Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ready to Weave...

There! The loom is warped. 10 hours of active work time into the project, and I can 'start weaving'. That is 408 pieces of yarn, all 43 feet long, dyed and transferred to the loom under the same tension and with no tangles. I suspect it will take me about another 12 hours to weave it all off.

My next step, after weaving the header, will be to sample different weft colors. I added about a foot to the length of the warp for this purpose, so I can play and see which color combinations I like best. I picked out three weft yarns at the beginning of the project (one for each ruana/shawl), and have three other ones to try just because I have them on hand. The other benefit of sampling for the first foot of the weaving? By the time I'm done, the edges of the weaving will have drawn in to their working size, so I'll have a consistent width in the finished ruanas.

Here's hoping it all works like I have envisioned!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Threading the Heddles

I'm still working on getting my loom warped up for the next set of ruanas. I've dyed the yarn, sleyed it through the reed, and today I'm in the process of threading the heddles. To do this part, I have to take the back beam off and sit down right inside the loom. That puts things at a really convenient angle to work with. And I even have a head rest of sorts.


Here's my view from inside the loom. Each individual piece of yarn gets threaded through the eye of one of those metal heddles. That makes it so I can raise and lower various threads when I get to the actual weaving portion of the project.

This part of the process though? It is kind of tedious. And I can only work for about a half of an hour before my legs fall asleep. So it is kind of slow going today, as I keep getting up and then getting distracted by this bright shiny thing called the internet...

Oh yeah. Internet. Like what I'm doing right now. Off the computer and back to work!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marking the order of warp chains for dyeing

It was a pretty laid back day today. But I did manage to get the freshly colored warp chains transferred over to the loom, and put them back in the same order that they were in on the dyeing table. I'm happy to say that writing numbers with a sharpie on scraps of plastic bag worked well. I tied the numbered bits of plastic on the ends of the warp chains before dyeing them. They came through the dyeing process without the numbers washing away. Yay! Anyway, now to warp the loom with the pretty pretty yarn.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tutorial: Warp Painting

Earlier this summer, I wove this prototype hand-painted cotton ruana/shawl. I loved the way it turned out so much that I'm in the process of making three more for the Etsy shop. (If they make it that far. I've got tentative nibbles on two of the three already.) This week I've been working on measuring and painting the warp. A couple of folks have asked me how I do that, so I took some pictures as I went along. I used 3/2 Valley mercerized perle cotton from Webs ( and the Dharma fiber reactive Procion dyes ( (In fact, all of the various powders and such are from Dharma.) So the specific instructions are for that combination, but you could use the basic idea with whichever dye system and fiber you're working with.

How to Paint a Warp

-cotton warp yarn
-Dharma fiber reactive Procion dyes in various colors
-Soda ash fixative

Tools (Note: do NOT use any of these items for cooking ever again!)
-measuring cups
-measuring spoons
-wooden spoon
-bin for mixing chemical water
-smaller bins for the dyes
-sponge brushes
-saran wrap
-breathing mask
-rubber gloves

Chemical water = 3/4 c urea + 1 qt water
Dye = 1 c chemical water + 1 tsp soda ash fixer + dye to taste (about 2 tsp)

First, measure out your warp. I'm going to assume you already know how to do this part. In this case, I made warp chains that will be 3" wide.
Instead of tying up your warp with the typical choke ties, use a looser figure 8 tie. This will keep things pretty much in order, but the dye will be able to get under the tie to the yarn. The first time I tried this I tied things too tightly, and ended up with white stripes. It was a cool effect, but not what I wanted this time around. (It would be fun to experiment with, though!)
Chain up your warp to keep it under control. This is another thing I'm assuming you already know how to do, so I can keep the tutorial focused just on the dyeing.
Toss your warp in a bucket of water to soak for awhile. This will let the dye penetrate more evenly and completely.
Gather up your materials.
Protect your work surface with long strips of cellophane wrap.
Wring out your warp chains. Lay them on the cellophane strips, leaving an inch or so gap between each one and an inch or so at the edges. If your warp is shorter than your work space, you've got it easy. If not, you can do what I did and work in sections. I've got the still chained ends of the warp hanging off my table into totes, so I don't get water all over my floor.
If you want to get your warp chains on the loom in the same order that they're laid out on the table, you'll need to mark the chains somehow. I've used plastic with water proof marker here. I've also tied a string onto the end of the chains with one, two, three, four, etc. knots.
Now it is time to mix up your dye. First, make up your chemical water. For my 14+ yard long warp I ended up using almost 4 quarts. You can mix up more as you go along though, so no need to go overboard.
Put on your dust mask and gloves. You don't want this stuff in your lungs. Mix up your dyes. I made a cup of each color at a time, and mixed more as needed as I went along. (The recipe is up at the top of this tutorial.)
Now for the fun part! Wet down your sponge brush and have at it. The colors will wick up the cotton yarn, and blend into each other where they meet. Know your color theory as to which colors will blend to give you which effects. Colors that are across the color wheel from each other will give you more earthy tones. I chose wine red, turquoise, cobalt blue, and black, to keep things in the red/purple/blue range.

Check to make sure the color is saturating all of the yarn. Turn it over to look on the bottom. Squish the color around with your fingertips. You want enough dye to saturate, but not so much that you end up dripping onto the floor. (I did anyway. I'm a messy artist.) (Having some paper towels around won't hurt.)

When you're done painting your current section of warp, fold the edges of the saran wrap in over the yarn. Start at the far end, and roll up the warp and saran wrap toward the unpainted end.
Lay out another strip of saran wrap, and carefully carry your roll of painted warp back down to the end of the table.
Straighten out the next section of warp to be painted.
Back to the fun part!
When you are all done painting, transfer your warp rolls into something that you don't mind getting dye on. (They'll ooze). Make sure your tote doesn't have a hole in the bottom, or you'll have an awful mess. Trust me on that one. Now, leave the yarn and dye to sit for 12 to 24 hours. This will set the dye.
So, the next day unroll your warp bundles somewhere where you don't mind things getting a little messy.
Re-chain up your warp. Now it is safe to move it around again without much fear of tangles.
Take your wet drippy colorful bundle of warp, and rinse it out with cool running water until all the excess dye is washed away. I dumped mine in the shower this time.
Hang the chains to dry. Now you're ready to warp up your loom!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Warping the next project, felt slippers, and de-stashing

Now that the kids are back in school and things are settling down during the days, I've started my next weaving project. If you remember, earlier this summer I wove a hand painted shawl/ruana. I liked the way that it turned out so well that I want to see if I can make them for sale. So I'm measuring out enough warp to make three of them. I plan on dyeing them all in the same color way, but using a different color weft on each one when I'm weaving them up. That way each ruana will be a one of a kind, but I can get more than one item off of the same loom set up. This warp will be just over 14 yards long. That is a lot of times around the warping mill! I'm about half way done with measuring out the white warp. I'll get to the color part either this weekend, or early next week. In the meantime, time to measure out more white strings. Around and around and around and.....

I was going to measure out my warp last weekend, but I had the opportunity to spend some time at a 'Fiber Fun' day with a couple dozen other fiber geeks. I had a couple of people who were interested in felt making, so I took the opportunity to demonstrate how to make felt slippers. In the picture here, you see one slipper almost completed. I just need to trim down the top. That other blob? That is a slipper part way through the felting process. The wool is just starting to hold together, but it needs a lot of shrinking and forming still. I snapped this shot because it always amazes me how magical felting is. How cool is it to go from a shapeless blob into a comfortable, practical 3D form? (You can see my tutorial on how to make slippers in this entry: .) I'll wear these around this house this coming winter, when my feet get cold. I could sew leather soles on them if I were going to wear them outside, but for indoor use I think they'll be fine as is.

I'm proud of myself, too. See those baskets full of weaving yarn? I took them to the Fiber Fun Day and gave them away. (Not the kitten though. He stayed.) (He thought all the yarn was his, too!) You can't really tell there is much missing by looking at my remaining yarn stash, mind you. But the night before the event I went through my shelves and picked out which yarn actually fits my current weaving style and project list. At my current rate of weaving, I have enough yarn still on the shelves to last me for several years. I figured it was only fair to let this other yarn head out to good homes where it will be used.

I also went through my old magazine stash, and gave away a bunch of old 'Spin-off' magazines. I hadn't looked at them in years. Their new owners are inspired and delighted, and there are now new projects in the making. And again, if I look at my shelves I can't even tell that they're gone. I also gave away a raw fleece from the stash in the shed. I've processed wool from start to finish, and find that when I spin I prefer to work from already cleaned and carded roving. And I have plenty of that! The garbage bag full of raw wool was snapped up by its new owner before I had even made it into the door of the event. Somebody is very happy, and I have more room. A win all around.

I still have more de-stashing and de-cluttering to do. I'd like to pare down my craft supplies to things that I'll actually use within the next few years. It makes it so much easier to actually put my hands on something that will inspire me if I don't have to weed through items that are just filler. There is a fine line between making sure you have what you need for when that midnight inspiration hits, and being able to find what you need when that midnight inspiration hits. I've spent years gathering a most impressive stash. Now I think I need to make it a more streamlined, working stash.

And now, just because it was pretty and I want to share, last night's sunset.