Serendipitous Weaving

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I’ve been really enjoying band weaving of late, especially weaving in the turned krokbragd style. It is loom-controlled and quite easy to set up after you understand the constraints. Loom controlled means that the thinking is in the set up and the weaving can be done at night when I’m too tired to think. Following a pattern is fairly straightforward, it is setting up new designs to be woven that take precision and accuracy. Step one is to design your pattern on a brick-like grid. Not so hard. Then, because the grid is actually representational of a 3-dimensional object and warping is done linearly (2-dimensional), a translation must be made. The threading diagram looks nothing like what the woven band will look like. It’s an amazing puzzle that I enjoy quite a lot.

In a recent band, something was lost in translation between the “brick” diagram and the threading diagram. Perhaps it had something to do with the craft beer I had with dinner, or the fact that it was quite a wide band, or I was just too tired to be doing that kind of work late in the evening, but whatever the reason, my threading diagram didn’t represent the band in my mind’s eye. I figured this out about halfway through the threading. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to forge ahead and see what this now “unknown band” would look like. So I marched on with the threading according to my chart.

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Non-traditional serendipity

It turns out that I love the band. It taught me that this weave structure doesn’t have to rely on traditional krokbragd motifs, it only needs to rely on a repetition of three. So simple, yet it is like a whole new door of possibilities opened. I can’t wait to do some  purposeful designing that strays from the traditional.

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Rewoven and traditional

So that I would have something to compare my accidental design to, I reworked the threading diagram to achieve the pattern I originally intended. It is decidedly in the krokbragd style. I am looking forward to marrying the restrictions of the weave structure with the possibilities it has to offer in new and different ways.

A big shout out to my friend Tom, Excel master extraordinary. Between the two of us, he managed to program a spreadsheet that can accurately assist me in converting the brick diagram to the threading diagram. What a joy it is to warp with confidence from an accurate threading diagram. Thanks, Tom!

Technical details:
Both bands have 127 threads
Non traditional: used 8/2 cotton with 8/4 cotton weft. 1 3/8″ wide
Traditional design: used #8 perle cotton in both warp and weft. 1 1/4″ wide

Every Warp Brings a Lesson … or Two

Simple is never simple. Our Jane Stafford On-Line Guild Study Group decided to do a year-end towel exchange to apply what we have learned in our own way over the past three years. I had several personal goals in mind, namely: to explore the 2-ply Lithuanian linen we carry in the shop, to weave a pattern I love (goose eye twill) and, of course, to produce towels for our exchange. Little did I know how these simple towels would challenge me.

The assignment called for a towel roughly 20” wide. To balance my pattern, my plan called for 415 ends, a width of 20.75” in the reed at a sett of 20 epi. I planned for four towels and one sample.

My (abbreviated) draft looked like this:

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The first sample. Kinda squiggly.

I based my sett on earlier woven samples to arrive at a sett of 20 for a nice drapey towel (perhaps my sett samples were mislabeled?). My first sample was a gauzy fail, but I did try different yarns in the weft (from top to bottom): 8/4 Brassard cotton, the three different linen warp colors used as weft, a 6/1 Borgs tow linen, and 8/2 Brassard cotton. From this sample I decided to shoot for 24 epi and work a second sample (no photo because I have misplaced it). What it taught me was that 24 is the right sett. 8/4 weft is too heavy, the linen is stiff, and the 8/2 has a nice hand that immediately matches the intended purpose of the fabric. Based on what we learned in Jane Stafford’s on-line guild, I did not rebeam the warp. I tensioned normally, because, in theory, that little difference in width shouldn’t matter if even tension was maintained throughout the warp, which it would be.

With the sett determined, I had to figure out why I was having so much problem with my selvedges. The simple fixes weren’t working:

  • Wider weaver’s angle.
  • Advance more frequently.
  • Sley the floating selvedge by itself
  • Use a heaver thread for the floating selvedge (three-ply versus two-ply).
  • Change the direction of throwing the shuttle.

My next thought was about a paper written by Alice Schlein called The Selvedge Dilemma (Alice shared it on WeaveTech a number of years ago). She discussed working with the twist of the yarn to correct selvedge breakage. For my “S” plied yarn, I threw over the floating selvedges on each when passing the shuttle from left to right and under the FS on each side on the return (a circular pattern, rather than the traditional figure-eight). Changing to this method of throwing the shuttle did make things better, but it did not eliminate the problem.

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Nasty selvedges are painful!

At the same time, I was having a problem with the linen breaking at the spinning joins. I remembered from a class with Nancy Hoskins, that dampening the linen by laying a damp cloth on the web behind the castle may help. After all, linen is stronger when wet. That helped tremendously. I should note that the humidity the past week in Michigan has been in the 20s. Very, very low. I continued with the damped linen tea towel throughout the entire warp, periodically adjusting it as it repositioned itself from the movement of the warp and I had no more breakage.

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A damp linen towel on the web stopped the linen plies from splitting mid weave.

I was getting ½” draw in on each side. My warp was still beamed for 20. In addition to selvedge issues, I wasn’t getting clear lower sheds, even after the apron rod went over the front beam. I attributed this to the jack loom. The unevenness of the lower shed caused the shuttle to dive and sometimes to bump threads and bounce back. I was continually digging my hands into the warp to push the shuttle through. There was no way I could weave four towels under these conditions and maintain my sanity and the integrity of the warp.

Following the “suck it up buttercup” school of weaving, I cut off the second sample, pulled the warp forward and secured the dangling floating selvedges to the back apron rod, secured two pairs of miscounted warp threads, and effectively removed any messiness at the back of the loom. I then weighted each of the three warp sections using 2.5 pound weights laid on the floor and rebeamed using the reed as a raddle.

After tensioning for the third time, everything looked much nicer, even the lower shed. However, it was still looser than the upper and caused problems. The last thing left to do to fix my selvedges problem was add a temple. That did the trick. The warp became an enjoyable weave.

The next challenge was to remember the very simple pattern while weaving in public during regular shop hours. I always need to weave a bit to find the rhythm/pattern that makes sense to me. It was another “suck it up” moment when I realized I couldn’t eyeball the pattern if I wanted to get the results I intended. I would have to count. But, hey, it was only to 15. Then I found that my mind wandered or I would get distracted and forget if I was going up or down the twill and I would break the pattern. I solved that by putting a marker on the warp selvedge on the side the twill started on. It only took a hot second to place it and it saved my bacon several times. If I was weaving in solitary, that probably wouldn’t have been necessary, but it did help me and was worth the extra step.

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The clip acted as a reminder as to twill direction.

Finishing was simply a machine wash, hand hem and press. I’m pleased with the end result and like the quiet, classic colors and weave.

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All this thinking and testing and fretting created quite a mess!

Lessons learned:

  • 20% humidity and linen don’t mix well without intervention.
  • In the future I will weave linen on one of our countermarche looms. I proved it can be done on a jack, but I think it will be easier with equal warp tension and since I have the luxury of a selection of looms, I might as well take advantage.
  • Count more carefully at the warping board. This is the second warp in recent memory where miscounting in the measuring contributed to problems at the loom.
  • Mixing cotton with linen creates a lovely fabric with benefits of each fiber.
  • Cotton shrinks more than linen. I should have planned for that when using the golden mean to calculate towel length. The cotton weft shrank a full 1” more than the linen weft, making my towels disproportionately long.
  • I will continue using Alice’s selvedge solution to honor yarn twist.
  • I still love weaving!

Weaving notes:

  • Warp – 2 ply linen, approx. 4,075 ypp (bleached white, natural, light blue)
  • Weft – 8/2 Brassard Cotton (denim)
  • 24 epi, sleyed 2 per dent in 12 dent reed
  • Color plan: division of space in thirds. Outside thirds alternated one natural with one light blue, center third is bleached white.
  • Weaving notes: woven using a temple.
  • Loom dimensions: 17.25 in the reed and woven to the Golden Mean @ 26.5”.
  • Washed dimensions (excludes hems): 15 x 24.75 Note: width was 16 when linen was used as the weft.

 

Ripping Back

“Perfect is the enemy of the good.” -Voltaire

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Ripping back knitting can be painful or liberating. Sometimes it is a transition from one perspective to the other. It is usually not easy to make the decision and many things can push you over the edge. Perhaps it is size — I remember a customer that was making a sweater for her husband and it was turning out big enough to fit both her and has husband — at the same time — yet she continued knitting. It will get better, she said. Denial is a powerful opponent.

Then there’s that small error in the lace pattern, “No one will notice.” Sure the scarf will still keep you warm, but will it bother you? My 3D art instructor told us that projects should look as good on the inside as the outside. Then she said, others will not see the inside, but you and God will know the difference. She had a point.

In working on a new hat design that required me to rip the crown off a fully completed hat because the color was “off,” I got to thinking that a few tips for ripping back and fixing errors might be helpful to others.

  • Get your head in the right place. Find the learning opportunity. I always try to fix errors if I possibly can. Lace, dropped stitches, forgotten yarn overs, whatever. Even if I don’t succeed in fixing it, I always learn more about how the yarn moves through the row and how the stitches relate to each other. That learning makes future fixes more successful.
    Be prepared with the rights tools. I find bamboo needles and locking stitch markers helpful for holding stitches. A Susan Bates Knit Check tool is a must. It has a crochet hook on one end and a pointed end on the other.IMG_0124
  • If you must take your stitches fully off the needle, use a needle at least two sizes smaller to pick up the stitches again. The smaller needle will make it easier to orient the stitches and nearly eliminate split stitches. Warning — make sure to resume knitting using the correct needle size.
  • Set a pattern in weaving in your ends. In the crown I recently ripped out, I was very grateful that I always weave in ends on my hats in the same way. I was able to find them and tease them out — no scissors needed.
  • If you are working with wool or other yarns that respond well to steam, it will help stitches stay where you want them if you steam them before ripping. It will not matter that the yarn is kinked from the steam. Reknit and block and the slight irregularities from steaming will disappear.

Be brave. Learn. Make beautiful work that you will be proud of. Learn to judge for yourself when “good enough” is indeed good enough. Learn when to rip and when to fix. Learn to be kind to yourself and enjoy every part of the knitting process.

Krokbragd on the Inkle

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Woven bands have had many different uses over the years – from keeping socks up, to closing feed bags, to securing bonnets to the head. Here they are used to exactly match a woven bag, providing the handle, trim and zipper strip. This warp was leftover from a student and repurposed to become a shop sample.

If you aren’t a weaver, it may be better to just enjoy the pretty pictures in this post. If you are a curious person, but not a weaver, some of this will probably stick and make sense. If you are a weaver, I am not providing a pattern, but rather discussing krokbragd and the technical details of these small pieces. I hope you all enjoy.

Krokbragd is a Norwegian term for a style of weaving that translates to “crooked path.” It is traditionally done using a floor loom and as a weft faced weave, rather than as a band woven warp faced. I first began working with krokbragd on the floor loom after seeing it in Norway in many variations. The simple structure relies more on color than structure for it’s interest. In Norway it may be woven as a coverlet, a table topper/runner, or even a cradle blanket backed with fleece. The colors are the colors that come from the land.

Since I truly enjoy weaving on the portable inkle loom used to weave narrow bands, it was only natural that I would try making krokbragd bands. These photos tell my discoveries, including oops and successes. The most challenging part of weaving krokbragd bands is getting the loom warped successfully. It is more tedious than difficult.

The first lesson I learned was that creating a pattern for a band is much different than creating a pattern for the floor loom. The turning of the weave structure changes the way the pattern is made. After a couple times through the design process, I figured it out. Using the correct grid paper is imperative. Next I set “standards” that I always follow. I name the heddles from the closest to me (heddle 1) to the standard inkle heddle (heddle 2) and the farthest heddle (number 3). My weaving rhythm is heddle [1, 2, 3, 2], repeat.

I have learned that wider warps are stickier and must be “broken” a bit at a time rather than making the shed all at once. Narrow warps are easier to get a clear shed. More stories under the photos.

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Color and contrast is everything. The colors looked great together on the cone, but once in the band, the green and the blue were too close in value to really make things pop. As weaver’s say, I cut this dog off the loom, leaving only enough of a sample to remember the “value lesson.” It is 1.25″/31 mm wide and used 5/2 cotton, 80+ threads.
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In which I learn to follow a pattern. This is one of my early experiments. It wasn’t intended to be asymmetrical. Staying focused when setting up looms and weaving can be a challenge. I will blame it on that. This is another band with value problems. There isn’t enough contrast between the yellow an the orange. It was this band that really taught me how to create a pattern that works.  1.5″/38 mm wide, 3/2 cotton.
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The sheep band is the band I teach in my intro to krokbragd on the inkle class. It is easy to see the sheep grow — the background, a leg, a nose, a leg, (Heddle 1,2,3,2). You can see that the back side looks very different than the front. This band used 5/2 cotton and is .75″ / 20 mm wide.
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The bag and the two bands were woven using 3/2 cotton. The krokbragd band is 1.8275″ / 47 mm wide. A full view of the bag is shown at the top of this post.
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A bright band. Nothing quiet about this one. 3/2 cotton 1.5″ / 38 mm wide.
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Tending toward more traditional Norwegian colors. This band used 5/2 cotton and is .75″ / 20 mm wide.
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I like the preciseness of this band. It is finer – woven using 10/2 cotton with a 3/2 weft yarn. It measures 1.25″ / 32 mm. I found that using the same size weft as warp thread resulted in a pattern that wasn’t square. With the thicker warp I was able to achieve a nice square of the black center threads. 
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The most ambitious band I have woven in this style used 5/2 cotton in both warp and weft. With over 160 threads, it is 2.375″ / 60 mm.  It pushed the limits of comfortable weaving on the Schacht inkle loom that used. I found that rubber bands on the ends of each of the pegs prevented a crisis. This was a very sticky warp that took extra time to tease it open to get a clear shed. I am really happy with the results and have no idea what it will be used for. For now I just like to look at it and feel the silkiness of the weave.

If you are interested in learning to weave in this style, I recommend that you become comfortable using an inkle loom, understand how to manage yarns without tangling and learning how to create a pleasing basic pattern using colors you like. I got started weaving in this style by applying my knowledge of the structure from the floor loom and by using Anne Dixon’s Inkle Pattern Directory as a reference. Krokbragd is a great first step after creating plain weave bands on the inkle as it is loom controlled and you get a very impressive pattern with no hand manipulation once the loom is properly set up.

 

Hemming Heaven

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Rep weave runner being hand hemmed assisted by hemming clips.

Yes, I do enjoy hemming my hand wovens by hand. It is so soothing. Find the rhythm, find the love.

So much of what we use in the fiber world is adapted from other crafts, hobbies or wood or metal shops. These clips have been used by quilters for a while now. They eliminate pin pricks (blood on fabric), hold even thick layers together and are just darned handy. I knew this several years ago when I started stocking them, but I never tried them until the other day. Oh. My. Goodness. This girl is in love.

First off, I didn’t poke myself. I did this once at the museum and bled on an artifact. I was mortified. thanks to the enzymatic properties of saliva, the dress was fine. I am still traumatized! Anyhow, I always pick myself when I am pinning a hem and I like a well pinned hem so that I get a more even product.

I tried them on a towel weight fabric and they worked great. I tried them on a very thick warp faced rep weave (above) and they worked even better. They are grippy enough to stay where you put them.

I can see using them to mark my way as I am weaving. Like when I know I have three inches to go. Easier to place a clip than a pin. Voila!

They can be used like paper clips, too. To keep all my well organized, perfect weaving notes together. Okay, well, all the scraps of paper I scribble calculations and drawings on. That is as organized as it gets in my world. But, keep them together it will. This is where I remind you to do as I say not as I do (it really does help to keep good and proper notes for future reference).

One thing these clips do not do is the actual hemming. Nor, did they make me sew any faster. I did feel that they distorted the fabric less and I didn’t have pins stuck in the arm of my chair. I just transferred the clips to the selvedge when I no longer needed them and they were all in one place when I was done. Neat and tidy.

So, worth a try. A small investment and we have them in the shop.

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Here’s the towel. Note that I used a double thread in the hem area. That showed me exactly where I needed to fold the fabric so I will have beautifully even hems when I am done. The hard part was remembering to do the double thread at the end of each towel. There’s where note taking comes in handy. Or, lately, I’ve been using my camera and capturing the moment. At least I have a record of what I did!

 

Joining when Knitting in the Round

Knitting in the round is easy. Sometimes joining to knit in the round isn’t. That’s when you learn the word mobius and perhaps utter unbecoming words. I’ve been there, done that and decided I didn’t need the headache. Yes, I still knit in the round, but I do it in a way that doesn’t cause anxiety.

It is simple. I knit one or more rows before joining in the round. The extra fabric hanging from the needles makes it easy to line everything up and ensure nothing is twisted. Photos below, but one last tip, no matter when you join to knit in the round, make sure to stop and check after you are ready to start your second round. Does it lay properly? Yay, continue knitting. You made a mobius? At this point you can still untwist because you only have one thread between the rounds connecting everything together. Manipulate the fabric until it lies properly and proceed as planned.

Hope you found this tip helpful!

Joan

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Here I knit several (4?) rows. I could get away with it in ribbing because ribbing knits at the same gauge flat or in the round.
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Then, I joined and knit in the round normally. I didn’t add extra stitches. After all, it is a hat, not a major piece.
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It showed a little when I joined it, but it certainly passes the galloping horse test.
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With this sample, I knit only one row before joining to knit in the round. 
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Joining after only one row shows much less after weaving in the end.

 

Sauder Village Fiber Festival

Being a history lover with deep farm roots, teaching (and vending) at this venue is a dream come true. A weekend of tractors, trains and fiber? That’s special! Learn about these and other activities at the Sauder page here. Classes are on September 30 and October 1. The 2016 Festival dates are October 1 and 2.

As for my part, I will be teaching two different kinds of entry-level weaving: inkle (band) weaving and weaving on the rigid heddle loom. Click here to sign up for one of my classes or from any of the others with well-known teachers Amy Tyler, Susan Cayton, Carol Larsen or Kate Larson.

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In my rigid heddle class we will make a fall table topper that I think is quite festive. We will use a simple worsted weight yarn and add recycled wool leaves as decoration. I think the braided fringe looks a bit like dried corn or braided wheat. Students will learn how to warp this portable little loom and how to weave, but may have some off-loom homework.

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Then, on Saturday, my students will learn how to warp and weave bands using an inkle loom. Most inkle looms are small and portable. This loom intimidated me for many years and then I took a one day class and I haven’t looked back since. I love simple plain weave bands, but it is also fun to push the boundaries of all the possibilities in weaving bands. Their history is long. Bands are as functional and useful today as they were in year’s gone by. Modern uses include camera and luggage straps, hair bands and ties, trim for clothing, hat bands, and much more. In this class students learn how to weave plain weave and how to do pick up to create patterns such as the one shown on the loom in the photo above.

We will also be in the vendor hall. Clara is wo-manning the booth on Saturday and we will both be there on Sunday. We will be demonstrating weaving and sock cranking (on an antique/vintage machine). In addition to do-it-yourself items such as yarns and looms, we will also have Clara’s hand-crafted items for sale that include handwoven towels and scarves as well as socks from the antique machine.

Sauder Village is only a two-hour drive from our store in Lake Orion, MI to northwest Ohio. Come enjoy the activities and Village and be sure to stop by and say hello!