Yesterday, I cut the second of two warps off my SAORI loom. I had the idea for this fabric back in February - a highly textured warp woven loosely with a plain weft. I also wanted lots of shades of a similar color.
I found a couple of different textured yarns that I liked - Woolfolk's Flette and Plymouth Yarn's Arequipa aventura. I had two skeins of each, and each skein was a slightly different shade of gray. I set them aside to marinate for a while, and discovered I had lots of unplied CVM singles from the first fleece I'd ever bought. I went ahead a plied them to make some of the softest yarn I've ever felt. Then I did another stash dive and found some laceweight gray alpaca yarns - some dark gray and some a pale silver. I started warping and designing in the reed for a fabric the width of my Saori WX60 loom (60 centimeters, or about 23.5 inches). It was still missing something, so I hopped on over to Spun and picked up two skeins of HiKoo's SimpliNatural in a dark gray and light silver color.
Winding the warp for this fabric was no picnic. It wanted to tangle at every opportunity, and because many of the warp yarns were so thick, it wouldn't all fit on the warp beam - I had to cut off the last two yards and turn them into a separate warp.
There were also lots of different kinds of yarn in this fabric - some very stretchy wool, some a little stretchy, and some not-stretchy-at-all alpaca. This was challenging both in the warping and the weaving - keeping an even tension on all these yarns was difficult, and led to a higher-than-average amount of loom waste.
Once I got the hang of it though, these pieces were quick and easy to weave. The weft is a wool/cashmere blend.
Above on the left, you can see the fabric as it comes right off the loom, and on the right, after wet finishing. The fabric is insanely soft and has the most fabulous drape.
What will it become? I'd originally envisioned it as a throw blanket in three panels, but having to cut the warp in half may have thrown a wrench in that plan. So far, only the smaller piece has been wet-finished. Once I wet-finish the larger piece, I'll know more about how much fabric there is to work with.
I've been working on warping up my Leclerc loom. It lives in my basement loom room, which is quite dark, meaning that it has probably been neglected for too long. (This was the last thing I wove on it.)
The warp for this project is silk from Redfish Dye Works - purchased at last year's Interweave YarnFest.
I warped this piece back-to-front. I learned to warp by warping from front-to-back, so going back-to-front is still something that I'm getting used to. This tutorial is very helpful, and I find that I reference it often.
After measuring out the warp on a warping board, it gets spaced out in the raddle, shown in the top picture. The raddle keeps the warp the right width as it gets beamed on.
After the warp is beamed onto the back beam, all the heddles are threaded. This piece has about 500 warp ends, all threaded in the pattern below. As you can see in the image above, I tend to tie each section into a loose bundle. This helps me keep track of where I am in my threading, as well as helps me double-check for errors. Catching an error at this stage is much easier to fix than once the whole warping process is finished!
This pattern is a twill pattern. There are lots of twill patterns out there, and this one combines a couple. When I'm doing this, I usually play with design software like WeaveIt until I have a pattern that I like. In this instance, I had a specific number of warp ends that I was trying to design around, so I played with ideas until I got a number that worked.
After threading the heddles, I untie those bundles one by one and pull warp ends through the reed. This particular yarn is a 20/2 silk, which a lot of people set at 27 ends to the inch. Since I don't have a reed that has 27 dents to the inch (most people don't!), I use a reed substitution chart to figure out what to do. I have reeds that are 8, 10, 12, and 15 dents per inch. Looking at the reed substitution chart, if I used the 12 dent reed, and sleyed in a sequence of 2 per dent, 2 per dent, 2 per dent, then 3 per dent, I would get 27 ends to the inch.
This was the first time I tried threading the reed laying down flat instead of upright in the beater. It was a lot easier than the way I learned and led to a lot less neck strain than the methods I'd tried before. (A description is in the tutorial I linked above.)
Of course, because nothing is ever as easy as it should be, I grabbed the 15 dent reed instead of the 12 dent and was almost halfway through the task when I realized what I'd done. (It was early, and my coffee apparently hadn't kicked in yet!) This mistake needed to be fixed, otherwise I'd end up with a narrow scarf as stiff as cardboard!
To fix the mistake, I could have pulled all the threads out of the reed and started over with the correct one. But because I had already done a lot of work grouping the threads together correctly, I improvised an easier and faster solution. I pushed the incorrect reed back, and then put the correct reed in front. Then I pulled each group of threads out of the incorrect reed and placed them into the correct one. It was a process all its own, but much faster than starting from square one! Once I was finished, no threads remained in the incorrect reed, so it was easy to just pull it away.
After sleying all the ends through the reed, I tipped it upright and put it into the beater, then tied on to the front beam and checked for errors. All ready to weave!
Last week in my email newsletter, I wrote about how I made a surprising impulse purchase of the Sashiko Stowe Bag kit. What was equally surprising was that as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, I sat down and started working on it, and had a finished bag the next day. Usually kits and yarns of all sorts have a habit of lingering for a long time before I actually start on them.
Inside the Stowe bag pictured above are two projects - the beginnings of my Miss Rachel's Yoke (purchased as a kit more than two years ago and finally cast on!) and the beginnings of a shawl with this yarn. As soon as the bag was stuffed with these two projects, I realized I needed yet another bag.
Originally, I'd planned to make the larger Stowe with some pink handwoven fabric - and then quickly walked back my plans when I tried to lay out the pattern pieces - there was no way I'd have enough fabric. As much as I love big bags, I felt like there could be a size in between the big and little Stowe bags, and set about drafting a medium size based on the amount of handwoven fabric I wanted to use.
Then, knowing that pattern drafting isn't exactly a well-honed skill of mine, I decided to test the pattern out on less precious fabric first.
I ended up choosing to line the bag, using this tutorial. I did end up using a little bit of this handwoven fabric as the pockets, and lined those too. Instead of doing step 13, I did a more traditional boxed bottom using the basic fold-and-sew method. I used a kumihimo braid that matched the handwoven fabric as a trim on the outside of the bag.
If anything, this bag might be a little bit wide for its height, so there might be some more tweaking in store for my modified pattern. Overall, though, I'm very pleased with the bag itself - right now it is hanging on the back of my chair holding the yarn for the Miss Rachel's Yoke.
Yep, I'm totally a bag lady, but I'm okay with that!
Have you heard of differential shrinkage? It's a scary-sounding word, and googling it doesn't help - you get a very technical description of building construction principles. Yuck!
In weaving, differential shrinkage is actually a very simple idea. It means that some fibers shrink more than others when you wash them. And you can use that idea to create interesting textural effects in your woven fabric.
Combining a shrinking fiber like wool with a non-shrinking fiber like silk or cotton in a single piece of fabric can create interesting results. When the fabric is washed, the shrinking fiber will pull the non-shrinking fiber into puffs. The looser and more open the fabric is, the more susceptible it will be to this effect because the fibers have more room to move around. The tighter the fabric is, the less it will be able to shrink because the fibers are already very close to each other.
The first key to working with differential shrinkage is knowing which fibers will shrink and which won't. Wool is the most notable fiber that shrinks because it has scales that act like Velcro. Wool felts or fulls as heat, moisture, and agitation are applied to it. Some wools will shrink more than others - wool from Merino sheep felts easily, while wool from Southdown sheep is more resistant to felting.
I've also included Lycra and elastic in the list of fibers that shrink because when they are on the loom, they are stretched out to their longest length, and when they are taken off the loom, they can shrink, creating textured effects. Subjecting them to heat will make them shrink more - think of stretch denim that has gone through the dryer one time too many!
Fibers that Shrink:
Plant-based fibers don't shrink as much as wool because they lack the scales that cause wool to felt. Some animal fibers, like silk and mohair, don't shrink either. And many synthetic fibers like rayon, polyester, and tencel don't shrink.
Some wools have been through a process called "superwashing," which either removes the scales from wool or smooths them down. These wools won't shrink as much, but I do find that they can shrink up to 10%, especially if they are subjected to very hot water or put in the dryer.
Fibers that Don't Shrink (as much):
Sometimes we achieve differential shrinkage on purpose, and sometimes it's an accident. I've woven pieces where I used all wool, but the wool was all different breeds and/or brands of yarn that were spun differently. The differences in the wools and yarns meant that some shrank more than others. What I thought would be a basic striped rug was a wavy, rumply thing that would never lie flat.
Other times, I've woven things where I combined different fibers on purpose, knowing I would get a textured effect. The weaving in the top image is one example - the warp was cotton, and the weft was a combination of cotton and a wool/silk yarn. Of these three fibers, wool is the only fiber that will shrink substantially. On the loom, the cloth looked flat. But after a trip through the washing machine on the delicate cycle, I ended up with a boucle-like fabric. That's differential shrinkage in action!
There are lots of different textural effects you can achieve with differential shrinkage. You can create a fabric with allover texture, like I've done here, or you can create small areas of texture within a bigger piece of fabric. The possibilities are endless!
Textural Effects You Can Achieve with Differential Shrinkage
Not a weaver? You can also use differential shrinkage in crafts besides weaving.
If you're a spinner, you can ply a shrinking fiber with a non-shrinking fiber. I love to use plying silk, which is very fine, to create a textured effect in my plied yarn. When you wet finish your yarn, you can full the shrinking fibers to create a textural effect. Maggie Casey of Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins calls this "Boucle the Easy Way."
If you're a knitter, you can use differential shrinkage in felting bags, hats, purses, and other items.
If you're a felter, you can add effects with non-shrinking fibers to create dimensionality. You can also use different thicknesses of wool layers to create puckers and bubbles - this video gives a great overview of the how and why.
Lately, I've been using differential shrinkage most often in creating boucle-like fabrics like the one pictured at the top of this post and my autumn leaves ruana. It really is a fun effect!
As you practice your fiber art skills, have you ever wondered about the craftspeople who came before you? The ones who figured out how to spin, the ones who figured out how to weave, the ones who figured out how to make fabric stretchy by interlocking loops of yarn with one another?
Unfortunately, their stories are lost to history, in part because textile production is so embedded in our culture that it began before humans had a written language. To add to the obscurity, many of the early tools used to produce and work with fabric didn't survive in the archaeological record. But the clues we do have are fascinating, and they indicate that spinning and weaving are very old indeed.
This Saturday, November 10, I'll be giving a presentation at the Black Sheep Handworx Studio. There's lots of interesting historical information about wool, fiber, sheep, and how it relates to us as fiber artists. Whatever fiber art you practice, there's something here for you!
In addition to the discussion, there will be demonstrations, explanations, and hands-on experiences that walk you through how wool is processed before it can become yarn, and how yarn is worked into cloth. The possibilities for customized cloth are endless!
You can purchase tickets at the Black Sheep Handworx Studio, or at 970tix. I hope to see you there!
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