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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

30 June, 2010

Texture in Plain Weave – Warp Repp

Filed under: Art,Education,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , , — admin @ 8:42 pm

Last week we looked at introducing textural elements into your plain weave to give instant changes.  This week, we are looking at a technique called Warp Repp.  This is a fabric where the warp yarns are so closely sett to each other that the weft yarn cannot be seen.  This is known as warp-faced cloth.

Firstly, a little information on sett and how it impacts your cloth. 

Imagine wrapping your yarn around a ruler so that each new strand touches the one preceding it, so you can’t see in between the strands, but the strands aren’t overlapping each other.  Normally you would use this method to give you the total number of wraps per inch, and then mentally replace some of the threads to allow space for the weft threads to pass through the warp ends. 

For instance, if you wanted to weave a balanced plain weave (which we talked about last week), you would need to create space after each strand so that a weft yarn of the same size could fit through the gap.  If you did that all the way across the inch, you would find that you had halved your original number of strands.  So if we want plain weave, we divide the number of wraps per inch by 2.  That gives you your sett. 

If you wanted to weave a balanced twill weave on 4 ends, that structure needs 2 threads to be adjacent to each other, then a space for the weft, then another 2 threads together, then a space (for 2/2 twill).  Alternatively you might want 3 threads adjacent to each other, then a space for the weft, followed by just 1 warp thread, followed by a weft space.  Either way, you have pushed 2 strands out of the way to create the space for the weft.  Therefore, only 4 out of 6 strands are required for a 4-end twill, so you would divide your total number of wraps per inch by 2/3 to get the sett you would need for twill.  This is very approximate, and varies depending on the weave structure you want to use and the yarns you are using.  If you have hairy yarns( ie mohair), you may need to leave more space for the weft, and for very smooth yarns (such as rayon) you may need to close up the gaps a little.

Anyway, the closer together you sett your yarns, the more warp-faced it becomes.  If the warp is all you can see, that is called warp-faced.  If you can see a little bit of the weft, then it is called a warp-emphasis  fabric.  If you can see equal amounts of warp and weft, then you have a balanced cloth.  If you can see more weft than warp, but you can still see some warp, then you have a weft-emphasis fabric, and when you can only see the weft, and no warp, then it is weft-faced.  Both extremes are very useful for rugs! 

Note:  it is a very useful exercise on its own to do a sample warp where you do a sample with warp-faced, and resley for warp-emphasis, then resley for balanced, then for weft-emphasis and finally for weft-faced.  This gives you an idea of how the different setts can affect your weaving, and the texture differences that are created just through a change in the sett.

Warp Repp

It’s quite fun to have two different colours, or combinations of colours, in your warp and to sley them so closely that you can use thicker and thinner weft yarns to create colour ridges.  This is called warp repp, and to do this you need to put one colour (or combination) onto two shafts, and the other on two more shafts, and sley them through the reed twice as closely as you would for a normal balanced weave.  Once you have done this, you weave using the two shafts with one colour as if they were one shaft, and alternating them with the other two shafts with the other colour. 

 Warp  1




Warp 2




Why bother putting the two colours on 4 shafts?  Why not just use 2?  Well, if you put the threads that closely together so that the weft yarn doesn’t play any visual part on the surface on the fabric (other than its thickness making one colour warp more prominent) then it is really hard to lift all the warp ends you want in one colour without snarling them up with the other colour.  4 shafts enables you to spread the threads out just a little, and raise one shaft first to raise half the threads you want, and then the other shaft to raise the other half, before putting the weft yarn through.  

The fun comes here with the varying of the thickness of the weft yarn.  Basically the weft yarn just sits in between the two different layers of colour which alternate being on the top or the underneath of the fabric.  If you use two wefts of similar thickness, both warp colours have equal prominence.  Don’t forget that the weft yarn won’t be seen except at the edges where it turns round to go back into the next pick because the warp yarns are so close together. 


However, if you change the thickness of one or both of the weft yarns, so that one is much thicker than the other, you change the emphasis on the colour showing on one side of the fabric.  The opposite colour will show more on the other side of the fabric.  If you create a thicker weft yarn by doubling, tripling or quadrupling the number of strands of weft in one pick, you can vary the amount of colour showing on one side at will.  If you choose to graduate the thicker yarn so it gets thinner over a period of several picks, whilst the thinner yarn gets thicker over the same period, you will effectively be changing over the predominance of the colour on one side, with the reverse happening on the other side.  This is what I did here….



 Warp repp side 1









         Warp repp side 2                                                           

If your warp happens to include some textured yarns in it, then there is even more interest in the appearance of the fabric.  However, do be aware that because it is sett so close together, textured warp yarns might well be hard to separate into their respective layers. 

These illustrations are from a series of samples I developed from a greetings card.


In the process of weaving one of the samples, I made an error.  I was not a happy bunny about this mistake at the time, but the next day, with a cooler head and a more objective eye, I realised that this mistake could be turned into a distinctive feature and here is the result.

Sunset at Sea.













The moral of this is that there are no mistakes in weaving, merely opportunities, which is what my first weaving teacher told me in my first week of weaving.  What a mantra to live by!!

Next week, combining different setts to get different effects.

In future weeks, I shall be introducing one of my favourite simple weaves – honeycomb, introducing you to overshot for texture, crepe weaves and woven shibori.  Later blogs will include creating texture in double cloth. 

Please feel free to share the blog with your weaving friends.  The more the merrier!


© Stacey Harvey-Brown 2010


23 June, 2010

Texture in Weaving – Starting Simple

Texture in Plain Weave  – Starting Simple

As promised last week, here is the first post on how to introduce texture into your weaving.  This is especially for people with simple looms, rigid heddle, 2 or 4 shafts.  I’m not going to go into tapestry here as there are many people with way more expertise than me in tapestry, so I’m focussing on looms that can create 2 sheds through some kind of mechanical means – either a rigid heddle or a shaft system. 

When we first start to weave, it is my experience that most people begin with a balanced cloth.  By that, I mean that the warp and the weft show equally in the fabric.  You space the warp so that you can insert weft threads of roughly similar size to create a cloth with equal effects of the warp and the weft.  The simplest weave to use is plain weave, the interlacing of weft over one warp end then under the next warp end, and repeated over and under across the width of the fabric.  The next pass of the weft sees it doing the opposite of the previous pick, with the weft going over the warp end that it went under last time, and under the warp it went over last time.  This basic interlacement is called plain weave, and quite often is what is referred to as ‘tabby’ in weaving books.  Why tabby?  I’ve no idea and if anyone does know, I’d love for you to contact me so we can share it!! 

Anyway, with smooth yarns in plain weave, you get a smooth appearance to the fabric.  No surprise there.  But there are several things you can do to vary this right away. 

Balanced Plain Weave

1)         You can use a different weft yarn ( ie not the same as the warp), one that has little bumps (noil) or little loops (boucle), you can use a thicker yarn or a thinner one. 

2)         You can use two or more weft yarns and weave them using one for a while before switching over to the other one, and you can vary the stripe widths. 

3)         You can use two weft yarns, one thick and one thin, which you use alternately so you get a ridged effect.

4)         You can use two warp yarns and do any of the above.

5)         You can space the warp by sleying (put the threads through the reed) in different amounts so that some warp ends are crammed together and others spaced apart as you go across the warp.

6)         You can space the weft so that some parts you beat really hard, and other parts you beat really loosely.   


Finishing can make a tremendous difference, depending on the yarns you’ve chosen. Generally the more wool content your yarn has, and the more the area of just one yarn being used, the more potential it has to full and pull in. 

If you use overspun yarns (not really recommended if you are new to weaving) then just immersing the fabric into hot water causes it to buckle and pucker – exciting to watch!  NB – you need to sett overspun yarns slightly more open that you normally would so the yarns have room to react. 

Cottons can get a slightly crazed look to them – called tracking – which can be very effective.  If you are using combinations of yarns, observe what happens with different finishing treatments, especially if one of the yarns is a cotton and one a wool.  You’ll find that if you have used them alternately across the warp that they cancel each other out a bit.

But if you have say a 1” group of cotton ends, followed by a 1” group of wool ends, watch what happens when you finish it.  The wool should shrink, causing the cotton to ruche up a little.  This is called differential shrinkage.  Try finishing off with cotton down the edges of your piece.  They will ruche up beautifully to create an undulating edge.  Lovely in a scarf.   Vary the proportions to see what happens.

If you want to start trying out texture in your weaving, have a play with the ideas I’ve suggested above as a means of finding out what you like and don’t like.  As with everything in weaving, slight alterations – to sett, to beat, yarn choice, washing at the end – can have quite dramatic results, so it’s worth experimenting. 

Have fun!  It would be brilliant if you were to comment on your results on this blog, and it would be wonderful if you would upload and share with us images of your experiments.   If you have a curious mind, you’ll find this fascinating! 

Next week I am going to post photos and talk about warp repp, and show you an interesting warp repp effect that I found quite by accident!  If you have any feedback you’d like to share, please feel free to post a comment on this blog, or email me Stacey@theloomroom.co.uk

Also if you’d like to pass this on to friends and weavers you know, I would be honoured. 

I look forward to your company next week. 

© Stacey Harvey-Brown 2010

20 June, 2010

The Present is a gift

Filed under: Life,Philosophy — Tags: , , , — admin @ 5:53 pm

I read this little gem in a blog this week.  It was a throw-away comment on a business blog, but one that struck a chord with me.  The translation all depends on whether you start the sentence with an indefinite article or a definite one.  (I’ll bet that just took you back to long English grammar lessons at school!!!) In other words, if you write “a present is a gift” then you are talking about something usually physical that someone gives you.  And yes, obviously, someone giving you something is a gift.

However, the version I have been mulling over is the other one -the present is a gift.  That’s a whole other ball o’ wax!  All we have is right now.  What we’ve done in the past makes us into what we are right now.  The future is unknown but what we do right now is what makes our future selves.  So what we have right now is priceless!  We have the chance to change our lives – to rewrite our course through life – just because we have right now – the present moment. 

This is so mind-blowing.  I’ve thought about it before, as I’m sure you have as well.  It’s one of those student navel-gazing topics on similar lines to ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what’s existence’?  I’m sure you remember those heady days when you first got to grapple with life’s big questions.  I still have those days on a regular basis – usually from spotting something wonderful in nature. 

And during tough personal times, when we spend a lot of time looking in at the minutea of our day-to-day lives, and our relationships and our purpose in life, and reflecting on what might have been and what still could be, realising that the present is our chance to do something different, to change the results we’ve been getting, to alter the path of our trajectory in life can be a tremendous gift. 

I’m not talking glibly here.  I mean this.  I’m living it right now.  And one thing I learned this morning, whilst watching a buzzard seemingly hanging immobile in the sky, is that the present is for living, for embracing, for enjoying, for understanding.  Today I have really had a sense of the present as a gift.  I hope I always have the grace to value that gift and to embrace it with gratitude, joy and passion.

16 June, 2010

Regular woven texture blog by request

In some of my posts, I have lightly touched on some of the weaving research into texture that I have been focussing on in the past 2 years, and which are the subject of some of the lectures that I am giving at the Complex Weavers’ Seminars and also at HGA’s Convergence 2010 in Albuquerque in July this year (HGA – Handweavers’ Guild of America).  That has piqued the curiosity of some of my blog readers, and also my recent students, who have seen texture samples strewn all over the studio as I put together my presentations.  So firstly, thank you so much for your input and questions.

In response to these requests, I have decided to put together a regular blog, published every Wednesday or as near to a Wednesday as I can get it.  I don’t have updates automated yet, so I write them in real time.  Life sometimes gets in the way and delays publication, but that is something I am going to look at in the autumn.

In the meantime, I thought I would start with some practical steps for beginners to introduce texture into their work. 

But before I do that, if you don’t know what I do and why (and why should you?!), here’s a quick bit of background.  I’ve been weaving since 1991, and got obsessed almost immediately.  That’s one of the amazing things about weaving – it’s something that can really grab you and engage your mind and body fully.  Right from the start, I always loved creating images or abstracting design ideas from a picture that I could translate into weaving and this was magnified when a huge industrial jacquard loom came into my life in 2002 (see my website for further details!).  After she arrived, and I had learnt how to use her, I acquired 4 other baby jacquard looms that I use for teaching looms.  Then I was given a book on aerial and satellite images of the earth, and that was it.  I knew what it was I wanted to do with my weaving and my life – translate the textures of nature into works of woven art – artwork that would rise up from the flat surface of the fabric to depict the physical aspects of nature.  I call it weaving in 2 1/2 dimensions as opposed to 3-dimensional work which brings to mind 3-dimensional sculptures. 

To that end, I have been delving into old weaving treatises, visiting archive collections, scouring new publications, badgering fellow weavers, learning all I can about how to create these wonderful natural textures in weaving.  And I am getting some effective and great results!  It is an exciting exploration which has me getting up in the morning eager to get to the loom, or the computer, or visit a museum to find out more.  And more than that, I want to share what I find so that other people can start from further along the research path and have great fun creating their own textural weaving.  I belong to the Complex Weavers study group in Collapse, Pleat and Bump, in which individual members research something that interests them, weaves some samples and shares the information with the group, and that has led to some ideas which I have taken further, which can then feed back into the group for someone else to take and develop some more.

So this blog is extending that process of exploration and sharing to a wider group.  I hope you enjoy the content.  Next week I shall, as promised, begin with some simple steps to creating texture in your weaving whatever sort of loom you have.  In the meantime, please do let me know your thoughts, and what sort of information you would like to see included in these blog posts. 

E: stacey@theloomroom.co.uk

12 June, 2010

Jacquard cards and pigsties

What do jacquard cards and pigsties have in common?  Well, nothing really, except that I’m writing about both in today’s blog!!

Today we uncovered some history in our garden, and I found, by chance, a link to a blog showing jacquard cards used in an architectural way. 

First, whilst I can still remember it (!), here’s the link for the blog… http://maisdcharlottes.blogspot.com/2010/06/oslo-opera-house.html

I just love that jacquard cards have been used in this architectural way!  There is a musical connection here – the rolls of paper that pianolas use to play on were developed in a similar way to the jacquard loom cards, so it’s not quite so bizarre a connection to have the jacquard cards at the Oslo Opera House.  It is a binary code which means either yes, (where there is a hole) or no (where there is just the card). 

In weaving, there are not so many people who know how to translate the pictorial image into the binary code which the loom translates back into the pictorial form, and whilst we can try to change this in a limited way through teaching, it also kind of makes me very proud that I am one of those few and can pass this knowledge on….  I am also very proud to own my 4 sample jacquard hand-looms, and the beast that got me into jacquard in the first place, my industrial power loom from the 1930s, Hattie. 

The magic in the cards has enthralled me since I first set eyes on Hattie back in 2002, and I love that the picture is hidden in plain view within the series of holes in the cards.  It is a hidden language, only expressed through the physicality of weaving, but that expression is vast!  Our modern computerised jacquard hand-looms are wonderful with their ease of production, but there is something special and fundamental about the processes of reading and punching your own cards before the revealing of the picture during the weaving on the loom. 

OK, now for the pigsty bit……

Whilst the rest of the UK, and quite a lot of America, are settling down in front of the TV to watch the opening game of the World Cup for our two sides, I have just been revelling in the uncovering of a piece of history at our house.  Our house is fairly old, 1773 or older, and we have a pigsty.  Actually, we discovered today that we have two pigsties.  What we thought was an outside toilet for a couple of cottages which were demolished at least 30 years ago, turns out to have been converted into two toilets from a second pig-sty in our garden.  Although that’s interesting to us, that’s not what I’m excited about. 

What we discovered was hidden underneath some header stones on the outer wall of the sty. 

3 of the 4 external pig feeding troughs

3 of the 4 external pig feeding troughs

This is apparently quite rare these days.  The hand-carved stone external feeding troughs were where the slops were chucked and led directly into the glazed troughs inside the pig sty.  Our sties have 4 of these, still in pristine condition, thanks to the stone blocks which have protected them for a long time.  So now we need to cut back all the undergrowth and buddleia which has grown up around them, so that we can show them in their true glory! 

We don’t know the full story of this house.  According to one source, we have a priest’s hole, which was a hidey hole for the catholic priests of rich houses to hide in when Cromwell’s Roundhead forces came searching for them back in the English Civil War of the late 1600s.  This house belonged to an estate, and wasn’t the main residence, being more of a farmhouse, but rumour has it that there was a priest’s hole to the side of the inglenook fire-place upstairs behind a walk-in cupboard in one of the bedrooms.  It was already knocked through to make a larger wardrobe/cupboard when we moved in, and we converted it into an ensuite shower room for one of our guest bedrooms.  If that rumour is true, then the house was built during or before the English Civil War, making it another 80 – 100 years older than 1773.  It has very ancient oak timber beams holding up all the ceilings, and the roof, so we know it’s old, but how old still remains a mystery. 

Enough for now.  If you are a football fan, I hope you enjoyed the game, whatever the result!!  As for me, I’m going to sit out by our fish pond, and enjoy the wonderful weather and the singing of the birds whilst the roads are really quiet!

6 June, 2010

Structo looms and miniature weaving

This weekend, I have been having a great time with a student called Zaf, who brought along her little Structo loom.  She bought it from eBay and unfortunately it doesn’t have a reed or a batten, so she was a little disappointed that she couldn’t use it. 

However, she has got down to weaving on a 4-shaft Ashford table loom (with direct tie-up pedals) and has been enjoying herself.  Whilst she has been weaving, we have both been having a think about how best to sort out her reed and batten problem, and have come up with a couple of thoughts. 

I have some narrow braid reeds that came from an original 14 foot wide batten on a narrow braid industrial loom.  These miniature reeds are solid metal and are only 1″ wide.  I was saving them to use a la Peter Collingwood Macrogauze technique, but Zaf’s need is greater than mine, and we have worked out a way to overlap 4 of them so that only a tiny bit of overlap happens.  I have also suggested that Zaf might be able to build a batten from Meccano, so that the reed will fit inside it. 

We have a small problem now in that the overlap means that there will inevitably be a larger ‘empty’ dent result in her weaving, but one way to avoid that, and perhaps not overlap the reeds, is for her to weave bookmarks or miniature mats.  I showed her the wonderful series of Cash’s silk cigarette cards that I have – 60 miniature jacquard woven silks of flowers that were woven to go inside boxes of cigarettes!  If you do an eBay search for cigarette cards, you come up with all sorts of designs, from tall ships to royalty, flags, and flowers.  They are exquisite and my cards were my first foray into the world of eBay! 

Zaf’s particular interest is in the Bertha Gray Hayes miniature overshot patterns, and she has the book written by Norma Smayda, Gretchen White, Jody Brown and Katharine Schelleng and published by Schiffer.  The book features the original sample collection and handwritten drafts of Bertha Gray Hayes, of Providence, Rhode Island and she produced the designs as sample cards, using name drafting for many of them.  The book was taken on as a group project of the Weavers’ Guild of Rhode Island in order to get Bertha’s designs out to the wider public, and is a tremendous example of how something wonderful can come from something essentially personal. 

Bertha was born in 1878, and lived through some eventful times and these designs are her response to her world, including the Roosevelt Era (1933 – 47) which saw World War II, and led to such designs as Stars of Vicotry, Bomber Flight and Parachute, for instance.  She was inspired by movies, and songs, as well as the visual world around her and they are magical.  Bertha was a recognised weaver of her day (along with such luminaries in the weaving world as Mary Meigs Atwater, Marguerite P. Davison and Harriet Tidball) and she died in 1947.  60 years later, the Weavers’ Guild of Rhode Island produced this lovely book as a means of spreading their pride in an imaginative weaver.  The designs are wonderful, and the book includes computer drawdowns for each of the samples.  In all there are 193 designs and Zaf is really taken with them.  She is thinking of producing them in silk and fine cottons.  They were designed for and woven on a Structo loom, so it is a lovely thing to do.   

In our hunt for a batten and reed for this little 9 1/2″ (weaving width) loom, we have been introduced to the Yahoo group on Structo, which will be of great help to Zaf in her further weaving projects.  If anyone reading this blog has a Structo batten and reed to fit this loom that they don’t need, please do get in touch.  Although our jerry-rigged idea should work, it would be wonderful to complete the loom in the way it should be!