Hi there, in my last post I said I would be working with silk from Helen of Ripplescrafts lace weight collection.
Now I am able to explain a little bit more about this 'commission'. After my visit to the dye shed last month Helen asked me if I would weave a nice scarf in the lace weight silk to show off how her yarn could be used for something other than knitting. I was delighted to agree to this idea and although I don't have a lot of experience of weaving with silk thought it was something I could do.
The silk arrived by post and Helen had specially dyed a beautiful deep blue for warp and a warm gold for weft. I had promised to take pictures of the process for her but thought I would share some of them with you here.
I soon got started with the winding. In this picture you can see the blue yarn on the swift made for me by my husband Tony. It has a 'lazy Susan' as its base and so it rotates at great speed !
The yarn is being fed onto my ball winder.
I didn't realise it at the time but that was my first mistake ! It wasn't long until I discovered the yarn was getting tangled on the ball winder. I have since learnt that the best way to deal with slippery silk yarn is to warp it directly from the swift and miss out the ball winder stage. I needed help from Tony to untangle the mess and hand wind the silk into balls. Not the best of starts.
Next picture shows the warp on my warping board. The warp was just over 3 yards and wound in two bouts of 94 each.
Here I am with the two bouts onto the back rod and the lease sticks inserted in the cross ready to place in groups of four in the raddle which is the black plastic strip you can see below the piece of protective non slip plastic.
I believe that a person who helps prepare a loom is called a 'tuner' ! Well, here is my tuner ! He is an expert winder onto the back beam whilst I keep things under control out front. He is looking a bit fed up as we had spent a long afternoon untangling balls of silk !!
Once onto the back beam I am ready to thread each of the 188 ends into a texsolv heddle. They have been double checked at this stage and are tied in bundles to keep them secure.
Next step is sleying the reed. In this case a 10 dent reed and two ends per dent except for my selvedge threads which are threaded three to a dent.
My next step is to tie up eight of my fourteen treadles to lift and lower the harnesses. The loom goes up on these trestles so that I can sit in the stool and get my legs in underneath. Saves a lot of bending and backache !
While I'm busy doing that here is my 'tuner' again ! This time he is winding the weft silk onto pirns for my end feed shuttle. This is his own gadget ! An electric drill and a dimmer switch is all I can tell you ! It allows the drill to go less fast. He is always keen to get as much onto a pirn as he can in spite of me saying I don't mind doing a join. You can see how full it is !! It is very much not my department !!
In the meantime, I am busy tying onto the front of the loom to complete the threading. Usually I tie on in small bouts but this time I took Susan Harvey's advice and lashed on with a cord. I didn't make a very tidy job of it but it certainly saved me some warp. There is hardly any waste with this method as you can begin weaving very quickly once the warp threads are spread out evenly. Susan
has just done a very good post on this technique, well worth a look.
You can see I have already done my sample and things are looking ok so far. The draft is an undulating twill.
This next picture shows that I have almost completed my hemstitching at the beginning of the scarf. I always do this as I find it makes such a nicely finished edge for the fringes.
Then, here is what it's all about ! I am actually weaving after all that preparation. Now this is supposed to be the easy bit and I thought it was but stay with me there is more to come !!
Once I have woven about 75" the scarf comes off the loom and onto my fringe twisting board.......
I have a fringe twisting gadget ( probably the only gadget not made by Tony !) First of all I attach four groups of threads to the clips and twist in a clockwise direction for 30 twists in this case.
Then I double up the twisted ends and twist anti clockwise for 30 twists. Then I tie a knot and pin all the fringe ends to the same place on the board so that they are all of equal length. You will not be surprised to know that I learnt this finishing technique from Susan.
Once the fringes are done it is into the wash tub. Warm water and a small about of silk washing detergent and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
After rinsing well and hanging up to dry I go off to do some knitting and relax. Just before going to bed I go to check on the scarf which is now dry. Panic !! There is something not right with the precious silk scarf. This next picture is not for the faint hearted and I have enlarged it so that you really can see what had happened. This now turns into 'the confessions of a weaver'. I had stripes in this scarf which were nothing to do with the undulating twill. However, they were to do with the way I did the supposedly easy bit, the weaving. The stripes were about 4" in width and I now confess that I have been in the habit of weaving that amount before I advance the warp. I have now learnt that that is very poor weaving practice especially when weaving with a twisted silk. I should have been advancing at the most, every inch to prevent this display of uneven beating.
I tossed and turned a bit that night, how was I going to tell Helen I had ruined her silk.
The next morning, very early, an e-mail was winging its way to the northwest with photos and profuse apologies. The only good thing was that when I photographed the scarf as if it was being worn you didn't see the stripes !
Helen was very kind and immediately said she would dye more silk for me ! How's that for a wonderful response.
I posted off the offending scarf and wondered how she would react. Well, she loves it and even posted a blog about it which you can read here.
The silk is very lovely and the scarf is very soft and drapey. Only my inexperience with silk caused a problem so please don't be put off using it to make beautiful scarves or shawls.
Of course I am now scratching my head about which draft to use for the next one so that it will be right ! I am also training myself to advance the warp every inch or so and not try to fill the gap between front beam and reed !!
I have posted a lot of photos just in case there are some new weavers out there who might like to see more details of how I work with the loom.
Hope you have all enjoyed the 'confessions of a weaver'. I feel better for having shared it ! And special thanks to Helen for being so kind and understanding.