Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The taming of a warp

Isn't it funny how contrary we can be.  In the last post I just complained that I found the hemp warp springy and stiff and hard to control.  So what do I put on the loom next, but something springy and stiff?

When I made the exciting "discovery" of the three-dimensional potential of the structure I'm exploring, I then thought that a similar piece in all natural-colored linen would be just the thing to try next.  This piece would be all about the structure (and I wouldn't have to fret over color choices).

Here's the linen warp all sorted out and ready to weave.  You may be able to notice that the yarns are not all parallel; this is because the layer that will be worked in sprang is not beamed but instead is kept gathered in its section and weighted.

Because the linen is so twisty and live, this part of the loom looked a total mess until I got it through the reed and tensioned.  There's something quite satisfying about taming a warp: getting each end in its proper sequence and path through the heddles and reed, working together with the loom to create order from the seeming chaos.  I didn't realize until I had it to this point that I had been figuratively holding my breath until now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sprang at CNCH 2012

Just got back last night from CNCH and a class on working in sprang with Stephenie Gaustad.  It was a good class; I learned a lot even though I've worked sprang before.  The project was a small bag or pouch in basic single sprang, of hemp fiber.

Stephenie is a great teacher; her serenity and patience kept students relaxed and able to concentrate on a technique that was completely new to a lot of us.

Here she is demonstrating how to check that the warp is set up correctly at the start of the piece.

She had us working on a wooden frame, with cords at top and bottom of the piece as described in Collingwood.  Here's my frame with the first pair of rows worked.  I found the stiff hemp difficult and springy to work with, and you can see that I was concerned that the top and bottom cords were deflecting making my warps different lengths.  I just couldn't bring myself to let the warps be loose enough, and couldn't get my holding cords tight enough I guess.

I did get my bag completely spranged and did the crocheted center line, and stitched up the sides, so I consider my workshop product a success.  I still need to figure out what to do with the top edge and a handle or draw cord.

Stephenie also described how to soften up the hemp after the bag is completed, by boiling it in water with laundry soap and some washing soda.
CNCH puts on a good regional conference.  Here's a photo of the spinning exhibit, one of the seven exhibits in the big hall along with all the vendors.  The skeins in the background on the right of the photo are all spun from a fiber supply given to each participant. The pieces in the foreground are items made from last year's spun yarn.  You can see how much more muted the results are from this year's palette.

Northern California has such a different feel from the southern half of the state for me.  There's something older and more mysterious, as if the remnants of fairies still inhabit the earth there, or the spirits of the Indians who first came there.  Maybe it's just that I spent my childhood in Northern California, so there's more play and imagination associated with the area.  Point Reyes, Half Moon Bay... there's magic in those hills and waters.

There was an eclipse as I was waiting for my plane to return home.  Even with the news media trying their darndest to educate people, they don't seem to get through.  I point to the ground outside the window, and people ignore me and look into the sky, saying "oh, I see...man, that's bright!"  Why don't people realize that to see it you need to look not at the light, but at the shadow it casts to see its essence and shape?  I'm sure there's something metaphorical in there. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Now I have a square tetrad that springs

The colors in my small tetrad sample were not working well for the reasons discussed, so I decided to do the same structure again, using the full schematic design, and this time with hand dyed colors so I could get the colors I wanted.  This is a screenshot from a cool online tool used for web design called Color Scheme Designer 3.  These are the colors I was trying to achieve.

I added a little black dye to each color to tone them down a bit.  I dyed wool because it is the fiber I have the most success in dyeing evenly, though I did still get some spotting in the blue, probably because it was the biggest batch and only barely fit in my dyepot: this gave the dye less space to move and get onto the fiber consistently.

I also swapped the proportion of the blue with the orange from what I had in my sample piece, so that now the full size piece is half blue, a quarter yellow-green, and about an eighth each red-violet and orange.

Once the weaving started, I almost immediately regretted choosing wool; the close double-sett required for doubleweave made for very sticky sheds.  It reminded me of the year I wove double-wide throws for all my family members.  I was having to clear the shed half the time.  I did discover about 5 rows into the weaving that my brake system was not hooked up properly.  After fixing that, the tension improved and weaving went a little more smoothly, though I was still checking the shed before every shot of the weft.  And my choice of combinations of what the blocks were doing required that I got down under the loom every 1-1/2 inches to change the tie-up of treadles to lamms.  This turned out to be quite a physical weaving project!
I got this onto the loom on Easter Sunday.  The colors remind me of a field of California wildflowers: lupine, poppy and owl's clover in spring green grass.  So I think its title is California Spring Sprang.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Tetradic Color Study

A nice study group that I am in focuses on various aspects of color.  Our latest study has been about tetradic color schemes.

A tetradic color scheme is basically two pairs of complements on the color wheel. The scheme I chose is a square one, in which the four colors are equidistant around the wheel. It's supposed to be a difficult scheme to work with, and after my experience I think I agree. My first approach was to pick four colors from my existing yarn stash that met the criteria in hue, i.e. their position around the wheel was close to the right spot.  I thought the blue I had on hand was too dark in value, so I dyed a medium-valued blue and substituted it in my sample piece.

For my sample, I used a portion of the Black and White schematic but added my selected colors.  Unfortunately the color I had the most of was orange. Now don't get me wrong; orange is a nice, happy, comforting color. I like orange. Orange is the favorite color of one of my sisters-in-law. But it was not good in this sample.  If you think the color combination in this photo looks garish, believe me it is worse in person!

Analyzing it, I think it is not working for several reasons.  First, orange-dominant is just too much: it is half orange, one quarter yellow-green, and about one eighth each of red-violet and blue.  Another problem is that the red-violet is too red, and the yellow-green is too yellow, so they don't really meet the colors I was trying to get exactly.  Also the values (light vs. darkness) of the colors are contrasting a lot: although I did do something about substituting for the really dark blue, the red-violet now stands out too much value-contrast-wise.  I think with such an "aggressive" set of hues as a square tetrad (where no color is analogous or close in hue to any other), it may help to get the colors closer in value, and maybe also all lower in saturation (make them more subdued).  So I applied all these observations in making my full-size piece for this study.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moving on to Three Blocks of Doubleweave Sprang

After the wild colors in the Trade Winds piece, I was thinking that this structure would be quite striking in black and white, or just two colors with heavy value contrast.  I used sort of a "schematic" representation to show when each block is woven leaving the warp threads unwoven to be worked in sprang, when they weave the dark color and when they weave the light color.  The Xs in the diagram are where the sprang will be worked.

I still haven't woven exactly this in high contrast yet, because in the meantime I needed to do something for the color study group that I'm in, which will be the topic of another post...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spranging in 3D - Billowing Sails

As I was weaving the "Dead Reckoning" piece I thought it would be cool to have the sprang "hour glass" shapes in alternate squares like a checkerboard, so the curve would continue from one
to the next.

In this piece I used two colors in the one of the warp layers in each stripe, so either color could be brought to the front to be worked in sprang. Because either 1/2 warp can be the sprang layer, this means I need yet one more shaft per block to get the back layer to weave into cloth.

So this piece takes 6 shafts for each of the two blocks that can be worked in sprang, plus 4 shafts for the doubleweave block as a border on the selvedges: 16 total shafts, all I've got.

I got this piece off the loom and wet finished it, hated my selvedges so I did a hemstitched fringe on the selvedge edges, took a photograph of it and - blah!

It's the exact size and shape of a placemat. A very nice place mat, but...can you say BOR-ing?

So I started trying to manipulate it. The sprang bits are almost inviting me to pull them up off the surface. When I do that, the back layer wants
to come up and sort of pleat as well. Now, that's more interesting!

The colors in this piece remind me of the tropics, so continuing with the nautical theme I called this one "Trade Winds" as it also looks kind of like full sails.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I step off to explore spranging within weaving

After the sprang and doubleweave bag, I wanted to explore further combining weaving with sprang. Especially multishaft structures in the same piece as sprang. I wanted to try inserting sprang into "windows" left in the weaving by leaving some warps unwoven in the middle of the width of the piece. I also wanted to see if this would work over a warp several yards long. So I set up a relatively complex twill pattern with some stripes of straight lines separating the twill sections. My thought was to sprang the twill sections between the lines.

I wanted to be able to sprang any section whenever I chose while weaving, so each would have to basically have its own warp beam. The solution here was to weight the warp sections instead of beaming them. The stripes of non-twill could be beamed since I didn't intend to sprang them, but the twill sections needed to be weighted. However, somehow as I was measurring the warp, I forgot about the section weighting requirement and measured a number of ends per section that had nothing to do with my design. I realized this at some time during the setup. but because the warp was so long, I couldn't think of a safe way to regroup the sections.  So I just proceeded on with the weaving experiment.  Here it is in progress.  You can see I have two shuttles going at this point, leaving some warps unwoven in a "window" (upper part of photo), and another "window" that I have already worked in sprang.  Can you see the stripe running right into the window?  That wasn't the original concept.

The piece isn't successful for several reasons. The spranged sections didn't relate to my weaving structure. The yarns I chose were just some undesireable ones I wanted to use up. The colors are ugly, they have rayon in them so they are a little slinky, and the one I chose for warp is a sort of cable, so it doesn't show the sprang well.  This also made the sprang difficult to work, because it was hard to tell what was a whole yarn rather than one cable ply.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Spranging over fabric now holding together

Doubleweave & Sprang Yardage on the Loom
After the last experiment I decided I needed to add a shaft, so I can then get the warps to weave on the back of the fabric and not just float there, so that there's sprang on the front, plain weave in the middle, and a looser plain weave with half the warp ends on the back. This piece took 4 shafts for each of 2 regular doubleweave blocks, plus 5 shafts for the sprang block: 13 total shafts.

This piece is about navigation, hence the sort of nautical color scheme.  The warp block stripes are all in light and dark blue for contrast. For the weft stripe pattern, I looked at a map of the world, and wrote down the names of countries or regions in each of 24 15-degree-longitude slices of the earth.  Then, thinking of each region, I picked a stripe sequence and colors to fill a 4-1/2" length of fabric in 1/2" increments.
Reverse of Finished Fabric Showing Looser Plain Weave

This method of weaving based on time intervals is in reference to the title of the piece, "Dead Reckoning", which is a navigational method of multiplying your speed in the water along a bearing by time elapsed, which traditionally is the only way to figure your change in longitude when out in the ocean.  Further, the sprang motifs remind me of an hourglass, a measure of time and a symbol of time passing and our eventual mortality, a play on the word "dead". And finally, sprang is a method of constructing hammocks, a reference to the custom of burying dead sailors at sea in their hammocks.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Doubleweave Sprang "Lace"

Following up on my 2010 Challenge Project, a Handbag in Doubleweave and Sprang, I felt there was much to explore further using the combination of sprang and doubleweave.  Next I wanted to weave a series of small pieces with a second block of doublweave as a border around the sprang portion. The three pieces are based on the "Sailor's Hymn" which is about the Great Pilot helping us to navigate the troubled waters as well as the calm in our lives.


Chart and Compass


I threaded 60/2 silk at 60 epi per layer of doubleweave, with two colors alternating end-by-end in each layer of the warp.  Either color could be brought to the front of the cloth and left unwoven, to be then worked in sprang. The warps to be worked in sprang were not put onto the main warp beam.  One was put on the supplemental beam; the other was chained and weighted.  For the third piece I even used one of the warp colors I hadn't originally planned to work in sprang, took it off the beam and weighted it.  I accomplished the tiny sprang work with a #1 knitting needle, a small crochet hook, and my nearsighted vision.

Because every other warp was pulled to the front and left unwoven for the sprang layer, this left warps unwoven and loose on the back of the fabric, as well as huge floats of weft across the back. This wasted a lot of silk.  In the photo I've inserted a shed stick to illustrate the two doubleweave layers at the sides, but in the center you can see all the loose ends I ended up cutting off.

To get those warps and wefts to weave, I'd need another shaft.  But the two doubleweave blocks each took 4 shafts, and I was working on an 8-shaft loom. An option would be to just sprang all the warps, but I think that makes too dense of a sprang fabric, and I'd still have unwoven wefts across the back side so it wouldn't really solve the problem.  To get cloth that hangs together with my sprang work on top, I needed to move to a loom with more shafts.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Weighty Issue?

My semi-failure of a Spranged Windows experiment was my first attempt at weighting sections of my warp instead of beaming them.  I had a collection of small fishing weights, but my sections were fairly large due to my memory lapse during measuring of the warp (described in the experiment post), so I didn't think the fishing weights would provide enough tension.  Instead I raided my pantry as you can see in the photo.

This comical setup got me thinking that some larger weights might be a good addition to my collection.  I thought it would be cool to have a weight from each of my brothers and mom and pop, so I put one-pound fishing weights on my Christmas list.

One brother responded (I guess I asked too late as everyone else had different gift plans), but he did give me eight of them.  No more ugly soup cans slipping out of their knots and clunking to the floor. Thanks, Jon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My First Sprang

Several years back we visited the Southwest Museum (this was before it was closed to the public due to it not meeting modern earthquake code).  We were looking for inspiration to create pieces for an exhibit.  This skirt-like thing really caught my eye, maybe because some of the decorations on it are actually sewing thimbles!  The photo is really bad; it was through glass so there is reflection, and we couldn't use flash so it is blurry because I was holding the camera and couldn't hold it steady enough.  But you can see the general idea.  It had a bunch of fringes that were curly looked stiff, like they had been made of sinew.  So much texture.

For some other now-forgotten reason, this piece seemed to say to me that it should be done in the sprang technique to capture the feeling of the original skirt.  So I chose some rough-spun cotton yarn and put it on my floor loom, and learned how to sprang from Peter Collingwood's definitive work on the subject, The Techniques of Sprang: Plaiting on Stretched Threads.