ready set go…

I really wanted to take advantage of the winter holiday break to get a solid start on the woven component(s) for this project, which meant choosing and preparing yarns, dressing the loom, starting the cloth, and getting into a steady groove to weave some yardage. After a whirlwind trip to Washington DC at the end of the quarter (for research funding purposes) and our annual Department faculty retreat just after that, the early part of winter break needed to be some real vacation time. Then family and friends holiday stuff got started, and there was a surprise urgent work thing that popped up (more research funding stuff), but happily I managed to put in some afternoons in the studio in between all that…

I decided to go with a linen/silk blend for the warp (it’s really strong and has nice texture) and a finer silk yarn for the weft. The linen/silk came spooled so it was ready to reel out, but the weft yarn came in skeins that needed to be converted to center-pull balls. The right image below shows about 230 8-yard warp ends reeled out on my warping mill; the left image shows a skein of the weft yarn on my swift with the ball winder behind it:

A lot of the preliminary work for weaving has to do with managing long lengths of string — this project involves about a mile each of warp and weft yarn! Next steps were to sley warp ends through the reed (I decided to go with a 12-dent) and then set the reed in the loom to start threading:

Then I threaded each warp end through a heddle according to the draft I chose, tied these onto the back beam and started winding the warp on. Lately I’ve been using some heavy washers to weight each warp bout, in an attempt to achieve a more even tension I’m not convinced it really helps that much but it seems like it should…

It’s interesting to see near the end of this process, after all the rather approximate hand-measuring and tensioning involved, how much variation there is in the residual lengths of the warp ends:

This one turned out better than many in that regard. It remained to tie these front ends onto the cloth beam and tie-up the treadles for the draft I chose.

I decided to use doubled-up floating selvedges so I wound and hung them while doing the tie-ups. To buffer the warp-end displacements from tying the fronts it’s customary to “weave” some torn sheets (I use torn thrift-store tee shirts), and then I like to weave a few inches of tabby and hem-stitch the leading edge:

I finally started weaving the pattern on January 2, not quite to start the new year but not too far off. I’m a few feet in by now and have nearly worked out the finicky details of how best to set the warp tension, how much slack to give each pick, how hard to beat the fell, and so on. With the yarns I chose and the way I implemented the lift plan, the pattern seems to show up much better on the underside of the cloth than on the top that I see while I’m weaving:

It looks like each repeat of the 146-step treadling sequence yields around 8″-9″ of cloth, so I’m figuring that I should be aiming to weave 11-12 repeats per week to stay on schedule. We’ll see how it goes!

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