Saturday, December 29, 2012


I do some felt work for a fiber processing business I work for.  This was one of the most interesting.  We got a request for a banner.  I had done some felting where I had a design, sometimes it slipped and sometimes I could keep the design distinct.  With this banner, I needed to keep the name looking good.  The company had given me a rough draft of the design the way he wanted it.

I admit I spent a lot of time just thinking about the problems and possible solutions...as usual I over-thought the whole thing.  You know the feeling after weeks of worrying about it, you start getting it done then look at it and realize that it wasn't that bad to do.  In this case, that was the result...a good one and I could not believe I had worried about it so much.

I had several batts that had been carded out of the wool from the sheep the company raises.  I started by laying out the color for the back of the banner and I made it 30% larger than the finished banner needed to be.
This is the brown back of the banner.
The wool was carded into eight ounce batts about 40" by 36", I just needed to tear them to size and overlap and blend the joins.  For the middle layer I used the white, then added a top layer of white so that the banner would have a nice background to put the design on.
The middle layer mostly covered the back color.
Here I have part of the top layer giving the white ground.
I alternated the "grain" of the batts for additional strength on the banner and with the three layers, I had a large batt laid out that was about 3 inches thick.
The thickness of the banner before wetting and felting.
I enjoyed looking at the smooth expanse of wool for a few minutes, then added the background pattern that he had designed.  To do this I was provided a roving of a fawn color to add "swirls" in the banner.
Swirls laid on the batt.
I was worried that the fawn did not have enough contrast with the background, but in the finished piece it looked great and did not detract from the lettering.
Close up showing the dimension of the roving on the ground.
In the pictures you can see the blue bubble wrap (actually pool cover) that I roll the piece in to put on the felting machine.  

At this point, I wetted down the whole piece, and left it to absorb the water while I cut out the letters.  I had pre-felted some 4 ounce batts to use for the letters and for the border around the banner.  As I cut them out, I worried that the pre-felt was not thick enough and the letters would look transparent.  As it turned out, they looked fine and I felted them to the banner with a pad sander that I have used for felting some years ago.
Letters worked out great.
I had put the felt through the roller first, but the letters need something additional to adhere them so they would felt into the background fabric.
My trusty sander doing it's work.
I dug out my old sander from my previous work with felting (some 5 years ago), and worked over each letter and the border until they began to felt together.  I had sponged off some of the water, because I had problem with the fibers slipping out of place if the felt was too wet when I started processing.  A batt of felt this thick really took some extra felting to get it felted through all the thickness.
The felting machine is know as Proud Mary...she just keeps rolling...rolling...
I rolled the banner up in the bubble wrap and put it in the felting machine.  The machine just does the rolling for me.  Instead of me bending over the table and rolling the piece back and forth, I put it in "Proud Mary" and go back to the studio and weave.  After the set time, I have to come  back out and unroll the piece and roll from the other direction.  The felt is more processed on the outer sections of the roll, so I need to re-roll several times to keep the felting consistent along the complete length of the banner.  Proud Mary helps with the processing, but I still need to direct it to get a good finished product.  (Because felting is a wet process, I keep the felting machine in our heated garage...too bad we do not have room for a car in there any more.)

I even had to fold the banner in half and to process the middle section, because of the two yard length.  But in the end the banner worked out great and I added a hanging sleeve in the top of the back so that the new owners can slide a pvc pipe through and then the banner can hang over their booth.
Finished banner ready for delivery.
The background swirls look great and just add to the design, and the letters did not shift or loose their shape.  
I am very pleased with the first try with a banner, now I just need to do some small test pieces to check out edge finishes, stitching over the letters for added emphasis, other methods of adding the hanging sleeve....always something to think about and try to improve.
Here's a close-up of the felt surface.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Five Things that I learned or was reminded of again

This is a piece I wrote to present to my local weaver's guild after we had woven a napkin exchange.  I don't remember if the information ever got into the newsletter.  Anyway, it has some interesting things for us to consider when we plan and weave our projects.

1.  Repair heddles are great and worth the price.
            When I set up my looms, I have a specific number of heddles on each shaft.  I determine this number based on what I usually use.  I have flat steel heddles and they add weight to the lifting so I want to keep the weight down.
            As you know the heddles have an up and a down and a right and a left and there are two types that alternate when you have them on correctly.  Having the heddles on correctly makes threading faster and easier for me.
            When I planned this warp, I needed 74 heddles on four of the shafts and 76 on the other four.  This loom has 75 heddles on each shaft, so I knew I needed to add to four shafts.  Usually when I add shafts I add them in groups of 25 (that is the number of heddles in each group I store).  Adding heddles is a lot of work, and for only one heddle, I decided to just add a repair heddle.  You can tie in a string one, but in my case I found 4 repair heddles that I have to fit this loom.  It took about 5 seconds each to slip the heddles on and I did not have to remove anything from the loom/shafts to do it.  I love repair heddles and they are worth the price.

2.  Wind the bobbins, pirns, or quills well for easier weaving.
            A well wound source of yarn that is not loose, will help the weaving be more even.  To wind a quill, you need to know a few things.  The heavy paper you use for the quill should be about ¾” shorter than the bobbin space in your shuttle.  I like to have the length of the paper about 1½ times the width of the paper.  When you wind you need to start by building up the ends.  These bulges replace the flanges on the bobbins that you buy. You want to build it up to be just smaller than the opening for the bobbin.  I need to be careful building these, I hate it when the ends of the quill collapse   When the two sides are built up, fill in the center.  You want to add tension to the yarn so each layer that you build does not dig into the layers below it.  (If you wind it too loosely, the upper layers dig in and then don’t feed out evenly when you are weaving.) 
Bobbins, quills, or pirns – the way you wind them will determine how even your thread feeds out and how even and pleasurable the weaving is. The finer the yarn is the more this matters.
On pirns, you need to wind in a continuous cone shape.  Start at the wide end of the pirn and build the shape across the length, do not back up to fill in the narrow sections, just continue building the cone to the end.

3.  Test the sett, but it doesn't always help because different types of yarns beat differently.
            As I was putting the warp on about 2 weeks ago, I did not put a sample warp on to test the sett.  I went by the instructions given, which was just a general suggestion.  With the pattern that I used, I probably should have used a more open sett.  Due to this closer sett warp, I need to do a very hard double beat to come close to squaring my pattern.  Also, the Webs pearl cotton was harder to beat in.  Is this difficulty because the yarn is a little bit thicker, or because the twist is tighter, or because the twist is the opposite direction?  And will that direction of twist change the look of the pattern?  That is a lot to think about.

4.  After you figure your warp requirements, wait a few hours and recheck them.
By miscalculation I received 8 different yarns, but only gave out 7 of mine.  I knew this but at the time I was figuring my amounts (two weeks ago in a rush), I didn't take that into consideration.  I had planned on having 12 napkins and so I figured the amounts for 12 napkins, instead of the 13 I needed to weave.  I also messed up with the take-up.  For some reason having the on loom width of 20 (I didn't have to figure shrink and take-up), I didn't figure shrink and take-up on the length.  Big mistake on my part, because I got 11½ napkins instead of the 13 I had wanted to weave so that I would have a set of 12.  I didn't realize the math mistake until the warp was almost woven and the weaving was not long enough.  I checked back on my math figuring and found the glaring mistake.  Oddly enough I made this mistake the same week I was teaching “Figuring your Warp” in my beginning weaving class.  I always tell my students to get an experienced weaver to check the math if you are not sure.  So I want all of you to be aware, next time I figure a warp, I may be giving you a call to check my thinking. 

5.  Check your loom and keep it in good condition.  Sudden changes in warp tension may not be your fault.
            Near the end of my warp, I suddenly got badly loosened tension on the left side of the weaving.  I looked over the loom to the back beam and warp beam to see if I could see a problem in the warp.  What I saw was a bolt on the floor!  All of that hard double beating of the warp had loosened the bolt and nut at the back.  Of course, I was not able to find the barrel nut.  I’m sure my vacuum will find it later to its detriment.  I went digging around in my tool box and found another nut.  I loosened the warp, adjusted the loom and unwove about 5 to 6 shots to get back to the even weaving.  This experience reminded to tighten the screws and bolts in you loom before you start a project and after you finish it so that your loom stays in working condition.  (A good vacuum job to keep the dust off the loom, and controls the dust bunnies under the loom is also a good goal.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Projects on the Looms

I got the towels woven and washed, but I do not have a good photo yet.  I need to spend some time getting a good shot.  Here is a close up of the structure.  On the unwashed side you can see the stitchers and on the washed side they are hidden and it looks like regular basket weave.  
When I heard about the structure in a workshop last year, it was new and exciting, we had not seen anything like it.\.  Then, as I started looking around and I found the pattern in the Mary M Atwater Recipe Book, she was using it in the 1930's.  There is very little new in weaving, we just keep "re-discovering" the things over and over.

When I finished the towels, I decided to put on the Lichen Scarf.  That gives me two new projects on my looms.  I am bouncing back from loom to loom doing weaving.

I love the block twill, and now it is the correct pattern so I am very pleased with it.

I also put a new warp on the Big Mac.  I have had this project in the queue for a long time.  I got a Christmas towel from a friend years ago.  It was one of those printed towels, the 12 days of Christmas, but I loved the structure of the weaving.
Here is the towel showing the 12 days
But look at that cool structure
I spent some time figuring the threading...of course there were some threads missing but I got a "basket weave variation."  I also want to develop a waffle weave variation. 

But for this project I want to make picnic napkins to match the dishes in the picnic basket.  It took me some additional time to get the yarns that fit my color requirements.  I found out about a sale on cotton/linen yarn and got the colors to do my piece.
My mismatched dishes are tied together with the napkin!
The hardest part so far was tying up the treadles.  The pattern has sixteen shafts and sixteen treadles and 128 tie ups.  My poor body after 30 minutes under the loom.  I had forgotten how hard and time consuming it is to tie up that many.
Two versions of the tie-up my figuring and the walking version

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Enjoying My Weaving Time

My classes are over until January, and I am enjoying some weaving time.  I have also put up the small Christmas trees I bought on sale last year.  I had been looking for something to frame the front door and was deciding on these trees.  When I checked them at the store, they had dropped in price and so I bought two for the doorway.  

I took them out last week and added red balls and some green holly leaves...they already had lights. I like the look of them at the front door.

Front door for Christmas
As I said, my weaving time has been productivel.  I finished the towel warp and I have six towels and some samples for the notebook.  I am in the process of hemming them now and I can't wait to see how they will look after they are washed.  
Finished fabric on the cloth beam
A pile of finished towels

When I took the towels off the Baby Wolf, I put on the scarf I designed from the Pont du Gard pictures.  I like the colors from the stone and lichen and I love the memory of being there.
While everyone was taking pictures of the wonderful aqueduct  I was taking close-up pictures of the stone and the lichen growing on it.  I also loved the graffiti ..there was the original 2000 year old numbering system the Romans had used so that the masons could fit the pieces together. And the marks left from the many masons that visited the site through the middle ages.  I guess when you were made a "Master" you traveled to visit the great sites, then signed your name...or your mark if you couldn't read, to show that you had been there.

Yes, I did take pictures of me there, too.

Here is the scarf after weaving.   I had threaded it correctly with the twill block changes in the center of the color stripe, but the first time I wove it, I didn't change the pattern in the right area.  Here you can see the pattern when the block changes at the same place as  the color.

Now here is the redone pattern with the block change happening in the middle of the color change.
I am very pleased with this pattern.  Two block twill patterns are found in many of the books, but this design with the color changing in the middle of the block is one I found in Sharon Alderman's book "Mastering Weave Structures."  

Because of the splicing I am doing at each color change, I am only weaving 26 inches an hour.  On the second scarf, I will have to see if I can be happy with a quicker color change method.

My teaching at Pioneer Craft House is doing pretty good.  The classes last quarter filled nicely.

I have been having fun going through the old textiles there.  I have been washing and hemming some of them to use for class examples, to decorate the Weaving Studio there and just to look at the craftsmanship of them.   

A few of the woven pieces have labels in them and I recognize some of the weaver's name from reading old "Handweaver and Craftsman" magazines.  But check out this table cloth.  I don't think it is handwoven, but the workmanship is wonderful.

This piece has stitchery in the center section and pulled thread work on the side pieces.  I really love the seams...some of them are functional where two fabrics were joined, but some are just decorative to balance the pattern...
Here's a closer shot of the pulled thread work.  I believe the piece is linen, and there is also a slightly smaller one done very much the same.  Were they done by the same person, and when were they done.  I wish there was some information about the textiles, but unfortunately over the years it was all lost.  But I think most of them are from the 1930's and 1940's.