Saturday, January 9

Learning curve

Today I finished my first 'proper' weaving project, and wanted to write about what I had learned from it. I started this in the christmas holidays and it didn't really take me too long to finish; the slow parts were:

a. calculating the length of the warp and weft (more about this later!)
b. warping the loom
c. having to order more weft yarn

So far all the weaving I've done has been self-taught using Deborah Chandler's book Learning to Weave, which I've written about before. I was frustrated by the level of detail she goes into, but now I'm gaining the benefit as I start to learn more and ask questions. She seems to answer them all quite thoroughly.

However, as the book says over and over again, each project is a learning curve and you will learn something new with each attempt.

My intention was to weave a scarf for my mum's birthday, which falls in the middle of January. I already knew that I wanted to use Noro Silk Garden yarn as the weft; this is a lovely mix of silk, lambswool and mohair which has very long sections of colour and beautiful gradations between each colour, making it ideal for creating a stripey-effect scarf.

My initial test sampler used double-knit wool for the warp, and I wanted to make the fabric of this scarf less stiff, so I chose some leftover sock yarn as the warp, hoping that this thinner ply would make the difference.

I chose two contrasting colours - a dark burgundy and a bright pinky red - as I wanted some striping to show along the length of the scarf and contrast with the weft. I alternated them in fours.

Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward process to weave - the only major difficulty being in trying to keep track of the colour changes. It's not possible to get a whole ball of this yarn on a shuttle at one time, so I had to wind a bit on at a time. However you have to wind it off the ball into another ball, then 'backwards' onto the shuttle, to make sure that you are starting on the right section of colour.

I really got into the swing of the weaving process - it's important to leave just the right amount of weft yarn in the shed on each pass. If you leave too much it will bulge out at the ends, too little and it will pull in at the sides when you beat it. I think I've done a really good job on this one, the selvedges are pretty straight and the width of the scarf is fairly constant.

So how did it come out? The biggest problem was the length - once it was finished and I started unwinding it from the loom, it just kept on coming! I did have an inkling about this, since I had predicted from my weft calculations that the two balls of Noro in my stash would be enough - and yet halfway through the weaving it became clear that I would need a third ball. In fact I finished the whole of the third ball as well! But I had found the weft calculations a bit confusing, so I just assumed that I'd not done them properly. The finished object is way too long - and when I measured it I discovered it's about one and a half times the length I anticipated!

What went wrong?

I thought back over what I had done, and looked at the calculations again, and came to the conclusion that a couple of things I had done had created this monster. Firstly I had been too generous with my prediction of loom waste (the bits you need at the beginning and end of the warp so that you can tie it on to the loom) and this had been exacerbated by the fact that I had woven as far as I physically could on the end.

But when I'd been measuring the length of the initial 'guide thread' (this is the one you measure all your warp against) I had measured it slack. Of course when you put it on the loom, you tension it and when it is wool, this can mean quite an additional stretch! For the required warp length of 272cm on this project, the stretch alone accounted for a further 30cm or thereabouts!

I could easily have adjusted this on the loom by only weaving the length I required - but of course once your warp is on the loom it is wound round the apron at the back or front, and it's very difficult to tell how much you have woven. For future projects I think I will have to come up some way of checking this.

Incidentally I went back over the measuring and warping instructions in Deborah's book but couldn't find any obvious mention of this phenomena, so I didn't feel quite so stupid after all!

The other thing I could have been more efficient about was the finishing. It wasn't till I'd taken it off the loom and oohed and ahhed and laughed at the length of it that I decided I should find out how to finish it properly. I wasn't intending to put a fringe on it, but the stitched method of finishing 'is easiest done when the item is still on the loom' said the book...doh! The good news is that all the ends don't have to be sewn in - apparently you can just cut them off!

Finally I didn't really think about how the warp colours would look as a fringe - the pink is a bit lairy and I'm not sure I really like it, but it's too late for that now. Besides I've decided that I'm keeping the scarf - my mum is very slight and this scarf is big enough for her to wear as a toga if she really wanted to!

After washing, the fibres in the yarns relaxed and the fabric became noticeably softer. The Noro is stunning used in this way.


Mary deB said...

That is really pretty! All I do with yarn is knit it, so woven Kureyon is a whole new experience!

Gareth Gardner said...

The colours are gorgeous! You should be very proud!

colleen said...

I'd want to keep it if it was mine - the colours are beautiful. But what's your mum going to get now?

knit nurse said...

don't worry, I have plenty more gorgeous yarn in my stash!

Anonymous said...

hi, jsoi from rus in urbis and am inspired by your beautiful beginning!!! my goal is rag rugs.

Catherine said...

Gorgeous! I particularly like the colour changes in the warp.

Was the weft DK or sock? And how much was a ball, 50g?

knit nurse said...

@ catherine - the weft was Silk Garden, I think it's actually classified as aran weight. Each ball 50g.