Thursday, 14 June 2007

Returning to the loom...

It's about time I posted in here.

Not much in the way of handcrafts was done last year, aside from the occasional touch of spinning. Work, travelling for work, and a social life all got in the way. But when I got back from Chile earlier in the year, the urge took me once more to get working with my hands. I rebuilt the loom I bought last year (an elderly Glimakra 4-shaft counterbalance), and set it up for weaving. It took a little renovation, so I did a throw-away sample in 6/2 cotton to balance it and work out the kinks:

You can see in this image, the different weaves and beats I tried with the pink and white cotton to see how the loom would react. By the time I'd woven a foot of the sample strip, I was happy that I'd sorted out any balancing issues with the counterbalance. It's possible to see the fabric become more even along the length of the sampler.

Then, because I was happy, I decided to experiment with the hand-spun, hand-dyed silk caps and some puce rayon, to see how they'd weave together. This is what you can see at the base of the sampler: first the silk cap, in mostly blues, then a blend of the silk and the rayon, then just the rayon itself.

Here's a close-up of the silk and the rayon:

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I liked this enough that I warped the loom with the rayon last week. Warping with rayon is a royal pain because it's so floppy. I got around this by doing a sectional warp, only winding 8 warps at any time and threading each of those before winding the next section. That approach still resulted in lots of tangles, but it worked with a bit of patience. I've been weaving this week and I'm pleased at just how much faster you can weave with a floor loom as opposed to a table loom: you don't have to keep lifting your hands to lift shafts when the work is all done with your feet. That means you can keep the shuttle in your hand and concentrate on balance and tension. The scarf is already 2/3 done and will be finished this weekend. And then there will be photos.

The next project will be weaving a large section of linen cloth at 25 epi, so I can stitch a cross-stitch onto it. I'm thinking I may as well wind a long warp and use some of the rest to make tea towels as well.

The spinning has been going apace as well. I finally finished the (eventually not so)awful suri alpaca. It turned into a lovely fibre once I figured out the best way to card it. It just needed to be seriously carded, rather than just flicked with a flicker, the way most alpaca is happy. I've been spinning some of the 6 kg of alpaca I brought out from Australia at the moment - a lovely dark red-brown colour. I've also bought another 8 kg of local wool in raw fleeces to add to the alpaca in a wild project I've dreamed up - making up a whole pile of hand-spun fibre and then turning it into a navajo/peruvian-inspired hall runner - my loom is just the right width for that. I'm expecting that project to take a while though...

...I'm also seriously considering doing a weaving accreditation with the aim of doing a Master Weaver's certificate. Which would eventually mean buying a larger, more serious dobby loom.

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