Monday, March 24, 2014

A Finished Tape from the Tape Loom, and Spinning Wool...What Are We Up To?

It's done, the first handwoven tape from the tape loom -- actually an English trim loom -- and I report that making it was a pleasure.

J. K. Seidel, who made my loom, prewarped it for me and started a tape so that I could learn from the already woven bit. The pattern is reminiscent of the American flag, and is just right for the boys to use as lanyards, bows for their stuffed animals, or ginormous bookmarks.

Weaving these tapes does take a little thought and care; beating the just-woven row at an angle or not keeping an even tension on the warp threads will cause the result to lean and the width of the tape to vary. It's also good to be on the watch for feline paws; Muffin has become expert at nabbing the finished end of my work.

Nevertheless, after awhile the fingers do learn their work and you can chat or, as I do, monitor the boys as they do their homework, while weaving. It's a meditative, peaceful activity, and it doesn't mind interruptions.

Here we are, at the end of the warp threads: they are knotted to a narrow brass bar. The ribbon tucked into the loom is used as a strap to keep the loom stationary during weaving.

Here's a sample of the tape in the process of being pawed, and then test-chewed, by Muffin. You can see small variations in the width of the tape. The pattern is achieved by the warp threads pretty much alone. The warp on a trim loom is all pulled together and held that way by the turns of the weft through the outer threads of the warp. There is nothing to keep the warp threads spaced out so that the weft shows. Thus the warp is all one sees, except at the very edges of the tape. The result is a very strong, durable fabric.

So, what next? Another tape, natuerlich, but this one using a fine linen thread, probably a 20/2 thread suitable for fine weaving, or maybe a 16/2 thread. Note: the higher the first number, the finer the thread; the second number refers to the number of plies in the finished thread. A "1" means there is no plying and the thread is straight from being spun. It's not too strong and thus not right for tapes. A "2" means 2-ply, and that can be used in fine linen weaving.

A Tape to Close a Petticoat...and Where the Costuming Hobby Is Heading

Ah, you say, so that's it. You're weaving tapes for a period costume. Well, so I am. These next tapes will be the ties for a late 1760s-early 1770s petticoat, and the two under petticoats that support them. I've got the design well in hand for the gown to go over them, and Hallie Larkin's 18th century English gown pattern to construct it with. The cap and the handkerchief for the ensemble are done. I'll be writing more about the ensemble as the months pass.

At this juncture in my experiments with period dressmaking, I am interested in the bones of the textiles that make up an ensemble. It's as if I started costuming, years ago, at the top of a tree, all fascinated by fluff and flutter among the leaves and blossoms. Then I turned to the construction, how the branches and the trunk created the tree's shape. Now I am interested in the bark and sapwood, the heartwood and the sap itself, the fibers and fluids that form the tree and make it live and grow.

Why are tapes strong? How does linen thread feel? Why is it so "crunchy" when it's first woven, and how is it softened up? How are patterns made? What about color? These are the questions this next project asks.

Other Bone-sy Projects: Spinning and Indigo Dyeing

Detail of one of the spinning wheels Dad and Letitia gave me.
Couldn't I leave well enough alone with the tapes? No, no. Weaving and spinning go together; they are the backbone of women's work throughout recorded and pre-recorded history. If I am going to weave anything, and handle thread, I should understand how the threads got the way they did and why they act the way they do. Enter spinning.

Learning to spin, I begin to understand fibers, and how over the ages humanity has learned to take advantage of each fiber's nature to make yarn and threads durable, shiny, soft, tough, cushy-cozy, and mirror-smooth. I learn about twist, and how it affects everything that is woven or knitted or knotted.

Will I use the spun thread? Of course: off it goes into tapes, at least.

Actually, there's another, simpler reason for testing out spinning. I have a spinning wheel, and another arriving next week, both gifts from my parents, and two drop spindles. Really now, should they sit as decor to be dusted? That would be a shame. The wheels want to be used, and when I see friends Jane and Caroline spinning, the urge to join in is so strong.

The rest of that spinning wheel. You see why it's wanting to be loved and used? It's pretty in a cozy sort of way.
Simplest of all, I HAVE to learn. I've been tapped to help with our church's Vacation Bible School this summer. One of the responsibilities includes demonstrating drop spinning. Not knowing diddly squat, since a short spinning class when I was a teenager hardly counts, my friend Jane and I had a lesson a few weeks back from a professional spinner (what a nifty person!), with more to come, and now am practicing up for this summer, so the resulting yarn won't fall apart immediately, like last year's did :}

An eastern European drop spindle. Am slowly filling it with wool yarn spun from
some handsome creamy wool "top". Some of the yarn is nice, some
is pretty slubby.
Fruits of the spin: a fuzzy slub and some decent yarn.
Then there's indigo. Jane wants to dye with indigo again, as she did years ago, and I started hopping up and down, begging to be able to help her. So, yay! Sometime before it gets to hot out we're going to set up the process outdoors, and I'll dye enough linen for a petticoat, plus a bit extra for some throw pillow backs. From all I've read, it's a strange and fascinating process, and reminds us just how involved the creation of non-bleedy colors can be.

So there we are, a nice big bunch of different skills to mess with. I wonder where they will lead, these paths?

(By the way, I haven't forgotten about the cap and what I learned from its construction. The post is mostly written, but needs editing and for some reason, I just can't seem to get going on it.)


Jenni said...

We walk similar paths, my friend. Aren't the fiber arts fascinating!? It looks like we both also have kitties who love weaving. If you find you have an extra heavy shadow looming over your shoulder one of these days, it's probably me leaning in to learn from your experiences. :)

MrsC (Maryanne) said...

Intriguing! I am going to order some drop pindles for the shop and will give it a go, we have lovely corriedale, and merino, sliver in store. I love the tape!

Natalie Ferguson said...

Afternoon, you two!

Jenni, let's get together and have another playdate for the children and some fiber time for us. I'll email you.

Mrs. C., glad you're ordering some spindles, and will be interested to know what you and the customers think about them. NZ has so many neat fibers to use for spinning...

Very best,

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Hahaha, like one step into a new direction leads to a whole new fascinating world :)
I'm so happy that you (and Muffin) are enjoying working at the loom so much and I'm truly amazed how small in width the tape is!!!
Whenever I watch presentations at 'big' looms I love to listen to the sounds, which eventually ends up in a soothing choir in combination with the running threads.

I hope we get to see more tapes from your loom and I'm looking forward to following all the adventures on this new path :)


ZipZip said...

Thank you, Sabine! Will be most happy to share. Yes, the sound of a working loom is so peaceful. Why clicking and clacking and whooshing should be peaceful, haven't any idea, but it is so.
Very best,

Cindy said...

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Natalie Ferguson said...

Dear Cindy,
Thank you so much for the award; am very glad that you like the blog and hope you find it a bit useful.

I've already had the award, however, but thank you again anyhow!

Very best,