Saturday, March 23, 2024

Designing with Crackle, a thought

I'm currently working on my third crackle gamp, and clearly I have lots of ideas to work out. I'm making a list. Actually, I have a binder on crackle, so you know I am very serious about crackle.

One of the issues with crackle is that although it is fairly straightforward on the loom, it can be difficult to represent in a weaving program, especially if you are treadling it tromp as writ, in classic crackle style (three shuttles!) with a larger thread as your pattern weft, every second or third pick or fourth (depending), no one wants to edit the file enough to get in there with the fine tooth comb and check every thread.

I use Fiberworks, and I generally proof crackle with overshot threading, and am often surprised by the outcome, but I think I've found an easier and faster hack using profiles.

A profile is a reduction of the design to its component blocks, rather than the detailed threading of those blocks, a simplification of what the design will look like when on the loom. What is shaft 1 on the threading draft represents appearances of block A in the profile.

a basic profile draft and drawdown

So, here is a profile, which you can easily translate into, say, overshot (or your favorite unit weave) and know what you're going to get (and Fiberworks has a tool to handle the transformation): 

The same profile transformed into overshot threading

But crackle is not a unit weave, so this profile doesn't reflect what crackle looks like in the cloth. When you weave a block of crackle, you drag one of its neighboring blocks along. So it occurred to me, in the middle of the night of course, that the solution is to use a twill tie up in the profile draft to mimic crackle's propensity to drag a friend everywhere, so now our profile looks like this:

A crackle style profile

And it even resembles what I have on my loom:

Woven sample of crackle, treadled as overshot

Although, I'd admit, not exactly. In part because I both flipped (the fell line is at the bottom) and inverted the photo to match the drawdown, and because although I have a sinking shaft loom, I tie up as if it were a rising shaft loom; most of the time it doesn't matter what face of the fabric you're looking at. Except this one time, oops! I'm sure it's a much better match on the other side of the fabric.

Anyway, although I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of or stumble over this trick, but it has me excited to mock up some overshot profiles as crackle profiles. I recently was alerted to a collection of miniature overshot patterns from the Weaver House newsletter (if you scroll to the bottom of their page you can subscribe too). Of course, I won't be able to weave them until I finish this gamp!

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Overshot samples from Jane Stafford Textiles School of Weaving

 I have been a member of the Jane Stafford Textiles School of Weaving for a few years now, but I'm not someone who tends to do every lesson in order or in a timely manner. Because of this I have started to slim down the requirements for myself, and in some cases just make a short sampler instead of the finished project as samplers. This makes sense to me in the color theory projects, but not so much in the lace and block work projects, where I personally don't want a sent of placemats that look wildly different. Or, in the case of the overshot project, 5 scarves. 

Everyone has already been given a scarf I've made, or several, so making five more, using silk as the pattern weft to boot, seemed outlandish, so, I decided to make 4x6" samples for my sample book instead.

The warp is 8/2 cotton, but after doing two samples with the 30/2 silk as the tabby weft and one strand of 18/2 zephyr as the pattern weft, I had so much trouble keeping my beat consistent that I quickly switched to 8/2 cotton for the tabby weft and 2 strands of zephyr for the pattern weft. This does make the hand too hard for a scarf, but was much easier to weave.

After I did the five patterns she set out, I rethreaded the warp to try out a namedraft overshot threading that I had designed in an MLH class: (the name I used is "Blotch And Thrum")

Still using an 8/2 cotton tabby weft and the doubled zephyr pattern weft, just treadling differently. I did note, in finishing these, that the pink does not shrink up as cleanly as the other colors.

After those samples, I tried a few other treadlings on the warp, maybe eight other ideas, and here are two that are somewhat related to overshot.

1. Summer and Winter: (pattern weft is 5/2 cotton)

2. Taquette: (weft is 5/2 cotton in two colors)

I think that this was a very successful use of the class. But while I also did a small sample for one of the lace classes, I'm still prone to succumb to the temptation to do as I'm told and put on a long warp and make a lot of placemats.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Twill Gamps

I recently took a class on twills offered online by the Michigan League of Handweavers. Before the pandemic they only offered classes in June at their annual conference, but starting last year they have begun offering online classes as well, which has been awesome. This is the first one I've taken, though I have also attended some of their evening lectures.

I'm basically obsessed with weaving, so I'm fairly happy to attend everything. But even if you don't weave, they have classes for other fiber arts as well.

For this gamp, I used some of the suggested twill patterns, and a few from the Jane Stafford School of Weaving's twill exercises, and one from a magazine. The threading started out easy, but as I worked down the draft, I found myself inserting more and more repair heddles to fix errors.

Fixing the last threading error.

I was using 8/2 mill end yarn I got from Peter Patchis, but as I was winding my warp, it seemed a bit finer than the 8/2 I normally use, so I set it at 24 epi, instead of the intended 22. The contrast yarn is 8/2 cotton from a previous project that was left near the warping reel. It gave the white warp a jaunty, nautical feel.

Checking thread counts.

The first two gamps were woven trompe as writ, the first with the more usual 2:2 tie up, and the second with the 3:1 tie up. The last was back to 2:2 but I messed around with yarn. I used 10/2 cotton in the weft, trying to use up bobbins (and it certainly emptied a lot of bobbins!). I didn't wind bobbins for this project until the third gamp, when I needed new sizes of yarn to experiment with.

2:2 tie up, 10/2 weft.

I did finish these gamps last week (or earlier?) because the loom is already warped with the next project. But yesterday I wet finished (hot water with gentle detergent for 20 minutes, then rinsed in cool water, then rinsed in the washing machine on a quick cycle to spin out the water, and air dried overnight. I press with steam, I press everything with steam now. (For a long time I was a hot dry iron purist, but a class with Maria Shell won me over to the clouds of steam side.)

Experiments with different sized weft yarns

Some experiments with color

3:1 tie up weft faced side, 10/2 weft.

3:1 tie up warp faced side, 10/2 weft.

As you can see, I attached labels to explain what yarns I used, and even after at most two weeks, my memory was pretty hazy, so I need to process things more quickly! (Or take notes at the loom? but that seems even less likely...)

Based on the designs I liked here, and some we talked about in the class, and something I saw on the School of SweetGeorgia I'm designing a towel combining three twill designs I've called the twilliest towel. The loom, as I mentioned, is warped, but I haven't started weaving on it yet. I will, however, only be weaving simple patterns, I'm not doing this one trompe as writ, I don't feel confident with long non-repeating sequences yet. I'm letting the complex threading do the work for me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Slab Quilts from the Scrap Bins

I'm a quilter who holds on to scraps. I am, in general (but not always) a maker of scrap quilts. My theory of finding fabric for scrappy quilts is that if I'm cutting fabric, I start in my scrap bins, and then my fat eights, and then look at yardage. (Let's not dive into the philosophy of Scrappy vs Scrap quilts right now, please!)

Scrap bins! I use plastic shoe boxes, and sort by color.

But my bins having been getting full lately! After I finished my Calico vs Modern Flower quilt, which I definitely didn't use scraps in, but produced scraps from, I decided to take on my scrap bins.

A stack of slabs.

Starting in October of 2021, I began making 6" slab blocks (full pattern is in Sunday Morning Quilts), from the contents of my scrap bins. I sort the fabric and press it, only using fabrics that are less than 5" on at least one side.

From the first I intended to make one quilt, a gradient of warm vs cool in a checkerboard, but quickly found that even having not used much from my scrap bins, that I had assembled enough blocks for almost two. Then instead of assembling quilts, I just kept making blocks, adding new bins in as I finished one up. So, I didn't actually get around to making a quilt top until early January.

The first slab quilt, a simple design with alternating gradients.

 So, now with lots of left over blocks, I cast around for another design. This quilt is a clear illustration of getting your first idea out of the way so that you can have a really good idea instead. And also working with constraints. Once I finished going through my black scraps, I had realized that I had nearly enough so that every block on the quilt would get one. So, I made a few extra, to hit 35 (in a 60x84 inch quilt, you need 35 6" blocks), and then looked at the colors I had left. Because I had a lot of blue (both light and dark) those became the center, and because I could only cobble together 5 credible pairs of colors (red and orange, purple and pink, dark and light blue, green and olive green, brown and yellow), the stripes run length-wise and not width-wise, which was my initial idea.

Sort of a rainbow buffalo check

This used up all my orange blocks, and if you look closely, you'll see that one of the orange blocks is really a pink block. Another thing you'll see looking closely is the number of gingerbread people, rejects from my Christmas pillow from a few years ago. (citation needed :P)

The colors I left out of the second quilt were the teal and the gray blocks, so employing the gray was on my mind designing the third. The lack of contrast gives an interesting underwater sort of look to a fairly standard Irish Chain layout.

Blocks arranged in a Single Irish Chain configuration

The third quilt uses up the teal, the pink, and the greens that were left, and most of the purples and browns, leaving me with mostly gray, yellow, and light blue blocks. I have about 40 6" blocks remaining.

So, my thoughts turned to the low volume scrap bin, which is the one I hadn't touched yet. One reason is that, really, it was in two bins. So, I spent a good chunk of time Monday (when I should have been threading my loom, for serious) pressing, sorting, and trimming odd shapes into strips, rectangles, or triangles for ease of piecing. At least what's left in the box is enough for only one box now, even if it's still very full!

I do suspect, though, that the design will be difficult to get right, as almost 3/4 of the quilt will have to come from low volume blocks, but that's the challenge. And the limitations I put on the project is what has made it fun, even if I'm not so rigid as to stick with them all the time. I mean, at this point, if I needed another purple block, I would go and create one, even if  it was not from the small scraps I started out trying to use up. After all, what a scrap is, is in the eye of the beholder.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Doing the work for more accurate dyeing

I have been dyeing a long time, and I have been mixing dyes to get different colors for a long time, and I have a book where I record using scraps or yarn or fabric what I get from those mixes, but I never did double check what color the straight dye was after it arrived from the manufacture, which was frankly very dumb. And as a former scientist, I should have been better about establishing a baseline.

So, in the last few weeks, I've been winding up these 1 oz skeins of 8/2 cotton yarn, 140 turns on a 1.5 yard niddly noddy, but I'm not going into the math! (Using the big 8/2 cones from R&M yarns, and if you're looking for good deals on factory closeout cones of yarn, I'd suggest getting on her mailing list) and dyeing each one with a 1/2 teaspoon of the dye, unless it's a jar with an asterisk, in which case I use a full teaspoon.

I use Procion dyes, mostly from Dharma Trading, though I have a few older ones from ProChem.

Here's the method:

Skein yarn to be around 1 oz, 140 turns, tie it up in 8 places.

Prepare skeins for dyeing (in groups of 6-10) fill a bucket with hot water *as hot as you can get* from tap, add a tablespoon or so of synthropol and a tablespoon of soda ash, let sit for at least 15 minutes. Rinse (and sometimes I'd do this in the washing machine to save time and also get out more water, since sometimes I would not go directly to dyeing but instead dry the skeins to dye later.) If you are running skeins in the washing machine, put them in lingerie bags, ideally alone, but in groups of two is fine, because this will keep them from tangling with each other.

Put your rinsed, and rung out, skeins into a solution of 1 cup soda ash per gallon water. They should sit for at least 30 minutes. Once this is done, you can start prepping the dyes. I did 6-8 dyes per session, from all over the color wheel so I wouldn't get confused about which skein was which. When you deal with soda ash, wear gloves and eye protection

To prepare dyes, wear a dust mask, gloves, and googles:

Mix 1 Tablespoon of urea per 1 cup of warm water, this will help your procion dye dissolve.

In a separate measuring cup, add your 1/2 tsp dye. Then add a bit of the urea water, and mix the dye with it to make a paste. Then slowly add 1/4 cup of the urea water. I would pour each one of these into a small container and rinse the measuring cups before starting again. I had enough measuring spoons that I didn't really need to reuse them during the session, thank you thrift shops!

Squeeze the soda ash mixture out of the yarn. Wearing googles and gloves! I mixed up one batch of about a gallon and a half, and used it throughout the process for both the yarn washing and this soaking step.

Pour the dye into a bowl, then squish and squeeze one yarn skein through it. The put it in a sandwich bag to batch for 4-6 hours. You can of course batch overnight, but I was impatient for results. I would wash out and reuse the sandwich bags, so I only used about 8 over the whole process. Then there is a lot of rinsing, then back into the lingerie bags for another trip through the washer before they dried out on the drying rack. After they were dry, I wound them into balls. Clearly the most time consuming part of the process was winding skeins and then winding those into balls!

Not all these were dyed as part of this process

A page of my notebook showing the results

Now I just need some ideas on how to use all that yarn! I already have some ideas on new colors to try dyeing.