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.

fwf-58-bunny-selfie
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.

fwf-58-rewound

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.

fwf-58-stickplacement
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.

6a00d83451ccbc69e20134852ba7f2970c-600wi

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.

fwf-58-newsletter-shot
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

fwf-58-edgetrim

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

fwf-58-hikoo-cobasi-plus
with these things…

fwf-58-addi-hook-addi-heartstopper

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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This Is Not Going to Be Pretty

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

I am unabashedly in love with rigid heddle weaving. I’ve written about it repeatedly, in “Fridays with Franklin” and elsewhere.

My Schacht Cricket rigid heddle loom was reasonably priced and is sturdy, portable, reliable, and easy to use. I love what I make with it. I love the way it helps me to burn through stash and see new possibilities in old yarns.

I have crowed so much about it that shops and guilds have begun asking me to come over and teach rigid heddle weaving. I’d love to, but have said over and over that I don’t feel I’m quite ready yet to do that.

I’ve said over and over that I won’t feel qualified to teach it until I’ve done enough to have made lots more mistakes.

But this project, the project I will be writing about today, has moved me miles closer to be ready to teach rigid heddle weaving. Yeah. Let’s look at it that way.

Before we begin, I’d like to introduce the little bunny who will be playing the part of my Better Judgment.

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We’ll be hearing a lot from him.

The Idea

This past summer I was privileged to attend a weaving conference for the first time. I took a bunch of excellent classes from some legendary teachers. I saw techniques in the fashion show and the gallery that set my brain on fire, including methods for decorating the fibers before weaving (i.e., painted warps) and after weaving (i.e., felted decorations, embroidery, shibori).

The painted warps especially grabbed my attention because of the possibility adding pattern to plain-woven fabric. Most of the painted warps were utterly abstract–bold splashes of color running into one another. Pretty, but it seemed to me that many yarns (like our own, dear HiKoo Concentric) could give much the same effect right off the ball.

What I wondered was whether I could paint a repeating pattern on a warp, then weave a warp-dominant (see next section) fabric with it. The finished piece would be boldly patterned and full of curves–large-repeat patterns and curves being the preserve, generally, of multi-shaft looms–but also be made simply on my Schacht Cricket.

I asked a pack of the experienced weavers I know if they had any advice about this, and they all said no, in their collective 600 years of weaving they hadn’t seen it done before quite as I proposed to do it.

fwf-56-toldyoubunny
Yes, perhaps.

The Canvas

A warp-dominant fabric is one in which the warp threads enjoy greater visual prominence than the weft threads that cross them. This may be a result of a difference in warp and weft yarn weights; or the result of packing of the warp yarns closer together than would be called for in a balanced weave.* Or it may be a combination of the two.

I wanted a big thick warp to paint on, and a delicate little weft to hold the warp together but not grab the spotlight.

So for warp I chose Delilah Undyed DK Yarn.

undyed-alpaca

And for weft I chose HiKoo Alpaca Lace Light.

fwf-56-alpacalacelight

My weaving friends said those fibers would be prone to stick together, so I might want to think twice. But they’re almost always weaving slippery stuff–tencel, silk, cotton, rayon. Whereas I have almost always worked in wool, and that is practically alpaca which is practically llama, if you squint. So what did they know?

fwf-56-bunnyeyescovered

Pegging It Out

One of the reasons I wanted to use the Schacht Cricket for this is that I’d always seen warp painting done (“always” being, you know–twice, from a distance) with the parallel strands of the warp stretched out on a framework. And of course if you use the direct-warp method on a rigid heddle loom, before winding on that’s exactly what you get.

The only change I needed to make, it seemed to me, was the orientation of the warping peg. The warping peg is usually vertical, and this causes the yarns to tilt as they approach it.

fwf-56-vertpeg
Standard vertical warping peg.

To keep my yarns horizontal all the way from loom to peg, I did this–which I’ll draw, since a drawing will be easier to understand than a photograph.

 

fwf-56-horziontal-warping-peg

You want to use a sturdy dowel, of course, or a length of smooth metal pipe or a metal rod. Your peg shouldn’t bend under the tension of all those wrapped yarns. If it bends, your yarn ends will be different lengths, and there your troubles will begin.

I hoped this theory would work in practice. You can imagine my delight when I stood looking at this.

fwf-56-stretchedwarp
The heddle is at the far end, to keep the it out of the way of the painting. This seemed like a good idea at the time.

The Motif

I knew perfectly well that no matter how much I care I took to preserve the lengths and alignments of my warp threads, they were going to wiggle and slip some during the process. So I told myself:

1) Do something large and abstract, rather than figural or representational.

2) Don’t put any fine, or even medium, detail into it. It’ll just get lost.

Then I started sketching. Within ten minutes I had forgot both 1 and 2. Ultimately I devised an Art Nouveau(ish) lotus with lots of detail.

lotus-cutout

The little bunny, in case you’re wondering, was out having a smoke at the time.

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The Stencil

I hadn’t done any stenciling in years, and never on yarn. In “Fridays with Franklin” I always use supplies from Makers’ Mercantile, so I asked them to send me two colors of their Createx Fabric Paint. This is a paint, not a dye. You apply it to the fiber and it sticks, and can be set permanently by putting the fabric in a hot dryer for 40 minutes after the paint is dry to the touch, or by ironing it. Nice.

I cut my stencil out of freezer paper, bought at the grocery store. It was inexpensive, a good size, and I was able to trace the design through it onto the shiny side of the paper.

fwf-56-tracelotus
Yeah, I added leaves. The flower looked so lonely without them.

and cut it out neatly with an X-Acto Knife.

fwf-56-cutstencil
Like buttah.

The Painting

I smugly made certain my warp was long enough to allow me some space to experiment. That was good thing, because my first lotus was a mushy mess.

I soon realized that I needed to support the warp on a smooth, flat surface while I stenciled. In my case, a couple of box lids stacked on the table underneath worked fine.

fwf-56-boxlids

 

Dabbing from the top with little vertical jabs worked well to apply the paint only where I wanted it, disturbing the threads as little as possible.

fwf-56-paintingstencil

But the wet stencil was pain to handle, even when I held it with one hand while dabbing with the other. (You can see it buckling in the photo above.) So I taped it (with strong packing tape) into an improvised, stiff frame made of cardboard strips. It worked!

With each repeat, my pace picked up and soon the lotuses were looking good, but ghostly.

fwf-56-silverlotus
The paint was dark in the bottle, but the yarn sucked it up and diluted it to a pale pearl. I was happy to have the gold to hand for reinforcements. With the silver dry to the touch, I offset the stencil and dabbed on the gold to turn the silver into a pretty, smoky shadow.

fwf-56-finishedlotus
Not half bad, if you ask me.

It wasn’t a quick process, but so what? This was starting look, dare I say it, I amazing.

 

fwf-56-paintedwarp
Dang, I’m good.

The rest was just weaving. And I know how to weave. What could possibly go wrong?

fwf-56-bunny-ring
See you in two weeks.

*A balanced weave has the same number of threads per inch in both its horizontal and vertical grains.

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)
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)
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.