Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.

Ashley Smith

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tie one on!

Soo.. I have been working on a project for my good friend who was married in December. I promised her 4 hand woven placemats. The yarn was chosen, the pattern was decided and I gleefully began my calculations. I carefully measured the 227 ends for my warp, I thoughtfully sleyed my reed at 15 ends per inch, first light green, then dark green. I painstakingly threaded my heddles, often referring to my pattern, so that everything was exactly right. I tied onto the back beam and began to beam by beautiful, stripey warp. I tied onto the front apron, dutifully wove in my spacers (rolled up toilet paper- it works wonderfully!) and began the joy of weaving.

Clicking up the shafts, clicking down the shafts, throwing the shuttle back and forth, packing the warp with the beater, clicking up the shafts, clicking down the shafts throwing the shuttle back and forth, advancing the fabric, etc. There is such a pleasing rhythm to weaving - it is one of the things I truly enjoy about it. As I progressed, I was pleased with the pattern, my selvedges looked good, and I wasn’t pulling the weft so hard that it was distorting the edges. I happily wove along, feeling talented and proficient, blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead.

As I neared completion of my third placemat, it seemed that I was unusually close to the end of my warp. Now, I know the importance of measuring your ppi (picks per inch) and of sampling, however, as with everything in life, knowing is not the same as doing. So, yes, I was weaving at approximately 12 ppi and my pattern was set up for 15 ppi. Non-weavers may be wondering what this has to do with anything, weavers are probably nodding their heads and smirking, knowing how this small discrepancy can make a huge difference, especially since the pattern I was working with is a certain number of picks, not a certain number of inches. It became apparent that I was not going to be able to squeeze my final placemat out of the remaining warp…

This dilemma presented me with several options on how to proceed. My first thought was to tell my friend that 3 placemats were plenty (I am not too proud to admit I am lazy!), but I reconsidered, they are a wedding gift after all. My second option was to cut off what I had finished and start fresh. Not a bad option, I enjoy sleying and threading, but it seemed so wasteful, not using that last bit of yarn.

So, I made the big decision- I would tie on more warp. And since I was tying more on anyway, I would cut enough to make napkins too! Oh, wasn’t I brilliant? Wasn’t I brave? The next step, of course, was learning how to do it.

My impression was that I would be cutting off the old warp behind the heddles (as the benefit to tying on more warp is that you don’t have to re-thread everything). With that picture in my head, I began trying to figure out how one would keep all the little threads straight as you tied them on, how you would keep the 100 inches of added warp from tangling up into a big bird’s nest and finally, how you would re-beam the new warp. My husband and I envisioned two long tables on which I could lay my warp threads, one at a time, as I tied them on. He offered to help by holding the threads for me (God bless this patient man!). I emailed for help, I Google searched, I looked in my weaving books. For as popular a method this seemed to be, I could not locate any directions on the actual “how” to do it.

Finally (and of course) my weaving study group came to the rescue! Our meeting last week was at one of our member’s homes. She has a beautiful studio and we gathered there to share our tricks and shortcuts on warping. When I described what I was hoping to do and how I thought it should be done, they were quick to help me see that I was looking at it backwards (hmmm… how unusual!) The old warp was to be cut off IN FRONT of the reed, then the one could proceed beaming onto the back beam, as per usual.

AHHA! The light clicked on in my head! Well that actually made sense! And solved all the problems of how to deal with these enormous lengths of thread balling up everywhere. I was thrilled!

And so my newest weaving learning adventure commenced.

I grabbed up my chains of neatly measured warp and prepared to begin. Then, as is my usual sequence of events, I put it back down and did the step that was actually next- cutting off what I had finished.

I had enough existing warp to make one of the napkins, so I completed that. It may be obvious to you by now that calculating loom waste is not exactly my strong suit. So I ended up shortening my first napkin by about 2 inches, so that I would actually be able to cram the shuttle through the tightening shed (I eventually had to use a stick shuttle at the very end).

I did have the foresight to tie up the apron rod for the back beam before I cut my project off and therefore prevented all the threads from slipping out through the back!

Once I cut my completed placemats and napkin off, I had approximately 3 inches of thread left in the front of the reed. I HIGHLY suggest leaving way more than that if you intend to try this.

With my project safely cut off, rolled up and put next to my sewing machine for finishing, I sat down to begin the process of tying on 227 pieces of thread. Since the ends were so short, I used a pair of hemostats to assist. My weaving group told me (much to my relief) that I did not have to use the “fancy” weaver’s knot, but could use a simple overhand knot. Lucky for me, since I would probably still be tying knots if I had to use that one!

I once again grabbed up my warp, put the cross in my hand, took it back out so that I could cut the loop in the end, put it back in (incorrectly), one-handedly shuffled around through the items scattered on the floor beside my loom, came up with my Learning to Weave by Deborah Chandler book, looked in the index to find “holding the cross” (page 35, if anyone else needs to know!), reassembled my cross correctly and grabbed up the first thread.

By wetting my thumb and forefinger, I was able to get a firm grip on both ends of the two threads to be tied together.

I made a loop, then pushed the nose of the hemostats through, grabbed the two ends and pulled them through the loop. I pulled extra hard to tighten the knot then went on to the next.

First all the light green, then all the dark green. Slowly, but surely, the new warp was secured.

I now realized I had yet another problem. The idea is to just start beaming the warp by turning the crank on the back beam. My problem was that an overhead knot would not easily slide through my 15 dent reed (15 dent means 15 slots per inch- if you can imagine that!) and believe me, I tried! So this basically meant that I had to re-sley the reed- one fat, knotted thread at a time, by sticking my sleying hook through the dent, twisting it a little to broaden the space, and pulling the thread by hand from behind the reed. If you have never done this, I will tell you that is absolutely a test of patience!

However, now I am rolling! The knots pulled easily through my Texsolv heddles, and I continued to beam my warp without incident! YAY!

The actual weaving of the articles is not as time consuming as all the incidental activities and set up involved. It is a metaphor for life in a way. If you take the time to set up a good foundation, everything flows more smoothly.

Happy weaving!