Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weaving 101: Preparing the Warp

I'm starting a new weaving project and I thought it might be nice to post the step-by-step process. (I suppose this could be either really interesting, really confusing, or really boring to different people, so be forewarned!) To explain the project, I have to give a little bit of background story first.

This summer I've been working part time at Missouri Town 1855, a historic site with old buildings and a few reenactors (nothing fancy like Williamsburg). I was hired to help mostly with the livestock (you guessed it, scooping poop) and with maintaining the gardens (weeding). But when it's too hot to work I get to dress up and interact with visitors and demonstrate things. I've been doing a lot of spinning, which I needed the practice. So, they found out I can weave. They have a loom that some donator bought, a nice new loom. Nobody has done anything with it. Would I like to do something with it?

Hence my project is born. I knew I did not want to make a boring rag rug (if you've ever been somewhere like a renaissance fest., it seems like everyone's making rag rugs.) So I thought I'd make an overshot coverlet. I'd read about pioneer women in Appalachia weaving them and so I knew they'd probably be a fit for the time period.

So here is a picture of my yarn, the white for the warp and the blue for the weft/pattern. It's a 3/2 perle cotton, which means it's one of the thicker weaving yarns and it's got some sheen to it. I get all my weaving supplies from The Yarn Barn in Lawrence, KS--I highly recommend them for supplies and help.

The first thing to do is measure the warp on my handy warping board. (Actually the first thing to do is all the mathematical calculations for how much warp and weft you need, but I'll spare you that part.) The warping board has these pegs spaced a yard apart so you can measure anywhere from 1 to 10 yards on it. This is not the only way to measure a warp, but it's the way I was taught.

I needed 300 ends of warp that were each 5 yards long. So I stood in front of my warping board and strung the yarn on for 5 yards and counted in twenties to 100. (I would recommend traditional Irish music for this activity--it gives a good beat and keeps you from getting bored.)

Here is a very important picture: the warp cross. It is the only thing keeping your strings in order, instead of in a big-huge-giant-awful mess. As you are measuring the warp onto the pegs, these two pegs at the top are close together and towards the beginning of the length. You always go over one, under the next and then opposite on the way back (yeah, that makes no sense I know)--it's pretty much a figure-8 concept just on a larger scale. Even if other stuff goes wrong when you're setting up the loom, if you still have your warp cross then not all is lost.

Here I've finished measuring 100 ends and before I can take it off the pegs, I've tied it several times with a contrasting string. This prevents it from getting tangled immediately, but more importantly, see how I have tied around the warp cross and just before and after it to make sure it doesn't get lost. If you don't tie anything else, tie the warp cross!

Here is my warp chain, just taken off of the pegs by starting at the bottom looped end and crocheting it onto itself with your hand as you slide it off of the pegs one by one. This helps keep the yarn from going crazy and it makes it a lot shorter and more manageable. Since my warp cross is tied securely, I can pull it right into the crocheted part. Because I needed 300 ends, I made three of these groupings of 100. Take my word for it, divide up your yarn unless you're doing a belt or scarf or something really skinny.

This whole process took me about an hour. When I wove 8 yards for my skirt out of really fine yarn, it took a lot longer. My next step is to start putting the warp onto the loom, which I have to do at Missouri Town. So check back for the next installment of weaving 101, and I'd love to hear your comments/questions.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baby Gift

My friend is having her baby in the next few weeks and I thought this lamb was so adorable, I just had to make it. The pattern is from an old issue of Martha Stewart Living.

The baby's name is Lydia, and in the Bible Lydia is a dyer of purple, so I made it in purple herringbone wool. I'm not sure if I like the ears embroidered, but it's kind of too late to take it back out, oh well.

The pattern is very easy and quick. The only downside is working with such a small size and lots of curves. But I've never made a stuffed animal before, and it was pretty straightforward.

I thought it looked so nice next to my blueberries!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Triangle Shawl Weaving

Our weavers guild was given a triangle loom a few months ago, and no one wanted to take it home, so I did. I had some yarn that I'd received as a gift and there was just enough to make a double shawl, or poncho.

If you've never woven before, starting on a triangle loom is really fun. It's called continuous strand weaving because there isn't a separate warp and weft, it's all one yarn weaving onto itself. Because of this, there's no set-up time--you just start weaving. And it goes pretty fast, one shawl only takes about 12 hours total. (that's nothing compared to a normal weaving project!)

Here's my finished poncho, it's very warm and soft. I wove a double shawl, one right on top of the other on the frame, and then crocheted the top edges together before taking it off the loom.

I wove this one about 3 years ago at a class at Missouri Town. It's just a single shawl, and the yarn I brought to use worked out just perfectly for this beautiful plaid effect. I'd really like to duplicate this plaid in a kilt some day.

If you're looking for a quick and relatively easy weaving project, I would highly recommend triangle loom weaving!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Nerd Fest Report

The Midwest Weavers Conference was awesome! Here we are in the cafeteria (at Grinell College, Iowa) nerding it up, looking at wool yarn samples. My roommate is the lady on the right, she grew up in Scotland and is incredibly interesting.

I took a two-day workshop with Anita Luvera Mayer, a pioneer in handwoven clothing. She's been weaving her own clothing since the 60's. This class was specifically about edge finishing and how to join edges without making a seam. We made a huge sample booklet while she lectured and told stories about her life as a weaver.

This is one of her current pieces that was in the gallery. She took all these old lace doilies and dyed them, then appliqued them onto the robe. She's also done a ton of beadwork on it.

She was very energetic and inspiring. A no-nonsense lady. I liked her right away and my favorite thing she told us was that there's no right or wrong way to do something in regards to sewing/weaving, if it works for you, then do it! (She's wearing white gloves because the security guy wouldn't let her touch her own piece without them.)

Here's a good shot of the back of one of her robes that was in the fashion show. She had all these square silk samples and dyed them and sewed them all together.

She's also quoted as saying that she wants to wear something unique and wonderful every day. She really puts her heart into her work, and only makes it for herself. She teaches workshops all over the country and also leads at least two fiber tours abroad a year.

Very inspiring!

(I couldn't figure out how to post more than 5 pictures at a time, so there are 3 posts about the conference that all go together.)

Gallery Highlights

The gallery had mostly things that couldn't be in the fashion show. This vest was an extremely fine weave with subtle texture. Very exquisite fabric.

This was a reversible patterned scarf. I've never seen a pattern like it before.

Someone upholstered this bench with hand woven fabric! The craftsmanship is inspiring, it reminds me of the arts and crafts era. They won a prize for it!

Close up of the bench fabric. It's called pique (pee-kay). I found out it's very hard to weave.

A tapestry made completely of sewing thread. I can't even imagine how long this took.

Fashion Show Highlights

Backstage at the fashion show, we were all admiring the fantastic woven creations. Here is Daryl Lancaster wearing her evening gown--stunning!

This girl was a student at the college, helping with the lighting. They convinced her to model a piece titled "warrior princess", it's handwoven armor. I thought she pulled it off wonderfully.

A handwoven cape--looks so warm and elegant. This lovely model wove it herself.

Me in my skirt. After the fashion show, there was a reception in the foyer outside. I was bombarded by people admiring my skirt and asking questions about it. The most frequent comment was something like, "It just flows so well" or "I love how it drapes".

Here is an upclose view that shows the iridescent fabric better. You can read more about how I made it here.

The best part about the fashion show was getting compliments from famous weavers. I don't mean to brag, but I was floored that women who I've admired immensely were so excited about something I made.

Oh... and I won first place too, that was unexpected!