A bit of a bad day in the workshop


Notice the error? I did'nt at first

Notice the error? I didn't at first

I’m sure everyone who has learnt to weave has a day they’d rather put behind them and quietly forget about. I’ve had four brilliant sessions in the college textile workshop and came away each time feeling I’d made real progress. Today was my fifth session and I had planned at the outset to complete the blue and white warp I had started two weeks ago. I’d decided after making (quite successfully) three plain warps I should do a pattern with two colours.

Two Warp Yarns

Two Warp Yarns

I took my inspiration from that yellow and black warp I’d studied on the Ethel Mairet scarf I illustrated here a few weeks ago. I found two interesting yarns, a blue linen (Glenary waxed @ 14 epi ) and an off-white cotton and wool mixture (Herdmans softened @ 17 epi). They looked great together. A fortnight ago I’d had no problems getting the warp as far as the threading stage. I reckoned I could knock this off in an hour or so . . .

When I sat down to do this I found to my horror that I had put the warp on the front beam. I’m supposed to be practising warping back to front. Now, I can warp front to back, and this is, in retrospect, what I should have done. But no, I took the warp apart and re-raddled it on the back beam. Mistake no1!! I discovered linen really does not like being raddled twice. I even managed to put the wrong end of the warp on the back beam batten! Finally, I abandoned it and made another warp.

3 Chained Warps

3 Chained Warps

Now preparing warps is getting a whole lot easier for me. I’ve almost stopped losing count of where I am (I usually warp in lengths of 20). I have also (finally) learnt to chain the warp when I get it off the warping frame. The patient person who gave me my first instruction on this went over and over this process. Could I do it!? Eventually I learnt after a fashion, but only after practising with a piece of rope. It took a moment of truth in my own studio last week to finally crack it, as I realised I’d missed an important part of the jigsaw of the process – what you do at the end – tieing up the final loop in the warp to the final loop in the chain itself (which stops just before the cross! 

In the college workshop I’ve seen Andrea put the lease sticks into the cross whilst the warp is still on the warping frame. I decided that I wouldn’t do this for once, but see if I could it at a later stage (imagining that I’d want to hang up the warp or transport it home). The first time I tried putting the lease sticks into the cross – disaster! I thought I’d done it correctly (untied the safety thread around the cross) to discover I’d missed a chunk of cross threads. Nothing for it but to warp again! Second time around I managed to do what I wanted, but I did tie the warp using the choke ties I’d learnt to tie initially (and never seen used in the workshop). 

A Helpful Sketch

A Helpful Sketch

For some reason the raddling process with this mix of yarns seemed to take forever. I found the linen increasingly difficult to handle and the lease sticks kept falling out. Holding the two bunches of yarns – those raddled, those yet to raddled – seemed really awkward. Eventually I got to the threading stage and then to my disappointment I lost confidence in my ability to remember all the successive stages thereafter. Here my photos and sketch book drawings came to my rescue. I went into the computer suite and brought up the web Gallery of Images on my Mobile-Me .Mac site. This gallery contains a complete photographic record of the HNC course to date and my workshop sessions. If there are any images interested readers would find useful they can be downloaded – or you can even upload images of your own that you think are complementary and you’d like to share. Even with this photographic record I do find making illustrative labelled drawings in my sketchbook really useful.

By the end of the day I’d only got to the threading through the reed stage, but I had begun to realise I’d actually learnt a great deal. I made a check list that included:

  • Make sure the loom is positioned back to front before you bring the warp chain to the loom;
  • learn the appropriate knot for fixing the batten to the apron cloth;
  • remember how to hang the lease sticks from the castle;
  • don’t forget to allow for the selvedge when threading the first heddle;

This list goes on quite a bit!

A Linen Yarn

A Linen Yarn

Here I’d like to back track and discuss my warp plan. Because this is only a trial warp I’d decided on no more than an 8″ width. My yarns were: Blue linen / 14 epi ; off-white mix / 17 epi. I warped these two yarns in sequence of 20 (blue), 20 (white), 40 (blue and white wound together), 20 (white), 20 (blue), 4 extra for selvedge. This made 124 epi. What I had certainly not anticipated was the difficulty I experienced wwith the linen yarn. If you look at the photo on the left you’ll see it is a very uneven thread in its thickness and it gets easily distressed. Linen comes from the flax plant linium usitatissimum. It’s the strongest of the vegetable fibres, much stronger than cotton. It’s a lovely texture for clothes, but wrinkles easily. In commercial weaving I learnt from Graham (who kindly offered a solution to my problems handling the stuff – spray a little water on it) humidifiers are used to help in the threading process to keep the yarn manageable. 

So a long and rather frustrating day, but in retrospect I came away from it considerably wiser (and more determined than ever). There were a few moments when I did feel tempted to walk away from the whole business, but with only one day a week I can devote to this study it didn’t seem a good idea.


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