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Welcome to Musings – The Loom Room Blog

31 October, 2010

Weaving, looms and cars – the connection?!

Filed under: Life,Weaving — Tags: , , , , — admin @ 1:01 pm

One of the tasks I have been engaged in over the last few weeks is a weaving commission.  I don’t often undertake commissions but this one engaged my interest in an unusual way.  If you have been a follower of my blog for a while, or visited my website (www.theloomroom.co.uk)  you will have heard and/or seen Hattie, the industrial 1930s jacquard loom I have which catapulted me into the world of jacquard in 2002. 

One of the things that fascinates me about Hattie is her engineering.  Because she is a mechanical machine, you can see what’s going on, and can work out how to fix things that go wrong through backwards engineering.  The same was true for my first car, a 1959 Singer Gazelle, Series 3a – with overdrive – that used to propel me up and down the M3 motorway from Bournemouth to West London in the eary 1980s between my job at the Bournemouth Orchestras, and my boyfriend in London at 90 mph!!! (Ssssh – don’t tell anyone!) 

I had named the car Barbie, after a character in the Raj Quartet books by Paul Scott, which I had read the previous year whilst at music college in Scotland.  Barbie was 1 1/2 tons, with no syncromesh gears, and definitely no power assisted steering!  We had several hair-raising adventures together, and some eventful journeys due to bits failing (notably the slave cylinder during the London rush hour one wet and windy evening in January 12 miles on the other side of London).

It was great fun to get dirty, to work out what had gone wrong and how to fix it.  Graham and I spent hours on, under, and in the car getting her to run and we both learnt a lot about engines in the process.    

So when I was contacted by the 1959 Mini Register about some interiors fabrics they needed weaving, we had a great deal to talk about before we even got down to discussing fabrics!! 

Most people know the iconic Mini car, but not so many know that the first models had fabric interiors and upholstery, and the 1959 Mini Register is a group specifically for 1959 Mini owners.  Car clubs I know are to be found extensively in many countries, and the members are passionate about getting the details right.  So I took on the commission to analyse the original fabric, and then to weave 25 yards of fabric.

I have to say that weaving-wise it is not the most exciting thing to be weaving.  A 16 shaft design and a 16 pick repeat for 25 yards doesn’t really engage the brain in the weaving process.  But I have enjoyed myself.  For up to 4 hours a day, I have been weaving, which is not something I usually do. 

It has kept me grounded during a difficult family time, it has been exercising my body, relaxing my mind, focussing my attention and being present in the moment, but also able to listen to the radio (Radio 4 – brilliant!).  I’m nearly finished now, and a little bit sad that it’s nearly finished (although also somewhat relieved that I can look at something else soon!) 

And it’s got me in training for those Christmas cards which must start next week…. 

Happy weaving!

27 October, 2010

Textural weaving – combined single and double cloths

Combined single and double cloths is one of my favourite methods of creating textural weaving because of the immediate possibility of tension differences between the more compact single cloth areas compared to the looser double cloth construction. 

With handweaving, we can do lots of things that industrial weaving can’t, largely because we are generally dealing with a much smaller yardage than industry and therefore, we can get away with tensions that don’t balance out much more easily.  In industry, everything has to balance out in order for the weaving to progress smoothly whereas we can try something with grossly different tensions, cut it off, retie and try something else….  Personally, that’s why I love to handweave – to do what industry can’t!

Anyway, back to combined single and double cloth.  The basics of a simple double cloth are

i)    you can weave single cloth

ii)   you can weave two separate layers

iii)  you can interchange those layers

iv)  you can weave double the width of your loom

v)   you can weave a tube

For my purposes in this blog, we are looking at i), ii) and iii). 

The technical aspect means that you have areas where the warp is very closely sett, and acts as a single cloth, and areas where the warp is divided into two layers and is much looser.  This immediately sets itself up for differential shrinkage, without even taking into account different weave structures and yarns. 

What you are looking at here is the combined single and double cloth draft with the single cloth on shafts 1 & 2 weaving plain weave at a ratio of 2:1 with the back cloth.  In the single cloth areas, I have raised selected areas of the back cloth to interweave with the plain cloth, creating a single thicker layer which moves across the cloth as the pattern moves.  The double cloth areas are where the back cloth weaves plain weave on the remaining shafts that weren’t involved in the single cloth patterning. 

Because the ratio of 2:1 top to bottom is used, the bottom cloth, if it is of a shrinking type of yarn such as wool, will shrink in areas where it is not integrated into the top cloth, thereby creating puckering in a patterned shape. 

You can probably see that this is a great way of using ratios and double cloth to have a lot of fun with texture.  It could work really neatly with colour variations as well. 

Next week, I am going to show you a variation on the theme including floats….

24 October, 2010

A shock to the system..

Filed under: Life,Nature,Philosophy,Psychology — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:00 pm

Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to make changes that are necessary and sometimes vital.  Last night was the first real frost here, and the trees have had a big shock.  The leaves are just tumbling off the trees today… 

It was also the most beautiful morning with a full moon high in the sky, and the sun bursting over the horizon in a blaze of gold and primrose yellow!  Glorious blue sky, tinted with golden mackerel clouds, long shadows over the green and white of the fields, with the sun catching the turning leaves of a lone tree under which is huddled a group of 5 calves.   Picture postcard perfect!  A beautiful morning to set up a tripod and snap away at the wonder of nature, and the turning of the seasons. 

These last two weeks have been a challenge emotionally as my mum-in-law has had a car crash, and several falls which has necessitated a prolonged visit to the hospital and some hard decisions.  It was a shock to her to have to face giving up driving, and having to consider seriously the propect of moving from her own home to a residential home, and of accepting help in her own home.  These kinds of shocks happen so quickly and take a while to assimilate. 

On one of the return trips from the hospital in beautiful Harrogate, I was witness to the immediate aftermath of a serious accident which had just happened.  It was chaotic, somehow slow motion, frightening and eerily detaching all at the same time.  It made me realise with a jolt just how things can change from normal to disaster in a split second. 

We all have moments when we suddenly wish we could turn the clock back a few minutes to before something bad happened, and we all know we can’t do it.  What determines the outcome of the event is then down to our personalities and how we choose to deal with the problem(s) that have arisen.  We can’t change what has happened, but we can choose how to respond to what has happened. 

Watching people you love trying to come to terms with things and making choices that you personally wouldn’t make is hard, but I am learning to respect that everyone’s choices are their choices and the outcomes are ones that they have to live with.

Walking out on a cold and frosty beautiful morning and seeing the trees coming to terms with the sudden hard frost has helped me to understand the processes that we all must go through, and how we can help, or hinder, ourselves.   

17 October, 2010

Multiple viewpoints

By now, you know the fascination I have with cobwebs.  The variety and beauty of them have been really striking over the last few weeks, including a wonderful image of a lacrosse racket created by two cowparsley stems with a web suspended between them!  I was admiring them yet again this morning and was wondering why there seem to be so many more of them this year, when it suddenly popped into my mind that probably there are no more and no less than usual.  It’s just the weather conditions that are allowing them to be so visible to us.  We’ve had several frosty mornings after clear nights when the frost has created a rime on the strands which has made them visible and several mornings after damp nights when the mist rising has caused droplets to drape on the strand, again making them easily visible and revealing their wonder. 

That got me to thinking about different viewpoints and reflecting on a very silly argument that started purely because of a different way I had of looking at something from someone else, and neither of us, at that moment, could see the other’s viewpoint.  A few minutes later, and a different approach, and we could both not only see each other’s standpoint, but understand and appreciate it too! 

Different viewpoints are so important.  If we all saw the world the same way, life would not be as we know it.  Some would say it would be a much better place, but I feel we wouldn’t have the incredible diversity in everything that we have because of our different ways of thinking.  Granted, the huge trigger points of religion and greed wouldn’t exist in the same way, so we might avoid some of the more pointless wars caused by intractable belief systems, but I don’t think it would be all sweetness and light.  Humans are fundamentally social animals and social animals by and large tend to live in discrete groups, which causes friction between different groups, so I think our nature wouldn’t let us live in peace and harmony in any case.

What I do find frustrating is the lack of willingness of some people and belief systems to allow for different opinions.  Some folk are really open to new ideas, will listen to someone else’s opinions and strive to understand, even if they don’t agree.  Other people, though, try to impose their belief system on everyone, and will not allow themselves to listen, even if they don’t have all the answers (and who really does?!) 

I’m not talking exclusively about religion, or politics, or any other didactic topic here, although where the shoe fits…..  One thing I am talking about is the individual choice we all have of allowing another to have a different viewpoint, and being able to accept that someone else doesn’t have to hold the same viewpoint as yourself to be a good person, or someone you can be comfortable with.  Diversity in nature is good.  Diversity in opinions is also good. 

Wow, who’d have thought that cobwebs would lead here?!

13 October, 2010

Double cloth texture – centre stitching

In last weeks’ blog, I showed you how to interchange the two layers, something double cloth weavers of more than 4 shafts are probably quite familiar with.  This week, I’ll show you how you can use the weft stitching to create the textural impact you want….

Imagine using two different shrinkage yarns for your two different cloths.  Cloth A – your ground cloth – is woven in plain weave with a non-shrinking yarn.  Cloth B – your pattern cloth – is woven in a straight or patterned draft with a shrinking yarn.  Using the shrinking weft that you usually use with cloth B to catch a number of cloth A warp threads is very similar to the warp stitching, which is why I showed you the block technique which shows the differences. 

However, there is another technique in which you introduce a third warp or weft into the mix.  This is the centre stitching technique.  Basically, you introduce a third warp or weft, usually very fine, but you can make it thicker if you want it to be seen.  It is also usually non-shrink, but you can use shrinking yarn if you want even more of an impact. 

Originally designed for manufacturing to secure large double cloth areas together without actually interweaving them, this technique was generally used to hold the two cloths together during weaving, so that there were no rucks as the two cloths went over the breast beam and onto the cloth rollers.  The fine 3rd warp or weft exists only to interweave occasionally with BOTH the layers, but because it interacts only occasionally, it does not form a firm cloth and therefore, if you are using it for texture, you can get very mixed effects.  I have not really done much experimentation with this technique, but it is something I am interested in so I will be doing more later…. 

I would tend to use the 3rd weft method, rather than the 3rd warp.  However, the main drawback for me is that, because I tend to use plain weave on just a few shafts for Cloth A, if I tie the fine weft to any shaft on Cloth A, then the interaction will be very frequent.  On a jacquard loom, you could specify exactly where you wanted the ties to occur, regardless of which cloth they are in, and therefore you would have much more control over the placing. 

Hopefully this winter I will have some time to explore centre stitched double cloth some more. 

Next week, I shall be discussing double cloth and single cloth combined together for textural effects.

10 October, 2010

Unexpected inspiration

I was in London earlier this week to review the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers ‘Diamond’ exhibition, celebrating their 60th year.  The exhibition is only on for 1 week, so by the time you read this, you’ll be unlikely to be able to visit, which is a pity.  It is a lovely exhibition, with 99 pieces of work in a naturally lit gallery and with some stunning pieces of work.  I can’t say too much more than that about the exhibit as I’ve written a review for the Journal of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, but I can say that it was a treat!

The exhibition was officially opened by Margo Selby at a champagne reception on Monday night, and despite the partial tube strike, was very well attended.  It was lovely to meet people that I have looked up to for years – Claude Delmas and Ann Hecht among them – and to see again people that I haven’t seen for ages as well as new people.  This kind of event serves so much more than one purpose – as well as promoting the exhibition, you can get to know so many more people and make new friendships… 

On the way home the next day, after leaving Wendy Morris and the Handweavers Studio, I had a few hours to spare so I popped down the Victoria line to Pimlico and had an hour in Tate Britain.  I wandered through the Turner Prize exhibits for 2010, (loved the Harrier Hawk and the upside-down Jaguar jet), and down to the Romantics exhibit, not stopping long at anything but allowing myself to be drawn to certain pieces.  Then I went to the small gallery showing how Turner used his palette of colours and his engravings, and there I found a little unexpected treasure….

I first began to appreciate engravings when I saw one of MC Escher’s in a book I have.  The hatchings and cross-hatchings are incredible at creating three-dimensional perspective, and that is something that has intrigued me for quite a while.  So it was fascinating to see the expertise of Turner’s engravings, and to learn the difference between a mezotint and an engraving in how the depth is achieved.  I instantly saw ways of using repp weave to create surface tension that can then give way to dimensional weaving, and a way of combining three tones to create huge variations in apparent depth.  I got very excited and had to contain my excitement and my ideas as I had left my rucksac, complete with my notebook and pen, in the cloakroom. 

Then I had to wait until I was on the tube to Euston before I could write down my thoughts, so I confess I don’t remember much of the walk (or was it a gallop?!) to the tube station, but I almost missed Euston because I was so engrossed in my thinking processes.

So a quite unexpected side trip to Tate Britain has led to some more fuel for my textural experiments!  Don’t you just love it when that happens?!!

6 October, 2010

Stitched double cloth continued….

I wrote last week about the most familiar version of stitched double cloth – where a single warp end from one of the two layers is woven in with one pick of the other layer, so tieing the two cloths together at that point. 

There are other ways to achieve a similar end, each with slightly different effects.  This week I’ll describe the weft stitching method.

Using the weft of one layer to migrate from front to back cloths in the same pick is done especially if you are working in blocks.  This is the way you work if you are using pick-up techniques.  It is basically interchanging layers. 

For example, here we have a simple block draft on 8 shafts, using a separate colour to denote each of 4 blocks.  Block A is in purple and is threaded on shafts 1 and 2.  Block B = pink on 3 &  4.  Block C = green on 5 & 6, and Block D = yellow on 7 & 8.   I am using two weft colours, one light blue and the other darker blue. 

In this first draft, you can see that I have blocks A & B on top, weaving with the light blue. 

I have woven shafts 1 & 2 from block A and shafts 3 & 4 from block B, with the light blue weft, thereby requiring the dark blue weft to weave underneath, so raising shafts 1 – 4 and weaving only on 5 & 6 from block C and 7 & 8 from block D. 

The next step is to swap over at least one of the blocks, and in the next 8 picks, I have woven blocks A & D on the top with the light blue weft, and blocks B & C underneath with the dark blue weft. 

You can see the change in the colouration.  Following the previous principle, it is easy to see which shafts have been lifted.

So far, this is standard double cloth, with two separate layers.  Now we want to stitch the two layers together.  

To do this, we need to interchange the blocks, where the weft travels from one side of the fabric to the other. 

You can see from this last section that the dark blue weft is now coming to the surface, sharing it with the light blue weft.  It takes a little more thought but if you look at the tie-up. you can see how to work it out. 

Here is the back view of the same draft.

If you haven’t tried this before, give it a go.  If you use similar materials, you won’t get much in the way of texture, although colour can be really creative.  If you use one warp with a shrinking yarn, and the other as non-shrinking, and one weft with shrinking and one weft non-shrinking, then you will start to get some textural results.

Next week, I’ll show you a third way of stitching the two layers together which can really give you some great surface texture results….

3 October, 2010

Seeing familiar things through another’s eyes…

Last weekend a group of us joined together in Devon to attend Alice Schlein’s Woven Pixel workshop for 3 days.  We were blessed with wonderful weather, great company, and a tremendous learning experience.  Alice is a very patient and skilled tutor with Photoshop and her methods of using it to design and prepare jacquard and dobby files for weaving.  Several of the company were fellow Complex Weavers and it was great to meet up with them, sometimes for the first time! 

I was staying at a beautiful B&B in a quiet village called Harberton with an excellent pub selling high-class food!  The roads are very narrow with high hedges so it takes a little courage to navigate your way to the Devon Weavers Workshop which is along one of those lanes!! 

The class was intense and we all left with a greater understanding of the processes involved and the ease in which you can use Photoshop for weaving purposes – not the primary aim of its inventors, I think!!  I must admit to getting just a little excited when I realised some of the potential for texture that I was looking at, so my apologies to the rest of the class who put up with my sudden proclamations of delight when something just jumped out of the computer and hit me between the eyes!! 

After the weekend was over, I kidnapped Alice and Bruce and took them north.  It was very noticeable as we drove up the motorway that the beautiful weather was being left behind, but we didn’t do too badly in the Midlands….  OK, so Monday and Wednesday weren’t anything to write home about, but on Tuesday and Thursday we had gorgeous weather…

And now, to the theme of today’s blog – taking Alice and Bruce around the area in which I live, and having them in the house and studio, reminded me of all the things I love here.  I was seeing with fresh eyes – their eyes – and a different way of looking. 

There are so many places of interest – architecturally, socially, historically, landscape – in this area, and they all have so much to offer, that 3 days could only give a tiny taste!!  So the first day was a trip to Macclesfield for the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill, then across the Peak District and into Buxton for its Regency architecture and spa town heritage.  The second day took in a visit to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, an undersung museum where the old pottery is preserved as it was on the day it closed.  Not only is it interesting from a social and industrial perspective, they have lots of hands-on demonstrations and we got to see pot-throwing on a wheel, making a slip-mould, and flower making, as well as painting on pottery.  The highlight of the visit, though, was the permanent exhibit called ‘Flushed With Pride’ about the history of the WC!!!  It was very funny, highly educational and fascinating, complete with olfactory exhibits!!

Our final day was spent at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire.  The house is incredible and the gardens quite extensive.  No doubt Alice will put some of her images in her blog for you to see. 

But for me, it was wonderful to see anew, through Alice and Bruce, all the things I love about my life and my environment, and to spend time with great friends.