Monday, 4 January 2010

Returning to musings on colour

Way back in March of last year, I made a post about colour, and wondered at the time whether it would be possible to redeeem a dyeing disaster (not of my making, I hasten to add) which had been visited upon a rather lovely skein of grey 60/2 silk. So once I'd finished weaving the handtowel for the bathroom (there will be photos in the future. I tried to take some yesterday but the light was too dark for navy-on-dark-blue), I warped up the loom with the silk. Here's a photo of the silk on a swift, to illustrate the dyeing job:

I turned this into a 9 metre long, 7-inch wide warp, with a couple of navy threads at the side for definition. Normally to beam sectionally I'd wind the yarn onto as many cones as I want ends per inch, but this is less workable when you're working at 50epi. Instead, I wound two warps, each with 50 ends and long enough to beam each one inch section one after the other. This is the warp, coming off the sectional back beam just before threading.

I'm sure some people would love the colours, but to me they're insipid. The combination of pale turquiose, fuschia, (ugh)pink and yellow do not fit my prejudices.

I've woven two scarves off from this already, in a broken twill. One with a pale blue/grey 60/2 silk warp, and the other with a variegated handspun silk cap warp in blues and greens. I was weaving a scarf a day towards the end of last week which is an accomplishment in fine silk. I'm pleased with the way each has behaved so far, but appear to have non photos of them yet! So I'll promise to post them soon and leave you instead with a comment on acid dyes.

One problem I've been finding with this warp is the odd breakage. These always occur in the regions where the turquoise is brightest. This is due to the chemistry of acid dyes, and the breakdown of protein fibres caused by acid dyes if not adequately rinsed (there is so much dye still in the turquoise parts of this silk my fingers turned blue while winding the warp).

So there are two morals here: if you're home-dyeing, either rinse your yarn really really well, or don't store it for many years before weaving it!

Fortunately there are not enough of these to cause a problem and when they do occur I use a method I think I learned from Sandra Rude. While I have a few spare warp threads hanging off the back beam ready for replacements and sometimes use these, I often tie a new warp thread to the broken thread, pull both threads through to the back together so that the knot is behind the back beam and the front of the new thread is hanging over the breast beam, and weight both ends of the thread. Then I weave on until I'm well past where the breakage occurred and pull the thread back through taut from the back beam, weight it at the front, and weave on. No-knot fabric with minimum fuss.

I'm back at work today after five weeks at home. That's been a bit of a shock to the system, and will severely cramp my weaving style I think. I've been getting used to my lovely routine of weaving in the mornings, garden in the afternoon!


  1. I'm not sure if I understood about your broken warp mending, but it sounds intriguing. Do you pull the knot through the woven bits, and if so, wouldn't that disrupt the ... recently woven bits?

    With this fine silk, a scarf a day is breakneck speed - well done. Have a nice break at work! :-0

  2. This method of reparing breakages sounds very interresting, but I didn't understand it either. I'd be very grateful for further explanations, because I weave often with linen warps, and broken threads occur quite often. By the way, I agree with you on the warp colors!

  3. Let me try again. I wrote this post quickly in the tail-end of my lunch hour and knew I was describing it badly! Unfortunately the silk on the loom is too fine to illustrate with photographs.

    This technique works well when a warp thread breaks close to the fell, leaving very little tail at the cloth end of the thread. I tie the new warp thread (about 1 metre long, or about the distance between your breast and back beams) to the broken end and pull that knot to the back of the loom, so that the joined warp threads hang as a loop at the back of the loom. I weight this loop, and weight the front of the new warp thread at the front of the loom. Then I weave on as normal, until I'm a couple of inches past where the knot would have sat had I just tied a new thread on. At that point, I pull the whole warp thread back through the heddle to the front, so now there's a loop of warp thread with the knot in it hanging over the breast beam. I weight that loop and weave on another couple of inches. I find this method gives me a knot-free fabric with a minimum of mending required.

    This is probably one of those descriptions that *really* needs photos to illustrate let me know if you would like to see some.