This Is Not Going to Be Pretty, Part III: Actually Kind of Pretty

fwf-logo-columnsizeFor an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the beginning of this project, click here.

I knew if I hesitated before setting the uneven warp to rights, I’d never finish this piece of weaving. I had to take the tide of madness at the flood.

The bunny who represents my Better Judgment had given up on me for the time being and was posting Instagram selfies from various scenic locations in central Ohio.

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After a fitful night’s sleep, I carried the loom back down to the cellar, clamped it to the table, and set about unrolling the warp. In anticipation, had already cut a long strip of freezer paper to the proper width, carefully, using a rotary cutter and self-healing mat.

In theory I would unwind the warp and re-wind it with proper separation (the freezer paper) between the layers. This isn’t a fun thing to do, but it can be done.

I got about three feet of yarn free of the loom. Then it refused to budge. Refused.

I investigated and found my previous sloppiness had allowed about forty strands at the left edge to slide so far off course that they were now tangled around the warp beam, around the cords that hold the bar to the warp beam, around the bar itself, and around each other.

This meant I couldn’t unroll the warp. I’d need to untangle it–one strand at a time. Then tie the untangled ends to the warp beam. Then re-sley the reed. Then re-wind the warp.

Now ensued a dark, dark moment of the soul in which I considered ripping it all to shreds. Not just the warp. Also the loom. And then setting the house on fire, and changing my name, and moving to Mexico, and beginning life anew as one of those people who sells decorated coconuts outside Señor Frog’s in Cozumel.

If you think I’m kidding, you’ve never stood and contemplated how long it will take you to separate two hundred sticky alpaca warp threads, enmeshed together more tightly than an entire subdivision of suburban swingers throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

I would show you photographs, but I haven’t any. I was so utterly demoralized I couldn’t pick up the camera.

The only thing that got me through the dark moment was you, dear reader. Also you, and you, and those other readers over there.

It turns out the fear of total failure in front of thousands of people is, for me, motivational.

It took me two days to get the warp back on the loom.

Then I had to weave the damn thing.

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Gettin’ Sticky With It

The re-wound warp was evenly tensioned, but still sticky as an entire subdivision of suburban swingers who have just finished throwing themselves into the last orgy before school lets out.

Baby llama likes to cling to itself. It may become stickier still if you paint it.

This extra-sticky yarn will be even more inclined to stick if you sley it close together. That’s what I had done by putting the Delilah Undyed DK Yarn into in the 12-dent reed that would normally hold fingering or lace weight yarns.

Why do this? Because when you want a warp-dominant fabric–which was my original goal–you will tend to pack the warp threads closer together.

The result of all this stickiness? My sheds wouldn’t open. I’d move my reed up or down, and the warp would just kinda sit there and laugh.

I was able to take care of the worse of the two sheds–the down shed–with a pick-up stick. I put the reed into the down position, then carefully opened the shed with the stick. Once it was open, I put the stick into the shed behind the heddle and kept it there.

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When it was time for a down shed, I brought it forward to just behind the reed and pressed it downward. Ta-daaa, open shed. It was an extra step, but it was still faster than having to open the down shed bit by bit.

When it was time for an up shed, I slid the stick to the back of the loom.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t insert a corresponding pick-up stick for the up shed. The two sticks wouldn’t slide past each other behind the heddle as they went into and out of service.

The up sheds took a long time to open. The fabric was creeping along.

I was having renewed visions of selling souvenir coconuts when one of the finest weaving teachers I know–Susan, the owner of Yarnorama in Paige, Texas–stepped in with some advice:

1) Crank up the tension on the warp. Crank it as high as it will go without snapping threads.

2) Spray the warp, as it comes off the warp beam, with a bit of hair spray.

The latter suggestion sounded a little Out There, frankly; but at this point I was desperate. If she had told me to dip the entire loom in honey mustard I would have tried it.

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It worked. The sheds began to separate. Not always perfectly, but near enough to make me happy.

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Reader, I Finished It

How to describe the feeling of pulling the woven fabric off the loom? My thesaurus fails me. A fizzy cocktail of relief, joy, pride, excitement.

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I secured the ends with hemstitching (which is discussed at length in our previous undertaking, The Warp with Two Brains). Because both the warp and weft (HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light) yarns were–have I mentioned this?–sticky, I worked the hemstitching with pure cotton sewing thread in a pale ecru that matched the warp.

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A wet finish was essential. There are different ways of doing it. Here’s what I did for this project:

1) I tossed the fabric into hot water with some Soak,

2) smacked the heck out of it with a couple of hefty wooden spoons for a good fifteen minutes (therapeutic),

3) plunged it into cold water, then

4) threw it into my washing machine’s normal spin cycle to remove the excess moisture.

Some folks iron their damp woven fabrics dry at that point. I had other things to do, so I laid mine flat in a space where I was reasonably confident it would be left alone. I took care to make sure it was flat, because there is a danger at this point that wrinkles you leave in place may, in fact, become permanent.

When it was dry, I trimmed the ends

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and then brushed them with a hairbrush to make them a little looser and bushier. Not a complete frizz, mind you. And that was purely a design choice. I just thought it looked nicer that way.

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Warp a Lot, Weave a Little

I planned a large wrap with a painted lotus pattern. I put on nine feet of warp.

In the end, I created a scarf 13 inches wide and five feet long. The painted warp is dominant and clearly visible, but the lotus pattern is just a shadowy memory.

During the final spin, some of the twist in the warp let go, so and created interesting little passages of looser, fluffier fabric.

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The fabric is buttery soft. The drape is FAB. U. LOUS.

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This is, without question, the most luxurious and interesting textile I have yet woven. I learned a lot, most of it the hard way. I am excited to try a painted, patterned warp again–knowing what I know now.

I’m glad I did it. Even the Bunny admits that, in the end, the destination was worth the journey. Right? Right?

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Next Time…

I cannot wait to show you what I’ve been doing to these skeins of HiKoo CoBaSi Plus

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with these things…

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Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Schacht Cricket Rigid Heddle Loom (15-inch version shown)
Schacht Cricket 12-Dent Reed (for 15-inch loom)
Schacht Cricket 15-inch Pick-Up Stick (also available in 10-inch length)
Delilah Undyed DK Yarn (100% Baby Llama, De-Haired)
HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light (shown in 1006 Smoke, 100% Baby Alpaca, 1540 yards per 100 gram hank)
HiKoo CoBaSi Plus (55% Cotton, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk, 21% Elastic Nylon; 220 yards per 50 gram hank)
Addi HeartStopper
Addi Click Crochet Hook Interchangeable Set
Createx Acrylics Fabric Paint

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue KnittingYarn Market News, Interweave KnitsInterweave CrochetPieceWorkTwist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

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