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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

14 July, 2010

Texture in Textiles – Honeycomb

Filed under: Education,Teaching,Weaving — Tags: , , — admin @ 8:40 am

Today’s post is about honeycomb. The first thing to clear up is what I mean by honeycomb.  In old weaving books, and in UK and Europe, what I am talking about is distorted weft.  In the US it is known as honeycomb, and I am using that terminology because it looks like a honey-bee’s honeycomb to me.  What is known a honeycomb in UK and Europe is known as waffle in the US, because the result looks like a breakfast waffle.   Many of the new books on weaving are coming from the US and are widely known in the international weaving circle, so that is another reason for me to use the US terminology.

Anyway, on to the basics.  The honeycomb is created by using a minimum of two blocks in the threading.  Each of those blocks consists of 2 shafts, and the threading and liftplan looks like this.

As you can see, you only need plain weave to create honeycomb.  The cell that you are not weaving consists of warp floats and weft floats. 

You can use an outline weft, usually twice as thick as your cell weft, to weave plain weave all the way across the warp in between the two different cell positions.  If you lay in the weft with extra curve(by this I mean making the weft curve in an arc when you insert it instead of a diagonal straight line), then when you beat it up (firmly), the yarn starts to bend around the cells you have just woven, curving into the non-woven areas of warp and weft floats.  Then you weave the alternating cell, and repeat the outline 2 picks, again putting extra curve into the thicker yarn.  That will then start to bend around the cells and into the unwoven areas, thereby creating the undulating effect, and hence its UK name of distorted weft.  Also, as you start to weave the second block of cells, they will pack down into the non-woven area below them and form more of a rounded shape than a square block.

This cannot be seen on the drawdown as the rectilinear approach cannot depict what happens in the real world in this instance. 

Here’s what honeycomb looks like.

There is a lot you can do with honeycomb.  You can use as many shafts as you have on your loom so long as you use 2 shafts per cell.  With more shafts, you can play with how and where you place your cells.  I’m just about to include this topic in a seminar at Complex Weavers Seminars, using 10 shafts. 

If you play around with different outline wefts, and different fibre compositions to your cell wefts, you can get many different versions which look completely different from each other. 

I find honeycomb incredibly versatile and fun to use, and I hope you’ll explore it a little….

I’m going to take a short break whilst Complex Weavers Seminars and Convergence are on, and will resume posting some texture blogs later in August.  I hope you’ll join me then.  In the meantime, if you’ve a topic that you would like me to cover, drop me an email :  stacey@theloomroom.co.uk  and let me know!  I’ll do my best to post a blog on it for you!

11 July, 2010

Philosophy and children

As you might know, I subscribe to a great magazine on philosophy for people who aren’t necessarily philosophers but who like to ponder on some of life’s more interesting questions!!  This quarter’s edition of The Philosopers’ Magazine has a number of interesting articles including one on the intelligence of dolphins and contemplating that we should perhaps consider them as ‘nonhuman persons’. 

However, that is not what I am writing about today.  The central theme of this volume is should philosophy be taught to children in primary and secondary school?  Research which has been done in the UK over the last 20 years on teaching philosophy to primary school children has found that children ‘who have been through sustained Philosophy with Children improve in almost every other academic area.  Philosophers are traditionally asked awkward questions and to come up with alternative answers, and it really breeds independent thinking.  If we want a generation of people who will begin to tackle and solve the problems we have, we need people who think for themselves and who think differently.’  So says the author, Brooke Lewis, a journalist who is now working in Cambodia. 

I’ve been concerned for several years about the dumbing down in school of original thinking by students.  Because of the constraints of the National Curriculum in the UK, many of my teaching friends find themselves handcuffed not only in the content of what they teach but even how they are to teach it.  I am, perhaps naively, encouraged by the new coalition government’s view of giving schools back to teachers and reducing the bureaucratic restrictions of the National Curriculum and maybe philosophy can help our youngsters to think for themselves once more instead of the seemingly primary goal of regurgitating set facts and figures at exam time! 

The Philosophy for Children programme sounds heavy, but it isn’t.  Imaginatively taught, children are encouraged to think about morals, ethics, choices, through the medium of books, TV, films, songs, and practical life situations.  There’s an example of this in the article – discussing clones prompted by a new movie. 

It is this kind of in-depth, curious, thinking that I find myself searching for in myself and in others.  Quite often when I go out socially, I am dismayed at the level of surface conversation – inane chatter that skims across the surface of everything.  I know I am one of those people who gets too deep too quickly, and that this is uncomfortable for many people to handle, so I more often than not keep very quiet unless I’m with people I know or people who are happy to get meaty in a discussion.  But when you do find like-minded people and a wide-ranging, give-and-take discussion involving lots of different ways of thinking and sounding each other out, the joy is just wonderful! 

I’m not a person who does confrontation, but I am a person who loves to think about other people’s opinions.  These sorts of discussions lead to more open minds and personal mental growth.  My son and I still have great discussions about all sorts of things and it’s interesting to see how differently his mind works from mine. 

There’s also a young lad of 12 who visits his granny across the road from me.  We were looking up at a passing plane and the stars and got into a discussion about space the other night at a barbecue, and he was both very knowledgeable and very curious, sucking up all the information I could drag from the depths of my mind.  We had a brilliant chat about infinity and his granny said that that’s what he would do all the time if he could, but no-one has the time to talk with him in that way.  If our children learn to access deeper levels of thinking in this way, we could find ourselves in a more considerate, thoughtful era, and I’m all for the parents and schools that will help in this task!!

7 July, 2010

Combining different setts to get different effects

Filed under: Life — admin @ 1:00 pm

Last week we looked at warp repp – setting the warp yarns so close together that the weft cannot be seen – and I talked about warp and weft emphasis, mentioning that not only can warp repp be effective for rugs, but so can the other extreme, where the warp is spaced so widely apart that it is totally covered by the weft when the weft is beaten against the fell.

The most obvious examples of weft-dominance are flat-woven rugs such as kelims, and woven tapestry.  If you are using fairly fine weft yarns then the warp is not as widely spaced as if you are using thick wool yarns, as the resulting fabric has to be firm and the weft needs to cover the warp totally but not loosely. 

Back in the 1990s, I did a little exploration of weft-faced rug weaving as part of the Bradford Diploma in Handloom Weaving – a distance learning course which focussed on using only 4 shafts.  It was a great discipline and, although we were all self-taught (the course was like a Certificate of Achievement where you do your own study and the course gives you the framework for that study), the rules were very tight and forced you to be creative within constraints.  This is always a good thing for inventiveness, at least for me! 

Here is a kelim style of flat-weave rug weaving : 










And this next sample shows that you can mix flat-weave with knotted pile to create surface texture :

Ok, so what if you don’t want to weave rugs? 

Well, you can incorporate different setts into the same piece of fabric, simply by sleying one area closer together than another.  Sleying is the term given for spacing the threads through the reed which beats up the weft into place.  The reed separates the warp yarns, spreading them into the width and closeness that you want.  So you can have areas where there are no warp threads – spaced – and other areas where there are a number of warp threads grouped together – crammed.  With this next sample, I have a balanced fabric (so I can see both warp and weft equally) in most of the sample, but in the pink and brown stripe areas, I didn’t want the delicate colour of the pink to be diluted by the cream silk, so I sleyed them closer together so that the fine weft yarn could not be seen.  I also did the same for the chocolate brown stripe so that it would contrast effectively with the pink. 






You can also see from the detail that I used a textured yarn in the warp – a silk boucle – which gives a lovely textural contrast to the flat silk.  Just be careful when using a highly textured yarn like this in the warp that it will go through your heddles and reed easily, otherwise you will find it snags in the weaving. 

Instead of cramming your warp threads together to create areas of warp-faced weaving in a balanced weave piece, you can also do the exact opposite, and space them out to create areas of transparency.  That’s exactly what I’ve done with this final sample this week.  I was inspired by the Antarctic and wanted to weave a whale, but I’m not a tapestry weaver.  How was I going to do that?  I could only use 4 shafts, but there was no written restriction on what else I could do……

This transparency incorporates tapestry techniques, an inlay technique and spaced warp to depict the whale’s fluke in the Antarctic. 

Well, I hope that’s given you a few ideas to play around with incorporating different setts in your projects.  If you decide to have a go, do let me know how you get on.

Next week, I’m going to look at a simple weave – honeycomb – and how you can change simple grids into curves and cells.

Enjoy your weaving!


© Stacey Harvey-Brown 2010

4 July, 2010


Conversations about intelligence seem to have popped up all over the place this week….

How many different sorts of intelligence are there?  So far this week, here are what’s come up in conversation….

There’s the obvious academic intelligence which seems to be all about remembering lots of facts and figures to be regurgitated at required times such as exams (which are thankfully coming to an end now). 

There’s IQ.

There’s common sense, and practical intelligence – things learnt by watching and absorbing practical things over the years.

There’s what I call ‘native’ intelligence – the kind of intelligence that puts separate bits of information together to make up a complete picture. 

There’s lateral thinking – which is separate from native intelligence but closely related – where seemingly random and unrelated things can be the trigger to solving another problem entirely.

There’s emotional intelligence – where people are aware of how others are feeling and respond accordingly.

There’s social intelligence – knowing how to interact with people in many different situations whether one-on-one or in groups. 

I also rate curiosity as a form of intelligence.  If you are curious about life, how things/nature/science works, if you are curious about how people think, if you want to keep learning about many different topics, extending your life experience through reading, listening to others, experiencing different situations, then to me, that is an intellectual form of intelligence. 

Why this discussion on intelligence?  My son, who has just turned 21, decided he wants to go into the army.  He took various tests, including one that measured ‘intelligence’.  From what he described, this test was designed to search out speedy reactions to many different situations – comprehension, lateral thinking, native intelligence, and others.  What it was not designed to do was measure academic intelligence – lucky for him because he is not that way inclined!  However, in other forms of intelligence he rates pretty highly.  In fact, so much so that he scored high marks and has been selected for a number of possible jobs that require his brains rather than his brawn.  A huge relief for his mother!!! 

The whole process led to a number of discussions with several people about intelligence and I find it fascinating!  What other forms of intelligence have I not included in my summary?  We place so much store by academic intelligence, and yet, once we are out of the education system, that is virtually the least used intelligence.  It is a rare school that teaches students about the other forms of intelligence that will be so useful to them in the outside world.  Why is that?  And what is the benefit of such a skewed approach to intelligence? 

My son, on exam results alone, although no dunce, is not a high flyer.  Yet put him in a situation that calls for a cool head and an ability to weigh things up quickly and accurately and he is a star!  And with a razor-sharp wit!  The army will give him the opportunity to develop those skills that he possesses, learn new ones and keep him interested and engaged.  Although as a mum it’s been a shock to the system, I know that he will have a purpose and be part of something much bigger than he is.  His intelligence is finally being given the recognition it deserves.