Friday, May 28, 2010

Joining a New Shuttle of Yarn

While I'd got my camera out last week I took a couple of images of how to join in a new shuttle of yarn, which is something I often get asked about.

When you come to the end of a shuttle of yarn, and here it doesn't matter whether it's a new stick shuttle of yarn or a boat shuttle, how do you start your new yarn?

If your yarn comes to an end in the middle of your weft pick, simply pull the end through the warp ends, ensuring you continue your original path, whether at a 45 degree angles, as I do, or in a wave, as others do.

Now wind your shuttle, or insert another pirn into your boat shuttle, and throw it from the same side as the pick that's just finished.  Following the same path, pull the end through the warp end so that the old pick and new pick overlap, as in the picture on the right.

Beat your pick as normal and you will see the ends overlap as in the picture on the left.

Continue to weave and don't think of cutting the ends until you have wet "finished" you work.  Once the weave is finished the yarn will full up and your overlap will disappear.  Then you can cut your ends close to the weave.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Boat shuttles 3

Now you should have your boat shuttles ready, one for each colour or yarn type and a number of pirns, beautifully wound ready to fill you shuttles as each pirn runs out.

My first tip is for when you load your pirns onto your boat shuttles.

To ensure the yarn unwinds smoothly from the pirn your yarn end should come from underneath the pirn before it's threaded in the hole at the side of your boat shuttle.

The next tip should be used when setting up your loom, right at the beginning, when you get it and mainly applies to floor loom!

On your batten or beater, there is usually a shuttle race.  A shuttle race is simply a small shelf in front of your reed that your boat shuttle can sit on.

When you "throw" or tap your shuttle sharply, it will "race" along this shelf to the other side of your weaving.  However, if the lower half of your shed doesn't sit on the shuttle race, the shuttle will bounce up and down on your warp and cause it to disappear through the lower part of your shed and onto the floor.

My final tip for this post concerns throwing your shuttle.

When throwing and catching your shuttle, try to do so with the palm of your hand upwards.  In this position, I'm told, you get less strain on your shoulders, particularly if you've a wide warp.

And remember to tap your shuttle sharply so that it races through the shed to the other side, rather than stopping half way.

Boat shuttles 2

In the last post I showed you how to wind a pirn and in the images I showed you winding a cardboard pirn, which come in two types, dimpled and smooth.  I showed you an image of two shuttles with the front one having a dimples pirn and when I showed you how to wind your shuttle I showed a smooth pirn.

Here I'm going to show you how I make paper pirns if I run out of cardboard ones!

I take an A4 sheet of paper and cut or tear it in half.  I don't worry about the quality of paper, here I used an old technical sheet I use for my woven samples.

Fold the half sheet and cut or tear that in half.  So you now have 4 quarters.

On the top right hand side of the photograph in the right you can see that I've folded one quarter diagonally in half.   Cut or tear along this fold.

You now have 8 right angle triangles of paper.  Here are just two.

Take the narrow point of the triangle and wind it round your pirn winder.

Once your feel it's securely on the pirn winder, trap your yarn in between the layers of paper, turning the handle so that the paper continues to wind round the pirn winder with the yarn firmly trapped.

Build up your mounds of yarn at either end, then fill the middle as in the previous post.

Maggie Stearn shows another method of making paper pirns on her blog, click here to see it.

Another pirn you may come across is a wooden one, as in this picture.

With these pirns, it's not so critical to build up the mounds at either end, because of the wood stoppers at the ends.

However, when you are level with the top of the stoppers, you must ensure that you begin to build up the yarn towards the middle.  Really for safety, stop winding when your yarn gets level with the end stoppers.

In the next post I'll give you a few tips the ensure that you are doing all that is necessary to prevent those nasty "nose dives"!

Boat Shuttles

There as been talk, recently, on one of the groups I belong to, about boat shuttle and how to throw them without them "nose diving" to the floor!  I was winding my own pirns for my boat shuttle when I realised why some people, usually beginners, have problems with their shuttles, so here I'm going to show you how to wind your bobbins.

It doesn't matter whether you have cardboard pirns, seen here at the front of the two shuttles

Or if you make your own paper ones, I'll show you how I do it in a later post!

First of all build up a small mound of yarn at one end of your pirn.

Now move your yarn across the pirn to the other end and build up another mound.

Next, fill the space between the two mounds with yarn moving backwards and forwards across the pirn so that it fills evenly.

Continue filling the centre of your pirn until it the mounds are level.  Once you get to that stage you can continue filling the pirn, but don't allow the yarn to go over the mounds towards the ends.  If this happens your yarn will jam when you throw your shuttle and may snag your selvedge, pulling it in!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Stretching Yourself!

I've got another student working with me, Darren Kelly from Stoke on Trent.  He's at the University there and is studying Craft.  A few weeks ago he sent me his CV, some images and asked if he could have a summer work placement.  I took one look at his work and rang him immediately, as his work is wonderful, clean and colourful, which is just the style I like.   To cut a long story short he came last Tuesday for his first day.

I had suggested that he worked on a screen to showcase my linen transparent fabric and he arrived with a sketchbook with several ideas and he'd take a lot of time over them, including the detail of how they would be finished.  He is really keen on detail, which elevates a piece of work from the ordinary to the bespoke.

For my part, I want to stretch myself, and as a lot of you know I love colour, so I've chosen cream/beige as my colour scheme and, I don't know why, but the female nude as my inspiration!  Here's one of my initial sketches:

I'm thinking of paring down the design and using Theo Moorman, cream on cream.  But have lots of design work to go before I start on the swatches!

Have you stretched yourself recently?


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ravelry Rigid Heddle Weavers Week-end in Flitwick

I've finally managed to download the photographs I took at the Ravelry UK Weavers Rigid Heddle Week-end that was helt at Flitwick on the 8 and 9 May.

The week-end had been organised by Janet Ellison and she had worked so hard that it had been fully booked well in advance and she had already thought about a second week-end before we even started the first!

It had been billed as a beginners week-end, with "trouble shooting" for those who could already weave.  14 lovely ladies had booked on the course and soaked up all the information that I could give them!

Here is Jan, our wonderful organiser, weaving "pick and pick", in other words, weaving one pick or weft thread in one colour and the next in different colour.

Jan is very modest, her work, whether knitting or weaving, is so beautiful, neat selvedges, beautiful colours and sett.

The hall at Flitwick was huge and very light, as you can see.  I've never seen so many women, so quite!  Everyone was getting on with their work, totally engrossed in weaving.

Brenda had borrowed a loom and  had been given suitable yarn from her local guild.  Her first attempt had been excellent.  Beautiful straight selvedges, although the yarn had been a tad too thick for the heddle on the loom.  She had so enjoyed the processes, though, that she purchased a loom and can be seen, here, weaving a beautiful pink and grey alpaca scarf.

There had been a range of rigid heddle looms,  Ashfords, both the Knitters Loom and the rigid heddle, Kromski's, old Dyrads and Becks brought a beautiful little "two way" loom she had got from Ebay.  It was lovely to see her weaving her own handspun on this little loom and here is the result.

A range of skills were learnt, and on the left  you can see Elaine knotting her ends against the fell of the cloth (where the last pick, or weft thread, meets the bare warp ends, or threads).  She used some lovely textured yarns which gave the impression of a beautiful bluebell wood!

You can see three blue stripes in the scarf where Elaine had a really good go at chaining.

Here, Beth is working a hand manipulated technique called Brookes Bouquet.   In this technique, groups of warp ends are wrapped with the weft yarn and anchored with a half hitch.

Beth's little scarf had slit woven at one end so that it would sit snuggly round the neck.  She had used a lovely harmonious range of textured yarns.

After taking the scarves off the loom, they were all checked for skips and then mended before washing.

Chelle can be seen mending her vibrant scarf on the left.  Mending is a really important skill, knowing whether to mend the warp or the weft and where to cut the mended thread.  She can be seen mending warp skips with a new weft thread.

The group were shown two methods of finishing ends on their scarves, knotting and hemming.  Jill can be seen hemming the beginning of her second scarf.  She used a range of yarns including eyelash yarn and fancy tape yarns.

There were two sets of Mothers and Daughters.  Jill shows her textile training, here with her eye for colour and texture.   Her daughter Ellen had been booked on the course by Jill, who knew she would love weaving and she was right.  Ellen took to it like a duck to water and her second scarf can be seen below!

Ellen can be seen here using her Mum's Kromski loom and weaving her Mum's hand spun yarn as the weft of her second scarf.

When Jan had first advertised the course, way back in January, Emma had been so excited and had emailed me to order a rigid heddle loom.

She can be seen on the left almost at the end of her first scarf in green and blue.  Her selvedges were so neat and I can't wait to see her "finished" scarf.

Jaq had quickly woven her first scarf, she wasn't a complete beginner, having woven one piece previously, and re-warped her loom with her own hand spun yarn.

To show off her yarn she had chosen a wide sett and wove her weft with a "crammed and spaced" effect.  It was really lovely and can be seen below.

Here is a close up of Jaq's hand spun and hand woven "crammed and spaced" scarf.

The other Mother and Daughter duo where Lynda and Becky.

Becky used the "meet and separate" technique in her second scarf of wool and linen from Louet.    I'd heard about this yarn, but never seen it and was very impressed with it.

Here is Lynda, showing off her "finished" wool and linen scarf.  Notice how good her selvedges are!

Jill is picking up groups of warp ends to enable her to make a different patterns or inlay thicker yarns.

Catherine had already done some weaving before and has a 4 shaft table loom.  She had never done any rigid heddle weaving before.  She rose to the challenge really well, producing two beautiful scarves.  Her second had some lovely texture in the warp and enhanced that at either end with chaining.

You can see the "till roll" used to determine the length of the weaving, placement of detail and slits that Catherine used.

I had a really enjoyable time, tutoring this workshop, and was amazed how far some of the students had travelled.  Eastbourne, Manchester, Southampton and Bridgenorth were but a few of the places they had travelled from.

By the time the week-end was finished, nine people had booked on the 2nd course in October, but by the middle of the following week it was fully booked!  Well done Jan and thanks for asking me to tutor the workshops.  I find it so rewarding when I'm allowed to pour out my knowledge to such responsive people.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


I've just finished quite a busy few weeks looking at sustainability.

It began with the Rebecca Early lecture and workshop at Nottingham Trent University.  Becky has been doing a lot of research into sustainability and with a group of lecturers at the Chelsea College of Art and Design set up TEDResearch.  Please take a look at Rebecca's website and at the TED website which has some interesting and very useful resources and while you're there don't forget to sign up for their newsletter!

Last week saw me at NTU again, for the Private view of Akihiko Izukura's exhibtion, Life in Colours.  Running alongside the exhibition has been a set of four workshops which explore Mr Izukura's philosophy of natural textiles, Spinning, Reeling, Dyeing and Weaving and Braiding.

The exhibition is a revelation and a profusion of colour!  Who said natural dyeing was boring!   If you've in the Nottingham area is really is worth tracking down the exhibition at NTU's Bonington Gallery, your won't be disappointed unless you hate colour!  If weaving is your thing, you won't help being amazed at the skill of his weaving of traditional sashes, Obi, or his skill in braiding which is manipulated to fit the body.

The morning following the Private View I attended a Spinning workshop with Mr Izukura.  It wasn't what I'd call spinning, but was very interesting, never the less.  We had six silk worm cocoons that had been de-gummed and which contained two silk worms.  These "double" cocoons are not good for reeling as the two silk worms in the one cocoon cause the silk filament to tangle.  We pulled the softened cocoons into rectangles then moulded them over balloons and plastic to form 3D shapes, which were then painted with rice paste to stiffen then when the paste dried.

The afternoon was followed with the Natural Dye workshop, which for me was so wonderfully refreshing and completely different to any natural dyeing that I do.  I chose to dye a silk scarf which had been woven in Mr Izukura's factory in Kyoto, Japan.  The warp was spun silk and the weft was noil silk and took the dyes beautifully.  

I wetted my scarf, pleated it diagonally, forming a small triangle which I then pleated across the triangle and tied with two elastic bands.  I dipped one end in logwood, the other in cochineal, the top of the centre in walnut and the bottom centre in clove.

To fix the dyes I dipped the whole scarf in Camillia Ash water, then dipped the ends in fermented iron water.  This picture really doesn't do the colours justice.  What was amazing in this workshop was that we didn't use any heat and the dipped very quickly!

I was back again this week for a Reeling Workshop, where we reeled six cocoons into 3D shapes over balloons and plastic cylinders.  Very similar to the Spinning workshop, but using the filament silk rather than the noil.   We spent the afternoon weaving and braiding naturally dyed paper yarn into an interesting "neck piece".

My whole practice has been questioned by these events, how can I make my practice more sustainable and how do I take on board Mr Izukura's philosophy, putting nature before ego and practice!

So much food for thought.
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