Thursday, February 27, 2020


I don't know what brought this on, but this morning I suddenly remembered something. After several years of going to figure/life drawing class, I got so used to including shading to make the drawings look 3D. One day I saw a friend, Pastor Janice, do something else, not color planes but something flat and "modern" and I wanted to emulate, but the shading had become so automatic I couldn't help myself. We both laughed the minute I put in the first bit of shading. You could spend hours and days "perfecting" the shading if the object stays under the same light, and this has its own rewards. But on that day I wanted to draw in the style of, oh, German and UK lino cut in the early 20C. "Graphic".

"Western" writings call Japanese art "flat", that we don't bother with perspective, but that's not strictly true. You've seen the prints; Mt Fuji is usually far away in the background. For years I looked read in English and Japanese to learn the difference but couldn't find anything that made sense. A few years ago I happened upon an article or a vid; I regret not noting at least where I saw it because  I'm going to paraphrase the living daylight out of this, but here goes:

Instead of a gradual/continuous receding/advancing seen in Western art, helped by extensive use of shading/shadows, Japanese see perspective more in stages. And there were some more words explaining this, but the explanation made me visualize a school play where there are clusters of perhaps flowers pots in the foreground, maybe shrubs in the mid-distance, and trees painted on boards and propped up or even painted on the backdrop, at the back. And this made so much sense to me, but I don't know if it immediately means we see the world differently.

Which reminds me of something else. In college I took a course on Japanese Civilization because I was exhausted by the Hollywood portrayal of Geisha/Kamikaze/camera-carrying-eyeglass-wearing tourists en masse, and curious how more learned persons thought. It turned out the prof was dodgy, he was a China specialist, but China/Japan, same thing, right? Pffft. I didn't learn anything but one thing stuck with me.

We were made to look at a tree in full autumnal Minnesota glory from our window, and were to note what we noticed. I saw a leaf at the top, then more leaves around it, and gradually saw what was below, which was the rest of the tree, down to the trunks and then the ground. And apparently I got it right. Phew. Prof said whereas Westerner saw the whole fist and then saw details, (is this even true?) Japanese saw details first and then stepped back to see the whole. I also recall there was a student from Iran or Iraq and now I'm dying to know what he saw first.

I'm also dying to know what you see first, what you think of this. I wonder if it makes a difference in how we think, live, make? I wonder if my perspectives influence (??) my making.

It's not even 10AM yet, so I'm looking forward to the day ahead this Thursday where I have some reading and writing on the list. I hope you have a good one.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Full Disclosure

I don't set out to make wonky pieces, you know; I aim for perpendicular and parallel every time I sit at the loom. I was so relieved after the blanket was finished so I used as many colors as I had to express joy for this scarf/shawl, and some repeats have two colors, but those sections didn't present the problem. The Summer of Weeding, an interval of three to four weeks, is what changed the beat so the last three repeats are elongated and less meaty.

I've been reading, thinking and making notes about future projects with glee. I'm astounded how well I get in my own way of... proceeding? Progressing? Some days, when I want to blame someone else, it feels as if in the absence of a real person holding me back, I have to step in and do that myself. Other days, I roll my eyes so hard it pushes against my brain hurts. 

I found in my diary a year ago yesterday, "No tool noise!"

Right. Next.

Monday, February 24, 2020

So, This Happened

Kiwis love power tools any time but this summer has been an exceptionally robust season of building/rebuilding/refurbishing/demolishing on C Street and surrounds, resulting in power tools of all manners chirping in stereo for the last four (?) months, which finally got to me. The last three weeks or so my shoulders and knees started shaking, especially badly in the mornings. (Full disclosure: we, too, used our tiny water blastser to wash a decade-plus's worth of build up on our concrete patio around Christmas.)

I tried Podcasts and Youtube at full volume, closed all windows, doors and all but one set of curtains, (thank goodness it's been a cool summer,) and draped thick fabric everywhere to absorb the noise, but the shaking wouldn't stop. I also went downstairs and let Telemann serenade me but my legs were shaking so badly I had to crawl off the bench and lie behind the loom a while.

I was getting on my nerves. How "frail" can I be? I tried depression-beating techniques to no avail. While depression, you could say, live in my head but the noise outside it, and they were relentless. (To be sure, I wasn't depressed.) I spent a few half days in bed in utter darkness reading stuff online, and got around to good articles I had bookmarked all summer, so it wasn't a complete loss. I knew in my head at least some of these jobs will be finished "soon", and neighbours will be pleased, and that's a good thing for C Street, but did I mention it was relentless?  I didn't go outside to check on my pots on the patio for ten days and missed the first of the late corn flower opening I had waited for since Ben's summer break.

Anyhoo, exasperated by my inertness, I tried various little things and reorganizing my To Do piles got me out of the funk this time. (To be frank it's been a little weird because my emotions have been switched off and at times I feel like I'm in autodrive.) I started fringing, which I could manage with the twister, and I finished the two hellebore cotton pieces.
The orange-yellow weft piece is bright, and easier to "appreciate", appreciate being in quotes because it's not the kind of colors that sells well, but you can see the details and color interplay immediately, the colors are harmonious and uplifting. That you can see more details in evening/sideways light is a bonus.
The pink-purple piece is a little different. In the first instance I'm not sure if I like the overall color combination, not exactly in harmony, the weft colors don't meld with but overwhelm the warp colors, which is astonishing because there are some strong oranges in the warp. Overall, the gold stripe in the middle disrupts, and the reds in one side of the warp and oranges on the other aren't especially discernible. But this piece looks so interesting and surprises in the evening light. So the original plan to weave in all kinds of purples would have worked.

When I made the red-orange warp, (the gold was for something else I inserted here to add interest,) I deliberately kept the hues of the warp colors to a very limited neighbourhood on the color wheel so I could experiment with harmony, (as in the yellow-orange wefts,) and complementary, (purples!), but the last few years I've been so intrigued by reds, pinks and oranges together I changed my mind. Humble pie. (I learned the origin of that expression from a Tony Robinson doco. :-D) 

Anyway, and you don't hear this here very often, these are nice and I like them. Nice big size, lovely weigh/drape/hand. I will be weaving more hellebores, or another design, in cottons for sure. But, also, I made them, so technique is rough, but I'm not dwelling on that. I repeat this not to convince you but me; I have become more and more aware of how much time/energy/head space I have left to make things in my life, and I want to keep moving.

I'm still astonished and mystified by the Year (Or 18 Months?) I Didn't Weave triggered by a bad project. It was astonishing because I noticed only after a while; I had no explanation, felt so dispassionate, not particularly disappointed, and utterly honest. I can still recall the calmness I felt the whole time concentrating on mixed media drawing and knitting. I wasn't worried if I gave up weaving altogether, and remember Mom finding me almost callous when I said that, because I was supposed to be besotted by weaving. And looking back, a degree of detachment, with which I used to hold my weaving long time ago, is a good thing for me right now.

Make no mistake, I am Japanese, so I don't buy into bad technique being "design features". It's not in my DNA, as they say, but this is more like forgiving myself. I'm focusing elsewhere - more on "design" whatever I mean when I use that word.
I don't know what I was thinking in terms of color in the warp-end fabric, though, other than perhaps trying to use up what was on the pirns and bobbins. I mean, look at this. Ugh. What a waste of good warp. Maybe a bag lining?? I'll fold it and see if it looks good in smaller sections. Or something...
We had several humid and a couple of rainy days so I haven't washed the cashmere piece, but I am pleased with the warp-end fabric; this I wished was longer so I could make a small vest; maybe just the back or the front bodices of one?
And then there's the "generous medium-size" cowl, which is not a cone but a cylinder. I was going by pics on Pinterest and thought it would be nice if it covered from shoulder to head. It's growing and one more repeat will cover my big head, but now I don't know how big to make it - a couple of more pattern repeats??? It looks to me in bad proportion, but worse, it's morphing into a tree trunk costume Mama made for Dear Child in a school play where said Child plays Tree #7 with no lines.
Before the shaking got so bad, I was weaving this. It's working OK. The colors are fabulous if I say so myself; more like I'm finally starting to understand how to play with colors? 

Ooops, we had a few days' reprieve but the power tools are back again. But I do better in the afternoons, so washing or weaving. We also picked 24kg of Roma tomatoes on the weekend and I slow-roasted 8kg in the pasta-sauce style yesterday; I want do the rest in oven-dried style if I can remember what I did last year, which was a much hotter summer. Low temp and oven on forever, perhaps.

Two things before I go: look up an art critic named Jerry Saltz on Youtube; he talks about artists having to show up and do the work. "Build and they will come," is one of his favorite quotes, it appears. He also says artists, (=makers) have to tell ourselves we are geniuses sometimes.

And there's this I found yesterday: Diedrick Brackens' tapestries defy tapestry weave conventions, but they make such an impression on me. And they are big so I bet it's awe-inspiring to see in person.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Headology Dust

By which I mean, abbreviated, "therapeutic", for-the-record snapshots of my life of the last wee while, stuff I jot so I don't forget how I spent my life.

On the whole we've been having a cool, comfortable summer in Nelson, although windy and dry most public reserves are now closed. We worked in the garden a bit, (well, a heck of a lot for us,) during Ben's summer holiday, so much so parts of our place are taking on the appearance of normal neglect as opposed to... forsaken chaos. I do wonder, though, we host a lot of bugs and even some birds in our weeds and after pulling them out, trimming and pruning "proper" plants, the ground is just dust. Convolvulus come through 50cm of mulching, (we usually dig it up,) so it's hard to know what's good in the long run on a macro scale.

The irony at Chez B&M is in dry years I am conscientious about watering pots with shower and dish water, so them babies are looking good. After years of combating bad bugs with home-made remedies and icky stick plastic things, I started fighting them with their natural predators; eggs come stuck to a tape you can hang from branches. This should be an interesting science experiment, although the first bugs I bought were bees smaller than sesame seeds so I don't know if I'll see anything. 

Post elephant blanket, I haven't done anything with textiles as top priority. I've continued to sample the grownup blanket as you've seen; ruminated on how to approach "Syrie" so the process is as exciting to me as the finished product satisfying, (ongoing;) started/restarted one knitting project nearly three dozen times until I finally settled on a design, size, etc.
At first I thought this would be a gigantic cowl, but looking at Pinterest, it's more a generous medium-size. The yarn is merino of unknown origin from Mom's stash. One of the difficulties I had was this is proper "fat" knitting yarn, and because I'm used to weaving yarns I couldn't get my head around the scale. It is relaxing to sit in the rocking chair in the evenings knitting; I can justify having silly telly on.  

One thing that's sure to come back to bite me is the craft shop carrying DMC needlepoint yarns closed around Christmas. I knew this about a month ahead and intended to plan at least one more project and stock up, but when the time came I had no idea, so I didn't. I don't have enough left to do much of anything. I'm not giving up needlepoint as it's enjoyable, but I don't mind sticking to more tube- and rectangle-knitting for a while.

I haven't drawn, collaged, or printed, but again, not giving up. I have a Sketchbook Project due August, and I've had this seed of an idea, something in a concertina form, but I have to "see" it better before I can take action.

Then came the new year resolution. I love numbers like 2020 and desperately searched for a plan, a project, a goal, something, for the year or the decade, nothing grand but dodable so I can look back and see what I accumulated.

Nothing. In desperation, I decided to read two books a month. Simple enough, yes? Within a day, that morphed into "books or Shakespearean plays". Then I allowed cookbooks if I read them cover to cover, which I do. Then I thought finally taking on Vincent's letters - and how would that fit numerically into the 2 per month, or is it a different project? And should I be taking notes?

It's mid-Feb and I haven't finished one book; I started Romeo and Juliet before a local production but didn't finish; and I started Vincent's letters, dedicated a notebook, but haven't restarted. So, yeah, the resolution is going great. What's nice is I've finally become that person who doesn't feel defeated just because I've mucked up at the start. If I pick up any of these plans, I'll have done something, and that's better than nothing.

Just so you don't think my life has been devoid of "culture", I have been watching vids and listening to audiobooks and podcasts, almost anything relating to Shakespeare/Mark Rylance/Ben Crystal, history/archeology especially those by Tony Robinson, or revisiting Terry Pratchett stories. I know, lot of UK stuff, but, ahem, they make them in English. I'm also seeking out Cezanne's writing this summer. None of these have come to bear any fruits in a creative way, but then I'm a slow learner. We're approaching the 20 year mark since I took my only color study course, and finally I'm starting to see unexpected things happen on the loom, so stick around and be prepared to be floored by the time I'm... 81!

* * * * *

Speaking of not being defeated, I said I'm going to concentrate on the things I do well/enjoy, not the things I should do better but can't: technique.  Laura Fry followed immediately with this, (not claiming causality), she's also talked about unwillingness to learn/change in subsequent posts, and while I wholeheartedly agree with her, and the convent school/Japanese/my-parents'-eldest part of me feel guilty, I also don't want to stay tangled up in other people's expectations and desires, which I've done most of my life. So I'm sticking to my comment to her: "That's me! It's the yarn, the loom, the short body! And I'm thinking of declaring statute of limitation on my improving techniques, and using "self-taught" as an excuse." It's not a personal feud with Laura, but a reminder to myself I need to grow up, and "statute of limitation" sounds apt. Also true, the less I worry about my technique, the tidier my weaving appears. Or that's the story I'm sticking with.

* * * * *   

I struggle with pricing, and went to Stella and Thomas to unload. It was the day I handed over the elephant blanket and went to see some collages they recommended. They told me pricing "art" involves everything that happened in the artist's life up to the point a piece was created, because every experience is a build up to the realization of that piece. Or something to that effect. I thought of how I make my stuff, and fumed once again about the prejudice against "craft". The price of my blanket that took months to make vs two A4-size collages, albeit nicely done and framed, for the same price. Wouldn't you know, this got me nowhere. Besides, I and only I am responsible for my pricing.

* * * * * 

And there you have it. I don't know if you remember, but watches and clocks used to need winding regularly. These posts give me similar satisfaction of regular resetting/maintenance done in time, small stuff, but virtuous nevertheless.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Not a Blanket

We're back to normal transmission, and you know what that means; I'm sampling a lot and trying to figure out what to do next. What I can tell you is I'm not going to weave an adult couch blanket on this warp, but will sample lots, (because this 2/30 count merino is still new to me and I'd like to learn more if I am to make it more or less my default wool warp,) and hope to weave two or three scarves. So, with no particular logical construct, I've been toying with these ideas. 
A and B were threaded at whim, setts between 36 and 54EPI in pairs and triples on the Kilck, woven with all kinds of merino and cashmere wefts. C, D, and E were woven on the big loom, C in 36EPI, D and E in 48EPI. The colors are little strange in this pic possibly because I took it in early evening light; we still have sunlight until 8.30-ish, 9-ish at the moment.

I don't like the warp color distribution, the way/places/proportion I split the "pointed" threading to include three colors in each repeat, moving from a-b-c-b-a to b-c-d-c-b, etc, the main reason I decided not to weave the blanket. At the moment I am thinking of a more gradated look for that project. The client prefers a tighter, symmetrical design, so none of the swirly stuff as in A and B, either.   

Even with the same sett and yarns, samples woven on Klick always washes up softer than from the big loom, or the big loom yields sturdier cloth. In A and B, 48EPI looked nicer and felt "fuller", but I first sleyed at 36EPI for C for this reason. C's texture is OK; nowhere as airy as I expect, but nice depending on the weft, and preferable because this is not a small piece near one's face but a large couch piece.

Between 36EPI and 48EPI there's quite a difference in the visual saturation/concentration of warp colors, i.e. sleyed at 36EPI the colors looks perfunctorily diluted. On the other hand, I like the size of the motifs, visible from across the room, and to that end, 36EPI is good. In fact if I were to weave at 48EPI, I will need four panels rather than three. Interestingly, even with the same yarn, 48EPI produces cloth with almost a wiry feel because of the closeness of the warps; I hesitate to say the merino doesn't have enough room to full, but for now I can't think of other reasons. Neither did it produce the heft I expected.

One easy remedy is to edit the tie up, reduce interlacement and use longer floats. I tried modifying the draft for a couple of days but the design looked so diluted I didn't save any. I can also use a skinnier weft, which will require much longer to weave, but it is a possibility and I will probably prefer the appearance. (Another surprising thing about this draft is, B-side in the cloth is unappealing, but I haven't spent much time reviewing this aspect yet.)  

I have nicer yarns in whites, naturals and grays, and I don't like weaving with black, so I automatically sampled with them at first, but then the client suggested black. I don't have enough of my best merinos, but I found an airy probably-lamb's wool in a perfect size with dull sheen, which contrast well with the surprisingly shiny merino warp. With the black weft, I can't see the patterns while I weave, but the depth the colors create is much more striking in comparison to using lighter color wefts, and sheen contrast makes the design "pop". So much so I can't even look at parts of the samples I wove with white or gray wefts, even though they feel fluffier. They now seem so pedestrian. 

But even with good merino or cashmere wefts, the most surprising aspect of these samples has been their underperformance in the texture. 36EPI is the same as in the elephant blanket and that piece has quite short floats, so this puzzles me, and I have an idea. More below.

The blanket warp will be in these colors, in a more variegated progression, in a similar but probably modified draft, with black probably-lamb's wool in the weft. Unless... I go with a slightly less airy, slightly shinier, dark saturated navy blue wool weft; the value to black is so close it's hard to tell where one sample ends and the next starts, but in this context, if I nitpick, I sense the addition of the blue hue creates better harmony as opposed to black showing contrast. It's really hard to see even in real life and since the client is a big softness fan, I'll probably go with the black, but it's worth mulling over.
Moving on to weft candidates for scarves from this warp and mainly Sample E:
Same merino but used single, (remember the warp ends are doubled up so they move in pairs,) in hot pink, and saturated yellow green. The pic doesn't do justice but I'm smitten by both. The pink hue meld right into the blues and greens and create a deeply satisfying new "color" that increases my heart rate, and I'm definitely weaving a piece with this weft.

I'm not a green person but I have been mesmerized by what yellow greens do. In real life the weft is a dark, saturated yellow green, so unlike the strong yellow it appears here, and the last of a discontinued color. I also have the new color which is lighter, more yellow, but still not as yellow as in the pic. I might audition the new color; I might weave a piece with one of these colors as well.
Same merino, from the bottom, pewter, (a loud mid-gray?) orange, and dark berry. This pewter is one of the examples of how a totally different hue, (or lack thereof,) kills the richness of the warp and why I will avoid naturals and whites in the weft in this series even if they full better. I had to sample pewter because this produces the nearest color to the cushion cover from the client's living room where the blanket goes, but it's not happening with these scarves. The dark berry at the top is OK, it's like the dark navy wool above; it creates harmony but not excitement.

The orange, (and it's not a sad, not "rust", as seen here,) in this context creates a lovely mild-mannered cloth, making us pay attention to every one of the warp color, and unifys without overpowering, as opposed to the pink making the colors pop. I think this one is a must as well.
Giving space, the skinny merino does full, so I'll make better texture by editing the tie up here and there.
The colors look faded here, but from the bottom, merino dark berry single you saw above, another sampling of the dark navy unknown wool you saw above, and then on top, I doubled the warp merino, the hot pink and a cherry red. Both the warp and the weft  a pair of yarns act as one. It gives a meatiness to the cloth, i.e. better texture, but I don't  know if I can't decide if the design is diluted or emboldened, because of the thickness of the weft. I could do interesting things with colors this way, though.
This is the texture "conundrum". A and B are the with-scale 76/2 merino, A in 36EPI, B in 48EPI, C is the pewter you already saw. A is sufficiently meaty but not as fluffy as I expected, B is almost choking and wiry; while C feels i has enough space to spread around and fill in the gap, and as far as textures go, C is the most satisfying. Like the 76/2, cashmere did not full to its potential; without more experimentation I can't tell you the exact best formula, especially because specs here aren't as different from the elephant blanket. Interesting, eh.

Also, do you agree with me that bringing "unrelated" (or absence of) hues in the weft kills the warp? 
Some sampling from Mom's stash, and here I'm showing you the less exciting B-side. From bottom: blue-to-white variegated 100% mohair from France, (variegation not suited to this warp;) lovely navy blue silk/wool mix, (texture, coarse;) and a creamy yellow kid mohair/lambs wool/silk mix from Germany, which surprised me. I wanted to show you the B-side because unlike the merinos and cashmere underperformed, this yarn pry-opened every space it can find and fulled nicely all around, creating a lovely thick fabric. Like the white wefts, it doesn't show off the warp colors in the way hot pink and orange do, but it's not bad in a more conventional way. The texture of the cloth more than makes up for it, so it will remain a contender, especially if I get sick of slow weaving with the skinnier weft. I also included the pewter portion to show you how boring the B-side is, and how the design shows up differently. 

In a more general sense, here are some of my problems/focus/directions:
* I'm focusing on merino at the moment and for that, texture is paramount. (Also, the blanket client is as much a softness nut as Mom and the blanket is where this warp started.) If I were to focus on colors more, I could easily play with 2/20 cottons as well. Now, what do I want to do with this scarf warp? It's been a dry summer here and even though I use oils and moisturizers religiously, my skin is not sensitive enough to detect fine differences in textures at the moment. I keep changing my decisions for best texture, but I also want to start weaving.
* If I like the look skinny wefts crate, which I do, I could also dig into my silk box. Texture then is less important, and I could play with sheen, although I probably have far fewer hues.
* Although I still have loads, I am approaching a point where I have far more of Mom's wools and silks than my own, and hers is... let's just say an eclectic collection in size, color, fiber, origin, whatever-else-you-can-think-of. I can only hope there is enough of each to sample, (there usually isn't), which makes it all the more important I get to know and start to feel comfortable with this merino warp.
* I'm really enjoying experimenting with colors. At the same time, I want to weave this very draft with only one pale baby blue and white, kind of reminiscent of ceramics.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

And I'm Weaving

The act of weaving itself is visually unremarkable in still photos, and repetitive, so this is going to be quicker than you might imagine. Apologies for the dark pics, too; I will discuss this in a later post, not about the pics, but pros and cons about this particular project.
On a foot loom I press the pedal which will raise selected shafts while leaving the other shafts down. On a hand loom I lift levers by hand to do the same. Then I "throw" the shuttle between the lifted and as-are sets of warp threads, e.i. the shed. (Some shuttles you can't throw so you gingerly pass from one hand to the other.) With this project I'm using an end-feel shuttle, which I usually use sideways. Can you see the black weft thread coming out near the right end of the shuttle? 
There it is, the black weft thread left after the shuttle has existed left from the shed.  
I bring forward the reed and push the weft thread in position. In this project this weft will come slightly more forward, leaving, ideally, the same gap as between previous wefts in the patterned, (rather than the plain woven,) portion.

That's it. Sample weave or weaving proper, I repeat this as many times as required by the length of the piece and size of the weft yarn more or less.

I began the warp post with a non-weaver reader in mind without intending to show the entire weaving process. After I weave I might twist fringes and "wash". Unless I have new ideas or good pics, this is the last of the process series.

My big loom has a weird/unique setup because it was a locally made/reconfigured computer-controlled dobby. If you're curious, I have recorded it before, so knock yourself out. :-D 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

I'm Dressing the Loom - The Slow Part

The next step of dressing the loom is slower but I find it meditative, and if it weren't for the physical discomfort, could do it for long stretches. Before I can get into it, however, a brief explanation of how my loom works may be necessary, requiring more weavers' jargon. Sorry. 

I said, "b) the vertical warp yarns are either up or down, and weaving is the simple act of sandwiching the horizontal weft yarns between warp yarns." How do I make some warp ends go up to create the gap, called the "shed", in which to trap the weft?

I have white polyester heddles on this loom, old heddles were made of strings or metal, but they all have "eyes" in the middle to thread one warp end through. Each heddle is attached to a shaft, and every heddle on the same shaft go up together, or come down together, as a group. Since selected shaft/s go up, my looms are rising-shed type. Traditionally two-, four-, and eight-shaft looms were mainstream, but increasingly, 16-, 24-, 32-, and 40-shaft monsters have become available to home weavers since the 1990s. That means, depending on the loom, two, four, eight, etc, sets of strings going up or coming down together.

The order in which warp is threaded, (Shaft 1, then 2, then 3, for e.g,) and which shafts are lifted in a particular shed decide the line/shape of a design, in the first instance. So greater number of shafts, the more complex designs can be woven.

A project requires as many heddles as there are warp ends, or pairs in this case, because every end has got to go up at one time or another, lest it will stay under every weft right the way through the cloth without interlacement, and then that warp end will come away from the cloth after the cloth is taken off the loom. Many looms have many heddles, and they can be removed from one shaft and transferred to another easily if the design requires, as long as there are enough.

Every warp end must be threaded through a heddle eye, so we call this task "threading". Some project are quick to thread, depending on the complexity of the design and number/size/characteristics of warp yarn. This one is has been smooth sailing.
This is my view. (Not my laundry, silly.) I sit on a tiny canvas camping/fishing foldy seat between the heddles/shafts to my left and the warp and back beams to my right.
The heddles are stretched between one of the 16 shafts, Shaft 16 being closest to me at the "back" when I'm at seated at the bench weaving. Below is the threading portion of the draft, (and on this rare occasion, with colors,) I mark off as I thread. Because I thread from the back, I read the draft upside down, but in most if not all drafts I weave, if I mistake the top from the bottom, this is easily rectifiable when I weave.  
Warp ends/pairs are to my right slightly above my head, waiting to be threaded; it's the last 1 or 2 meters you saw danging in the last pic in the last post. Close up you can see the cross, green arrow,  (i.e. the order in which the warp ends/pairs went on the warping board,) between the lease sticks. Seen from the front of the loom I start threading from the left side on this loom, (because the right opening is easier for my unsmall self to get in and out of,) the far left warp end/pair, pink arrow, is the next to be threaded. 
If for some reason I lost this cross, although the warp is already wound on the warp beam, I still have the second cross I made at the top end of the warping board as consolation.
I take the next end/pair, and thread it through the eye of the next heddle in the appointed shaft. One of the worst thing about aging is eyesight; I am severely near-sighted and switching short- and mid-distance is not happening. A lot of weaving, particularly theading, is done by feel. I can see which shaft I'm choosing, and I actually make surprising few threading mistakes, but I sometimes thread not in the eye but the slots above or below them in these modern heddles.   
This is one step that may be unusual. Because my sitting/threading position is uncomfortable, I come out every once in a while to the front of the loom and "sley", or pull a set number of warp ends/pairs through the slots in a reed, a tool that regulates how close warp ends to sit to each other. I find not only is this better for the body, but I have also been able to spot threading mistakes by sleying incrementally.

In the last post I wrote I wanted 20 ends/pairs per inch, but while threading I changed my mind so I sleyed at 18 pairs. This reed has six slots, "dents", to every inch, so I am pulling three ends/pairs into each slot in the order I threaded, starting at the left end of the cloth. I don't know if I should call this 18 "end"-per-inch, ("EPI") or more accurately 36EPI, but higher the number, the more warp ends are used in every inch. And if you thought the weaving width on the reed is going to be ever so slightly wider than in the raddle, well done, pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a small piece of sometimes-only treat. (And after sampling, I even re-sleyed to 24 pairs/48 EPI!)
After ever warp end/pair is threaded and sleyed, I pull and tug on each carefully, and make a knot knotting together 18 pairs, i.e. one inch in the reed, and lash it on to the front/cloth beam, and adjust the tension. I want even, universal tension, and for this, feeling the warp with the back of my hands with my eyes closed works best.

Now I'm ready to do another of my favorite parts: sample weaving.

Here are some bits I excluded to keep my explanation "simple".

*Some techniques require the weaver to pry open a gap in which to insert the weft, (think prototypical tapestry looms.) On a vertical loom the warps are not up/down but front/back. And while some techniques don't insert one long weft but only portions of it to achieve a different effect, (think cut pile, for e.g.) But the fact remains the weft yarns are sandwiched between and held by the two sets of warp in any shed.  

* There are looms with more basic heddles, e.g. a long string wound around warp ends and a stick alternately, (I've not tried them,) but the theory is the same.

* Rigid heddle looms are two-shaft looms. At the other end of the spectrum, Jacquard looms allow manipulation of every single heddle separately, which is why they can weave oh-so-dreamy pictures. They are the ones to end all shaft-envy. Then there are draw looms, which I understand to be between a Jacquard and a shaft loom, but I've never seen either kind close up to tell you any more.

* All of my looms are rising-shed looms, i.e. the selected shafts are raised while others remain horizontal, to create a shed. There are also sinking-shed looms, as well as countermarche looms where selected sheds are raised while others sink, creating lovely big sheds which makes weaving easier. 

If you are serious about knowing more about types of looms, how they work, etc, there are far better teacher-weavers-explainers online and in books than I. If interested, leave a comment and I'll try to find some, or better yet, look it up yourself, or if you're lucky enough to have either, ask your local weaving guild/group or weaving supply shop.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

I'm Dressing the Loom - The Fast Part

My new warp, in two parts, 10 meters each, folded and hung until I'm ready to dress the loom.
Some weavers make chains, but a few ends always snag which can be problematic later, so lately I don't make chains with skinny yarns but fold and dangle. (As you can see, I like making warps and, gee, I have a few I haven't woven.) 

Now that I have this warp, I want to put it on the loom so I can weave it. Dressing a loom means affixing the warp on to the loom, winding the warp on the warp beam at the back of the loom so I can pull, or "advance" the warp threads forward as I weave.

There are as many ways to dress a loom as there are weavers, dependent on how you learned, the loom, position/direction of various equipment and the space available, the weaver's body size, and preferences. Even though I have one basic method, I modify it to suit the loom/space/project, but the basics stay the same. The most crucial thing is for every warp end/pair to go on the warp beam under the same tension. Or, not loose one here and tight one over there. If I spread out the warp to roughly the width of the cloth, and place the very first end/pair I placed on the warping board at far left or far right of the cloth, the second next to it, the third next to that, etc., there is a better chance the warp will yield uniform/even tension without tangling or breaking. 
This is the back of my loom where there is very little space. Remember the cross I made while making the warp? It preserves the order in which the ends went on the warping board, and here I'm using two dowels B we call lease sticks, (they can become something-else sticks another time,) to keep that order. Warp ends/pairs goes either above the top B and under bottom B or the other way around, alternately, and they cross near b. Stick A assists all warp ends/pairs travelling from the front of the loom to enter the cross in the same angle.

I put a rod D, (or sometimes a slat depending on the project/fiber,) through the loop at the end of warp and attach it to a slat attached to the warp beam. The warp is uncut at this point, so it's still one, (or in this case, four,) long pieces of yarn.

I now spread the ends roughly in the width of the cloth on a tool called raddle C. A raddle has spaces in one inch increments, (I use inches for width and metric for length in weaving,) and I'm weaving this project with 20 pairs of ends per inch, so I count 20 ends/pairs for each slot. The original position for the raddle was at the top of the loom F, but it was too high even for the previous owner of the loom so she attached parts so the raddle can rest at the back of the loom above the warp beam. Otherwise I tend to prefer strings, yarns and other more temporary setup so I can accommodate different fibers, thicknesses, width of the projects, etc. It could also mean I change my mind often and have a fear of committing. :-D
This is the view from the front of the loom. I pull the warp as far back as I can, and put some weight. I used to like pulling the warp over my cut pile carpet, but for skinnier or delicate yarns, I prefer to pull it over smoother surface. This time I'm using a thin foamy sheet that must have come as a packing material because I'd love to have more of this but haven't been able to find it.

To my right is the warping mill with the red Syrie warp still sitting on it. To the left, (and I'm surprised it didn't show up in this photo,) is the back of my four-shaft loom. I've been "thinking out loud" different configurations/storage schemes since I've come home from Japan and haven't been able to come up with a solution, but no matter what I leave a gap here so I can always put a warp on the big loom.

I unlock the brake at the side, and I wind the warp beam backwards, placing slats or thin flat sheets of different material to separate the layers. As seen above, I'm using corrugated card board E this time. I keep my eyes around the cross b and environs where it's easiest for yarns to tangle and break.
I leave a meter or two hanging at the back so I can work on the next phase - the more time-consuming part of dressing the loom.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

I'm Making a Warp

I posted on Facebook about making a warp, one of my favorite activities weaving or otherwise a former colleague asked me what a warp is, so I promised her some pics.

So often I tell non-weavers a) most of "weaving" is prepping the loom, and b) the vertical warp yarns are either up or down, and weaving is the simple act of sandwiching the horizontal weft yarns between warp yarns.

I thought I'd record how I make a warp, and later how a loom works, to show how time-consuming the prepping phase is, and because this is where the physical process of weaving starts, and also, because of the unique situation with my house, it's the one process that suffered no big change over the years so I don't have to think too much to write abut it. :-D   

A warp is a collective name for a set of yarns, individually called warp "ends", measured to a specific length to become the vertical set of yarns attached to the loom while weaving. Before I can make a warp, I need to plan a project to know the specs of the warp. Sometimes I start by designing a project, which includes the overall look of the piece; approximate finished size, (a piece of weaving morphs several times from when it's on the loom under tension, off the loom and relaxed, and especially in case of wool, after the very first wash;) texture, (sometimes called "hand";) and a gazillion other things. Then I select the yarns to best realize the plan. Other times I select the yarns I want to work with based on the fiber content, size, and colors and amounts I have, then plan. Usually these decisions are made together organically.

Only after I have a plan, I know which fiber/size/color yarns goes into the warp, (and a fairly good idea of what yarns to audition for the wefts;) how many ends are required to achieve the finished width; and the length of the warp to accommodate not only the project but a rather large amount of loom waste, portions of warp necessary to weave the project but won't become part of the finished piece.
This is part of the plan, called a "draft", for the warp I'm making this week. I'm not sure if I want the navy border at the sides, but I make that separately so it doesn't matter just now. The colors in real life is darker as I'm paring each of the Marine, Sky and Teal yarns with a Navy, treating each pair as one warp end. These are four colors of the same skinny New Zealand merino wool.
(EDIT: I swapped the above picture. I don't know what I was thinking but the draft was three times the width of the planned project.)
This is more like it. I'm going to make the final piece, an adult-size couch blanket, by weaving three panels and stitching them together side by side; each panel's warp color distribution looks like this. Now I can count the number of warp pairs I need; it's a little hard to see, but from the right, it's 8 pairs of Marine+Navy, 13 pairs of Sky+Navy, 29 pairs of Teal+Navy and so on. I need to wind 428 pairs, or 856 ends, of yarn.

Lengthwise, although I probably need between 7 and 8 meters of warp, I love to weave samples and I don't want to run out of warp while weaving the project, so I'm going for the maximum length I can on a tool called a warping board, a little over 10 meters. With leftover warp, I'll probably get a shawl, but if not, I usually weave warp-end fabrics in the hope that some day I will actually turn them into something usable. (I have a rather large stash of these warp-end fabrics, though.)  
Finally I can make the warp; like many things in weaving, the actual physical work is simple and repetitive. Key here is to pull the yarn off the cones and wind it around the pegs under the same tension for every single end/pair, and count accurately. From the top left to the bottom left-of-center makes one warp end; when I turn round and reach top left again, that's the second warp end. Wind, wind, wind... Can you tell, at this point, it's just a pair of long pieces of merino going around the wooden pegs? If I'm using only one color, an entire warp can consist of one long piece of yarn.

When making multi-colored warps, I cut and tie different colors and keep going, but depending on how I've combined colors, sometimes I make separate warps for each color, then blend them when they go on the loom. 
Some of us use contrasting color yarns, (sometimes loom waste from previous projects,) as counters. There is also the small matter of making crosses, which are super important when we put the warp on the loom, but for now, I'll just show you one; I make them at the start and the end, or the top and the the bottom of the warping board.
I mentioned the unique situation of my house. Yarns come off cones easily when pulled up rather than sideways. There are gadgets to help with this, but conveniently I have a wee landing near a small wall-mounted heater in the hallway, which together works treat. (This heater is very old and and inefficient and we once tried to replace it until I remembered the morning it was supposed to come out that I needed this more than a new, efficient, undinged heater 10cm taller. Also, the heater is in front of the loo, a fact I don't like to advertise, but if needed, I have one immediately behind me.) The cones sit on the landing, yarns are pulled straight up, I stand in front of the board/heater/(loo) so the yarns travel a good distance upward.

I used to listen to music on the boombox, but these days it's more often podcasts, audiobooks or even videos on the laptop, but you can see I have everything I need, including CDs, an ice cream container of loose strings, and tall cup of milky chai.

The rest is just repeating, not even rinsing. The pegs on the warping board may fill up and I may need to split one warp into two "chains" but otherwise, I keep winding and counting. I like to make a warp within the same day so the tension remains the same, but light is the most important element and as I get older I started to have difficulties seeing, (i.e. counting accurately,) under artificial light. If it is a big warp, say 1600 ends, I have to do this over a couple of days because, again, I start to make counting mistakes.

OK, I must get back to winding. More in the life of a warp to come, though.