Saturday, February 18, 2012

The things I learned

I spent a couple of weeks weaving a pair of wicklebander recently. These are the Viking version of ace bandages, except not particularly stretchy. Puttees, really, except who knows what those are these days? Anyways, they are long, narrow bands that you wrap around your leg from the knee to the ankle (or the ankle to the knee), over your pants. They keep the snow off your pants and the icy winds from blowing up your legs.

They were something of a challenge for me to weave. They are pretty long -- I was aiming for 4 yards per band. They're only 3 1/2 inches wide, but 8 yards of fabric is 8 yards no matter how narrow. And the warp is sett at 30 epi, which is much finer than anything I've woven on a loom before.

Because of the fine sett and longish warp, I decided I needed to warp back to front. I have Peggy Osterkamp's second book on warping, and have warped from the back once before, but really I didn't remember anything about it. And of course I was trying to do this as quickly as possible, in order to enter the bands in this year's Kingdom Arts & Sciences competition. So I would skim the book, do the next step, skim some more, figure out what I should have been doing in the previous step, fix it, etc., etc. It turned out pretty well, though. I especially liked the way I could easily spread the threads and heddles out while I was threading; they weren't crammed into their 30 per inch closeness until I put them through the reed. And I sure don't miss the headaches I know I would have had, trying to keep track of three ends per dent.

I made a couple of mistakes. When I was threading, I had four threads at the end. I chose to put all four through one slot in the reed, which crowded the selvedge and made it hard to pack the weft down. After about six inches I cut those threads and threaded repair threads two to a dent. What a difference that made! In fact, I could say that about so many things -- I fixed a lot of small problems and each one made a big difference. Usually I just put up with nuisances, but knowing that I had yards and yards of weaving ahead of me made it seem too foolish to do that.

I had decided to use a skeleton tie-up mentioned in Osterkamp's book -- you tie shaft 1 to the outside left treadle, 3 to the second one in, skip the middle two treadles, then shaft 4, and finally shaft 2 to the outside right treadle. This worked out very well. You "walk" a twill -- left foot on 1, right foot on two; move left foot to three for 2,3; move right foot to four for 3,4; move left foot to one for 4,1. By the time I'd woven a yard, I could do this without thinking. I always moved the foot towards which the shuttle was headed, which made it almost automatic. And raising one shaft at a time meant that the warp didn't stick; I never had to clear a shed. I will definitely continue to use this tie-up.

But at first I had trouble with my brake suddenly releasing. I realized that because I had only one shaft tied to each treadle, the treadle went down further; the lamms were pressing on the brake pedal and releasing the cable. For about a yard, I was very very careful about how far I pressed the treadle, but that seemed more and more foolish as I went on. So I lengthened the cord on the brake pedal, which took about 20 seconds. I think actually that I should have done this years ago, as it made the brake much easier to operate.

Later on I realized that my hips, knees, and ankles hurt after a weaving session because my chair was too low. I stuck a big book underneath my chair pad (Beyond Craft : the Art Fabric is the perfect size) and the difference was astonishing. Paying attention to ergonomics really paid off.

The other big mistake I made was during beaming. I'm not sure, but I think that at one point when I was tightening the warp I just forgot to tighten one of the edge bouts. As I was weaving along about four yards in, suddenly one selvedge was very loose. I weighted those threads which worked fine for a while, but I could see that the loose threads were sagging. Since I had another four yards to go, I worried that the loose threads would become more and more difficult to tension separately. My warp was superwash, and since that affects resilience, I didn't think I could count on any recovery between weaving sessions.

So I decided to end my piece of cloth at what I thought was the midpoint of the warp -- I had been measuring carefully all along, and I was right at four yards. I hemstitched the cloth, and then fixed the tension by weaving in some sticks and pulling up the loose warps. I wove a header, fiddled with the tension some more, and started the second band.

This worked pretty well. I still had some issues with looseness; almost every time I advanced the warp, I pulled the edge six threads forward a little bit with pins and fastened them into the web. And I kept a very close eye on the fell, making sure it wasn't curving up on that side. If I saw any hint of curve, I wove a pick or two a little more gently, but with the beater a little heavier on that side. That compressed the weft on that edge but let it fill out more on the rest of the cloth. And any time I added a new bobbin, I overlapped the wefts so that there was essentially an extra row everywhere but on that iffy bout of threads on the right. All these things together let me keep weaving a nice, even cloth; they did slow me down, though.

As an odd side effect, my selvedges improved dramatically on this second cloth. I think it's partly because of all the care I was taking, and partly because I had re-read several book sections and websites about even selvedges. I found the Glimakra FAQ especially helpful: everything in there is about boat shuttles. This made me realize that all the rules I know are for people using boat shuttles; maybe they didn't apply to my stick shuttle. So I abandoned the one about never touching the selvedge. Also I paid a lot of attention to how & where & at what angle I should bubble the weft.

As it turned out, I was right at four yards when I finished off the first band, but that wasn't the center of the warp. I had used more warp than I realized experimenting with wefts at the beginning, and despite being as parsimonious as I could be, I used about six inches splitting the two bands. So my second piece of cloth was only 10 1/2 feet. I like the 12 foot length much better; it's much easier to wrap it. But I like the actual cloth of the second band better -- it's more flexible, because I wasn't beating as hard, and of course it has better selvedges. It's also a different color, because with fewer picks per inch, more of the warp shows. Ah, well.

All in all, I think this was a successful project. I sure learned that details matter, and that fixing problems is much better than just accommodating them. And I want to do more back-to-front warping. But I want to get the high castle attachment for my loom, so that I can suspend the cross from it instead of using my Cendrel inkle loom / warping board:

My project was did fairly well in the competition. I had some problems with my write-up but now I understand the process better so I don't expect to have those issues in the future. And my husband has a new addition to his Viking wardrobe.

Monday, August 22, 2011

To-do list

Holy cow! No posts since February? I don't know how my loyal readers have managed without me.

My children start school again in a couple of days, and I have been making a mental list of all the things I plan to accomplish once I have my days free:

  • Clean the whole house
  • Go through all the closets & send mountains of things to Goodwill and Freecycle
  • Paint the woodwork in our bathroom
  • Finish George's Bayeaux Tapestry sheet
  • Make Charlotte another nightgown
  • Weave a couple of dozen scarves
  • Make sock monsters
  • Overhaul our financial accounts
  • Make another set of Viking clothes for each of us
  • Knit that gray cabled sweater
  • Knit Charlotte's ballet wrap
  • Spin, spin, spin
  • Knit a dozen pairs of socks on the CSM
  • Sort my photos
..... and that's just my plans for the first week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A day to myself

So yesterday, when I had the house to myself for a day, I decided that what I wanted most to do was to card. I haven't done any carding since before Christmas. That means I can't do any spinning, because the one bobbin on my CPW is half full of the carding project I was working on back in December, and I don't have any more to spin and don't want to wind off the singles and spin something else on it. And I can't spin on the Lendrum because the CPW is in the living room and the sock machine and its associated boxes of tools and yarn are in the family room and swap packages have taken over the dining room and if I pull the Lendrum out and unfold it the whole family might rise as one and say **ENOUGH!!**

So like I said, I wanted to card.

First I had to get to the wool room.

You can see the box of soap-making supplies that has been sitting in front of the door since we made bath bombs for Christmas presents in early December. Through the open door you can see why the soap box hasn't gotten back to its proper spot.

The only reason I've come in here is to throw things into various piles. These are the boxes I pulled out last weekend -- you can see I just shoved them back through the door. Lots of other things have ended up on my carding work table.

So I spent a while sorting and organizing and putting things back in their places. Not too much, though, because I could spend forever in there, and what I really wanted was to card. And I did:

Here's a shot where you can actually see the floor:

It's still crowded, and I've got lots of pink left to process, but I have the space to do it again.

After a lunch break, I made the mate to this knee sock, the one on the right:

I like almost everything about it except the toe. The toe is too big and twists funny so that I am walking on the short row joins and the excess fabric. The sock on the left is a commercial sock; I want to make toes that fit like those ones. The second sock, which I have not yet tried on, has a stubbier toe that I hope will fit better.

Why have I not tried it on yet? Well, after the sock knitting, Me Time was over, and today has been a Not Me Day from the get go. I've helped Charlotte make a teddy bear from a kit she got for Christmas, I've mended holes in t-shirts, sewed badges onto tae kwon do uniforms, made pizza, ferried kids, ridden bikes to the park, watched a family movie, made dinner, read books (separately) to both kids at bedtime, etc., etc., but I haven't tried on a sock. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

More socks

I have been spending as much time as I can manage with the autoknitter. The basic operation is not too difficult, although I still have the occasional surprise non-knitting needle (pesky), dropped stitch (peskier) or totally jammed ribber (disastrous). But the real challenge, surprisingly, has been making a sock that fits my foot and that has a dense enough fabric to suit me. I like a nice firm sock fabric and a tight fitting sock; I think both of those make a sock last much longer. And getting the fabric I want from the autoknitter has been more difficult than I expected.

I've made a second pair of socks for myself, using the same yarn as the first, but in a different color. These were knit toe-up, which meant I could make the legs as long as the skein held out. In this case that's almost knee length -- not really high enough to stay up for sure, but warmer than the first pair.

This pair has a ribbed foot -- you can see how much narrower it is than the first, unribbed pair. I like the feeling of it quite a bit and it certainly does hug my high arches. The leg doesn't look much longer than the first pair's, although it's actually an additional 40 rows. Here's another view:

That's more like it. Here you can also see that the foot is longer -- oops. It sure didn't need to be, but I lost count of rows and then made the second sock to match rather than start over.

Both pairs of socks have been through the washer and drier a couple of times. The yarn has softened up and gotten kind of fuzzy but they haven't shrunk much at all. I know that's how they are designed but I would like it if they'd get a little smaller. Perhaps I need to investigate non-superwash yarns.

I've made a few non-sock items -- legwarmers for Charlotte out of thicker yarn, which my ribber didn't much care for, and wristwarmers for Charlotte out of sock yarn (these started out as my first experiments with the ribber). I don't intend to do much more, though, until I've got the sock fabric worked out. I'm just past the toe of a pair made out of Kroy, which I'm hoping will make a denser fabric as it is a thicker yarn. I couldn't face putting in the ribber needles this late at night, though, which is why I'm blogging instead of knitting.

My 30 slot dial arrived from New Zealand and turned out to be completely useless. The metal had swelled -- a known issue with the low-grade pot metal from which they are made -- and the slots are now too small to hold a needle. The seller is going to replace it but I am so disappointed; I was really looking forward to being able to do 1:1 rib. Why? Because it doesn't unravel, so you don't have to do anything to finish the edge. I'll be able to in time, I guess, but not for another few weeks while the crummy dial wends its way back to NZ and then a good one makes the return journey to me. I hope the 80 slot cylinder is in better shape! I'm counting on that to make a nice dense fabric out of regular sock yarns.

The children have been out of school for the past two days and my husband is working from home, all due to the storm that swept through here Monday night/Tuesday morning. They'll all be here tomorrow, too; the university has specifically told people like my husband that they are not allowed to come in even if they are perfectly comfortable driving on icy roads. "Work from home," he was told, which is easier said than done when you are Fun Dad and the kids are home, too.

When I imagine snow days they involve lots of yarn, a fire in the fireplace, and general cozy hanging out. In real life there are a lot more loads of laundry and washing of dishes. I still hope that tomorrow I can make those Kroy socks.