Filking about the Fiber Arts

I was recently reminded I tend to filk about fiber arts topics .. So here I present two filks sung to the tunes of The Irish Rover and the Three Ravens, respectively.


The Wild Seamstress
by Eowyn de Wever, and inspired by Mistress Isolde’s five year and running tapestry project
(Tune: The Irish Rover)

I’ve been a wild seamstress for many’s the year
And I traded my stitches for whiskey and beer.
But now I’m returning, my stitches are done
And the tapestry’s finished, about to be hung.

Chorus:
And it’s no, nay, never,
No, nay, never, no more,
Will I be a wild seamstress,
No never, no more.

I came to a yarn house I used to frequent,
And I told the shopkeeper my money was spent.
I asked her for credit, she answered me nay,
For such stitches as mine she could see every day!

I pulled from my pockets a charter so bright
That the shopkeeper’s eyes opened wide with delight.
She said “I have linen and yarn of the best
And the words that I spoke then were only in jest.”

I stretched out the linen, drew on the cartoon,
And I set to, the deadline was looming in June.
My stitches were even, my colour choice fine,
Yet I fear I must surely be out of my mind.

And it’s no, nay, never,
No nay, never, no more,
For I’m now a tame seamstress,
And get paid before.


Three Weavers
Words by Eowyn de Wever (written at Kingdom A&S 2011)
Tune: Three Ravens

There were three weavers sat at a loom,
Down a down hey down a down,
They traced out life and traced out doom,
With a down.
The first, she spun the living thread,
That held his life, his blood so red,
With a down, derry derry derry down down.

The second wove the gift of life.
Down a down hey down a down,
She wove him love and loss and strife
With a down.
She wove in gold, she wove in ache,
She wove him down to the earthen lake,
With a down, derry derry derry down down.

The third, she cut the final length,
Down a down hey down a down,
And as thread snapp’d so did his strength,
With a down.
Fates and Furies mote these be,
Spinner, Weaver, Cutter three,
With a down, derry derry derry down down.

Clothes Make the Man

Last summer C. R. Brandenburgh completed his doctoral dissertation at the University of Leiden.  His dissertation, titled “Clothes make the man : early medieval textiles from the Netherlands” is available at the Leiden Universitory Repository and the Full Text version (first of the download links) includes an english version of the dissertation.

To quote from his summary:

This study has focused on the use of cloth and clothing in the area now defined as the Netherlands, in the period between 400 and 1000 AD. (p. 198)

There’s still a lot of reading to do, but the first fascinating observation was that it wasn’t just the shape of the clothes that varied according to gender; it was also the type of fabric used.  Twills and tabbies, while similar, require slightly different weaving set-ups.  In tabby, you only need two heddles that raise alternately, and in a pinch you can make do with one heddle and one separator.  (We still do this in modern timed when inkle weaving; the two paths that the open and heddled threads take, respectively, through the loom, help create the high and low positions.)  For twill, on the other hand, you need multiple sets of heddles, as each heddle in turn is kept high (or low) for two (or more) picks at a time.  Thus in a 2/2 twill is thread is high twice and the low twice, but the high/low state changes are offset, creating the effect of diagonal structures (as seen, for instance, in plaids and herringbone twills).  A 1/3 twill on the other hand will see each thread high once, and low three times.

Reading 4 harness weaving drafts

(Right after I started planning out 10 days of posts, I got hit by the crud, so these posts will be a bit delayed.  Sigh.

At Gulfwars this year, I picked up a lovely little 4 harness loom – a Wolf Pup LT. It’s got an 18 inch weaving width, which is perfect for sampling and trying to work out how patterns work. That, along with a copy of Anne Dixon’s The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory, meant that I could start experimenting with patterns.  First weaving some of the many many patterns in her book, and eventually moving on to my own.  (Not there yet.)

So today I’m going to talk a little about patterns.  Now the way they’re drafted in her book, you have the threading along the top, the treadling (which treadles are pressed for each row) along the right hand side, and the tie-ups (which harnesses are lifted when a treadle is pressed) in the top right hand corner.

Consider for instance Warped threadsthis set up.  Here the tie-ups and treadling aren’t listed yet, and all we’re concerned with is the warp threads.  The warp threads grid is structured as follows: each row represents one of the harnesses, and each column represents one thread.  For now, each thread will be controlled by only one harness.

Later when I’m trying out more complicated patterns I may switch to a different type of heddle.  The loom currently uses eye heddles which means that the thread high is controlled by the harness; if the harness goes up, so does the thread, and if the harness stays down … the thread can’t rise.  If I use an open heddle, lifting the harness will raise the thread, but lowering the harness won’t force the thread down.

In any case, in this set up the threads are set up so that from left to right you have one thread each through harness 1, 2, 3, and 4, and then you repeat.

Simple 2/2 TwillNow we add the tie-ups and the treadling.  This is a standard 2/2 twill tie up: the first treadle lifts harnesses 1 and 2, the second lifts harness 2 and 3, then the third lifts 3 and 4, and the last lifts 4 and 1.

The treadling is actually read from the bottom up, since when weaving on modern looms you usually weave away from you.  (On standing looms it would be quite plausible to read the pattern from the top down.  Unlike cardweaving there’s no twist to worry about, so either way would work.)

The nice thing about this setup is that as long as the twill goes in the same direction, you can just keep treading 1-2-3-4 over and over.  (Or for a twill in the other direction, 4-3-2-1 repeated ad nauseum.)

 

Simple 2/2 twill with reversalBut let’s say, for the sake of argument, you want diagonals that change direction after every fourth throw of the shuttle.  You can start with 1-2-3-4 for the first four rows, but following that up with 4-3-2-1 gives an odd effect (or rather, you end up unweaving what you just wove, unless you have a floating selvage), so that doesn’t really work.

Instead, when you reverse the direction of twill, you will weave 4 rows, but start with 3-2-1-4 , and by doing that you get a lovely zig zag.

But notice the long stretches of purple thread on the edges?  Those are – as I discovered on my first piece – going to be a problem because the weft won’t go out to the very edge.  The simplest solution is a “floating selvage”, which is an extra warp string on each side that isn’t passed through any heddles.  Then while weaving, you push the shuttle underneath the first free floating string, and over the second on the far side, so that the shuttle always ends up going around the selvage strings on each side.

For an even nicer edge, you could use multiple selvage strings, but I confess, I haven’t figured out how to tie them into the harnesses yet to get some sort of tabby weave.  Having two extra harnesses would really come in handy here.

Celtic Knotwork exemplars

In Zen and the Art of Celtic Knots I talk about a fairly foolproof technique for making square Celtic knots.  I’m still working on the journal I started before that post.

Adding red
Adding red

The first thing I did was start adding a little colour, just to highlight ribbons.  Now in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels the ribbons can change colour in midstream, but here I was experimenting with the effect of highlighting one ribbon.

Adding multiple colours
Adding multiple colours

Then I started adding a second colour, to see how things popped.   And the gold is much shinier, of course, in real life.  I noticed, too, in the blue knotwork that the inner squares became subtly visible.   Sort of a shadow play.  So of course I had to go a little bigger and experiment more.

Hiding structure
Hiding structure

Here the blue and the black knots both have the same basic structure, but the black knot is drawn on a bigger field making the cross quite definitely more subtle.

 

Interlocking boxes
Interlocking boxes

The last successful experiment were these interlocking boxes, especially the one in the center where the colours emphasize the various ribbons intertwining.

 

I’ve found that it’s easy at this point to make Celtic knots that cover a large area, but it is more challenging to arrange the outside and inside walls so that the large knot becomes, as it were, a tangle of smaller knots that combine to make a whole.  And I am working on developing that ability because after that, I can turn the knots into brickstitch patterns.

P.S.  This post inspired by Esperanza de Navarra’s 10 day challenge.

Playing with Baltic Pickup style inkle weaving (Part 3)

I’ve had a few requests about the rest of the Baltic pickup style patterns I came up with.  Like the previous, these are all woven on the same warp, and again, the patterns are designed so that you are always pushing threads down from the upper row and never lifting threads up from the lower row.  This speeds up the weaving immensely.

Variations 2Variations 3Variations 4
And that’s when I realized that two of the patterns are duplicated, but a little judicious work with a pencil will fix that quite easily.  🙂

Pulling a Pattern from a Picture

So a friend of mine asked me about the trim in https://www.pinterest.com/pin/120400990016540518/, which is a picture (source unknown, because pinterest) of the neckline of a tunic that has been embroidered and embellished by trim.

Looking at the trim, you can see that the outermost three cards on each edge have been threaded with four threads of the same colour; 2 cards are tan next to the pattern, the outermost card is all black.  Now when I first saw the picture I couldn’t see it up-close, so I didn’t notice that the inner pattern was actually three colours (each card has 2 white, 1 black and 1 dark blue thread), but the pattern is obviously based on the Egyptian Diagonals technique using 10 cards.

Weaving Reversed S keysWeaving S KeysMy first stab at the pattern; the 10 cards are each threaded identically with 2 dark and 2 light, and then arranged so that if all the cards were turned forwards you would get chevrons pointing up.  You can see the starting position below the squares: the two circles represent the colours of the threads in the two top holes; bottom row is closest to the weaver, top row is furthest from the weaver, and the | or / indicates the direction the string travels through the card.

The pattern is read bottom to top, where each square is one column, each row of squares = 1 turn of the pattern.  When the square’s background is grey, the card turn backwards towards the weaver; when it’s white the card turns forwards away from the weaver.  As you can see, most of the time the cards turn together, but there is a central part of the pattern where half the cards turn in one direction and the other half turn in the opposite direction.  It is because of these central 4 rows that the pattern is not twist neutral which is why – if using an inkle loom or similar to weave the trim – a weaver will often alternate between the two versions of the trim, since weaving one copy of each will result in a twist neutral pattern.

Note that the bottom and top 4 rows are not included in the repeat.

s_keys_2s_keys_2_reversedStill, looking at the picture, this pattern made the crossover point of the black X’s awfully narrow, and looking more closely at the picture I could see the crossover point should be wider.  Which is an easy fix: by making the repeating portion of the pattern one row shorter top and bottom, the X’s crossover point becomes wider.  It also fixes the width of the black dots at the sides, which was previously too wide.

(And here the top and bottom 5 rows are not part of the repeat.)

Musings about Pickup in the large …

The inkle pickup band I completed a while back and described in the two entries part 1 and part 2 (now with more patterns!) got me thinking about weave structures.  In inkle pickup, the warp threads are manipulated so that some warp threads (the pattern threads) either float above or below the band to create the patterns.  On an inkle band this can be done by hand; you’re usually working with less than a dozen pattern threads so while the picking of individual threads is tedious, it’s not insurmountable.

But that got me wondering how similar manipulations would work on wider fabrics.  After all, making clothes (or even pillows and bags) out of bands that are usually an inch or two wide is tedious.   And then I ran into a fascinating book A Practical Study of the Development of Weaving Techniques in China, Western Asia and Europe by John Becker, published posthumously after his collaborator Don Wagner tidied and reset it a little.  The book starts in China with essentially the same kinds of pickup patterns I had been doing, with monochrome silk weaving that had patterns based on the way the warp was manipulated.  I’ve been fascinated with the opportunities ever since.

That, in turn, led to reading the later chapters that discuss the drawloom.  In the drawloom, each pattern warp thread is threaded through it’s own separate “heald” which can be used to pull the thread up and down.  Usually the pattern would repeat across the width of the fabric, and each repeat would be called a “comber”.  Each heald is goes through the comber board (which has one hole per heald) but then the healds will be joined to pulley threads.  There are as many pulley threads as there are pattern threads in a singe width repeat of the pattern, and the relative heald in each comber (or repeat) is hooked on to the corresponding pulley thread, so that as the pulley thread is pulled up, the corresponding thread in each repeat is raised.

So let’s look at the implications of that.  Let’s say that we wanted to weave a fabric 21 inches wide, using a set of 20 epi (ends to the inch).  That’s 21×20 = 420 warp threads, ignoring for the moment selvage threads etc.  Now let’s say that our pattern was 28 ends wide per repeat.  The on the one hand, each pulley thread is attached to 15 healds (since 420/28 = 15) but on the other hand for every row I only have to manipulate 28 pulley threads.  In comparison for the baltic inkle pickup, I was manipulating 8 or 9 threads per row, so this is a three fold increase in numbers of cords to manipulate, for a 21 fold increase in width.  Sounds like an excellent improvement in efficiency.

Of course there are trade-offs; the warping will be a lot slower, as the set up for the pulleys will be a lot more complicated.  But the pulleys can be set up once, for that pattern width, and then reused.  The warp does need to be threaded through each heald individually but weaving on a 4 harness loom we’re threading the warp strings through heddles, so the time increase is not insurmountable there, either.  And if we warp long lengths at a time, we can improve efficiency.  After all, with the drawloom we can create any 28 thread pattern we like.

And the biggest tradeoff; finding a drawloom.  Inkle looms are easy to find or build, and inkle heddles can be knotted up while watching telly.  A drawloom gets more complicated.  Although I did find a book with drawloom plans, available online at The New Drawloom, (part 2) hosted by the University of Arizona ((Front Page).

So now my options are to find a drawloom for sale, or convince my long-suffering hubby to build me one.  Or possibly to frankenstein it on top of one of the looms I already own.

Kingdom A&S 2016 – A “How To Paper”

I didn’t compete for champion in this year’s Kingdom Arts and Sciences championship in Gleann Abhann, which happened this past weekend, but I did enter a somewhat tongue-in-cheek “How To” paper, in which my husband and I discussed the process of choosing an item to enter for competition.

The assumption in this case was that we would choose the item first, and then make it; quite often I am tempted, once I have made an object, to enter the said object in a judged Arts and Sciences competition afterwards, which means that I need to “reverse document” what I did. In all honesty, choosing an item to make first is much easier; this way you have an opportunity to take in-progress pictures, and to adjust your project based on the criteria and guidelines of the competition.

So this is the paper my husband and I wrote:  How to Choose and Entry

Instructions for a simple 3/1 broken twill pattern without a graph

Diamond in 3/1 broken twill3/1 broken twill is a type of tablet weaving that produces a very pronounced diagonal structure in the weave.  This weave is particularly suitable for designs that are very diagonal, and in this case a friend requested a yellow belt with hollow green diamonds.  In this article I am going to write how I set up the cards and arranged the turning sequences so that the weaving speed was maximized.

To maximize weaving speed, you need to arrange the cards so that they can be turned as a group, and are manipulated as little as possible.  Here, the only manipulation of cards will occur when we flip a card around its vertical axis.

 

Basic Set up

The pattern area consists of 32 cards, each threaded with two dark (green), and  two (yellow) threads.  For the first 16 cards (counting from the left) we thread the cards as below, where the woven area extends to the left, and the warp to the right, and repeating the cycle of four cards four times (since 4×4=16).

Setting up the Cards

Note that cards 1 and 3 “mirror each other” in that they have the threads going through the same holes, and similarly cards 2 and 4 mirror one another.

For the second set of 16 cards we mirror the first 16 from the centre out, so that card 17 is threaded like 2, card 18 like 1, card 19 like 4 and card 20 like 3, and then keep repeating.

Lastly we divide the cards into two packs we call “Odd and “Even”.  The “Odd cards” include all the odd numbered cards from 1 – 15, and all the even numbered cards from 18 – 32.  The “Even cards” include all the even numbered cards from 2 – 16 and all the odd numbered cards from 17 – 31.  Note that all the “Odd” cards should have the light in the front two holes, and all the “Even” cards should have the light in the top two holes.

Basic Setup (short version):

The cards are all threaded 2 dark, 2 light.  Threading alternates in pairs (i.e. SSZZ).  Separate the cards out into two packs:

  • The Odds include the odd numbered cards between 1 and 16 and the even numbered cards between 17 and 32.
  • The Evens include the even numbered cards between 1 and 16 and the odd numbered cards between 17 and 32.

Checking the Setup

If the cards were threaded correctly, all the Odds should all have the light in the front two holes (Top and bottom), the Evens should have all the light threads in the top two holes, and in each of the two packs the threading should now alternate between S and Z.

This position is called the home position. The Odds are in Vertical Front and the Evens are in Horizontal position.

Turning directions

When you first start turning, you want to use the following turning directions.  This should produce a structural background consisting of diagonals meeting at a point in the center.

Pick Oddish Pack Even Pack
1 Forward Forward
2 Forward Back
3 Back Back
4 Back Forward

To reverse the direction of the chevrons, your options are to either flip all the cards in the Even pack when the cards are in the home position or to switch over to the alternate turning sequence, where the Oddish Pack still moves exactly as before, but the Even pack changes directions, resulting in:

Pick Oddish Pack Even Pack
1 Forward Back
2 Forward Forward
3 Back Forward
4 Back Back

It is important that you flip the cards, or change the turning direction, when the Even pack is in the Horizontal position.  Other wise, they all suddenly switch to the foreground colour, which is known as an oops.

Adding the Pattern

After weaving the background for a while, it’s time to start adding the pattern.  Colour changes happen by flipping a card on its vertical axis when it is in Vertical position.  Hence if the light (yellow) thread was in the two holes closest to you, they would now be in the two holes furthest away after the flip.  Also, the threading direction is reversed.

The diamond pattern is very basic.  The first change is made after pick 3: the two center cards – both in the Evenish decl – are flipped.  Then the next turn is made.  (If the points do not make a V, undo the turn, unflip the cards, and weave picks 4 and 1.)

On the next pick, the Oddish cards are in vertical position: flip the middle 2 cards.  They will be the cards just to the outside of the central cards in the Evenish deck.  Weave the next pick.

On the next pick the Evenish cards are in vertical position.  Flip the cards outside the 2 previously flipped cards, and unflip the previously flipped cards.  Weave the next pick.

Keep repeating the flipping of the next outwards cards (and unflipping the current cards) until you reach the width you want.  I’m going to assume that you kept expanding the diamond until the Evenish cards are in horizontal position and you are about to weave pick 1.  Instead of flipping cards, switch from one set of turning directions to the other.

After this first pick, again flip cards as you did before, but instead of flipping the next card to the outside, flip the next card to the inside.  (You’re walking the diamond back to a point.)  And keep going till all the cards are unflipped again.

If you decide not to unflip cards as you go along you will get a solid coloured diamond instead.

Quick Post – The Fitted Dress – Links

This is a very quick entry, mostly to keep track of some links, centering around a common problem (and one I suffer from): when working with “large tracts of land”, support can be a definite issue.  In my case, I haven’t yet been comfortable enough to let go of the modern support.  But I keep thinking about it.  Once I acquire enough energy to sew, and or a personal seamstress – or someone willing to barter lots of handwoven trim for garb that is personally fitted – I will be able to act on these links.  I hope.

The Compleatly Dressed Anachronist talks about her experiences wearing tightly fitted clothes at Pennsic, and what did and didn’t work.  She links back to an article How to make a supportive smock for your medieval outfit written by a lady in Finland, who includes a hand out she has written and hosted at How to make a supportive smock – Lady, have pity on the breast! (pdf on Google Drive, opens in a new tab).

This design differs from the Lengberg dress and similar designs in that the chemise – while visible tight – is still loose enough that it can be slipped on over the head before adjusting the tracts of land into the space allotted for them.

What might complicate matters is that two years ago I discovered I get panic attacks if clothes are too tight, but I suspect that the amount of tightness needed to provide some support will slip under that level of tightness, as long as there is enough of a shelf, for lack of a better word, for things to rest on.