Posts tagged ‘shuttles’

Now I have an indigo project on the loom, finally. I’ve been playing with indigo resist techniques for a while and last summer got around to dying enough cotton yarn for a real project. It started off baby pink, but one of the interesting things about indigo is it will generally pull the chemical dye out. So it’s all shades of blue, lighter where I tightly tied the skeins in four places, darker where they were not. There is about 800g total, which should be enough for a vest.

I thought about combining it with another yarn, but I wanted to keep it all indigo. Plus using it with a solid color would make the white spots less visible. So I worked out how much warp and weft I could get based on the towels (similar yarn.) Winding from skein to balls was a bother, but I don’t have two swifts and I was measuring two ends together. I set aside the ball that had a bunch of knots and, much to my amazement, only found one knot while measuring warp. To get as much as possible out of it, I knotted each bundle and tied on both front and back with cords. It’s a pain, but it cuts my loom waste by about half. I did my calculations in yards because I already had the yards per pound number for this yarn, so this warp is 18 inches in the reed at 20 ends per inch for 7 yards. I estimated half again as much weft as warp as woven, and if I’m off I’ll finish off with some similar solid blue yarn just to weave the full length. I could use any extra fabric for facings or something else where it won’t show.

Having just taken a similarly-sized project off the loom, I didn’t pay much attention to how my heddles were arranged but just started threading. Bad Idea. I got almost done and realized I needed about a dozen more heddles on the edge. I actually pulled out and swapped heddles for the shaft that needed the most, but after recovering from that mess I decided to cut some off and do the repair heddle trick for the rest. It trashes heddles, but I didn’t want to untangle the mess again. I have more (as soon as I figure out where I put them.) I could have just threaded the remaining ends on some empty shafts, I’ve got twelve of the damn things, but that would mean more loom waste, plus lifting twice as many shafts with each pick for basically no good reason. I’ll waste a couple heddles instead.

So on to the weaving. The skeins were tied in four places in a 1.5 m skein and my warp isn’t very wide, so I was concerned that would start to make strange patterns in how the light spots aligned in my fabric. (Think bad 70s variegated knitting yarns.) To keep the pattern of light spots as random as possible, I’m weaving with two shuttles. Two picks each (so they don’t get twisted around each other) in a plain 2/2 twill. The focus of this fabric is the dyed yarn, so I didn’t want a complicated fabric to be a distraction. But for a garment I do want the drape of a twill. The advantage of weaving yardage for sewing is that the selvedges don’t have to be perfect. Mine are pretty good normally, but this time I don’t have to pay attention to how well I join on new weft. I’m just leaving it hang off the edge.

Two shuttles is slow, but I’ve got it arranged so that the first two sheds are the right shuttle and the last two sheds the left. I pick up the shuttle, weave two picks, and put it back where it came from. Feet and hands are always doing the same thing, in the same order, so when I forget it’s more obvious something is wrong. It’s not a big deal here, but it will do well to practice for later when I’m doing a real two color design.

The towels are coming along, very nicely since I finally got some end-feed shuttles and a new bobbin winder. No more snagging bobbins for me! As soon as I remember to not overfill the pirns, anyway. The first couple were a little much. When it works, it works very well as there are no moving parts. But you do have to wind the pirns carefully so they unwind neatly.

This warp is in twill stripes, so it’s one shuttle and almost no thought. My only concern is getting them the same length. I’m hemstitching the ends, a look I like very much for towels, but boy is it a pain. The hemstitching takes almost as much time as the weaving. But I don’t have any matching finer yarn to do a nice hem. I did the first towel in a diamond twill, to give it a try, but it doesn’t work very well with my stripe arrangement. I need something to keep in my desk at work, so it will be fine and with the same color weft you really have to pay attention to see that the design is a little odd. I am using contrasting color weft for the others and the stripes are much more obvious.

The loom is working well, although if I’m going to do anything wider on only four shafts I’m going to have to pull out the extra heddles or maybe even buy more. Yes, I could spread it out among the others but that makes threading more annoying and the tie-up more complicated. Most of what I want to do is still four shaft or at most some obvious variation thereof. (I’m thinking of a double-width twill blanket, which still would be only eight.)

I have been up to my eyeballs in loom, quite literally at times as I’ve spent far too long sitting under it messing with stuff. But the first real project on the big loom is now ready to weave. It only took 47 thousand re-dos with the tie-ups to get the pattern correct. Some comments:

I didn’t forget as much as I was afraid I had.
After five years without a floor loom (and longer since any serious project,) some skills are a bit rusty. (Kinda like the loom.) But I know what I’m doing and it mostly went the way I expected. I’m still working out the logistics of dealing with a huge loom. It’s big, my arms are short and this has been something of a problem.

Twelve harnesses have so many more ways to mess up than four.
I managed to thread my pattern without errors, but I spent far, far too much time working out the tie-up. I had a eight harness two block twill to start with and I was extending it to three blocks on twelve. Working out how to connect those four other treadles to get the pattern I wanted was a big pain. I would have saved myself some time if I had written out my design in full first rather than relying on the one in the book plus some scribbled notes. But it only somewhat helped, because when I finally charted out the whole thing, I got it wrong anyway.

I’m going to have to sort out the technical difference between shaft and harness.
I use “harness,” from the people I was around when I learned to weave. But many books and articles use “shaft” and I don’t understand why. Aside from the occasional comment on the difference, the two words appear to be used interchangeably. This never bothered me before, but now I’m reading more in the search for ideas for all those extra harnesses, err, shafts. It’s possible that understanding the difference may help me better design drafts. Or it could just be “one of those things.”

Stupid errors are still just as stupid.
I didn’t have any nice cord to tie up the apron rods, so I used what was lying around. It broke. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it was a pain. Replacing the cord on the other end of the warp is going to be even more of a pain.

Some things I thought would be a problem were.
I had never tried folding a loom with a warp on it. But after bumping my head on the back beam a dozen times trying to fix the tie-up, I folded it up instead. Yes, it works, to a limited extent. My warp tension did recover, but only after some fiddling with it. So as a general rule, I’d say don’t do it in the middle of weaving something you care about. If you must, wait until you are ready to start the next towel.

Some things I thought would be a problem weren’t.
At the moment, I have one boat shuttle with (what appear to me to be) teeny tiny bobbins. But it turns out you can seriously over-fill them and they still fit in the shuttle, so it isn’t so much a problem as I thought. I want something larger for wider fabric, however. It’s hard to hide where you started a new bobbin.

I still can’t remember how to hemstitch without the diagram.
I copied two pages out of the borrowed copy of Learning to Weave. One was the reed substitution table, so I can figure out how to sley 40 epi in a 12 dent reed. The other was the hemstitch diagram.

The quill makes a much better bobbin winder than I expected.
That silly pointy thing I bought for the spinning wheel actually works quite well. It’s nice to have a foot-controlled bobbin winder, this
leaves you with both hands to deal with the yarn. The only problem is getting the bobbin to stay on the shaft. For these particular bobbins, a big hair elastic shoved in there works great.

This project is a bunch of hand towels from the 8/2 mill end cotton. The surprise pack of yarn included many colors I’m less than thrilled about, but most were not outright horrid. That means they are fine for gifts.

I’ve been sick all week, so I’ve spent a good bit of time sitting around like a lump staring at the walls. Sometimes that’s all you can do. If you feel bad enough, you don’t even care.

I did start some more knitting, a baby hat of some yarn I’ve had stashed away for a few years waiting for a project. It’s one of four skeins of ostensibly matching 3-ply, but this one I got distracted on and one of the singles is much larger than the others. So it doesn’t match the rest, but it’s fine for something on it’s own. There is enough for a lace cap and maybe some booties or something. The pattern is an insanely simple four stitch yarn over lace, but at times it’s been too complicated for my fuzzy brain to deal with. So I started winding shuttles, something so stupid that it’s impossible to screw up.

The next piece on the loom is narrow, I actually prefer stick shuttles for that. They hold tons of yarn and are easy to handle. The boat shuttle would be faster for wider fabric, but for this I think it comes out about the same. What you lose in handling the shuttle is gained by not having to chase it down when you drop it for the 87th time or change the bobbin every ten minutes. If I’m going to throw something through the shed, I want it to be at least wider than my shuttle is long. Otherwise, I might as well pass it hand to hand. A while back I managed to acquire a Harrisville shuttlette, a short boat shuttle they suggest for narrow warps. I seem to recall the previous owner of my old floor loom gave it to me. I’m not terribly fond of boat shuttles in the first place, but oh how I hate this thing. All the bobbin-snagging madness of a standard boat shuttle with the added aerodynamic qualities of a brick. Just thinking of it reminds me I have to order that end-feed shuttle before I start the next project.

Dear eBay Weaving Equipment Seller:

If you do not know enough about your product to identify it correctly, please do not try to impress me with it’s fine condition and original vintage detail. While I agree the wood does appear to be in an excellent state, not only is your industrial fly shuttle not an “Antique Weaving Loom,” it is not even functional, having lost all its metal hardware.

I suggest you study the numerous industrial fly shuttles posted by many of your eBay compatriots and compare them with the item you have on offer. I further encourage to take note of how many modern weavers actually buy ancient mill shuttles with no pirns available and consider re-listing yours in a more appropriate category such as Antiques.


A Weaver

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