Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Pegs and bars

12-harness broken twill sample on a dobby loom

and a dobby loom

My new old pre-AVL loom is a real gem. This12-harness dobby loom is compact and also known as the Witch Loom and the Original Folding Loom. If you missed the story of the 'find of my weaverly life,' it's here. But that story ended with the loom in the door and I promised updates so here goes. 

That first evening, our first reaction was to call in a knowledgable AVL friend, but by the time Monday rolled around, the beast wasn't looking so daunting. 

I had ordered some resources--Hand Weaving and Cloth Design, by Marianne Straub; Handloom Weaving Technology, by Allen Fannin; and Bonnie Inouye's PDF revision to the first part of her out-of-print book, Exploring Multishaft Design--to help me understand the mechanism and awaited deliveries. 

Some minor mechanical issues emerged but almost all of them were related to the disuse. There was a light rust film on the metal parts and they didn't move smoothly. I cleaned  the dobby fingers and other metal parts with a very light, non-petroleum-based oil and added some graphite to the sliding metal frame on the dobby mechanism. 

Ready to weave

When the peg wrench I'd ordered from AVL arrived, I was ready to peg bars and begin weaving!

I put on a warp, pegged some bars for tabby, and started weaving. This was key to my understanding the loom and how it worked. And it was key to seeing what was simply frozen from sitting and what needed fixed.

As I wove, I found that the Texsolv heddles grabbed and didn't slide smoothly on the harnesses. The heddles maintain the harnesses in position but need to move a little, too, so I lightly waxed the harnesses. Problem solved.

Mostly, it was me that needed to become familiar with my loom and how to make it work for me. My main challenges were how to attach the raddle and where best to sit when threading the heddles. But these challenges aren't unique. They're true for any newly acquired loom.

Dobby with bars pegged for a twill weave
Feeling more confident about the mechanics, my next goal was to figure out how to change the dobby bars more easily. They load from the back underside and I found them fiddly. I may be missing some basic know-how, but still haven't found it. I now use a nylon cord to wrap around the first bar to hold it in a depression until I could move it into working position. 

The original dobby bars use metal rings for connections. This requires needle-nosed pliers to connect bars and change configurations. M solved the connection issue with little cable ties. Perfect. Easy to put on and easy to snip off with scissors. (Visible at right between the first bar at the top and the second.)

I am loving weaving on this little gem and look forward to more exploration of multi-harness weaves! The South Jersey Guild has a study program this year--so there will be more about weaving to come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Card tricks

Ever woven with cards? 

At the Kings County Fiber Festival in October, a member of the New York Guild of Handweavers asked me if I could do card weaving. I offered to donate cards to the cause, but that wasn't what she was looking for. She wanted someone who could help teach card weaving in a guild workshop. I agreed to help.

Card weaving, also known as tablet weaving depending on where you live, produces decorative bands and requires little in the way of equipment. For those interested in in the dynamics of weaving, card weaving offers entry to the craft for very little investment. Weavers can make their own cards from sturdy cardboard, but they are very inexpensive. Halcyon, for example, offers 12 four-hole weaving for $4.

Historically rich

Inge Dam workshop example, MAFA2015
According to Margarita Gleba in her book, Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy, and cited on Wikipedia, card/tablet weaving goes back at least to the eighth century BCE in early Iron Age Europe. Historically the technique was used to create starting and/or selvedge bands, to weave decorative bands onto existing textiles and to create freestanding narrow work.

Wool, linen, silk and gold and silver threads were traditionally used as threads, but there are no restrictions. Thread types and size of thread is up to the weaver. 

At its most basic level, card weaving isn't difficult and the simplest designs make beautiful belts, straps and clothing decorations. Of course, added complexity provides more intricate and beautiful designs. 

Lest you consider card weaving to be a craft of times past, consider how modern fiber artists are using the techniques--and be inspired. Master weaver and textile designer Inge Dam, for example, incorporates the cards into her loom-woven fabrics. The results are spectacular. The example at right shows a card woven band in the middle of fabric. (The cards are barely visible behind the reed in the heddle space.)

How it works

Weaving with cards/tablets combines twisting threads with securing the weaving through a shed, which is produced when the cards are turned. It's the twisted threads that add luminescence to bands woven with certain threads.

Learning the technique was a requisite in my City and Guilds of London Institute course at what is now London Metropolitan University. I still have the cards along with samples and directions as well as a definitive book on the subject, The Techniques of Tablet Weaving by Peter Collingwood.

But no investment in books is required to start these days. Online, The Loomy Bin and The Earth Guild, among others, provide clear and concise directions from setting up the cards to devising a way to tension the threads and to finishing the weaving. The Loomy Bin has excellent visuals.
A collection of finished card woven bands
I used my inkle loom for tensioning a test warp of 5/2 red and green cotton on 24 cards. It worked just fine, so I threaded a set of 16 square four-holed cards for the workshop. 

As an afterthought, I  thought I'd be able to use the six-sided six-holed card set by threading four threads on opposites. It seemed like a good idea--but it wasn't. Although the shed was fine on half the turns, the other half were bad. It worked, but on the messy sheds, I needed to pick up the threads on each card. I don't recommend it.