Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hand-cleaned, handspun, handwoven Alpaca and wool scarf: measuring and chaining warp

Ladybug: "Where does this yarn go and
what happens if I pull on it with my teeth?"
[No picture available of disaster
Weaving = math + mechanics + art + time x patience / more or less

If creating yarn is a multi-step process, weaving it is that times 5. Holy cats, what a lot of steps. They say that if you only like actual weaving you had better like measuring warp and "dressing" the loom with it, too, for many times you'll spend more time preparing the loom than weaving on it. 

Good thing that's true for me so far. I like winding, and rewinding, and pulling and coaxing string. Of course, I've only got as far as measuring out the warp and readying it to be put on the loom, and a multitude of steps await on the loom itself: getting all the warp on there and through the wee slots in the reed and the wee holes in the correct harnesses, and all tied up and tensioned evenly. Ai, yi! 

One of the slowing factors, aside from teaching myself, is that I am working on a shoestring (ahem) with ad hoc tools. It's good to learn  -- by tangles, slowness, failures, and banging up against physical impossibilities -- why tools designed in one of several ways are sensible. Besides, you get to fiddle around and invent, and that's just plain fun.

The loom is the little pine thing dwarfed by the big pine thing.
Yes, there is a tiny homemade Tinkertoy loom next to it.
That's toy the boys and I made. It works!
Because I am weaving on a Swedish Glimakra loom (the 1970s-vintage Pysslingen above), it seemed fitting to take The Big Book of Weaving, also from Sweden, as a guide. For those who may be curious, the ways the Scandinavians tend to dress their looms differ a bit from the way it's often done in America. There are assumptions that one is using string heddles, not metal ones, and that parts of the loom can be broken down and removed for easier setup. The simple but subtle mechanics of these looms are so beautifully worked out...

Oh, that large pine 19th century clothes press? Ultimate source unknown, but found it locally a few weeks back. It might not be American: so many things are imported and exported. It's rather beaten up: original button drawer knobs gone, cupboard handle gone, back of the cornice looks as if it's been left in the rain or chewed by mice, it's water-stained in front, and inside, boards are shrunken with time. No matter. It is happy and cozy and sturdy. It will hold all the toys as well as the television, doesn't mind if small basketballs and small children bump it, and will be a good foundation piece for one of the boys down the road. I love pine. Cherry is warm and handsome and very local to where I grew up and here in Kentucky, walnut is tough, poplar is useful, butternut and fruitwoods are rare lovelies, old mohogany is serious. Pine is softer than these, softer in color, softer in surface, but oh, so good.

Here are pictures, as much to document for my fuzzy brain as to entertain you, showing what is going on.

Measuring Out the Yarn

The warp, a commercial alpaca-wool blend. My handspun is not strong enough to be warp. It would break. It's in a skein measuring 110 yards -- all I will need for the scarf's longways warp threads -- tied at intervals with kitchen string to keep it in order.

First, last November, we measuring out the total yardage with a Tinkertoy skein holder Noah and I made and a skein winder Dad and I made of scrap lumber measuring exactly one yard per turn around the four arms.

Skein holder and 1-yard skein winder. Collapsible into pieces.
Yes, that's a different breakfront cupboardin the background.
That one has gone upstairs to the master bedroom,
and a new-to-us pine one is now downstairs. Both 19th century,
but only the cherry one from Kentucky.
Christopher and I did the measuring together.

Now that Christmastide is over and the new year begun, it's time to measure again and this time, get the warp in order.

 The skein ends are tied together with a visible knot so it's easy to find the ends.

The skein has to be unwound. It will be divided in half, and wound on two spools because the warping method I use measures out warp for the loom with two strings of yarn, called ends, at a time. It's easier to keep tension even with a pair of ends and saves time measuring.

Here is the skein on the big Tinkertoy skein holder. How to get it onto two spools? One at a time.

First, measure out half the yardage needed, on the skein winder. Cut the yarn, pull off the new skein carefully, then do it again with the second half.

Now to get the skeins onto spools since skeins tangle easily and don't unwind an even rate of tension -- as me how I know.

Wind, wind. Yawn, cramp. This is too slow. Egad. No go.

A bit of tinkering with Tinkertoys later, we have a weighted arm to hold the spool, and a handle taped onto the spool to speed winding. Push your finger against the handle and it turns, winding the spool, while your other hand guides the yarn so it winds evenly. An already wound spool waits on the table.

Measuring the Yarn for the Loom With Warping Pegs

If you have cash and space, you purchase a warping board, which looks like a square window frame with giant pegs stuck in it all around, or better, a warping mill, which is simply a reel made to stand and spin upright. I have neither, so it's warping pegs for me.

Each warp thread is measured out to the length it will be on the loom. The yarn goes from one peg, at the left, to the other end, around an intermediary peg in a figure-8 pattern called the lease cross. It's that crossing of yarns that keeps the warp in line.

You can only have a warp as long as your longest clampable surface -- the pegs have to be clamped in place to hold tension, so you generally can't weave a very long length.

The yarns have to stay perfectly evenly tensioned and one yarn cannot cross over another yarn except at the lease cross. That means that the spools should unwind below the pegs -- on the floor for me, because your fingers have to be able to pull the yarns evenly and also guide them over the pegs in the proper pattern. Ask me why I know this.

The warping pegs have to be in a straight line, or one side of the warp threads will be longer than the other. Um, yeah, I learned that, too.

Also I learned that it's easiest if you are going to measure out two ends at a time and they go there and back again to the end peg, that it's best to measure everything divisible by four for the whole warp part of the project. If you want clean measurements. Just saying :}

When you have measured out all your warp on the pegs, for goodness' sake please tie nice, tight bows with kitchen string around the end peg...

...the middle of the warp on both sides...

...and at the lease cross and both sides of it. See the cross in the picture?

Then I took the warp off the loom and "chained" it: formed it into a crocheted chain using my hands as the crochet hook. No picture because I had no hands available.  Also because it required a visit to a YouTube video to learn how (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ1qNeSYBxs). Desperately needed moving visuals :}

So there we are to date. Now I have to clean a rusty reed that guides the warp in the loom and also serves to beat the weft into position as it's woven. Then we can start actually dressing the loom. When, I wonder?

Next up, the last of November 1811's journal journey.


Julie said...

Quote a lot of work! But, your kind of work all around (and around! )

Natalie Ferguson said...

:} ...and around, and around, and around...