On Circles

I’ve been weaving a lot of circles lately. Thinking it might be time for a another blog post. And trying to decide on a snappy title, something to do with circles. I found some circly phrases on Google: circle game, full circle, circling the drain, circle the wagons, magic circle. Nothing spoke to me. So I went with a title that hinted of treatises. Very dignified, no?

I have just finished another dishtowel warp. The Turned Taqueté draft is such a classic by now. I see lots of examples of towels on Instagram and Facebook, and the multitude of color combinations and treadling variations are wonderful. In my last blog post I hinted at a new variation that I was working on, but, sadly, I was disappointed once I committed to trying to weave it.

But this last warp does have a new and improved aspect that I would like to share, albeit very subtle.

This is the draft as it was published by Handwoven magazine last year. Each circle depends for its roundness on the repeats of treadles 2414 or 1828. This draft presupposes a warp of 8/2 cotton sett at 24 epi. But. Sometimes I found myself beating a bit harder and finding my circles somewhat …. compressed.

I found that by adding a half unit in each of the circled (treadling) areas, that is, starting each area with a 1 and ending with a 1x, that the roundness and predictability of roundness vastly improved.

And, it turns out this is a much easier sequence to remember.

This is the other circles warp that I’m weaving right now on my Ashford. It is a 16 harness point twill draft and comes from the collection called Thrilling Twills by the late Ingrid Boesel from Fiberworks. The possibilities are endless on this kind of draft. Change the liftplan (or tie-up) and you have a piece that is entirely different.

As soon as I started my adventures on the table loom, I realized that I liftplans were essential to making any kind of progress when weaving.

[A liftplan is a treadling scheme which is particularly useful for floor looms having a direct tie-up, one shaft per treadle; for dobby looms, mechanical or computer; and for table looms. The tie-up part of the layout is either empty or appears as a straight diagonal line.]

I am a very visual person, and as it turns out, I find that liftplans are infinitely better for visualizing a weave design. Consider the Turned Taqueté draft in liftplan mode:

While I would never attempt to weave from this on my treadle loom, someone with an 8 harness table loom would find this a very snappy alternative, no?

My journey into weaving theory has included a deep dive into the book The Liftplan Connection by Alice Schlein. This is a manual which teaches how to use Photoshop and pattern presets to design for dobby looms. Liftplans! My version of Photoshop is a very up to date Photoshop 2020. But with persistence I’ve been able to take her tutorials using a much older version and make them work. Mostly.

12 Weeks In the Life

About 12 weeks ago I posted on Facebook about what life chez iowaweaver would look like during the coming quarantine. I commented that at least we wouldn’t be bored because we have all the movies, all the books and all the yarn. DH and I are of an age where we really don’t want to be exposed unnecessarily to the Covid, and he has health concerns that mean we have to be strict. We have desperately missed our daughter and her family, who only live 30 minutes away, but it might as well be 30 hours. It’s a good thing we get along so well 😉 .

So, yeah, lots of television, lots of movies, lots of knitting, and lots of weaving. We have gotten really good at online grocery orders, and even managed to score some toilet paper a couple of weeks back. I made a point of making vegan dinners at least once a week, and with leftovers, we were eating vegan even more often.

Check it out: meringues made with aquafaba (the magic liquid found in cans of chickpeas). They were quite tasty.

And this is my no-knead french bread of which I am inordinately proud:

Louisville has a fabulous restaurant scene and we have several great places right in our neighborhood. So takeout once a week has been quite a treat. We only had one clunker in all this time, and that one is definitely off the list forever.

So bored I am not.

I’ve kept the weaving going pretty steadily. I managed a batch (soon to be two) of Turned Taqueté dishtowels:

I wove four scarves on the 16 harness Ashford. This is the first warp. The threading was a straight draw, just changing the liftplan. On the left, we have an undulating twill, and on the right we have tumbling boxes.

The second warp was threading to a point twill. On the left, scallop shells or fish scales or fans (or whatever). On the right, we have another undulating twill. I used the liftplan for the first scarf above, and got an entirely different look.

I closed my Etsy shop fairly early in the quarantine. I decided multiple trips to the post office each week was not in my best interest. The shop (with the above items among many others) is now open again with some different rules. I will be mailing once a week at most, and since Etsy is touting home pickup by the postal service, I will give that a try.

My last blog post (eons ago) ended with my starting to read A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. Our libraries are still closed, so we are relying on books on hand, our trusty book store (Carmichael’s), and Kindle. I cruised through the Mantel, and went on to finish several more: Uniform Justice by Donna Leon, Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, As the Crow Flies by Craig Johnson, The Cat Who Smelled a Rat by Lilian Jackson Braun, The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett (stunning!), Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (about a global pandemic!), About Face by Donna Leon, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (in progress), and S is for Silence by Sue Grafton (in progress). Whew! And I am not an especially fast reader.

Currently working on another Circles draft with a slightly differnt look. Stay tuned!

Circles Fad

Yesterday I was noodling around the Long Thread media site looking for some Loom Theory downloads I purchased a few months ago, and I came across this:

I think it’s fairly recent, and you can find it at this link:

https://handwovenmagazine.com/join-in-the-circles-and-checks-weaving-fad/

I don’t know if I quite agree with the use of the word “fad”. I prefer obsession or passion, if you will 😉 . However, the nice thing is the wif downloads from this little article are free.

So, if there is anyone out there who still doesn’t have the wif and is pining for a great weaving project, this is the place to go.

Stay safe!

A Tale of Two Warps

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Worst: well, no need to explain that. Best: unlimited weaving with no end in sight! Woohoo!

On my eight shaft loom I’ve got a dishtowel warp in 8/2 unmercerized cotton in blues and greens, and I threaded it for Turned Taqueté according to the ideas I was exploring in my last post. I threaded a straight draw following a light/dark color sequence all the way across. I used a two-block profile draft from Jakob Angstadt. The first block is on harnesses 1-4, and the second block is on harnesses 5-8. The design is symmetrical, and I am keeping to color combinations of dark/dark, dark/light, light/dark and light/light in treadling.

This is the first towel, for which I used only a dark blue weft.

This is the second towel, for which I used only a light weft:

And the underside:

As you can tell, I’m big into the checks. And there a few different ways I can play this. I have four more to go, so my next move is to plan number three.

I alternate days weaving on the 8 shaft, and days weaving on the 16 shaft looms. I am well into the second ever warp on the Ashford, this time weaving scarfs in 8/2 rayon threaded to a sixteen shaft straight draw.

This is the first one, now off the loom:

This is the second one, an undulating twill:

This is the third one, just started:

I am still struggling with the warping, and decided to order a raddle kit for next time. The warp sticks provided are very thin cardboard and I decided I really don’t like them, so will switch to wood warp sticks. Plus I will figure out a better way to weight the warp as it is wound on.

I do enjoy the slower, more focused pace that the table loom requires. And I am dazzled by all the pattern possibilities. One of my goals with this loom is to explore more ways to weave circles, a design motif with which I am perpetually obsessed.

I decided to put my Etsy shop on indefinite Vacation Mode, thus avoiding a lot of unnecessary trips to the post office. However, I will be adding to the inventory, so whenever I feel safe enough to go out more, there will be lots of new stuff.

And, I am reading Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety, her first novel, although it wasn’t published first. It’s loooong, and I love her style, and it focuses on characters in France before and during the Revolution. I thought the title was entirely apropos 😉 .

Turned Taqueté: Eight Harnesses and Beyond

Ever since I got my 16 harness Ashford table loom I have been doing a lot of mining my weaving library for drafts of over 8 harnesses. Most of my books are of the 4 to 8 harness persuasion, although I have a few books that go into the 8-32 harness stratosphere. Most of my books I’ve had for decades. I have Weaves A Design Handbook by Eleanor Best (1987). I have 8/12…20 An Introduction to Multishaft Weaving by Kathryn Wertenberger and the two-volume collection of patterns by Jakob Angstadt. I also have the newer books by Marian Stubenitsky.

Those books are fine, but probably the most precious part of my library is my collection of Weaver’s Magazines. There were 44 issues published, and I have all but the first four. Whenever I sift through my stack, I always see new stuff, and this time I was struck by all the 16 harness projects that were included, and was just so grateful that I have kept these magazines for all this time.

In particular, I found three magazines with articles on Turned Taqueté projects. The above issue #42 Winter 1998 has an article by Alice Schlein for a project for a 16 harness reversible rug with an advancing twill threading and a one-shuttle Turned Taqueté liftplan (treadling). And what is the pattern? Circles!!

The next issue 27 Spring 1995 has an article by Lucille Crighton which shows how to use Turned Taqueté with three different threading sequences on 16 harnesses for some really creative patterns using different textured yarns.

This issue #12 Winter Quarter 1991 has an article by Betsy Blumenthal titled “One-Shuttle Wonderful” and it was a revelation. It is a thorough explanation of straight draw Turned Taqueté from 4 harnesses to 16 harnesses. (She did leave out 8 harnesses, but I’ve got that covered. Read on!)

Blumenthal starts out on four harnesses on a straight draw, very much like my first forays into Turned Taqueté. Two pattern blocks are possible by changing color order from A=DLDL to B=LDLD. She then zooms up to 16 harnesses, on which four pattern blocks are possible on a straight draw threading, with no color order changes. A=DLDL(harnesses 1234), B=DLDL (harnesses 5678), C=DLDL (harnesses 9,10,11,12), and D=DLDL (harnesses 13,14,15,16). As in standard block weaves, any 4-block profile draft may be used here, and woven with one shuttle. Tie-ups provide for combinations of all dark on top, all light on top, plus each block separately or in combinations on top. I was doing a happy dance.

But what about 8 harnesses? I scaled back and came up with a 2-block threading and tie-up that provided for all dark sections, all light sections, and sections with light and dark, or dark and light.

I’m already planning out new ideas for towels. So. Much. Fun.

New Loom pt. 2

When last I wrote I was just getting acquainted with my new Ashford 16 harness table loom with its first-ever warp. I used a bunch of 5/2 rayon that were leftovers from something, and I chose a (what else?) 16 harness point twill threading. This really wasn’t the most versatile of threadings I could have chosen. A straight draw would have been a simpler way to start, and will probably get you more patterns, but I had somethng in mind that I had always wanted to try.

There wasn’t anything for it. I just plunged right in. This is from Oelsner, fig. 630.



I call it “Shells” or “Fans” and I’ve seen it shared on social media by folks who are weaving with 16 harnesses. It was kind of on my weaving bucket list. Of course, when I wove it, I wove it upside down. Doesn’t matter, I still had fun with it.

Here it is right side up:

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First I tried a tumbling boxes pattern, also from Oelsner, fig. 666:

I liked this a lot. It was a really fun weave, and I will definitely weave more of this one.

Then I wove some variations on the “Fan” design. This, from the Alphabet of Weaves K13, American Correspondence Schools Instruction Papers (1902):

and this from Atlas de 4000 Armures, Louis Serrure Draft #36276, France, 2005-2015, which also sneaked some circles into the mix:

I found these patterns at Handweaving.net, which is a fabulous resource, but now I am on the prowl through all my books and magazines for anything 16 harness.

Weaving with the new loom is really different from my standard floor loom. First off, the levers are flipped to open sheds, which means one must put the shuttle down between each new shed. I watched some videos before I started weaving and saw the techniques people use, giving it my best shot (as it were…). You have to stay focused and pay attention to each new combination of levers (see below!).

Of course, there are some tips and tricks that I jumped on.

First, I numbered the levers with stick on dots on the front and the back. With 16 levers to deal with, there can be no confusion about which is which!

Then, I quickly realized that staying on the right line in the liftplan was going to be an issue. I discovered that the iWeaveit app for ipad has a liftplan tracking add-on that makes the whole weaving process work beautifully. Here it is in action, propped on a little-used music stand right by the loom.

Here is what it looks like up close:

All you do is tap the pick number on the left when you are ready for the next line, and the line appears in the box. Then when you are done weaving, iWeaveit saves your place in the lift plan for next time.

One other new thing I had to get used to was beating with the shed open. I beat with the shed closed on my floor loom, always have. With levers, you could go back to a closed shed before beating, but it would be colossally inefficient. And actually, I found this method of beating to be very easy to get used to. My edges were great too!

The next warp will be 8/2 rayon, but I have some hand dyeing to do first. Stay tuned!

New Loom!

For as long as I have been out of graduate school (long!) where I earned a Master’s Degree in Craft Design, I had been aiming toward having my own compu-dobby loom. Financing such a loom was obviously an issue, so I just kept putting it off. Eventually my thinking was that I would sell my 8 harness Schacht standard floor loom and buy a compu-dobby when I retired. Mostly because I was getting more and more challenged by crawling around making new tie-ups. But, somehow that didn’t happen.

But. Recently, I awakened to the possibility of a 16 harness table loom. A loom that had tons of weaving potential. A loom that never had to be tied up, that could weave any pattern without complicated setups. A manual dobby, if you will.

Ashford makes table looms that folks seem to really like, and the price, as opposed to the very pricey compu-dobby looms, was right. So, on Black Friday, when there was a 10% off sale at the Woolery, I took the plunge with an Ashford 16 harness table loom and stand.

And here she is:

It took my husband and I about a week and half to put them together. Ashford’s instructions are extremely detailed and understandable, but we were determined to take it slow, and do only a few steps at a time. The worst part, which fell to me alone, was stringing the harnesses, so that they hung in an orderly fashion with the front harnesses higher than the back ones. Hah! (I’m here to tell you that imperfect is just fine. Weaving happens, regardless.)

My first warp, a get-acquainted test warp, consists of 5/2 rayon that I dyed many years ago, and that was hanging out in a ziploc bag, waiting for an opportunity to be useful.

My MO is warping front to back, so I bravely plunged in, hanging the lease sticks in front of the reed, and going through the reed first.

Then going through the heddles. First time using Texsolv. I like them so far.

View from the back after threading the heddles.

View after winding on. ( Missing the sectional beam!) A nice surprise was that during the winding on the heddles, messy at first, adjusted to the position they were supposed to have relative to the others. (Self-tidying, so to speak!)

Header woven. I rejected the flimsy string that Ashford provided for attaching the warp sticks to the front and back roller beams, opting instead for Texsolv cord. Much sturdier.

First pattern: 16 harness point twill threading from A Handbook of Weaves by G. H. Oelsner, courtesy of Handweaving.net. Next up: weaving on the table loom. Stay tuned!

Waffling Around

So, the blogosphere and socialmediasphere for weavers and fiber folks has been swirling with the scent of waffles. So to speak. I’ve been catching glimpses of Waffle Weave in from four to eight harnesses and more, in towels and blankets and more. I was intrigued. This is a weave that has stood the test of time, and is ready to be called back into production.

I couldn’t remember if I had ever tried Waffle Weave, but thought I should give it a try as towels, so I looked at my weaving references. The best version I came up with was from my trusty Mary E. Black’s New Key to Weaving. She recommends 8/2 unmercerized cotton sett at 24 epi, and I concurred.

Waffle Weave starts with a simple zig-zag twill threading and treadling, but the tie-up includes floats of increasing and decreasing lengths so that square cells are formed, creating cushiony, squishy pockets of warp and weft. The more harnesses that are used, the deeper the pockets get. For towels, which may get a lot of use, the length of floats should probably be kept to a minimum. The repeat for a square is 6 ends, so 24 epi makes a neat 4 squares per inch. I’ve seen directions for Waffle Weave towels that call for 20 epi, or 3 1/3 squares per inch, but thought the floats would then be too long for my comfort zone.

Pro tip: Notice that I started and ended the threading on harness 3. That was because I wanted to keep the warp float to a minimum length on the outside edges. I also used floating selvedges (always!) and added a touch more width to account for extra drawing-in.

The resulting towels, which are going in my Etsy shop btw, are fluffy and pillowy and sure to be hardworking kitchen friends.

Book Chat: Spinning and Weaving by Lynn Huggins-Cooper

This is a bit of a departure for me. Proving that perhaps people really are reading my blog, a few weeks ago a representative of Pen and Sword Books, a British publisher, contacted me and offered to send a copy of a book in their new series on Heritage Crafts and Skills. They asked that I talk about it on my blog, and I said, Yes. And here you have it:

Beginning with a rather heartfelt appeal for support for Heritage Crafts in Great Britain, this book is organized quite differently that any of the usual weaving/spinning books I’ve owned/perused/used in the course of my fiber life. The first ten chapters are a whirlwind tour of the history of weaving and spinning from ancient times to modern times. (I quite felt like I was back in my History of Textiles course as a grad student.) The author outlines the evolution of both spinning yarn and weaving cloth from home-based activities of necessity to fully mechanized industries.

The history chapters are short, easily digestible and perfect for the fledgling craftsperson, aged 12 to adult, who is interested in the evolution of the crafts, but doesn’t want to get too wildly technical. The author writes at length on the social as well as environmental effects of mechanization. I felt the history chapters would have been more complete had there been one or two illustrations per chapter.

The second half of the book is devoted to interviews with contemporary fiber artisans in Great Britain, Canada and Australia. The intent here is to further encourage and inspire the reader to dive in and try these heritage crafts. The artisans profiled vary in experience and interests. Some are newly introduced to spinning and weaving. Some are artists who have been doing one or the other or both for a long time. I found that most of the weaving tended to be on rigid-heddle, inkle, or less complex looms with a focus on color and texture, not so much on structure or original drafts. I found the yarn dyers very inspiring. There is a section of color plates showing examples of many of these artisans’ work. Also included are their presences on social media, or online marketing. I did look up quite a few, and may shop their Etsy stores in the future!

Also helpful for the beginning spinner/weaver: lists of Suppliers, Wool and Fiber Festivals, Courses and Guilds, and Books and Websites.

It should be noted that Lynn Huggins-Cooper, a former teacher, is widely published with over 200 books (!). See this blog post in which she describes her publishing career to date: http://awfullybigblogadventure.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-creative-life-lynn-huggins-cooper.html . She is also a textile artist specializing in felting and other techniques. This is the second book in Pen and Sword Books’ new series on Heritage Crafts and Skills. This series includes Leatherwork and Tanning, also by Huggins-Cooper.

Huggins-Cooper, Lynn. Spinning and Weaving. Yorkshire and Philadelphia, Pen and Sword Books Ltd. 2019. ISBN 9781526724526

Upgrade!

So I had a rug in my studio space, but it was a well-worn hand-me-down from my daughter. It had been through two babies worth of everything. And then it became known as barf alley, a favorite site of my two cats. Basically a toxic waste dump.

As it happens, I like to buy wool rugs. Less flammable than nylon, polyester, olefin, etc. Target is a good place to find wool and this rug is a fabulous example of what you can find online from them.

Handwoven in India, a tapestry technique called kilim. Hand dyed wools in good colors, and cotton warp.

I just hope the cats don’t find it irresistible!