Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I Surrender

One of many things on my weaving bucket list is was to do the overshot pattern "Lee's Surrender"/. Since I can't stand to have a naked loom sitting around and I had the thread I needed, I decided to tackle this milestone in my weaving journey. Overshot is an impressive looking weave structure, but not especially difficult. The issues arise because of the complex threading pattern, which involved lots of counting and re-counting, and the long treadling sequence. I should have realized that this was going to be a challenge when I wound off the incorrect number of warp threads and had to add 36 more to each side after the warp was already on the loom. Thankfully I noticed the error before threading or I probably would have just thrown in the towel before I ever got started. But being not one to back down from a challenge, I pulled the first warp out, added the new threads to each side, and re-wound it back on. This was reminiscent of the infamous Texas Bluebonnet Tartan warp which took over 40 hours to get on the loom. 10/2 mercerized cotton has a good amount of twist, which makes it really strong; but also makes it tend to wrap around itself like a rope when you have a long bunch of threads that are not under tension. Thankfully I was able to utilize the tips and pitfalls I learned during the Tartan Debacle to get this warp back on in just an afternoon. But it definitely required a certain amount of alcohol at the end.

I was really careful during the threading because the Baby Mac has stainless steel heddles, and shafts that are really close together because of it's compact size. A threading error could mean hours of work making the correction. So after much counting and re-counting I began weaving. I used 10/2 mercerized cotton for the warp and tabby weft, and 5/2 mercerized cotton for the pattern weft. After a slow start (it really took some concentration to throw pattern weft, tabby weft, pattern weft, tabby weft...) I was about halfway through when I noticed an odd blank area in Block B.

After posting to the 4-Shaft Facebook group and getting lots of input and advice, I determined that I needed to be more consistent in how I was beating it, and to leave more of an angle in the pattern weft. But in addition, I noticed the dreaded THREADING ERROR! If you look 1 block up and two blocks to the right of the red arrow, there is a tan thread running down the middle of the green bar. Arrrrggggghhhh! Since I was already halfway through the first table runner, I just cut it off to be able to fix the error. Since you can't just add in a metal heddle once everything is threaded, I made a string heddle, which was not an easy feat working in tight quarters on a threaded loom. I actually make two string heddles because the first one I accidently tied to the wrong shaft (again). Once everything was tied and re-tensioned, it was time to start weaving again. By this time, I'm working really hard on beating consistently. I get to Block B, and get the same wierd space again. And then I realize - I'm looking at the wrong side of the fabric!! The Baby Mac is a jack loom (the shafts lift when you press on the treadles), and the draft was written for a sinking shed loom (shafts go down when you press the heddles). So I pull out the sample I had cut off, turn it over, and voila - no error at all.

At this point, the body is looking pretty decent, but my selvedges are horrendously ugly. One of the benefits of belonging to a weaving guild with an extensive library is that you can check out books on just about any weaving topic you can imagine. Donna Sullivan's book "Weaving Overshot" provided lots of good information and also suggested using floating selvedges. I normally do this anyway, but had read somewhere else that they weren't necessary since you have a tabby weft anchoring the pattern weft in overshot. Well let me say this, "I will never do another overshot pattern without a floating selvedge." I added one in for the next table runner, and it helped immensely. I also tried out a wool pattern weft. The pattern is a little more subtle in the wool after wet finishing, and it doesn't need quite as hard a beat (since it's squishy) as the cotton. Although happy with how both of these came out, they both have errors where I pressed a pattern treadle instead of a tabby treadle a couple of times. That means they won't be going in the CHH sale, but staying with me. I'd like to do them again on the David loom, now that I know what I need to do differently. But that's probably not going to happen for a while. In the meantime, here are pictures of the finished runners.

Breaking in the Baby Mac

Last November I ran across a small portable 8-shaft loom for sale on Ravelry. The price was right, and it was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Never one to shy away from a road trip, I decided that it was just the thing to keep me busy until we could get my studio space done and the David could come out of storage. Not to mention the fact that I had to pass on a workshop that I really wanted to take because it required an 8-shaft loom. So off I went. In retrospect, it wasn't quite as good a deal as it seemed after factoring in gas and hotel, but you know how it is when you get caught up in the heat of the moment. Once home, I brought her in and started setting up for a practice project to work out the kinks. It's amazing to me that anyone was actually weaving on it at all considering how many things were assembled wrong, screws in backwards, etc. Must have been a nightmare! But she's all cleaned up now, added more heddles and texolv cords for tie-up.

My first project was a scarf using some 5/2 rayon slub that I found in the clearance section of a weaving shop in Comfort. I figured that if things didn't go well, I at least would be out much if I had to cut it off! Turned out pretty nice, even if I do say so myself. So nice, that I put it in my Etsy shop (in case anyone is interested in a gift.)

Now for the loom review. Pros: It's portable. I can get it in and out of the car by myself. And it will fold up with the warp on and the treadles tied (if you're using Texsolv). Cons: This loom is made for someone of average to below average height. It's not too bad to weave on, but getting the warp on and threading heddles and reed are a pain. Literally! I really like warping back to front, but I'm afraid that I'm going to have to give that up and go front to back just to save my back. Even with the loom up on blocks and sitting on a low stool, it's too low to thread comfortably. Then tying up the treadles required laying flat on my back in the floor to be able to see the bottom of the harnesses and hook up the treadles. But the little cushion I bought for yoga works great as a pillow! There is no way I could use this loom for a workshop that required changing the tie-up during class. But once you get all that done, it weaves nicely (even though it's pretty tight getting my legs to fit).

Now that it had been 9 months since we moved, I found the deadline for "swatch swap" fast approacing. And the David was still in storage. The topic for this year was 10/2, so I had decided I wanted to do doubleweave using 10/2 cotton. If I'm going to do samples, I may as well be learning something too, and I had never quite been able to wrap my head around how to weave two layers at once. The nice thing is that you have a nice pattern on the front and back, and the fabric is really sturdy (would make great upholstery fabric). The bad thing is that you have double the number of threads that you would normally be using for the same width cloth, which takes a long time to thread (oh, my aching back). But it was worth the effort, as I was really pleased with how they came out. In fact, once David is out of storage I may do some fabric for pillows or a jacket or a bag. The pictures below are the front and back of my swatches.