Thursday, 22 February 2018

How far will your handspun yarn go?

One of the most worrying things, when you have used all your fibre and spun some yarn, is whether you have sufficient to complete a project.
If you are to knit something like a simple scarf or even a waistcoat, as in my earlier post -
'Hand spun, Naturally dyed Waistcoat', is to knit a 10cm square and weigh the yarn used, then calculate the area of knitted fabric your project needs, then 'do the sums'.

If you decide to knit a scarf then the calculation can be done while beginning the scarf with little chance of having to pull your work out to begin the project. Here I amusing the yarn from 'A Fill In' project.

First weigh your spun yarn - I had 200g.
Cast on 3 stitches.
Increase by one stitch at the beginning of each row. Continue until you have used 10th of you yarn. In this case I knitted 20g.
Measure the sides of the triangle - cm. You will be able to knit a strip/scarf that is 10 times as long as the side of the triangle you have knitted.
From now on increase a stitch at the beginning of the next row, decrease one stitch at the beginning of the following row. Continue in this way until you have the same weight of yarn that it took to knit the first triangle.
Decrease at the beginning of every following row until only 3 sts remain. Knit all three together to cast off.
Your project doesn't have to be all KNIT stitches! Here is a scarf knitted (yet to be pressed) for my dear friend Sue Bryce.
To keep the edges tidy and straight I knitted the first 5 stitches of each row, using purl in a random number of rows to create some texture. Well, I say random, I usually use the fibonacci sequence of numbers when I am 'designing'.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A 'Fill In Project


   With time to spare, but waiting for some more fibre to continue spinning some yarn for a weaving project, I turned to my stash.
   I was hoping to find an unspun hand dyed roving but finding non I turned instead to some batts I had made for sale. I decided to try some fractal spinning.
Fractal spinning is a fancy name for a particular way to divide up your coloured fibre for spinning.

   I divided each batt into its component colours. The first I spun in the order it was in the original batt, navy, blues, lime and green.

   The second batt I divided further, each colour in half. (12.5 g each)The second half of each colour I divided in half again. (6.25g each)

   I began spinning the four individual colours on one bobbin. (Unfortunately I didn't take  a photo)
on a second bobin I spun the 12.5 g of each of the colours in the same order as before. After which I spun 6.5 gram of each followed by the remaining fibre.

   With all the 'singles' spun I began to ply them together, intending there to be 2 skeins of 100g.
Part way through this process some small visitors, attracted to my spinning wheel and its interesting mechanical possibilities, broke the yarn, but no harm was done. So, the first 100g skein became 2 skeins, those at the top of the photo. 
   Today I have wound the washed skeins, hoping I have the colour sequence correct, into three nice, squishy centre pull balls ready for knitting.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Making Space

There's never enough space in the workroom!

Things get moved to enable me to find something or work on a new project and the materials are all mixed up again.

   I have thought of a way to make space and decorate my work room at the same time.
I  have some chrome grid panels that are usually used to display items for sale at craft fairs and other events. In semi-retirement they are rarely used and have been hanging on hooks from the ceiling of my workshop. I have decided to make use of them. The grids are now on one side of my workshop and have skeins of yarn hanging on them, adding colour to my workspace instead of being stored in plastic boxes on shelves.

Hopefully, the colours will provide inspiration for new projects, a reminder that they exist and even ways to make use of all these handspun and hand dyed yarns that I have created over the past ..?  years.

I also have a large pinboard next to where the skeins are hanging and I have made a 'collage' of fabrics, sample skeins and pictures that  I have collected over the years, some from Association WSD calendars, others from magazines or my own photos.

Monday, 14 August 2017

WHICH HEDDLE? - Rigid Heddle or 4 shaft looms -Calculating warp and weft

      Many more people are beginning to weave thanks to the new rigid heddle/knitters looms. Great, attractive pieces are being woven by beginner weavers and I think this is wonderful! I have enjoyed the craft for many years but previously rigid heddle looms were not as attractive or portable as they are now and the implication was that you need to use specialised weaving yarns to produce anything worthwhile. That is certainly not so and the choice of yarns is extensive and inspiring.
But one factor in the success of a project can still be overlooked and that is the use of the correct heddle for the project and result required. Most yarns are expensive and it is a shame to waste yarn and your time, as well as being so disappointed that you never want to weave again, as happened to a friend of mine just a few months ago!
      I am happy to say that she has resumed weaving and is making successful progress.

       Some time ago I damaged one of my tape measures but I chose not to throw it away! I soon found a use for it. While I was sorting through my stash of woollen weaving yarns I decided to store them according to their character and thickness. I stapled lengths onto pieces of card and wrapped each yarn around a 2" length, at the same time as recording  the number of wraps per inch on the card I wrote, where available, the manufactures yarn specification.Wrap the yarn so each wrap lays side by side with the one before, without cramming or over crowding each other.

      To be most accurate it is a good idea to do this over a 2" length.

      The Shetland style yarn samples above which wrap 20 times to the inch.  If they were to be woven with each other as warp stripes or one warp and weft in a typical plain/tabby weave (over one under one, over one under one, all the way across the warp,) would be suitable for a 10 dent (threads per inch) heddle whether on a Rigid Heddle loom or one with multiple shafts.That is half the number of wraps per inch
The reason for this calculation is that the space between the warp threads is the diameter of the weft yarn and so gives it room so it doesn't distort the woven cloth.
It also means that the weaver should be passing the shuttle of weft yarn 10 times from side to side to produce one inch of woven fabric, thus creating a 'balanced' cloth where, on the face of the fabric the length of each yarn, warp and/or weft, showing on the surface will be the same. Look at any plain weave cloth and this should be the case.

      In short, if you are using the same yarn warp and weft on a rigid heddle loom, or for a 'tabby' weave on a shaft loom, to get a balanced weave structure:-
a yarn that wraps 24 times to cover an inch needs the warp to have 12 threads per inch and be woven with a 12 dent heddle (reed on a shaft loom).
24 wraps per inch = 12 dent heddle
20 wraps per inch = 10 dent heddle
16 wraps per inch = 8 dent heddle
15 wraps per inch = 7.5 heddle, and so on.

If you intend to use one yarn for the warp and something different for the weft, it is best to wrap them both alternately, as shown on the next sample.

    When using the brown as the warp with a thicker, slightly slubby yarn for the weft further wraps had to be produced to be sure of success in the woven fabric. The photo here shows that 8 brown warp ends to the inch would be appropriate for a tabby weave. Using 2 different yarns or colours of the same yarn alternately makes the task of counting the wraps per inch for the warp much easier. (It can be frustrating when you lose count and have to do it over again!)

      In fact I decided to weave a twill cloth with brown warp and lighter tweedy weft. In a regular twill weave the weft passes through the warp after 2 threads/ends. This means calculations are slightly different. Two wraps of warp yarn are followed by one of the weft. As you can see from the photograph this meant I needed 12 wraps/ends of brown shetland per inch width of cloth. A 12 dent heddle was needed for this cloth.

Balanced Tabby Weave 

      The following examples are woven in Tabby - over and under alternate threads. The red is handspun wool yarn used both warp and weft. The following 2 are wild silk, both using the same unplied wild silk yarn. The checks were created with a warp, two threads of each colour in turn in both warp and weft. The third sample is log cabin. ( See my blog article - PREPARING TO WARP YOUR LOOM also 'The Next Steps.') I think you can see that the weaves are balanced.

What does this mean to the weaver planning a project? 
      If the space between warps threads is too great the weft yarn beats down to cover more of the warp than expected and the weft yarn will dominate the cloth rather than it being balanced, showing warp and weft yarns equally. Also, more weft yarn will be needed to complete the length of cloth!

      This is the yarn for my latest project, still on the loom.

       The photograph shows that the warp yarn is much thinner than the weft but the finished fabric will still be a balanced twill - hopefully! Watch this space.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Oldest Loom Still Working

        On holiday in Totnes, Devon, last year we saw an old loom through the museum window. Sadly, the museum wasn't open that day.
        This year I was able to visit the museum and look more closely at the ancient loom, believed to be the oldest still around and 'working'.
         From the year 1600 or thereabouts, the wood is black and it's age shows in the gnarled surface but the loom can still be operated - with care. With only 2 shafts it would have been used to weave the simplest of cloth.

         I was interested to see that the reed had been constructed to allow double the number of selvedge threads to be threaded individually, although, the reed is not  the same width as the maximum possible for the size of loom.


     The other thing that caught my attention was the eyelets in the heddles. They are quite thick, made of metal, fixed to the heddle frame with cord.
The museum had interesting information on the Totnes wool trade which 'developed early and by 1253 its 'russet' manufacture provided a cover for the King's bed. Export trade expanded with the development of 'straights', a poor cloth made from short coarse wool not good enough for the standard English broadcloth. In tudor times merchants turned to the manufacture of 'kerseys' of much better quality.' Dyes became more varied, to the reds and russets made from madder, browns and reds from lichens, three shades of blue were added using woad.
   Merchants arranged the distribution of wool to the spinners and weavers were employed working in their own homes. Fulling (finishing) of the cloth was done by 'tuckers' in their little mills. To remove loose material and secure an even surface, the cloth was stretched on tenterhooks. This was done in public places to avoid trickery in increasing the yardage.
   By about 1700, serges were the chief fabrics produced in Devon but the great days of the Devon cloth trade were already on the decline which was hastened by the use of machinery.'
   This information has prompted me to research the terms used - straights, kerseys, tuckers. I will post more of this later, I hope.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Weaving with Alpaca

 First attempts at Weaving with Alpaca

              Some time ago I was contacted by Jo, a lady who keeps alpacas, to say that she had some cones of alpaca yarn that Bedfordshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers might be interested in.
I went to look at the boxes, 15 in all, of yarn on cones. It was so obviously weaving yarn and in six colours and two thicknesses, the bulk being singles yarn.
              I made contact with the groups from the Association WSD in counties around Bedfordshire and managed to sell approximately 50% of the cones. People were thrilled to get the chance to use alpaca yarn at such a reasonable price. Most of the photos in the montage are of fabrics or scarves woven by Cambridge guild members and they show some of the diverse colour and weave patterns that can achieved without having a multi shaft loom.

              As soon as I had the chance to set up my floor loom I wove fabric with the plied yarn (centre picture) intended for a garden rug. One that I could hopefully sit on without the discomfort of being irritated because my skin does not like wool. I also set up my 8 shaft table loom with a sample point twill weave warp from the singles. (Sample  bottom centre). When both were completed I did as always had been my habit and put the fabric in the washing machine on a 30deg. wool wash. The singles sample came out fine but the plied yarn fabric was shedding and my utility room floor looked as though we'd had a snow storm!
              Worried about having passed on so much of this yarn to friends and acquaintances I contacted members of Cambridge Guild. They were concerned about my results but those who had already woven with the yarn, mainly the singles, had hand washed the fabric without detrimental effects. I was relieved because I saw myself dolling out refunds! To date, only one person has asked for a refund because one of her yarns was shredding in her rigid heddle loom heddles.

Friday, 24 March 2017



Gather your equipment.
You will need:-
a surface long enough for your required length of warp - eg. 2 metres.
G clamp or warping post that clamps to the end of your 'table'.
Yarns, probably centre pull balls, and a container to control them, large plastic or cardboard box.
Threading hooks.
Brown paper, or something similar, for winding with your warp. (Corrugated card is an alternative, as are bamboo place mats/table runners.)

The loom I am setting up is a very old Dryad one, given to me by a school I worked at in the 70's. It has a metalex rigid heddle (the only ones available then) with a total of 12 slots and holes, 6 slots and six holes, to the inch. I find a 4ply yarn just right for this heddle.

Most new looms seem to be supplied with a 10 thread per inch heddle and this may be all you have. To create a balanced/evenly woven fabric you will need to use a yarn that wraps 20 threads, touching side by side, over one inch of ruler.

First, choose the yarn you want to use.

If you are using the same yarn warp and weft - Warp yarn the yarn you put on your loom. Weft, the yarn you weave with.
I have used both colours of  the same warp thread so they can be easily counted. As you can tell there is still a little room but I have no option but to thread 12 threads per inch with the only heddle I have!
You can see that there are 24 thicknesses of my yarn covering 1" of the ruler.
Half that number is the number of warp threads I will have for each inch of the width of my project - 12. This means the gap between the warp threads on my loom is wide enough for the weaving thread to fit between them.
The wraps sample below is DK yarn which wraps 16 thread to the inch, so an 8 dent rigid heddle would be needed.

I recommend marking your RH in the centre slot and either side to show where your warp threading will begin and end. Here I have marked six inches either side of centre because that is the width I want to weave. I leave my centre marking in permanently.
Now, with heddle marked and the loom and yarns in place, you can begin to thread/warp up your loom.
My G clamp is centred at the opposite end of the table to my loom and yarns. The back 'legs' of the loom are hanging over the edge of the table, this keeps it in place while warping, it also ensures all threads are the same length. - picture above on the left.
Right hand picture above:
Put your warp yarn into the 'control' container and then tie the end to the back warping stick of your loom level with the right hand side marker on your heddle. 
1. Put your threading hook through the slot in the rigid heddle and loop the yarn onto it so it can be threaded through your Rigid Heddle and the looped end placed over the G clamp.
Working from Right to left.
2. Pass the warp thread under the warp stick and then:-
The next length of warp thread is then threaded in the same way through the next slot along and 'hung' on the G clamp. 
3. The yarn from your ball will now be under your warp stick so, 
pass it over the stick and with the threading hook through the slot of the heddle, hook the yarn onto it. 4.Now pull the double thread and hook it onto the G clamp.
Repeat this threading sequence until you have your warp the width you want.
Tie the end of your warp thread onto the warp stick in line with the left edge of your warp.