Saturday, November 14, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Weaving buddies - please help me out!!!

My long-anticipated scarf isn't coming out as well as I want it to. I'm hoping you can give me some advice! Please!!

My mixed warp is on the loom and I've started to weave.

I totally expected weaving to be difficult - felting, abrasion, broken threads, difficult sheds. I was prepared for that. But that's not happening. (That's the good news.)

I wasn't prepared for the scarf to come out so different from my sample. I guess I should learn to expected the unexpected!

I used up some 8/2 cotton left over from my last project to get the tension even and the weaving to square up.

Then I started sampling with the two wefts I plan to use.

To my eye, the scarf wasn't coming out as cool as the small sample I did last winter.

I wove another section with some blue wool, to see if things improved. No.

This piece is woven with a pink yarn (49% rayon, 43% cotton, 8% flax) I purchased at Earthguild in Asheville, NC.

This sample is woven with a purple version of that same yarn.

My complaint about these two samples is that the warp is getting overshadowed by the weft. I wonder if there's anything I can do about that.

I wondered what some blue would do with the colors in the warp. I wove the next section with some Rauma Finullgarn I have on hand. That didn't move in a direction I wanted. I felt like this thicker wool made the warp disappear even more.

As an experiment, I decided to try really thick yarn and really thin yarn. I tried this bulky wool left over from knitting a scarf (before I had a blog).

Then I tried some blue sewing thread already on a quill.

The thick yarn definitely wastes this warp. I do like how the colors in this thick yarn pool when used as weft, but that's an idea for some other project.

The sewing thread, while leaving the warp very exposed, produces a very odd fabric that I don't want to wear!!

There's my little 1 inch square sample from my texture sampler last winter. In that square, I have the thickest of my warp yarns with the pink Earthguild weft yarn.

What am I bummed about?
  1. The warp yarns are getting lost and to me the scarf doesn't look nearly as cool as my admittedly tiny sample.
  2. The hand of the resulting fabric is pretty stiff and unbending. I did weave two swatches of the purple version, so I will cut one off and wash it to see if that helps. I don't think that's going to be the answer.
If you have any ideas about how I can salvage this project and make a scarf that looks more like my tiny sample, please let me know! Comments are welcome, or my email is in my profile. I would love to hear from you!! (And I'm going to plunge into more details, but if you already have ideas for me, it's fine to just skip ahead!)

Some good news:
  • The scarf is actually weaving just fine. Weaving the sample, I had a lot of felting and abrasion. In the 14 inches or so that I've woven on this warp, I've only had to snip a little fuzz twice. I had one selvedge thread abrade then break. I will re-thread that edge of the scarf so I have sturdier yarn at the edge.
  • I have enough warp on the loom for 3 scarves, and I only really need one of them. (3 is nice, but only one is really important to me!) I can afford to experiment.
  • When I cut the sample off the front, I left the warp hanging. It's only 66 ends, so re-threading, adding more shafts, re-sleying - all of these options are fine with me. I just really want a scarf I'll be happy with!

Oh, and last weekend, after weaving with the first 5 wefts, I happened to be driving past Lowell, so I paid an emergency visit to the Hub Mills Store and picked out two more yarns that have compatible colors.

At the time I was thinking that maybe the warp was too sparse and since I'd used all available yarn for the warp I took the opportunity to get more. (More yarn is always the answer to some question, right?)

Today I finally got out both samples and tried to figure out what the differences were.

Original sample:
Ends per inch: 7 - 7.5
Picks per inch: 11

Purple sample (my new, too stiff scarf swatch):
Ends per inch: 8
Picks per inch: 13-14

The yarns in the warp are assorted wools and wool blends, with some of the Earthguild yarn thrown into the mix.

Maybe the issue is just the sett and epi. (The current sett is higher because I used some of the weft yarn as warp. It's a thin yarn, so I used more ends of it.)

I'm in a quandry. I don't know what to do.

My main ideas so far are:
  • Is it as simple as the different sett and ppi? Am I beating too hard, creating a denser, stiffer fabric?
  • Weave one scarf in the pink or purple and accept it as a happy creative accident - it is kind of cool, but just not what my sample was like
  • Add more yarn to make the sett feel denser like the original sample. If this is the answer, does that mean I unwind the yarn from the back beam & add, or do I individually weight, or is there some other answer. If I had a double-back beam, could I add the yarn on there? (I don't, but I'm just curious).
  • Is it that the yarns aren't grouped at all?? In the original sample it was a few strands of each yarn adjacent to each other - which did cause felting problems. In this warp, the stickier yarns have less sticky yarns between them.
  • If I added 2 more shafts to the loom and made this a twill instead of plain weave, would the hand of the fabric automatically improve?
My other main idea is to ask you guys, and all the weavers I know in real life, and random passers by, what to do!?!?!

Please comment......or shoot me an email (my address is in my profile).....

As always, comments on this blog can be anonymous, so even if you're not usually a commenter, but you have a good idea for me, please share! This project really matters a lot to me and I really appreciate any help you can give me!!

This project so far:
Asking for help designing in the reed
Project kickoff
Designing in the reed


PattiHN (reposted by Sue) said...

Just some ideas.... I get better results for scarves if the warp is thicker than the weft (it folds, uh, crumples, better vertically than horizontally that way). Or you can rethread so you have plain weave outer edges and some sort of lace weave (with more floats) in the middle. Or if you want to highlight the warp, black or natural weft would do more for that, I think. Or if it's still too dense, redo the sett (change reeds and rethread).

Just some ideas.... I love the colors! Good luck!

Life Looms Large said...

Patti -

Thanks so much for your comment and ideas!! I was having problems with the interaction between blogger and google reader, so I couldn't recover without making a new version of the post.

So I lost your comment, but then reposted it.

Anyway, thanks so much for your ideas and for taking the time to comment!!


Barbara J said...

On your previous post about this project, when you stated your plan to use plain weave, 2 harnesses, I thought to myself.."Uh, oh!". My experience with large fluffy, irregular yarns is that you cannot appreciate their chunky, fluffy, irregularly spun beauty in plain weave. The more frequently you tie them down in the fabric, the more of their wild beauty you lose. They are showcased much better in some variation of a twill where you can let them float varying distances. If you are using the "wild yarns" as warp, then you need some warp floats in your structure, preferably somewhat irregular/inconsistent floats. If you are also using them as weft, then you need weft floats, too. The floats also let the fabric be more flexible in drape. When working with my homespun "designer yarns" such as these, I have invented some irregular twills with a shot of plain tabby every 3 or 4 shots or so to tie things together. Also, the difference between 7 and 8 epi is significant if you think about it percentage wise....about 15% denser. Wild yarns need room to be wild. Also, a very gentle beat, not even a beat, really. More of a gentle placing into the web with the reed.

I know that you wanted to start with only 2 harnesses, but I suggest moving to 4 harnesses threaded in a straight twill, then experiment a bit with treadlings. I, too, love your warp, and hope that you can find a way to let it shine and carry the textile you dream of.

Best of luck, I really enjoy your blog!


Life Looms Large said...

Barbara J,

Thank you so much for your suggestions! I hadn't thought about the sett difference in terms of a percent, but you're right - 15% is a lot. (I actually didn't think of the sett difference until a full week of mulling this over... oops!)

Fortunately, I did already do a 2 harness project back in the spring - even though I didn't blog about it. I thought plain weave would work fine for this too, but it really isn't working, so I'm cool with adding two more harnesses and moving to 4! Fortunately, all of the wooden and Texsolv pieces I'd need are cleaned up, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I did weave the first sample on my baby wolf - which is much smaller and has a much lighter beater. Plus the warp on that project had all sorts of yarn including linen that probably prevented the weft from packing in too much.

This project is on my Toika with it's 60 inch reed and beater. So while I might feel like I'm beating lightly, I'll probably have to concentrate more to actually beat lightly. Or to "place the yarn in the warp".

I'm not quite sure what to do for the twill part of your suggestion, but I'll puzzle it out more. I don't really want obvious diagonals (although obvious diagonals are preferable to the horrible hand of my current sample). I think at our color workshop in the spring we wove some kind of irregular block twill that I liked. I need to get over my dislike of twill!!

Thank you for your thoughts and ideas! I really appreciate them, and am getting more encouraged that I can still get a scarf or two out of this project that live up to my expectations!!


Theresa said...


You have a higher epi on this scarf than the sample, now everything is arranged differently and it may not be an exact duplicate of all the yarns from what I can tell. For a lighter, sleazier fabric, don't pack the weft in. In fact, get the idea of "beat" right out of your head. Lay you weft in with a decent arc and the take your beater and slowly nudge your weft in until you have about 1/4 to and 1/8 of an inch between weft picks. That should give you the drape and variation you want to see with your warp. Try it for a couple of inches. If that doesn't suit, go to a bit heavier weft but again, don't think about beating it in to an inch of it's life. You might also want to have the tension just a wee bit backed off. Think of how things are stretched and if they are going to spring back and tighten up further making your warp very dense in hand. You know my e-mail and if you want to give a holler via phone, the 800 number for the business is 800-937-7912, I'll be out tossing hay around 4 my time ( 7 yours) but will be in otherwise. Good luck, you've gotten some good suggestions to try.

Alice said...

Hi Sue!
I agree with the others about lightly laying in the weft, trying a lace weave (maybe throw in some brooks bouquet).

My other thoughts are to resley at a wider sett, use a light brushed or boucle mohair for the weft and maybe try some basketweave via pickup sticks like in rigid heddle.

I can really sympathize with the problem. I am not entirely happy with my scarf that I recently made with my handspun because it does not drape well. I thought that by using a smaller weft than warp that would take care of it but it didn't entirely. If I had done something different with the threading or the treadling I think that I could have made it drape better.

I am cheering for you! This is a weaving lesson for us all that you probably didn't intend but that I appreciate you sharing!

Theresa said...

I just thought of one other thing, color. Dark recedes, have you tried a darker, maybe even deep green or black weft, again, lightly placed into the warp? Might help the variation in the warp pop a bit more.

Cindie Kitchin eweniquely ewe said...

I'm very late to comment on this but I agree with a few others. First off don't 'beat' - just lay or place in the weft using your beater to lightly place the weft yarn in place. That's where I'd start. Also using a bit thinner weft might help. And finally yes, a twill would show off those novelty yarns much better plus it will make for a drapier scarf. You don't have to do a twill with an obvious diagonal - a broken twill would work really great and you won't see a diagonal at all.

Life Looms Large said...

Thank you all for your ideas!! (And you're definitely not too late to the commenting party! I just put this up mid-afternoon today, even though google is saying other things to some people.)

Cindie, thanks for the specific info to look for a broken twill. That will help me when I try to put what you guys are saying into action.

I definitely won't be putting any of these ideas into action until Tuesday morning at the earliest, and possibly not until after the NH Weaving guild meets on Wednesday.

Theresa, Thanks for the offer of phone support!! I may be taking you up on that as I let these ideas percolate and try to turn these words into what happens in my studio. (I'm better at that then I used to be, but the weave structure piece of this is still a little confusing to me.)

Alice, Thanks for the sympathy! Glad to know I'm not alone on one hand - although I always want everyone's projects to come out better than they expect - so I'm sorry yours didn't! Interesting thought about the mohair. I have some brushed and some boucle that I could experiment with.

A general note - the warp is much thicker than the weft. The weft is maybe 1/3 the thickness of the warp. (I have no idea how to turn the sizes of these weird knitting yarns into how we usually talk about weaving yarns.) I guess I should have put something into the photos so you could tell the scale.

OK, now I'm inspired to head to my studio and look at some twill drafts. Then maybe this will start to solidify in my mind. It is super rainy here right now (the remnants of tropical storm Ida), so hopefully the rain on the roof in there won't drive me bonkers. There's a lot of roof in my studio!!

Thanks so much for your help. I feel much more optimistic with each comment!!


Sara said...

Oh, I have no idea...but, you know I love the colors...

Earthguild - that's where my loom came from ... used to go there all the time...

Dorothy said...

You've got lots of good comments here, I was going to say try a thinner, brighter coloured weft.

In brief I have made scarves more warp dominant by making sure the sett is greater than the picks per inch. There are several ways to do this, but for now, have you counted the ppi to see if it is more / less than the sett?

Life Looms Large said...

Dorothy, The picks per inch were greater than the sett in both my samples - although in my stiff sample threads were beaten in tighter than in my original sample (14 vs 11). The warp yarn is much thicker than the weft - which is hard to see from these photos - but the pink photo that's second shows it the best I think.

Sara, Lucky you - having a loom from Earthguild. I love how that store combines weaving and basketmaking and practically everything else creative I'd ever want to do!!


Deanna said...

It's a Goldilocks thing - you tried a thick weft (too fat) and sewing thread (too thin) so maybe try a weft that isn't super thin, but finer than the warp - maybe 10/2 cotton. And I agree with someone else's suggestion to try a black weft - that will show off all those luscious warp colors.

It's a great project that a) comes from your curiosity and inspiration, b) turns into a great learning experience for lots of reasons and c) lets you end up with something wonderful. :-)

Susan said...

Hi Sue,
I'm late to this party.... and you have received so much good advise!
If the colourful warp threads are what you really want to see then making a closer sett warp faced weave structure is part of the plan too. That means twills ( which will drape better and show more of the colourful warp) Darker colours for the weft will make the colours pop as Theresa suggested. Press the weft in over beating (otherwise the fabric will look and feel like a board :)

I don't see how a lace structure or hand manipulated Brooks Bouquet would really do anything. In fact it would get lost entirely in the mixed media warp.

Sadly when you see those gorgeous colourways and it comes to weaving, the colour is always cut by the weft and weaving process. The rep weave style of Sweden and back strap loom of South America are all warp or all weft faced weaves and this preserves the colours.

I hope something I said was useful.


Sharon said...

This is a subject near and dear to my heart and I have so enjoyed reading all the comments. I weave with handspun and am too often disappointed with the hand. I have used log cabin a lot to show off my handspun yarns and can see by the comments some of my problems.

When I use this pattern, I like a dark contrast yarn to push my colorful handspun, so would have to agree with the suggestions of black. Thanks so much for this post!

Life Looms Large said...

Thank you all so much for your great ideas! (And if anyone else wants to add more, that's great too!) I really appreciate them all. I've been taking a break from my blog and all things weaving today.

Tomorrow I'll head back to my studio and mull this over more, and Wednesday when the NH Weavers Guild meets, I'll have my samples in hand to talk to a few people there about it too. (I'm wondering if seeing and touching the fabric will tell them anything that my photos can't tell all of you.)

Later in the week I should have a change to try some of these things out. I'm definitely heading toward twill so I can start putting two more shafts on my loom tomorrow.

I'll put all of these suggestions together and try more things out until I get something I'm happier with. (Well, or I might weave the purple or the pink version as is because they're kind of interesting.)

I guess we'll see what I'm going to do when I actually do it!

Meanwhile, thank you for your ideas!!

And, thank you for the encouraging words and for sharing stories of when you've tried to do something similar with varying degrees of success. If anyone else can learn from my experience here, that's great!!!

Hope you all had great weekends!


Jennifer said...

I apologize if someone else has suggested this, but I didn't read all the other ideas. This likely doesn't get you to the sampler you want, but maybe this is another idea if all else fails. Being in weft faced plain weave, I tend to think only about weft and not about warp. The warp is structure and not for form. I wonder if you reversed it. What if these great yarns that you have as the warp should really be the weft and let there be some small yarn be the warp??? May be a last resort... Hang in there!

Life Looms Large said...


You know what's funny? When I first bought my loom, I immediately thought that if all else fails, I could at least make this scarf by laying in long single strands of my funky yarns as weft. I could just leave tails at the edges to get scarf fringe that way. But I wasn't totally psyched about figuring out what to do with the warp after cutting a scarf woven that way off the loom.

Although I could needleweave it's just a matter of time! So I think that is my fallback plan.

And if all else fails, I know I could knit a cool scarf with this yarn.

But I stubbornly want it to be woven, and I want it to be woven with these yarns as weft! Crazy, eh??

I already can't wait for the next time I can go to Webs to buy up another mixture of yarn and try this again. You guys have so many good ideas.

But first, to get at least one decent scarf out of this warp!! (And I've been very's been sitting on my loom while I debate for days now...and I'm still holding out.)

I am pulling out the texsolv and wooden pieces I need to go immediately to 4 shafts though. Next time I weave this warp it will be re-threaded & resleyed....although in what manner I am not sure right now!

Thanks for your thoughts Jennifer, and everyone!!

I'll definitely blog about the next step with this scarf!


Jennifer said...

Actually, I was thinking of the great yarns being the weft in the narrow direction. Maybe it would loose the effect you are going for in not running long enough. You can add great ayrns to the warp ends to make the fringe. I may be way off - remember then again I don't weave clothing that needs to be so durable!

Life Looms Large said...


That definitely makes more sense than what I was saying, but design-wise I just really, really, really want the yarn to run the length of my scarf.

I'm stubbornly bullheaded on that element of this project for some reason. (Er, did I mean, passionate? Sounds nicer!)


weaver said...

I'm a bit late to the discussion, but would suggest loosening the warp tension and using a fine wool weft, because it is more supple than cotton. Suggestions above about using a dark color to make the warp colours pop and of gently placing the weft are excellent.

Scarves need a soft weft so that they will scrunch at the neck. All the strength needs to be in the vertical direction.

It will be beautiful!

Life Looms Large said...

It's never too late to comment on this project!

Actually, I was hoping I'd hear from you! I had a feeling that you have weaving experience that would help me on this one.

I do have a fine wool warp in deep, deep navy that I can try out. Good thought!

I'll also be scoping out other yarn at the guild meeting tomorrow. (Of course, I already have pulled a pile of yarn from my stash to try....but my motto is always "More Yarn!")

Thanks for commenting!!! I will have my plan of attack figured out Thursday, then hopefully I'll start sampling again in short order!