Thursday, 11 September 2008

Blanket making

My partner has asked me to make him a blanket for his field season. That is what the wool dyeing in my previous post is for.

The warp for this blanket is a creamy-beige wool of unknown provenance, which I picked up on Ebay. I've made a 9m warp, 33 inches wide, sleyed at 16epi. For the weft, I've dyed a whole pile of sport-weight bluefaced leicester wool, to a soft coral-brick-red colour with a few slightly darker patches. I'd originally planned to make this blanket using krokbragd, but my partner saw and fell in love with a braided twill draft. Braided twill is something I've long wanted to use to make something, so I was keen to play!

Obviously a job this big is something you want to sample. So I spent last weekend finishing the threading and sleying, tensioned the warp, and started weaving a sample.

Braided twill is such a pretty draft. It looks much more complex than it is - but it's a lovely, robust weave structure for a blanket.

In sampling, I found a threading error. It's rare for me to make a threading error. I'm quite careful in threading, pulling only enough heddles and ends for each block of the threading plan. In this case, I'd put one end on shaft three when it ought to have been on shaft two. As this was just a sample, I decided to continue weaving and correct the error when I cut the sample off. In the meantime, to mark it I tied a scrap of wool around the offending warp thread.

Once the sample was cut off, I cut it into three equally-sized pieces. I kept one off the loom for control (the bottom piece of cloth, with the yellow header attached in the below photo), handwashed one (the topmost piece of cloth), and tossed the third into the washing machine at 40C with the rest of my laundry (that's the one in the centre of the image, with the beige face to the camera). I estimate that there was roughly 5% shrinkage on the hadnwashed sample, and about 10% shrinkage on the machine washed sample. The wool fulled nicely and felted only slightly, which is a result - the blanket can be machine washed! That's very important when you're on base. The last thing you want to do is to hand-wash a heavy woolen blanket.

You can see that there's a treadling error in there that I also deliberately ignored, as this was just for the sample. The treadling for this draft is nice and rhythmic. 1-odd number-2-even number-1-odd number, with the odd numbers and even numbers going from 3 up to 9 and back to 4. It makes for a good rhythm, so long as you remember where you are!

I've not done much on this during the week this week, as it's been a very busy week (both daytime and evening social obligations) work-wise as everyone passes through on their way into the field season. But that's OK, I have 5-6 weeks in which to make this blanket. So I decided to work on the next project on Sunday and Monday evenings instead. The next project will be a cople of silk scarves and I want to try to make the first a collapse structure, so I've been overspinning some dyed silk cap I'd already spun. I accomplish this by setting my spinning wheel to the appropriate tension, having the spun silk cap to hand on a lazy kate, and simlpy letting the yarn take a right-angle around my finger to control the rate of take-up and twist. Otherwise my feet are doing the rest of the work: if the spinning wheel is set up to the correct tension, the yarn will be pulled off the bobbin at the correct rate to add spin. Very little thought is required, beyond periodically checking to ensure the correct amount of overtwist is being added.

All of which makes it the ideal occupation to do while sitting on the couch in front of BBC's The Planets, sipping a glass of red wine! It can be a relaxing hobby....


  1. I love the samples. I even like the yellow bit where you started the weaving.

    It'd be a nice piece when you weave the real deal, no doubt.

  2. I'm looking forward to seeing it - the samples have a quite antique feel to them.

    The yellow is a 'ziggy' cotton, which alternates thick and thin. I have an idea of using it as the warp for a scarf which, with a weft in a contrasting colour would present interesting possibilities I think.