So we left off with the spinning of the yarn. Today I want to talk a bit about the weaving of the fabric.
Let me first talk a little more in detail about how my weaving plans evolved.
I have been weaving for many years but more off than on. When i started spinning I was determined that I would never weave. it just wasn’t something that was interesting to me. But then I needed to learn to weave a bit since I was going to be selling a range of looms from Inkle to Rigid heddle to Floor looms. I took classes on all of those looms. The floor looms were attractive to me. But still I wasn;t going to do it as a serious pursuit.
Some years went by and I took a week long weaving class on Vashon Island at The Weaver’s Palette. During that class I started to see what might be possible for me with weaving. I wasn’t interested in scarves and table linens and dish towels – even though I love using them. I wanted to make clothing. I had been a dressmaker. I made wedding gowns and bridesmade dresses mostly. I got away from that when I moved to Michigan in 1999. I was still sewing after I moved but I was learning to quilt at that point.
But what if I could make fabric for clothing I wanted to wear? And how would I go about it. There is a bit of information available for this but not a ton and much of it is in books that are out of print with plans for clothing I would not like to wear. I rolled it around and around.
I also, as you know, love wool. i love the differences in the sheep breeds. I love how different they are and how there is really a wool for anything you want to make from the softest of underwear to the most hard wearing of rugs. The Spinner’s Book of Fleece was finished but I hadn’t really done any deep thinking about how these differences in the wool would act in woven fabric that I would wear.
I am a skirt person. I love skirts. They are comfortable for me and I feel like they are more flattering on my body than pants. So the most obvious choice for my experiment would be a series of skirts. Six skirts to be exact. One or two from several different wool categories. This would give me a garment made from the finest wools to something that many people consider only for rugs and not for wearing.
Remember that I decided to weave the fabric at 30 inches wide so I could place 2 pattern pieces next to each other. I have a Schacht Mighty Wolf that has a weaving width of 36 inches so that was the best chice since the Baby Wolf has only a 26 inch weaving width. I’ve actually only done one other project on the Mighty Wolf since I got it. those were waffle weave dish towels as Christmas presents.
That big hairy thing in front of it is my weaving bench. I have 2 sheep skins on it to make my behind more comfortable while I’m weaving.
I moved the loom into the living room so I could watch tv while I was working. It obviously was blocking the tv for everyone else in this position so I moved those spinning wheels to the spot where the loom was and moved the loom to the wall. So don’t worry, everybody else could watch tv too.
I wound the warp on my vertical warping mill which is no longer available from Schacht – they nowonly offer the horizontal version which is also awesome.
Since I needed 600 ends fro this warp I decided to wind 4 chains of 150 ends each. This may have been a mistake. I often like to wind larger warps when I am going to weave. I just like to keep going. Stopping a starting takes more time and I always want to just get on with it. Almost every time I wind more than 100 ends I am disappointed and so You would think I would learn my lesson. More ends, for me, often means more management issuses when I’m beaming the warp. It means more tangles at the reed. And sometimes it means some tension issues. I have a feeling that these larger warp bundles were what gave me issues with this fabric.
Believe me when I say that for the next skirt I am going to make bundles of no more than 50 ends and see if that will help me.
Putting it on the Loom
I’m a giant fan of warping from front to back. It’s howI originally learned and it always feels most comfortable for me. So first through the reed and then through the heddles. Tie onto the back beam and beam the warp. When it gets wound so there are only about 5 ish inches in front of the reed then it gets tied onto the front beam.
After tieing on then the tension of each bundle is adjusted so it’s all about the same tension all the way across the loom.
After all the tensioning was done for this project I wove a couple of inches with some cotton. I don’t often weave a header with a different yarn but I wanted to with this project since I had spun all the yarn and there was already going to be a lot of waste due to the loom. You lose some in the front and lose some at the back because there is a point where you can no longer get a good enough shed for the shuttle to fit through and you have to stop weaving.
I used my end feed delivery shuttle for this project. It can make your selvedges much more even. Initially I didn’t have the tension on the shuttle adjusted correctly but then I fiddled with it a bit and it was working beautifully.
See that little bit of a smile on the edge there? There’s one of those on each edge. That’s a problem and it’s not supposed to happen.
Here’s a look at my shuttle in case you are wondering.
After I cut the fabric off I wove in ends, repaired any spots where I missed threads or there something was broken. If I hadn’t done enough of an overlap when I added in a new pirn I wove a bit more with the needle.
I didn’t cut any threads close to the fabric at this point because I knew things would shrink up a bit when the fbric was washed so I wanted to leave some yarn there to allow for that and to avoid any holes. I don;t know if holes would happen but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Now I took the fabric to the laundry room. I was following the instructions of Sara Lamb. I always have her with me in her book Spin to Weave. I filled the washing machine with hot water and a tiny bit of detergent. After the machine had enough water I put the newly woven fabric in and pushed it down. I let it soak for about 15 minutes. After I was convinced it was completely wet I turned on the agitation. I know. Scary.
I let it agitate for about 5 minutes and checked. It wasn’t there yet. I was looking to see if the openings between the threads was closed and if the threads were locking together. I wasn’t looking for felting but I was looking for a cohesive fabric. Another 5 minutes did it. So 10 mnutes total.
I put the washed fabric into clear water to rinse out the detergent and then I put the washer on spin to get out as much water as I could. And then….into the dryer! I KNOW! But I trust Sara Lamb. the faric stayed in the dryer for about 10 minutes. Not until it was completely dry but until it was well on its way.
Next came the iron. A little pressing under a white cloth and then off to lay flat to dry. You want to avoid folds. Sara hangs her cloth over a large dowel. I didn’t have one so i layed it on the floor.
And her’s where I saw my mistakes. This photo is of the damp fabric. At the bottom is just a piece I cut off before I washed it.
See those wrinkly bits down the center? See those wiggly edges? Tension issues. I had a consultation with another weaving guru named Stephanie Flynn Sokolov. (Have you seen her awesome book?) She thinks my tension issues are possibly from when I beem the warp and things I may be messing up there. Hence the desire to try only 50 end warp chains for the next project.
I will say that this fabric behaved and relaxed a bit as it dried so it’s fine but I still would like to have it not do this next time.
If you have any ideas, I’m happy to listen. All help is welcome.
Stay tuned in a couple more days to see the cutting.