immune to the problem.


This skein with the knots is one of the skeins I am using for the warp. Knots are not generally a problem, only a nuisance. When I get to a knot, all I have to do is unwind back to the start, cut and tie so that the knot is at one of the warp ends and continue winding the warp.

However, I am going to be winding four ends at once. It is not so easy to stop and start with four ends in order to fix one end. An easy solution I have used in the past is to let it be and when I get to it in the weaving, just treat it as I would a broken end.

This time I think I shall try to figure out an easier way to fix it when I am winding the bouts.

Meanwhile, I have marked this cone as containing knots and to use last. Who knows, maybe I won't even need it for the warp!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


This is a photo of the setup I use to wind skeins onto cones. I am in the same corner of the same room as when I was winding skeins. I do sit down, by the way, to do this, as well as to wind skeins. I have removed the chair to make the setup a little clearer.


On the left is the skein holder for the yarn. This is a Goko adjustable skein holder made by Schacht. It resembles a skein holder I once saw in use at Habu Textiles. It was a little smaller, made of wood, sat on the floor and looked extraordinarily fragile. I had thought about calling Habu to see if I could buy one, but then I saw the Goku.


The Goko is a wonderful tool for unwinding fine yarns because it holds the yarn perpendicular to the floor, unlike a swift. A swift can be mounted so the skein is in the same position but this is awkward and the swift still has an angle to it. Also the Goko turns easily and smoothly. All I need to do is keep my (gloved!) hand on the yarn as it comes off the Goko.

I had used my LeClerc skein winder for this. It does not turn so easily. In fact, often I would have to use my left hand to turn it at the same time that I used my right hand to turn the cone winder. The Goko is really nice.


Unlike the skein winder, which sat on the top shelf, I have put the cone winder on the middle shelf. This is easier on my arm; I don't have to reach up to wind. It also allows the yarn to enter the cone winder mechanism at a better angle. That means it is less likely to burp, causing the winding yarn to drop to the bottom of the cone.

Here is a closeup of the cone winder.

It is an inexpensive little thing, though not so inexpensive when you consider all the cones I have bought for it! I prefer it to a ballwinder as the cones flow much more smoothly up the cone holder when I make warps. And the cones also flow much more smoothly onto the pirns when I am winding those.


Here is a closer view of the yarn going from the Goko to the cone winder.

The looped length of yarn is where I keep my left hand. However, for the purpose of the photo, I have moved the Goko quite close to the cone winder so that I could get both in the picture and still be able to see that yarn length. In this picture you can clearly see the handle that I turn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Time is passing and the deadline for the Blue Ridge Show will be here before I know it. The problem is, what I weave for the show must be a masterpiece. Nothing less will do. Thinking this way turns the whole thing into an ego trip. That is not good for my weaving. That is not good for me.


I had never read anything about this phenomenon until a few days ago. In a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal an article by Terry Teachout called "Importantitis, Enemy of Art" appeared (Feb. 16-17, 2008). In this essay, Teachout wrote of the problem artists develop if, instead of working regularly and consistently to produce works, they try to produce "the" great work. "The" great work could be a novel, a movie, a piece of art.

He does not mention weaving, but it could just as easily be a piece of weaving. What happens to the artist when he focuses on creating this masterpiece, is that either he ends up producing nothing at all or what he does manage to produce is worth very little.


The problem seems to begin, according to Teachout, when the artist does produce, quite unwittingly, a great piece, a masterpiece. Bernstein's "West Side Story" and Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane," are two of the classic works he cites.

Having produced a major work, a masterpiece, the artist tries to produce another masterpiece. He has savored the joys of having created a masterpiece, revels in those joys, and wants to re-create that all over again.


I especially like what Teachout says about George Balanchine, a great and prolific choreographer. "..Balanchine...went about his business efficiently and unpretentiously, turning out out a ballet or two every season. Most were brilliant, a few were duds, but no matter what the one he'd just finished was like, and no matter what the critics thought of it, he moved on to the next one with the utmost dispatch."

A bit later, Teachout adds that Balanchine "...saw himself as an artistic craftsman whose job was to make ballets." I particularly like Teachout's choice of words "artistic craftsman" and "job."

To read the entire piece by Teachout, go here.


It is not always easy to keep the focus on one's work and off of oneself. It is especially difficult for me when I want to weave something for show. I have found that having three pieces going, at very different stages, is very helpful to keep my focus on the work instead of on me.

To learn more about my three-piece process, go here and here.

Related Posts:

Monday, February 18, 2008



On Friday I dyed three skeins in a deep slightly blued red. I worked out the figures for dyeing at 3% depth of shade. Normally I tend to dye at 4% depth of shade, but I wanted this red to be not quite so deep.

I left the yarns in the dyepot to soak overnight, as I always do. This gives every last little dye molecule more of a chance to attach itself to the yarn.


In the morning, when I removed the skeins, the water was still quite red. This is very unusual. Ideally, if you've got your numbers and your dyeing procedures right, the water should be clear. There should also ber little if any washout.

I have never had absolutely clear water at the end. It has always been a little pale.


So I rinsed out the skeins. And I rinsed. And I rinsed. Finally the skeins stopped bleeding.

Never before have I had to do this much rinsing. This is what happens with Procion MX dyes. It should not happen with acid dyes.


I checked my figures. Something didn't seem right. I had used close to 900 ml of 1% dye solution. At the time, that number niggled at me. I didn't pay the niggle any serious thought. I should have.

When I looked again at my figures and got my calculator out to re-figure I saw what I had done. The figure I had written down was the amount to use to achieve the 3% DOS in the yarn I was going to dye. I had not written 3% DOS down after the number. When I actually started the dyeing procedures, I had assumed that the number was a 1% DOS number, so I tripled that number to get the requisite 3% DOS.


It is in the details that I inevitably go wrong. This has been true all my life. I have always been a kind of big picture, generalist kind of person. But the details are very very important. This is one area where I need to stretch myself.


This, too, is something I am not good at. I need, also, to learn to pay give importance to those little niggles, instead of running headlong down the hill and giving them no heed.

But I love the color I got....

Related Post: "I Really Ought Not to Be a Dyer"

Thursday, February 14, 2008



Ann Milner,
The Ashford Book of Dyeing, revised edition. This is my favorite and most used book. It is the one I turn to when I have questions and cannot remember formulas. It has chapters on both natural dyeing and chemical dyeing. The chemical dyes include dyes for protein fibers and cellulose fibers. It has chapters on immersion dyeing, dye painting and dip dyeing, using a microwave oven. And it has a wonderful chapter on dyeing experiments using small bits of fiber (yarn or fabric). I have done some of them and have learned much as a result. I cannot recommend this book too highly.

Karren K. Brito, Shibori: Creating Color and Texture on Silk. This book is not just about shibori, it is also about using Sabraset/Lanaset dyes. It is this book that helped me refine and hone my immersion dyeing techniques on silk yarn with Sabraset dyes.

Deb Menz, Color in Spinning. This book is especially useful if you are dyeing fleece. It is also very useful for dyeing any kind of fiber with the Sabraset/Lanaset dyes. I prefer using the procedures Karren outlines in the second book I listed, but Deb has got lots of good information, good pictures, and a lot of interesting formulas for various colors. I have used some of her formulas to add to my own collection and also to give me inspiration for modifying some of my own formulas.

Betsy Blumenthal and Kathryn Kreider, Hands On Dyeing. This was not the book that taught me how to dye, but it is one I would very much recommend for the very beginner who doesn't know where to start. The book is very very beginner friendly and at the same time very sound in technique. Though written for beginners, it uses the metric system, not the English system that we all know. Having started with the English system and then moved to the metric, I cannot say strongly enough how much better the metric system is.

They talk about the very basics of dyeing techniques and then move onto more details of the process. There are chapters on color theory and color mixing. There is a chapter on dip dyeing and rainbow dyeing and another chapter on overdyeing. That last chapter is valuable for there are few books that discuss overdyeing.


Patricia Lambert, Barbara Staepelaere and Mary G. Fry, Color and Fiber. A big book, both physically and in terms of content. There is a lot of scientific theory of color here, but with particular application to fiber. There are some interesting exercises. I look at it a bit from time to time. It is always challenging. Whether I will actually grow into the book is a difficult question.

Janet DeBoer, ed., Dyeing for Fibres and Fabrics. A collection of essays from an Australian textile periodical. Most are easy to read and all are interesting.

Bailey Curtis, Dyeing to Colour: Microwave Dyeing and other Quick and Easy Methods of Colouring Fabric with Dye. Quick dyeing is not my particular thing, but I appreciate that it does have its place. I also appreciate that this is exactly what many wannabe dyers need and they may never need or want anything else. This, I think, is one of the better books. The book is English, so there are some English terms and a few English dyes. But this should not create a problem for Americans who want to try these techniques.

Linda LaBelle, The Yarn Lover's Guide to Hand Dyeing: Beautiful Color and Simple Knits. This is a lovely book with some interesting dyeing projects. I particularly like the pictures on page 79 which photograph just exactly how this person dipdyes a skein of yarn in multiple pots of different colored dye solutions.

Katy Jane Widger, The New Color Wheel Fabric Dyeing. I'm not actually recommending this particular book. I am including it because it is the first edition of this book that got me started in dyeing some ten years ago. It uses the English system. There are apparently some inaccuracies (this from people on the email dyers list). But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Here is a continuation of Summer and Winter "tromp as writ" treadling experiments with different colors of threads.


The colors are not particularly accurate. In particular, the aqua does not read as aqua and the blue reads as purple. Clicking on the image does give you a bit more accurate version.

And the red cast is not nearly so obvious in the fabric. It is extraordinarily obvious in the image you click on as well as the image as it appears on the page. Not so in real life.

I am particularly sorry about the failure of the aqua to show correctly. It is what happened with the aqua in these treadlings that has made me decide to add a definite blue green weft to use in the next silk crackle.


What you see here are three different sets of colors. Each experiment is treadled for two blocks.

The first two blocks, at the bottom, use darkish blue and a darkish green in 10/2 pearl cotton for the pattern wefts; yellow and bright blue in 20/2 pearl cotton for the binder wefts. It is interesting to note how assertive the colors of the binder wefts are, how much they affect that whole color design.

In the middle two blocks I used the same darkish blue and green for the pattern wefts. But for the binder wefts, in 20/2 pearl cotton, I used aqua and bright but darkish blue. In these two blocks, the color effect is much more uniform.

The top two blocks use darkish green and gold 10/2 pearl cotton for the pattern wefts. The binder wefts are the aqua and bright but darkish blue of the middle two blocks.

Related Post: "Tromp as Writ"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008



I have made the dyeing decisions for the warp. Two reds. Both relatively dark/dulled but not devoid of brightness. I have worked out the formulas. I have made the solutions. Let the dyeing begin.


Also, in light of what has been happening with the sample crackle on the loom, I have modified some of the formulas for the blue wefts.


I am, however, now slowed down by wrist/forearm tendinitis, thanks to overzealous mousing. And I am slowed down by a pulled biceps muscle partly due to too many years of carrying a heavy purse on that shoulder, partly by some overzealous stretching for the tendenitis.

I was recovering nicely.

By the end of yesterday, however, I learned that all the pouring I had to do in preparation for the dyeing badly affected my biceps. Carrying too-heavy trays into the garage to do some mixing of dye powders did not help.

Nor can I weave because picking up the shuttle at the shuttle race affects precisely the forearm tendon that the mouse has so nicely hurt.

Dyeing will progress...........slowly...........patiently............carefully.............

Monday, February 11, 2008


I have my computer back so here are some photos of my skeining setup. The top picture is an overview of the setup. This is the corner of my sewing room that I have reserved for such activities. You can see a bit of my sewing machine (covered) on the left.

The yarn runs from the cone holder at the bottom of the picture, through the measuring device on the brown table (largely obscured by the cone of gold yarn) to the skein winder (partially wound) sitting on the white shelving unit.

Here is a closer view of the yarn going from the yardage measurer to the skein winder. The left-handed gardening glove glove sitting on the table is a necessary accessory. I wear it on my left hand. I hold that hand over the yarn coming from the yardage measurer to the skein winder to make sure that it goes where it should on the winder and also to ensure an even tension. The silk is very fine and very strong. It would eventually cut into my skin if I did not protect it with a glove.

The thermos coffee cup on the back left side of the table is equally necessary.

This is a photo of the first 100 yards wound onto the skein winder. I have spread them apart a bit. However, I need to push them back as far as possible after each 100 yards. If I don't, the legs of the winder will begin to bow a bit (or a lot) because of the strength of the silk.

This is the same thing that can happen when winding a warp on a warping board. The yarn must be kept to the back or the pegs will start to bend and the warp you wind will consequently grow shorter and shorter. For a skein that is to be dyed to grow shorter and shorter is absolute disaster. Yes, it has happened to me and I'd just as soon forget about it!

This last image is a closeup of the skein I am winding. Four groups of 100 each are tied off. The two at the back look smaller than the one in the front only because those yarns have been pushed firmly to the back of the winder. The third group is invisible because the fifth group that I just wound on ending up being wound on top of the previous group group four.

If you click on the image (you may also have to scroll to the right), you can just see bits of the invisible third group.

Once I tie this last group, it will be arranged at the front. Then I will push the whole group as far back as I can so I can continue winding the skein.

Now it should be clearer how these yarns can get cuddly with one another.

Friday, February 8, 2008


I was listening last week to to an older episode of Weave Cast: the episode in which Syne Mitchel interviews teachers of weaving. Though it was given in May of 2007, it is still every bit as relevant today. Go here to download the episode. Or, if you prefer, you can simply listen to it on the computer.

One of the things Syne noted was Laura Fry's new study group. Curious about it, after I was done listening I checked Laura's site to see if it was still there. Yes it is still there.


Here is the link to Laura's main page. On the left side of her home page, click on education. One of the areas doing that will raise is called Study Group. Clicking on that will raise information on what she calls the Weaving Mentor Study Group.

Laura's Weaving Mentor Study Group looks like a marvelous opportunity for anyone wanting feedback on her weaving from a very skilled and experienced professional weaver. I have not participated in this group myself, but I have great respect for Laura and everything she does.


Participating in this group means you will be on a private e-list where you can share with others what you are doing and the problems you are having as you weave the fabric you will send to Laura for her evaluation. Each participant will receive a sample of the work of all the participants. Instead of weaving individual samples, however, participants weave an entire piece of fabric. Laura, after evaluating their work, will cut the fabric up into pieces to send to the other participants.



After I wind the first 100 yards of the skein, I cut a length of a yarn that will not take acid dye. In this case I am using cotton yarn, and, because of the fineness of the yarn, I am using a finish cotton--10/2. I wind this yarn around those first 100 yards and tie it very loosely.

After winding 100 more yards, I undo the loose knot and loop the two ends around that second group. The part of the tie that went over the first group goes under the second group. And the part of the tie that went under the first group goes over the second group. I then tie that very loosely. I continue to do this every 100 yards.

By the time I have the 750 yards on the skein winder, I have encircled the warp ends a total of 8 times with each loop of yarn. Then I get out the beginning of the skein and tie that beginning yarn to the end of the yarn. I remove the skein from the winder and it is ready to be weighed in preparation for the dye pot.

It is these ties that will keep the yarn in some semblance of order. This will make winding them onto cones after the dyeing is done much easier.


To see a good set of pictures for how to make these figure-of-eight ties, go here.

To see a really clear picture of a skein tied this way into four groups, go here and scroll down about a quarter of the page.

I will be honest, however, and tell you that in reality I tie in two places, not just one. Indeed, when I feel really paranoid about the process, I tie in four places. Tying in more than one place on the skein makes it easier for me to align the yarn properly onto the swift when I am ready to wind the dyed yarn into either cones or balls.


I hope that it is clear that I do not wait until I have wound all 750 yards before I tie up my skeins. Every place I have read about winding skeins, the writer says to make the skein and then tie the skein into groups of ends with the ties.

There is an assumption, false in my experience, that when you make a skein of yarn each yarn you wind ends up right next to the previous yarn. In my case here, it would assume that the first 100 yarns are lined up nicely next to each other.

When I stop at that point, they actually appear to be. But it also assumes that they stay that way as I continue to wind the next 100 yarns. It assumes that no ends you wind on in that second group might possibly end up on top of the yarns in the first group. That is where the trouble begins. That is where the yarns in the second group start making friends with the yarns in the first group.

This mixing up of the yarn only gets worse as you go on. By the time you have 750 yards wound, who on earth knows where the actual groups are. They are all quite totally mixed up because the yarn has gone willy nilly over previously wound yarn.

A good way to see what happens is to make the figure-of-eight ties in one place and do it as you go along. When you are done, slip your fingers into the spaces the ties have created and move your hand 12”-18” along the skein. You will soon find that you have to do some pushing and shoving of those yarns to get them where they belong. That is how I learned what happens.


I suspect that 100 yarns to a group is a fairly good figure to aim for no matter what size the yarn is you are skeining. Those 100 yarns are of course going to get mixed up among themselves. Because there are relatively few, they separate out rather easily in the process of unwinding them onto cones.

Silk is very slippery and very very willing to make lots of friends. This is why, if I am not careful, it can take me hours to unwind a skein onto a cone. One time it took me days........... And that is why I tie up the skein in more than one place. In fact, usually I have tied up the skein in four places. But I thought that if I were really careful about how I put the dyed yarn back for unskeining, I might be able to get away with tying in two places..............

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I am finally down to the actual work for the next crackle warp. Not mental calculations (though I am by no means done with these, unfortunately….). I have started to wind skins for dyeing.


Since my computer is still in the hospital, I cannot give you pictures of what is going on. Instead, you will find links to pictures on the web of some of these tools and procedures. I could, of course, simply copy those images into this blog, but that would be not only unethical but also illegal.


I am winding the skeins from cones of 20/2 silk from Treenway Silks. I used to wind from the large skeins Treenway sells but I had a lot of problems doing that. Even when things went relatively easily, it still took a long time. But winding from cones is virtually effortless. So, even if it costs money to have skeins put onto cones (Habu for example does charge), I find that it is definitely money well spent.

I put the purchased cone of silk yarn on my cone holder, thread the yarn through the eye at the top of the cone holder, run it through my yardage counter, and tie it onto an arm of the skein winder. Then I proceed to turn the skein winder and make the skein of yarn.


For a picture of the skein winder, go here. The picture on the Leclerc site shows both their swift (top of page) and their skein winder (bottom). What I am using is the skein winder.

To see a picture of LeClerc’s 8-peg cone colder, go here and scroll down.

For a picture of the yardage counter, go here. Scroll to near the bottom of the page. Schacht designed this tool for sectional warping. It works beautifully, however, for measuring yardage of yarn going to a skein winder or a cone winder or a ball winder.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I have figured out how many yards of 20/2 silk I will need for the warp: 3,650 yards. Yes, I double-checked that figure. After I caught my breath. Then I decided that I was going to use two shades of red and one shade of red-orange. I needed to dye the warp three colors. So I divide the total yardage into three: 1,225 yards for each color. I decided to round this number out and be a bit generous. Yarn shrinks in the dye pot a bit. Yarn breaks. Decisions change…….. So I decided to go with 1500 yards per skein.


Skeins that large, at least in 20/2 silk, do not dye well for me. The resulting color tends to be a little uneven. That is not necessarily bad, but I do try my best to obtain even results.

Also, my skein winder does not hold large skeins comfortably either. So I decided that I would make two skeins for each color. That means I needed to wind 6 skeins of the silk, each skein being 750 yards long.


But of course……… During a sleepless night I decided that there was going to be so much going on in terms of the weft, that getting the warp too complex would only create visual confusion. So I am going to go with two fairly closely related shades of red. The plan to make six skeins, however, does not change. I will simply dye three of them in one shade of red and three in the other.


The jury is still out on black in the warp. The original image had interesting streaks of black; I had thought about incorporating those into this project. I am still thinking of including occasional black ends. And I am still thinking of dip dyeing or dye painting parts of the completed warp bouts in black. I have time to make the final decision. I expect, at least right now I expect, that that decision will be no. Using some black would probably also create visual confusion.

When I design I tend to move into greater and greater complexity as I go through the process. Then, I start moving back. It would appear that the moving back has begun.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting Into (and out of) Color Ruts

Leigh had this very nice thing to say about the fabric I showed in a recent post: "This sample is dark, but it is really, really appealing." Looking at the photo as it appears in the actual blog post, I discovered that the fabric does appear a bit darker than it is in real life.


Still the fabric is dark and my immediate reaction to that darkness is a bit negative. I really like highly saturated colors that have been toned a bit. But not toned too much.


That evening I watched a DVD of A Year in Provence. By the end, I felt very relaxed. I passed the loom and looked at what I had woven. I discovered that I quite liked the darkness. It could make a gorgeous piece of upholstery. My mind sort of lurched a bit more. A jacket, I thought.

To tell the truth, I really liked even better the slightly darker version the image in that post showed.............


It is easy to get stuck in a rut with colors. My mother always wore navy. I have for a long time now, worn almost exclusively bright T-shirts with my khaki pants. This year that changed. Now I am wearing almost exclusively black and navy T-shirts with those pants.


I wove the cotton crackle fabric in light colors. It is now finished, by the way. More about that another time. I now see that fabric as my first attempt to get out of my rut of weaving with those saturated and brilliant colors.

I shall probably always really prefer those brilliant colors, using dark colors as a foil for them rather than for their own sake. But it feels good to stretch. It feels good to stretch my body in the morning. And it feels good to stretch my preferences.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Computer Meltdown

No, I did not find a pool of water or oil when I came to my computer this morning. I found a computer onto which Windows XP would not load. Sobbing followed by temper tantrums followed by more sobbing....

I am taking it to computer hospital tomorrow. So for a while (how long?!?), my posting will be a bit erratic.

Friday, February 1, 2008

"Tromp as Writ"

"Tromp as Writ" as a term that means you treadle the threading. In the specific case of crackle, this means that you treadle each block in the threading in the order of the threading. In the case of my threading, the blocks go in order from 1 to 8. So that is how I treadled this:

Because there are eight blocks across a threading repeat, there are eight blocks woven, bottom to top. Yes, at the very top there is part of a ninth block. This is really only block one when I started the sequence over again.

For my pattern wefts I used darkish blue and a darkish green in 10/2 cotton. For the binder thread I used 20/2 yellow. It really does look this golden on the loom. It is what the red warp does to the yellow.

Overall, I like this, though it is not quite what I want in the next warp. But I'm definitely moving in the right direction, especially given the fact that I am restricting myself to using only the colors of pearl cotton I have in my stash.

The warp rod on the back beam is getting close to coming up off the beam. That means I have limited playing left to do. That is a bit sad as there are so many more things I want to try. But that is fine. Limitations are good.

Related Post: More Tromp as Writ

Listening to the Warp

I have at least three sets of "finalized plans" for the next crackle silk scarf. I really thought I had it all worked out. I really really did. But yesterday as I was weaving happily along on the current sampling, it finally hit me over the head that what is making the weaving work is the bits peeking out from red warp.

The day before I had written out some next baby steps for the next warp. The warp was, and always has been, intended to be made up of neutral colors. And I planned on dipdyeing them with some blues. . Those were the big steps. I had broken those down into smaller, more manageable steps.

I was definitely not listening to the red warp. I was so caught up in the neutral warp, that the red warp simply could not get through to me. There was no red in the original image that I was using. And most of the image consisted of neutrals. Of, course, then the warp must be neutral.

The red warp was screaming at me but I could not hear.

What made me listen? I'm not sure. Something must have made me face the fact that I simply have not been totally happy with my plans and that this discontent was far more important to listen to than insisting on following the image.

I think my understanding that weaving and painting are different started leaking into my consciousness. I think my imagination may have begun to work. I think I may have started imagining neutral warps with what I was doing. I think I may have started to see in my mind's eye how dull that would be.

The image had done its job. It was time for my weaving imagination to start taking over.