Monday, June 20, 2011

A Week of Checked Linen Weaving

setting up for the weeks' projects

Kate introduces Suzi to a barn loom

beaming on Suzi's project

Suzi threading her linen towelling

Sylvia and Kate enjoying a threading conundrum

Sylvia threads her linen towelling

Suzi's indigo and white linen check

Suzi weaving

detail of Suzi's linen

detail of Sylvia's lovely cutch and silvery grey linen

It's been a busy last few weeks around here...getting prepared for our first dye workshop of the summer, juggling the schedule to accommodate new work and new students...and in the midst of all that we had two students here for a week to learn some more advanced techniques in weaving checked linens. Sylvia returned from her home in Massachusetts, and Suzi came all the way from a small town in the center of Georgia.

Checked linen is pretty interesting because it gives one the opportunity to practice weaving with linen in a fairly non-intimidating way, if one has never worked with it before. Most towelling is not particularly wide, so it is possible to learn about the particulars of warping and beaming on and weaving without having to deal with a long shuttle throw as well.

The first thing to figure out with weaving a check is the warp sequence, so that you can efficiently build the warp off a skarne of spools and have the pattern of warp stripe build itself on the down and back. The only tricky part of this is remembering to be mindful of which way you turn your hand to make the cross at the beginning of the warp, so everything stays in the correct order! But once you have this sorted out the only critical thing is making sure your tension while warping is even; not too tight and not too loose.

Linen has a remarkable tendency to sag and bag under excessive handling, so when beaming on it is very important to fuss with it as little as possible, something akin to wrapping a gift in fine tissue paper...the less it is smoothed and touched, the better off you'll be in getting your warp on the loom successfully. Once you start correcting things by handling, there seems to be a domino effect of ever-increasing baggy-ness in the warp, which can be very difficult to make right, and can make the entire loom-dressing process much less efficient. Typically, minor inconsistencies in warp tension will naturally be overcome and evened-out once you are threaded and tied-up, so it's really best not to mess with it too much in the beaming on.

Taking some extra time to make sure the threading is correct and the equipment tie-up is tweaked to give you a clean shed on each treadling will go a long way toward making the actual experience of weaving smooth and trouble-free. It can take a period of adjustment to figure out just how one needs to throw the shuttle in order not to break threads, but I have found that a light touch and a relaxed awareness is key. The selvedges seem to take care of themselves, as long as you don't unintentionally tear out an edge by setting the tenterhook too far out.

Sylvia and Suzi's projects were really beautiful, both of them having chosen very traditional colors. It was a delight having both of them add their experience and perspective to our group of weavers for this week and we hope they enjoyed being with all of us as much as we enjoyed having them here.

Sylvia stayed on to participate in the Cotton and Linen Dye Workshop over this last weekend (I'll post about that at the end of this week), and Suzi left to catch her flight back to Georgia on Saturday afternoon. We hope to see them both back here again!

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